GW2: I Hate Dying, So I Got Better (Or How I Learned to Love the Zerg in WvW)

Always follow your commanders, until they lead you off cliffs...

I’m allergic to dying.

Well, in my games anyway, I don’t like being defeated and being laid flat out on the floor face-down.

This is possibly why I’m partial to tanks, their sturdiness and overall unkillability. I’m happy to protect others with my survivability, but by god, when push comes to shove and people start falling over, I want to be one of the last few standing. It’s led to a couple of truly heroic moments of saving the day too.

It’s also a potential weakness. A side helping of powergaming perfectionism, mixed in with high self-expectations that I am a virtual hero and am not meant to lose.

Somehow, I see dying as a personal failure. I did something wrong. I am inferior in my gameplay. I am so embarrassed at my poor performance. It is the end of the world.

PvPers and WvWers tend to scorn this as a PvE mentality.

In every 1 vs 1 PvP match, there’s one winner and one loser. 50/50 odds that you may be the one on the ground. For them, it mostly seems to be just a simple way of keeping score. +1 point to them, +1 point to me, whatever, keep trying to get better until you skew the points in a slightly >50% win/loss ratio fashion.

WvW people will point out that there are perfectly good situations in which one may very well die.

I’m completely on board with the team-based objective parts. Contesting circles to delay an objective capture so that your team racing over can ruin the other side’s day? Abso-fucking-lutely. I’ll do it without hesitation, rolling around like a manic asura, and cackle most evilly when they chase me for the crucial tens of seconds and then join my comatose body on the ground when the cavalry rides in. Still a win.

Contest circles when no one is coming to save the day? Well… maybe. It’s still a good habit to develop for overall server culture, helping PPT and score minutely, and on the off-chance that enough reinforcements may arrive. It still demonstrates defiance to the opposing team. I can more or less buy it, though I may not run as fast to the circle.

I’m perfectly all right with the occasional can’t-do-anything-about-it situations when you’re ambling along in WvW, round a corner and an unanticipated zerg 300-3000% the size of your group just rolls right over you like a minor speedbump.

Gee. Did anyone get the number of that truck? No? Oh well. Report in mapchat the last headed direction and estimated size of whatever the hell that was. Respawn and dust yourself off.

But when I read about people being confused in zerg fights and dying repeatedly and not enjoying themselves, I cry a little inside.

I know who you are.

You are the disorganized militia that organized guild groups run over.

The 40-50 individuals who happen to be somewhat going in the same direction and who get split in half by our outnumbered group of 20-30 and then steadily whittled down because every individual is making one of those “fight or flight” decisions for themselves and whose group morale is really easy to break and send fleeing for their lives.

I’ve been there.

When I started playing WvW, I was a loner who would most often be found in our territory, grimly speed-boosting yaks with an OCD determination (ask Eri!), watching with a certain envy the guild groups and commander tags swirling around on the frontlines but reluctant to approach for fear of not being welcome.

In Isle of Janthir’s particular server culture, near the beginning of the game, guilds tended to be more clannish and stick themselves to themselves, PUG militia were not terribly welcome and I was too nervous to be thick-skinned about things.

Fights I had actually had a chance of winning tended to be 1 + yak (+ preferably guard) vs inexperienced thief.

Woe betide me if the thief actually knew what they were doing, or had a friend. Or two. *sobs*

Let’s not even speak of the guild groups (we call them havoc squads now) that would now and then rush in to decimate the supply camp and either murder me or force an ‘abandon yak’ situation.

Then as more people started being able to afford commander tags (rather than just the hardcore guild leaders who were fed money by their guild members,) doritos gradually became more open to the idea of any and all militia following them around.

Safety in numbers and all that, y’know? When in doubt and not a tactical genius, bring more people.

The usual not-very-well-led zerg is identifiable from certain characteristics. They are spread out, each member acting more as a sort of skirmisher, prefering to stay at the longest range possible and plink away, with self-preservation as a key priority.

If two such zergs meet, what usually results is a stalemate. Each side stares at each other across a no man’s land, exchanging the longest range attacks they have, to very little effect. They could be there for hours if nothing interrupts them.

You can also find a similar bogged-down situation near keep gates, when no one has remembered to bring any siege, but are still trying to autoattack fortified gates to death regardless.

Trust me, been there. I couldn’t describe it otherwise.

I was in a casual guild on the Isle of Janthir (who carried their lack of tactical sense as a reputation that lasted long after I left the guild and the server – facing them on the side of TC was a bit of a laugh, we were a lot more wary of another far more effective guild) and I still am in a semi-casual semi-hardcore guild that has its moments of genius… good and bad.

