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.

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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.

Sorrow’s Embrace: A Quick Look

The Dredge Alert

The Dredge Alert!

Welcome to Mole Talk!

Yes, I am honoring the emblem of my blog with some more Dredge discussion. This first piece is on the story mode of Sorrow’s Embrace. I have more to say on the explorable mode and the stories within, as well as more of the visuals associated with the Dredge in game. (My Mesmer is sporting a transmuted Dredge Blaster currently.)

So, let’s get to it by discussing one of the longest dungeons in game.

Leave My Dredge Alone!

The plot of the Sorrow’s Embrace dungeon can be roughly summed up as the Inquest are involved, and the Dredge are being used as their workforce.

Yes, the Moletariat prevailed right into another subjugation. Like you did with Molenin before, you will be facing armies of Dredge as they toil away underground for someone else’s grand scheme. Due to the Inquest presence, you will also be facing Golems and Asuran technology, and as well, the strange Dredge technology, and, finally, a monstrous hybrid between the two.

Remember the Past

One of the more captivating set pieces of Sorrow’s Embrace is Molenin’s Tomb. Yup, that’s a lore reference. Molenin’s tomb is the sight of a Dredge Public Assembly. The tomb itself is a colliseum of sorts, and large groups of Dredge stand in formation at the bottom of the tomb as a military leader shouts out a speech from a high ledge. In story mode, you don’t fight the military leader, but he seems like a prime tool for explorable mode plotlines.

See No Evil, Hear My Sonic Death Ray

The Dredge mobs of Sorrow’s Embrace are range heavy and feature the use of sonic rifles that shoot ground rumbling, directional projectiles. There are touches of the Dredge’s mechanical tech here and there, but many can also be found outside the dungeon in Dredgehaunt Cliffs.

Subtarrean drill-cars often sigbal the arrival of a new pack of Dredge. These vehicles drill up and out of the ground, and the Dredge forces pop out the back. The dredge themselves also have the ability to tunnel underground (much like Wurm mobs) to travel from one point to the next.

Another interesting note about the Dredge mobs is that since they are mole people, they are naturally blind and effectively immune to the blind condition. This provides a nice change of strategy for typical dungeon setups that may rely heavily on blinds to mitigate damage in other dungeons.

Bosses of an Epic Nature

The Sorrow’s Embrace dungeon features some of the most tiresome boss fights, but also some of the coolest fights, and coolest bosses. The Story Mode contains one of each. The next to last boss is actually interesting  in design, with three different phases, but suffers from too high health pools on its various meta-bosses. The encouter became too tediously long a fight at the time of my running the dungeon. It’s beatable, but really extends the encounter time of an otherwise smooth flowing dungeon. I hear they have done some work to tone down the health bars of the bosses you fight in this encounter in the past few weeks and that should help turn the fight from work to play.

The last boss is a treat. I won’t spoil what it is, but it’s likely that many people have seen this boss before entering the dungeon. It’s featured in one of the game’s early trailers, and the fight itself confused me at first, but then quickly made sense. I suggest to not stand on the bridge looking at the boss unless you like death rays to your face.

Next Up

Explorable Mode and Dredge Art design!

Welcome to Launch!

Lion's Arch

It’s a big world out there

 Tres Bon Voyage

If you’re a pre-purchaser like myself, then you’ve been in the world of Tyria for a few days already. Officially, the game launches today and that means many retail purchasers will be joining the rest of us. Apparently, the game has already reached over 400,000 concurrent users in pre-launch. With over a million players to boot.

Though I have played many MMOs, this is my first launch-day experience. Overall, it’s going about how I expected. Launches of online games are always a rougher experience than playing that same game six months after launch. Current issues are server backend problems that have limited access to the Black Lion Trading Post and Commerce Page, an issue with Guilds and their rosters, and grouped players not being able to stay grouped and within the same shard.

ArenaNet has started to relieve the difficulties created by Guild Issue, though I hear invites are still not working properly. I was locked out of my own guild that I created for most of Sunday, but had access to it again by Monday. The lack of a Trading Post has turned Lion’s Arch into Trade Chat spam, but that’s nothing new to Guild Wars 1 players. I thought they might fix the Black Lion Trading Post for the real launch, but its still currently unavailable.  The biggest issue is the grouping problem, as it really works against the social and cooperative nature of the game. From what I hear, it is also making dungeons a pain to do as well.

