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Fits and Spurts

It is difficult to play Guild Wars 2 in any sort of consistent manner.

I mean, sure, things would probably be easier if I were not so allergic to appointment gaming. But things are extremely fluid in GW2 that you must immediately drop whatever you are doing and follow the zerg when it appears like a flash mob. Otherwise you may be spending days or weeks hoping for lightning to strike twice to unlock one of ten million achievements or collections.

One of my long-term goals is to progress along the Season of Dragons meta-achievement, unlocking at least the 32-slot bag. This meta-achievement consists of dozens of other achievements, which are themselves unlocked by fulfilling a laundry list of tasks within specific zones. Some of those activities include things like “complete 10 bounties.” Bounties are basically extra-hard open-world group bosses that must be killed within 10 minutes. The LFG tool in GW2 is pretty useless for cobbling together groups, and it would be a bit irresponsible for me to create my own group for content I have no actual way to coordinate.

So… I wait and hope. And when I see someone running around the map with a Commander tag, I abandon my plans immediately (including going to sleep) and try to get whatever it is done.

So far, this strategy has been surprisingly successful. There are usually enough other achievements to work on while waiting to see if anything decides to spontaneously happen. But lately, it has stopped working. In particular, the Domain of Istan map only requires 5 bounties, of which I have 3 done, but the flash mob disbursed after Champion Suneh Stormbringer popped up and literally mopped the floor with us. Seriously, of all the bounties I have participated in, this guy was WAY overtuned. While the achievement can be earned with two more bounties of any type, I have nothing else to work on in that area – I must either camp on the map and be AFK, or try to organize something myself.

The flash mob situation was especially prevalent when I unlocked my WvW mount. I was just in WvW to get 1-2 daily achievements done to pocket 2g a bit easier. Three hours later, we assaulted and claimed a Keep, and then spent a considerable amount of time evicting the prior owners. That was not what I had intended to be doing with my playtime. I’m glad it happened, mind you, because now I don’t have to worry about it anymore. But as someone who prefers organization and analysis, it really makes me wonder how random I want my average game experience to be.

In any event, it is becoming increasingly clear that I need to join a guild. It is Guild Wars 2, after all. The issue is that you are basically in the same situation: waiting around for random guild chat spam in Lion’s Arch, or the sporadic and ephemeral postings on “Looking for Guild.” I found a promising guild on Reddit, but I’m chaffing a bit at the thought of having to essentially fill out a gaming resume and go through a probationary period. I get it, I was a GM for many years in WoW, and having some kind of filter would certainly have prevented a lot of awkward drama later on. And it’s not as though I want to join simply to leech goodwill.

But, ultimately, I don’t know how long I will be playing GW2, which days I will be playing, or even how long each individual session will be. There is an expansion coming up, and I’m very interested in that. So, maybe we just assume I’ll be around and go from there? All I really want is for another channel to be open in case someone wants some warm bodies to do X activity. I would settle for LFG if it were at all consistent.

All I know is that the quickest way to burnout is consistent inconsistency. So maybe I should solve it.

MMO vs Co-Op

I was browsing the official Wildstar forums yesterday, and came across a(nother) thread on the building toxicity of the game’s LFG tool in Veteran (e.g. heroic) Dungeons. Anyone who has ever played WoW for more than a hot minute could point out the problem with the bizarre, and frankly naive, design decision Carbine has settled on: beginning Cataclysm-era coordinated difficulty combined with Gold Medal or Bust reward structures. I mean, what kind of intelligent person says “If any of this group of five cross-realm strangers dies, they get no epics even if they eventually succeed” and believes that is a good idea?

By the way, do you remember back in WoW when you could kick someone before the last boss dropped its loot? Yeah, Wildstar allows that. If you queue into a 3-man guild unit, you will only receive a chance to roll on gear on their mercy. TBC BRILLIANCE, HO!

Anyway, the typical Apologist refrain is “just don’t PUG veteran dungeons.” Hard to argue with that. Until now:

And you see thats a sad part …..why play an mmo if your only playing with certain people to get things done? your in an mmo ffs, why not try and actually get things done with random people you don’t know? thats sort of defeating the purpose OF being an mmo and not just a coop game =/

I don’t know about you, but this (poorly punctuated) post turned nearly everything I just blithely accepted as given in MMOs on its head.

People criticize solo-friendly designs – “You’re taking the Massively Multiplayer out of MMO!” – and yet not much forum-space has been given to the notion that being sequestered in your guild of friends/acquaintances isn’t very MMO-ish either. What’s so Massively Multiplayer about your even 40m (or typically much less) raiding guild? Does it even matter that there are other players running around outside of your guild tag?

