On The Edge of Irrelevance: Guild Wars 2’s PvP Nosedive

I am going to toot my own horn, but it’s a really sad tune I’ll be playing. I was right, but I really didn’t want to be right about this.

We Saw This Coming

One of the main complaints from the PvP community about the choice of Conquest as sPvP in Guild Wars 2 is the Capture Point rule set. This doesn’t mean that capture point games aren’t common or unpopular, but that they rarely become the accepted test of skill in PvP type games.

And once you neutralize or capture, then there is no benefit to hanging around. There is likely a contested area or node that needs you more at the time. It is possible that you could design your team to have sets of two players who feature a highly supportive and defensive player with someone of decent damage output to take a node and sit on it. The problem then becomes that the battle is a war of attrition. Prolonged battles and over-balance are two of the major reasons the Guild Wars PvP scene died off after being so healthy for years. If your ruleset and map dictates prolonging fights to preserve nodes then it shrinks the type of builds and strategies to use.

In larger head-to-head battles you have more room for builds to specialize into different roles and for players to coordinate their playstyle with the playstyle of their teammates. What this means is that you could have a six on six head-to-head battle with different team makeups on each side, as opposed to a standardized Cap Point team.

In Capture Point, if you try to stick together as a single swarm, then you’ll likely lose. You can’t force large battles in Conquest. If most of your team is at one spot then you give up the other two nodes. Running, delaying and interfering matter most. What the PvP community wants are those team vs team situations where the battle is all out, and it’s a matter of supporting and controlling both sides. Players want to be sized up against the whole of the other side. They don’t want to succeed at their node running, just to realize they’re losing because of something that is happening on the other side of the map for which they have no input on or access to. Players also want the extra strategy of team builds.

What ArenaNet risks by going fully in with just Conquest is alienating the playerbase that would make the sPvP attractive. You can’t be bigtime without the respect of the community because you won’t draw the community to care and be competitive about your game. You will get, and forgive the elitism here, the second and third tier players to fill in the gap of talent. In other sports, there are minor leagues and spinoff leagues. There has been basketball leagues that use trampolines and favor dunking because it has a high entertainment value. These minor leagues don’t ever rise above the level of sideshow because nobody truly respects them. They don’t draw the top talent and thus don’t draw the big attendance. I feel this is the same for E-sports. ArenaNet can’t go out there and try to push E-sports while being PowerDunk Ball.

–  The E-Sports Charade

I wrote those blocks of text over a year ago on May 24th, 2012. It was a warning about the future of PvP in the game if they stuck with Conquest. I think the PvP community will find those “warnings” extremely relevant right now, especially the final paragraph.

The Tournament Finals Swansong

At the one year anniversary bash, ArenaNet held their tournament final between the top European team and the top North American team. If I could describe the feel of everything about this in two words, it would be “awkward” and “depressing”.

The Anniversary Bash stream was above 5k viewers during the early parts of the event. People watched the opening address and the Q&A. The final part of the event was the match between Car Crash and Sync for the PVP championship. At this point, the twitch fell below 5k viewers, and then loss more viewers as the match went on.

However, it was already awkward before that. The devs kept trying to pump up the match, but the live audience issued a muttering of applause, seemingly clueless about the two teams, or just not interested in the event itself. When it came to Q&A time, a lone player from Crystal Desert asked why there wasn’t more modes for PvP in the game, and where the beloved modes from Guild Wars 1 were to be found in the game. In response, the Dev Panel looked at each other, somewhat clueless and scared. There was not a single spvp dev on the panel. The closest person to this was Devon Carter, who handles WvWvW. After the group sat quiet a second, Colin Johannson jumped on the “grenade” of a question, and effectively dodged it with a rambling bit of PR.

Meanwhile, the entire twitch stream was filled with people spamming “GvG” in the chat for the entirety of the event. The entire thing felt like a trainwreck for PvP rather than the showcase ArenaNet intended it to be.

The Victory Funeral

Following the championship, players took to the forums and expressed their issues with the handling of the PvP question, and how generally uninteresting the match was itself.

Players complaining on forums is nothing new. However, long time sPvP player, and large contributor to the cause Xeph announced his retirement from the game the following day. He said his reasons were numerous, but you could sort of tell the Anniversary Bash and its recent news was a tipping point.

The post was deleted, but the damage was done.

It’s Not the Incentives

Xeph felt the PvP lacked incentives to attract players, but that’s never really been a big part of highly successful PvP. Most of the reward comes from winning and the winning actually meaning something. Ultimately, there must be some pride in the accomplishment of winning. Guild Wars 2 lacks that feeling. It lacks is because Conquest mode is Powerdunk Ball. it’s not what people care about, and ArenaNet never listened.

And now their planned high moment is a depressing final death cry.

Can it be saved? Sure. It’s not like ArenaNet is facing any real competition in the MMO PvP space. However, they need to focus on what people care about in MMO PvP. Don’t be a MOBA. Don’t spread small skirmishes across a map. People are getting that already, and there’s a whole other audience being ignored. That audience wants tactical, skilfull, and gear balanced team fights. It doesn’t have to be deathmatch. You can establish a goal to fight over, but that goal must involve two teams fighting together.  People watch MMO PvP for the group play, Remember that.

