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Alleji

Member Since 19 Aug 2009
Offline Last Active Jul 13 2014 06:04 PM

Topics I've Started

Arathi Basin, Alliance Battles and GW2

14 February 2013 - 12:58 PM

Little bit of context: for the past 8 years I've considered GW1's pre-Nightfall PvP to be the best PvP among MMOs, no contest. In particular I think GW1's Alliance Battles were the best casual hot-join no-commitment PvP on the market.

Now, I've spent a few evenings in the past two weeks playing Arathi Basin (the other AB) on a private WoW server with instant lvl 60 characters and basic blue gear. I'm having a blast.

I didn't plan on coming back here or posting anything until a thought struck me out of nowhere last night:

"This is basically GW. You get an instant max level character, you get all the gear*, and you insta-join battlegrounds with random players to play a game of control-five-points. Why is this so fun and GW2 isn't?"

I'm not going to go into a long explanation here because I don't have one. This is a genuine question. I'm sure flames are incoming, but I'm also sure there are a lot of people here who share my view on GW2's PvP: I really, really, really wanted to like it. It was the sequel to the best PvP game ever. It was going to be amazing. But then... it just sucked. Why? What's the key difference that makes it tick?

(If you're not familiar with WoW or Arathi Basin, it's basically GW2's PvP fighting for 5 control points instead of 3, with a larger map, and without any special conditions such as the trebuchet or guild lord)

*there is gear progression, but it's minimal. Difference between your starter gear and high-end pvp gear is not gamebreaking. Theoretically, people can show up in highest-tier raid epics and 2-shot everyone, but they're either non-existent or rare enough to not bother you. Obviously, this isn't acceptable for a competitive game, but I'm talking casual PvP here.

A seven-step guide to fix GW2's PvE

13 December 2012 - 05:37 PM

Before fixing anything, let's quickly identify the core problems with GW2's PvE today. And by "PvE", I mean only the open-world PvE here, not personal story or dungeons.

So, the problems:
- The world is dead. Other than cursed shore, the dragons, and lion's arch, it's largely empty.
- "Dynamic" events are hardly dynamic, as we were led to believe.
- The reward structure is really, really bad. This is actually the main reason for the first problem.

...aaand now how to fix all this, starting with the pre-requisites and moving on to more complex changes:

1. Better event scaling. Currently events don't scale well for large number of players (10+). You just get more mobs in pre-set spawn points that get aoed down just as easily. Anyone who's spent 30 minutes in Cursed Shore knows this. Some improvements were made in this regard compared to a few months ago, but it's very little. Events with more players around need to spawn veterans and champions and add additional spawn points, not just additional mobs. Basically, things that are not negated by AoE.

2. Iterative difficulty scaling for events. Most events never fail. Why not? Because they're too easy. Anet needs to add difficulty scaling that's not dependent on number of players, but based on the number of times the event was successfully completed previously (on top of number-of-players scaling in #1, not instead). Every event stats at difficulty 0 after a server reset. Each time it's completed successfully, the difficulty goes up by 1 point. 1 point of difficulty translates into 1 additional mob per wave, +3% mob health and damage, etc.

So instead of facerolling Shelter's Gate Camp for loot every 10 minutes, one day you might come there and get zerged by veteran spiders. Woah, what happened? Well, see, the last defense barely succeeded and turned the difficulty from 7 to 8. And they had more people than you did, so tough luck. But now that the event failed, the difficulty scale goes down by -3, so next time the event will be at difficulty 5. This system will calibrate itself to the average number of players in an area and add a huge amount of variety to the same events, while the +1/-3 system still ensures it succeeds most of the time. (The scale is hidden, so people don't intentionally avoid scaled-up events.)

