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.

My Particularly Fascinating Brand of Raiding Malaise…

I woke up at 8am today.

I forgot to eat until 8pm.

Perhaps this might help to explain why I’m so allergic to, and personally wary of raids.

Yes, I know it’s unhealthy. The first thing I thought when I finally looked at the time was “Oh god, not again…”

I play games. I’m not immune to how these games are designed.

It’s so easy to get carried away down the slippery slope of the uber hardcore…

It’s just for a few days, right?

GW2: Finding Something Else to Do (Origins of Madness update)

Raids give me that "played like a puppet" feeling...

Thanks to the two new bosses added in the latest GW2 update, I no longer loathe raids with extreme prejudice.

I have now reached a state of indifference.

I guess that’s progress.

See, one of my most major issues with the concept of raids was exclusivity.

I’m just philosophically opposed to the idea that some players get automatically rejected due to whatever they’re wearing because it’s a convenient shortcut to judge player ability, or the simple capacity of a character that has sufficient stats to meet the challenge.

Nor am I terribly keen on the idea of separating oneself from players that are playing poorly on average because it’s easier and more rewarding to be elitist and isolate oneselves, than to lead, coordinate and teach. (Though I recognize that it is a reality of life, and periodically tempting, especially when you can’t take repeating yourself any longer.)

In the case of Guild Wars 2’s new approach to raid bosses, aka more challenging world bosses that require a significant amount of coordination and organization to succeed, it’s been comparatively more inclusive, mostly because individual groups of people can’t control 100% who shows up in a zone.

One can still attempt more coordination and organization by joining and following along with an organized group, such as various server groups, or megaguilds. TTS, for example, is the primary NA example. I’m aware of AARM doing weekly Tequatls on Tarnished Coast these days. Unsoweiter.

The fact that it is not at all possible to reject players out of hand skews GW2 raid bosses significantly towards a more philosophically palatable direction for me. (As opposed to say, the propensity of some people to get kick happy with their party in certain dungeons.)

My other pet peeve about raid bosses is regarding the clarity of mechanics and gimmicks of whatever it is one is to do.

I ranted about this in City of Heroes, which was rather inconsistent about this in its Incarnate Trials, whereas the few I encountered in RIFT were distinctly clearer to me.

mines

So far, the Guild Wars 2 indicators resemble RIFT a lot more. This I like.

The first champion in the marionette fight also has a rather elegant indicator for facing, which is handy since the goal is to hit it from behind.

What I’m not liking is the speed at which these are appearing and disappearing. Between my slow framerate and latency, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient reaction time sometimes to dodge. Presumably as one learns the encounters more, one might possibly be able to use animation cues to get a few more valuable split seconds but well… it’s been a little hit or miss at times.

Some of my other issues regarding raids are unfortunately still not resolved.

There’s the waiting.

I’m making significantly more progress on my browser games in the other screen, and my audio CD digitization project since there’s a good half hour between each wurm or marionette attempt.

Standing around in a game doing nothing annoys me.

Well, I -could- jump around waypoints catching energy probes, but then that would make commanders trying to physically count people and get organized sad.

Catch-22.

Since I can’t be arsed to even conceive of leading such a cat-herding endeavor, my most meaningful contribution during the waiting phase is to be an obedient charr and stand on the blue dorito.

There’s the suffering involved with matching schedules and timezones.

Living in a not-so-popular geographical area means making compromises with one’s day and mealtimes to match the more populous NA and Oceanic times, during which there’s more people, more organization and thus a higher chance of success.

This is, of course, insolvable without migrating, but it does wear down on my personal level of interest for raids, especially over time. I haven’t attended a single Tequatl for weeks, there just seemed to be better things I could be doing with that two hours.

And there’s that old bugaboo of needing to rely on other people to perform well while not being able to help them much at all.

Yes, I understand that is somewhat the point (or a major component) of raids.

That it is somewhat like a sports team where people need to practice together, learn how to work with each other in tandem, trust and rely on each other, etc.

A situation set up so that more complex societal behavior can be exercised, such as leadership, organization, division of roles, teamwork, good sportsmanship, yadda yadda.

