The SAD Project – Day 7 – All Aboard the WvW Bandwagon

This Sunday, I dug my secondary guardian – the mothballed one intended for WvW – out of cold storage and forced myself to clean up his inventory.

oldinventory

An inventory that looked like this, and a task I was forever avoiding.

From left to right, ignoring the shared inventory slots:

Too many shapechanging tonics I’ll never use; a bunch of useless food; some giant pearls from the time the WvW battlegrounds still had quaggans in it that I’ll never throw away; a bunch of salvage items worth money that I was choosing to hoard in the unsalvaged form; old as fuck Queen’s Gauntlet tickets; a collection of three sets of exotic armors (soldiers, clerics and zealot stats) all of them now technically quite obsolete in this day and age of ascended and HoT stats; three minis from the Hall of Monuments that I never got around to throwing away when account bound minis became a thing; a set of exotic clerics trinkets that never really served a purpose beyond making me exceedingly tanky in WvW while hitting like a wet noodle; a soulbound exotic spinal blades backpack that I never converted to ascended because 15 deldrimor/elonian/silk whatsits are expensive while cheerfully and obliviously running around with a yellow rare backpack; 5 medical kit items from some NPC the intended purpose of which remains an obscure mystery to me; 75 really oldschool fireworks which I -think- a WvW commander got us to fire off once upon a time; a bunch of unopened PvP champion box loot from when I was using this guardian to PvP a little; a mordrem bodyparts extractor that I was highly unlikely to use in the Silverwastes again since the time of zerg killing underground bosses is over and bodypart collection is a pain anyway; the world’s largest collection of leftover Frostbitten gathering tools that I don’t really use while opening boxes looking for sickles; more oddball food; a now obsolete +5 simple infusion; two exotic weapons of highly questionable stat choice; 39 kite fortunes from when the Zephyrites still existed as a settlement not a refugee camp and had a festival;  and the ever ubiquitious tomes of knowledge, empyreal fragments and dragonite ore that just find their way onto every character.

Long story short, I salvaged nearly everything.

(And threw away useless unsalvageable things.)

slightlycleanedinventory

Choosing to salvage the assorted sets of exotic armor is a milestone for me.

I think it signifies the acceptance that I have now moved my internal baseline to ascended stats only.

Also, because I was intending to use the immensely useful -functionality- of an armor set that you can only get via PvE raiding in an entirely different game mode where stat swapping functionality is a lot more helpful. Thank you, Anet designer logic. (I gotta get that sarcastic snipe in -somewhere-.)

statswapping

The new frontline guardian meta is Celestial, apparently. So it was a matter of stealing the legendary armor set back from the revenant alt I wasn’t going to use any time soon, and doing the above.

If frontline guardian didn’t work out as a role choice, I was going to give roaming PvPesque burst guardian a shot, and for that Marauder is apparently desired. STAT SWAP AHOY.

Finding the ascended trinkets was slightly more taxing.

I had a celestial ring that dropped off fractals once upon a time that I had hoarded. While it was possible to buy more celestial ring/accessories from the typical route – pristine fractal relics and guild commendations – I decided I was collecting too many oddball drops from raiding and used GW2efficiency to search across my characters and bank for any suitable unused trinkets.

I found myself lacking an amulet. Again, while there were multiple options to pick from, my eventual decision was to go with a Blood Ruby Pendant from the first Living Story 3 map Bloodstone Fen. Why? STAT-SWAPPING it is possible, at the cost of 100 unbound magic for a capacitator.

That functionality is too invaluable to be left only to legendary tier armor, dammit. I think they found a nice compromise with paying a cost to do so for ascended tier stuff, while purple legendary things remain free to swap at any time.

Same deal with Ascended weapons. I decided I wanted a greatsword over a hammer, because hammer animations are a little slow for me AND because I had Saladborg sitting around unused. (Ahem, I mean the reforged Caladbolg Orchida ascended greatsword that can morph itself into dagger, scepter, sword or shield as well. Morphing at the cost of 1000 unbound magic, which allows for a change of stats then.)

The one thing I -didn’t- want, is the giant “hi-target-me-now-I’m-a-dirty-PvEr-who-has-stat-swap-functionality-you-don’t-have-because-Anet-is-a-poopoohead” legendary armor wing animation appearing every time you go into combat.

winganimation

You know, the one that looks like this, that would highlight even an asura that is intending to be sneaky.

I actually considered, very deeply, footing out 700 gems (aka 10 dollar, give or take 100 gems) for an outfit to cover up the whole set of armor.

An outfit, to me, makes logical sense in WvW when you’re trying to be somewhat generic and lost in a crowd, while still looking nice.

Then I thought, you know, it’s still against my philosophy to pay real money for anything in the GW2 gemstore until that functional inequality between raiders and non-raiders somehow goes away.

(Since there are no plans whatsoever for another legendary armor set in another game mode, I am revising my qualified statement even further down the slippery slope and settling for having alternative sets of ascended tier armor that -can- stat swap somehow, even if in a limited fashion, and for a cost, similar to Caladbolg or Blood Ruby trinkets.)

So I tried something different, spending, in my usual miserly fashion, ONE transmutation charge to swap the chest armor cosmetically to another skin.

transmutearmor

As luck would have it, I guessed correctly, the giant wing animation is indeed tied to the chestplate for legendary heavy armor, and punching the shout “Retreat!” every so often no longer painted a ginormous target over my head.

Several hours of inventory shuffle later, the renewed WvW guardian was ready for me to put through its paces.

I jumped into WvW, only to find that Tarnished Coast is… in political speak.. in a “resting and recovery phase” after an apparently tumultous high drama period of transferring guilds, getting shit on by stacked T1 servers, more transferring guilds, and god knows what else.

