GW2: SAB – Informal Stats and Iterated Improvements

Over the past couple days, I’ve been watching the stats on my quick reference bauble guides with a good amount of curious interest.

Here’s World 1:

Zone 1

stats-sab-w1-1

Zone 2

stats-sab-w1-2

Zone 3

stats-sab-w1-3

This is all very informally speaking, since the sample size is pretty small, but I found a number of things fairly intriguing nonetheless.

Interest in grinding baubles via dig and bomb locations in the SAB took a steep dive after Sep 18, when the Tequatl patch dropped. Which matches anecdotal evidence of walking into the SAB these past few days and seeing practically no one around. Nearly everyone appears to be doing their best to cram into Sparkfly Fen.

World 1 Zone 2 – The Dark Woods – appears to be the favorite for bauble farming (on normal mode, anyway.) More people appear to view just that page alone, rather than visit all three as I would have expected from the way I use it as a lazy man’s memory aid, following the link from W1-1 all the way to W2-1.

Slightly less people check the page for W1-1, which could be because it doesn’t have too many baubles to offer, or simply because there aren’t that many in what is a small zone, so it can be remembered offhand without needing to refer to a guide.

About 2/3 of the people who check the guide follow on to W1-3, which is also fairly decent in bauble yields.

What I did find shocking was the stats for W2-1.

World 2 Zone 1

stats-sab-w2-1

Yes, less than HALF of the people who bothered to check the guide for the least popular zone of World 1, or less than a quarter of the people who are content to farm the most popular zone, visit World 2 Zone 1.

The drop is THAT noticeable.

Folks, you can easily get 500 baubles from a run through of World 2-1, plus two bauble bubbles from completion. And the rapids has not been hellish since Piranha Bend got tweaked.

If the quantity of baubles and the level of difficulty aren’t turning people away, then… what is?

My best guess is available time and the perceived size and reputation of the World 2 zones.

Some folks may simply not have enough time every night to run through four zones, and find one complete world a nice stopping point, perhaps. Or they simply run just one zone (1-2).

World 2 zones also seem very big on first glance and they might have been once bitten twice shy after having given World 2 a try when the SAB came out two weeks ago.

It almost makes me wish I could be a fly on the wall when Colin Johanson and Josh Foreman ran their datamining stats to see the real numbers frequenting the SAB… just to see if there’s any correlation between mine and theirs.

Funny, huh? I think it goes to show where the bulk of the majority interest lies. Ascended rewards, loot pinata, epic boss fights, the newest content.

The SAB now seems like a has-been – everyone hardcore must have already swept up the cosmetic rewards they wanted, finished their achievements and moved on like locusts.

Which is pretty sad, because some more quality-of-life improvements have snuck into the SAB since the Tequatl Rising patch and haven’t been talked about or highlighted as much.

Only the slowpoke loners like me who chose to give up the first few days of Camping @ Tequila (Only To Fail in Overflows) in favor of peacefully plodding through World 2 Tribulation Mode and finish the last achievements have been able to appreciate them.

fairdarttraps

Dart traps have gotten SO MUCH FAIRER.

Instead of a barely visible extrusion covered by a checkerboard red and black smooth texture that absolutely does not suggest that anything could shoot out of it, the new upgraded dart traps do contain little tube-like protrusions that suggest projectiles.

The less visible sneaky traps are also highlighted by a green glow that significantly improves visibility, especially the evil little ones that were originally hidden between two tall grey blocks, whose only warning of their presence was when they one-shot you in the back, producing many “WTF”s.

I felt that this made the top area of the grey block puzzle a lot more palatable. (Tribulation Cloud was the main pain in the butt, which is as it should be, in terms of difficulty modes.)

Gong pagoda is still slightly annoying, but not unbearably so. I even managed the full gong run on the first try (even though I was prepared to die like Dulfy suggested and wait for the gong to hit bottom), which may have been a lucky stroke of latency and reflexes, or subconsciously helped by the dart traps being ever so slightly easier to see and thus react more appropriately to.

As for World 2 Tribulation Mode feedback, the major nuisances were the latency-sensitive areas as expected.

World 2-2’s trampoline sequence near the end with the red pillars caused a not insignificant amount of rage as I simply couldn’t get sufficient momentum bouncing on the edge and moving forward. I had to bounce in three jump sequence and move forward/twist the camera fast enough and PRAY I got enough height. Many many deaths.

