Guild Wars 2 Difficulty: Challenging or Frustrating?

Guild Wars 2 has a reputation as being hard – from its unforgiving dungeons to its jumping puzzles. But is it fun hard or frustrating hard?

That’s the question that the blogosphere has been pondering for a while now – and here are some fascinating viewpoints on the problem:

  • Jester, normally an EVE player, ventured into a GW2 dungeon, and found it both startlingly hard and very rewarding“The level design was great, the AI design was better, and the balancing of the opposition we were facing was nearly letter-perfect. As long as we pulled together and used our joint skills smartly, we advanced. If we didn’t, we got steam-rollered. “
  • Hunter’s Insight looks at one aspect of GW2’s dungeons that he argues is just plain frustrating – the distance between bosses and respawn points“One of the worst penalties in gaming is wasting the time of the player. It’s a commodity that is valuable to us not just in gaming but in the rest of our lives as well. So when you waste it, you had better have a damn fucking good reason.”
  • And Clockwork looks at the infamous Halloween jumping puzzle, the Clock Tower, and considers whether the difficulty was real, or simply tedium“You can’t really “out skill” the presence of other players blocking your vision. No amount of skill could save a player that jumped towards the clock face without knowing it would soon break. Perhaps you could argue that “skill” can alleviate these but they were choices that were character specific, not player.”

Personally, I’m enjoying the brutal difficulty of some of GW2 – but then, I’m also a fan of the Demon’s Souls series and WoW TBC Heroics, so I may not be representative of the playerbase at large…

What do you think? Too hard, or just right?

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Does an MMO need a good story? And what IS a good story, anyway?

And what exactly IS a “good story” in an MMORPG context, anyway? Is it narrative forced down your throat, brilliant stories of emergent behaviour, or something else?

Wilhelm Arcturus is attempting to answer these questions in his latest, fascinating post. Taking as a jumping-off point the claim almost every game makes to offer more “freedom”, he asks himself why he plays the games he does and gives up on the games he does, even when he feels that he wants to play them

” I went on several structure shoots in EVE Online last month. Structure shoots are, objectively, not fun. I stopped writing about them in general unless they represent significant milestones in a war. Unless, of course, something fun happens, like we decide to moon the bad guys in the home system, get caught with our pants down, and have to run for home as fast as we can. That, too, is objectively not fun. But it is funny and makes the story worth telling to my mind.

Likewise, overcoming the petty trials that used to face us in WoW… basically being able to relive the past… seems more interesting to write about than, say, 99% of my battles in World of Tanks. I think I have mentioned two battles in posts total. And it is certainly more interesting (to me) than my solo quests or instant adventures in Rift.

As this blog will attest, I have a lot of stories that focus on the past and times when things were more difficult. There is a series posts about TorilMUD, the direct predecessor to EQ. I will go on ad nauseum about EverQuest of old and the Fippy Darkpaw server and trying to relive the past, while telling tales from the old days.

Basically, it seems to me that when we face constraints, when we face difficulties, when things go wrong, when we face failure and hardship, those are the times that also generate the memories and the stories, those are the bonding experiences that become the touch points, the guide posts that create the continuity of the story of a given game.

An oyster that is not irritated does not produce a pearl.”

This is a really interesting addition to the ongoing discussion about inconvenience and hardship in MMOs, and how much is enough. Indeed, overall, I found Wilhelm’s post fascinating – and all the more so because he doesn’t come to a clear, simple answer. There aren’t any clear, simple answers here – or someone would have made the Perfect MMO already.

If you want a lot of questions and ideas, rather than a single “IT’S LIKE THIS, OK?” point, I highly recommend this post!

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Can You Estimate Difficulty? Is “MMO” one genre? And more MMO Thought

It’s been a bumper week or so for Deep Thinking about MMORPGs as a whole and as a genre. So, join me for a look at the latest in heavy-duty consideration of the genre we love – if indeed it is one genre after all…

