Fault-Finding vs Solutions

faultfinding

I overheard this conversation in one of my guilds, herefore to remained unnamed.

Person A was having a moderate dramatic episode, presumably why it was being publicly broadcast over guild chat.

Now I have zero context for what actually happened.

It may very well be that Person A’s performance was indeed abysmal and was pulling down the group, be it a 10-member raid or a 5-person fractal or dungeon.

In order not to feed any drama flames further, I, like probably 10-30 other online guild members overhearing, said nothing over guild chat to aggravate the situation and it ended there without devolving into a full-blown histrionic fit.

Inside though, I was fully sympathizing with Person A.

It reminded me of my own fairly recent experience at one of the “training” raids said guild had organized.

Every now and then I try to make the effort to attend one of these scheduled events, under the vague possibly-mistaken impression that I might be able to contribute in a positive way to the success of one of these training raids and help out others.

After all, while I’m not top-of-the-line with action/reaction and the video-watching meta strategies (merely passable to decent,) I do have all three wings’ encounters experience under my belt with my static raid group and multiple geared classes to offer. There’s something to be said for practice, after all.

Not to mention, it’s also a good opportunity for -myself- to practice a class that I’m less familiar with, since the phrase “training raid” usually equates to everyone having the expectation that success is not guaranteed (and to be frank, given the experience level of some of the players that join, not at all likely) but whom are also committed to offering a low-stress non-hostile environment for everyone to get some experience with the encounter.

Unfortunately, what usually ends up unfurling before my naturally critical eyes are some forehead-to-desk examples of the blind leading the blind.

Fault and blame can be apportioned to the wrong party, in a fairly haphazard, if attempted constructive manner. (Of course, in the conversation above, Person B was anything but.)

More specifically, the difficulty Person B exhibits is pinpointing the exact issue causing the problem and telling Person A how to solve it (or conversely, telling person C or changing the situation so that the problem is minimized.)

All they can see is, Person A is dying, therefore Person A must be the problem.

But -what- is killing Person A?

Is it something that Person A is doing, and really shouldn’t be doing?

Then what should be addressed is that action: “Hey, Person A, don’t stand in front of the boss. He cleaves / does a fire breath / whatever.”

Not, “STOP GOING DOWN, YOU RETARD.”

Hell, I’d accept, “YOU MORON, STOP STANDING IN FRONT OF HIS ATTACKS.”

That’s just me though. I have fairly thick skin. If I can learn something from it, I will.

Some guy did that to me in the dredge underground fractal, “FUCK YOUR PET,” and I silently acknowledged that this was the first time I was playing a necro in that particular fractal and that I had -no idea whatsoever- that the bone fiend would sit there and stop the boss from being pulled over to the lava bucket.

Issue succinctly if rudely identified. Issue promptly addressed.

I triggered the heal skill again, killing off the pet, and made sure that I didn’t spawn the bone fiend again, consuming it when I needed a heal.

(I might not group with you again though, cos that’s not a relaxing low-energy encounter.)

Something even more helpful, if you can see the person struggling, is to point the tell for the attack. “When Slothasor stands up on two feet, he’s about to fire breath.”

And even better, describe how to avoid it in a manner the person might be able to follow. “Dodge sideways or dodge -through- him to avoid it.” Or double dodge or jump or use skill X for other mechanics.

But what if Person A -is- doing everything (or most things, cos no one’s perfect) right? And -still- dying?

I found myself in that kind of awkward situation just the other day.

Mea culpa things: I was playing a staff elementalist. I have very little experience with staff eles, I have very little ability to self-adapt skills/traits/weapons to the situation.

I tend to play higher hp classes in raids and do accidentally run facefirst into damaging things without meaning to, because my other characters can take the hit AND I’m spoiled in my static raid with a very good healer that carries all of us and tops up our health in a couple seconds.

I may have tried to take on more responsibility than I could chew, under the impression that it would help the raid succeed.

Objective fact things: Staff eles are very squishy. The training raid group had no revenant in their group composition.

Non mea culpa things: My placement in the raid team’s group composition. The task assigned to me by the raid leader. Imperfect play by other raid members.

Basically, we were doing VG, and the instructions I received were, “Since you’re playing staff elementalist, which is ranged, please run green circles with the rest in phase 3 onwards.”

Beyond internally wincing, because I’ve never seen non-heal build staff eles running green circles to go very well, and said, “Okay.”

On the very first attempt, as I’m setting up my rotations and cheerfully beginning what I came to do, which is to practice doing as much dps as possible on a staff ele, out of the corner of my eye – what do I see? One, two… three? people running to the green circle.

Yikes. So I fling myself over to the green circle, just before the distributed magic strike happens, and then decide that well, I usually run green circles anyway as condi in my static group, I might as well just be the fifth all the time SINCE the raid leader had no confidence in the first place that four people could do it past phase 3.

This ended up not that great a decision because our particular group’s druid seemed only capable of topping up our health bars every second green circle at best, and did not seem to be predicting distributed magic strikes accordingly and topping up after.

The druid, frankly, seemed more focused on trying to heal the tank and melee group, running forward after every green circle to do so.

Mind you, in GW2 raids, the strict tank/dps/heal holy trinity doesn’t quite exist.

In VG, specifically, everybody in the raid takes overall periodic pulsing damage (thus encouraging the presence of a healer, because the self-heal is insufficient) and one biggest source of unavoidable damage is the distributed magic strike that comes from standing in the green circle.

(The boss’ forward cleaving punch also hurts, but some tanks can deal with it themselves better than others; and running into a seeker also hurts, but is generally avoidable if people bring enough control.)

I started taking an alarming amount of damage, so much so that I was forced to learn what my water attunement skills were in a hurry, losing all the dps I was supposed to be providing if I could stay in fire.

And let’s face it, I have very little experience on an elementalist, I have zero idea if my half filled red hp reservoir showing 5600 out of 11,000 health is sufficient to withstand a green circle strike.

Turns out, with no revenant or druid pulsing protection and me not having a faintest clue how to give myself prot or heal up further, 5600 is not enough.

