One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

I thought I was getting better.

Two days ago, I took this screenshot feeling relatively good about everything in general, wanting to share a burgeoning optimism that maybe quarterly class balance updates would be decent for overall game functioning.

newdervish

After all, I had around three months to giggle about getting into Viper’s gear before the crowd demand sent Black Diamond prices soaring sky-high, and then play a Burnzerker – a build that I would probably not have ever gotten around to on my own, but really tickled the pyromaniac-loving part of me that loves any class that throws around fire, fire and MORE FIRE.

The Burnzerker nerf was expected, and I was pleasantly mollified to see that it wasn’t knee-jerk cut down into absolute uselessness, but more or less on par with most other normal condition classes/builds. (Minus the present bug where two burnzerker fields are ineffective, thus don’t bring more than one, until it gets fixed, eventually.)

Of course, we still have two annoying player subsets to contend with – those who won’t accept anything but the current most OP builds – that crown has gone to a certain specific necromancer/reaper build using minions and epidemic apparently (not sure, I haven’t looked into it yet); and those who are blatantly ignorant and jump to conclusions based on hearsay without any actual attempts at measurement or objectivity.

The latter are a pet peeve, as arguing with an idiot tends to wind up with descending to their level and them beating you with experience at being a stubborn ignoramus.

So I usually don’t try, beyond a calm factual statement or two, and then let the facts speak for themselves. (Brought a burnzerker to VG, red either still died before blue and green, or exactly on time – so either blue/green group is incompetent and/or the condi output is acceptable. Not OP anymore, but acceptable.)

Another funny side story about those who think they know everything: I was on my way to my last Lunar New Year firecracker for the daily.

As my charr bullrushed past one or two people standing around, random bystander guy spoke up and said, “You have to glide to this firecracker. FYI.”

I have no idea if he was addressing me (since I did bump the pillar/pedestal on my way to said firecracker) or if he was talking to the other player standing nearby, but eh, what if that player didn’t own Heart of Thorns? Was he SOL?

Without missing a beat (since I was really truly on my usual route to the firecracker anyway), I ran right past, jumped up the side of the glass dome, ran along the roof and then promptly fell down through a gap in the roof onto the pedestal where the firecracker was.

Sans glider.

Random bystander quickly shut up and decided that now would be a good time to walk/run away.

I might be revealing my deeply flawed human nature here, but I couldn’t stop chortling to myself for some time after that.

But I digress.

The screenshot above is my new *cough*dervish*cough*

Okay, it’s really just the thief Elite spec Daredevil with a staff skin.

But it captures the scythe wielding part of the GW1 dervish decently well, even if the avatar changing utility skills have more or less wound up with the revenant.

Again, without the meta in dramatic upheaval every three months, I find that it would be quite unlikely that I would have gotten around to this build.

Mostly, I was looking for a secondary replacement class for the burnzerker, so that if a particular raid already had way too many might stacking PS warriors or revenants, I could at least offer a current ‘common knowledge’ ‘OP’ class/build. (When in Rome and all that, you know, why fight it?)

It also took out what was probably a month’s worth of materials hoarding and savings by the time I finished decking him out with the appropriate runes/sigils, Ascended weapons, trinkets, and about three pieces of Ascended armor.

As personally painful as it was to dip into the treasure hoard, I have to admit that a certain amount of forced spending and need for materials is good for stimulating the economy. Also, it acts like another kind of hardcore tax beyond expensive food/wrench consumables.

I was excited enough by the feel of playing and learning a new build/playstyle to go out and kill a bunch of core Tyria stuff, adding up toward core Tyria mastery, as well as start formulating specific HoT plans for improvement/progress.

One goal was the Ascended Bo, which I found cheapest to just go ahead with the collection. That made me partake in one round of Auric Basin and one round of Dragon Stand in order to get the last bits of stuff I needed.

I idly also laid in plans to score some HoT mastery points, since way too many repeated raid failures had already capped me in xp for the HoT mastery tracks. I just need about 12 more mastery points I haven’t gotten around to earning.

Unfortunately, the last two days have put me into a bit of a foul mood yet again.

I idly made a reply comment in a Reddit thread rant that described how many problems the player was facing while trying to enjoy/play through a HoT meta event.

