GW2 I Have Not Forgotten Thee

But I have had a heck of a time a) finding time to play and b) deciding on a character class.


You may remember that I am playing STO incessantly – but that’s rather easy with my schedule.  Even on busy nights (there’s been a lot of those lately) I can log on at 9 or 10pm and crank out an hour of dailies and duty officer assignments on STO, or just que up for a scenario for some extra Fleet Marks.  But for me, GW2 has not been a game to just drop into for an hour.  When I want to play GW2 I want to settle in and enjoy the scenario, have enough time to travel and check off some of those points of interest and what I have come to call “Helping Hearts” (The gold ones…you know what I’m talking about).


And I also have a hard time deciding what to play.  Some nights I feel Necromancer-ish.  Some nights I’m loving my Thief.  My two initial (and highest level) characters, a Ranger and a Mesmer are really two of my least favorite at this point.  The Mesmer’s disturbingly low DPS and utter squishability has me very distressed, because I thought that was me all the way.  And I was running the Ranger solo (and still am) – but its not quite as satisfying as I thought it would be.  So right now I’m mostly playing catch up, trying to get another character where the first two were so that my brother and I can take up arms together again.


Chat clipped because wedding planning details are boring.


The Mesmer has been the real sore spot.  I just cannot figure out how to play one effectively in a group setting.  Solo I just roll out a ton of illusions and stand off with my great sword and damange mantra.  But in group play I’m lucky to get one illusion out before a target goes belly up, and controlling them is a pointless endeavor on such a short window.   Some of the weapon skills are just wonky too.  I saw a player with a scepter/sword combo the other day.  I have no idea why that would be effective – 2 of your 5 weapons skills are used for blocking at that point.  And your only utility dps can only be used twice before it needs recharging, and it hits for so little, it doesn’t seem worth it.


I tried to figure out a trait line to make it a little better, and I did.  So let me pause at this point and deeply, highly recommend this site to you.  It is the best, most useful skill/trait calculator out there, as far as I have seen.  Using it put me in the drivers seat to letting me make the Mesmer viable and helping me choose what class would be “best” for me.  So far its a toss up between the Thief, Necro, and Ranger.  The Ranger I think I will keep as my solo fun toon (the Wild Boar’s Forage skill…so much fun), so the other two are on tap to be my new group main at some point.   I have yet to really try the Warrior, Guardian, or Engineer.  The Engineer I’m not really keen on – looks cool, but I’m just not sure its for me.  The Guardian looks fun, but my brother is running one so if I do one it will be another solo toon – and I like the Ranger too much for that.  Warrior – well, that would be something different for me, I may have to try that at some point.   That leaves the Elementalist of course, but there’s just too many choices there.  I know that’s a good problem to have usually, but I cannot puzzle out a build that would give me everything I want out of the character, so I’m setting it aside for now.


All in all – it’s a little weird to have alt-itis after the last couple of games (TSW, STO) pretty much nipped that in the bud!

Entry Level Social Interactions

I was reading Rowan’s second post on social interactions in GW2, itself inspired by Syp’s post on the same.

I appreciate the social interactions in GW2, perhaps all the more so because of how little I got in The Old Republic.  And I agree with the posts and what they have to say.  The truth is that social interaction in games is always going to start basic.  Its growth depends on the people involved and the relationship.

But how do you offer that initial opportunity for socialization?  That is the key, and in my experience, in MMO’s, the key revolves around allowing players the opportunity to help other players.

Think for a moment about how many of the relationships, friends, and acquaintances have started because you were helping that person or they were helping you?  Certainly all of Rowan’s examples fit that mold.  Think about what a guild represents – why are those people there?  To chit-chat with – yes, perhaps, but even the chit-chat is a means to the end of having people who are willing to come and give you a hand.  Or who you are willing to set aside your playtime for to give them a hand.  Even outside of MMO’s – the friends I have in Battlefield 3 that I don’t know in real life, are there  because of helping interactions we’ve had.  I pulled them out of a tight spot.  They ran the server we were on and helped us with a player who was cheating.  The list goes on.

