Weekend Roundup: Guild Wars 2

This weekend’s been quieter than some on the MMORPG front, but the bulk of writing, discussion and debate reveals one thing: an awful lot of bloggers are still playing Guild Wars 2.

From NPC personalities to Arena.net’s sales tactics, it’s all here:

  • Dusty Monk writes a fascinating piece examining the new roles that replace the Holy Trinity in Guild Wars 2 dungeons“When ArenaNet said there was no trinity, what they meant is that the traditional trinity didn’t exist. Because there is still a trinity of roles, and there it is: Damage, Control, and Support. “
  • Klepsacovic writes explaining why he feels the Hearts system is far superior to conventional MMO quests” Furthermore, having many people helps average things out, so I can imagine that despite my obsession with shooting wasps, someone did eventually get around to fixing the pipes. Quests can use the trick of stacking, having a few quests that relate to the same area, but this doesn’t give the flexibility of wasp-killing vs. pipe-patching.”
  • Green Armadillo looks at a question that has a few people concerned – given that we don’t pay a subscription, how accountable will Arena.net and similar publishers be for what they do to or with player accounts?“We don’t have the data to tell whether bannings in Guild Wars 2 is actually more prevalent in other games since none of the studios routinely publicize such numbers, but one can certainly imagine that removing the subscription fee removes a financial incentive NOT to ban a customer. “
  • Azuriel still isn’t convinced by the Guild Wars 2 economy, and makes some good points in an admittedly somewhat pessimistic article on the subject“I do believe Guild Wars 2 brings some extremely nice innovations to the MMO formula. However, I am getting the distinct impression that other MMOs do not have these features precisely because of all the unintended consequences they bring down the line.”
  • Stubborn has a bit of a problem with the Sylvari and Human NPCs he’s met so far – they all appear to be bad guys (warning, spoilers)” It seems like all the NPCs I work with or against are bad. I won’t go so far as to say they’re evil, as some of their actions, like murdering a murder, are morally neutral, but they’re certainly not good.”
  • Syl applauds Arena.net’s reverse-psychology attitude to persuading players to buy items on the in-game shop“Of course they don’t just give away stuff for free. Well, they do – but not in the way one might think. They’re way more devious than that.”
  • Keen explains the feel of GW2 dungeons in a nutshell – which might have been intended to put us off, but had the opposite effect on me. The comments are fascinating too“I finally figured out how to explain dungeons in Guild Wars 2. Previously the best explanation I had was simple chaos and dodging. My guildmate has a better explanation: It’s like a WoW dungeon when the tank dies. “
  • And Tesh indulges in a great bit of creativity, coming up with Twitter-length backstories for every possible race/class combination“Norn Necromancer – Preparing heroic spot in afterlife for friends… by any means necessary.”

I’m fascinated to see how the Arena.net “exceed expectations of free stuff” strategy works out. I know some people in the Internet Marketing space have used the same technique to make really large amounts of money, so it’s not without precedent…

What do you think? Are dungeons chaos? Is the economy fine?

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How EVE Works – A Guide To EVE roles for the noob (like me)

EVE Online is getting on more and more peoples’ radars these days – but it has an entire language and playstyle all of its own. Fear not, though – Flosch is on a mission to clarify Just What’s Going On, starting with EVE class roles…

I must admit, I’d never really thought about the roles that various ships take in EVE battles. It’s fairly obvious that the old trio of tank/healer/dps won’t be much use out there in space, but I’d assumed it more or less broke down into “Big Ship, Small Ship, Cannon Fodder”.

Not so much, as it turns out. Indeed, as Flosch of Random Waypoint explains in today’s fascinating post, EVE’s gameplay is actually a fascinating mesh of different supporting ship types

Healing

The “healer” ships in EVE are called logistics. They are typically highly sought after, because there are no really viable basic ship that do logistics well. You need to train into Tier 2 cruisers, which takes quite some time. Logistics come in two flavors: shield healing and armor healing. Depending on whether the ships in your fleet specialized in increasing their shield or armor resistances, one or the other is more desirable, obviously. I can’t fly Logistics ships at the moment, hence I didn’t bother buying any. I did fit out a basic “POSprey” though. It’s a basic ship that is fit to sacrifice all defenses for an at least acceptable amount of shield healing. The idea is to use it if a Player Owned Starbase is attacked: as long as the control tower of that station is up, it projects an invulnerability field around it. You can sit in the invulnerability field (hence no need for defenses) and help heal the shields of the control tower, hoping the POS will survive the attack.

