Guild Wars 2 Head Start Weekend

The hype is finally over and Guild Wars 2 is out (if you pre-purchased
it, that is). After being down Saturday morning, GW2 worked flawlessly
for the rest of the weekend. Usually the hype far overshadows the
actual game. But in this one rare case, it’s possible that the hype
was justified.

Let’s talk about Guild Wars 1 for a second. I never got into it.
Certain things just bugged me. Mainly the lack of a jump. I’m not one
of those people that bunny hops everywhere, but I never realized how
often I jumped until it was missing. The other thing I couldn’t get
past was left-clicking everything instead of right-clicking.

So when I first logged into GW2, I was dreading having to live without
jumping and right-clicking. Imagine my delight when I was configuring
my controls (for ESDF, as I have to do for every single PC game huge
) and found a jump key! And I was even more delighted when I got
to the first NPC and was able to right-click to activate him!

I won’t go into the actual gameplay, because you can find ten thousand
writeups and videos on that elsewhere. I’ll just go straight into my

GW2 is awesome. Really. You should get it. That’s it, nothing else to
say about it. Run, don’t walk, to your browser; buy it and download

I say that having only reached level 15 or so (out of 80). I have no
idea what the “endgame” is like, or if there even is an endgame. (In a
game that has no subscription fee, one has to wonder why they would
bother with endgame content.) All I know is that between the story
quests and the public quests and the dynamic events, it is hella fun
for the first 15 levels, and each race has a different first 15
levels, so there is a lot to do for an altoholic like me.

I have not really decided on my “main” yet. I started with a
Necromancer but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of impact in a group
situation. I really like the versatility of the Elementalist, though,
so maybe I’ll stick with that one. Then again, the Engineer has a
bunch of cool turrets and stuff. (I still don’t understand why people
keep putting high-tech engineer classes in these allegedly medieval
MMOs.) And the Hunter has nifty pets. And … and … and …

Guild Wars 2 Head Stop

Well I thought it would be a nice Saturday. I’d get up, log into the Guild Wars 2 Head Start along with the rest of the entire Internet, and have a nice morning of adventure. But nooooooo. It’s been down for two hours now. Not just intermittent connectivity issues; we’re talking 100% dead. And the information coming out of ArenaNet is somewhat lacking. About once an hour we get something like, “We’re looking into connectivity issues. Thanks for your patience.”

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’m a bit surprised to say this but I don’t think I’ll be playing TSW beyond the free month. In fact, I stopped playing long before the free month ended. I’m still glad I pre-ordered it, though, because it deserves to have a chance. But I realized that I don’t feel much of a sense of character advancement while playing. You don’t get new weapons very often, and you don’t really get new powers very often, either. Like I said before, as your character advances, you get more choices of powers, but you don’t really get more powerful powers like you might expect. So often times, when you gain new abilities, you find there’s no reason to change what you’ve already been using. The only things to look forward to are new NPCs telling new stories, and maybe a new piece of clothing now and then.

Anyway, during the time I’ve not been playing TSW, I’ve been back down the rabbit hole of Rift, where your character advances constantly, now even at the level cap. I stopped playing right after patch 1.5, so I missed 1.6, 1.7, and 1.8. I started back up just in time for 1.9 and Summerfest. At first I started a new Defiant character, but now I’ve dusted off my 50 Guardian Dwarf Mage from Byriel, transferred to Wolfsbane, and joined a guild, and I’m now trying to “gear up” so I can actually do guild stuff. I was invited to go along on some Raid Rifts one night, and, well, let’s just say that success or failure didn’t hinge on my actions.

In the holy trinity of Tanking, Healing, and Damage, the Rift Mage is only capable of Healing and Damage. I originally leveled my mage as an Elementalist, which is technically a DPS class, and it’s not terrible–when you switch to the DPS pet, it has a fairly reliable damage output over time with a simple rotation, plus a whole lot of other useful utility and survivability features–but it’s never going to be a “top DPS” spec, unless you’re playing with a bunch of under-geared 50s. In my case I was playing with a bunch of well-geared 50s, who were reliably doing 2000-3000 DPS compared to my pitiful 400 DPS. (Sometimes I couldn’t even hit the mobs. I just felt good when I did more DPS than the tank and healer.)

So now I’m trying to find a pure DPS spec, the proverbial “glass cannon.” Back at 1.5, I think the Stormcaller was still considered the best DPS soul for mages. Pyromancer and Warlock were also favorites. I personally have never had much luck with a pure Warlock, and I don’t want to deal with the complexities of the Stormcaller rotations, so I’m concentrating on Pyromancer combinations right now.

(I also have a Chloromancer spec, which is way more fun to play than a DPS spec. But the realities of life as a non-founding member of a guild means that 95% of the time, you’re going to be called on for DPS, not healing.)

First I tried a pure 51-point Pyromancer. Using a standard rotation of fireballs and procs, I couldn’t even match my Elementalist damage. So I ditched that pretty quickly and, after a little research to find the current FotM, went with a Pyromancer/Warlock build. Warlock has a lot of damage-boosting abilities which help Pyromancer. Now I’m doing a little better damage on average. Though it doesn’t seem hugely better than Elementalist, if you ask me.

