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Flameseeker Chronicles: The care and feeding of your PUG

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

As I joined the rest of you in anxiously awaiting the beginning of Asura Week, I thought over what to discuss in this week's Flameseeker Chronicles. Last week was the usual calm before the storm, so I was a little stuck for a topic.

As is often the way, some quality time with Guild Wars and my alliance solved that problem! While I was playing last week, I was keeping an eye on a discussion in alliance chat regarding PUG groups and the frustration that some of my allies were experiencing at their virtual hands.

It set me to thinking about the unusual situation PUGs find themselves in in Guild Wars, so follow along after the jump and let's talk about it!

I've talked about this before: Guild Wars is an old game with a very large, new population. That means the developers have to walk a fine line when creating and balancing content, but it also means tricky things for the community. The vets and the new players are going to interact fairly often, and not just in a familiar, organized guild situation.

If you're a veteran player and wind up in a PUG group with someone who doesn't seem to know which end is up, it's got the potential to be a really frustrating situation. I'm not going to preach "can't we all just get along" because I'm as guilty of this frustration as anyone. I avoid grouping outside of my safe and familiar alliance circle -- sometimes to my own detriment. Just the other day I needed to get through Ruins of Morah on an alt account with mediocre heroes and not many good elites unlocked. It was an odd time of day when no guildmates or allies were free, and I failed that mission seven times with mediocre-at-best heroes before finally getting it. Grabbing a PUG never even occurred to me because I never do it.

If I'd grouped up with others in the district, I probably would have knocked the thing out in five minutes and been done with it -- or maybe not. PUGs are such a wild card that the potential for even more frustration is always there, but again, the community is a weird mix these days.

For starters, the assumption that a player should have a firm idea of what he or she is doing by the second half or so of a campaign should probably be tossed right out the window at this point. Same with the assumption that someone playing hard mode should be familiar with mission/bonus/masters. Here's why: It's common these days for a new player to join the game to buff up his Hall of Monuments, join an established guild, and start burning through content.

He might ask for help in missions, and his guildies, longtime players to whom this stuff is very old hat, run to the rescue. They "give" him the mission by rushing through the core and bonus content as quickly as possible, while the new guy doesn't really understand what's going on. Over time, the new guy gets the vast majority of all three campaigns plus the expansion handed to him in this matter, and voila. One more hard-mode-ready player who doesn't really know the game. It's hard to fault anyone in that case on the surface. The experienced players have done this content a dozen times and don't want to go through it at a crawl yet again, and the new guy is simply accepting a generous offer from his new friends.

Of course, I freely acknowledge that this isn't always the case when you run into a clueless stranger in a mission group. Some people are either just obnoxious or willfully clueless. But more and more often we've just got a bewildered guy who was rushed through the game and is sitting at his computer feeling really awkward because nobody ever told him that Master Togo had to stay alive. The last time he did this mission, he just ran behind his guildmates while they cleared the path and he didn't really know what was up.

So! My suggestion to you, the veteran players, is to take a quick moment to find this sort of thing out when you PUG. Before you start, ask whether there's anyone who's not entirely familiar with the mission and the bonus or masters content. Heck, tell such folks to whisper you if they're not comfortable announcing it to the entire group. If they're not, give them a very short rundown. Nothing huge and lengthy, just the basics to get them on track. During the mission, make sure to drop a brief mention to the group if something's coming up that's important. "Nobody talk to Justicar Hablion. If we do, he'll start Leeroying, and if he dies, we fail the mission." Again, no lectures, just a quick reminder.

It will add maybe two minutes to your overall playtime, but in many cases it will save you a world of irritation -- and help add one more knowledgeable player to the community. A little bit of patience and understanding that a lot of people these days have been rushed through the game without learning will go a long way for all involved.

Now, if you are one of those people who have been rushed through the game and find yourself in advanced gameplay with only a faint idea of what's going on, you're not off the hook. First of all, take a brief moment before starting a mission to find out what you have to do. Just visit the official wiki and scan the mission information.

You can (and should) bookmark that link, but you can also press F10 in game or type /help in your Guild Wars chat window, and then you'll get a wiki popup window. Even better, it gives a list of links to things like recently visited locations and your skills. You don't need to do an exhaustive search; just check the mission or quest you're about to do to find out what the requirements are. They're listed right up top, and a quick scan will help familiarize you.

Second, make some time to look at the armor and weapon stats for your class. Find out what max armor is for your class and how quickly you can get your hands on it. The same goes for weapons, although if you have a game edition that offers /bonus items, you'll be able to get your hands on something pretty good right away.

Finally, and I can't stress this enough, read the quest text and watch the cutscenes the first time you do anything in game. They are there for a reason, and ArenaNet has some fantastic writers. They're entertaining and will tell you what's happening and why it's happening. Just give your group a quick heads-up that you've never done this before and you'll be watching the cutscenes, and it'll be fine.

Taking a little time to make yourself aware of how things work will save you a ton of time in the long run because you'll be a contributing member of the group and wind up having a lot more fun.

Ready, set, PUG!

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at

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