Monday, May 4, 2015

Chanelling and Chronomancy : GW2, EQ2

Jeromai has an excellent post up on the forthcoming addition of The Chronomancer to GW2. It covers most of what we know and can extrapolate thus far about just what it is that a Chronomancer does. There's a LiveStream that probably does much the same only at inordinate length and with video and commentary by the developers. I found I had better things to do than watch that but then I didn't need to because I have Dulfy to do it for me. She provides a thorough precis , which I did manage to find time to read.

It's fairly clear what the Chronomancer's abilities will be but I'm still a little unclear on just what, exactly, a "chronomancer" is, in terms of the structure of the game. ANet describe it as an "Elite Specialization" but it's also variously referred to as a class or a sub-class.

It appears to require both the equipping of a shield, the new weapon-type available to Mesmers in the Heart of Thorns expansion, and the slotting of an Elite Specialization . Indeed, on a closer reading, it would seem that Mesmers will only be able to wield shields if they slot that Elite. There will be no shield-wielding, non-chronomancing Mesmers. Probably. I think...

Presumably the same restriction applies to all the other classes. If you want to use the new weapon you have to take on the mantle of the new class. Sub-class. Whatever.

Not giving up my domes and lasers. Nossir. No way.

For certain, every class in GW2 will be given an Elite Specialization by the expansion and each will gain access to a weapon whose subtleties it was hitherto unable to understand. You wouldn't think that grabbing something flat and holding it up between yourself and whatever happens to be attacking you would be that hard to figure out but I guess, given what the Mesmer proposes to do with the shield now she's finally picked one up, maybe something as mundane as blocking always seemed a little beneath her dignity.

Depending on how you look at it, Heart of Thorns will either double the number of classes in the game or merely remove some of the existing class restrictions on weapon-use. I'm struggling to think of another MMORPG I've played that's taken this approach. The only ones that come to mind are the Final Fantasy games with their "jobs". New examples of those are added periodically both within and outside of expansions but although the "one character can be everything" model there means that the new job adds on to the existing character, the player still has to level it up in the same way he did all the earlier jobs.

As with, oh, pretty much everything ANet does with GW2, I'm also really not sure whether I like the approach or not. In a game that's arguably one of the most "alt-friendly" of all MMOs I'd far rather have had just one or two full, new classes than eight "Elite Specializations" bolted onto the existing list. On the other hand it's certainly going to give us all something to play around with for quite a while.

Did someone mention lasers?

Playing around with builds is, for better or for worse, one of the staples of MMO gameplay. Waiting For Rez, one of the new crop of NBI bloggers, has an interesting piece up about the developing mechanics of Talent Trees and Skill Point Systems. Reading both that and Jeromai's thoughts led me to consider how unclear and malleable my own feelings are when it comes to adjusting to this kind of systemic change.

A very large part of the attraction of playing MMORPGs, for me, comes in learning and understanding the systems. It's a prime reason why I try out so many different ones. I have always enjoyed entertainment that doesn't explain itself too readily; I like stories that begin in media res, I like concepts and terminology whose meaning has to be deduced from context. In short, I like starting out completely at sea and having to find my own way to solid ground.

It's why I strongly dislike tutorials and it has a lot to do with why I much prefer the early and mid levels of most MMOs to the end game. Once I've worked out which lever pulls what string I quickly become disillusioned with having to keep pulling it over and over again until I can pull it perfectly. As if I ever could.

For that reason I tend to enjoy very much the first run through a talent or trait tree. Working out how to use the user interface, how to slot the skills, where to go to acquire them, that part I like. Subsequent trips through the same detail tend to lose their appeal. I do seem to end up doing it a lot. Too much.

This looks strangely familiar.
Some of that isn't the fault of game design, of course. It's the over-exposure to such systems that comes with playing so many characters. Perhaps if I was the kind of player who sticks to a Main and an Alt I'd not be here having this conversation with myself right now.

For good or ill, though, I am not much of a "Main and Alt" person. And then some! That's why last week, when Daybreak Games celebrated the arrival of their new and not entirely original logo, instead of buckling down and banging some levels on any of my many existing characters I found myself rolling a Channeler instead.

