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Games. Tech. Musings.

Games offline and online. Technology. Random stuff.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Guild Wars: GvG Team Positioning

Here's an excellent series of 3 articles by Xanthar over at GWGuru.
  1. Map categorization and schematics.
  2. Positional play and nomenclature.
  3. Basic movement and tactical play.
There's a lot of information out there on skill usage and general play, but very little high-level strategy stuff. This helps to fill that gap. Recommended.

Guild Wars: Jagged Bones

Only got a few rounds of GvG in over the weekend - the guild hall was pretty quiet. One of the games I did play was against a Jagged Bones build, a top 100 ranked guild. Previously the only one I'd played against wasn't so good and I just camped on the JB guy and Diverted him all over the place while our split team won the game for us.

These guys had enough clue to have Hex Breaker on the JB necro and we didn't have a Wild Blow to get it off. He had Distortion as a panic button for warrior defense but wasn't dumb enough to cast one of his key spells (JB -> Death Nova -> Taste of Death) while he didn't have Hex Breaker up.

We did split against them but they could send back enough hex shutdown to slow down the split team while their massive pressure and energy engine overran the flag team. I spent quite a while thinking about the match and I'm not really sure what you can do about that build. If you can't shut down the Jagged Bones engine you're pretty much hosed because all those necros will be pumping out Infuse Health, Aegis and expensive hexes like no tomorrow due to the fact they effectively have 15 pips of energy regen.

There's a discussion thread on the best way to fix the problem over at GWGuru. I think that the real fix is to deal with Soul Reaping - I'm liking the energy regen options people are proposing. But that would be a major change requiring a lot of testing. A band aid solution like making Jagged Horrors give no Soul Reaping energy would be better than nothing right now.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Guild Wars: Still failing to suck less

Another night and a few more Random Arena games playing the same goddamn ranger build. Results were uniformly terrible.

It's always hard to tell in RA when it's just you sucking vs. your team sucking - hence you still see people firing up Mending etc. - but at some point you have to figure the problem is you. Maybe I'm just not to be trusted with sharp implements.

I think another part of it is that the Ranger build, while good, isn't as brokenly overpowered in RA as some other options (namely, hexes and Blinding Surge). If your build is ridiculously good it's certainly easier to propel a less-than-stellar team to victory. In the past I think I've been spoiled by the power of the build I've been playing.

In any event, after suffering through more Failing To Shoot People suckitude I was summoned by the blessed call of the GvG mesmer. Some of the more ferocious and satisfying Galing I've inflicted in my time soon followed, ending up on 3-0 for the night's GvG. Did I mention that I like Gale? I love Gale. Maybe not as much as the iQ guys but I'm not sure that liking a skill that much is entirely healthy. The thought that Gale used to cost 5 energy seems deliciously naughty. Ok, maybe that and sick and wrong.

Guild Wars: Automated Tournaments

A little bird tells me that the AT system is going to be significantly delayed. No official confirmation of this. If it's true, hopefully Mr. Gills over at ArenaNet can work out a decent interim solution.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Guild Wars: Skill balance timetable

From Gaile:
The plan is to roll out the second and more-final version of the permanent update around February 2nd. Then, you guys hammer on them, assess, post, the designers read, and some final tweaks are made.

Testing probably will go like this:

* Test
* Rollback, make a large number of adjustments based on primary test <-- where we are just now
* Test
* Tweak, while leaving the changes in the game

I will ask about that, maybe there will be a rollback, but I think it is more like as I outlined above.

Update: it is now confirmed that the next test weekend will indeed keep the changes in the game (thanks Billiard!).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Guild Wars: Skill balance review

So, I could post a writeup of the skill balance weekend, but there's really no need. Ensign thoughtfully posted a detailed analysis of the skill changes. In my humble opinion he has the best grasp of the game mechanics of anyone outside ArenaNet, so you're better off reading what he wrote than anything I could come up with.

Patccmoi's point later in that thread about Weapon of Quickening is good though - I've played a GvG build using that skill and it was ok but not amazing. With the buff listed in the weekend I think it could be extremely strong.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Guild Wars: Practicing Ranger

Sad to say, but I haven't really been actually doing a whole lot about the test weekend. Last time I could have GvG'd, they wanted a Burning Arrow Ranger - alas, my mesmer spot had been replaced in the build - and I declined since it'd been quite a while since I played Ranger at all. I went to play RA and it turned out that saying no was definitely the best decision. Getting used to interrupts with a flight time and actually having an evade stance will take a little while, although I think I'm making progress.

Figured I may as well make a TA build centered around the Ranger for variety. Haven't had a chance to try it yet though.