  • There’s something of a zeitgeist around the idea that MMORPGs aren’t really a single genre any more, and Syncaine runs with that ball in a discussion of whether “virtual life” games like EVE are in any way similar to “short-play” games like Guild Wars 2“And yet, currently, MMO gaming (supposedly) caters to both players; Those with enough time to play MMOs as virtual worlds to be lived in, and those with enough time to just experience a bite of content before logging off. It’s no surprise that games who try to attract both have spectacularly failed overall, while games who aim more towards one or the other can do well.”
  • Zubon writes a really excellent post about all the times that developers have failed to accurately estimate difficulty, and what that means for discussion of MMORPG design“Guild Wars 2 has a pop-up warning when you start the cooking crafting skill, telling you that it is more expensive in terms of time, silver, and karma than the other trade skills. Cooking is the fastest, cheapest, easiest craft to take to 400 skill, notably having the last points available for a few hundred karma worth of peaches where other skills require dozens of drops or even globs of ectoplasm.”
  • And Clockwork looks at the various approaches to economies in MMORPGs, calling for more MMOs that lean toward “realistic” and even primitive economic systems“Perhaps making me a bit of an island in the MMO market, I’d like to see an MMO that eschews the auction house model. I would like to see a market that is a little more towards the “realistic” side in a game. I’d like to see a fantasy MMO where the crafting/economy are connected.”

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Will This 1 Simple Change Fix WoW Raiding?

A few days ago, we reported on Lono at Screaming Monkeys’ grand project to figure out what made a great raid.

Well, today he’s back with his results – and they make for interesting reading. But even more than that, he thinks he has a single silver bullet which could change all of WoW raiding for the better – and it’s amazingly simple –

“When I set out to write this I had envisioned complicated changes, technical stuff that would take multiple posts to explain and finely tuned details but after having done all this research I find myself reaching a very simple solution. A simple solution but one that would probably change the face of endgame if it was to be done.

Let’s remove gear out of the equation.

I can already feel the initial silence, then the low rumble as people forms ideas and finally the outburst at the heresy I’m proposing but let’s take a moment here.

Of all the reasons mentioned as to why people loved a particular raid, whether on Elitist Jerks or on a casual family site, gear has never ever been mentioned as one of the reasons why a raid was great. While some people fondly remember a drop for a number of reason, it’s never what makes a particular raid the best ever.

Likewise, fights that are used solely as gear checks are almost all reviled. They’re seen as boring facerolls at best and frustrating progression walls at worst. People don’t feel rewarded because they had the ability to equip gear, they feel rewarded for playing their characters.”

Despite Lono’s grand ambitions here, this isn’t a wall-of-text post – in fact, it’s short, interesting, and very readable. I found I agreed with some of his ideas – notably his comparison with single-player RPGs and their epic final dungeons – more than others, but at no point did he bore me, or did I feel that his ideas were obvious.

Have a read and see if you agree with him – I can see this one starting a real debate!

So what do you think? Get rid of gear?

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Debate Incoming! Trivial LFR, 90-degree Guild Wars and Sexism in Pandaria

It’s Discussion Day here on the Pot. In fact, it seems to be discussion month – there are more and more interesting, passionately-argued debates cropping up every day in the MMOSphere right now, from the silly to the very, very serious.

Here are three posts that either highlight or start what I suspect will be long-running, heartfelt discussions on the state of MMOs today:

  • Slurms looks into the heated debate currently happening in the Guild Wars 2 community over whether to enable changing the game’s Field of View“The other half of me takes sides with ArenaNet. This is their creation and they have final say in how it is to be consumed by the public. Just because you like Buffalo wings doesn’t mean that it should be an option on every restaurant’s menu.”
  • 15 Minutes of WoW asks if the latest LFR has gone too far in making the content trivial“But after doing the first 3 bosses of Mogu’shan Vaults, perhaps we should consider that content that has been made so accessible that there’s no challenge left might not be worthwhile content after all.”
  • And Apple Cider voices serious concern about several places in Mists of Pandaria where she feels the content becomes sexist“As a woman, this quest chilled me a lot. It bothered quite a few women in my guild and for good reason. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of stuff that’s happened to women in both our fictional worlds and even real worlds. Get taken prisoner, get put in a cage, be left to get raped by your captors. This stuff isn’t the fancy of someone’s imagination, it is stuff that’s happened to real people.”

What do you think? If you’ve got an opinion – or you’re writing a blog post – let us know!

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Controversy Watch: Too Many Dailies, Friendly GW and 25-man vs 10-man

From the good – Guild Wars 2’s success with creating a positive, friendly atmosphere – to the bad – Mists of Pandaria’s dailies, which many people are decrying as Just Too Much – to the perplexing – the eternal question of whether 10-mans or 25-mans are harder – here’s the latest from this week’s MMO debates!

Guild Wars 2 Is Friendly

Not so much a controversy as a ray of light in the MMORPG world, but still, the discussion of just how Guild Wars 2 has ended up So Damn Nice continues:

  • Ravious waxes lyrical over the non-verbal cooperation of Guild Wars 2’s game design“I want this, more than any other thing in Guild Wars 2, to be the yardstick for future MMOs. Can you, developers, have this moment in your game? Or does every hidden rule in the system prevent this? “

10-man or 25-man as the hardest raid in WoW?

