Headstarting?

Sorry about having the late posts, as you know, I have made a move into a new apartment and got swamped with work.  This post is very scattered, so be warned.

Oh yeah, also, I am officially eating my words when I stated that Pistols are for PvE and Rifles are for PvP.  In their current state, Pistols are superior due to how clunky the Rifle is.  Right now, there are animation delays for the Rifle that really defeat the purpose of the rifle, and as such, Rifle is kinda worthless.  So lets hope that the Rifle will get a nice fix before release, or else we will have a weapon that is mostly deadweight.

 

Anyways!

 

To headstart, or not to headstart?

 

This is definitely a question I am asking myself right now.  And my reason for even asking a seemingly common sense question, is I don’t know if I want to play it 3 days earlier than everyone else.  I really don’t.  So naturally, its a battle for weighing the pros and cons of headstart in the first place.

Headstart is something very recent that MMO companies have done to help ease server overload on launch.  When MMOs first launched, they were not nearly as big as they are today.  WoW didn’t have a headstart, neither did Everquest or Ultima.  And in their peaks, these were the top MMOs of their time.  The first time I have ever heard about a headstart was from RIFT and since then, I have been hearing about it all the time.  So the concept of headstart is a fairly new one.  And the purpose makes sense, as MMOs grow in popularity, server overload is definitely a problem as a lot of people will want to play the game at launch.  So rather than creating a million servers, or having stupid large queue times.  It also allows players to do things before the massive crowd gets a chance at doing quests to help ease the questing experience.  But there are some hefty consequences of headstart.  And generally, anything that is a pro, is also a con.  So lets begin.

The first is clearly the server population.  By being in headstart, you get a chance of doing things while the rest wait and you will always be ahead of the leveling curve.  So when people are still trying to quest in the starting area, you are 2 to 3 zones ahead of them.  When RIFT had head start, there were people who had already hit max level by the time the game launched.  So this gives you plenty of time to explore and not get hung up on a single quest because everyone is tagging the mobs, thus giving you absolutely nothing in return.

However, while not having to compete with people is nice, the huge and primary flaw of headstart is that chances are (assuming you didn’t quit the game during the headstart) you are the only one able to do content, let alone end game content.  The plus of having  people around is that content, such as dungeons and raids, are always available as people are around to do them.  Most of the people that were in the headstart of RIFT quit after a week because there were not enough people to start doing the content that they were interested in doing.  And while this is indeed a problem, without people you can’t do content, it isn’t that much of a problem due to the maximum number of people required to do instanced content and the nature of Dynamic Events being scaled to the number of people there.

In Guild Wars 2, the main issue of tagging and being unable to do content due to a lack of spawns is completely eliminated.  Since you gain a full share of rewards for doing anything as long as you participate in whatever is going on based on how much you contribute.  On regular mobs, you get full amount, for a full dynamic event, killing one pirate will not yield as much reward as going on a mass murdering spree.  So, one of the pro’s of headstart isn’t even a pro.  Since you will never be forbidden from doing content based on spawn times, there is no inherent competition for quest items like there are in RIFT or SWTOR.  So really, this is not something that makes me want to play the game early, but rather, makes me want to play when the game is launched to never have a drought of players to do content.  And I am the type of player that gets bored when there are not enough players to do anything.  However, I am sure everyone in my guild is going into headstart.  So there is that, but I am also the type of player who gets to max level as fast as humanly possible.  I also like to PvP, so having players around to do that will be nice.

Avoiding Queue times is not really a pro, as you only avoid the queue times for the duration of headstart.  Good news is, when you do get into the game, you wont suffer from lag (if your computer sucks) since you will be in a further zone.  But that is also temporary as once you get into the end game where people congregate to a main city, the lag problems will resume.  So lag is inevitable, queue times are inevitable.  Also,  with the overflow system (assuming that every server isn’t packed to the max, which might be the case on launch day), queue times are essentially nonexistent.  And since queue times don’t bother me (they give me an excuse to do other things), avoiding them really isn’t much of a pro for me.

Headstart also allows for the game developers to better prepare for the inevitable server crashes that major releases are bound to have.  Diablo 3 was practically unplayable for the first few days, and that was purely based on how moronic Blizzard was when handling that game (its a single player game with multiplayer functionality, stop treating it like an MMO).  For games that are MMOs, server crashes are bound to happen.  The only way to prepare for it is to have so many servers that it is feasibly impossible to actually crash them.  But, the problem with that is you then have to close down servers to help control the spread of players.  Despite how many people are excited for GW2, there will be people who won’t like it, and that is OK.  Headstart is a means of gating people into the game by allowing a few in, see how stable the servers are, and then gradually increasing the server limits so that more can enjoy the game.  So really, headstart is like a stress test where you actually get to keep your characters.  So expect some hiccups, there are always hiccups.

The final thing is just being able to play the game early.  This is always the primary reason why people want to play headstart.  And to be honest, I don’t think I have ever played a game on release day.  Even Fallout: New Vegas, I waited a good month before actually getting to it.  With that in mind, I don’t really feel like I need to play GW2 before it comes out.  In fact, the only thing that, even remotely, makes me want to play during headstart is to play with my guild mates again.  Hell, I didn’t even get Diablo 3 the day it came out, I completely ignored it, played it and hated it.  If the game is worth it, than so should the wait.  I waited 10 years for Diablo 3, and was let down, it was a waste of a wait.

