And on the Seventh Day…

“…He vowed: ‘Forsooth, verily shall ye never again take up an MMO at launch. So sayeth the LORD.'”
-Commonsensthians, 1:1

Given that I fancy myself a topical blogger now, and that my prepaid prepurchase of the prelaunch of Guild Wars 2 was predicated on previewing, this is yet another Commandment that I am probably going to break in the future. However! If you have been waiting to jump into GW2 for whatever reason, let me say that I envy you. The game will either be better, or you will know exactly how dumb it is/stayed.

Stream of consciousness-style:

Characters

I have made characters. Lots of characters.

  • Asura Elementalist, level 19
  • Sylvari Engineer, level 13
  • Norn Ranger, level 12
  • Human Guardian, level 6
  • [Deleted] Charr Warrior, level 3
  • [Deleted] Human Mesmer, level 3

I typically do not play MMOs this way, insofar as splitting my time amongst many alts right away, but GW2 in particular makes me worry that I picked the “wrong” class. You see, I actually enjoyed my Engineer quite a bit, but… well, once I unlock all of the weapon skills, most of these classes just fall apart in terms of interest.

The Engineer in particular gets hit hard because dual-pistols is the only rational weapon choice for leveling; which means pressing 2, 3, 4, backpedal a bit, mob dead. Over and over and over again. For 80 levels. Given the Engineer mechanics, you cannot swap weapons in combat, although you can spice things up by dropping turrets or swapping to a Flamethrower, Landmines, Grenades, etc. But none of those alternate weapons seem to work better than dual-pistols, unless people are accidentally tanking for you. In which case… nope, dual-pistols are still probably the strongest.

Since my friends are now in the mid-20 range, I have been focusing on the Elementalist, which is honestly what I should have been doing all along. I stick in Fire mode 99% of the time, but unlike dual-pistols with the Engineer, it somehow feels different. I think the main thing is how one of the “rotation” buttons requires ground targeting, which necessarily changes from mob to mob, spicing things up (dual-pistols is all straight tab targeting with inherent AoE).

I deleted the Warrior and Mesmer so early for a few reasons. First, the whole Mesmer mechanic of summoning and sacking phantasms/clones did not seem like something especially fun. In PvP? Probably pretty fun, or annoying to the opposing team, which is another way of saying “fun.” The warrior was deleted for much simpler reasons: I died at one of the newbie Events right past the tutorial. Remember how I warned everyone that if you were melee, popular Events would kill you practically instantly? Yeah. If you want to be stuck as a Longbow-Rifle warrior, go right ahead, but I was not looking forward to 80 levels of getting owned in Events when I could be dropping meteors and volcanoes and having fun.

Before deleting either class though, I did take them to the PvP lobby to take a look at their Traits lines (aka Talents) and later Skills. The warrior was pretty straight-forward and boring to me. The Mesmer had some pretty cool ones that got the PvP juices flowing though. For example, how about a wall of crazy magic that automatically turns all your teammates invisible when they pass through it? I was imagining dropping that when storming the bases in Warsong Gulch… until I remembered that this was a whole different game, the invisibility lasts 4 seconds, and this would take a coordinated team effort that isn’t likely to happen unless I am in some PvP guild running premades. Which is too bad, because the Mesmer can also make a portal entrance/exit that can be used by anyone to zip you between the two locations instantly as well.

Auction House Trading Post

As of today, still down.

It does periodically come up from time to time, and I make oodles of coin in that brief window. However, I do recognize that actually making money from the Trading Post will not be a particularly long-term endeavor. Crafted goods were generally selling at 1 copper above their vendor price, which is actually selling at a loss considering the obscene ArenaNet 15% cut. Mats are where it is likely to be at, so to speak, but once the Trading Post opens for real, it will be a race to the bottom against botters and their crippling 72 bans.

Where I made my money this past week was selling the Unidentified Dyes for in the neighborhood of 10 silver apiece, which is pretty astounding. It might not sound like a lot of money in any typical MMO, but keep this in mind:

Pictured: You being jealous.

At the time of this writing, I have accumulated 400 gems in this fashion, all for less than 34 silver per 100. The real money exchange rate works out to $1.25 per 100 gems, so I’ve made a cool $5 selling roughly 1g 20s on one character. In case you need reminded, my highest toon is level 19. Incidentally, that is more than I have made in Diablo 3 for the entire 2-3 months I played.

