On risk vs. reward in group encounters

When we attacked those wasp beings earlier, we also tried to do all of the group-only quests in that dungeon. You’ll recognize those by the description in parentheses after the quest title, e.g. “(small group”). One of the two small group quests I took gave this reward:

hoop

That’s one über earring. The thing I had before had +2 Intelligence, so you can imagine how much more phat this particular lewt is. Sure, it’s a level 17 item, but I got it at level 13 and I think I’ll do just fine with that up to level 20 or so. This is another great way Vanguard rewards grouping: The group quest rewards seem several times better than what you can get solo.

Yay for groups!

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Doing a sting on some wasps

Well, not really a sting, but I needed a creative title, and there you are.

What we actually did do was penetrate deep into a wasp’s nest. The wasps are called Azebaj in this area and they’re as big as sheep, but that just makes it more exciting. Check this out:

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Xagoth and I thought we’d fight our way down as far as it’s safe with just two casters. It turns out that’s not very far. But since additional guildies were on the way, it was only a question of time until this happened:

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Awesome! I love grouping. Some people complain about forced grouping, but if I wanted to play a single-player game, I’d go and play Guild Wars 2. Ahem. I mean Super Mario or Solitaire or something. In my nerd-colored world, MMOs are here to be massive and multiplayer. From the start, not just at endgame, as if the first 80 or 200 hours a player invests mean absolutely nothing.

Some game reviewers are pleasantly surprised to see GW2 reward player’s time investment from the start by giving experience for every little mundane task. Wow, you walked five steps forward! 10 XP for you! But I remember a time when newbie activities were rewarded the same as high-level activities, and that was more than ten years ago in EverQuest. It seems that the industry has managed to completely forget that era and now players are surprised to rediscover it in new games.

Anyhow: Vanguard has all that intact, it does both the multiplayer and the massive part brilliantly, so joining up with those three other people felt great. Onward we went:

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Yep, that’s a huge wasp nest.

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In one corner we discovered the Living Mass of Royal Jelly, a five-dot mob, meaning that it’s a lot stronger than a normal mob of this level. That didn’t help, we smacked it inna face, which it doesn’t have:

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Our glory didn’t last much longer, because on the way down to find the Azebaj King (or Queen), we wiped and left four neat tombstones.

When we returned to the dungeon, though, a stranger was already waiting there and seemed to be looking for a group. A paladin! Finally someone who’s not squishy. Witness Oneck in his splendid armor:

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Some people say Vanguard is ugly, but I think the furry-type humanoids (wolf-people and cat-people) look quite nice, and especially the armor models and reflection effects are extremely competently executed. I haven’t seen too much convincing caster armor yet, but just have one look at the festival of copper and chain that pally is wearing and tell me with any amount of honesty that you think it’s ugly.

Now that we had the complete trinity represented in our group, enemies just melted away left and right, spilling wasp-guts and showering us with sticky substance. This felt awesome. There was a real, tangible difference between having a tank and not having a tank. I like how Vanguard rewards grouping, and grouping right is rewarded even more, by having more fun and more glorious battles. That’s the point of this whole thing, right?

Other games, call them “simpler games” like World of Warcraft, have kept the trinity formula but have dumbed it down. When I tanked in WoW I felt nothing, I could pull a dozen mobs and we’d still not be in very acute danger, and people were yelling at me to pull more while we hadn’t even finished off what we had just pulled. in Vanguard, every pull feels substantial and every victory feels like something you earn. I hope it stays this way into the high levels. This is something you can’t get from an easy game, in order to feel you’ve achieved something, you need a game that presents a challenge.

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And with that thought, I pulled my stuff from my tombstone and had to go, leaving the rest of the group hunting for the Azebaj King (or Queen).

Loads and loads of dead rat people

After the recent mini-raid on one of the Ksaravi’s mini-cities, I was bold enough to organize another lowbie group for people around level 10. Again, I wanted to kill rat people.