Oh, there were people around in WvW. There was siege all over. There was generally a tag every map. but all names I didn’t recognize. (Understandable, I have been away from WvW a long long long time. A fellow PvE raider was amazed I only had 445 rank and was still a bronze WvWer. Welp, I WvWed when it wasn’t fashionable and was already on the downswing when those rank rewards came out.)

I squadjoined a random commander and my heart immediately sank. No Teamspeak usage. He was leading a rabble of a militia, trying to command them in text, because the TC militia apparently ain’t accustomed to being voice commanded anymore. Our first encounter with another zerg was also the last, because the poor guy ran in and no one followed, choosing to scatter instead. Textbook example of low morale peasantry. My celestial guardian, built to support a nonexistent frontline (you can’t have a frontline with no backline either) got pulled down and torn apart.

It was so bad, I actually logged off and started doing research on WvW mos millenium rankings. Tarnished Coast has apparently dropped to T3 and the state of organization kinda reflects that.

For the first time in 3+ years, post-Isle of Janthir exodus, I started seriously considering a server transfer.

But to where?

Bandwagoning Blackgate is all very for potential future skirmish rewards. In theory, it is so stacked, surely there must be population during Oceanic/SEA times. SEA folks are by and large pragmatic bastards who want to win by any means necessary, so logically speaking, I’m sure most of the self-styled hardcore population have wound up there eventualy.

Yak’s Bend is Bhagpuss’ server, and while it once had a reputation for being akin to TC and far more obsessive about siege, I’d vaguely heard it had an influx of fight guilds that had good and bad effects. Good, in that the militia learned more about zerg fighting, and bad in that fight guilds usually bring their share of political high drama as they sweep in and out of servers, with loyalty only to themselves. Also, I’ve never heard much about Yak’s Bend in the Oceanic/SEA timezones, so it is conceivable I might transfer and get zero satisfactory gameplay during my normal game times.

Besides, the above two servers are Full to the brim. Not only would I have to demeaningly pay ArenaNet more than twenty dollars when I don’t really want to pay them a cent, I would have to sit and watch for available transfer times like a hawk.

Jade Quarry was severely tempting. I’m really out of touch with all things WvW, but the rumor mill has it that it has a severely heavy Asian timezone presence. Granted, following zerg fights in half-Mandarin is not exactly my first preference. And it’s really hard to tell how healthy or enjoyable a server is going to be until you’re actually in it and experiencing it though.

Ultimately, the voice of reason inside me spoke up to say, “Wait and see.”

My first check-in with TC WvW was during the EU timezone on a weekend, so I think I can quite confidently say that it desperately needs some commanders to fuse together the militia in that timezone.

My next check-in was during the NA timezone. My Sunday mornings, their Saturday nights. What better time to get a feel for the pulse of Tarnished Coast? If weekend NA timezone was dead, it would be confirmation to run like hell away from the smoldering corpse.

charrunisbestrun

I’m pleased to say that the NA timezone made me hesitate and reconsider the server transfer all over again.

The militia was a bit all over the map when I first logged in to check it out, but at the start of the next Skirmish changeover, a team chat announcement went out that such-and-such commander was beginning his WvW raid and to squadjoin up.

Joining the squad brought up an automatic message to log into a Teamspeak, and getting into Teamspeak and asking to be verified got me a temporary verification as a non-world member to get into the proper channel.

The only problem, of course, is that this was a Gate of Madness commander. (TC got glommed together with Kaineng and Gate of Madness, apparently.)

My already shaky morale made me reconsider taking the WvW guardian, and I brought the hastily refurbished power PS warrior instead. There was surprisingly very little to change, given that zerker ascended was the recommended stats (with just some trait and skill changes to make yourself a little more tanky.)

I was also determined to have some fun abusing the hell out of my new Predator rifle.

See, my theory goes, the smaller the world population is, the less blobby fights are, the more skirmisher damage PvP-ish builds become important. Also, rifles let you reach out and touch at least a single person when you can’t run into a blob and melee.

WvW commanders would prefer a melee frontline that runs in and damages stuff in an AoE fashion, so I’d bring my greatsword along. (Movement skills are good.) But then to please myself and have me consider WvWing again, I want to kill stuff and do damage.

If I can’t do it as an AoE bomb group, then I’ll settle for peeling the enemy zerg one at a time if possible. The correct downed person(s) at a time can sometimes make or break a fight, and generate a morale surge in your own group to see downed people after a pass, after all.

I found out, I am a simple charr at heart. I just want to shoot shit and see 4 digit numbers appear, preferably the rare 5 digit monstrosity (even if it’s just hundred blading a keep lord.)

The Gate of Madness commander took us on a decent enough run of towers and keeps (man, I need to get back into WvW if only to refill my karma hoard.)

We had our share of running into a small group and winning (I don’t know how to call 20 people a zerg. A zerg to me is 40-50 strong. Hoorah T1-T2.) Whirlwind and arc dividing is pretty satisfactory when things go well. We had our share of overextending into a much larger group and wiping (ugh, but meh, that’s the only way commanders will gain battle experience.)

As the night went on, one or two drunk people in the channel started to make the whole place more ear-searingly annoying, and I decided that the end of the 2h skirmish would be a good time to cut and run, so I did.

Part of the reason for cutting and running is that an old well known TC commander had tagged up and started running his own squad. Stay or leave decisions really depend on analyzing the -TC- core, and how healthy the TC teamspeak was, not checking out Gate of Madness.

Good ol’ Jadon is well loved by the TC militia for a number of reasons: his unfailing politeness and civility, his positivity, his tactical sense and his knack for attracting a decent core of WvW combatants that can support a militia zerg and help it win battles, or at least have a good ol’ time holding out a losing battle with chokepoints and resistance, not an all out rout.