After Theck’s thesis on the subject of 10-man vs 25-man difficulty yesterday, I’m expecting a renewed discussion on this subject:

  • The Grumpy Elf is first in line, considering a range of other options for why the results are currently shaking out as they are“Paragon did not finish first because 10 mans are easier, they finished first because they had more tools available to them to do so. That is my assumption and if my assumption is true that throws all the data out of the window because you can not compare a 10 man to another 10 man when one 10 man has basically almost a 25 man raid teams worth of exceptional players at their disposal and the other doesn’t.”

No More Dailies!

A number of bloggers, most recently Anafielle of Sacred Duty, have spoken up on the matter of MoP’s apparently pretty punishing requirements for hardcore raiders – and the debate’s just heating up:

  • The Godmother argues in defence of the new proliferation of dailies” I’d say the refinements that have been made are not only positive but should be rolled out across more of the game, so that not only does it take longer for you to complete them, but the value of what you make and what you grind for is more significant over time.”
  • And Kurn takes the opposite viewpoint, saying she’s glad not to be raiding any more because of the cooking grind in particular” In their effort to give more, diverse things for people to do, Blizzard has only succeeded in making a lot of the things “mandatory” for many of the raiders in their game. When, then, do raiders have the time to do Challenge dungeons? Scenarios? Hunt down those rares? Level alts?”

So what do you think? Too many dailies? 10-mans clearly easier? Guild Wars 2 less friendly than it seems?

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Is 25-Man Easier Than 10-Man? The Question Is Answered – With Actual Science

It’s the eternal question of WoW raiding, possibly responsible for more forum battles than any other. Is 10-man raiding harder or easier than 25-man raiding?

Well, today marks a fascinating and glorious step in this ancient argument’s history. For the first time ever, thanks to Paragon’s decision to go 10-man, we’ve got serious hard evidence of how the world’s top guilds do when they swap from 10-man to 25-man.

And when there’s hard evidence and Serious Statistics to be done, there’s only one man to turn to: the Bringer of Math And Pounding Headaches himself, Theck, who today has written a very scientific examination of all possible hypotheses about the new world firsts

“Now, looking at the data we have, the first two situations seem to match. Paragon progressed a little faster than the 25-man guilds, and there was a large gap between Paragon and the other 10-man guilds during progression. The gap has also closed rather quickly, though probably not quickly enough for 10-man to be too much easier than 25-man. Our data seems to be consistent with “10 roughly equal to 25″ and “10 slightly easier than 25,” with the additional assumption that the 25-man guilds are more skilled.

But the data is flat-out inconsistent with the third situation. Paragon didn’t trail Method, and the progression gap isn’t remaining very large (though it is non-trivial, given how few 10-man guilds have finished the instance so far). Despite the progression gap, the data simply doesn’t seem consistent with 10-mans being significantly harder (again, given that 25-man guilds are more skilled).

Now, you might quibble with me here (and rightfully so). “Theck,” you might say, “you’ve decided that 10-mans weren’t harder, but you did so based on a conjecture – namely, that 25-man guilds are more skilled. What if the inconsistency isn’t due to the difficulty, but due to that conjecture being wrong?”

That’s a fair point, and one we should address. So let’s make the counter-hypothesis. Let’s assume that all of the guilds in question are equally skilled. What do we expect to happen then?”

It’s a rare and beautiful thing to see such an apparently subjective point as raid difficulty addressed with actual logic, rigor and data, as opposed to forum rhetoric. And Theck does a brilliant job here, in a post I know I found absolutely fascinating.

I won’t spoiler the results – although I will say that just because Theck’s a 25-man raider, don’t expect any bias in that direction. So, if you want to know the answer, at least for MoP, backed up with Actual Data – go, read, learn.

Do you think Theck’s got it right? Graphs and formal proofs optional :)

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DPS responsibility, Irritating Sexism, War Stories and Final Grades

Some interesting discussions on a variety of topics today – plus more info on the game de jour, Guild Wars 2!

