GW2: Wading in the Cesspool of Hotjoin sPvP

Death is temporary, dolyaks are forever...

The other day, I queued up for my first ever solo queue sPvP match.

I ended that game with a stunning realization that I (almost, kinda, as of this moment anyway) preferred hotjoins.

Oh, the game wasn’t that bad. It was actually 5 vs 5 players, not 5 vs 4. It ended up 450-500, not in my team’s favor.

I tried a necro vs necro duel on a side point, which was damnably evenly matched, until I somehow no-idea-how managed to down him, whereupon I struggled with the finishing stage between having some 1000 hp left with his flesh golem still after me – not daring to even get close or within LOS, trying to wait out my heal’s recharge – and made an error in judgement, which resulted me falling over while he was at 1/5 downed hp remaining and both of us out of sight range of the other – except his danged flesh golem was still up and mine wasn’t, so he got to revive and I didn’t.

Then I tried it again, except a teammate came to his rescue while mine were nowhere in sight, so fleeing was the better part of valor.

And ended up just team vs team duking it out in the center trying to off the opposing team faster than me or mine got offed.

But what I ended up taking home from that experience, besides the fact that solo queue wasn’t the devil after all and that I might do it again when I’m in the right mood and frame of mind with plenty of time to kill, is that it was SLOW.

Before you even get to the match, you have to queue up and wait.

I waited for three minutes out in the Heart of the Mists, steadily going out of my mind with boredom, threw up my hands and got into a hotjoin game which was pretty exciting for 4+ minutes when my queue popped and I was faced with the prospect of giving up a nice and easy ~540 rank points for a 1000 or bust (300) gamble, with the odds against me (since I’m sure I lack the experience to contribute as much as a veteran sPvPer.)

Then the match itself seems to be a more measured strategy chess match, where players actually stay on points and defend them with bunker builds, and 5 vs 5 tends to yield slower paced skirmishes of 1-3 players a side only. Between that and having more competent players on average taking the game format seriously, the match drags on much longer than a hotjoin would.

And suddenly, the prospective reward of 1000 rank points for a win doesn’t look as attractive in comparison to the time spent to -maybe- get it.

Of course, this boils down to what exactly your goal is in sPvP.

If you’re a warrior – a competitive sort that’s looking for an evenly matched “good fight” where you can test your individual skills and build against a controlled number of opponents (1-3 preferably, where you have a realistic chance of winning if you’re good to very good), solo or team queues are probably your ideal cup of tea.

Many PvPers, I suspect, fall into this category, hence the heralding of the game format as the pinnacle to strive toward and hotjoin derided as a cesspool of filth.

If you’re a soldier – the sort who prefers working in unison to achieve a goal and doesn’t mind taking directions and supporting the team, you’d probably prefer team queue or be out in WvW already, assuming your server hasn’t fallen in population to the point of WvW league failure.

(Quite a number of PvPers have both warriors and soldiers in ’em, so don’t take it as a dichotomy, more of a description of preferences.)

I’ve seven team tournaments on my non-PvPer belt, six of which were won. How?

I walked in as a guild team. Some of my guildies are more serious PvPers, but when they do a guild PvP event, they inclusively take in any old rabble, including me.

I’m not competitive, I’m not much of a PvPer, but I do try to use a meta build (could be outdated, who knows) due to my interest in performing at least decently if not 100% optimally, and I do have something of a soldier mindset, which lets me appreciate aspects of WvW.

The guild tells me to stick with so-and-so and follow him around. I do so. We go to a point. We sit on it.

I do my best to support, control, and help my teammate(s), and let them do the all the  communication stuff of sending a more competent roamer to one point or another to adjust the odds of battle. I only leave the point when they tell me or in a pinch, when it looks like no one else can respond in time. I try my best not to die, and since I’ve only brought a guardian and necro to sPvP, I’m conveniently rarely the primary target and when I am, well, both classes are designed to be annoyingly tanky and my innate tank nature loves being a frickin’ nuisance that way.

There was one memorable match where the guild’s team were down to 4 and had apparently just lost a match to a premade team when they went in with an extra pug that wasn’t on voice comms. Then they asked around on guildchat if anyone wanted in, and I decided what the heck, I need the experience, right?

And sidled my way in, warning them that I was pretty much a noob to team PvP. I had no mic either, and always just listen.

We ended up facing the exact same premade team. The prematch chat was very civil, praising the pug guardian as ‘very annoying.’ Then they asked about why the delay for the queue. “Oh, we brought a guildie in,” was the offhanded reply.

Good lord, the pressure, right?

