Monday, March 28, 2022

No Plan Survives Contact With The Inner Me

Belghast's Damascene conversion to Guild Wars 2 has finally confirmed something I first began to suspect back when both he and I were playing New World and blogging about it: Belghast is the anti-Bhagpuss! I don't mean we're some kind of elemental forces that, should we ever meet, would react so explosively the fabric of space-time would be rent in twain, more like we approach the same games in diametrically opposite ways. It only goes to show how flexible the genre is and also how there's no right or wrong way to play an mmorpg.

Bel's post today is a great example of what I mean. He's been playing GW2 as a convert for just a few weeks and he's already talking about "the What Now problem". Granted, his point is that Guild Wars 2 always seems to have something new to do, but as I read his posts it's clear he's already done more in those few weeks than I managed in years.

Having things to do has rarely been an issue for me when I play. It took six or seven years of playing daily before I really began to run out of steam and then it had nothing to do with there not being anything left I hadn't already done. Even now, as we come up to the game's tenth anniversary, there's far more left in the game that I haven't done than there are things I have.

Let's see. What core game activities have I never done at all, not even once?

  • Map Completion.
  • Legendary Weapons.
  • Legendary Armor.
  • Skyscale Mount Collection.

And what have I barely touched in something like 12,000 hours? (8k on one account - haven't checked the others but they have to be at least half that - maybe more...)

  • Personal Story on twenty of my twenty-one characters.
  • Most of the Elite Specialist Weapons collections from Heart of Thorns.
  • Most of the Elite Classes from Path of Fire.
  • Almost all Fractals.
  • More than half of the original Dungeons.
  • The overwhelming majority of all collections of any kind.

And many, many more things I can't bring to mind because I've either completely forgotten about them or I never knew they existed in the first place.

Things I have done include

  • Finished the personal story on one character, my original ranger. It took me about eight years but I got there in the end. Not that I particularly wanted to.
  • Maxed all crafting classes, some of them twice (On different accounts.) even though most of them are next to useless.
  • Ranked up over 2000 times in WvW. Currently I'm a Gold Major. That's almost exactly halfway up the ladder in terms of titles although only a quarter of the way in terms of experience required. Mrs Bhagpuss hit the same point sometime around 2015.
  • Saved 17,000 gold, enough to buy nearly 60,000 Gems at current exchange rates. 60k Gems would cost over £600.
  • Hoarded vast stores of materials across three accounts, enough to double my personal fortune if I sold them on the Trading Post.

And I've had nearly a decade of all-but-free entertainment. That's probably the most important thing.

At this point I could claim I never make plans or set goals in mmorpgs. Sometimes I do like to give that impression. I think it makes me sound cool, which is something only a deeply uncool person would ever think, let alone say out loud. And it's not even true, anyway.

What I really do is make plans all the time and then forget I've made them or lose interest in them before they get going or put them aside after I've started and never pick up from where I left off. I quite like having a plan but unless it's something I can complete in a session or two there's every chance I'll just abandon it in favor of something else long before I get to the end.

Guild Wars 2 is both good and bad in that regard. As Bel says, there's an incredible number of things you could be working on at any one time. You'd need to be pretty determined to tick every last box the game puts in front of you. 

On the other hand, many of the activities presented involve what seems to me to be a positively horrific level of commitment. For me, they can all-too-frequently feel, quite literally, too daunting even to start, let alone finish. 

Take the Skyscale mount, for example. I would quite like to have one of those. They're ugly and annoying but inarguably useful. I have thought about doing the collection a few times but when I read up what's required I lose the virtual will to live. 

Other collections I've not been able to bring myself to do, even though I'd quite like the end result, include Mawdrey, the craftable Ascended back item that also salvages bloodstone dust (Okay, technically Mawdrey II does that part but you get them as a twofer so it's a moot point.) and the WvW Legendary Armor. That one's so long I feel ill just thinking about it.

Sometimes it's not even the time and effort that puts me off. I have most of the necessary items for a few pieces of that Legendary Armor, for example, and almost everything for several Legendary Weapons. I just can't imagine using them if I had them so it seems like a waste to burn the very valuable materials making them.

Mostly, though, it is the time and effort. Even things I've already proved I can do and which I genuinely enjoyed at the time lose a lot of their appeal when I come to do them a second or third time. I had plans to do all the HoT Elite Spec Ascended weapons, for example, and I said on this blog that I was going to make all the variants of the Ascended weapon Caladbolg

For years I've also been planning to do the collection for Princess for the third time so I have one on all my accounts. So far I still haven't managed to make myself do it. I did three or four of the HoT weapons before I ran out of enthusiasm, which might be my best effort ever. I still own just the one Caladbolg. 

