The Stormbluff Isle Exodus

Recently, ArenaNet implemented their Guesting feature to the game and ended free world transfers at the same time.Considering that it was a promised launch feature, the arrival of Guesting was welcome. The ending of free transfers was also something that the WvWvW community had been asking for so as to stop the bandwagon nature of players trying to join a top WvWvW server, and also a barrier towards the practice of guilds sending a player to a competing server to spy on map chat and player movement. 

The problem for some servers was the timing of this move by ArenaNet. There had been a lot of server switching by major guilds and a mercenary mindset had set into the community at large. This was the ideally wrong time for these changes to finally come for a server like Stormbluff Isle. 

Stormbluff Isle was a little different from the other top tier WvWvW servers in that it was mostly a large pug with a couple of large guilds, but no greater alliance like the other servers had established. We depended more on individual smarts and paying attention to what others were doing, along with a public teamspeak server for the various WvWvW players to join and hear what was going on with the other players. Since we had no alliance with central leadership, we had to find ways to succeed within our assemblage of pugs.

Surprisingly, it all worked out pretty well. SBI had been a tier 1 or tier 2 server for long than any other server up until the announcement that these changes were coming. We had developed a rivalry with Jade Quarry server due to the both of us always being in the top tiers and continually fighting each other. This even goes back to the initial launch month and the one day match-ups.We would be the #1 server for awhile, drop to #2 when another server recruited more players or established a new strategy, and then fight back to the top spot.

But all of this also created a lot of burnout for various players. Initial word of this burnout came months ago from some of the WvWvW guilds. Players were tiring of the same maps and the same exact matchups. They also were investing money into towers and keeps just to see their holdings evaporate over night. There was no second level to the WvWvW game. You logged in and faced a similar situation and similar goal nearly every day. If you wanted stats on your gear other than toughness and vitality then you had to go do PVE. WvWvW rewards were minor and lacked variety. The game needed a way to organize players beyond Commanders and their massive zerg. The WvWvW game needed updates.

The biggest blow for Stormbluff Isle is when War Machine left not only our server, but ran off to avoid the top tier grind and mentality for a smaller server. War Machine was an old established guild of the Guild Wars franchise. They were a top guild in the first game’s PVP and their presence on Stormbluff Isle brought along some of those same top PVP guilds. Not all of those guilds had an interest in WvWvW, but War Machine was large enough to field an important force in WvWvW. They also established the face and personality of the server with their tactics and persistence. They also worked very well with our pug nature and even soloists like myself came to know the differences and tendencies of their Commanders in spite of the Korean/English language barriers.

There were multiple things pushing War Machine towards leaving, many of which are part of the greater list of concerns that the other guilds have had, but it was mainly a sour reaction with another top tier server that made them decide to pack up and leave. They had become tired of all the exploits used in top tier to sneak into keeps and towers, and how abusing issues with the game had become the standard. So one night they decided to abuse them all themselves, publicly admit it, call out ArenaNet for the lack of fixes, and then announce their impending departure from the server and the top tier.

I’m not interested in lambasting War Machine for their behavior or anything like that. I understand frustration. Whether they should have done it in another way or not, as I said, I’m not all that interested in that discussion. I think the main point is that a guild that had been tied to the Guild Wars PVP scene for so many years would essentially bail out for their own sanity.

Following the move by War Machine, there was some discussion of what Stormbluff Isle would do, but the following difficulties in fielding enough players to replace them began the sentiment of decline for the server. By the time the arrival of Guesting and Paid Transfers was to be near, the WvWvW menality of Stormbluff Isle had depleted to a frustrated yawn. Many of the other WvWvW guilds didn’t have interest in doing what WM did and rebuilding in lower tiers. Most, wanting the pride of being top tier, decided to move to other top tier servers. Some followed War Machine to Kaineng. By the final week of free transfers, Stormbluff Isle’s WvWvW population was nearly non-existent. A panic had hit the other guilds and everyone began to act like dropping a couple of tiers was the end of WvWvW. The responses were somewhat understandable, but also very short-sighted. 