I go down as the distributed magic strike hits the green circle, and blam, the raid takes a raid wiping amount of damage.

Twice.

I get called out for this, because hey, you’re taking a heap of damage and going down A LOT. What’s happening?

I point out that I’m at half hp just before the green circle strike hits, and going down as a result.

There’s a fun little discussion where the raid leader says, well, you’re not even supposed to be in the green circles anyway before phase 3, and I’m thinking to myself, if I wasn’t, how is it that just me going down in the green circles equals raid wipe? ie. someone else wasn’t running them.

I’m also internally thinking that there’s something a little wrong with the team composition because we’re apparently in a 4/4/2 split, minus a revenant (so I can’t even remember who was with the chronotank in the 2) but we only have one primary healer – of which I, and two daredevils are in.

There is another druid, which I suspect is primarily condi, in the other group of 4, along with another tempest elementalist and a burnzerker and something else I can’t recall, probably a reaper condi.

Normally, if there is one primary healer, a 7/2/1 split is used, so that heals and buffs from the 1 druid go out equally to all.

But here we have a situation where the primary healer and condi team is running circles, and they’re not even in the same group… and yet I am in the same group as the primary healer, but somehow not catching sufficient heals?

Is it a group priority buff/heal problem? Or is the healer just not aiming their heals in the right place, or using them well at all?

But you know, you don’t want to be THAT GUY.

Especially NOT that guy who blames the healer.

It just doesn’t look at all kosher.

So I say nothing about my internal thoughts, and agree very publicly and loudly-on-purpose that I will not be running green circles any longer until phase 3.

At least, I think, I will FINALLY be able to practice the skill rotation which was the reason I attended this training raid in the first place… right up to the moment when the green circle team falls apart because something else went wrong.

I also notice, though I am not sure anyone else does, that my character has been sneakily shifted out of the primary healing druid’s party and put into the group with the other elementalist and other druid.

The burnzerker takes my place in the first party.

The next VG attempt, we hit a 6.45 phase time, much faster than the previous goes, and my health bar doesn’t shift from 90-100% at all.

Unfortunately, we hit a bit of carnage in phase 3 when seekers are knocked into the green team and that attempt was a wash.

(I am also not trying -super- hard to rush for green circles. Hey, I’m the fifth, right? If I can make it, I’ll go. If I have low health and am going to go down in the green circle anyway, I’m not going. Because someone took issue with my going down a lot. So I will NOT go down a lot.)

In the subsequent attempts, we don’t get to phase 3 about 50% of the time, because in two highly entertaining tries, I see the -druid- go down in the green circle (where previously I’d drop first) and in the other also pretty entertaining attempts, I watch as the burnzerker drops to 3/4 health and starts expressing befuddlement that they’re suddenly taking a LOT of damage.

Hmm. Odd. -I’m- not taking any damage now. Must be you, huh?

Of course, in the interests of politeness and a civil experience, I leave all the above unsaid.

Instead, I mostly sneak peeks at my combat log, having resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to get a really good opportunity to practice staff dps rotations (I have to switch to water every now and then and throw extra heals, the chronotank has started to periodically go down too.)

I’ve replaced the hope for practising staff rotations with a vague curiosity to figure out what the hell is going on with the heals, and just how exactly our leet static group healer can do what they do.

I still don’t really understand what was going on fully, but I did notice with some bemusement that I was catching more heals from the other tempest and myself in the new group I was in, than I was catching in my combat log from the prior group.

In the next static group raid I did, I started screen capping my combat log to record the leet druid’s skills that were hitting me. It was about 6-8 more skills than the other druid, including a water blast combo. (Dayum.)

Some day, if I ever get my ranger his elite spec, and maybe start doing more PvP or PvE with him… I wanna grow up to be more like leet druid.

It does make me wonder about the effectiveness of so-called “training raids” though.

We failed on VG several more times, never getting to the second split, and the raid leader decided to call it there.

I got some mumbled, almost condescending sounding, feedback about “you can improve by not going down so much” (no, really, did you notice I -stopped- taking damage once I was shifted to the other group and ceased running green circles?) and seemingly out of left field, a “tip” that I could use Overload Earth to give myself protection.

Which I’d grant is useful, as a potential survival tactic when shit hits the fan, if a little bit non-meta in terms of actually doing dps by not swapping out of fire.

It’s okay, I learned something else inadvertently – aka my static raid group’s healer is a god that works in mysterious ways – so it was still a valuable learning experience.

The point of raids is group coverage and skill synergies. The rev or guardian or druid with stone spirit gives protection, the PS warrior gives might and banners, freeing up the elementalist and daredevil to dps. (That is, assuming your ele is built for dps. You could build it to heal or what not.)

“Training raids” become almost a raid “hard mode,” in the sense that the group coordination and skill synergies probably aren’t there at all, and the group/role coverage is imperfect at best.

Best of all, I wonder if participants can actually learn anything from them, if they don’t have a self-driven analytical mind and/or lack the experience to contrast a “training raid” with a successful one.

(Not everyone is lucky enough to have a static raid group that knows what they’re doing. My raid guild has some 8-9 statics formed and only 2 clear all three wings regularly. The knowledge is disseminating though, the guild leader announced some substantial progress, eg. killed Xera, or killed Matthias, or finally got Sab, for other groups recently.)

Especially if they aren’t getting any feedback because other people don’t want to hurt their feelings or cause drama… or because other people don’t quite know how to give the useful, constructive kind of feedback.

I mean, don’t look at me, I couldn’t teach anyone how to druid for nuts, for example. I know nuthing. Zilch about healing. Please ask my static group’s druids. That’s what I’ll do if I eventually make one.

(But I -could- probably sit and dissect with someone all the ways to generate might as a PS warrior, and figure out why Person C isn’t giving 25 might stacks to his raid group. Or suggest a more helpful heal skill to use to a warrior that’s consistently falling over with healing signet slotted, and point out tells to look out for in order to dodge attacks.

Except no one will probably ever ask me, and I’d make a terrible grumpy hermit teacher anyway.

Nor am I about to just come out and say it to randoms and PUGs where the chances of them being receptive aren’t terribly high to begin with, unless I just happen to be -there- in that situation and I think one or two sentences might help fix the issue.)

