Blaugust Day 28: What I Hope Does Happen When “Raids” Hit GW2

So now that I’ve taken a cold, hard look at my worse fear – being forced to leave the game I enjoy playing, what do I hope will actually be announced in the “challenging group content” PAX announcement happening in less than 24 hours?

Now is the time I put on my optimistic hat and go with the assumption that my favorite devs aren’t stupid, aren’t stomping all over their stated philosophies when they implement “raids” into their game and like coming up with innovative spins on old systems that polish away the nasty bits while accentuating the good bits.

Now is the time I make my best guesses to see just how close or completely far off track my thinking is from the good folks who make GW2… just for the fun of it.

(Black-and-white for people prone to misreading: NONE OF THIS IS REAL. These are just my guesses. We will hear what’s actually going to happen in slightly more than 12 hours’ time.)

1. Open World “Challenging Group Content”

There will be some raid-like monsters present in the open world. Some may be similar to Vinewrath in the Silverwastes, that is, unlocked by a focused/organized whole map effort doing necessary dynamic events, and then consisting of several different fight phases. We might even see the appearance of ‘rare’ world bosses to hunt down- given a prior example of how we appear to have ‘rare’ mobs in Dry Top making an odd appearance now and then – though I’d really hope they tweak the spawn rate up if that is the case.

By placing some of these raid-like stuff in the open world, we will still have the advantage of making some of this content open to all players, that they can stumble into an organized group attempt and then consider joining said guild or community if they are interested – ie. lowered barrier of entry, as opposed to the typical vertical progression barrier scenario of “sorry, your gearscore is not high enough, you can’t do this.”

It is entirely likely that some of the world bosses in core Tyria that are now on timers will get a bit of a challenge upgrade, even if it is merely as simple as including the defiance breakbar that we know is coming. (This may lead to some bitching and complaining from those presently enjoying the mindless choo-choo, but I personally doubt that the challenge will ramp up to horrific levels, it may simply be a sort of “tutorial” mode difficulty levels for raids and make more world bosses Claw of Jormag tedious until the population adapts.)

2. Instanced “Challenging Group Content”

It will not be just fractals, though we know a fractal revamp is coming that will bring fractals to 100, but smooth the difficulty of the lower levels down so that the barrier of entry will be lowered there too.

It will not just be revamped dungeons, though if a whole bunch of dungeon bosses don’t suddenly incorporate the breakbar with a resultant small spike in challenge, and/or have some of the more egregious exploits fixed… then we will know that Anet has pretty much given up with the existing dungeons.

What I am hoping is that instanced raids are tied to being opened/activated by guilds.

Maybe this will be similar to present guild missions, opening out a spot on the map that anyone can enter (which would make it an open-world raid, see 1. above), or just trigger a teleport to an instanced map that only guild members can use, making it a closed raid.

I’m thinking that the most elegant way of producing these raids would be tying the system with the previously announced guild hall maps. It would make total sense to unlock guild hall buildings and trophies and basically a “group” reward each time the group manages to conquer a difficult and challenging boss.

Maybe the personal reward could be guild commendations and/or an odd specific currency or two – mordrem hound head, mordrem wyvern tail, whatever (as long as said guild vendors expand and offer more neat stuff like Ascended armors, unique gear designs, minis, plus guild hall decorations). We’d have our token buy reward system for raids, we’d have some individual benefit, and still channel most of the effort towards the social/group progression aspect which imo, is one of the better aspects of the whole concept of “raiding.”

The inherent exclusivity of a closed instanced raid is much easier to swallow if you tie it to something that is already “limited membership” only, and then leave the players to set their own barriers of entry. Some guilds will naturally put down some very high bars/thresholds to fulfill (eg. I hear some dungeon guilds want you to be able to solo Lupicus in order to coach/teach others, etc.), and some guilds will remain more open for anyone to join.

Some players will not join guilds, period, and those are the people that are probably not interested or cannot make the commitments (time, certain builds, need for organization) that raids/challenging group content tends to require anyway, so that’s already a first round of self-selection done, without any ‘entitlement’ histrionics.

(I’ve never really seen people throw an entitlement fit over Triple Trouble Wurm, for example. The people who aren’t interested/motivated enough simply assume that they can never do it and either give up or never bother to approach a community. Everyone else who wants something from the wurm, be it seeing done it once, just getting achievements, or running it ad nauseam, found a community that got them what they needed.)

Then all Anet needs to do is keep a weather eye out over how the ‘meta’ threshold requirements are shifting, and tweak mob difficulty accordingly so that it meets whatever the plan is.

