About Distilled

I'm a social researcher with a passion for technology and gaming theory. I've been playing Guild Wars for over 5 years and have been blogging about it (and gaming in general) since November 2010.

Shield of Absorption – A Bastion in the Dark

Shield of Absorption - Guardian - Talk Tyria

You’re standing on the edge of your keep wall, peering over the crenelations into the morass of writhing bodies, baying for blood below. Your commander shouts directions to the troops: “Man the cannons! Push them back!” Your allies rush along the length of the walls, dropping fire and arrows on the invaders below, but they just keep coming. Agitated, your grip tightens around the edge of your shield.

“Get that siege up! And for Dwayna’s sake step back from the edge!” but the command comes too late – you catch the eye of an unsuspecting sylvari: too concerned with building her arrow cart to notice she has strayed within reach of the scorpion wires and deflective walls from the enemies at the base of the wall. In an instant she is gone, enveloped into the chaos below.

You have to act fast – the ground troops in the keep’s courtyard could get the soldier back on her feet if only there weren’t seventy angry invaders clawing at her from all sides. She has a split second of invulnerability before she is lost, but you only need a second more to save her… if only the path were clear. You grip the arm-guard of your shield and, taking a running jump, leap over the wall’s edge.

Landing in the tumult below, you stumble – that was a long fall. A protective symbol sprouts from your feet and spreads across the ground around you soothing some of the pain and burning your enemies. Standing over your downed comrade, you crouch into a protective stance and activate your shield of absorption – a pale blue light erupts from your shield. The sheer force of the mystical energy drives the surrounding enemies back. You now stand alone over your ally, a clear ring of ground between yourself and the enemy. Arrows and fireballs fly from the twisting mass of opposing bodies – but each bounces uselessly against your bubble, sending waves of energy across the entire dome, like ripples on a millpond. You hear the keep gate open behind you; your allies rush out and pull the sylvari to her feet. “Retreat!” you shout, spurring your allies into a sprint back towards the gate. 

For me, this is the most satisfying part of being a guardian. There is no more pleasing sight than 50 arrows bouncing limply against my Shield of Absorption. You, effectively, take out roughly 1/3 of an armies’ firepower with just one skill AND you can activate it a second time during its duration to heal all allies AND seeing as it is a “light” field any projectiles which pass through it will heal conditions on allies! What’s not to like?

What is even better is chaining shields with another guardian to provide a full 8 seconds (or even more, with more guardians) of protection for a downed ally. I was doing this with a player I met called Sigma in the Aurora Glade Borderlands a couple of weeks ago. We were directing our troops back and forth from our keep gate to the enemy main base – each time one of our allies fell we run up and Sigma would begin to heal and I’d pop my shield, after 4 seconds we would swap. It pretty much guaranteed that we would be able to get the ally back on their feet almost every time.

For complete protection, you can also slot “Sanctuary” – a tier 3 slot skill – which provides a much smaller but much more effective shield which, in addition to blocking projectiles, also makes sure enemies cannot get within melee range. The only issue with this skill is it’s prohibitively long recharge, and the 1.5 second cast time. It’s not as effective as a “quick fix”, but you can drop Shield of Absorption and then use some of the protection that provides to effectively position yourself and cast Sanctuary. Sanctuary also heals and doesn’t need you to maintain it, so once it is up, you’re free to move, resurrect, attack etc.

Both of these skills are extremely effective if used correctly. Drop your shield at a choke point (such as the archway leading to the South Western supply camp in the Borderlands) to stop your allies from being mowed down as they attempt to push through. Push multiple enemies towards the edge of a cliff, away from a gate (from the inside) or off your tail when being pursued, with the knock-back effect.

The majority of the guardian population seems to have an infatuation with the greatsword. I get it – who doesn’t like swinging their large weapon around, after all? But the humble shield needs to get a bit of love, if only for this one skill. I firmly believe that it is the most useful tool in the guardian’s arsenal.

To the reader: Which is the skill which you most enjoy using with your profession? Do you use a “sword and board” with your guardian, or do you find you’re better off with a different weapon set?

 

About the author:  Distilled (Will) has just started his PhD so will soon (well, in 4 years time) be Dr Distilled. In his spare time he enjoys first being the Talk Tyria ranger writer, then having a falling out with his drakehound and divorcing his ranger and moving in with a guardian . He writes regularly on Guild Wars and gaming over at Distilled Willpower. You can also follow him on Twitter at@Distilledwill!

