GW2: The Fine Line of Frustration

Look, ma, a pickup zerg killed Pyroxis!

It must be hard being a game developer.

Make things smooth and easy and players will steamroll through content, proclaiming themselves gaming gods and demanding more challenges NOW. Fail to sate them, and they sulk around, declaring the game boring and stagnant and having “nothing to do” and quit before you know it.

Make things difficult and challenging, and when players run into problems, the resulting frustration recoils and whiplashes around seeking any available targets. Forums explode into a frenzy of complaints and stridently worded requests for things to get easier.

I guess I’m watching the fallout from the Crown Pavilion changes and Queensdale champion train destruction with a sort of embittered fascination, rather than frustration, because I’m not very affected by either.

Some bloggers and regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been going around being a tide controversial and combative in their comments bar, for which I do apologize if I come across as an elitist arrogrant prick or argumentative troll.

I stopped to ask myself why exactly I felt prompted to act this way.

And the answer that came back was: I’m waiting to see if anyone gets frustrated enough to challenge me in reply, to stand up for their own argument and get a better handle on why they were feeling frustrated beyond “I tried it once. It was so much harder than I expected.  I felt bad. There was nothing I could do. I don’t want to do it anymore. I quit.”

Because frustration is normal when one encounters a setback and resistance to the fulfillment of individual desires.

Because it’s what different people do in response to frustration that proves interesting.

Four months ago, I was as frustrated as frustrated can be with regards to the Marionette.

There was a great deal of rampant zerg stupidity and much failure in the early days too.

Worse, there were achievements that I wanted to complete that were reliant on the bulk of the playerbase not being SO BAD at the marionette that I would never get the chance to enter the later circles to attempt the various dodging achievements with my piss poor latency.

I wrote a guide, and I tried to force it down everyone’s throats as blatantly as I could, advertising it on Reddit even.

I -could- have just given up, thrown up my hands in despair, wallowed in misery and written reams of whining complaints on various forums instead.

I’m sure my tiny guide was not the sole cause for the playerbase improving at the Marionette.

Many other people stepped up. Commanders tagged up and did their best to count and distribute people into five different lanes, regardless of the willful selective deafness of certain players. Others took it on themselves to broadcast and disseminate info into mapchat. Players who repeatedly attempted the Marionette took their individual steps towards getting good enough to reach a collective success indicator, wherever they were on that journey.

Did we lose some people? Very possibly there were those that just tried it once or twice, died repeatedly and decided, “never again.”

It stands to reason that they would not have gone back to the Marionette, and the ability curve may have adjusted itself upward a tide due to that too.

They were going to be lost anyway. One cannot help those that do not wish to be helped.

I see some interesting parallels between this update’s Champion Pavilion Boss Blitz, and the Marionette and Escape From Lion’s Arch events.

They all have a considerable chance for failure.

Failure induces frustration.

Frustration produces… ???

Complaints, certainly.

And counter-trolling in response.

Neither of which are terribly productive, but very much human nature.

Then again, in the Escape From Lion’s Arch, one super frustrated individual created an entire new megaguild called MEDX, devoted to rescuing Lion’s Arch citizens. An enormous number of people appeared to buy into that premise, perhaps wanting to be heroes to the NPCs or perhaps wanting chances at the great loot, and we saw that guild have some good times in parallel with our TTS community, as we hopped various overflows.

We saw various servers take on the Marionette, and start succeeding over time.

The two biggest differences that I see between then and now:

Megaserver  – We’ve lost our server communities. I’ve not been shy to criticize this as not the most ideal state of affairs ever. Everything is now overflow, filled with more aggressive strangers, given very little incentive to cooperate or communicate because they’ll probably never see each other again. Also, language barriers.

Where Have All the Leaders and Followers Gone? – With each patch that pushes more coordination and communication, anyone who has had the slightest bit of self-interest and sufficient motivation to do something constructive about it has self-organized. They’ve found their communities, that come complete with people motivated enough to lead, and people with enough self-interest to follow.

Those left behind do not appear motivated enough to do anything beyond complain and feel helpless and sorry for themselves.

No, really, it’s not hard. Help is but one Google and some typing away.

I read a random post on the GW2 forums, and I see someone from an EU server talking about GW2Community. Google it.

NA server-wise, TTS is the name on everybody’s lips, but there are undoubtedly others. Just off the top of my head, Attuned does Wurm and so on.