At the time, it was just a bit of a speculative thought I had, an idle remark on the many levels of abstraction that the guy’s story had become about, that his narrative had become more “struggling with the game, as game” rather than an immersed narrative about the world as obstacle.

I was sort of thinking of the same issue that Warhammer had, with their all encompassing Tome of Knowledge, and PvE leveling that wound up staring at the quest UI going “OK, I need X more organs from Y mobs” and mostly out-of-world game-meta related thinking that made the obvious focus manipulating game mechanics and rules, rather than actually enjoying the world as presented.

It blew up on me rather surprisingly, garnering some 200+ upvotes.

It made me think about how many people are out there, feeling a bit like me, feeling a bit like some of the old guard like that_shaman and other familiar Reddit names expressing a certain malaise or discontent.

And then I read new guard comments in the GW2 reddit, who LOVE raids and think they’re awesome, except that they’re also constantly whining that dungeons have been gutted, fractals have devolved into Swamp of the Mists (apparently, I haven’t bothered to set foot in there for some time) and that they’ve already cleared the raid wing on reset day and have nothing else to do and are now bored and going off to play another game, while waiting for more stuff to do.

And here I am, -struggling- to find enough groups every goddamn week to even get a guaranteed vale guardian kill, having to push aside my dinner time so that I might even get into a raid group that might or might not kill VG…

… and I just get angry. And bitter.

(To add salt to the wound, apparently TTS training raids are now off the calendar, diminishing yet another avenue for raid groups, and it’s back to waiting for an invite into the next experiment, a specific TTS raid guild, to see if that works any better. Strung along, yet again.)

And then I read a post like Azuriel’s, wherein he Gets/Doesn’t Get GW2.

All I want to do is bang my forehead against a flat surface really really hard.

No offense taken from Azuriel’s honest reactions, by the way, I think he’s a great representative of the subset who give GW2 a shot, just can’t find any impetus to level up further and then start posting on Reddit asking, “is that all there is? how do I level fast? map completion is boring, how do I like this game? unosweiter.”

But I can’t help but scream, in a rather enraged fashion, that Heart of Thorns threw in all the fucking endgame for people like this – who need a reason to keep leveling (masteries), who want a PvE endgame to look forward to (raids / collection grind)…

… and apparently they’re not even making it to level 80!

They can’t get past the open exploration aspect of leveling, so they quit before hitting 80.

Meanwhile, those that liked the open exploration aspect, now face the bait-and-switch achievement endgame, just like -every other fucking MMO- out there.

WHO THE FUCK IS ANET CATERING TO ANY MORE?

They try to reach the hardcore raiders, and the hardcore raiders are throwing it back in their faces by locusting the content and diminishing it to triviality.

In the process, they’re infuriating the casuals and those in the middle.

The PvPers are twitching ever since the PvP league ended and they’re forced to mix with the hoi polloi in unranked.

Meanwhile, they’re scrambling to apply CPR to the most neglected portion, WvW, because that’s a post-expansion priority now.

Everyone else is just going to have to wait their turn.

#grumpy

Furthermore, I hear news from Trion’s end that they’re revamping payment models and my second-favorite “MMO-like” Trove is going to start charging real money for classes, no two ways around this.

This makes me grumpier.

Mind you, since I started early, I’ve already reaped most of the benefits and unlocked every class but the Gunslinger (which still reputedly needs help to be brought back up to par) so it’s not exactly going to impact me considerably except moving forward, if I ever desire a new class introduced.

But I just don’t know if I can bring myself to play games that don’t feel fair, payment model or level playing field-wise.

So Trove may be a write off too.

Maybe it’s time to relook at Path of Exile or Minecraft again…

Says It All, Really

In case anyone is wondering why I dislike on principle games that heavily stress vertical progressing stats-on-gear-make-performance-better gameplay: A Rant Over At The Grumpy Elf’s – You’d Be A Good Player, If You Had Some Gear.

Of course, it is conceivable that part of the dislike stems from the excessive and almost hostile competitive-focus of that particular game too.

A game that promotes the mentality of “if this player has more stats, it helps everyone and has no detrimental effect on your personal rewards gained” can nullify the instinctive dislike a little, though it’ll still grate when one realizes another player is only doing better because they have more numbers on their gear.

