Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tales Of Everyday Gaming: NBI, GW2

Jeromai (yes, him again) has been suffering from Blogger's Block. Rather than let ennui and inertia get the better of him he's chosen to offer himself up as an example for any NBI bloggers who may already be feeling the pressure to come up with something, anything, as they sit and stare into space in front of a blank screen.

His prescription for block-breaking is Freewriting and, leading by example, today he has a post up inspired by a dose of his own medicine. He finds himself taking a close look at the choices he makes when he sits down to play GW2, which is something I find myself doing a lot these days. Examining my choices, that is.

Before he launches into a lengthy, discursive, philosophical account of the ways he chooses to spend his gaming time, though, he wonders "Why should you or I care about what I did? What I incremented? What I achieved?" He means it rhetorically but I'm going to answer as if he was expecting a reply.

For me, it's always interesting to read the accounts of what others, personally, find compulsive and absorbing about the games they play. If the writing is strong enough, involving enough, idiosyncratic and attractive enough, then it scarcely even matters what the games are.

Ah, Silverwastes! Long time, no see and you haven't changed at all. Unfortunately.

It certainly doesn't matter whether they're games I've played or am ever likely to play. I follow Wilhelm and Stabs and Nosy Gamer's detailed descriptions and news reports and analyses of EVE Online, not because I have any particular interest in internet spaceships (I really don't) but because they're able to create narratives in word-pictures that open the game out and make it accessible and intriguing even for a disinterested outsider.

Indeed, were I to limit myself to reading blogs only about games I'm currently playing, most days most of my Feedly feed would go unread. The blogroll over there to the right is filled with blogs that, these days, mainly feature games that I've never tried or have long since abandoned. Yet I read them all with pleasure and with interest.

Think pieces (this is one) are all very well but the heartwood of MMORPG blogging is the telling of tales of everyday adventure. Be it The Sims, WoW or Ingress each everyday story opens a window not only onto another imaginary world but into this supposedly real one we all share as well.

Tip your waitress. I'm here all week.

That said, there's a special appeal in reading someone's thoughts on a game you know and love, especially when it's one you're both still playing. And it's rarely more appealing than when someone simply writes about what he or she does in the game itself.

GW2 is a very successful and popular game but it doesn't seem to generate many blogs. There weren't that many even when the game was new. There's a very active community on reddit and, for all I know, on umpteen other social media platforms but for a good while now the only people on my radar who write about GW2 regularly, in long form, are Jeromai and Ravious. I do miss The Egg Baron...

Consequently it feels very valuable when someone gets down to writing about what they actually do in the game, even when the activities on which they focus turn out to be ones that are peripheral for me. Jeromai writes "...every night, I look at the clock and make sure my butt is in the chair by 8.10pm so that I can kill the Triple Trouble Wurm with the oceanic arm of TTS. If I have time, I might join in by 6.30pm for Karka Queen, or try my best to squeeze my way into Tequatl by 7.00pm." Let's compare.

I have never followed the Three-Headed Wurm event to a successful conclusion. I tried a few times, back when it was introduced well over a year ago, when no-one knew what they were doing. That was clearly going nowhere so after the first couple of weeks I forgot all about it and I've barely spared it a thought since. It's a long, long time since I was last even in the zone when it popped.

Famous last words.

Tequatl I like a lot now everyone knows the ropes. If I notice he's due and I'm not doing something more interesting I'll waypoint down and take up my preferred place at one of the boats or on North Hill. It's a fun event, although not as much fun as the original, unevolved  version, which Mrs Bhagpuss and I did as often as we could manage.

Karka Queen is just another stop on the World Boss train, which I jump on and off as it suits me every day.

Right now the big ticket is Maguuma Wastes. Dry Top and Silverwastes, with their numerous achiever-focused grind levers, have remained popular and populated since they arrived with Living Story 2 (remember that?). The recent addition of a time-limited, region-wide, random drop of a Portal that flags your account for the next Heart of Thorns beta event has brought the crowds flooding in.

Jeromai reports that, such is the level of interest, Triple-Trouble is on hiatus. His own time in Silverwastes has proven well-spent. "One event or another finishes, a fort defence of some kind, or a bull escort, and I realize that I have new mail and a purple beta portal in my inventory."

Move right along the lane please. Plenty of room for everyone.

I liked Dry Top when it was new but got very bored with it after a month or so. Silverwastes always seemed like a weaker iteration of the same idea. I was done with that in a matter of days. With the incentive of the beta portal I went back for the first time in a very long while last week and as a result I have now done the Vinewraith event, successfully, twice. I'd never even looked at it prior to that despite its being arguably the most significant new PvE content drop of the last six months.