Every problem that Stormbluff Isle had was synonmous with the way top tier play was going. The burnout not only hurt the WvWvW guilds but the strays and pugs like myself who do more than just WvWvW. When the PVE game gets more updates and you also play PVE, its easier to spend time in PVE than fighting the top tier grind in WvWvW every day. Perhaps more than some of the WvWvW guilds wanted to admit, the little people who filled coverage gaps and made distract squads were vanishing before the WvWvW guilds, and the WvWvW game success had depended upon these people more than some may think. When those people began to dry up, the burden of success fell even harder on the WvWvW-only players and this lead to more burnout and frustration. 

The problem with leaving for greener pastures is that every top tier server in the same situation as SBI was. If I had to put money on the next burnout, It would be on Jade Quarry. The situation won’t be resolved by players. It’s an issue of updates and advancement of the game that must come from ArenaNet. The panic stricken exodus of Stormbluff Isle is just a sad tale of a good community growing bitter over one part of the game.

As for SBI now, it still has some good players, but we struggle to fill up maps with enough people to win our current match up. I didn’t leave because I had two guilds on this server already and I didn’t really want to leave a server full of nice people. It’s just unfortunate that the server has been a bit tainted by what happened.

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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.

Halloween Event Tips

The Mad King Clock Tower

The trail of tears

How To Mad King

Halloween draws near and that means the last handful of days of the Halloween event are drawing near. I know many players play Guild Wars 2 at a more casual pace, so I thought I’d offer some tips on how to finish up some of those Special Event achievements.

Only missing Bowie and Connelly

The Labyrinth is found inside the Mad King’s realm. In order to gain access to this realm, you must enter it through an unlocked Haunted Door. In order to unlock a Haunted Door, your server must have cleared the pre-event chain involving the pumpkin power sources. If you’re looking to get into the Labyrinth quickly then Queensdale may be your best bet. Due to the community’s population numbers, there are more human players than that of the other races and this means Queensdale normally has better activity levels than the other starting zones. Gendarren Fields may be a good bet as well due to its nearness to Lion’s Arch.

The Labyrinth has three things that will help you get your Halloween achievements: Pumpkins to carve, events to do, and Halloween creatures to hunt. On top of this, there’s plenty of Candy Corn to mine and then devour for the October monthly achievement. If you haven’t finished off your creature hunting achievement then running the Labyrinth for an hour might take care of that rather quickly. In addition, if you so happen to need to do the pre-events to open up the Haunted Doors, you’ll knock out more creatures and events. As for the events inside the Labyrinth, they tend to pop up every 5-10 miutes on a small scale and then a Champion boss event shows up ever 20-30 minutes.

In an hour’s time, you may be able to finish off the entire Halloween creature hunting achievement and bang out four or five events. As an added bonus, the Champion boss chests have a chance to drop exotic level items.

You can also enter the Labyrinth at any level and be up-leveled to 80. Some use this to do a couple of events on each of their characters, get two treasure chests for each character and call it a day.

The Scavenger Hunt

The Scavenger Hunt is a quest that runs during the Halloween event. You may have gotten an in-game mail from the Asuran NPC that hangs out by the Lion statue in Lion’s Arch. Though somewhat vague, the general gist of the scavenger hunt is to find ghosts and use the clues they give you to find the other ghosts. Doing this will assemble a collection of stories that you can hand in for a book. The first half of the hunt goes up to Gendarren Fields and may be done by more adventurous low levels. Since the entire community is doing this hunt at the same general time, you may find others to be quite helpful.

The keys to finding the ghosts are the hints provided, the use of the magic device your given and the mass of other players. Once you find out what the clues are hinting towards and you get yourself to that general area, following the rest of the playerbase can often lead you right to the ghost. In WoW-parlance, this quest is not phased. If one player finds the ghost and makes it appear then all nearby players can interact with the ghost.

As for deciphering the clues listed on the history collections, the best strategy is to look for key words in the clue that are close to the name of places on your map. For the first half of the hunt, the areas you will belooking in are limited to the city of Lion’s Arch and the first three human zones. This includes Queensdale, Kessex Hills and Gendarren Fields. Since it’s more fun to figure out the clues yourselves, I won’t give a step-by-step guide. I will give one correction for one of the clues. The clue referencing Provenric is not in the “hills”, but in the “fields”. This means that it may be near a hill, but the previous Hills clue is aimed to reference Kessex Hills, while this other “hills” clue is actually in Gendarren Fields.

