Aug 062013
 

Warning: pictures contain strong language

So the voting ended for Cutthroat Politics earlier today and as someone who was supporting Evon Gnashblade I was a little disappointed with the result. I am more disappointed with the reaction to the result that has been seen on the forums and in game. I expected disappointment, maybe a little anger, but not the combination of racism and misogyny that has been seen over map chat.

What is so revealing about these horrible statements (on all sides) is that they’re said about people and races that don’t exist. Ellen and Evon are nothing but a collection of polygons and rows in a database. Humans and charr have rich lore in Guild Wars 2 but are just as imaginary. So really this hatred says more about the people saying these things than the characters of the individuals.

Lets start with some of the lines said about Evon Gnashblade (Lines said by the same person are grouped together):

 Evon

Common thread along these bashes are general attitudes to charr. They’re smelly, they’re only good as pets and apparently they rapists (I really don’t remember that bit in Guild Wars lore. Oppressive to women yes, but not rapists). Only 2 of these lines are aimed directly at Evon himself while the rest are more related to the entire race.

Lets compare this with comments I saw about Ellen Kiel:

Ellen

So in contrast, none of these comments are about Ellen’s race. Nearly all of them are about her physical appearance and supposed promiscuity. These comments also spill over into Queen Jennah’s Jubilee, the next Guild Wars 2 update. So whereas Evon’s comments are racial, Ellen’s are personal. It’s demeaning that Ellen’s supporters are seen to vote for her on the merit of her appearance alone, rather than her campaign promises.

This could be dismissed as trolling if this wasn’t the kind of attitude women face on a regular basis online and in real life. In the last 2 weeks, several female activists, journalists and one MP in the UK have been threatened with rape and had bomb threats, for successfully campaigning for women to be represented on British currency and reporting on the story. People have been arrested for it. Likewise racial hatred is no less vile and shouldn’t be an issue for anyone in 2013.

But we share a gaming world where some people (I have no idea if they are male or female and will not guess) think these attitudes are OK to have and to voice. I can’t get my head around hating an aspect of someone so much that you would voice your hatred for an NPC who has that characteristic. I’ve been on the end of all kinds of abuse in game over the years, mostly from people who just wanted to get their rocks off, but this is the first time I’ve seen NPCs be the target. I’m ashamed to share a hobby with these people and those who enable them to carry on spreading their hatred.

This leads to an interesting question I had to answer today: is it verbal abuse if the target isn’t real? I decided it was, but am curious what you think. And if not, how would you have reported these statements?

Of course, this is a small minority of people. Several others I saw expressed their views in a balanced manner.

balanced and fair

To those who voiced their views like this: thank you. You made this election interesting and I enjoyed listening to the pros and cons.

I really hope that ArenaNet will continue to put forward strong characters to drive their stories, challenging stereotypes every step of the way. Bring on the Jubilee!

Edit: I have written a follow up to this post outlining the response from ArenaNet. It also explains why the comments are closed.

Jul 302013
 

The Living Story is meant to be one of the big selling points of Guild Wars 2, in that it presents customers with an ever changing world in substantial regular updates. The idea of treating game updates like a TV show is an intriguing one, but does it actually work?

In my opinion, no, and putting my gripes with the execution aside that are well documented by others, it’s as much to do with how our expectations with TV have changed even over the last few years. In my lifetime (and I’m under 30) TV has gone from something that you see when it’s on, record to watch later or maybe buy the VHS to watch when you like, to something you don’t actually need a TV for. The On Demand format has put end to the days where you needed to wait until the TV channel deigned to release the series on a physical format. These days not having a good way to catchup is just a recipe to be the most pirated tv series in the world.

As things stand, the Living Story is executed like TV scheduling was in the 1990s. If you aren’t in at 8:30pm on Tuesday, sorry you missed the show. Being able to record TV helped with some of the issues (if you could work the VCR) but there’s no such luxury with gaming. And even if the various documented problems with the Living Story are addressed, and the changes outlined a couple of weeks back are introduced, this central issue won’t be resolved.

If you catch episode 5 in a series and like it, chances are you want to go back to episode 1 to see how it began (unless it’s Star Wars. Don’t do it with Star Wars). If the TV station doesn’t have on demand, other services are available. In Guild Wars 2, players who are joining in half way through or take a break have no means to catch up on the story, the main reason for this delivery system. I think that is a real shame, both for the players and for the developers whose work has been relegated to the delete bin.