Debuffing

These are typically called “EWAR” (electronic warfare) in EVE. Debuffs come in four categories. Tracking disruptors make it harder for the debuffed ship to properly shoot enemies. Target painters make it easier to hit a target. This can be especially useful because larger ships have a hard time hitting smaller ships with their larger weapons (due to, for example, slower tracking speed – you see how the two belong together?). Sensor dampeners reduce the lock-on range for ships (you need to lock on targets before you can shoot/debuff/buff them). ECM (electronic countermeasures) make the target completely lose all locks and unable to lock onto new targets.

That sounds very overpowered, and it would be, if not for a small detail: while the other debuffs are applied to a target and do their job 100% of the time, ECM only has a chance of working. Every 20 seconds, the attacker rolls a random number based on their ECM strength, and the attacked rolls a number based on their ship sensor strength (which is based on the ship type – larger ships typically have stronger sensors – and can be further boosted by certain modules). I have halfway decent skills for ECM, so I bought a couple of Blackbirds, which are dedicated ECM cruiser-class ships.”

I love posts that expand my knowledge of the MMO universe, and Flosch does so here in a very readable and enjoyable style. By comparing the various ship types to WoW or other MMO staples, he avoids the frequent acronym-soup problem that can plague accounts of EVE’s universe, and even makes me (slightly) more interested in trying EVE out again myself.

If you’re interested in EVE – even purely from the perspective of reading other peoples’ accounts – I’d highly recommend this post as part of your weekend!

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Of Newness, Newbies, and New Roles

There’s a bit of a “new” theme running through the WoWoSphere today. New roles, helping newbies, and whether or not to correct ignorance. So, without further ado…

  • Divine Plea has been considering the plight of the rookie in LFD: ” Behind the keyboard (usually) is another person, and that person probably has feelings that they’d like to keep intact. Even that hunter doing 4k in your 85 heroic might not just be a turd, but someone who has never had anything explained to them.”
  • Vidalya at Manalicious has moved from playing a mage to playing a paladin, and is feeling the challenges: “The biggest shift is a mental one, and it’s taken some time. I’ve had to teach my brain to recognize mild stress as ‘the norm’ and not freak out and just do its thing.”
  • Windsoar at Jaded Alt is considering what to do about peopel who display ignorance in guild applications: “My gut reaction remains, “It’s not my job to teach you how to play. You applied for a position, you get in on your current knowledge/ability/bubbly personality.” But even as I thought about typing that, I realized, it’s not always true!”

What do you do about guild applications that reveal, erm, a less-than-stellar understanding of the game? Have you swapped roles, and how did you find it? And do you help or kick in LFD?

All quotes taken directly from their respective source articles.

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Games Breaking Away From The Trinity

Syl says she’s recently realised that what she most wants from future MMOs is for them to keep the swords and magic, but get rid of the holy trinity of tanks, healers and DPS. She says she’s tired of it. She takes a look at WoW and points out that despite a few design attempts to work round the trinity, the damn system is more entrenched in WoW than any other game.

Enter Guild Wars 2. Syl points out bits from the developers talking about their approach to the trinity, and how they’re treating specific roles. They seem to have a whole new attitude to healing – are re-classifying it completely. And that’s just the start. Syl’s getting very excited about it and points out a lot of ideas the GW2 developers have which sound spot on, all about balancing fun and roles to create a new way of playing.

A thing that never seizes to baffle me personally, is the strict separation of abilities between roles, in WoW and most other MMOs: You have this powerful caster standing next to you in a 5man party, that magic spellweaver – and all he really does for the group is deal damage, besides few more mob-centric abilities. While his allies fall left and right, while his healer is about to die horribly, he stands there hurling firebolts at the enemy, unable to do anything about much more pressing matters.

As a child of fairytales, sword & sorcery books, tabletops and classic RPGs, I need to ask: in which fantasy setting is this “realistic”?

Syl’s post is long but well worth the read. Nils read it and then wrote his own response, studying the tank/healer/DPS trinity. I mean studying – his post reads like he’s got the monocle out and has pinned the roles down by their delicate, pretty wings. Ahem. Anyway, his post is a good dissection of what the problems with the current trinity system are, and why both tanking and healing are absurd roles. And why they exist and games lean on them so heavily. Nils also ponders a little on potential solutions which look like they have roots in some of the games we’re seeing developed at the moment. Here’s looking forward to what we see those games achieving, and the ideas they take on board.