Despite these issues, this has been a pretty decent launch. MMOs have a long history of nasty launch problems. Even ARPGs like Diablo 3 had major problems at launch, keeping people from even playing the game. At least ArenaNet has managed to keep the game up and running. There was one period of maintenance downtime in the middle of the night on Saturday of the pre-launch, and Europe, I believe, had another period of maintenance over the weekend. Outside of these times, the game has been fully playable and I’ve had little issue with lag on the server’s end. The one real annoying bit is trying to keep grouped with my friends.

First Impressions of the Real Deal

I have several beta impressions on this blog, but my launch impressions will likely be different due to playing the game entirely different at launch from how I approached the beta. There are a few key differences that make the experiences different, but the main two are that I have all the time I want to do whatever I want and that now all my friends are here in game with me.

This change in approach from beta to launch has given me a much better experience. In Beta, I was testing specified elements of the game, and namely, I focused upon the elements that concerned me. Now that I’m adventuring with friends at our own pace, I have come to feel that levels and experience aren’t my major concern. Progress in the manner of levels is something that just comes along with the adventure of the game, but it’s not the meat or the point of the game. It’s just the side salad. I find my exploration percentage to be a more adequate test of my progress. It’s not a concern that going to the Plains of Ashford is returning to a starter zone. It’s a concern that there might be something cool in the zone that I haven’t seen yet.

If it’s one thing that I would entice others with about this game it would be these adventurous discoveries. Whether it’s a waterslide dive through a cave that looks like a skull, or a game of stealth with the Ash Legion, or a family of giant frost worms at the bottom of a cave, or the jumping puzzle and treasure chest after those Frost Wurms, or just a Privateer’s secret hangout full of drunk ornery pirates and their singing captain, or a hidden waterfall with a vista and skill point, or a hidden cabbage farm defended by bandits, or a Quaggan city off the edge of the sea shelf, or just a nice mansion in the city of Divinity’s Reach, I simply smile and say, “you got to go see it.”

Seeing the Rest

Of course, beyond these elements of the world, there are more standard faire such as instanced dungeons and story quests. These two parts of the game also represent the most difficult part of the PVE game. My first dungeon run escalated my /deaths to three times its former modest number. The story quests aren’t much easier, and some are frightfully hard to do alone. Difficulty doesn’t bother me, unless its unfair difficulty. I’ve only run into situations that felt unfair two or three times so far.

Not a Closing Thought, but a Rejoinder

This last paragraph I chose to delay until a week had passed since official launch. Many launch issues have been resolved in that time, and the Trading Post is functioning most of the time now. It’s first return was a laggy version of the TP, but it’s much quicker since another fix. I haven’t had grouping problems in a long time, but I did discover adding someone to a in-progress dungeon run is a big mess. The game just doesn’t seem to be able to put anyone outside the instance back into the same instance with the rest of the party.

So, fixes are coming along pretty quickly, but not very quickly. There have been issues with bugged story quests that get resolved in 24 hours most often. I have been able to use the Trading Post with ease the past couple of days, but there’s always the worry that it will go down again. The sPVP side of things has had some downtime and reward delays. My tournament winnings arrived to me hours after I had finished the tournament, but others have waited days for their rewards.

Still, the game is playable and nothing has really gotten in the way of being able to play the game. Those that still needed to setup their email authentication did have this trouble though and were kept from playing the game for days. That one pissed quite a few folks off. I hope to see issues weeded out by a month’s time.

Bring Res Sig: The Origins of Guild Wars 2 Concepts

The Old and The New

A Meeting with the Past

Old Ideas for a New Audience

A debate on what’s all that inventive within Guild Wars exists. The argument exists out there on the static, binary-bound teeth of the internet’s Badlands. This isn’t a new idea. Well, often, it’s not. What is overlooked in this debate is that it’s not even a new idea to the Guild Wars franchise.

