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Archive for July, 2010

958 Hours

In a recent post by Tobold about the cost of playing an MMO in terms of subscription vs. hours played, he casually threw out a number – 1000 hours – as the average per year for an average player. Curious, I popped on to Guild Wars and ran a /age to see how I stacked up, and the subject of this post was my result.

958 hours, over the course of 58 months. That’s… less than a minute and a half per day.

I will admit to being a bit shocked by the lack of time I appear to have racked up in not only my favorite game, but my longest-running continual hobby game, and one of the only ones to which I have devoted any out-of-game time to exploring lore, game mechanics, and development news – not to mention blogging about it. While it’s true that I have taken the occasional multi-month break from Guild Wars for various reasons (the trauma of Post-Searing, completion of campaigns, burnout, etc.), it is also true that I’ve played just about as much as I wanted to at any given time. And it isn’t that other games take my attention away for long; generally I would stop playing Guild Wars, and then look for a replacement to tide me over for a month or two.

In other words, this is literally as much MMO fun as I can handle. In fact, even the past two weeks I’ve been too busy to play and haven’t even logged on this week outside of checking my /age and brief scans of Lion’s Arch Party Search for groups running BLA (though it seems the crowd has moved on past that these days).

No wonder I don’t like subscriptions! I’d be paying $15 for the privilege of playing for an average of half an hour each month.

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Breaking the PUG Mold

PUGs have got such a bad reputation, not only in Guild Wars, but seemingly nearly every other MMO out there, that I though I’d submit the tales of two good experiences I’ve had this week.

The first was the other day when the Zaishen mission of the day was to complete A Time For Heroes. I first completed this in Normal Mode with heroes and henchmen, and then beat my head against it a few times in Hard Mode, coming close, but not quite any cigar. Party Search was full of offers to run the mission for 1-2k, but I took advantage of the normal Party Searches instead. The first group I joined was the winner; the group leader carried all his heroes, while two others and myself joined in. Everyone was friendly and non-elitist – although everyone was asked to bring along Breath of the Great Dwarf and wear their Delver title, no other build requests were made, and no specific ranks were demanded. We even went over the strategy prior to entering the mission, which is the first time I’ve seen that happen in a PUG I’ve been in. The run was a huge success with no casualties and the Great Destroyer handily dispatched in a short time.

Tonight I had another victorious PUG experience with Glint’s Challenge. After purchasing a Cloth of the Brotherhood from another player since I was convinced I’d never see the Brotherhood Chest that mission spawned (after another series of experiences throwing myself against that wall), the seller added a couple more members and asked if we wanted to go ahead and try the mission. We said sure, changed our builds around (at least I did) and went for it. The run was not without its snags; one member asked us to resign after a few minutes because he claimed to have brought the wrong build. Several of us did, but not everyone, so we continued to fight on until the aforementioned player disconnected. Now fighting with a handicap, we doubled down and kept on fighting. We had a few near-wipe experiences, and I was not sure we’d make it with the seemingly never-ending stream of Destroyers pouring into the room, but before too long we’d prevailed and each collected our trophies.

Now that I have two more Hero Armors for my Hall of Monuments, I’m officially on the PUG bandwagon. Sure, I’ve had some bad experiences in the past, but whether these new kinder, friendlier PUGs are a result of an influx of new or returning players, or I’ve just lucked out a couple of times in a row, I’m going to look forward to PUGs with a little less dread in the future. Who knows, maybe one will even help me get past the Gate of Madness one day (I may never know, as I’m too chicken to try the mission with my Ele by myself).

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Defeat is the penalty; we don’t have to penalize you a second time.

It’s as though they read my mind (or the numerous comments I’ve left on the interwebs saying this precisely).

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Previously in my Guild Wars exploits, I made a point of avoiding most of the PvE meta and just did my own thing. In part this was due to a lack of desire to really see much of the high-end dungeons, and in part due to my RP-lite position that my character would not use knowledge she did not have access to, such as what boss will be using what skill, what areas were laden with mesmers, etc. I did put some effort into capturing the odd elite, so I was not entirely consistent, but in general I preferred to stay out of the GW forums and PvX wiki. This enabled me to get through all Normal Mode storylines and Eye of the North, and amass enough riches to buy a few elite armor sets, so I had pretty much all I needed.

