The *new* Ascalonian Catacombs

Last night some guildies and I ran through story mode and all three explorable paths of Ascalonian Catacombs. Just hours before publishing this article I did another run of path 1 and path 2. My experience was great and I came out of the dungeon feeling that the encounters were much more interesting. If this is Arena Nets vision for all the dungeons then we are in for a treat. Today I would like to quickly go over these changes to Ascalonion Catacombs and provide you with the strategies we used to clear all three explorable paths. Here is the official list of changes from the patch notes.

    - Improved the skills on the cave troll boss. 
    - Additional ghostly allies will now join Kholer
    - Removed breeders from the spawns during Hodgins’ search for the first scepter
    - Rebalanced the graveling dungeon army to make them more interesting and fun to fight
    - Revamped the Ghost Eater fight to include Detha’s traps
    - Revamped the Colossus Rumblus fight to give him new skills and abilities
    - Revamped the Howling King encounter and made changes to his army
    - Adjusted the health of dungeon creatures and bosses


These changes leave a lot open to interpretation which limits how I can write this article. I can not sit here and tell you facts about what was changed in every case. What I can provide is a narrative account of my group's and my own experience playing through this dungeon for the first time since the patch. Another thing to note is that not everything that has been changed has been recorded in the patch notes. Robert Hrouda had this to say on the forums when called out,
I am not in charge of the patch notes – that’s someone else job, and they decided that the patch note wasn't worth including. Keep in mind we have to translate these things, and there could be several reasons it was not included, from budget to time constraint. I am working with the people who write the patch notes though, to not drop off as many as they have been lately for dungeons.
Not having the full patch notes is kind of frustrating when writing an article like this but last night it led to a sense of mystery. We didn't know what to expect or what exactly had changed. In the future though I for one would appreciate all the details they are willing to give on the changes made and then I can decide to look at them or not.

The party that got it done. From left to right,
Coal Blackroot, Thallorius, Me (Crushtastic),
Arsenic Loki, and Keti Scheewolf
I have now run AC path 1 and 2 twice since the update and path three once. All my runs were with guildies. We did not use voice communication at all instead we relied on party chat. I ended up running with a variety of people but I had two primary groups. The first group consisted of four 80s (a thief, an engineer, a warrior, and a guardian) and a 35 (an elementalist). I couldn't tell you what each build is; however, as a group we had decent DPS and were fairly beefy. The second group consisted of five 80s (two thieves, a ranger, guardian/engineer, and a necro). This group had more DPS but less survivability. I played my thief both times and ran with my Jack-of-all-Trades thief build. I also did a run through story mode. It served as a good warm up on the first night and we breezed through in under 20 minutes. There were no changes to this part of the dungeon so I will move on to the explorable paths.

The planning room. Which plan will you follow?

Spiders, Trolls, and Kholer


Like Queen like spiderling.
The first major encounter of the Dungeon is the Spider Queen. I ended up doing this encounter five times. On the first run we defeated it without issue. On the second run we wiped twice after spawning the Spider Queen before the spiderlings and gargoyles were defeated. We rallied and got it done. Our third attempt had no issues. Run four was with a new group and we had one wipe. Again we reset and cleared it. Run five was rocky but we made it through. The patch notes do not say anything specific changed with this encounter but we felt some things were different. The Spider Queens AoE was much stronger and she spat webs at us. The hardest thing to remember was that the AoE was actually a danger as before you could stand in it without issue. Once my groups had that in mind it was actually quite easy.

The Spider Queens web attack snares Keti.
Another changed we noticed at this point was the big door blocking passage to the rest of the dungeon. This door does not disappear until the Spider Queen encounter is complete. I have never skipped the spider before as the reward it gives is worth the effort so this change actually does not effect me. I didn't even notice it on the first run through.

The Stalker evades my attacks.
Next you fight a group of gravelings which highlight some of their new abilities. They will knock you down and bleed you a lot more and the Graveling Stalker has an annoying evade ability where it turns transparent and is immune to direct damage for a time. This is kind of annoying but all-in-all individually gravelings aren't any bigger of a threat, but whenever they get together in groups they are extremely dangerous as they can chain knockdowns and knockbacks that will leave you crying.

Kholer face tanks like a man.
The next major encounter is Kholer. Kholer is a thorn in the side of a number of people. I have never really had any issues with him. Once you know how to look for his tell (he raises his sword in the air) then the fight is rather trivial. The most obvious change to this encounter is that Kholer now spawns minions throughout the fight. Now it doesn't matter if you pull him away from his spawn location you will always have to deal with some adds. We simply focused the adds down and kept an eye out for Kholer's pull and we did fine. Occasionally someone would go down, we would laugh, and get back to it. Finally, it seems like Kholer performs the pull less often and his spin attack does less damage. I let him pull me in once and stood still during the spin attack and survived with around 100 HP. Overall, this encounter is much easier. We fought Kholer straight up three of the fives times I ran through AC and had no wipes.

On the other two runs the Cave Troll spawned and we lured it to Kholer for a fight. Kholer beat the Troll on both occasions and we cleaned up. We could tell that the Troll had a number of new abilities including a glowing projectile attack which bounces from one target to the next. He also performs a jump with a radial knock back along five directions. I kind of wish they would put the Troll in places that forced your team to fight him. The temptation to lure him to Kholer for a show down is too great for most parties to turn down.


Path One


The next encounter to discuss is Path 1's Burrow Room. The burrows no longer spawn Breeders and instead they seem to spawn higher quantities of the lesser gravelings. I did this encounter twice and both times it proved a challenge. Both times we attempted the "traditional" method with one person defending and the rest taking down the burrows. Of the three or four times we tried this it always failed. As our experienced defender said, "Holy crap there are way more gravelings now." Other strategies that failed; a  two pronged blitz across both sets of burrows, three defenders with two attackers, and two parties for each side of the room. 