The entry is going to go over some key concepts that will feel new to a lot of players trying out Guild Wars 2, but have origins rooted back in the original game.

Niche to a Degree

The original Guild Wars has a non-sub-based claim of 7 million sales. Is this made up of individual box sales or accounts? I have heard conflicted reports. I also don’t care in regards to my point. The real issue is that Guild Wars was a successful game and it helped fund sequel, but within the general discussion of MMOs, it’s far more niche than you would think a 7 million seller would be. The knowledge of what the original game was about is still somewhat limited in the press and enthusiast community.

One occasion of this that I’ve run into multiple times surrounds the call-target function. When talking to one friend about their experience playing the game, they were having issues with keeping a target and being able to follow their target in the chaotic mess of the early betas. This player was looking for some visual cue that outlined their target a bit more. After struggling to think about whether or not Guild Wars 2 did anything to make your target stick out, I remembered control + T.

So, I asked, did you call target? I then realized this concept is entirely new to most players. It’s a product of the first game’s PVP focus, and is a very valuable tool. One player calls a target, and everyone can follow by pressing T. This target can be switched on the fly and everyone can follow the “target caller” along. It also places a big red crosshair over the target in question.

I began my response to the problem by trying to offer a traditional answer and then realized the Guild Wars answer was already there.

Res Your Friends

The Res Sig was a signet skill in the first game that every class had access to. In the Prophecies PVE campaign, one of your earliest quests is to group with another player and go out into the world. For doing this task, you are given a resurrection signet that can be used to resurrect another player. There were restriction on how often you could use it, but it introduced the concepts of anyone being able to res from the very start.

This concept is improved upon and expanded with the sequel, where the process of resurrecting a friendly ally is a simple F key press. While this feature is attributed to the game’s move away from the holy trinity, it really is just a continuation of the first game’s approach to cooperative play. It’s nothing new. It’s just done in a more obvious way this time.

About That Trinity

The original Guild Wars had a healer class or two, plus a tanking class or two. In the early years, PVE content was tackled through the traditional means of the holy trinity. A warrior or two to run in and pull aggro, some dps doing their thing, and then a monk in the back dropping heals. It was simple and very easy.

Then ArenaNet decided to change up their PVE experience. They took what they learned from the PVP experience of the game and began to change the rules of their mob’s A.I. and behavior. You could no longer gather and aoe down groups of unfriendlies. Tanking started to become more about blocking off pinch points, hampering mob movement, and gathering up mobs in various ways. Healers and damage dealers had to learn to kite stray mobs while still performing their functions as the game featured no taunt mechanics.

The PVE game continued to grow in this way, up until the point that traditional trinity builds became less standard. Personally, I completed the War in Kryta line of missions and quests without a monk or traditional heal setup. I used the popular and almost necessary Discord-way build featuring Ritualists and Necromancers. The Ritualist is a support class with heals spells, but less direct heals than the more traditional monk. In this build, whether a Ritualist or Necromancer main, nearly every class had a major damage attack called Discord. So all my A.I. partners were to supply support and damage reduction through spirits or items, while also shooting out Discord spells on my target calls. For myself, I ran a Dervish tank build that also cleansed conditions off my entire party every time I dropped an enchantment. Effectively, everyone was performing multiple roles. I was doing damage through spreading conditions, body blocking mobs and absorbing hits through my enchanted armor and high health pool, while also supporting the entire team by being the major condition removal for my party. My Hero henchies provided damage spikes, party wide damage reduction and buffs, and a few targeted heals. The Necromancers provided control through their minions eating up mobs and creating walls between my team and the enemy mobs. When the minions died, they exploded in an AOE damage effect, and provided a group heal through a monk enchantment cast upon them by one of the Necromancer with a Monk secondary.

It was a complex and effective team build that was able to function in more situations due to its flexibility and grouped interdepence over singular class dependence.

If that sounds a bit like the Guild Wars 2 combat experience then that’s no surprise. The heritage of the anti-trinity began years ago in the original Guild Wars, but it was not a major talking point until the Guild Wars 2 hype train got going. There is evidence that ANet was already moving towards this goal in a game designed with the trinity. Now it’s all grown up and refined.

