Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2

O Guild Wars 2, Where Art Thou?

ohgw2

Guild Wars 2 has become like an old college friend whom you kinda lost touch with, only to meet a few years later, and now you can’t recognize them at all.

Note: This is going to be a heavily opinionated piece. 

So, GW2 dropped the bomb this weekend, announcing some major changes to the game. First, the base game is now F2P, and second, raids are being introduced. Both of these elements effect the atmosphere and community of a game so vastly that GW2 is becoming more and more unrecognizable to me now. If I had any curiosity about HOT, it has quickly been squleched for good.

The Original Vision

The Guild Wars series was founded upon the idea of taking a good look at MMOs and seeing where they make things too annoying and time consuming. Then, once that’s identified, take steps to innovate and fix those troubled spots, making a game that’s accessible and fun, especially for casual players.

In GW2, they addressed this by pushing back against the trinity play. Over and over, they noted that you’d never need to wait on a healer because every class could take care of itself in some way. Did this actually end up to be true? Well, I dunno. But the idea was to save time and get you right into game play.

You have waypoints and warping to rob you blind speed up travel. No mounts needed, but also no vast expanses you had to run across to get back to town. Mail is at your fingertips, anytime. Harvest nodes are shared with everyone. Dynamic events don’t require you to group for credit, all you have to do is show up.

The original vision of Guild Wars 2 touted a living and dynamic world. An open world where players would be happy to see another player because people can’t hurt, only help, progress. A game where gear wasn’t king, but skill was. A game where there was no grind to get to the fun. Devs talked about events that could take weeks to cycle through, and the players making changes that mattered.

The Shadow Behemoth in August 2012. Back when he was awesome.
The Shadow Behemoth in August 2012. Back when he was awesome.

In the beginning, when folks were leveling, the dream was real. Players were everywhere, moving through dynamic events. Assisting each other in goals. Leveling and exploring together. Those first few months of GW2 was a casual player’s fantasy, and it was totally awesome! Sure, some events were broken and not doing what they should have been doing, but there was a feeling about the community (I was deeply involved with it) and the world that was open, free, and enticing.

A player like me, who is shy to PUG, could still help and interact. I could still make a difference. And everything really did feel dynamic.

The champions of the dragons came and went on their own whims. People got excited when the Shatterer or Claw of Jormag pre-events kicked off. That was something to write to the Guild Chat about!

Oh! Oh! The dragons are coming! Let’s do this! 

Those are the things that made us ALL feel epic. 

My first Shatterer battle in August 2012
My first Shatterer battle in August 2012

Losing Sight of the Vision

I used to say that you should give an MMO about two years to really mature into the kind of game it would become. I still think that’s true, and GW2 is no exception. It just seems like GW2 tried and tried to experiment with format and development and it, quite frankly, failed in these experiments. It feels like so many things GW2 started out championing, they’ve gone back on.

No expansions! They’ll only release Living Story episodes, which are just as good as expansions! We see where that got them. *cough* Heart of Thorns *cough*

Gear doesn’t matter! There will never be a grind! *cough* Ascended Armor *cough*

Back in August 2013, when there would NEVER be an expansion, and everyone turned out to beat down Scarlet.
Back in August 2013, when there would NEVER be an expansion, and everyone turned out to beat down Scarlet.

Now, with the announcement of raids, I feel there’s a danger of them completely throwing out the whole concept of large, dynamic open world events. Why work so hard to scale something a whole zone has to cooperate to beat when you can reel it back in for a 10-man instance instead? Much easier to develop (and monetize), I’m sure.

What happened to accessibility? Why do you suddenly feel the need to develop content that is “challenging” and “difficult” instead of “engaging” and “fun”?

No, I’m not going to argue about how a small group of leet players banging their head up against a raid-progression wall is someone’s form of fun. But the point is, that’s not what GW2 was originally supposed to be like! It rooted for accessibility, so that everyone could enjoy the content (with the exception of terrible dungeons).

And what happened to originality? Uh, sure, it’s innovated that you’re trying to squeeze a non-trinity group makeup into a raid environment (To quote Trahearne: This won’t end well.), but raiding is nothing new when it comes to MMOs.

Just about every MMO has raids. But not every game allowed me to take part in defending Lion’s Arch against an invasion. Or working with a whole zone to take down a huge army and then a boss. Even though I don’t think much of the story elements of the Living World, I can’t deny the experiences were some of the most memorable I’ve had… because they were large-scale, free-form, and inclusive.

Heck, I was able take my level 15 character to the battle in Lion’s Arch, be upscaled to level 80, and still have a good time with the event, getting some loot and levels to boot! They’ve taken that part of the game away from us now that the Living Story requires level 80 characters and mostly takes place in tiny, constrictive instances.

Sorry, but no raid is ever going to come close to being as epic as this. Look at all those PEOPLE on the bridge back there!
Sorry, but no raid is ever going to come close to being as epic as this. Look at all those PEOPLE on the bridge back there!

What happened to dynamic? When the megaserver change hit, all the large dynamic events were also shoved on specific timers. There’s no more mystery and excitement for when Jormag or Tequatl show up. You now just come to meet him at the exact same time every night. Really?

