Opt Out

Oh, hey Shatterer. Let’s dance.

In general, I hate forums. I’ve always found them to be a place where people with lost perspectives go to argue, except “argue” means “state one’s position without backing it up with reasons or evidence, call out the devs for not listening to you personally, and insult everyone who disagrees.” Good discussion goes to forums to die–either by trolls or by being buried underneath a sea of unreasonable, negative bile.

Despite all this, now that the game is out, I routinely find myself possessed to stare into the abyss: the Guild Wars 2 official forums. I have to admit, the official forums are better than most other forums I’ve attempted to participate in. There’s quite a bit of informative user-driven content that gets posted there, such as the necromancer bugs compilation, that gets good exposure and is actively encouraged by the devs. It’s very nice that the devs will both weigh in when they think it’s appropriate and also respond to individual people that catch their attention.

That said, even with the official forums’ very strict Terms and watchful moderators, you still have to sift through a lot of crap to find the posts worth reading. No matter what your topic is, someone will find a way to passive-aggressively insult you and have it fly under moderator radar since it’s veiled in “discussion.” Unfortunately, the devs can’t magically pick out the most constructive OP’s to respond to on a particular topic. In fact, they claim to find value in all kinds of feedback, including the very posts that make the forums no fun to read. A thread getting dev attention is not a guarantee the thread is good, but the dev posts themselves and any that they directly responded to are worth a read.

But who has time for all that? I founded this blog in part to shield myself and others from the negativity of forums. Every couple of weeks I plan to repost some of my own forum posts and link to or summarize topics that I thought were helpful or interesting. I’ll call it “Opt Out,” because it’s a terrible pun on my name (we all know there aren’t enough puns out there) and because that’s what it is: a way to opt-out of exposing yourself to the brain damage of a video game forum, but still seeing some of the good stuff posted there.

Diminished Returns: One of the big things that came up in the last couple of weeks is the Diminished Returns systems in place for dungeons, loot, karma, and gathering. I play the game a lot and I never hit any of the latter three thresholds, though I was affected by the bugged dungeon DR system before it was patched last week. For those who played enough to hit the other DR limits, they were apparently raised in the most recent patch.

Mob Tagging: Naturally, I got downvoted to oblivion on Reddit when I told someone “I think you were just unlucky” when complaining about their drop rate in Orr, in addition to my suggestion below:

Are you getting XP for mob kills? If not, you aren’t actually tagging them, in which case you will definitely not get loot. The solution is twofold: a) try and do events that aren’t completely overpopulated so you don’t have to compete as hard for tags; b) use rapid projectile/melee and/or AoE/DoT attacks so you’re able to hit foes multiple times and be more likely to tag. I don’t know exactly how tagging works but b) seems to work well for me.

I often find myself perplexed by mob tagging as what works in some situations does not at all work in others. I’ve figured out one solid rule though: if you’re doing an event that’s so overcrowded that the game isn’t rendering all the players in the area, it’s time to move somewhere else. I think what I said on Reddit is helpful, though I would also add that it’s important to be one of the first people to strike the enemies. I think each mob might only give a certain number of tags, which is why you see stuff like helping kill a Veteran from half-health down, getting lots of hits and inflicting conditions etc., but not getting any XP or loot.

Your Pet Bug: Everyone has that one issue in the game that only they seem to notice and no one is talking about. I’m pretty observant and easily annoyed, so I probably have more pet peeves than many and I can attest that many of these issues get posted about. I found threads about the game randomly minimizingodd “excessive messaging” errors, and even the odd sound issue that forces people to restart their clients. I made threads about some Account Bound items behaving as if soulbound and Level 400 Artificer “Extended Potions” having incorrect behavior, albeit to limited response. So, if you have some weird issue, do a search of the bugs forum to see if other people have experienced it. Add what (constructive!) feedback you can, and try out suggested workarounds in case they help you out while a real fix is in the works.

No Hidden Watermarks: I was very happy to get an official dev response on this topic, which confirms that the live GW2 client doen’t perform any watermarking of screenshots. This means you are not unwittingly exposing personal info every time you share screenshots–that’s a good thing! You will only be watermarked if you are testing unreleased content and are under NDA, in which case you shouldn’t be sharing the screenshots anyway. (I was also happy to make a not-so-subtle jab at Blizzard for secretly watermarking WoW screenshots for years. I don’t know why they thought that was okay.)