The match was so lopsided it wasn’t even in question at any time. In our favor.

We sent three (me included) to the center point, two to our home point and just sat there. Repelling all comers.

1-3 would come by to the center, our leader would call a target, and they’d just fall over dead eventually. It was probably one of those coincidences of well synergized builds again that managed to counter the opposing team’s, but I don’t know what their reaction was in their own team’s communication channels when the final scoreboard came up and they saw that the only factor that was different between the previous match was a less than rank 20 necromancer.

(Who just happened to be in the same guild and on the same voice chat as the other four. Communication and coordination over skill, I guess.

Or you can blame the OP dhuumfire meta build, though I hear it’s already nerfed and fallen out of favor? I’m too lazy to change what works decently, though.)

I love my guild.

I’m way too much of a wuss to try team queue without a team I trust, that’s for sure.

You see, I’m not competitive.

Leaderboards and ranking do not interest me.

I’m not actually fired up by the prospect of an evenly matched 1 on 1 fight except as a technical exercise to just see if I can do it (or more likely, fail miserably in the process and try to figure out what the other guy was using and doing.)

All I really wanted in PvP was to get a dolyak /rank to play with. Because the more dolyaks the merrier, y’know?

Oh, and the extra 4 AP from the PvP daily doesn’t hurt.

(And I suppose, when the new PvP rewards and incentive scheme comes up with the feature patch, that would be something interesting to strive toward too.)

So my personal goal was rank. Enough to bootstrap me to 20. With as little time spent in the Heart of the Mists as possible, so that I can spend the rest on more compelling stuff.

Along the way, if I get a bit more PvP experience, that’s a bonus that comes with the territory of playing a minigame and learning as you go.

Lately, I’ve figured out that hotjoins are a decent enough vehicle for those non-ambitious goals.

The “Play Now” button dropkicks me right into an ongoing game. I can leave at any time I want. The 8 vs 8 format is exciting in a casual team deathmatch style, with action flying around fast and nonstop furious, getting the adrenaline going with less “serious business” pressure weighing on one’s shoulder. Dying and respawning are painless and penalty-less.

(Ironically, it’s like Natural Selection 1’s Combat mode versus the RTS strategic mode, except there I really enjoyed the strategic side of it more. Population-wise, far more gravitated to mano-a-alien combat mode though.)

Yes, there is shameless stacking going on in hotjoins.

I paid my noob dues by losing a bunch of matches, wondering how the hell I kept ending up on a side with less players, whose collective PvP experience probably equated to one player on the winning team, getting relentlessly ganked by meta builds while sporting a non meta one, massively teamed up on, and whose only redeeming experience was learning how to harden the fuck up and attempt to survive as long as possible (tank mode, yeah!) against impossible odds.

Then I finally figured out the UI.

And got my own meta build.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and all that.

You know, with the new rank rewards, I don’t mind the stacking at all because it’s totally possible to game the system to get rank points (which, we have established, is one’s primary individual objective for playing hotjoins – the fun little cesspool of anything goes.)

First things first, identify the winning team. This comes with experience, and making a good guess when first entering a game. Or just memorize the higher scoring, higher rank, high-kill-achieving players in your first game (which will probably be on the other side.)

Then spam the fuck out of the “join their side” button.

Assuming you aren’t a total hopeless case who will pull down the team merely by being on their side, contribute to the cause by capping and scoring kills. Preferably by creating “teamwork” mini-scenarios where one ignorant person from the other team runs straight into a group of you playing together and meets the expected fate at the hands of 1 vs X.

Very soon, likely before hitting 200-300 points into the match, first one then another on the losing team will quickly give up and flee out of the game, seeking greener grass elsewhere.

Then the “dreaded” auto-balance button pops up on the side.

Many dread it. I revel in it.

I volunteer the fuck out of it. It’s an extra 25 rank. You guarantee yourself the winning rank reward of 500, no matter what happens (assuming your internet doesn’t die unexpectedly.)

Sure, the next part of the match turns into a stream of *your name* deaths littering the side of the game’s UI, but you know, the deaths are meaningless if your ego is not involved in it.

And it’s the absolute best of both worlds in one game.

First you get the steamroll experience of doing horrible horrible things to players who aren’t playing very well, and identifying their mistakes so that you improve by watching what -not- to do. It’s a primitive ego boost when you realize that you and your build have at least had miniscule improvement to the point where you aren’t -that guy- at  least some of the time anymore. You get to play alongside better players and a team that actually tends to cooperate with each other.

Then when you get switched, and you probably will, since everyone else was hoping they weren’t “it,” you get to test yourself against all the -good- players who have conveniently self-selected themselves out for you.

