Monday, 31 December 2012

Room For One More Inside? : GW2

It's the last day of December and I have just over eight hours left to finish my Monthly. All I need are two Fractals.

Yes, I finally got my teeth gritted, my loins girded and stood in the Grand Plaza yelling "LFG Fractals 1!". 10 seconds later I had a group. I introduced myself.

"Hi! I've never done one of these before".

"Neither have I"

"Nor me!"

My first toe dipped in the GW2 Dungeon pool and I find myself splashing around with a full group of Fractal Virgins. Moreover, not only had no-one ever done a Fractal before, not one of us had more than the vaguest idea how they worked. No-one had even watched a YouTube video or read a guide. Perfect!

We muddled through. When we ran into something we didn't understand we talked to each other, offered suggestions and experimented. We worked out what we needed to do as we went along and while we died quite a lot, we got there in the end. No-one got angry or disheartened, no-one ragequit as we wiped yet again. No-one even mentioned that one of us was only level 40 and spent most of the time dead.

It took over two hours but in the end we completed all three fractals put in front of us. I now have one character qualified to run Level 2. Which she duly did a couple of nights later. This time the group was more experienced and if anything chattier and better-natured even than the first. Naturally, things didn't go as well.

The second group struggled through the first two fractals, could not finish the third and had to give up. That fractal was the same one the first group of complete novices got as their opener and they got through it, so experience clearly isn't everything. DPS is, at least for that one, and we didn't have it, especially not after someone bailed. We tried it once more with just the four of us but it was never going to happen. We agreed to call it a day and I returned to Lion's Arch still licensed only up to Level 2.

The fractal dungeons themselves are beautifully designed. Visually and aesthetically, like everything in GW2, they are true works of art. I would love to be able to stroll round them in my own time an appreciate them fully, without swarms of mobs trying to rip my head off. There seems to be some kind of thin, overarching narrative based on Asura Anthropology and each fractal has its own storyline as well. Hard to follow or appreciate either when you never stop fighting, jumping, running, dodging or falling.

I found the gameplay challenging, to use a popular euphemism. In plain English I found it annoying, irritating, fiddly, irksome and downright infuriating. Rarely did I find it fun. A lot of the concepts are great - running down a tunnel with a giant flaming boulder chasing you, smashing the chains binding a 500 foot high giant to a mountain, following mysterious footsteps through a blinding blizzard - great to watch in a movie, not so much fun to replicate through keyboard and mouse.


The best bits were when I could stop and look around - some of the scenery is breathtaking - and the fighting. I like fighting in MMOs. I like playing my character and using my character's abilities and at least I was mostly allowed to do that as I saw fit. We had some very fun fights. I would personally prefer none of the gimmicks and tricks, just the nice scenery with some tough things living in it who resent a bunch of adventurers coming in to take their stuff.

One more run this evening, even if it partially fails, should see my monthly completed. I'm quite glad to have had the spur to go take a look but I can't imagine running these things often, either for fun or profit. Just about anything else I've done in Tyria has been more entertaining. Well, not Orr, obviously. Or some of the Personal Story.

OK, fractals aren't that bad. I did quite enjoy them, in a masochistic kind of way. I certainly appreciate the way that doing them and the Tixx dungeons has bump-started my dormant PUG powers. Not only did my old LFG skills come flooding back but I even found I could still start, recruit and run a PUG. From a social perspective the whole experience was so much better than I'd come to expect from other MMOs of late that it really does put me in mind to do more just for the half-forgotten pleasure of meeting new people and sharing new experiences.

All the same, I didn't come to GW2 looking for dungeon-based pick-up-group gameplay. I still think it goes against the grain of the all-tag-on open world we were sold. Fractals may be a big improvement on the first iteration of dungeons but they are still isolated and isolating instances that remove players from the world. No matter how well it may be done that's not a direction in which I want to see the game go.

Let's hope that the promised addition of fractal gear to other parts of the world puts dungeons back in the special interest box and returns focus to the shared world outside.

10 comments:

  1. I quite agree. I enjoy the shared world outside a lot more.

    I ran into significant PUG misbehavior problems around level 16 (which imo, reflects more how soon someone attempted FOTM, I think the bad PUGs are present at lower levels now that more people have different expectations) and that did quite a number on my desire to group.

    I could only envision things getting worse as the difficulty got harder and more exploits got fixed while players fell back to old habits of blaming others.

    Not to mention, the present stratification of levels makes finding the 'correct' group "challenging." (Using the term with your exact connotations here.)

    Maybe I'll try again after the promised FOTM changes make their way into the game.

    - Jeromai

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    1. Immediately after writing this I went to finish my monthly. The first PUG was again very good-natured but we couldn't complete a single fractal. After about two hours trying we'd managed to complete just one and were down to three people so we had to give up.

