GW2: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again… But Also Pause and Think…

The Mystical Mesmer’s latest tales about miserable failure and continuous improvement makes me grin wryly and nod.

While I have chosen to wuss out this time on the Winter Wonderland jumping puzzle (hate the exploding presents – that stage is too competitive for me. Apparently the first to jump triggers the explosions. I am never the first to jump since my latency is usually higher than anyone in NA, so I end up waiting and waiting, and folks just pile in behind me and I never get to jump. If I just go YOLO, and jump, chances are likely I’m going to fall behind and fall through the gaps anyway), lately, I’ve found myself suddenly addicted to Unranked PvP.

T’was a curious conjunction of events that led to this.

First, there’s the new PvP dailies.

I’m usually game to get the easiest one or two, in a single match or two. That broke the initial barrier of venturing into the Heart of the Mists.

Secondly, there’s the utterly disgusting low chance of popping anything good with the Wintersday presents, coupled with guaranteed rewards in the PvP Wintersday track.

RNG and me do not get along. I -still- haven’t popped more than one carapace boots. When a precursor dropped for me last year, it was naturally the cheapest and most unwanted one, Venom.

All my Wintersday stuff this year has been bought. 15 gold for a Magnanimous Bell versus 500 ugly sweaters? Here, take the gold. I get 3-5 gold off the TP daily anyway. Collection starter items? After opening some 100 presents, I still hadn’t got one of them yet. Whatever. TP. Less than a silver.

The only bonus was that I’d apparently gotten all the Endless tonic recipes memorized last year. So I just paid 25 gold or so to Miyani (such goldsink this season!) and crafted stuff to turn into a dancing gift-wrapped box.

As for the Rime-Rimmed Aquabreather… what, rely on RNG to give me one? That’s never gonna happen.

I’d pretty much given up on it when a chance Reddit thread pointed out that the Ultimate Wintersday Gift in the Wintersday PvP track contained a guaranteed aquabreather.


(Also drool-worthy are permanent finishers as a choice. DAYUM. Those are worth GEMS.)

That was a pretty powerful motivator to seriously consider progressing on the PvP track this Wintersday, especially since the new Unranked arena provides a middle ground between meaningless deathmatching in hotjoin and the super competitive leaderboard climbers in Ranked.

So I broke out my usual ‘safe’ PvP character, my ‘bleed everything, not pro enough to be a terrormancer’ condi necro – whose build I shared with Missy Mojo some time ago and queued for a couple of matches.

Almost immediately, I realized I was in some serious trouble.

It may be that with the number of matches I had on my necromancer belt (290+), the matchmaking was bootstrapping me up to face a higher class of player. Fights on point were hard as hell. The scores for most matches were in the 475 – 500 sort of range, both ways, win or lose… except for the ones that had a premade team wiping the floor with us.

Yet since I was solo queuing, there was no guarantee of receiving any help if I ended up facing a 1 vs 2 on point – my necro can’t run, it can only just stay there, last for a while, and then die horribly.

Worse of all, I had my eye on the grind. I wanted the PvP Wintersday reward track to go up! Winning gives 1500 rank points! Losing only 500! Aaaargh!

I was stressing out a bit too much and taking things way too seriously, since this was my ‘serious’ PvP character, the one I use when I “want” to win. Some of us are prone to obsession in very unhealthy ways, and I knew this was a danger sign. My usual solution is just to play a few matches each day and not worry about it, but but… that is counter-productive to actually getting a rime-rimmed breather! How to resolve this?!

The solution came in the form of a PvP daily the very next day.

Win a match as a Ranger, they said.

You know, I said to myself, I have always been intending to learn how to play another class in PvP.

This would be a great opportunity to stop being lazy, look up Metabattle and copy a PvP build on your lowbie ranger and learn how to play it.

My lowbie ranger, by the way, is merely level 39 or so, a good chunk of that being a level 20 scroll of experience. I have pretty much never ventured beyond Brisban Wildlands with him in PvE. I barely knew how all his weapons operate. Still can’t tell you without reading the tooltips what a good chunk of them do, as opposed to say, knowing by heart guardian or necro skills and able to play them on sheer muscle memory.

Knowing full well my lack of ranger ability, my expectations of success didn’t so much lower as become nonexistent.

This turned out to be remarkably FREEING.

Y’see, there were two ‘meta’ builds available on Metabattle.

Like a masochist, I avoided the obvious easy one – ie. Power Ranger. I’ve seen that one in action. They stay back, snipe a lot and are terribly annoying, but aren’t terribly helpful on control point capture unless they really know the map and have mastered positioning well. I figured I could experiment with it another time.

The other was Condition Survival. Gee, that sounds a bit like my necro. Stack bleeds, be bunker-y, seemed like familiar ground to go with.

So I faithfully copied the meta build, barely understanding what eveything did, slowly reading each skill and trait as I slotted it in.

OK, I said, for my first few matches, I am not even trying to win, I am just going to figure out how it all works and gels together.

(As for why I didn’t do it in hotjoin, don’t make me laugh. The amount of side switching and stacking means you never get 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 matchups that really stress test your build – all you normally get is zerg or be zerged. Also, I was keen on seeing if the matchmaking was intelligent enough to detect that I was on a class that I’d never used in PvP before and match me with closer inexperienced equivalents.)

A few matches were actually won, but I suspect I had very little to do with those beyond the odd assist or two.

The bulk of it were losses as I ran around, noobing it up, seriously stress testing the survival abilities of the build while trying to figure out how to actually hurt anyone with it.

Survival was actually good, but I was fairly dismayed to only hit 6-10 bleeds on average on most people. I just couldn’t seem to get behind them enough, and their natural reaction is, of course, to face their opponent.