Advertisements

Prevails

A strange thing happened upon the way to Guild Wars 2’s one year anniversary: it became very successful. According to some research,Guild Wars 2 is the fastest selling MMO based in the Western part of the world. Taking a gander at NCSoft’s quarterly reports, and making an idiot’s guess at the numbers, it seems the game is making ANet about 9-10 million a month.

Also, ArenaNet has moved towards a 2-week update schedule for their patches and Living World system.

But perhaps you thought all MMOs failed. Perhaps you heard that the game was dead. Perhaps you are wondering how this happened. So, let’s take a look at why Guild Wars 2 prevailed where other MMOs failed.

Oh boy, a numbered list of reasons!

    1. Those other MMOs did not fail. This is important to understand. Those other MMOs switched business models, and that’s important to this list, but let’s not continue the chant of “fail”. Many of the subscription MMOs that went towards Free-to-play or Buy-to-play models did so because they could make more money from those models. And guess what? They did. Check out Zenofdesign blog for a look into SWTOR’s tranisition. It’s a good read.
    2. ArenaNet budgeted correctly. Those that have played Guild Wars 2 know the game doesn’t have grand, impressive cinematics. ArenaNet has changed their story presentation in a way to better accommodate the speed of development, but they never spent as much on cinematics as their competitors did.And despite the hype at launch, there wasn’t a lot of advertising for the game. It carried out its message through social media and word-of-mouth, both exceptionally cheap forms of PR. There was a launch commercial made, but it was awful and quickly and quietly done away with. These sort of decisions reduced the game’s development cost.
    3. ArenaNet and NCSoft created a fair Cash Shop.  The MMO community sometimes finds itself stuck in the world of fools and idiots. “F2P is P2W.” You can still people say this phrase even though many former sub MMOs have gone F2P with little change in the user’s experience. However, it was important for Guild Wars 2 to clearly stand in opposition of this viewpoint. To get around this issue, the GemShop was created. Most of the items in the cash shop are cosmetic items that sell o power advantage. Other items are boosters, and account services. Account services have long been a pay-for feature in MMOs, so that’s nothing new. Boosters are also random drops as rewards from chests, dailies, and can be attained easily through food buffs.The game does have a jackpot mechanic in its Black Lion Chests, but there’s never any source of power advantage within the chests. Not losing money on these items is a matter of self-control.Most importantly, the gold to gem conversion allows any gem shop item to be bought with gold, and many have taken advantage of this.
    4. They released a quality game and supported it. Recently, Wildstar and TESO have announced that they will be releasing as sub-based MMOs. Carbine Studio’s Gaffney, I believe, said of releasing an MMO that the pricing model isn’t as important as the quality of the game. Well, not exactly Gaffney. Unfortunately, there’s been some decent to good MMOs released that have struggled to maintain because they were over-budgeted and had to live via subs while there was already a fat, behemoth of an MMO swallowing everyone’s subscription commitment and time, leaving little for the competition to scoop up.The truth is that quality is a pre-requisite for MMO success, but not the determining factor of an MMO’s success. It is something that has to exist at launch, but beyond that an MMO must find a way to get player’s time, and to keep player’s engaged. It’s those last two parts that involve the business model, but also involves updates and support. ArenaNet has found a way to make money with their game without fighting for subs and then support the game with a plethora of updates that feature a variety of types of content. So far, it’s working very well for them.

In Closing, yada yada, and banana turnbuckle.

Guild Wars 2 is different. It was different enough to succeed with its original play while others struggled with their own plan. It could be claimed that Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft are exceptions to the rule about MMOs. However, I feel there is almost awlays reasons why a thing is so. Does WoW decline in players because it’s too casual? No, it was most successful at its most casual. It’s declining because its an old game facing more competition. It’s declining because F2P and B2P models have shown to offer more competitive environments in the East and those models are just now starting to take hold in the west.

So how do future MMOs not crash and burn? My firs tip: dot listen to the MMO community too much. I’ll get into that in a future blog post though.

Rata Sum 101: Geometric Splendor for Bookahs

Let’s Measure the Area

Wandering the Asuran capital city you will notice the repeated shapes and patterns of the city. You’re walking on hexagons, you’re chilling on an updside-down pyramid, or you’re staring down a pentagon shaped hallway. Everywhere you look, a triangle looms and angles align. So, I decided to do some screenshotting of the city with an emphasis on the geometric.

The skyline of Rata Sum lives under the oppression of triangles. Every corner of the main floor of the city presents you with a view of these pyramid-framed horizons.

gw2 2013-03-29 16-52-02-154 gw2 2013-03-29 16-51-27-083 gw2 2013-03-29 16-51-15-327

Triangles also appear in places not so overbearing with their architecture.

Here, two towers align along a pathway up one of the sea-floor buildings. The lines of the towers and the angle of the stairs create suggested triangles.

gw2 2013-03-29 17-10-08-788

Inside the city, hallways are triangles lined up within triangles.

gw2 2013-03-29 16-55-28-439

And below the sea, two masts on the Asuran sailboats meet to create another suggested triangular shape.

gw2 2013-03-29 17-08-55-634

Shapes within shapes are a big theme of the city. The dam meets the water as the meeting of two tetragons, and through the rectangular hexagon opening on a shipping boat, you can see the cubic grandeur of the city above.

