GW2: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again… But Also Pause and Think…

The Mystical Mesmer’s latest tales about miserable failure and continuous improvement makes me grin wryly and nod.

While I have chosen to wuss out this time on the Winter Wonderland jumping puzzle (hate the exploding presents – that stage is too competitive for me. Apparently the first to jump triggers the explosions. I am never the first to jump since my latency is usually higher than anyone in NA, so I end up waiting and waiting, and folks just pile in behind me and I never get to jump. If I just go YOLO, and jump, chances are likely I’m going to fall behind and fall through the gaps anyway), lately, I’ve found myself suddenly addicted to Unranked PvP.

T’was a curious conjunction of events that led to this.

First, there’s the new PvP dailies.

I’m usually game to get the easiest one or two, in a single match or two. That broke the initial barrier of venturing into the Heart of the Mists.

Secondly, there’s the utterly disgusting low chance of popping anything good with the Wintersday presents, coupled with guaranteed rewards in the PvP Wintersday track.

RNG and me do not get along. I -still- haven’t popped more than one carapace boots. When a precursor dropped for me last year, it was naturally the cheapest and most unwanted one, Venom.

All my Wintersday stuff this year has been bought. 15 gold for a Magnanimous Bell versus 500 ugly sweaters? Here, take the gold. I get 3-5 gold off the TP daily anyway. Collection starter items? After opening some 100 presents, I still hadn’t got one of them yet. Whatever. TP. Less than a silver.

The only bonus was that I’d apparently gotten all the Endless tonic recipes memorized last year. So I just paid 25 gold or so to Miyani (such goldsink this season!) and crafted stuff to turn into a dancing gift-wrapped box.

As for the Rime-Rimmed Aquabreather… what, rely on RNG to give me one? That’s never gonna happen.

I’d pretty much given up on it when a chance Reddit thread pointed out that the Ultimate Wintersday Gift in the Wintersday PvP track contained a guaranteed aquabreather.

gw2-hotdamn

(Also drool-worthy are permanent finishers as a choice. DAYUM. Those are worth GEMS.)

That was a pretty powerful motivator to seriously consider progressing on the PvP track this Wintersday, especially since the new Unranked arena provides a middle ground between meaningless deathmatching in hotjoin and the super competitive leaderboard climbers in Ranked.

So I broke out my usual ‘safe’ PvP character, my ‘bleed everything, not pro enough to be a terrormancer’ condi necro – whose build I shared with Missy Mojo some time ago and queued for a couple of matches.

Almost immediately, I realized I was in some serious trouble.

It may be that with the number of matches I had on my necromancer belt (290+), the matchmaking was bootstrapping me up to face a higher class of player. Fights on point were hard as hell. The scores for most matches were in the 475 – 500 sort of range, both ways, win or lose… except for the ones that had a premade team wiping the floor with us.

Yet since I was solo queuing, there was no guarantee of receiving any help if I ended up facing a 1 vs 2 on point – my necro can’t run, it can only just stay there, last for a while, and then die horribly.

Worse of all, I had my eye on the grind. I wanted the PvP Wintersday reward track to go up! Winning gives 1500 rank points! Losing only 500! Aaaargh!

I was stressing out a bit too much and taking things way too seriously, since this was my ‘serious’ PvP character, the one I use when I “want” to win. Some of us are prone to obsession in very unhealthy ways, and I knew this was a danger sign. My usual solution is just to play a few matches each day and not worry about it, but but… that is counter-productive to actually getting a rime-rimmed breather! How to resolve this?!

The solution came in the form of a PvP daily the very next day.

Win a match as a Ranger, they said.

You know, I said to myself, I have always been intending to learn how to play another class in PvP.

This would be a great opportunity to stop being lazy, look up Metabattle and copy a PvP build on your lowbie ranger and learn how to play it.

My lowbie ranger, by the way, is merely level 39 or so, a good chunk of that being a level 20 scroll of experience. I have pretty much never ventured beyond Brisban Wildlands with him in PvE. I barely knew how all his weapons operate. Still can’t tell you without reading the tooltips what a good chunk of them do, as opposed to say, knowing by heart guardian or necro skills and able to play them on sheer muscle memory.

Knowing full well my lack of ranger ability, my expectations of success didn’t so much lower as become nonexistent.

This turned out to be remarkably FREEING.