It's taken me a very long time to get around to doing it. The Channeler was the most recent new class added to EQ2's already impressive (or overblown if you prefer - the game currently has 26 classes) roster but that was with the Tears of Veeshan expansion back in late 2013.

Don't just stand there! Grab his tail!
I made a Beastlord at the first possible opportunity but it's taken this long to come to the Channeler because the concept of the class never really grabbed me. A leather-wearing priest class that heals by firing arrows and has a pet that can't be controlled? Say what?

It was a post by Kaozz in which she mentioned, just in passing, that her Channeler had dinged 100 that reminded me the class even existed. I'd forgotten all about it. Without fully considering what I was doing, next thing I knew I'd rolled the inevitable ratonga, set his starting city to New Halas and stepped out yet again into Norrath.

Channeler is a very odd class. I played to around level 10 without looking anything up and really had no clue what I was doing. There's a pet that looks like some kind of rock elemental. It's called a "Construct". It can't be killed or commanded (although maybe that will come later). For now it hangs around like a giant vanity pet doing... something... while my character draws a bow, excruciatingly slowly, and fires one arrow every ten or fifteen seconds like a ranger on heavy medication.

Oh! That's where they went...
The amount of information granted inside the game is minimal. I gathered as much as that it was a resource-management class similar to a Beastlord but by the low teens no access to the UI controls for those resources has arrived. I seem to remember, vaguely, that the Beastlord was much the same. A few levels in some familiar-looking skills popped onto my hotbars suggesting that, again like a Beastlord, the Channeler needs to hunt down creatures, beat them to within an inch of their life and then best them in a staring match.

But to what end? I had no idea so I tried to find out the best way - by doing it. Things didn't go well. Sometimes I killed the animal before the channeled skill completed. Sometimes the animal killed me. Sometimes the Construct killed the animal. I hadn't even realized the Construct was attacking until I read my combat log. I thought it was a defensive ward. Mostly, though, we all stood there locked in stalemate as the bear or wolf continually interrupted my channeling until I lost patience, dealt it a death blow and went off in a huff to look for another victim.
Finally I succeeded in getting the skill to complete. I successfully sucked the Essence from a rat. Best not think about that too closely. And then... I was completely stumped. I'd seen some messages pop up about new "abilities" and "customizations" for my Construct but I had no idea how to access them. I couldn't find any "essence" in my bags, there were no new skills on my hotbar. My Construct looked exactly the same as it spun there radiating smugness.

It was around that point that I cracked and went to the ever-reliable Zam, where I found the following:

"To access the Construct Window, first open the character window (C). After you've summoned your construct there will be a Construct tab, which is where you customize your construct's appearance."

Well, duh!

It's a learning curve and that's why it's fun. Even when you have to look things up. I'm not opposed to doing a bit of research, after all. That's all part of the process.

I am less convinced the class will be fun in and of itself and I feel much the same about GW2's upcoming "Elite Specializations". There's precious little chance I'll be abandoning my Berserker, or even my new Warlock, for the channeling life and I very much doubt I'll be giving up the simple life of the Longbow Ranger or Staff Elementalist for whatever over-complicated fussbudget frippery their new weapon types offer.

I will, however, be happy to enjoy the process of opening all the skills and traits and getting the hang of the systems involved in doing so -  before consigning them all to the "new-fangled nonsense" bin and going back to the tried and tested Old Ways. Because, much though I enjoy unraveling the mysteries and complexities of underlying systems and processes, when it comes to everyday combat I'd just as soon hit things with a stick.


  1. Ought to be the name of somebody's blog. Hit Things With A Stick.

    Agreed, all the 'way 'round. Took me quite awhile to figure out the Beastlord back then. Got him to something like the seventies or eighties before I gave up on the supposed esoterica and realized it's pretty much "spam hotbars - things die". Simple fun.

    I'm pretty sure I won't buy HoT. Nothing, including the weapon frippery, attracts me. I'm happy with the current status pew-pew-pew.

    (How many AAs are in EQ?... gads)

    -- 7rlsy

    1. The channeler dinged 15 last night and the expected new hotbar popped up. The slots on it are all level locked so far, only two heals for the Construct being open. Looks interesting.

      As for HoT, it's going to be interesting to see how the game plays for those who don't choose to buy it. I'm currently planning on getting it only for what I am in the process of making my "main" account so I should be in a great position to compare.


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