Nov 052013

I’ve been a guild leader for over 7 years, and since I started there hasn’t been a great revolution in understanding between members and leaders. You still see the same drama stories, the same challenges and the same lamenting about the troubles that come with leadership.

I firmly believe it doesn’t need to be this way. While there are a great many differences between guilds in different games and even guilds in the same game, largely guild leaders face similar problems. And a major problem is that so many feel the need to attempt to solve those problems in isolation.

Moreover, the role of those of us who have been doing it a long time isn’t exposed to our members.  In the hopes that things can change, I’m going to be writing a daily entry to this blog for a week starting Wednesday about what I’ve done that day for my guild, Mystic Spiral,

So a brief background about my guild for the unfamiliar. Mystic Spiral was founded in May 2006 in Guild Wars 1, because I felt that you didn’t have to rule a guild by a power trip. Rather than being PvE or PvP or even PvX orientated, MYST is a social guild. The overriding thing that brings us all together, and indeed what we recruit for, is outgoing people who want more from a guild than just people to play with, but also people they can form long term bonds with – friends and sometimes more. To make that happen we recruit slowly and have a stable base of around 40 people who are online daily. These days we don’t play Guild Wars 1 much any more, but play Guild Wars 2, DOTA2 and other games. I’m supported by 2 awesome deputy leaders and a handful of others who help when they can.

The challenges I’m facing at the moment involve the mix of people we have in the guild and the platforms we operate on. Migrating from Guild Wars 1, highlighted the need for our main channels of communication to be game agnostic as tastes will evolve and no one should be left behind. The forum and Steam group chat are front and centre of that, but making them appealing so that people frequently visit and participate on them is something I’m trying to work on. Likewise, I’m always working to improve the sense of community within the guild, to get people to mingle with people they normally wouldn’t and set boundaries, goals and adversaries. This is harder when there isn’t one shared experience.

On top of my usual duties this week I have to prepare for a guild meeting set for Sunday, with a survey to follow, and prepare a software update for the guild website. Oh and hold down a full time job and get settled into my new home.

I hope you’ll check back regularly this week. See you Wednesday!

A Year with Guild Wars 2

 Posted by on August 31, 2013  Guild Wars 2, Personal  2 Responses »
Aug 312013

This post was written as part of GuildMag’s Blog Carnival

Shortly after Guild Wars 2 released, I made a post outlining what I thought of the game so far and my goals. Today, just over a year from launch, it’s time to see how I fared with those goals and set some new ones for the coming year.

Finish my personal story

I’ve done this with my main character, Lady Tasha, and am progressing with others. I can’t say that the personal story turned out to be my favourite aspect of the game, but I did enjoy spending time with Elli towards the end of it. The story was finally cleared with completion of Arah, cementing the uselessness of Destiny’s Edge to do anything. Next time you go through Arah story, look at how little work they do and how much credit they claim.

Round off getting level 80 armor

Done. More than once. My main has 2 nearly full sets of armor now because last month I didn’t feel like her outfit was fancy enough to go to Queen Jennah’s Jubilee. Ok, that was the excuse, I’d had my eyes on a top since early in the game and I wanted my character to have it. She’s also kitted out with all the weapons she can use. No legendaries though – I don’t like how most of them look. My “nicest” skins are the Princess Wand and the Mystic Artifact focus.

Lady Tasha: In October 2012 and today

Lady Tasha: In October 2012 and today


Is a level 80 warrior and level 80 elementalist good enough? I also have a level 40-something necro who I’m slowly levelling. I spend a load of time on my main character though because Mesmer suits my playstyle so much more than others. I rarely play my elementalist any more because he’s leveling cooking and has no bag space as a result!

Play more WvW and PvP

I went through a phase in April of playing PvP a lot and got to rank 11. Considering how much I played Random Arena and Team Arena in Guild Wars 1, I’ve done a lot of solo PvP in Guild Wars 2.

Sadly WvW hasn’t grabbed me as much as I originally hoped it would. This has primarily been because I have no great driving force to be there; most of my guild are playing PvE, doing dungeons, Fractals, Living Story and other bits, so WvW is lower down the scale than joining them.

Get a sense of community back into the game

This is a really hard point to measure and I think I’ve had mixed success with this. On the one hand, I’ve had some really great moments shared with others in the last year. In December, MYST held its first major charity fundraising event, playing games for 24 hours and raising over $500. Not only was it a charitable event, spending that much time together in 24 hours also brought us closer together. Nothing says bonding like doing Arah p4 at 3am (we didn’t get past Lupicus)!

There were other moments too. We’ve uncontested every shrine in Orr a couple of times. Regular guild missions give everyone a common goal and our Sunday brunch events give everyone who wants to be sociable a focal point to sit down and talk about life out of game.

Yet there’s still times when the game feels like a solo one. Much of the Living Story, especially getting achievements is something many often do alone, and leaves those who wish to do group content like dungeons side-lined until the second week of each update.

So what about the next year?