Y’see, there were two ‘meta’ builds available on Metabattle.

Like a masochist, I avoided the obvious easy one – ie. Power Ranger. I’ve seen that one in action. They stay back, snipe a lot and are terribly annoying, but aren’t terribly helpful on control point capture unless they really know the map and have mastered positioning well. I figured I could experiment with it another time.

The other was Condition Survival. Gee, that sounds a bit like my necro. Stack bleeds, be bunker-y, seemed like familiar ground to go with.

So I faithfully copied the meta build, barely understanding what eveything did, slowly reading each skill and trait as I slotted it in.

OK, I said, for my first few matches, I am not even trying to win, I am just going to figure out how it all works and gels together.

(As for why I didn’t do it in hotjoin, don’t make me laugh. The amount of side switching and stacking means you never get 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 matchups that really stress test your build – all you normally get is zerg or be zerged. Also, I was keen on seeing if the matchmaking was intelligent enough to detect that I was on a class that I’d never used in PvP before and match me with closer inexperienced equivalents.)

A few matches were actually won, but I suspect I had very little to do with those beyond the odd assist or two.

The bulk of it were losses as I ran around, noobing it up, seriously stress testing the survival abilities of the build while trying to figure out how to actually hurt anyone with it.

Survival was actually good, but I was fairly dismayed to only hit 6-10 bleeds on average on most people. I just couldn’t seem to get behind them enough, and their natural reaction is, of course, to face their opponent.

It must be my inexperience, I kept thinking, I just need to figure out the rotation and get better at execution. The only way to do it is practice. So keep pounding that Next Matchup button and keep going! Each loss is still 2% on the reward progression track!

And I had a more immediate improvement goal to keep my mind occupied and off the fact that most of the matches were losses. The goal: Get better at playing ranger. Actually progress to ‘passable’ and maybe even win a 1 vs 1 matchup.

(I was also supremely curious to see if the matchmaking would adjust, and see “oh, this fail ranger has lost like 8 matches in a row, let’s match him with equally horrific players…”)

It turns out that a losing streak makes it very hard to judge the quality of later matches, as the level of overall cooperation from players on your team seems to drop as well. (Makes a certain amount of sense that soloists who can’t seem to figure out map mechanics or the fact that control points are important for score would be in a lower bracket.)

What ended up deciding which team would win seemed to merely be luck of the draw, as in, which side had more randomly sorted players who understood teamwork slightly better than the other team.

Eventually, the streak of losses got to me and I actually paused to think, rather than just hitting the ‘Unranked’ button and leaping right into the next match.

I was aware that I wasn’t playing at a similar level as I could have on my usual necro. I just wasn’t winning 1 vs 1s consistently enough. Hell, I just didn’t seem to be doing any significant damage in any fight. 5-6 bleeds is nothing.

I knew from prior fights with the necro that I’d encountered a lot more dangerous condition rangers who could stack 18+ bleeds with seeming ease, tossing them on even as you cleared them.

Maybe I’m just not getting the movement and rotations of condi survival correct, I thought. Maybe I should check if there are high-level PvP pros whose movements I can try to emulate more. So I googled for “condition survival ranger.”

Turns out it wasn’t a terribly popular build and I couldn’t really find videos of anyone using it at a very high level (might be just my google fail)… but I did find one video which suggested some condi survival variants that weren’t at all traited like the one I found on Metabattle.

Hrm…

Maybe, just maybe, I should stop assuming that I am too much of a noob with ranger to tweak a build and actually take some time to -read- my other traits and try to craft a build (or at least tweak the meta variant more to my liking) like what I did for my necro?

Problem 1: I am simply not getting enough bleeds onto my opponents.

The video I found suggested two solutions. Sharpening Stone the utility skill, as well as Keen Edges – a trait in the Power line that fires off a Sharpening Stone when someone hits 75% threshold… You know what, I don’t have enough bleeds… I’ll take both.

What to give up? At my low level of play, I wasn’t facing enough condi pressure to really worry about having my pet take all my condis… besides I rather not have my pet dead all the time. I’m already running a trait that clears 2 condis with each Survival skill used. So I just pressed the “subtract” button twice and added 2 to the Power line to pick up Keen Edges.