But here’s the thing: Pyromancer’s damage is a lot more “bursty” than Elementalist. It depends a lot on when the procs come up. Sometimes, when everything hits at just the right time, you can do an incredible burst of damage in a short time. But other times, when nothing procs, you have nothing but the fireball going and damage isn’t that great.

I noticed that all of the guild DPS roles were filled by Rogues, both melee and ranged. And I mean every single one of them. I’m pretty sure I was the only Mage trying to do DPS among the dozen or so people there. I found it strange because before 1.5, I seem to remember that warriors were considered the best DPS by a mile, at least on the forums.

So anyway, now that I have a spec, the only thing I need is better gear. And the only place I’m going to get better gear now is Expert Dungeons and Raids. In the six months after launch, and the last few weeks, I got my mage mostly purple gear with some blues and a Focus of around 150 just from solo and crafting gear. That’s technically more than enough to do the Expert Dungeons, but I never tested it out before.

It turns out, it’s plenty, and Experts are pretty easy. But not for the reason you might think. Let me tell you why. In all three of the expert dungeon runs I’ve done so far (two CC and one AP), everyone else has been WAY over-geared. I mean these people are running in T3-level raid gear or whatever, doing 3000 DPS easy. And they are hardcore about their dungeon runs, too. They don’t wait around. They go anywhere from fast to omg-I-can-barely-keep-up blindingly fast. The tanks just go charging into the middle of everything without a second’s thought for their own safety. One guy didn’t even wait for everything to be killed. He just kept running with mobs trailing him, and the rest of us ran behind throwing instant damage spells. If you get into a group like that, you can literally not do a single thing and still get through the dungeon. One time, two of us got locked out of the final boss encounter in Charmer’s Caldera because we didn’t get over the bridge fast enough, and the remaining three (the healer, the tank, and a DPS) still blew through the boss like it was nothing.

Of course, if you don’t do anything, you’ll probably get yelled at or kicked, so I did my best to contribute. But generally the only things I could do to help was A) not stop to look at anything, B) not get killed or seriously hurt, and C) throw down Firestorm AoEs around the tank for the brief moments when he stands still. The rest of the time, I could barely even get a spell off before everyone else had burned through the mobs.

Fortunately, everyone was pretty nice and didn’t say, “omg that mage sux.” Most likely only because of A and B above, though. As long as you don’t actively hinder the group, or roll need on stuff you obviously can’t use, I don’t think anyone cares. (By the way, I had no trouble hitting things with a focus of 150 in Experts, and I suspect that a group of five at my gear level would have been fine, too.)

On one hand, it’s pretty awesome going on these speed runs because you accumulate plaques quickly without a lot of effort (the last one I did could not have taken more than 20 minutes). Plus, you get the “Speed Run” achievements while you’re at it. But on the other hand, you don’t really learn much about the real capabilities of your class. And you definitely don’t get to actually look at the dungeon, or like, complete any quests you might have. So if you want to experience the storyline of the dungeons, or experience their challenge the way they were intended, the LFG tool doesn’t help much.

I’d like to try healing with my mage but there’s no way I’m going to attempt that in an Expert with these psycho speed runners. Oh, I know, I’ll queue for random Normal dungeons and check the Mentoring box. (You can queue for Normals and Experts at the same time, apparently.)

I also need to setup Mumble for this guild I’m in. They have this wacky idea that voice communication is faster than macros. Where did Mumble come from anyway? Ventrillo used to be the only thing out there, but now all I hear about is Mumble. I guess people like it because it’s open source.

The Secret World

I’ve had a burst of gaming enthusiasm in the last month or so, ending my streak of playing basically nothing since Christmas. As usual, I tend to gravitate toward RPGs and MMOs.

The last MMO I played before my break was Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I found enjoyable, but not enough to keep playing past the free month. Then recently, on an impulse, I bought TERA, which boasted a totally fresh new action-based combat system, but again, it didn’t keep my attention past the first month. After that I played LOTRO again, which is a bit dated now but still one of the best MMOs around.

Then, I got an email from Funcom, who makes Age of Conan, with a couple of game codes for the final beta weekend of The Secret World, an MMO I’ve heard mention of for quite a while but haven’t looked at in detail. So I tried it out and, on impulse again, decided to plunk down the $50 to pre-order it, because it’s different enough for me to vote positively with my dollars.

The Secret World has sort of an urban fantasy motif, where the key selling point is a class-less, level-less progression system. You can use guns, or swords, or magic. It’s odd, but I’m curious to see how it works out. It has a number of departures from normal MMOs, actually.

Anyway, according to another email I got, the head start begins today, so I’ll be head-starting this weekend.

It’s kind of a bummer actually. After the TSW beta ended I got back into Rift again, this time playing Defiant. I just joined a guild yesterday and even healed for a dungeon run.