This blind leading the blind, and those-who-know being unwilling to teach is a situation which I have not yet worked out a satisfactory solution to.

I often just end up wussing out, keeping quiet and bowing gracefully out of the entire situation after some time to leave the ignorant to it.

No doubt, others have decided to leave me in the dark and just vamoosed away from my noobish ways as well.

It’s not a new problem. Some three years ago, I was in one of those semi-casual, semi-hardcore mid-range guilds that prided itself on WvW participation. This guild worked out great for me, being unwilling to be insanely hardcore committed, but also wanting a little bit more organization than totally casual guilds.

It was, you know, fairly chill – meta builds not -required- but if you wanted to, you were welcome to and it helped strengthen the guild force being fielded, so all’s well that ends well.

Various guild officers would take turns leading, if you had the interest, the guild was also very open to letting anyone command, and the members would dutifully (if more than a little suicidally) follow your orders and let you learn what works and doesn’t work when commandering a rag tag bunch of the semi-hardcore.

Except. We had -one- commander that was incapable of learning.

Without fail, he would be decked out in the hardiest set of high toughness high vitality gear on his guardian and he would cheerfully fling himself head-on into a much larger force. Over-extending doesn’t even begin to describe what he did. Over and over.

Mind you, he died too, just ten seconds later than everyone else who had already been run over, either from following him into the fray and dropping to AoEs, or by getting surrounded because he’d entirely separated his front and backline by his own orders.

This guy was constantly expressing sheer bamboozlement that his strategy wasn’t working. “Guys, please, please follow me. We can do this.” (Cue the faithful group wipe.)

“Let’s try again.” (Cue less faithful less willing followers.)

“Guys, we went down because we were separated! All together now!” (Cue mostly massive carnage, and one or two people, me included, beating feet and running far far away from the suspected, then confirmed, train wreck.)

As usual, I had the fortune of being able to contrast this guy’s commanding style with other ever-so-slightly-more tactically sound ones. The contrast helped -me- to learn what worked and what didn’t.

(Granted, I do make a pretty terrible follower, being liable to independently up and decide to do something else, if the leader’s not convincing or competent enough for my standards.)

I’m not sure that commander ever did realize why people started making excuses and politely leaving his WvW raids some 30-60 minutes into the event.


I notice most of the time we just leave things be and assume that over time, people will bang into enough practice and learning encounters to figure out, or be told outright by someone sharp and thick-skinned enough to pinpoint the real issue.

I just wonder if there are any shortcuts to this process.

Guides could be written and recorded, but people still have to have the motivation to read and watch in the first place. Those types usually have the self-motivation to learn by themselves in most situations anyway.

Hell, they could be told outright by someone, but still be unwilling to receive the message, and/or the someone could be wrong as well.

Granted, one could also -not- have to tell someone in a nice way that they suck at X in the first place. A bit of clever diplomacy and swapping of roles, and the issue might go away entirely because the player is -good- at Y and someone else can do X.

I have very little skill with this sort of diplomacy and indirect constructive solution finding. It may however be one of the better ways to resolve these types of people problems.

It’s something to think about, at any rate.

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GW2: The Constructive Criticism Postscript to Raids

Ok, I lied. In the spirit of being positive, let’s not end on a downer note.

What are some viable things that Anet can do in the future to improve the GW2 raiding experience?

Personal DPS meters (with serious enforcement of bad behaviour/harassment of others)

Since we seem to be past the point where masking the numbers make sense, let’s have them shown to ourselves only, possibly only in specific places like raids, Heart of the Mists and/or a separate PvE testing area (perhaps in our guild halls.)

If that’s too much work, then a copychat command to save the combat log in text form will let third-parties construct parsers for it.

If a certain amount of exclusion is unavoidable, then let’s at least have them be based on objective fact, especially the actual practical dps you’re outputting in a raid environment, which can be very different from theoretical dps.

Any resultant swings in player favor of one class over another is then impetus for better overall class balance.

To stave off the bludgeoning of weaker players with a DPS meter and waving of e-peen around, Anet should commit to seriously enforcing reported verbal harassment, in a similar way that FF14 comes down on DPS meter reports in-game (it’s don’t ask, don’t tell there, apparently.)

You shouldn’t get punished for saying “Hey, Player X, your dps is insufficient for our group to finish this boss. Could you swap in skill/trait Y?” “Or sorry, until you get Z stats, we have to remove you from our raid group for now.”

But “lolfuking n00b, he only got 1k dps, boot his sorry ass” consistently over time ought to build up to a couple days’ suspension / time out for toxicity.

Dial Back Enrage Timers or Remove Them Entirely

Enrage timers reduce the pool of viable choices, reducing variety and options for players who might like to play certain classes or stats. Why punish group creativity if that particular guild is willing to accommodate certain players with a more novel group composition?

As mentioned to Ravious, a group of ten people in Nomad’s would still have trouble on certain boss mechanics of the Vale Guardian (lacking condition damage, controlling tank aggro would be hilarious) and already be imposing a time penalty on themselves by taking way way longer to clear a boss than other groups.

Players will naturally try to speed up over time. Dungeons have no enrage timer and competitive speed clearing was still very much a thing, with PUGs still insisting on zerker gear to clear at a “normal” acceptable speed.

Failing which, keep the over-tuning enthusiasm for the final bosses of each raid wing, and dial back on the first / earlier bosses so that players can at least have their learning and progress scaffolded a little more, rather than get immediately shut down on entry.

Being a little more lax on timing gives some leeway for latency, so that players around the world aren’t as disadvantaged or immediately excluded, instead of only limiting the raiding subset with the fortune to live near wherever the servers are hosted.

Institute a Wider Spread of Stepped Partial Consolation Prizes

Getting a few magnetite shards for getting the first boss past 50%, and other health milestones is a good first step, but the concept could still use more iteration.

I’ve mentioned the bronze/silver/gold suggestion from Reddit user Mireles before, and this would be nice in conjunction with dialed down enrage timers. Gold would be the current enrage limit (or silver, and make gold even more insane) and bronze would at least help to encourage all those groups who are hitting the current 5-10% health before wiping.