Map of the strategy outlined.
Both times we succeeded we had to have strong coordination placing party members where they were strongest. The strategy we employed was actually quite complicated and it will help to give the players names to better describe it. Lets call them A, B, C, D, and E. A, B, and C start on the western burrow and D and E start on the burrow just above Hodgins (top image).

A, B, C quickly destroy the western burrow while A moves on to the next burrow in the chain. B and C stayed behind where the first burrow was to screen the gravelings and finish them off. While this is going on D and E are killing the trash the comes out of the upper burrow without killing the burrow itself. Once B and C clear their gravelings C moves to the eastern side of the room to join D and E. B stays on screening duty (2nd image).

At about this point A will finish off their burrow and will join B and finish off any gravelings in the area. Now the action shiftd to the eastern half of the room. C will continue screening the upper burrow while D and E break off and down the final burrow in the first chain (3rd image).

Once that burrow is destroyed a lot of pressure is relieved. A and B will probably still be dealing with gravelings on the western half of the map while C, D, and E finish up the upper burrow and the one that comes after it. Each time they are leaving someone behind to screen and clear the gravelings that that left over. Once the final mound appears A and B will be in good position to attack it while C, D, and E protect Hodgins from the remaining gravelings (bottom image).

This wasn't easy either time we went through. When we did finally lock down the strategy it felt right and it actually went REALLY smoothly. It might not happen the first time you try. Don't be discouraged. You might need to come up with your own strategy for your party composition. Having the right people in the right place goes a long way.

The Death Beam. Don't get derped.
To wrap up Path 1 we fought the Howling King. The first time I fought him my party cleared it no problem. The second time, however, we had great difficulty taking about 5 or 6 tries to finally crack it. There are a number of things to watch out for in this encounter. Firstly, is the death beam that the Howling King will let loose. It will down you and then keep going til you are dead. Luckily it seems to be very narrow and is easy to dodge. He also performs a small cone scream to those in front of him. The scream does little damage but it will cripple you and put about five stacks of confusion on you. This attack is subtle but deadly. If that wasn't enough to keep you busy there are also fire traps on the ground that are deadly to you and to the gravelings in the encounter.

The strategy going into this was to stay tight as a group and kite him around in a circle through the different fire traps. While that works in theory it usually quickly turned into a cluster with every one kind of having to look out for them selves. If you had gravelings on you then you kited them into a fire trap and they died. If not you put your best DPS on to the Howling King. Eventually everyone got the rhythm of the fight and we got it done. At one point I was the last one up with him at about 10% HP. My party encouraged me to go forward and try to solo it. I got him so close (like a hair away) before a graveling jumped me. Though I tried to get up with Shadowstep I wasn't quick enough and was quickly jumped by three more gravelings and that was that.

Another death beam shot. Notice the fire traps.
In retrospect, I had to think about why my first run went so cleanly and I think it was because we natural fell into a rhythm of having three people on the Howling King while two others intercepted the gravelings. It all happened really quickly and I didn't really even get a chance to see what we did right. The fight is not in any respects trivial nor was the first group any better then the second. Thus, I think there are two strategies in this encounter. One would be an every man for himself style like my second group ended up using. Everyone needs to have strong condition removal and at least one stun breaker. The strategy here is that everyone looks after themselves. Ressing is tricky if you don't have a thief with Shadow Refuge as the gravelings will make mince meat of those reviving. The best bet is to keep moving and if you have gravelings on you burn them in the fire. The other strategy would be to have some players intercept the incoming gravelings BEFORE they get to those DPSing the Howling King. Once agro'd the gravelings are very hard to loose.


Path Two


Next lets talk Path 2. The first encounter in this path is the trap room. Both times the trap room went down smoothly. In both instances, I took on the role of kiting the gravelings while the other four worked the traps. I derped on the second go and let the Breeder get past me. Luckily my party was fast acting and the person with the Breeder's agro joined me kiting and another took over the centre trap. I payed for my derp with my life so at least there was that justice. The first try though I did it no problem. I didn't even go down and usually I do (not that it is a big deal as you just rally of a dying graveling) and I was kiting on my own which I don't normally do.

Bathing in the AoEs.
The major difference in Path 2 was at the end of the encounter. Firstly, the Ascalonian ghosts which attack Detha, while she set up her traps, were much easier. I can not even begin to describe how much less damage they do. I remember standing in an area overlapping with Necromancer AoEs and laughing at how little damage I was taking. Both times we breezed through this part. This was a nice change as usually this is by far the hardest part of the path and probably the dungeon and it shouldn't be. It isn't a boss fight or anything. Thus, this was an excellent improvement.

The "Ghost Shield" buff. Also notice the boss' description.
The Ghost Eater is completely different than before. On the first run through we derped around for quite a while trying to figure out what exactly we had to do. It took about 5 minutes then we had it and finished the encounter without incident. The first thing to notice is the new buff on the Ghost Eater called "Ghost Shield". You know this buff is up when the Ghost Eater looks like a ghost. One of the effects of this shield is to make the The Ghost Eater invulnerable. The other effect is to cause to her to spawn oozes when attacked. Next thing to notice are the guns strewn about the room. The guns have two abilities, a lift and a pull. Neither does anything on its own but when an ooze is lifted it can be pulled. Once an ooze is pulled into range of a trap it will dissolve and provide power to the trap. Three oozes will completely power a trap. Once the Ghost Eater enters the area of a charged trap it will remove the Ghost Shield buff at which point you are free to do damage.