Things have really changed in TV in the last 2 years, with social media becoming part of that “first watch” experience (TV speak for this is “second screen” if you haven’t heard that banded around yet). This phenomena highlights how much of storytelling is a communal experience, and this is something I strongly think that all storytelling has lost sight of.

For all the technical hardship of the karka invasion in November, it was memorable amongst those who attended because it was communal. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with your friends, making new ones, is meant to be something that MMOs do best and is something I think Guild Wars 2 has lost sight of. It’s hard to feel like everyone has been through a great event when you’re the only player character there. Guild missions are a point of where the game gets it right, especially when you run into another guild doing the exact same thing as you and everyone benefits.

My other problems with the Living Story have already been expressed brilliantly by Sypster so I’ll refrain from retreading that ground here. I’m looking forward to seeing how things evolve and while there’s indications that some elements may be improving, I feel like there’s a massive gap in the plans when it comes to fitting in with the individual schedules of players.

Communities and Barriers

 Posted by on January 31, 2013  Feedback, Guild Wars 2  4 Responses »
Jan 312013
 

For all it’s done to remove barriers between players, Guild Wars 2 has some odd eccentricities that pull people apart in weird ways. Allow me to explain.

I’m going to start with a situation that isn’t unique, but won’t be a problem that everyone faces. As a guild leader of a small to medium size guild (up to 18 online concurrently, 60 active members), dungeons are both great and a pest. Our members love them and do them daily. But because they require exactly 5 people to complete, they tie up a relatively large number of online members with consequences for others wanting to do other content with people. And given the horror stories (and experiences) with PUGs, there’s an understandable reluctance to go there, which presents a problem.

There are currently 2 ways forward; to grow the guild or make connections to other guilds and share members. The former isn’t really an adequate solution as it changes the nature of the guild. The latter is the better way forward (it worked for Guild Wars 1) but the game limits this kind of integration. The makeshift solution at the moment is to be a member of multiple guilds, but the 5 guild limit causes problems for leaders and officers looking to network.

In an ideal world, I’d love to see alliances return. A communal chat channel for multiple guilds, with the ability to name the group would do. Alliances allow guilds to make up for their individual deficiencies by complimenting each other. It’s a win win scenario. In the meantime, I’d love it if an account could join 10 or more guilds to stitch together these spider web alliances, even if there was a gold fee involved in doing so.

I won’t be surprised if (or should that be hoping that) at some point in the game’s life players are able to hire NPCs for dungeons. They’d be great for that last spot or two in the group, even if they cost a few silver to hire. Sure, you might not want to do Arah with them, but it’d allow you to do Catacombs without bringing a PUG. A pie in the sky idea maybe, but I think it could work.

A scenario that may be more common to others is grouping in the open world. You’ve got a few friends and you’d like to enjoy a shared experience exploring the world. Trouble is there’s 7 of you, not 5. You have to split into 2 groups and hope you manage to stay together and I can tell you that isn’t what happens. One group is inevitably faster than the other, and as there’s no quick way of locating them on the map, the groups start drifting apart until they’re have 2 separate experiences. I’m bewildered by this because most events will happily scale past 5 people while remaining a challenge. This is especially true in Orr, where taking the god shrines is a fantastic guild event that takes a large number of people to achieve.

The WvW commander book comes in handy for these kinds of events and is exactly why we had a whip round a couple of months ago so I could get one. In my experience in PvE, squad functionality is lacking. The only kind of interface is using /squadinfo (which isn’t detailed in game) which tells you who is in the squad and how much supply they have. There’s no way to remove someone who has joined, or way of seeing where others in the squad are. The only real benefit is that everyone nearby gets a beacon as to where the squad leader is and a shared chat channel.

Uncontesting Orr

MYST Uncontesting the Dwayna shrine in Orr

The functionality has helped us when it comes to big events. In December we ran an event uncontesting all the shrines in Orr which we loved and gave us a bit of love from others nearby. But becoming a commander is a heavy handed solution to the problem. I wouldn’t know where to start in WvW and would rather not have that functionality, but there aren’t any other options and I think the game would benefit from them.

Generally I think it’d be great if you could see people on your friends list who were in the same zone as you. I understand the overhead may be high for this though, so I’d like to also suggest either a modification to squads in PvE to make them a little more in line with parties (e.g. kicking abilities, tracking where others are). I think there may also be an argument for party boosters which allowed you to have (for example) 10 people in any party you lead for 24 hours. Of course, if you tried to enter a dungeon it would tell you you couldn’t unless you had 5 or fewer people – no unfair advantages wanted here.

