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GW2: The Strangeness Of Grouping

June 11, 2012

As other gaming couples must know, love is about refraining from playing an MMO without your other half, never leaving them behind in experience and out-leveling their character without their express consent or knowledge. In fact, that’s a pretty surefire way to bring about spousal aggro in this house.

As such, my husband and I have always maintained at least one character for the purposes of concurrent leveling in every MMO we play together, and lately it has become apparent that this spousal-leveling contract has been extended to game betas as well. I guess it will come as no surprise then, that we also played together for the Guild Wars 2 beta weekend.

I was really liking the look of my Elementalist…until my husband said, “Hey, Lucy Lawless!”

We started over with new human characters for this BWE; I made myself an Elementalist while my husband rolled a Guardian. We journeyed across Queensdale hitting up “heart tasks”, personal story missions, dynamic events and any other activity we came across along the way. We had a blast. Something interesting that I want to bring up though: after several hours, I started to notice something — GW2 is the first MMO in which partying with my husband has felt “off”, and sometimes even downright awkward.

I guess it’s not surprising, given what Arenanet has said about de-emphasizing grouping. Of course, this means that while partying is supported, it doesn’t feel as necessary as they do in other MMOs. Obviously there are lots of benefits to this. Gone are the days of kill stealing or competing tooth and nail for mobs in crowded areas, for instance.

And yet, for someone like me who probably spends up to 90% of her MMO game time playing with at least one other person in the group, GW2′s brand of cooperative PvE takes some getting used to.

For one thing, concurrent experience gain is much more unpredictable. For example, if I run around with a bunch of people during a dynamic event whacking at centaurs and killing them one after an other in quick succession, that gains me a lot more experience than my husband who is sitting off to the edge of the group whittling down a enemy’s health by himself. Likewise, while we’re both completing tasks for the denizens of Queensdale, my husband’s XP takes off because he’s killing worms while I prefer more passive tasks like feeding bags of oats to cows for their cute floating pink hearts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two group members’ XP bars fluctuate so greatly while still doing the same things together.

While our rates of experience gain tend to even out eventually, I have to say what still feels missing is the synergy between us. That’s the biggie, I think. One of my favorite things about always playing with my husband is the inevitable discovery of how our chosen classes simply click. I mostly PvE, and in playing within a structured group, a lot of the time I end up learning more about how my class plays by observing the abilities of others and seeing how my own can play off of them. A wonderful thing happens when the mister and I play together, just me and him; gradually we come up with unspoken strategies and somehow I know all his moves before he makes them and vice versa. I can see there will be less opportunity to do this in GW2, when there is little reason to attune to each other as most everything is done with every other player who is in the same area.

The strange feeling of grouping in GW2 is just an intriguing observation that occurred to me this weekend, and is by no means a criticism. Really. Of course, the most enlightening moment for me is when the realization hit that we don’t actually even have to be partied up and the little difference it would make! We still did though, if for no other reason but the fact it’s easier to see where each other are on the mini-map.

It would be interesting to see what other gaming couples or people who frequently group together will make of the GW2 duo-ing experience. I think leastwise, it adds a new dynamic.

14 comments

  1. I can’t speak for couples, but I understand what you’re saying about groups. Thankfully I think on the xp side things level out in the long term allowing you to keep pace with one another. As for synergy, I found that more communication between party members was necessary than other games and that helped offset any sense of not being in sync. Though maybe that wasn’t the case for you.


    • I agree the xp should even out after a while though at this point I found I was still continuously lagging behind him by half a level and the difference was also gradually and inexplicably growing. I’d been also trying to figure out why he seemed to be gaining almost a third more in experience per kill…even though we were the same level and we contributed to the kill equally. That could be why too.

      I would have to disagree with you on the communication thing though. Throughout the whole weekend, we never once had to do any planning or strategizing, between the two of us or with other people. Mostly it was pick up and go within a massive free for all. Though I concede thing might be different once we get farther along in the game.


  2. What an interesting observation. I’ve read a lot about GW2, but I don’t think I’ve seen this point made before. Why do you think it is, exactly, that it feels like you’ll have less opportunity to “synergize” with your husband? Is it the difference in experience gains, the nature of the classes, was the content itself too easy, or maybe it’s an issue of adapting to GW2′s brand of PvE? What do games like WoW have that’s conducive toward that feeling of attuning to one another that GW2 is missing?

    Thought provoking post, definitely. =P


    • It’s hard to explain, though I’ll try. Since you brought up WoW, I’ll give an example from WoW. For the longest time, I played a feral Druid tank and my husband played a resto shaman. My memory is fuzzy, but I believe there was a resto shammy heal that had a chance of increasing target’s armor when used. At the time, being a bear tank was still very dependent on armor, so you could imagine how awesome it was every time he healed me and that effect proc’ed. I was nearly invulnerable, and it was “whoa, cool!” moments like that which made us go, hey our classes really click!