Story Time

Bioware, good or bad, garnered a lot of attention for adding an emphasis to story in their MMO, and making story in an issue of importance, and a hot feature to be found in MMOs. So, the fact that Guild Wars 2 features story quests that are based on character creation choices and which feature branching paths, the natural instinct will be to draw comparisons to SWTOR.

But this is a blog about Guild Wars influencing the sequel, so, surprise, and then more surprise, the original Guild Wars featured a story, an ending and even a credits roll once you beat the final boss. The original game’s strengths were seen as being an online RPG with an actual story, the PVP focus, and the lack of a sub fee. The return of a story focus with cinematics is not a big surprise, but the story quests also share some influence with the older PVE design. Much of the story in Guild Wars Propechies was done through what was called Missions. These were instanced adventures where you followed a path, fought enemies and bosses, and saw the story unravel. They were considered, in some sense, the dungeons of Guild Wars, but they share little with the Eye of the North dungeons, and a bit to do with Guild Wars 2 dungeons. The story quests of Guild Wars 2 are like these Missions, but broken up into small segments. How?

The missions in the first Guild Wars lead you through the game, and took you across the map, from point to point, and eventually up to the final area. The story quests of Guild Wars 2 accomplishes this same task. They will begin in the opening zone of your race and then proceed into higher level zones, asking you to go to certain spots on the map where an instance prompt will greet you. The story quests can also be done cooperatively or individually. This was done in the original game through henchman and heroes, but is done through difficulty scaling in the second game. A major difference between Missions and Story Quests is that GW2 does not allow you to repeat your story quests.

Some Repeated Notes

One of the comments that I’ve made about dungeon design in Guild Wars 2 is the element of traps and how they are a carryover form the first game. These traps didn’t really come into play in a heavy manner until Eye of the North, and that expansion was the first to feature what could be traditionally thought of as dungeons. Beforehand, most instances were either wandering through a zone, or completing the previously mentioned Missions. The other carryover that I’ve mentioned is the Structured PVP format, where the original game worked from the same concept of putting everyone at max level with access to max level gear. The second Guild Wars furthers this concept by giving players access to all item mods and skills, while the original made you earn these either through PVE or by spending the game’s PVP currency of Balthazar Faction.

Another carryover is the Waypoint travel system that functions much like travel in the original Guild Wars. Once you get to a to a Waypoint, you can travel back there at any time for a small fee. Visiting towns and outposts worked the same way in the original game.

A Waterfall

A Waterfall Vista

A Final Point

All this time, many companies have been trying to copy World of Warcraft to recreate Blizzard’s success for themselves. My contention is that company’s probably should have been trying to copy Guild Wars and expand on its ideas and models instead. The first Guild Wars was more ready for the current gaming environment than any WoW clone could be. Many things that excite people about Guild Wars 2 are extensions and advancements of ideas and features found in the original Guild Wars.

 

If Guild Wars 2 ends up successful, and more successful than other MMO attempts, there will be many companies kicking themselves over ignoring that little niche title with the seven million sales while going after the old beast of a diku-clone.

The Burning Mantree Festival

Mushroom Engineer

The Engineer is like a cross between Team Fortress 2 and a Mad Alchemist

As promised

This previous and final Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2, I decided to ditch the Mesmer for the Engineer. I had wanted to do a better Engineer write-up than the previous quick-hit on the profession that I did before. So, I rolled a Sylvari Engineer with a mushroom top, and grouped up with my friends.

I had a few simple goals with this playthrough: get a better feel for the profession, spend more PVP time with the Engy, and see how the Engineer worked in large scale combat. The third part is important, because large scale combat is a heartier part of Guild Wars 2 than it is in other MMOs.

I Am The Midnight Bomber

I suspected from my previous experience with the Engineer that the profession really opens up once you acquire some kits to use. This proved to be very true from my experience, as the Engineer’s weapon choices are limited to just three choices.