3. More events. More, more, more. There are a handful of basic event "templates" in the game and 95% of all events fit in these: defend a point, assault a point, escort an npc, kill a boss, kill mobs until the bar gets to 0 (or 100%). I honestly don't see why anet isn't minting these like crazy. I highly doubt they take a lot of time to make, given that you already have all the components... just need to put the pieces together in a slightly different configuration in a different area. BAM, new event. Reduce the frequency of each individual event to keep the number of concurrent events the same, but increase the variety. I'm not asking here for a brand-new zone with brand-new armored crabs and a ton of scripting to be used one time and then abandoned. This would probably take far less work.

4. Balancing rewards. The base reward for completing an event is pitiful. 1.5 silver, some experience that you don't need at 80, and a bit of karma that's grossly outweighed by the daily jug. (The daily jug was a good idea, but it's just... difficult to outperform it. That's a different subject.) The bulk of the reward comes from the drops and drops from a single champion are much worse than from aoeing waves of mobs for 4 minutes. Most of the time the champion takes more effort too!

The second problem is the disparity between zones. Events in Orr are well-known (so everyone does the easy ones), highly populated and give max rewards for level 80. Events in every other zone are the complete opposite. To balance this:

- Normalize the silver/exp/karma rewards for lvl 80s throughout the world. Seriously, it's a tiny amount of money anyway and getting 1.5s or 0.9s won't really impact anything. All it does is make lower-level events look bad.
- Improve drops from champions. Duh. To avoid causing inflation, do not flat-out make them drop 15 silver, but simply add a chance for each champion to drop zone-specific items. Each zones or a group of zones could have things like unique armor sets and unique weapon skins. There are zone-unique weapon skins in the game currently, such as "Steam" weapons in Charr areas, but they're easily obtainable and thus can't serve as an incentive to go there.
- Also add tokens to champions. For X tokens from champions in Charr lands, you can buy a rare armor skin (that also drops only in this areas), but weapons can only be gotten as a drop. Something like that.

5. Worldwide and zone-wide event notifications. Another very simple addition, but once you've really made events dynamic (points #1 and #2), added more of them (#3), and gave the players a reason to go there (#4), tell people about them! Display all events happening in the zone on the map, with an option to toggle it off, and display MAJOR events happening in other zones on the world map, like Orr temple assaults, dragons, swamp monster in Queensdale, etc. People will see events and flock to them instead of wandering about empty zones alone or farming events in Cursed Shore as a zerg.

Also, display this next point in the corner of the screen (under your personal story) at all times:

6. Daily zones. Now we're getting into more ambitious things. It's time to really create a dynamic world. Each day 1 or 2 zones could become event hubs. Balefire means business today and made a pact with the ogres to attack Ebonhawke! The entire area turns into a warzone. You know, the Charr are really attacking. Basically, turn the area into Cursed Shore + difficulty scaling (#2).

Hearts are disabled (Farmer Joe doesn't really care about shooing away the gryphons from this cabbage when THE CHARR ARE ATTACKING). All regular events that fit the war theme are enabled with a majorly increased frequency (remember, we reduced it in #3 and increased the total number of events). There are additional events active: every outpost gets assaulted on a regular basis and after a successful defense, there are events to march out and take down a champ or recapture a lost outpost. Again, this is all just copy/paste stuff (#3). Optimize the templates and then make more events!

As a bonus, drops of zone-specific rewards are doubled for the day when that area is a warzone.

As a second bonus, if a critical number of events is failed during the day (this could be a rather high threshold), the zone is under Flame Legion's control for next 1-3 days, every waypoint is disabled, you still can't do hearts in it (Farmer Joe is dead, his head is on a spike, and so are the cabbage-loving gryphons), and after these 3 days, the map becomes a warzone for the day again. Same events are running with the aim of recapturing it. This time it can't fail.

7. Live GMs. All of the above would do a good job of making the world appear dynamic, as it was advertised in the beginning, but dedicated game-masters controlling the world would make it REALLY dynamic. Provided there's a good framework for creating events (#3), anet could expand it to create events out of pre-set pieces on the fly. Starcraft's map editor did it in 1999 by allowing you to create custom missions using building blocks already provided with the game, why can't we do it on a live server in 2013? This outpost is getting attacked by X waves, each one consisting of Y mobs for Z minutes. Oh and there's a dragon at the end, which I'm going to personally control and target people with it. Go!