(Don’t get me started on the poison waterfall and lilypads of World 1-3’s shop. I haven’t revisited it since the last patch, but that one was CRUEL to any latency whatsoever. Easily 120+ deaths before somehow getting in. If GW2 tracks player deaths in map locations, I’m sure that would have turned up like a major hotspot like a raging forest fire on a satellite map. I even deactivated virus scanning and firewalls for that, in the hope of not additionally slowing down -any- packets between me and the server beyond geographic location lag.)

World 2-3’s main trouble spot was the area with ice spikes and blowing gatekeepers where there are two bananas and a tricky path to skate/hop across with No Clouds blocking the way. Not sure if it was latency again or just lack of control over ice, but it was very easy to slide a few millimeters too far and not be able to stop in time, or end up with that oh-so-enjoyable experience of dying in mid-air when you -think- you’ve cleared the lethal obstacle but the server tells you, “NOPE” half a second later.

Eventually, persistence got me through.

I’d talk about the zone being nearly entirely dark as one of those fake difficulty schticks, but players learned how to get around that long ago. I took one look, jumped around for fun for a couple minutes with a torch to enjoy the ambience, then promptly adjusted gamma. Turnabout is fair play, after all.

The only downside of that was that I used the in-game graphics options settings for it, which can only be done in full-screen mode, and that screwed up a three-hour first attempt when I alt-tabbed out to watch how Dulfy jumped the clouds to get to the secret shops where Moto’s Finger is available.

I apparently carelessly left myself in the path of a bouncing goat, which promptly must have knocked me off, then pure chance must have left me out of lives and chucked me into the continue screen. Which then must have run itself down while I was still blissfully watching and rewinding Youtube video in complete ignorance.

I switched back to find myself in the lobby of the Super Adventure Box, rapidly gaining a mood that was distinctly NOT as bright and sunny as the surrounding environment. Went to bed completely stumped by what had happened and only put two and two together later.

The next night, I only took two hours to get back to that point, with no need to refer back to the video, so there’s something to be said for practice.

I’m also pleased to report that this slow learner has finally figured out how to dodge the Storm Wizard’s charge after reading a bunch of forum tips. Turns out my issue was being too concerned with keeping track of where the wizard was and always having the camera swiveled to keep him in view. (I have tank tendencies, situational awareness, y’know?!)

Keeping two trapeziums away and staying near the edge, reflecting his attack and then immediately swiveling to run away along the edge without ever looking back is all it took.

It was trickier trying to figure out what to do with a yellow skin. My guardians are fire-Blood Legion themed (never gonna let that fiery dragon sword go) and blue holographic-themed respectively. I was fairly happy with their look ages ago.

Eventually the warrior alt volunteered. He’s -supposed- to be Iron Legion and has blue-and-grey metal themed armor to match, but he’s been moonlighting in a Flame Legion disguise in his berserker gear. Perhaps too much so given the number of times I keep getting targeted when doing CoF path 2 during the assassin-clearing stage.

Maybe the 8-bit axe will help distinguish him a little more from the NPCs.

yellowaxe

Maybe not.

I overwrote a Zenith Reaver skin for that, so it’s really a “too many skins, too few characters” kind of deal.

The green greatsword is still sitting in the bank. I don’t have a real clue of what to do with it. Maybe the asura can use it at some point once I figure out what other stats I can use. I already have two greatswords in his invisible bag… (and two staffs, and a hammer, and a scepter and focus…)

WTB: savable skins and wardrobe/gear switching capabilities.

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GW2: Define “Hard” More Specifically

8-Bit Eye of Sauron

Tribulation Mode – World 1 Zone 1

This zone was where I started meditating and musing on the definition of “hard” or “difficult” as I jumped, died, respawned x 100.

You may be surprised, but I rather liked it and was enjoying myself doing so.

Knew it was gonna happen. Had to try regardless.
Knew it was gonna happen. Had to try regardless.

With the ICC, of course. It is a must on Tribulation Mode IF you want to play it as intended, rather than just look up a guide and follow someone else’s route for the sake of efficiency and just getting to the end. In which case, some patient continue coin grind would probably get you through.

Part of it is mindset and expectation. I expect and accept that Tribulation Mode is built for life-squandering trial and error to find the safe path, having been forewarned about it.

In the same way that I -don’t- expect and accept that Normal Mode will nom lives like Super Meat Boy. Especially with a previous expectation set by prior zones of a certain difficulty.

The other thing you may not know about me is that I can get into a certain obsessive “mapping” frame of mind.

In my old MUD, I once bemused an immortal who had made a maze he thought was too large to be mapped by giving it a systematic go, knowing what I did of how MUD mazes were constructed.