So when I tell you I am very annoyed about the Trading Post being down for the vast majority of the prior week, that is not “entitlement” speaking. This is SRS BSNS. God only knows what the exchange rate for in-game currency is going to be a month from now.

Hint: not likely 30s per 100.

Dynamic (Death Trap) Events

While I will admit that some of these Events have been interesting gameplay experiences – taking out bandits before they set up poison traps for Skritts, or disabling the traps before the Skritt trigger them is probably not something a traditional MMO quest can do – the vast majority of the ones I played are simply trash farming. Which is great for making money (see above), but does not deviate much from the “zerg ALL the things” stereotype I had from the betas.

And then I started running into Events that are either poorly designed, poorly tuned, or (Badly) Working As Intended.

Pictured: my life, in a nutshell.

Let me unpack that collage of failure for you.

First, I was originally questing in the area to fill up a level 15 Renown Heart. Suddenly – or should I say “dynamically”? – the entire complex was filled with level 16 mobs. I died pretty much instantly. After respawning, I came back inside to see if I could chip away at the Renown Heart still, and perhaps see if there were more players around to take down the Event proper. But then I got confused. The Event says it is level 14. All the mobs are level 16, pat around in groups, and even the ones by themselves were generally chained to another mob 20 feet away. I did eventually find a group of 5-6 players, but I was never able to tell whether they were on the premises the whole time (which might explain the higher-level mobs) or if they came in once the Event popped on the radar.

The very next area North of here was the 15-25 zone, and immediately featured two more Dynamic Death Traps. Remember people telling you to complete Events and then follow the NPC when they run back home? Sometimes it results in some exposition dialog, or even another Event. And sometimes it results in instant death.

Surprise! Boss-level Event after you collected 10 lightning bug asses.

There was zero warning that the very next step was going to be [Group] level boss Event. None. Again, it is possible that there were “enough” people in the general area (that I could not see) that would make a level 16 Champion spawning from a collection quest make sense. I saw one dude, who died with me, twice.

By the way, at the current exchange rate, each death costs me $0.0125.

After respawning and heading in the other direction, I encounter this lovely Renown Quest:

It will be fun, they said.

What exactly a level 21 mob is doing in the level 17 Renown Quest area, I have no idea. But, you know, I am a total pro and (slowly) take these fools out. Heart completed, I notice a Dynamic Event spawn nearby. Given my prior experience getting nickle and dimed to death, I said to myself “fuck that noise” and started heading back to the Renown guy to check for upgrades. I make it about ten feet before this happened:

Not pictured: wireless keyboard sailing through the room.

What a swarm of eight level 20 mobs are doing heading towards a level 17 Event is a secondary concern to why they have to…

…you know, what? Whose mind do I imagine I’m changing here? You are either already drinking the Kool-Aid or you are not, and I am fine waiting for the first bodies to hit the floor.

And it is not as though there isn’t other things I could be doing, like…

WvWvW

Just kidding, perma-queues.

I will say that I am impressed by ArenaNet having free server transfers open during this time when ~70% of all available American servers are Full, even at 4am. I have talked a bit with my friends as to whether we want to bail from Northern Shiverpeaks and go down to a Low pop server, but the downside to that would be lack of people in the world for Dynamic Death Trap Events, grouping in general, and so on. Given the PvP guilds located on this server though, it is quite possible that no one else will ever be able to zone in. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Crafting

By the way, I hate the crafting system thus far.

Hmm… maybe “hate” is too strong a word. It’s boring. You only make items in 5-level increments, e.g. level 5, level 10, level 15, etc. Every recipe is Piece A + Piece B + X, where X is either a mob drop, or a token you create from a mob drop. It creates an illusion of “hundreds of different recipes to discover!” when the reality is that a pair of boots with +Condition Damage on it is not really different from another pair of boots with +Power. Yes, if you were stacking Condition damage or something, it matters.

But do you understand what I’m saying? Within 30 seconds of crafting two different boots, I implicitly knew the recipes for (possibly?) every pair of boots in the game. Six different mob drops –>  six different tokens + six different super-tokens = 12 variations of each item * six levels of the base material (Jute, Wool, Cotton, etc). Looking at the Wiki for Tailoring, it looks like there are 14 token variations instead of 12 at higher levels, but come on.

