19 October 2019

Guild Wars 2: Annual Halloween Without Procrastination

I've made sure to check my blog, and I came to a conclusion... I didn't make a procrastination post about Halloween in Guild Wars 2. I guess I didn't do it last year because I already completed most achievements. I don't like the incompleteness of the procrastination posts. Hence why I'm doing this one.

The Same Procedure As Every Time

Screenshot of the Mad King's Labyrinth Lobby
of Guild Wars 2 (Halloween 2019)
The festival itself doesn't matter for the procedure. We need to answer two questions: How long does the event go? Which achievements do we need to do, and what does it require us to do? To answer the first question, we can look up the blog post from ArenaNet. According to it, the event goes from the 15th of October to the 5th of November.[1] That's about 22 days. By now, it's already the 19th of October, though. So, from today on, it is 18 days instead. With the frame of time being clarified, let's look at the task. There are ten annual achievements from which nine need to be done. These are:
  • Arguably Foodlike - eat 300 candy corn
  • Ascent to Madness - defeat the mad king
  • Ancient Grudge - kill 100 minions of Joko
  • Courtly Service - spend 5 gold at the Labyrinth NPC
  • Pumpkin Carving - carve 100 pumpkins
  • Mad King's Clock Tower - jump through 3 times
  • Lunatic Racer - complete the labyrinth race 3 times
  • A Royal Tradition - Play the Mad King Says 3 times
  • Raceway Regular - complete 15 race track rounds
  • Masters of the Labyrinth - kill all 3 labyrinth bosses

Calculate the Daily ToDo

If this isn't the first procrastination post you've read, you should be able to do it yourself, haha. Basically, we divide the amount we need to do through the number of days we have. This will give us a daily amount, which may need to be rounded correctly. Following this using the Arguably Foodlike achievement, we will calculate 300 / 18 = 16.66... Of course, we can't eat less than one, so we round up to 17 (even if it would've been less than 0.5).  Here are the results for all of the annual achievements:

Achievement Total amount Daily amount
Arguably Foodlike 300 300 / 18 = 16.67
Ascent to Madness 1 1 / 18 = 0.06
Ancient Grudge 100 100 / 18 = 5.56
Courtly Service 5 5 / 18 = 0.28
Pumpkin Carving 100 100 / 18 = 5.56
Mad King's Clock Tower 3 3 / 18 = 0.17
Lunatic Racer 3 3 / 18 = 0.17
A Royal tradition 3 3 / 18 = 0.17
Raceway Regular 15 15 / 18 = 0.83
Masters of the Labyrinth 3 3 / 18 = 0.17

Interpreting the Data

Now we have numbers that need to be interpreted, as given by the example before. This means, every day we would have to eat about 17 candy corn. We need to do the Ascent to Madness at least once (the calculation of this was unnecessary here). About 6 of Joko's subordinates need to be killed each day. We also would spend 28 silver each day, which is not possible as the lowest amount of money that can be spent is 1 gold. If we multiply the amount per day by four, we get 4 * 0.28 = 1.12 gold. This means we should spend 1 gold every 4 days. The pumpkins that need to be carved is equal to the Joko's minions we need to kill, which is ~6. The tower, labyrinth race, and "Mad King Says" need to be done 0.17 times per day, which is about once every 6 days (6 * 0.17 = 1.02). The raceway tracks in the special area require you to do 0.83 rounds every day. It makes much more sense to do three rounds, though. As such, we will do 15 / 3 = 5 runs instead. So, redoing the calculation we get 5 / 18 = 0.28 instead. So, we will be doing this too a little less than every 4th day (4 * 0.28 = 1.12).

Small Tips For Rounding When You Do It Yourself

If you calculate this yourself, make sure to round correctly in your interpretation. The amount you do daily should be rounded up. This is to make sure you get the total before time runs out. You will be done earlier, though, which is fine. However, when you round the frequency, you want to make sure the number decreases. If you do something every two days, you do it more frequently than if you do something every three days. This is important to make sure you will reach the total.