Much like Twitch streaming, a charismatic WvW commander knows how to have a good time with his following, who are looking for entertainment.

If Jadon can’t pull out the TC militia, then TC is doomed.

Well, it’s not. Not today, anyhow.

The zerg ran about 40-50 strong, there were a number of entertaining fights where I got to test and utilize the ranged part of the hybridized build because meleeing into the fray in zerker stats would be certain death, there were satisfactory moments of greatswording people in the face (especially those trying to rez another – sorry, buddy, you may be in Nomad’s for all I know, but crouching stationary in front of a zerker hundred blades is still gonna hurt somewhat.)

Yeah, NA WvW isn’t too bad, and presumably more PvE people will be drawn back like flies to honey once the new patch drops.

It makes me reconsider, because let’s face it, I am not a hardcore WvWer. If I go to T1, it’s going to be zerg vs zerg nonstop, with presumably skillful roamers and havoc groups in the 5-10s making life miserable for solo people wandering around. The bonus would be having a commander zerg to join in most hours of the day – assuming they aren’t all elitist closed guild groups.

But isn’t all I really need a nice scheduled time every week – likely on a Saturday or Sunday morning – to fit into an NA timezone squad and trundle around for an hour or two? More than two days would be pushing it, given that I already PvE raid on two days. WvWing for all hours of every day is for people with far more free time than I.

If we’re looking for something sustainable in the long term, -that- sounds sustainable. Not expecting commanders to be available at all hours (hello, burnout), not expecting to stay online for 4-6 hours daily trying to hold keeps for an eternity.

The last part of the equation is the Oceanic/SEA timezone.

I’m really not sure what I want out of this timezone. On one hand, I’d like to be in a server populated enough to have at least -one tag- running across the whole of the four maps in the Oceanic/SEA timezone, organized enough to do zerg on zerg fights.

At the moment, my checking out suggests that we have a lot of population (maybe inherited from Kaineng too) and very little organization. Everybody still actively WvWing in this timezone appears to have shifted over to more roaming solo skirmisher builds.

This, of course, is hilarious for any commander trying to gather people and run them like a zerg. Either they die horribly and/or you see all the soloists break apart like archer skirmishers in Total War and either pick apart the opposing army to death due to eventually outnumbering them, or rout horribly when an organized zerg or higher number skirmishing force runs into them.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having a window of opportunity for a more loose scattered fighting style. One could test out roaming/PvPesque builds, for example. There’s opportunity for a scrappy 3-5 people to wander around, take camps, sneak attack towers. (Try -that- on a T1 server.)

I would rather miss the ability to just zone into the Desert Borderlands of the day (aka no one in their right minds likes this place) to get some WvW dailies done and solo take camps and shrines without interference.

Of course, the ability to do so is dependent on the other servers -not- having any semblance of an organized force in that timezone. If there is, then the only way to get anything done is to counter with another organized force… which leads me back to thinking about Jade Quarry again.

Except it might be a unicorn I’m chasing and maybe there’s no big organized force in JQ or anywhere else other than BG in the timezones I’m after.

All us adult Asians have this thing called work (and going home late, because a 42 hour work week is perceived as the baseline, aka underachieving) tiring us out. Plus overwhelming pragmatism leads us to more profitable activities in GW2 (aka -not- WvWing) or far more competitive games like LoL or Overwatch or Dota 2 if seeking competition, after all.

Weekday organized WvW, let alone one open to militia tagging along, may simply be unsustainable in this timezone.

Dunno. I suppose “wait and see” is the option I’m going to go with for now.

Maybe the Skirmish rewards will suck and WvW will empty out again.

Maybe the rewards will be so overwhelming that the PvE hordes will come back in droves and change the active population, while the guild groups hop from server to server farming bags.

Hard to tell. Best not to be hasty, I guess. Best of all, I need spend no money whatsoever. The track record can still hold, until the expansion launches.

GW2: WvW – Variety or Balance?

After a few weeks of the revised (essentially “randomized”) matchups, some of the repercussions have been starting to make themselves known via forum board posts (read: complaints.)

Bottom line is, there have been some VERY uneven matchups taking place over the last couple of weeks.

To take my home server Tarnished Coast as an example:

Our first week placed us vying against our dear and bitter frenemies Fort Aspenwood and threw the lower tiered Sea of Sorrows in place of Dragonbrand into the mix.

This ended up much as one would expect: TC and FA duking it out and SoS doing their best to get underfoot. The matchup wasn’t too misbalanced (at least from my TC perspective, other TC’ers or FA or SoS people may have their own subjective opinions) in that there were still good fights in between various coverage gaps. FA and SoS have a stronger Oceanic contingent than TC, whereas TC tended to dominate in the Euro timezone, and NA and SEA were fairly even, if slightly skewed towards TC.

It may have indeed helped give a relaxing SoS a wakeup call and got them inspired to fight hard, even if comparatively outnumbered.

The following week pitched the number 1 NA server Sanctum of Rall against Tarnished Coast and Sea of Sorrows.

Heh.

Well, I personally enjoyed the challenge of being back-to-the-wall against impossible odds (as long as our commanders were still organized and keeping morale high.) And I found encountering a zerg that was built even more tough and resilient than a TC zerg very refreshing – in that we realized there was still a lot of room for improvement for certain guilds and builds, and generally had to be very focused in our movement and tactics. It was also fun showing SoR some of the more distinctly TC-evolved sneaky tricks and catching them off guard at times, even if the odds were against us from the beginning.

But I admit the pressure to keep obsessively fighting and holding out kept me playing way past usual hours – while it was obvious SoR had enough coverage for different guilds to take shifts and come in refreshed. Since I gave up being hardcore about ten years ago, it was easy enough to find new priorities for GW2 gaming time once Dragon Bash rolled around (Dragon Coffers were selling for 7-8 silver then! Price will only drop as the month goes on, y’know! Strike while the iron is hot! Farm farm farm! Sell sell sell!)