I guess raids were just the next logical steps to all this. And it makes me disappointed. It’s like GW2 is moving backwards instead of innovating forwards. I really do feel they’ve failed to hold on to the vision that made GW2 something different from the rest… and now they’re trying to spin raids into something new and exciting.

Feasibility

My first thought is how the heck is this even going to work? I remember the pain that was dungeons in GW2. With no real healer class, and every class meant to take care of itself, it was such a bad experience for me that I almost wrote off MMO dungeons for good. Thank you to FFXIV for redeeming them for me.

I can only imagine the pain of raiding in GW2 with this “amazing” active battle, “mechanics,” and no trinity. I remember the long, tedious boss fights in dungeons which often led to being in the downed state almost constantly. If any of your party members tried to rez you, the boss would automatically focus fire on that person, and then there would be two down. After they forced you to pretty much wipe the party to rez again (no rezzing at the waypoint when other party members are in battle), I quit dungeons.

Back in the days you could actually do dungeon content at the level you unlocked it.
Back in the days you could actually do dungeon content at the level you unlocked it.

The sad thing was, they gated story behind those dungeons. And though they said they’d do something to make the story modes a bit easier, they never did. Still, till this day, if you actually try to do a AC at level 30, when it actually opens to you, you’ll be lucky to find a party that won’t auto-kick you for not being 80. :/

That leads me to the biggest concern about adding raids to GW2: the inevitable raider mentality.

Raiding Mentality and Community

GW2 was originally a beautiful experience because it was built to be inclusive. If anyone thinks that raiding in GW2 is going to be inclusive, I have a plot of land in Lion’s Arch to sell you where you can build your personal home. Personal homes are being released in HoT, right? Right? 

The raid announcement stressed again and again this content would be difficult. Challenging. And rewards will be legendary.

To me, this just keeps saying Leet! Leet! Leet!

And the moment the word raid is murmured, the community starts to divide between those with Ascended gear and Legendary weapons (all which aren’t supposed to matter) and the scrubs who have not.

Take this post for example, aptly titled “Hardcore” folks dont want “casuals” pugging.

casuals

Hardly even got the announcement out and already “hardcore” people are ragging on the “casuals”… who GW2 was originally made to appeal to! What’s it gonna be like when raids are actually in?

Update: The devs have confirmed in this MO interview that they agree with the above “hardcore” mentality.

I asked about a group-finder system for raids — whether there is one in HoT or will be in the future. And he explicitly said no — there will not be one at the launch of HoT, and there are no plans to ever put one in. He emphasized that this was intended to be coordinated endgame content, not something a PUG can tackle.

This attitude has pretty much decided things for me. I haven’t been playing GW2 much beyond logging in daily for the rewards and using the free tomes to level characters to 80. I’ll probably keep doing this just because I’m a completest and I’d like to get those few remaining characters I rolled 3 years ago to 80. Go figure.

Fare thee well, GW2. Call me when you're a game that I'd enjoy playing again.
Fare thee well, GW2. Call me when you’re a game that I’d enjoy playing again.
Posted in Everquest 2, FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs, Sims 4, Starbound

The Art of MMO Character Creation

This is my original character, TsuYa Tai, often just called Tai.

wolf__s_champion_by_aywren

Please excuse the old art. I haven’t drawn any large up-to-date color pieces of him recently (bad me). The wings are optional, but the scythe, snark and grumpy attitude are not.

Tai is a character who created himself over a decade ago. I say “created himself” because he started out as a one-time walk-on character when I was first writing the Dreigiau fantasy series. That turned into a side character, then a head-strong main character, and now one of my most well-developed and most-played figments… including in MMO games.

I am a gal who often plays a guy character in MMOs, but there’s nothing funky going on there. I’m simply an author who really enjoys trying to recreate my characters in a variety of worlds and see how close I can match MMO character creation to the real thing.

A more recent piece of Tai from a Wayrift webcomic frame.
A more recent piece of Tai from a Wayrift webcomic frame.

I decided it would be interesting to explore all the different versions of Tai I’ve created over different MMOs and games. So, I logged in and screenshotted, or found existing screens, of him in all the games I could remember and still had installed. I know there’s a few I don’t have due to being no longer on my computer (Arche Age, Dragon’s Prophet) or not running anymore (Vanguard).

I tend to recreate a number of Tai’s characteristics if I can:

  • melee DPS (scythe classes if possible)
  • dark hair
  • shortest character height
  • wears blue (if possible)
  • sometimes a face scar (if possible)

The following more or less a comprehensive list of Tai’s character over the years of gaming.

Guild Wars 1

Tai’s first MMO iteration was in Guild Wars 1. I had a necromancer version of him at first, but when the Dervish class was released, it was almost perfect for him. Scythe, twirling battle animation, blue robes. Yeah, this did a good job in representing his character.

guildwars1tai

EverQuest 2

Taii in EQ2 (no three letter names allowed) was a Shadowknight. I really enjoyed the class, but didn’t level him very far. When the free heroic character option came around, I up-leveled him to 80. But I still haven’t played him much since then. I don’t know if there’s a scythe weapon, but I used a generic Specter’s Scythe as a cosmetic weapon override, and gave him black wings for a flying mount.

eq2tai

LOTRO

In LOTRO, Tai is a level 50-something Champion. I couldn’t give him a scythe, so dual wielding blades would have to do. I haven’t played him in a long time, but I was there before the class trees and through a lot of the Champion nerfs and turmoil.