Allowing larger party sizes might also be an advantage in WvW. ArenaNet have made some grumbles to the tune of wanting people to zerg less and party more, but 5 isn’t enough for many objectives in WvW. Being able to have parties of 10 may encourage people to split up into groups more. Or allow commanders to access the squad abilities without broadcasting the tag to others so they can lead people without inviting a zerg that draws more attention.

Ultimately however, the combat system is the biggest limiting factor to socialisation. Combat is so much more intense than other games that there is no time to type during combat (I’m talking about level 50+ here). Players get tunnel vision on the mob they’re fighting and the next one ahead, and forget there’s a box in the corner to speak to people. This first came to my attention during the various server surveys I did before release – people noted that the servers were quiet even though people they met acted in a friendly manner. People didn’t need to speak because the game let them play together without barrier or need. It’s gotten worse as time went on.

Yet I am happy that this is the cause of so many problems, as intense combat leads to a more engaging experience. If it leads to a more entertaining game is up to the opinions of individuals. This does bring a temptation to put more emphasis on voice communications within a guild but this brings more problems. Not everyone has the means or wants to sit on a voice server all the time they’re playing. And when you consider how many times you talk to someone you randomly meet going about your daily business, it’s more an echo of art imitating life than anything wrong (in my opinion).

So there you have it. My take on why Guild Wars 2 drives people apart as much as it brings them together. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please do leave your comments below or get hold of me on Twitter.

Echoes of the Past

 Posted by on January 11, 2013  Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2  2 Responses »
Jan 112013
 

On New Year’s Day, a few of us from MYST (my guild) went back to Guild Wars 1 for a bit of a wander down memory lane. We elected to do Frostmaw’s Burrows; a 5 level dungeon in the north of the Far Shiverpeaks – accompanied by norn, the human adventurers face giant wurms, crystal hydra, element switching drakes and flying incubus that are determined to knock down their foes at every opportunity.

It turns out the memory of the game was rosier than the experience and it’s amazing how quickly we’ve all adapted to Guild Wars 2. Pressing F to try to interact, 1 to start the auto attack and double tap to dodge; all things we now do automatically in Guild Wars 2 that have no meaning in Guild Wars 1. Things got better when I added F to the list of accepted shortcuts for actions normally reserved for the spacebar, but that only happened after half an hour of swearing. By the end of the dungeon, things had mostly returned to normal, though I wouldn’t have called my playing abilities anywhere near up to par with where they used to be.

It isn’t just the combat either. The dungeon names were little more than a shadow of a memory, and Olafstead and Sifhalla had mentally changed locations when trying to head to the dungeon itself. Even the appropriate action for rare weapons had faded. After receiving a hammer as a drop from a locked Chest I found myself about to salvage it in hope of some ectos, before remembering it was the wrong game. D’oh.

After stepping away from the game for a while and returning, I’ve started seeing Guild Wars in a new light. While there are still lots of features I want to see implemented in Guild Wars 2 (guild halls and the ability to meet up with people on different servers top that list), there’s also a number of improvements that I’m thankful for in the new game. Not being able to dodge was surprisingly frustrating and ground targeted effects seemed an obvious omission. It was odd and illogical to not be able to send crafting materials to the bank instantly and remembering that the only way to sell things to other player was to stand in a town and shout for hours. Guild Wars ruined other MMOs for me, making them seem illogical and frustrating, and Guild Wars 2 has done that again.

One thing that was stunning from our evening in the old Tyria was how quiet it had become. There was only one European English district for the round of Dwayna vs Grenth we dropped in on. And we were incredibly sad to see no one in any of the districts for the Luxon side of Alliance Battles. At all. In any of the districts on any of the servers. Good thing we have WvW.

I can’t help but feel sad at how quickly 7 years of gaming has faded. We’ll almost certainly be back in Guild Wars 1 another time for fun that doesn’t require exactly 5 people, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. That Tyria is preserved in the droplets of history in Guild Wars 2 now; rose tinted echoes of past struggles and encounters. Perhaps they’re best left that way as we forge new memories.

Dec 072012
 

I wasn’t going to write more in this series but after a request for more information by Felladin, how could I say no. So here we go – Conditions in Guild Wars 2.

 

An overview

There are a total of 11 conditions that players can inflict in Guild Wars 2 and have a variety of effects and durations. When reapplied to a target with the same condition, some conditions will stack in duration or intensity and a couple don’t alter all. When a condition is removed by a skill, all of same condition is removed.

