Saturday, March 10, 2018

Up The Hill Backwards : GW2

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm playing MMOs the wrong way.

It all started the day before yesterday, when I finally hit exasperation point with the state of the inventory on my primary GW2 account. No matter how many bags I give my characters they will insist on filling them up.

I'm used to working with limited storage space in every MMO I play. My playstyle involves acquiring much and using little. I like to do the activities that get you rewards but I don't like to use those rewards unless I have a very good reason. I'd rather tuck them away for when they might be needed.

That causes an inevitable storage problem that I always deal with first by acquiring bigger bags. Sadly, that doesn't work forever. You can only upgrade your bags so many times and then all your bags are as big as they come (or, in the case of GW2, as big as you can afford).

The next stage is more inventory slots, if the game allows. Games with cash shops always allow. ArenaNet have made most of what little money they've seen from me on bag and bank upgrades.

I'm not a fan of wearing things when they're still on fire but this seemed to fit the look.

In extremis I make more characters (mule is such an unfortunate word), start new guilds, buy extra houses - whatever the MMO in question lets me get away with, but once again it can't go on forever (except in EQ2, where it really can...). In the end, whatever the upgrade path, however generous the storage options, if I play long enough there always comes a time when there's nothing left for me to do but clean up the mess I've made.

It takes a while. Hours. Sometimes days. Honestly, I never finish. I just get to a point where I can breathe again, then I call it done. With luck a good spring clean might buy me another three months.

This time, when I hit the wall, my first idea was to buy another bank slot. I thought I'd clear some bags, throw in a whole load of stuff, slam the door and forget about it. Only it turns out I've bought all the bank vaults ANet is willing to sell me. You'd think they'd want more of my money but apparently they have standards. Unlike me.

So many new stat combos. I can't keep track of them all.

Next I thought about buying more bag slots. Those come per character not per account and I have plenty of leeway left there, but the idea was to get this stuff off my characters, not enable them to lug around more. Also bag slots cost too much.

So I buckled down and started tidying and that was when I had my bright idea.

This might not sound conected but earlier in the week I'd finally decided to put my Elementalist, the character I play in WvW most of the time, into full Ascended. She was nearly there already. I just needed three more pieces of armor.

I got her sorted out quickly enough. It seemed easier than I remembered. And cheaper. That tends to happen when you already have all the mats lying around and the mat economy has tanked due to oversupply.

With her finished, I turned to my Charr Guardian. A few days ago, playing my Elementalist (Tempest, technically) as usual, I was following a Commander I like when something happened. After several highly embarassing wipes he began begging someone - anyone - to swap from DPS to Heavy Support. No-one did. Eventually the Commander tagged down with one of those "I'm not angry I'm just disappointed" sighs that always leave you feeling it was somehow your fault.

Lookin' good after a trip to the bank.
I rarely play a Guardian; never in WvW (due to complete incompetence), but I have all the classes. So ,why not? Well, I can think of two reasons: 1) I may have the classes but I don't have the skills and 2) I am so far from the meta these days I'm not sure I could find it with a map. Learning is fun, though, isn't it? Or if not it's at least supposed to be good for you. And (here comes the connection, at last) I thought maybe if I geared up my Guardian for WvW I could clear some inventory space doing it.

It's at times like this when a tendency to hoard really comes in useful. I've been doing dailies in WvW for years and when Living World Season 3 started, giving us a new map every chapter, I did those dailies too. I did them for months until I gradually fell out of the habit.

My bank is full of unopened gear, loot and currency boxes from all aspects of the game  I have most of the armor and weapon boxes from various story stages and major events, along with stacks and stacks of LS map daily chests. I even  have separate stacks of some of the various map currencies from when I used to potter around there doing stuff just because. I spent some at the time but I saved a lot more.

What's more, because I spend at least some of my time in WvW every single day, I have stacks of Skirmish chests and over a thousand unused "Potions of WvW Rewards". It only takes 80 of those to complete a WvW Reward Track and there's a reward track for every LS Map so if I ever need more of anything in a hurry...