LOTROtai

Neverwinter

In Neverwinter Online, Tai is a Great Weapon Fighter. Again, no scythe, but a huge blade makes up for it. I haven’t played this game in a while, but here he is with my much-loved Frost Mimic companion!

neverwintertai

Starbound

Not an MMO, but Tai has also appeared in Starbound!

Starboundtai

Sims

Tai has been in all my Sims games since Sims 2… I was just too lazy to launch and install all my files to get screens of him in the older games. So here’s a Sims 4 version of him, which you often see in my Sygnus Sims Sunday series!

Sims4Tai

Guild Wars 2

In GW2, Tai is a Warrior. No scythes in this game (yet… maybe one day?), so the glowing blue greatsword takes its place. Also, black wings cosmetics, though they don’t fly.

guildwars2tai

Final Fantasy XIV

Finally, the newest version of Tai in FFXIV. Here, his main class is Dragoon due to fun melee DPS and huge pole arm weapons. I think this is my favorite game version of Tai because it matches my vision of him more closely than any other game so far.

FFXIVtai

How Do You Create Game Characters?

Do you have a consistent character design or character name you use across different games (MMO or single player)? Or do you prefer to randomly roll characters to find something you like – maybe you enjoy variety more than consistency?

Do you ever base your characters off of your own original characters or characters from books/movies/games you enjoy? What’s your method?

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: Welcome Back Lion’s Arch

gw658

I can never tell what is a social experiment in GW2 and what isn’t. The team has often admitted that things in the Living Story, in particular, were a process of experimentation. Apparently, that experiment didn’t go quite as they thought because now there’s going to be an expansion that we were told years ago would never happen. Ah, well.

When they razed Lion’s Arch over a year ago, I kinda felt like that was yet another experiment to see how the population would deal with not having a central gathering hub. The destruction of Lion’s Arch, followed by mega servers, did change things from a social perspective. Folks who used to park their characters or meet up in LA now went to other towns. Divinity’s Reach became a substitute social hub, especially for RPers, from what I understand.

farewelllionsarch
Farewell to the Lion Fountain 😦

In the end, a large group of players are going to gather in one social spot, and I don’t think there’s a lot anyone can do about that. I wonder what Anet’s experiment told them… because now, they’ve finally decided to bring back Lion’s Arch. And they didn’t just build it back the way it was before, but they’ve rebuilt it to be completely different from the ranshackle boat-city that was frustrating to navigate, but we’d grown to love.

When I first saw the concept art for this, I felt pretty uncertain.

lionsarchprototype
Concept Art

It was… interesting… but didn’t give off a traditional Lion’s Arch vibe to me at all. So I was a bit concerned about how this was shaping up. Not to mention that the team kinda suddenly sprung the fact on us that they were bringing Lion’s Arch back after having left it sit in rubble for so long.

I guess I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to see more of a gradual step-by-step rebuilding of the city. But seeing how intricate the outcome was, I understand why they probably couldn’t have done it. Because it looks nothing like it used to.

When I logged in on Tuesday to check it out – and I still haven’t seen all of it – I did so with hesitation. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

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Remade Lion’s Arch

It’s a little sad that the boat-houses and basic pirate structures were scrapped. However, the stone structures and wide open spaces that were put in its place were much more reminiscent of the old Lion’s Arch in GW1.

oldlionsarch
LA of GW1

Of course, they’ve fancied things up with neat sea-themed decorations everywhere. And they now seem to have beefed up defenses with cannons and ships (smart move).

Overall, while I am still a little bummed out that they wiped our main social hub back then, I will admit that I like the feeling of the new Lion’s Arch. It is much easier to navigate, and was built with the idea of hosting events and gatherings that may bring a large number of players to one spot. I have yet to fully explore the city, but I’m content to make it my new log-in and log-out spot as I pop in to get my daily chests. XD

I’m totally lost with what they’ve done to our skill tree, though. Don’t even ask me what my builds are anymore, either. But at least the city is pretty again. That counts for something in my book.

 

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: Heart of Thorns Pre-Order Prices – A Whole Lotta Nope

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I’m going to start with the unbiased facts for those who might have just searched for this and fell on this page. Here’s the pre-order prices for Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns, normal and collector’s editions.

Interesting how the $99.99 option is the default selection. ;)
Interesting how the $99.99 option is the default selection. 😉

Okay, enough about the facts. Now for the opinions.

A Whole Lotta Nope

Sorry ANet. This will be the first time ever that I have not purchased a Guild Wars expansion at or before launch. The cost of this expansion is just too expensive for what I perceive is going to be in this pack. That’s not even counting the fact that the expansion doesn’t include a character slot for the new class… so you must either pony up for that or delete an existing character to play it.