Then War broke out in Kryta. Funnily enough, with its roaming bands of White Mantle, Mursaat, and Peacekeepers who have variable builds, it became less effective to use the meta technique of preparing a build based on what you knew the encounter would use against you, and I thought this would put players like me on a more even footing. Instead I found myself facing more defeats than usual, even in Normal Mode; builds with high damage being shredded by Elementalists and Mesmers; high prot/healing builds failing to take out enemy monks and ritualists; domination and interrupt builds frequently failing on both counts, all with the handicap of low-level, uninfused henchmen tagging along in Normal Mode. I spread my H+H out carefully to avoid AoE wipes. I painstakingly set up strategic pulls. I runed and insignia’ed myself and my team to the teeth. I sought advice from guild and general gaming forum mates. And finally, I watched in horror as my team of six wiped repeatedly on a team of four: a Mesmer/Monk boss surrounded by two Elementalists and another Mesmer.

Defeated, I crawled to Guild Wars Guru for threads about these new White Mantle and their Peacekeepers, to find out what it seemed everybody else already knew. Of the three “-ways” recommended in the threads, I only possessed one of the recommended elites with Discord, and the requisite Necromancer heroes (I’ve yet to obtain Razah on this character, and still don’t have the Jagged Bones elite – I know, shame on me). A few short skill-purchasing jaunts, and a few runes here and there later, and my party was ready to head back out and slaughter some White Mantle. The contrast was as big as the difference between the Garden of Seborhin before and after Nightfall. I cut through the White Mantle bounty as though I’d returned to Old Ascalon with a party of 8 to take on some level 10 charr. I’ll stop with the similes now, but I think you get my point.

Of course, now that I know about this not-at-all-kept secret of Guild Wars that’s been around since last year, I’m sure it will be roundly nerfedbalanced before long, so I’m doing my best to conquer all the content I can before it goes away. Suddenly achievements that I only saw by virtue of grabbing a guildy at the right time have come within reach to my H+H party: not only Shining Blade and Zaishen bounties in Hard Mode, but also Vanquishing without the use of consumables, Eye of the North dungeons, and Master’s Rewards in Cantha.

It’s changed my gameplay entirely, and though I’m proud of the things I’ve been able to accomplish (my first title attained last night and others in close pursuit), I do somewhat miss how scary the world once was from the point of view of my Elementalist, who was encountering these powerful enemies all for the first time, each time. I’m achieving far more these days, and putting things in my Hall of Monuments, but enemies are turning more and more into numbers to whittle down rather than seas of red to turn and run away from.

At least when I start getting too cocky, I’ll still have the Temple of the Intolerable for that old “ohcrap” feeling.

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Hunter On Fire

Hunter over at Hunters Insight has been posting up a storm about the latest articles and information to reach our way on the Guild Wars 2 front. Since he’s been doing such a bang-up job on not only linking all the good stuff, but inserting commentary and sparking good conversation, I’ll do the lazy thing and just link away:

The most recent news is ArenaNet’s blog post about non-combat activities and minigames in GW2 (as Aspen noted, and I agree, these activities are crucial for helping create the world-like feeling that keeps players invested in their MMOs), which followed an interview touching on Achievements and Feats among other things, including travel (in short: yes, map travel is in, in some cases for a fee depending on distance traveled. No, players won’t be bombarded with loading screens).

As with crafting, I am a fan of any and all attempts to engage my interest in-game that doesn’t involve mass slaughter, because sometimes I just get tired of killing things and yet am not ready to log off for the night. My hope is that these activities and mini-games provide me with precisely this content. I’m also looking forward to seeing if there are any non-competitive options among the list: crafting might be it, or perhaps the minigame using instruments that ANet mentioned.

Either way, I am counting the days until we finally get to see some, any of this in action. August can’t get here soon enough.

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