By level 4 or 5, I had gained every weapon the Engineer could use and gotten their skillbars filled out. Last BWE, I really enjoyed the pistol and shield combo, but unfortunately, the Magnetic Inversion aspect of the shield was broken in BWE and the shield far less effective and fun. This ended up pushing me towards the Rifle weapon, but this was not a sad turn of events. The Engineer’s rifle plays more like a shotgun than a Winchester. You fire of hip-shots from a distance, shoot nets, but most of all, you use the mighty kickback and force of a shotgun-feel to launch yourself in the air, spray buckshot in an enemies face, and then fly backwards off the kickback of the gun.

The first kit I obtained was the grenade kit, and as mentioned, this opened up my playstyle. While the pistol and rifle gave me basic offense and some wacky fun, the grenade kit became the AOE choice, allowing me to lob grenades that froze, dazed and shredded my opponents. Of course, with all Engineer utility skills, the grenade kit gave me a new Function key skill that allowed me to lob a large mass of grenades.

The interesting bit about the grenade kit is that all five weapon skills are aoe targeted. There has been some debate upon this, and I can understand making at least the spammable 1 skill target-based, but being able to spam an AOE does have some advantages of its own. For one, if you throw grenades at a player, and you suspect the player may dodge backwards, you can aim your grenade behind them and hit them at the end of the dodge. A target-based grenade lob would always miss on a dodge, but a ground targeted grenade can anticipate a movement and negate a dodge.

The second kit I obtained was the Flamethrower and this is where the real fun began. I didn’t expect to like the Flamethrower as much as I did, but the ability to swing a stream of flame back and forth over a group felt great in a MMO. I rarely used targeted attacks with the flamethrower. The kit also includes a projectile flame burst that can be detonated with a second click. This was quite hard to pull off at close range, but with some range the ability made for a lot of damage. It hits a target when passing through and then does aoe damage on detonation. Overall, the Engineer featured a good amount of skillshot abilities.

The final kit I attained was the Bomb Kit and this kit, along with the Flamethrower, became my go-to tools. The Bomb Kit is held back by all of the bombs being a dropped skill, meaning there are no range abilities with bombs. Each time the player uses a bomb, the explosive is laid at the players feet. The F-skill for this kit is The Big One, which is a large, hard hitting bomb. Combining The Big One with the flamethrowers F-skill, and a few more of the bombs in the kit, creates a little pbaoe nuke. Every Dynamic Event and enemy zerg rush at my friends and I resulted in an oppurtunity to blow things up.

Outside of the kits, there were turrets that I used a bit of, and elixers and strange tools like a battering ram. Overall, everything had a sense of wacky, explosive fun to playing the game.

Flamethrower Action

Sometimes a plant just wants to watch the plant life burn down

Blowing Up Other People

For PVP, I had picked out a healing based Engineer build. Namely, I was using the bombs heal allies trait, along with a lot of vitality, toughness, healing and touch of condition damage. The skillbar was highly similiar to my PVE skillset, and this was done to be familiar with the tools I was using. The build itself was moderately successful. In group situations, the constant bomb laying provided many combo fields and some aoe damage, and the small heals helped my allies, as did the med kits I would drop. Outside of group combat, I was able to last for a long time, but struggled to take down enemies on my own. The build was mostly a cap holding and group support build.

I did want to try a power based build, featuring the rifle and flamethrower, but never got to trying it out. If you want to see some good use of a power-based Engineer, then I suggest watching Quark’s sPvP engineer Twitch video here:

Quark’s Engineer sPVP

The Toolmole Tailor

The only drawback to my Engineer time was that the medium armor I got access to was far less enjoyable than the style my Mesmer had. I got a lot of cool looking weapons, but for some reason, the Sylvari starting area had less exciting medium armor aesthetics. For a good while, I was being teased for looking like a fishmonger.

Having seen some of the dungeon sets, I imagine the dredge-based Sorrow’s Embrace armor would look scary and scary fantastic on an Engineer.

A Convincing Experience

My time with the Engineer made me reconsider my primary class choice for the start of the game. I had been set on Mesmer, but the profession still has a lot of issues with its mechanics, and has honestly gotten progressively worse with each BWE. Meanwhile, the Engineer seems improved overall, and I greatly enjoyed playing it even though the shield skill was broken.