Network. Reach out to people. Send a whisper and ask for an invite to an organized instance if you wish it. Numerous guests and friends of friends have jumped into these events and had a great time.

Nooooo….. but I don’t wanna join a guild or a community! I don’t wanna change instances! I wanna log in and immediately have the world revolve around me and do what I wish and give me loot!

It reeks of being unable to adapt or change. It also suggests you don’t necessarily want it badly enough, and would prefer not to have to interact with a community (some of whom may be people you dislike personally) – in which case, it’s a personal choice and your tradeoff is that you don’t get the reward that you also wanted.

Everything is about tradeoffs.

Still, I see the beginnings of a little bit of hope this time around…

Tarnished Coast WvW used to have what was known as a case of “celebrity commander” syndrome. Jadon, Nightlight, Odinzu, Deyja. The militia would flock to them. Anyone else who tagged up had a much harder time.

But times change, and these commanders moved on, and mostly dropped into various personal guilds, away from the public eye, or transferred away. For a time, the militia ran around lost, helpless, frustrated, losing structures like unthinking headless chickens who couldn’t even find a feather on their bodies, let alone an arrow cart.

Some militia individuals, away from the zerg mind, did their best or what they could, improving their game, be it siege or roaming. New individuals stepped up to command and rally the unthinking zerg.

Out of frustration, very possibly, but they did, because they were motivated enough.

Tonight in the Crown Pavilion, while just cranking through a bunch of my Queen’s Gauntlet tickets for my sick and twisted lottery attempt at the Choice of Lyssa recipe (will never happen, I’m sure, but well, Gauntlet Chances are easier to feed a gambling urge with than lockboxes that require paid keys), I overheard an individual being very chatty on mapchat.

Said person was rallying others, updating on boss percentages, being very friendly and unassuming but being very -present- and indicating signs of activity, and said person had a commander tag.

I looked down through the railing at my feet as someone in the cage I was spectating fell over and died to Liadri, with a grumbled “lag” as I rezzed him, and lo and behold, there was a group of 7-10 people at the centaur boss under us, and over to the left, another group that seemed to be working on ogre with another commander tag in play.

My FPS was 12-14, and I decided the other 40 odd tickets could wait.

I got down the ramps in time to see that two bosses were left, and that this plucky group of pickups was busy taking turns to fall over to Pyroxis’ bouncing projectiles and get rezzed.

Oh, what the heck, I thought. And went to join them.

45 seconds later, I was backpedaling out of combat to put on wall of reflection and shield of the avenger because there didn’t seem to be anyone in the group putting those up.

I was the sole source of reflects for a minute or two, but a few more people started trickling in, attracted by the fight.

Someone else stepped up and spelled it out. “Use reflects on him.”

My one pathetic wall of very sporadic reflection was suddenly joined by a second, and a third, staggering themselves out appropriately. Later, there was a mesmer feedback around the big scorpion destroyer.

We still took turns getting mauled by the bouncing unreflectable lava projectiles, and getting rezzed.

I worked on improving my personal game by getting better at dodging them when I saw them coming (the ones that come in from the sides or behind though… grrr…)

Surprise, surprise, I was having fun.

The other boss must have died at some point, because our group of 10ish suddenly ballooned to 20-25 as a second group appeared behind Pyroxis.

Steadily, his health bar dropped and the meanie scorpion poo-head died.

And we all got a reward chest.

Bronze, yes, because this was cleanup after some other group prior had left the instance at 4 bosses.

But my point was that this one person rallied a map that were willing to sit in an instance left at 4 bosses, doing their own thing, and performed a successful clean up. Said person had to leave to go to work, so there was no further attempt. Still, it’s proof of concept. Proof it can be done.

There have been heartening posts on Reddit that some commanders got together and tried rallying a map – some with positive results, silvers, with eyes towards gold, feeling it almost within reach.

There has been the case of AARM, and another guild on Northern Shiverpeaks whose name I unfortunately forget, who decided to “host” a map. They bring in 30-40 odd guildies, and like magic, when those around them see that a serious attempt is being made, also start to cooperate and coordinate out of peer pressure and self-interest.

Since we now lack server communities, perhaps this is where some guilds may find a niche to step up and step in.

The magic of MMOs is in community, after all.