(Naturally, where one has the opportunity to demonstrate positive behavior, one ALSO runs very easily into the opposite toxic and negative examples, fueled by immaturity and ingrained habit of certain game cultures. But y’know, tradeoffs, can’t have one without the other.)

Call me a hermit, a misanthrope or a control freak, it’s just not a preference. 80% of the time, I’d much rather be challenging myself or relying on me, period.

I actually find the mechanics of the marionette champions rather interesting and look forward to learning more with each time I enter. Except there’s all the in-between that just feels like time-wasting.

And there’s that omnipresent situation where four platforms manage to finish and the last has unfortunately encountered some kind of problem. It’s a bit of a letdown when you feel you’ve played the best you could, and victory (or even partial success) is taken out of your hands because somebody else screwed up somewhere. Locus of control? None.

Perhaps one could keep repeating the strategies over mapchat and just patiently wait until everyone learns them. Perhaps some really creative leadership and organization could fill a separate overflow with more hardcore players and better communication.

Perhaps an individual might just indulge in blame and name-calling because they can’t do anything else besides spew abuse at others to make themselves feel better. (Protip: Shit-talking to ‘motivate’ only works on a certain subset of the population. Everyone else thinks they’d rather not have a victory confirm your behavioral hypothesis that toxicity results in a win.)

But really, for most people, the only thing left to do within one’s locus of control is shrug, feel disappointed and try again another time.

Which again, personally, is not something I’m playing a game for. Life already throws sufficient repeat disappointments one’s way, y’know?

Of course, the other 20% of the time, I can deal.

I’m quite enjoying the coordination and strategies involved in working out and learning the jungle wurm fight with TTS. (Save for all that time-wasting between attempts, egads!)

I like that different skills and builds have been stressed this time around – such as condition builds for the husks, and good running, jumping, speed-boosting abilities.

It’s just… that I’m somewhat puzzled at myself, that I’m not feeling as compelled as I used to be.

Sometimes, I look at the clock, and think, hmm, in the same hour, I could give the wurm or marionette another go, or I could cook myself a nice meal and have a proper sit-down feast, or I could watch something on the telly…

And I choose the latter options instead. (Hell, I’ve been tempted by the thought of giving Dragon Age Origins another go, or playing Skyrim again.)

It’s like I’m suddenly in no hurry to experience the content.

Was it just the three week break from GW2 that gave me a certain distance?

Is it just because I suspect it’s going to take a few days anyway for the general population to learn the fights, for information to filter down and so on, before the bosses will become more enjoyable like Teq on farm? (I certainly didn’t enjoy the first few days of Teq, super-stressed out trying to squeeze into the main server, wiping repeatedly, AFKing for indeterminate periods of time, etc. World firsts mean absolutely nothing to me.)

Is it just a personal disinterest in raids in general?

Who knows.

I do still harbor a slight worry that I need to catch the marionette fight at the sweet spot intersection between too many people -trying- to do it but not knowing how, and no one interested in doing it ever (like a successful Scarlet invasion – anyone actually manage that recently?) Being tied to the Living Story, it may be a two week thing.

The wurm is less stressful, since TTS is both organized and inclusive. One will get all the boss achievements there in the end.

Well, whatever the case, it’s… something else to do.

When one feels like it.

While it’s new and shiny.

For now.

P.S. Opinions on the story aspect of the update are a little better. Nice instance, more in-game storytelling, even if the bit with Kasmeer and her father sounded like clumsy exposition. I haven’t seen Scarlet’s lair yet, but looking forward to discovering it slowly.

One immediately gets the unsupported hunch that players might just end up with another cutthroat politics vote where it turns out Scarlet has a grand design to defeat the dragons and wanted to be a good guy after all (with Taimi and Braham and whoever else may be on her side) while Rox wants her dead because Rytlock said so.

Or maybe not. As a player, I’d probably let Primordius burn Divinity’s Reach and Lion’s Arch in order to see Scarlet dead. I suspect I’m not the only one.

Isn’t That What You Do in Every MMO? Have Fun?

Happy Holidays... from not-so-spikey charr...

Back when I was a serious [insert game here] player, […] I played to be the best.  I can look back and say from experience that the mindset exists and people fall into it without even realizing what they’re doing.  One day you wake up and have this epiphany that what you’re doing isn’t fun.

