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Games. Tech. Musings.

Games offline and online. Technology. Random stuff.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Guild Wars: Bring Back The Rifts is Guild of the Week

[Rift] is Guild of the Week.

Well worth checking out and if you haven't seen their build working on Observer Mode, keep a look out. They have a very unusual GvG build that revolves around a ton of front-loaded damage followed by minions. It's pretty hilarious to watch and typically results in a lot of explosions followed by hordes of undead minions storming into the opposing Guild Hall. I haven't seen any other GvG builds recently that managed to make good use of the Necromancer minions and the Elementalist Fire line.

How to write like a wanker

Sage advice indeed. My prose is moderately terrible but hopefully I'm managing to stay out of the OMG-LOL-ellipsis-LiveJournalWorld. Unfortunately, most writing online makes some of these mistakes - which is partly why reading effectively unmoderated game forums can be fairly painful at times.

The goggles. They do nothing.


Guild Wars: Eternum Pariah GvG spike videos

Just found this selection of videos from Eternum Pariah over at the Guild Hall. Unlike most guild vs. guild videos, these ones include the team chat on Ventrilo which gives you a much better idea of what it's like to actually play GvG.

All the videos I've watched so far have been from the perspective of an Infuse monk with Vampiric Gaze for spike assistance. It's pretty interesting for me because I've played several monk roles but not the Infuse monk yet.

An Infuse monk's job is usually to try to save characters from opposing damage spikes. Infuse Health on its own is not normally enough to save someone against a well-executed spike but if your offense and disruption manages to screw their spike up a little bit, it will save your guy from their post-spike follow up.

Here's the build that the guy was running:
Healing Touch
Orison of Healing
Mend Ailment
Infuse Health
Protective Spirit
Vampiric Gaze
Offering of Blood
Rebirth / Aegis

Guild Wars: Character slots in Factions

Gaile Gray confirmed the number of character slots that will be available in Factions.

2 extra slots for a total of 6 if you have both GW: Prophecies (the original Guild Wars) and GW: Factions. If you're crazy theoretically you could keep the accounts separate and have 8 character slots. However, there's apparently 25+ new skills for each existing profession in Factions so not being able to use those on your existing characters, not to mention PvP characters, would be a terrible idea.

The way the skill situation will work is that there'll be a group of core skills that are available (more or less) in each standalone expansion. Each standalone then grants extra "optional" skills available to characters.

Guild Wars: Factions backstage passes

They're giving out backstage passes to a Factions press event on March 9th to 12 lucky Seattleites. I threw my hat in the ring - maybe I'll get lucky, who knows.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Guild Wars: More Factions details revealed

From an interview in Munich, Germany with Jeff Strain (translated from the original):
In the final version it will be possible to rejoin one's party after being disconnected from the server. Losses in PvP or in PvE-Missions due to disconnects will thus probably be a thing of the past.
In context, this means it's going to be an upsell for GW: Factions.
More stuff:
Players will be able to give tactical orders to their henchmen.

Part of these are the big alliance battles, PvP fights in which teams of 12 players each meet, whereas before only 8 players per team were possible. They fight in order to conquer territories.

Furthermore, there are new competitive Missions that are mainly roleplaying missions, but there are teams fighting each other on both sides. But instead of fighting in PvP, they for example struggle for resources and try reaching various strategical goals. This brings some RTS elements into play so to say.

Then there are the challenge-missions, which are roleplaying missions as well. After the mission the performance of the player and his group is evaluated. One task for example could be defending a fortress against stronger and stronger waves of enemies. Or a hostage rescue situation, where your rating is based on how many of them have been saved. Also, there will be rankings in the game, showing daily and all-time highscores. The higher the result, the more faction-points you receive.

Nice! Admittedly, I was going to get Factions anyway so from my point of view this is all icing on the cake.

I believe the translation credit for this goes to Alter over at the Guild Hall.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Guild Wars: Factions Championship Series announced

Here's the official announcement. 3 different mini-seasons followed by the 100k prize finals in August. The first mini-season starts March 7.