And sometimes players need a little push before they care to talk to others.

The key, really, is that no one is forcing anybody into this. The rewards are available elsewhere and not exclusive.

Abandon the map if you truly hate it. Abandon the game, even, if you’re that bitter.

But if you’re frustrated enough by the thought of not being able to achieve gold or silver on one tiny piece of temporary content, then maybe start thinking of ways to be part of a community that can manage to do so.

That community might be a guild, a cross-server community, that very map instance you happen to be on, or the GW2 community at large.

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GW2: Dipping a Toe into Arah Explorable

Oh. Wow.

It’s 12 hours later and I’m still caught betwixt a mix of exhilaration and utter trauma.

I now much better understand Syl’s post about her experience pugging the Arah explorable dungeon paths. I gotta give mad respect for her jumping in and doing it, because I’m honestly not sure I will ever dare to join a PUG for this dungeon, now that I’ve seen what it’s like.

Mine was run in a guild group, which I suspect is what the difficulty of the dungeon is scaled to challenge. Two of us had not ever done it before, two had attempted and failed prior to this, and the last who had done it successfully was being awesome, leading us around and spelling everything out for us.

We were tackling path 3, which I hear is the -easiest- of the routes. *tries not to faint*

beginningarah

Story-wise, I’d have to say the premise is pretty intriguing from a GW1 player’s perspective. Each path appears to make reference to and trickle a small drip feed of information about the ancient races who fought off the dragons the last go around. That is, in no particular order, the Mursaat, Seers, Jotun and the Forgotten (whom we hear about in path 3) and the dwarves and a Tome of Rubicon reference make a sneak entrance at the introduction.

A guild group let the two of us newbies watch the cutscenes. I would seriously not DARE to even try that in a pug.

Our group composition was a good mix, two guardians, two mesmers (one of each was new, and the other pair had at least an attempt or two under their belts) and an elementalist (the only one who had a clue what we were in for.)

We got through the first few packs of ‘trash mobs’ decently well, with the sort of bouncy resiliency feeling you get when group builds are synergizing relatively well (kinda hard to describe, hope it comes across.) We don’t control people’s builds or require anything out of them, so it wasn’t perfect invincible super-synergy, but it felt decently resilient.

But DEAR GOD, did some of the mobs hit hard. A lot harder than anything I’ve ever felt. (I am a bit of a connoisseur on this as I tend to run tanky guardians that pull a majority of the aggro. Getting good enough to survive it though, is another matter.) The Risen Wizards and Risen Illusionists were apparently the major culprits involved in the damage spree, and though we targeted and focused them, I was feeling a decent amount of pressure trying to stay alive in the meantime.

I would love to go back in and study their attacks a little more some day. I’m sure there’s ways to mitigate more of the damage, be it through better reads of their animations and dodging, or countering whatever they’re specifically doing, but as a first timer experience, I was just sorta going in there and facing the brunt of it, then scrambling to heal up.

The first set of bosses weren’t -too- bad. The buildup as the experienced guy was explaining the mechanics was a bit more nerve-wracking. We settled on sending a guardian and the elementalist to deal with the Hunter where he was, while the three of us pulled the Crusher to where we were and the dancing at range began. Health bars were going down methodically (the bosses’, that is) and of course, this silly asura guardian was edging closer and closer into medium range (so I naturally get more daring and try to push limits, sue me) and WHOMP, ate a one-shot hammer shockwave from a miscalculation of the direction the guy was facing. Well, shit. And I still had aggro while downed, so a split second later, I was quite dead.

Fortunately, the other two had lots and lots of mesmer clones and were able to keep the Crusher very well occupied. Got slowly picked up (with plenty of time to resolve to myself not to be a fucking hero again and stay at goddamn max range), the other two finished off the Hunter and came over, and we worked over the rest of the Crusher’s hp. Had a little bit of relieved vindication when a few others also caught in the shockwave and had to be picked up (that’s the nice thing about a guild group, everyone feels human and there’s room for people to err, whereas I foresee a great deal of potential obnoxiousness oozing out of a pug for being ‘fail.’)

Lemme tell you it’s not quite easy to see what the hell the Crusher is doing when he’s covered with blue and yellow flames most of the damn time. 😛 (We can’t stop the pyromania either, says the guardians!)

Then came the running past trash.