I also fall under a category of relative newcomer status when it comes to Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.  I am not one of the Utopia waiters, I am not a Guild Wars player.  To be honest, compared to those who are, I am a bit of a hypocrite and hardly fit into the crowd.  I think the only thing I have going for me are my fat American jokes, my self demeaning humor, and freakishly long writings.  My only real connection with GW2 is my love for MMOs and the desire to see a game finally have the balls to try to change the system.  We are definitely, all of us, in a very interesting time.  Will Guild Wars 2 be a massive success, or will it be a flop?  The people in the BETA of SWTOR said it would finally kill WoW, but we saw where that went.  And while I personally believe that Guild Wars 2 will not come close to making a dent in WoW (its a free game vs a sub game, people will run both), I feel that what they are doing is making changes.  Look at the monk in WoW, it’s a class that has no auto attack and is based around the flow system that GW2 has.  Plus with a release date approximately a month after the release of GW2, it will be interesting to see how people will compare the monk to the combat style of GW2.

Nothing about headstart makes me want to play the game sooner.  And this might be because I never really got a chance to play in any of the Beta events.  I have also, never been the type to need to see or do things the day they come out.  So the experience is not a driving force for myself to play or do anything.  It’s the social aspect that makes me love MMOs, and its that social aspect, that experience with those who I call friends and allies, that makes the entire thing worthwhile.  Because of that, I will do my absolute best to be in some of the headstart (I can’t guarantee anything with my work schedule).

Its almost been a whole year since this blog was launched with the ambitious 3,000 word post on the guild system, we have a release date and 3 very successful beta events.  Yet, the only thing we can do is have the hope that Arena Net will deliver on their promises.  We all saw what a flop SWTOR was, lets just hope the game that we have waited for, despite for how long, will be everything we have ever hoped for.  I can’t help but be skeptical about this game.  I have been let down so many times in the past, and to be completely honest, the last game I ever played in recent years and been completely satisfied with, was Pokemon Black and White.  A sad truth in the matter, I started RIFT up last year, loved it, and to an extent still do.  But there are still things in that game that bother me.  Even playing it now, I find many little nuances that really irk me.  So maybe all those dissatisfactions are holding my excitement back.  All we have is hope.  Beta, IS, after all, an incomplete product.  So we will see a month after release if GW2 will hold its own.

So what are you opinions, are you going to be in the headstart?  Are you just as skeptical as I am with being as burned by past failures?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Future Engineer Weapons

Before reading these ideas please remember these are all my ideas nothing is from ArenaNet or confirmed in Guild Wars 2.

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of my wild ideas for Engineer. Before the release date was announced I decided to browse some forums and I ended up coming across some people talking about what weapons they would like to see added to current classes. The only issue I had reading these were very few of the posters went into detail they would just say “Give Ranger staves “as an example and not mention what skills they would gain. So below are a few weapons I feel fit the Engineer lose-wise and would not make us some flavor of the month overpowered profession.

Main Hand

Mace– This weapon makes the most sense because essentially the mace is a hammer the Engineer uses to construct their turrets and other gadgets. With having Mace in the main hand I feel that our Tool Kit weapon kit should be removed and have some of their skills reworked into the Mace weapon skills.

Skill 1 – Smack-Deals damage to foes or repairs turrets. No cooldown.

                      Whack– Deals damage to foes and applies Cripple or a stronger repair to turrets.

                      Thwack– Deals damage to foes and applies Weakness or applies a Overcharge charge to your turret allowing them to act as if their overcharge skill was in effect for the next 10 seconds.

Skill 2 – Magnet Pull– Pulls your Target to you and causes them to be unable to use weapon skills for 2 seconds. 15 second cooldown.

                     Magnet Push– Can only be used within 3 seconds of using Magnet Pull, but knocks your target back and applies Cripple.

Skill 3 – Throw Wrench– Boomerang your Wrench out in a line applying a random condition (Cripple, Daze, Weakness) to each foe it hits, can strike the same foe more than once. 10 second cooldown.

2 Hands

Staff– This is my personal favorite to hope for because the way I describe it, it follows the lore that it was used in the book Ghost of Ascalon. The Asuran Engineer Kranxx uses something he calls his Spark Stick and along with the glowing gems he makes reference to this is where my idea for Engineer Staff skills come from.

Skill 1 – Shock– Shock your foe with a quick bolt of electricity. This move has a higher critical damage multiplier. No cooldown

Skill 2- Flash– Blinds nearby foes for 2 seconds and deals a small amount of damage. 10 second cooldown.

Skill 3- Charge– A long cast time to store electricity. 20 second cooldown.

                     Discharge– In an instant release all stored energy stunning all nearby foes while granting nearby allies Fury and Might.

Skill 4- Extending Arm– Shoots out an extending arm that brings your for to you if hit. 15 second cooldown.

Skill 5- Tether– Throw your staff to target location and having a chain connecting both of you. While you are connected you cause any enemies to pass though the line to be knocked down for 1second. 30 second cooldown.

                      Retract-While connected you can quickly jumped yourself to the Staffs location. Any enemies you pass though will be stunned for 1 second, any allies you pass though gain Protection for 5 seconds.

Hammer– This 2 handed version of the mace focuses less on control and conditions and instead just focuses on raw damage. The Hammer can be seen almost like the melee version of our rifle.

Skill 1-Bend– A large overhead swing to bend any metal it finds beneath it. No cooldown.

                    Break– A stronger overhead swing that breaks what you were crafting!

                    Destroy!– Out of anger you use your hammers secret gadget and have it spout off a burst of flames to incinerate your target.

Skill 2- Spike Swing– Hitting a button causes spikes to pop out of your hammer. This swing will cause a moderate amount of damage while causing 3 stacks of bleeding and poison. 10 second cooldown.

Skill 3- T.N.T.– You stick your hammers handle into the ground and cower underneath the hammer’s head, exposing a large batch of T.N .T. on the top of your hammer. This skill deals a large amount of area of effect damage and knocks your foes backwards. While at the same time deals a small amount of damage to the Engineer and knocks him/her down for 1 second. 20 second cooldown.

