Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Karma Farms

I was going to make this first post-launch blog be the standard "I'm playing Guild Wars 2 and loving it!" blog, but quite frankly, if you're following me in in the most slightest of ways, you already know this.  From screenshots, to dance movies, to previous blogs from the beta, you already know that I think this game is the real deal, and so far, I have no reason to think I won't be staying for quite a long time.

So instead I thought I might make this a relatively shot blog, and make it a PSA of sorts.  One thing you learn pretty quickly as a developer (and as a player) is that in any game where you persistent progression is a part of your game play, players are incredibly good at finding the most ruthlessly efficient means to achieve that progression.  By now, you've already heard about the player that reached level 80 (the game's max level) a mere 32 hours after the game launched.  Well good on 'im.  But not everyone has the luxury of an entire guild feeding you crafting materials to catapult your way into the upper levels, so some players are looking for any edge they can get - including exploits - to easy-mode their way through the game.

And right now, the most egregious of these exploits I've seen so far are the Karma farms.  What's a Karma Farm?  Well from the ones I've seen so far, it's characterized by two things.  First, a dynamic event that repeats with too great of a frequency and at too great of a regularity - or is easily triggered by a player.  Second, the dynamic event includes hordes of mobs that are funneled through a narrowly defined area.  The result?  Players park their characters with their auto-attack enabled and firing at the choke hole.  The event fires, the waves of mobs are exterminated, players rake in money, experience, and karma.  Rinse and repeat. Indefinitely.

There are two karma farms I've come across already.  The first was at the Ulta Metamagicals outpost in Brisbane Highlands.  Players would park themselves in the tiny room with the Asura gate, pointing their auto-attacks at the gate.  You could trigger the event repeatedly, and players would do so, and rake in the experience.  I use the past tense to describe this one because as of this morning, when I went by to check on the gate, no one was there, and the NPC that triggers the event was no longer present.  I'm hopeful this means this one received enough notoriety that ArenaNet has already found and fixed it.

The second I discovered is in Kessex Hills, and as of last night, was still very much active.  This one was at the bridge west of Greyhoof Meadows, where the centaurs are funneled through the gap at the bridge.  There was a pretty big patch overnight, and we have no idea of what all went into the patch, so they might have fixed it.  At least a few people this morning hadn't got the word if they had, as there were already some afk'ers parked with their auto-attacks on.

I bring these to your attention because I want them stopped.  And the best way for them to be stopped is for people to report them.  So I describe exactly where these farms are located because I am hopeful that you will go to these locations, and while standing there, submit a support ticket.  To do so, bring up the Game Menu by hitting escape, choose Support, and then click the little bug tab.  Your location is recorded along with the ticket when it is submitted, which is why it's important to be standing at the location of the Karma farm when you submit.  And yes, I'm aware that some of you might be tempted.

It's quite likely there are plenty more of these in the game, so keep an eye out for them.  If you ever come across a crowd of people standing around firing at nothing at all, it's quite likely you've just come across another Karma Farm.  Wait around, and see if indeed, a dynamic event doesn't fire shortly, and wave upon wave isn't mowed down.  When you see one though - do the right thing.  Participate in the event.  Submit a ticket.   And move on.  These things break the game, and in the end, ultimately do far more harm than good.

Apologies if heavy-handed PSA's aren't your thing.  But I really do love this game, and as a developer, I hate seeing game-breaking exploits like these.  I'm hoping if you are enjoying the game as much as I am, you'll understand!

Until I take another blog break in a week or so, you can find me in Tyria!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Last Guild Wars Post?

The first time I really got a chance to play Guild Wars 2 was that first Beta Weekend Event, back in April.  I was of course aware of the game, had seen some screenies and a little bit of footage, but by far and large had been postponing really digging into it.  It was that weekend event that caught me, hook line and sinker, on the game.  And after the weekend was over, I decided I would boot up Guild Wars 1 again, and renew my effort to get at least a few points in my Hall of Monuments.  I think at the time I had like three - the ones you get for owning all of the expansions.

