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.

It’s not all about making the bandits miserable.

Things a mole ought-ta do

The first Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event coincided with a out of town trip that I had planned months before. I had figured that I would only get one day of play in, but I did manage a bit more playtime thanks to getting the beta up and running on my somewhat miserable laptop.  Still, my next foray into Tyria will likely involve more devoted and extended playtime sessions. So in preperation for that, I am making a list of things I missed out on the first time.

Explore. Discover. Find your own way.

I am big fan of games that include an adventurous vibe, a world that invites you and the challenging invitation of letting you investigate and explore that strange new world. This is part of the reason I became such a rampant Metroid fan. This is why I can enjoy Dear Esther while not qualifying it fully as a game. But you don’t care about that stuff. You’re reading for GW2 info, so let’s get to the point.

Guild Wars 2 is a game that remembers that MMOs once had that same sense of exploration a long time ago, well before the rush to raiding and quest optimization. However, I was not so used to this being in my MMO, as I too had come not to expect any reason to explore.

Browsing through various beta impressios and videos, I discovered what everyone else had discovered while I was trying to min and max my time between leveling with my friends and trying out short bursts of PvP. What other  beta users had found was a world full of jumping puzzles, strange characters, high dives, giants of a less than jolly green sort, and somewhat familiar underwater ruins. Now, while I did find the sunken ruins of Lion’s Arch and the cute Quaggan creatures by their homes, I never realized there was a diving platform waiting up above at the top of a climb of stairs and wooden structures.

I discover Quaggan by their homes

These are the Quaggan. Don’t call them Snorks. They hate that.

PEH VAY PEHHHHHHHH

I didn’t spend as much time in PvP as I would like. I do have a PvP entry to come, namely one about the impact of Esports on game design, but for the purpose of really delving deep into what PvP has to offer in GW2, I am being reserved.  The main reason is that I really didn’t touch much of anything beyond some pickup games of Conquest and some bad experiences with WvWvW.

First, WvWvW needs to have a community established term. I nominate WubWub, but it seems Dub v Dub has become the quick reference for WvWvW. The problem is neither of these terms shorten the name to an acceptable level of conversational laziness. We’ll probably settle on Dubvee and congratulate ourselves on further reducing our need to read or converse. Yay, gamers. =/

Anyways, I ventured twice out into the WvWvW world and my first experience far outweighed the second. Both experiences suffered from my server choice though. To put it bluntly, the Henge of Denravi server didn’t give a rabid monkey nut about WvWvW for all but the last half-day of the BWE. We were getting our butts kicked before the Friday downtime and after the Friday downtime. One particularly frustrating moment involved having three gates out and all three gates taken. This is a problem that the game could still have despite ArenaNet’s efforts to avoid the issue by matching servers up with similarly ranked servers every week.

My first experience was defending the basic WvWvW spawn point for my server versus a green team that had pretty much taken over everything. Despite this disadvantage, these combat skirmishes helped me improve my play and decide on a play style. I was learning how to survive and dodge-roll at the right time. The familiarity with unlocked skills helps in WvWvW, while the sudden availability of everything in structured PvP is overwhelming at first. Despite figuring out a particular build I wanted to run before the BWE, I couldn’t just step right into having a skillbar I had no experience with and function fully to its intended purpose. In WvWvW, players will be bringing whatever they have in PVE to the battle, just upgraded to a level 80 status.

On my second attempt, I brought two friends along with me. One of them had hardly played any MMOs and the other more experienced but never a PvP type of player. We ran into the same wall as before, but at this point our side was starting to take down the door directly in front of us. We had no resources for siege tools. Everything was left up to basic character attacks to dwindle down that wall of a front door. We fought repeatedly for awhile that felt longer than it probably was. Once we knocked that door down we discovered yet another door behind it. The collective expression of everyone involved was “GWARG DIE DIE DIE I’M OUTTA HERE”. And then still, people kept pounding away at the next door. We did not.

So when it comes to the next BWE, I plan to go deeper into both Wub-Wub-Vee-DiddleDee-Dub and Conquest. I didn’t really touch any of the gem or armor options that are available for customizing your character for structured PvP. I didn’t venture into any of the other WvWvW portals at Lion’s Arch in an attempt to invade enemy lands. I discovered through the magic YouTube fairy that WvWvW had a massive jumping puzzle.

The Fountain of new Lion's Arch

Lost in the City

There were three race-based cities and one additional city in the last beta. I did a brief tour of Lion’s Arch and used Divinity’s Reach as I would any other MMO town. This means I just shopped and hopped, and left with purpose. Next time around, I plan to wander without purpose.I’d love to discover some nooks and crannies in the city districts. I’d like to visit the lodges of the Norn. I’d like to pose for some photos on those Charr Hot Rods.

Hopefully the mini-games are opened up next BWE as I’d like to try those as well. I certainly plan on doing some roof jumping and I’ll try to talk a friend into a game of hide n seek. I feel that there’s a lot of city life to be had.

And then after I’ve mapped the schematics of the city, I dig a hole and let the Dredge in for the Moletariat revolution.

Of course.