Monday, November 13, 2017

Tumbling Dice : GW2

If we're going to define gambling as "doing something the exact outcome of which is not entirely a foregone conclusion" (and regrettably it seems the consensus is that we are) then gambling in GW2 is very much not restricted to Gem Store purchases. It is, indeed, embedded in the game to such an overwhelming extent that it's somewhat surprising anyone plays at all, given the apparent propensity of gamers to quit at the first suggestion that there may be some element of chance involved in the enterprise.

Consider, for example, the Mystic Forge, an elaborate construction whose outlets in Lions Arch, The Mists and any number of pay-to-enter velvet-rope enclosures form a conduit to some netherworld dungeon, in which the Djinn Zomorros languishes, incarcerated for an indeterminate period by persons unknown for unspecified crimes. Here adventurers come in their thousands and tens of thousands to deposit rare or exotic weapons by their millions in the hope that Zomorros will turn them into pre-cursors.

Mostly he doesn't but people keep trying. The lure of a Legendary leads many to try their luck at the Mystic Toilet, so named because it's like throwing your money down one.

Then there are the Skritt with their enterprising, entrepreneurial, ectoplasm exchange. This feels a lot more like actual gambling. People call it playing the Ecto Slot Machine. In fact, you always get something back, even if it's often less than you put in, so it's really just buying a pig in a poke from a rat in a coat.

Open the box!

The original Skritt gold sink (for that is its true function) arrived unannounced along with the revamped Lions Arch. It was, indeed, so very far being announced that most players probably still don't know it's there and half of those who do can't find it. For reference, it's here and there's another one, which you're even less likely to stumble upon by accident, in Skrittsburgh.

As a company ANet is famous, among other things, for iteration; a design ethos whereby you do the same thing over and over and over again until either it works or you stop noticing that it doesn't, whichever seems most expedient. They have also talked about five and even ten year development arcs.

Who knows what their long-term plans might be? Is it unreasonable to suspect that the entire game was devised as a half-decade long softening-up process aimed at rendering lockbox sales palatable? Probably, although I do tend towards the maxim "if you can think of it someone, somewhere is doing it".

Tinfoil hattery aside, by the time Path of Fire arrived, ArenaNet clearly felt they no longer needed to hide behind Skritt collaborators in caves. This time they brought the whole operation out into the open, with a full-scale Casino in the main expansion city, Amnoon.

The ecto lottery became a fully-fledged card game for hugely inflated stakes.  Disappointingly, not really. The "fully-fledged card game" part, that is. The "hugely inflated stakes" is true.

You're getting colder...

I was hoping for something like FFXIV's Triple Triad, where you play a hand of cards against an NPC. What we got was just another merchant selling lootboxes.

These are just a few examples of the cradle-to-grave integration of "gambling" in GW2. There are many, many more and yesterday I happened, completely by chance (ironically) upon another.

Mrs Bhagpuss and I spent much of Sunday doing Map Completion in Desert Highlands. It took a very long time because as I have mentioned before, and as I am finding to be truer and truer the deeper into the expansion I delve, Path of Fire is hardcore.

Well, hardcore by GW2 standards. Certainly the most hardcore open world content since the original Southsun. Heart of Thorns is decidedly casual-friendly by contrast. Anyway, that's really a post for another day.

The point is that I spent so very long trying to fill out PoIs that were next-to-impossible to find that I ended up discovering a slew of hidden rooms, corridors and caves that weren't marked on the map. Some of those had interesting things inside and some didn't. And then there was the Curious Bowl.

But who's counting?

The Curious Bowl is a small bowl sitting on the floor of a room at the end of a broken railway line half way down a forgotten crevice somewhere near the aptly-named Derelict Delve waypoint. Behind the bowl is a large statue of a kneeling demon. The bowl looks as though it might be where you place offerings.

If you inspect the bowl the game suggests you might like to drop a gold piece into it. Make an offering to an unknown demon? I should coco!

So, I dropped a gold into the bowl and next thing I knew I was inside a locked room. Facing me were two chests and two more demons. No exit. No NPCs. No mobs. No hints.

What else was there to do but select a chest at random and click on it? Aaaand...Bingo! Back in the room with the bowl. Now I'm down a gold and back where I started.

So naturally I did it again. With the same result. At which point I decided to google it. I'm not made of gold. Also, who knows what flags I might be setting?

It transpires this is the start of a nested "The Lady or The Tiger" trick only without the lady or the tiger. Instead, each successful choice puts a reward in your bags and flips you to the next room to try again.

Back to the day job.
There are four rooms. The rewards improve each time. Or, rather, the number of rewards reduces, leaving fewer, better items and therefore an enhanced chance of getting something good, although the wiki entry interprets this as "diminished returns".

In point of fact, other than an Achievement, there doesn't seem to be any rational reason to continue. There are no good rewards with the sole exception of a slim shot at a 24-slot bag in the final chest. Everything else is either very common indeed or can be bought from the Trading Post for much the same price as a single attempt.

It took me five tries to get a single chest to open at which point I called it quits while I was behind. I did have fun, though. Five gold well spent. Would play again - if it wasn't so much trouble getting there.

Let's face it, I am not a natural gambler. I was an unpopular presence at the table at college poker games because I would reliably stand up after a couple of hours with almost exactly the same in my pockets as I'd had when I sat down, a feat achieved by barely engaging with the process at all, other than the drinking and smoking parts.

I think it annoyed people even more that I really seemed to be enjoying myself. And I was. I like games of chance a lot so long as they don't involve any actual risk. The moment I feel anything that even hints at an adrenaline rush I stop.

It's just as well. I doubt I could play GW2 otherwise. After all, looked at from a certain angle, it's nothing more than a random number generator with a rococo front end.

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