I have been in wait-and-see mode since Heart of Thorns was announced. I really haven’t been impressed by much of what I’ve heard about it thus far. New Revenent class? Eh, don’t know if I’ll like the playstyle. New jungle zone. Those have never been my favorite types of zones, and hearing about this vertical progress just makes me think “jump puzzles.” New guild hall? You mean for my little guild that died out shortly after you released guild activities that ruled out small and medium-sized casual guilds?

Oh, but what about that glider thing? Hmmm…

Not much of a contest which one I'd prefer.
Not much of a contest for which one I’d prefer.

When Guild Wars 1 released expansions, they were full campaigns. The kind that have huge additional landmasses, two new classes (which you could use with existing characters as secondaries), tons of new skills (which you could use with existing characters as secondaries), new weapon types (which you could use with existing characters as secondaries), full-scale campaign stories and lots of new races/creatures/lore to explore.

They were stand-alone games that didn’t require any other campaign to play. They had a starter zone, leveling zone and end game zone all complete, for the same price as what they’re charging for a much smaller expansion for GW2. Of course, I don’t expect a stand alone game out of this expansion, but I’m saying this to compare the amount of content we used to get for $50 from a Guild Wars release with what we’ve seen of HoT.

ANet needs to take a look at what competitors are doing for their expansions. For example, FFXIV’s Heavensward, being early released in just a few days, has many different price points for their expansion depending on what content you want or need. For a ton of content, including real flying mounts, you pay:

Standard Edition: $39.99
Digital Collector’s Edition: $59.99
Heavensward + Realm Reborn Bundle: $59.99

So, you have options. If you need the base game, you can pick that up with Heavensward, but you’re not forced into the bundle. Now, that’s how to do it.

But what about Living Story updates…? 

I posted a comment on Massively OP’s HoT’s post stating that I’ve decided to hold off on paying this kind of money for the expansion. I got a reply from a concerned community member that pointed out that in not buying the expansion, I won’t have access to the upcoming Living Story episodes out of the box, thus, will be forced to pay for them when I go to unlock them instead. 

NopeThis is something that Syn and I actually discussed. My response to this is… if they are going to be underhanded enough to prevent people from unlocking the episodes if they don’t purchase HoT, then I’m done with this game. Let us unlock chapters for future play even if we don’t have the expansion – now that would be positive incentive for me to spend money on HoT. No way I’m going to be nickled and dimed to play Living Story episodes that I wasn’t impressed by to begin with. That would only be punishing people for not buying HoT.

If ANet uses that as a pressure tactic – forcing folks to buy the expansion RIGHT NOW or else we’ll have to pay for Living Story later on – I feel that’s really wrong. No, I don’t expect to be able to play story content locked within HoT… but I bet that there’s going to be a lot of unhappy folks if they start gating the story unlocks behind expansion purchase.

Doing that only confirms that it’s become all about the money. Doing that will lose me as a customer for good… and I’ve been a loyal customer who has purchased several copies of GW1, paid for Gems, and was a pretty strong presence in the GW2 launch community. I would eventually buy the expansion, when I thought the price was right. But not if I get there to find more crap I have to buy just to play the story.

Whole lotta Nope.

And I’m not the only one.

We’ll see which direction they take this game. But right now, I’m focusing on games that don’t actually frustrate me the way GW2’s story and “mechanics” do.

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs, NBI

#NBI2015Safari – Introducing GW2 Kneel Face Selfies

Shortly after GW2 was released, an European friend of mine, Mr. Charming Charr, blogged about something fun. If you have a charr character, you use the /kneel emote, and you twist your camera in just the right way, you can view the interesting “smiling” expression your charr makes.

Very soon, the term Kneel Face was born on Tumblr, and charr were using it to take “selfies.” There is even a Tumblr dedicated to these Kneel Faces, where players have submitted their selfies to be shared.

One of my most memorable Kneel Faces was during the Dragon Bash festival. Back when Lion’s Arch was still around, they had this huge Shatterer hologram flying over the city.

I decided it was perfect to make a Shatter Kneel Face photobomb with my favorite charr, Nipp Mousetrap.

Shatter Kneel Face Photobomb
Shatter Kneel Face Photobomb

Another Kneel Face of note, though it’s not my screen shot – I hope that Charming Charr doesn’t mind that I share it.

Mr. Charming was my first Tumblr friend. He welcomed me to the GW2 community back during beta, and we were excited for the launch so we could finally meet and play together. Only, that couldn’t happen, because GW2 didn’t allow folks on the US servers to guest on the EU servers. We were pretty crushed about that, but remained friends via Tumblr.

I don’t remember what the event was – maybe it was a GW2 free trial or something? But somehow, we were able to create another account and all of the US and EU Tumblr folks were able to finally meet during a huge Tumblr party on the EU servers. This was the lovely Kneel Face photo he took of our characters together, finally meeting after over a year. It was a good time. 🙂

kneelface2

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2 April Fools Joke & Personal Story Changes (For the Better)

My engineer, Kip, plays appropriately plays airplane. :)
My engineer, Kip, appropriately plays airplane. 🙂

Despite having been a huge GW2 fan in the past, I don’t tend to say a lot of nice things about the game. So when they do things I like, I figure it’s fair to highlight those as well.