Keen [editing in brackets, mine]

Some days you just want to laugh. And chuckle. And grin a lot.

Keen might be someone who gets immensely hyped for the next big thing and then just as promptly deflates in three months because it wasn’t the dream sandbox MMO he was looking for, who then proceeds to do it all over again without learning from the last time – but I guess even the young grow old some day.

He’s closing in on 30, he says. Me, I’m kinda past that mark quite a while ago.

The story and the epiphany is the same. It’s not the MMO per se. It’s the mindset.

Yes, some MMOs have a design that skews you towards this “win” “be the best” “be prestigious” mindset a lot more swiftly than others. True, in some games, it’s the one main road, the linear flow that channels everyone towards to it and it’s much harder to step back or away from such things.

Yes, your very first MMO (or online game), the one you walk into wide-eyed with a blank slate, ready to absorb the majority way of thinking about what’s the “right” (efficiency optimal) thing to do is the one where you’re most prone to tumbling down that pit of gradually-becoming-not-fun-but-endure-to-be-the-best.

The irony of it is that Keen holds up Everquest as the game where he had the most casual, sandbox fun. From his previous posts, it seemed he even indulged in a bit of roleplaying as halflings there.

Me, I avoided Everquest like the plague because it was looking to be a carbon copy clone of a MUD I had already burned out on, just in graphics form. A world at the beginning, which gradually narrowed again at the top to be all about gear and raids and being the prestigious first to drop a big mob and drop RNG loot.

I’m dead certain you can find players out there who did play EQ as their serious raid game and then subsequently burned out of raiding and gave WoW a miss.

It’s not -solely- the fault of the game.

It’s also about where we as players were at that point in our gaming lives.

I, too, used to think it was down to me to save everybody else’s souls. Lemme tell you, being the minority burned-out cynical voice in a sea of awestruck WoW newbies often meant being drowned out in the face of fanboy fanaticism.

Eventually, I learned the value of patience and letting folks arrive at their own wisdom in their own time.

For some, raiding was something they would never burn out of. It suited their personalities and their preferences to a T. Little wonder they would be perfectly fine with a game that holds up that minigame as the ideal to always strive toward.

For others, their epiphanies would hit them years down the road. But it was a road they had to travel to learn it. Just as we did.

I’m not much of a list maker, so I won’t be posting long numerical lists this holiday season.

But on this Christmas eve, I’d like to ask all of you to spare a thought for your inner child.

When you play a game, what exactly is it that you find fun?

Playing with others? Playing against others? Playing with your friends or family? Playing by yourself?

Learning something new by discovering it yourself? Learning something new by reading up about it? Learning something new by being taught by someone else? Or preferring the comfort of the old and familiar rather than the new and unknown?

Being the best? In what way? Richest, most powerful, most pretty, most well-known, most well-liked or hated, most eccentric, most OCD? Or “mosts” and “bests” don’t interest you at all?

There are games out there that match better to your preferences than others. Go find them, and have fun – your special brand of fun – rather than be stuck in a game where you’re unhappy because it’s the only one you know.

GW2: Tequila Sunset

Here we go, yet again...

I’m writing this post from my lofty view of several dozen backs of bookah knees while perched atop a purple flying saucer, alternately being amazed that so many people are content to stand around in one spot doing absolutely nothing for one and a half hours, and somewhat stunned that I have just joined them.

Gorgeous surf, sun, sea and sand! I have a lovely place in mind for your new vacation home.
Gorgeous surf, sun, sea and sand! I’d love to sell you this lovely place for your new vacation home.

It’s ironic, but between the prospect of trying over and over to defeat something in a group fight by performing one’s designated task to the best of one’s ability (and still not succeeding because of variables outside one’s sphere of control) and trying over and over to make pixel perfect jumps through arbitrary lag that assumes you’re already dead while your client still shows you in mid-air over a lethal hazard, Tribulation Mode wins by a slight hair in my book.

If only because there’s swifter iteration times between attempts and slightly more control at most stages besides those that use mechanics sensitive to lag. (Goddamn jump pads in world 2-2.)

Sitting around spawn camping a big mob is definitely not one of the things I would regret never having experienced, having missed the entire Everquest era due to burnout from one of its MUD precursors.