A room is defined with a number, then exits in all cardinal directions are linked to other numbers. The maze could be made more difficult by having a room flagged to periodically randomize which room was linked with which direction, but the list of linked rooms generally did not change unless he had tweaked the code.

As long as each room could be marked in some way with something unique, it was just a matter of drawing little squares, numbering them, and lines pointing in all directions, ready to put numbers next to them as one went in each direction and checked the room.

A mage character could create free little balls of light. I made 200, stuck them in my bag, and began dropping them. Room 1, one ball. Room 2, two balls. Unsoweiter. Making more balls as necessary.

It was mostly data collection, as the dropped balls would be wiped when the MUD next reset and the maze would be featureless once again. But dammit, I had the time and the insane curiosity had taken hold of me to see JUST how many rooms he had made and linked together.

My count was 198 rooms, if you must know.

oldmap

I never did get around to actually linking up the maze, though I did discover that some rooms appeared to be fixed and didn’t rotate directions over time.

Actual application? Zero.

But I was just really happy both systematically mapping in meditative fashion and increasing the sum total of my knowledge and understanding (and being considered nuts in the process.)

Tribulation Mode triggered that part of me with a vengeance.

The discovery, mapping and exploration part. It rarely gets its day in the sun.

I simply wasn’t satisfied following a single safe path and hitting the end ASAP. I had to know it all.

Must know the extent of this barrier...
Must know the full extent of this barrier…

My dream? Every single flower, every single trap and barrier all neatly demarcated. Once the danger zones are clearly indicated, by definition, all and any alternate routes would show up as well.

My artistic capability being fairly non-existent, I can’t quite draw a top down view of the zone and label stuff, though I wanted to, quite badly. I contented myself with taking loads of screenshots, constructing a mental map and promising myself I’d come back with video footage to collect more data.

I’ll probably run out of time before ever getting it done. And probably go into a panic in the last week and just consult guides to get the rest over with, but it was the thought that made me glad to keep minesweeping with my body, on purpose.

Ooh, there’s lava here? Where exactly does it start or stop? *flings self into the depths* *rotates camera eagerly*

iseeyoutrapzone

Of course, the ICC and the checkpoints help. If there was longer iteration time or a punishing penalty per attempt, I’d leave it for someone else to do.

There was one section in zone 1 though that I DID NOT LIKE. As you might guess, this was a timing dependent section, with a sequence of jumping rocks that bounced up and down and caused knockback into bottomless abysses.

I was keenly aware of my latency yet again, as I would make it to the next platform, then get knocked off as the rock behind me came down and impacted, in a manner very similar to how knockback hit me when water spouts evaporated under me. Again and again.

I was desperately scrabbling to find as safe a spot to stop as possible so that the number of required jumps in tandem could be reduced and client and server could catch up. Even the safe spot was 50/50, sometimes I’d hit it and be safe, other times the knockback of the rock WAY behind me as it came down would kick me off regardless.

This is Tribulation Mode though, so you won’t find me on the forums criticizing it as long as one attempt in a hundred or so works. I was hitting slightly more success than that, and the checkpoint was just ahead, so I just barreled through 30 lives or so trying.

After that, it was back to peaceful trial-and-error mapping again.

And so it came to pass that as I was rezzing for the umpteen time, having missed a jump by a hair yet again, that I started to wonder just what other people got out of Tribulation Mode being “hard” and whether they were justified in feeling superior as a result.

Also, was it really hard? And in what way?

Other people are, no doubt, better at jumping than I am. Now, they could have better, faster reflexes. I passed the twenties quite some time ago, and I hear competitive Starcraft players retire by 25+. They could have better ping. (They probably do.) They might have better computers offering them faster framerates. (They definitely do.) Maybe they play a character with more accurate feet placement. Perhaps they just have an instinctual knack for judging where invisible hitboxes will come down.

On the other hand, I feel confident in saying that a lot more people would consult someone else’s guide and content themselves with precise execution, than would willingly throw themselves into the task of mapping for full understanding. My failing at instinctive jumps leads to a lot of analysis – it’s become almost second nature to look from corner to corner of each jump, eyeballing the closest distance and using that line to make the jump, my charr jumps are probably a lot better than someone playing a human who doesn’t jump on a regular basis, and so on. I probably have superhuman levels of patience and persistence at times.

What makes one superior to another? Whose measuring stick are we using? What is this obsession with measurement, anyhow?