With guilds, there’s your kicking mechanism and threat to wield to enforce appropriate behavior right there. Act like an idiot? Boot, you’re out of the guild and you can’t do X raids with us any longer.

With guilds, there’s incentive for a longer term social contract and better community behavior, rather than the merry-go-around “easy, press a button, exchange a teammate” of LFG where some people feel there’s no consequence for being obnoxious to easily-replaceable strangers. We -really- don’t need that extra encouragement for toxic behavior in GW2 raids – we’ll have enough of that hostility in the open world “challenging group content” already, given some people’s tendencies to vent their frustrations and run their mouths in mapchat.

3. The Unexpected / Invasions / Raid “Rifts” as Extra Challenging Group Content?

The last bit of speculation may be a little far out there, but given some hints from data-mining and the oft-repeated desire (not mine, personally) for GW1-like Fissure of Woe or Underworld content, where a crack team of people venture into an instance and get a whole bunch of desirable awards for performing well, and can be assembled up spontaneously from whoever’s around at the time…

… one last cherry on top to accompany 1. and 2. would be the introduction of random portals/doorways into a “raid” instance – akin to something we already see on GW2 Halloween. This would be the middle ground between completely open and completely closed, would satisfy the odd desire of something LFR-like, would have the random lottery feel – both one’s PUGmates and rewards would likely be RNG – and probably allow for bringing back some very old and desirable and $$$ cosmetic skins like jetpack, ghastly grining shield, scarlet’s kiss, whatever.

This might even be seasonally turned on or off, to bring that completely unpredictable and unexpected, high risk/high reward bonus feeling.

Between 1, 2 and 3, I think this would catch pretty much nearly all the different types of raids possible, and offer a multitude of lateral progression gameplay activities for people to choose from. They could do some, all, none as desired, and only lose out on the unique cosmetic stuff, while still (hopefully) having alternative avenues to get whatever desirable stuff they want (even if it’s just buying it from the TP as the alternative.)

Account-bound titles, plus some unique cosmetics, would let the prestige-seeking raiders still show off their things that can’t be otherwise bought, while still making a decent gold profit from the stuff they -can- sell to others who don’t like their particular raid activity.

The key is that as long there aren’t artificial barriers of entry that discourage new influx, a wealth of possible raid options catering to different styles, alternative means/options for gaining desired rewards, and no critical story content tied to said challenging group content that some people aren’t likely to want to do, raids in GW2 aren’t likely to be so bad.

Especially since we don’t have vertically progressing stats on gear AND can freely switch our traits and builds on the fly (where’s that build-saver already, dammit), as opposed to other games with more fixed roles.

How can Anet screw it up? Introducing design choices that are opposite to the stuff named above. New infusions that add on more stats. Grind such and such new stat or mastery to qualify for the next tier of raids. Only do this one raid if you want X item, only do that other raid if you want Y item. Tie raid content to Living Story progression. Set difficulty that demands such high performance that people feel obliged to measure every last number and to kick anyone who doesn’t perform in a picture-perfect robotic and macro’ed manner. Unsoweiter.

I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen.

P.S. I’m really only expecting 1. and 2. to appear in the coming announcement, but I’m ready to be surprised by 3. or 4. Something I haven’t thought of / foreseen, just in case.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 28.

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GW2: Cannons Are The Coolest Thing

Cannons are the coolest. Yes, they are.

I believe I owe all of you a post about the thing I enjoyed most in this update’s Super Adventure Box.

clouddance

It’s this.

No lives consumed. No grinding a million baubles. No juggling with a dozen skills and items. No piss-poor annoying knockback. No grousing about how latency makes timed portions harder.

Just the cheerful unadulterated joy of figuring out how to get here and dance.

In case you were not aware, the lobby of the SAB is a lot bigger than it seems on first glance.

undertheworld

A little judicious exploration will reveal a subterranean space.

upsidedownfountain

With an extremely odd feature.

A little logical extension brings you to where you’ll find a number of people like to perch.

fountainfireworks

And further extension from there brings you into the clouds. With cannons.

It’s funny, they run on the same principle as the flowers and lightning crystals that shoot you from place to place. That is to say, they’re twitchy, sensitive to latency and not altogether that accurate. Which makes reaching certain clouds with the checkpoint flags on them rather a pain.

But somehow, climbing into the barrel of a cannon and being shot into the air as a rolled up ball of heavy armor spiky doom is SO MUCH FUN.

Y’all owe it to yourselves to give it a try too, if you haven’t already.

It makes finding the genie in the game only a pale second coolest thing.

gamegenie

The Konami Code on the rock is an amusing easter egg.