I’d really like to start on the, what I call, optional extras. Things like Legendaries (if there are any I like) or named Exotics with nice skins, like Infinite Light and The Anomaly. I’d also like to continue exploring the different professions, especially Guardian and Engineer. Meeting and connecting with strangers and friends will also be on the list; after over 7 years as a guild leader, I don’t think I’ll ever drop meeting people as being a central reason why I play MMOs. And while it’s not directly in game, I would like to finish the trading post helper software I started months ago.

As for the crazy goals I like to set myself, I’m considering trying to max out the crafting materials storage.

Will I manage it? We’ll see next August.

Happy Birthday Guild Wars 2, and here’s to many more.

Hampton Court Palace

 Posted by on August 15, 2013  Personal, Photography  Comments Off on Hampton Court Palace
Aug 152013

Bit of a break from my usual fare now to talk about a gem I visited at the weekend; Hampton Court Palace. Originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and passed to King Henry VIII when he fell out of favour with the King, it’s one of only two royal palaces owned by King Henry VIII remaining. When it came into his possession King Henry enlarged it considerably, as did later monarchs, but hasn’t been inhabited by the British Royal Family since the 18th Century.

There are a few things that fascinate me about this palace, much related to the King who made his mark on it. Henry is famous for having six wives and having established the Church of England in the process of divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, but he also cultivated the image of a Renaissance man. His court was a centre of scholarly and artistic innovation and was one of excess. Henry himself could read and write English, French and Latin, play the lute and organ, sing well and sight read music. He’s also said to have been an excellent sportsman and favoured jousting, hunting and real tennis (which differs from tennis we know today), until a riding accident while jousting in 1536 forced him out of action. For Henry sport was not just about passing time; it was about politics as well, enhancing his athletic royal image to impressing foreign rulers.

Hampton Court Palace reflects these many aspects of the man. His different wives were by his side at different phases of his transformation of Hampton Court Palace and their impact is visible in the building itself; from Anne Boleyn’s gate (which was still being made when she was executed) to Jane Seymour’s heraldic badge on the ceiling of the Great Waiting Room. Likewise status symbols are everywhere. Guests are invited to compare Henry to the great Roman leaders through their busts on the outside of the Palace (Tiberius and Nero are either side of the main Gatehouse). The grandeur of the Great Hall itself was there to impress the importance of the King and Henry is said to have been so impatient to have it finished that the masons were compelled to work by candlelight. Likewise the kitchen required to support his court of up to 1000 people were massive, especially considering Henry and his guests ate a diet of 75% meat, hand roasted on a spit.

And there are marks of Henry’s sportsmanship too. The  real tennis courts remain, but all only one of the five towers that Henry built to watch the activities in the tiltyard remain. Likewise all the Tudor bowling alleys have disappeared, although evidence for their size and position was found in a Time Team Special. All in all, Hampton Court Palace is a medieval show of the power of one man; King of England, France and Lord of Ireland.

Perhaps what makes this place even more special is that much of the remaining green space in London is thanks to Henry’s determination to impress and preserve his wealth and power for his son Edward and his daughters Mary and Elizabeth. Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent Park were all appropriated by Henry at the same time he took control of Hampton Court Palace and remain some of the few open green spaces in the heart of the capitol.

But anyway, enough of me rambling. Have a look at some of the pictures I took.

Oct 012012

37 days. That’s how many days have passed since the Guild Wars 2 servers opened. Feel like longer? To me it does.

September is always a demanding month because of working commitments that this year had a bizarre smooshing of the two halves of my existence while Gangnam Style was played repeatedly on a nearby stand at a trade show in Amsterdam. Add to that the requirements of trying to rebuild a guild that hasn’t played together properly in 4 years, and a subsequent real life meetup and something had to give. It was my writing and I’m putting that right now.

The first few days of Guild Wars 2 wasn’t exactly smooth. I missed out on the name I wanted despite being up at 4am to try and grab it. I had to settle for Lady Tasha but managed to grab the rest. Mystic Spiral [MYST] quickly got founded along with a secondary guild Mystic Pirates [YARR], and we were away. Except we weren’t. The problems with guilds meant many of us lived in a silent lonely existence for a while with brief glimpses of other people. This has obviously improved over time but that initial period was very hard to achieve anything.

Lady Tasha

Since then, despite nearly a clear 2 weeks out of the game, I’ve managed to get my mesmer to level 80. She’s experienced less than 40% of the world (5 areas 100%) and hasn’t finished her personal story or any craft which to me is excellent. There are many more adventures ahead than there are behind. I’ve found the mesmer profession to be a great choice for my playstyle. There’s enough damage in there to feel useful, while there’s plenty of conditional options for making a real difference to the success of the group. I haven’t felt useless in PvP or WvW either. Generally my character is equipped with a staff and sword and pistol but frequently switch to a focus for a speed boost. Oh and Feedback is an amazing skill that will probably be nerfed now it’s been mentioned.

My overall experience with Guild Wars 2 has been undeniably mixed. I am still very much in love with Tyria and the grandness of its landscapes and adventures, but I have found that the appreciation of the environment and the thrill of exploring lasts around 30-45 minutes before I find myself slipping into an achiever’s mindset again, moving from heart to vista to point of interest. Likewise I love that combat requires thought, but lament that sometimes I am just too mentally tired to be bothered to exert that effort (something I haven’t found in other MMOs). And while I’ve enjoyed the moments where I’ve been able to save a stranger from defeat I feel like I’ve connected with very few people I’m playing alongside.