Clbuttic Mistakes: The forums’ word filter makes some kitten hilarious errors. (Also, I’m starting to say/write “kitten” instead of actually swearing. Well played, ANet.)

Dungeon Difficulty: There are people who think dungeons are too easy, and others who think they’re too hard. For the most part, I think both sides are wrong.

The people who find dungeons too easy (as a whole) would probably find anything ArenaNet could have reasonably put in there too easy. The people who’ve already cleared all the dungeons paths and have all the dungeon rewards they want have only themselves to blame–these people are the experts. They are the guys and gals who should go and write the wiki articles on how to beat these dungeons most efficiently, helping the community benefit from their vast knowledge. Their skill and obsession is enviable, but the game should not be designed around their idea of what constitutes “difficult content.” As epic as it would be to fight Zhaitan, Jormag, Kralkatorrik, Primordus, and Mr. Bubbles, all at the same time and with no NPC backup (or worse, the constantly-dead members of Destiny’s Edge,) the rest of us would like challenges that are possible to overcome.

(Someone, please draw a picture of the ridiculously awesome scene I just described.)

That said, I’m not in favor of making dungeons easier either. I was certainly shellshocked by how punishing GW2 is compared to GW1, where death is a temporary debuff that goes away for free, but having played more dungeons I am coming around to the way of thinking they require. Below is my response to someone complaining about 1-shot attacks being unfair:

I don’t have a problem with dungeons being unforgiving/punishing—in order to survive a dungeon profitably (e.g. without breaking all your armor,) you need to learn the “right ways” to get through each encounter. People are already saying dungeons are too easy so imagine how many more people would call for harder dungeons if the challenges added by 1shot attacks were removed.

I gained an appreciation for 1shot attacks in AC explorable. Those Graveling Scanvengers that leap on you, knock you down, and chomp on you till you die were giving me a kitten hard time until I accepted that I need to fight them a specific way. Every class can dodge if they time it right. As a necro I have many tools at my disposal for dealing with leap attacks: blind, fear, immobilize, freeze, and cripple. Any one of these can trivialize the leap attack when paired with good timing and intelligent positioning. If one of them does get me and I’m knocked down, I can either equip a stun-break or pop Death Shroud and use Doom to fear it away before it starts chomping. Death Shroud and Doom can be activated while CC’d, and Doom can be used even while channeling another skill.

It’s all about being familiar with the enemies you’re facing and knowing your class well. Don’t ask for the challenge to be nerfed—accept the challenge and meet it head-on.

Posted in Guild Wars 2, Opt Out | 5 Comments

Three weeks later: my thoughts and a special giveaway!

The gates are open!

It should come as no surprise that I’ve been quiet on the blogging front lately–as I’m sure you have, I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2! On a kneejerk I decided to roll not four but seven alts in order to represent all 8 classes and park all of the names that I want into the future; more on my characters in a future post though.

Having really sunk my teeth into the game for a long while–I have reached level 80, have over 50% map completion, unlocked all my slot skills, played with a few different trait distributions, and reached level 400 in Artificer–I have a range of things I want to talk about. Let’s start by talking about my previous criticisms from during the beta and see how we’re doing.

Event scaling and Zerg swarms in PvE: I haven’t tried doing the Centaur bridge event again, but I’ve done the Bear shrine event a couple more times and it’s the same. When there are enough people doing the same event I have trouble doing enough damage to a target to get credit–XP and loot–for killing it. Sometimes during a champion fight I have trouble getting gold participation because the foe is maxed out at 25 stacks of bleeding. I will only get silver or bronze for the event even if I was actively participating the whole time. Rather than focusing on playing effectively, I’ve noticed it’s better for me in terms of drops and experience to spam my AoE abilities to make sure I tag all the enemies on the field. But maybe I’m a special case–bleed spam is very popular. Last night I decided to retrait and focus more on power and condition duration than squarely on condition damage and bleeding and that seems to be working better.