Guild Wars: PvP Tactics

Interesting post over at GWGuru by d3kst3r on PvP tactics.

Update: some corrections by JR-.

If you watch some of the good teams in Observer Mode, you might see a tactic mentioned later on in the thread. Warriors hiding out with their NPCs and team in a turtle formation will usually have a wand as their secondary weapon and it'll be out spamming the nearest opponents. Wand hits build adrenaline so as soon as they come out of the turtle they'll be able to unleash all their adrenal skills on the first called target.

Magic the Gathering: Online 3.0, part 2

Press release and screenshots. I previously wrote about Gamespy's vapid coverage of 3.0.

If I didn't have a pernicious GW addiction I might be tempted to play a league again (the cheapest per hour format) but right now the lure of guild vs. guild is just too strong.

Guild Wars: 4v4 GvG rumour

From this Frog Chat today:
The Frog would like to witness 4v4 GvG, indeed!
A most delightful idea, this is!
Here's hoping. I'm guessing that the Frog wouldn't put it in such enthusiastic terms unless it was in the works.

There was also a mention of a 1v1 scrimmage area for learning purposes, which would be kinda cool.

In case you don't know what Frog Chat is, it's a quirky way that ArenaNet does Q&A. Gaile Gray is the main community rep but an unnamed ArenaNet staffer fills the role of The Frog, an invisible, eccentric dev insider that occasionally shows up in Lions Arch. Always talks in the third person.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

WoW: The Contraceptive

Excellent parody commercial. In a similar vein, I'm fond of Tripod's Geek Love Song.

Guild Wars: Flash elementalist in 8v8

I guested for a couple of games for Spirits of War [SoW] last night. Lots of fun. Both the teams we played against had such low rankings that we thought they must be smurfs, but no, they were just pretty terrible.

In case you're not familiar with the smurf phenomenon, this is where you form a new team of experienced players specifically to distort your ranking. Players doing this are said to be "smurfing". There's a number of reasons for doing this but it's usually either so that you can play against people who are much worse than you (and consequently win a lot) or experiment with some untested strategy where you don't want to ruin your "actual" rank.

Even with a lack of challenge - in one match half our team stripped off all their armour and fought naked just because they could - it's a reminder of just how much fun the guild vs. guild format really is. The only real drawback is time - with 8 players to a team, the overhead in getting a session going is considerable. You invariably end up having to wait for a player or two to create their PvP character from scratch, since you can't edit characters and instead must delete and re-create them. Hopefully at some point ArenaNet will add something to help fix the character-creation issue (e.g. stored "templates" for PvP characters).

And without further ado, let's talk about the character I was playing since it's a well-known archetype and I'm not giving away any secrets.

Flash bot
12 + 3 + 1 Air
10 Healing (some people prefer to have this at 11)
9 + 1 Energy Storage
Blinding Flash
Lightning Strike
Lightning Orb
Heal Party
Ether Prodigy
Resurrection Signet

The X and Y are interchangeable depending on exactly what you're doing. Popular picks are Enervating Charge, Gale, Holy Veil and Draw Conditions. I've also seen Windborne Speed since sometimes this character is used as a flagrunner mostly because Heal Party is radar range. Flagrunners also sometimes replace Ether Prodigy with Mind Shock.

This character looks at first glance like it's filling an offensive role but it's really mostly defensive. Your primary task is to cast Heal Party whenever 4 or more people in the group could use it and to keep opposing Warriors in the midline or backline of your party blinded. Enervating Charge is there for Weakness rather than damage. You should keep Orb to throw in for a spike on a called target and use Strike to soften up other targets.

Ether Prodigy provides awesome energy regeneration and is currently the energy management skill of choice for elementalists. It goes without saying that you should bring a Staff of Enchanting on any character using Prodigy.