I don’t even want to speak for what SoS was thinking and feeling against SoR. Based on their forum posts and in-game actions, some of the more hardcore WvW SoS folks definitely have a lot of heart and pride and were holding out just fine – but suffice to say they were even more outnumbered as a server than TC was, in general.

This week, Tarnished Coast has still remained glommed onto Sea of Sorrows, and Crystal Desert has entered the fray.

That’s the server from which we received transfers of three hefty SEA guilds seeking larger and better fights, so you might imagine that the style of WvW combat CD is used to is certainly not of the same size and scale. With Dragon Bash providing a useful distraction for any GW2 players who both WvW and PvE, the impetus to hang around fighting battles against uphill odds is not very strong for most, which leads to blowout scores in the larger server’s favor.

Scores like this are kinda nuts. It's barely even Tuesday. (On the bright side, you can see I got some power-leveling via crafting done, taking advantage of the pretty high crafting crit chance bonus.)
Scores like this are kinda nuts. It’s barely even Tuesday. (On the bright side, in the background you can see I got some power-leveling via crafting done, taking advantage of the pretty high crafting crit chance bonus.)

Reactions have been rather fervent. From those hardcore enough about WvW to post on the official forums on a regular basis, I must add.

I’m shamelessly generalizing here, but let’s invent a typical hardcore WvW player who only lives for PvP and “good fights” and disdains PvE in any form. Such a player doesn’t mind fighting uphill battles and being somewhat outnumbered or losing and dying as they’ve internalized a value system where the bigger a fight they put up, the more ‘respect’ this earns them in the eyes of their opponents. A balanced even fight is their Shangri-La, because the outcome is uncertain and player skill has the largest impact here. Winning against low or zero resistance becomes as boring as PvE to these folks, because there’s no challenge. The worst thing that can happen is that no one shows up to be fought against, leading to the ultimate boredom as one roams around in search of opponents who simply aren’t there.

Such players miss the old system very badly as it produced the most even matchups for them.

Strangely though, there is another subset of players that seem to have an impact on whether queues pop up across WvW maps or not. These players tend not to post on forums, and turn up based on the scoreboard. They have been derisively called fairweathers or pugs, weekend warriors, or if one is feeling very very kind, “militia,” by those who fancy themselves a lot more dedicated to WvW. They do tend to be less well versed in the game format, and have builds not optimized for it as well.

You will rarely find them in WvW when your server is doing less well. Yet once a server pushes over 300 or so, there seems to be some kind of critical mass effect that attracts them into jumping in and riding the gravy train and pushing the server even higher and higher scores.

Hardcore WvW players tend to be very scornful of this playstyle. Me, I don’t know. It occurs to me that sometimes, majority votes can’t be wrong. Maybe it’s not so much what players say, but what they actually do.

Tarnished Coast has been massively queued across a good number of maps in this blowout week. (You could map hop freely last week against Sanctum of Rall during most times that weren’t NA primetime, and I think it got even worse past Tuesday – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there either.)

A number of these guys contributing to the queue are definitely beginner WvWers and primarily PvE players and probably not a few map completionists either. There are doubtless opportunists who leap at the chance to kill people when the odds are in their favor. Add on the regular WvW guilds trying to get on during their usual times for pushes, and things are definitely crowded.

I’m thinking – they wouldn’t stay in there, if they weren’t having “fun” with matchups the way they are.

Then there’s in the in-betweens, because I never believe in dichotomies. Call ’em semi-hardcore WvWers, casual WvWers, opportunists, militia, what-have-you, their behavior can reflect either extreme depending on personalities, available free time, morale and other conflicting priorities.

I suppose I’m one of this lot.

Speaking for myself, this week I haven’t been WvWing much either. Dragon Bash deflected me last week into achievement hunting and coffer farming, and my lowbie warrior was climbing the levels and getting better. Between the choice of being utterly bored for long moments and running patently outmanned enemies into the ground with way too many numbers – or getting run over while wandering around solo because the only opponents out have collected into wolf packs for survival, versus actually gaining levels every half hour to good music and racking in 0.75-1 gold at the same time, leveling the warrior is a lot more appealing.

And I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good thing.

(Cue the screams of horror of the heavily invested WvW players.)

No, I’m serious.

Assuming that one is a well-balanced GW2 player who does a number of different activities in game, and not just one primary thing, maybe it’s good to have off weeks where one can essentially take a break and go do other things.

One of the things I’ve always been perplexed about getting caught up in WvW was knowing when to stop. If you’re winning, you want to keep going. If you’re losing, you don’t want to log out and look like you’ve turned tail and run, so you fight on. The pressure can sometimes get a little nuts.

For me, it’s nice to have a week where I can mostly PvE and relax knowing that others, a LOT of others, are carrying on the fight. A week where I don’t feel guilty bringing in an underleveled character to goof around with and scoop up what xp I can when bored of the PvE level grind, or experimenting with a class/build that I’m really not that great with.

I might even bring in some alts to do WvW map completion, like no doubt many of the PvE population are now opportunistically doing. And maybe even visit the Obsidian Jumping Puzzle later this week – as long as all the EB keeps are controlled by my server. I am just entirely philosophically opposed to ganking and that whole puzzle is one big trollfest if it’s open to more than one server – I only enjoy going in when I know for sure there can be no red names there, period.

So despite the possibility of a temporary morale drop in a week where facing a server way too strong for us, I find I’m rather okay with the idea of variety in my matchups personally.

I think there’s the potential for greater inclusivity in that a lot more players may want to dip their toes into WvW this way.

The only thing I worry about is if the hardcore WvWers can get used to the idea. If they become too bored or too frustrated by the lack of good fights or a balanced even matchup, they may decide to take their ball elsewhere and play something else.