Anyone remember Spidersilk Boots? I do. Seeing that recipe for a blue item was the precise moment in WoW that I became keenly interested in crafting and doing things with the AH. Contrast that with what I described above; simply rearranging stats around is a Diablo 3-esque crafting system, not an inspiring one. Maybe all the cool crafting stuff happens at higher levels, or at the Mystic Forge. Maybe there are super-secret recipes no one knows about.

Regardless, right now GW2’s crafting system feels like it has been designed by an accountant.

Immersion

One final (positive!) thing I want to talk about today is actually an area where Guild Wars 2 nails down a quality I did not fully understand: immersion.

A lot of people pretend that immersion is some kind of objective term, that the things that pull them into or eject them out of a game are universal Truths. Those people are wrong. Sense of immersion is a personal thing, which should be immediately obvious to anyone who is into fantasy or sci-fi novels but thinks Twilight (etc) is dumb. Different people look for different forms of escapism. Suspension of disbelief is a voluntary action, or at least is informed by your own tastes.

What GW2 has taught me thus far is that I (hitherto subconsciously) place a heavy emphasis on a sense of existing in a 3D space for immersion. It might be easier to show you what I mean:

This impressed me to an almost embarrassing degree.

This fence is Real to me, as it exists in a 3D space and I can interact with it. Namely, by standing on it. You probably do not know this about me, but one of the first things I do in an MMO is find a fence and try and stand on it. Why? Because it tells you a lot about the “depth” game. If the fence is simply a 2D texture papered over an invisible wall, you know there is not likely to be many “real” objects in the game. God forbid if you cannot jump at all.

And I apparently have a thing for fences. Don’t judge me.

While it is also impressive how our feet can actually appear to stand at the correct levels of the fence, I understand that that is more of a “trick” compared to the 3D object itself. A good trick, for sure, but a trick nonetheless.

If I get vertigo in your game, you win.

The above is another one of my favorite screenshots. It looks better in motion, but it feels even better inside my head. GW2 evokes the sense that these floating islands actually exist, that the character I control is not just an elaborate 2D model but an actual set piece moving in 3D space. Immersion success. Indeed, I usually find myself frustrated when I come across a hill in-game that I cannot find some way of climbing straight up, as opposed to going around the “right way.” The hill exists, therefore I keep trying to find that slightly less sloped polygon so I can shimmy my way up to the top. It does not cross my mind that there might be an invisible wall around the hill edge, because invisible walls are for fake-3D games.

And the weird thing is that I’m not even that into platformers.

_____

With all of that off my chest, in the next GW2 post I might spend some time handing out gameplay tips in the same vein as the Quickstart guide. Because while the things I complain about do legitimately annoy me, GW2 has subsumed the entirety of my gaming time since the head start. Which, if I’m honest, is not something that happens very often.

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Posted on September 4, 2012, in Guild Wars 2 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I agree with you on the crafting system generally, although I have found cooking a lot of fun

    • Agreed. It’s like GW2 crafting was designed by an accountant *except* the cooking which was actually designed by a cook. It follows real world cooking logic, and you don’t get that effect of “I’ve done three discoveries, now I can guess every single discovery between here and 400″. So the discovery process is entertaining guesswork, and the most fun I’ve had in one of these terrible cookie-cutter crafting systems for years.

      It’s just a pity it’s such a brutal karma and money and bank space sink, instead.

      • The bank space issue was actually the #1 reason I have been staying away from Cooking. But considering I am not using any of my professions at the moment (AH is stocked with crafted gear cheaper than the mats anyway), I may as well dabble in it.

        Besides, none of the cooking mats I’ve harvested are selling higher than 7 copper apiece.

  2. Crafting sounded like it’s going to be fun but what you describe is true. It’s a major failure in my eyes. Everything you produce is boring and the same. There are no freaking spidersilk boots and no robe of power. Maybe it gets better at max level but in that case, why not drop the leveling of the profession? PvP instantly boosts you to 80, why doesn’t a forge boost you instantly to 400?

    You should give cooking a try. It’s completely different and the best part is that you spend 95% of your time moving items between your inventory and your bank… which you’re able to access through the cooking pot but the pot itself cannot work with the bank…

    > because invisible walls are for fake-3D games.

    GW2 is full with invisible walls, which annoys me no end. It just doesn’t fit to the game. Even WoW can do mostly without them…

    • I have noticed some frictionless surfaces and empty textures, but I haven’t ran into a straight-up invisible wall yet. Then again, I’m not that far from any of the starting zones.