As for the utility skill, I just didn’t think I was using Signet of Stone appropriately at my level of play. Being invulnerable to damage is nice, for both me and my pet, but if I’m getting focused to the point that I need to pop it, it’s like a 4 vs 1 fight because all my other teammates have already died. Not very useful ultimately. So what the hell, less toughness, more pewpew. Bleeds, anyway.

Problem 2: I just can’t seem to figure out how to operate this stupid dagger offhand.

Pressing 5 may or may not land some miserable amount of bleeds on a player. I couldn’t ever seem to get close enough to land dagger 4 properly. Not that a bit of poison seemed to be doing that much either.

Well, Metabattle also suggested a torch offhand variant. Maybe I’ll try that. Seems to be some burning, and a fire field. Fire fields are always good, I could maybe shoot through it for more burning or something…

Problem 3: I am just not getting any mileage whatsoever out of this stupid spider. I lose track of it more than half the time, it never seems to immobilize when I want it to, or be in range when I need it to be.

The wolf was ok. It acted like how I expect a ranger pet to act, running into melee range, getting into people’s faces, and I actually managed to set off its fear once or twice.

So… eff the spider. New pet.

I really have no clue here… but you know what? I need more bleeds! And I’ve seen my guild leader (who mains a ranger) use birds before! They do decent slashy slashy damage, I think!

So I looked through the whole stable of pets and found a hawk with lacerating slash for even moar bleeds.

And because I really wanted a theme going here and wasn’t getting much mileage out of the Sigil of Doom’s poison anyway, I put a Sigil of Earth (60% chance of bleeding on crit) and a Sigil of Geomancy (apply bleed to anyone near you on weapon swap) on BOTH weapons.

If I sit on a weapon and autoattack, I want it to apply bleeds.

If I swap a weapon, you got it, it’s gonna bleed anyone near me – maybe I’ll -actually- get it to land on someone now that I don’t have to remember which weapon to which weapon switch applied the bleed. (Dat’s too high level for me.)

The difference, when I got back to queuing for matches, may not have been night and day, but it was certainly more like dawn with clear skies versus a depressing foggy London evening.

Suddenly, I was stacking anywhere from 10-18+ bleeds.

Apparently, people panic when they suddenly get too much bleeding on them and turn away from you, causing even more bleeds to stack.

The amount of bleeding I was putting out was giving me a LOT more confidence to dive in and take on 1 vs 1s (or even 1 vs 2s), allowing my 900 range shortbow and axe to connect more consistently, and even get into near melee range to land guess what, even more bleeds, and here, have some cover condis like chill and cripple to boot.

I got braver and launched more Entangle elites, and discovered that torch was in fact a dream weapon. The fire field appeared to do a decent amount of damage to already wounded inviduals. Not only did it make thieves more reluctant to close in and melee when a circle of fire erupts under their feet, I could basically recreate a City of Heroes fire tank farming scenario where they would immobilize a bunch of mobs and then place a bonfire on them.

This created a catch-22 situation where my opponent first had to deal with the distraction of getting a ton of bleeds, then suddenly halted in their tracks with a Binding Roots entangle (which they’d either have to break, or react fast enough with an appropriate condi clear or movement skill) and while they were still trying to execute that, here’s a bonfire merrily ticking away under their stationary self to worry about too.

Not many get out of this without falling over downed.

Also, I could just dump a fire field on demand onto a thief’s shadow refuge, where previously I’d lose target and look around helpless, or drop a fire field on a downed person to keep them down while messing around with a second player.

The bird, meanwhile, seemed to be a decent enough distraction that got in people’s faces and chased them around, so that was good too.

I started winning a decent number of 1 vs 1s – which in my book, is a good enough basic yardstick to measure a build against and not find it wanting.

This then means that if I wander over to a point where a 1 vs 1 is already taking place, I can expect to actually apply enough pressure to quickly down the opponent, instead of getting bogged down forever in a useless 2 vs 1 fight in which we lose pretty much every second that person keeps two people occupied playing with him and not killing him.

Again, queuing for matches became interesting, regardless of the final result.

As I kept playing, I started developing a bit of a theory of sPvP matches. Imo, some games are just lost games, where the other team is patently more organized and better than your team.

If you get out-rotated from the beginning, where someone just barges into your home point and successfully prevents a fast capture of that point, while his team caps their home unmolested, and the teamfight at mid is being held off equally, or worse, actually LOST by your team, you pretty much know that your team cannot match theirs in a teamfight.