 

gw2 2013-03-29 17-05-06-988 gw2 2013-03-29 17-07-42-904

One of my favorite examples of the use of geometric shapes in the city is the view from the sides of Rata Sum. Just beyond the crafting stations are these hexagonal openings. Looking out from the sides, you see the pyramid edges of the rest of the city. The lovely bit is that the plateaus to your right and left are the same shape you are standing in, only now it’s cut in half. An oblong hexagon sliced in half to create two quadrilateral kites and then each kite jutting out an angle from the hexagonal opening.

 

gw2 2013-03-29 16-53-47-079 gw2 2013-03-29 16-53-22-298

Of course this does-anyone-care-but-me discussion would not be complete without looking at the floor patterns. During this fictional photography adventure, I’d often raise my camera directly overhead to see the geometric shapes as flat floor patterns.

gw2 2013-03-29 16-55-04-936

 

gw2 2013-03-29 17-13-35-416

Such as this. The above may be my favorite shot out of all of these screens. Who wants to play with building blocks?

gw2 2013-03-29 16-56-44-527

What I’ve been up to: Jan. 2013

I figured I should make a post detailing what I’ve been up to within the world of Guild Wars 2 now that the game has been out for five months. I may continue making these posts as a record of what a player does at endgame in a game that some may think has no traditional endgame.

My main character has been level 80 for a long time by now and not only has a full exotic set of gear, but now has a second set of exotic armors for the purpose of survival and magic find. I have also been collecting exotic swords with different stats. I have one sword with more condition damage, one sword that has berserker stats, and a third sword with the power, precision and magic find set of stats. Even though I can only get full use out of two swords at a time, I spent the karma and got an Asuran tier 3 Peacemaker sword for the skin and then transmuted exotic stats onto it. I did this mostly for the look, but then put stats onto it for the benefit of a magic find set that won’t hamper my dungeon groups with lower quality stats. I also occasionally use the set in WvWvW to improve my loot there, but mostly for the increased Vitality and Toughness on that second gear set.

My primary alt is the engineer that I’ve talked about on this blog. I’ve pretty much carried over my beta playstyle and tweaked it here and there to be a support Engineer. This alt recently hit level 70 and I wouldn’t surprise myself if I ended up hitting 80 before the week is over. Of course, Super Bowl Sunday may get in the way of that. (Go Niners.)

As for what I’ve been up to, I’ve actually gone back to exploring the world of Tyria after spending the previous months busy in Dungeon runs and WvWvW. You remember that bit about coming back to a zone and finding something new? Surprisingly, It’s true. As much as that claim would be easy to dismiss at first, my alt playing has lead me deeper into the world of Tyria. As it turns out, most often what I find to be new was something old that I never ran into before. One example would be a group of children who play a trivia game inside a cave in Queensdale. Apparently, this has been there since launch. I just never poked my head in there at the right time.

There’s also way more jumping puzzles in the game than I would have guessed. Partially due to my exploration itch this month and partially to be blamed on the monthly achievement, I’ve probably run into about 20 or so jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons this month that I had never seen before.My two favorite discoveries are the Forsaken Halls in Dredgehaunt Cliffs and The Hidden Garden in Mount Maelstrom.

There is one thing tying these two places together even though one is categorized as a mini-dungeon and the other a jumping puzzle. Both the Halls and the Garden require a prerequisite Dynamic Event to be finished before gaining access to them. In the case of the Forgotten Halls, my discovery of the place was months ago when gallivanting about with my guild of real life friends. I saw this huge Dwarven door and curiously poked around it. However, it was closed shut and there was just a brief reference to a npc in some outpost I had not been to before. We moved on, never to return.

But then I did return and this time sought out the NPC. The NPC wanted some items and I had one of the items and as it turned out a group of players just as curious as me had the other item. It was mere chance that we met the NPC around the same time, but soon enough the Charr with the key to the Dwarven door was stomping out of the north and headed towards our mystery spot. When the Dynamic Event finished, he casted a spell to open the door and a new Event started inside. I won’t give away what lies inside Forsaken Halls, but think Mines of Moria sort of stuff.

The Hidden Garden requires a player to find one of the elemental mini-bosses in Mount Maelstrom that guard a portal to the area. Defeating the mini-boss event will open the portal for a brief amount of time and allow players to gain access to The Hidden Garden. The area of the Garden is actually that big blotch of hidden area beyond the eastern side of the Inquest structures in Mount Maelstrom. There is no way in other than through the elemental portals. Once inside, you’ll be required to not beat one, but four separate jumping puzzles in the Garden in order to attain the elemental items at their ends and open the big treasure chest in the middle of the Garden. It’s a beautiful area with immense verticality. Be wary if you get virtual vertigo.