Which will also destroy the game format because it’s the hardcore WvWers that the rest rely on, for organization, for teaching and training, for being online way longer than they should, for leading and directing the militia to paint the whole map a certain color to begin with. Without them, the casuals won’t come in to play either.

It’s a funny kind of paradox.

Cater too hard for the hardcore, and the casuals won’t want to come.

Fail to cater sufficiently to the hardcore, and the casuals won’t have anyone to follow.

(And the in-betweens just keep doing their own thang, seeing how the wind blows.)

GW2: Random Fun and Adventures in WvW

Lemme just state something up front. I find very little point in blogging about who took what keep on what hour of which day, or how many loot bags so-and-so has dropped, or which guild or server is all that or sucks. You can read that sort of stuff everywhere else.

To me, it’s a cycle. Some days you win, some days you lose. I prefer to keep at least a modicum of respect for my opponents, regardless of their behavior. And it all resets to begin over the next week anyway, even if the scores are recorded and it’s fun to play to increase it and improve oneself.

What I really enjoy in WvW, besides the improving oneself and seeing others work together and better alongside you aspect, is the fun, crazy, never to be replicated in quite exactly the same way shared memories of the players participating.

To pull a random example from another team game I played the heck out of, I remember reading a Natural Selection dev discussing their map design, how they tried to make corridors and elevators that would encourage the Marine players of one team to be walking together beside each other, facing the same camera direction and sharing that similar “Oh shit” sinking feeling when they see a giant Alien Onos player stomp around the corner and charge them. The goal was shared emotions and a feeling of camaraderie.

And I’d like to share a random collection of fun and funny stuff that’s happened while I was running around WvWing, in the hope you enjoy it too.

The featured pic at the very top of the post is the fireworks meme that seems to have been going around lately in our server. Some guy keeps dropping loads of fireworks, and you know other players can’t resist picking them up and playing with them. I like to think of the above shot as “Quick, use these fireworks to camouflage our trebs so they won’t know we are here!” “Sure!” “…Ohh wait…”

And you know that reputation Tarnished Coast has for being full of ERP? (You can look up the term elsewhere if it’s not familiar to you.)

This was the unexpected view I had when logging back into the game on my Asura, getting ready to go into WvW after previously logging off the day before from the Super Adventure Box. Dat portal exit…

I see there are perks to being short.
I see there are perks to being short.

For some reason, our commanders seem to love us getting all up close and personal with them…

No homophobes allowed on Tarnished Coast.
No homophobes allowed on Tarnished Coast.

The biggest killer of Tarnished Coasters also appears to be gravity. We are beginning to suspect the commanders have a betting pool on how many they can get killed jumping off a cliff. Our reigning champion so far:

The exact scenario went somewhat like this: Endeavoring to maneuver around another enemy zerg,
I stand by what my asura said. “Lemmings.”

The exact scenario went somewhat like this: Endeavoring to maneuver around another enemy zerg, the commander looked down the cliff at the river and said “Quick, everyone over here, jump down into the water, hmm, does that river look deep enough?” Except one or two others had already leapt by that time, and the commander decided that meant it was safe and followed.

Being of suspicious and paranoid nature, and no doubt, it also looked bloody high for my miniature asura, I found a two part jump/slope that got me down safely. One of a few. Phew. Hooray for rezzing.

We have liftoff!
We have extra liftoff!

Today’s reset was incredibly fun, the highlight an hours-long three way battle in the KNBL garrison. I’m sure there’s footage of it elsewhere, but I found this serendipitously amusing.

It so happened I got on the front-row seat superior ballista (that’s also asking for being the immediate target if our opponents got their way in, of course) and you know, you’re just targeting -any- enemy in which direction you want to fire it and keeping those bolts flying. Check out random asura’s guild name – some internet meme or other, no doubt. Here, lemme help you with MOAR liftoff with this ballista bolt!

We had a close call with the bay keep mid garrison fight. An FA guild team was spotted trying to catapult the water gate, and those that weren’t in garrison and were in bay had our attention occupied with taking out their catapults. Being, as I’ve often said, of very paranoid nature, I couldn’t help but stare at the crossed swords ticking down on the keep and think what if there were more somewhere else masked by this?

So I went to check on the northwest gate near the veteran wurm while the others were cleaning up, and to my horror, saw it in the far distance sitting wide open with a flame ram visible beyond. Now my graphics settings aren’t the best and it was foggy up there so I wasn’t 100% sure I could believe my eyes, but I reported it anyway and did a 180 towards the nearest inner gate to check. Sure enough, a KN WM ninja team was in the midst of ramming down the door and had it at 40%.

A number of TC came back to respond to the bay attack, and that pulled a sufficient number of us out of garrison that FA was able to cap it. Shortly after the bay attack was cleaned up, we were back to knocking on the gates of garrison and managed to cap it ourselves.

Some time after, I chanced by the garrison’s southwest wall and nearly died laughing at the guild banner hanging from it:

Er, hi there.
Er, hi there.

I’m afraid I’m not too conversant with all the guild insignias on Tarnished Coast as yet, so I dunno which guild this was. But it was so hilariously unexpected.

Late into the night when things were less hectic, there was some time for crazy shenanigans like a blue dorito train:

Need moar tags.
Need moar tags.

It’s, um, practising a strategy for when there’s a dedicated commander assassin around. Yep… That’s it…

The perpetrators of this atrocity were made to line up and shot to death by firing squad.
The perpetrators of this atrocity were made to line up and shot to death by firing squad.

They are so leet, they don’t even render on my computer. I hear there were yak transformations and stuff.