More Flexible Ways to Swap Gear without Clogging Inventory/Bags and Taking Too Much Time

I think this goes without saying, build saving / loading has been a constant wishlist item.

Ideals would be something akin to the current PvP design – once you have a piece of Ascended armor of a certain weight, rarity tier and stat spread, it’s unlocked for your account and you can swap into it at will.

A stopgap measure that at least solves The Rune/Sigil Switching Problem is to have a way to make upgrade extractors in-game and/or lower the gem price so that they aren’t insanely costly. Perhaps say, 10 silver a rune/sigil extraction?

Hell, make the upgrade extractor a permanent tool like the salvage-o-matics and charge 10 silver a pop for it.

Improved LFR tools

Stopgap measures would be swapping the text on dungeon tabs like another Reddit user suggested (whose link I don’t seem able to currently locate) so that the categories more accurately reflect current player interest.

Later improvements could be things like:

  • Making it easier for raid leaders to see and invite to squad (rather than their current workarounds of leaving squad, joining party, chatting, asking the person to squadjoin or come to the same map instance for a squad invite, whatever…)
  • Tools that let someone post an advertisement for a certain class and leave it up while logged on, while being able to log onto a second character to get other things done like map exploration or leveling. (Currently, it looks very awkward if you advertise as one class and people see you on another class altogether.)

Yes, the intent was for people to do raids as a set, organized group, but as we can already see, there’s always going to be floaters / mercenaries and groups that need one or two people to fill spots from time to time. (Especially with a ten-man hard limit.)

One may as well help the two parties to meet up a little better.

An Alternate Option for Legendary Insights

The best way to avoid accusations of “feeling forced” to do content is to provide an alternative. At least then the player has a choice of the lesser of two evils, even if he does not like either.

Several alternatives would, of course, be preferable.

Thoughts along this line would be things like:

  • Solo challenges on a Liadri and higher (8 orb Liadri, and even worse than Liadri) scale
  • Guild group WvW challenges on a similar scale (perhaps Yakslapper-like WvW league achievements that can be contributed to by guild members over time playing WvW, or hold X territory for however many hours, or whatever – and each player would have to meet a certain level of participation to qualify for the seasonal reward)
  • and/or making the Legendary Insights sellable/tradeable (depending on if it’s desirable to have Legendary armor be like old weapon legendaries or the new ones)

I think instituting some or all of the above would go quite a long ways to making the GW2 raid experience more palatable to more player types in the population.

Ok, now I’m done.

GW2: Things I’ve Been Learning, Even As I Steadily Go Broke

Time for some positive reflections, since I’ve been busy grumpy hermit grumbling since raids hit GW2:

One of the things I’ve noticed is that some people find the concept of raids aspirational.

Even though they may never set foot in one or successfully down a raid boss, the fact that they exist gives them something to strive for, some heroes (raiders in famous guilds) to look up to and cheer on, and motivation to continually improve and get better.

(I don’t know that I’ll personally go that far, you’d have to be a -very- glass half full kind of person to be that sunnily optimistic. I’m naturally a bit more glass half-empty skewed, and tend to worry about those who meet an unclimbable wall and meet frustration and learned helplessness instead.

I like the idea of scaffolding learning – this Reddit suggestion to have bronze, silver and gold rewards for each boss rather than a binary you-got-it-or-you-didn’t enrage timer appeals a lot to me.)

Even if “aspiration” is something that doesn’t work for me personally (maybe it’s more of a social motivation), what I’ve been finding enjoyable is increased opportunity / motivation to learn and apply all sorts of game things that I didn’t know before, to continue to build up a database of knowledge about how the game world works.

I guess this is a very Bartle Explorer thing.

After my fun little rant about pigeonholing, I sat around brooding like an angry pigeon for the space of one night, thinking, thinking, thinking, plotting almost, about my next steps forward.

I was very stressed out over two things:

1) My condi guardian would probably not be accepted in the more closeminded raid groups, and possibly for good reason.

I was quite well aware that I had a habit of dropping like a rock when the vault guardian sneezed or looked at me funny. You know closeminded groups, it’s probably not going to bode well if you look like the weakest link over and over. I was still completely puzzled as to the -source- of the bloody damage that was eating like acid into my super-low health reservoir and how I could avoid it.

And I definitely haven’t mastered the skill rotation to keep burning uptime consistent yet. I’ve seen burning stacks as high as 9-14k a tick, depending if things go well and I catch a lot of might stacks, I tended to run around the 4-5k mark, and dropped to as low as 2-3k burning a tick when things went badly and I end up having to focus on not-dying rather than attacking. You know closeminded groups again, right? If they see that they’re killing slower with a condi guardian as opposed to say… a condi engi? It’ll be kthxbai, LF condi engi for raid!

2) My warrior was essentially 95% PS warrior, but in my usual perfectionistic way, I was afraid to advertise as a PS warrior because the common player perception of a PS warrior is something that can generate 25 might stacks on their own. Somehow, try as I might, I was usually only consistently reaching 15 stacks in PUG fractals.

What was going on exactly?

I took on question 2 first, as the solution to some players wanting cookie-cutter, is, of course, to give them a cookie-cutter option that they would be happy with.

I have been resisting switching the Superior Runes of the Pack on my armor for a very long time, because I knew I would dearly miss the essentially perma-swiftness that comes from just honking the warhorn once. (13 seconds of swiftness with Pack runes, warhorn cooldown with Quick Breathing trait is 12 seconds, only lag or animation delay will make it not quite perma, so just use Balanced Stance or a Banner 3 for more swiftness and voila. Quick, happy feet. An unswiftnessed charr is a very slow-seeming charr.)

Were Strength runes really going to make THAT much of a damn difference? (They are so freaking expensive…)

Some time earlier I had just done a very informal test in the Heart of the Mists beating on some golems with both Pack and Strength, and had to admit that, yes, the increased might boon duration made for might stacks that stuck around longer and so maybe it might be the crucial factor for 25 might stacks output by solo PS warrior.