What about you – do you think we’re on the verge of breaking away from the traditional trinity, or is it so set into the fantasy genre that it’s going to stay?

_Quote taken directly from Syl’s post

You can find Syl’s Raging Monkeys homepage here

You can find Nils’ Blog homepage here_

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Rift’s Soul System: The Brainchild MMOs Should Adopt

Bootae says the answer to the MMO world’s stubborn, inflexible albeit traditional tank/healer/DPS trinity has been found. He says it’s Rift’s ‘soul’ system, and other MMOs should be looking to adopt something similar if they want to move forward.

Bootae starts out with an excellent explanation of how the soul system, which is Rift’s version of a talent system, works. He takes one of Rift’s classes as an example and goes through the various roles that class can assume using its talents. And its flexibility, Bootae says, is its beauty.

The holy trinity of tank/healer/DPS (or dirty quartet with support added) is still there, but it is now less of a ball ache when your guild tanks aren’t online.

We can do a sodding dungeon with 5 rogues! Uhm like woah?

Bootae explains that you can set up any class to perform in any role. Also, like in WoW with dual talent specification, you can switch between talent/soul setups to perform different tasks depending on what you need – and that he and his group did just that to tackle a few dungeons without swapping people out. I reckon Bootae’s pointed out something important today: here’s a system where you really can bring the player, not the class.

What do you think – should games use this system as baseline to give us more flexibility or is it too complicated, both to play and balance a complex world around?

_Quote taken directly from Bootae’s post

You can find Bootae’s Bloody Blog homepage here_

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What Gender Characters Do You Play – And Why?

Porkchop’s asking whether you roll guy or girl toons to save the world in your chosen game. Anywhere else, that intro would get raised eyebrows and quizzical looks – but for gamers it makes sense. Porkchop’s focusing on the fact that many players don’t necessarily choose to make their characters the same gender as themselves – and Pork’s wondering why this is and whether it’s odd.

Some years back I remember reading a news article about a college student who took advantage of some desperate male MMOers by pretending to be a sexy lady MMOer on his sexy Nightelf female toon, flirting with them and getting them to shower him in gold and in-game items. The article said that this guy was doing it as a social experiment, but I wasn’t buying it.

I bet you’ve heard stories like this pop up from time to time. Not everyone who is  trans-tooned is rolling that way to take advantage of unwitting players. I know players on both sides of the gender fence who choose not to roll their own gender for various reasons.

Pork gives plenty of examples of people she’s known or heard from who play characters of the opposite gender, like her ex-girlfriend who played male toons. She says there are plenty of reasons folks might decide to do this and covers some of them, from the sensible to the aesthetic to the downright creepy. Really, the guy who dumped his girlfriend for the pixellated toon he modelled on the real life woman needs help.

Porkchop opens up a bigger can of worms than her post goes into. I’ve been left wondering about a deeper issue – while Porkchop’s just curious about the whole topic I’ve seen players have a problem with the concept that you’d roll a character of the opposite gender. Why is it a stigma? It’s another thing to look into, but meanwhile Porkchop wants your thoughts on whether or not you find any of the trans-gender trope strange. As someone with a range of male and female characters – for a variety of reasons – I’m watching this one with great interest.

So what’s your take on rolling characters of the opposite gender – are there good reasons for it, or is it too often used to negative effect? Does that contribute to the stigma around it – if indeed there is one? Lots of questions!

_Quote taken directly from Pork’s post_

_You can find Porkchops n’ Holy Sauce’s homepage here_

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Roundup: Reactions And Thoughts On The Healer, Tanks, DPS In Groups Debate

…Right. So today the blogosphere’s lit up with a range of posts on roughly the same topic after Tamarind’s post from yesterday, where he talks about the LFD system dehumanising us, how much effort we expect from strangers, and how DPS are disempowered and none of us should be okay with this.

A chunky post.

Some of today’s posts are responses to it, some of them look to be happy coincidences. Some of them are about the LFD system: some of them are about the tank/DPS/healer roles. But they all share a common feature. They’re about being part of a group. So, rather than picking and choosing one to stick a seal of epicness on and present you with, I’m rounding them all up, nodding my approval and letting you choose which opinions on the topic strike the most epic chord with you.