(There was one highly memorable and embarrassing match where I actually managed to lose a 1 vs 1 on home against an ele, while watching our invader to their home lose his fight to the home defender, and then got to watch the 3 in the middle wipe within split seconds of each other. Result: 5 people respawning, 3 control points in the other team’s favor. WELL. So much for that match.)

For whatever reason, I totally don’t mind it when I’m on my ranger.

It’s like the ranger has been designated in my mind as my ‘play for fun’ PvP character. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have high expectations on a ranger I have zero PvE experience with. Maybe it’s just that he’s a roly poly asura and you can never be serious while an asura cavorts around on your screen.

I just chalk it up as, ok, forget the match result, time to wander off to a point that doesn’t have anyone and hope I draw 1 or 2 opponents to practice my 1 vs 1 or 1 vs 2 skills on. These give me little mini-successes, even if the match is a total wash in terms of score.

If I do end up drawing 3 or 4, then urm, practice like hell my juking and dodging and evading and running around obstacles and rolling off from heights and changing the Z axis as much as possible before I die horribly. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually help my team get some score elsewhere. (If the team really sucks, then usually not.)

But in general, I’m feeling the tide shift back to a more balanced 50/50 win-loss ratio, and that suggests I’ve actually managed to get the build to a point where it’s no longer a detriment to the team.

And some days, the shoe is on the other foot. This was a patently won match, where everyone on the team
And some days, the shoe is on the other foot. This was a patently won match, where everyone on the team was winning their matchups consistently against their opponents. I ended up running sentry circles around the outside of the clock tower – a place I’ve never really had opportunity to go to before – just watching the fights at both ends – having frightened away 3 individuals from coming back to mid with 1 vs 1 kills – feeling like rotating to any other point would just be too much salt in the wound.

All that match repetition while learning the ranger has also caused me to look upon sPvP as something akin to a TF2 match or any other FPS match, where you just play and restart, play and restart, some you win, some you lose.

The Unranked category is a real godsend for me as I can treat matches this way without worrying that my carefree, casual attitude is fucking up someone’s leaderboard ranking.

The amount of toxicity that I’ve seen is also pretty low.

Haven’t had any whispers directed at me yet (though I’d pretty much just block and ignore, since I staunchly say a total of zero words in PvP all the time. Typing equals can’t fight, y’know?)

Generally, the only thing I’ve seen is a couple people passively-aggressively venting about a miserable team over map or teamchat. (Since they are no doubt part of the problem, I can’t really take their complaints seriously. 😛 Just bad losers being bad losers.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, looking to score just -one- kill so that I at least look semi-dangerous, or a decent enough challenge.)

GW2: A Very Merry Leisurely Wintersday

Merry Wintersday One and All!

With Ascended Armor and multiple balance changes hitting us in the Dec 10 patch, not to mention two Living Story tabs of achievements, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’d go into some sort of OCD panic.

On the contrary, I feel rather relaxed and happy.

I’m sure the primary reason for this is the Living World 2013: Year in Review post, where we learn that:

a) The anticipated earthshaking story arc finale won’t hit us in December after all, but undergo at least one more month of polish and development time

b) The first update of 2014 won’t hit us until Jan 21

Yep, no Scarlet as the Grinch during Wintersday!\o/

What if... Scarlet was responsible for creating Ascended armor? (No, no, we're just not going there...)
What if… Scarlet was responsible for creating Ascended armor? (No, no, we’re just not going there…)

Furthermore, more polish on the updates can only be a good thing.

The storytelling of Queen’s Jubilee and Tower of Nightmares wasn’t -too- bad, for example, when they appeared to have time to lovingly polish stuff up, while the hack job of the Thaumanova story mode needs to be taken out the back and shot.

(If you actually do the fractal proper, there’s only Dessa’s voice for example, rather than an incoherent and unrecognizable chorus of altered speech.)

At least -try- to do the damn finale justice, eh?

Cinematic cutscenes are definitely a winner where storytelling is concerned.
Fer instance, cinematic cutscenes are definitely a winner where storytelling is concerned.

It would be a terrible letdown after stringing us along for a year if another hack job was done on the storytelling and narration.