Such zergs offer safety when encountering small collections of individuals, but are -very- often rolled by organized guilds – that can be either bigger (if they’ve drawn in militia to them as well) or even numbers or mind-bogglingly, smaller in size.

I can’t help it. I HATE DYING.

My mind immediately begins working overtime trying to figure out why this was happening – what do they have that we don’t? Is it all just a matter of specialized builds and practice and being on voice chat together? Is it just that they outnumber us and so they win?

I had the fortune of being in the right place at the right time to bridge the understanding gap.

One of the marvels of TC is how guilds in general are very open to working with each other and the militia.

Perhaps in more recent times, there’s been more closing of the ranks as people get tired of saying the same thing over and over again and just want to play and have fun, but there was a point where we had a large number of PUGmanders (said in the fondest sense of the word) very open to pulling in and training militia (before I think the 24/7 pressures started to burn them out.)

One of the best of them was, and still is, Jadon. (He of the lemmings over a cliff fame.)

At one point in time, he ran a series of trainings on the basics of zerg versus zerg combat for our server. He recorded it on his Twitchtv stream.

It’s been 8 months, the video is public and I suspect everyone hardcore already knows this stuff by now, so I feel it’s okay to share the link to all at this point.

If you’re ever confused about WvW and what’s happening during zerging and why you may be dying to groups that are more organized than you, I hope that you can spare the time to at least glance through the video, which is admittedly a little long and uncut.

It covers the basics of combo fields used in zerg fighting, and skills that are good for each class to bring in WvW.

The idea is really group synergy. By moving in a tight group near each other, everyone catches the benefit of buffs and heals being thrown around. Skills are chosen to benefit the group, not just oneself. Skills are chosen to more or less attack the other zerg as a group.

Tactics have gotten a touch more sophisticated since that point. Since survival is a factor in zerg clashes, gear is chosen for sturdiness. Soldiers or PTV gear is often recommended. Classes and builds that benefit from healing power are well-advised to investigate gear with that stat as an option.

Catching the other zerg with one’s AoE attacks becomes important – so control like elementalist’s static fields and hammer warriors that stun are often used.  Variants range from having a few skirmishing berserkers (thieves, elementalists, etc.) dart in and out of the zerg to take out prime targets of opportunity and necromancers and other classes that paint on conditions are pretty popular these days too.

More tactical commanders make use of terrain and ancient art of war strategies to phenomenal effect. Chokepoints remain the same meat grinders in a game as they do in real life. Feinting a charge, faking a retreat and reversing, all are tactics used in an attempt to trick the other party into committing to a fight, spending all their attacks (skills on cooldown) and only then beginning your own attack.

Militia are hopelessly easy to catch out with these tricks.

Unwary, unknowingly, they die.

The organized group does this because attrition is the beginning of the end. If we kill 3 with one pass, and all of us remain upright, the opposing team is down by three people. Another pass, another three people go down.

It doesn’t have to be a lot each time. But these weaker links help to rally any downed on our side AND have an insidious effect on morale on the other side.

A self-interested individual looking on sees downed arrows on his team, and a swirling red mass of uncountable names (no one said everyone was great at estimating numbers on each side properly, red names always look more scary and numerous) that move in a lot more organized unison in a killing wedge, and starts to think the better of remaining around.

He books it.

Other people on his team sees green dots moving away from the fight. Good lord, they don’t want to be the last ones hanging around here either.

Before you know it, it turns into a rout.

A little while later, the opposing side starts to recognize the guild tags coming toward them and morale is affected to the point that they start running even before an engagement begins.

Do I have a guaranteed solution for those caught on the losing side?

Alas, not really. In certain timezones, I’ve been there.

If leadership is lacking, I find there’s little point trying to throw oneself headfirst into a blender (unless you are with a group and are trying to train to get better together) and that it’s oftentimes more effective to cease head-on hostilities and initiate guerrilla warfare.

Nothing pisses off a zerg as much as a small group of people not really worth fighting that they can’t even catch.

Siege, supply traps, being in several places at once and forcing the zerg to choose one location to be in only are small ways to have minor victories when a big undefeated zerg is running roughshod all over your map.

Of course, the best defence is to build an even better zerg.

That can only happen if enough self-interested individuals buy into the idea and find a commander they want to follow though.

On the commander end, being open to militia who want to learn and being open to training the new, confused individuals who may eventually appreciate more levels of depth in WvW may be one way of developing enough effective zerglings in the long term.

On the individual end, it may all seem like a bit too much like work for something you just want to play casually. It’s a game, right?

Well, lemme appeal to your self-interested PvE sense of self-preservation. (I got one myself, it works great for me.)

Fix your build and your gear.