It was okay. Again it felt like another very weak iteration of an earlier, stronger, better-realized idea, the Marionette event from Living Story 1, which was possibly my favorite GW2 event ever. A couple of  hour-long sessions in Silverwastes turned out to be about half a session too much. I haven't been back.

In our house the big PvE events of the day are Frozen Maw and, especially, Claw of Jormag. Maw is always the best loot for time spent but Jormag is done for fun. We like to hang at the back in Phase 2 and compete to see who can get the most bags off the Champs. Mrs Bhagpuss is the current record-holder with 11.

I think I must have done Maw more than a thousand times by now. Most days I do it twice - some days I do it four or five times. Claw of Jormag probably runs somewhere close to four figures. I have done him regularly ever since my first character reached Frostgorge, long before there was any material reward. I just like the event and always have. It's deliciously annoying.

Outside of that I always do at least the minimum three dailies on all three accounts to get the Completion reward. I never miss unless I am physically unable to reach the PC that day. The bulk of the rest of my time is spent in WvW, of which a good deal is taken up standing around in Citadel sorting my banks or out in the keeps and towers, refreshing siege or just hanging around aimlessly on the walls, chatting and watching the map.

The thing I don't do as much as I would like is map exploration. I still don''t have any character (of more than a dozen) with more than 65% map completion. I don't care about the "completion" part but it does show how much of Tyria I still haven't even seen. Must do something about that. Sometime.

The thing is this: GW2 has long since ceased to be a game that I play. It has become a space in which I live. I have few if any goals there any more. I do the achievements, kill the bosses, hoover up the loot, all for no other reason than to store it away. I have tens of thousands of Ascended crafting materials and enough gold to buy a Legendary should I want one, which I do not. I have well in excess of 10,000,000 karma, 7.5m on one account alone. I have over 2000 Laurels and nothing I want to spend them on.

Of course there are many, many things that can't be purchased, things that I don't have; seemingly endless skins and pets and titles and achievements. It's not that there are no goals left to which I could aspire, far from it. It's just that none of my characters want any of them enough to make the effort worthwhile.

And in GW2 it really would be an effort. Nothing outside of the Gem Store comes without hard work. There's a thread on the official forums entitled "Why does GW2 feel like a grindy F2p?" to which the very obvious answer has to be "Because that's exactly what it is". Or, at least, it is if that's what you choose to make of it.

That's why it's never boring to read about other people's experiences in a game you play, even if those very experiences are boring them to tears. Choices matter and context really helps to place your own experience. There's no better context than the quotidian narratives of other players.

So, here's my nugget of NBI advice for what it's worth: never be afraid to tell your stories of everyday gaming for fear that you'll bore your audience. Explain yourself to yourself and let the resonances reverberate as they will.

But if you've read this far you'll understand that already.


  1. I wish you had a "like" button on here, because I have nothing material to add but wanted to say "I enjoyed reading this post" =)

    Thank you =)

    1. And thank you! Back in the old apazine days we had an acronym for that: RAEBNCH which stands for "Read and enjoyed but no comment hook". Feel free to bring that one back to life!

      Hmm, I wonder if Blogger has a "Like" widget..

  2. It's pretty obvious that the Vinewrath was meant to be an iteration on the Marionette. Why did you find it weaker? I did Marionette a ton back in the day and loved it, but I've enjoyed Silverwastes too.

    1. It probably has a lot to do with not doing Vinewraith until everyone has it on farm. I have read literally nothing about the event except one post Jeromai did months ago but it started up when I happened to be on the map and I was able to join in, follow everyone else and complete the event without any idea of the mechanics. Same thing happened the second time.

      I could tell from things people were saying that some of the structure was the same - lanes that had to be held while other teams were fighting sub-bosses, the defeat of sub-bosses to open the way to the final boss etc. The event had absolutely none of the drama and tension of the Marionette, though.

      Marionette was primarily theater. It was a performance more than a fight. The way the ball was passed along the line each time if one team dropped it, the way players on the platform would relay the status of the fight to those outside who couldn't see the action, the way each platform could see the others but were helpless to assist...

      Every single Marionette run felt like taking part in a piece of improvised theater. There were countless possible variations. I tried to do the event as often as I could and I must have done it at least 30 or 40 times, maybe more. No two runs were ever the same.

      Vinewraith, by comparison, just felt like any other World Boss zerg event, albeit one with an insanely long and complex set of pre-events. If there were ever any subtleties to it then familiarity appears to have long since worn them to a nub.


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