[GW2] Scaled Raiding

The Vinewrath is one of Guild Wars 2 open-world “raids”. Compared to most conventional raids the mechanics/roles are pretty simple, but they do exist. For example, someone in the lane needs to keep an eye on the backline because I’ve seen slingers wreck whole lanes with rock bombards. A couple people in the thrasher champion fight need to deal with pustules. Many lane wipes have occurred from pustules.

Each Vinewrath fight so far had felt full with people map having been hopping between instances of Silverwastes like locusts. Nobody appeared to know the recommended population for fighting the Vinewrath. Players even felt pressured to do the content now! Now. Now! in case it became difficult later on when the active population moved on.  Continue reading [GW2] Scaled Raiding

Guild Wars 2 Flash Sale, ESO Switch, and Wildstar

So, before the Saturday announcement Guild Wars 2 is selling for $10. I’ve been trying to avoid the hype train until things become real (ArenaNet officialized). But, hot dang, $10 for Guild Wars 2 is… that’s Steam Sale worthy. That’s Steam worthy in the sense that I would buy the game to let it sit there.

Then ESO is going to buy-to-play. It even has the synics (sic :P) slightly on board. I think that’s cool and expected. The game seemed to fall off the map too quickly. The switch went pretty well for LOTRO and TSW, and I expect about the same for this.

Which leads me to Wildstar… the game I wanted to be buy-to-play. Supposedly their latest update is going to do a lot of good to the game. At least that’s what I’ve heard through the grapevine. Still, I am surprised that ESO is making the business model switch first, and it gets me looking at pappa NCSoft, killer of City of Heroes.

I am a big fan of MMO’s I own. I am much more likely to buy it in Steam fashion and play it some. I did it with TSW, which I adore but just don’t have time for, and I still have my lifetime “sub” with LOTRO because I wanted ownership. I will probably pick up ESO for that reason. I might even get Mrs. Ravious interested, who knows. I’ll probably pick up another GW2 account as well, just ‘cus.

–Ravious

[GW2] Season 2 Living World Review

The short of it is: it is a vast improvement over Season 1. There is more permanence, more cohesive, apparent plot, and a strong heading. ArenaNet seems to have gone from “too many cooks in the kitchen” to “yes, chef” in one Living World season. Also spoilers.

Permanence!

The most objective improvement is that almost everything is now a permanent fixture. Every launch period (2+ weeks) a player can log in to snag the personal story chapter for free. Thereafter it costs 200 gems ($2.50), or 20 something gold. After that, whatever instances and achievements that come with the chapter are at the player’s whim. There are no timed achievements. Either the achievements are tied to the story instances or to the zones themselves.

ArenaNet also chose to devote most of their attention to permanent zones rather than instanced, temporary pop-up areas, such as the Tower of Nightmares, or temporary activities to zones, such as the Marionette. The debris left behind by the temporary activities and areas makes areas of the zone feel unfinished. Continue reading [GW2] Season 2 Living World Review

Quick Review: Spoiler Alert

A conceptually amusing platformer with mixed execution. Playing part of the first world is worth the time; probably not worth buying or playing through the whole thing. I played around 45 minutes to get 100% completion.

You start at the end, defeating the end boss and running away with the princess. Then you go in reverse, from right to left, bouncing off enemies’ heads to wake them back up, returning coins, and catching fireballs. That’s the “conceptually amusing,” a reversed platformer. Not all the coins were collected nor all the enemies stomped on the run through the game you are unwinding, so the challenge is frequently to collect particular coins and avoid bouncing off certain enemies.

This is entertaining for a small number of levels. There are 100 levels. Most of the levels are very short. A perfect run through the game would take about 15 minutes. That is helpful, because stomping an enemy you were not supposed to creates a “paradox,” start over. Some levels are a couple of easy jumps, and you will never see them again. Others require pixel-perfect jumping or timing that you need to memorize because you need to react to some things before they come on screen.

That is, the jump is a fixed height and width, so if you need to make three jumps in a row, you need to know exactly where to start the third one so you can start the first one at the right spot, and the third one will be off-screen. That’s bad design. Many other design decisions are good. For example, when a new enemy is introduced, you have an entire level that is nothing but dodging that attack pattern with no complications, more or less just showing you how this enemy moves.

One design decision initially annoyed me, but I decided it was a good thing. You get a perfect score on a map by beating it with no deaths or paradoxes. You cannot start over in the event of death or paradox, or perhaps you could by quitting to menu, but there was no quick restart I saw. The level restarts automatically upon paradox, and it keeps doing so until you get the whole level perfect in a single run-through. Then you get your score. If you want your perfect score, you need to do that, then start over and do it without failing. In effect, you need to be able to beat the level perfectly twice in a row. I like that. Once can be a fluke (and perfect on the first try still counts); if you just failed it 10 times in a row to get it once, you need to do it again to demonstrate that you actually know what you’re doing. It reminds me of a nice bit in Ender’s Game when Ender has his troops repeat a maneuver three times to prove to themselves that they have mastered it (but only three to avoid having it become a repetitive drill).