GW2: I Think… Downscaling is Borked

I’m just a little bit upset.

I am mildly disturbed to the point of not being able to go to bed at 11.50pm on a Friday night and decided to stay up until 1.30am doing a quick experiment, collecting more data and then writing this blog post.

It started out well enough at around 9pm when I settled down to fill in the blanks on my spreadsheet to observe how downscaling on a level 80 had changed from then to now.

That, then, was merely an exercise in being a little obsessive for the explorer fun of it, because really, what else have I got to do besides run around the new Lion’s Arch, shooting karka hatchlings, and then going back to my usual routines?

downscale-compare

I finished filling in the blanks from my screenshots and data and settled in to take a look at how my level 80 warrior had changed from before.

Now, this had been a banner warrior going deep into Tactics to pick up quick breathing at the expense of the more meta precision traitline, so it was not a surprise to see that I had gained a little Power, lost a bunch of Vitality, and gained quite a ton more Precision as a result of losing stats on traitlines and gaining stats on zerker gear.

Nothing shocking. Nothing upsetting. All kinda expected, and it’ll be interesting to see how my other more meta-faithful warrior alt changed too.

However, since this was the warrior I was using to collect downscaling stats on, I looked at that next.

After chasing up various mathematical alleys, I decided that trying to figure out any exact downscaling formulae was going to be tough, especially when I forgot to check or record down any -base stats- at those levels.

So it was pretty much just going to be very crude direct number comparison instead.

I gained a bit damage-wise with the new 80, since I no longer had to give up any stats on traitlines for the utilities I wanted. My crit chance went up by 10%, and crit damage by 8% or so.

This somewhat affected downscaling at lvl 70, as toughness and precision at the new 70 was still more or less better than my old not-so-dps-optimal 70. However, Power took a hit even here, dropping below the previous state.

By lvl 60, the Power stat does reveal that it’s been a little chopped off at the knees, 1391 as compared to the 1546 of before. The other stats are ehh… around the same-ish to slightly worse.

By lvl 50, everything’s taken a hit in effectiveness as compared with pre-patch, and it doesn’t get -any- better as you go lower and lower.

Power’s dropped precipitously and alarmingly, and let us not even speak of critical chance. It is near non-existent.

Now, one may argue that this makes sense. We want to bring the downscaled lvl 80 to lowbie equivalency, right? And lowbies don’t get multiple fancy stats on their gear, like precision and ferocity. Nevermind that builds that rely on high critical chance get a little shafted, it’s for a good cause, you know?

So I decided to check the stats on my lowbies to see if the level 80 had been made equivalent.

And what I saw really freaked me out.

I had a bunch of spare lowbies masquerading as storages, a thief, an engineer, a guardian, the works. Most of them are exactly level 20, thanks to the Experience Scroll veterans get, so I settled on that level to compare.

Many of them had 360-420ish Power, as compared with the new downscaled 80’s 225 Power.

HANG ON, THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT.

Ok, I know I am guilty of twinking out my lowbies hard. I put on even level 20 gear on them. I stack on minor runes of +10 power for 60 total power, give them a sigil of bloodlust (which got nerfed, thanks), I make shiny +Power jewellery for them. So maybe it’s just my twinking making shit unbalanced, right?

(It’s at this point where I realize I can’t go to sleep until I resolve this niggling issue…)

… so lying in bed, I come up with the fairest test I can think of. (That I can perform, given the resource limits that I have.)

Maybe the classes differ, so I am going to take the spare character slot I have, create a new warrior, use up one of my many Experience Scrolls to zap it to level 20, and I am going to buy gear like a noob off the TP, and then check not only just Power stats, but do a quick dps experiment.

nearnekkid20

This is a near nekkid new level 20. Still in the tutorial gear with nearly no Power on any of it, one hero’s band (+2 Power), and one iron ring (~11 Power iirc) that was a level up reward. She has 178 Power as compared with the downscaled level 80 at 225 Power, 8% crit chance as compared with 21.33% crit chance, 151% crit damage versus 174.7% crit damage. Okaaay.

noobtp

I go to the TP. I am simulating a newbie, more or less, so here’s what I do. I buy my level 20 armor, all six slots. I pick the one with Power, obviously. I buy weapons the same way.