So I bit the bullet, yanked 70 gold out of an even more dwindling bank, and bought 6 Strength runes, wincing as I overwrote the Pack runes (nevermind, I consoled myself, they don’t cost that much, you can get another set of armor to put them on or maybe some day Anet will solve The Rune-Switching Problem), but hey, go me, no one can accuse me of not being cookie-cutter now that I can ping gear with Strength runes and look all meta-compliant, right?

Then I decided the best place to test my awesome meta-ness out would be a quick fractals, now that it’s so bite-sized convenient, and lookie, someone advertising for 2! Bloomhunger! Super-quick and a really big target to build might on!

The PUG team did the wisps in a single go, swam down the tunnel and charged straight at Bloomhunger! I flung down my banners and proudly launched myself at the silly old Oakheart determined to might stack like the Energizer Bunny!

Words cannot describe the utter chagrin I felt when I looked at my buff bar and saw only oh… 15-18 stacks of might max.

…?

…?!

BUT I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR THESE RUNES.

Regardless of my fail might-stacking, Bloomhunger died, I grabbed the fractal chest, then slunk away beaten with my tail between my legs to reconsider the problem.

After reading and reading the Metabattle page over and over, comparing and contrasting the by now fairly minute differences in build: Same gear, same runes, nearly the same traits (I just take warhorn because I cannot trust PUGs to condi clear for me, I don’t have sexy dungeon group mates to rely on, and look, it’s even stated as a permissible variant in the Metabattle Bible, okay? It can blast might and everything.)

I don’t have Night Sigils because I’m not that crazy a night time dungeon runner, I tend to use Air, Fire or Bloodlust instead…

Yes, I’m not using expensive food in most casual PUGs, I’ll save it for raids and really important occasions…

What exactly was generating might besides swinging my greatsword over and over? Oh, and this Fried Golden Dumpling food that gives might on crit, for slacker PUGs (ie. 85% of the ones I get into) that don’t pre-stack might, but surely the PS warrior sans dumplings isn’t just a might boon maintainer for a might-stacking ele….

…and oh. Oh. OH. What is this tooltip I see? On the mace that I usually don’t use…

supsigilstrength

Well, fuck. THERE’s your problem.

The bloody thing runs a mere two gold and can be crafted to boot.

The good news was that I wasn’t going to have to overwite an expensive sigil to incorporate this.

The bad news was that I was going to have to chop a lot of soft wood, and then spend a fortune in hoarded crafting supplies to make my warrior an Ascended weapon that I’d forgotten he didn’t have yet, a Zojja’s Axe.

So I did that, crafted that, tested it, and what do you know, 25 stacks of might. Obviously, it’s better and faster when you can hit multiple enemies at once, and if your group mates deign to give you some might, as I observed while testing in the Urban Battlegrounds fractals, so that locked in another piece of the puzzle.

Some day I’m going to have to test out a Sigil of Strength with mere Pack runes in the Heart of the Mists and possibly cry myself to sleep that night.

But now, I can safely say that I have a total fully absolutely meta-compliant cookie-cutter PS warrior for those picky picky raids, inspect away if you wish, and more importantly, I actually -understand- how the whole damn build links together and synergizes.

The other thing I was brooding about that night was just how far down the rabbit hole I was willing to go for raids.

You know me, I have this crazy cognitive dissonance thing going on.

I want to be effective. I want to be optimal (or at least, viable.) I want to achieve actual successful kills in a reasonable period of time, not be banging my head against the first boss a year from now with a group that keeps screwing up. I want the -rewards- at the end. I want the shiny prestige.

In return, I’m open to getting brutal direct feedback and told what I’m screwing up and what I should do more of instead. To spend all the monies and switch build and traits to what works. To dress all cookie-cutter and do my best to perform for a drill sergeant if need be.

On the other hand, I have to admit that a lot of this is work. As in, not intrinsically enjoyable to my nature. As in, I have a tendency to obsess and stress out over stuff that probably no one else notices but I think that they do and that they are judging me harshly and coldly and will probably boot my ass. Oh, the awful rejection! (And worse if it’s going to be based on erroneous player perception, rather than objective evidence.)

If I am honest, the most fun times that I have while raiding is when it is explicitly a raid designated for training and learning, when I know that no one has the expectation that everyone must be performing to 110% of their ability 100% of the time.

I can relax my obsessional tendencies a lot more when I know I am not the weakest link in that raid group, and focus on my personal learning – what else can I be doing better, what can I practice and get better, what can I tweak and get better – while someone else is making the raid-wiping mistakes and working on learning those things.

Furthermore, I can be experimental and test little theories knowing that the raid outcome isn’t going to be affected one way or another, because the group as a whole still has some ways to go before they master the mechanics.

Better yet if it is a raid group made up of guilded, friendly faces because I’m more assured that they won’t judge, and then I can get in my quota of social hanging out with people that way too.

Except one itty bitty lil problem. I kinda want to win and get my shinies. Not next year. More like sometime this month.

Except I don’t want to do crazy stupid hardcore things like try to raid at all odd hours of the day and for 8-17 hours a stretch. (Alas, college days over.)

*wry grin*

I haven’t quite come to one satisfactory solution, but I think I will be exploring a number of options and keeping them open in the days ahead.

I want to get into at least one weekly scheduled raid group with relatively consistent people so that I have kind of a long term insurance plan for raids.

Timezone matching is going to be an issue, I don’t have the luxury of a vast spread of NA guilds to choose from, and they have to be the kind of people that won’t make me want to report them all for verbal harassment after an hour in their company, aka preferably the more mature or mellow type, which can be somewhat short in supply on this side of the world.

Furthermore, a consistent group may very well mean consistent failure. Not that I would actually mind in the moment, especially if the company’s good and everyone’s learning (and I usually can always find -something- to learn) but my skritt brain still wants its shinies.

So the other thing that I have been thinking is to look for opportunities to basically mercenary myself out to fill in gaps in other peoples’ raids. They’re maybe short one healer, or one tank, or need some condi or dps or might-stackers or whatever.