Its also no coincidence that these are the most memorable moments in your gaming history.  That time your group banded together to take down the dungeon boss.  The moment when you helped that noob and donated some money to his start up fund.  The time your guild ran an event together to make sure everyone got the achievement/loot.

It is in every game’s interest – even those devoted to PvP – to provide opportunities for players to lean on each other.  GW2 does an excellent job of this with its mechanics, and its a part of the foundation of its success.  I think you can look to other successful games and see the same thing.  I was at a presentation one time where the presenter referred to these types of entry level interactions as “social lubricant.”  The term, while it has a bit of an “eww” factor, is dead on.  That lubricant makes it easier for people to develop a relationship.

Unfortunately, what games still struggle with is building a good community of players who will take those basic opportunities and interactions and take them to the next level.    They also struggle with providing tools that allow blossoming relationships to deepen.   Right now, most of those opportunities are outsourced to third party platforms – private guild forums and websites.   Even just have a place of meeting for a guild in game is a significant step forward.   This is a place where GW2, and to be fair, many MMO’s, are significantly lacking.   I believe, by the way, that this is one of the things that has made EVE a lasting success as an MMO – the ability for groups of people, having formed relationships, to claim a home and a strong sense of group identity, within the landscape (and I don’t necessarily mean that term literally) of the game.

The next game to get both of these things right – the lubricant, and the deepening roots – will be a great game indeed.

The Evolution of Storylines

Back in the day when I first started up with MMO’s, we didn’t really have a whole lot of storylines.  Well, we did, but we called them quests.  You know, back before quests were just a way to give you a bonus for grinding the same thing for hours instead of exploring.  Back then, every quest was a storyline quest by default.  In EQOA part of the reward of grinding was hitting a level that had an available quest, which would usually take several days to complete and lead you over multiple zones, with the end result usually being enough XP to move you up another level.  You’d pay attention to the text, you’d probably need a group, or at least another friend or two, and with the story text and some imagination, you could spend a week RP-ing the snot out of that thing.


But I digress…


This all comes up because my brother apologized to me last night.  We’ve had some problems with the overflow instancing in GW2 preventing us from being able to play together.  To be fair, while its not the best system (and it is broken right now apparently – there is an option to join your partymate, but it gives you an error message), it was our fault because we had a little miscommunication when the queue was up about whether we were going to stay in the overflow or not.  And we never got re-linked because he was zoning all over the play working in his storyline quests.  Hence his apology – “I’m sorry, I just got sucked into the story.”


And I thought – wow, what a  change.  A month ago we were complaining about how the storylines in TOR were slowing us down and not at all interesting.  And we frequently apologized when the action had to be interrupted for one of us to go advance a storyline or pull us the wrong way on the map to update a related objective.  And that led to a bigger question – how is it that Guild Wars 2 stumbled into better stories and arguable a better way of telling those stories, and with more meaningful dialogue choices (a three axis personality system rather than two), all while seemingly not making it a priority above anything else they were doing.  Granted, roleplaying and storyline were a part of their manifesto, but so were gameplay and fun and all that jazz.


And of course this led me to the inevitably sad “what if” scenario.  What if TOR had allowed your personal story the same level of customization that GW2 does?  Some of the early leaks around TOR indicated that you would be choosing a background for you character – but it was tied directly to your race – in other words, you had a single three point decision to make that decided both your back story and your race.

One of the small blips in the aftermath of TOR’s crumble was an anonymous posting by an alleged developer who complaining that it was the communities fault for giving bad feedback.   I am wondering now if it wasn’t bad feedback – it was the usual Bioware “allergic to listening” miscommunication.

You see, when images like this started being leaked, people hit the roof.  It was restrictive, it was draconic, it was foolish, it put us too much on rails…and at that point in the raging, Bioware pulled the plug on it and started opening up more race options for each character class.  They ended up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, because what people were actually saying was “What if I want to play a ‘Merc’ – who is not a human?”  What if instead Bioware had kept the three backgrounds, and separated them from race?  Or, as Guild Wars 2 has done, separated them *by* race?

