Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Theme park

While I understood the pejorative phrase "theme park" to describe some MMOs in theory, until Guild Wars 2 I've never quite locked on to the concept.

Matter of fact, I don't think I really understood what the phrase really meant until I was approaching the site of one of this game's dozen or so dungeons.  This particular one is right in the middle of a little village and I was clued into something being not-quite-right when as I approached, a female voice welcomed me to Caudecus Manor and asked me to be polite and follow the rules.

And there was a line to get in.

It was at that moment I had the requisite epiphany and I really understood the term "theme park."  I honestly felt like I was standing in line for Pirates of the Carribean at Disneyland in Los Angeles.  Fortunately, the line was a lot shorter but the impression immediately put me into what turned out to be exactly the wrong frame of mind.  At that moment, I was expecting an easy little side quest, amusing from a story perspective but not particulary dangerous.

The little group that was forming determined that I was playing a Guardian, immediately signed me up to their party, and then it was time to sit down in the little cart and watch the cardboard doors open before us.  I managed to retain this smug little frame of mind for about four minutes, the length of time that the dungeon needed to set the atmosphere, tone, and stakes of the conflict that was about to be presented.  Then the pain started.

Holy crap, dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are hard!

I've done some difficult quests/missions/whatever in the various multi-player games I've played.  And I've been playing EVE for five years, which has made me more or less immune to the pain of death.  But whomever designed the GW2 dungeons should be complimented on their ability to enforce player cooperation and teamwork.  I've talked about how GW2 subtly encourages you down the correct path?  This was encouragement of a different sort: a repeated bludgeon to the head.  Adapt or die.  A lot!

I wonder how many people stumble out of their first GW2 dungeon and silently promise themselves "never again!"  I'll bet it's a significant number.

But as my little group enforced their will on this nasty little bit of PvE, I have to admit that the sense of growing accomplishment was palpable.  The level design was great, the AI design was better, and the balancing of the opposition we were facing was nearly letter-perfect.  As long as we pulled together and used our joint skills smartly, we advanced.  If we didn't, we got steam-rollered.  It's yet another impressive example of smart game design from a game that has no lack of smart game design.

However, the one problem of the "theme park" remains.  Once you ride Pirates of the Carribean, it can't hold further surprises for you.  Aside from slightly different parrot squawks, I can't see the point of exploring that particular dungeon a second time, even with another type of character.  The game is more miserly with rewards from this type of PvE than EVE is (yes, it's possible).  The reward of the GW2 dungeons is the sense of accomplishment you get from completing them, not the material rewards.  So I can definitely see where the disparagement of this sort of content comes from.

Still, there's eleven or so rides I haven't ridden yet, so I don't think I'm going to get bored too soon...


  1. Let me know if GW solved the end-game gear grind when you get there that most themeparks suffer from. I haven't actually read anything about what it's like because it's such a part of the genre no-one really comments on it anymore. I keep waiting for an MMO that figures out how to do away with it.

    1. There's no gear grind at all. The game actually just "stops" once you hit 80. You can get a full set of epic gear within minutes of hitting 80 provided you saved a small amount of money. The gear itself isn't required to do any of the content, however. The biggest incentive to getting gear is aesthetic in GW2. It really is a game designed around riding all the rides once and going home after the vacation is over.

  2. I stopped playing in under a week and never got around to running it myself but I'm surprised you found manor that hard. My guildies were, on any given AUTZ run, dragging a couple of people that were way too low level level, typically because not enough people felt like running and they were off in WvW. Don't take this the wrong way but are you sure you weren't in a particularly horrible PUG? That can make almost anything seem hard, and would kinda make sense, that or you're just not used to the game yet or they've buffed manor for some reason.

  3. Once you have completed story mode on a dungeon (your first time) you can go back for EXPLORABLE mode. This allows you to choose one of three new paths through the dungeon, encounter new bosses, and / or old bosses will have new abilities / wrinkles. Explorable mode is generally pegged 5 levels higher than story mode.

    Also, both modes have "random" events that can occur as you progress.

  4. I'm honestly surprised that someone battle-hardened from EVE found GW2 to be difficult. GW2 has some of the easiest PVE in the genre if you're not a mouthbreather. As long as you're paying attention it's quite easy to steamroll through dungeons, especially with the ability to graveyard bum rush content.