It leads to an interesting mini-story that grounds the SAB back in the GW2 world. I liked finding the new lab open where none existed before.

newlab

It’s a tiny reminder that it’s actually possible to permanently change the GW2 landscape if so desired.

inthelab

In the lab, you get to overhear little conversation snippets that suggest that Moto broke away from this krewe some time ago, before appearing once more with the fully functioning and sophisticated Super Adventure Box, which leaves you to wonder about what happened in the iterim. Did he get any help with this technology, fer instance?

You learn that there was another original Adventure Box, developed in the past, which was a lot less portable than the technology of today. This krewe borrows some of its schematics to use as a recording device for their Somno-Scholar, which is an attempt to induce learning while sleeping.

Again, there are some implications that are not outright said, but fun to speculate on. The technology this krewe is using is still fairly chunky in size, we might compare it to a PC in our world. Moto seems to be running around with the equivalent of a highly sophisticated smartphone, just one portal that leads into an 8-bit virtual reality creation?

Where, too, might the original Adventure Box be located if we extrapolate backwards and compare the size of a mainframe of old to a PC of today?

Well, there IS an abandoned Proxemics Lab that guilds have been running about in today. It’s ostensibly a place where someone was studying intelligence and learning capabilities of Skritt subjects by throwing them in a giant maze.

It’s a stretch and I personally doubt they’re related beyond being very big in size and not at all portable, but who knows.

Also, on following the instructions of the Genie in the Box and in the metagame quest for achievement get, you end up being the scoundrel who does something to their test of the Somno-Scholar device, which leads to a cutscene.

Iamnowhungryandneedawaffle

It ends up scrambling this guy’s brains a little, but again, there are some interesting implications to speculate on further.

Like, why would anyone go through the trouble of making this a cutscene unless there was an important story development in here somewhere?

There’s a faint hint of it being potentially possible to touch the Eternal Alchemy like Scarlet was supposed to have done in the short story posted on Anet’s website. Except he didn’t, thanks to your interference. On someone’s directions. Whoever that someone is. The guy is convinced it’s a prank by Moto, his old rival. Moto claims complete ignorance when you ask him.

And whether there are any lasting side effects or unforeseen neural re-programming from his experience is an open question.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

GW2: Thaumanova and the Mists

"Time stabilizer damaged. He's unstuck in time. Zathras warned, but no one listen to Zathras, no."

I’m going further and further down the rabbit hole here. The more I read up on stuff and poke around things in-game, the more bits and pieces are starting to suspiciously come together.

Still groping for the most part, but some things that sounded odd and were initially dismissed seem to have a deeper second meaning.

It’s hard to know where to start and how to situate you all in this bizarre layer of theories, but I’ll try to begin where I did this time around.

It begins with Dessa.

She says she is the krewe chief of the fractals project. And there’s a lot about her that seems “off.”

First of all, she assumes you’re here as volunteers and she’ll be your experiment manager. She makes reference to something she calls “Mistlock” which seems to be some kind of process to stabilize bits of the Mists. In fact, that seems to be her dream and ambition:

“I can’t believe I made explorable chunks of reality from the Mists. I’ve dreamed of doing it for so long. Now, it’s real.”

“We can now lock down and enter any point in the Mists. The legacy code of Tyria is ours to explore, assuming it doesn’t collapse.”

Hang on, let’s backtrack a bit. What the hell are the Mists to begin with?

themists

Well, in the lore of Guild Wars (1 and 2), the Mists appear to be the fabric of space/time themselves.

Jeff Grub from a Guild Mag interview describes them as:

“The Mists are the building blocks of reality, the proto-reality that exists between the worlds. It is where we find afterlifes and the homes of the various gods and other powerful entities. The Mists also resonate from the worlds around them, such that they form bits of their own reality – islands of existence that reflect the histories of their worlds.”

According to the wiki, the Mists are further described as only being accessible via portals.

Previously these portals seem to be created by vast expenditures of magic and link to only one place (see history as described by wiki) but Dessa seems to have the magi-technology to target different parts of the Mists.

(But so far, besides the uncategorized fractal which is…as yet uncategorized, only the past. Discrete sections of the past. No futures in there, says Scott McGough.)

But hang on again, WHOSE past are we talking about?

dessa

My google-fu isn’t strong enough to locate any other links, but surely someone has commented on the futuristic style of clothing that Dessa is wearing?

littlestormtroopers

Even the rest of her krewe look like miniature stormtroopers.

I leave this as an exercise for my readers (mostly because I haven’t taken screenshots yet) but we may want to compare these guys’ helmets to the Steam mechataur creatures. To me, they look suspiciously similar in style.