It's a little fiddly to play just because you have to be positionally aware of where the opposing Warriors are, watch your team's health, keep track of where spike targets are so you're in line-of-sight and range for Orbs and make sure that you're not going to take too much damage from the "whiplash" damage at the end of Prodigy. Still, a great utility character with a bit of assisting killing power.

I've seen 4 different primary elementalists in GvG right now:
  • Flash bot (above), by far the most common and the only one I've seen in the top guild builds except for [Rift].
  • Warder, spec in Earth for Ward against Foes and Ward against Melee. Usually carries Obsidian Flame as a spike skill. This is uncommon and usually it seems that people run Wards on a secondary elementalist. Here's an example of the primary ele build.
  • Water snarer. Not very popular because the Henge of Denravi Helm (which reduces hex durations to 50%) is an effective counter right now. The Helm will inevitably be nerfed and then maybe we'll see a bit more of this guy. Here's an example (under the name "Ice Ice Baby").
  • Glyph of Renewal fire nuker. I've only seen this in the strange [Rift] minion build which a fair number of guilds have copied. It uses Energizing Wind to reduce its horrendous energy costs. It's all about doing a ton of AoE damage quickly with spells like Rodgort's Invocation and Searing Heat then running out of steam.

Just remember, being an elementalist normally isn't about nuking. Choose your targets wisely.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Guild Wars: Intro Screensaver

Xenrath over at GWGuru has a screensaver of the oh-so-sexy GW: Factions intro screen. Looks pretty.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Guild Wars: Championships builds

Things will undoubtedly change with the upcoming skill rebalancing, but it's still interesting to look at the team/character builds the top guilds were using in the semis and finals. Here's a build summary from Sausaletus Rex over at Team-iQ.

Update: Delillo over at GWGuru has a full list of the skills in EvIL's championship-winning build.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Guild Wars: World Championships finals

iQ lost to EvIL in the semis which brings us to an all-Korean, EvIL vs WM final. Here's Sausaletus Rex's writeup of the iQ match:
Match 1: Frowntown, capital of Painslyvania.

Match 2: Less in Frowntown more towards Angstville.


The final matches were well played but ultimately EvIL just outplayed WM and brought home the trophy. If you watch them on Observer Mode, don't miss [EvIL] Last of Master's heroic defense vs. a Warrior and Mesmer near the end of the game, it was great.

Interestingly, EvIL was running 2 Mesmers both with Arcane Thievery to deny the opposing Warriors Gale. One was a Me/E and I'm told he even had enough points in Air to use the Gale although I didn't see it myself.

I'm not enough of an expert to post an informed writeup of the matches. I'll update if I find someone who is.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Guild Wars: Minion Love

Click the image for the "detailed" pic.

Shamelessly swiped from Dispari Scuro's sig over at the Guild Hall. Alright, I thought it was funny. So sue me.

Guild Wars: World Championship

The Championship games are underway in Taipei. The observer mode replays were up in-game last night.

Seemed like the LuM vs. Te matchup was a bit of an upset in favour of LuM - Te was the favourite but an unfortunate build choice in match 3 gave LuM the match. Specifically, Te switched to a fast-cast air spike build (6 Me/E + 2 monk) and it just didn't cut the mustard at all. Update: there's a video of match 3 up on GWVersus as well as a great match writeup by Sausaletus Rex.

I'm rooting for iQ to win it but realistically WM have to be the overall favourites. The grapevine has it that WM are being sponsored through the finals by some company or another who also picked up an enormous amount of ebayed gold so the WM characters can be tricked out in all the fanciest-looking gear.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Guild Wars: Ranger roles and equipment

Best guide to Rangers I've seen yet by JR- over at Team-iQ. For a slightly more newbie-friendly venue, it's also up at GWGuru.

