GW2: The Avalanche Has Already Started

One moment of perfect beauty

And it is too late for the pebbles to vote.

Take a break for two weeks to write, and it appears Isle of Janthir will not last until the WvW update.

Well, that’s that.

To be honest, I felt an urge to move some time ago, but felt a certain obligation to stay while ND was still around, because those guys are inspirational. I loved their siege, their tactics and the force they could bring. If/once ND leaves, I told myself, nothing holds me back from transferring off to check out other servers.

(No offense to any other IoJ guilds, my prediction was simply that if/when ND left, IoJ WvW would take a gigantic hit.)

The reality is even worse now, uA and AVTR, the other Oceanic time stalwarts have also left. Plus a string of assorted guilds. Followed by TL also bailing out the sinking ship.

With free transfers ending by next week, the impetus to move around has hit pretty much everyone. I’m no exception and I find myself trying to plan and choose a new server.

The WvWers may not realize it, but IoJ PvE hasn’t been that rocking either since Wintersday. I figure this is simply attrition and boredom (I mean, I haven’t been online either) but consolidation of any existing population makes sense. Full servers are simply more fun than empty ones.

I find myself torn between two potential choices, Tarnished Coast or Sea of Sorrows, and the last choice of yielding to inertia and staying on Isle of Janthir (at least until free transfers end and we see the price of paid ones.)

Sea of Sorrows would be the pragmatic, maximum utility option. It’s the other Oceanic server, it’s bound to have crowds in my timezone. It probably has TONS because they’re currently number 1 in WvW rankings, and my countrymen love nothing better than not-losing and being number 1 – even if they don’t do anything but ride on coattails for it. ND has gone there, which is going to shore up whatever considerable WvW population is already there.

Downside, WvW queue times wouldn’t be great. But then I’m not a serious WvWer anyway, if I just want the WvW bonuses, it makes practical sense to flock to a winning server.

Thing is, I’m… just not terribly keen on joining the masses. The image I have of the average Sea of Sorrows occupant (which is purely imaginary, mind you, and may be way off base) is that of an Achiever/Killer in Bartle terms. Highly competitive, focused on goals like winning, amassing loot and gold, running plenty of dungeons in the fastest way possible and nevermind a few exploits here and there, spelling and full sentences optional, voicecomm all the way. A hardcore WoW raider type, possibly. People from the Freedom server, for those City of Heroes players who might recognize the analogy. It’s a very common player type.

I could play like that for a while. But I don’t really derive maximum fun out of it.

Tarnished Coast, on the other hand, has the “RP server” brand name. RP servers tend to attract the older, more mature crowd who are generally more relaxed about game play. I love GW2 lore so much, it’s tempting to actually try roleplaying a little, and where best to do it but the RP server? Community on RP servers are typically very positive and long lasting – you couldn’t pry me away from Virtue on CoH with a crowbar, and my biggest regret of LOTRO was not going to Landroval or Brandywine. TC has been doing decently well in WvW, likely as a slow buildup of its community, it’ll probably keep hovering between T2 and T3 which are comfortable tiers for a casual.

The only thing I worry about is the size of the Oceanic community on Tarnished Coast. It’s never going to be as sizeable as Sea of Sorrows. It may be very comfortable in the NA timezone, but what is TC like during mine?

I suppose the only way to know is to go there and play for a while. If I manage a transfer within the next day or so, it is theoretically possible to transfer again (after 7 days have passed) before free world transfers end.

Getting those transfers in might be also a little tricky, with the two abovementioned servers reading as full, which may make my internal debate a moot point.

A strong argument in favor of inertia and not moving anywhere is the existence of my personal solo guild. It’s got a guild stash (with stuff in it I assume I have to clear out before moving,) a bunch of banners and the guild armorer unlocked. That’s a lot of influence to earn back for one person who’s not intending to play as crazily as during launch time.

Still, I don’t suppose it takes that long to clear out and hold temporarily on a character or two, and I’ll never know what the community is like on other servers if I don’t visit.

The other fancy alternative is to utilize the guesting option that will be coming. Presumably, I could guest on Tarnished Coast and enjoy the PvE community without ever needing to set foot in their WvW.

Then I could continue to hang out in Isle of Janthir and earn influence for my personal guild – assuming I don’t meet any guilds on TC that I get impressed by and want to join – and assume WvW as a lost cause. Which frankly, ain’t realistic and doesn’t bode well for my potential length of stay in GW2.

I could also coat-tail ride and hie myself to Sea of Sorrows, diving into their WvW there as I feel like it, and utilize both the PvE crowds on SoS via home server and TC via guesting.

Or I could do the exact opposite and make Tarnished Coast home, delving into their WvW, and guest on SoS if TC feels too deserted during my timezone.

Decisions, decisions.