Having seen more of the game though, I don’t think dynamic event scaling is as big a deal as I did during the beta. If you want challenging content perfectly scaled for your group, play a dungeon. Dungeons are challenging and very gratifying to complete. As of this writing I’ve done Story Mode in Ascalonian Catacombs, Caudecus’ Manor, and Twilight Arbor. There was one boss in TA–for those who’ve played, all I need to say is “spiders”–where I said to the group “I don’t know if we can do this!” but through adjusting our tactics we were able to take him down.

My first few party wipes in AC had me concerned that dungeons were just going to be a graveyard rush–the practice of throwing yourself against at a group of foes repeatedly to whittle it down, sidestepping the full challenge–but the latter two dungeons were not so forgiving of wipes. Especially when there’s just one very powerful Champion who takes everyone down or can resurrect its allies, foes will return to full health before you can run back to them. Furthermore, in order to profitably complete dungeons, it’s important not to repeatedly break your armor (more on that later.) In Explorable Mode there is no repair station, so broken armor can be the difference between finishing the dungeon and having to give up.

Moving on, ArenaNet implemented equipment previews for all manners of equippable items–including dyes! This is one of the ways I thought the “unlocked dyes are character-bound” issue could be addressed, and it got added, so I’m very happy about that! One minor annoyance is that you can’t ping or preview items listed in the trading post, but I’ll more than survive until that gets added.

The equipment preview lets you do funny things like preview medium armor on a light armor profession. I actually kinda like how this one armor looks with my colors!

I’ve lamented the lack of guesting already, but with several weeks of context I can say that the broader picture–the current server model as a whole–has some serious drawbacks. I was saddened to learn that while guild exist across servers, guild perks are still isolated on a per-server basis. Representing your guild off of its main server doesn’t help the entire group, as any influence you own goes to your server’s “chapter” of the guild. If there are no leaders or officers on your home server, that influence is a complete waste. By virtue of being a guild perk, the guild bank is also tied to the server it’s unlocked on.

The consequence of this is that people simply don’t represent guilds that aren’t on their home server. [TWIT] may have dozens of members, but many of them never represent because they don’t have enough of a reason to. Maybe ArenaNet was hoping shared guild chat would be enough of an incentive, but it hasn’t turned out that way; guild perks being tied to servers defeats the purpose of multi-guild membership for many people. I definitely imagined that one’s home server would be a mere convenience in PvE and really only matter in WvW; unfortunately, home server has a large impact on who you can play and interact with. None of this is what I was expecting and it leaves me a bit let down with the game’s social features.

Still, maybe none of that will be a problem once guesting is added. We know what guesting is, but we don’t know how it works or how it will impact things like the guild system. Ultimately, we need to wait and see.

I’m a sucker for digital night skies, and this one gets an A+.

Let’s talk about the economy–GW2 has a lot of money sinks. Waypoint and armor repair costs that scale with level, expensive trait manuals, crafting materials that must be purchased from a vendor, trait respec fees, and perhaps more that I can’t think of. One of GW2’s greatest strengths is that it rewards you handsomely for what I call “just playing the game“–events, hearts, dungeons, personal story, map completion–so getting money isn’t hard, it’s keeping it that becomes a challenge. Coming from Guild Wars 1, where map travel and attribute redistribution are completely free and armor doesn’t break, the considerable money sinks in GW2 came as quite a culture shock.

It’s hard to say how I’ll feel about it once I’m fully involved in explorable mode dungeons, level 80 events in Orr, and producing exotic crafter items, but right now the sinks feel prohibitively expensive. It’s making me not want to pay over 2 silver to fast travel to the Shiverpeaks to play with my friends when I’m down in Maguuma because that’s more than half of the heart reward I just got. It’s making people less sympathetic to GW2’s design decisions ask for mounts. Maybe some of those people would ask for mounts anyway, but I dislike that waypoint costs are giving them a good reason to ask.

I feel like a cheater whenever I jump through the Mists to get to Lion’s Arch for free and use the gate network to be on my way from there, but it really does help me group up for a more reasonable price. Since I imagine everyone who learns this trick uses it to save some coin, waypoints should simply cost the lesser of:

  • The direct distance from your location to the destination; or
  • The distance between your destination and the nearest racial city.