The super-duper long term plan would be to get comfortable with alts that can fill any of those on demand, but for now, I can either offer a cookie-cutter PS warrior or still somewhat new to people’s expectations condi guardian to let ’em pick and choose.

This ties back into the idea of training raids and learning from those because I’m not going to be a very popular mercenary if I’m not any -good- at raiding.

Fourth raid attempt was essentially a sort of friends-and-family style guild affair. I had expectations set somewhat accordingly, and was in fact, pleasantly surprised by a number of things.

One, the bulk of the group was a lot more serious than I would have guessed. Some (well, ok, one) had spent more gold than I’ve personally ever seen in one place on an Ascended set. There was less teleporting around than I’ve seen in other raids because practically everyone could dodge the aoe relatively consistently. (Either that or they’re NA people and the other raids I’ve been with are OCE folks!)

The overall group experience level was lower, and as expected, only brought down the boss to 66% health and into the split guardians a few times, mostly because folks were still getting the hang of the mechanics, I feel. (But hey, give ’em a couple weeks or month more and who knows?)

Two, I got the chance to test out both my alts on the Vale Guardian and work out more of the kinks.

The PS warrior, as expected, was pretty darned good. I’m definitely going to start offering this one up more while mercenary-ing. The higher health pool means less catastrophic failures from a slipup, and I even survived the Distributed Magic group wipe mechanic a couple of times when the circle team missed standing in a circle – albeit at 1000 hp left, and liable to wipe in the next blast cos everyone else is already downed or dead. Everybody likes 25 stacks of might and banners, it does seriously respectable dps (I suspect I contributed quite heavily to shoving it into the next phase, because I was busy practising the “find the back of the boss and stick to it like glue” tactic while others had to contend with the circle mechanics.)

The group however found themselves somewhat light on condi once they were in phase 2 and the split guardians, so I grabbed the chance to volunteer the still-rather-unexpected option of condi guardian.

A little selfishly, I suppose, since my ulterior motive was to get better at playing it, but eh, the whole group was definitely still in the learning phase and not exactly likely to reach even 50% of the boss’ health yet.

The rotation for condi guardian is definitely a little more complex than a PS warrior (duh) and I’m quite certain I was mangling it a good half of the time. So dps output likely lower than PS warrior, especially since we were now sans 25 might stacks, but on the bright side, I can actually do things to the red guardian instead of stand around looking stupid and be a might buffbot.

The issue I kept running into, while the others were still mastering the circle mechanic and getting into trouble with the Seekers, was that the condi guardian’s health is still alarmingly low, plus, now that I had time to study the combat log and think while trying to execute my rotation, the damn guardian periodically pulses a damaging Magic Aura for 1000 hp or so.

High hp monstrosities that come with a healing signet tend not to notice this and shrug it right off. Maybe I’m not a great guardian but this rapidly diminishing health bar tends to distract me from actually executing dps rotations.

Worse if a Seeker got into my personal space (I was doing a semi-decent job of avoiding them… except an occasional wild knockback out of the green circle had a tendency to soccer ball the Seeker right into me, leading to an insta-down before I even knew what hit me.)

This did not bode well for viability of condi guardian if they had no -survivability-, it’s not as if demanding a healer to babysit my health would make it terribly popular…

…and then it hit me. Duh. If the healer can’t come to me, exactly why can’t dps go to the healer?

(I hear all the holy trinity MMO players slapping their foreheads right now. Mea culpa, look, I’ve only been playing a no-healer personal-heals-only MMO for 3 years now, you get set into certain patterns.)

Granted, I haven’t even looked at what skills druids have, but I’m almost sure they can pulse heals to 5 people near them somehow.

So I started paying a little more attention to positioning myself near the druid when I needed to catch some heals, which worked out about 75% of the time, but still would not solve the overall dps problem of needing to be in melee or close range to do more damage, rather than plinking away from afar while moving to hug the healer.

In between one raid wipe and another, I started looking at my self-heal skills and wondering if one would work better than the others.

I’d tried Shelter, which is optimal for applying more burning while blocking, and you’d think it’ll be great because apparently the blue aoe teleports can be blocked… and then you can go right on dps’ing in melee… but I risked that once and I think my ping was such that by the time I saw the aoe and hit Shelter, I got zapped by the teleport before the block could set in. (Either that or I was a little late on the block, but I didn’t feel like risking it again when I could just dodge the AoE.)

Anyway, I didn’t seem to be healing up sufficiently with Shelter, so I’d gone with my usual fallback of Signet of Resolve, which is an awfully strong heal that can pretty much push me back to full health from near dying. Except that I now had to deal with a 40 second cooldown because a condi guard can’t take the Perfect Inscriptions trait to reduce the recharge time when you want Amplified Wrath for the 15% more burning damage.

40 seconds is a long long time when you only have 11.5k hp.

Especially when there are sources of damage flying in from everywhere. It’s as if they took that suggestion of pulsing small amounts of damage to stress zerker builds out and encourage at least one healer or more…. except they also slap on an enrage timer, so… I dunno. Catch-22, much?

Then my eye fell on Litany of Wrath.

I’d pretty much never used it. Exactly how much healing was it capable of? No idea. The only way to find out was to try it.

The next time my health bar fell to 5k hp, I hit that, and in under 3 seconds, I was at full health again. (Granted, I was busy smiting and orb of wrathing the hell out of the Vale Guardian, while burning it with condition damage at the same time.) 

It has a 30 second cooldown.

It is, in fact, -just- enough to keep my health relatively stable (ping-ponging between 5k and 11k) as long as silly things don’t happen (like a taking a frontal cleave 5k punch from the guardian, basking in a Seeker’s aura that can crit for 4-5k, getting zapped by Distributed Magic for 9k) , in which case, seek out your neighborhood healer or just wait for the rez from downed.

It’s not exactly sleepwalk easy, but it was quite an interesting challenge to both keep an eye on one’s health like that, evade Seekers, and still keep up as much dps as possible on the Vale Guardian.

And hallelujah, you no longer need to be babysat by a healer and can more or less take care of yourself, barring emergencies. Add one more notch toward potential viability.

