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First Hands-on Experience with The Shatterer

26 January 2016 - 05:01 PM

Last week I had the opportunity to attempt to defeat the new Shatterer before it was released. I had some technical difficulties that limited the scope of my experience (my computer never handles world bosses that well), but we did bring this new version of The Shatterer down. I look forward to playing the content on my normal computer after the release.

The most important thing with the new update for me personally is that gliding is becoming a big part of the content. When I played through Gorseval last time, I had a ton of fun with the experience of using gliding to escape from the attacks and swoop back into battle in tandem with my squad members. I had hummed “Flight of the Valkyrie” to myself as we swept in like a flight of bombers. Well, now we get to be bombers.

The fire bases that The Shatterer so kindly fights in front of have a series of jump pads that launch players high above the battlefield so that they can deploy their gliders. Doing so during the fight unlocks skills that allow you to drop bombs and health packs to the ground below you.

The mortars and turrets are updated to deal more damage and be more responsive. I didn’t get a chance to check out the turrets, but the mortars are easier to use while still being difficult to hit moving targets with. They feel less clunky than the original implementation did. While we were fighting, it was mentioned that the health packs from the mortars assist in reviving downed players. Making sure that your allies are up as much as possible is a big part of the fight so that is a big plus.

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We met at the waypoint in game with a large collection of developers and other press members to prepare for the fight. We were going to get two chances at the fight. Sadly, this was where the first technical issue happened and I missed the first attempt completely, which failed. On the second attempt we set up with a basic plan. We split everyone involved into squads that would handle the turrets, man the gliders, and smash The Shatterer in the face. It turns out that a bit of teamwork helps out quite a bit.

I had planned to spend the fight raining death from above and using the stealth gliding mastery to avoid being frozen in crystal, but it didn’t work out that way. The Shatterer came down, I hopped on my glider, and that’s when the animations started. My computer just couldn’t handle the explosions and my frame rate plummeted. I saw The Shatterer’s hand come up and I tried to go into stealth mode, but I was too late and I crashed to the ground as a crystal. Splat. It didn’t help that I was distracted looking around to see if there were any updrafts that would let me stick around without having to relaunch.

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At this point, I am now between The Shatterer’s legs. I pop into the options menu to reduce all my settings while some kind (or foolish) soul worked to revive me. On the lowest settings the game became playable again, but there was no way I would be able to control my glide, watch for the crystal attack, drop bombs, and drop med packs with the stuttering frame rate I still had. Looks like it is time to upgrade again. So I demoted myself from Air Captain to Grunt and dodge rolled across what I think was a pool of corruption from a breath attack into the relative safety of the mob of other players smacking away at the left leg. Turret and mortar fire exploded around us as med packs from the mortars and gliders dropped in from above.

At about this point, the first healing crystal phase began where six (I think) large crystals spawn and start healing the dragon. This heal is no joke. Each tick heals a huge percentage of health for each crystal that is alive when the tick occurs. After the first phase he was almost back up to full HP. The group was surprised by just how much he had healed from that phase. We needed a better way to handle the crystals or we would never be able to kill him.

The second time, the ground mob split up better to take out different crystals simultaneously. I split off to run to the back right crystal, dropping as many CC spells as possible on top of it to get the break bar down so we could damage the crystal. This time he healed up much less and we started making progress. The last time he barely got off a heal at all and we burned him down. The run ended with a good number of the devs and press guests dancing in front of the reward chest. Sometimes the best part of these things is the goofing off.

World bosses aren’t really my type of content. Now, I have played the world bosses in GW2 but it isn’t the type of content that calls to me or that I hop on and run straight to. The new Shatterer is no exception to that experience for me. I had a good time, and I would say that the fight is more enjoyable than it was previously, but it still doesn’t hold an appeal as a repeatable form of content for me. I had much more fun with Gorseval and the raid than I did with the new Shatterer.

A lot of that has to do with the type of play involved. With fights as large as a world boss, I don’t feel engaged or get a sense of accomplishment. I am not doing something on my own or as part of a small team working together. I feel more like I am playing alongside people than with people. It just doesn’t fit. I want to feel like I am part of a team, not a mob.

Blasting The Shatterer with spells was fun and all, and I do genuinely look forward to experiencing the fight from the air, but I’m not part of the target audience here. That’s just the nature of a world boss.

However, for those that do like the world boss style content, the new Shatterer is much better than before. The mortars are more interesting, having multiple viable targets to focus on and the healing kit launches. The healing crystal stage has players scrambling out in different directions, dodging branded and aoe spells trying to get to the crystals in time to prevent the new huge heals and break bars. And as you know, the addition of the glider bombers is really interesting to me.