Been there, done that on a smaller scale and while some of the smaller group conversations are a somewhat nostalgic memory, I’m constantly reminded that I could be doing lots more productive things with my time.

Even in my college years where one has a surfeit of time, one usually ends up ALT-TABing to browse the web or loading up a non-memory intensive game like a roguelike to at least do something ACTIVE in another window.

I’m mostly just here because this is the first time I’ve actually landed in my home server’s Sparkfly Fen (having schmoozed my way in by sending desperate tells to all and sundry) and I’d like to see the big guy fall over at least once before I move back to actually earning gold doing some other activity.

Bhagpuss points out that this event offers strong evidence that server cultures are real and do matter.

I’m of somewhat mixed minds regarding this.

On one hand, it’s undeniable that everything feels more comfortable seeing familiar guild tags around. There’s over 70 people in voice. There’s significantly more organization and cohesiveness than a random overflow.

Yet I’m rather keenly aware that not all servers can muster this level of coordination, and that Tarnished Coast is a lot bigger than the 100+ people that were lucky enough to get into this zone.

I also wonder just how long this interest will last. There was a time before dragonite ore that the Temples of the Gods remained deserted, after all.

Due to this fear, I am now engaged in unhealthy habits once more, hanging out in a game for hours on end while looking for reading materials to lean back with and videos to watch in the other screen, trying not to fall asleep on my keyboard having been tempted by “just one more attempt” stretching into the wee morning hours.

Promptly failed this a night or two ago by staying up till 6am, going for a quick lie down and blacking out until my alarm clock rang at 8am to indicate it was time to catch my NA guild’s guild missions.

On the bright side, I was chilling along the edge of the map quite a ways from the turrets, so I don’t think I scaled any turret spawns, and I am honest enough to not run anything that interferes with the autokick, so scrolling back revealed I got auto-booted a minute or two into the Teq spawn – I’m sure someone eager to get to the main instance managed to take my place.

Reports were that they failed anyway.

Oh well.

The sad thing is that there have been successes interspersed between failures as well.

Why do I term this a sad thing? Because of the slot machine / lottery inclinations that take over with an intermittent reward schedule.

Because of variables like the group mix and pure numbers changing per attempt due to varying timezones, to say nothing of the level of organization and various strategies used, a Tequatl defeat is beyond anyone’s ability to fully control. So what takes over is an impulse to just keep showing up and trying over and over hoping to get fortunate.

Yes, you can also push and utilize strategies that increase the probability of victory. What separates a professional gambler from an amateur is a better understanding of how to work the odds that are in his favor. As the skill level and encounter familiarity of the population grow with each pass, we can hope this steadily increases the odds of success over time.

It’s been a curious case of watching different styles at work. The North Americans of TC seem to favor a three commander spread between north turrets, south turrets and zerg, with preferably “skilled” people on voice being turret operators. (Except no one actually specifies what that skill or experience requires.)

Within each turret team, there’s a lot of hoping and praying that individuals will take the initiative on their own to cover nearby fingers, keep turret repaired, stay out of poison clouds, keep operators healed and healthy, and spread out to intercept the incoming Risen waves. The suggestion is for zerkers and condition damage users to be turret teams.

Within the zerg ball, there’s a lot of call for PVT gear, stacking on a commander tag at Tequatl’s foot, maximizing DPS with conjured elementalist weapons and melee, and being able to dodge the shockwaves. There’s often a failure to mention the need for group support / healing or specify what to do with nearby fingers, which has led to some very amusing mass wipes at his feet and screaming / blame / demands for dead people to waypoint because omg, dps is being lost.

Yet Tequatl has also been successfully achieved while plying this strategy, though it begs the question whether individuals taking initiative are covering the unmentioned aspects, or whether more faithfully following the specified strategy like a herd of sheep would increase the chances of success.

The strident ones on chat will tell you to follow, but the strident ones on chat have also been known to be wrong before (see Scarlet invasions where people were encouraged to abandon Twisted Clockwork spawns once the event was done, causing the defeat bar to move more slowly.)

Hanging out in my regular timezone, I managed to catch a commander in my guild who plies a slightly different variation, calling for volunteers and issuing assignments for 10 people to stay here and intercept a spawn at a chokepoint, 5 people to stay at turrets repair and destroy fingers, unsoweiter until everyone not so assigned is filtered into the zerg. This has the advantage of providing some control with regards to risen wave spawn sizes and focusing players more specifically on a task, but takes a little more typing work to accomplish.