      So i guess to answer your question, all the things you mentioned have a little bit to do with it. Personally I have not found GW2 to be very difficult at all, due to a lot of players being around (I can see foresee complications if this was not the case, however) and completing tasks has never been a problem. This led to the two of us pretty much jumping into the fray without much thought, and we mostly did own thing amongst a crowd of others who were also doing their own thing. There is little i could have done to help my fellow players anyway, short of dpsing faster on targets. Speaking of which, none of the abilities I’ve played with in GW2 so far has the capability of affecting another player, only enemies, so that’s a big one. There is no opportunity to synergize, not when direct ability interaction with him during combat is so minimal.


  3. Well, GW2 don’t have the holy trinity: tank, healer and dps. Everyone is a dps, kinda. I saw a mesmer being a tank (cloth armor!), figures.

    My guess is that at the other games you two played, one was ever the healer. That was the “synergy” you saw and that says a lot not only about how the other games worked, but how GW2 is diferent.

    No holy trinity, the only chance to have some synergy is training for make combos. Everyone is pratically grouped to everyone else, no kill stealing, full xp, rezz dead players give xp, nodes are individual. Basically, there is no competition between players and everyone have incentives to cohoperate with everyone else.

    Just one last note. It is easy to be killed playing solo. Maybe the synergy you had with your husband was just that, it is harder you get killed with a duo (or if you die, there is someone for rezz you near).


    • Well, not entirely true either about the healer; using WoW as an example again just because it’s easy, my husband and I once played a warlock/shadow priest combo exclusively doing dps and there was also incredible synergy based on the way shadow spells and the buffs/debuffs they applied on targets worked. However, I suppose yes, the best “synergy” duos often involve a healer in the group, though it doesn’t always happen either. For example, I don’t feel any “click” or anything more beyond the typical boring “I tank, he heals” relationship playing my JK tank with my husband’s JC healer in SWTOR.

      Your comment does bring up a good point about the holy trinity, though. Synergy would probably be the best argument for it that I’ve heard to date, not really because of the holy trinity itself, but for the fact the properties of a holy trinity system allows for it.


  4. My wife and I game constantly together and have done in a few MMO’s including “Warhammer”, “Guild

    Wars”, “Lotro” and “Swtor”.

    We also like to keep characters to one side to play together, but our experience of the two BETA

    weekends and the stress test was that Guild Wars 2 was better for us rather then worse.

    The biggest single factor was communication and planning in this game. Being able to ping, draw and

    set personal markers both on the mini map and the main map was really great. We were able to bring up

    the map and say how do you fancy going down here and over here and oh what about this bit here shall

    we get this skill point. Whereas in other games its quite hard to say do you see that blob on the map

    south west of the town lets go there.

    We also found that the levelling contract (yes we use your phrase all the time) didnt matter so much

    in Guild Wars 2 because levels are not that important, if one of us gets a few levels above the other

    its not a problem as we will always be levelled appropriate to the area.

    For example on Sunday we were playing with our Elementalist and Ranger classes and I re-logged to my

    Guardian to see how the dynamics worked. Even though my Guardian is 6 levels above it worked fine as I

    was down levelled to the content.

    One problem we have in other MMO’s is when we change our minds as to which character is going to be

    under the levelling contract. Which we do at least a few times in the life of an MMO. This is a real

    pain in other games because we have to be around the same level to do this effectively. With the

    sidekick system this will be a breeze.

    Another advantage of Guild Wars 2 was the partying system. The game keeps the party together by

    account, even if I re-log to a different character. This re-partying feature even works overnight

    (which was a shocker). This is great for just getting together and finding each other without any

    fuss.

    Class dynamics were quite different in Guild Wars 2 and it did take us till Sunday to get used to it.

    In other MMO’s I play the healer and my wife plays the tank. We found guild wars much less restrictive

    this way and we are finding that we can both play either the up front or hanging back role with

    whichever class we are playing. My guardian for example can play ranged protector and melee protector

    (either way feels like rolling a healer) but we can switch roles for a change of pace and she can

    stand at the back and I can go to the front.

    The other thing we noticed about Guild Wars 2 is that it has a kind of “playground” feel to it. Where

    some of the time we are just playing together with lots of people around us and other times we get

    caught up in the big events and we put the playing together on hold for 10 minutes to play the big

    playground game with the other kids. We do lose each other in the crowd of these events sometimes,

    but we found we were talking in the room and laughing together just the same.

    All in all we really think that Guild Wars 2 has got the grouping just right and can’t wait for the

    game to release to try out some of these theories over the coming months/years.

    Sugoll and Ame Mythbeast :D


  5. My wife and I game constantly together and have done in a few MMO’s including “Warhammer”, “Guild Wars”, “Lotro” and Swtor”.

    We also like to keep characters to one side to play together, but our experience of the two BETA weekends and the stress test was that Guild Wars 2 was better for us rather then worse.