Spend more than 5 minutes on Observer mode and you are practically bound to see something really close to this:
Common Cripshot Flag Runner build:
Expertise: 14 (12+2)
Wilderness Survival: 10 (9+1)
Marksmanship: 9 (8+1)
Illusion Magic: 4

- Troll Unguent (Wilderness Survival)
- Crippling Shot [Elite] (Marksmanship)
- Apply Poison (Wilderness Survival)
- Distracting Shot (Expertise)
- Savage Shot (Marksmanship)
- Storm Chaser (Wilderness Survival)
- Dodge (Expertise)
- Distortion (Illusion Magic)

Tech: Technorati tagging, part 2

The Greasemonkey script I was using for tagging on my tagathon irritated me and I fixed it. Specifically, if I changed my mind about a tag, I'd have to delete the inserted tag html and re-append the new tags. Turns out it was supposed to be able to replace the tag html but a bug was causing that feature to break. I'm also too lazy to add the new lines before the tag section so I fixed that too. In an ideal world I'd have enough energy to make that customizable, I suppose.

Anyway. Here's the fixed script.

Role Playing at Fatherhood

Fabulous essay comparing fatherhood with playing a RPG by Andrew Phelps.
The worst possible thing you can do is stay in any confined area for longer than it holds interest… What you need is a QUEST.
How right he is. I suppose the only problem with the analogy is that would make school the level grind. Hang on a minute...

Guild Wars: Minion Mastering

Did Aurora Glade (+ bonus) with a guildmate that needed it last night, playing my Necro with an aggressive minion master build. The rest of the group was henchmen. We hit the mission at a dead run and just kept going. I was summoning pretty much continuously and the hordes of undead were pretty impressive. We just hit the final hordes of White Mantle with swarms of undead and smashed through to get the bonus instead of running the crystals around. Here's the build I was using:

Death 12 + 3 + 1
Blood 9 + 1
Soul Reaping 9 + 1

Animate Bone Horror
Animate Bone Fiend
Verata's Sacrifice
Blood of the Master
Offering of Blood
Rotting Flesh
Vampiric Gaze
Resurrection Signet
This isn't a solo build. You want to be casting Verata's Sacrifice as much as possible whenever it's up and the damage from the 3 sacrifice skills adds up fast - you need monk backup. Invest in +death speed/recharge items and some sexy boots. The idea here is that sheer offensive power means that you don't need to use the default minion master build where you run Monk secondary for Heal Area. With the extra energy from Offering of Blood on top of Soul Reaping, you should be casting animation spells pretty much the whole time.

Game: Cholo, part 2

I played the Cholo remake that I wrote about earlier. Sadly, in an age where I no longer have infinite patience, the game doesn't have legs. Requires too much random blundering in order to progress - no matter how well you play, systematic exploration of virtually content-free areas is required. Alas.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

British Smoking Ban

They banned smoking in pubs in the UK. I'm very happy about this because I hate cigarette smoke with a passion but I like being able to go out to a pub with friends and/or family.

Tech: Technorati tagging

Given that Blogger doesn't really support categorized blogs and I seem to be posting mostly about Guild Wars right now, I figure it's time to bite the bullet and go on a tagathon. Technorati seems to be the tagging engine of choice these days. Initially I'll try this greasemonkey script to make things a little smoother - we'll see how it works out.

Apologies in advance if I manage to screw up post dates etc for previous entries.

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Guild Wars: Necromancer builds

Interesting thread over at GWOnline about successful Necromancer builds. As you might expect, the quality is a bit variable. I'll post some here with my comments.

Firstly, several builds by tigercan:

Blood Necro (N/???)

Blood: 16 (12+1+3)
Curses: 10 (9+1)
Soul Reaping: 10 (9+1)

1) Shadow Strike
2) Dark Pact
3) Vamp Gaze
4) Offering of Blood {E}
5) Shadow of Fear (sub for enfeebling blood if with a SS nec)
6) Blood Ritual
7) Well of Blood
8) Res Sig (or rebirth if /Mo)

Solid. You can run almost anything in the Shadow of Fear slot but SoF is a reasonable choice. I've played exactly this build in PvE before.
Spiteful Necro (N/Me)

Curses: 16 (12+1+3)
Soul Reaping: 10 (9+1)
Blood: 10 (9+1)