This would save everyone several minutes of walking and 3+ loading screens as well as money. It would also reduce concurrency on Lion’s Arch and the racial cities, which are usually slow to load and kicking people to overflow only to give the “map is ready” prompt seconds later. Similarly, since it costs 0 to waypoint inside your current city, all waypoints into a given city should cost the same. (Waypointing out of a home instance back into the city shouldn’t cost anything either, but that’s just a pet peeve of mine.)

The last economic thing I want to touch on is fine crafting materials. They’re highly in-demand as people level up their weapon and armor crafting professions, but are in very short supply. I may have reached 400 in Artificer, but I’m stuck below level 125 in Tailor because I just can’t get the right tier of fine mats to drop for me and the prices on the trading post are staggering. I wish these mats were available more consistently and without grinding a certain type of enemy of a certain level.

Do you want a GW2 Dragon t-shirt like this one? Read on!

Being negative makes me feel bad so let’s end the post on a high note–I had an awesome time a couple weeks ago at one of ArenaNet’s launch events in New York City, and I have some codes to give away! I have three codes for the t-shirt (town clothes) you see in the screenshot above. It’s an account-bound item when you acquire it, so any of your characters will be able to wear it. If you want a chance at one of the codes, follow these instructions:

  1. Follow me (@OptMaleficus) on Twitter.
  2. Find my tweet that links to this story and retweet it. It should be easy to spot because it references the giveaway and has the hashtag #contest. (Update: Here is the tweet.)
  3. Do both of those things by Friday, September 21st, 5:30PM Eastern time. Late entries may be able to sneak into the drawing, but the soonest I will pick winners is the deadline.

That’s all there is to it–good luck! (Update: Contest is long over! :p)

I believe this is the Ash Legion Tribune’s office.

Posted in Guild Wars 2 | 6 Comments

My headstart and launch, in pictures

Got around to curating the more than 200 screenshots I took in the last 4 days and made an album out of my favorites. Check it out!

Also, one more quick tip to supplement yesterday’s post: drawing on the map, a cool feature of GW1, is still in the game! Just hold shift while interacting with the map and you’ll be able to ping locations and draw when you left-click. They added a new feature as well: use left-alt + left-click to set a custom waypoint on your map! It can serve as a handy reminder of somewhere you want to go–it’s very easy to get distracted :)–and it will show up on your party members’ maps too. Easy way to share a location without having to ping the minimap constantly.

Posted in Guild Wars 2 | Leave a comment

Guesting workaround and display name change trick!

I visited the Invincible Skelk Tree down in Godslost Swamp. Clearly I wasn’t impressed with the engineer fruitlessly blasting away at them. (Hunter, is that you?)

It’s here! And the servers aren’t down for everyone! Woohoo!

I had an awesome headstart weekend–when the servers went up I was able to get into Jade Quarry, get both of the one-word character names I wanted (Vimm and Nani,) rolled 8 characters (gulp,) got into #twitguild, partied up, and got playing! That’s a whole lot of things that could have gone wrong, but didn’t. I never had a login issue and only disconnected once all weekend. None of the major bugs this weekend have seriously affected me–I didn’t get kicked out of my guild (though my GL and another member did,) I’ve been able to send and receive mail, use the “Join into overflow” feature with a party, and today I picked up my Collector’s Edition and redeemed the code. The worst I’ve had to deal with is the trading post being down, and having to rezone into a map so people could “join in” to me. On the whole, I count myself as one very lucky but prepared supernerd.

One of the highlights of this weekend was discovering that you can “join in” with party members who are in overflow–even if they’re not in the same home world! This is a partial workaround for guesting not being available. There are a couple of limitations though: first, the zone you’re going to must be populated enough that someone gets kicked to an overflow when they zone in; second, your group must all be in the same datacenter (North America or Europe.) One final word of warning is make sure you click “reenter queue” each time the “Your map is ready” prompt appears, because you’ll leave your friends from other servers behind. Unfortunately you’ll be clicking “reenter queue” a lot if you’re in a sparsely-populated zone, but it’s better than not being able to play with your friends at all.

I imagine that when guesting is added, the “Join in [map]” option will be replaced by “Join in [map] as guest on [server]” when your friend is on their home server and not in overflow. Hopefully they’ll make it work between NA and EU servers as well–if there’s a technical challenge holding back guesting, that’s probably it.

Battle of the Badass Collector’s Edition Statues!