The character snippets and knowledge-dropping in The Nightmare is Over aftermath aren’t too shabby though:

Quaggan thinks quaggan is in looOooOve! (dawwww)
Quaggan thinks quaggan is in looOooOve! (dawwww)

Also, I guess that means we have at very least three weeks and possibly up to six weeks to frolic in the Wintersday snow and deal with the aftermath of the tower collapse in Kessex Hills.

Which is a tremendously freeing thought.

The smorgasbord of activities that I could be doing in Guild Wars 2 has increased (Nightmare living story? Wintersday activities? Fractals? Dungeons? Tequatl? WvW? Work on an Ascended something? Experiment with new builds? Earn gold towards a gem shop luxury? Craft? Gather? Farm? Level a new character? Actually PvP for gold and rank?) but the time pressure has not correspondingly ramped up.

This is how I like my MMOs. Full of lateral progression options, so I won’t get bored of doing the same old one thing to death, but with stuff to do and no obligation to rush.

Oh, I’m sure certain hardcore fractal and WvW types are all about trying to eke out that tiny stat gain of advantage over others, and they might be feeling the pressure of all those slots to fill with Ascended stuff, but well, if that’s how they like to play the game, all power to them.

As long as it doesn’t become -necessary- for everyone else to do the same just to play the game. (I don’t think the culture will progress that far that fast, not until at least one more year has gone by.)

In fact, I’d say that where fractals and agony resistance is concerned – something I personally hate the concept of, incrementing a tiny stat that limits how high you can go – the addition of more slots has increased the options for how to get sufficient AR. Versatile simple infusions are cheap and go anywhere.

Fractal level being account bound finally allowed me to take my dungeon warrior into level 18+ fractals where my first badly built guardian bogged down. I finally crossed into the level 20 level range, where infusing rings for cheap and adding on further AR via all those +1 AR infusions that drop out of every fractal end chest was now another viable option.

I suppose I will get Ascended armor at some point, but probably later than sooner. I’m more of a fan of being flexible with multiple sets of exotic armor than pigeonholed into one role and build. But zerker heavy couldn’t hurt, given how many heavy armor classes I play.

To my surprise though, one month of salvaging nearly everything in my inventory in the search for magic find has granted sufficient gossamer and orichalcum to get my armorsmith up to 500 without -too- much expenditure.

I am now also sitting on strange stats like a set of Asssassin’s, Giver’s, and Celestial armor because I had extra T6 mats for those. I suppose since I have them now, it might be fun to experiment with them for a while to feel the stat differences firsthand. They can be salvaged later for dark matter, it’s not like they’re worth anything on the TP at the moment. Now just to figure out if I should try them out on a guardian or a warrior…

Whatever. These are month long goals. They don’t have to be rushed by tomorrow, or before the fortnight is out.

(I have a sob story about 11 days of fractals – some days double or triple runs – with no volcanic fractal to complete the Fractured Living Story tab. Only on the 12th day was RNG kind to me…)

It’s time to enjoy Wintersday.

five copper hilarity
Best five copper spent. Ever.
dolyak distraction
Dolyak clone distraction!

GW2: Wintersday 2012

I’m pretty much thoroughly enjoying this Wintersday event. It’s a massive improvement over Lost Shores. (With just one teeny tiny niggling exception, but we’ll get to that later.)

Shall I count the ways?

Aesthetics

I logged in from my extended break in the Heart of the Mists and was immediately taken with the festive snowy decorations of the PvP lobby.

Zoning into Lion’s Arch from there led to paroxysms of delight and immediate /sleeping fits of impulsive screenshot-taking. Anet completely nailed that wintry wonderland atmosphere.

Winter Wonderland Jumping Puzzle

Speaking of which, the difficulty level of the jumping puzzle was dialed back a notch. For which I am extremely grateful.

Awesomely amazing look too
Awesomely amazing Wintery look

The wider platform and three different random starting points did help to reduce some of the initial crowd chaos. I also liked the possibility of different paths to get to the same place, just in case a particular jump is just defeating you. (I was developing superstitious dread of the snowman path’s candy canes for a while there.)

The overall time limit was also less soulcrushingly pressurizing than the Mad King’s Clock Tower. There was enough time for a half-second breathing room between jumps, or a second or two of recovery should one almost screw up a jump.

The drawback of extending the time limit, of course, is the additional wait time should one flub a jump near the very beginning. But I personally think the two design decisions made there quite helped to ease the pain of the wait.