Oh, and whilst I’m at it – Guild Wars 2 Beta Signups are now open

On to the awesome articles:

  • Tobold responds to yesterday’s criticism of SWTOR Heroic Flashpoints, discussing the crazy idea that maybe DPS could be the role with responsibility“What if tanking and healing was relatively easy, and fails were predominantly caused by the damage dealers not dealing enough damage per second? Well, what would happen would be that damage dealers would be extremely unhappy.”
  • Ravious at Kill Ten Rats gives us details of just what a Guild Wars 2 World vs World battle is like“We just didn’t have enough players. This was a well defended keep and someone had taken the time to upgrade the NPC defenders. Every minute a swarm of hefty NPCs would appear near our siege, and we had to waste precious time taking them down, healing, and finally getting back to the door.”
  • Apple Cider Mage issues a takedown notice for the tired old ‘Make me a sandwich, woman!’ joke“World of Warcraft has a fairly even split of men and women now, if current numbers are to be believed. There’s no reason to NOT accept that at any given moment, you’ll be surrounded by women, whether they choose to reveal this to you or not. “
  • And Tzufit’s “Cataclysm Final Grades” project has more-or-less come to a close, with wide selection of really interesting posts about the evolution of the various classes in this WoW expansion

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Sandbox experiences, Insane in the Membrane and Dragon Soul vs Firelands – the Wednesday roundup

Loads of great posts from the blogosphere today, and in keeping with the increasing trend, for a variety of games! So, if you want your daily dose of WoW or the indie MMO de jour, Wurm, read on…

  • Klepsacovic at Troll Racials Are Overpowered is thinking back on why he enjoyed getting the (crazy hard) WoW achievement Insane in the Membrane“I liked this. It kept me entertained for a long time. Was this high-intensity screaming with joy fun? No. It was not fully voiced, fully animated, or even fully scripted to tell a complex and engaging story. But it did send me all over the place to find what I needed at whatever pace and in whatever order I wanted.”
  • The Renaissance Man at Children of Wrath has been crunching the numbers on the last tiers of WoW raiding, and has some interesting conclusions on Firelands and DS difficulty“Wowprogress shows us that there were 19,500 Deathwing normal kills by January 19th, the date that the article was published. That was 52 days after the instance was opened up on November 29th. On August 18th, 52 days after Firelands was released, there had still only been 9,500 Ragnaros kills. 10,000 more guilds have killed Deathwing than killed Ragnaros in the same time span, a 105% increase. “
  • MMOQuests is trying an experiment in Wurm Online – an in-character report on how a solo, helpless character does in the viciously hard sandbox MMO“I dropped down a large slope, and I lost my barrings. With no idea where I was, I knew I couldn’t return for the cart. Darkness closed in around me, some where, I heard a mountain lion join in with the spider and I swear I heard one of the Gods cackling at me and my trial. The sky went black.”
  • Spinks is looking at the downsides of sandbox MMOs in general – more work for your fun“They tend to strongly favour organised groups, there is often huge amounts of politics (I mean, to an extent that would dwarf guild drama in WoW), they strongly favour people with large amounts of time, or flexible playing schedules, there can be long extended periods of boredom and no guarantee that you’ll actually be around when the exciting stuff happens.”

What are your feelings on sandboxes and their difficulty?

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Weekend Wonders: Meercat PvP, heirloom contrarianism, overlooking the awesome, and talkin’ tails

Once again, it’s been a bumper weekend of great posts in the blogosphere – is it the winter drawing in that’s making everyone stay inside and write fascinating stuff?

I’m honestly not sure. Regardless, though, we’ve had too many interesting pieces to post just one – so here’s a bumper crop of everything from adorable meercat PvP to questions about the validity of SWTOR’s questing approach:

  • Rades was controversial over the weekend as he argued that people should stop complaining about transmogrification for heirlooms being removed“Disappointment =/= outrage. I know full well these things are not supposed to work this way, so if they get fixed, so be it.”
  • Piercing Shots made a solid case that some of the bloggers concerned about Dragon Soul’s difficulty might have overlooked their own awesome“I can understand Kurn’s disappointment that she’s almost cleared the normals already, but I really think she underestimates the unbalancing effect of her own skill and the skill and teamwork of her guild.”
  • Kill Ten Rats likes the SWTOR quest cinematics, but wonders if it’ll start getting boring to hear dialogue about, well, killing ten rats“I wondered if after twenty hours of listening to “dialogues on rat tails” as different or snappy as they could be written, I would be ready to start skipping all that development time, money, and love. I had in a moment seen through sparkle.”
  • And Cynwise – well, Cynwise became a meercat for the weekend. I don’t think I can come up with a better conclusion to today’s post than to borrow an image from him

(Original non-PvP meercat image from @outbirk on Twitter)

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