It must be my inexperience, I kept thinking, I just need to figure out the rotation and get better at execution. The only way to do it is practice. So keep pounding that Next Matchup button and keep going! Each loss is still 2% on the reward progression track!

And I had a more immediate improvement goal to keep my mind occupied and off the fact that most of the matches were losses. The goal: Get better at playing ranger. Actually progress to ‘passable’ and maybe even win a 1 vs 1 matchup.

(I was also supremely curious to see if the matchmaking would adjust, and see “oh, this fail ranger has lost like 8 matches in a row, let’s match him with equally horrific players…”)

It turns out that a losing streak makes it very hard to judge the quality of later matches, as the level of overall cooperation from players on your team seems to drop as well. (Makes a certain amount of sense that soloists who can’t seem to figure out map mechanics or the fact that control points are important for score would be in a lower bracket.)

What ended up deciding which team would win seemed to merely be luck of the draw, as in, which side had more randomly sorted players who understood teamwork slightly better than the other team.

Eventually, the streak of losses got to me and I actually paused to think, rather than just hitting the ‘Unranked’ button and leaping right into the next match.

I was aware that I wasn’t playing at a similar level as I could have on my usual necro. I just wasn’t winning 1 vs 1s consistently enough. Hell, I just didn’t seem to be doing any significant damage in any fight. 5-6 bleeds is nothing.

I knew from prior fights with the necro that I’d encountered a lot more dangerous condition rangers who could stack 18+ bleeds with seeming ease, tossing them on even as you cleared them.

Maybe I’m just not getting the movement and rotations of condi survival correct, I thought. Maybe I should check if there are high-level PvP pros whose movements I can try to emulate more. So I googled for “condition survival ranger.”

Turns out it wasn’t a terribly popular build and I couldn’t really find videos of anyone using it at a very high level (might be just my google fail)… but I did find one video which suggested some condi survival variants that weren’t at all traited like the one I found on Metabattle.


Maybe, just maybe, I should stop assuming that I am too much of a noob with ranger to tweak a build and actually take some time to -read- my other traits and try to craft a build (or at least tweak the meta variant more to my liking) like what I did for my necro?

Problem 1: I am simply not getting enough bleeds onto my opponents.

The video I found suggested two solutions. Sharpening Stone the utility skill, as well as Keen Edges – a trait in the Power line that fires off a Sharpening Stone when someone hits 75% threshold… You know what, I don’t have enough bleeds… I’ll take both.

What to give up? At my low level of play, I wasn’t facing enough condi pressure to really worry about having my pet take all my condis… besides I rather not have my pet dead all the time. I’m already running a trait that clears 2 condis with each Survival skill used. So I just pressed the “subtract” button twice and added 2 to the Power line to pick up Keen Edges.

As for the utility skill, I just didn’t think I was using Signet of Stone appropriately at my level of play. Being invulnerable to damage is nice, for both me and my pet, but if I’m getting focused to the point that I need to pop it, it’s like a 4 vs 1 fight because all my other teammates have already died. Not very useful ultimately. So what the hell, less toughness, more pewpew. Bleeds, anyway.

Problem 2: I just can’t seem to figure out how to operate this stupid dagger offhand.

Pressing 5 may or may not land some miserable amount of bleeds on a player. I couldn’t ever seem to get close enough to land dagger 4 properly. Not that a bit of poison seemed to be doing that much either.

Well, Metabattle also suggested a torch offhand variant. Maybe I’ll try that. Seems to be some burning, and a fire field. Fire fields are always good, I could maybe shoot through it for more burning or something…

Problem 3: I am just not getting any mileage whatsoever out of this stupid spider. I lose track of it more than half the time, it never seems to immobilize when I want it to, or be in range when I need it to be.

The wolf was ok. It acted like how I expect a ranger pet to act, running into melee range, getting into people’s faces, and I actually managed to set off its fear once or twice.

So… eff the spider. New pet.

I really have no clue here… but you know what? I need more bleeds! And I’ve seen my guild leader (who mains a ranger) use birds before! They do decent slashy slashy damage, I think!

So I looked through the whole stable of pets and found a hawk with lacerating slash for even moar bleeds.

And because I really wanted a theme going here and wasn’t getting much mileage out of the Sigil of Doom’s poison anyway, I put a Sigil of Earth (60% chance of bleeding on crit) and a Sigil of Geomancy (apply bleed to anyone near you on weapon swap) on BOTH weapons.

If I sit on a weapon and autoattack, I want it to apply bleeds.

If I swap a weapon, you got it, it’s gonna bleed anyone near me – maybe I’ll -actually- get it to land on someone now that I don’t have to remember which weapon to which weapon switch applied the bleed. (Dat’s too high level for me.)

The difference, when I got back to queuing for matches, may not have been night and day, but it was certainly more like dawn with clear skies versus a depressing foggy London evening.

Suddenly, I was stacking anywhere from 10-18+ bleeds.

Apparently, people panic when they suddenly get too much bleeding on them and turn away from you, causing even more bleeds to stack.

The amount of bleeding I was putting out was giving me a LOT more confidence to dive in and take on 1 vs 1s (or even 1 vs 2s), allowing my 900 range shortbow and axe to connect more consistently, and even get into near melee range to land guess what, even more bleeds, and here, have some cover condis like chill and cripple to boot.

I got braver and launched more Entangle elites, and discovered that torch was in fact a dream weapon. The fire field appeared to do a decent amount of damage to already wounded inviduals. Not only did it make thieves more reluctant to close in and melee when a circle of fire erupts under their feet, I could basically recreate a City of Heroes fire tank farming scenario where they would immobilize a bunch of mobs and then place a bonfire on them.