If 3 or more jump you and tangle you up in cc, obviously, you’re going down. Seriously, there’s no dishonor in it. It’s like you’re roaming alone in WvW and this 40 man zerg rounds the corner and over you. Nothing to be done about it. *shrug*

If it’s 2-3 players, it becomes a game of “see how long I can outlast and outwit.” Necros are built to be annoying, I hear. They’re supposed to waste your time. They can’t escape very well, but they can make you regret spending the time getting entangled up with trying to kill them. Hopefully a teammate or two or three come over eventually. If not, well, see above. Still a fun minigame of survival.

If it’s 1 vs 1, then well, things become interesting. It’s those duels that the PvP warrior types yearn for. Me, not so much, but as mini-practice within a larger game, why not? Sometimes, I even win. Which is pretty awesome when it does happen. If not, it’s a more-entertaining-and-firsthand-than-a-video experience of how a pro takes down an amateur. Chalk it up to the learning process.

It’s a hotjoin, you can choose to play it straight and sit on a cap and wait for people to come. (I like to lurk underwater in Raid of the Capricorn and bleed people to death until they get smart and bring more than one person.) If the game is really hopeless, then throw score to the wind and play for the fights. Your new team is already frickin’ losing anyway, with or without you. Run to the mess of players duking it out in the middle somewhere and see how many sneak attacks you can get in and maybe even turn the tide.

Absolutely rarely, the tide can even sometimes turn and your new team ends up winning (usually because the points shift a bit, some guy on the initially winning team decide to flee and leaves the team one man down, some other new fella joins the game and picks the team you’re on as the fan favorite to stack,) which then becomes a funny exercise in come-uppance, and is even a bit of an ego-booster. (Did -I- do that?! No wai.)

If not, expected team wins, but you get the reward anyway because you were a member of that team in the beginning. (And you even helped more people get the rank reward because you generously made way for more people to stack onto it. Let it not be said that GW2 isn’t a cooperative game!)

Hell, you have mathematically made it impossible for yourself to lose because you’re getting 500 rank points no matter which team wins.

Red versus blue? Doesn’t matter.

You are OMNI-TEAM. You are PAN-TEAM. You encompass multitudes. (Gogo minion or clone zerg.)

You get the full experience, meeting ALL skills levels from 0-50+, bumping into a spectrum of meta to weird builds, at a super-quick non-time-wasting pace.

It’s like ultra-rapid-fire LoL or something.

A hideous perversion of what the spirit of the game is probably supposed to be, but entertaining in its own right.

And 3-4 hotjoin games of this nature is surprisingly palatable for someone who just wants to get their dailies done and get in a couple hundred rank points per day.

GW2: Dragon Ball – Hits and Misses

Finally got around to playing Dragon Ball.

I stopped by the Heart of the Mists first to tweak my default PvP costume a little (mostly removing the helm because I’m vain and it’s the dorkiest looking thing on an asura.) It’s not like I could do much more than that and change a few dye colors as I rarely sPvP at best.

Since I was there though, I popped in for a round or two of hotjoin for the fun of it, and shortly realized I was pretty outclassed and out of touch with where sPvP has gotten to since the beginning of the game when I tried it while only what, 3 maps were in rotation.

First of all, I wasn’t familiar with the new maps or what the objectives were – which is always a recipe for noob nonproductivity. I tried just focusing on killing some people to improve mah lack o’ PvP skillz (in the hope that it would help me get better at small scale skirmishes in WvW on the right kind of mobility build) and also shortly noticed that the opposing team moved very fast and were usually there to interrupt a 1 on 1 very quickly, while my team never seemed to be anywhere together at all.

I tried following another teammate around in the hopes of at least -looking- like a group, but then we eventually got wiped by a larger group of 3 or 4 people. And finally, on an old map that I was familiar with, I gave up any semblance of conflict with the other team and ran around backcapping points, doing my best to neutralize and capture stuff while everyone was elsewhere.

Alarmingly, that game, I ended up with the top scorer stats and a notch on my PvP daily done. I say alarmingly, because I fancied myself the biggest noob on that battlefield, being all non-sPvP focused and all that.

It also occurred to me that I kept seeing the -same- names on the opposing side, very pro players who kept beating up on what seemed like an outmatched team.

The penny finally dropped when the scoreboard came up on the match and I saw that on my team, none of the players were any higher than rank 7. (Hi, that’s me! And one or two others.)

Meanwhile, on the other side, everyone else was rank 20-30.