Mount Maelstrom is also home to Conundrum Cubed which may be the most mind-tweaking jumping puzzle I’ve ran into. The area is hidden away behind a shadowy crack in the mountains in the northwest of the zone. Upon entering, you will see an Asuran experiment gone awry. Cubes float and stack in Stargate-esque diagonals and odd angles all over the place. The area looks sort of like a game of Jenga that reached its toppling point and had the ensuing deconstruction frozen in time. It’s quite confusing as a platforming level. Not only does it seem there is no path laid out before you, it doesn’t seem there is a place where you should start. I only found a way up via trial and error of different starting spots. Not only do the cubes lack standard flat platforms to land upon, the floating cubes often have timed spike traps on them, making platforming extra deadly. In addition, traversing the puzzle requires using portals that zap you and block your way. It’s a jumping puzzle that doesn’t make sense until you complete it. There is no straight line and at times, it felt like I wasn’t headed anywhere nearer to my goal when I actually was. I probably died seven or ten times from large falls.

I’m rather determined, so very few of the 20+ secret areas of mini-dungeons and jumping puzzles did I give up on. I did take one extremely brief attempt at Griffonrook Run and decided it was to be left for another day.

As it turned out, this post has mostly been about jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons, but my exploration time has been about more than that. I just find the JPs to be the easiest parts to put into words. The little bits of story and local life that Dynamic Events showcase are better played and paid attention to than described via another person’s experience. There’s also many impressive areas of the game that exist just to exist. Often, these areas have vistas to take in their beauty. The world design of Tyria qualifies for that grand title of  pretty damn cool.

WubWub Pink Power: WvWvW Mesmer Guide Part 2

Hide and Sneaky

Not everything in WvWvW needs to be a part of the “zerg”. An important part to taking another server’s keep or tower is denying supply lines to that area, choking off their ability to build defenses and repair damage. For this purpose, you may find yourself in a small squad of four or five players on a mission to interrupt reinforcements and supply.

Good Friends To Have

While I recommend playing with your friends regardless of their class, I do understand some people might be looking to assemble a specialized squad. If you’re a Mesmer then what classes might you be looking to bring?

The two-headed gank monster of WvWvW is the Mesmer and Thief. The main reasons for this being burst, deception, stealth and get-away speed. In regard to speed, the Mesmer itself is not as fast as either an Elementalist or Thief, but they can use portal to bypass this disadvantage of theirs. Portal can also help you and your squad escape a bad situation.

The Thief and Mesmer can trade-off stealths to increase their survival time, but need to focus targets together. The Thief’s burst is some of the highest in the game, but glass cannons don’t tend to live long. The Mesmer can survive longer, but takes much longer to kill a single target. If focused and adaptive, the Mesmer/Thief duo can cause havoc even while outnumbered. I have torn through 2-1 and 3-1 odds with some of the better thiefs on Stormbluff Isle.

When I assemble a friendly squad, I do not worry too much about classes, but I have found the Engineer, Elementalist and Guardian to be great assets to go along with skirmishing style of the Mesmer. These classes bring area heals and instant rezzes, but also great control and buffs.

Hit N Run

Hit and run is the typical small squad playstyle. Your primary targets will be supply yaks and snagging lone stragglers between points. I would say it’s not always a good idea to attack strays if it would give away your position. An example of this is if your group is doing a run of continuous supply camp capping in a borderland. The commanders on the other servers will be watching what’s getting hit and if they see crossed swords and people calling out your position between targets, chances are you’ll run into a larger force sent to wipe your squad out.

This makes learning the layout of the map important to a gank squad. There are often more than one way to enter a camp and taking the quietest route is often best. Your movement is also important to the rest of your server-mates and their movements are important to you.

Was that a DUH statement? Yes, a bit, but it can alter which route you take into an objective. If you know the larger group of allies will be running towards your position then you can plan for that by leading straggling into the larger group or leading foes away from the group. If the large group is coming in the bckdoor to a supply camp then you can trap any fleeing defenders by going in the front door. For these reasons, it’s always good to take a quick look at map talk and ally movement on the map before heading off to your next target.

We Dine On Yak Tonight

Supply Yaks are an important target that even a solo player can take down. As a Mesmer, it’s best to bring a build that has burst and snares to slow the Yak down. Generally, I like to solo Yaks when they are directly beyond the reach of supply camp guards or along an otherwise empty area between supply drops.

For Yak Slapping, I tend to always equip Portal for one of my utilities, along with Mass Invis as my elite. The key to these hits are stealth and escape, so taking these sort of hit-n-run skills is vital. You can often find a safe, hidden spot near a Yak’s route to drop your Portal Entre before going into hit the yak. Any large rocks that hide you from the road or areas hidden below cliffs are great Portal retreat areas. If you find yourself suddenly joined by three or four enemy players you can drop a Portal to quickly escape, wait a second to heal and then Portal back to finish off the Yak. Since the enemy players won’t see the other Portal you went to from their position on the road, the misdirection will allow you to hop back into battle with a second or two to spare before they recognize where you are.

Skirmishing Stragglers

Fighting stragglers solo or with a pair involves the Encounter Rules shown in the previous guide. What I would add to this is that doing this solo or in a pair needs a lot more attention directed towards counting and recounting your number of foes. Just as its easy for you to sneak into battle via teleports or stealth, it’s easy for your foes to jump on you while you’re engaged in what was previously an even numbers fight. As you get better at WvWvW, you will die less and less often from losing open duels and more from not paying attention to your odds.