I -don’t- buy any trinkets or jewellery whatsoever, because they are too expensive anyway, so I have lost a bunch of potential Power stats there already.

I -don’t- put any minor runes or sigils on my gear, because I am a newbie, remember? I don’t understand any of this stuff. I just wear the default thing. It is the same stuff that can drop (which is why it is 2-3 silver as compared with the cutthroat crafted version.)

normalnewbie

Do note that my ‘normal’ newbie has 266 Power. The downscaled level 80 has 225 Power.

Ok, she has a crit chance of 8% and crit damage of 151%. He has a crit chance of 21.33% and 174.7% crit damage.

Does that actually make a difference?

In lieu of calculating damage done (because I haven’t looked at those formulas yet), I do a test.

I go to the Wendon waypoint at Brisban Wildlands. The level 80 downscales to 20 in that area. My level 20 is an exact level 20. There are level 19 Jungle Boar there.

I get the exact same utilities, Balanced Stance, For Great Justice, Banner of Strength, minus an elite, because it so happens that I get enough Hero Points by leveling to 20 to unlock those. I have no traitlines on the lowbie, because those unlock at lvl 21. Do the extra traitlines on my level 80 give him an edge, necessitating his stats dropping to under a lowbie’s?

lowbie-notwink

I kill a bunch of boar with the level 20.

Yes, the words are very small, so let me summarize:

  • Cyclone Axe (~80 damage)
  • Chop (~165-170 damage, critting for 210-250)
  • Double Chop (~149-163 damage, critting for 229-259)
  • Triple Chop (~145-149 damage on the first two strikes, 324-334 on the last strike, critting for 469-540 damage on the last strike.)
  • Boar hits me for 70-77 damage each direct attack, more or less, and healing signet pulses away for 32 healing.

80downscaled

I swap over to the level 80 and do the same thing.

  • Cyclone Axe (~64-69 damage, critting for 98-119)
  • Chop (~112-145 damage, critting for 171-245)
  • Double Chop (~104-129 damage, critting for 168-257)
  • Triple Chop (~104-129 on the first two strikes, 235-286 on the last strike, critting for 188-233 on the first two strikes, and didn’t manage to crit on the last strike during my test)
  • Boar hits me for 82-89 damage each direct attack, and healing signet still pulses away for 32 healing.

The boar’s bleeds was a constant 32 in both cases (makes sense, since armor doesn’t affect conditions), and the level 80 had a trait that had a chance of applying a bleed on a critical (which did 28-40 damage.)

I dunno… but it SURE SEEMS TO ME like the level 20 is doing more damage than my downscaled level 80. I kill the same boars in less hits on the lowbie than it takes the level 80 to finish off his.

It’s an untwinked lowbie, even!

Guess what happens if I put on the minor runes (each giving +10 Power for a total of 60 power) and the minor sigil of bloodlust (which I didn’t even bother to max out.) I did not even put on any trinkets, so this can go even higher.

lowbie-moretwink

Cyclone Axe 97, Chop 170-214, Double Chop 198-214, Triple Chop 192-226 & 412-485 (not a crit.)

I think someone has really gotten carried away with the downscaling if my level 80 is not even equivalent to a level 20 in a level 20 area!

I will leave others to debate if this is a good thing – maybe level 80s should face a sort of ‘hard mode’ as compared with new lowbies? (Never mind that optimizers would probably just try to make lowbie alts if those are the most optimal?)

Maybe this will make the self-styled “elitist” (but not truly elitist) level 80s in dungeons welcome lowbie noobs more when they are statistically better than downscaled 80s, nevermind that they lack knowledge of the mechanics and experienced 80s tend to know what is going on?

Me, I still can’t get over the knee-jerk emotional outrage of being unequivalent in this manner just quite yet. It is just TOO WEIRD. It doesn’t make any logical sense. (Laying it all out in the blog post -is- helping though. I can probably go to sleep after this.)

I do hope and suspect there will be adjustments to the scaling as time goes on, and hopefully in a better direction, but eesh, that’s a very steep downscale curve to get used to, as compared to before, and I have no more words for this beyond “….”