1) Awaken the Blood
2) Arcane Echo
3) Spiteful Spirit {E}
4) Enfeebling Blood or Enfeeble
5) Desecrate Enchantments
6) Mark of Pain
7) Parasitic Bond
8) Res Sig
Looks reasonable. Mark of Pain is the variable slot here - I'd be tempted to throw it out and add something like Rend or Strip Enchantment. Maybe he had a good reason for running MoP but I'm not sure what it is since it won't trigger on Spiteful Spirit damage.
55HP Invinci-Necro (N/Mo)
PvE - credit to Godlike Satan

Curses: 16 (12+1+3)
Protection: 10
Healing: 8
Soul Reaping: 5 (2+3)

1) Prot Spirit
2) Healing Breeze
3) Guardian / Orision of Healing
4) Spiteful Spirit {E}
5) Shadow of Fear
6) Balthazar's Spirit
7) Essence Bond
8) Mending
The idea around these builds is abusing Protective Spirit - if you're using so many runes that your HP is 55, the max damage you can take in 1 hit is 5. This is classically a monk build but necro will work too. Once Prot Spirit is set up, Mending/Breeze and other regen means that you can out-heal almost any damage. Enchantment removal typically wrecks these kinds of build. There's another version of this floating around using Aura of the Lich to keep HP low. I'm not big on this version using Spiteful Spirit and Shadow of Fear because that's not exactly a combo.
Minion Master (N/Mo)
PvE (I use this for Ettin Farming)

Death: 16 (12+1+3)
Soul Reaping: 10 (9+1)
Healing: 9

1) Animate Bone Fiend
2) Animate Bone Horror
3) Blood of the Master
4) Verata's Sacrifice
5) Heal Area
6) Deathly Chill (switch for res sig when partying with others)
7) Deathly Swarm
8) Healing Breeze / Taste of Death
I wouldn't run Taste of Death unless I was using the Animate Bone Minions/Death Nova/Taste combo. If you're going to run a self-heal, Healing Breeze is a better bet.
Dark Bomber (N/???)

Death: 16 (12+1+3)
Blood: 15 (12+3)
Soul Reaping: 4 (3+1)

1) Aura of the Lich {E}
2) Dark Aura
3) Blood Renewal
4) Touch of Agony
5) Dark Pact
6) Consume Corpse
7) Plague Touch/Holy Veil/Contemplation of Purity (condition/hex protection)
8) Res Sig
I've tried these builds in arena and honestly they don't seem that wonderful. Any kind of degen is immensely painful (Conjure Phantasm being a top culprit) and your energy management is horrible. Consume Corpse is great n'all but in 4v4 there's just not enough dying to make it really worthwhile. CoP does provide some hex/condition defense but the trouble is you really need the 2 auras up to function. I always found myself in energy trouble when the auras ran out.

Here's a weak battery build from Muhummad Msabi:
Battery Build
16 Blood Magic
10 Soul Reaping
9 Healing Prayers

Blood Is Power (E)
Blood Ritual
Blood Renewal
Healing Breeze/Heal Area
Life Siphon
Well of Blood
Unholy Feast
Rez Signet
This could use some slimming down. Going healing with BiP isn't terrible due to the large sacrifices you're making. Personally, I don't like using Blood Renewal because the extra 25% sacrifice on that is too much without Aura of the Lich. On top of that, there's no need to run Blood Ritual and BiP, one or the other is much better. Here's my version of what he was trying to do:
16 Blood Magic
10 Soul Reaping
9 Healing Prayers

Blood Is Power (E)
Vampiric Gaze
Shadow Strike
Healing Breeze
Orison of Healing
Life Siphon
Well of Blood
Rez Signet
A +enchantment duration item is good for this. I don't think I'd run Heal Area because sometimes you want to run into your own well.
Here's an interesting one from gyMe:
Minion Master (N/R)

Blood Magic - 5 + 1
Death Magic - 12 + 3
Soul Reaping - 8 + 1
Wilderness Survival - 9

Serpent's Quickness
Veratas Sacrifice
Animate Bone Horror
Animate Bone Fiend
Healing Spring
Blood of the Master
Offering of Blood
Res Signet
Spicy! Not sure how well OoB will work with only 6 in Blood (normally I try to have at least 10 for OoB) but Serpents Quickness with Verata's Sacrifice should be nice.