The process of discovery in Tribulation Mode is time-consuming. I happen to be able to spare the time. Does that make me superior to someone who cannot spare that time? Does it make Tribulation Mode “hard?”

Tribulation Mode requires precision jumping, sometimes with near-pixel perfect accuracy, and sometimes it has to be done in a time-critical fashion. If someone can pull that off more consistently than another, does it make them superior? Even if the advantage is only via geographic location, rather than actual reflexes?

Tribulation Mode is costly (in terms of lives) when you are trial-and-erroring for the first time or make a mistake. You are required to either prepare for this via grinding baubles in other modes (spending time) or put down the equivalent of US$7.50 in either real money or in-game currency. Is any method to be considered superior to another?

People who can put up with Tribulation Mode are demonstrating high levels of patience and persistence. Does it make them better than someone else who chooses not to, or can’t be bothered to do the same?

Honestly, I don’t think so.

And I really don’t get those people who think that achieving this somehow makes them feel special or more prestigious to wave a shiny green or yellow sword around.

How in the world is your self-worth predicated on restricting what other people can or can’t achieve?

Oh, and when you say you want “harder” or “more difficult” content, kindly specify if you want it time-consuming, reflex-based, latency-reliant, stat-dependent, group-required or some other way of excluding a group of people from said content.

P.S. Here, before the inevitable retort of “Sure, you say all that because you can’t do it. Nyah nyah!”

And what does this prove?
And what does this prove?

P.P.S. Now I’ll grant you one thing. If you just say you want an option available, because you enjoy the process of defeating a challenge in some manner, while the alternative of easy mode leaves you bored. I support adjustable, variable difficulty to reach the optimum state of flow.

But hard in what manner? Something that takes multiple repeated tries before success? Something that takes a group or social media to puzzle out together? Dependent on what, luck? The mystic forge does that. Skill? What does that comprise of, exactly? How many hours spent striving for it is reasonable?

And I will still make fun of you if you ask for a more special reward for doing it “the hard way” because you deserve it.

GW2: Tribulation Mode Thoughts Sight Unseen

The new experimental strategy ArenaNet seems to be going with is pre-warning the players what to expect for the next patch, what with John Smith chiming in on expected economy disequilibrium and Josh Foreman sharing some of the design philosophy behind the Super Adventure Box’s Tribulation Mode.

From what he hinted, it’s going to seem like bad design because the rabidly hard platforming genre tends to use intrinsically unfair tricks.

(Perhaps they’ve gotten tired of players continually posting up TV Trope’s FakeDifficulty page on the forums after the Queen’s Gauntlet.)

It’s going to use up a lot of lives via very arbitrary deaths while the player learns via repeated trial and error what not to do and where not to step, and those lives in turn may have to be saved up / prepared / “ground” out via plays of an easier mode.

To this, I only have the following questions and statements:

1) Iteration

  • What is the iteration time between attempts?
  • How long am I going to have to wait before trying out a new strategy?
  • Surely you are not going to make me watch a whole bunch of other players be a whole lot better at the minigame than I am and rub that salty fact in before I can try again?

From imperfect memory the last time the SAB came around, death via falling into a bottomless chasm blacked out your screen then started you off at the nearest checkpoint.

The SAB is also an instance that can be entered solo, unlike the Mad King’s Clock Tower and Winter Wonderland, where one did indeed have to wait and watch other players go at it before you got a chance to go again.

I submit my guess that the iteration time should be fairly minimal, except for the possible exception of unskippable cutscenes. We can hope.

The longer my wait, the faster I am going to get frustrated and not bother.

2) Penalty for Failure

  • How costly is the death or failure penalty after each no-go attempt?
  • Is it going to impact my overall goals in another part of the game?

Failing the Queen’s Gauntlet damaged my armor. If no one rezzed, I had to waypoint and subtract an additional fee. Gold is a ubiquitous and extremely valuable currency that I could be using for a whole lot of other things.

That helped me prioritize very quickly how important striving for a hard-to-reach and costly QG goal was to me, in comparison to say, a new set of exotic gear for an alt, buying components for a Legendary, or buying cultural armor and dyes and luxury miniatures.

(It also took a ticket, but the tickets dropped like candy and had only two purposes to compare – earn gold via a simpler fight or spend it on achieving something hard.)

Again, based on previous SAB experiences, failure is going to eat up a life. When you run out of lives, you will have to endure a slightly longer continue screen then it’s going to eat up a continue coin. Lives are earned inside the specific game itself and continue coins can be bought via baubles earned within the game, and last time anyway, were earned via jumping puzzle chest reward as well.