Your Mad King Says...Enjoy the Halloween event!
[1] https://www.guildwars2.com/en-gb/news/halloween-2019-is-getting-closer/

01 October 2019

Guild Wars 2: Strike Missions Introduce Players To Raids

Guild Wars 2 has released the first Strike Mission a few weeks ago. It belongs to a collection of instances, which are supposed to introduce players who have never done them before into raids.
Having seen this first instance, I'm a bit skeptical.

What Does The Strike Mission Provide?

Screenshot of Guild Wars 2
Preparing for the Icebrood Construct Boss
The strike mission features the area that was played during the story. Lore wise it happens after the story without spoiling more than why you're in the area again in the presence. After the NPCs talking a cave entrance opens that lets you go through a tunnel. This tunnel features icy ground that lets you slide and a snowball rolling down as an obstacle. Past this tunnel, there is a jumping puzzle with a few chests. The ice physics from before are reused here. (and they do interact weirdly with gliding.)
Past the JP lies the boss.

The boss is also quite simple. It requires no tank and technically no healer. His attacks happen random and consist of impacts and ice waves that can be dodged or jumped. Additionally, he has an attack that fills 180 degrees of the arena with a swipe and a ground effect that deals damage over time. Another attack of his is the ice mines. Once he spawns them, they rotate around him. He often casts a wind that moves players along with it. Due to the opposite direction of the player and bomb rotation dodging them is usually required. Something easy to miss is an icicle attack he sometimes casts at a player position.

At 50% of health, the boss will go into phase two. In this phase, he uses two new abilities. Now he creates two to three (later on probably four) ice patches. These shoot out small bubbles that deal damage on hit. The way they spawn and move is very familiar for bullet hell games. After the projectiles stop spawning, tiny arrows highlight the ice to tell the player to get on. The boss will hit the one in front of him, producing a big wave that cannot be jumped over and is hard to dodge. The players need to stay on the higher patches and jump over it. The fight continues until the boss dies.

Reviewing The First Instance

Looking at the first strike missions already gives me a glimpse of where ArenaNet wants to start. The boss can be done with only damage dealers and features aside from dodging damage just one specific mechanic. This means it's planned for people who have at most killed a world boss or done a dungeon. If it were planned for people who run high tier Fractals of the Mists, it would have required a healer.

One of the biggest worries I have with this guy is, that people have so much damage in the group that mechanics are skipped. If the boss reappears later and the mechanic kills people instead of downing them if at all they will leave the mission with a bad taste. Overall, there is no incentive to learn all of the mechanics, which are thrown at the player.

The Complex Nature Of Raids

Raids are complex. Aside from requiring the player to figure out how to defeat the boss, there are mechanics layered upon mechanics. Each of these needs the raiders to react to and act on certain triggers. These can be...
  • visual: a telegraph, an animation, effect
  • auditory: a sound
  • or combined (using visual and auditory)
Additionally, raids are a multiplayer experience. This means players need to decide on how they will handle communication. (This does not require speech, though it simplifies communication by removing the requirement of typing.)

And then there are roles. Since bosses deal a lot of damage, some players need to switch to healers and tanks. More of them need to be given, depending on the mechanics and advantages of some classes (for example, supporters).

Raids are often seen as end-game content as they provide the player with challenges, where they can use everything they have learned during their MMORPG experience.

What Makes We Worry About Strike Missions

In game-design, you usually give the player one mechanic or system after the other. These are separated before being found layered. This is the best way to have the player learn these systems. This is actually done by ArenaNet at one or the other encounter. (for example, the guardians before vale guardian or the earth mini-boss before Adina) All of this is irrelevant if the players ignore mechanics. This means we need to teach figuring out the mechanics without frustrating or demotivating the player too much.

Giving invulnerability to the boss while the mechanic plays would be a good idea. However, this means the player stops what they're doing: Playing their class. Instead, it would make more sense to decrease the incoming damage the boss gets if a mechanic fails. (Keep in mind we don't wanna kill the player instantly for fails as this discourages too much). Now we just need to make sure, the boss performs the mechanic before dying.

Wrapping Things Up

I feel like this post has reached a decent size. I'm gonna write another one once the next Strike mission comes out until then I hope they will read this post or know what they're doing. Players need to learn that...
  • How do I heal?
  • What is tanking?
  • What is kiting?
  • What kind of things can I expect in raids?
And most importantly. Raids aren't hard, and they aren't just for hardcore players. With a decent difficulty curve, (nearly) anyone can learn to raid.