There aren't any really good PvP builds there. The blood nuker will work but it's not great and as I mentioned I'm not a huge fan of the dark aura builds for PvP. Here's a much nicer PvP warrior hate necro from Silmor over at the Team-iQ boards:
Curses: 12+1+3
Soul Reaping: 6+1
Inspiration Magic: 11

Spiteful Spirit
Parasitic Bond
Desecrate Enchantments
Inspired Hex
Drain Enchantment
Resurrection Signet

See the original post for detailed strategy on how to play that one.

For what it's worth, here's the PvE utility SS necro build I used at the Ring of Fire.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Guild Wars: D'Alessio Arena guide

This one is the beach map in Competitive Arena and Team Arena. As the guide points out, most of the time this map is a slugfest around the central rocks but occasionally you'll do some extended kiting where the extra info might be handy.

Tech: Flashblock

A growing number of websites have been featuring Flash ads that grind my machine to a halt or hang my browser (I'm looking at you, GWOnline). I've been using Flashblock for Firefox for a couple of weeks and voila, problem solved. The nice thing is that you can click on where the Flash ought to be to re-enable that specific clip. That means it doesn't break the various places where using Flash wasn't a terrible idea.

Game: Cholo

Cholo was an epic sci-fi game of robot control, exploration and adventure for the BBC Micro back in the day. I have dim memories of regarding it fondly (albeit not as strong as the eternal Elite).

Some crazy people had too much time on their hands and re-created it for the PC, this time with Tron-style graphics rather than the original wireframes. Looks pretty cool. I think I'll sacrifice some lunch hours to this one.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Guild Wars: Adrenaline 101

Written a long time ago, but if you're playing a Warrior (or thinking about it) you must read this deconstruction of how adrenaline actually works. Ensign gets the credit for this one.

Guild Wars: Invites for Factions preview available

Invites are now available for the Guild Wars: Factions preview on the weekend of March 24th. Each current player gets 3 invites (and you don't need invitation if you're playing at the moment). Let me know if you need one...

Guild Wars: Getting the most out of your first seven levels

Pretty reasonable guide. All seems reasonable except the bit about getting a full set of collector armour before doing the Ascalon Academy quest - I would not recommend that since you will immediately be able to get much better armour in Ascalon City right afterwards.

Anyway, if you haven't played before, check out the article before you start to avoid making some of the most common mistakes for new players.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Guild Wars: PvP map guides

Fort Koga and Droknar Arena, both written by Silmor. You won't play Droknar's unless you're playing Team Arena so you should definitely check out the guide before you graduate from Competitive Arena to Team Arena. If you're playing CA you'll probably have played Fort Koga a zillion times by now - it's not as complex an area so that's not as essential to read.

Guild Wars: Next Factions preview event announced

The announcement is up on guildwars.com. Executive summary:
  • Weekend of March 24th.
  • Requires pre-order of Factions on/before Feb 28th if you don't have GW already, although each existing player gets 3 invites.
  • Includes 4 PvE missions.
  • You won't keep any PvE skills, loot, etc. when Factions is released. PvP unlocks are kept as per the last preview event.

Guild Wars: New video site

PaulOtt of Treacherous Empire just put up a new GW fansite devoted to guild vs. guild battles. He's got 100+ videos set up already.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Book: Perdido Street Station

Just finished China Miéville's Perdido Street Station. Well-written steampunkish science fantasy. Recommended.

Lego Difference Engine

The things people can make out of Lego sometimes amaze me. For example, a difference engine (like Babbage's) that can solve simple polynomials. Pretty hardcore.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Guild Wars: Soloing Zaichen IWAY

Looks like Mercury Angel over at GWGuru found a way to beat the Zaichen IWAY team solo with no traps. With a Mesmer, no less. Maybe I'll give it a try.