This created a catch-22 situation where my opponent first had to deal with the distraction of getting a ton of bleeds, then suddenly halted in their tracks with a Binding Roots entangle (which they’d either have to break, or react fast enough with an appropriate condi clear or movement skill) and while they were still trying to execute that, here’s a bonfire merrily ticking away under their stationary self to worry about too.

Not many get out of this without falling over downed.

Also, I could just dump a fire field on demand onto a thief’s shadow refuge, where previously I’d lose target and look around helpless, or drop a fire field on a downed person to keep them down while messing around with a second player.

The bird, meanwhile, seemed to be a decent enough distraction that got in people’s faces and chased them around, so that was good too.

I started winning a decent number of 1 vs 1s – which in my book, is a good enough basic yardstick to measure a build against and not find it wanting.

This then means that if I wander over to a point where a 1 vs 1 is already taking place, I can expect to actually apply enough pressure to quickly down the opponent, instead of getting bogged down forever in a useless 2 vs 1 fight in which we lose pretty much every second that person keeps two people occupied playing with him and not killing him.

Again, queuing for matches became interesting, regardless of the final result.

As I kept playing, I started developing a bit of a theory of sPvP matches. Imo, some games are just lost games, where the other team is patently more organized and better than your team.

If you get out-rotated from the beginning, where someone just barges into your home point and successfully prevents a fast capture of that point, while his team caps their home unmolested, and the teamfight at mid is being held off equally, or worse, actually LOST by your team, you pretty much know that your team cannot match theirs in a teamfight.

(There was one highly memorable and embarrassing match where I actually managed to lose a 1 vs 1 on home against an ele, while watching our invader to their home lose his fight to the home defender, and then got to watch the 3 in the middle wipe within split seconds of each other. Result: 5 people respawning, 3 control points in the other team’s favor. WELL. So much for that match.)

For whatever reason, I totally don’t mind it when I’m on my ranger.

It’s like the ranger has been designated in my mind as my ‘play for fun’ PvP character. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have high expectations on a ranger I have zero PvE experience with. Maybe it’s just that he’s a roly poly asura and you can never be serious while an asura cavorts around on your screen.

I just chalk it up as, ok, forget the match result, time to wander off to a point that doesn’t have anyone and hope I draw 1 or 2 opponents to practice my 1 vs 1 or 1 vs 2 skills on. These give me little mini-successes, even if the match is a total wash in terms of score.

If I do end up drawing 3 or 4, then urm, practice like hell my juking and dodging and evading and running around obstacles and rolling off from heights and changing the Z axis as much as possible before I die horribly. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually help my team get some score elsewhere. (If the team really sucks, then usually not.)

But in general, I’m feeling the tide shift back to a more balanced 50/50 win-loss ratio, and that suggests I’ve actually managed to get the build to a point where it’s no longer a detriment to the team.

And some days, the shoe is on the other foot. This was a patently won match, where everyone on the team
And some days, the shoe is on the other foot. This was a patently won match, where everyone on the team was winning their matchups consistently against their opponents. I ended up running sentry circles around the outside of the clock tower – a place I’ve never really had opportunity to go to before – just watching the fights at both ends – having frightened away 3 individuals from coming back to mid with 1 vs 1 kills – feeling like rotating to any other point would just be too much salt in the wound.

All that match repetition while learning the ranger has also caused me to look upon sPvP as something akin to a TF2 match or any other FPS match, where you just play and restart, play and restart, some you win, some you lose.

The Unranked category is a real godsend for me as I can treat matches this way without worrying that my carefree, casual attitude is fucking up someone’s leaderboard ranking.

The amount of toxicity that I’ve seen is also pretty low.

Haven’t had any whispers directed at me yet (though I’d pretty much just block and ignore, since I staunchly say a total of zero words in PvP all the time. Typing equals can’t fight, y’know?)

Generally, the only thing I’ve seen is a couple people passively-aggressively venting about a miserable team over map or teamchat. (Since they are no doubt part of the problem, I can’t really take their complaints seriously. 😛 Just bad losers being bad losers.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, looking to score just -one- kill so that I at least look semi-dangerous, or a decent enough challenge.)

PvP or PvE Have Become Meaningless Terms

I don’t think it’s really useful to just say PvP or PvE and assume everyone has a shared standard of values and definition of what it means anymore.

I mean, even the concept of a “raid” has begun to diverge.

A Wildstar raid has a different feel than a WoW raid. With absolutely zero experience in either, I feel fairly confident in saying that one is liable to have a lot more colored shapes on the ground and bullet hell than the other. An Archeage raid apparently involves trying to take down a world boss in the middle of a big ass PvP warzone, and then there’s GW2 not-quite-raids, which can apply to taking down world bosses or a zone challenge in an organized fashion with 100-150 members, or the WvW usage thereof, which is an organized PvP-esque group of 10-20 guild members, firing off skills in a coordinated fashion to defeat other parties.

What more a general term like PvP or PvE?

Instead, I’d like to suggest that we start breaking down these large concepts into various factors that we can profile different players by.

I’m still grappling with the precise factors, so there may be overlaps or repeat themselves somewhat, but I’d propose things like:

  • Loss aversion / Risk Tolerance
  • Need for Control (over self / surroundings or daily game experience / others)
  • Need for Variation
  • Need for Challenge
  • Luck vs Skill Preference
  • Time Investment / Effort vs Skill Preference
  • Contested / Non-contested Preference
  • Asymmetry Tolerance / Level or Uneven Playing Field?

Our very general concept of PvP tends to assume that PvPers have pretty high risk tolerance and aren’t very loss averse, treating character death or equipment loss as no big deal and part and parcel of the game. They’re probably fairly open to being acted on by others and responding to sudden changes in their surroundings or daily game experiences, while having a need to control or dominate others through defeating them and enjoying the sweet thrill of victory. They might have a high need for variety, given that PvP situations tend to result in unpredictable matchups and encounters. If you listen to what PvPers say about themselves, they love the challenge of an evenly-matched unpredictable human opponent wit-matching battle, and PvErs are ez-mode-seeking noobs.  And of course, they enjoy contested games.