The snowballs give the easily bored and frustrated something to remain active doing. Even if it’s just flinging ineffective snow at large Charr wearing spiky armor. I attracted a few of those at the start. Much preferable and more in-game immersive somehow than a player spewing vitriol over chat at you. I also like that it’s opt-in. I rarely do. So very quickly their attention is distracted by other people who have chosen to pick up the snowballs and thus enter into the game. And they are thus promptly diverted into a mini snowball knockdown duel of effectively consenting parties.

As for those who don’t choose the aggressively competitive route? Well, you can watch other people’s progress on the jump puzzle. It can be a good learning opportunity as you watch how other people handle jumps, and help you plan your next attempt. It gives you a sense of what to expect next from a more big picture view than clinging with your claws to the next platform. And depending on your personality, you can either feel cooperative success at people making their jumps, or cackle with schadenfreude delight when they miss one, fall and end up appearing next to you.

Somewhere between 5-10 tries at the puzzle, I made it to the end. Which seems more reasonable a difficulty setting than the previous one which took 3 solid hours of plugging away at it.

Returning later to repeat it led to finding a lot more ways to fall than before, but I was also able to get there in the end for the reset daily. I’m probably never going to be good enough to nail it on repeat runs, but I don’t at all begrudge those who can and find it a profitable way to farm up giant wintersday gifts. I like the idea of skill-based rewards, as long as the lower rungs still remain accessible to most/all.

Gingerbread celebrations are more sinister amidst a roasting Charr in a firepit (or a Khornate demon summoning)
Gingerbread celebrations are more sinister amidst a roasting Charr in a firepit (or a Khornate demon summoning)

Bell Choir

Instead, I’ve been spending a heck of a lot of time in this activity. And I foresee a good many more profitable hours of 4 personalized gifts per 8-10 minutes in here.

Love does not begin to describe how much I enjoy this. It’s fun. It’s low-stress and not pressurizingly important, per se. It allows individual players to jump in and out at leisure and work on improving themselves. And it addresses an often ignored part of MMOs – music systems. (I’ve written about that before.)

I see the choir bells and the ability to play notes and I keep flashing back to LOTRO, their musical instruments and glory of glories, Weatherstock.

It would be mind blowingly fantastic if Guild Wars 2 manages to smooth out the kinks and introduce more portable musical instruments throughout next year, because it’s tools and toys like this that lead to some amazing player-created content and events.

Of course the first attempts at Guitar Hero Guild Wars 2 style led to some personal hilarity. One cannot coordinate at all when your 6-9 keys are bound to Z, X, C, V and attempting to play all 8 notes with one hand. 🙂 Several flailing attempts later, with mistimed mouse-controlled hail marys of frenzied clicking at the 6-9 buttons, I retreated out of the ring to rebind and put back 6-9 as secondary alternate keys.

From there, it was just a matter of some patience, some experimentation and rereading of instructions to determine the appropriate timing to press keys (when the notes hit the blue circle, ie. about to cross the white line), and muscle memory learning.

I found the melody (middle part) was my favorite part to play. I just do a little better when I’m controlling how the main tune of the song is supposed to go, rather than risk listening to someone else possibly do it badly and unrhythmically, while attempting to ‘harmonize’ with what the game expects the music to be. To me, it’s just slightly more tricky than the lower part / lower harmony, which I find is possibly the easiest of the three to play and score well. I screw up the most notes with the upper harmony, though it’s a good change when one is bored but still wants to repeat the activity.

Nitpicks are that the game does arbitrarily lag in spurts sometimes, and the notes seem to disappear off the board and you have to give it your best estimate of when they’ll hit the blue circle. Those tend to lead to missed notes and shattered scores across all the players. But on the whole, the game generally behaves.

I also appreciate that the maximum reward of 4 personalized gifts is not that impossibly hard to reach. I think by the time I crossed the 400s mark or thereabouts, I was getting those, and the festival achievements were also attained quite easily. By now, I tend to play at the 550+ range, and my highest score so far was 592. But I think it would go against the fun spirit of the event to put something insanely desirable as the top prize and ‘force’ people to go through an activity they don’t like. Pressuring people to play music seems…wrong, somehow.