Take note of competent zerg commanders and do your best to be a valued member of their team. (Or at least, not someone they want to run away from.)

YOU DIE LESS.

YOU KILL MORE.

I, personally, have more fun when I’m the one standing on the corpses of my enemies and seeing them flee before me (or rather, the commander I’m supporting.)

Your mileage may vary.

Really, I benefit a lot more keeping all this to myself and having the vast majority clueless and disorganized when the zerg I’m in smashes right through them (WvW monthly done in one fight), but I just feel so dismayed that the majority of bloggers seem to have never tasted this thrill, except where a guild group just happens to be going in their same direction.

I wish and hope you’d all keep giving it a chance and not immediately write off WvW due to a few bad experiences.

May you one day find openminded guilds you can run with and commanders that lead you to glory:

Glorious victories and glorious “OMG so many of them RUN RUN Everyone for themselves, see you suckers, meet up at waypoint later” laughing retreats.

GW2: Don’t Be A Stranger – The Voice Debate in WvW

The faceless masses of low graphic settings... all these people I don't know...

Tobold asks the question of whether we have grown bored talking with strangers in our MMO and posits that it’s the reason behind the difficulty in getting back that “oldschool” community feeling more present in older games, where a certain forced reliance on others was more the norm.

At the same time, cakeboxfox launches into a lengthy diatribe against her server’s hardcore WvW community, which appears to have grown increasingly closeminded and elitist (or just super paranoid of spies) as competition pressures from the WvW league are coupled with the stress of dealing with PvE achievement hunters coming in completely new to WvW and possibly not interested in learning more about the game type.

One thing that catches the brunt of her anger at how insular and “srs bsns” the WvW guys on her server have become is the forceful pushing of Teamspeak (or other voice program) onto everyone in the map and the silence and non-communication over mapchat that follows.

One thing that does raise my eyebrow though, are the following interesting lines:

My parents taught me never to talk to strangers.

I don’t need to talk to anyone else on the online game as I’m talking to flatmate. I don’t play online in any other games, because I’ve realised, just like at Xmas, many people can only see their own goals, and you’re just a blur of pixels as they fly past looking for the next set of achievement points.

Team spirit seems to have died a little, despite having things like Teamspeak.

Now let me make something very clear.

I’m not a fan of voice chat.

Never have been.

In those tests of visual, audio, kinesthetic intelligence, I am a primarily visual person, followed by doing stuff to learn it, and if you tell me shit using your voice, I have apparently been trained over the decades by incessantly boring lecturers and a mother who never stops talking the moment I get into her vicinity to automatically fall asleep.

Failing which, I tune out. I’m physically, but not mentally there after fifteen minutes or so.

I’ve heard that the average attention span for lectures is only around 45 minutes anyway. (For me, it takes fairly herculean effort to get to that point if the speaker isn’t phenomenally talented.)

I don’t use a microphone.

I live in a household and a country whose culture tends to look cross-wise at people wearing headsets speaking to machines, eyes glued to a tv screen, “playing games” when one should be concerning themselves with “serious” and “mature” things becoming to one’s age like work, food, small talk, complaining about everything under the sun, playing the “I have a bigger car or house than you” Jones game and discussing the latest tv show or soap opera because that’s what everybody else does and one wants to blend in and fit with the crowd, no?

Suffice to say, no mic. It’s just not worth the long family debates it’ll raise over and over, and how little opportunity I’ll get to use a headset, when I could spend the same amount of money on a gaming mouse and get the full benefit from one.

The Tarnished Coast community gets into the Mumble or no Mumble debate every couple of months on the forum boards.

As is usual with our diverse and quirky and occasionally dysfunctional but generally civil and tolerant community, folks from all sides weigh in with their opinions. There’s always a couple extremists on either end who would love nothing better to force everyone to their way of thinking. There’s moderates who recognize the value of both options, text and voice, and try to mediate the potentially tense exchanges. There’s lurkers who simply roll their eyes and go “this again?” at the dead horse being beaten to the point that one can make a shepherd’s pie out of the mince that remains.

Someone will try to point that there’s very little point bringing all of it up again because everyone’s going to play their own way and that the best consensus that has only sorta kinda been reached is to reach out both ways. Folks listening in on Mumble to transcribe what the commander says in text, to help those who can’t get onto voice. Folks sitting on the fence about voice programs to be encouraged into Mumble by advertisements, that may anger those staunchly against the program, but that can’t be helped.

And then someone else will jump onto it and argue that no, it’s worth rehashing all this again because sweeping issues under the rug and pretending they don’t exist is not the way to resolve problems.