The Ghost Eater in Ghost mode next to a trap.
The second run was dicey and we wiped twice. The main danger in this fight is the AoE attack that the Ghost Eater performs. He will spit out goo that coats the floor doing big chunks of damage. You really need to avoid this. Luckily he will target one person and that person needs to kite the Ghost Eater around while the others take care of charging the traps. I would recommend kiting the Ghost Eater around a pole. That worked best for me. Keeping the Ghost Eater busy is important as the AoEs will block the traps.

When the trap explodes a bright wave of light passes
over the Ghost Eater removing his buff.
As I see it there are two strategies you can employ. Firstly, you can do one trap at a time. The down side to this strategy is that the Ghost Eater can heal. It seems that he will release the oozes when attacked for a short period of time. When that time is up the oozes left will return to the Ghost Eater healing her. If you are quick there won't be problems if not then strategy two might be for you. This involves charging all three traps and then pulling him from one to the next. That should be enough to kill him. The down side to this is that you need to have someone in your party that can kite the Ghost Eater long enough to charge all the traps. I tried doing this for my party with some success. It wasn't easy though.

Some general tips for this encounter would be to have all party members turn off auto attack. Attacking the Ghost Eater while he has his buff up will only cause oozes to spawn that will eventually heal him. Also, assigning party members as either pull and lift before you start and sticking to these assignments will help. Nothing is worse then lifting an ooze at the same time three others do. If your party is extremely coordinated then you might even have two groups with one pull and one lift in each focusing two oozes. My groups simply targeted an single ooze. The lifters lifted and the pullers pulled. Sometimes this was dicey but it got the job done.


Path Three


Finally, we come to part 3. I only ran this path once on the first night after the patch. And unfortunately all my screenshots from the first night didn't actually get taken. I blame FRAPs, FRAPs blames me. Whatever. There isn't much too see in this path that is different anyway. Most of the screenshot below were taken from this video which I have embedded below.

The Lovers room went down with no problems. We just ran from burrow to burrow quickly downing them. We weren't pro or anything and after the first five or so burrows were spinning around looking for the next one. Common sense of targeting the burrow when you see it payed off and we breezed through.

You can see the large AoEs from the roof collapse.
The boss fight with Colossus Rumblus was challenging. We lost a party member right before the fight as well and were unable to replace him due to people being on different builds that night. In the end we did four man him. The main mechanic with this fight is basically the entire roof collapsing in on you and your party. The only place to take shelter from this is near the NPC named Grast who will put up a shield to defend everyone... sometimes. Whether he is meant to shield your group every time I do not know but it seems bugged to me. Right before Rumblus triggers the roof to cave in he waves around and kind of glows green. This seemed perfect for an interrupt but this also seems bugged. I hit him with a number of Headshots and was unable to interrupt the ability even though "interrupted" would display. On the forums Robert Hrouda is calling it bugged.
Hmm, that seems like a bug. It was intended that you could interrupt the howl that caused the rocks to fall. I’ll send that over to our QA and get it verified.
Here the tell that indicated Rumblus
is about to make the roof collapse.
Not sure how something like that slipped past them but alright. My party wiped a about a dozen times trying to crack this one. We even got wiped about 15 seconds into the encounter one time. Positioning is everything in this fight. If you get hit by the falling roof you get knocked down. If you get knocked down and do not have a way to get up you are going to go down and most likely will die. Ressing people is extremely difficult and it is best you just do not go down in the first place. Watch for Rumblus' tell and get near Grast for protection. Then watch out for Rumblus as he has knock backs that can hit you out of the shielded area.

This is where I bring up the third potential bug in this encounter. If your party wipes you will need to rez Grast to even have a hope in your next fight. The problem is Rumblus will most likely be pathing over top over his dead body. Not only that once you do get Grast up he will pull a Leroy Jenkins into the fight at 50% HP. This isn't enough HP for him to survive the entire fight and he will go down again. You either need to get him back up or get dodging because he is your only line of defence. Some how he did go back to full HP for us and that was also the time we defeated Rumblus as we had Grasts' help the entire time.

The final thing to mention about this encounter is that there might be a safe spot outside Grast's shield. While we were playing we noticed a spot under the archway of the ruins that seemed to be devoid of falling rocks. Shortly after spotting this we finished the encounter without getting a chance to test this. I did find this Youtube video of a guy using that spot to his advantage though.


It hasn't been confirmed on whether this is intentional or not but while the rest of the event is bugged I see no harm in taking advantage of this. This is a challenging fight without a doubt. Once the bugs are fixed it will most likely be enjoyable. Being able to interrupt the roof caving in will go a long way. Personally, I wish that the shield ability that Grast performed was in the hands of a player. Relying in an NPC is lame. Instead I feel there should be an item that a player can hold to generate the shield or be a thing sitting in the middle of the room that can be activated.


Conclusion


I think this has turned into the longest post I have ever written (I am also still finding grammer errors. Sorry one man show here!). There was a lot to talk about and I am not done yet! A lot of my guild mates have been asking me, "Is AC easier or harder now?" My answer to them is that it is neither. Some parts are easier some parts are harder. Overall, I would say it is more interesting. The mechanics for the boss fights are challenging and exciting. They definitely keep you on your toes and require cooperation. The only thing I would say this dungeon needs now are more spotlight moments and it would be brilliant.