Bleeding – Does damage over time, where the damage applied per stack per second at level 80 can be calculated to be 42.5 + Condition Damage * 0.05. Multiple applications stack the condition up to a cap of 25. Your character may exclaim about bleeding when this is applied.

Burning – Does damage over time, where the damage applied per stack per second at level 80 can be calculated to be 328 + Condition Damage * 0.25. Stacks in duration. Your character may exclaim about being on fire when this is applied.

Blind – Causes target’s next attack to miss. Reapplication has no effect. Your character may exclaim that they can’t see when this is applied.

Chilled – Reduces movement speed and skill recharge of the target by 66%. Reapplication increases the duration of the condition. Your character may complain about being freezing when this condition is applied.

Crippling – Reduces the movement speed of the target by 50%. Stacks in duration. Your character may complain about their leg or feet when this is applied.

Confusion – Does damage when the target uses any skill (including auto attack), where the damage applied per stack at level 80 can be calculated to be 130 + Condition Damage * 0.15. Unlike all other conditions, damage from confusion is halved in sPvP. Multiple applications stack the condition up to a cap of 25. Your character may ask what is going on when this is applied.

Fear – Causes the target to move directly away from the caster or centre of the area causing the condition. Can’t be stacked.

Immobilized – The target can’t move or dodge. Stacks in duration. Some teleportation skills (such as the mesmer staff skill 2) still work.

Poison – Does damage over time, where the damage applied per stack per second at level 80 can be calculated to be 84 + Condition Damage * 0.1. Stacks in duration. Your character may exclaim about feeling unwell when this is applied.

Vulnerability – Increases the damage that the target takes by 1%. Multiple applications stack intensity by 1% per application up to a cap of 25. Your character may complain about feeling vulnerable when this is applied.

Weakness – Causes 50% of attacks to be glancing (which reduces the damage output of the attack) and reduced endurance regeneration by 50%. Stacks in duration.

 

 

Condition Damage

Condition Damage is one of the attributes that regularly appears on gear (both major and minor) and can also be increased through traits. However, it only affects 4 of the 11 conditions – Burning, Bleeding, Confusion and Poison. So if your preferred build doesn’t reliably generate lots of these particular conditions, stacking condition damage is going to be pointless for you.

For extra complications, every condition increases by a different amount in proportion to Condition Damage and level.

 

Condition Damage Bleeding Burning Poison Confusion Confusion sPvP

0

42.5

328

84

130

65

100

47.5

353

94

145

72.5

200

52.5

378

104

160

80

300

57.5

403

114

175

87.5

400

62.5

428

124

190

95

500

67.5

453

134

205

102.5

600

72.5

478

144

220

110

700

77.5

503

154

235

117.5

800

82.5

528

164

250

125

900

87.5

553

174

265

132.5

1000

92.5

578

184

280

140

1100

97.5

603

194

295

147.5

1200

102.5

628

204

310

155

1300

107.5

653

214

325

162.5

1400

112.5

678

224

340

170

This may seem really imbalanced, but the durations of the various conditions differs a lot.

 

Condition Duration

Condition duration is useful to everyone who can generate any type of condition, as it will apply to all of them. The game does not round the duration of conditions, but does round the number on the tooltip of the skill to the nearest 0.25s. Since the conditions that do damage per second (Burning, Bleeding and Poison) only do damage on the whole second mark there’s a possibility of being misled with how many pulses of damage you will get. Here’s a video I put together to explain.

(NB: In the video I say that the wiki is wrong. It isn’t. It’s just worded in a way that can be misleading)

So if the only conditions you have are ones that tick per second, there will be optimal steps of condition duration. Realistically there’s too many potential sources of conditions that may change at any time (due to game updates) to get into a meaningful discussion here, as it will be obsolete pretty quickly. What I have done however is note down the standard duration of each source of the big four by profession skills. A summary is below (click here for a condition duration by profession breakdown).

 

Note that not every condition made as a result of a trait is affected by Condition Duration. It is not clear if this is a bug or intended.

Currently the only common sources of increasing overall condition duration besides food are in Traits and Runes. It would be possible to raise Condition Duration to 54% using both of these. After that, it’s possible to increase the duration of a particular type of condition through Traits and Sigils (although there are some bugs in this area). These numbers add up; ie. +30% Condition Duration +20% burning duration = 50% longer burns.