Yeah, well. That’s our erudite TC community for you. 🙂

The thread dies a natural or unnatural death (euthanasia by moderators may take place) after a while, and life in WvW goes on.

But here’s what I don’t get.

Maybe some of you can help me understand.

How do you complain about the quality of a community, in the same breath as saying that all these evil, selfish people are strangers to you and that you don’t want to talk to them, ever?

You’ve not even tried to participate in the community. You’ve just tarred and feathered them all with the same brush of imagined prejudice.

(Now if you have, and you’ve decided that the people in it have a culture that doesn’t match your preferences and that you want out, that’s different.)

We are all strangers to each other until someone extends a hand and says, “Hi.”

Maybe I’m just really lucky on the Tarnished Coast. Our community, by and large, is an amazing place.

Yes, there have been certain weeks and months that a guild has decided to be morons about Mumble.

There was a point in the past where my own guild was being fairly retarded about it – advertising like a drug pusher, failing to read map chat (AND GUILD CHAT, much to my disgust as I got run over by an opposing zerg while trying to scream for help and solo defend a tower when five other guildies were conducting a nonessential conversation about WvW builds in my ear and the zerg was off milling over there when we could have really used the help here) and then being tactically unsound and running us all into a meat grinder, pretty much destroying trust and morale in their commander tag and our guild rep to boot.

But you know, those are individual people.

Their attention span for text is plainly the same kind of attention span I have for audiobooks. Those situations are one-off and thankfully, not too habitually common. (Worse case scenario: I take off and go solo thieving by myself in a silent vote of no-confidence.)

I’ve met plenty of other people who are awesome at marrying voice and text. I listen, they talk. I type, they read. We manage a conversation fairly well, both making allowances for each other.

I run dungeons with the same guild that way, and did fine with TTS on their Teamspeak too.

There are commanders on the Tarnished Coast who do utterly stellar with keeping track of text reports from a variety of sources, while responding and commanding on Mumble. And some really crazy good-at-multitasking individuals manage to echo themselves with text at the same time.

Here’s my point.

How would I meet them if I didn’t just extend a hand across the gap as well, and download and install a quick program to give it a shot?

They’ve extended a hand. “You don’t need a mic,” they say.

Which suits me just fine. I can’t ever join those super-picky hardcore guilds where everyone must have a mic, 100% everything required…

Hell, I probably don’t even have the time to spare for those. They play the game their way, keeping away the hoi polloi, and I leave ’em to it, closed communities eventually die off or move on to the next game rather quickly.

If you want -some- kind of community though, why not take just a little bit of effort and try to join it?

Especially when following zerg commanders.

Here’s my line of thinking. You’ve chosen to follow them. You’ve given them a certain amount of trust and responsibility to lead you right. In the interests of playing well, and helping your team play well and not die horribly, why not plug in some earphones and get on whatever voice program they are using so as to hear where the zerg is moving next and survive better?

Maybe it’s hard for me to understand because I’m a bit of a compulsive problem-solver and optimizer.

The first time I joined zergs in WvW, I did it with a PvE built guardian in a shabby mix of PVT and other gear with no coherent build worth speaking of. I observed that I would regularly go splat the instant I was asked to charge forward and through an opposing zerg.

No matter what I did. Double dodge? Yeah, tried that. Go around the side? Worked silghtly better, but not great. Conditions would coat me, and then I would die. Over and over.

When this happens, I take it as a sign that SOMETHING IS WRONG. Especially when I see other people managed to make it through just fine.

My next step is always to ask myself, HOW CAN -I- FIX THIS.

Note the locus of control. I find blaming others rarely helps anything.

I try to improve myself and my understanding of what’s going on, up to the point where I personally can’t take what’s happening in the situation around me, and scarper off somewhere else where I do have a better locus of control (ie, soloing dolyaks. Choice of where to go, and when to engage and when to run screaming like the hounds of hell are after my hiney is all down to me.)

Whatever gives me an advantage, I take.

I fix my build. I go research what other people have done with WvW builds, try them out wholesale to see if they fit me, and tinker a bit for understanding and customisation.

I read WvW guides on what I’m supposed to be doing. In a zerg, target the commander and key in on the red target sight like it’s your lifeline, always keeping it in the center of your screen.

I practice. I try again, searching for what worked better this time around, and what still didn’t work as well.

I get on Mumble. I hear the comm’s commands, run in a tight ball with the core, and live where others die.

For entirely self-interested reasons, it makes sense to me to at least give the voice program a shot.

I join the TTS Teamspeak when I do Tequatl runs. Strictly speaking, it’s still very possible to run Teq without it at all. But for the purposes of the actual fight, where one can get a bigger picture and a bigger sense of which portions are in trouble and may need people to come by and help out, I find it useful to be listening in on voice.