You may note that I didn’t mention certain factors like  “luck vs skill” or “time/effort vs skill” yet. I’ll touch on that later.

Conversely, the generalized ideal of your typical PvE carebear is that they’re very loss averse, being allergic to dying even once in a fight. They may have a higher need for control over what happens to them in their daily game experience (which explains all the stereotypical begging for PvP flags or PvE servers so that they can choose when and where they encounter PvP.) If you listen to what PvErs say about themselves, they love a challenging raid encounter boss that they’ll have to keep trying and trying again to defeat, and PvPers are ganking griefing bullies who love to pick on those who can’t fight back.

Try as I might to shoehorn the other factors in, you might observe my attempted generalizations breaking down because really, there’s no stereotypical PvEr, just as there isn’t a stereotypical PvPer.

Some PvErs don’t really need a lot of variation in their daily MMO routine, or maybe it’s just for certain activities. I personally am quite content to farm repetitively for periods of time or mine a bunch of nodes in peace and quiet with no one interrupting me. I quite appreciate a predictable mob whose attack patterns I can learn and then slowly master and defeat. Then again, I get bored out of my mind if you ask me to repeat an easy world boss cycle or the same goddamn dungeon over and over, while other players – I note with absolute bemusement – are perfectly content to do just that!

Other PvErs are languishing away, hoping to eventually find devs with the tech and money to create a more unpredictable PvE world of mobs with intelligent AI and dynamic events producing a great variety of situations to encounter. But only computer-controlled, mind you, human players are too threatening.

Some PvPers are content to log in daily to their WvW matchup or their MOBAs at a set time every night and just play the same series of maps over and over, finding variation only in the players and playstyles they encounter, and the random micro-situations that result. Others really like the grand vision of a living breathing immersive world that’s set up like the Wild West, where you’re free to attack others whenever you want, where there aren’t many rules but the law of the jungle or the sheriff and his posse… while still others are sitting on the fence waiting for another set of laws somewhere in between the more lawless times of our history and our modern day world.

You’ll find that among both PvErs and PvPers, some people are a lot more willing to gamble big than others, or able to take the prospect of serious loss or backwards progression with equanimity. Their opposite number are the ones that argue against permadeath, against equipment loss in any form, against anything high-risk and high-consequence and would prefer everything of that ilk not present in the games they play.

Someone without a very high need for control over themselves and their surroundings may be a viable candidate for showing up in an open world PvP game, or a game with negative or backward progress consequences, regardless of whether they consider themselves a PvPer. Especially if you can tempt them in with things they -are- interested in, such as being able to socialize in a close community, or crafting/building/decorating a house, or trading and market PvP, or a simulation of a ‘realistic-in-their-eyes’ world and they’ll cheerfully put up with being your fat targets for combat-oriented PvPers in trade for those things.

On the other hand, those players who hate that sort of thing won’t be caught dead or alive in those kinds of games, or if they did get attracted, they’ll probably end up flaming out and rage-quitting one day when they can’t take it anymore.

On the PvE front, the control freaks are the ones that are most likely to be in regular groups of friends and not caught dead in random LFG finders, or off soloing by themselves, or possibly even leading – setting up situations under their personal control, in other words, and are liable to get twitchy or toxic when things don’t quite go their way or as they expect. Their opposite number are liable to be flitting from random situation to random situation with nary a care in the world.

In the same way, one might even suggest that we have low-challenge-seeking PvErs AND PvPers. One farms punching bag autoattack mobs, the other farms newbies or low levels, and both enjoy what they do.

The typical gamer, whom you’ll find almost always praises themselves as loving high challenge, will often speak in desultory fashion about this subset of players – but like always, it’s not so much what people say, as what they do.

I’ll  personally admit to liking a bit of easy fun now and then, even if I’ll rather do it to mobs than on another person. Then again, if it’s for an overall objective, I’m not above ruthlessly spawn-camping someone to break their morale so that they leave the battlefield and leave the other side outnumbered, or targeting the weakest link first and taking them right out, when I’ve chosen to play a PvP game. I like to play my games well and as efficiently as I can.

Given my observation of the general mass of players in any game, I suspect the ‘easy fun’ lovers to be a substantial subset, if not an outright majority. A dev would actually have metrics of this. And if they want to get paid, it may very well be in their interests to give these easy fun lovers some outlets. (Which leads to things like ‘welfare epics,’ ‘spam 1 to get loot farming’ and ‘gankers that sit around in low level zones cackling.’ Evils in the eyes of high-challenge-seeking players, but perhaps they’re necessary evils in a particular game. Or perhaps not – we’ll just have to see if anyone comes up with any cleverer design solutions.)

I also want to point out that it’s not a dichotomy. The theory of flow suggests that there are at least three states that ‘challenge’ can exist, rather than just high vs low, black vs white.

There’s low, middle or optimal, and high.

Too high challenge is frustrating. Overly frustrating people leads to learned helplessness and quitting.

The dream, of course, is the middle path of perfect, optimal challenge, leading to engagement and flow. Except to complicate things, different people have different frustration tolerances too, so what’s middle and optimal for one, may be too hard or too easy for another.

(Variable difficulty levels that adjust to the player is one suggested solution, but it’s always much easier typed or said than done, of course. Exactly how you vary this, and whether you let the player have any say or control over the matter, have been attempted by different games to differing effect.)

Also, some are more able to persevere after being knocked down, and others will throw in the towel earlier. This is less of a moral impeachment on their character, but more often due to a perceived locus of control. People who believe they can’t affect their situation and convert it from a negative to positive result are more likely to just give up.