The Archer’s Paradox: Rangers Then and Now

ArenaNet Ranger Concept Art

The Archer’s Paradox describes the phenomenon whereby an arrow aimed directly at the centre of a target will invariably miss. The bowman must account for the flex of the bow, the wind and the myriad of other external variables each time they release an arrow if they want to hit the target every time. The Guild Wars 2 Ranger profession might seem to be the same entity as it was in Guild Wars 1, but ArenaNet have made some significant alterations whilst still retaining the charm and lure which the profession holds in fantasy RPGs.

The Ranger was one of the core 6 professions in GW1. It always struggled to find a place in the typical PvE team – coming under the umbrella term of “DPS”. A Ranger would often find it difficult to worm its way into the standard setup due to having a lower damage output than Elementalists, Necromancers and Ritualists, less armour than Warriors and Paragons, a less reliable interrupt than a computer-controlled Mesmer, and virtually no support capabilities. It was a jack of all trades, and (at least in PvE) a master of none.

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The GW2 Beta: A WvW Weekend with a Wild-Eyed Dolyak

 I gave the dolyak a hearty slap on the hind quarters. The keep wouldn’t stand against another attack without these supplies. Time was of the essence: there was only so long the warriors of Kodash could nip at the heels of the invaders before they over extended and had to retreat. The castle defences need repairing before the invaders can gain the upper hand and push us back behind the walls.  

I spent the entire weekend gallivanting around the Eternal Battlegrounds. A whole weekend laying siege to keeps, escorting lonely pack animals, defending ogre tribes and mercilessly hunting down the opposing team – all in the name of journalism, of course. It’s a lot to cram into one blog-post, so, without further ado:
Step one to getting to WvW was creating my character (well, step 0.1 was getting into the game – something I didn’t achieve until the early hours of Saturday morning). I thought: who is the baddest cat in the entire world?  Clint. So I made Clint.


I asked myself, do I feel lucky? The answer being a resounding yes, I jumped into Tyria and swiftly scurried through the starter quest (a necessary PvE distraction – I wanted to get as little exp from PvE as possible before jumping to WvW). Once out of the tutorial I hit H, selected the PvP option at the bottom and whisked myself away to the Mists.

I climbed to the top of the rise, a little ahead of my shaggy companion, and scanned the horizon. Not much further, I hoped. We’d held out as long as we could – charr alongside human and norn, but eventually we’d used the last of our supply and the gate began to creak. Fireball after fireball rained down on the bolted steel and wood. If the detachment from Stonemist hadn’t arrived when it did, we’d have been overrun. Shouting slurs from the battlements is all very well and good, but once the gate falls and the flood of steel, lightning bolts and arrow heads washes through the breach, even the most stalwart warrior’s bowels turn to water.

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Cracks in the Patio: Where ANet might trip

I love my metaphors. Bars and Guilds, Sex and Games etc. Well, here’s another: the Patio.

Ok, picture the scene: A swanky London garden party, the grass is immaculately trimmed to the millimetre. On the patio, erudite people wearing sunglasses in the early evening light drift between waiters carrying canapés and empty wine glasses. As the sun begins to drop below the horizon, a lone waiter steps out from the house through the sliding patio doors carrying a perfectly stacked tray of sparkling champagne, the crowd turns and applauds – the champagne cascades down the tower and the waiter grins with pride. No sooner has he stepped onto the expertly laid stones is the silver tray flying through the air, the grin turns to horror and the guests are showered with fizzy-pop and broken glass. With a screech, the violins from the band punctuate his landing in a pile of shattered flutes and broken pride. The patio stones are hewn to a fine and flat sheen; they are billiard-table flat – every single one. How on earth did he manage to trip?

In a complex system, often, even if every element is perfectly constructed and each works with its own immaculate internal logic it is the joins where you can trip up. You can look at a skill and see that it is built perfectly: not excessively powerful in its effect, a recharge time which is not too long, but not overly short to encourage spamming, a cast time which is proportionate. Great – send it out, this skill is ready! But the skill might be internally balanced, but it is where it rubs up against other skills that the imbalances begin to emerge. The same goes for every game element.