Folks were in pretty high spirits today, there was siege overkill on an innocent gate:

NEED MOAR TREB
NEED MOAR TREB

And one of our commanders was even spotted RPing, though I think everyone else needed a Babelfish:

For Gondor! Oh wait, wrong game.
For Gondor! Oh wait, wrong game.

Extra nerd points if you recognize the reference. I didn’t, but it’s not at all one of my favorite series.

In more curious conjunctions of serendipity, I had an exotic trident drop for me in WvW today. Which is crazy luck for me.

Except it was the cheapest valued lvl 79 rampager trident of something or other that was only worth a little over a gold or so. Which is murphy’s law playing its usual part for me.

I’d normally TP it, but I was feeling a little rich today, so I thought, since the tridents are so cheap and I hear Mystic Forging exotics have better precursor drop rates, instead of earning 1 gold, I’d waste an extra 3 gold on a gamble. So I bought three more.

The tridents had mysteriously arranged themselves into some kind of pattern around a sigil from a rare I'd salvaged.
The tridents had mysteriously arranged themselves into some kind of voodoo pattern around a sigil from a rare I’d salvaged.

I’m sure the logical explanation would have been I was selling blues and greens, salvaging rares and depositing all collectibles just before my mystic forge try, but it was kinda spooky to see the tridents like that in my inventory.

Then I forged them, expecting nothing but another exotic trident worth another gold or so to cut my losses, and hoping a higher valued trident might pop:

It's official. I used up all my luck in this game.
It’s official. I used up all my luck in this game.

Enter crazy luck lightning strike number 2.

Along with murphy’s law smack number 2 – of all the precursors, an underwater trident. It’s only worth 22 some gold on the TP, something I could actually afford if I dug into my current gold stores.

I think I’ll bank it and work on it much much later. Kraitkin doesn’t look half bad to me. And I’m not allergic to water combat as much as most GW2 players appear to be. (But I kinda still have half my heart set on the legendary torch, though its use and show-offiness factor is almost just as limited as an underwater weapon. And meh, that kinda goal drives a person into bankruptcy, so it’s still not my primary drive for now.)

The last hilarity before I logged off, I accidentally clicked the Guild Bank vendor while looking for the personal Bank one and ended up rofl’ing too:

Somebody's not happy...
Somebody’s not happy…

GW2: Strength in Unity – Building Community

This is just a thought that’s been floating around in my head for a while, steadily building up as I read forum posts (aka complaints) on seemingly disparate things like big guilds being favored by guild mission design, big dragons being a mindless loot pinata for the masses and WvW heavily skewed in favor of zerging.

I’d like to take us down a philosophical “what-if” road of game design.

What if small guilds and loners were equally favored or had an advantage doing guild missions?

What if big dragons were really tough to kill and required an organized group to take down (and for added chaos, an inexperienced unallied player passing by could wipe the group?)

What if WvW favored the small group roamers and the solo/duo gankers?

Here’s my guess as to what would happen.

Everyone would form their own private guild of one to do the guild missions for the goodies. Or at best, hang around with their small guild buddies and not have any reasons to interact with anyone else out there.

People would flock to an organized group for the sole purpose of dragon-killing (aka raids) and woe betide the poor n00b passer-by who unknowingly committed the egregious sin of “not supposed to be doing that, u dumbass.”

WvW would become an open world PvP land where no one would venture in besides the few wolves looking around for their fights (and now whining on the forums that there’s no one to kill instead of too many.)

In other words, Guild Wars 2 would turn into any other typical MMO – your standard cesspool of insular hardcore elitism ruling the roost while the not-so-hardcores, casuals and dabblers just get by with amusing themselves until the next big MMO launch.

Perhaps the most interesting (if slightly sweet and sappy) underlying theme that runs through the GW2 storyline is that there is strength in unity. That despite our various differences, it is worthwhile coming together in common cause.

I’ve been observing my server in WvW for a while now as a sort of “embedded correspondent” (though I’ve gotten lazy on any actual reporting and have been just enjoying participating instead) and one of the things that most impresses me about Tarnished Coast is how united everyone is (comparatively, anyhow.)

Guild members from different guilds regularly hop into each others’ guild channels and aren’t automatically shunned or made unwelcome. Guilded and unguilded militia alike blend seamlessly into zergs led by commanders from any WvW guild, producing very respectable performances (ideally anyhow, and it’s gotten noticeably better as time creeps on.)

Yeah, there’s still the odd ‘pugs’ comment here and there, still a couple players with more hardcore ideals. so do put a little thick skin on if yer gonna venture into WvW but on the whole, it’s not at all a toxic environment. People work hard, but still remember to have fun and do silly, absurd things for the heck of it.

It’s most telling to me that most commanders reacting to a poor performance tend to go into a sort of quiet frustrated despair and exhaustion, then look around for other constructive things for the group to do, or take a break and switch things up, or spend time teaching and instructing, rather than vent onto their team or let it all hang out on chat channels. It’s a very mature response to a loss.

And what this builds in the end is respect and loyalty, as well as an accepting and tolerant community.

(Now having been part of a server that imploded on itself, I’m not going to say this will last forever, one would have to be a very idealistic seer to predict that. Sometimes all it takes is the wrong spark to set off a firecracker chain reaction.

But based on the example and culture of other roleplaying servers from other MMOs like LOTRO and CoH, one is at least hopeful about it. Which is pretty optimistic for a obsessive paranoid like me.)

And to get back to my original point, I wonder if this would have formed without ArenaNet’s hand in the design?

If game success did not favor coming together and community building, anyone who did so would be making an uphill effort.

Weatherstock in LOTRO would never have happened without the music system to begin with.

Maybe we need to recognize that in GW2, coming together in groups do have clear advantages (but hopefully never forced, so everyone always has alternate, if somewhat-less-advantangeous options) and this is in the design for the long-term purpose of building communities.