April Fools Joke: Airplane Mode

Back in beta, there was a bug where a character would get stuck with their arms outstretched to both sides, similar to someone playing airplane. There were videos of this bug, and it was pretty funny, though eventually fixed.

The team brought that back for this year’s April Fools joke. For today, everyone has an aviator cap, arms stretched wide, making airplane sounds as they run. There’s also a grainy old-timey movie effect on the screen (which isn’t fully reflected in my video because I had something turned off in post processing video settings, I think).

It’s not Super Adventure Box (still the best April Fool’s joke… and much missed), but it’s pretty cute! See my engineer enjoying this in the video below. 🙂

Changes to Personal Story

Even better, the team has decided to put the Personal Story (which they revised, cut sections and made all out of sorts) back to its original form. Another long overdue change, something players have been asking for since release, is the final fight with Zhaitan will support 1-5 players. You’ll be able to actually finish your personal story solo instead of quitting at the final fight because you can’t find a party to run it.

TrahearneLike removing the WvW requirements from world completion, this was a long overdue change for the better, IMHO. But a change that may be a little too late for some of us. I doubt I’ll go back and finish my personal story on any of my characters (especially since it’s level gated now), but if I did, it’s nice to know there will be a solo option for it.

Oh, and they’re recording new voice overs for pieces of the personal story. I instantly thought this was an attempt to fix the issues that players had with Trahearne especially. Seems I guessed correctly as the forum post says:

We wanted to update some key lines for several characters in the Personal Story, including those of Trahearne, the Pale Tree, Tonn, and Apatia. In some cases, we are merely re-recording the existing lines to get a more appropriate delivery to match context. In other cases, we are rewriting character dialog to better fit a particular scene.

Another good move… though, for those of us who have already gone through the personal story and were annoyed by Trahearne, it’s a little too late to change first impressions. Certainly seems like these changes are aimed at newer folks and those who have yet to experience the story. I’m glad they’re going back to fix these things, however.

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2

GW2: Changing WvW Requirement in World Completion

rytlockpleased

Update: This change has been officially confirmed on the GW2 website.

So the newest GW2 patch notes for the Chinese client, which were copied and posted on Reddit, talked about the camera changes, new faces and some class changes. Tucked in the middle of it all sat one of the biggest announcements (IMHO):

WvW removed from map completion

This has been a little PvE vs PvP controversy since GW2 first launched, and an issue that rubbed me wrong on more than one occasion. In order to complete 100% of maps in GW2, players were forced to also clear maps in the PvP areas. Whether you liked PvP or not… whether this was even possible due to your server’s WvW standings… it didn’t matter.

The GW2 devs have said more than once that they have a “Try it, you’ll like it!” idealism towards PvE-only players. They wouldn’t remove WvW requirements from map completion because they thought if they could somehow dangle that carrot hard enough, they could show PvE players that WvW was something FUN!

Yeah. Right.

What that ended up doing was annoying PvE players and pushing them the other way. I promise you, the moment a game forces me into “trying” something I don’t view as fun, I’m much more likely to quit the whole thing… and possibly even the game itself… to do something I DO think is fun. Which is exactly what happened.

Syn and I spent hours and hours and hours uncovering the maps in GW1 to get our Legendary Cartographer title. Sometimes it was frustrating, but for the most part, we had a lot of fun doing it. But, when it came to GW2 map completion, we worked on it a bit, and even had a guildie try to help us with capping things in WvW. But after the frustration of getting ganked and the unpleasantness of WvW maps, we gave up on it all together.

For us, world map completion was something that could have held our interest for quite a while at end game. I could have seen us even doing this on several characters, because this kind of thing is fun to us.

But that WvW barrier was just too frustrating. And seeing the devs not backing down, even with plenty of feedback asking for a change, made me just resentful (on top of all the other issues I’ve had with GW2’s direction).

Update: This has now been announced with its own post on the GW2 website. Nice work, guys! 

I find it interesting that more isn’t being said about this. Perhaps the PvE folks who would have cheered for this change two and a half years ago have long since wandered away for the same reasons I have. I find it interesting that such a very big change (to me) is tucked quietly away in the middle of a list of patch notes about camera changes and new face cosmetics. Perhaps Anet didn’t want to make too big a deal about it because… well, that would mean that someone there would have to admit they’ve been wrong this whole time.

Is this enough to entice me back to putting some time into my abandoned map completion project in GW2? I don’t know. That door has really long-since closed. But I’ll never say never. I’d just have to be pretty bored before I put that much time into GW2 again, I think.

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: “Backpacks are the New Hats” (No, They’re Just Carrots)

 

madking

NOTE

I think I need to clarify something that’s being misunderstood. This isn’t a post saying “I want free things without working for them.” I honestly have moved on from GW2 for the most part, and don’t expect or want anything out of the game.

Rather, this is an observation about how the intention behind “free” cosmetics has changed between GW1 and GW2.

I don’t mean to belabor the topic I wrote about yesterday, where I discussed the direction GW2 has taken with their gem shop cosmetics, especially festival items in particular. However, I got a comment that made me think up an addition to that article. While I did reply to that comment, I wanted to discuss this a bit more here.