Someone who is convinced that their twitch reflexes aren’t very good and not easily improved are more liable to just shrug and dismiss ever being any good at action-y games, whereas another might find they have sufficient time and motivation to keep practicing and plugging away until they improve.

Me, I really detest the concept of grinding for better stats to improve performance, so if you present such a game scenario to me, I’m more likely to tell you to soak the game in a barrel of water and that I’m going off to play another less annoying game that doesn’t force me into this treadmill. Another person who really digs the idea of putting in effort and seeing visible incremental progress come back – regardless of how static his or her personal game-playing skills remain –  will happily jump onto this crystal clear path of progression “to get stronger.”

As Talarian suggests, the higher-than-average skilled will always argue for a meritocracy where better skill leads to better rewards. But the presence of randomness and RNG luck rolls reward the weaker or below-average players from time to time and keep them playing the game – which is beneficial to both devs (who get paid) and for the game as a whole (higher population, more concurrent players, etc.)

Let’s not forget that if you chase away the worse players, the average will move, and there will be a new bar for “average” that’s set even higher, causing a new group of players to become “below average.”

Too much randomness, of course, and you don’t have very much of a game at all besides a game of pure chance, which will chase away the subset of players who want skill to have a tangible effect on their success at a game.

Then there’s my afterthought of asymmetry tolerance, which I -just- shoehorned in.

Perceptions of this also differ. Some people hate the very thought of GW2’s WvW because there are servers that are more populated than others, or number imbalances at different timezones, and refuse to play such an asymmetrical style of PvP. Give them totally even number tournament-style matchups, thank you. That’s a lot fairer and more competitive, in their viewpoint.

Me, I can deal with the above, because I find that they replicate a certain ‘reality’ of military history, that outnumbered fights happen and that there’s a beauty to tactics and strategy that can change localized number imbalances in your favor – such as feigning attacks in one place while committing to the real thing at another, or just spiking and focus-firing important or weaker targets.

But I do tend to cringe at stat and level imbalances piled on top of these, and find that a little -too- asymmetrical for myself to tolerate. Others are perfectly fine with it – after all, it’s ‘realistic’ too that some people might be naturally stronger than others, right?

The types of games that we play are very much dictated by our own preferences of factors like I’ve suggested above. It’s too much of a simplification to just lump things as PvE or PvP, and assume that never shall the twain meet.

“It’s Just A Game” – Or Why We Can’t All Just Get Along

I’ve been ping-ponging back and forth from a series of blog posts, enjoying a great range of shared perspectives about PvP.

  • Somewhere along the way, Zubon produces an informative little aside about a new term that may be useful when discussing PvP – “Contested”

Naturally, when I read so much thought-provoking stuff, my mind goes into overdrive and starts to try and make sense of it all.

Mostly because I’m super-puzzled by my own reactions, where I generally agree with a good part of most of the things said in -every- post, and then come to a screeching halt at certain paragraphs and think, “Er, no, sorry, I don’t share that particular viewpoint” or “Wait, I’m like that in this one particular game, and like this in some other game.”

Also, one of the things I like most about reading other people’s opinions on their blogs is that I get to try and pick out the reasons for why they hold a particular point of view, and then attempt to bring it together to form some kind of generalized theory about why people play the games they do – it’s a fascination of mine, if you can’t tell from the name of my blog.

I find it’s also helpful for further discussion, since players are better able to articulate what precisely they like or dislike, and for future developers to then try and design games that put these various preferences together in unexpected ways, rather than just clone whatever has worked before.

Let’s start with some ground rules, since PvP vs PvE can end up as a very loaded and heated subject matter, and I’m simply -not- interested in the same old boring rehash of “PvPers are evil, PvErs are carebears. WE don’t want to associate with THEM.”

Name-calling and dismissing another person’s interests, or unique perspective thusly, is not productive for a shared dialogue.

I’ll be doing my best to try and avoid it for this post, though of course, it’s sometimes fun to write with a very subjective slant for hyperbolic effect, or useful as an emotional release to vent and so on.

You see, I recently attended a talk on mediation, where the speaker shared something I found rather insightful and helpful.

There are generally three ways human beings use to resolve a conflict:

1. War – Being ”right” through might or power. The victor gets to rewrite history to suit themselves.

Yep, through history, this has been a well-used means of settling disputes. Basically, you wipe out or defeat or otherwise try to dominate the other party into agreeing to your point of view.

I’m sure you can think of so-called “marriages” that have essentially descended to this level of negative-sum combat, where one party wins at the expense of another, and both may have bled or been hurt during the conflict it too.

2. Logic / Justice – Determining who is “right” or “wrong” through a series of arguments and fact-finding.

This is the realm of our legal system, where countless lawyers are paid to debate in front of judges (or a jury) over which individual is “objectively” right or wrong. Someone wins and someone loses, the loser usually has to pay the winner in some way and usually isn’t left very happy at all.

The problem with this style of conflict resolution is that it’s very binary and not at all suited for certain situations.

The example the speaker gave was being a grandparent to two siblings involved in a dispute over toys. If one turned it into a farcial trial where one takes each sibling’s statements and uses CCTV cameras to properly determine “who started it” and “who should be punished,”

a) The siblings’ relationship wouldn’t improve at all and they might grow up hating each other.

b) The children’s parents would probably think the grandparent had gone around the loony bin.

c) The overall objective of having a harmonious family where the siblings learned how to get along and play with each other and share their toys wouldn’t be achieved.

I might even suggest that this is something that gamers have been doing for a very long time now and that none of us have got nearer to any sense of satisfaction beyond “Duty calls. Someone is -wrong- on the Internet.

So what’s the third method?