There just seems like a lot of different ways to participate in the reworked content. This should revitalize the fight for both those that actually like world boss fights and those that just fight them for farming purposes.

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That being said. Gliders! Woohoo!

First Hands-on Experience with Spirit Vale

17 November 2015 - 04:17 PM

I was recently given the opportunity to play through a section of Guild Wars 2’s first raid alongside of some of the developers at ArenaNet. I have to say, that I had a lot of fun. Gorseval is the name of the boss I was being thrown in front of. Players will recognize it as the “Tongue Boss” from the Heart of Thorns raid announcement from PAX. And yes, gliders were involved in the fight... and in my death.

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Tally Ho!

The devs were familiar with the run so I was being brought along on the “smack the boss in the face” team. A task that the Reaper is quite well equipped for.

We jumped into the boss room and I immediately plunged to my death by hitting space three times instead of two, closing my glider before I could reach the updraft. Laughs were abundant while we reset the fight. The raid update comes along with a new party interface and Ready tool that allowed me to watch the team check in. Once everyone was good, it was time to jump in again.

I didn’t smash into the ground this time and the fight was on. It felt like total chaos at first. Sure, the leader was calling out commands, but I didn’t have the background knowledge to understand what exactly was going on, or why things were important. So I focused on what I knew how to do: slamming my weapon directly into the face of Gorseval!

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The reliance on positioning quickly became apparent as Gorseval leapt to the center of the area and started smashing the ground. The leader called for the group to break bar and stuns were spammed. I found a small sliver of “safe” area next to Gorseval’s foot and set to smashing buttons. The bar broke and I got a few seconds to wail on him before he got up and the real danger started.

One of the group split off in order to start damaging one of the walls that blocked us in on the main fight area. As he did this, the group had to pull in a bunch of small adds and slowly walk back towards the wall, pulling Gorseval and the adds with us so that we could kill the them (if any of them survived, Gorseval would gobble them up for a permanent stat boost) and damage Gorseval all at the same time. If you couldn’t manage to stand in the right spot or when the wall went down, Gorseval could knock you off the ledge to your doom.

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That's when the room nuke started to channel. We had a bit more time to wail on the boss again before turning and leaping off the platform to glide into an updraft and back around to drop in again. I couldn’t help but hum “Flight of the Valkyrie” to myself as 10 characters swooped around in unison. Needless to say, I crashed here once and we had to restart.

This process was repeated several times before we triggered the next phase of the fight when the group had to split up to take down four slow adds that approached Gorseval. If they reached him, we would die. The four Reaper DPS saved us here and we moved on to stage 3, where we quickly went down in a blaze of glory! At this point, we had to call the raid as there wasn’t enough time. Gorseval hadn’t even reached half HP yet and he is only a part of the raid.

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As a whole, I had a ton of fun. I was able to contribute without knowing what was going on, but it was obvious that I was helping more as I noticed what it was that each person was doing. I had to pay attention to the split and even the orientation of the map (one time we went to the wrong wall early in the fight, broke it down, and leapt off to escape the room nuke only to realize we were in the wrong spot and there was no updraft here).

Other than the use of gliding, I didn’t see any mechanic that I haven’t encountered before (break bars not being unique to the fight). We had a room nuke, DPS timers with the walking doom mobs and a limited number of updrafts to use to get to stage 2, adds that would buff the main boss if they weren’t destroyed in time and adds that would kill you if they weren’t destroyed in time. I know that stage 3 involves avoiding black spheres and running to the gold spheres if you end up getting a debuff on you from the black ones, but we died before I could really interact with it.

I did have to pay attention to my positioning the entire fight more so than I did in previous encounters. I know that the group had a good deal more focus on support than I have seen in typical groups; we had a Chronomancer, a Dragonhunter and a Druid all working to keep the group alive and smashing away. Control was hugely important both for downing the break bar attack as well as slowing the constant advance of the doom mobs. We also had four Reapers, so DPS was in abundance along with a good degree of control from them.

I don’t know how much team build prep the developers did before entering the raid. They did ask ahead of time what class I would be playing, and the default build I was set up with was a DPS build (which I tossed away in favor of my own DPS build). I can only assume that they did do some prep ahead of time based upon the fact that each of them had a role to play in the fights themselves, and several of those seemed like they would need some specialized builds (soloing the wall and pulling in the adds).