Skill 4- Golf Swing– You swing your hammer like a gold club at the target and as you make contact with your target the hammers head explodes dealing a massive amount of burning damage and knocking your foe backwards. 20 second cooldown

Skill 5- Hop!– You place your hammers head on the ground and stand on it and propel yourself in the air and in a particular direction dealing damage only where you land, Hop! can be used twice before it goes on cooldown. 15 second cooldown.

Crossbow– the last weapon I’m going to talk about it one that is not even in the game at the moment. I saw some users post about Thief’s and Ranger’s gaining access to the crossbow and though it also belonged as part of the Engineer’s arsenal. The Engineer’s crossbow is rather un-extraordinary but instead the bolts he uses as ammo is where you see his ingenuity shines. When you activate a Bolt it causes the skill the change into a stronger skill with a longer cooldown.

Skill 1- Fire!– You shot your crossbow bolt at your target, if you have no ammo active it causes bleeding when it hits. Fire! has different outcomes based on which bolt ammo you have active.

While Explosive Bolts is active Fire! will have no cooldown and will put a stacking debuff on the target that can stack up to 5 and on the 6th shot causes all the bolts to explode at once dealing a moderate amount of area of effect damage and knocking all foes around the target to get knocked back.

While Alchemic Bolts is active it causes Fire! to have a chance to cause Poison, Weakness, Blind, or Confusion on impact.

While Rocket Bolts is active it causes Fire! to cause burning when the target is hit.

Skill 2- Explosive Bolts– You start to load explosive bolts for ammo into your crossbow. These bolts hold a small amount of explosives that does not detonate on impact. 3 second cooldown.

                        Impact– Your next 5 Fire! uses will explode on impact and cause 1 stack of bleeding. 10 second cooldown.

Skill 3- Alchemic Bolts– You start to load alchemic bolts for ammo into your crossbow. 3 second cooldown.

                       Amplified Dose– Your next use of Fire! will cause the target to be infected with a strong poison that causes them to run in fear for 2 seconds. 25 second cooldown.

Skill 4- Rocket Bolts– You start to load Rocket Bolts for ammo into your crossbow. 3 second cooldown.

                      Heat Seeking Missile– You channel your cast for 3 seconds then send out a large missile at your target. If hit this missile causes a large amount of damage. 20 second cooldown.

Skill 5- Harpoon Bolt– You load your crossbow with a harpoon bolt causing your next Fire! to chain your target to you. If your target runs out of range they are knocked down for 2 seconds. 15 second cooldown.

Well there you have it, my ideas for what weapons the Engineer should get in the future. I can not stress this enough that these are my ideas and no one else’s. This was just something fun I decided to start writing and would love to hear what feedback you have or other ideas you think I should have done instead.

Mechanics

Ok, so to start off, some of you would like to know about my visit to Mexico (I guess I am that interesting?).  And, I stayed a resort the entire time and drank fruity drinks.  I was right by the beach, away from any drug wars that may or may not have been happening during my stay.  I had a lot of fun, but thats what I get for going to a resort.

 

Oh, I had a post over at Guild Wars 2 Hub where I discuss itemization and how people get them, specifically the token system versus the traditional loot pinata system.

 

http://guildwars2hub.com/features/editorials/guest-editorial-itemization-guild-wars-2

 

And I am no longer part of the GWI team, main reason being my schedule conflicted with theirs too much.  However, it is still a good news site (along with Guildmag, Guru or whatever site you go too, and if you are smart, you do not favor any site over the other) but I don’t recommend their Engineer section as it seems thin.  For example, this post:

http://www.guildwarsinsider.com/aeta-top-5-engineers-fix/

Brings up some good points, but was extremely pre-emptive and not up to date considering it came out the day before the beta weekend (something like this needs to be post, not prior as you lack the time to correctly analyze the changes/bugs).  Engineers did receive a substantial boost across the board but a few bugs ruined the experience for most (such as blunderbuss not working correctly).  I agree with the point that turrets need more tool belt integration rather than another deploy button while inactive and a detonate button while active.  This is where Arena Net can really make turrets shine and the primary component to fixing the problems with turrets.  However, the randomness of the Elixirs adds to the fun of the Engineer and really shows that Alchemy is not a perfected practice yet (if you notice, most of the engineer technology isnt really perfect).  And the utility kits are fine, we have too much of it as is.

 

Easy fix, post it later, see the changes and wait for the list to come out of all the updated skills to the Engineer.  Sometime next week, ill begin posting all the changes and reformatting the way that post works so its easy to see what changes have happened.  Also, actually test the content, nowhere in there does it discuss the problem blunderbuss has had during the beta.  Although, when you think about it, Engineers are a ranged class with an ability that rewards you for being in close.  But then again, im not a new conglomerate and only focus on one aspect of the game, so what do I know?

Cool, so lets talk about bad mechanics in MMOs.  Essentially (in case you do not know), a mechanic is term used to describe the way things work.  Mechanics are the principal component of the actual game and theory crafting.  Because without understanding how something works, you cannot begin to theorize how to optimize it.  Without understanding out it works, you cannot hope to solve the intricate puzzles that are raid bosses.  Mechanics are what dictates how much that fire you are standing in does, the area it covers, and even where it lands.  Naturally, there are good mechanics and bad ones.  Good mechanics are those that work well, provide interesting gameplay.  And there there are bad mechanics that provide useless, unfun, or otherwise irritating gameplay.  There are also basic and complex mechanics, such as not standing in the fire, or avoiding a giant windwall that circulates around the environment.