3. Diplomacy / Mediation – Bringing all parties to the table to talk things through and try to come up with mutually agreeable solutions to everyone involved

It’s not an easy thing, of course. That’s why there’s a whole profession or two dedicated to it.

And long, entrenched conflicts that stretch generations can take an equally long time to resolve, or serious amounts of dedication and perseverance to the overall goal (be it peace, understanding or just a mutual agreeable separation which still caters and cares for the kids.)

But it is this third solution that leads to a potential net positive for everyone involved.

(I’d add on that there’s a fourth method of dealing with conflict – which is less conflict resolution and more conflict avoidance. I’m guilty of resorting to that quite a bit, sometimes. It’s useful when the conflict is really quite trivial in the larger scheme of things and you don’t really mind letting the other person “win,” but there -is- a loser in this situation, and this can build resentment and grudges when it’s more important an issue.)

The speaker then told a story of two sides in history that were so entrenched in hate and a cycle of violence that it took years of patience to negotiate a peace agreement – and even then, certain key individuals were killed off by violence and the passage of time before the remaining parties could come to any sort of understanding.

Anecdotally, an old woman who was very invested in the conflict (after all, her whole life had been centered around it) asked one of the leaders that was instrumental in pushing the peace accord through how he could conceive of doing this, after all, wasn’t he honor and duty bound to kill or defeat his enemy?

His reply: “Do I not defeat my enemy by making him my friend?”

You may, or may not, share this same belief or think it’s a worthy goal.

But I’ll make an appeal to your self-interest and suggest that it is only the third solution that can actually expand the pool of people you can play with, that increases the number of people interested in playing the game you like.

In every other solution to conflict, you separate yourself from a bunch of people you won’t ever play with, because eew, they’re different from you.

So how do we start coming to the table and finding commonalities with which to work from and begin?

We move from arguing about positions to focusing on interests – the WHYs behind our positions – and listing out what they are.

For example, I’m pretty well stuck on certain positions and values. I get very twitchy and intolerant of games that put vertical progression front and center, and I really hate elitist or close-minded viewpoints being outwardly expressed.


I don’t want player improvement and learning to be masked by a number that merely grows from time invested. I don’t like that old artifact and hold-over from the devs trying to incentivize people to hold on to subscriptions. I basically don’t have such constant chunks of time to invest simply to stay competitive, and want games that demonstrate that they value my time more. I don’t want players to fall back on a number as an excuse for not increasing their skill or knowledge at a game. (That last, you’ll note, is a little value judgement that has slipped in.)


Because I believe that a player would appreciate a game more when they have sufficient skill or knowledge to play the game at a certain baseline or level, and when they see the depth that a game is capable of. Because I want to play with players of equivalent skill or knowledge so that we can progress or learn together.

I also want a level playing field where a new player has a decent chance of coming in and right away defeating a veteran player, if he or she plays in a smart, strategic or more skillful way than the old player.


Because that encourages new blood to join in at any time. Because new blood joining at any time is what keeps a game I like going. Because I might be that new blood and I’d like to have a locus of control and useful things I can do even when new, and aspire to victory, without having to spend 3-6 months “paying my dues” and “earning my way” – I don’t have the time for a game if it makes me do that.

I don’t know if anyone else is seeing this, but when I list all this explanatory stuff behind the simple “I hate vertical progression” statement, I also see the opportunity for different ways to tackle these issues.

You can put players of equivalent skill or knowledge together by -good- matchmaking, or even ensure that only players with the same stats meet, even if the rest of your game has vertical stat progression because you know, Achievers like that sort of thing, incrementing numbers.

You can also try your darnest to bootstrap more players to a skill or knowledge baseline by plenty of tutorials or other means of learning/teaching or if you’re a player, writing guides till your hands fall off or teaching via mic until your tongue turns blue.

You can make sure that your stat progression isn’t absurd to the point of removing all possibility of victory from the new blood or low level, if you -must- have stat progression. Maybe 2-3 low levels can gang up on a high level or highly geared player and achieve victory that way, rather than have it completely impossible or require a raid of 50 low-levels to take down a high level or something of that nature. That might be a balance point that becomes more acceptable to more people.

You can also see that I personally don’t have an intrinsic aversion to PvP, if presented in the right way and with the same kinds of values or philosophies.

Another position: I don’t like bullying. I don’t approve of encouraging this sort of negative, toxic behavior, even in a game, and will not support or play a game that produces safe places for griefer and troll types to feed on others and thrive.

(Note: I do not lump all PvPers as trolls or griefers. I am very specifically referring to those players that are out to ruin another person’s fun and will go through all kinds of hoops to do so, as well as people who enjoy low-skill easy fun “fights” – ok, I’m having a hard time calling it a fight, a “gank?” a “walk over?” “not even a speedbump?” – by one shot killing other players via a massive stat advantage and repeatedly do it, in the hopes of getting some sort of explosive or frustrated reaction from their victim, or even PvE-only players that are used to using abusive or racist slurs on other people as a matter of course, flinging blame around on everyone but themselves and generally “not playing well with others.” )

This one comes very close to being about fundamental values and nears intractability.

Why? Because I believe bullying behavior does result in emotional stress and hurt on the part of the bullied, even if the bully thinks that their victim should just “man up” or “get harder” or “grow thicker skin” or “why so serious, lulz.” I do think that what happens in a game can leak emotions back onto the player behind the character and that we naturally behave the way we are conditioned or have become habituated to behave. I think the world would be more of a better place if games encouraged players to be decent people to each other more, rather than throw hostilities and toxic slurs at each other.

I do however recognize though, that other people may not feel that a game has that much importance in the larger scheme of things.

Or that a particular game is set up with a particular set of rules and boundaries and design to prompt players into acting in a certain way, because it’s the point of the game, to a large extent.