(I know I soloed pretty much my entire GW1 existence, minus an out-of-game friend or two.)

And if one has issues with this, perhaps one is playing the wrong game.

GW2: Winning the War or the Battle

Yes, title inversion entirely intended.

In a fun case of role reversal, today’s WvW experience left me wondering if Fort Aspenwood and Tarnished Coast had switched places all of a sudden. 🙂

My morning (NA night) started with a quick guild push into the FA Borderlands following a new commander (it’s pretty great we have so many willing to lead and teach, they all have different styles to learn different things from.)

It also seemed like the majority of the WvW guilds on TC had decided to pile in to have their own fun, because there were about 4-5 tags I recognized (mostly found on other maps) moving around at one point. This naturally attracted other mixed militia used to following along their familiar commanders.

The massive horde easily triggered Siegerazer and before long, stirred up a hornet’s nest of FA defenders. And yep, [RET] and [AVTR] appeared to be on the map.

And yep, PPT was firmly in favor of FA at the time. FA scrambled to defend the tower while all around, stragglers got picked off by the crowd of TC outside and attempted pushes out were firmly forced back in.

knockknock

At one point, I believe Kaineng attempted a breakout or two of their own, which led to reports of seeing some of  FA forces surge out eastward to the other tower.

As stuff surged around to a stalemate, our guild decided that it was getting a bit close to our guild mission time to remain locked up at a zerg vs zerg tower attack/defence and broke away to do disruption as a guild group/zerg of 15-20 odd people. Having crazy fun was the major goal and putting up swords practically everywhere on the map to divert FA’s attention from that one tower the minor goal.

It was ridiculously freeing to just romp around after 7+ hours yesterday of defensively holding points and slap yaks,  grab supply camps and so on. There were a few skirmishes, some with FA and some with Kaineng as we bumped into them, but it was looser combat, not tight murderballs. It was then I realized that my Charr guardian’s build functioned pretty well in this sort of fight – mobility, damage, spirit weapon burst and interrupt – which made a kind of sense since it did organically evolve from what I was mainly doing on IoJ.

At one point, we practiced as a guild a speed cap of the northmost supply camp and dear god, the supervisor melted in seconds, the circle came up, the few contesters dispatched, and we were there and gone before any zergs could respond.

We also heard that whoever was back at the tower did grab it in the end, as it appeared other guild groups had broken away and started to push on bay and hills keeps, which would of course necessitate a zerg response there a lot more than holding one measly tower.

Some time after our guild’s PvE excursion, I hopped back in WvW by myself, because what can I say, it’s a lot more entertaining than running feed sacks to cows for xp.

I’d gotten the Asura guardian to 75, and decked him out in relatively cheapo rares from the TP (those going for the price of 1-1.5 ectos or 30 odd silver each.) The stats available weren’t the most ideal but I ended up with an interesting mix of knight’s and berserker type, with a smidgen of valkyrie trinkets for a teensy amount of vitality.

Not too much, because I traited him for the ye olde Altruistic Healing/shout build that I’ve never personally tried and apparently too much vitality ruins one’s effective hp for that, but I was a little nervous of conditions. Also, running around with 13k hp felt quite odd compared to the 16-17k the Charr wanders around with.

There wasn’t much on the agenda besides run around solo and yak slap for xp, because need to get to 80 and dress in exotics, dammit, while getting the feel of how functional the build was, what the hell I was supposed to do with my shouts and getting one’s skill timing down so that no excess healing got wasted. I wasn’t confident at all that I could kill anybody (besides a yak or a sentry) since I didn’t have as much Power as the other build, but what the hell, in the interest of science, one must test, right?

Somewhere along the way, I got distracted by a commander tag intersecting my path. Nightlight from [CERN] appeared to be leading a small guild group around, with an assortment of other guild tags like [TSL] and [PiNK] and others, and what the hell, I decided to hop onto the choo choo train. They were leading the militia around with terse text in say, but I couldn’t help but notice that there seemed to be a slightly more together core.

My suspicious mind decided to check out the Tarnished Coast Mumble. It took a little scanning of the channels, but it was pretty obvious in the end where that core group was (the one labeled CERN, perhaps?) and I popped right in onto something amazing. Really awesomely amazing.

I found some of the tactically minded killers of Tarnished Coast.

And in the few hours I ran with them, I learned a shitton about zerg vs zerg combat – against [RET] and some [AVTR] to boot.

I’m not going to go into specific tactics here, as that wouldn’t be fair to the guilds who so kindly allow other guilded people to run with them and learn how they fight, but for the sake of my readers who might not be familiar with how sophisticated WvW can get in terms of battle tactics, suffice to say in general terms that it is a beautifully elaborate dance.

It’s worth dipping a toe in, or at least watching a video or two, (preferably one with the commander’s voice included) because it is just that fascinating.

I don’t think it’s any secret that a hefty amount of group-based skills are involved, and combo fields and AoE.

A lot of clever use of skills to maximize culling and framerate lag on the enemy, and extremely rapid movement just like a dance to not be in places the enemy would expect, and to try and fool one’s opponents into spending their skills (which are probably similar) wastefully onto empty ground.

Flanking maneuvers, group splitting maneuvers, etc. One commander against another, leading his soldiers (and soldiers they are, because the better, more precisely and efficiently they follow their orders, the better the chances of success) on the field against another group.

I found to my pleasure that my guardian had the right weapons to contribute to this, which was probably the most I did, since my computer has a tendency to be one of the early victims of this assault on graphic rendering. But you know, all’s fair in love and WvW, that’s how it goes.

The role reversal, as I mentioned before, was amazing, after regularly getting wiped after colliding with [RET] elsewhere. Their bodies were laying on the ground instead.