Mechanics can originate from any source in a video game.  Whether that be a player, NPC, or the environment itself.  Player abilities all work in various ways, from teleporting your character, inflicting status effects that buff or effect your other abilities, bounce from target to target, or even increase your own capabilities.  Environmental mechanics are swimming, ground based buffs like speed boosts, bounces, walls, or even weather and effects on the environment.  NPC based mechanics are generally debuffs or enrage timers, maybe even after a specific amount of time the NPC will do some kind of spell or ability that can be avoided.  You also have general mechanics that are universal to how the game functions, such as in Guild Wars, in order to use an ability, you had to be stationary, or in WoW you had to be stationary to cast spells with a cast timer (unless you had some other ability which allowed you to do otherwise), or in Guild Wars 2 where you can do anything while moving and even dodge.  Some games have zero gravity, or the inability to jump.  This is just a general overview, now for the fun part.

Bad mechanics, as stated before, are mechanics that the developers put in place for a variety of reasons.  Whether for balancing purposes or that they believe it to be fun or interesting.  However, sometimes, they believe somethings to be fun, but provide very boring experiences.  Daily quests fall into this category.  Sometimes you have mechanics that add great flavor to the game but work against core mechanics of the game.  Stationary mechanics fall into this category in Guild Wars 2.  Others are simply unfun, but things that fall under this category tend to be that way due to balancing issues, like extremely long crowd control times or the ability to be stun-locked.  While sometimes these mechanics are fun to some people, like dailies are actually fun to some people but others feel that they are a job.  Nobody likes being on the receiving end of a stun-lock, but I know that people enjoy doing it.  And not being able to jump can be one of the most irritating things in the game.

So lets delve into specifics as to why they are bad.  Every game has bad mechanics and some games do these mechanics better than others, for this reason, I will only go over 1 at a time and for each specific example that they fall under.

In my last post, I talked about how turrets fail in design in Guild Wars 2.  I still feel this way, although some new ideas were discussed as to how to fix the problem.  Turrets fall under a category of stationary mechanics in that they stay in place until destroyed, run out of time, or triggered.  Traps, Auras, Mines, and Bombs also fall under this category, but some of those make sense for balancing purposes and some of them fall in line with the turret.  Guild Wars 2 has a very specific set of core mechanics that allow players to move and constantly be able to move.  So in a game where movement is part of the very core and heavily emphasized, stationary mechanics seem pointless.  Of course, the idea only makes sense in very few circumstances such as defending, where you have the time to set up and prepare for any oncoming invasion.  However, whenever you have stationary mechanics, balancing becomes an issue.  If the stationary mechanic provides a significant source of damage, then the caster has to sacrifice his/her own damage in order to balance out, but this means that the stationary mechanic limits the character into defending.  This, in turn, limits the class in its offensive capabilities unless they utilize the mechanics, but are then limited by the fact that due to the heavy emphasis on mobility, means that you will be constantly picking up and replacing these turrets.  As such, turrets become essentially useless and more of a balancing hinderance than anything else.

I was told of one idea to fix this problem is by allowing turrets to add a “stored” buff; that while they were not deployed, that they would grant some kind of beneficial effect.  This is probably the single, most elegant, way of fixing the problem with turrets and the balancing problem they bring to the table.  Think of this scenario, if the turrets dealt a considerable amount of damage, and so did the Engineer’s skill set, then you have a class that is fantastic at attacking and ungodly in defense.  Anything that is ungodly is considered unfun to many, especially if it requires a few people to take down a single class.  So something like a passive buff could allow for the weakening of turrets or other areas while still making them viable.  The problem is, that despite this, they have to allow for turrets to not be a requirement in order to be slightly competitive.  But I will let the developers figure that one out.

Daily quests fall under many categories, but generally speaking, when you force players to grind out repetitive tasks in order to achieve a small goal, its bad design and a bad mechanic for retrieving that thing.  However, grinding can also be a means for gating content.  Such as at the end of Burning Crusade, there was the event involving the sunwell and doing those daily quests helped build up forces and unlock the dungeon.  There was a huge goal there and everyone that participated helped further along that goal.  And whenever you get the entire server in on something, its becomes extremely fun because there is something more than just doing it for yourself.  However, when it comes down to a single piece of gear that is absolutely required for you, and only you, to do some kind of content, it gets boring.  Quest chains are better forms of content gating unless the situation before is present in which the server is actively participating for the betterment of the server and for the sake of the story.  Guild Wars 2 removes dailies (although that is if you don’t count in the daily achievements) and the entire quest system in favor of the event system.  This event system brings the server together for the betterment of the server.  By doing and through continued effort in participating in these events, more of the server becomes unlocked and the server becomes a better place.  However, when the server becomes barren, the server suffers and turns into a proverbial warzone where everything is under siege.  That town you just saved is now infested with pirates, and since nobody is there to save it, it will remain under pirate control.  This type of daily is fun.  RIFT has the unique invasion system (which works the same as the event system in GW2, as in, you cannot control when or where it will happen and requires multiple people to accomplish), and those were fun, but highly repetitive because they never affected what happened to the server.  Invasions only happened for so long and and any town that is taken is retrieved because of a debuff that is put into place on the enemies that make them weaker the longer they are alive.

Mechanics of retrieval tend to be tied to gating content, and sometimes its a means of forcing players to play the game more or for a longer amount of time.  But, I have an article that talks all about that so I won’t go in any further.

Other unfun mechanics are the product of poor balancing.  Generally, if a class has the ability to one-shot you, or keep you under complete control, then there is a huge issue with that class and its balance with others.  As such, balance is completely subjective and player skill is such an outlier that achieving perfect balance is impossible.  Professional players tend to be where most game developers balance around (which is sad, considering that is generally 1% of the entire player base) because their skill levels are nearly identical.  However, there are other things to take into consideration, such as random mechanics like critical strikes, evasion, and so forth.  One of the things that made Enhancement shamans was that one proc of Windfury on a 2 handed weapon meant certain doom to anyone who got hit.  It is just how it was and nobody thought it was balanced.  But, then again, this was also pre-arena where there was no real competitive scene in WoW.  During Burning Crusade where small scale PvP was introduced, Warriors and Druids became the dominate classes, so much that there were many changes that happened during that expansion.  Warriors would still dominate as number 1, and Druids would remain mostly unchanged until the following expansion where they revamped healing.  Despite all this, on a casual level, everyone will find other classes to be over powered.  The reason why these classes were considered overpowered was due to Druids ability to shapeshift, having extreme mobility, and the ability to heal on the fly.  Warriors had Execute and Mortal Wounds, one dealt an extremely high amount of damage but could only be used when at low health, while the other reduced healing on their target.