    I enjoyed GW2, but by no means did I find it difficult.

  5. My small guild has established that the first dungeon run in GW2 is designed to make you swear off ever running a dungeon again.

    Either the subsequent ones are much easier or it enforces the team effort mentality and skills so well that it doesn't seem as bad once you get into the next one.

  6. the rewards you get from doing explorable versions of the dungeons are a lot better. Explorables feature 3 unique paths. so too "Finish" A dungeon, you run it 4 times.

    also the explorables reach bullshit levels for most of them

  7. Rewards in Eve drop like rain compared to most games out there. When I first started playing Eve, I was amazed at just how much dropped from NPCs. Good thing Eve features nearly limitless storage.

    1. True, but the items you get from these drops are nearly always useless. You sell them or reprocess them to get the stuff you actually want. That's where the "miserly" comment came from.

    2. I think you're speaking from a position you don't have much experience with. In a traditional themepark MMO a regular mob will drop 1-2 items of negligible value with a small chance of dropping something semi-useful. The majority of content consumed in these MMOs, though, revolves around boss mobs. These mobs will drop a number of items balanced around the number in a group and in most instances these items will be either a random piece of gear or a token. Neither of these items are tradable in the vast majority of MMOs. In the case of gear there's a good chance the piece that drops will be of use to no one and in the token case it will often take hundreds to get one piece of a set.

      EVE, I feel, provides way more loot per kill just due to the fact you can trade anything you pick up.

  8. Actually, the Explorable modes(harder versions of the same dungeon) have fairly good rewards. Max level armor sets and weapon sets of the highest quality are purchasable if you gather enough of the secondary currency(think LPs) which are rewarded on completion of the Explorable modes.

  9. Actually you can go back and run the same dungeon(s) again on 'explorable' mode; it's basically the same overall map with new routes, mobs, and the story advanced a bit. Example, in Ascalonian Catacombs you choose one of three NPC's to follow representing different paths.

    Still only delaying the inevitable end of new content, but better than nothing (and missions >_>).

  10. But did they funnel you through a gift shop as you exited the dungeon?

  11. The Story Mode of Caudecus Manor is one of the easiest ones. Later on you will find some bosses that fall under the "what were they thinking" category.

    It is true though, the repeated bludgeon to the head works. After running a few dungeons things that were a headache at first (keeping track of combo fields AND aoes, dodging stuff on time etc.) will slowly turn into routine.

  12. As stratigo pointed out you actually have 43 dungeons you haven't yet done.

    Each dungeon has a story mode and then an explorable mode with 3 variable paths to choose from. In total there are 44 "rides" in GW2's theme park. What's more unlike other themepark MMO's like WoW, your level is scaled down to the dungeon while the rewards (for explorable mode) are scaled up.

    The chests in explorable mode always give out level appropriate items, so even though the dungeon might de-level you to 35, you will still receive 75 - 80 rewards if you're level 80. In addition in explorable mode each chest you open on your first run of the day will net you 60 tokens that can be handed in to vendors in Lions Arch for high end armor and weapons, usually with a unique skin and look.

    Really the only difference between a sandbox MMO and a theme park MMO is that theme parks have a shelf life. Eventually you will get sick and tired of the rides and eventually you will have collected all the prizes. Unless new rides are opened and new prizes offered you'll eventually have no reason to visit the theme park any more.

  13. I'm going to assume a couple of couple of things seeing that I read this about GW2 story mode any dungeon:

    "Holy crap, dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are hard!"

    A) Your group must have been downright retarded. I mean like Guardians using Hammers and Warriors with Mace and Horns, type retarded.

    B) Maybe your group just had a steep learning curve to understanding mechanics?

    GW2 dungeons were an absolute joke in terms of difficulty. There are some frustrating points, but once you step back and go "Oh yeah, it's a ranged damage check" there should be no problems. IE, if you keep whiping, I'm going to guess some people need to put away the sword for a bow. Just a guess...

    About the only thing GW2 dungeon have going for them, is they do take away the real tank. So at some point on some boss, everyone probably needs to kite. Which is horrible design, but idiots seem to enjoy it, so whatever.