As a Solo Player…

As a solo player in WvWvW, I like to flow in and out of zerg combat and into small squads or solo mischief. (This was a lot easier to do with the Phantasm build before the engage time on Phantasms was reset to molasses-slow in the last fix.) When and where I make these hops depends on the battle and map, but also the strengths of your server. If you’ve been trying to siege a Keep for your server and been getting nowhere, it may help your allies more to split off and pick off yaks and player reinforcements.

WubWub Pink Power: WvWvW Mesmer Guide Part 1

Asuran Greatsword

Pack a big sword and Portal Bomb to PVP Heaven

WvWvW As A Mesmer

This post will hopefully help players with tips on how to play a Mesmer in WvWvW and also go over the two builds I use in WvWvW as a Mesmer. I will first link two builds I use, along with a summary of their purpose and playstyle, and then go over how I play these builds in different WvWvW situations.

The Phantasm Mes

http://www.guildhead.com/skill-calc#mcmz0mzzMmanbomLnboaG0pVcMmzR9M8kiC707kiG

The above link will take you a rough sketch of the build. You may recognize the Greatsword and Sword/Focus combo. These two sets are quite common in WvWvW, though a lot of Mesmers run them with a shatter based build. I do not for I find the Phantasm build to be more suited for sieges and zergs. The following rundown of the build will be based on the status of the build before the December 3rd patch which removed the quick-attacking Phantasms. As of now, this build is not as effective as the Shatter build, but once they put Phantasm attacks at a .25 delay the build should begin to function properly again.

The key traits for this build are Empowered Illusions, Phantasmal Strength, Phatasmal Fury, Sharper Images, and Warden’s Feedback. Other parts of the trait setup you can switch around a bit, but I feel the traits I listed are highly important to the build. With these traits you get 30% damage increase from your Phantasms, constant crits from your Phantasms which lead to bleed stacking, and you get easy access to projectile reflects from your Focus skills. This means that dropping a Warden at the head of an opposing zerg will create a whirling reflect bubble that will cause a zerg to back off or die within the fury of its own arrows.

Other traits you may consider are Greatsword Training or Compounding Power. You can shift trait points around to acquire these or sacrifice one of the main traits for one of them. I originally had Greatsword Training, but dropped it in favor of other traits. I found having better access to Leap/Swap and Blurred Frenzy a greater tool than more frequent access to the Berserker or the knockback on Greatsword.

Your utilities in this build allow you escape and stealth through Decoy and Blink. If you get snared, especially by a Warrior or Ele, you can blink out and away to safety. You can also use Blink at the start of any journey between nodes to quickly cover distances. Mirrored Feedback is for siege and zerg fights, allowing you to reflect damage back at doors or at bridges. Cycling through Feedback, Warden and Curtain can effectively cutoff any bridge you are fighting at. Blink,Feedback or Decoy can be swapped out with Portal for doing Portal Bombs. In certain situations, swapping Mass Invisibility for Time Warp as your elite is pretty important.

The Shattering Reflect Mes

http://www.guildhead.com/skill-calc#mcmmzMczMmaLnomMLnoaa0GxzmzRzmq8kiH707khd7kiG

This is a shatterbomb Mes, but it carries Scepter/Sword as its secondary weapon set. you may see other shatter Mesmbers that carry Greatsword or Staff as their second weapon set. The reason this Mesmer carries Scepter/Sword is for the two block skills. What this Mesmer build does is reflect and block a lot of incoming damage. You can see that it features the same Inspiration trait line setup as the Phantasm Mesmer, but also carries a full Illusion line with Illusionary Persona and Masterful Reflection.

What I. Persona and Masterful Reflection do is allow you to do the usual shatter bomb and then follow it up with a Distortion bomb. After a full distortion shatter, you have 4 seconds where you are invulnerable and any projectiles aimed at you or in which you are along the path of are reflected back at their source. This makes you an unstoppable reflect circle within the battle. You can help push a group forward with a full Distortion Shatter as well, giving your group a moving relfection bubble for 4 seconds at the start of a push, then following it with Blurred Frenzy to allow yourself a second of further invuln to have your group catch up to you and then blink or portal back away out harms way.

Just as an aesthetic note, the Masterful Reflection trait comes with its own unique spell effect that differs fromt he Distortion effect. This can clue in your allies that you are in invuln & reflect status.

Your utilities are similar to the Phantasm build with Mirror Images added and Decoy removed. You can swap Blink with Decoy to put out more clones for shatters if you want, but I do often find Blink vital to escape and movement. For the purposes of Portal bombs, I replaced Feedback or Blink with Portal, but rarely Mirrored Images as the clone factory element of Mirrored Images is so important to the build. As with the other build, Mass Invis can be swapped for Time Warp depending on situational use.

Using Your Mesmer Within A Siege

If you are defending a wall against a siege, you can use your reflect skills at the head of a zerg or on Flame Rams at the door you are defending to reflect projectiles back at the attacking group. Always be careful of not spending a prolonged time at the edge of a wall to do this or you may be pulled off the edge and down into the battle. If you are yanked off the edge then make sure to quickly blink towards portal near your door or blink away and follow with a Decoy or Mass Invis. If the enemy is setting up a line of catapaults or trebuchets to hit your walls and doors, you can drop a Portal at a safe spot behind the wall (On the stairs for example) and then stealth into the middle of the siege array and drop the portal exit, allowing you to quickly move an army to the primary target. [See The Mesmer Zerg below.]