The endless running through a very confusing layout through shitloads of angry red names, some of which read Risen Illusionist and Risen Wizard, and me being a fucking slowass guardian with probably the highest ping of the group and the highest armor/toughness.

This was not pretty. I think I have PTSD after the experience. I completely get what Syl said now regarding this…  She said:

Yet, my first few Arah PuG runs almost made me give up completely on my set goal (and humanity). They were spent group-rushing through large packs of trash, frantically spamming cooldowns and hoping to keep up with the others because no idea where I’m going. More often than not, they were spent being one-shot by said trash which either wiped the entire party or “the unlucky one” (as I like to call him by now), then re-attempting the same leeroy act, corpse-running over and over until somehow the entire party makes it through alive.

Yes, I was the “unlucky one.”

The elementalist leader was showing us the way, so we were all following him, and stuff would aggro initially on him as he entered their proximity, everyone would dash through the gauntlet while aggro fell right off him onto me trailing behind (slowing me down in combat even further) while having to dodge/run through the big ugly red circles that had popped up on the initial attack on the group.

This did not work. Quite a number of times. To the tune of 8 silver repairs or so. I’d gotten out of Knight/Berserker’s after the first two deaths, and swapped into the tankiest shit I had, Soldier/Clerics with runes of the soldier for condition removal on shouts, and it was still pretty ugly.

Mind you, this was a guild group, so I wasn’t being left alone here. The elementalist was kindly running with me and trying to lead me through, which was good because I HAD NO FUCKING IDEA WHERE ANYTHING WAS and was liable to run headlong into something horrible while trying to get away from the horror behind me.

After the next set or two of deaths, the -entire- group waypointed back to help with veils and speed (something I bet Syl will guarantee a pug would never do) and I made a big point of staying in the middle of the pack and running for my life. Which saved me and got me to the end, but the other guardian caught the brunt of it and died.

Whee.

Obviously I lacked any confidence whatsoever to go back and attempt it again, so I ended up standing around as part of the sad, asocial show. (Though internally it was more like, dear god, I don’t even dare move from this rock now. If I go back, I’ll just end up being THAT GUY again…)

With one mesmer going back to help him, and both of them probably having a better clue of where everything was, they eventually got through as a pair faster than I did. But wow, I am still more than a little traumatized and cannot imagine leeroying that gauntlet alone over and over in a pug. It really makes me wonder if killing the lot would be faster.

The subsequent Mage Crusher boss went a lot more smoothly than the trash mob gauntlet. We may or may not have been glitching by getting onto the boss in melee and coordinating to not move a single muscle (touching WASD was verboten)  in order not to trigger any of the necro marks that popped up around us. I dunno. But I thought it was interesting regardless in that it was challenging a group of five to not do something that is otherwise natural in GW2 (squirming about and dodging a lot) and required discussion beforehand and coordination as a team to stack and not move.

I suspect the ranged fight would not have been too annoying either, though with more accidental downs from Risen Hand knockdowns and stumbling into AoE and folks having to run to get each other up. (Pretty much like how most other big boss fights from range go, see Molten Facility stuff.)

And then there was Giganticus Lupicus.

lupicus
So that’s what one of them looks like…

The typed explanation of his phases was ridiculously elaborate. To the point of my brain threatening to fry while taking it all in for the first time. (You may be able to tell that I’m not really a WoW raider. I found RIFT’s dungeon mechanics rather elaborately challenging also.)

Anyhow, the message that went through was:

Phase 1 – All stack together, attack him from range. Prioritize killing grubs. Locusts not so important.

We did that, and subsequently got pwned from an ever-growing stack of buzzing locusts that everyone was doing their best to ignore in their quest to range Lupicus and kill grubs. As usual, I found myself absorbing most of the damage, which steadily alarmed me to the point of thinking “I’m running out of heals and cooldowns here and this is not working…”

Eventually I fell over, and watched the damage stack up on the other guardian, who also eventually fell over, and then everyone else went down like bowling pins.

Whoops.

New Revised Group Plan for Phase 1 – All stack together, 1-2 melee the locusts/grubs, the rest attack from range.

I believe the two guardians gratefully went back to melee at this point. This went flawlessly. With me getting my hammer on, the protection symbol was pulsing, damage was getting healed up by shouts and stuff, everything was getting hit and worn down by AoE, and whatever the rest were doing, it was working well as the locusts got cleared quickly and grubs died fast, mebbe only one or two got away.