  • Shut Up And Follow The Tank: Analogue over at Looking For More says that both healers and DPS should be happy to follow the tank blindly in an instance. Wait, before you get the pitchforks out, go read why. Her post is very grounded. It’s from her point of view of both a healer talking to DPSers and as her recent experience being a DPS in a group where things went a bit haywire (largely because of a nitwibbler of a tank).
  • For good or evil… the LFD tool…: Lady Erinia over at Moments in the Life of a DK is casting her eye back over her WoW career and comparing the times when LFD wasn’t around to now. She says her gaming experience has really changed since LFD turned up and I’d reckon she’s not the only player who’s found that. I wonder how many of us are in similar shoes to Lady E?
  • LFD: How To Fit In: Jasyla of Cannot Be Tamed has a hilarious recount of the worst possible behaviours of any role in a group and needless to say is just what is worst about the dungeon finder and we shouldn’t do. Brilliant, tongue in cheek, and had me laughing out loud. I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen most of the things on her list and maybe even done a few ourselves. Still, keeps the topic at hand lighthearted and fun.
  • A Quick Note and I Am A Damage Dealer: our resident pancake lover Traxy and Vidyala over at Manalicious are both coming to the same conclusion but in very different styles. They’re picking up on Tamarind’s point that DPSers shouldn’t be treated as “less” equal to tanks and healers in a group, and are both saying that DPS should take pride in themselves. Vidyala is very obviously proud of herself and the role of DPS, when she or others do it well and say that DPS should be proud of each other, too. Traxy, on the other hand, wishes she saw that kind of attitude more. Either way – gogo, DPSers.
  • Ancient roles, and non-negotiation in instance groups part 2: Spinks of Welcome to Spinksville has some brief thoughts on traditional roles as handed down from older games and how they interact with the ideal of everyone being able to express him or herself in a group setting. I was more convinced by the first half of her post than the latter, but the whole thing’s an interesting read and something I’d not considered in this debate yet.

That’s all on the topic – hopefully something’s grabbed your attention. Someone’s mentioned it’s no surprise this topic’s come up in the last days of the pre Cata lull and we’ll move on from it as soon as Cata hits. That’s quite true, though LFD probably isn’t going anywhere.

What do you think – are LFD and role ideals going to adapt with us to the new game, or is LFD going to be a worse place in Cataclysm?

You can find…

  • _Looking For More’s homepage here_
  • _Moments In The Life of a DK’s homepage here_
  • _Cannot Be Tamed’s homepage here_
  • _I Like Pancakes’ homepage here_
  • _Manalicious’ homepage here_
  • _Welcome to Spinksville’s homepage here

_

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Trade Chats: Interview With Raven

Recently we started grabbing folks from around the blogosphere and asking them questions about their gaming habits before they can run away. This week I have a fresh victim peep to introduce you to, and I do mean fresh. Our guest today is one of the newest bloggers to materialise in the WoW blogosphere.

He’s clearly intelligent and relishes WoW, even now in the pre-expansion lull. Both his smart wit and enthusiasm come out in his posts and he’s gifted at playing with his writing voice, using different tones between solemn and mischievous to suit what he’s talking about. That’s a useful – and impressive – skill for a new blogger to settle into.

Sound interesting? Who is it? Without further fiddle-faddle from me allow me to introduce you to Raven of Currents Turn Awry.

Q: So you’ve started a new WoW blog in the pre-expansion lull. That’s brave! Seems to be going well though – why did you choose to start writing in the lull before the Cataclysm?

Raven: As part of my re-invigoration of WoW, I’ve been trying to expand my horizons.  I’ve been a long time reader of WoW blogs, so I just sat down one day and just started writing, to see if there was anything in my head that I could put onto paper.  Before I knew it, I had a half dozen raw posts.  So I worked on some of them a bit and realized that I was actually enjoying it, and that it might be worth it to just do it.

Q: “Currents Turn Awry” – interesting blog name, but what’s the inspiration behind it?

Raven: I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare.  The “currents turn awry” line is from my favorite soliloquy in Hamlet, and it describes how a plan of action with a singular and linear focus can easily turn into a chaotic jumbled mess.  My train of thought very often follows similar patterns.  I can be very logical, but my logic can easily run along tangents until the tangent is my focus.  Personally, I think this can be incredibly beneficial.  All too often, in games, even in life in general, we get so focused on a single path that we don’t step outside the path, even though a different path may be more rewarding, more pleasing, and more true to ourselves.

Q: In your about section you say you’re quite privacy conscious. Can you explain that a bit, and what drew you to blogging despite that?

Raven: I believe that critical thinking is one of the most precious skills we as humans can develop in our lifetime.  Part of this is being able to examine and evaluate a person’s communications from an objective basis.  Yet all too often, what we believe is based not upon what is said, but upon who said it.  It shouldn’t matter if the speaker is male, female, old, young, a famous celebrity, a professional athlete, a rock star, or a politician.  We should evaluate their statements based purely upon what they communicate.