But I gotta tell you.. it was hard!  I had already become so used to so many of the features in Guild Wars 2, coming back was.. well to be honest it really did feel a bit like stepping back in time.  Being unable to jump (again), the loneliness of the instanced explorable areas, the auto-attacking & movement, the arcane armor crafting mechanics, the complete lack of modern ameneties like mail and auction houses - all of it bespeaks of a game designed seven years ago.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Meet Kerelyn Redfeather

So after completing The War in Kryta last week, I took a few days off from Guild Wars, and spent some time thinking about what I was going to do next.  But starting something new just didn't really appeal to me, and my mind kept wandering back to my Hall of Monuments.  (This is a clear sign of addiction, btw.)  The Oppressor Weapon you get from finishing WoK nets you two more Hall of Monument points, which was a pleasant surprise and a big motivator for pushing through that last tough mission.  Honestly, I never expected to have even one weapon on my Valor Monument, so this was a nice accomplishment.

Of course though.. that left me at an odd 17 points.  No one wants to be at 17 points.. halfway between the solid milestones of 15 and 20, right?  If I added a single hero statue, my Fellowship statue count would be at 10, and that would get me another point.  Well, I could run Remains of Sahlahja a few more times - all I needed was one piece of Ancient Armor Remnant - that couldn't be that hard right?  Wrong.  After running it another six times, three different times with three different characters, I still didn't have a single drop.  So I stopped doing that in frustration. But as luck would have it, at that very moment, a fellow was selling Cloth of the Brotherhood in Kamadan for 5k a piece.  You can use those to upgrade your Eye of the North heroes if you have finished Eye of the North (or at least have access to the Central Transfer Chamber) - which I have!   So I bought four of those, outfitted for of my heroes, and now I have 18 points.  But now what!  With 18 points, I needed just 2 more to get to a nice, even number again, and satisfaction.

After spending way too much time looking at each of the categories, and evaluating what would produce the best results for the least amount of effort - or at least in the most satisfying way - I decided that the Honor Monument would be my best bet.  I currently have two statues - one each for finishing the campaigns of Nightfall and Factions.  If I could get three more statues, I would get a full three points for having a full display, which is five statues.  If I just completed the Prophecies campaign, I would get one statue - Hero of Tyria.  And as I already had most of the missions in Nightfall completed with a Masters score, if I went back and picked up the few that I had missed, I could get another title - Eternal Protector of Elona for a second statue.  But to get that third statue.. I would have to do all the missions in the Prophecies Campaign, and get their bonus accomplishments.  The thing is, the first six of those missions require a prophecies character.  That's right, I would have to create a new character from scratch, in the prophecies campaign, and start working with her.  And this would be a huge disadvantage to finishing it quickly, as I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the hundreds of hours I've put into Kaytte, and more importantly, her extremely well outfitted heroes.  In fact, I'd have no heroes at all!  The only thing I could count on would be having enough money to properly outfit her with armors and weapons as she leveled up, and to buy the skills I've unlocked with other characters.  It was a tough decision.  I spent a solid ten minutes or so considering whether or not it would be worth it.

Of course, you already know what I did.  Meet Kerelyn Redfeather, young ranger from Ascalon, whom was there the day the Charr broke the sky and rained fire and brimstone down upon the country.  So far, things have gone pretty well.  Don't worry, I won't be burdening you with a picture-by-picture account of my journeys.  But I have had a better time of it than I thought I would.  My memories of the Prophecies campaign are mostly negative, formed from several aborted attempts over the years that never saw any character get any further than post-seared Ascalon.  But with strict focus and attention to walkthroughs, I've already accomplished more this weekend than I ever did in any of my previous attempts.  Kerelyn is a bit of an over-achiever, and at level 12, she has already completed all of Old  Ascalon, led the refugees through the Shiverpeaks, through the undead riddled Gates of Kryta, and seen them safely to Lion's Arch.  In game terms, I've completed 7 of the 25 missions that make up the Prophecies campaign.