Meh loot.
Thanks Kholer.
If this is the path that Arena Net plans to take with all the dungeons then by all means carry on. These changes are excellent and much needed. I would also imagine that a number of new strategies will emerge in the next couple weeks that will help everyone in completing these dungeons in record times. The biggest hinderance to running the new AC will be your previous expectations to what the fights will be like. Go into the Spider Queen fight assuming the AoEs are no big deal and you will die. Assuming you can get away running dungeon without a stun removal will get you killed. If you put your brain to the task though and drop your expectations you will be fine. Just do not expect PUGs to know what to do or for that matter to even be aware that the dungeon has changed for the next month. If you aren't willing to put up with a wipe or two then do not run this dungeon until people learn what they are doing or stick with those that you know have completed it post patch.

Sorry about the long post. I hope some of you have made it to this point. If so, let me know what your take on the new AC is? Have you run it? If not, what do you think of my take on it? Does it make you want to find a group and get out there and give it a go? Or does it intimidate you into not wanting to try? Let me know in the comments!

Gathering Storm Patch Notes Up

The patch notes for the Gathering Storm are up on the forums. Head over and check them out. The patch is now live. Currently, downloading. I was getting good speeds but now I am getting connection problems.

Some highlights from the patch notes,
Two new achievements, The Gathering Storm and Lost and Found, have been added to the Living Story category.
The refugees’ oppressors are becoming more aggressive and have shown their faces in Wayfarer Foothills and Diessa Plateau. The refugees need qualified adventurers even more!
Camps in Hoelbrak and the Black Citadel have become crowded. As a result, the refugees have begun moving on to Lion’s Arch. 
Refugees arriving in Lion’s Arch have lost on the road precious objects from their homes. The objects will be difficult to find, but the refugees are more likely to tell their stories to the helpful adventurer who recovers their possessions.
Sounds like a good ramp up for the Living Story. I will have updates here when I find them in game.
You can now select the five daily achievements from a list that you will complete to receive the daily reward. 
You can now select which achievements are tracked on the right hand side of the screen through the Achievement tab on the Hero panel.
Added new rewards to the laurels vendors in all major cities.
I have been looking forward to this. The new rewards are just icing on the cake. Along with this comes an expanded selection of daily achievements such as do three jumping puzzles or score points in keg brawl.
Many of the encounters in the Ascalonian Catacombs Explorable have been revamped, including all three final boss fights.
There is more details on this in the patch notes. If we can not do Guild Missions today then I will be running AC tonight to check out the changes.
A new test version of our advanced event scaling algorithm has been applied to four high-level, regularly played events to help us monitor the feasibility of this system in the live environment. This new scaling algorithm dynamically increases the difficulty of events by using the current system of increasing the difficulty of existing creatures, while also adding a new system that substitutes creatures of lower difficulty with different creatures as the event scales up. If successful, this system will be slowly extended to other events across the game during 2013.
Firstly, I wonder which events have been changed. Hopefully they let us know instead of just leaving it to speculation. Secondly, this actually sounds awesome. I hope it works out well so events can accommodate more people.

Next are notes about item preview on the Trading Post, which is nice, but even better is the ability to preview the weapon in different states; sheathed, drawn, or by itself. Next is notes about the Guild Missions and new Guild Content. Nothing new to really note here that I didn't already mention here.
Credit for killing creatures is now easier to receive in situations when many players are attacking a single target. 
Increased the loot rewards on many world boss chests, including the chests in Orr temples and the dragon chests. 
Fixed a bug on certain world boss chests that was causing them to drop fewer rewards than intended. These chests can now only be looted once per day, to encourage players to fight multiple bosses and spread out across the world.
So, more loot, more loot, more loot less often. I will certainly take that. I have often thought that reducing the frequency of the dragons would be a good idea. My thought was to have the dragons spawn once a day at a random time. I like the above idea of only allowing players to grab the chest once per day. This lets them put better stuff in it and allows people of all time zones to enjoy their loot every day. I just worry that their won't be enough people willing to help if they have already received their chest for the day.
Daily achievement tracker now preserves expansion state.
Nice quality of life change.
Fixed most cases of a bug where players would be stuck auto-running when attempting to pick up a bundle.
I know this is a big one for a lot of people. Some guildies went nuts reading that one as did some people on twitter.
Lesser air elementals now have legs and a tail.
First thing I am doing when I get in game is checking that out. I can not even imagine what this will look like.
Black Peppercorns no longer drop from Mature Herb and Verdant Herb nodes.
Will price go up on TP? Who knows. I'll probably buy a bunch when I get in game just in case.
Increased the drop rate of Passion Flowers from Passiflora Vines.
This might also be a good thing to harvest after the patch to take advantage of the high prices before they fall.
Increased the drop rate of exotics in the profession gear boxes sold by laurel vendors.
Another nice change. Might make these boxes worth it. Sounds like we are getting a lot more loot this patch. 
Using stealth no longer resets NPC aggression tables.
If this means what I think it means this will be a really nice update. What I think this means is that when you enter stealth the monster will no longer untether and reset, but will instead wait for you to come out of stealth.   Which will be nice as I have had creatures reset and heal on me before.
Cleaned up hit detection for melee attacks targeting inanimate objects.
I hope this finally fixes the issues we have all been experiencing with this since launch.
Changed the orange swords combat marker [in WvW] to show only if more than 25 people are in combat in the area.
I think it used to show up with five or more people. Changing this to a higher number is excellent and will hopefully break up some zergs.
Fixed an issue that allowed NPCs with Righteous Indignation to still take condition damage.
Was always wondering when they would fix this. Will make choices to take the supply camps much more strategic.

Well my game is patched and those are about all the highlights I wanted to mention. Time to play.

Pre-patch Living Story Change

It seems that every Monday there are some changes in the Living Story even if there is full on patch the next day. Not much has changed since my last update but I did want to update everyone no matter how small the change. 

This week we see changes just to the refugee coordinator in Hoelbrak. The coordinator in the Black Citadel has not had any changes. Also as far as I can tell Wayfarer and Diessa also remain unchanged. Here is the coordinators new dialogue.