Anyway. Looks like more RA practice (or hopefully some TA if I get the chance) is in order until I figure out which part of the bow you're supposed to point at the bad guys. Then maybe GvG will be back on the menu.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Guild Wars: Temporary tweaking

Well, the testing weekend is underway, with a phenomenal list of skill tweaks and major changes to Heroes' Ascent. It's going to take a while just to read the skill changes in detail, never mind figure out the implications. Note that the changes are only in effect for this weekend.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Guild Wars: Night of Failure

One of those nights where nothing seems to be working. Played a few rounds of HA with a crazy Clamor of Souls build dreamed up by a guildmate. I asked before we started "What happens if they don't ball up?". Turns out the answer is "you lose". Didn't win a match. We did beat the NPCs at the beginning in 10 seconds one round which is a new speed record for me. Not terribly consoling though.

Then tried Divineshadows' hex shutdown TA build (the one at the bottom of the linked page) with Sausaletus Rex and a couple of randomly drafted XoO types. I think we had some poor player chemistry - 4 people who wanted to play midlines and no melee/monk types - but the build failed spectacularly, losing every game. Doesn't fill me with confidence for the GvG hex build. One note of interest was playing against a mesmer (Rusty) who schooled me in GvG a few days ago - well, ok, it wasn't so much being schooled as being hit by a schoolbus. Turns out the guy is a good player but also an infamous GW troll and used to be in XoO.

I feel like I should make a new TA build but working on builds seems a bit pointless given the skill tweaking coming up this weekend. If I did, I'd probably just make something a whole lot like the build that the good TA team was playing:

* Melandrus Dervish
* BSurge Mesmer
* Burning Arrow Ranger
* ZB monk

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Guild Wars: Blinding Surge Mesmer

Another night and a few more GvGs. This time round I was playing the more defensive Blinding Surge Dom Mesmer variant, instead of the Energy Surge version I was playing previously. It's similar but differs in one important respect - its target selection includes the opposing melee characters as well as their midlines and monks. This might sound minor, but Blinding Surge has a 4 second recharge.

That means you should ideally be blinding one of their warriors every 4 seconds. If you are a bad mesmer that's all you do, but you really should be Diverting key skills, Galing monks on a spike and chipping in with Spiritual -> Wastrels as an assist all while maintaining your position, kiting and pre-kiting judiciously. Continuously changing targets the whole time you're engaged isn't all that easy. Oh, and really you ought to be looking for their warrior converge or tell-tale Shadow Prison so you can Surge at the right time to prevent adrenaline spikes.

Anyway, I seemed to be doing ok for the most part in the couple of matches I played - certainly better than Monday night. Saved a bunch of adren spikes, covered monk retreats, Shattered enchantments that mattered, didn't get my own Surge Diverted by their mesmer, killed a bunch of their guys, etc. Crazy target switching action. Sadly, the teams we were playing against were pretty good and our team generally wasn't playing well for some reason. We lost both matches. Against one of the teams (I think it was Guild Drama [sigh] but I'm not 100% sure) their mesmer chipped in amongst the flurry of "gg"s with "good mesmer".

Unfortunately, I think he was being sarcastic. In their final feeding frenzy around the GL as I was blinding warriors and diverting midliners, I misclicked and blinded their monk. C'est la vie.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Guild Wars: Splitting Hexes, part 2

After noodling around with the hex split team idea I had the other day, I concluded that it was probably a dead end - but hex shutdown still seems a powerful route to go. Right now the most powerful skill in GvG is probably Blinding Surge, so a lot of people are set up to fight it. People are still doing damage mostly via melee and there aren't many hexes around (and consequently not a lot of serious hex removal).

This new build doesn't have the movement control that the other build has and consequently wouldn't be great on the ice map. But it should provide a reasonable answer to the current metagame with a decent spike, medium hex shutdown and light degen pressure. Sorts out a bunch of the issues I was having with the other build. It should be able to split but it's probably better in 8v8.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Guild Wars: Splitting Hexes

Right now I'm thinking about a new GvG build. It's always an interesting exercise that makes you think about the roles of characters and what skirmish matchups are favourable. As to whether it'll ever actually get played, who knows. It's in an early draft so bear with me.

Anyway, here's the GWShack listing.

The idea is to make a hex degen pressure build that can fight 8v8 but is readily split. Right now I really need to test the characters a bit more to see if they're packing enough punch. However, that's been a bit difficult because for the last week as soon as I log into GW I'm greeted with insistent calls to get my mesmer on for GvG. Admittedly, that was the reason I joined up with XoO and so I can't really complain. I certainly need the experience. But I am a compulsive build tweaker - all that time playing MtG, I guess - so the urge to theorize over build construction is irresistible. Assuming I don't send this idea back to the drawing board I imagine it'll make a repeat appearance here later on.