Phase 1 complete, enter Phase 2.

To be honest, it was mostly a blur. A great big blur of everybody scatter, and don’t die, and don’t step in OMG SO MANY RED CIRCLES ahhh dodge dodge heal ohgodohgod run dodge, shit someone’s downed, have I got aggro, no I don’t have aggro I can go rez him, FUCK so many red circles runaway runaway, well he’s dead now, run back to rez a bit more, how am I still autoattacking Lupicus, ooh, he’s shadowstepping to me, dodge dodge abandon rez, kite away and let someone else finish the rez, GAAH he just shadowstepped to them and one more guy is downed, but now he’s gone over there and I can dash over and get the downed guy up and we can get the dead guy up together, oh good, we three are up because the other two are now downed, and NOW I HAVE AGGRO oh shit ohshit kite away don’t die don’t die healheal oh god, give them time to rez up, YES THEY MADE IT, good because NOW I’M DOWN ow ow ow…

Somehow in the midst of this utter chaos, everyone eventually stayed upright at one point and we shifted his hp sufficiently to move him into Phase 3.

Where his aggro intelligence apparently defaulted back to the standard GW2 one of loving Mr High Toughness.

Miss a tanking experience from other games? Well, you can get it RIGHT HERE in phase 3 of Giganticus Lupicus.

My first hint that he had gone into phase 3 was when I noticed the big boy had gotten fixated onto me, and all kinds of damaging stuff was challenging my dodging and healing quite severely, and some guy in Mumble was clinically discussing what his poison death cage looked like as I backed away and fell down in an animation familiar to me via Ring of Warding and he ended with, “Oh there, Shudd’s in it now.”

Lovely.

Luckily Stand Your Ground was up, so I chucked on stability and got out of dodge before my hp fell any further and struggled to heal up.

Then he death caged me AGAIN while Stand Your Ground wasn’t yet up, and that was a frenzy of trying to dodge/heal/stay alive while in the stupid circle.

I had a pretty good front row seat to all the spell effects Lupicus was throwing in phase 3 and pretty much was forced to learn how to avoid them really quick and get my skill usage timing spot on. I believe I went down once, but someone got me up very quickly (and may have gone down doing so) but with his aggro fixated on me, the fight basically turned into me kiting Lupicus in a big giant circle near the Arena walls while everyone else stood near the center and ranged and lol’ed.

In retrospect after reading the wiki guide, I may have stayed a few seconds longer in his life drain AoE than I should have by backing away and continuing to scepter him, instead of turning and running. Anyhow, that portion of the fight was oddly satisfying, if rather challenging playing keep alive.

Y’see, that tanky mindset that never really goes away just loves to hog all the aggro, even up to the point of biting off more than one can chew. (But how else can one learn where one’s limits are, right? Looking for group willing to put up with suicidal tank.)

Down he went, which progressed four of us further than we had ever gotten before.

The last bit was pretty much cleanup. There was so much adrenaline pumping after that fight that a few of us ran headlong into the Wraithlord’s dias triggering the event (guilty!) even as the one experienced guy was going “wait, I need to explain the mechanics…”

Oops. But you said earlier that it was MUCH easier than Lupicus. Anyhow, we managed the explanation pretty quickly and got sorted out over voice that two tanky guys were going to kite wraiths out of the circles and the other three would chill in them. After that, it was mostly tank-and-spank. Which was a relief after the wild excitement prior to this, and we all collected 60 shiny Arah tokens. Some of us for the first time ever.

Time spent wasn’t too bad, bearing in mind all the newbieness to Arah-ness. We started at 6.52pm server time. Reached Lupicus at 7.43pm. Were out of the dungeon by 8.32pm.

It really feels like the dungeon is made to challenge a well coordinated guild group. The difficulty level is quite eye-opening (bear in mind I don’t run high level fractals nor do I run other dungeons on a regular basis.) But it does feel ultimately doable, and it makes me tempted to attempt the other paths too. Though I’m not sure when I’d ever have the opportunity.

Arah would be pleasant for folks who can regularly get together at a set time and crank away at it, I feel. PUGs seem like it would be very hit or miss with how challenging the difficulty is and how liable one would be to get veterans who may splooge obnoxious elitism all over the place.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t mind another Lupicus fight. With a good group (read: understanding and well-coordinated/synergized.)