And yes, there are certain people who can never seem to shut up while waiting for Tequatl. It’s not their fault. They’re built that way. It’s also not my fault that I find this exceedingly annoying and irritating. I’m built that way.

So what? Do I swear off using voice chat because there are some people I can’t stand also using the program?

Well, there are always volume controls and the ye olde stand by of yanking out the earphones. (If one wanted to be very rude, one could also visibly mute certain people or deafen oneself in the voice program when necessary.)

While waiting, I tend to just not be listening to the Teamspeak at all.  I’ve already heard the briefing several times over. Only Merforga’s airline briefing is still amusing now and then. I let the chatters chat amongst themselves. I play my own music if I want to.

When it’s time for the actual fight, I listen in.

The same goes for WvW, I should think.

If I’m running with a zerg commander that uses voice, I should be getting on voice.

If I don’t like it, then fer heaven’s sake, why am I running with that commander?

Give him a vote of no-confidence for his commanding style and scarper off and go do your own thing.

Some commanders curse a lot. I happen to have a fairly thick skin and don’t mind vulgarity, but I perfectly understand if others do not like that commanding style and don’t want to follow them. Some commanders are tactical amateurs, and as much as I might like to support them to the point where they can learn and improve, some days I just don’t feel like dying repeatedly to bad calls and will simply not follow those doritos.

I’ve met one commander who was intensely abrasive and a little bit racist with not much redeeming features (as opposed to another who just cursed a lot but was hilarious and funny and knew how to spin a situation around to keep his followers engaged with high morale)  and after fifteen minutes, simply decided to break away from that little group. Not my thing. They were still contributing in their own way, so I went off to contribute in my own way somewhere else.

When I want to be alone and not listening to anybody and playing my own music, I log on an alt for WvW roaming and I run around on my own, only keeping track of and supplying reports via text chat.

But when I choose to play with a group, to me, it makes sense to help that group be the best it can be.

Even if it means downloading an evil voice program and having to meet and talk to strangers.

Who knows, maybe after some time of getting to know them, they won’t be strangers any longer.

GW2: Echoes of Historical Warfare in WvW

The whole structure of WvW doesn’t exactly lend itself to tests of PvP prowess.  And why should it? There’s an entirely separate part of the game given over just to that after all.

Bhagpuss

I’ll have to disagree to the lack of PvP prowess. There is a lot more going on there than most think in a coordinated group, more so than sPvP, I believe.

Imagine organising 20-30 instead of five through complex manoeuvres; each turn is called, every feint, when and where to bomb.

J3w3l / Eri

Everyone’s been talking about WvW lately. The leagues and season achievements seem to have revitalized some interest in the game format and plenty of discussion as to the pros and cons.

(Where in my usual understating sense, “some interest” = massive game-wide lag and fairly substantial queues during primetime on certain servers.)

I’m less interested in rehashing the same old ground that others have covered, but Bhagpuss’ latest post raises an interesting side issue: WvW isn’t quite the same as sPvP.

To Bhagpuss, he feels there’s more PvE involved.

To Eri, she goes so far as to claim that WvW is -more- sophisticated than sPvP.

To me, I’d rather not raise the ire of the PvPers. I’ll just claim that it’s -different-.

Small-scale PvP is where each individual player can be a Greek hero – Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, all seeking glory in war.

They can be a Spartan or a samurai or a ninja, a stand-alone warrior who can hold his own against slightly more superior numbers (2 or 3) and defeat them. They can work with their team for a time to accomplish a task, then break apart to do their thing as an army of one.

You can get a little of this kind of thing in WvW if you play with a more roaming playstyle and spec, being a scout or a commando across potentially hostile lands, The situations you’ll face in WvW will involve a lot more unpredictability in the numbers you face, while sPvP offers a more numerically balanced playfield.

But what you can’t get elsewhere, except in WvW, is large-scale warfare recreated on a miniature scale to fit into a playable game type.

If there’s one favorite thing that hooks me and makes me stay for hours in there, it’s when I spy a good (aka tactically adept) commander in VOIP and glom onto his zerg.

And I don’t mean zerg in the fashion that many lower tier servers run (or not-so-good commanders on my server too) – a loose collection of individuals running around together in a big warband that just happen to be going in the same direction and firing at the first thing that moves while karma training, relying only on numeric superiority and safety in numbers.

I mean a zerg-busting zerg. A coordinated group, be it guilded or militia or a mix, organized, with high morale and WvW builds, listening and following a commander on voice.

In zergs like those, you get to see echoes of warfare across the centuries from ancient to medieval to Napoleonic times.

The zerg is infantry, archers and cavalry, acting as each in different situations.