Are there any other asura in our present day Tyria that look like these guys?

Where the hell do they really come from? Or WHEN?

Could they be from that alternate future reality that we are positing exists? The one that has magi-tech and steampunk styles all over the place, is probably full of Aetherblade pirates and Steam creatures, likely contains a money-grubbing group known as the Consortium, and very possibly contains a Conclave and a Grand High Sovereign?

Dessa certainly recognizes the name Consortium. “Those money-grubbing connivers? It’s bad enough I lost my boyfriend to those shady “businessmen.” Take my advice: reject their advances. Nothing good will come of their machinations.”

In our reality, they still seem pretty harmless, just creating gift shops and tourist attractions. They don’t seem to have gotten that sort of “corporate evil” vibe that I may be reading too much into what Dessa says.

And she says one more thing. When asked about how they got connected to the gate in Lion’s Arch, where we entered from, she exhibits confusion. “Lion’s Arch? No, there must be a misunderstanding. We’d never launch this lab from that pirate haven.”

Well, yes, our Lion’s Arch is a united gathering of pirate captains forming a peaceful haven of trade and diplomacy to go fight dragons.

But could LA be an Aetherblade pirate haven in Dessa’s reality?

Let’s go look at the portal gates in Lion’s Arch.

normalgate

Normal tame asura gates look like this. They shimmer with magical energy and transport us from place to place.

fractalgate

The fractals gate looks like this.

Seriously, go -look- at it yourself. There’s VIOLENT lightning strikes crackling across its surface every couple of seconds. (And I’ve been jumping into this thing all the while with nary a care. Aieeee.)

If you talk to the Lionguard guarding the gate, he tells you that this… doorway appeared instead when some asura tried to open a gate to an island. (Presumably a reference to Consortium/Southsun, but I’m not chasing down that rabbit tunnel just yet.)

When we go through, we end up in the Fractals of the Mists. OF THE MISTS.

The crackly lightning gate appears to symbolize getting access to The Mists, where little pockets of various realities/pasts/reflections of worlds are floating like islands, unstuck in time.

Let’s take a trip to Metrica Province and go look at the Thaumanova Reactor.

thaumanova

We’ve all seen it before. It’s a gigantic sprawling dark stone structure that is suspiciously (to me anyway) open to the elements.

Full of asuran architecture and Inquest-y technological trappings, sections of it echo the Elder Dragons’ elemental magic, though it’s unclear if these existed pre or post explosion. Chaos magic is raging all around, displaced monsters are popping in unstuck in space or time, and most importantly for this post, there is also a honking big portal if you amble over to the center and look up.

thaumaportal

No, I mean it. Go there yourself and look up. The camera angle is really tough to screenshot, and those animated lightning flashes are tricky to capture in a still image, but there is as much violent lightning energy crackling across the surface of the portal over Thaumanova as the… doorway in Lion’s Arch.

Probably more because this portal is fucking huge.

How huge? Well, it’s like covering the roof of where a second floor might have once been…

…Could the Thaumanova Reactor have been a LOT bigger than it is now?

Could a chunk of it have actually been broken and hurled through the… doorway now hovering above the reactor and ended up in The Mists?

File:Uncategorized Fractal 2.jpg
Credit: Pic from GW2 wiki, I ran out of energy trying to solo the last fight just to get to this cutscene.

We know what the Raving Asura says, right?

Raving Asura: “Breach! Broken! Falling! Screaming! Dying!”
Raving Asura: “I couldn’t save them. I heard them all. Pleading. All gone. All on my watch!”

Could something have breached the security of the reactor?

Could something (or someones) have broken an important part of the reactor?

There would naturally be a lot of falling, screaming and dying as a result.

I wish I could tell you I sacrificed myself to get you this screenie, but it's just me sucking and failing to figure out how to manage the damage from this fight.
I wish I could tell you I sacrificed myself to get you this screenie, but it’s just me sucking and failing to figure out how to manage the damage from this fight.

The clothing style of the raving asura unfortunately doesn’t give anything away. He’s using a standard for our time asura style staff, he’s in what seems like dark brown medium armor and has a monocle/eyepatch thingy, and has poofy grey hair – which might be his usual hairstyle, or just overall meant to simulate a Rip Van Winkle hermit look.

Another possible link:

holdingcell2

There are holding cells in the Uncategorized fractal – containing a Flame Shaman charr, a human bandit saboteur, an ettin and a rabbit. Holding cells, we know, are the main purview of the Inquest.