Seems to me that when you zoom out a bit, there just isn’t a whole lot of difference between the srsbsn guild member and solipsistic solo player – everything outside of the circle is just background radiation.

Reinventing the Wheel

Other games have pretty much killed my attempt to slog through Guild War 2’s storyline, but I still rubberneck around the forums and dev posts with a sick sort of fascination. Some of their decisions make you wonder if they have been living under a rock for the last fifteen years of game design.

Hey everyone.

We are looking into an additional reward system to add to bosses so that killing a single boss feels a lot more rewarding than it does right now. We are gathering data internally on it and will release information on it as it gets closer to being implemented.

Being stuck at the last boss and unable to finish the dungeon thus receiving now reward is a terrible feeling for any player, hardcore or casual. We are looking to remedy this.

Iteration is the name of the game (source)

Hello, William Fairfield, Game Designer. Maybe bosses should, I dunno, have some loot associated with them instead of a chest filled with vendor trash to complement the same vendor trash we have been collecting from the hundred mobs we slaughtered on the way in? I think that worked in every MMO prior to this one.

We’re very aware our LFG system is lacking, an it’s high on our list of things to rework. We have some other very pressing issues to handle first, but as someone who built/runs dungeons, and often PUG them, I dislike our current obscure and non-informative system, and re-building it is high on my list of things-to-flail-my-arms-about-to-talented-people-who-can-do-something-about-it, so that they do something about it. (source)

Thank you, Robert Hrouda, Content Designer. You get 50 points for honesty. And lose 50 points for letting the game go Live with a LFG tool actually worse than the one WoW had six years ago.

[Nobody running Story modes anymore] is absolutely an issue as the game matures and we are working on ways to make running story mode with someone worthwhile even if you have already run it so players just reaching these dungeons can more easily find groups to play with. It will probably take some experimentation before we find the right motivator.

Jon (source)

Hello, Jon Peters, Game Designer. Perhaps if you did not nerf subsequent Story mode runs into the fucking ground, more people would do them? Your anti-botting protocols should already handle multiple playthroughs back-to-back, so… what was the point in such a huge reduction?

That last one really gets me. Think about it for a second. The pool of available players who have not yet ran the Story mode for a dungeon is always decreasing. That is a fact even if GW2 has increasing sales because, even ignoring server differentiation, the magnitude of new players coming in is unlikely to be higher than it was immediately after launch. The pool is always getting more shallow.

“No big deal,” I hear you say. “WoW dungeons have planned obsolescence the same way.” “Nein!” I say to you. GW2 auto-levels you down to match the dungeon mobs, which means you’ll always need a group; the longer you wait to start doing dungeons the less likely any such run will actually take place. Conversely, if I have some morbid curiosity about the story of Auchindoun Crypts in WoW after all these years, I could stroll in there with a max-level character and solo the place (barring any weird mechanics). And even if you manage to guilt four guild-mates into running a GW2 Story-mode for a second time, they are getting absolutely hosed for no goddamn reason.

Seriously, why? Oh, that’s right, there is some ridiculous fear about “farming.”

For the longest time, I could not understand why all the posts on the GW2 forums were talking about farming, diminishing returns, botting, anti-farm code, and so on. Why is this such a uniquely critical problem to GW2? Then it hit me. “You have entered too many instances lately.” Blizzard has instance caps and lockouts. PROBLEM SOLVED. Maybe I should be giving ArenaNet some credit for letting people run the same Farmable Explorable Mode as many times as they want in a day… but honestly? All this backhanded DR and anti-farm mechanics cheapens the lipstick on the pig.

I have never truly appreciated Blizzard’s methodology of instance design until seeing the alternative. People can complain about Reputation and daily quests as chores, but it is better than the wink-n-nod alternative of “we KNOW you are going to grind your face off, so let’s treat you like the little farming bots you are.” The equivalent would be for Blizzard to have removed the 25 daily quest cap (like they already did) but mathed out a decreasing reward slope to “enforce” a 25-daily limit. I do not feel that is actually any more humane, and it comes across as patronizing as well. It is the Skinner Box without the box; just some dude in a lab coat fondling your nucleus accumbens until you collapse.

If limits are necessary – and there are good arguments that limits are indeed necessary to save us from ourselves – then just give us the goddamn limits and call it a day. You can do A once per day, and B once per week. Done. This whole “do whatever you want… except that, and that too, and maybe you should go outside for a while, eh?” is just dumb. It all ends up making more rules, not less.