Let’s look at how these durations change

With respect to Bleeding, it is only worth increasing Condition Duration if it results in at least one extra whole second, giving an extra pulse of damage. It is highly unlikely that it’s worth trying to increase your condition duration if most of your condition skills apply durations of 1s. Similarly for 2s and 3s conditions, trying to make 50% and 34% condition duration may just be too much when considering the sacrifices required to other attributes such as Power or Toughness. At 4s, things become a lot easier. An increase of 25% duration is achievable by raising the first trait line to 25, and will result in one extra pulse of damage. Of course this is a balancing act if you’ve gone Precision.

The reason it’s different for Burning and Poison is that they stack in duration. If you apply a 3.5s burn and then apply another 3.5s burn before it ends, the durations will add up to a 7s burn with 7 pulses of damage (even if the burns come from different people). If you wait for the first burn to end before applying the second, you’ll only get 6 pulses of damage. If you have lots of sources of these types of conditions, you may be able to get more pulses than you should by applying them fairly quickly. Of course, if you only have one source, or it’s really short, you may be out of luck.

It’s not all about these 3 though. The other 8 conditions will all be of use to you if they last a little bit longer. An extra .25 duration on Vulnerability may allow you to get a good hit on an enemy, or with Crippled allow you to catch up to them to snare again. Confusion is an odd one because on the one hand it looks like you get no benefit until the person with it attacks. But if you force an enemy to not do anything for 5s because you put Confusion on them, that’s 5s you can pummel them to your heart’s content. And if they do fight back, they get a slap in the face!

 

What happens at 25 stacks?

Conditions that stack (Bleeds, Confusion and Vulnerability) will stack up to a maximum of 25 applications. Any more that are applied are ignored until one of the existing applications ends.

When you have conditions applied to you from multiple sources they go into the same stack dependent on type. The same thing happens on enemies. So if you and someone else in your team can both apply 25 stacks of bleeding and try to, one of you is wasting potential damage from your conditions. This is why it may not always be a great idea to try to build a bar that can push so many of one type out. Having a bit of variety helps you work better in a team. Bleeding is the usual one where people clash.

It will also help if condition removal is used as most only remove certain conditions or a certain number of types.

 

What happens when players with different amounts of condition damage attack the same target?

Short answer: pretty much what you expect.

If you and someone else with different amounts of Condition Damage both apply a condition that stacks in duration on the same target, the durations will add and the ticks from the first source will all fire before the ticks from the second source do. Where durations go over the top of the second (ie 6.5s + 6.5s = 13s = 13 pulses) the Condition Damage of the source that made it go over the top of the second counts (the second person in this example).

For conditions that stack, each application acts independently and times out as expected.

 

What about compared with other attributes?

Damage from conditions is an unstable source because it can be removed. Many condition removals will remove the entirety of one type of condition, so if you’re fighting someone who uses it just after you’ve applied all your bleeds you’ll lose that damage source until your skills recharge. You can help mitigate the effect of a condition removal skill by not focusing on one type of condition.

Of course, you’ve still got the use of your weapons and other attacks while the conditions are working their magic, so Power and Precision are useful even in a condition heavy bar!

 

So which should I prioritise between the two?

This is a rough and ready step through the decision making process. There will be exceptions to the steps below, but this should give you some guidance.

1. Count your condition types and their raw durations using this table below (remember to take off armor, traits etc. You may find it useful to go into the PvP lobby).

Duration (s) Bleeding, Burning, Confusion and Poison Other Conditions

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

20

30

2. If you have less than 3 sources of conditions, either tweak your build or stop here. Conditions won’t have enough of an effect on your build to be worth dedicating gear decisions to.

3. Look at the number and duration of sources of Bleeding, Burning, Confusion and Poison you have. If around 60% of them are under 4s in duration score a point for Condition Damage. If around 60% of them are over 4s in duration, score a point for Condition Duration. If you’re roughly equal, score a point for both.

4. If you have more than 3 sources of other conditions, score a point for Condition Duration.

5. You should now have a tally that will give you an idea if Condition Damage or Condition Duration is more important to you. If you’re tied, they’re both useful!

 

In conclusion

Conditions are a very useful part of any build and their proper use can increase the overall damage output of a team. To get the most out of them, you’ll need to give some thought to the sources you have in your build. Don’t always trust the tooltips!

 

Sources

To make this, I used the ever useful Guild Wars 2 Wiki, this reddit thread, A guide to Bleeding by Boons and Conditions and the game itself. There was lots of testing – for science!

Thank you to my guild mate fafq for being a guinea pig for some experiments, and to Lissahkins for proof reading this article.

 

Feedback

As always if you have any comments, please leave them down below. Please also let me know if you found this article useful!