If you are attacking a wall with a siege then you can be the one yanking players off of walls and into the maw of fury and death of your siege. The key to doing this is setting your Temporal Curtain spell at the top of a wall where you can see enemies attacking and then triggering the second part of your 4 key spell Into the Void and yanking multiple foes off the wall and down below. Otherwise, swap your Mass Invis Elite skill for Time Warp as you approach a door. If your siege is using Flame Rams then pop Time Warp as soon as the Flame Rams are built. If your siege is using Golems then swap in both Time Warp and Portal and wait until all Golems are portaled in. Once all your golems are portaled in you can drop a Time Warp on top of them.

The Mesmer Zerg

The rules of using your Mes in a large battle where one side is fghting another upon a more open battlefield is much like how you use your Mesmer within a siege except that you portal far more often, and more at a whims notice. Instead of waiting for a Golem to show to portal, you lay your portals within the battle field, first (Portal Entre) at the back or middle of your group and then second (Portal Exit) in the middle of your enemies group. Sometimes you can put your Portal Exit at the side of an enemy group to flank or in certain cases behind the enemy group to pincer. The pincer is often very effective at break a zerg v zerg stalemate by splitting up the opposing group with ocnfusion. Half of your group is at the back defending the line, while the other half materializes behind the enemy boxing them in. The resulting chaos of the suddenly split force can often lead to your enemies splitting in multiple directions and de-turtling their turtle.

The turtle concept is based upon the AOE rules of the game, where AOE skills can often hit a max of 5 enemies. By grouping up in a turtle, it limits the amount of allies a single aoe can hit within its radius. For if there are 30 allies within a radius that an AOE can only hit 5 allies therein the radius, the turtle has saved a sixth of your allies from damage. The portal’s purpose then is to surround the turtle, pincer it quickly and cuase enough confusion to split it. If the pincer tactic doesn’t work then the portal bomb into the middle of the turtle will often cause chaos along with triggering the dreaded culling effect.

Culling is what happens in the game when too many targets appear within the same area. Culling makes the targets furthest from the player invisible. This lightens the load on each packet carrier so that the game can continue to function with minimal lag and framerate loss. The problem is that Portals create the culling effect at will and thus create an invisible army within the middle of a battlefield. This is great at portaling into a siege array of your enemy, but extremely frustrating for the other side as they can not see what is hitting them. This issue has made Thiefs and Mesmers popular due to stealth and portal skills triggering the effect on command.

The Mesmer’s Portal is still valuable within a zerg fight even without the culling issue being present. It still creates a sudden movement of reinforcements or allies that is valuable in winning a large battle. Key to this attack within the zerg is what I personally call the Mesmer Reflect Encounter rules.

The Encounter Rules

Reflect Encounter

The encounter rules graph to the left is a rough draw-up of the process I follow in a typical WvWvW encounter. The zero point marked by 0 on the image shows the player as the dark square shape. This is where the Mesmer player enters into the fight. In front of the Mesmer is an assortment of enemies marked as red circles. The closest enemy is marked with a 1 to signal them as initial or primary target. The secondary target is marked as an enemy to the far side of the first target, and the following targets are any group behind the initial target, marked by the number three. This creates a four step process, process the battlefield (0), acquire first target (1), check for secondary targets to your side and diagonal (2), check for targets behind your primary (3), and neutralize all targets.

If you notice those pink and purple marks on the graph you will see how I typically use my Mesmer skills. In both Mesmer builds I listed, there is a Sword & Focus weapon set, and that is the set used for this encounter graph. Your first encounter (1), uses your Phantasmal Warden. That is the W on the graph with a pink bubble around it. When you cast your Warden, it will often show up behind the target, but sometimes to the side or in front of the target. The Warden creates a reflect bubble  for you to to hide in while you melee away at your foe. So your opening attack will be casting a Warden on your target, followed by illusionary Leap, and then the following Swap skill to teleport and snare the target, and then finally Blurred Frenzy while your target is snared, following with basic Mind Stab attacks with the Sword primary spam attack. If done correctly, the Warden’s spin attack and bubble protection will be hitting at about the same time as your Blurred Frenzy channels. This creates a large damage spike on a single target or multiple melee range targets, while also providing invulnerability and reflection upon yourself and the target area.

If you see a secondary target to side or diagonal of your primary target then before Leaping into your primary target you cast Temporal Curtain infront of the Secondary target to reflect projectile damage back at them or to cripple them if they to engage you at melee range. (2)

If there is a second group behind the target or only a second target or gorup behind then you can cast the Temporal Curtain in front of them or cast Mirrored Feedback upon a foe within that group to reflect all projectiles from them back as you attack your primary target.

This allows you to engage three different enemies at once before even switching to your second weapon set.  I’ll go over the graph and process again.

Reflect Encounter

The Graph

  • Dark Square – The Mesmer
  • Red Circles – Enemies on the battlefield
  • Dark Lines – Movement steps via Leaps, Swaps, Blinks and good old fashioned running.
  • Light Pink W Circle- Your Warden and its Pink reflect Bubble
  • Pink Lines – Your Temporal Curtain lines
  • Dark Pink Circle – Mirrored Feedback AoE
  • Yellow Arrows – These are to note the way projectiles may reflect off your reflection spells. As you can see, the Warden is a circular outward reflection and the Mirrored Feedback bubble reflects projectiels back in, while the Temporal Curtains reflect directly backwards,
  • Numerals – The Process Steps

The Process

Zero Point is where you process your battlefield according to the graph.