Anonymity goes a long ways toward promoting this.  If you don’t know who is speaking, and you don’t know their background, then all you have to evaluate their statement, is the statement itself.  Now this doesn’t completely exclude the validity of experts or of the need to establish credibility when discussing certain topics.  But within the realm of video games, I personally don’t care about knowing anyone’s real name, or for them to know mine.  Of course, people argue that anonymity encourages trolling and flaming.  Although this might be true, the opposite is not necessarily true.  I know people who troll and flame in real life too, regardless of who knows who they are.  Also, if we’re using our critical thinking abilities, we should be able to identify and dismiss these statements easily.

I chose to blog from an anonymous stance because, if anyone reads my posts, I want them to evaluate them based upon what I say and not based upon who I am or what categories I fall into as a person.

Q: You talked recently about tanking, DPSing and healing, and said on each that “it’s all about control.” But you described them all as a very unique flavour of control. What’s the best role for you, and what happens for you when something goes wrong?

Raven: Probably my best role is that of a healer.  When I’m “in the zone” healing, it feels completely natural.  Even when things start to turn chaotic and people are dying, I still know what I need to prioritize and I know what tools I have to combat those.  When I’m tanking, I get a lot more stressed out when things go bad.  If I start to lose aggro, can’t pick up the adds, can’t get everything positioned right, I can feel my blood pressure rise.  When I’m dps’ing, I can stay totally cool when things go bad, because I know there are only a few things I can do to bring things back into control, and I can do those nearly on autopilot.

Q: You’ve talked about what classes and roles you love, and why. Is there anything along those lines you hate or dislike, and whyso?

Raven: Probably the role I dislike the most is melee dps in a group setting, and it’s really an issue of visibility.  Part of this is because in small groups like random heroics, everything is so dynamic and fast that I’m constantly trying to get into the right position and still be able to see everything that’s going on.  This leads to a lot of camera manipulation that feels excessive just so I can make sure I’m behind a mob that’s only going to live for about 3 seconds of combat.  In raids, I’m usually so stacked up with other melee, that I can’t even see my own toon clearly.  So then it becomes more of a focus on just mashing my buttons harder, rather than really trying to retain situational awareness.

Q: Your “why I love X class” posts all have a different tone about them, like you’re getting into the class’ mindset – for example discy priests going “I like you, so you can have a bubble.” Do you think/talk that when you’re actually playing, too?

Raven: I’ll admit, yes, I sometimes do this.  Most of the time it’s when I’m playing solo or raiding with my guild because things seem more relaxed and controlled in these environments, so I’ve got the spare brainpower to waste on my own dialogue with the game.

Q: You’ve played WoW and Guild Wars – what are your thoughts on any other MMOs that catch your eye? Have you tried any of them, and what did you think?

Raven: I played Guild Wars until burnout, and am looking forward to Guild Wars 2.  I’m particularly interested in the dynamic events and the concept that you can assist with a group objective without having to actually join a structured group.  I always felt in MMOs that the grouping felt unnatural.  If there are really this many adventurers running around, why can’t a wandering hero just see someone who needs help, help them out, and then continue on their way?  Just think about random acts of kindness out in real life.  You don’t have to share contact information, backgrounds, and life stories just to hold the door open for someone.

I’ve also dabbled in Allods.  The extreme quantities of gold selling spam almost made me quit before I even did a single quest, especially since you couldn’t ignore someone as easily as I wanted to.  In the end, the biggest turn off for me was that it felt like I spent more time running back and forth between npc’s and locations than actually playing the game.  If I want to play a running game, I’ll do that in real life outside.  I tried Champions Online, which was fun to make your own superheroes.  However, it seemed that no matter what type of build I tried to put together, it all came down to optimizing one skill/spell and then just using that as much as possible, which got pretty boring.

SWTOR of course, also has the potential to completely overpower me in awesomeness. I was a huge fan of the KOTOR games, and hope that this game is everything we hope it will be (I’m hoping for the combat stylings of The Force Unleashed, but in a group environment).  Of course, I’ve also got this nasty little voice in my head that tells me that it won’t be perfect, and may just be another flavor of things that I’ve already seen and done before.

How about you, readers – what do you think of our new friend’s answers and are there any details you’d like to follow up on with him?

And who would you like us to prod next? Candidates from both the blogosphere and the collatoral MMO gaming world will be considered.

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