(I personally don’t equate the killing of a game avatar to the killing of a person. Especially not if it’s a MOBA or FPS where respawns are quick and consequences aren’t persistent and don’t last beyond the match. Other people seem to apply a distinctly more elaborate honor code to the whole affair. Couldn’t begin to tell you why, maybe those who have this belief can share.

But I’m not really interested in playing a game like DayZ where I get to act out or experience Lord of the Flies scenarios, because I’d rather not “be content” for groups of friends that play in this fashion. Especially if they’re talking on voice, I’m calling emotional leak into real world right there. Not feeding that sort of predatory desire. Other people are cool with it, cos that’s the whole premise of the survival game.)

Or that a game is in fact a safe place to harmlessly vent or release emotions and behaviors that they would not dream of expressing in real life, because games can be a form of escapism too.

I would, in fact, agree that it’s much safer and probably more preferable for someone to experiment with these things in a game, and get it out of their system that way, even if I might disagree and believe that it’s probably habituating them to behave in a more hostile and combative and domineering fashion, having learned that it’s a viable form of conflict resolution and practising it so regularly.

I would also agree that it’s in our mutual interests to BOTH have games that cater for our specific needs and values. Someone publicly acting like an ass in Guild Wars 2 will get promptly slapped around by the Anet GMs with a suspension or a ban. I have my safe place to game in. I see less trolls and griefers around in my game, while I still have PvP options that I enjoy and plenty of PvP here too.

They’ve got to have somewhere to go. Their safe place that allows them to enjoy themselves. If another game is brave enough to take them on and take their money, then who am I to demand that that game cater to me too? I’m busy over here in my game anyway. In fact, there’s a certain poetic justice in that those who share the same beliefs are spending time with each other, engaged in behavior they understand and find natural.

It may very well be that we find that one of us won’t play a particular game for whatever reason, but are perfectly fine playing another together.

In the same way, it may very well be in all our interests as gamers, to encourage a diversity of games – even those we won’t play personally – so that others may have places where -they- can play together.

GW2: No Endgame, Who Are They Kidding?

Obviously, this is subjective. If the game doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t. Move on and go play with your pandas or your spaceships or your tanks or what have you.

That said, I’ve been spending the whole week involved with essentially endgame activities in Guild Wars 2. And I’m still not bored.

Hell, I’ve been saving a ton on waypoint fees because I’ve barely moved my level 80 character from one PvE zone to another like he was doing when he was gathering and crafting and working on zone completions and doing dungeons and popping in on the Claw of Jormag.

So what have I been doing instead?

1) WvWvW

Plenty of it. The best fights were nearer the start of the week, when everyone was jockeying for points and position. No one had given up yet so there were still plenty of opposing zergs forcing ‘must-react-to’ situations, and guilds on your side trying out various strategies, lots of siege being used and siege blown up, etc.

2) WvW Completion and Jumping Puzzles

As the week progressed, and our server started to dominate, the furious fights started to die off a little. Now they’ve slowed to the point where it’s become clear most are saving and preparing for the next titanic clash of servers on the weekend. In fact, they’ve slowed to the point where Isle of Janthir has become able to cover the entire map zones with pretty much a sea of green.

Thank goodness for a reset. I’m a big fan of resets. The victor of this round is obvious. Now let’s bring in a new round and wipe clean the slate.

BEFORE that though, it is a perfect time to indulge in the victor’s rewards. I’ve been running around all the zones, fairly unmolested, collecting POIs, Vistas and Skill Points and trying to get all the zones complete. 2/4 done, 2 more to go. Sooner or later when my next alt is ready, they’ll want to do it too, but I can wait for the next opportunity to open up.

I have some beautiful green-tinged vista shots. Alas, I can’t identify a single guild emblem as I’ve been mostly WvWing in the Borderlands, and it looks like the Eternal Battlegrounds crew is made up of different folks.
I like how the top of it glows green…

This vista was evil. Jumping from wooden beam to beam around a tight spiral is one of the worse things for a Charr to attempt… Feet…too… big… and widely spaced…

Also, jumping puzzles. The Borderlands jumping puzzle is still relatively doable even if opposing teams are running around the map, but it’s so much less stressful when they aren’t, and when you know your server is likely to have a majority in there. Our guild has been running in there the last few days, showing those new to the puzzle around, and it’s so much easier for them to manage/learn without needing to fight off people trying to knock you down or worse, facing entrenched siege positions.

Fear of that last has been why I haven’t once stepped into the Eternal Battlegrounds jumping puzzle since beta, having calculated that it would be likely suicidal to venture in solo while three way battles were raging aboveground.

However, just yesterday, I noticed that Eternal Battlegrounds had been turned completely green, which struck me as a perfect time to zone complete the place. Also, when your server owns all three keeps, well duh. No one else can get in!


So I jumped in there, along with pretty much half the servers’ folks in the zone, all thinking the same way, no doubt.

Booyah, obsidian sanctum, done.

Fortunately, I remembered much of the solution that I slowly explored/learned in beta, but for new folks, this would have been the best undisturbed time to explore and learn it. All I can say is, the dark room is still evil, still sucks, and that I can’t imagine myself successfully managing it while under fire from two or more enemies or a siege weapon. One guy might be ok, I’d prolly have a 75% chance of killing him or chasing him off. But all these folks come in packs of two or more anyway, so… moot point.

Far more enjoyable and doable to manage without interference. And judging by the number of people falling off jumps I was managing by the skin of my teeth (not to mention, much gnashing of teeth and twisting of the camera – Charr jumps can get pretty tricky, though I’m used to it by now), I’m not the only one.

There was also a helpful mesmer or two offering portals for those too frustrated to continue. Good social time for the server. And siege stocking up for the next fight.