I might just jump to the first of either server that doesn’t read “Full” in order to check out the real community there, instead of just imagining it in my head.

GW2: World, not Levels

I’ve hit level 40 now.

Do I feel like I’m halfway through the game?



Not in the slightest.

One thing I think all of us will have to remember in the coming days as more and more folks hit level 80 in under a month is that this is a Guild Wars game.

The original capped you at level 20 and you could probably hit that in under a week of normal play (or a day or two of more intense play, probably a couple hours if you were really trying, no doubt.)

Hitting the level cap does not signify the end of the game. Nor does it signify the beginning of the ‘real’ game.

More and more, I begin to think that levels are just a familiar crutch that gives players used to other MMOs the feeling that they are making progress, and serves as more or less a periodic jackpot style intermittent reward “ding” to tell the player  “Good job, have a cookie!”

I am given to understand, though I might be mistaken, that even after you hit the level cap of 80, you will still continue to get your level ding and earn skill points to eventually buy stuff that costs an exorbitant amount of skill points. Or something along those lines, so there’s always a goal to strive toward.

(Perhaps we will hit the point just like in Guild Wars 1 where I know my main character has gotten lots of levels and has plenty of skill points to buy stuff with, but I really couldn’t care less about them. The only thing some players kept asking for then in GW1 was an overall count for the sake of e-peen comparison, sort of a /played of 9000 hours over your 1932 hours, but a “ha, I’m total level 574 versus your total level 232,” I think.)

Anyway, Levels 32-38 flew by while messing around with World vs World vs World stuff, and after catching up with my personal story that I paused at level 30, I was level 40 in an eyeblink.

And also thrown into some confusion because the neat chain of hearts I was dutifully completing (and point of interest visiting and vista viewing) is now broken. I left off somewhere in Gendarran Fields doing level 30ish stuff and where the heck should I be going now?

This distance away from obediently following along like a WoW sheep from appropriately leveled zone to zone doing appropriately leveled quests has suddenly made things rather clear.

Guild Wars 2 is a world, and I can actually wander in it like one.

I don’t have to feel compelled to 100% complete every zone until I feel like it, because frankly, I’m 80% done with the Gendarran Fields zone and while OCD is screaming at me to just finish it up, the personal story in the level 20-40 range has pretty much flung me out of my comfort zone following one linear path and into way more zones than I can fathom 100% completing on my way to level 80.

I went to a snowy Norn zone, passing Hoelbrak along the way (Two zones to explore, count ’em, two!) I was sent for a stopover in the Gendarran Fields, where I already had a convenient waypoint. (10-20% left, not counting the crypt that I explored in beta but haven’t found folks to do it yet on live. Nor have I done the Loreclaw jumping puzzle in Plains of Ashford yet.) Then went to Divinity’s Reach via Lion’s Arch and ended up in the Fields of Ruin. (Three more zones, aieeeee.)

That’s three cities and two entire zones, both of which I have already sheepishly “outleveled” though of course, I can still wander in and play without bothering because of the unnoticeable downleveling.

If I try to complete each zone I was exposed to in order, I fear I’ll hit level 80 while still messing about in a level 40 zone…

I think it’s very smart and cunning design of the personal story. It starts out all linear and comfortable to hold your “used to traditional MMO” hand, then come the branching choices and before you know it, you’re traveling across half the countryside, flung into Lion’s Arch and other races’ cities and the world has broadened immensely to the point where one just stands stunned in Lion’s Arch wondering, what the heck I should do now? I could do… anything! Should I go here or there first? Should I just stay here and craft? Or go WvWvWing?

The Fields of Ruin and the city or town of Ebonhawke are particularly interesting for proactive NPCs that flag you down and ask for your help. Or maybe I’ve just started taking notice of them. (There was at least one such NPC in the Plains of Ashford too.) It’s too easy to run by, focused on what you’re doing in traditional MMO style and ignore all NPCs as unimportant background chatter. Then a “hey, over here, I need your help!” and an emoted beckon finally catches your attention, and if you deign to go up and talk to the NPC, you’ll trigger a Dynamic Event or find out where to go to find one. If you ran right by, well, yeah, no Dynamic Event for you.

It looks like ArenaNet is on to something here. The road to level 80 for any of your characters is not going to be the exact same thing twice – not unless you choose to repeat it. We’re all going to have at least a slightly different experience as we go through the game. Yes, there will still be commonalities and the same hearts and the more common DEs on repeat loop, and you can repeat the same DEs and visit the same reward chests daily if that floats your boat, but if you don’t want to, then well, don’t.

Go somewhere different. Wander. Gather. Craft. PvP. WvW. Do a dungeon. Follow your personal story. You’ll still get to level 80 in the end.

Personally, I am so spoiled for choice that I am almost paralyzed with indecision and end up playing inventory tetris trying to figure out what next.