I took a leap of faith when I registered my CE code–it gave me the option to change my account’s display name, and I took it. Fortunately it seems to have worked flawlessly–my display name is now “Mr eX.3420″ and my friends list, guild membership, and HoM are all still intact. If you pre-purchased the game at retail and you’re feeling brave, feel free to give this a shot. (Make sure you use the same account information though!)

Since I have the retail box in front of me, I took a look at the quick reference card (the same one available here) to see if there were any commands I didn’t know. Sure enough–there were a few that were new to me! Here they are:

  • Tab when chat has focus: Cycle chat tabs
  • /r or Backspace: Reply to the most recent whisper
  • /friend [name], /block [name], and /unblock [name]: friend/block/unblock someone (if you’re blocking someone, make sure to report them if they’re being a jerk!)

Interestingly it looks like this reference card was written for an older version of the game. Some errors I noticed:

  • /m for talking to Map chat isn’t listed.
  • /LFG doesn’t work as described. It says in chat that it changed my status to LFG, but the color of my online status icon doesn’t actually change. It also opens your friends list directly to the LFG panel, but since your status indicator doesn’t change you might as well go there manually just to make sure.
  • The /AFK and /invisible commands to toggle away/invisible status aren’t recognized commands. (I’ve also noticed multiple times that the /toast emote isn’t recognized either.)

I think a few of these commands being omitted might be a bug. Clearly these things would be nice to have, but ultimately it’s not nearly as important as getting the various login issues or Trading Post fixed. Or implementing guesting for real, for that matter.

Posted in Guild Wars 2 | 1 Comment

The Power Of Friendship

I now have Obsidian Armor of my own–wow! Never thought I’d see the day.

Friday’s announcement about the Wayfarer’s Reverie event was a bittersweet experience for a lot of us Guild Wars fans–we got a reason to jump into GW1 and revisit a bunch of nostalgic locations, but it was also an opportunity to say goodbye to the game that’s been the foundation of our fandom for seven years. GW2 headstart is very soon, and the Live Team knows it and wanted to give the GW1 and its fans a nice sendoff. Even with the sad aura of the event, #twitguild was getting together in Guild Wars all weekend and having an awesome time! We did all of the Reverie quests together–some of us twice just for the hell of it–and on Sunday 8 of us gathered in Temple of the Ages for a Fissure of Woe run to blow tons of money on Obsidian Armor.

4 new sets of Obby! /roar! From left to right: Rudhraighe (@RudhraigheO, as Kuunavang,) Kel (@ebonywolf21,) me, AJ Wolf (@AJWolf84,) and Verene (@LadyVerene)

Even with as much Guild Wars as I’ve played, I’ve never been anywhere close to affording an Obby set of my own. Fortunately, Rud and Verene were able to furnish Kel, AJ, and I with nearly all of the ectos and shards we needed from their personal hoards. Verene still had enough for her own set too (damn girl!) Once our armor was crafted we decided to do a full clear. It was the exact kind of thing Guild Wars and MMOs are designed for–a group of experienced players taking their favorite builds, tackling high-level content, and having a great time doing it. We played well and earned a bunch of nice drops, including several shards each, and made it to the end chest.

I earned this snazzy Balthazar statue too!

It got me thinking–I would never have accomplished any of this on my own. Playing with a group makes the game so much more enjoyable than striking it on your own with heroes because you get to see your friends get loot and you all advance together. Everything becomes more fun, especially the full party wipes.

I helped my fair share of people in terms of quests, missions, and money over the years (though never on the scale of Obby armor) but last weekend it was my turn to get some monetary help. I’m humbled by Rud and Verene’s spirit of giving. They could have easily kept their loot to pursue their remaining interests in Guild Wars, but they were happy to just give the last of it away. It gives me some inspiration and goals for GW2–I hope to amass huge wealth in GW2 and be just as generous with it!

Kel and I rocking our new armor some more.

It’s awesome that GW and GW2 can be played solo, but I can’t emphasize enough how important having a group is for taking a great gaming experience and making it into something truly memorable. If you’re looking for a guild, everyone is welcome to join [TWIT]!