Magic the Gathering: Online 3.0

There's an article up at GameSpy ostensibly on the upcoming MtG: Online 3.0. Not much about Magic at all - instead they have 2 editors who clearly don't know much about the game wittering on to each other. They seem much more interested in how the business model relates to MMOs but sadly they don't get that right either.
You know, in a roundabout way, I think you may have actually put your finger on the problem with today's MMOs -- they don't support the aftermarket because they can't. Their gameplay design and business models are inherently unable to support them. That's because they work off the subscription model in which players pay a certain fee for unlimited play time. The result of that is that the game designers have an inherent motivation to put as many time-sinks as possible into the game because for the company, time played equals money.
This is a common misconception about MMOs. Time played does not equal money for developers. Their ideal use case from a business point of view is one where players give them money to maintain characters but never actually log on - bandwidth and servers cost money. The time sinks are there to keep people hitting the bar in the Skinner box as per my previous musings.

Guild Wars: Zaichen PvP changes

Brinstar reminded me that I never wrote much about the recent update to Tombs of the Primeval Kings. I did cover the basics but no more than that. Here's what changed for all the PvP game types.

As part of the Zaichen update, almost all the PvP content moved to an area which is intended to be shared between GW expansions called the Battle Isles. PvE characters can reach the Battle Isles via taking a ship from Lion's Arch. Before the Zaichen update, the PvP content consisted of:
  • Competitive Arenas (also called Random Arenas) - random teams in a 4v4 format. If you get more than 10 consecutive wins, you start playing against teams from Team Arena.
  • Low-level Arenas - random teams in a 4v4 format with level caps. The first one that everyone sees is normally Ascalon Arena.
  • Team Arena - prearranged teams in 4v4.
  • Guild vs. Guild - prearranged guild teams in a 8v8 format. Games are played on the guild hall map of the lower ranked guild.
  • Tombs of the Primeval Kings - prearranged teams of 8 in a tournament format. Small amount of PvE but mostly 8v8 PvP. Some maps have more than 2 teams. See the guide I linked yesterday for more details.
And here's what changed:
  • Competitive Arenas moved to the Battle Isles. A few new Arena maps were added including the flag-carrying Obelisk maps.
  • Low-level Arenas stayed where they are. I think. I must admit I'm not 100% sure since I never go in them - in my opinion, game balance isn't great for characters under 20th level.
  • Team Arena moved to the Battle Isles. The same new maps as CA's were added.
  • Guild Halls moved to the Battle Isles. The actual gameplay stayed basically the same with a couple of minor balance tweaks - now the Guild Lord eventually leaves his base at the 35 minute mark and heads to the flagstand.
  • Tombs of the Primeval Kings stayed on the map but now it's full of Lovecraftian tentacled monstrosities. If you can make it all the way to the bottom, the final bad guys drop some nice items.
  • New (kinda): Heroes Ascent, is the exact equivalent of the old Tombs. I haven't played it yet but as far as I know nothing actually changed. I'll trawl around and see if that's the case.
  • New: the Temple of Balthazar, provides a stopping off point to get to the Nameless Isles. The Nameless Isles provide tutorial stuff for PvP mechanics and some practice guys to beat on which can be very handy for trying skill combos and builds to see if they'll actually work. Talk to the Master of Paths to try your luck in the Training Arenas - and if you haven't played any PvP yet or you just tried random arenas and got crushed, I highly recommend this, it's a great way to learn the basics. As a bonus, you get faction for winning and kills in the Training Arenas even though you're playing against AIs.
  • New: the Zaichen Challenge, provides an opportunity for you to play against premade AI teams. Team selection works like Team Arena. The AI teams vary greatly in difficulty - generally the IWAY (I Will Avenge You) team is the hardest to beat. I'll probably write more about IWAY some other time, since it's the flavour of the month for tournament play.
  • New: the Zaichen Elites, which you can only reach by beating 5 different Zaichen Challenge teams with the same character. In the Zaichen Elites, the opposing teams are the same as in the Zaichen Challenge except that in each round you face a team with one more opponent and you don't choose which teams to fight. Team selection works like Team Arena.
Faction rewards in the new areas are a bit screwy - there's a cap of 1000 faction per character per day for playing against the AI teams. In addition, you don't earn faction for playing against Zaichen teams unless someone in your team hasn't beaten them before. If you didn't know, faction is extremely useful because you can cash it in for item and skill unlocks for PvP characters. A PvP character you create is able to access all the unlocked skills and items from any of your PvE characters together with any extra unlocks you bought with faction.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Guild Wars: Guild Alliances in Factions