The one thing that never fails to get my pulse going and adrenaline rocketing is the charge. I play a frontline guardian, and in the surge of the wedge through an enemy zerg, I hear the thundering hooves of heavy cavalry. The goal is similar: break the enemy infantry with a resounding charge through their ranks.

Now and then, there are the rare situations, just as in history, when the opposing side’s morale is stronger and their militia better trained in the art of war. The loose collection of individuals move apart just enough to avoid the charge, then unload onto the dumbfounded and not-very-well-built zerg full of casual PvE builds  (note to self: following bad commanders is unwise) who stand there and take casualties, just as infantry have weathered a cavalry charge into their ranks and then proceeded to viciously slash stirrups and saddle and unseat horsemen before they can escape the mass.

But more often, when trained heavy cavalry charge at less trained individuals, they break. You can tell the opposing group is made up of leaderless PUGs when they fall back and scatter to the four winds, or they get run over.

Far more interesting and much rarer in history but more commonplace in WvW are the tactics that arise for cavalry-on-cavalry fighting.

In real life, where collision detection exists, such incidents are costly affairs in the lives of both men and horses and thus always striven to be avoided whenever possible.

In WvW, zerg collision is what some guilds live for.

The maneuvering is spectacular.

Pre-fight, the commander is not just running around in circles because he is a meanie-poo head and wants to see his followers chase after him constantly.

For one, he’s keeping his men (and women) tightly packed together and on their toes. They cannot be picked off individually (those dang thieves), and have to remain alert.

For another, it’s intimidation. A formation moving in unison as a single mass is a scary sight to someone who knows that his side isn’t as organized. A scared individual has a higher chance of being shaken and breaking after one or two charges.

Medieval European knights attacked in several different ways, implementing shock tactics if possible, but always in formations of several knights, not individually. For defense and mêlée a formation of horsemen was as tight as possible next to each other in a line. This prevented their enemy from charging, and also from surrounding them individually. With their heavy and armoured chargers knights trampled through the enemy infantry. The most devastating charging method was to ride in a looser formation fast into attack. This attack was often protected by simultaneous or shortly preceding ranged attacks of archers or crossbowmen.

— From Wikipedia on “Cavalry Tactics”

Then there’s searching for the right time to charge. Both zergs maneuver and try to get the drop on each other, utilizing terrain to best effect. If you can catch the enemy with their backs to a cliff, or draw them into a chokepoint, you have the advantage. If you can get them to fire off their first volleys onto somewhere you’re not, they have to reload while you can unleash upon them.

And of course, you never try to run in front of an enemy. You charge them in the flank, or from behind or from on top. Head-on collisions are not desirable, but could happen, same as in real life.

Those archers or crossbowmen? Ranged dps’ers. “Bomb them here!” “Marks!”

Sometimes the charge doesn’t even happen, in favor of the zerg becoming a squadron of archers firing a hail of arrows across the gap, daring the enemy to charge across a killing field.

They often don’t.

Usually the horse skirmishers advanced in front of their parent squadron or regiment, fired and moved about a bit to reduce their target ability. They were able to prevent the enemy’s troops from hiding behind trees and broken ground, looked for ambushes, or simply observed the enemy’s movements or intent. It was also quite good way to test enemy resolve at a specific point and gather information about his position as well.

They fired upon the enemy trying to take a better position or forced the enemy to move slower or even halt and form squares. Occasionally an odd charge would take place to drive the enemy horse skirmishers away. Sometimes these skirmish combats escalated and involved more troops.

Cavalry Tactics in the Napoleanic Wars.

Recognize the description of havoc groups? Our skirmishers in WvW? They scout, they screen, they have more mobility than the main zerg.

Sometimes an enterprising commander will use a disorganized PUG mass to screen their zerg and absorb fire.

Sometimes two or three commanders leading their own organized zergs act together in sync, acting as skirmisher or charger and pincer the opposing side.

Ambushes are set up. Zergs hide and try to surprise the other. Traps are set, sometimes with siege. (We could write a whole other post about castle/siege warfare, but that’s for another time.)

Once collision occurs, there can be even more maneuvering.

If the enemy doesn’t go down on first hit and be cleared, then it becomes a contest of commanders, and unit morale, cohesion and training. Zergs strive to keep together while breaking the other apart into smaller groups and lone individuals to be set upon and thus whittle the other zerg away via attrition.

How well your commander reads the other team’s movements and moves in turn is important.

How well his followers can -follow- him is also just as crucial. How tightly they keep together, how sturdy their builds are, how good their morale and training is that they keep their heads and don’t break and run at the first whiff of trouble, all contribute to the eventual result,

Each clash is a whole new battle.