When I played RIFT, people cried out that clerics were overpowered.  This statement was based that clerics were essentially human walls who can survive 2-3 people attacking them at the same time.  This was definitely true, clerics could do that, but all their attention was focused healing and not retaliating.  I could hold my own against several other players, but when you added in the fact that I was not doing anything but running away and healing myself, it seemed balance.  I had to trade my offense for complete defense.  Now, I could take on people 1v1 and actually come out on top, but that was heavily dependent on the amount of gear the other player had.  My cleric was based on the idea of the druid, being able to heal on the fly while providing unique buffs that reduced the amount of damage that they took.  I took mechanics that the class had available (damage reduction buffs tied to aoe heals) and abused them and essentially became immortal.  Unless focused by an entire team.

Now, these are just my own opinions on mechanics that I find to be bad by design.  I am sure that there are people out there that completely disagree with me.  So what are some examples of bad mechanics that you have encountered?  These are just a few examples of what I have encountered, and I know there are more out there because I have not personally played every game.  So share down below.

Engineer Turret Ideas

All of the following is my opinion and each idea for change stands on its own I do not expect to see any or all of these changes at once just something I think would help the Engineer class without overpowering it.

So over the last Beta Weekend Event I felt the general agreement from those around me was that the Engineer was one of the weakest class this beta. Excluding bugs like Blunderbuss failing to hit your target that is immobilized the Engineer was caught in such a middle ground it seemed to be lacking everywhere. From what ArenaNet has stated it can be assumed the Engineer is designed to be a support profession that is able to do some damage either conditional or direct while having access to weapon kits, elixirs, turrets, and gadgets that allow the Engineer to do a bit of everything.

My biggest problem with the Engineer is their Turrets. Turrets are very weak and easy to counter if you come across them in PvP, you can either walk out of their range or just kill them since they don’t have a very large HP pool. In PvE you are never just standing in one spot and if you place a Turret down kill your enemy and then move you have to wait for your cooldown to finish before you can place the Turret back down. Buffing the turrets however is not as simple as giving them that extra damage or a larger HP pool because that could lead into a lot of unnecessary patches to get the numbers just right. One of my ideas for a Turret fix is I think the Turrets should become the Signets for the Engineer class. Signets are available for every profession except the Engineer so my idea is since the toolbelt skills are just Place here/Detonate for Turrets and they are an easy counter let them give us a passive buff when they are not on the ground or off cooldown.

I’ll start with Healing Turret since it really is the most straight forward change. While Healing Turret is not on cooldown and is stored on your back you gain a passive regenerative buff that would be a little weaker than the Warrior’s Healing Signet or the Guardians Virtue of Resolve.

Rifle Turret would provide an increase to Precision.

Net Turret would provide an increased Toughness.

Flame Turret would provide an increased Conditional Damage.

Thumper Turret would provide an increase to Power.

Rocket Turret would provide the buff Fury.

Now maybe the Turret Signets are a dry idea to you and you fear it will just make the Engineer a copy of every other profession out there. Then here is where I propose my next idea for change to the Turrets and this is focusing on the self-destruct aspect. At the moment the self-destruct is either a ranged “turret retrieval” or a “deal some damage before it’s killed”. What I propose is adding an additional effect to self-destruct for each turret to give them an added use in combat.

I’ll start with the Healing Turret like before and when you use Detonate Healing Turret it gives off the same cross class combination as Water and Blast Finisher creating an area of effect healing.

Detonate Rifle Turret will cause an Area Weakness effect.

Detonate Net Turret will cause Immobilization to all nearby foes within a certain radius.

Detonate Flame Turret will cause an Area Blindness.

Detonate Thumper Turret will cause nearby allies to gain Stability.

Detonate Rocket Turret will give allies nearby three stacks of Might.

The final change I would suggest adding onto one of the changes I talked about above is that if I decide to pick up my turret instead of letting it get killed or me detonating it there should be a reduced cooldown or be no cooldown at all.

Regardless of my ideas it will be interesting to see what ArenaNet has in store for the Engineer though the next Beta Weekend Event and launch.

Viewer Requests: Roles vs Classes

So this week I decided to do some requests.  And next week there will not be a post because I will be on vacation.  However, there will be an updated skill list this weekend for all you theory crafters.

The first request is asking for an ultimate Engineer build.  While its it beta, its next to impossible to lay down any hard facts because it could literally change overnight.  But I am a firm believer that turret Engineers will be supreme for several reasons.

Damage output will be the highest, you can have several turrets active at any given time and with the extra turrets given from supply crate, you can demolish just about anyone who is stupid enough to walk right into them.

http://www.gw2tools.com/skills#e;afpap;aaaeaafXcaaaUcZ;Zaaa;bVWUZ

Simply put, this is the highest damage output possible on the engineer as you will have 4 turrets out at any given time so long as you keep supply crate on cooldown.  My statements on the rifle are still true, it gives way too much utility to just give up.

Some of you want some fiction, that will come after my vacation as it will take me a while to flesh out characters and such.  Just a question though, why do you want to see myself write some charr fiction?  Leave a comment below or just tweet me.

