GW2: Chronomancer Contemplations

It’s at times like this when I truly fail to understand those who claim the lack of a holy trinity means a lack of depth to combat.

On the contrary, it may very well be that it complicates combat up to the point where people crave a certain simplicity because they don’t even want to consider the nuances involved.

I’m not a good mesmer. Hell, I haven’t gotten my mesmer beyond level 50 or so. In three years, I haven’t even -looked- closely at the mesmer traitlines to consider any potential synergies because I simply haven’t had the time or inclination to learn this class.

Reading about the elite Chronomancer specialization that mesmers are about to get with the offhand shield weapon inflicts a level of hurt so deep my brain turned to mush the first few times I read the page – sorta like trying to read academic papers – and it’s only subsided slowly on more careful and slow reading in an attempt to wrap my mind around the concepts being described.

No depth?

Come on.

First up, we have a new buff effect called Alacrity. This is going to differ from Quickness in that quickness affects attack speeds (as in how fast you attack, aka your animations speeding up) whereas alacrity affects recharge speeds (as in how fast your skills/attacks come off cooldown.)

Implications? When quickness is on you, you generally want to just swing your sword as fast as possible, ie. spam your best fast damaging attacks at super speed for the most dps.

Alacrity, on the other hand, will bring back longer cooldown skills faster, which is a different kind of dangerous. Stuff like wells or various elite skills (entangle, moa, etc.) will come back faster, which may throw off opponents expecting to take advantage of a certain recharge time in between casts.

There is also the potential for coordinated parties with one or two chronomancer mesmers maintaining alacrity to speed up recharges of other classes with certain support skills – eg. projectile reflection/absorb skills and so on. Could be we might see fights and encounters where damage pulses at such a rate that we’d need reflection with more uptime, or quicker recharging strong heals to withstand it.

Maintaining alacrity is likely to be a minigame in itself, maintaining a certain cadence of skill casts to keep the buff going.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of the GW1 paragon, where I struggled at the beginning while figuring out how to maintain certain shouts or chants so that the effects would synergize and produce something even more desirable, and only later managed to, more or less, keep a rhythm going and all buffs maintained. For a time, anyway, before falling out of cadence or sync again. (Luckily, NPC heroes don’t care if you screw up during the learning process.)

Chronomancer skills are apparently also going to have a ‘duality’ flavor to them. One effect on allies, another effect on enemies.

This immediately makes them super-flexible, but also turns their ‘depth’ into a yawning chasm. Do you use the skill to buff your allies? Do you use the skill instead to affect your enemies? If you do one, it may be on cooldown when you want to use it for the other. Maybe you’re awesome and can pick out the most optimal timing to do -both- with one skill shot.

One skill. So many possibilities. No right answer as to precisely when that optimal timing might be. Just you, your read on the situation, and your decision. (Let’s see a skill rotation macro do that for you…)

Hell, the example skill given, Tides of Time, just blew my mind on reading the paragraph.

It produces a wall, that moves, and absorbs projectiles.

(We already have many situations where we want a projectile reflect or absorb to protect us from damage.)

Its shape is not ye olde usual rectangle, line, circle or cone… but instead it’s going to boomerang, from its caster and back again.

And the caster can move while casting this.

Immediately, one can see that a number of varied shapes can be created from this.

If the caster stands still, you’re going to get a rectangle, more or less, in which the skill will cross over twice.

If the caster moves to the side, you’re going to get a more or less triangular wedge or V shape, where you might have an area where the skill will overlap twice, or a larger area where the skill will only touch on once.

If the caster goes and does something even more mind-blowing like blink or teleport elsewhere while this skill is ricocheting around (and we know mesmers can do that), they might be able to create something like a doubled in size rectangular area where the skill crosses over once, or some variant of the V shape mentioned above.

Oh, did we mention that the skill -also- buffs any allies which are touched by the moving wall with quickness? Everybody loves quickness already with time warp. Now the chronomancer can choose to bestow it on allies that aren’t clustered in the circular area that time warp forces you to collapse into.

Time warp, being an AoE, can only affect 5 players with quickness. It’s still left to be seen, but given existing examples of wall skills like the necromancer’s spectral wall or the mesmer’s wall-based stealth invis – where players essentially cross over and leave the effectively-hits-only-5 area, thus allowing other players to affected… it is possible that one might be able to gift quickness to more than 5 players at one time. (Mind blown yet?)

Oh, oh… but ALSO, the very same skill will affect any enemies that touch the wall with a -stun-.

You know, that oh-so-favorite weapon of any initial WvW engagement where commanders beg elementalists for their static fields, stunning any idiot who runs into the big obvious electrical circle?

Well, the field is not going to be so kind as to just sit there now if a chronomancer fires it. It’s going to charge right into you like a Risen abomination. (And then ricochet right back, to add insult to injury.)

