Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shines Up Nicely : GW2

The last ten days or so haven't gone at all the way I expected, either in my MMO gaming or on Inventory Full. It was only a couple of weeks ago that almost every post here featured a slew of screenshots of Black Desert. In the six weeks or so from the beginning of March to the middle of April I posted twenty-one times about BDO and only about half a dozen times about anything else. And then the posts stopped.

They didn't stop because there's nothing more to say about Black Desert. They didn't even stop because I have nothing more to say about Black Desert. Coverage here stopped for the simple reason that I'm not playing the game any more.

Oh, I haven't given up playing it. I haven't fallen out of like with it or become bored or disenchanted or anything dramatic like that. I haven't even stopped logging in. In fact "logging in" exactly and accurately describes my current relationship with Black Desert Online. BDO is an MMO to which I log in.

Every day I log in my account, click on "Claim Rewards", claim my daily stipend and my token for the event that's running in celebration of the addition of two new classes to the game. Then I log out. After that I log in Mrs Bhagpuss's account, which she bought but so far has never played, and do the same there.

I finally get to kill The Wyvern Patriarch in Verdant Brink.

It takes about five or ten minutes to go through all the loading screens. It's quite annoying. The only reason I'm doing it is for the free pet that comes with a dozen tokens. Pets are not generally all that easy to come by in BDO unless you want to spend real money so I'm making an effort.

On Thursday night, the day Game Update 100 launched, I patched up EQ2. Like Wilhelm, I'm happy to see the game getting this degree of care and attention and I'm also fond of Zek, the zone that's getting the best kind of MMO makeover - an alternate version that complements but doesn't replace the original.

I'm also excited about the new Experience Vial system, which might let me play my max level Berserker, something I love doing, while passing the xp he gets, which he doesn't need and can't use, on to my army of lower level characters. Indeed, just about everything about EQ2's huge, free (for subscribers) update looks good to me.

So, if I haven't lost interest in BDO and I'm excited over new content in EQ2, why am I playing neither right now? Nor, for that matter, any the plethora of other MMOs I bang on about wanting to play? And why didn't I post anything at all for most of last week?

Moving the Tarnished Traitor out from behind a meta-event locked door so he's now available to be killed at your convenience is emblematic of the new approach. Of course, he still gets killed after the meta too.

Bloody GW2, that's why! If ANet's intent was to revitalize interest in their allegedly fading game then the Spring Update has to be considered a major success. Every day since the patch I have actively wanted to play GW2, and I do mean play. Prior to the patch I was often logged for much of the day but I often spent more time tabbed out than I did playing. Not any more.

The update achieved two apparently contradictory goals. It made solo play more attractive and rewarding than it has been for months, while simultaneously enhancing and encouraging all forms of group and co-operative play as well. It's remarkable.

The Heart of Thorns maps received very significant revamps that make exploring alone not only viable (I would say it always was but that's a minority opinion) but profitable and satisfying too. The changes to Verdant Brink are probably the most significant, radically changing the way the whole map operates, entirely for the better. I've spent a lot of time there and enjoyed it immensely. I don't do dungeons or fractals but if guild chat is anything to go by those have picked up a lot of post-patch attention too.

The change that has made the most unexpected impact is probably the simple tweak to the LFG function. The patch simply expanded the range of pre-made, permanent categories under which you can post your group offer or request, but that, plus the ability to join squads via LFG rather than just groups has revolutionized the entire process.

Gliding in Verdant Brink is probably the single most enjoyable of many enjoyable things you can do there now. It always was, but that might just have been me...

It's now extremely easy to find an active, vibrant, buzzing map, filled with motivated players concentrating on completing specific content. As a direct result I've been doing Auric Basin and Dragon's Stand metas for no better reason than that they are really good fun and because I can. Oh, and also because now the rewards are better and you get them as you go along rather than all at the end.

Ironically - or perhaps that should be idiotically - even though I've been doing a lot of this on my fresh level 80 Revenant, I still haven't used the free instant level 80 package that came with the patch. I meant to but in trying to game the system I pulled the handle one time too many.

GW2 hands out Tomes of Knowledge like fliers at a festival. I had enough already banked to make three level 80s. I thought I'd be clever and go to 79 with those, thereby bagging all the leveling rewards along the way, including exotics and rares that can be reforged for profit. Only I went all the way to 80 by mistake.

That meant a choice: use the Level 80 boost and get only the care package or save it for another new character and get all the free armor and weapons too. I chose to save it but that meant I had to gear up my Revenant the old way (buying stuff with badges and karma mostly) and I now have a level 80 with no waypoints (you get those opened automatically with the free boost). He also needs to do two dozen Heart of Thorns Hero Points for his elite specialization.
I'd play WvW if there was literally no other reward beyond server pride, but Stuff is Good.