Of course, all that is assuming that Bioware actually had that background programmed into the extensive voiced dialogue they had recorded, and I think we are all pretty clear on what the chances of that were.

So for now, we’ve ended up with some pretty decent stories from a game that didn’t set the bar too high, and took a long hard look at the feedback they got to try to give the people what they want.  And still managed to provide voiced dialogue for all its stories – thought sadly not for Bill the Barkeep, or Sally the Forlorn Imperial Navy Officer.  But try not to kill me for saying that I wish beyond wishing that The Old Republic had been some kind of love child between these two games.  The IP of Star Wars with the design philosophy of Arena Net.

What an MMORPG that would have made…

And as for the evolution of storylines – I guess the lesson here is that while the form has evolved, the importance of their inclusion and featuring in the game never has.  Its was there from the very beginning.  It was just that some games ignored that feature, and some worshipped it.   Guild Wars 2 manages to strike a nice balance between the two.

Deciding on a GW2 Server

I realized today that I had probably put some effort towards picking a server.   The list is large enough that throwing a dart is a fair possibility, but since the list has been published early and guilds and alliances are getting set for WvWvW, it can also land you on an overcrowded server.   On top of that, as I understand it, guesting (server hopping for PvE) will be disabled initially,  so if there is anyone I want to wave “hi” to anytime soon, I better get it right.

Heck, you’ll need GPS just to get around town it looks like.


So I started checking around with some of the guilds and people I’m familiar with.  The CoW’s have not announced a final location yet, but are probably headed to Northern Shiverpeaks (Arena:  “That’s totally not innuendo, we swear.”)  The Lion’s Arch Irregulars are headed to Stormbluff Isle.  I’ve not yet heard if the other blogger’s guild that is running around out there (which tends to change its name from game to game) will be in the game and if so, on what server, but I’m curious as I wouldn’t mind taking a turn with that crew.


Just going off of names, I’d probably go with Gate of Madness, just because it conjures images of Lovecraft (and my particular favorite among the Cthulhu Mythos, Clark Ashton Smith).  But there are several there that would be great.   I often pick names simply to avoid embarrassment.  Others do the opposite, apparently in droves (see also The Fatman server in TOR).


So what about you?  Where are you headed?  And what guild are you headed out with?  Are you fretting a decision (particularly if you intend to be an active WvWvW person and are worried about the server pop)?


All Hail the Savior of the MMO World (?)

So, like many of you out there, I had a chance to spend some of the weekend playing Guild Wars 2 (though not all of it, as I was in attendence at Liberty Con again after a year hiatus).   I would be lying if I said I was not impressed.


There is a great deal about the game to like, from the general way that quests and exploration is laid out, to the unique advancement and skill unlock system that gives you a nice sense of progression without making you feel like you have to cap level to be fully effective, to the highlighting of a storyline that is configured to your play style.   I even have admiration for the few old school/hardcore nods they put into the game – like separating starting areas by race.  I can tell many of you all are impressed as well – if not from the glowing posts of praise, then at least from the fact that you gave all the half-naked female scholar models a complete and total pass.


But I’m hesitant.  Maybe its because I’m a little gun-shy from previous promises.  Or maybe its because I just don’t trust this franchise not to suddenly make the whole world go boom, or because of the way they carefully avoid the term F2P/Free to Play.   Or perhaps the way in which, unless you got lucky like I did, you had to actually buy the full game to try it out.


But mostly I think its the way that everyone is tripping over themselves to tell you how great it is, how its the next big thing, etc.  In other words, my BS alarm is going off in the back of my head.   Surely there are things about this game that are bad, right?  Things that we don’t like, yes?  If I tried to review this game from my limited playtime and maybe supplemented with everything I’ve read so far, I wouldn’t even have to put a Bad or Ugly section in it seems.


So here’s what I need.  I need to know what is bad or wrong or faulty or weak with this game.  If you have some insight, feel free to drop it here or write a post about it.

2012 Predictions

I thought this would be easy.  At least it has been in past years, but this year I’m a little stumped.  More specifically, I’m stumped about what to make predictions *about*.   It seems obvious what will and will not happen this year.