  3. Nice post. I agree with you on almost all points. I’ve spent all of my gaming time in GW2 for the last week and love it so far.

    The thing that really hit home with me was the failure of melee as a viable option. I’m playing a thief and I can’t use my daggers for fear of getting owned too fast. I ended up using duel pistols as one weapon set and a short bow as the other. I enjoy both so it’s not all bad, but it would be nice for the daggers to be viable. Melee combat damage is just too spikey at the moment. I can go from having a situation totally under control to a downed state in about a second… which is just frustrating.

    Anyway, thanks for the great post.

    • Yeah, dual-daggers was actually my favorite Elementalist loadout through the betas, but needing to be within 300-600 ft to deal damage was way too risky compared to the 1200 ft barrages you can do with a staff (etc).

  4. Yea, i agree with alot of things here. Regarding the death traps? You know what is the absolute pits? Thinking you can level up some and return…NOPE..imagine being lvl 20 and going back to that lvl 15 event and being level reduced to lvl 14 and get owned STILL! . At least Arenanet successfully made lvl 10 content into “end game hardcore” content.

    As for the whole classes thing, my pet peeve is the restriction with the ability sets. I literally rolled up all 8 classes and unlocked their weapons just to see which of those actually have a SINGLE WEAPON with 5 abilities that are fun and good to use in PvE. Most of them you’re stuck with like 3 abilities and 2 that is now wasted, forcing you to switch to another weapon which -again- have only 2 abilities you want to use and 3 others which is very situational. I dunno, it’s not the most flexible design there, maybe it’s good for PvP Balancing or something, but compared to GW1 , where the entire fun was in picking 8 abilities of 50 which works together, this sucks :(.

    This is also now where a class like Elementalist which technically have 4 x 5 abilities (each element ) x 2 (the 2 weapon swopping) weapons available is most likely going to be the most popular , because in combat you can access a HUGE amount of abilities. It is most likely going to be VERY annoying having to constantly Select-Element-Swop-Weapon-Use-Ability-Select-Different-Element-etc to be a more “interesting” , but at least it’s not 1-dimensional like a warrior .

    Even Engineer though, got access via the weapon kits to a ALOT of abilities in combat, so i wouldn’t write it off yet. Each utility slot can serve as a weapon, so an engi can easily end up having 3-4 weapons (5 abilities each) to swop between. However then you will basically be playing a gimped elementalist imho, since ele can do all that AND actually put stuff on their utility slots…

  5. I’m currently lvl 80 GS/Rifle warrior 400 jewel / 400 cook / 75% exploration and this is my experience.

    Class/Leveling/Events

    Warrior was especially squishy at the beginning but then I got the hang of my spec/weapon and I’m perfectly fine with big packs, it may become dangerous fast but that only makes it better as I have to manage it, I use all my skills, move often, yet keep using GS (~90%) if rifle is not better or the only safe way. Sadly I dislike the gameplay of all my other weapons/offhands (except the ranged underwater one which is nice but all about kitting).

    I leveled fast mostly by “tagging” events (doing enough to get silver/gold contribution) and not doing them if they were uninteresting, going to fail or too long (I remember some cow event where I had to use one ability and then wait like 1 minute for the 7 next parts), I understand this may not be the intended way to play but it was effective and I liked it because I could do what I like.

    On the high level areas there are no longer hearts (yey!) and many players join/make a big group that crushes all the events aoe-ing everything “Where’s the bus?”, quite similar to what happens at peak hours in WvW, it’s meh. Because the raid is so fast events repeat themselves quite frequently.

    Professions

    I personnally loved cooking until the many points where I had no idea what recipe to make to go further, my bags+bank where constantly filled and very often there was a missing reagent that I had no idea what it was or could be, the combinations of combinations of combinations made it extremely hard to understand what I was doing and I still missed many reagents that were only accessible through heart vendors found god knows where or zone-only farms. (no AH for me, didn’t work)

    Make yourself a favor, look for easy recipes (reagents required) on the internet, use the AH now that it works and it becomes bearable. Food buffs do bring a few unusual buffs to the table and I could see hardcore players switching buffs often depending on situations (life on downed state, magic find, speed on kill, …).

    If you make a bronze ring, you know how to make a silver ring, a gold ring and so on until 400, it’s pretty much always the same thing there’s few true discovery.

    Mining, cutting trees and gathering is quite nice and grants lots of experience depending on the zone, it’s nice but they are pretty much always the same veins at the same spots.