Wtf. I thought there was some kind of autobalancing of teams going on. What the hell is happening here? After a few minutes of pausing trying to figure out how to bring up the PvP scoreboard before and mid match (I think I removed my keybind for that, out of disinterest and all. Clicking on the top score works,) I noticed the UI had been improved slightly and that there was this sneaky little “swap teams” button in the top right hand corner.

Now I normally zone in slowly. However, there was one match when I think someone left (out of boredom or just being finished for the day or whatever) when I was looking at the scoreboard, and the swap team button lit up. I hit that and lo and behold, turned up in the stacked team, concentrated on staying out of the way and not dying, and voila, match won.

I suspect most of these shenanigans happen pre-match as the quickest loaders take advantage of the slow loaders and flip themselves out of the team most likely to lose (from observations of noobiness) and stack onto the team most likely to win. I load slow, which leaves me in a really bad position most of the time, nor am I some sPvP god that can win 1 v 3 fights (yet. Prob no interest to learn though.)

Once I sussed that out, I sighed and hit the “quit instance” button, promptly now guilty of being a “leaver” and weakening a crappy team even further.

Why the long PvP hotjoin story in a post about Dragon Ball?

Well, the game is plagued by the same inherent problems. It is further aggravated by achievement seekers looking for the path of least resistance.

It’s kind of sad, because it really is a nice little minigame.

arenaoverview

As Ravious mentions, it is an FPS-style team deathmatch game recreated in GW2. One starts out with a very basic weapon, and has to run around the map picking up better weapons (or skills, in this case.) There are health pickups of various sizes, and even a super damage power-up.

Personally, one of the things I really appreciate about the game is that it is, in theory, a level playing field. Everyone starts out with the same health and same weapons. Everyone has access to any weapons present in the arena. Any disparity is theoretically down to player skill.

This can involve map knowledge. I peeked at dulfy’s Dragon Ball guide and sorta vaguely read where stuff was, but didn’t have an idea of wtf she was talking about with three levels, top, middle, bottom, while a 2D map of where items are doesn’t really help navigationally and jumping challenged me in a 3D environment.

I was resigned to being absolutely clueless my first few games and ran around just trying to get familiar with the map, figure out where good weapons were and trying not to die (wasn’t so great on the last bit, presenting one’s back to skilled opponents tends to lead to horrific death screams and asura nap time.)

Soon, I noticed the disturbing problems plaguing hot join PvP were also present in Dragon Ball. My team was always outmatched, all the good players were on the other team, it was usually 5 vs 4 and never in our favor, and even more amusing, people were just giving up and staying motionless and letting the other guys kill them so they could get on to the next game more quickly.

Sorry, I have more pride than that. I’m a fighter. If I stay in a match, I’ll weave in and out, zig zag, dodge, jump, spin around and even gnaw on your ankles even as you throw three buffed fireballs at me and be the most annoying prat to kill. (I’m not sure if that’s playing an asura influencing my thoughts or the other way around, but yeah.)

hoggingbottom

Of course, this didn’t work out so well in Dragon Ball. As I grew a little more familiar with how the game worked over time, it was easy to discern that the game is unbalanced in favor of the better team in the later stages. Sorta like in DOTA games where a couple feeders will pump up the opposing team to the point where they become too strong to beat, and the rest of it is just a painful waste of time as one watches the cleanup phase, or a Natural Selection game where if one side upgrades to tier 3 things, the other side is generally doomed and struggling becomes hopeless.

That is not to say that this is a bad mechanic. What this does is help to -finish- games, rather than have things end up in a hours-long stalemate going back and forth. It is how it is. Take the game rules for what they are. But it does mean that enduring the cleanup phase on the losing side is quite a demoralizing drag.

When I finally noticed that there was always that ONE AFK GUY on my perpetually losing team (I’d swap out of that team, given a chance, wouldn’t you? Except I load slow, so other faster, better people get to do it first,) my patience snapped at last. (Achievement score to date, 12 matches played, 4 won. Even? Hell no.)

Take the game rules for what they are. No point whining about how things could be different. So I became a leaver and a quitter.

Of unbalanced matches anyway. Enter a game, notice my side had 4 people and the other side have 5? No one else joining? Outnumbered team getting pounded on as a result? Quit.

Rejoin. Enter new game, notice my side has an AFK member and the other team does not? Can’t swap into the team with a massive advantage? Quit.

Rejoin. I only stayed in games where I noticed all ten players actively participating. Trust me, you can tell. The end score is usually 500 / 280+. At least the losing team is trying and fighting.