With only the small segment of the raid under my belt, I can't say how players will react to the content. I look forward to seeing if players work together before raids to come up with a cohesive group build and plan. I have always loved the planning stages of group content in games, and anything that encourages preparing ahead of time is a good thing in my book.

One thing that I hope does carry over is the attitude of the raid group. The primary sound in the comm channel was laughter. Joking about mistakes was the primary method of recognizing them, owning up to the mistake, and letting the group know it was your bad. ArenaNet has talked several times about how Guild Wars 2 has an incredibly welcoming and friendly community; raids are stereotypically known for not having this though. I think it would be great if the new raids managed to keep the attitude that I experienced while playing through the raid. I have played both ways and trust me when I say that having people joke with you is more fun than an angry tirade.

But seriously, play "Flight of the Valkyries" in your head during this fight.

PAX East Feature Patch Interview

12 April 2014 - 04:52 PM

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I sat down with Colin Johanson and Jon Peters during the first day of PAX East to go over the content patch going live on Tuesday. Most of the patch features themselves are not really reflected in play testing, so I spent quite a bit of time watching the ArenaNet developers gang up on Jon repeatedly in the 5v5s while we talked about the Megaserver system. Before we moved on to Jon’s endless demises, we went over the other features and I got to see the way the User Interface had been developed to bring these systems into the game.

The first thing on the table was the update to the traits system. I am sure most of you know the basics of the current system and the main changes to the system that were announced, so I am going to skip straight to the gushy center. You can find them in the previous blogs that were released about the feature patch if you haven’t read them.  The basics are: the addition of five new traits per class, a rework of the existing traits, a reduction in the overall number of trait points in order to make “every click matter,” free trait point refunds, and a new system revolving around discovering or unlocking traits.

Five new traits per class have been added and the existing traits have been reworked to bring more depth to the system. Colin and Jon were both excited by the trait changes since the reworks focused on bringing more skilled support choices into play. The game had been marketed as moving away from the dreaded “Holy Trinity” but Colin felt that the message had slowly morphed into an idea that the developers didn’t want players to be able to play specialized support roles. The trait updates have definitely improved the choices for those players that love playing healers or other roles focused on bolstering their allies.

A new guardian trait gives aegis to the guardian’s party every time the guardian successfully blocks an attack (20 second cooldown). Necromancer traits included some that caused conditions to heal the Necromancer when they were in death shroud or added support effects to the Life Blast skill. Elementalist traits provided more opportunities to create support effects from the skilled use of attunements. The new traits often focus on encouraging skilled usage of the classes unique abilities to allow better players to have a larger impact on their party.

Traits can now be respecced anywhere, anytime, at no charge. I will pause for a bit to allow you to rejoice… Don’t worry, I cheered too. We can now switch builds on the fly to better fill in gaps in a party’s abilities or if we happen to get bored of using a specific build while running around in Orr. Gone are the days of running to a trainer and forking over gold just to change how we played.

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During development ArenaNet had originally talked about how the trait system would involve unlocking traits by going out into the world and completing challenges or discovering locations. One of the original examples of that was completing a challenge for a well renowned sword master in the region in order to unlock a trait related to his expertise. I mentioned remembering that example while we talked and Colin reflected on how long ago that seemed. It was a long time ago, as far as Guild Wars 2’s life is concerned, and it looks like we are swinging back around.

While originally developing the system, the developers soon learned that their original plans just wouldn't work the way they wanted them to. The system simply didn't fit with how they envisioned the trait system and the other game systems worked so they shelved it. The new trait acquisition system is an evolution of that original idea.

There are locations out in the world that have tasks in order to unlock the traits. Each location has a single trait for each class and by completing the tasks, you unlock the local trait for the class you are currently on. The system is similar to the Guild Wars 1 elite capturing system that players loved so much but it removes the annoyance of having to hope that a specific boss spawned in order to capture his skill.

All these trait changes are an exciting change for Guild Wars 2. Colin and Jon were excited by how the system is built to allow them to add even more traits in the future in an organic manner. The addition of the tasks to unlock traits allows them to add another reason for a player to go back into older maps they may have abandoned, helping to keep the entire world populated. Players always like having new toys.

The game had been marketed as moving away from the dreaded “Holy Trinity” but Colin felt that the message had slowly morphed into an idea that the developers didn’t want players to be able to play specialized support roles. The trait updates have definitely improved the choices for those players that love playing healers or other roles focused on bolstering their allies.

Next up we talked about the new wardrobe. Jon was happy to show off the number of skins he had unlocked, but when he opened the skin list that is now available in the bank tab, it readily became apparent just how far he had to go. Colin mentioned that there are more skins in the game than some players realize and hopes that the new interface helps to show these players that there are more looks out there for them.

