It was the briefest of visits: Wednesday’s stress test lasted only four hours. Barely enough time to get comfortable before the end-of-event activities began. I wanted to squeeze as much enjoyment out of this time as I could: deciding what to do meant eliminating a few otherwise attractive options. My guild is on Cavalon, which is a lightly populated North American server: WvW would probably not be worthwhile in the middle of the work day (especially if ArenaNet’s ranking algorithm is still having issues — there’s no fun in losing when the winning server has many, many times the number of points that yours has).
For the same reason, I didn’t expect to be able to get a group of level 30+ guildies together to do the Ascalonian Catacombs, so that was out. We’ll save that for BWE3 (which you can schedule for any time soon, ArenaNet). This turned out to be a good decision, as I only saw two other guildies in my travels and I think we had at most eight online at any point during the test.
<sarcasm>Oh, I know: I’d do crafting for four hours!</sarcasm> Or…not. Definitely not. I’ve enjoyed doing a bit of crafting so far, but it’s not why I’ll be playing the game.
I decided to explore more of the world on my ranger for an hour or so and then roll a new character in one of the professions I haven’t tried yet. While I was making up my mind, the clock inched closer and closer to H-hour.
It’s 1:00 Eastern time! Time to log in.
Type, type, type, [Enter]
“Either there is no event running or …”
Type, type, type, [Enter]
Loading. Is. Very. Slow. Again.
Just under four minutes from the “Connecting” message to loading into the Plains of Ashford. Four agonizing minutes: I could have been playing the game all that time! (Have you ever noticed just how painfully slowly the seconds tick by when you’re waiting for something you really want?)
I must have finished BWE2 in the middle of a trading session, because the Black Lion Trading Post panel was the first thing I saw as I arrived in game. I checked my inventory. Yes, there were a few items that looked trade-worthy. I put them up for sale, but the trades took a while to post. At one point, I got an error saying that my trade hadn’t succeeded, but the item was no longer in my inventory. I re-opened the trading post UI and it showed the item had actually been placed successfully.
Having created some space in my inventory, I continued poking around the Charr areas for a while, killing a variety of creatures, gathering some materials, and filling in some blank spots on my world map. I suppose it was a sign of how under-populated my server was that I only noticed a couple of dynamic events close to me in the hour I was playing my ranger.
The respawn rate, however, was still a bit too high for comfort. At one point, I was working through a small group of harpies and by the time I got the veteran harpy down, the others were respawning right around me. Once again, I shouldn’t need to kill the same mob multiple times just to get through a small area on the map (I wasn’t dawdling, but I wasn’t rushing either).
I decided to try creating a new character, but when I attempted that, I got a “Transaction in progress” error message and was dumped back to the login screen. That’s never a good omen.
On the second try, I got to create my first non-human character: a charr guardian. I’ve rarely enjoyed playing melee characters, but beta is a good time to try out different things. I only got her up to level 5 before the finale, so I didn’t really explore much of the guardian’s capabilities, but she’s far more capable of surviving in melee conditions than any of my previous characters. Perhaps too much so… by the time I started taking serious damage, it was getting to be a bit late for dodging.
The finale was the same as the event that ended BWE2. Perhaps it worked better on other servers, but there were so few players on Cavalon that it seemed to take forever (in fact, I had to log off nearly 40 minutes after the stress test was originally scheduled to end, and we still hadn’t found all the uncorrupted players). Because I was on my level 5 guardian, I was in no rush to try confronting the minions of the dragon, so I just kept working on a renown heart and a skill point that I wanted to finish. Eventually, a few players came by keeping company with Eir. It wasn’t clear what Eir was trying to do, as she kept back-tracking and then moving slowly forward and then going back nearly as far again.
The party I’d joined eventually ran into some corrupted minions, but we beat them fairly easily. And then I died. I have no idea what killed me, but a red circle appeared around me and I dodged out of it. Another circle immediately appeared and I dodged again. A third cirle appeared, but died before I could dodge again. So I joined the other side. It wasn’t much to write home about: even though I was now a dragon’s minion, I was still level 5. By myself, I couldn’t actually kill anything and even the uncorrupted local fauna had a good chance of killing me.
In summary, it was a fun four hours. I did more exploring, I teamed up with a guildie (Natural again, on his level 10 guardian) for an hour, and I got to experience the finale I’d had to miss at the end of BWE2. But four hours just isn’t enough. I’m still eager to get back into Tyria and explore more…
Update: Dutch informed me that ArenaNet had extended the stress test by an hour, which explains why the end event seemed to be taking so long.