Archive for November, 2010

Oh That Monumental Thirty

This weekend on Relics of Orr we touched on the Hall of Monuments.  There was speculation that 1) profession-specific rewards will be added for the as-yet-unknown professions and that 2) these rewards will be obtainable with Hall of Monument points beyond 30.

Frankly, I think the second idea is complete rubbish.

Ask yourself this: Why would a company put so much emphasis on accessibility and anti-grind and then turn around and present tangible rewards only to the elite echelon of players?

 “Oh, but HoM reward points are easy to get!” you might say.

Well, I’m sure they are, if you’ve got the time and resources to go hunting for them.  I know a number of people who have picked up the game for the first time.  I can also assure you that playing through the campaigns isn’t enough to even get you half-way.  I myself have played Guild Wars since before it was even released, beaten all campaigns, and religiously dedicated miniatures.  My husband is the same except he didn’t give a toss about miniatures and focused on titles instead.

When the Hall of Monuments was released we both had only nine points. (Both of us!)

Hall of Monument points are not something that the casual player, looking to see the story, will accumulate much of while going through the game.  These points are something that will be acquired by the seasoned Guild Wars player looking for something to keep them busy.

You wanna know a secret? That’s called grind.

It is absolutely a grind to get those points and there’s no two ways around it.  It’s a grind to increase reputation to make PvE skills worthwhile, it’s a grind to go find them all, it’s a grind to play nice in Factions to be able to get more skills that will eventually make you worth-a-damn.  (Here’s where my “won’t it be great when I can be useful just by picking up a weapon?” whining starts.)

Getting beyond 30 points is a grind that any sane anti-grind company (like arenanet) would never force upon their casual player base.

But just so that I don’t hear cries about ‘catering to casuals’, let’s look at this from a different perspective.

Let’s say in Guild Wars 2 I want to play the Ranger, and you want to be a super-ultra-mesmer-pirate (SUMP).

If I’m a Ranger, I can get all my class-specific goodies (and there does seem to be a disproportionately large number of them, so I don’t think they’ll be adding more) with only (30) HoM points.

Let’s then say that once the SUMP profession is revealed, the Hall of Monuments is updated to match.  You’ll get the heirloom armors, you might get a class-specific reward or two at the lower levels, and you’ll have another reward or two at 37, and another a 48.

I’ve got all my rewards with only a medium amount of effort.  However, if you want to trick your SUMP out and really show the world that you’ve ‘Been There, Done That’, you’ll have to sit down and GRIND.

It stands to reason that no one Profession will be given any more of an advantage than any other.  So basically you’ll be getting the same power as me, but for twice the work.  Isn’t that nice?

No, I don’t think it is.  Not At All.  Not for you, not for me, and not for Profession diversity.

The tangible rewards stop at 30 points for a reason.  Thirty is a level that requires a certain amount of dedication to reach, but also isn’t out of reach for even the most play-time restricted people (like myself, who can’t stay away from minecraft).  You get those 30 points and you’ve accomplished something.  You’re not elite, but you’ve gotten something done and you’re rewarded for it.  For those that want to go the extra mile, who really enjoy poking their nose into every corner of Tyria, slaughtering every last Bad Thing that crawls on the earth, and bowing and scraping to the diminutive mole-people until they finally decide that you actually are Not Too Shabby… well, you’ll have a super-sexy title to show off to the world that you have gone the extra mile.

The point is that the higher numbers don’t give you a tangible advantage over everybody else.  The lower levels do give a tangible advantage, and why shouldn’t they?  The easiest rewards to get are the armors.  It’s also likely they’ll make the most difference, especially in earlier levels.  Getting enough points for the armor is completely possible by finishing all the story-based content.  You’ll get statues to dedicate for finishing the campaigns and from your War in Kryta gains you can buy a weapon and put it in there too.  Add in the extra 3 you get just for linking accounts and bam, six points, all armor accounted for and then some.

Fantastic.

As you go higher in points the rewards become increasingly aesthetic until, ultimately, your only reward is a title and knowledge of a job well done.  This graduated scale is very kind to old-hat ADD gamers like myself and to new players who’d like to get their hands on something just so they don’t look like complete country bumpkins come the release of Guild Wars 2.

I’m absolutely certain there will be new rewards added to the Hall of Monuments.  Each Profession has special pieces just for them, so it stands to reason future Professions will be accorded the same honor.

I’m also absolutely certain there will not be new, Profession-specific rewards added above the 30 points threshold.  I can imagine town clothes, or miniature pets being added above 30, but nothing that is not purely cosmetic.