The system allows players to show off their goodies without cluttering their bank with armor they hardly ever wear. Unlocking a specific skin opens that skin up across the entire account, not just the specific character. The interface is quite simple allowing a player to search for a specific gear slot and pick from any skin unlocked. At the click of a button, the skin is applied and away you go.

PvP players, don’t worry! You aren’t being left out to dry. All the above changes, of course, roll over into PvP, but even more quality of life changes are coming. You won’t have to run around to different NPCs in order to change your gear anymore. A central page has been added allowing you to change skins, builds, and armor or weapon modifications all in the same place. The Rune of the Traveler is being unlocked for SPvP so be prepared to chase down some speedy opponents.

A new map has been added. A map that has no capture points. No capture points you ask? Yes, no capture points. Players have been using custom maps to run their own deathmatch games for a while now by just ignoring the existing capture points. The developers want to support the PvP community and have created a map just for this purpose. It will only be available in custom games for now, but if the game type is met positively by the community as a whole it could be added in to the standard rotation as well. I know a lot of PvP players have wanted this for a while and it willing be arriving to an arena near you this Tuesday. The PvP announcements have already bolstered the SPvP community. Colin was particularly excited about the increase in numbers in registration for the recently announced Tournament of Legends, with registration for the tournament increasing by almost 10x more than past registration numbers. Only time will tell if the numbers will stay at the new level, but the developers will be watching closely to help support the growing player numbers there.

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Here comes the piece de resitance, the big kahuna, the feature to end all features. Please excuse me if I use some phrases incorrectly here; I am ridiculously excited about the Megaserver (and you should be too).

The Megaserver system has been designed to better develop the in game community and increase player interaction. Players are automatically brought together based upon their existing connections in order to fill maps with people you already run in to. As a social gamer at heart, I threw up a “Success Baby” fist when we got to this feature which got a laugh out of Colin and Jon. This is about the time where Jon got hit with a Quaggan finisher.


The system’s algorithm uses a combination of the player’s party members, friend list, currently represented guild, other guilds, home world, and language in order to place players together. Gone are the separate maps for different worlds and gone is having to choose what server to guest on today. Hop in a map and play with your friends with no hassles. Sounds great right?

The answer was that the megaserver can pretty much use any parameter the developers want it to. Which led to the question: Should it?

Some players have had concerns about the system. The  most salient of these being from the roleplaying community. The roleplaying community in games typically organize themselves on to a specific server. This serves a couple of purposes: concentrating them together, reducing the number of “trolls” that come in to annoy the role players, and just increasing the sense of togetherness the community has. Players have concerns that the new Megaserver will destroy this. It won’t, it will actually make it better.

I spent a long time talking with Colin about this. I actually spent most of the time in the interview talking about the Megaserver as a whole and a good half of that conversation revolved around these concerns. As an occasional roleplayer myself, I wanted to ensure that the communities that existed already wouldn’t be hurt by the new systems.

The Megaserver still concentrates like characters together. Your friends and guild members aren’t going to be ripped from you with this system and even the players in the roleplaying worlds will continue to be together. At the surface level, the system seems pretty straight forward, but when you follow Colin down the rabbit hole, a whole new perspective opens up. The Megaserver actually concentrates friend groups that you might not know existed. Your friends and guild members will be in the map with you, but remember that they have friends and other guilds as well and that THEY have friends and guild members too. These people are going to be in your maps just as often as your friends are and are going to become familiar faces to you as well, increasing the likelihood of them becoming your friends. Guild members often just become a name in a chat room that you never really get to know. With the new system, Colin sees guilds actually becoming closer with one another and the interpersonal interactions actually getting more personal.

What about trolls? The megaserver actually makes it harder for people to troll roleplayers. Or at least it makes it harder for them to actively seek us out. With the current guesting system, people can hop over and berate roleplayers at will. The megaserver removes guesting and makes actively seeking out targets more difficult. Yes, incidental contact with trolls is going to be more likely, but we all know that you can’t avoid them all and most of the community is used to the occasional troll or two. We know how to handle them. The flipside to that is incidental contact with potential roleplayers has now increased.

How did you get in to roleplaying, you ask? I started in DAoC by just happening to choose the server the RP community used. I didn’t know what roleplaying was; I didn’t choose that server on purpose. I am a roleplayer purely by chance. If I hadn’t chosen that server, I never would have stumbled into Orien and asked him “What the heck are you doing?” I wouldn’t be the gamer I am today, and the megaserver makes this more likely to happen. They don’t have to pick your server by chance, they just get dropped in with you on occasion. Adding people to the community is always a plus.