Now that I'm in Lion's Arch, I feel I might be a bit underleveled (ya think?), so I'm going to do some pickup missions here and there to level up a bit, before continuing with the campaign.  The amazing thing I think is, how possible it is to really make progress in these campaigns when you have a goal and focus.  In pretty much every attempt I'd tried before, I always end up floundering, buried in a miasma of secondary quests, losing sight of the goal, before getting bored and wandering away to something else bright and shiny.  In this attempt, I've done pretty much zero side-quests. I check the wiki before every mission, and if it doesn't have the word Primary next to it, it's a safe bet I skip it.  And a few times along the way, I have done some extra things, just to level up a bit.  But the important thing is - the different thing is - this time I'm keeping my eye firmly on the ball.

Once I get to level 18 or 20, I'll jump over to Eye of the North, and do just enough of that content to get Ogden, Vekk, Jora, and Gwen in my party.  With those four heroes, I should be able to do the Lion's Arch quest to travel to Elona, and do the first mission there, which will add Koss, Duncan, Talkora, and Melonni. Though that isn't even half of the heroes Kaytte has at her disposal, I'm hopeful that mix will give me enough to have an easier time of it as I progress through Prophecies.

And that's what I was up to this past weekend!  Hope you are having fun in whatever game you're currently playing, and of course, I'll see you in Guild Wars 2 in 4 weeks!

Final Note - It turns out I actually could take a non prophecies character all the way back to post-seared Ascalon, and do those first, initial six missions.  The wiki and documentation, such as it is, is not very clear on this.  Regardless, it's too late now!  Committed we are!  Proceed we shall!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Long Time Ago..

So this is going to be (for me) a pretty short piece.  To say that the announcement that Star Wars - The Old Republic is going to a free-to-play tiered pricing business model this fall has put the MMO blogosphere into overdrive would be, I think, an understatement.   I wasn't going to post anything at all on the matter - because everyone seems to pretty much already have their minds made up about the matter.  But after reading comment after comment and more than a few full blown blogs on the matter, I felt compelled to repeat a truth that often seems to be overlooked when it comes to MMO's.  A truth that has to repeated just about every time another large scale subscription based MMO goes free to play.  Here is that truth.

Pretty much every play mechanic in every MMO works better when there are more people.

That is the truth.  Groups form faster, Heroics can be completed, PvP scenarios pop faster, the economy works better, trades can complete, and a whole host of other systems all function better when there are more people playing the game.

So when people make statements like "well if the game wasn't fun for you then its just not going to be fun period regardless of whether or not it's free to play or not", well, by far and large, that just isn't true.  Because, as it turns out, most of the carefully crafted mechanics the designers have put in the game to make it fun, are quite likely not working as they were designed if there are not enough people to use them.  So it's actually quite possible - even probable, that the reason you weren't having any fun in the game is directly related to there not being enough people around playing the game.

Now, don't get me wrong, there may be certain  mechanics that have absolutely nothing to do with player population that you hate, and sure enough, adding all the people in the world isn't going to make that better. If you don't like the way boss fights work, well then you're just not going to like the way boss fights work.  But if, say for instance what you hated was you could never find enough people to get into the flashpoint to even fight the boss, or if say for instance you felt like you were flying around on a deserted planet, because you essentially were, then this game is only going to improve for you.

Reducing the entry barrier to a game to nothing brings people into a game.  Lots of people.  People that quite likely might not play otherwise.  And having more people in the game is going to be more fun for everyone.

This is what I know.  I know Star Wars - The Old Republic was losing subscribers at an astronomical rate. I know that for me personally, the reason I stopped playing was that I felt like I was driving around deserted zones.  I personally am thrilled that the people responsible for the game are taking steps that will hopefully revitalize the player population and bring new people to the game.

I don't know if this will return the game to profitability or not.  What I do know is that I'm looking forward to returning to the game and playing it the way that it was at launch - teeming with people.