Now for the bulk of the article.  One of the requests was my own opinions on the following article by Lewis B (not anyone else, sorry :D)

http://www.guildwars2hub.com/features/editorials/profession-vs-role-structured-pvp#.T8W3fqywkVo.twitter

And to be honest, I agree with the sentiments that not every class will be able to do everything.  I mean this is the best way possible.  Lets take a look back and Vanilla WoW with Shamans, Paladins, and Druids.  Those three classes were the original hybrids who could literally do anything, tank, dps, heal.  Although, because of their hybrid nature, they never did any of those things extremely well except for heal (they traded damage for the ability to heal which every other class lacked) which was used as a balancing measure.  Hybrid classes are always the most attractive classes to me, I like being able to do anything and I honestly fell in love with the Shaman because of this video:

However, despite the ability to do anything (enhancement shamans were intended to tank as well with their old talents) they never were able to do anything except heal in any kind of endgame content.

However, in WoW the reason this was the way it was is that the hybrids (aside from the priest) were the only healers in the game and each provided very unique buffs to the raiding party.  And if these classes could deal as much damage as a rogue, and be able to off heal as well, then the question became “why play a rogue?”  Especially when you have another class that does the same thing, but more.  So it was a balancing thing ultimately.

For Guild Wars 2 though,  every class is designed to fill each of the three roles (which are, not called the holy trinity but essentially are).  The problem though is not what they were designed around but what their kits (skill sets) provide overall.  For example, thieves cannot heal other classes like an Engineer, Elementalist, or Guardian can.  But, in turn, nobody brings poisons which act as the control and dps aspects.  Engineer’s have a ton of utility but very little damage options, they will definitively fill the support and control roles very well.  Other classes will be more durable due to armor type, base HP, and weapon choices.  A character with a shield will always be able to take more damage than a character without.  Other classes will be able to heal better than others and will be preferred for dungeon runs, others will buff better, control better.  It just makes sense that way.  I don’t know about you, but a Thief running around stabbing people with a healing dagger doesn’t really make sense to me, or a healing toxin.  From a lore standpoint, mechanics stand point, and from a aesthetic standpoint, it makes sense that a Thief will be more inclined to deal more damage and better look out for themselves than from others.  Not saying Thieves are all selfish, but they are.

It is my personal opinion that as the game expands, some of the roles will be left aside, just like in WoW where Shamans (who were designed to tank) can no longer tank.  The inferior roles will started to be filtered out.  It’s just too early to tell what and when that will be.  With the current system of swapping weapons, kits, and attunements, I can see that this is not an issue with balancing like it was in WoW, but rather it comes down to the feel of the game.  If something is out of place, it makes the game feel off.  This is why you don’t see some things in some games.  It doesn’t make sense to have sword fights in Modern Warfare, but it does in Halo when you throw in invisibility and energy weapons.  It doesn’t make sense to have guns in a medieval game (especially machine guns) and things like that when they are present in a game is off setting and shunts the player out of the immersive aspect of the game.  This is why I feel like Thieves will never be able to run around and heal other people.  Whereas a class like the Engineer (who deals with Alchemy) can create a healing mist that heals everyone who stands in it.

So, I say enjoy each of the classes 3 roles as much as possible while they still exist, but after about a month or so, those will start to dwindle in favor of the better ones.  Its just how it is.

Theory Crafting

Oh theory crafting, the so called “bane” of the casual gaming experience whenever any sort of competition is involved.  Theory crafting is quite an interesting phenomenon of online gaming, taking a very simple game/concept and expanding it so much that it becomes a complex monstrosity that changes every last facet of that game.  For some people, theory crafting is one of the most interesting aspects of games, and to others, theory crafting ruins the game for them as they are there to just have fun.  Some people enjoy the benefits of theory crafting without actually doing any on their own, and others find that it brings out the worst in people and forces them to do things that are counteractive against what they are playing the game for (fun).  While I enjoy theory crafting, I used to be on the opposite side, especially when I first played WoW.  But when it came down to doing content that I wanted to do, or sit on the sidelines and never experience it, I came over to the dark side.

So what is theory crafting?  Easiest way to explain it is its the mathematical application of video games.  But not simple math (sometimes it can be, but it never really gets to that point), generally speaking, you have complex formula’s that the game developers come up with that you have to either 1) solve for yourself to figure out, or 2) someone else does the work and gives you the formula.  Generally speaking, theory crafting takes into account every last detail when coming up with the formula’s, such as gear, talents, skills (cooldowns, base damage, modifiers, range) buffs, debuffs, in game formulas for defensive stats, regeneration, skill rotation, and the list goes on.  That is the long definition.  Taking every last little bit of information into account to gain the best advantage possible.  As you can see, its never simple.  When factoring in things like gear, you have to know every last formula for each stat that item gives, exactly what stats are optimal for your character, diminishing returns, stats that it may be missing, and so on.  Its really crazy to think about, and I am honestly very glad Arena Net is removing gear from the equation in PvP, that makes my job a lot easier.

So, what is an example of a game that is super simple in concept, but once you apply theory crafting that it becomes way more complex than it needs to be?  Pokemon.  For those who do not know what that game is, you have 6 Pokemon (monsters) on your team and you fight people’s Pokemon.  There are some limitations, such as you can only have 4 moves on any one Pokemon at a time, which mainly serves as a limiting factor, and each Pokemon has 6 stats (attack, special attack, defense, special defense, speed, and HP) and each move has a number of uses called PP.  Its a really simple concept that has never changed during its several long history of being a game.  To be honest, this game probably will never evolve past these parameters, in fact, the only thing that has changed is from generation 1 and generation 2 with the separation of SPECIAL into special attack and special defense.  You could play this game every day of your life and never know about the horrible thing I am about to tell you about (it honestly ruined a lot of the fun for me)