Looking around I was unable to find any evidence for who the mysterious benefactor might be. I also popped over to Lion's Arch to look for refugees and was unable to find any.

We also get our first confirmation that the Dredge and the Flame Legion are working together. I some how still think that there is more to this though and we do not have the full story. Other places I have looked for changes but found none are The Great Lodge, Sigfast and Skarti's lodges, Lion's Arch (all over), the dead merchant, the merchant body guard, the small refugee camp near Dolyak Pass, and the Burrows of Moledavia. 

Since there were few changes in the Living Story I thought I would point out an NPC in Diessa Plateau that intrigues me. Her name is Zola Swiftstep and she can be found on the western edge of Diessa Plateau near Silex Castrum which is a POI just south of the Wurm's Gullet. This NPC has been in Diessa ever since I have been coming here daily for the Living Story. Silex Castrum is a small Flame Legion base that Zola has been keeping an eye on. Here is what she has to say,


I wonder if she will play a part in the upcoming story since she has had eyes on the Flame Legion. If the Flame Legion are involved it seems like she has failed in her duty. Otherwise it would seem like the Flame Legion are not involved. I am grasping at straws here though.

Slowly the Living Story moves forward. Reading what Colin Johanson had to say about the Living Story in recent interviews it seems to me that the Living Story was created as a solution to the problems seen with the November one-time event. A lot of people were not very happy about being forced into coming online at a certain time (especially if you weren't in North America) and the servers couldn't handle all the people anyway. Thus, the move seems to be to get away from one-time events and move towards content that players can access at their leisure. As for what is to come here is what Colin has to say,
You’re not going to see a ton of stuff in February, [it’s mostly about the story] more setup stuff. (When) we hit the end of the year and decided to really make that a big thing for 2013 and as a result [this didn’t leave us much time to] build a lot of stuff yet, so I think walking towards March and April we’ll get into the cadence of what a living story can be and then that will build from there as the year goes on.
This doesn't give us much hope for what to expect in the near future. Sounds like February will be about as exciting as January, but there is hope for March and April. Here is another quote from Colin,
I mean, take everything that happened in January, and condense it down to say, a weeks worth of content and then the next week there’s more story that builds on that. Is that something that would interest you guys?
It is hard to say if even that would be enough as this entire month has done nothing to advance things. As Bhagpuss stated in the comments to last weeks Living Story update, "If this were an actual story in a book we'd still be on the first page. If it was a movie we'd still be in the pre-credit sequence." And it is true. I would not put up with this on a weekly basis. The Living Story needs to be more real. Right now it is completely immersion breaking as the effects of it are not actually visible in the world. If an NPC tells you there are scouts somewhere then there should be scouts there. If an NPC says refugees are moving to Lion's Arch then there should be refugees in Lion's Arch. If there is a massive disaster that has destroyed the homes of hundreds then some where there should be evidence of destroyed homes. 

On the other hand, if what Colin means is that weekly we would receive a couple dozen dialogue changes, new NPCs, new events, and new structures then I could get behind that so long as a story is actually told that I can interact with in the world. If the plan is to have a story told by NPCs that you can not actually see the effects of in the real world then they might as well just save themselves the time and just add a new book to the Priory Library.

What do you guys think? Do you have hopes for this story going forward? Have I missed anything that changed this week? Let me know in the comments.

This Week in Guild Wars 2

Every Friday, Raphia at GuildMag goes through all the community articles for the week and rounds them up into one giant article. Every week I like to go through this list and pick out my favourites to share with you guys. The articles I pick out tend to compliment the content that I have here on my blog. I also try to sneak in some Red Posts and news from Arena Net that I may have missed earlier in the week.


Straight from Arena Net


First off, there is a sale in the Black Lion Trading Post on bag slots and bank tabs. This sale will last until February 26th so get them now while they are 20% off. Guild Wars 2 is also on sale. Right now you can purchase Guild Wars 2 for 30% off. If you know someone looking to get into the game now is a good time. They have until Febraury 25th to get in on the sale.

Bobby Stein, Guild Wars 2 Lead Writer, has been busy posting in a thread about the personal story. He has a number of posts in this thread but my favourite concerns Trahearne,
[Trahearne] didn’t resonate well with some players for a variety of reasons. We’re comparing external feedback with our own, since we have plans for Trahearne and other existing characters in future live updates and expansion content. We won’t spoil what we’re discussing, other than to say we’re looking at many different options for his current implementation and beyond.
My vote would be to have Trahearne become corrupted and become a boss everyone gets to kill. It would be the just thing to do.

Recently Colin Johanson had lunch with a number of lucky fans. Dragon Season was kind enough to transcribe the entire conversions into a Q and A style document. It is divided into three parts here, here, and here. For even more check twitter hash tag #foodwars.

Finally, is this video where Arena Net is reproducing the Harlem Shake meme.



Gloopy the Quaggan


The first episode of a video series titled "Gloopy" has been posted to the French site vikingclan.eu. The video contains no dialog and can be enjoyed by anyone. It is rather odd but some how compelling. I want to know more. Check it out for your surreal moment of the week.



The Guild Wars Chef


This blog, Guild Wars Chef, is really neat. The author takes foods in Guild Wars 2 and makes them - for real. So far the blog has featured a new recipe each week complete with pictures of the finished products. This is a really neat idea and I especially like the idea crafting some tasty food for myself for a change. I will definitely be following this blog in the future and if I ever feel adventurous in the kitchen I may even try a recipe or two.


Inventory Full is Guild Wars 2 a Theme Park?