I think we already mentioned somewhere above that the shape of this skill effect being entirely up to the individual skill and choosing of the chronomancer who unleashes it, yeah?

Defences? Beyond ye olde stability and dodging, I can see that an important counter is likely going to be disrupting the cadence of the chronomancer in some way. Interrupts, knockbacks, pushes, pulls.

If you yank away or cc the chronomancer while his stuff is in mid-bounce, that’s going to change the shape of his skill from something he wanted to something potentially a little less effective (and hopefully induce a longer recharge because he missed absorbing the return cycle of his skill.)

I dunno about you but my brain has essentially splattered itself all over the inside of my skull trying to encompass the possibilities contained in this ONE skill.

(And I haven’t even tried to consider synergies with other skills yet…)

Timing is going to be a big thing for chronomancers. Likely very much intentionally so.

Another skill they’re going to have is timed wells.

As in, AoE stuff they can lay on the floor, and we’ll see a skill effect tick down, and one can choose to be in or out of that area as one’s desires and reflexes can handle.

Allies are going to want to jump into certain wells for cool buffs when it explodes, and enemies are going to want to GTFO, in a fashion rather similar to how our PvE enemies highlight their hard hitting attacks and we need to then roll out or move away from the target area. A skill-based counter, in other words, which should indeed have an interesting effect on those who haven’t yet mastered the art of dodging.

But but, who says we have to stop at the newbie level? Mesmers mess with players’ minds, remember? On a more meta level, it’s likely that the well skill will be placed, not primarily for the damaging effects of the timed explosion landing, but to actually force the GTFO. To make players scatter or leave an area (such as a control point), or to cost them a dodge doing so, opening them up for a worst sequence of things yet to come. Or they could sit there and eat the explosion.

Catch 22. Rock in a hard place and all that. Goddamn mesmer mindgames.

(And I’m sure all those distracting clones aren’t going away while all this crap is going on either. Or if they do go away, it’s probably because they shattered onto you. Ouch.)

And the last nuclear explosion in my head? They’re going to get a new F5 skill. Continuum Split/Shift.

A more ridiculously powerful necromancer spectral walk, which not only saves the -position- of the player when the skill begins, but the entire -state.-

Hitpoints, endurance, skill cooldowns, the works.

So…. they could start with 100% hp, continuum split, run around like a kamikaze warrior letting their hp get eaten away and continuum shift, pow, they’re back to where they were, with full hp, having absorbed a great many damaging skills from enemies that are now on cooldown, while they have essentially just stepped back into the fight, completely fresh.

*brain asplodes*

Oh, they could also have cast all their skills in a crazy lethal spike, and -then- hit the reset button to potentially do it again if there’s something still left standing after that.

*kablooey goes the top part of my head*

Or just a choice skill twice – like an elite skill twice.

Or they could just use it as a tactical reposition like the many pre-existing blinks, shadowsteps and spectral walk variants…

…including over a really tall cliff, just like a necromancer might blow a kiss and scram.

(Guess that’s where the romance comes in, for both necros and chronos…)

Seriously, I’m not even planning on playing a mesmer or a chronomancer, but my head already hurts just trying to get a handle on what might possibly come one’s way once the true mesmer experts get their hands on their elite specialization.

No depth indeed. *mutters, grumbles, stomps off and tries to hide in a dark corner away from purple butterflies and ticking clock hands*

Of Spectator Sports and Trinities

My television watching habits are supremely irregular.

That is, I don’t watch much TV at all.

All those crucial 45 minute blocks of time are spent gaming, rather than passively experiencing a story that goes absolutely nowhere except into yet-another-episodic-arc-designed-to-keep-you-glued-to-the-screen.

Nor am I a big sports fan.

Competition and me are not pals, having been bitten once too many times by an obsessive personality that would fixate too much on winning at all costs, if I gave it free reign. I’m mellower when I tell myself winning is not the goal, but having moment-to-moment fun is.

Still, there was a time when I was enraptured by the NFL and American football. It just seemed so much more complex and intricate than the football the rest of the world plays – lots more clear cut roles, different strategies every pass designed to get the ball the next 10 yards and beyond.

Until I took note of how many hours a night I was spending watching one game (3-4 easily) and how much gaming time I was losing out on as a result. Fell out of the habit shortly after.

It’s funny then that even I can get caught up in the zeitgeist of the moment. I just spent the last couple of midnights staying up till 3am to watch the semi-finals and finals of the FIFA World Cup.

Not as a rabid soccer or football fan, staunchly loyal to one team, but out of a pigheaded determination to discover an appreciation of a game that I mostly always viewed as “kicking a ball around a grass patch for 90 minutes and falling down with an agonized look on one’s face the moment the faintest contact is made, hoping for a favorable referee call.”