Still, it’s not easy getting 600, and I probably will still try for the intrinsic sake of it. Nor would I mind the unbreakable bell as a perfect score 600 prize. 😛 It seems fitting. The only people who’d care for the toy are those who consider themselves musically-inclined in the first place. (As contrasted with say, a piece of exotic gear or a desirable mini as a top prize.)

Snowball Mayhem

Interesting minigame. I mainly joined it to get the achievements done. I like the idea of being able to select unique classes that are just relevant to that game. The lack of mobility of the heavy class seems to make that particular choice a little weaker, though I’ll grant that I have seen occasional effective play by heavies who help with middle position control by tying up the opposing team at the foot of their base or shielding a flag runner from frenzied opposition with their big bubble. The control options for support are quite hilarious, and effective.

But ultimately, I ended up going as scout to work on the achievements. Which can sometimes lead to play that’s counter to what would be sensible if one was playing capture the flag with the primary objective of team score.  Still, if you consider that in most team-based objective games, there’s a hefty part of players who are busy playing team deathmatch instead, one more bit of erratic achievement-seeking behavior doesn’t really matter.

The standard Reddit suggestion for running the flag is to go scout, use 5 for swiftness, grab swiftness boosts and try to be the first one at the flag to run it back. Or run with the flag bearer and hope he dies so you can pick up the flag and continue on.

I also found flag trading as an acceptable secondary option. *ahem* Basically, when the opposing team gets the flag, they run off to protect it on its way back, and your own team’s frenzied marauding hordes are also rushing headlong into snowball carnage. Which may or may not succeed in making them drop the flag. Instead, hover around the middle point for the next flag spawn. Either they score, in which case the flag returns. Or they drop the flag and the flag also resets in the middle. If you’re already there and grab the flag, you can be halfway to your spawn before the zerg at the other base can get to you.

Flag stopping was slightly more tricky, but after realizing the close-range shotgun effect of the scout skill 3 (great for finishing downed players too) and that scouts get bonus damage hitting people from behind, it was mostly a lot of 1 spamming, opportunistic sniping with 4, going invisible with 5 and speeding right up to a wounded flag carrier to shotgun him down with 3. And praying he doesn’t drop the flag before you down him. (While jumping back with number 2 is not exceedingly productive for catching up with a flag carrier, it does add a brief cripple, which isn’t stated in the tooltip help. That can be situationally useful.)

The downed skills are quite enjoyable. Between the ice that slips up anyone trying to get near you to finish you off, and the number 3 skill that freezes someone in place if you’re close enough (great for disrupting flag carriers for your teammates), one still feels effective from a control (as opposed to damage or support) standpoint.

Tixx’s Infiniarium

I like.

So far, I’ve managed to verify that it’s possible to solo both the Sylvari and Divinity’s Reach dungeons as a level 80. Just like the Mad King’s dungeon, it’s possible, but it will take you longer than going as a group of 5, which I think is a GREAT balance point between those who would prefer to do these things alone or in a small duo or trio, so as to go at their own pace and admire the scenery and talk to the NPCs and even smite every last tree in a diorama without making others impatient or having mobs trained onto you, and those who prefer the madcap speedrun chaos of a 5-man PUG who can also buffer some upleveled lowbies to successfully complete the event.

Aiieee, it's the Stay Puff Marshmallow Golem!
Aiieee, it’s the Stay Puff Marshmallow Golem!

For a moment in the Sylvari dungeon, I was worried that filling the tanks with balls of ooze from tar elementals had to be done simultaneously, as the ooze seemed to keep leaking out over time. (Or a skritt was stealing it, I dunno.) Fortunately, a bit of lateral thinking solved that problem, as I realized what a solo’er actually had to do was to pull and kill enough elementals in AoE fashion to load up the machines before giving it time to leak out.

I also had a heart-stopping moment in the Divinity’s Reach one as the golem Toxx kept healing to full as I tried to use my prior successful strategy (keep at range and plink away and wall of reflect.) Eventually, through a bit of guesswork and trial and error, I hypothesized that maybe someone had to be inside the reflect bubble rather than stay beyond range of getting hit. That meant me, since I was alone. Rolling into the bubble when it was put up worked fine and stopped it from healing.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few deaths from angry Ventari toys or damnable confuses from the Princess toys. But I’m okay with solo difficulty being higher, involving more skill and being more time-consuming. As long as it’s POSSIBLE.