1) FunCom will be FunCom…they will release a conceptually brilliant game long before it is ready, and oblivious to whether or not they have enabled their target audience to consume it (think system requirements re: AoC at its launch).


2) Guild Wars will ship to much acclaim and joy, and find its niche…and then promptly fall off the radar, as people complete is PvE campaign in the course of a week and are left with nothing but hardcore PvP or the next $50 box drop.


3) World of Warplanes Beta will come winging our way at some point during the year.  My guess is that it will not be nearly the success that World of Tanks has been.  Primarily because the inclusion of joystick support indicates that the basic keyboard controls are going to be awkward, and lets face it, that’s what most people use.  Again..that whole “know your target audience” mentality.


And then there is stuff that is less obvious.  And that is the stuff that I will really judge myself on predicting, because its a little tougher.


1) Dawntide may not survive another year.  After previously announcing plans for a launch and unveiling payment plans, Dawntide had to do a quick E-brake 180 when they lost funding.  They reaquired funding almost immidiately, and promised an updated release date within three weeks time.  Two months later, the big news was instead that the whole world was coming down for a complete redesign/regraphic-ing (is that a word?).  That smacks of desperation or fear, one of the two.  One of the GM’s in the forum is on record as saying he believes a new launch will come late in the year, perhaps around August, but there is simply no  good way to tell at this point.

On the other hand,  I could be wrong.  The redesign of the world could indicate an influx of funding allowing them to modernize and fully realize the game.  And in this case, I truly hope I’m wrong.  The innovations present in the game are wonderful, and I’d like to see it make some inroads.


2) Sony will find a new flagship.  They have to, right?  I’m shocked that Everquest 3  took so long to get off the ground, even in whispered rumor form.  To be the advance they want it to be will require a full development cycle, which means we are looking at another 4 years probably before it hits.  So part B is this: I fully expect Sony to pick up distribution rights to ArchAge Online.  They have shown no qualms about bringing other people’s developments into their fold (Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea).  Pairing this with a PlanetSide 2 launch would mean fresh blood in the Sci Fi and Fantasy domains.  That’s not to say that ArchAge comes out way in 2012, but I think it will find a home in this time period (call that part C if you will)


3)  Titan will lose its codename and we will began to get some information on it.  Quite frankly, my belief is that if you’ve been holding it in your backpocket for over four years, without even giving a hint of what it is, its just as likely rotten eggs as it is a hit.   But I’ll be curious to see what’s been rattling around in the heads of Blizzard and whether or not this is the time to unveil it.


In the most and least categories:

My most anticipated game is…I don’t have one.  Honestly, I don’t.  I’d say Secret World, but I’m pretty sure its gonna flop like a drunk noob off the high dive platform.  I’m honestly not excited about anything that is to come this year.  So, I guess the challenge is to see what does finally get me excited.

My least anticipated game is…Guild Wars 2.  I’m glad that everyone is nuts over it, but I honestly do not see the draw.  The art direction in the first one and from what I’ve seen in this one, is ugly to my eye.  Guild Wars is honestly the only game I’ve quit playing because I wanted to claw my eyeballs out just looking at the screen.  Does that make me weird?  You bet it does.

The game everyone is excited about that will actually be horrible…that’s gotta be WildStar.  It looks like Champions Online’s graphically impaired World of Warcraft wannabe offspring.  Reminds me a bit of Alganon, which, as we all know, had great success in the MMO world.

Dual of the mini Mecha MMO’s.  Which will win my affection:  Hawken or Mechwarrior Online?  Personally I’m leaning Mechwarrior myself, but the decision to continue a timeline that was already beyond salvage is humorous.  And I could see it being neither.  When I think mecha I think strategic.  I do not think super-action fest.  Which is what both of these games seem like they may be, at first blush.  Which means that the dark horse alternate candidate in this race may actually be the wildly-innacurately name Gratuitous Tank Battles.  Which is actually Gratuitous Mecha Battles…that also happen to have some Tanks in them.   Seriously…are we that desperate to cash in on the World of Tanks fanbase?