One of my favourite gaming blogs, Inventory Full, has a great article this week on the merits of the open world event system. Is Guild Wars 2 simply a theme park? If so is it a good thing? Bhagpuss discusses this and more in his article titled, "Sunday in the Park". If there is an article you read this week, make it this one. Bhagpuss's witty writing style is always enjoyable and this week it is backed up with a solid critical viewpoint. Definitely my favourite article of the week.


Kill Ten Rats on Guild Wars 2 Expansion


The rumour of a Guild Wars 2 expansion has been floating around for a while now and it is something I have been meaning to discuss here on Egg Baron. Ravious at Kill Ten Rats does a good job rounding up all the evidence for an expansion into one place. Is an expansion coming? Probably. Head over to Kill Ten Rats for all the details.


Guild Wars 2 Hub debates Trading Legendary Weapons


The guys at GW2 Hub have continued their debate series this time tackling the issue of whether legendary weapons should be tradable on the Trading Post. It is something I have thought long and hard about and I have to say I am clearly on the side of they should not be tradable. Innuendo takes the side of against trading them and nails the points I would have laid out. If you are unfamiliar with this debate check out this article for a good primer.


Malefic Incantations on the Defiant Buff


Optimus Maleficus from Malefic Incantations has an excellent post on his blog about the Defiant Buff. This buff can be found on most champion or higher level monsters in Guild Wars 2 and is the bane of many a player. Personally I have spent some time attempting to learn exactly how this worked. I thought I had all the details but Optimus's article taught me quite a bit about the nuances of how this mechanic works. It is a really neat article.


Guildcast Episode 62


Gamebreaker.tv's Guild Wars 2 show Guildcast keeps on coming. This week they look at what to expect in the Febraury patch, the Living Story, and loot. As always it is a fun packed hour with Gary Gannon, Richie Procopio, and Elixabeth Claire (Scott Hawkes was mia this week). They even mention a certain blog when discussing gold making strategies. I try to catch this show live every week on Wednesday @ 6/9pm PST/EST.




Matt Visual on Consumables


The always entertaining Matt Visual is back this week with a great video on the various consumables in game. There are some great Boofs to be had, but hey, you probably do not even know what a Boof is. And you won't until you watch this video. But, seriously, Matt is making the most entertaining Guild Wars 2 videos out there. Subscribe to this guys channel. You won't regret it.