The second half of the scavenger hunt requires venturing into higher level zones and will require a higher level character. While this is unfortunate for new players at low levels, the reward tied to the second half is of higher level than the first book you are rewarded with for the first half of the scavenger hunt.

Mad King Tower of #$#%@@!@

My only advice for the Mad King’s Tower is to look up youtubes, watch them, learn them, and be prepared for many attempts. Like the Labyrinth, the Tower jumping puzzle is accessed by entering a Haunted Door to gain access to the Mad King’s realm. If you know exactly what to do this event is quickest achievement to get, but by no means is the Mad King Tower easy.

The Mad King Rises

The Mad King pays a visit to Lion’s Arch

The Monster Himself

By the time you’ve done the scavenger hunt and faced the hordes of trick-or-treat based monsters, you will have come to learn that old Oswald the Mad King is quite the heinous being. In Act 3, the Mad King himself appears by busting through the Lion statue in Lions Arch. This opens up an instanced dungeon where you fight the Mad King.

There are two things to know for this encounter. One: Yes, people can solo it, but I would recommend at least three players on your first try, but ideally five players if you want a successful run. If you have someone who knows what they’re doing, its easily doable with three players, and those that feel like challenging themselves can try soloing the instance.

The second and quite important note is that there is a treasure chest that appears at the very bottom of this dungeon once you beat the Mad King. Many players miss this chest due to its placement on the very bottom of the dungeon. At a certain point, the Mad King will teleport down to this lower level and then likely teleport back to the level above him. Getting to this bottom rock requires some daring jumps that will inflict fall damage, so don’t try these jumps unless you’re at full health.

There’s always people around the Lion Statue who are forming groups to do the Mad King and this makes completing this achievement rather painless. Just follow the others when its time to jump down to the lower levels and you’ll be okay. Never be afraid to say, “this is my first time.” The dungeon itself is a mix of fighting the boss, fighting adds, and moments of platforming. Also, for a treat, you can see the clock tower whirl around you at the bottom level of the dungeon.

It’s Candy Day

One of the achievements listed for the Halloween event is “attending the Mad King’s party.” This event is Act 4 of the Halloween event and will open up on Halloween. So log in o Halloween and check out what the shindig is about. I imagine it will be less combative and more nonsensical fun.

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.

Crystal Blue Aggression: Beta Weekend Event 2 Impressions

underwater combat

BOOM!

Small Town Hero

I have these moments during the beta weekends where, after I have just finished a few Events or Hearts in a small area, I stop to look around and ponder what to do. I am mindful of the idea that if I talked to more scouts in the world, I’d have somewhere marked out on my map as a next destination, but I have avoided scouts for my own reason. I like to explore. The times where I’ve filled up my tasks and think I have nothing left to do tend to lead to my favorite moments.

Fighting Moa Birds

Blurred Frenzy versus the poor pink Moa

At a certain point in the beta, I turned off the UI and began fighting moa birds without the UI to assist me, taking screenshots of the combat without the combat text or UI to explain what I was doing or what was being done to me. I did this to have some clean combat shots for this blog, but I also did it to become better at reading combat and using my skills.  This was a moment where I was not pursuing a quest-like goal, but doing whatever I wanted. It just so happened that I was fighting Moas by the lake in Kessex hills. This is where a fishing village had been repeatedly attacked by Krait slavers. I knew I needed to learn more underwater skills, so I took my blind combat into the lake.

I quickly found that I actually liked the Mesmer’s trident weapon skills more than most of the Mesmer’s land-based skills. The Trident is about the only thing in game that makes the Confusion condition matter. I noticed that the lake had an opening on the far end, at the opposite shore from where I was fighting the moa birds. I swam off in that direction, picking off krait slavers along the way, and learning my trident skills.

At the lake opening, I found a shallow tributary with some fish and crab, along with those kraits. I swam my way through this watery avenue until I came upon an even greater lake than the previous one from which I had came. I turned my UI back on, and saw that a heart had opened up somewhere near me, along with a skill point challenge. I tried to find a way back up on land, finally locating a low ledge to my left. When I got onto the ledge, I noticed a watery cavern was just below me. I hopped down into the cavern and found a Hylek waiting for me.