Though I have no idea how I’m going to get there through the trash.

That's exactly how I feel after finishing. "Twitchy."
That’s exactly how I feel after finishing path 3, facing trash mobs and Lupicus. “Twitchy.” (Oh, and are all female Sylvari slightly unhinged?)

CoH: Why I Love This Summer Blockbuster Event

And now for something I do like from City of Heroes, lest you think I am a sour grapes and am just using the poor aging game as a whipping boy.

I know it seems that way. I’m honestly not happy with my sudden ennui and frustration. I joined it in the end of 2004, and my loyalty didn’t waver until last year’s track record shook it badly. (It was obvious the company culture and certain devs had changed hands.)

I have the equivalent of 84 months – 7 years – of veteran rewards. I don’t want it selling out to become the worse of F2P (slippery slide down the slope of lottery and gambling for big profits) and the worse of WoW (slippery slide up the repetitive grind shiny gear-chasing ladder).

It still does do -some- things right. Though sometimes I’m convinced they were happy accidents of fate.

The Summer Blockbuster Event neatly encapsulates a lot of the good things I do like. I don’t know how much of it is purposeful design and how much is just bonus, but there’s a lot to describe and break down.

It’s an event designed for a group of 4 players. It is begun by queuing using the LFG turnstile system and you have a choice of PUGing it (a pickup group) or forming your own premade group of 4 to start.

You begin in a Theatre Lobby, which builds in some breathing space for slow zoning players, getting to know your new group and discuss strategy and tactics or teach anyone if they’re new. The Lobby also sports helpful inspiration vendors, masquerading as steampunk popcorn vendors, and acts as the hospital for defeated players.

Theatre Lobby
The all-important surprisingly non-overpriced refreshments

It also has a nice immersion easter egg, winning player-created movie poster designs for folks to admire. (I believe the vendor is also a winning player costume design.)

From left to right: Magical Dream Unicorns The Movie, Brass Monday (it’s all a Nemesis Plot), Ascension (impossible just got easier), IT Came From Beneath The City
From left to right: The Guard (not all heroes need powers), My User Dave (ever get the feeling you’re being watched?) Hero One (one mission, one chance, one way), DFB (Death From Bologna)

The event comes in two parts, representing the movies Time Gladiator and Casino Heist. Whichever part starts first is random, which brings a small but nice touch of variation to the party. They are covered in detail in two separate posts as linked.

A loadscreen sets up the two movies, aka minigame-like missions

There are so many reasons why I love these Summer Blockbusters.

1) A New Innovative System

This used to be what City of Heroes stood for. Each Issue, they’d experiment with something new, something not seen before, something that pushed the envelope of what they could do with their aging MMO engine. That’s why I kept up a subscription year after year, even if I took a break for several months, because I wanted to see the devs continually surprise us with good stuff.

These Summer Blockbusters are an intricate complex arrangement of mission mechanics that were probably first built for the Incarnate Trials, and all I can say is, it’s about fucking time that they brought some of it down to the small group level.

2) Flexible Paths to Success

There’s one perfect ideal path. The path that gets you all the ten badges in one run in the shortest amount of time possible. When it happens, it is a really good feeling that all the players are in sync with each other, perfect score, awesome team, very nice job, all that congratulatory business. But you know what?

You still get the shiny IO reward at the end as long as you can complete the entire thing, even if people take alternate routes, even if people screw up, even if you don’t get a perfect badge run. And that is as it should be. That rewards persistence, not giving up, forgiveness of mistakes (your own or other people’s). No big loss, it’s just a badge you can get at another time, assuming you didn’t already have it.

Even if people inadvertently disconnect and drop out of the team, the event is completable with less people. I’ve done it with three (from scratch, a dark def, a dark corruptor and a scrapper), and even two (that was halfway through that folks crashed, so it was the casino heist left. The biggest problem was Sylvia’s regeneration rate that my lone stalker couldn’t beat. A scrapper joined up by chance using the LFG queue and that extra damage was sufficient to overcome her and ultimately leave us both walking home with the Universal Damage IO reward.)

The only issue is that the casino story doesn’t quite line up properly and you’d have to wait for the phases to time out and forgo the chance of perfect badge scoring on that part.