Wooden Potatoes on Traditional Questing


Is Guild Wars 2 missing something? Is is Traditional Questing? I don't know. In his most recent video Wooden Potatoes provides an excellent argument to why he feels that traditional questing could add an extra layer of depth to Guild Wars 2. I guess it coudln't really hurt the game and I totally agree with Potatoes that traditional quests are something Arena Net should not be completely avoiding. Sure, focus on dynamic events, but don't forget about the good things that traditional quests had to offer.


~~~~

That is my round up for this week. For the full list of all the community articles this week head over to Guild Mag. Let me know what your favourite article were this week in the comments.

A Preview of Guild Missions

On Thursday, on GuildWars2.com an article by Leah Rivera appeared detailing Guild Missions. Additional details can be found in an interview conducted by Dragon Season during a meet and greet held by Arena Net. Even more from this meet and greet can be found on Twitter with the hash tag #foodwars. Putting this all together we start to get a really good picture of what the Guild Missions will be. It all sounds really interesting. Today I would like to discuss the features we have learned about the Guild Missions so far and give you my thoughts on what is to come.


Guild Missions are a new form of PvE play that Arena Net is introducing into Guild Wars 2 with the February patch. The missions are designed for large coordinated groups and will be started by a Guild that has unlocked the event through research. The missions will come in a number of difficulties as well as five different types. The types are, Bounty, Trek, Challenge, Rush, and Puzzle. You can get a good idea of what each of the mission types will be, except Trek, by watching the video embedded below and in the Arena Net blog post.



Bounty is the mission type that has been talked about the most. It is the first Guild Mission that will be available once researched. The Bounty mission will have various mobs spawn across multiple zones which your team will need to take down in a given time limit. Colin Johanson said in his interview with Dragon Season that the larger Bounty missions will have your guild spread out across five zones each with a boss that needs to be taken down. The smaller tier, however, will have three bosses in three zones. He also said that when the Guild Mission is launched a random selection of monsters will be selected from and spawned meaning the mission should be different each time.

Trek is probably the mission that we know the least about but the one I am personally most interested in. The only thing I know about this mission type is what Leah Rivera said in the official Arena Net blog post. "Think you know Tyria? Well the Tyrian Explorer’s Society has a challenge for you! Find the list of locations before time runs out." I feel I have good knowledge of Tyria. I have three 80s and a 50. I have 100% World Completion on my Thief, 72% on my Elementalist, 62% on my Warrior, and 33% on my Mesmer (266% in all). I have explored some regions quite thoroughly for articles here including Wayfarer Foothills, Diessa Plateau, Black Citadel and Hoelbrak for the Living Story and Ebonhawke because it is awesome. Learning more about Tyria sounds like fun and I feel I would be a great help to my guild in this mission type.

Some where along the Dragon Brand...
We learn the most about Challenge from Leah Rivera's blog post and the video that accompanies it. The official word is that the Challenge mission will "leverage [the] existing event system" and be "specifically geared to require multi-group, coordinated play to succeed." Watching the video we first see a group of heroes fighting somewhere along the Dragon Brand then we see a group fighting the Krait underwater and finally they are fighting Karka in Southsun Cove. I look forward to learning how these missions will differ from existing events.
Branded creatures feature in this Guild Challenge.
Everyone in the pool!
The flashbacks are already starting.

Chicken run. Looks like stealth is one of your abilities.
Rush as described by Leah Rivera is, "a mad dash over harrowing terrain, traps, and other hidden dangers." In the video we see a group of players running past monsters, first, while transformed into chickens and, second, transformed into spirit wolves. To me, this looks like it will be a lot like the Underwater Fractal where you are transformed into a Dolphin. In Dolphin form you have the ability to "ping" around you to see hidden enemies, you can send out a decoy to fool enemies, you can dash forward, and finally, you can revive allies from a distance. The goal is to use these abilities to swim through a maze and avoid the Krait. I would be very surprised if this is not what Rush was like.

Here we see the Spirit Wolves buffing each other. Also notice the banners. Will this be slalom style?

A pretty room in this first puzzle featured.
Finally, Puzzle looks like it will be the most complex. Described as, "a puzzle and a jumping challenge all in one," this mission type looks like it is setup to highlight group play and individual talent. In the video we see players performing a group jumping puzzle, fighting monsters, and navigating a maze. The variety of things to do in the Puzzle mode looks interesting, but I wonder if these will remain interesting once they are solved. My guild has a lot of fun with "jumping puzzle nights" where we all get together to complete a series of jumping puzzles and race to see who can finish first sometimes with prizes. Others in the guild, however, have great difficultly with the jumping puzzles due to a number of factors from skill to hardware and rendering issues. I think views on this game mode will be very polarized from those that love it to those that hate it.

Three Human statues on one side of the room and three Charr statues on the opposite. An Ascalonian riddle? 
Not really sure what is going on in here, but again, it is a enjoyable view.
Jumping will feature in the Guild Puzzles.
As will mazes.
And Puzzles. Notice the different animal silhouettes above each station.
More Asura style architecture, perhaps this is a swiftness buff or an elevator control.

The Controversy


It did not take long after the announcement of Guild Missions for a bit of a controversy to break out. Most of this is in relation to a post made by Anthony Ordon. The post itself was harmless and merely an answer to the question of how guilds will go about unlocking the various missions. His answer is as follows,
Each guild mission type becomes available through an upgrade that is researched in the guild tech tree. The first one is Guild Bounties, which does require Art of War level 5.
A lot of players are concerned about this because they have smaller guilds which have yet to unlock Art of War at all. The Art of War research chain contains upgrades useful for WvW which many guilds have, up to this point, decided are unnecessary. Unlocking this entire chain would take 36,500 influence which is a lot for a small guild to put together. Influence can be purchased at a rate of 2 gold per 1,000 influence making Tier 5 Art of War cost 73 gold in total. A lot of people are concerned that their 2-3 person guild will not be able to obtain this. Here is Arena Net's response,
Our goal with this system is to give guilds activities and long-term progression that they can accomplish by working together as a guild. These missions are meant to be difficult and challenging to not only unlock, but to accomplish.
We would also like to make every guild upgrade line valuable to every guild. Currently, Art of War is very focused on PvP and WvW, but our plan is to continue to add more guild upgrades in the Art of War line to accomplish this. These Guild Missions are the first step. Along with this system, we also added a number of new guild upgrades that guilds can earn.
In the end, our goal for all of this content is to give guilds new goals and challenges to accomplished once they have researched deeply into each line, as well as require guilds to have researched multiple lines to unlock some upgrades. We expect guild members to have to work together as a guild to earn the influence needed to unlock these new missions, as well as overcome the challenge of the missions themselves. 
In the future, we plan to continue to add more guild upgrades, as well as continue to add challenging guild missions, as we don’t want guilds to run out of goals and accomplishments they can achieve.
I, personally, think this is a perfectly valid response. Guild Missions are not designed for 1 or 2 people to be able to do. As Colin Johanson said in his interview with Dragon Season, the easiest Bounty mission has 3 bosses spawn in three different zones. He figures it would take 10-15 people to finish this mission. If you then consider the cost of 73 gold across 10-15 people that is only 5-8 gold per person which is not a whole lot. This content is not designed for solo play. This is the content that a lot of us have been waiting for that will engage an entire guild. If you still want to be in your 2-3 person guild the great thing about Guild Wars 2 is you can join multiple guilds. My guild is very receptive to allowing people to mutli-guild so long as you stop in to say hello to us every once in a while. Thus, I really do not see what the issue is. Just join another guild for doing Guild Missions. With guesting you do not even need to find a guild on your server. If playing with others in a coordinated style is not the play you are interested in then Guild Missions are not for you.