Interesting quote over at CVG about guild alliance mechanics in Factions:
In Factions, allied guilds can take ownership of towns within the territory that their faction controls. Within these towns are portals to high-level co-operative missions (with a correspondingly high-level of loot!), called Elite Missions, that are accessible only by members of the guild alliance that controls that town. Larger towns have better Elite Missions, and ownership of these larger towns is given to alliances with higher faction ratings. An alliance gains faction through both PvP Faction Battles and co-operative Alliance Missions and Challenge Missions, so the most successful guilds will have a diverse membership of hardcore PvP players, role-players, and players who enjoy both.
Sounds potentially worrisome though - mechanics that reward winners can make it harder for losers to ever get ahead. This probably won't be a problem for GW since loot is a very small part of success - play skill is much more valuable. Having said that, it's still too early for real analysis without more detail.

Guild Wars: Heroes Ascent

This was written a few weeks ago but it's still a great guide to Heroes Ascent (previously called Tombs of the Primeval Kings), the PvP tournament format.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Guild Wars: Why Nuking Sucks

Insightful post on GWGuru by Ensign on why he thinks Elementalists are underpowered compared with Warriors right now.
The net effect is that unlike a warrior, where you're looking at the different enhancements and tricks and figuring out which you want on his bar, building an elementalist is really an effort to get enough energy on his bar so that he can actually use the few skill slots that are left over.

I'd tend to agree with him.

{edit}Actually, the thread is worth reading in its entirety although you're best off just reading Ensign's comments if you're in a rush.{/edit}

Numbers next to names, part 3

Just read a very interesting post by Raph Koster about levels in MMO-type games which ties into my number-pondering. He suggests several reasons why it's compelling to increase the magical number next to your name. They pretty much all boil down to social validation except this one:
Finally, one of the most compelling aspects of levels is the lure of power. Levels promise increments to a player’s health, their damage per second, and so on. People like feeling more powerful — it’s not social validation, it’s the game system itself giving them validation.

As he argues in his article, you don't need to use this in your game design. It certainly causes a bunch of game design issues. I know for sure that you don't need to use power inflation for a compelling experience from the experience in casual games I mentioned earlier.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Guild Wars: Site update

Shiny new GuildWars official site with a big ad for Factions on the front. Haven't noticed anything particularly new and useful yet except an improved skill listing page.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Guild Wars: Death By Mending

For those of us who aren't aware, the skill Mending has an unfortunate reputation. It's generally a sub-par skill with a few narrow uses (e.g. the 55-hp Protective Spirit monk builds). The main reason why it's got such a bad rap is its inclusion in the premade Paladin template, which for whatever reason seems particularly popular with new, clueless players.

So last night I was doing the Dragon's Lair mission with a few guildmates. We're kidding around and not taking the mission too seriously and a number of comments attesting to the awesome power of Mending are being made. Right after that, the other monk in the party casts both Mending and Watchful Spirit (another usually doubtful skill) on me. I was pretty surprised...

... but even more surprised 30 seconds later when we walked into the first bunch of Crystal Spiders and I immediately got hit by 4x Shatter Enchantment (Divine Boon, Channeling, Watchful Spirit and Mending) at 100+ damage each plus a couple of Energy Storms.

I've never been killed by Mending before.