Some time later, it also occurred to me that the popularity of the condi engineer might also be because the meta build comes with healing turret as a matter of course. Folks doing the distributed magic circle tend to need group healing once the lightning strike is over, and some ability to knockback Seekers never goes awry.

The /ranger/ has a healing spring that can heal allies, and they should have the ability to knockback Seekers too, don’t they?

The /guardian/ has a shield that can knockback Seekers, if they deigned to use it, and hrm… what’s this other healing skill that I almost never look at? It used to be called Healing Breeze, but apparently it got updated with very few people noticing (me neither) as “Receive the Light!”

“…”

Hmm.

Looks like I have something new up my sleeve to try if I ever get assigned as a condi guard to circle duty.

So despite overall group progress of fourth raid attempt being not as forward as some others, there was a considerable amount of personal learning progress and some potential revelations to boot.

Would it have happened without raids?

Not terribly likely, barring a Liadri-style challenge.

So -that’s- something positive I can say about raids.

GW2: Prioritizing Things To Do, Post-Heart of Thorns

wyvernvsfrogs

We’re about two weeks into the Heart of Thorns expansion. I guess now’s a time as good as any to finally come up for air.

The 64-bit client has worked wonders for me as a stopgap measure to stave off memory leak crashes (at last, upgrading to Windows 7 and a new computer with 16GB of RAM has been rewarded.)

On average, it chomps about 3-3.5 GB of RAM just doing normal things and goes up to about 4-4.5GB consumed during insanely packed meta events where a hundred players are in the vicinity, all sporting their own combination of wardrobe and dyes and particle effects.

Bright side, it doesn’t crash (at least, not yet, *touches wood*)

(I stress tested it the other day by walking into the Svanir Shaman Frozen Maw daily with full default graphics and name tags on. I figure, if it doesn’t freeze up and die then, it’s probably okay.)

Thus I get to see more of Heart of Thorns on a graphical setting beyond potato.

halfabreacher

Granted, it’s rather hard to frame a screenshot sans UI when you’re worried about getting randomly gibbed by a Mordrem sniper, a punisher, or *urgh* a stalker.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve become rather relaxed about goals in the expansion.

A seasonal cadence of two weeks/four weeks lent a level of stress that encouraged me to grind out all the rewards I wanted “before it went away.” There was a “limited-time” pressure that was sometimes obvious and sometimes subconscious, which made me more prone to frustration and impatience.

Faced with a deluge of possible rewards to buy and skins to collect, one would think that I’d be freaking out right about now, but knowing its permanence (assuming the HoT zones stay unchanged reward-wise as long as Dry Top and Silverwastes has existed is likely a safe bet), I’ve been looking on most of it as a long term goal. The slow chase will likely last me another year, if not two, and I’m okay with that.

If anything, I’ve been confronted by that age-old lateral progression bugaboo that we veterans keep advising newbies about: “Help! I’ve reached X threshold, and there are so many things to do! What should I be doing first?!”

My usual naggy refrain to these folks is that beyond a certain point (ie. get exotic armor as a baseline, strive towards Ascended trinkets and more,) we can’t really tell you what to do next because it all depends on what you value and want to prioritize.

Like story? Like dungeons? Like shiny skins? Like gold? They all head down different roads.

Similarly, I look at Heart of Thorns and I’m like, “Masteries? AP achievments? Raids (be it prep for the closed ones, or open world ones?) Gold + Relaxation? (So many nodes to hit, so much money players are willing to spend *twitches compulsively*) Shinies? (Like chase a HoT skin collection, a core Tyria legendary, a core Tyria precursor, or prep for a Maguuma legendary?) So many collections? Aaahhh collect all the things? *falls over dizzy like Skritt in Tarir*”

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and prioritize my own shit:

  • New Stuff
  • Raids (while new)
  • Harvest Nodes
  • AP
  • Certain shiny objects
  • Gold
  • Masteries
  • Collect all the things
  • Raids (when they’ve gotten old)

This totally non-scientific list was mostly ordered by just choosing two things at random, eg. “Chase AP or Harvest Nodes to Relax” or “Chase AP or Gold?” and deciding which one I valued more, or which I’d pick if I could only do one thing that day.

It’s a little fuzzy around the edges, because technically, harvesting nodes is my main gold stream, but given the amount of gold I’m liable to invest into chasing AP or if the gold had to come from other sources like chasing events or doing dungeons, then certainly I’d choose to focus on easier AP goals first.

Yet if you were to ask me if I’d prefer harvesting nodes to chasing AP, I’d only have to look at my still undone Golden Badges in the Silverwastes to tell you that I’ve been hitting all the nodes first over something like that. Eventually I’ll buckle down and shove that priority up a tad, but as a general guideline, the above list works for me.

New stuff goes without saying for me. I was camped out in Tangled Depths over two weekends and quite a number of weeknights trying to bring down the Chak Gerents (all four of them.)

potatogerent

It may be potato graphics, but this reward chest has never looked shinier.

tdhole

The end result of succeeding the meta was mostly a great big hole blasted through to Dragon’s Stand, a couple of crystallized cache chests and a strongbox made accessible. Plus a piece of Mistward something that’s presumably used for making Mistward armor, when I get around to it. (Probably around the time I finally get around to making a Revenant.)

Once that succeeded once, it was like a great big load fell off my mind and I could start voluntarily choosing to ignore some raid sessions, knowing that more would be organized every day / every week. There would be time to accumulate the zone currency gradually. Now I could prioritize other things with my GW2 play time to catch up on other stuff.

Some of that involves getting more or less prepped for the impending *ugh* closed 10-man raids to hit GW2.

I’m still looking on that activity with a fair amount of dread – mostly because it’s hellish to try and match timezones and turn up at a regular schedule, plus there’s always that rejection feeling from an activity with such small number limits.

(Look at how guild missions have been complained about, when they inadvertently only reward 15 players, leaving the other… oh… 35 people who showed up feeling jipped? Or left repeating the same goddamn guild puzzle over and over until maybe most people get their reward, except a few that seem permanently glitched? Speaking of which, they really need to get around to fixing that. So bloody annoying. I was certainly never one who asked for them to make guild missions closed instances.)

