Monday, January 15, 2018


As I write this, I've just finished the fifth of the six Palawa Joko Invasions I needed to complete the full set of maps for the Zone Defense achievement in GW2's new Current Events update. That. mind you, is on my third account. I've already done it on accounts one and two and when I finish it on number three I'm going to log in my fourth, the F2P one I haven't used since last September, and do six more.

This weekend both Mrs Bhagpuss and I barely missed an invasion. Every hour, on the half-hour, there we were, waiting in the crowd in Metrica Province or Wayfarer Foothills or Caledon Forest as predicted by the Phasic Distortion Reader, a handy device which we both now have on all three accounts.

The Reader costs two gold to make and involves a fair bit of running around plus a full day's wait if you aren't an Engineer, an Asura or a Charr in  the Iron Legion. All it does is tell you in game what you can see on Dulfy any time you care to look. It's fluff in other words.

And yet we dig it out of our bags at the top of the hour and announce its findings to each other in Guild chat and thank each other for the information. We used it to encourage our one other regular guild member, who only plays on Sundays, to come and join the fun, which he did, although he probably had no idea what was going on.

In between invasions there were times when I did little more than clear my bags and hang around waiting for the next one. It's not as though I even want the rewards. The Achi gives three kegs of Karma, which totals 22,500. I have nearly 15 million karma on my main account. Even my third account has nearly seven and a half million.

The dropped loot is quite nice but it's the same loot you can get 24/7 in Path of Fire maps. Only I would never go there to get it. I don't go to Path of Fire maps any more. Well, for the vista daily or the plant-picking daily, occasionally, if there's nothing better. Otherwise, never.

PoF is all but dead to me already, as I predicted it would be. I saw the story once and hope never to see it again. I got the mounts and didn't like them, although I am gradually getting used to using the Griffin for general travel.

I haven't even finished a single one of the Ascended collects even though I want the weapons. Occasionally I think about it, then I imagine going through those tedious maps again and I decide to leave it for when I'm in the mood, which so far I never have been.

Whether the PoF maps are, in general, well-used these days I have no idea because I'm not there even to gather anecdotal evidence. I know the ludicrously overgenerous meta in the first LS4 map was being heavily exploited, just as Auric Basin was before the nerf , but that has everything to do with a broken game mechanic and nothing to do with whether anyone is actually enjoying the content. I did it once and haven't been back.

All I can say is that the Joko invasions, which look like they must have taken a very small team a very short time to create, are drawing big crowds and those crowds seem very happy. I know I am.

What the invasions remind me of more than anything is Rift in its early days, when it was good. As I think about it, a very great deal of the MMO content I've enjoyed most - certainly the content I've found the most addictive or compelling - in the last seven years or so has followed a very consistent and rather simple pattern: a bunch of mobs descend out of a portal and try to kill us and take our stuff and we band together to try to stop them.

As well as rifts, Rift had invasions. I liked those even more because they came at me instead of waiting for me to come at them. WoW had the Legion invasions which kind of did both. I really enjoyed those. I played more WoW while they were on than at any time since my six month stint years ago. I even subbed for a couple of months just to do them.

GW2 had the Karka invasion and then the wonderful Scarlet Invasions plus a few more along the way. Even World vs World, the part that appeals to me, follows the format. The enemy zerg arrives unexpectedly and starts sieging our keep, the call goes out and we rush to defend.

It seems to me that this could - should - be the PvE answer to PUBG. Content that's easy and quick to make but also infinitely replayable. Because it's PvE and it's in an MMORPG it probably has to have loot attached. Loot or achievements or titles. Preferably all three.

It's also best, I think, if there's something at stake. Something practical. In WvW you don't want to lose your structures, particularly if they've been upgraded and have banks and waypoints. In Rift beta and possibly for a month or two after launch if you failed to stop an invasion the baddies would kill your questgivers and take over your quest hubs for a while. I liked that but it got removed so presumably most people didn't.

Still, I don't think it should be beyond the wit of professional game developers to hit a balance between incentive and annoyance that falls on the side of motivation rather than frustration. The payoff would be a game that people wanted to keep playing because it was fun to keep playing - as seems to be the case with PUBG and its clones.

Gevlon posted today about the terrible fit "story" makes for an MMORPG and while I don't often agree with the goblin on much I do think he has a point here. Lore, for sure. MMORPGs thrive on lore. It gives context, creates a world. Story, though? Story gets in the way. It can work if it plods along behind or off to one side but put it at the front and get it to pull and the whole cart veers sideways. Sometimes it tips over.

No-one really knows what Joko is playing at with these invasions. There's no story to them and no-one cares. The action tells its own story. Invasions are exciting and dynamic but above all they are inclusive. They require no explanation beyond "Stop them!" and no organization beyond "Get here, now!". They're drop in and drop out if you want them to be or stay all day if you have the time and the inclination. They have a rhythm and a pace that allows for time to breathe between battles and yet they feel relentless, inexorable.

In beta, Rift looked like it might be the first MMORPG built around invasions. For a while, even after the post-launch nerfs, it was. If I had a wish for a new MMORPG it would be just that - all Invasions, all the time. I think someone could make a lot of money doing that right.

Failing that I'll take a Rift Classic server, please. I really miss those Sunday afternoons in Stillmoor.


  1. I remember those early days in Rift pretty fondly as well, it was manic but fun. Objectively though I can also remember getting tired of it pretty quickly - it was just too much having invasions happening all of the time and often with overwhelming force. Perhaps Trion could have tuned it better rather than nerfing it into the floor?

    1. Exhaustion is indeed the problem with all invasions all the time. Since I like chaos in my gaming I'd go for a randomized version where you could get no invasions for an hour and then three in ten minutes but I suspect that would be a minority view. Having them come in short bursts with longer spells between would probably be more popular.

      There has to be a way to balance it so it stays exciting and people don't burn out, doesn't there?


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