I like that the currency is specific to this minigame alone and that it’s probably not going to turn into a sneaky gold sink or gambling game. That makes things more palatable.

3) Rewards

  • How exclusive and how desirable are the rewards to be gained via this especially hard difficulty?
  • Are there alternate means of getting the same or a similar reward?
  • Is that reward going to impact me in other parts of the game (be it through me or another player having it?)

From what has been said so far, the rewards for Tribulation Mode are the same skin, colored differently. This has some exclusivity and prestige factor, in that one will be able to stand out via the different color, but others will still be able to enjoy the weapon model in a more common color.

I personally think this is a good balance to hit, especially if they get the colors right.

Normal mode blue is likely to be good enough for the majority. I like blue. I think a lot of others like blue too.

Red, green, yellow, purple? Ehhhh. Depending on the alt, red might match, I might find a use for green (maybe) and I suppose mesmer types enjoy purple. I dunno about yellow, but yeah.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t mind if super-duper hard mode had a super-duper desirable color like white or black either, AS LONG AS normal mode has something decently pretty looking, like blue. and is glowy.

Skin impact on other parts of the game, we have long established, is negligible or nonexistent. Maybe one day, some extremist players might make a value judgement based on the kind of skin you have, but cosmetics generally make a great reward because how awesome you look tends to be a great deal more important to yourself than other players.

Tribulation Mode is likely to have its own separate achievements. Maybe a title, maybe not. Titles also fall under the cosmetic banner for me. It’s something to show off for players who like that sort of thing, but doesn’t affect how hard you hit or how desirable your character is for a certain type of content.

Achievements once upon a time were similar, but it’s gotten more into edge territory what with overall achievement point rewards. There are other ways to gain AP, of course, but it’s also undeniable that a player who can do some content that gives AP has the potential to have -more- than another player who can’t. I’ll wait to see the quantity of AP one can gain via this mode as compared to that played on normal mode before forming an opinion.

Stat-based rewards are unlikely to apply for the SAB, but it’s still worth putting the possibility out there in case a future type of minigame/activity/content type shows up one day (raiding?! *nervous twitch*) and we have to come back to this set of questions. Rewards with stats have the potential to be the most divisive and affect a level playing field balance. (All eyes are on Ascended crafting at the moment. I frankly don’t understand half of it yet, am waiting to see how it works and what the drop rates are.)

4) Time and Access

  • How much time is it likely to take me to get through the content?
  • Is the content once-off temporary, recurring or permanently a part of the game?

Players get very bitter when they have to attempt hard mode content on a deadline, within a limited timeframe and told it’ll never come back again, one chance only. It’s my hope that ArenaNet is moving away from one-offs and at least to recurring content, even if we can’t have stuff permanently there and available on demand like in GW1.

SAB, we know, is recurring content, so there are no issues there on that front. Worse case scenario, it’ll come back next year. Preferably sooner.

Tribulation Mode, however, is likely to be extremely time-consuming, so brace for that and evaluate priorities accordingly.

5) Variable Difficulty Levels

  • Do you have player-chosen variable difficulty levels where a player can opt out of the extremely hard mode content?

One of the ways to get the bitterest complaints is to include a “forced” aspect to content.

If you don’t do it this way (usually a way the players don’t like), you’ll never get to see the new and novel content – experience the story, witness the world, see the sights and the scenery – and reap its rewards (see point 3 and make it an exclusive, highly desirable cosmetic AND stat-based reward. Or two. And throw in an RNG wrapper rather than the slow-and-steady token earning option.)

Fortunately, the SAB is unlikely to be any of the above.

Is Infantile and Normal Mode still going to be in the SAB?

All signs point to yes.

Then why, we shall have no problem with the existence of Tribulation Mode whatsoever.

I personally doubt I have the masochism for the mode, honestly. I’ll give it a shot or two, then go back to happily wading in the baby pool and enjoying the challenge of normal mode. I’ll wait for the guides and videos to show up, then give it a third shot or five. Then I’ll stop before I drive myself up the wall and focus on other things that make me happy. Like a bevy of miniatures.

But as long as all the points above yield a fair and reasonable answer, where TM is an optional choice that provides just a little extra bonus reward that doesn’t unbalance other playing fields and can eventually be revisited and retried for any account, then hey, I’m glad its there for the folks who enjoy that sort of thing.

(I reserve the right to subjectively change my opinion should my guesses to how it works this time around be wrong, eg. if any changes were made to how the SAB works versus the last time.)