My Guilds Influence count.
Maybe, I am biased though. I am an officer in a guild with around 300 people and we have saved up 130,000 influence in anticipation of these Guild Missions. At the same time though, we have been waiting forever for something that we can do as a guild together. Up to this point we have just been making up stuff to do, like Diving Board contests, Hide and Go Seek in Lion's Arch, Jumping Puzzle Nights, Party Nights (with in game food and fireworks), weekly Dungeon nights, Fractal nights, WvW nights. To finally have a system in the game that will support us all is awesome.

The only thing that I remain concerned about is how involved people outside the guild can be in the event. Mission types like Bounty and Challenge seem like they take place completely in the open world and anybody can join in. This, in my opinion, takes away from the element of the guild working together to finish the event. I don't see how these are any different then the events that already exist in the world other than a Guild has to start them. I really hope there is something extra to these mission types that requires the coordination a guild brings to the table.

On the other hand, the mission types like Puzzle and Rush, seems like they take place in instances (although somewhere I think I read that the missions will not be instanced [can't find a source for this though]) and will require a lot of coordination. It will be interesting to see if people outside the guild will be able to help with these mission types without being a hindrance or just out right griefing. I can already see my guild enjoying ourselves in a Puzzle mission type only to have an outsider come in and spoil the solution for us or complete a section we wanted to do together.


Conclusions


Overall, I am very excited about the Guild Missions. The various game play elements look exciting. My guild is already going nuts about this in guild chat and on our guild forums. We have been saving up influence for this day for a long time now and are already starting to plan how we will tackle organizing everyone to finish these missions. Suffice to say, the first chance we get we will be going on a Guild Mission together and you can bet that I will have coverage of that right here. If I can convince my guild leader to stream the mission I will link that here as well.

HPV during a diving board contest.
In the mean time, if you are looking for a guild that will be getting serious about these guild missions consider my guild Hyperion Overlords (HPV). We are based on the Gate of Madness server (but we are open to anyone joining us) and are roughly 300 members strong. We have a webpage we use to organize events and a vent server to organize play. We try to take part in all aspects of the game and have members actively playing PvP, PvE, and WvW. We are not a hardcore guild by any means and prefer to think of ourselves as casual and fun. We run at least one event a week but it is more often then not we have over three events each week. Members of HPV hail from all around the world but are mainly eastern North America. Check out our webpage and fill out an application or contact me in game via PM or whisper Crushnaut.8307.

What do you guys think about the Guild Missions? Are you as excited as I am? Do you have concerns about the content? Did I miss anything? There have been a lot of little tidbits coming out of the meet and greet Arena Net held that have been difficult to follow. Let me know in the comments.

Small changes in the Living Story

It seems every Monday there are some small additions to the Living Story that is unfolding in Tyria. This week saw some small changes that I would like to update you on. All-in-all the Living Story is slowly moving forward. In less than a week the latest patch will go live, hopefully, bringing some life back into this story. If you haven't checked out the Living Story yet be sure to see my initial review and my update from last week.


Hoelbrak


If you head over to Hoelbrak, just north of Wolf lodge, to our old friend, the Refugee Coordinator, you will find that this characters dialogue has changed. Here is what she now has to say,


So there are two things to take away from this. One, Whitebear sent some Wolfborn to scout the effected areas, and two, rumour has it that dredge are rising up with magically help. Firstly, Whitebear could refer to Knut Whitebear or one of his two sons, Skarti, and Sigfast. I first went to talk with Knut Whitebear in the Great Lodge. He didn't have anything to add.


Next, I went to Skarti's Steading just south of Shelter Rock by Bear Lodge in Hoelbrak. Skarti is, afterall, the head of the Wolfborn. If anyone would know anything it would be him right? Well his dialogue has not changed. Here is what he has to say,


Skarti's dialogue is a little different if you are on a Norn character, but still there is nothing about this scouting party. For completeness sake I went and talked to the last of the Whitebears, Sigfast. His home is just northwest of Shelter Rock.


Again, nothing. Finally, I went to Wayfarer Foothills and looked for the scouting party. I looked high and low and could not find a Wolfborn scouting party. Maybe I overlooked something or did not look in the right spot. I kind of expected there to be something...

The only other thing to discuss is the "magical" help that the Dredge are receiving. The obvious answer is that it is the Flame Legion based on what we learn in the Black Citadel but are things that obvious? Or is something more subtle going on? I had more speculation in last week's update that still applies. There were also some great theories in the comments to that post.


The Black Citadel


The story in the Black Citadel is similar to that of Hoelbrak. The Refugee Coordinator has updated dialogue, but beyond that there isn't anything else to see. Here is the updated dialogue,


Seems like we are not the only ones in the dark as this guy knows nothing and has begun to speculate. I went looking for the scouts in Diessa Plateau and has unable to find any. Also, I have been to everything in the area that could be considered a ranch and everything seems fine. The coordinator says Tribune Brimstone sent the scouting party. The only Tribune I know with the name Brimstone is Rytlock, so I went to have a chat.


Again nothing. If you speak with the "aide-de-camp" you will learn what an "aide-de-camp" is but little else.


Conclusion


As you can see, I enjoy the idea of the Living Story. I like the idea of the world feeling more like a living place with dialogue changing and such. It has forced me to learn the lore of the land. I had no idea who the leader of the Wolfborn was before I decided to figure it out. I did all the research in game finding other NPCs that spoke of the hierarchy of Hoelbrak. I had a lot of fun doing that and have a lot of fun looking for changes in the Living Story.

What I do not like are the choices Arena Net has made in the delivery of this story so far. For example, in this most recent updated they changed the refugee coordinators dialogue to say that a scouting party had been sent by Whitebear to see what is going on. I do not get why they choose those words if in fact there is not a scouting party to be found and Whitebear has nothing to say on the topic. The scope Arena Net choose for this new dialogue is far to broad. The dialogue could have simply read something along the lines of "Wolfborn from the area are beginning to report in. Surely, there will be more information soon."

The above example fits the profile of the problems with the Living Story in general. The premise is that something has occurred in Wayfarer Foothills and Diessa Plateau that was large enough to cause a stream of refugees to funnel into Hoelbrak and the Black Citadel. Yet, there is no evidence of this what so ever in the zones. Where are these refugees coming from? Where are there damaged homes? It seems to me that Arena Net has bit off more than they can chew. The scope of the Living Story is just far to large for the amount of effort that they are willing to put in. It doesn't mean that the Living Story idea is bankrupt it just means that the writers need to be far more clever than they are being or they need to dial back the scope of the story. The story needs to be far more subtle for them to get away with the small changes they are actually making.

Maybe I am not seeing everything, or maybe Arena Net will blow me away in the future. I don't know. All I can tell you is how I feel about the current state of the Living Story which in a word is frustrated. What do you guys think? Are you enjoying the Living Story? Have you seen anything change in Tyria that I haven't pointed out? Let me know in the comments.