Guild Wars: Fighting Teleway

Played a GvG match against a so-called "teleway" build last night. For the uninitiated, these builds have every character with an Assassin secondary for Shadow of Haste. They rely on the Shadow to teleport away when under threat via a cancel stance. Right now the cancel stance of choice is Deadly Paradox, which fuels Feigned Neutrality to heal them up. Some teleway builds have no monks at all and some have a more standard-looking build except for all the assassin secondaries.

Playing against this can be frustrating, as you will frequently nearly kill the telewayers only for them to blink out of existence, cackling. I played a teleway build one evening before Nightfall came out, so I have a reasonable idea of good tactics to use against them. Here's the easiest 2 ways to kill the here-one-moment-gone-the-next telewayers.

1) Spike them hard. Skills that were activating against them before they teleported will still complete and hit them (including attack skills) even if they'd be out of range so if you hit them hard enough they'll die.

2) Look for Shadow of Haste activations. When you re-activate Shadow of Haste, your teleport location is the most recent place you activated it, not the original. If you see one of them putting up the Shadow then snare them near there if possible and pressure them. Save an enchantment removal (Shatter Enchantment, preferably) and then when they teleport and put up Feigned the Shatter will usually kill them.

Watch out for them putting up Shadow inside your base - they'll often try to lure you away from the base then teleport back in and drop an Archer or two before you can get back.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Guild Wars: Rankings and ratings

Right now the GW ladder is not exactly frozen, but it's a bit chilled. The low k-value means that ratings are changing very slowly.

I think that quite a lot of PvP players are staying away until they see what happens with the new automated tournament system to be released. In the meantime, I've seen quite a bit of nervous carping over the new system and ratings and rankings in general - even though it's not public knowledge how the tournaments will actually work.

Well, GW players aren't unique in that - MtG players are forever grumbling about similar stuff. Elo rating systems of the kind used in MtG, Chess and GW are well suited to games like Chess where there's a low variance between expected and actual results - if I play Kasparov, the probability of me winning is effectively zero. In Magic, the same isn't true - I can beat someone like Kai Budde if he gets a bad enough draw. In GW, there's a similar problem - albeit not as pronounced - in that teams don't always have the same roster and one build may have advantages over other builds. I happened to talk to Mark Rosewater the other week about this and he did confess that he's never been terribly happy with an Elo rating system for Magic. He prefers accumulated-point systems like the one Bridge uses but personally I'm not so sure that's a great solution. Then again, he's spent a lot more time thinking about it so he might be right.

Anyway. The choice of rating system aside, one of the interesting things in the new system being proposed is that the ladder won't be reset any more. I've seen quite a few GW players fretting about stale rankings hogging the ladder. There's a bunch of easy fixes for this problem, but it seems to me that the easiest would be that a guild has a rating but not a ranking unless they've played 5 GvGs in the previous week. If a guild is camping a high rating that they earned a long time ago but no longer deserve, the inflated rating will fall away swiftly when they start playing again to get back on the ladder.

I'll be curious to see how the new tournament system works out. I was a little worried that I'd never get to play any tournament games - as a dad with 2 little kids it's basically impossible for me to allocate regular 5-hour blocks of undisturbed time without an act of Congress - but a couple of ArenaNet staff have dropped strong hints that I'd get to play tourney games. We shall see. In any event, I suspect that once the tournments start up the ladder games will be seen as practice games for the "real" matches.

Friday, January 05, 2007

On Narcissism

You've probably seen the "5 things you didn't know about me" meme spreading through the blogosphere. Technically I'm invited (since Josh invoked an invite-everyone-I've-ever-met mechanic) to continue the meme but I think I'll pass. Here's why.

I think there are basically 3 kinds of people reading this post right now.

1) You came here because you find links I post useful.
2) You came here because occasionally you find an opinion of mine interesting.
3) You came here because you came from a PvP Beginner's Guide mirror and are clicking around randomly.

I'm guessing most are in category (3). I don't think there are many, if any, in category (4) - people who know me or are interested in knowing me. So I tend not to post much stuff about myself unless it relates to me failing to update this site because, frankly, I don't think you care and so posting personal stuff seems overly narcissistic.

I could be wrong. But I seriously doubt it.

Guild Wars: Spike Mesmer on Frozen Isle

Played my first (and only) GvG match since the Xmas break last night on the Frozen Isle. This time round, I was back playing a mesmer and sure enough, I had a lot more fun than when I was monking last time. It was a bit frustrating since I discovered once the match started that my microphone had totally freaked out and so noone could understand anything I said. We lost and sadly I think it's partly my fault because I couldn't call spikes due to the dodgy mic. Ah well, at least now I figured out why it was acting up.