I don’t mean to sound rude, but this comment made me think how well GW2 has trained the players to jump through hoops for “free” cosmetics, and not question it. The way I see it, there’s a huge difference between the intention behind the cosmetic hat gifts in GW1 and the cosmetic back items you have to work grind for in GW2.

Claudius commented:

Backpacks are the new hats. You can get a free ram backpack this festival. Last Wintersday you got a free outfit. I am not sure that your anger is justified 🙂

Firstly, I will note that I am not angry. In fact, I’m pretty much apathetic about the path GW2 is going down because I’ve seen the evolution, I don’t like it, and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

I’m more disappointed. Because I knew Guild Wars when it was a different sort of game. Now it’s a monetized and over-hyped shadow of the spirit that used to drive the series, and it doesn’t have to be.

No, these back items are not “the new hats.” I’ll tell you why.

It’s All About Intentions

gwf-dragonfestival_1600Let me explain how it worked in GW1, since it seems some folks may not have experienced it to understand the difference. The devs created a festival event, usually tied to a RL holiday. There was a lead-up event, sometimes with optional quests and ways of earning special treats throughout. On the last day of the event, was a grand finale that lasted anywhere from 15 mins to half an hour and repeated throughout one day.

If you attended the grand finale (which was usually fun within itself), you’d earn a bunch of free treats for interacting in the right way. For example, playing the Mad King Says and getting the responses correct would give you trick or treat bags. Then, at the end, a free hat appeared in your inventory. Even if you screwed up every Mad King Says, you still got the hat.

It was a gift, something given freely, simply for you being there. It was a way to celebrate that holiday, a way to remember that you attended that in-game event. It was part of the whole festival that everyone got, and something people looked forward to getting. Something people collected and loved to wear in towns, especially during random dance circles.

Good times.

Of Carrots and Sticks

Where GW1 festival items were a gift, GW2 festival items are a carrot on a stick that prods you to grind the content or log in every day. There’s a big difference.

The patch notes for the current Ram event says:

Play in the revamped Dragon Ball Arena, try to get your Lucky Great Ram Lantern backpack, and join us in welcoming the Year of the Ram.

The key word is “try.” You don’t have to try to get a gift. A gift is freely given.

I looked up what it takes to get a basic backpack, and the wiki notes:

Lucky Ram Lantern is a back item, rarely rewarded from Lucky Envelopes.

Researching the Lucky Envelopes, these come from finishing achievements and playing the Dragon Ball arena. So, you get a chance at the backpack (the wiki notes it’s “rarely rewarded”) from envelopes you only get by jumping through achievement hoops and grinding the arena.

Basically it’s a carrot on a stick to nudge people to run the content in order to get the prize. For those who are tired of this carrot thing, apparently the back item is also purchasable on the trade post.

Mawdry's crazy shopping list
Mawdry’s crazy shopping list

This isn’t quite as bad as the hoops you had to jump through to earn the free back items in the past. Mawdry is one that comes to mind. I knew things were getting way out of hand when I saw the grocery list required to craft that thing.

The one exception I can think of was the very first cosmetic back item they introduced, the Mad King’s Memories book. You earned that by undertaking a series of story quests and a scavenger hunt that was pretty fun. Sadly, they’ve removed these quests and the reward from current Halloween events.

Regardless if you’re beating on an endless number of dragon pinatas, collecting samples around Karka-infested South Sun Cove, running Sanctum Sprint a million times, collecting a gazillion blade shards, or grinding through story achievements, the outcome is the same.

The back item is there to provide incentive to run the kind of content the devs want you to run. It’s there to keep you logging in, even if the content is repetitive.

It’s a carrot, not a gift.

The cost may still be free, but intention is completely different. That’s my beef with it.

PS – I wasn’t involved in Wintersday much last year, but Dulfy doesn’t show any free outfit obtained from the event.

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2

GW1 vs. GW2: Cash Shop Shenanigans

The Dragon Festival of GW1, in Lion's Arch. Which has not been leveled to nothing twice over yet.
The Dragon Festival of GW1, in Lion’s Arch. Which has not been leveled to the ground twice over yet.

Today’s gem store update in GW2 reminded me of one of my pet peeves with the game. Namely, they’ve thrown pretty much all cosmetics into the gem store. This includes the so-called festival cosmetics, such as the “new” Dragon and Lion mask in GW2.

Source: Dulfy
Source: Dulfy.net

Now, yes, I realize they are functioning on a B2P model that relies on cash shop purchases to maintain. I don’t fault them for putting stuff in the cash shop.

What bothers me is, coming from GW1, the things they put in the cash shop, especially things dealing with festivals, were things that we got FOR FREE in GW1. Which was, may I remind you, also a B2P model that didn’t adopt a cash shop until much, much later in its development cycle.

gw1masks
Pretty much the exact same masks in GW1… but these were FREE at festivals!

And you know, that was a good thing. Because festivals in GW1 were fantastic! The community gathered around whatever event, be it Mad King Says for Halloween, or the showdown between Grenth and Dwayna for Wintersday, or the Emperor’s coming for the Dragon festival… and we got FREE hats. No strings attached. No cash shop shenanigans.