It can get crazy addictive.

With more layers of sophistication to be understood the more you play.

WvW zerg “PvP” is a lot more about teamwork than individual prowess (though it still does have an effect.)

It’s more about how each player’s skill at playing their character well affects the whole to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

Builds are made to synergize, to provide group support and group control and group damage.

If anything, I find that after tasting the levels that WvW can rise to, anything less sophisticated is not so fun nor enjoyable and that I’d rather roam by my lonesome or occupy myself with PvE than play in a less organized zerg, doomed to run headlong into disaster and repeat the mistakes that history has already taught us to avoid.

GW2: No Plan on Paper Survives Contact With Players

I’m sure you were waiting for some coverage on the Aspect Arena activity. I thought I was going to write a post about it too, to round up the last part of Cutthroat Politics.

But somehow, with the last “fix” to Candidate Trials completely invalidating much of the “control” portion of the trinity once again and making dps berserker gear king once more, a lot of the fun and joy of the update has evaporated for me.

I just can’t bring myself to play Aspect Arena again. The underlying thought is, “Ok, fine, achievements all done. Time to discard bothering with everything I don’t like.”

This is actually no fault of the minigame itself per se. On paper, I appreciate it a lot more than Southsun Survival. It’s a Kiel game, team-based, three different “classes” with synergies that are meant to interact together.

The main problem is, I can’t seem to find players who want to play the game for what it is.

I took one look at the achievements for Aspect Arena and went, oh, that’s nice, no “wins” required, a lot of this can easily be done just playing the game repeatedly. At most, the only thing artificial might be you waiting a little for some guy trying to get crystal carrier to pick up the crystal -before- you stop him by killing him dead for crystal breaker, but in a CTF game, you were going to stop him dead anyway.

Except my first few forays into the game revealed either a) collusion between teams to get achievements, or b) a whole lot of individual death-matching.

I didn’t really have issues with the first. It was bound to happen. And mostly it made them easier targets and my life easier. When the loud ones started announcing achievement swaps over chat, I said nothing and alternately took advantage of most of them being gathered at one place to avoid the dogpile and run crystals for my team almost completely unmolested, or I ambled over when I was bored and ruthlessly slew the opponent who happened to be carrying the crystal AND being so nice as to stand still.

It’s also really easy for the alliance to break down as it just takes a few players interested in playing the game for what it is to STOP a colluding crystal carrier, and people start feeling like they need to retaliate. Voila, folks starting to attack and play the game once more.

The second frustrates me a lot more. I get that way even in FPS games that are ostensibly meant to be team-based and I end up seeing practically everybody just dueling it out and racking up personal kill counts. I make it a point to guard the flag (crystal) carrier for my team, hassling anyone who comes near with the intent of shooting them, throwing up stability fields, etc. Then when I run the crystal, of course, there’s no one around. If I’m lucky, there’s no one from the opposing team either.

Whatever. I took an immediately liking to the Sun aspect, probably because nearly everyone went Wind in the first few days and I found Sun a good counter. It’s also very flexible and mid-range, where I like to be. Dump the first attack on autoattack, and no matter what range you’re at, you’re machine-gunning somebody’s health off – get in closer to fry more health off as needed. Throw up Bastion to counter the inevitable attempts at knockbacks.

I don’t claim to understand many more of the other skills. I could if I wanted to, but I personally find the whole concept of Aspect Arena a little too abstract and meaningless to master since it’s only hanging around for a week or two. Also, jumping. Geographic location. Aspect skills. All previously established that the three do not mix well. Which kills a lot of the fun attempting to go vertical with the other two aspects.

So I ended up just pounding the hell out of the number 5 Sun skill, still having latency issues with precise control of when it stopped, but just doing my best to arrange very long straight routes to the cap points and trying not to over-dash off any precarious ledges to my doom.

Won some, lost some. Par for the course for a team PvP game. Got the achievements. Can’t bring myself to play much more of it. I mean, it’s basically just Capture the Flag with unfamiliar skills that do not work extremely reliably well for me. With two flags, to boot.

Two flags just means the team is diverted and splintered up even more. Yes, it makes it easy for achievement-seeking crystal carriers. I got a number of carries just going to the crystal where no one was fighting over. But it’s just not very interesting. The skills are unfamiliar, and thus things that happen may feel a little arbitrary. I could play a much faster and smoother CTF game at any time by loading up TF2.

That’s all I really want to say about Aspect Arena. I like the idea on paper. In practice, it’s not the sum of its parts for whatever reason. Mostly players playing it in unintended ways.

Which segues us back into a rant about the Candidate Trials. We finally got a dev response about T4’s “new” aka originally intended difficulty.