The lovely view from the southern chokepoint. At least the level of organization here made it fun to participate in.
The lovely view from being rooted permanently at the southern chokepoint. At least the level of organization here made it fun to participate in.

The irony is that we managed to fail anyway, when everyone got so excited at the very last megalaser phase that people left at 20 seconds and let a bunch of Risen overwhelm a battery.

I think the many mechanics working in sync are obscuring a certain amount of clarity in understanding what precisely needs to be done. A big zerg killer is poison clouds. But where are they coming from? And how do you stop them?

From my observations, I -think- they are coming from the Fingers of Tequatl when they flick. And they seem to be centered on a player with the maximum aggro (ie. high toughness, damage done, proximity as per GW2 standard aggro rules.)

I also -think- that the turret skill 3 can cleanse the poison cloud from the ground, or that’s the impression I got anyway. I -think- the danger of the fingers can be mitigated by swift reaction to burn them down (reducing the amount of time they have to fling poison), or by placing a projectile reflect on them (which is half superstition, but I didn’t see a poison cloud pop up when I kept doing that to one of the fingers by the north turrets and did when I didn’t) or in the worse case scenario by holding aggro and not standing near anything valuable and moving out of the red circle while destroying the finger.

There is also an opposing chain of thought that prefers to ignore the fingers and rely on the turrets to cleanse them off the extremely tightly stacked zerg. Which I think does work if everyone is in very high hp and toughness gear and specced for sustain and keeping upright, similar to some WvW strategies where the goal is to be an immortal zerg doing sustained dps. But also can fail just as alarmingly in both Teq and WvW if your stacked numbers are made up of squishies and collide with an amount of damage that causes 10-15+ to be downed with not enough warbanners to recover.

Of course, some of the poison clouds appear to be coming from Tequatl himself, rather than the fingers. Does this mean one should ignore the fingers then?

Then again, stacking in one spot also increases the likelihood that Teq’s poison cloud damage overwhelms the stack before it can recover. Especially if you place the stack directly underfoot to melee, because of the distance to shockwaves making it harder to react to (never forget latency is an issue in certain timezones, which can screw up being properly able to react to shockwaves without sufficient range) and the additional feet damage he does.

I’d actually like to see a split zerg or ranged strategy attempt as discussed by Dulfy (Method 2) in the near future. Placing a zerg nearer to the turrets might make cleansing and reacting to shockwaves easier, though there would be less dps from not being able to melee or use fiery greatswords as much.

Goodness knows who would be content to organize such a thing though.

I suspect if Teq remains unchanged, this will become content that will be primarily ignored a majority of the time by a population that cannot organize sufficiently to take it down, and become more of a scheduled raid affair for either a server or a big organized guild.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of Saturday Hamidon raids from City of Heroes, where the first 50 or so people to zone in at a certain time got into the raid lottery and were organized by archetype to perform a specific function and work in sync to take it down.

Except that you didn’t have to camp out for 1.5 hours in order to have a try at the raid mob. This intermittent timer is going to be a problem for any kind of scheduled attempt at Teq.

Then there’s the current problem of getting your organized group to fit into a zone without spilling over and spreading across  into multiple overflows and having to play pass the group parcel to fit into the same one.

Lastly, there’s the questions of rewards. I’m not sure the rewards are tempting enough for the level of organization required given the low drop rates. I managed to catch a Tequatl defeat once, and while I was mightily cheered up by the achievements that dinged, the final chest was underwhelming, to say the least. If Ascended weapons and the Teq mini pop like Final Rest, I am probably never going to see one within my lifetime, let alone the lifespan of the game.

I suspect many people will drop Teq like a hot potato by the time the next update launches, especially as the more hardcore individuals who camp out for over half a day manage to complete all their achievements move on for other things.

Of course, this cynical suspicion is likely a self-fulfilling prophecy as I too am now attempting to get as many Sunbringer achievements locked in before everyone gives up when critical mass is no longer sufficient, and staying up for an unsustainable period of time per day.

Come, let us all burn out together!

Whee.

What joyous fun this raid content is.