And it was EXCITING. Because for that day, every three hours or so, there was a really cool event that you participated in and was rewarded for.

Compare that to: “Get the new dragon mask in our gem shop for 300 gems. Limited time only!” …And maybe you can understand why GW2’s cash grab is such a huge disappointment to me, a person who loved to collect all the hats, and loved to take part in every festival every year.

And I’m talking… a freakin’ lot of free and very cool hats! Check this out:

gw1hats

And the cool thing was, we never knew what they were going to release each year. So there was always the excitement building for that first event, where lucky folks who could be there came back to fan forums and posted screens of what we could expect when we got home from work that afternoon.

Man. That was fun. That worked up the community in a good way and got people logging in.

And what do we have now in GW2? “Oh, new hat in the gem shop.”

What a bummer!

Gradual Gem Shop Change

But this didn’t happen over night in GW2. In fact, GW2 started out on the same foot as GW1 in terms of offering free festivity rewards. Gasp! Shocking I know!

I even have the Day of the Tengu hat, which I was quite proud of!
I even have the Day of the Tengu hat, which I was quite proud of!

For example:

  • At the launch of GW2, you could get a free Celebration Hat (from the cash shop), which was a somewhat cheesy baseball hat with a GW2 logo. Didn’t really fit into the whole fantasy theme, but hey, it was free and very neat to see the generosity even during beta.
  • Halloween of 2012 rewarded participants of The Mad King Says with a neat free Witches Hat. Yes, they did start their gem shop costume and RNG weapon skin stuff at that point, but there was at least a free item from the event.
  • The Devil Horns were free to buy in the cash shop during Halloween of 2012. Apparently now, they cost 200 gems.
  • Wintersday of 2012 offered a free Wizard’s Hat in the cash shop. I wasn’t quite sure what a wizard’s hat had to do with Wintersday. But, hey, free hat, right? Or maybe a leftover from Halloween. Because this felt like the beginning of the end of cool free things.
  • Some folks got free kites and stuff in 2013, but only if you spent money in the cash shop within a certain period of time.
  • Halloween 2013 offered the Mask of the Night skin for The Mad King Says. I think that’s all the event rewarded in 2014, too. Compared to the cool Grenth Hood and stuff in the gem shop, it was so lame that I started to really feel fed up at that point.

The few free cosmetics became mostly back items in 2013… many which were linked to annoying achievements you had to grind out during the Living Story season 1 scenarios.  This was fun at first… but then they got so convoluted that I just gave up even trying to achieve these.

I’m not saying they’re not trying to weave a few free skins into content here or there. But gone are the days of celebrating events with free festival cosmetics, replaced by everything in the Gem Store. In fact, I almost feel as if putting the few free things in the gem shop during 2012 was a subtle way of grooming people to be comfortable in buying things from the gem shop. Perhaps they knew they needed a gradual conversion of folks coming from GW1 to the new GW2 gem shop mentality. And that thought sours me, too.

So when I saw these iconic masks from GW1 pop up in the GW2 cash shop, something in my heart ached a little. I’ll just try to hold on to my memories of a ring of GW1 elementalists joyfully wearing brightly-dyed dragon masks, sync-dancing in Shing Jea. Because that was infinitely more special to me than what GW2 is doing these days.

To close, I’ll just leave this GW1 video I made back in 2007 here…

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs, Nintendo 3DS, The Secret World

Weekend Snapshot: FFXIV, Cactuar Kitty, GW2, TSW, Majora’s Mask

The Crystal Tower of FFXIV
The Crystal Tower of FFXIV

This weekend saw a lot of various things going on for me in the gaming world. Just a quick summary!

FFXIV: Further Progression

ffxiv_02112015_215331
Zuri finally got her Atma!

I’m still trying to make some progression with Zuri before the Gold Saucer sucks all my time releases next week. I finally finished her set of ilvl 100 armor, and completed her Atma bow. With all that done, I’ve been at a loss for what I want to work on with her (though I have a million things).

Not running dungeon roulette has helped significantly with the burnout I was feeling for a while. I cut those out and have started working on beastman dailies, including focusing on building faction with some tribes I haven’t completed for Zuri yet. But when it came to running hunts and unweathering her armor, I’ve kinda decided to take a break on that. I also considered working on getting armor for my healer class (I’m very, very slowly leveling Scholar and have a level 32 White Mage), but I also chose to take a break instead.

Tai's not so sure about this new armor...
Tai’s not so sure about this new armor…

I did run through the final Hildibrand quest so that I was up on story for most of that series. Those are always fun. I haven’t yet tackled the Battle at the Big Greg (as I like to call it), because looking up the fight, it seems really complex, and I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with another Ultros type fight this weekend.

I’ve focused my hunts and dailies on Tai instead, working to piece together his ilvl 100 weathered dragoon armor set. I don’t like the way it looks very much (sorry), and really miss my wyrm gear. He doesn’t even look like a dragoon anymore, and the armor is shaped so oddly. I doubt I’ll put the money into glamoring it, though, because with an expansion on the horizon, I don’t know what’s going to be happening with armor progression in the future.