So, as you can see, it's not plans I lack, it's discipline. When I do finish a project it's usually something I've started on a whim. It's the surge of energy that comes from an ad hoc decision that carries me though. 

That's pretty much how I ended up with map completion on all the End of Dragons maps. I just got fired up with how much fun it was and didn't want to stop. Map completion is per character, though, and I can already tell it's not going to be anything like as much fun the second time so my Elementalist may end up being the only character with all the Cantha maps completely free of fog.

This afternoon, with no forethought whatsoever, I made my Engineer, who I never play, into a Mechanist. I can't even remember how it started but somehow I found myself running round Dragons End, Echovald Forest and New Kaineng City grabbing easy Hero Points to fill out the skill wheel. 

It took me a couple of hours. Now I have a Jade Mech and a whole load of skills I have no idea how to use. 

In the course of doing it, I discovered only my Ele can use zip lines and mana batteries, despite the Mastery for them being account-wide. When I found my Engineer couldn't zip up a tower, I went and looked some stuff up and now I realise there's a whole upgrade path for Jade Bots I never knew existed, including various modules and power cores you can craft, buy or find as drops. I'd just been using the one you get from the story without even realizing it was the basic, minimal version.

The benefits of upgrading look substantial so now I have a plan to get my Ele's Jade Bot fully upgraded and then maybe do the same for any other characters I play regularly. We'll see if it actually happens.

As Bel says, though, GW2 is a bit of a smorgasbord. I'm happy to pick away at whatever looks good just as the fancy takes me. The great thing about the game is that, while there's an awful lot you might want, there's very little you actually need. 

It's nice to have plans but it's a lot nicer knowing you don't have to do anything about them.


  1. I think I fall somewhere along the Bel-Bhag spectrum, probably closer to Bhag.

    Somehow's Bel's series got me to try GW2 again. I played long ago but had forgotten just about everything. So far I'm just enjoying pottering around the first zone, kind of going with the flow. Game says "LOOK THERE'S AN EVENT" so I dutifully run over to it and generally get to it just as it's ending, but that's fine since I have no real plan and maybe I've seen something new. One time someone invited me to ride around on their turtle and patiently waiting for me to figure out how to fire the turret. That was fun.

    I started a new character because when I logged into an existing character I was just overwhelmingly lost.

    The best decision I've made so far is NOT to use any of the experience boosts/level skips that I have (I have a full roster of characters...had to delete one to make the new one) and many of them had year 4-9 birthday gifts waiting in their inboxes. Back in the day I basically leveled a character to 80 MOSTLY by using daily rewards. Then I was level 80 and had no idea how to play the character.

    I'm having fun so far. Granted it's just been a few days and my new character is all of level 16 or something.

    1. The original GW2 was absolutely designed with the expectation that people would just wander around and join in with events as they happened. That was pretty much the USP of the game and ANet hammered it home in all the pre-publicity. Mmorpg players had been saying for years then that that was what they wanted - a dynamic world that felt like it was alive, where they could just be drawn into the lives and events of the imaginary people who lived there - so it seemed reasonable to assume it was what those players actually did want.

      Unfortunately it turned out what they really wanted was a prettier version of WoW that played pretty much exactly the same way WoW played, which is what ANet have spent the last decade trying to turn GW2 into, with some limited success. The original maps, though, still largely play the way they were intended, which is how you describe what you're doing, so if I was you I'd keep on doing that.

      Also, if this comment seems oddly phrased, I should confess to an unfortunate and often unconscious habit I have of absorbing the prose styles from things I'm reading and right now I'm deep in a book called "The Rap Year Book" by Shea Serrano and he has a tendency to sound a little like this. Probably going to do a post on it when I've finished. I'm about halfway through.

    2. The Bel-Bhag spectrum needs to become the new unit of measure for MMO players, I feel. :)

      I probably sit fairly squarely in the middle of such a spectrum. Very much the case that I've embraced Krikket's 'play to satisfaction' mantra which occasionally means beelining for a specific goal... 'thing'... but often means just generally chasing after improvements by way of character (or account!) progression.

      In guild wars 2 specifically, this means things like... I have finished the personal story (up til the end of Path of Fire at least), I've decked out in Ascended gear, but haven't got a single legendary. I'm partway through the flying mount quest. I don't have map completion (but was probably at about 80%), incidentally, on a Ranger which was my first character too. :)

      I found the world map completion to be a huge factor in demotivating me from alt-play though. It felt like until I had it, playing an alt would be a waste of time. Sure, it might still be 'fun' (pfftt. ;)) -- but a lot of that fun would be eroded by the knowledge I could be closing in that last little gap of world completion and making the Ranger better instead!


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