  1. Find Primary Target and engage with Phantasmal Warden and Sword Leap –>  Swap.
  2. Identify Secondary Targets to your side or diagonal and neutralize them with Temporal Curtain
  3. Find next set or group of targets behind your primary target. Neutralize them with Mirrored Feedback or Temporal Curtain.
  4. Dispatch Primary Target after snare with damage spike from Blurred Frenzy and then proceed to Secondary Target.
  5. Disengage if you do not have the reinforcements with you to proceed onto further targets. Escape via blink, stealth, or portal.

Following this sort of thought process is how a Memser multiplies itself and makes great use of its tools to take on the fog of war in WvWvW. This process can be used within a large battleifled or within small skirmish encounters. The basic concept is to hit weak targets while protecting yourself and allies from the vast volleys of arrows and fireballs that litter the WvWvW battlefield.

Next up, Part Two!

This is an initial foray into my WvWvW Mesmer. Next up will be some ideas about playing the Memser as a skirmisher and yak-slapper.

How to Horizontal Boogie: Improve Traits Not Stats

The Outrage

If you’re a Guild Wars 2 player then you may have heard about the new Ascended gear added to the game with the Lost Shores patch released this past weekend. The release of information on a new tier of gear being added to the game caused a major uproar in the community. People have quit the game or are threatening to quit the game over the addition of new gear with better stats.

I think the first important thing to do is to present what Ascended gear is, how it will grow into the game, and why people are angry.

Tiers of Grief

Ascended armor has been explained as not a new higher tier, but a tier to bridge a gap between exotics and legendary items. What is new with Ascended gear is a stat increase over exotics and the infusion upgrade slot. The Ascended items themselves are unique, meaning that you likely cannot equip two of the same Ascended item, and in addition to this, the secondary stats of the items cannot be modified in the same way current items can.

The only types of Ascended gear in the game currently attainable are back pieces and accessories. Previously, each of these slot types of armor had an upgrade slot that could be interchanged with gems of various types and statistical benefits. In the case of Ascended gear, the upgrade stats are built into the item and cannot be changed.

Instead, Ascended items have infusion slots that can be changed, and come in different types. There are offensive, defensive and omni infusion slots. How this operates is not entirely known, but we have seen that the infusion slots can add Agony Resistance as well as stats like power, vitality and precision.

Agony is a new Damage over Time effect that occurs in the Fractals of the Mists dungeon starting at the level 10 difficulty tier. The Ascended items and the Fractals dungeon go hand-in-hand, as earning the items requires playing the Fractals dungeon, and so far the Fractal dungeon is the only place in game that has the Agony condition.

ArenaNet has stated that they plan to add more ways to acquire Ascended gear, including through WvWvW, but currently Fractals of the Mists is the only way. They also plan to slowly introduce each new type of Ascended item into the game piece by piece. There will be Ascended helms, shoulders and weapons, but these will be introduced months down the line.

Why They Scream You Lie

ArenaNet has been unwisely quiet in response to the anger about Ascended armor. They have spoken once in response, but the explanation provided did not truly quell the fears of the populace. One claim in particular has been a bone of contention.

Ascended items have been explained as a way for ANet to bridge the gap between Exotics and Legendaries, but people have challenged that assertion by saying there never was a statistical gap between Exotics and Legendaries. In response, the gap alluded to can be explained via rarity and the general ease of acquiring an Exotic versus the long trudge of attaining a Legendary. This too has not held up as people have pointed out that not all rares or exotics are equally uncommon or attainable.

There is a large gap between a crafted exotic such as a Pearl Broadsword and that of something like Legend of the Foefire or Vision of the Mists. For example, the Pearl Broadsword might run you 3 gold on the Trading Post, while the Foefire or Vision of the Mists will cost you at least a 100 gold to buy. Below the level of these status symbol swords are craftable weapons of the Corrupted and Destroyer type that require rare, expensive materials. Higher up in costs from these weapons are the Legendary precursor weapons that can often go for over a 100 gold.

Even rarity between statistical tiers are not consistent. The tier 3 cultural armor is much less common and harder to acquire than crafted Exotic armor or karma armor or even the dungeon sets. Much of the populace doesn’t have the 100 gold it takes to get the full set. So, while statistically the armor is weaker than my gear it is far more of a status symbol or reason to brag due to its high cost and consequential rarity. This holds true for tier 3 cultural weapons. My Peacemaker Greatsword gets more oohs and ahhs than my dungeon exotic scepter even though the original item itself is of only rare quality in stats.

All of these are examples of tiers within tiers that act as gap bridgers in rarity that have nothing to do with statistical differences, so ArenaNet’s explanation struggles to really hold up to criticism. Many have claimed that they created the gap themselves by introducing Ascended items with a new ceiling of stats.

And Why They Keep Yelling You Lied

The heart of the issue though is the claim that this introduces a gear treadmill to a game that promised no gear treadmills. This argument then sort of swindles out of control into dismissal of the game as a new WoW’-clone.