I admit to a certain sense of dread that the impending Toy Apocalypse will probably not be soloable. Or how achievable surviving 50 waves of toys in a group is going to be. Possibly, that 50 wave one may not be too easy. The overall Wintersday achievement after all just needs 12 of 14 total, which suggests that there may have been some built in leeway for difficult achievements they don’t expect everyone to get. Guess we’ll see.

There’s been some unhappiness that we will only be able to make 2 of 5 miniatures from attending all the activities in-game and the rest will have to be supplemented with gems if one is a completionist.

I dunno. Honestly of all the monetization strategies, I think this is one of the least harmful while still being fairly effective at milking people of money. It’s a miniature. It’s a PRETTY miniature, yes. But it doesn’t have any in-game effect or unlevel the playing field between the haves and the have-nots. You will not be shoved out of parties or play more poorly if you don’t have all five miniatures.

All it does is leverage on the “gotta have it now, gotta complete my collection, or gotta show off” urge. If one cannot resist that temptation or cannot stand holes in a collection, they will pull out their wallets and be parted with their cash. Or their in-game gold buying gems. The most dedicated fanatics end up spending the most money to support the company. If you can resist the urge, or tell yourself that you can wait another year (assuming the event repeats, which we won’t know for sure) and generally deal with uncertainty and the prospect of not-having-everything in a game, then you don’t have to spend that money.

Collectors Screwed This Wintersday

Yeah. This was the niggling thing I said I’d mention earlier.

Crushed hopes and a stuffed quaggan plushie
Crushed hopes and a stuffed quaggan plushie

This month’s monetization experiment seems to be testing how many ways they can get rich collectors to spend untold amounts of money.

Gambling, lockboxes and lotteries for a small chance at winning something good is something Guild Wars designers have known how to do since their first game, if you really think about it. All their events have dropped bags which roll on random reward tables to give you stuff.

I still remember the year I decided I wanted a gold miniature for my Hall of Monuments points and decided to grind out as many Lunar Fortune bags as possible for a low chance at a celestial rabbit. I did eventually get one, but I played a heck of a lot more than I usually would have.

This Wintersday in GW2, the in-game grind looks to be for a chance at an Endless Tonic or the Unbreakable Bell or the Festivoo mini, with some decent toy skins and rare/exotic insignia recipes popping out as a consolation prize.

The gem store isn’t immune to this either, with the Wintersday chests providing a -chance- at other miniatures, which in turn, will let you forge Festivoo if you get three of the right kind.

This is a different approach from Halloween, which allowed one to buy a three pack of spooky miniatures straight off, and then another three pack if you wanted to forge the special mini.

Yes, the quaggan mini is the cutest thing yet. Yes, even I look at it and -want- it and feel an urge to possess it and have it running around next to me. But it’s just a mini and I find I resisted the urge for the spooky minis and I won’t be spending real money on these either. (I will, however, be playing the game quite intently to open as many Wintersday gifts as possible in the hope I get lucky.)

What would be interesting to compare, though the public will probably never get that data, would be how much money the truly dedicated crazies spend on their quest for Festivoo, as opposed to the number of people who just bought the pack and forged the Halloween ghost. It may be that there’s more money to be made milking the whales than expecting the bulk of the population to care.

(Then again, Steam and things like the Humble Bundle make a lot of money milking the long tail by letting a lot of people spend a small amount to get a good bargain. Perhaps Guild Wars 2 might do this later, years or months later, after the must-have-it-now-and-will-pay-a-premium craze has run its course?)

Mysterious Presents

I wonder how many people realize this part of Wintersday exists?

This seems to be an interesting way to get level 80s out roaming that part of the countryside that ISN’T Orr again.

I haven’t checked every zone, but it seems from Mount Maelstrom and lower, there are Mysterious Presents dotted around the landscape and respawning at a good clip. Opening these as a level 80 gives a decent chance at a Giant Wintersday gift, and maybe one or two other varying level-appropriate sizes from extra presents or dropped by the mobs that spawn.

While I haven’t accumulated 250 Giant gifts, I’ve opened enough to get the monthly done, and score the two exotic Giver’s recipes, which saves me from needing to buy those off the vendor. (Good that there’s an alternate option for those chronically unlucky though.)

I’ll probably keep at it in the hope of getting lucky with the odds and having something truly rare pop out of the bags. Along the way, there’s stuff to harvest and mobs to kill and pop stuff too.