Alas, from a more outside point of view, one is able to see the weakness of a zerg as well. It was Fort Aspenwood’s turn to rock the PPT score, because the zerg can only be in one place at one time to wipe people. (Though a skilled zerg can move -very- very fast.)

Personally, I found my focus narrowing down to a very tactical level. Perhaps this is simply because I am not practiced at this, so I cannot keep an eye on the map as I might usually do and read/predict enemy movements, and I’m sure the commander was looking and had people scouting and scanning the map for him, but for myself, following the icon pretty much took all of my concentration. Reading the chat window? Forget it.

(It got to the point where I went for a supply run once and mindlessly tried to run back through the south gate following one or two other green dots because the commander said ‘go get supply.’ And wiped on the mass of FA there. Map chat went, ‘Oi, don’t use that gate, use the other gates.’

OOPS. That’s right. Goodness knows where my mind went, I’m usually more situationally aware than that.)

The zerg is powerful because it has a hive mind. But one zerg cannot win the war by itself, though it can win battles. Ridiculously decisively.

Perhaps in a higher tier with more coverage, there is more than one intelligent zerg operating. With Tier 2’s coverage issues being what they are, there’s room for other smaller groups and individuals to play their own parts elsewhere on the map as well.

Some time late into the NA night, we lost Redvale, our supply camp as there simply weren’t enough organized militia outside of the main zerg to defend it. Folks might have wiped on the tide of FA that were swarming around the bay keep, and gotten frustrated and moved off, while the zerg force had to be there to protect the gaping hole in the wall (and also take the opportunity to mow down FA.)

Fort Aspenwood is also notoriously strong in the Oceanic time period, and it was getting closer and closer to that hour (not to mention, it was a Sunday, so Oceanics were likely already playing too) while the Tarnished Coast NA folks were dropping off.

So eventually bay was taken. Though it took the better part of 2+ hours.

I'm sure you'll find this scene in videos from both parties' viewpoints.
I’m sure you’ll find this scene in videos from both parties’ viewpoints.

Funny story behind that. Objectively, there was a stalemate going on. Previous engagements had shown that FA’s forces available-at-that-time could not match the current TC force being fielded on land. They got repeatedly ripped apart. FA ended up trying to bait our mixed group into the water by the quaggan nodes, where they had greater numbers and had no doubt previously practiced tactics as a guild before. Our commander tried once and promptly disengaged us, knowing very well that it wasn’t going to end in our favor. Which eventually led to the above scene – with both parties daring the other to come onto terrain of their choosing.

I think our final downfall was the critical flaw of a not-rehearsed group used to working together. The inner north gate was being banged on, by superior rams (thanks AVTR, I think), and there was already a hole in the wall on the south side for quite a while. The zerg went to respond to the north, and got pulled apart enough that as a whole bunch of FA came rushing through the southern hole in the wall, not enough went back in time with the commander to area deny at the chokepoint.

I was lagging enough that I got about the way to the lord room to already see the first few FA in and rushing towards us, and reeled back in time to see the characteristic feedback bubbles enveloping where I was (thanks AVTR again, no doubt) and a whole bunch of conditions popping up on my bar. Splat went my little Asura.

Sheer numbers poured into the lord room and overwhelmed the rest shortly after.

Had I been a little more experienced with what the heck my build was supposed to be doing, and/or a little less lagged, perhaps I might have cleared them in time – though that would probably have prolonged survival for just a little while more. Then again, tanky guardians are all about being annoying by prolonging survival. 🙂 Oh well, something to try for the next time. Learn something in retrospect every day.

Damn good fight though.

Oh, as an aside, I also made the personal decision to learn how to fight with autoattack off, because I am sick and tired of auto-killing myself with 8 stacks of confusion before I even realize it’s on me (not just a WvW thing – our guild mission today included Diplomat Tarban and damn did the entire guild fall over repeatedly because we got blasted with some 25 stacks of confusion before we could react.)

The whole zerg vs zerg thing today I fought with it off, and it was good practice.

There were one or two individuals on map chat that seemed a little annoyed or frustrated at the tactical focus over the strategic at that point in time, but you know, on a personal level, I’m starting to realize that it’s not just “must maximize PPT all the time” or “must pwn all players all the time” that is the entirety of the WvW experience. With that as a goal, one is bound to get frustrated at “losing” at some point.

Especially because everybody’s got to go to bed some time.

Today, I was following commanders I trusted, having seen them work for PPT strategically and pull ridiculously long hours before, and the decision today seemed to be, let’s just have fun killing, never mind the score. In the long term, it might make our players incrementally better for getting the hang of zerg vs zerg tactics, and not instantly losing morale and fleeing on seeing a zerg come at them. At any rate, I certainly got educated ever-so-slightly more.

Mad respect and props to the big zerg guilds that professionally practice these things. I just got a slight taste of it for three hours or so, and I can see the appeal.

In a way, it’s almost like raiding, perhaps. But PvP-style.

On a personal level, I’m a dabbler, and I know I’m not cut out for hardcore full-on WvW for hours on end. I’ve pulled some ridiculous shifts for two days now, and I can feel the sleep-deprivation headache beginning to build as my timezones get all twisted. (Kinda reminds me of IoJ’s one time in tier 1 where everyone went all out.)

But it makes me happy to think that as long as things don’t implode, I’ll be able to jump on and participate in whatever style of WvW I feel like for the day. Whether it’s individual roaming, small group disruption, defending or zerging, there seems to be room for a whole bunch of playstyles.

(And one other too, I hear some people love 1 on 1 dueling and some folks organize little fight clubs for it. It’s not my thing, so you won’t hear much about it here, but it’s there.)

And room for longevity because there’s always trying to improve oneself that bit better than your opponent.

Even if things do implode (because drama can happen to anyone), what isn’t lost is the knowledge and the memories of good times. That makes it all worth it in the end.