Everyone’s also kinda dreading their reward scheme for raids – many because it seems like Anet’s reward adjustments feel like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded, rather than following any sort of real plan.

Me, I’m bloody terrified that it’s going to be a one-way no-alternate-path “forcing” of players into their shiny new activity that they are so damn proud of and want to collect salty player tears on (What’s going on with that adversarial relationship anyway?)

Take the sudden account-binding of Nuhoch Hunting Stashes and fractal thingumies (I haven’t done fractals seriously post-expansion, I have no idea what’s been going on there.)

I had -thought- it was a clever way to provide players an alternate route to gaining currencies for activities they’d rather not prefer to engage in, while giving players who LIKE those activities an income stream from the players who hate it but want some of the rewards from that activity anyway. Meanwhile, the trade sinks gold via the TP. Win win, no?

No. Apparently, if you want Heart of Thorns zone currencies, you better just grit your teeth and grind events. Vice versa for fractals, though with all the bitterness coming from that front, it doesn’t exactly encourage me to do that activity until everything is given another look.

I don’t know.

My assumption is they’ll keep freaking iterating until they get it right, and we only need to wait until then, but damn, this iteration is SLOW.

In the meantime, I may as well do stuff that’s right in front of me, not get baited by a million and one design traps, and freak out only when there’s solid info to get grumpy about. (Like how I can’t actually prioritize a precursor rifle hunt because some poor bastard who wanted to do it first found out that bits of it were buggy and don’t work.)

One example of those things right in front of me is the revelation that I’m really most comfortable on my charr guardian as a main – I haven’t been playing any other character through Heart of Thorns for any long period of time – so I may as well take some small steps in getting him raid-ready. Like an Ascended greatsword and possibly a mace too – he already has an Ascended sword/focus and scepter/torch, but it’s been super-obvious that Heart of Thorns really really likes you to go AoE in certain scenarios… bottom line, guardian greatswords can do that and my nerfed (but pretty) Fiery Dragon Sword just can’t cut it.

I’ve a warrior and necromancer alt that also needs to be run through Heart of Thorns, and pushed towards raid-readiness, so that’s something to be doing too.

Considering that my warrior still hasn't finished the personal story, that's quite a bit of story chapters to go.
Considering that my warrior still hasn’t finished the personal story, that’s quite a bit of story chapters to go. It’s kinda nice to replay it all again, now that they’ve finally fixed the flow and put back the “greatest fear” arc, after leaving it broken for…how long?

Masteries, thankfully, I’ve knocked out most of the crucial ones, which leaves the nice-to-haves as a slow goal to work toward while doing other things.

Between that, attending open world raids, and maybe replaying the story for achievements, chasing mastery points and hero points for elite specs and harvesting all the things while the guild hall material demand is sending the economy into wild swings, I shouldn’t run out of still-viable things to do while waiting for fixes and iterations to the more egregious issues that have arisen, seemingly all over the game.

Looks like everyone, devs and players alike, will be quite busy until next year.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Darkwing Tigercharr!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Darkwing Tigercharr! (God, I love the charr gliding animation. It’s like they’re pouncing on some mice below. Also, winged cats are awesome. Not very immersion-y, but eh, that boat sailed a long time ago. Still awesome.)

Blaugust Day 30: Raids… Crap, What Happens to Everything Else? (GW2)

This morning, I woke up with my mind buzzing from a certain amount of worry.

At first, it was just the expected personal problem of wondering how the hell I was going to fit my personal schedule around the concept of raiding in GW2… especially since I’m in the GMT+8 timezone, making essentially all NA and EU guilds verboten, and even OCE guilds start raids about two hours earlier than I can really afford to be present while holding down a job.

Especially since the intent was to make sure said 10-person group undergoes repeated headbanging failure before maybe succeeding, after a great deal of build tweaking and coordination and practice.

That means a relatively regular group is needed, no?

Then I started wondering about how TTS was going to handle the introduction of raids…

The habit has always been for about 90-120 people gather up for Karka Queen, Tequatl and Triple Trouble Wurm. That’s about the most OCE/SEA critical mass that can be pulled at any one point in time.

Would they do the same, then split them up into groups of ten?

But wait, there might be a problem of lack of organized leadership… which means the number of each potential group that can be formed shrinks…

…which means there’s going to be competition for the desired raid spots… and resultant ill-feeling if you don’t make it in… sorta like how the 160th person sulks if they can’t manage to get into a Triple Trouble map… (except that we almost never hit that kind of number with TT, and we’ll definitely exceed that with a ten person raid)

And what if a huge chunk of leaders decide that they are just going to go form their own specialized raid group instead…

…what happens to the inclusivity of the Teq/Triple Wurm schedule?

And then it hit me, and my commenter Athie also drilled down to the root of the problem, WAIT, NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT TRIPLE WURM ANY LONGER.

Why? BECAUSE RAIDS NOW OFFER COMPARATIVELY THE BEST ARMOR IN THE GAME.

Dungeons? Pfft.

Fractals? Fucking Ascended rings, right? And now reduced to one fractal each time. Meh, that’s for casuals.

Triple Trouble Wurm? A lame ass chance at Ascended armor with stats you probably won’t be able to use, and more likely, 5 lousy champion bags and some blues and greens.

EVERYTHING will be shoved aside, and the ALL IMPORTANT GODLY RAID will be placed on a pedestal of awe and desirability.

THAT is going to be a problem. The lack of any other alternative to get one’s mitts on Legendary armor, making raids highly desirable and causing everything else to fall by the wayside and look bad in comparison.

What’s going to happen to our friendly community guilds that welcome any influx of new players cos it means hitting critical mass then?

Torn apart, that’s what. You won’t want new players to learn the complicated raid dance if it sets your group back by weeks. You want the same regular group of 10, period. That forms exclusivity. That forms elitism if that pack of 10 gets all the shiny Legendary armor that no one else can get.

Now I have a sunken pit of dread in my stomach that isn’t going away.

I hope Athie’s right and GW2 makes a dramatic and unpredictable direction swing several months later, because the extrapolation from here is not looking good at all.