With that good night!

25 September 2019

Cube World Beta - The Biggest Issue Right Now

I've played the Cube World Alpha for multiple hours and had a lot of fun. With the beta release, I've already spent 30-ish hours. As such, I feel entitled to give my opinion and criticism on the game. Even though I already have like three topics/posts I could write about.

What Is Cube World Gonna Be All About

Screenshot of the Cube World
Pre-Beta Title Screen
You can't give good criticism if you don't know how to play the game. This means we need to figure out, get hinted at, or be told how to play the game. If you look at the game mechanics, there's a lot of items and unlocks that only count towards one region. Additionally, there are a few items that count more globally. These can be found in areas that can be considered as end-game within their region.

With this and the information gained from the game developers, it is clear. This is the goal: Climb up the gear ladder inside of a region and unlock all the unlockables. With the top gear, you collect the artifacts. Afterward, you move on to the next area and start anew. Rinse and repeat.

That's a Terrible System Who Would Come Up Wi-

This is in and of itself is not a terrible system. Look at roguelikes or idle games. These games have been using similar mechanics for nearly forever. If we take the Binding of Isaac as an example. If you die, you lose everything and have to start over. However, you will retain any unlocks you've made or coins you put into the bank. This gives the game a sense of progress and changes the experience each time you achieve something. 

Another example would be the famous Cookie Clicker. Here too you are encouraged to start the game over. But, compared to your first run, you will have it much easier and faster this time around. This allows you to get much further than before.

Now, when we get back to Cube World and look at the artifacts. They do two things. Firstly, they increase your level, which does nothing mechanically. It's basically the count of how many of them you have. Secondly, they'll give you a small stat bonus. This bonus is limited to traveling abilities.

The Vicious Cycle Of Demotivation

That's all nice and everything. To make the game fun, we need player motivation. Motivation in video games is too big of a topic. So, I won't go into detail on that. 

In the current state, I would say, players who seek exploration are satisfied. It's an endless world, and it's unlikely to find areas that are too similar.

People who want to play with friends or want a community should also be satisfied.  My experience in online mode is quite decent and fun. The only thing I could complain about is getting no loot if you died and couldn't get another hit on the enemy. Though the steam servers can't deal with too many people. Thus it would be nice to have the ability to host an own server that can deal with large scale multiplayer.

The third group of players is the issue here. There's a progression inside of a region but moving away from it resets the progress. Even worse, the artifacts only give a bonus to traveling abilities. You don't need a bonus to these if you stay in the area you have been in the whole time. This means there's no reason to get the artifacts. Everything falls apart, and this is the problem why a portion of people complain about the state of the game. This is also the reason those people prefer the alpha release.

The Solution

As big of an issue this seems to be. It's rather easy to be solved. All the game needs is a long-term progression. It's not even hard to implement this. Artifacts provide a bonus to traveling stats. If there would be additional artifacts, which provide a more meaningful approach to long-term progression (such as minor stat increases). It would give the third group of players the incentive to travel and gather the artifacts.

More Issues Targeting This Audience

A few more minor issues, which also target this third group, can be easily fixed as well. For example, completing a region gives no reward, and you don't know when you are finished with it. There's also no big reward for getting the lore to 100%. Also, since it's unknown how many key items the region contains, this can result in the player searching for hours until the motivation dies out.

This can be solved by giving a completion percentage of the region. Providing the player with a special message for completing it and potentially a worthy item. For example, one guaranteed equipment piece for their class, which works in other areas around the completed one.

The unlocks should always be visible but blacked out, so that you know which can be found in the area. This gives away a little bit about the region, but it helps those who are searching aimlessly for something, which doesn't exist. If the quest doesn't exist, it will be blamed on tough luck.

Alright, This Is Long Enough

Now, I have addressed the biggest problem. I still have two blog posts planned about Game Development Lifecycles and the special relationship between players and developers. The blog post turned out to be less of a criticism/review than I had planned. Well, I can analyze problems and try to solve them by giving suggestions using my experience. I'm not good at reviewing, lol.

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I'm a junior game developer and software developer and I created this blog to share my ideas, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.