Which is brilliant! It's almost like getting a whole new game. The Revenant, as the new class that came with the expansion, has a whole load of collections to do for armor, plus the weapon specialization. I have all the hero points to get and a whole new set of skills to learn.

If that wasn't enough I still have several specialist weapons to complete for other classes and then all the skills for those to learn and try to play with some degree of facility. I only just started trying to come to terms with playing a Druid last week for example,and I haven't even looked at Reaper or Chronomancer or Tempest, even though I've had all the Elite classes opened for months...

And that's just PvE. I've actually been spending most of my time in WvW., which has been insane all week. Just climbing up from third place in T1 to finish ahead of Jade Quarry has been a titanic struggle. The resurgent Blackgate hordes are uncontainable. The early part of the week consisted largely of either watching a slideshow until I died without knowing what had killed me or trying to find some quiet borderland backwater where fights were merely zerg vs zerg not gigantonormous blob vs blob.

Yak's Bend has always been at its best under pressure and it's been very instructive to hear the reactions of some of our more recent recruits, the players who are used only to seeing YB win. As someone who remembers regularly waking up on a weekend morning to log in and find us ticking in double figures, if we were lucky, this current setback seems like relatively small beer but some people are really feeling the pressure already.

This is the part I can help with - running supply, building catas, firing catas, all of that. Once the wall falls and the armies clash, though, I'm on frames per minute not frames per second. Still, they also serve, who only stand and build!

What the shake-up has done for me is to heavily re-inforce my already strong sense of server pride. Each evening when I get home from work I find I want to get my dailies done and then find a tag and Do My Bit. It may be mindless, pointless, meaningless pseudo-competition but by the Lord Harry it's fun!

Even so, fighting Blackgate is a somewhat uphill struggle. I was rather hoping that we might drop a tier this week (not supposed to say that but I know I wasn't the only one) but in the end our hard work paid off and it was Jade Quarry that went to T2. This week we get to fight Dragonbrand - or we do if Blackgate permit. We're in third again overnight but we always do badly at reset and right across the weekend. It's going to be another interesting week in WvW.

All of the above and more explains why there have been fewer posts than usual of late. My work schedule was at its least blog-friendly and the free time I had I wanted to give to gaming not writing about gaming. That's signifies a very sound success for Mike O'Brien's first foray into single-handed control of the game. GW2 almost feels like the game it was at launch. Let's hope it carries on this way.


  1. Aw man you should definitely get Reaper, if for nothing else than the greatsword skill noises are *the best*.

    1. Upon closer inspection, I of course meant "play" and not "get".

    2. I have it - I just haven't learned to play it! It takes me about a couple of weeks to get to grips with a new class and the Elites are effectively that. I'll get to it eventually!

      Also congrats for being the first person ever to comment while I was still editing the post, which I have had to do "live" ever since I tweaked my settings to something Blogger doesn't officially allow, thereby breaking my ability to "Preview" anything I post!

    3. Haha! And now you replied to yourself while I was still replying to you! Another first! This is like instant messaging!

      I'm going to get a coffee now...

  2. I so want to stick with BDO because i actually enjoy the non-combat related aspects a bunch. Unfortunately i don't enjoy the actual PVE at all.

    1. PvE in Black Desert is perfunctory at best. It's quite enjoyable in a way but it's definitely not something you'd pick this MMO over another for.

  3. I read through the 4/19 update notes at work today I recognize this game again. Is it true that you can now live in WvW without having to take a vow of poverty?

    1. There are PvP reward tracks in WvW now. Mind = blown.

    2. People are making a big deal about the reward tracks, which is something I really find quite difficult to grasp. I've completed two so far, which has resulted in a whole load more boxes full of armor and weapons that I'm supposed to choose.

      All of the armor and weapons are hideous. I find it hard to imagine wearing or wielding any of them. About the only immediate effect the tracks are having on me is to fill up yet more inventory slots. It's becoming very likely that I'll have to buy the two new vault slots with gems just to have space to store the extra chests and/or items they produce.

      I'm quite strongly against the use of extrinsic reward systems in general. I feel the developer's responsibility is to design content that is intrinsically involving and compelling to a degree that no reward is necessary beyond the joy and pleasure of undertaking it. WvW has always worked for me on that level. I really don't need anything more from the form than the satisfaction of taking and holding territory and winning matches. Apparently that's not sufficient motivation to keep the numbers up, though, so we have to have presents as well.

  4. Oh, fiddlesticks. Give me boxes and rewards. Also, the Alpine Borderlands are back as of right now. ABL & DBL will be cycled every quarter. Happy to have ANet back on the same planet as the rest of us.

  5. Oh, fiddlesticks. Give me boxes and rewards. Also, the Alpine Borderlands are back as of right now. ABL & DBL will be cycled every quarter. Happy to have ANet back on the same planet as the rest of us.


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