Tai is still working on gathering all his Atma (he has half of what he needs now). However, Syn and I worked through the quests to finally unlock Crystal Tower (I also did this on Zuri). We haven’t run it yet, but it’s an option to explore later.

FFXIV: Cactuar Kitty

I’ve been reading about the fun many blogger folks on Twitter have been having by rolling on Cactuar and joining a very nice FC there. I’ve been trying to resist the call of Cactuar for a while (because of duties to my FC on Midgardsormr), but it was really something I wanted to be involved with. I discussed it with Syn this weekend and she encouraged me to try. So I rolled another alt on Cactuar to hook up with the fine blogger folks at <GREY>.

My new Cactuar kitty, a semi-Zuri clone!
My new Cactuar kitty, a semi-Zuri clone!

I was indecisive for a bit on what race and class to roll (though I knew I’d use my Aywren name for sake of easy identity), and ended up just taking Zuri’s base design and giving her a different haircut and freckles. I’m too attached to Zuri, and no matter what I tried to roll, I kept coming back to my moon kitty. 🙂

So my Cactuar Kitty was created, I hooked up with fine welcoming folks, and started burning through content. This isn’t very hard for me, seeing this is the 4th – 5th time I’ve rolled a character in Gradania (due to restarts, alts, etc). I chose Archer/Bard again because it’s my favorite low-stress class.

I pushed through to 15 so that I could complete the Valentione’s Day quests (which I did). Ended up at level 20 at the end of the weekend. I blasted through the first two story dungeons with really strong PUGs. With my eyes on my mount pretty soon, I’ll be continuing to speed-level whenever I have time.

It was somewhat refreshing to roll completely fresh on a new server for a change. It makes you appreciate what you have on your main, though! 🙂

Thanks to kind folks for giving me a home on Cactuar! 🙂

GW2: Level 80 Again

Finally, my mesmer is level 80!
Finally, my mesmer is level 80!

So I’ve been loyal in logging in just about every day to earn my daily rewards in GW2. This weekend, my mesmer, SoYa, whom I’ve been leveling since 48 on daily rewards alone, reached level 79-and-some. I have other characters who are in more need of the free level tomes, so I decided to grind out the last of SoYa’s level through personal story instances (which I’ve hardly even touched on him).

Once that was done, I spent some time kitting him out with nice armor, working on the Lazy Mesmer build, and finally equipping him with that Bonetti’s Rapier that I’ve been holding on for him for over a year or so now.

Next up for daily leveling tomes will be my engineer, Kip, who has a ton of cosmetics taking up storage as I wait for him to reach end game before I give them to him. Since I already have a level 80 engineer, I find it hard to want to do all that over again, even if engineer matches him best as a class.

Sometimes I really do miss those old Living World events, back when they used to allow sub-level 80s to uplevel and take part in them. That’s how I used to level most my alts. Since they’ve took that away, and my interest in grinding events has dropped, I’m thankful these dailies provide an alternate leveling path for my stable of alts who would otherwise never get leveled.

Ah well.

TSW: Long Road Ahead

Syn and I decided to pop into The Secret World for a short bout this weekend. We were so happy to see that a mission we’d sent a bug report for back before Halloween was fixed, and we could finally complete it. However, trying a “hard” mission in the Besieged Farmlands knocked it home for me that my so-called build is super lacking, and that blades is not supposed to be a DPS weapon. 😦

We started looking around at builds, and I found something more tanky that I’d like to try, but I’m severely lacking on AP and SP to achieve it anytime soon. Especially with the super casual way I play TSW.

The good news is that with upcoming changes to the pre-Tokyo content, I may delve into this game more often to build up those points and make a more solid build. I’m really looking forward to all the changes that are coming. And I bet if I could get my character to the point I want her to be, it would be even more awesome!

Zelda: Majora’s Mask

zeldamajoramaskFriday saw the release of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the 3DS. I never played this game when it was first released, and actually never finished TOOT, either. But both have been on my lists of to-finish since I now have them on my 3DS.

Majora’s Mask has been somewhat of a curiosity for me. I remember when it first came out, I wrote it off as strange looking, a bit creepy, and some weird spin-off of TOOT. So I didn’t give it a chance.

My real interest in this game came from the Majora’s Mask creepy pasta and ARG that took place a few years ago online. I got really, really engrossed in this while it was happening, and I still shudder when I see one of those statues of Link. So, when I heard this was being released for the 3DS, one of the few newer-gen systems I own, I knew I had to try it out!

I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve seen of this game, both story and mechanics-wise. I knew that people said it was a good game, but so far, I’ve found it to be much better than I even expected it to be. I’ve completed the first cycle of 72 hours, and working on puzzling through the second at the moment. I like how the game just dumps you in the world and expects you to figure things out on your own. At the same time, it does a good job of balancing out information for someone totally new, like me. What I thought might be overwhelming (the time limit), really wasn’t once I realized I could go back in time and keep reliving the series of days over and over until I achieve the things I want to do.

In fact, this was a really genius way to framework a game and story. I love how you slowly build on your achievements, so even though you’re going through the same three days again and again, you always have different objectives.

Anyway. Great game. Looking forward to puzzling this out – I’m going to have to make some free time for it!

happymasks