    The biggest single factor was communication and planning in this game. Being able to ping, draw and set personal markers both on the mini map and the main map was really great. We were able to bring up the map and say how do you fancy going down here and over here and oh what about this bit here shall we get this skill point. Whereas in other games its quite hard to say do you see that blob on the map south west of the town lets go there.

    We also found that the levelling contract (yes we use your phrase all the time) didnt matter so much in Guild Wars 2 because levels are not that important, if one of us gets a few levels above the other its not a problem as we will always be levelled appropriate to the area.

    For example on Sunday we were playing with our Elementalist and Ranger classes and I re-logged to my Guardian to see how the dynamics worked. Even though my Guardian is 6 levels above it worked fine as I was down levelled to the content.

    One problem we have in other MMO’s is when we change our minds as to which character is going to be under the levelling contract. Which we do at least a few times in the life of an MMO. This is a real pain in other games because we have to be around the same level to do this effectively. With the sidekick system this will be a breeze.

    Another advantage of Guild Wars 2 was the partying system. The game keeps the party together by account, even if I re-log to a different character. This re-partying feature even works overnight (which was a shocker). This is great for just getting together and finding each other without any fuss.

    Class dynamics were quite different in Guild Wars 2 and it did take us till Sunday to get used to it. In other MMO’s I play the healer and my wife plays the tank. We found guild wars much less restrictive this way and we are finding that we can both play either the up front or hanging back role with whichever class we are playing. My guardian for example can play ranged protector and melee protector (either way feels like rolling a healer) but we can switch roles for a change of pace and she can stand at the back and I can go to the front.

    The other thing we noticed about Guild Wars 2 is that it has a kind of “playground” feel to it. Where some of the time we are just playing together with lots of people around us and other times we get caught up in the big events and we put the playing together on hold for 10 minutes to play the big playground game with the other kids. We do lose each other in the crowd of these events sometimes, but we found we were talking in the room and laughing together just the same.

    All in all we really think that Guild Wars 2 has got the grouping just right and can’t wait for the game to release to try out some of these theories over the coming months/years.

    Sugoll and Ame Mythbeast :D


    • LOL communication is the key. The number of dynamic events we came across actually made it worse for us because we were both so keen to experience everything this game had to offer. Every time an “orange circle” appeared on the map, it was like OOOH, new DE! My husband and I not so much “communicated” as poked at each other saying, “This way, this way, new event!” and “where do you think you’re going, our task is this way!”

      Things got easier once we prioritized though. Dynamic events are always the first on our list, since heart tasks and other stuff will always be there for us to go back to do.

      We’ll be sure to try your mini-map method! Though it didn’t really work too well for us either using similar map markers in Rift :P


  6. This might help shed some more light on the inter class and grouping mechanics:
    http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Cross-profession_combo
    very interesting and much better than the druid-shaman combo you talked about


    • I’ve heard about those, though I think this link provides a better overview of what they are and how they work along with a few examples: http://pc.ign.com/articles/121/1216828p1.html

      I suppose they are synergy, though for some reason I never really thought of the cross combos that way. Probably because they were specifically designed to work this way without much randomness or wriggle room, and leaves little opportunity to explore and improvise much further.

      That said, I’m looking forward to playing around with some of these though.


  7. I haven’t played with others much yet, in part because my husband doesn’t have his own account yet but I’d expect synergy to be easier. In WoW, our first characters were a hunter and a mage. My intellect buff was kind of good for him but otherwise our classes didn’t really do much for each other. Next we both leveled priests. Also painful, even though I went shadow and he stuck with healing. We just weren’t drawn to complimentary classes.

    In GW2, If we were to play say, a ranger and an elementalist we’d get more out of it than our hunter/mage pairing because eles are great for setting up combos and rangers are great for finishing them. It’s kind of nice being able to play what you want instead of having to pick specific professions to get the most out of playing together. Lapses in experience matter less because of down-scaling. We don’t always play the same character or the same amount anyway, and now one can catch the other up and still benefit from lower content.

    I look forward to experimenting with different profession combinations.


    • I can’t say I can see that much for a hunter/Mage combo or a priest/priest combo either, though one time my husband and I did a Druid/Druid combo and it rocked. It still remains the most fun combination of classes I’ve ever played, in any game.

      From reading these comments, it seems like a lot of couples change up characters to play together. In contrast my husband and I tend to stick to the same two characters until they hit cap. When we do alts we do them together too, and repeat all over again. I haven’t realized until now how little we play MMOs WITHOUT the other :P


  8. Very late to the party, but I was looking for GW2 reviews for a friend. Sctrz and I found the discrepency in XP gain disconcerting. The normal synergy of grouping isn’t just combos and buffs, but the fact that we are working together toward a common goal. Often I would finish a heart quest several minutes before Sctrz, then have nothing to do but randomly kills stuff, since I could do nothing to help her finish.

    I commented on this in my own review. Beyond some stick-together coordination, there seemed to be absolutely no benefit to grouping at all. Which is especially sad, since the account-level automatic grouping is one of the best innovations for habitual groups like ours I have seen in a game.



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