Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guild Wars 2 WintersDay Event

So Guild Wars 2 Wintersday festival is upon us! And as has become customary for ArenaNet, they have dumped a _ton_ of content in the world, all for us, all for free.  Though I haven't come anywhere close to mastering well, any of the events, I have at least participated in them, so thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

Tixx the Toymaker Events
Each day for the first five days of the festival, there is a Tixx the Toymaker 5 man instance that will take place in different capital cities.  One of the things people have voiced concern over (to put it in polite terms) is that the capital cities have been largely devoid of people, as Lion's Arch seems to be the center of all activity in Tyria.  The developers have heard these concerns, and have promised to start having more events and activities take place in the capital cities in order to draw people back to them.  This appears to be the first of those attempts, and it certainly appears to be working.  Yesterday the Grove was bustling with activity, and probably hasn't seen this many people within its confines since Launch Day.

The dungeon itself is extraordinarily easy.  It's really not so much a dungeon as it is just a series of instanced, group events, with a champion at the end.  As such, pretty much any group of five can do it, so feel free to join with the first group of five that forms up at the dungeon entrance and go.  I did it twice yesterday.  There's an achievement called "Smash The Town" that is awarded for the wanton destruction of every single building in the toy diarama that makes up Tixxe's toyshop - including the trees!  If you can, ask your group if they want to do the achievement.  It can be completed after the champion has been defeated, before folks exit the instance.

The Bell Choir Ensemble
The bell choir is essentially a little Guild Hero melody game.  You pick a part to play, (low, medium, or high), and this puts you in the center of a big wooden wheel.  Musical orbs will descend from the top, and it's up to you to hit the appropriate note as each orb reaches the inner blue wheel.  I played this long enough to learn that, well, I suck at it horribly. :)  One thing to be aware of.  You may have remapped your keys to be keys you can more easily reach, especially on the right hand side.  But that particular setup is probably not conducive to  succeeding in the Bell Choir.  So for instance, my right hand ability keys are mapped to 'T', 'R', 'G', and 'B'.  I quickly realized if I wanted to do well in this I would need to map those back to '7', '8', 9', and '0'.  So I moved on to another event.

Snowball Mayhem
Snowball Mayhem is a 5 man PvP event.  When you start the game, there's a snowman next to you, and you can talk to him to choose one of three classes to play - Scout, Heavy, or Support.  Each class gives you a unique collection of abilities.  The game itself is Capture the Flag kind of scenario, in which you go out, capture gifts, and bring them back to your base for points.  I didn't play a great deal of this, but the few games I played, it appeared, at least anecdotally, that most everyone goes scout.  And if the group agrees to stay together in a zerg, it can be hard to take down.  Of course, due to the nature of pickup PvP, the chances of the group agreeing to do anything together are pretty low.

Winter Wonderland
And of course, there's the jumping puzzle.  And here is where we really see the ArenaNet team putting together the lessons learned from the Halloween event.

Here are the basics.  When you enter the instance, you'll be at a platform where you wait for the next event to start.  Similar to the Clocktower, the puzzle is run in groups, and the time to the next start depends on how long it takes the current group to either finish or all fall off the puzzle.  When you start, you'll be placed on one of three platfroms.  Within a few seconds, the snowflakes will appear, and you set off along the puzzle. Midway up the three starting paths converge, and you combine to make your way up to the very top.  Throughout the puzzle, you'll have a debuff on you that slowly ticks away your health.  Spend too long on any part of the puzzle, and you will die - ie., fail.

Now let's look at some of the little things done for this puzzle that show some of the lessons learned - or at least, the efforts to appease the most vocal complaints.

Something to Do
First, there's the platform itself in which you start.  One of the smart things they did was to give players something to do when they fall off the platform, while waiting for the puzzle to start the next time. There are snowball piles laying around, and you can pick up a snowball, and throw it at other players that want to play.  If you're hit by a snowball, you fall down.  But here's the genius part - you only are affected by snowballs, if you pick up a snowball!  Picking up a snowball gives you a buff, and only players with that buff can be affected by the snowball attack.  So if you don't want to play, don't pick up a snowball.   Second, due to the way the platform is placed, you can actually see the players making their way along the puzzle.  So if you fall off, you can go over to the edge of the platform, and watch the other players make their way through the puzzle.  And you can cheer (or jeer) appropriately as the other players in your group proceed.. or fail.  Finally, they smartly took away the opening cinematic at the start of each run of the puzzle.  If you've done this puzzle 423 times (as some of us may have.. ahem), you aren't gaining anything by watching that cinematic for the 424th time.

Multiple Starts
This is a huge difference.  One of the most vocal complains throughout was that the larger bodied characters were ruining the experience for the smaller characters.  However, you still want to keep the event timed (so people don't hang out on the puzzle and grief people coming up the puzzle - because they would), and you still want people to be able to do it as a group, because that sense of accomplishment and camaraderie as you set out as a group but only so many of you make it so far is a huge part of the experience.  This solution, of splitting the group up among three different platforms goes a long ways towards addressing the central problem of overcrowding, while still keeping this a shared, group experience.  A number of times in running the puzzle I was the only one on my platform, or only had one or two other people with me.

Is it Easier?
The prevailing sentiment for this puzzle is that, due to these changes, it is significantly easier.  I think, overall, that I would have to agree.  But I wouldn't go into this puzzle thinking it's a cakewalk.  All of the pressure spots are there, and I consistently died trying to navigate those little candy cane posts along the snowflake path.  The fact that there are three starting paths actually prevents your muscle memory from kicking in as quickly, and doesn't allow you to establish the rhythm of the puzzle quite as quickly.  In the clockwork tower, I very quickly pretty much could do the first part of that puzzle almost entirely through muscle memory.

However, once you get past the snowflake path, the remainder of the puzzle is definitely easier, and less stressful, than any portion of the clockwork tower was.  But make no mistake - it's still quite the challenge.  I went in thinking I could waffle-stomp this thing, and it slapped me about the head and shoulders quite a few times before I finally scored the achievement.

In any event, hope you're enjoying the festivities, and until next time, Happy Wintersday!