Piggy Time

I am going HAM on them truffles.

What I had come across was the “pig quest”, a heart in which the Hylek shaman turns you into a pig and you forage the cavern for truffles. I had seen youtubes of this event before, but had no idea where it actually was. I was excited to find it, and found the heart a nice bit of fun. While doing my little piggy truffle shuffle, I heard some Hyleks talking in the water. I hopped into the water, found an underwater passage and followed it all the way down and around, until I came up into a hidden cavern that was home to a tiny Hylek encampment.

After finishing the heart, I found my way back out and tried to find the skill challenge nearby. It took some climbing, but I did run across a stinky Asuran engineer who had some weird stink bomb contraption. He challenged me to see if I could handle his invention and we proceeded to battle. His “stinky” contraption lobbed poison all over the ground and the fight was rather challenging. I did manage to take him down and receive my reward. Looking over my shoulder, I saw what looked like an Asuran outpost on the beach.

I swam over to this outpost and found that it was full of strange races, some new and some from the first game. There were Asurans, but there were also Caromi, Sylvari and Quaggans. The Quaggan seemed to be the locals of the area, and a rather annoying one kept begging me to do something about the Sea Witch. I finally said yes, and a boss Dynamic Event popped up in the middle of the lake.

Hylek Village

Frogs live in the coolest spots.

After selling off my junk items, I dived back into the lake in search of this Sea Witch.

Inside the lake was another heart, and another Quaggan. This task consisted of checking crabbing traps and fighting crabs, krait and the rest of the things that probably scare Quaggan. Given their perosnalities, I think everything scares the Quaggan. While i could handle the previous lake’s Krait warriors, this lake was decidedly more reinforced with Krait militia. As I tried to complete the heart and find the Sea Witch, I kept running into more and more foes. Once I finally found the mouth of the Sea Witch’s cave, I saw that it was guarded by veteran Krait that proceeded to run me out of town. A nearby player helped me escape, but I decided to put the Sea Witch on hold.

After I went back to the crabbing work, I found another opening in the underwater geology. Wandering in, I came to a new dynamic event. I had found a Quaggan town underwater that was being attacked by slavers. This was one of my favorite events, but also one of the more vile events, and for the same reason. First, I was doing it alone, and I was doing it all for the Quaggan. I fought off wave after wave of Krait, stopping to free the Quaggan that had been shackled by the slavers. This event allowed me to use all the underwater skills I had just learned, and my reward for completing it was hearing a chorus of Quaggan conversation.

The Quaggan look like manatees and talk like rejects from a really bad children’s show. When I had run off the Krait, the town mayor remarked “Stwoopid Kwait!” The villagers looked to blame someone and rambled on about recovering something. They celebrated and discussed what next to do. I felt like I had, by myself, saved these poor Quaggan townsfolk, but then again, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hang around and hear them talk like babbies.

Major Tests of a major issue

I was not happy to hear about the change to traits that ArenaNet had made for the Beta Weekend Event. I am a big fan of the previous system which allowed you to pick any major trait in any major trait slot. In Guild Wars, I was a build maker and tester. Even when my guild was not doing any PvP matches at the time, I was busy testing out ideas and theories. Even to this day, I try to break the system and find something crazy to do. This means that tiering and restricting traits is not something that fits my playstyle, nor is it something that really, truly helps balance. You either are good at balance or you’re not, and you don’t really know what your balance is until the public gets its hands on your game. This BWE2 was a prime example.

In the previous BWE, there were at least a few good Mesmer builds. I messed with a staff build that high survivalbility, and I played around with creating a Mind Wrack shatterbombing build, trying out a couple variants on that same idea. I tried to create confusion based builds, but the condition was and is still lacking.