Things like that can lead to unbalance, imposed grind, and an appearance of Profession-favoring.  We all know how Blizzard feels about their precious Paladins right?  I don’t think ArenaNet will make that same mistake.

Mining Guild Wars Craft

I sat down last weekend to start chipping away at my Hall of Monuments.  I only have one more miniature to obtain to round out my Monument of Devotion.  I’m 19/20 and missing a Unique Minipet, so I figured I’d get that one knocked out and call the evening time well spent.

After getting a price check on a Bone Dragon (100p, I don’t have that kind of cash) I decided it would be a good idea to pick up the Black Moa Chick.

I do so love me some moa

So off I cavorted to the Norn Fighting tournament to begin my quest.  Now, I play a Protection Monk, and I’ve never done the tournament before.  So I wasn’t sure if I needed to come prepared with a build that I could fight with or if I would be provided with skills.  So, in the interest of science, I just leapt into the fray.

My first fight was against Little Thom.  I almost killed him too, (with my protection build) except my damage couldn’t outpace his healing signet.  I probably should have switched to the axe I had on me but at the time it just didn’t occur to me.  So I stopped healing and protting and just allowed him to finish up.

I came back in prepared (or so I thought) with my RoJ Smite build.  It was either Lo Sha or Orion that laughed in my face and beat me down faster than a New York minute.  That’s when I turned to the internet to find what worked for a monk.  I saw some mention of a 55 build with skills I didn’t have so I decided to give my regular 55 farming build a try.

I did ok (once I remembered how to use it).  After a few false starts I defeated the paragon but my next opponent was a ritualist who was about to go down when she got the bright idea to strip all my enchantments.  Oops.  Subsequent attempts were foiled by mesmers and trap-happy rangers.

In exasperation I turned to my comrades on the Relics vent.  Chaz (who has more mic troubles than I’ve ever seen) pelted me with his Spirit Spammer build.  I’ve never played a ritualist past the first few levels so obtaining the skills were a little difficult.  In fact, I’m still missing Summon Spirits.

When I first played through Factions I went with the Kurzicks because that’s what all my friends were doing.  Never mind that I prefer a pirate over a ninja and the dark, emo, oh-woe-is-me aesthetic of the Kurzicks annoys my eyeballs out.  So, while working through Factions (which is, in fact, my least favorite campaign) I did as little with the ‘Factions’ part of it as I could.

The result? “You must reach at least rank 1 of “Friend of the ‘insert name of faction here'” to purchase that skill.”

So what started out as an innocent evening romping through a scavenger hunt quest turned into a tooth-gnashing scramble to find quests that will increase my Luxon reputation (The Relics of Orr guild is Luxon now, so I’ll not be bothered with the emo vampire tree-huggers, thanks).

I could probably go through the whole rigamarole with my Mesmer and do just fine, except she hasn’t done jack diddly in Eye of the North.

So, frustrated with 2 hours gone wanting, I turned to what has lately become my outlet of choice for stress: Minecraft.

Hunter and I have been cavorting on Blue Kae’s server.  He has claimed an island and built a fortress on it.  Not wanting to seem like I’m being clingy (I can be a clingy friend sometimes), I decided to build on the other side of the ocean), into the side of a cliff.

The stair is a bit ostentatious, I admit.

 Apart from my first year, I’ve lived my whole life in landlocked areas, so the option of settling on the coast in Minecraft and building exciting things like docks and bridges and lighthouses was too much for me to resist.

Beautiful Tiger Bay with docks and a bridge over the maelstrom.

Don't sail your boat into this, you won't get it back out, trust me.

Anyway, last weekend I finished off the top of the bridge that Hunter and I built and explored the path he made because he was tired of stumbling around in the dark trying to get to my place.  I didn’t really feel like building.  My inventory was stuffed pretty full (precluding the option of embarking on an epic gathering quest) and I wasn’t in a mood to organize everything into boxes (yet).  So I went exploring other people’s creations.

An idea slowly began to dawn.

When Arenanet first broke news of the dynamic event system and personal story there were a lot of excited people.  I think some got a little carried away.  It was clear from the backlash that happened when the community found out that dynamic events were cyclical (this wasn’t obvious?) that people had made some pretty wild assumptions.  Chiefly of which was the assumption that things you do in the world are not only persistent, but permanent changes.  If I go slaughter this band of Centaurs and string up their leader then he’s gone, and he won’t come back.

But in Guild Wars 2 that just won’t be so.  Eventually they’ll select a new leader and those who come after you (or you yourself, if you’re so inclined) can go back and repeat the performance of slaughtering the Centaurs and stringing up their leader.  Such an event is dynamic, and persistent, as everyone sees it and can participate in the open world.  It is not, however, permanent, and that’s what the outcry stems from.