A GM per server or even 1 GM per few servers could further spice up the "daily areas" and add an occasional special event to other places in the world. And once again, I don't mean "occasional" and "special" a la brand-new invisible precursor-dropping crabs that take months of development for one night of lag. No, "special", as in, there will be a unique event somewhere a few times per day that's not part of the game's default package. You know, something new.

-------------

Well, that's pretty much it. A game like this would almost certainly keep me playing for years, paying a sub fee, and buying all the expansions. (Provided those expansions also expanded the above model).

After playing GW2, I decided I'd prefer a sub fee over any cash shop

29 November 2012 - 07:16 PM

To preface this, I'm not trying to say "QQ I'm quitting". GW2 is still fun.

Now, on to the conspiracy theory. If you don't feel like reading a wall of text, there's a tl;dr at the bottom.

GW2 is centered around its cash shop, which is not unreasonable, because Anet wants to make money and the cash shop is going to be a significant (if not primary?) source of that. The other one being box sales. Compared to a traditional sell-the-box-and-done games, Anet is committing to keeping up the servers for an indefinite period of time and putting out monthly content updates for free (as opposed to paid DLCs in most other games). So naturally, they'd be interested in players using the cash shop.

Prior to GW2's release I wouldn't bat an eyelash at that. Yeah, sure, if they want to go with a cash shop instead of sub, that's cool. It's cosmetic-only stuff, right? No problem there.

But then I realized just how deeply the presence of the cash shop influences the game design. I'm going to use WoW as a counterpoint here, but people familiar with multiple sub MMOs will find them largely interchangeable.

The basic idea is: Anet wants everyone to stay poor. Because if you don't have enough gold, you can always go to the cash shop and get more. They want you to get more. How did they change the game design to facilitate this?

- Low-scaling rewards. A lvl 10 completing an event will earn about 0.5 silver. A lvl 80 gets 1.5 silver. Compare to a lvl 10 quest in WoW rewarding 3.5 silver and lvl 60 in vanilla about 50 silver (it varied and I can't remember exactly - been a long time). A maxed character in GW2 earns 3x more for doing basic activities than a low lvl character, whereas a maxed character in WoW made 15x more.

- High taxes everywhere. To continue the above example, a waypoint to a nearby place at lvl 10 costs 10 copper. A waypoint at lvl 80 costs 1.5 silver. In other words, a 15x increase, when rewards increase only 1.5x. WoW doesn't have waypoints, but flight paths don't scale with level at all, just with distance (and ones in expansion areas are more expensive, but we're talking no expansions here). Trading post tax is also quite high at 15%, compared to WoW's 5% tax off the profits + variable listing fee, which almost never came close to 10%.

-Lack of a trading function. This very heavily compounds the trading post tax by taking away an option of bypassing it. People would be trading bulk amounts of materials and expensive items such as precursor between themselves, which is less gold taken out of the economy, which is bad for the cash shop.

- Dye drops. There's a thread right now where people are talking about the recently reduced dye drops. Unidentified dyes are fun to open and I can see why people are upset. I'm also upset, but I'll say that it makes sense for dyes to be more rare that they even are currently. Why? Cash shop. Why would anyone buy dyes from cash shop if they're 3 silver on the TP? Anet saw that and patched it up. A sound decision all around, but unfortunately, the simple existence of dyes in the cash shop takes away a tiny bit of fun from the game here: finding and identifying dyes.

- RNG everywhere. I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation here, because I think everyone knows this one. Suffice to say that RNG instead of guaranteed whatever is good for anet because gambling in any form takes the gold out of the economy.