The conversation morphed into another beast I don’t think any of us really expected. I asked a pretty simple question about if the megaserver would be able to use more in depth data such as people you had partied with in the past or people who liked the same content as you. The answer was that the megaserver can pretty much use any parameter the developers want it to. Which led to the question: Should it?

Should we want the game to drop us in with players like us? Say I am a jumping puzzle fanatic, overly simplified and silly of course but it is easy to use. If the server puts people like me together, I am likely to interact primarily with other “jumpers” and no one else. I wouldn’t ever really have a reason to do any other content and the game would be fracturing possible connections. We all agreed this was bad. Colin and I both view MMOs as a social world where the players build connections. The game systems should support this, not work in a way that inhibits it. Sure, the system can micromanage player placement even further than it currently does, but the developers are fully aware that there are parameters you just shouldn’t use. Personally, I think it would be hilarious if they dumped everyone with a Twilight skin active into the same map but it isn’t going to happen.

To wrap it up, I am excited. I am one of those players that jump in and out of game. I get bored and move on and come back for a bit. The new patch makes me want to jump back in and I call that a successful patch. ArenaNet has goals for the systems and plans to develop them further in ways that benefits the community. This feature pack should bolster existing communities and help new ones form. I look forward to future social improvements, and that isn’t just me being selfish.

You stay classy Tyria.

FFXIV devs talk about what makes MMOs fun

10 March 2014 - 03:16 PM


A fan translated transcript of the interview that goes into the history of MMOs, the history of some specific MMO designers, and what they feel makes an MMORPG fun. It was a good read.

How to discuss topics (like a guru)

31 October 2013 - 02:04 PM

GW2G is a discussion forum. This means that we expect a certain level of quality in our posts, but it also dictates how we expect our users to act. We try to allow you to discuss all subjects in a non-biased venue that supports those who want to take part in such a community. We don’t want users to bicker, pick fights, or take sides like some sort of political drama.

A discussion is a civil back and forth between posters that involves stating, comparing, and defending points. A discussion has a set of “soft” rules that are followed in order to keep the discussion on track and effective. The following graphic shows the basic structure and rules of a discussion.


Arguing is a throwing hissy fit, shouting match, or pissing contest. It is pointless and destructive to discussions. In an argument, neither parties are following the rules of a discussion, and communication has broken down to grade school “Nuh uh!” or “Jinx times infinity!” like comments. They go nowhere and only serve to make posters dislike each other and detract from the atmosphere of the forum as a whole. We don’t like arguments at Guru. We had enough of arguing over sharing the batmobile toy in daycare back in the day.


This is almost true, except that monsters really eat posters that argue. My best advice is to not argue, then the monsters won’t eat you.

Now that we know that discussing is good and arguing is bad, how do we have a good discussion instead of some bland circle of junk? The following graphic is an excellent, if slightly simplified, guide to discussions.


There are “levels” of discussions. At the bottom we have arguing where we get trash comments about the other poster, how the other poster is saying something, and the “Nuh uh. I did!” comments. You move up to the middle and you get to the level where people bring up opposing opinions to strike down that of the opponent in righteous written battle! At the top, you end with discussions that people attack and defend central points and use supportive evidence to prove their ideas. Think of the top as “discussion nirvana.”

By no means do we expect the average poster to be an expert debater. We do expect you to be able to have a discussion without devolving into argumentative and destructive behaviors. If you are unable to even post at the level of “contradiction” you need to seriously reevaluate what your post contains and type it all over again.

Now, there is a section in there that is going to upset some people: “Responding to Tone.” Yup, that is a no no. Don’t do it, it doesn’t do you any good. If you don’t like the way a person is saying something, PM them in a short, polite way that expresses your desire for them to reel in their mannerisms. Talking about how a person is talking is next to not talking at all. It is worthless and ends in flame, name calling, and discussions about a person’s worthiness or expertise.

If you can remember two things you can stay in that top half of the pyramid. Ignore who the poster is; discus the content of the post. Ignore the way the content is stated; discuss the content itself. Congratulations! A real discussion! We are on our way to enlightenment.

Moderators often talk about people “being constructive” when they post. The easiest way to ensure you are being constructive is to stay in that top half of the discussion pyramid. Avoid becoming emotionally invested in a post. Leave a post for a whole day before responding if you have to. This is the advantage of a forum environment. We do not have to respond immediately so there is no excuse for responding in a heated or negative manner.