3) Small Group Dynamics

The only thing I do kinda wish is if they managed to scale it down to soloability, just to be inclusive, but I’ll seriously take four-person teams over 24-man Incarnate trial raids ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

It’s small enough to be aware of the role of each person and allows for chances for group synergy (who’s tanking, who’s doing damage, who’s supporting, and hybrid versions thereof.) It’s not so chaotically messy.

I rather like that they chose to exemplar us down to lvl 29. Too high a level is a little exclusionary for those who don’t have higher leveled characters. And those of us with higher leveled characters, well, when we exemplar down to a mid-range,  most of us lose all the gap filling powers and set bonuses that allow people to run around heedless of archetype soloing things tankmage style, and have to fall back a little more on the fun group dynamics of City of Heroes.

As a guy on the forums mentioned, his support characters actually felt valuable, like they could shine in true support, rather than be overshadowed by the thousandth and one uber-Incarnate scrapper. Scrappers and even brutes are squishier at lvl 29. Good support helps them shine. In turn, squishy classes ARE squishy at lvl 29. Proper tanking and holding aggro really makes life easier.

I also really appreciated the lack of purple triangles on many of the AVs and bosses. Control classes have a good chance of stacking enough control to make a visible, noticeable difference. This stuff matters. This stuff lets players feel their characters are effective.

I took my support characters out of the deep freeze (270 days and counting) to play the event and it felt good to make a noticeable difference, something I simply wasn’t feeling in Incarnate trials.

4) It Encourages Alting

There’s a 20-hour limit on one character to earn the desirable IO shiny via the event. I think this was meant more to limit the rate at which the shiny is earned, but it is a happy accident that this encourages the digging up of alts to run multiple playthroughs.

I’ve been unearthing more and more alts to run them through the event and it feels like meeting old friends again. This nostalgic fondness for characters long forgotten, but still up to performing well as muscle memory kicks in.

And with different alts, comes different playstyles. This is the true essence of CoH. People can run the same mission repetitively because they’re playing with different powersets and playstyles, and with different people – which makes you adapt and change to fit what the group needs at that point in time.

I’ve had picture perfect optimum role runs where everyone fell naturally into CoH’s hybrid version of the holy trinity (with extra buff/debuff and cc love!)

I’ve had runs where a secondary class can fill in roles in a pinch, with others’ support (my scrapper was tanking with the leadership buffs from a Soldier of Arachnos), or the more nonstandard but still good combinations (the controller used phantom army to tank)

I’ve even had the eyebrow-raising “ooh er, this is tricky” runs. Namely, one run with all squishies, two controllers who didn’t have invulnerable pets, a dom and a blaster. We all got tossed around and three-shotted over-and-over by the first AV in the arena as we established none of us had true tanking capability as is. At which point, I rolled my eyes, bought a bunch of purple Lucks from the popcorn vendor and acted as volunteer tank by virtue of stacking three of them at once for effective defence and just unloading on the damage till I drew aggro. Things stabilized from there, and yes, we got the shiny at the end.

Or the run with my ancient low-damage stone tank, two lowbie brutes who also seemed not that well-slotted on damage, and an illusion controller. I went in expecting to be all tanky, and then I realized that everyone was survivable, the controller’s phantom army was tanking half the time and one of the brutes the other, and the total amount of damage everyone was outputting was scarily miserable since the three melee types were sucking wind on endurance issues. So three quarters of the time, I ran around toggle-less in order to save endurance and do normal (for a tanker) levels of damage to contribute and everyone stopped for lots of blue candies at the inspiration vendor later. We managed, pretty painfully, but managed.

5) Short and Sweet, Fast and Furious

On the whole, excepting the rare cases above, each event is exactly that, short, sweet instances of fast furious fun and action where you get to beat up some AVs in a small group. It’s like the Imperious Task Force (everyone’s all-time favorite TF) in miniature.

6) LFG Tool is Actually Working For Once

Wait time is minimal. I presume this is because critical mass of 4 people is much easier to achieve than presuming 16-24 people have the patience (or lack of sense) to stand around queueing hoping that an Incarnate trial will start, utterly leaderless and still succeed.

And success is easier to come by and the mechanics easier to learn and more forgiving, which yields positive feedback into the loop and encourages more players to keep queuing because hey, these random groups of people can still  succeed and they’re fast and convenient to get into, and no one needs to lead. Everyone just needs to do their part.