And hey–we all know that headstart is coming up, and I want to sink my teeth all the way in as much as anyone, so it’s a safe bet I won’t post again for a few days! Keep an eye on my personal twitter @mr_ex if you wanna keep tabs on my activities during headstart, and my IGN is Optimus Maleficus.6950. See you in Tyria, friends!

Posted in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 | 4 Comments

Missing In Action: Guesting

Well, yesterday’s news confirmed one of my fears for the launch of GW2: guesting will not be available at launch. If you don’t know what guesting is, it’s a feature that promises to let you play PvE with your friends on other servers for free. In a past post I lauded guesting as something that really sets GW2 apart from the antisocial server model of traditional MMO’s that keeps people apart. While they never made a binding promise that it would be available at launch, they certainly intended it to be:

When Guild Wars 2 launches, you will also have the option to play with your friends on another world with our free “guesting” feature.’

So this is an unplanned deviation from how ArenaNet wanted things to go. Fortunately, always true to the spirit of community, there will be free unlimited server transfers for an unspecified period when the game launches. This window will close when “server populations stabilize.” Hopefully the end of free server transfers will correspond with when guesting becomes available, but it’s not guaranteed in the post. I find the lack of a timeline a little worrying–the posts gives us no idea whether guesting is weeks or months from being ready. Let’s hope it’s the former.

I think we can speculate with some accuracy as to why guesting was delayed–the ship date. With development of GW2 beginning in the Spring of 2007, the game has been in production for nearly five and a half years. That’s a fairly standard development time for MMO’s–the original WoW and Rift had similar development periods. As much as ArenaNet kept up the mantra of “when it’s ready” and praised NCSoft for the latitude they get to take their time and make the game awesome, pressure to get the game to market definitely entered into the equation this year if not sooner. Furthermore, the fans are getting impatient too. My original estimates were way off–I thought we would have been playing GW2 around this time last year. Delaying the game after announcing the release date is just unfathomable.

The pressure of a deadline forces the developer to prioritize the must-haves above the nice-to-haves. Lacking a must-have feature would leave a gap in the game’s functionality that cannot be filled any other way, while a nice-to-have would be something convenient but can ultimately be accomplished via some other means. With all of the levers available to ArenaNet as far as the number of servers, server population caps, and control over server transfers, guesting must be considered a nice-to-have for launch. If ArenaNet needs to end free server transfers before guesting is ready, they could discount the cost of a server transfer during that period. There’s a lot they can do to keep people from freaking out, and more importantly they seem willing to do it.

Clearly, based on the old blog post linked above, they thought it would be ready. As a software developer, coming up with estimates for how long something will take to implement is an art, not a science, and people of all experience levels can easily get it wrong. Even if the estimates were accurate, more important stuff can come up that must be finished first. When you set your ambitions as high as ArenaNet has there’s always the risk you won’t get to  everything you set out to do. And that’s okay. Frankly, when you have to look as closely as I am to find small things that won’t make it by launch, that’s a sign that the game is doing pretty damn well.

The only major consequence of this that I can see is that inevitably some people will be caught off-guard by the switch from free to paid server transfers and will end up locked on the wrong home server. This will result in hurt feelings and some unplanned paid server moves for those people. Ah well–omlettes and eggs and whatnot. The launch plan isn’t exactly what they said originally, but it seems perfectly reasonable.

Posted in Guild Wars 2, News | 6 Comments

Backlog Guilt and how to beat it

If you’ve been a gamer for awhile, I bet you can relate to this image.

With Guild Wars 2 on the horizon I’ve been trying to play my way through other games I’ve bought recently (and over the last couple of years,) because after August 25th they certainly won’t see the light of day again for a long time. Between all the new, must-have AAA games and the awesome deals available through the likes of Steam and Humble Indie Bundles, gamers are swimming in more great games than ever before. The problem is that the days, weeks, and months haven’t gotten any longer to accommodate the rate at which people are buying games. There’s no holiday dedicated to playing video games–friends, family, the outdoors, and alcohol typically monopolize the holiday and vacation seasons. All of this leads to a problem that every gamer suffers from to some extent: Backlog Guilt.