: Zubon

Attention to Detail

2015-01-15_00001 Fist of Jesus is a game in the latest Humble Bundle. It is a beat-em-up distinguished only by cartoonish blasphemy; none of the reviews give me hope that the gameplay improves, but if the idea of “play Double Dragon as Jesus and Judas versus Lazarus’ horde of zombies” sounds entertaining, it is currently $5+ for this and four other games (or $8+ for another two, including an actual Double Dragon).

The level of attention to detail in the game is perhaps best attested by the typo in literally the first screen once you start the game.

: Zubon

[GW2] The Vinewrath

There is a lot to talk about with the latest Guild Wars 2 update, which closes out Season 2 of the Living World story. I am going to go from least spoiler’y to most spoiler’y in my posts about the update. First, I am going to talk about the Silverwastes and its boss.

The latest two zones are what I would consider highpoints of MMO zone design because each zone has its own rhythm and life. My least favorite MMO zones are ones where there’s a bit of everything, and none of it really ties together. My favorites are ones where when I enter the zone I know what the cadence will be. Dry Top is an event farming zone with handy dandy hourly timer and reset. Silverwastes is more chaotic, and also more rewarding. Continue reading [GW2] The Vinewrath

Difficulty and Creativity

Lower difficulty accommodates a broader range of playstyles and options. Higher difficulty increasingly demands optimization and can make every fight a puzzle boss.

There are more and less effective ways of accomplishing goals in games. For many people, theorycrafting and metagaming are the game, and the real fun comes from figuring out how to manipulate rules and situations for optimal effectiveness. There is a lot to be said for this approach to fun. If you enjoy strategy games, this is probably what you enjoy. Wringing the most value out of every move and option is the heart of strategy gaming.

Many care less about that. They have concepts they want to play, toys they want to use, or “I’m just here to have fun.” It does not matter if the flamethrower is 20% less effective per point than the shotgun; they just want to watch the world burn. At an extreme, there are those who love the difficulty of execution, and they will intentiontally make suboptimal choices to prove they can succeed under those conditions.

High levels of difficulty tend to restrict the range of viable options. In easy fights, like solo MMO play, a silly concept build works just fine, and a perfectly optimized build just saves a little time. As difficulty increases, the number of viable builds narrows (given constant player skill). Difficulty gets tuned this way: playing at the highest difficulty, you may need great execution and a great strategy and an optimized build. If not, the highest difficulty could be made even harder.

The Queen’s Gauntlet in Guild Wars 2 was a good example. You could sleepwalk through most of the fights with an optimized mesmer, and I’m told that warriors were also strong. Other classes needed to struggle and adapt more. Stronger classes and builds could keep their usual skills and talents; some people needed to switch up weapons and abilities to beat some bosses. More skilled players could do more with less, but the DPS check (X hit points, Y seconds to defeat it) limited that.

You can also optimize fun and silly builds to make them viable at higher difficulties or use optimized builds for casual play to compensate for unoptimized playstyles (inexperienced, lazy, drunk, limited physical capabilities). One of the joys of character optimization in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 was seeing experts take mechanically weak ideas and make them viable characters rather than burdens that needed to be carried by the rest of the party. “We swapped some feats on your whip-wielding halfling cleric, and if you take these spells, you should be back up to par.” The car looks the same on the outside, but because it is souped up under the hood, it handles better when conditions get rough.

: Zubon

[GW2] Double the Legendary, Double the Fun

Mrs. Ravious is now the proud owner of two legendaries. It definitely helped that the RNGhost in the Machine decided to give, ironically, Mrs. Ravious the Leaf of Kudzu precursor for the holidays. Her Christmas gift last year was the Leaf of Kudzu. This year it was put up on the auction block with the proceeds turning in to Dawn, the precursor for the legendary greatsword Sunrise.

Then for the holidays she farmed well… everything, and I led her through Ascalon Catacombs a dozen or so times. I now stand next to my wife like a filthy casual.

I kid. She hates that I don’t have a legendary, but I don’t know which legendary ArenaNet made to look good with necromancers. Wait, yes I do. None. They made none legendaries for the stepchild class of PvE. I guess if I want to be some anti-necromancer, bubble-gum angel holding-a-rainbow… necro like Noscoc I could do that. Continue reading [GW2] Double the Legendary, Double the Fun