The internet helped.

Googled up “soccer strategies” and “why do people like football so much” and devoted some time to reading other people’s thoughts.

Apparently, it’s the continuous flow of action rather than the typical start and stop of American football that some find compelling, a constant adrenaline high for one and a half hours punctuated with more extreme buzzes whenever the ball gets close to the goal posts.

I’m somehow not wired that way. I don’t get adrenaline deliveries on cue, which may suggest a reason why competition isn’t that exciting for me. Instead, I enjoy watching the interlocked intricacies of each team member in American football performing their specialized role well, with the result that the football either gets passed or gets stopped, depending on which team outsmarted or outplayed the other.

Still…

…Surely, soccer has -some- strategies of this ilk? Just less obvious, perhaps?

More reading. More eye-glazing over various “formations” with hypenated player numbers. More beginner tips on how to appreciate soccer via watching how one player may outsmart another by looking in one direction while kicking in another, or using their body to block an opponent’s view of the ball, or players that criss-cross and cut in at various locations to become open for the ball and so on.

I guess there were -some- things that I could find vaguely interesting, after all.

So I watched the World Cup and admired Germany’s efficient teamwork and appreciated on a distant theoretical level why defensive football is so important by observing Brazil’s total defensive meltdown.

Still didn’t like the extreme boring nature of a super-defensive football game with zero goals scored in two hours (with extra time) – effective, I’ll grant you, but boring as heck to watch – and repeatedly rolled one’s eyes at the more unspoken sides of football – ie. sneakily damage your opponent as much as you can get away with, dramatically telegraph all contact in the hopes of a free kick or yellow/red cards, and apparently biased referees.

Seriously, if things are going to get that physical, then put on some padding and go to town like the Americans do.

It’s with some irony though that I find a parallel with MMOs and that I’m on the opposite side when it comes to computer gaming.

American football reminds me of the holy trinity.

Everyone has a specialized role, everyone works in unison and it’s beautiful when everything synchronizes.

Rest-of-the-world football is a non-holy trinity game. Perhaps, dare I say it,  even like GW2.

There’s one primary role everyone performs, do damage or get the ball as close you can to the goal/stop ball getting close to yours, while still paying attention to the team and working in sync with them and supporting them as needed. There may be different “classes” or “soccer positions” with some variants in playstyle. There’s probably more going on under the hood than is obvious to the casual observer.

Soccer is said to be one of the most unpredictable sports. A weaker team has a good chance of upsetting a stronger team because the scores are so low. If opportunities fall their way, and are capitalized on, that may be it for the more unlucky team.

Some find this a reason why soccer is so exciting to watch.

Me, I personally find it about as thrilling as trying to predict heads or tails on a coin toss, and just as pointless. I guess I prefer to watch a good team demonstrate -why- they’re a good team.

Strangely enough, I find unpredictability a bonus if you’re the one actually participating in the moment.

Because it’s suddenly you that can become the hero with a well-placed rez, or good dodging or even indulge in a star solo moment, by catching the right opportunities.

To me, soccer or GW2 is a tide more individualistic, whereas American football or a holy trinity game seems a bit more skewed towards subsuming the self to make a team work like clockwork.

Not really sure where I’m going with this, but I guess the moral of the story is that people like different things, which may differ again if they’re spectating or doing.

And that we can all learn to appreciate (if only at a theoretical distance) stuff we thought we didn’t like before, if we try to look for its redeeming features.

After the World Cup, I’ll be going on one more spectator sports binge.

The International is slated from July 18-21.

DOTA 2 and I have a curious relationship.

I was super-thrilled to win a beta key in one of Steam’s sales contests when it was in development. I installed it gleefully, remembering my very amateur DOTA games-with-real-life-friends, and tinkered around with a few bot games.

Then never quite got back to it again.

Every now and then, I log in, admiring its whole elaborate free-to-play structure of level unlocks, vanity costume skins that cost money, numerous beginner tutorials/build guidance/encyclopedias that are linked to community knowledgebases, on and on through an intricate ladder of intermediate to expert commitment.

Then I back out without having gained a single experience point.

Sorta like LOL, except LOL did seem a little simpler and I did get to around level 4 or so.

I want desperately to play them and learn how deep both rabbit holes go, but the truth is, I just can’t envision investing all that time into MOBAs.

A single match takes like 30-45 minutes or more. You have to play a lot of them to get familiar with the game. You have to play a number of heroes to get familiar with the heroes and gain some flexibility in what you can play. Getting skillful takes even longer.

It’s easier to just watch a couple hours’ worth of professional teams go at it, for a couple of days, and get the entertainment experience without having to personally grind your way up.

Maybe some day, I’ll give them another go, but not today.