Like many gamers, I find myself opening a new console game or seeing an awesome deal on Steam, only to look and grimace at all of the other games I either haven’t 100%ed, beaten, or even played at all. Assassin’s Creed Revelations is out? But I never found all the glyphs in AC:Brotherhood! New DLC for Skyrim? But I have 10 Humble Bundle games I’ve never even started. I hear about these dilemmas from my friends, and encounter them myself, all the time. People often lean towards buying the newer games and staying current–which they shouldn’t feel bad about if it’s what they would rather do–but Backlog Guilt is a vicious cycle. This week’s new hotness is next week’s old news. So what’s a gamer to do?

I do pretty well in terms of not feeling guilty about my gaming choices, so I thought I’d share my decision-making process for buying games and how I approach chipping away at my enormous backlog. The first thing to remember is that video games are a leisure activity–you spent money on games to have a good time playing them, not to worry about unbeaten, unplayed games. When you’re looking at your backlog with regret, thinking “I need to play all these games or they were a waste” and feeling bad that you haven’t played them, you’re committing a variant of the sunk-cost fallacy. In economics/business, a sunk cost is an investment that cannot be recovered, much like buying a game on Steam or a newly-released $60 retail game. If it turns out that investment is not going to work out–like if a game is bad, or something better has come along–it doesn’t make sense to continue investing in it just because you have already sunk money into it.

In the gamer’s case we aren’t just concerned with money, but also time. Backlog guilt drives gamers to spend time on old games to “justify” their purchase, even if there is something else they’d rather be playing or doing. Therein lies the fallacy. Remember how I said games are a leisure activity that should be motivated by fun and enjoyment? Letting guilt control what games you decide to play means you won’t enjoy yourself as much, and you’ll feel envious of people who are playing the games you’d rather play. Don’t throw away your leisure time to justify the sunk cost of old games! You own the games, and the money you spent on them is gone. Forcing yourself to play them doesn’t bring that money back or make the cost of the game “more worth it.” Remember, you don’t have a moral duty to beat all your video games. Maybe you don’t want to play an old game because it sucks, it’s more fun with a co-op buddy, or it’s just not as appealing as something else right now. Your backlog will still be there in a month or a year, so don’t worry!

That said, it is fair enough to regret spending money on games you haven’t played or beaten. Gaming can be an expensive hobby, so it’s important to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. If you find yourself looking back and wishing you hadn’t bought something, try and take a lesson from that moving forward. Rather than buying new games on an impulse and feeling guilty about it later, I try to only buy new games I’m sure I’ll enjoy and am really interested in. In other words, be responsible with your money. When you’re thinking about buying a new game, take a look at your backlog. If you see it and think “yeah, I would rather play this new game than any of these” then maybe the new purchase is appropriate. But how often can you really say that?

For me, Guild Wars 2 is a great example of when it’s okay to buy something new. I am going to love that game to pieces and many of my friends will be playing it, so of course I should start playing it ASAP. It’s a total no-brainer. It doesn’t mean that the games I’m playing now are bad or that I don’t want them anymore, they’re simply less important to me than GW2. Playing GW2 to the exclusion of other games will be the most enjoyable use of my game collection as a whole.

If you’re curious about the games I’ve got at the top of my queue, here you go.

When you’ve got a Steam library as big as mine, you might even find yourself weighing games you already own against other games you already own. I find that Steam’s Favorites feature is really great for creating a “cache” of games I’m most interested in playing. I can see them all at once on one screen, decide which one I feel like playing, and have at it. When I’m done with one, I remove it from my favorites and replace it with something else from my full list of games.

Besides the obligatory, my cache has a mix of games from various bundles that I never started, recent purchases from the Steam Summer Sale (I’ve somehow never played a Tomb Raider game before,) and long games like Skyrim and Borderlands I wouldn’t mind continuing/replaying. Out of that whole screenshot, the only games I’m actively playing are Lara Croft: Guardian of Light, Saints Row 3, VVVVVV, and Binding of Isaac, but I’ll be done with GoL soon which will free up a spot in the cache for something else. Maybe I’ll start replaying Borderlands or finally finish the main quest of Skyrim. Or maybe I’ll decide I don’t care about BIT.TRIP anymore and kick it out without finishing it. That’s the beauty of it–I don’t really need a good reason to play something or not, because it’s all for fun anyway!

How to you beat backlog guilt and balance the desire for buying new games vs finishing old ones? Let me know in the comments!

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