Guild Wars 2 is an extremely complex system. Skills, traits, crafting, armour, weapons, dynamic events, mini-games, dungeons, PvP and countless other elements we probably haven’t heard of yet. Thousands of elements pulling and pushing against each other, each one likely honed and iterated till it reaches the very high standards we have all come to expect from ArenaNet.  It is where these elements interact that there is the potential for unforeseen problems.

So, when we are lithely scurrying over the patio of Guild Wars 2, and our shoe (shined to military-standard sheen) gets trapped between one of the cracks, will we fall? Will the contents of our tray bounce or shatter? Will we pull ourselves up, laugh it off and head to the dance floor?

To the readers: Do you expect bugs in every new game release? Even after such a long testing period, would you be surprised to find glitches? Is imbalance an unavoidable part of MMO gaming?

About the author:  Distilled (Will) has been playing Guild Wars for almost 6 years, he works as a clinical researcher in the UK but has recently been accepted on a PhD place (starting in September, woo!). In his spare time he enjoys kicking ass, chewing bubblegun and restocking his bubblegum when he runs out. He writes regularly on Guild Wars and gaming over at Distilled Willpower. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Distilledwill!

Valentine’s in Dragon-Blasted Times

Even in times such as these, the good people of Tyria need a little frivolity to take their minds off the centaur attacks, the threat of the Elder Dragons and the almost constant smell of swamp water emanating from the local Hylek mercenaries. You are all; I’m sure, well-versed in how to woo a human, but here’s how to romance the other races of Tyria:

Asura

Not prone to sentiment, the way to an asuran’s heart is through their brain. Rather than love poems, they prefer complicated schematics or a nice long equation. Flowers are great, but gadgets and gizmos are better – give your asuran sweetheart a bouquet of new work-tools (sonic astral-mallets, seismic screwdrivers or a set of allen keys made from pure obsidian are particularly romantic). Nothing says “I love you” like an 18ft bright pink golem which shoots chocolate love hearts from a shoulder-mounted blunderbuss. As the day wears on, the true meaning of the festival is overtaken by the need to out-do the other suitors – often, the end of Valentine’s day is accompanied by fantastic magic-filled explosions as exuberant asuran Lotharios push their mechanical romantic creations a little too far.

 

Charr

The charr value loyalty above all else, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a festival celebrating the strength of relationships should be so popular. Charr relationships are often bristly affairs; with both sexes being just as fierce in their compunction to display their affection whilst simultaneously not wanting to seem to have conceded ground to their partner. So, displays of affection are often understated and gifts are balanced out between practical and sentimental – flowers are accompanied by a new revolving-barrel pistol, a new looking-glass and a new great-sword, candies and claw-guards.

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The Curious Case of Race in Guild Wars 2

The typical demographic divisions are an oft-examined subject in gaming. Gender and sexuality are the most regularly explored (usually fuelled by the ubiquitous scantily clad portrayal of the female form in MMOs and fantasy RPGs in general). Race, however, is an altogether more difficult concept to grasp in games. The stereotyping isn’t quite so “in your face” – for example, games which dictate that all female armour must look like there was a dramatic shortage of leather and plate are a dime-a-dozen, but I don’t think there are many games which say that if you’re white you have to wear one armour and if you’re black you must wear another. It’s certainly a strange dichotomy – why should your gender dictate your armour style, but your race shouldn’t? Or, more succinctly: why should either? The upshot is that race is usually expressed in character creation processes through choosing “skin colour” or “facial structure”.

In the original game the three campaigns were very blatantly culturally split – Prophecies (for the most part) seems to be European/Western, the Canthan domain in Factions is obviously of Asian influence and Elona from Nightfall is more African/Arabian. These influences are expressed through the architecture, enemies faced (often influenced by the RL mythology of the culture), NPC style and dialogue as well as the character creation options you receive when you create a character in that particular expansion. It was a relatively brave move; when you start to build an in-game culture which has influences in certain real-world racial areas you have to be careful to dodge stereotypes and for the most part ANet managed to do this perfectly – I don’t think you could ever claim that the game even edges towards being “racist”.

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Your Eurogamer Questions – Answered!

Boy-howdy, you guys sure know how to bombard a man with questions! I had a truckload to ask and I can’t guarantee that I asked them all. If I missed yours off or haven’t included it I’m very sorry but either I couldn’t find time with the devs to ask them or the answer would have been too similar to another person’s question. Oh, and I ignored all of you who asked about the release date.

Game Design Questions:

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