Speaking of WvW reward tracks, that's how I came to have a dozen or so Triumphant Armor Boxes lying around unopened. Each of which can be used to obtain the Precursor pieces you need to buy ascended Triumphant Hero armor, assuming you have enough Skirmish tickets, which of course I do because I've been getting them for months just for enjoying myself and I've never spent any...

And, well, I won't go into excruciating detail about how it all works. I play the game and it took me hours of reading to understand it all. The point is, I've spent the last two days working on kitting out first my Elementalist (Tempest, going to swap to Weaver soon) and Guardian (now a Firebrand) in full Ascended gear, then swapping my Ranger (the one that's not a Druid) into a mix of Exotic and Ascended using the new-fangled Marauder stats.

All of this came about just because I wanted some space. I've ended up with one bank vault cleared and a much better understanding of how the gear system works. In the game I've been playing every day, several hours a day, for five and a half years, that is. You might have thought I'd already have known. I did, kind of. I just never felt it until now.

This turned out handy.
Instant travel to all the vendors I needed for my Ascended accessories.
I'm starting to see that there is some point to doing these dailies, farming these currencies, running around taking towers and keeps, generally doing all the stuff I do every single day, beyond the sheer fun of doing it. This stuff is actually for something! Who knew?

Well, I guess, everyone but me. That's why GW2 has gained a reputation as a super-grindy game, where everything revolves around doing repetitive activities to earn currencies to spend or materials to craft.

It's no wonder people get fed up or burn out. Who'd want to go round the same set of bushes with ten characters every day, picking berries? Who'd want to play a game mode they don't enjoy for hour after hour just because it's a bit faster or cheaper than the alternatives when it comes to getting upgrades?

Not me. But maybe that's how I'm supposed to play. It seems that's how the people creating this "content" expect me to play. It's how plenty of people do play.

Now I've worked out what it is that I'm supposed to be doing - at last - I think I'd rather carry on as I was. Bimbling along doing this and that and letting stuff pile up, then having a big clear-out and a spending binge every few months seems like it would be more fun than chipping away at the gear mountain a piece at a time.

Of course, the only way I've been able to come to this realization is because I've been doing the grindy stuff all along without even noticing. I wouldn't have had all those boxes and chests ready to open if I hadn't. Imagine if I'd finally gotten around to reading it up and discovered I was two years behind...

Two days work...

Then again, you have to ask, would it matter? I'm not "gearing up" because of issues with content. I'm still one hundred percent certain that, outside of Raids and high-level Fractals, no-one needs anything more than Exotics to play GW2's "end game". I was only doing it because I needed the bank space and I only carried on doing it after that because, like a lot of other things in GW2, once I'd started it turned out to be fun.

In the end, I guess there's no "right" way to play. Just so you're enjoying yourself. It's supposed to be entertainment, after all.

I might be a bit more focused from now on, though. I read up the path to WvW Legendary Armor while I was doing my research and it doesn't look as impossible as I thought it was. Maybe, if I carry on playing the way I do, in another six months I might be able to binge-make a whole set of of that on a whim!

That really would be something.


  1. Just imagine, if you do raid, you get to do the same thing with more pink items. My bank is clogged, I barely spend any raid currency until an “emergency” of I need X character in Y ascended armor and weapons now!

    Admittedly, because I stopped WvWing for about five years, my badge of honor stockpile is starting to dip into the low 3000s and worrying me just a tad.

    But really, there is one “right” way to play and you’ve won it with that mighty fine handsome-looking charr you got there! Everyone needs a Fashion Wars charrdian with a winning toothy smile!

    1. He's had a complete makeover. He's been looking slick (for a charr) in some kind of quasi-Edwardian/Steampunk trenchcoat thing (obviously, as a medium armor wearer he's in a trenchcoat) and then I discovered that wonderful fur shoulde ritem in the bank and it prompted a whole new look. It really is very obvious which of my team I've spent time on - some look like that and others look like their mother dressed them in the dark.


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