Here's the build I ran. I'm not giving away any secrets here - this is all fairly standard.
Surge Spiker
Fast Casting: 12 (11+1)
Domination Magic: 14 (12+2)
Air Magic: 5
Energy Surge [Elite] (Domination Magic)
Spiritual Pain (Domination Magic)
Wastrel's Demise (Domination Magic)
Shatter Enchantment (Domination Magic)
Gale (Air Magic)
Blackout (Domination Magic)
Glyph of Lesser Energy (Elementalist other)
Resurrection Signet ()
ESurge is good but if it was me, I'd be tempted to run a little more defensive with Blinding Surge and then Diversion instead of Blackout. I do love a bit of Blackout though.

Anyway, this guy isn't putting out significant sustained damage - it's all about the Wastrel's Demise 1/4 second cast stuck on the end of another damage cast. Without a called spike you're not going to drop people and sure enough, that's what happened. I must admit it is extremely satisfying to Shatter the inevitable post-spike prot enchantment and kill someone.

The match was on the Frozen Isle. Due to my previous guild's terrible ranking, my play knowledge of the GvG maps is mostly restricted to their home maps (if your ranking is lower than your opponent you play on your home guild hall map) and so I'd only played 1 or 2 matches on this map. It's one of the more complicated maps so I figured I'd do a little research to give me some of the finer details. Here's the useful stuff:

Long Frozen Isle article by moriz. Note the bodyblocking details.

Short Frozen Isle article by Darial. Note the gate unlock details.

Gale on the Frozen Isle is great because it stops your target moving at range, so you can drop a fleeing enemy onto the ice and give them the ice penalty. I'm still not sure why the ice penalty triggers when you're not moving - doesn't seem to make a lot of sense - but oh well.

After the GvG a couple of people went to bed so we ended up just taking our characters as is and going into Heroes' Ascent. Ended up skipping to the Hall of Heroes on the second run and who should we see there but my ex-alliance-mates Err了. Small world, I guess. We didn't take the hall - once more thanks to yours truly since I missed a key Gale on the red Ghostly
Hero. Mental note: suck less. Ah well, lesson learned and at least we did reasonably well considering we had a GvG build instead of a HA build.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Natural Selection: Whichbot v1.04

Finally got round to looking at all the checkins masked_carrot (the new dev on the block) has made over in Whichbot-land. Seems like reasonable stuff. I've been neglecting the poor little AI for too long, so it's good to get the update for NS3.2 out.

Here's the release thread over at the WB forums.

Guild Wars: Monking in RA

First, a little (minor) e-drama. Before the holidays, I left my guild (PIE) - and joined the much larger XoO in their PST GvG division in a bid to improve my play via actually getting more PvP in. Nothing wrong with PIE - a great bunch of guys and if you're looking for a casual, mostly PvE guild they're highly recommended - but I just wasn't scratching the PvP itch.

Anyway, I played a couple of GvGs with XoO and frankly felt like I sucked. Then the power went out due to the giant windstorm. Between family staying over the break and spotty internet connection, no GW was played at chez Clamatius.

Started playing again with more-or-less the same GvG character the last couple of nights and I was still sucking. In random arenas, even. Here's the build, just a standard blessed light monk:
Shadow Light Healer
Divine Favor: 14 (12+2)
Healing Prayers: 9 (8+1)
Protection Prayers: 9 (8+1)
Shadow Arts: 7
Blessed Light [Elite] (Divine Favor)
Gift of Health (Healing Prayers)
Reversal of Fortune (Protection Prayers)
Spirit Bond (Protection Prayers)
Mend Ailment (Protection Prayers)
Shadow of Haste (Shadow Arts)
Dark Escape (Shadow Arts)
Signet of Devotion (Divine Favor)
In RA I had Shield of Absorption instead of Spirit Bond. Anyway, the whole point of this character is that it sacrifices utility for better survivability via the assassin skills but I was so terrible I was dying all the time anyway.

My conclusion from this is that (a) I haven't played monk in a long time and (b) when I did I was being horribly spoilt by the brokenness of good energy management and Divine Boon. More importantly, I've had a lot more practice playing other roles in PvP since I was monking back in the day and I just wasn't enjoying myself compared to playing, say, a ranger or a flashbot. I think I need to concentrate just on playing midlines - and branch out into ranger - instead of trying to monk as well. I guess that's the first New Years resolution...

Happy New Year

A belated Happy New Year to one and all.