This BWE, I wanted to try out a new Glamour+Confusion build idea that I had made in the various build calculators available on the web. The new trait system had changed some things up, but I was still able to replicate the

Forest PvP Results

Being able to solo Forest bosses equals easy points.

build. Unfortunately, the build required I take three glamour utilities and I quickly became aware how much I depended on kiting people through those glamours. It wasn’t horrible, but it was extremely situational. My glamours blinded and confused foes entering them, and my blinds also applied an extra confusion. As I played, I noticed my Duelist from my pistol off-hand was doing some good damage. It was mostly the Duelist and my Confusing Images that were being effective.Word was getting around that Phantasms had been buffed. After a few runs with my first build idea, I reworked the idea and sacrificed all the blind and blind creates confusion traits for pure Phantasm pumping buffs. I started to see obscene numbers from my Duelist, and then I tested it out on the Golem dummies, seeing the obscene damage numbers replicated. As it turns out, Phantasmal Haste was basically removing the cooldown from Phantasm attacks and turning my illusions into machine guns. By the end of the day, I had adjusted everything into a build that most would call “broken”. I still retained the Glamours cause confusion and longer lasting glamours, but now they worked with my Duelists by their strength as a combo field.

Anyways, by the end of the first night, the public had found an overpowered build in the new trait system designed to mitigate such things. Not a damning thing, but not an impressive thing.

Speaking of the Mesmer..

I thought they were reworking the Mesmer, but ANet hadn’t really changed much, and what they did change, I am not sure anyone likes. Clones now do zero damage, but can take an extra hit. This makes them slightly more durable for shatter purposes, but also makes them even less a deceptive tool. Phantasms now pose legitimate threats, but still get overwritten by the weaker clones. As for shattering, the previously powerful Mind Wrack was nerfed through its traitline, deep into the ground. A mind wrack now hits the same as my MH Sword attack. Not all that impressive or worthy of consideration. Since Phantasms outwork shatters, I stopped using shatters in PVP and used them less in PVE than I had in the previous BWE. Overall, the Mesmer is in worse shape now than it was in the previous BWE. They have all the same major issues, but feature fewer viable builds and tactics.This may be why I began my second character this BWE while playing Mesmer for the entirety of the previous betas.

That Finale

The finale for this BWE was bewildering and awesome at the same time. What was going on wasn’t as apparent as I expected, but once I figured out what was going on, it was one of those “AWESOME!” moments. Unfortunately, the finale really needed two hours instead of 45 minutes. Many servers had the event start late, and no server that I know of took the event to completion.

Crystal Assassin

I became a crystal assassin.

The basic premise of the finale was this: The Crystal Dragon has appeared in the sky and sent in its forces. The Flame Legion has joined the dragon legions and begun to set up camp outside The Black Citadel. The first part of the event featured fighting off the Flame Legion, but after about 10-20 minutes, these crystal shards started showing up around Waypoints in the Charr starting area. Our massive zerg ran from Crystal to the next, fighting corrupted Charr legions. At a certan point, strange crystal creatures started showing up with names that looked like player names. My event notifier told me to destroy them, so I did. I still couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. Our zerg kept going from Crystal spawn to Crystal spawn, while Rhytlock roamed through the Ascalon Foothills, looking for a fight. Finally, I died in one of the giant battles. When I clicked on resurrect, I showed up at one of the crystal corrupted waypoints and found that I had been corrupted and turned into a crystal creature. I had a new set of skills and a new job to do: kill and corrupt all the remaining players. Now the game had turned into a giant game of kill-tag. We got to about 80% of the playerbase corrupted before the event ended.

It was fun, but I really would have liked to seen what happens at the end. Do we fight Rhytlock? Does the dragon come down from the sky? I mean, come on!

Finale Chaos

Absolute Chaos.

Other things

I did do a bit more WvWvW this weekend, but again, our server was severly outmatched and running into a meatgrinder was in no way or shape fun for me. At a certain point during the first night, we had taken 60% of the map and I was part of a group that was clearing keeps and killing Keep Lords. This was enjoyable, though it didn’t involve much fighting other players. Once all of us Americans went to bed, the second place server went to work overnight, capturing about 90% of the map and never looking back. There needs to be something done about the way every WvWvW turned into a pure domination. The third server in this matchup was never ever a factor. We wiped their zone out and then the other server wiped us out.

I did play some engineer and found it to be a supportive, wacky, fun little class that I can see functioning in the background of combat. I’ll have more thoughts on it later.