3) More WvW

It’s not like they gave up completely. Fort Aspenwood in particular seems to have a pretty stubborn cohort. And it’s easy for them to do sneak attacks and rush a tower here and there when most of the dominating server has very little interest in defending the less important outposts and are playing around with jumping puzzles rather than concentrating fully on the ebb and flow of the map. Besides, a little tower and camp trading here and there is profitable in terms of karma/silver earned.

We’ll look up 30 minutes later after the jump puzzle, go oh, such and such is taken, let’s zerg it all back for a while, in a lazy disorganized fashion (the casual zerg is hanging out now, y’know, the pros are resting and prepping for next week). Meanwhile, on the opposing side, only the hardcore stalwarts would still be going into WvW and are trying out all kinds of siege attack/defence tactics against not-very-clever zerg targets. It’s a funny sort of balance.

I’ve also discovered that upgraded keeps are a very comfortable place to hang out and take 5-10 minutes to sort inventory. It’s less crowded than Lion’s Arch (which my computer tends to regard loading with dread), a merchant or armor repairer is available to sell junk and blues/greens to, a bank is there, a guild bank is there, there’s even a Mystic Forge and attendant in the garrison if you need one, and there’s crafting stations/bank in one’s home borderlands spawn and so on. And you’re around to keep an eye on the orb, on the keep, help in defence or just enter the siege weapons once in a while to prevent them despawning (which apparently, some do after a while if not entered. I dunno how far true that is, but it doesn’t hurt for me to just visit them now and then.

And lemme tell you, practising your mortar aiming judgement by trying to one-shot deer and rabbits on the first shot is fairly entertaining. Hey, it’ll help when I need to quickly destroy an enemy siege encampment under extreme pressure! I’m so easily happy…)

4) Structured PvP

I’ve joined pretty much a casual zerg guild on my server. Unreal Aussies is one of those inclusive monster guilds with a leadership core that are nice and welcoming to all and sundry. Currently it works for me. It’s big enough to have activity at most hours, some people doing dungeons now and then, and 20-40 odd people interested in WvW – which is a good sized zerg into the field. Organization of them is still like herding cats, alas, and I gotta give mad props and respect to the leaders for not losing patience (I would, but that’s why I don’t even try to lead.) We can successfully be pointed in one direction and led away from a place with orders, but siege and supply management, welp… All in good time, I figure. Folks will eventually get the hang of it, even if they have to learn by getting rained on with arrow carts…

The other fun thing that the guild does is jump into structured PvP for fun from time to time. I finally got the chance to join them the other day and I haveta say, it’s lot more fun killing friends. *ahem* A twisted way to be social, mebbe, but more fun than just jumping into a PUG and facing strangers all the time. And it’s a good way for guild members to see and recognize and become familiar to each other, since in most modern MMOs these days, apart from raids, everyone is off doing their own thing solo or in small groups.

And hey, win or lose, you’re still working on that glory bar.

5) Alts

Kinda. Sorta. I’m starting to look forward to the next time our server gets utterly thrashed in WvW, because it’s looking like I’m not going to get a chance until then to do PvE properly.

I got on the Asura ranger for about 15 minutes or so. The camera height is exceedingly jarring when I’m used to being a Charr. All my jump timing and estimation of fall survival is off. And his running, bouncing head animation makes me more than a little motion sick. I haven’t got a bow to drop for him yet, and I’m too lazy to go shuffling stuff in the bank for him either. Dual axes feels a bit odd. No doubt it’s workable, but it’s a playstyle I’m not really interested in learning/mastering at the time. So I gave up for the time being, the combined strangeness is too much and I have no goal to learn to play or build up a ranger yet.

I’ve been playing the human elementalist for about 30mins at a time. I’m quite commited to learning proper attunement swapping and pwning with one. But Queensdale is so godawfully huge that I don’t even know where to begin, sometimes. Y’see, when I PvE, I like to immerse into the zone and really explore every nook and cranny. I don’t just rush from heart to heart, DE to DE, grabbing level after level.

This is not the way to hold a glass of wine… Not unless you want to throw it on someone, anyhow. The liquid in there is strangely gravity-defying. Maybe it’s a jello shot.
Nor this. Especially when you’re about to offer it to someone else. Maybe it’s some kind of flirtation technique.

I made it to level 10 playing about with all the weapon skill unlocking, got to the town with the crafting stations, played with cooking and realized what a colossal undertaking that was going to be, tailored up some level 10 armor for myself and got stuck on the level 15 ones, finished the 1-10 personal story and still haven’t even made one iota of progress on Queensdale exploration because I can’t get in the right frame of mind, I keep sneaking peeks at the WvW scoreboard. I keep wanting to be social and run about with people and linked into the guild and representing. I can’t find an uninterrupted two hours of shutting away the rest of the world and pretending to be a human in the GW2 world to talk and interact with NPCs.

I don’t think that’s going to happen until I find no reason to be in the WvW zones for a while.

Until the reset, there’s still jumping puzzles and casual fun to be had in there. Once the reset happens, it will be queuing like crazy, me running around on the 80 waiting for the queue to pop, some desultory mob killing and crafting and zone completion while waiting,  and everyone on tenterhooks for a while. The next fight will be tougher, but the chance of winning is still fairly good.

So in essence, for the next week or so, there’s very little hope for me PvEing on an alt.

There’s always the week after that, or the month after that, I suppose.

(My Norn thief is crying for neglect in the background. The Sylvari necromancer is just sulking in silence.

A day ago, I had this sudden image of a fearsome Norn female Amazon-type warrior in heavy armor that would probably look fantastic, while my beta weekend Charr warrior in potentia is scowling at me, threatening wordlessly if I dare to give a character slot to that race first, so I may have to have two warriors or two guardians down the road at some point…)

So much for no endgame.