This is also where my mind was able to link Minecraft with Guild Wars 2.

Minecraft multiplayer is completely persistent and completely permanent.  If I dig deep enough and uncover a dungeon with zombies in it, and destroy the monster spawner, it’s gone.  Nobody else will be able to discover those zombies.  They will see the hole I dug and the mossy cobblestone (the hallmark of dungeons), but the experience of finding the zombies and destroying their mode of entry into the world will be gone.  Forever.

It’s the same for building and destroying blocks.  If someone makes a fantastic tree fort and someone else comes along and starts a forest fire (only you can prevent them!) then the forest (and the tree fort) will burn.  The server owner and administrator can roll back the server to repair something like this, but it’s not an efficient or sustainable way to operate. (Don’t be a jerk)

What I’m saying is that Minecraft has persistent world permanence in a way that Guild Wars 2, or any other MMORPG, doesn’t.  I also don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

One of the things the Guild Wars franchise is famous for (and one of the features I most treasure) are the expansive, world-wrapping story lines.  There is a Great Evil out there and it’s our job to stop it.  We will have smaller adventures along the way, and thanks to the GW2 dynamic event system, they have the opportunity to be different small adventures each time, but ultimately we’re all working towards the same goal: Stop Zhaitan from turning all of Tyria into his own personal toilet.

Minecraft has complete persistent permanence.  Guild Wars has lengthy and carefully crafted story lines.

With dynamic events Arenanet is attempting to vary the experience (keeping it fresh and interesting) and with the personal story they offer us a glimpse of true permanence while still giving us the hallmark story.

Ultimately, however, I feel that repeatable story (thereby available for others as opposed to just you) and a completely player-crafted, persistent world, are mutually exclusive.  We can fudge the line between them, but I don’t think they can truly be married.

Of course, I’m not a game developer (and don’t have aspirations to become one), so my thinking might be short-sighted.  But with true freedom comes the element of chaos, and with anarchy a carefully crafted story will fall apart and the experience will be ruined.

I’m not advocating for one system or the other.  Remember, I play both, and enjoy both, to their fullest extent.  I just recognize that they’re very different and I’m willing to enjoy each for what it is before I start pining for what it isn’t.

Just for good measure, a picture of the moon setting behind the Aquaduct of Tiger Bay.

By Tooth And Nail

I’m slowly crawling back to life.

My husband and I came by a windfall and we used the extra funds to buy his computer. We picked up a simple, inexpensive Acer desktop from our local big box store. It features a dual-core intel processor, a terabyte of hard drive space, and six gigabytes of ram, more than I know what to do with. Needless to say, it’s leaps and bounds beyond what we were using before, but the most important part of it is this:

It works.

I was able to get back into Guild Wars just in time for Halloween. I missed Tasha’s Halloween party (caught the last 30 minutes), and the lion’s share of the halloween quests went unfinished by me. I did pick up both masks (cat ears and goggles), and walked away with close to a hundred trick-or-treat bags (I haven’t opened them yet).

The only problem is this is still only one computer. We squabble over who gets to play for how long and when. My new motherboard still won’t boot (this is the second one I’ve tried) and, as per the advice of people more knowledgeable than me, I have (another) new stick of ram in the mail.

Apparently, an error light for the processor can mean a problem anywhere. /facepalm

This is what happens to early adopters, keep that in mind folks.

There is one thing I’d like to mention about migrating Guild Wars to a new system. If you’re coming from Windows XP you just need to make sure you back up the Guild Wars program folder in full. If you’re moving from Windows Vista to Windows 7, or from 7 to 7 (in which case I wish I could get a new computer as often as you), make sure to grab the templates folder from Guild Wars that hides in your Documents folder.

Once you’re all nice and backed up, remember the differences between XP, Vista, and 7.

I had a moment of wailing and gnashing of teeth panic when I saw all my templates were gone. After I calmed down and thought about it I remembered the difference. I still had all my templates, they just weren’t in the right spot anymore. This was easily fixed.

I did get one fantastic FoW run in (and the statue to prove it!) before my weekend dissolved into frustration. So, I’m almost back. Only with two functional computers will I have the time and the freedom to stretch out, putz around, and not feel like I have to cram as much ‘quality play-time’ into as little time as possible.

Lately, when I get frustrated and upset, I’m more likely than not to undertake more frustrating endeavors, like building an over-large lion in minecraft.

Rawr I say, rawr.