Tanna and Jonvale logged on and we made our way to one of the big holes where rats live. This was mostly like last time:

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After fighting our way back down and then back up again, we grew a little bored. In this group constellation, the little rat towns aren’t much of a challenge, so we headed out again. Well, also because Tanna had to leave. We ran back towards Neamsog Bunker and killed some lions along the way:

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But Jonvale and I couldn’t resist and so we went back into the main rat city of the area. We pulled things left and right, often ending up with unexpected adds, but with a lot of fearing and snaring we survived:

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Phew! It was tiring, but also quite interesting and I learned a lot about group dynamics, even though we had a less than ideal group setup. Also, adds.

An unexpected exploration

Just when I was writing about how cool it is to fly a wyvern, Vanguard froze and then crashed. This was the first time I hit any nastier bugs. Fortunately, it seems the developers at least have some safeguard against this — they could theoretically put you back on your flying mount in the same position when you log in again, but instead they do the second best thing, dump you in a nearby safe city.

I was dumped into Khal. What follows is a few snapshots from there.

Khal Harbor

 

After all, I had to run all the way back to where the game had frozen. A five minute run and a minor annoyance, but also an opportunity to look at the city’s camels:

Camels in Khal

 

 

 

A sort of raid

Since being thrown off the newbie island, I busied myself with shorter quests and menial tasks for the people around Neamsog Bunker. But the beef of this area obviously has to do with some rat-people living up on the hills and down in the hollows. There’s a dungeon here, and also two open-world rat cities out in the desert. The rat people are called Ksavari, but since I always forget how to spell that, let’s call them rat-people.

To tackle them at level 11, you can’t go alone. I could probably solo my way in to a certain degree, but at some point I’d have to juggle a lot of snare/fear combinations, and feared mobs sometimes run off at unpredictable angles. Not something you want in a cramped area.

Here’s some impressions from soloing down the Village of the Fangs:

I got stuck roughly here:

And had to tiptoe my way out again, seeing that there are too many double and triple spawns further on.

As this wouldn’t get us anywhere, I sent off an open invitation on the guild board to create what so many Post-GW2 MMO players dread: A group.

Here’s Prki, who mentored down specifically for this. No, my character’s not checking out his arse in this picture:

Later on someone called Meindrood joined us, and so we stood on the edge of various platforms and cast spells from really far away like proper cowards:

It’s not fair to the rats, but it gets the job done. We fought our way down, completed most of the quests, fought our way out again and then Meindrood wanted to go back down once more for some reason. The area had repopped by that time, and everyone died in an explosion of blood (except me):

See that tombstone? Another bugbear of those who started playing MMOs after EverQuest: When you die, all your non-soulbound and non-equipped belongings end up on that tombstone. I think if you get rezzed, you get them back immediately, but if not, you have to go back and pick them up.

How do I know that? Because I died five minutes later while fighting my way up. Bleh!

Anyhow, other guildies came in and replaced me because I had to log off at the time, and this is what the group looked like when I left:

Peeps on horses. Cool, eh?

Before I logged off, I noticed all my stuff was missing, so I rented a wyvern to go get it back. Most awesome screenshot material:

There is something to say about this game-design wise: The villages of the Ksavari are just big holes in the desert ground, so I could fly all the way into the dungeon, drop from my mount, fear everyone around me, loot my tombstone, summon the wyvern and get the fuck out of there.

This is not possible in games with instances or a non-seamless world. The seamless world in Vanguard is very quickly getting to be one of my favorite features. In EverQuest II, for example, I never really get a feel for my surroundings because I know that I’m locked into a nice, bite-sized zone with many hidden borders and only a few exits. I also know that if I want to go somewhere, I use the teleporter. I don’t know how to get there on foot.

Vanguard is different. By increasing my radius around Neamsog Bunker very slowly and never having to walk through a zone border or some other artificial form of transport, I learned my surroundings really well. I can walk through a short stretch of desert and know roughly where I am without looking at the map. The whole place starts to feel familiar.

I think this kind of stuff is often overlooked, and it’s probably only nerds like me who notice and enjoy it. But someone at Sigil or SOE once decided that they want a seamless world because it’s completely spectacular at creating a feeling of home, and I agree.

Guild Wars 2? I’ve already forgotten every single one of the locations I’ve visited, even though they look pretty.