    If you are on a Guard, get yourself a Staff. Get some healing armor. Spec into healing/toughness. Go into the Vigil spec just enough to up your passive regen and give it to everyone. If your incompetent PUGs can't survive with a healing tank gaurdian in the group, then just shoot yourself in the face with a brick gun.

    Granted Brick Guns don't exist, so you'll need to invent and make one. But in the end it will be much more rewarding, than whiping on GW2 story modes.

    So ... it was your group tbh. Gaurdians run dungeons by accident. Literally.

    1. yep and this kind of min/max player is exactly what takes most of the fun out of running a dunguon.

      Yes there is a most efficient way and it just sucks all the fun out.

      Let Jester have some fun and damnit even though you don't remember (or maybe you do and just won't admit it) the first time someone runs a dungeon it is indeed hard. No it's not my first either but I got a nice smile reading Jester's experience and was happy and remembered how fun it was to run stuff when I didn't know what I was doing and before I was in groups that analyzed every aspect of one's gear etc and became a bunch of elite farthoffers.

      On your umpteenth dungeon on your umpteenth mmo, hey not so much. So what, you are jaded. Let the others have fun.

  14. As others have stated, you must have had a horrible PUG. That dungeon is the easiest in the game, and should have been a faceroll.

    As you might expect, at 80 people run one section of one dungeon to grind tokens as fast as possible for the epic gear (which is just cosmetic, since you can buy same-level epics off the AH). At least that was the process a few weeks ago.

  15. want something hard in gw2? try the clocktower halloween event.

  16. Yeah, the point of dungeons in themepark MMOs is to take a group and force them to work together. I am in a regular Saturday night group that has been tackling such content for the last six years. We have been through WoW, LOTRO, WAR, EQ2, and are now in Rift.

    As I understand it... and I have not played GW2, so I could be completely off base... GW2 was designed to actually reduce the need for players to focus on specific roles and so, I should imagine, be a bit easier for five person groups to tackle. That is actually one of the reasons we haven't jumped on GW2. We kind of like the focused roles of the past.

    1. Interrups and support skills are very helpful in GW2, it plays kinda like WoW Dungeons without tanks or healers. Instead you have 5 hybrids which can do a little bit of heal and everyone needs to kite, dodge and use his defensive, crowd control and utility skills to support the group. (At least theoretical, as mentioned else where the dungeons are not hard, so everybody is an exaggeration)

      The basic concept is great imho, though once you get used to it so far the dungeons we played were incredible easy. On the plus side we have played only half of the dungeons so far and the seem to get better with higher level and start to introduce more complex encounters which we enjoyed greatly. It is worth a look imho.

  17. Caudecus Manor is incredible easy. If you think that GW2 dungeons are hard, than you are simply not good at the game, not yet at least. Furthermore gw2 is afaik the first theme park mmo that eliminates the need of the whole mmorpg-triniy. There is no need for tanks nor healers. Everyone can just fine take care for himself, the need for teamwork is actually mostly eliminated compared to more old school games like eq or gold old vanilla wow. So even when your group is bad, you can very often just lean back, enjoy the show and amuse yourself, while watching your teammates constantly dying. That is the part I enjoy currently most, its so refreshing not to die in a mmorpg because someone else screwed up.

    Does teamwork make dungeons easier? Hell yeah, using your utility skills in rotation with your (guild)group, healing not only yourself but at the right moments your allies as well, sharing combos and using your interrupts will make group content much easier, but in the end all this stuff is not needed because the dungeons are so easy.

    BTW, each gw2 dungeons can be played in 4 different ways, story mode and 3 different exploration routes, and while the story mode gives not really much loot, exploration gives better loot and gives you currency tokens which can be traded decent armor or good level 80 weapons or potions which will make farming much easier. So there is a reason to farm the stuff as well, even when gw2 mostly eliminates the need to grind and you are not trapped as much in the gear thread mill as usually in theme park mmos.

  18. what profession is your toon in GW2?

    1. I believe he had mentioned it was Guardian, in the post. Which IMO is a good starting class when dealing with the game.

      I started with an Engineer, which is now shelved (other than an occasional WvW guild roam) pending what the devs plan to do in the next three months. I'm doing far better in a Guardian anyway - both in terms of general PvE, and the fact that its playstyle isn't hurting my wrists (Grenade Engis don't have an autoattack).


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