So simple on paper, now lets throw in theory crafting.  In Pokemon, there are hidden values known as EVs (effort values), which you gain each time you defeat a Pokemon.  The point of EVs was to give each adventure a unique feel as each time, your pokemon will have different stats and thus will always feel different each time you played the game.  That means if you start off with a Squirtle in one game, you will have a very different Squirtle the second game because all the fights are randomly generated based on the area you are in.  Outside of trainers and gym leaders, there is no way you can control which Pokemon you do fight.  Each Pokemon (based on species so the same Pokemon, regardless of level, will award the same EVs) is assigned a specific value that never changes, so if you choose to fight that Pokemon on a Pokemon who does not benefit from that specific EV, you can ruin all of your hard work.  Why is this?  Because there is a cap to the number of EVs you can gain at 510 total but no stat can go higher than 255.  Once you reach that 510 number, you can safely battle any Pokemon with no worry.  Now, there is also stat growth based on natures (personalities), so the perfect Pokemon has a very specific nature and a very specific set of EVs.  When I first tried to do this, it took a good, solid, 10+ hours worth of research and team construction.  Similar to how any team game is set up where you build your team to synergize with others, you build teams around some very specific sets.  Such as, you have defense heavy “Walls” (they generally have super high defense or health and generally have some way to heal themselves), “Strikers” (fast Pokemon who have high attack stats), “Sweepers” (really beefy and strong Pokemon), and “Inducers” which are either weather-based inducers or spikes, and then you have spinners or suppressors who counter inducers.  You have STAB moves which are same type attack bonus attacks with super high base values, and the list goes on.  Did I mention buffers and baton passers?  Yeah, this game gets confusing when you start to think of this stuff.

So, you can definitely see why some people hate theory crafting, I just took a game that is fun on a very simple premise and turned it into a complex monstrosity based on a few simple principals that got horrendously abused.  MMOs are no different.  And now, not to entirely demonize theory crafting, sometimes its actually very handy when you don’t have to do any of the crafting.  Having those numbers always available is what allows competitive teams to get ahead, but it also means that those wannabe competitive types will rage and put you down for not having the “optimal” build.  Back during the BC days, Enhancement Shamans were considered very weak and no longer optimal, and since that was the class I played, I was always out of a guild.  I got picked up eventually, and it also eventually came down to either changing or leaving.  I changed because there was content I wanted to experience, and my change allowed me to do it.  And basic theory crafting can lead to vast improvements to performance without actually changing your play style.  So in a sense, theory crafting goes both ways.  It can be very helpful and allow you to completely show your worth, or demonize your play style to everyone who wants to accomplish the content.

However, theory crafting is not the enemy but the content designed around having an optimal set up.  World of Warcraft is very guilty of this, in that if you are not playing X class in X role, then you provide nothing to the raid and wont be taken as most of the time, you cannot be carried through a raid.  This is bad design become it naturally alienates players who might play things that are not optimal.  And if you go say “lol why don’t you change and be better?” then you have no soul.  A person who is enjoying a game should not have to change the way they play if it means sacrificing fun.  This was a problem with RIFT in that because of the flexibility, a lot of things become obsolete ,and despite being fun to play, become a waste because the flexibility wasn’t really flexible.  RIFT was a game where if you were not playing the most optimal set up, or at least recommended then you were doing to have a hard time doing just about anything.  RIFT begged for theory crafting, WoW developed extremely difficult content that could not be completed unless you were playing the most optimal build.  Those two MMOs built themselves around theory crafting and RIFT failed, SWTOR failed (although I know nothing about that game and its theory crafting).  WoW is slowly declining in its number of subscriptions, although that annual pass really did help solidify their numbers.

Guild Wars 2 is a different beast, yes there is going to be theory crafting, but taking out a few of those very crucial elements and so long as the game is really balanced, then theory crafting wont be a game breaking element.  So far, since the game still is in beta, there is hardly anything we can really tell because the game will change rapidly and constantly to go with the opinions and findings of the player base.  As such, theory crafting really has not effected the game and wont until future release.  But with gear no longer being a factor in the pvp aspect of the game, we can see that theory crafting will be down to skill choice (and as far as I can tell, is fairly balanced) and talent choices.  And since everyone is responsible for their own actions and mistakes (technically speaking, a single player can carry a whole dungeon run if played well enough).  That and taking into consideration of mobility and such, as long as this game is balanced right, then theory crafting should be fairly less noticeable.  Especially in which weapon choice is more optimal for damage and so forth.  Now, no game will be free from this, and there will always be that top build that everyone who is anyone will follow.  But so long as Arena Net is doing their job, then the game should still be fun, and still be accomplishable without the need to be steeped in the mathematical application of games.  And as long as everything within the class is balanced (inter-class balance is impossible without every class being the exact same), then there will be multiple builds that are the best and you have many ways to play the same character.  So hopefully this game won’t turn out like WoW, where in order to raid you have to play a specific class and a specific build, hopefully it won’t turn out like League of Legends where the meta and item builds dominate fun, hopefully it wont turn out like RIFT where you have so many choices but only a handful will ever be viable.  But, only time will tell to how the game will turn out.  Lets do this.

Games Are Hard

Lets talk about difficulty.  Its one of those things that tends to be a very touchy subject when it comes to games.  Some people will argue that games have gotten significantly easier over the years compared to games like Donkey Kong or the original Mario Brothers.  Some will argue that games are just as difficult as they were in the past, and lastly, some will argue that the reason why games are so “easy” is because we have gotten used to them (especially those who grew up playing video games).  And in all actuality, all of these claims are true and for different reasons.  I have my own reasons which I will keep a secret till we get there.  So lets begin.