I got my crafting p into the 80s and made myself some gear. I also got some cool threads from wandering into the new zone and fighting higher level mobs. I got a good amount of dye drops and don’t have a problem with the drop rates or the dye system so far.

I unfortuantely didn’t get to 30, which is what happens when you try to do everything there is to do. This means I still have no dungeon experience to speak about. I hope they don’t reset characters for at least the next BWE so that I may be able to experience the dungeon and finally do a write-up on the game’s dungeon design.

That’s it for now. Long live the Moletriat.

Bank

Looking good.

A Pacifist’s Guide to Guild Wars 2 PVE

Married couple in the Ascalon Settlement

He replied: “Forget the fresh air. Let’s go back inside!” and thus they did. (Yes, they really did.)

A pastoral life on the Centaur battle lines

Being that Guild Wars 2 has combat mechanics and that those mechanics are important to the whole game, it’s not a surprise that you will spend a lot of your playtime just killing things. In my PVE post, I went over how mob behavior and purpose is different in GW2 from most online games, but this entry is not about mobs or combat. This is about helping out the world in all the other ways you can.

The following will be a list of things I’ve done in the game that don’t involve combat. The first list will be things that aren’t combat themselves, but often lead to combat. These sort of things normally start with interacting with objects or characters, and the interaction then leads to a fight. The second list is the pure pacifist’s way, things to do that involve no need for combat at all.

The important part is that all of these actions help fill up the meter for your heart or dynamic event.

Things to do that may lead to harm

  • Check crabbing crates
  • Pull up grubs
  • Talk to angry NPCs
  • Stomp out zombie corpses
  • Check burrowing holes
  • Check unexploded ordinances
  • Check bushes for Moas

Things to do that are combat-free

  • Feed farm animals
  • Forage for truffles
  • Water plants
  • Put out fires
  • Take down banners
  • Calm angry NPCs
  • Boost the morale of troops
  • Find and deliver gift packages
  • Pray at a memorial
  • Disarm traps
  • Clean tar spills
  • Answer riddles
  • Put eggs back into a nest
  • Resurrect fallen allies
  • Break locks and free prisoners and slaves
  • Capture salmon and feed it to bear cubs
  • Pick up discarded tools and put them away
  • Pick sour grapes
  • Tell kids to do their chores
  • Set traps
  • Find identification badges on fallen soldiers
  • Gather and deliver ore
  • Deliver gifts
  • Test out a new batch of ale
  • Wash away graffiti
  • Test out some spicy BBQ
  • Snowball fights
  • Practice training with instructors
  • Harvest

There is a lot of interacting with objects, but there is also NPC discussions and some more interesting options like riddles and snowball fights. I often found myself looking for more of these non-combat options while everyone else was killing anything they could find. Fighting grubs gets tiresome after awhile.

In the future, I will probably find more of these tasks and add to the list. For now, I’ll just say that I enjoy having these options. The Ascalon Settlement outside of Lion’s Arch was one of my favorite towns, as well was Beetletun in Queensdale. These places offered out of the ordinary tasks to do and the towns themselves had a vibe all their own. My favorite NPC interaction has to be the happily married young couple in the Ascalon Settlement that have a quick, amorous conversation that leads to them running back inside for a sexy romp.

Maybe I’ll find some Dredge handing out pamphlets somewhere.

Leveling as an apprentice

What if you don’t want to even step outside of the city? What if you go outside the city, but only to harvest and mine? You gain experience for gathering, as you do in most MMOs now, but you also gain experience from crafting. A good deal of experience in fact. It may be tiresome and expensive, but you can actually level from 1-80 merely by crafting, though it would involve learning and maxing out every craft skill.

The way leveling XP gain works in crafting is this: For leveling a discipline from 0-400, you will gain 10 levels along the way. By maxing out all 8 disciplines, you will gain 80 levels. That means you could dedicate a character to crafting, feed it all the mats you get on other characters and level it all the way to 80 without ever needing to kill a thing. As hardcore crafters, we think that is pretty cool.

– Linsey Murdock (ANet)

That’s that for now. The Moletariat shall rise again!  ..once I skitter through my notes.