And we know the Thaumanova Reactor was an Inquest facility, where they were researching on a Thaumacore Energy Source (which they later moved to the Thaumacore Inquiry Center after the exposion) and Elder Dragon magic (which they later rebuilt as the Infinite Coil Reactor and Crucible of Eternity to continue their research.)

uncategorizedtop

Dessa, too, has some kind of reaction on seeing this fractal. It’s just not very clear what because she doesn’t reveal much of any emotion over the line she’s using. She just needed to leave for a while, and then comes back later and apologizes for her absence.

It’s possible that’s an indication she recognizes it, but possibly not in this configuration and can’t quite put two and two together as to what happened.

The name for this fractal is Uncategorized, after all.

Maybe in her reality, the Thaumanova Reactor never blew up.

Seeing it in pieces in what is supposed to be Tyria’s past is perhaps a paradox that floors her for long enough to shut off communication with her lab rats and try to puzzle it out.

"I don't wanna be a lab rat. Can I go home now?"
“I don’t wanna be a lab rat. Can I go home now?”

We leave now the shores of plausible theory to venture further into speculation.

I started scouring the Guild Wars timeline because I suddenly realized there are actually documented yearly dates attached to some of these historical events.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any documented source on when exactly the Thaumanova Reactor blew up. We know it’s pretty recent an event, but not exactly how recent.

It’s recent enough that they’re still dealing with the fallout in the present day, but far back in the past for the Inquest to have built replacement facilities.

Stay with me here, it’s a bumpy ride…

Now I’m going to build on my hunch that we ourselves are going to enter the Thaumanova Reactor in the to-be-built fractal and blow shit up, because if we don’t, we face an alternate reality of magitech horror and villainy.

I’m going to assume the explosion caused realities to diverge somehow – in one reality, the reactor never blew and we enter our future world  of magitech steampunk villainy, in another reality – ours – the tragedy happened but yielded our present-day racially united renaissance fantasy heroic world.

Dessa recognizes the name Lion’s Arch. Now LA has existed since GW1, so that doesn’t tell us very much, but it’s a pirate haven for her.

She doesn’t go, oh the capital of Kryta (GW1), oh that flooded ruins? (circa 1219 AE)

Lion’s Arch slowly became a haven for pirates and the LA we know today was founded by Cobiah Marriner somewhen around 1230-1231 AE… I think. I haven’t read the Sea of Sorrows novel yet. That is probably our lowest bounds for when Thaumanova blew up in our day, and my personal guess is that it’s a lot more recent than that.

This rather nixes the part of my theory that the explosion could have released/formed the Elder Dragons themselves because those bad boys were operating way before that. In hindsight, they had servants dating back to GW1 and were perplexing the ancient races like mursaat and what not, so yeah, the Elder Dragons long existed, they’re forces of nature/magic and that bit of speculation is all hogwash, forget it.

But we need another piece of baseless speculation to replace it now, don’t we?

Let’s look at the timeline at very recent historical events. Two events stand out rather prominently to me:

1325 AE Guild Wars 2 story begins.

1320 AE Kralkatorrik, the Elder Crystal Dragon, awakens. Creation of the Dragonbrand. Breaking of Destiny’s Edge. Founding of the Vigil. Glint is killed by Kralkatorrik.

1302 AE The sylvari first appear along the Tarnished Coast, sprouting from the Pale Tree.

If the Thaumanova Reactor blew up five years ago, could it be tied somehow with the waking of the Crystal Dragon? There are linkages of chaos magic / Thaumanova Reactor lore with the Chaos Crystal Caverns – the Injured Inquest Researcher talks about the twinning effect of the crystals they were using at the reactor affecting the ones in the cavern.

That’s the more logical, has links in-game, speculation.

Of course, I like the wild and crazy theories the best.

According to the wiki, golden fruit appeared on the branches on the Pale Tree over one hundred years later after Ventari passed away in 1180AE, leaving his tablet behind. In 1302 AE, the fruit opened to reveal the first Sylvari.

If the Thaumanova Reactor blew up anywhere from 23-45 years ago, could the wave of chaotic magical energy have fueled the possibly premature rousing of what are speculated to be the jungle dragon Mordremoth’s minions? Except with him still snoozing, they have no guidance except to turn to this convenient guidebook lying at the foot of their tree, producing Tyria’s youngest and most recent race.

In Dessa’s reality, this would not have happened. Sylvari might still be evil servants of the jungle dragon. And of course, we’re now dealing with a lunatic sylvari by name of Scarlet Briar that exhibits some very strange abilities and seems to have some familiarity with alternate realities/portals/stuff.

I’d talk about Mad King Thorn and all the jungle-bramble-plant-death theme that seems to be happening here, but that’s just reaching now, even for me.

Over to you all. Believable or no?