The first argument is that games have gotten easier over the years, and this is definitely the case.  Take a look at the most recent release of Diablo 3, the beginning difficulty is very easy compared to the previous games.  Even Starcraft II’s campaign is far easier that it was in the original Starcraft (and as someone who doesn’t play Starcraft and had to cheat my way through the original story, that is saying quite a bit).  But that statement is very much a blanket statement, not every game that is released is “easy” unless you play it on the base setting.  My capability to get through the campaign in Starcraft is significantly lower once I get to hard/insane and I have yet to clear Hell difficulty in Diablo 2 (I wont touch the first one, I don’t play that game unless its online).  But I have found some games, even on the hardest difficulty to play through with ease (inFamous, Fallout 3).  Now what of the games that do not have a difficulty setting other than default (Assassin’s Creed)?  This is where I can see this argument holding some water.  When you do not have the option to change the difficulty, the game has to be easy enough to where everyone who plays it can beat it with enough practice (maybe 1 to 2 hours of attempting), so I can see why people would complain about these because there are some amazing games out there that are just easy to beat.  And the games that are easy to beat has a lack of accomplishment, and then there are the games that even on the hardest setting, there is no real benefit to doing it (Fallout: New Vegas).  I like to have that accomplishment and I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  However, if you complain that easy mode in a game is too easy, then you should probably stop your whining.

The second argument is that the reason why these games are easy is because we have gotten used to them.  And this argument holds its water very well.  Raids in WoW used to be very difficult, and even the raids that are rehashed content seem easier than others, even on the hardcore difficulty, the raids are not as difficult as they used to be.  WoW has been out for 10 years now and wont be going away soon (as much as I love GW2, it wont kill WoW because it doesn’t have a subscription, you can’t steal subscribers with a game that doesn’t have one because people won’t have to pay 2 subscriptions), but raids won’t get any easier because all of those unique mechanics are  easy enough to figure out now.  With enough time, even the hardest game can become easy so long as you practice enough.  I can practice for hours, get used to how the game’s difficulty works out and be able to counter it effectively.  Key here is time, and 10 years leaves raids as an already over practiced event that works like clockwork.  On my  play-through of Modern Warfare 2, I decided to play it on the hardest difficulty, and after about 3 hours per level, I was able to accomplish it without any hitches.  It just took a lot of time, but time was the only thing keeping me from being able to do it.  Arguably anything can be accomplished with enough time, but unless difficult games are your thing (I am looking at the dark souls/demons souls fans), why should the games be extremely difficult, wouldn’t you want the game you love to be enjoyed by thousands rather than hundreds?  I know I would.

The last primary argument is that games are easy because most of the gamers have grown up around them.  This is the best argument I have ever heard about why games have gotten easier.  I know several people that do not fit in this category and do have difficulty doing things that might seem simple to others, just like how the Koreans seems to destroy everyone in Starcraft (my friend just got back from a vacation over there and said that pro Starcraft players are treated like rockstars) and everyone else doesn’t.  I know 5 year old kids who play Halo better than I do and can snipe people from across the screen with relative ease.  So naturally, being a gamer from birth will give you a distinct advantage.  Have you ever tried to have your parents play a game with you?  I know when I introduced my mom to Left 4 Dead, she could hardly move because she had not mastered the controller, and the only game she really had played prior is Tetris.  So a dual analog xbox controller was completely out of her scope of capability.  She eventually was able to move, but after a couple of hours, she could only move or aim and not both.  It was probably the most amusing thing I have ever seen.  But this still holds true, when you are placed out of your element, you tend to do poorly to what other people might find easy.  And this segways right into my reason–

–Difficulty is a highly subjective thing, just like with music, everybody perceives things differently (this is why some people might like Bieber and another will despise his very being).   Because of this simple fact, difficulty is something that cannot be appropriately gauged.  I personally find RTS games difficult, but I have friends who have no difficulty with them in any way.  Strangely enough, I don’t have problems with MOBAs, just RTS and this is probably because I have poor micromanaging skills and my APM is probably 100 at most.  I do, however, do very well in MMOs, Shooters, and Fighting games (and plat-former/adventure games, but in the realm of PvP, its those 3).  Those games never feel difficult for me to play, but I have friends who are not really good at those.  We all have friends who are like this.  Right now I play a lot of League of Legends (no GW2 and I can barely run Diablo 3), and while I do have my share of bad games, I generally do well enough based on my role in the game.  And I do have friends that I play League with that are amazing, but I also have the reverse where sometimes, games are quite painful to play.  I personally find League to be an easy game to play and always have, I am in no way professional, but that is just the way I perceive the game’s difficulty.  Since video games have become very mainstream, developers have had to make their games easy enough to where most people can beat it without any real trouble.  The easiest solution would be to have a tiered difficulty system, but sometimes that is not a possibility.

This does actually tie up nicely with Guild Wars 2.  Right now, my only real comment about it is that since it is in beta, expect things to be out of whack.  You will find things that are very difficult and seemingly impossible because there is a chance that its just not scaled appropriately.  The only thing to mention is that GW2 is doing some things very differently, namely the dodge mechanic and move-while-casting-thingy.  If you have played MMOs in the last 10 years, you are very used to the whole standing while casting mechanic as a means of balancing ranged classes (melee can move because they don’t have effective ranged abilities), I know that when I first got into the beta, that I was really hard pressed to dodge and attack and move at the same time, and while it is very easy to say “lol noob dont dodge”, or “dood, y u jst stand ther”, its very different because we have all been very conditioned in a specific way.  I have played WoW for most of my MMO years, and that whole standing while casting thing is very ingrained in me, and breaking that mold is what makes GW2 slightly difficult.  I did, however, get over it and started dodging, but it took me a solid hour to get used to it.  That whole not having a tank thing and being forced to dodge various mechanics to prevent yourself from taking damage is very new.  I do love the system and I find that most people that find GW2 difficult right now are just not used to the system yet.  I suspect that the QQ train will hit the forums (speaking of which, I will only ever visit the Engineer Forums on their site because general is plague ridden) about how difficult the game is for a good month upon release.

But these are just my opinions, what do you guys thing about difficulty?