    General/World bosses

    I did appreciate how players are trying to work together even more by telling others on the map what event is happening where, when a boss is going to spawn and what they should do to make it happen. Collaboration ftw !

    What I loved most so far seems to be the exploration of a new world and puzzles and I can absolutetly picture me doing some kind of “exploration-chest-puzzle” repeatable fun-farm route in the future for pleasure and drops.

    I tried to have a mini-pet but it didn’t seem to be able to follow me well with all the charges/run speed/teleportations/mountains, it was quite small and I didn’t notice it much, I ended up leaving it using deposit materials because I didn’t have the invisible bag.

    I also had some issues with events not working (main quest in my case stuck at lvl 52) and enemies being on the teleportation areas but what annoyed me most where champions that for some AI reason decide to attack you and only you (even if you get downed/killed/leave for a bit)

    World bosses so far didn’t feel very challenging unfortunately as it is mostly “keep dpsing”, “dodge stuff”, “kill things to make the event go on”, “rez others” and any further strategy not needed because of numbers, I do find them big and stuff but I’m not in awe and I don’t fear them. I do have better hopes for dungeons but I’m a bit worried because players are looking for very specific classes/spec/weapons on the channels.

  6. You are probably right that the Engineer class is not for you. I love everything about it, and if you are just using the main weaps and ignoring all the weaps kits offer then it probably wasnt a good fir for you. Glad the elementalist is working out! Seems like there is a class for every playstyle in GW2.

    • It is not so much that I’m ignoring the weapon kits – I really truly want to be a Sylvari who uses a Flamethrower all the time! – it is that I have found them too weak to replace dual-pistols, or even bothering to combo with compared to alternative Skills.

  7. I actually did sit out the GW2 launch – more because I’m too busy with the eight MMO’s I already have than because of anything personal against GW2 in particular. The part where I get the kind of clarity you suggest is just a nice fringe benefit.

  8. Another enthusiastic engineer here. I am level 63 and enjoying the class more than ever. Swapping between weapon kits, turrets, rifle, and flamethrower during a fight is so much fun. The game isn’t really designed as a static one or two attack lol-smash on the keyboard like other MMO’s. The combat rewards active management of skills, conditions, and execution of combos. All classes have this ability.

    If there are players spending their entire levelling/combat experience playing only a couple of main abilities well frankly they need to go online and read up how to play their class. I laugh at the engineers that run around and seem to be permanently glued to their flamethrowers, or their pistols, or their rifle.

    And pistols is the only decent levelling option? Oh please ..

    • Yeah, I actually use the Rifle as an Engineer. I typically net (2) a mob, let it get close and then shotgun (3) it. Follow that up with a double-jump shot (5 – put the circle under the mob, hit twice – once up, once down), then propel away with the launch shot (4). The Elixir gun is BY FAR my favorite kit – giving a nice regen field for myself and the zerg, as well as the (3) option which heals conditions and intoxicates enemies, IIRC. Supply Crate Elite skill is pretty fun, as well.

  9. I remember that part of the map. I was able to get out of there, but I hated how I wasn’t able to get back in trying to solo it. They did too much damage to me. I found other hearts and events more appropriate for my level.

    First of all I should explain I don’t engage in combat when it isn’t required. For me, this is an art. So when I farm a node and killing the mob fills the heart, I kill the mob. If killing the mob yields me nothing like that (no progress) I use PvP utility to reach my goals. I do not claim this is the most efficient way of playing the game, but it is fun for me.

    As example when I farmed herbs on my druid:

    1) Nature’e Grasp/Cyclone/Entangling Roots/Bash
    2) Stampeding Roar/Dash
    3) Shadowmeld + Flight Form
    4) Kite mob away in Flight Form over ground, then quickly fly to the node.

    How I get away from anything while soloing in GW2 on my mesmer:

    1) My Greatsword has a knockback. My MH sword allows me to swap with illusion.
    2) Blink. The reason I tried mage in WoW (and my first ranged DPS there for this reason).
    3) Decoy. Puts me in stealth for a few seconds. Allows me to explode illusion to aid me (F2-F4).
    4) Keep moving, but do not pull more. In WoW, any horde could CC me now and nail me with a 10% durability loss no less.

  10. Now if we can just get a nice shader mod for Torchlight 2 to darken the colors a bit and make it less cartoonish I think we will have a winner verdict over Diablo 3. I think its too early to write tl2 off just going by the beta.