Honestly, if this had worked as intended from the get-go, I might not be so annoyed. It’s the whole “changing the goal posts” thing that gets to me. I spent an hour with a guildie trying to duo T4 after the patch, and it was just fairly horrific that using the same strategy that worked before, now kept failing in spectacular ways. I made a few game attempts at T3 with various pickup groups and nothing really worked.

To be really truthful, I can’t really bring myself to care that much because I already have the so-called “achievement,” and have now learned the truth of the saying “Exploit early and exploit often.” Why should I care to be inclusive and help others when plainly both ArenaNet and other players don’t give a shit? I’ll just join them and solo and feel a little more dead inside.

I would actually like to do a T4 run “properly.” As in, a group, with damage/support and built for synergies. Like this guy did in the video he posted on the forums.

But because players are now tuned towards avoid all fucking aggro at all costs as a strategy, plus seeing berserker builds manage it solo, you can expect most PUGs to be in squishy berserk gear with very little condition clears doing their best to scatter and not engage any mobs but plunderers at all.

PUGs, when in a hole, will not stop digging. They’ll just keep doing what doesn’t work and getting the same result.

I don’t have the saliva to spend to convince ’em otherwise. Nor will it actually work because PUGs by definition are not generally very well coordinated, nor can you expect gear, traits and builds to be min-maxed AND synergized with each other.

Grouping is further complicated by the system these trials are using, which makes cross-server groups not easy to form. You have to guest over to the server the instance holder will be in, as far as I know. There are only so many guest passes to use in a day.

Whatever, I’m just feeling tired now.

Which echoes some of the sentiments across the blogosphere on the latest content and the surfeit of achievements that are time-limited and adding a relentless pressure to do things the one true shopping list way.

Those who can’t “cope” are finding this manifests in the form of disinterest and boredom and being turned off from the game. They’re not as attached or invested anymore because they simply can’t keep up with every last niggling detail or have missed an update with some part of the story.

I see a mirror in this with my current reaction to WvW right now.

Tarnished Coast was paired up with Jade Quarry (T1) and Fort Aspenwood last week. Jade Quarry was, no doubt, going to spank us, but for the sake of server pride and facing a challenge after so bloody long of walkover victories, I upped my game and my WvW play time to give a good showing. It was fun, if more than a little tiring during the SEA timezone.

But when faced with unrelenting pressure, casuals eventually ask, should I even be bothering? This is becoming too “serious business” and not very fun any longer.

Tarnished Coast this week is sandwiched between Blackgate and Sanctum of Rall. The only good news is that the other two servers would much rather fight each other. We just need to pick and choose appropriate times to stay out of the way, hold out heroically, be annoying nuisances and opportunistically help 2v1 the other server.

My reaction is mostly, OK, whatever. I can’t bring myself to care. (This week, anyway.)

I’ve been getting the sense that the WvW community is ratcheting up and getting more hardcore in preparation to take on the T1 servers, and I think one unintended consequence of this is that some of the inclusivity is lost.

Some guild commanders have been going tagless – it helps control the sturdiness of their zerg group by not attracting squishy pugs (oops, were we supposed to use the word militia? Not happening these days.)

There’s been frustration expressed at certain gear or builds, but not much done to help anyone besides sit around expecting that raiders ought to put in the effort to show up appropriately geared and with consumables to match. Did I say raiders? I meant WvW zerglings.

A lot of the map sentry network has gone silent. Many of the sentries don’t seem to be around any more. Or they’ve joined the zerg. Some perhaps have “graduated” to Mumble and voice comms and being active sentries, as there are no doubt map spies crawling all over the place in T1, which makes chat channels slightly tougher to rely on.

Some of the fun seems to be gone, replaced with elitism. I don’t actually find PvP fun in and of itself. My enjoyment tends to exist in running around in a group I can rely on and a commander that is both having fun, building morale and making beautiful tactical decisions I can admire. It’s hard to find such commanders when faced with overwhelming odds – not many can handle it, and I don’t think it’s healthy for those who can to pull 16 hour days in WvW either.

And for what? The score is unlikely to change. Increasing rating just means a better chance at more weeks of unrelenting pressure. I’m already having problems keeping up with PvE updates. There’s no way I can keep up with the hardcore expectations of the solely WvW crowd so I may as well just… bow out. Let ’em laugh and scorn. Whatever. In the end, if they fail to respect the casuals, they’ll be the ones fighting oh so heroically alone.

I can’t help but wonder if those not as into achievement attainment are also getting a touch of similar malaise PvE-wise.

Screw hard. Screw difficult content. I’m ready for some easy mode fun. Here’s hoping for the next update.

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.)