That may all sound a bit contradictory but hopefully some of you will have had similar experiences. I can’t point many of those frustrations at the game itself – the first two are certainly no one else’s fault than mine. The final point may be due to the game, the limited time I’ve had over the last month or that people are still focussed on building their characters rather than creating experiences with each other. The remaining frustrations I have are common ones related to dodgy patches leading to bugged content that many other people find equally infuriating.

I am really mixed about how I feel regarding communication in Guild Wars 2. There’s a fantastic quote by Joss Whedon about the masterpiece that is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” (see footnote*):

When people stop talking, they start communicating. Language can interfere with communication because language limits. As soon as you say something, you’ve eliminated every other possibility of what you might be talking about. We also use language to separate ourselves from other people.

While it feels odd to have a load of people in an area with you, it isn’t like you don’t communicate with others in your immediate surroundings. People still say thank you. The game doesn’t exactly lend itself to being able to fight and type.

Something that never ceases to amaze me is the detail that goes into corners of the game that few people will see. Something that really touched me over the weekend was a lodge owned by a sylvari who has adopted orphans of a number of races because she can’t have children, juxtaposed with another one nearby inhabited by a norn and his sister who’s desperate for a baby and is settling for someone only referred to as her mate. Tyria knows how to tug on the heartstrings and make you think in the most unlikely of places.

Now the demands of the offline world have stopped impeding on the online one, I’ll have more time to slow down and make an effort to connect with people again. After finishing my personal story, I’ll be looking to round off my basic level 80 armor and then alt around to my heart’s content helping people. I’ve already forayed briefly into WvW and PvP and intend to do more of both. My main aim is to get that sense of community back into the game.



*In this episode, the entire town of Sunnydale lose their voices while grinning bald Victorian-doctor-esque go around cutting out people’s hearts while they’re still conscious and unable to scream for help. There’s a sequence in the episode which shows how the residents are dealing with their mutism – some read the Bible in a group on the street, others turn to alcohol while others try to turn a quick buck by selling small whiteboards and markers. While I’m biased as Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one of my favourite TV series, I really recommend watching this one if you can.

Jul 182012

I haven’t felt the need to write a proper Guild Wars 2 article for a while (I presume because of the amount of work those server community surveys take to do) but there’s been a few bits lately that have registered enough interest to be worth writing about.

A few days ago, ArenaNet released this behind the scenes video which briefly interviews a number of faces in the Seattle office.

The most notable thing for me out of this wasn’t the double health bar for Necromancers, but that ArenaNet have hired an economist, John (Jon?) Smith, to look after what goes on in game and in the gem store. It’s a growing trend in gaming, and recently Valve hired an economist who is analysing the market in TF2 and looking at joining game economies together. It’s a reassuring trend for those of us who enjoy the trading thing, knowing that someone is looking out for inflation and either taking direct steps to combat it or working with developers to do so. And with the gem model ArenaNet have carved out for themselves (as demonstrated over at Distilled Willpower), I’m glad they’ve got someone trained in economics to look after it.

I’ve been spending a lot of my free time lately working on a guild roster mod for my guild (see here and here), which has expanded my knowledge of web development immensely. 5 days ago I’d done little in the way of javascript and now I’ve written and expanded several scripts to expand and collapse lists and sort tables. The whole thing has been designed to be completely expandable to cover any game, for members to create profiles for new games and enter accounts and characters into the list. It goes some way to solving a huge problem for MYST – who is this person I’m playing with? We’re not a big guild, around 40 members, but when people have different forum, steam, account and character names, and you ask people to call you by your real name it will cause a problem eventually. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m so pleased with how it’s going and proud of the work I’ve done. I’m aiming to get everything done in 2 weeks, before we get all befuddled with trying to get ready for Guild Wars 2 launch.

Speaking of guilds, I also started my column over at Dragon Season last week. It’s called Guild Matters and it’s about anything and everything related to running a guild. It’s my hope that it becomes a central resource for all guild leaders who are struggling with an aspect of guild leadership, and while I’m writing a load of articles now, that’s just the start. I sincerely want to hear from other guild leaders to learn from them and understand what they’ve found tough so I’m armed for as and when that problem faces me. I’ll be looking for guild leaders to interview soon, but in the meantime I’m writing a series of articles that cover the basics of leading a guild in my mind.

Finally, it’s a Guild Wars 2 beta weekend this weekend and while I’m looking forward to it, it feels a bit less exciting than the other weekends. I think it’s because the characters have been wiped and I know that trying to WvW from level 1 will be painful economically. I’ve done a lot of the human, charr and norn starter areas and want to leave asura and sylvari for release so I have something completely fresh, so you’ll likely find me in WvW and sPvP this weekend. I’m loving the game so far, and moreso seeing the progression and speed at which ArenaNet improves and stabilises their game.

Oh and for anyone who’s having a discussion about which server to pick this weekend, you might find this useful

Have fun!