      The next PUG included the guy who'd bailed from my very first group. He astutely suggested we drop the Dredge fractal we'd pulled, the rest of the group over-ruled him. He very politely stuck with us while we tried and of course we couldn't finish it. That took the best part of another hour.

      I was fed up of fractals by then and there were only four hours left til the monthly reset. I started a third group and this time got two warriors and two guardians. I was on my necro. We knocked out the first two fractals we got in half an hour, like shelling peas. The third, the one with the giant, took longer but again we did it with no trouble. Unbelievably, I didn't die even once through all three.

      If I could get PUGs like the last one, I'd be happy to do Fractals two or three times a week. When they work like that they are fun. The prospect of pulling PUGs that take two hours to go nowhere, though, is not appealing. I guess that's just the nature of pugging, though.

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  2. I have done a TON of dungeon pugging and have run into exactly 1 asshat. He wasn't even that bad by pug standards he just wanted to do an exploit that wouldn't work with the current group composition and refused to try any other strat.

    I am just as worried as you about the open world getting left in the dust to another xbox live style MMO endgame. The lost shores patch left us with a new open world area that seemed to last people about 2-6 hours and a dungeon that seems to be the needle point focus of the entire PVE game.

    If Orr is an indication of what they can do with the open world PVE endgame then I'm not sure they have enough options to not focus on 5 man content. The zone seemed to have very good intentions and in some ways was well designed but it really seemed to rely on players utilizing it in a particular way. Once players figured out plinx event chain = karma train not much else in the zone was getting much use. After the fractals release it's now a group focused zone with no groups going there.

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    1. Supposedly the content drop in Jan/Feb will equate to a full expansion's worth of content. I just hope that turns out to be the opening of some of the next (rather obvious) areas of Tyria on the main map and that if so those areas have better thought-out content than Orr or Karka Island (see, I've already forgotten its name).

      Not long to wait to find out.

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  3. I haven't done a single fractal myself yet =( I managed to join one with a similar newbie group - unfortunately it ended badly and people started leaving. after that I lost my enthusiasm a bit for GW2's dungeons. it's not just the ideas (loved you challenge euphemism) that usually look better on paper, it is SO hard to assemble groups on my server! I can't understand for the life of me why there is still no better LFG in this game.

    Now that I've watched LA chat a bit again for fractals lately, nobody even seems to look for lvl1 anymore. it's like I've completely missed the bus.

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    1. Therein lies the problem with tiered content. Latecomers are left out in the cold. This isn't the Parable of the 10 Virgins, folks.

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    2. If you are looking for a group for a dungeon the best way at the moment is to use: http://gw2lfg.com/
      It's a little strange using a 3rd party website to find a group but because groups for dungeons can be formed cross server it really makes it work more like a lot closer to an in game group finder. Anet has also stated they are now working on some sort of in game tool to help people find groups.

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  4. @Syl I certainly didn't have any trouble getting a group, although when I didn't get an invite straight away I didn't hang around - I just started one up. Also no problems with doing Tier 1/2, but I think that was because of a pool of late finishers trying to get the Monthly done. One thing we did to fill the group was have people on both home and overflow servers recruit and then all move to an Overflow server to do the dungeon when we had five people. That sped things up a bit.

    @ Rowan Fortunately there's a fix incoming for this, which will allow players to join others at tiers above their own. Unfortunately it's not due until the end of January, presumably as par of part one of the late-winter big content drop. Nonetheless, the allegedly infinite recursion of the fractals strikes me as yet another idea that sounded a lot cleverer in theory than it's ever going to work out in practice.

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  5. Your experience is exactly why I stopped attempting fractals. To me, it's more akin to raiding in that you must understand how each encounter works and do precisely what is required or fail. I have the time for challenges but I don't have 2 hours to dork around, group breaks up and walk away empty handed. There's far too many other things to do in GW2 alone, not counting my real life.

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    1. I very much agree. The way raid mechanics have been transplanted onto group (and even solo) content over the years drives me nuts. I don't even approve of it in raids.

      In a virtual world MMORPG there simply should never be only one way to achieve victory. Short of outright exploits, players should be rewarded for ingenuity, imagination or sheer bloody-mindedness.

      Fractals aren't the worst examples I've seen and in the ones I've done success was sometimes achieved with no-one in the group actually knowing what we had done differently to the times that we'd failed, so there is some scope for just bulling through. All the same, they are a long way from anything I would want to do more than once in blue moon.

      I'm holding my breath for the Jan/Feb updates. I have a terrible fear we will see more of this stuff rolled out into all aspects of the game. I really hope I'm wrong.

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