Overall, There’s too much histrioics within the anger and I worry it damages the legitimate concerns of the game’s core audience. And that core? I would describe them as a mix between Guild Wars veterans and those who had tired of the way things have been done in MMORPGs for so long. Both sides want a statistical plateau to tiers and skill over stat based gameplay.

However, is this now a treadmill game? No, not at all, but it does open the door to the treadmill, and the situation really makes me wonder why ArenaNet would even let that door get kicked ajar. There are multiple issues the game has in its current form and many things people want addressed or improved, but new statistical highs doesn’t seem to be high on that list.

Areas of Concern

The sPVP side of the game is struggling to retain players and it is easily the least developed side of the game. It also suffers from there being only one type of map, so while they did introduce a new map in beta form, its still the same type of ruleset with the same issues as the rest of sPVP. As long as structured PvP remains Cap Point mode, the game will be a never ending meta of bunker vs roamer, and tanky versus spike. I feel I have gone over the issues with Cap Point quite a bit here, but it’s the larger PvP playerbase that is starting to feel the limits of the map type.

WvWvW players are looking for incentive to keep playing, but as well, they are the group suffering the most from the game’s culling issues. It is known that culling is a top priority for the team and likely wont be an easy fix, but WvWvW issues go beyond culling. Players are starting to question whether they should keep dumping gold into upgrading and taking keeps for their Guild only to have all their investment vanish overnight.

PVE on the other hand requires more bug fixing and more variety at endgame. Orr is a jump in difficulty but a step down in variety. Lost Shores introduces a new max level area, but again has little in the ways of variety of events or enemies. Loot drops have also been a problem with far too much RNG involved and rather poor loot tables, but that at least began to be addressed with the Lost Shores patch. New bags of goodies were added to dungeon chests, new items with a rare chance off bosses, and the Fractal dungeon themselves offer more chances at valuable loot. Yet, beyond this, the game needs to make exploring more rewarding, that again being an issue of incentives. There’s a lot of great areas of the Tyrian world not being populated because the zerging of mobs that increases chances at valuable loot and the high-end gathering nodes that are essential to money making are only available in max level areas.

Somewhere far below these concerns lies new gear to chase. To some, those used to the old MMO model, that concern for new shinies may be much higher, but its hard for me to envision let alone support gear treadmill addicts being drawn to Guild Wars 2. Once you realize that power creep puts you in the same place in vertical progression game as you are in a horizontal progression game, that gear treadmill loses all value.

Horizontal Boogie Time

So how did the original Guild Wars support continual PvE gametime? How did the PVP and PVE continue to be populated and active without new statistical tiers? There’s one major element as to why: skills and encounters.

The card game-like skillbars of Guild Wars allowed the game to continually progress via new build ideas and strategies for many years. As well, new encounters that involved new situations and limitations created the need for new build ideas that again refreshed the play experience.

For Guild Wars 2, the original idea was that traits would provide this customization and variety that skills provided the original game, but the traits themselves have needed a serious overhaul since beta.  Too many of the traits are outright boring and uninteresting stat increases of no difference from gear changes. My Phantasms do 15% more damage? That doesn’t change my play-style anymore than stacking more power into my gear. My Glamour skills blind, oh wait, now all blinds confuse? Now my Glamour skills provide extra functionality and versatility. My Engineer’s pistol range is further? Well I suppose that makes my character more functional. My bombs heal? I create a bomb on dodge? Now being a bombing Engineer is also a support Engineer.

These are the differences between traits that have limited the horizontal progression in the game. There are some traits that add functionality and thus add variety to playstyles, but there are too many traits that only add vertical increases or functionality that should probably be there to begin with.

Beyond this, the traits are often bugged for many classes. The Necromancer class has suffered the most from this problem, but even my beloved Mesmer is not free of these issues. Hilariously, ArenaNet stated in their patch notes that Phantasmal Fury “now works”, but in actuality it still doesn’t work with Phantasmal Mage which was one of the main parts of the trait that was not working previously.

Overall, the issue with traits are holding back the side of the game that should be adding interesting options for daily players. Due to this, the game has not opened up like it should be opening up at max-level.

What To Do Now

I really feel ArenaNet needs to come out and directly address the elephant in the room. They need to announce whether or not there will be more statistical increases in gear between now and when a new level cap is introduced. They need to answer the gear treadmill question with a firm yes or no and stick to it. There is too much PR-praddle and silence coming out of their offices.

Part of the reason this has not happened yet is because ArenaNet has been poor at communicating with the public. A Public Test Realm like server would do the game a great good in bug testing and in letting the public in on what’s going on and what will be going on. Seeing is believing, so let the public see whats in store, and take it hands on for themselves. I imagine the PR disaster that Ascended has been could have been avoided if the Public had a chance at Fractals and seeing the stats themselves. The great misinformation that exists about Guild Wars 2 can be blamed a lot on ArenaNet’s dismembered communication lines. Not everyone is going to read the forums, reddit, twitter and random in-game chats to figure out what exactly is going on.

After that, the traits need an overhaul that sweeps the vertical progression and functionality traits off the table and replaces them with new interesting options that reward smart combinations and builds.

Once these things are done, the game will smooth out and the audience will be a bit more sure of where they should be. T