Sad thing is, Dragon Ball is actually a fun game when participants are all roughly on the same level. I finally lucked into a good game of all present players…

Here’s the scoreboard of the most nailbiting and evenly matched fight that made my previously rather low opinion of Dragon Ball take a 180 degree U-turn.

evenmatch

That game was intense. The scores climbed evenly for the most part. By that point, I was getting familiar with the game format enough to start experimenting with more sophisticated skills beyond power up skill 1 and chase people. Preferably together in a gang with someone targeted. There was a crowning moment of awesome for me when I managed to get off a shield and cause two players on the other side to kill themselves with reflected projectiles and leave the last player in the group of 3 chasing us suddenly outnumbered by two people, who promptly died.

Suddenly I had the revelation that there was indeed a skill component to Dragon Ball after all – beyond just temporarily outnumber your opponents and dodge really fucking well (and grab health when you see it.)

I started experimenting and learning. Take a left at the start, and pick up the AoE skill and keep going left for the power up to skill 1. The shield is down thattaway between the sewage tunnels. Between those two skills, I was able to put up quite a fight and hopefully kill someone 1 on 1.

I dumped skill 1 on autoattack fairly early on. I get the feeling my latency is not great enough to match spamming skill 1 for a player with better ping, and I’d tradeoff getting timing right for slightly higher DPS. The only thing to be careful of was to detarget or spin around really quick if a player put up the shield, and one could tell from the buffs whether a player had it or no.

Run and evade like hell around corners, change elevation and run for where the health stuff is, when facing a team running in a pack and you’re alone. This got me better at movement and evading, even though I tended to lag off the jump pads now and then (I suppose the erratic lag-caused movements helps in evasion, so well, not complaining, take the game for what it is.)

This generally only tended to prolong the seconds before one’s death, if a group of guys was out to get you. Surely, I said to myself, there must be a way to counter this. What hurts groups of players? Light bulb goes on in my head – AOE! And lookie, the AoE weapon causes 30 damage!

Granted, it takes some practice to use, and to lead players so that the projectile lands on them, rather than missing. I generally can only pull it off like 30% of the time, and die otherwise, but hey, any chance is better than no chance at all, sometimes. It really fucking hurts too if someone shields up and you get the AoE back in your face.

But I’ve also had some LOL moments when I see my team and the other team duking it out at the bottom in a big pack of them outnumbering my side, and I sneak up behind them from up high, and shoot an AoE right down into the clump. Then jump right in, shield up my team, and well, suffice to say it can sometimes change the battle. Not all the time, but enough times to make it rewarding enough to keep an eye out for the opportunity.

I’ve learned it’s pretty rewarding to keep trying to master the AoE, because if you’re 1 vs 1 against another player, and you can pull off a 30hp hit on them plus your regular 15 damage attack, that’s the battle skewed in your favor really fast.

After having the kick used on me to fairly effective effect, I’ve been trying it out too. The idea is to close in on a player, preferably 1 on 1, and land the daze. It interrupts them, dazes them long enough to get some good 15 hp hits in and normally leads to them dying or at very low health running the hell away.

The only thing I haven’t really managed to use to great effect yet is the chill trap. I suppose it would serve to slow down people chasing you, but honestly, who has time to lay down a trap when one is focused on getting the hell away and juking as fast as possible… Maybe I’ll figure that skill out some day, probably when others use it on me.

The damage power up is quite interesting. I usually see it only used by a dominating group, which makes life exceedingly miserable for the losing team. But I did get the opportunity once to snatch it away while on the losing side and fire it right into the most kitted out, best scoring player on the opposition. I died doing that because he had three other flunkies helping to kill me. BUT HE DIED TOO. And lost all his weapons! Temporarily, anyway. We weren’t going to recover from that regardless as the balance was already too skewed, BUT IT WAS SATISFYING. Rarrrrrr. Defiant to the end and all that.

I have to thank that very active game and all the players who stuck it out for match after even match for helping me learn Dragon Ball in a satisfying manner. (I guess everyone else was also relieved to have a game where no one was AFK.)

bottomfun

Alas, after some time of well matched games, as people left due to either finishing their ‘win’ achievements or just moving on, we had people come in that well, weren’t at the same level of skill, shall we say.

With increasing irony, as I continued just playing, I noticed my team becoming the stacked team as the more “pro” players decided they wanted to all be together and maul the other team – who were beginning to express frustration on map chat, “Wow, my team always loses.” “Oh sure, all the pro pvp players on one side, and beginning pvp’ers on another.”

I said nothing.

I did not swap teams.

I was on 12/20 wins for the achievement and there was still a ways to go.