- Inflating prices on the already-expensive crafting components. I first saw this as a simply stupid design decision, but it's actually quite intelligent, if you only look at the bigger picture. Why use piles of t6 crafting materials and ectos to craft the new ascended gear? Well, because those materials are already in demand for creating legendaries! Kill two birds with one stone: create a new gold sink and make the old one bigger by inflating some of the crucial ingredients. Meanwhile, we get a rich orichalcum vein which significantly devalues a semi-rare material that's not really a limiting factor anywhere.

- This is a bit of an anecdotal evidence, but I think ecto salvages have been stealth-nerfed in November's update. Whereas I was not getting ectos from about 20% of the salvages before, now I'm failing to salvage them from over 30% of rares. (I've actually recorded some stats, but the sample size only around 100 rares and it's in no way conclusive because there may be other factors involved, such as the type of item).
EDIT: Apparently lots of people on official forums thought so too, but it's been statistically proved wrong since. I'm still getting terrible results from salvaging rares.

- Worldwide economy instead of server economies. This serves to largely eliminate a "middle class" : a casual trader or a crafter, who would spend some of his time at the trading post for a profit that's well above average, but not sky-high to the point where he can pay his rent by selling gold. In a worldwide economy, only the most dedicated market players can compete and there's no room for crafting because there's 5000 instead of 50 crafters online at any given time willing to undercut each other. As a result, 0.1% of players (Occupy Lion's Arch!) may become absurdly rich and never need to use the gem store in their life, but the 4.9% that would've been moderately rich are instead locked out of the trading game and kept at a controlled level of income that anyone can get from farming Orr or dungeons or whatever. The remaining 95% are unaffected.

- Lastly, the very existence of the cash-to-gold conversion is bugging me. 300g for a Dusk is a huge amount of gold to me. I have about 100g at the moment and I play quite a bit. Probably about 2 hours a weekday on average and much more on a weekend. So it would take me hundreds of hours to get a legendary, which is working as intended. But, I could put down roughly what I make it 2 days at work and buy that Dusk. (Slightly more if you make minimum wage, but for anyone with a job, with the only exception being that 0.1% professional in-game trader, RL-income is higher than game-income.)

I'm not about to do that, because it feels like cheating and I don't think I'd get much satisfaction out of buying my legendary with cash, but the idea that you can do that certainly diminishes the game as a whole for me. Moreover, there are people doing it and they're increasing the cost for everyone else by taking the gold out of the economy.



TL;DR: The cash shop in GW, although not directly selling power, influences the game in a lot of ways. The existence of the cash shop and gold-to-gem exchange makes it Anet's prerogative to keep players poor so they are tempted to buy stuff or gold with cash.

- Rewards don't scale well between low and max lvl characters
- There are high taxes built into the game in form of AH fees, WP fees, and lack of trading function.
- Drop rates get normalized to be in line with cash shop items, not with "fun". Dye nerf is an example of this. Requiring a ton of t6 mats and ectos to craft the new stuff and deter people from their legendaries is another.
- Global market as opposed to a per-server economy eliminates a "middle class", downgrading them to the baseline income/
- Ability to buy the most desired items in the game with cash via gold-to-gem, which just shouldn't be there.

I wish Anet just charged 15$/month for this game and never had this cash shop.

New bots

12 November 2012 - 09:27 PM

So these are the first ones I've seen since the wave of bans last week (was it last week?):

<NOPE>

Four guardians underwater in Mount Maelstrom. I wonder if they're farming underwater in a less-popular area to stay out of sight or because that's actually a good farming spot? (Scales are pretty expensive)

I also don't think I've seen guardian bots before.

Revive is too "sticky"

29 October 2012 - 01:37 PM

Is it just me or did at some point during the last two weeks or so the "revive" action has become way too sticky?

Way too often I'm spamming the loot key over a pile of corpses and end up reviving some useless NPC. Alright, no big deal, I'll just hit a skill or a dodge to get out... but recently that stopped working half the time. Your character will be stuck performing the revive action for several seconds before anything decides to work and snap you out of it.

Even worse when this happens in combat and you get killed -_-

(inb4 "don't loot in combat derp derp)