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Idling Whilst Complaining About Idle Behavior

The honeymoon is over between WildStar and me.  Yet, while the new MMORPG magic is gone, I don't regret purchasing it, and I am not quite ready to unsubscribe to it.   This game is actually pretty solid and fun to play in its own right.

Not a whole lot of progress has been made since my last major entry about WildStar, but at least I stopped stop rerolling my characters.  Well... almost.  I decided that I did not want my Cassain (the Dominion equivalent of a human) to be a Stalker and, since the Dominion is my primary faction of interest, it would not hurt to skew my class balance slightly in their direction.

So my current character list, ranked by priority of play, goes something like this:
  1. Chua Esper - Of the two glass cannons, this one has more interesting tricks up its sleeves.
  2. Mechari Warrior - Of the three tanks, this one seems to have the most thoughtful gameplay.
  3. Cassian Spellslinger - The other glass cannon.  I have to admit that, despite being pretty much pewpewpew in execution, the Spellslinger is quite a challenge to play, as they lack access to absorption shields and distractions that the Espers get.
  4. Drakan Stalker - A bit twitchy, but fairly clever as far as melee classes go.
  5. Exile Engineer - Feels to me like generic field spamming supplemented by pets.
  6. Mordesh Medic - Feels to me like generic field spamming, period.
The goal is to stick to a few classes as possible, which means I try to stay near the top of the list, but I will fall down that list as my mood dictates.  Progress should be inevitable as long as nobody gets rerolled.

That said, I blew most of my launch enthusiasm creating characters, boring of them, and then throwing away my progress for stupid reasons such as, "You know, this level 18 Cassian Esper is great, but I wanted a Chua on this server and there's only so many character slots."  None of my remaining characters are quite to level 20, yet, as I seem to lose interest at about the point where I hit Auroria, the level 15+ zone for the Dominion, possibly because it has sort of a clique pastoral fantasy theme.

Instead, I've spent a lot more time lately with The Guild 2: Renaissance, because looks and plays like it should be a really interesting game.  Unfortunately, the more I play it, the more it seems like its apparent depth is only skin deep.
The "Free Trade" ability more or less circumvents supply and demand to liquidate goods, but takes time to work.
 I seem to have nailed down the basics of how to do well as a tradesman (basically any class but the Rogue):
  • Spend your initial 10,000 cash nest egg on a reliable means of making money.  Quicker money can be made with a crafting building, such as a foundry or a bakery, than a resource building, such as a farm or a woodcutter's lodge.  However, resource buildings do have the advantage of producing goods from nothing, instead of requiring you provide resources first.
  • Get the next generation of your dynasty squared away immediately.  It's tougher for older characters to produce heirs, and a good idea to hedge your bets against dynasty extinction sooner rather than later.
  • Great money can be made from using the "free trade" function of home-owning craftsmen, patrons, and scholars.  This function sends that character out to try to peddle what's in their inventory to passersby at a good price regardless of what the current demand of the item is .
  • Once you have secured both a crafting building and a resource building to support it, you'll be largely self-sufficient, which is a good position to make money.  Now, get that crafting building up to tier 3, allowing you to produce the most expensive goods.
  • It's time to expand: more businesses, handled in the way outlined above, means more money.  You will inevitably need to get involved in politics, because higher ranking titles increase the cap on the number of businesses you can own.
  • As more businesses come under your control, your monetary accumulation should begin to snowball.  Now you're in a good position to fund your campaign to take out the other dynasties on the "Extinction" victory condition.  There's a variety of nasty tricks to pull it off with, but I have to admit that I have little experience using them... the universal rule seems to be that they all generate evidence, so you need to avoid having that used against you.

This dynasty should be mopping the floor with the rest of them,
but instead they're engaged in strange idling behaviors.
While I may have figured out how to play The Guild 2: Renaissance, I'm afraid this game does a poor job of playing itself.  The artificial intelligence in the rival opponents does not seem to want to win.  Even on the highest difficulty, they tend to spend a lot of time idling around doing nothing.

For example, in my most recent game of The Guild 2: Renaissance, with the Legacy mod that supposedly improves the AI when played at higher difficulties, I have one rival family with over a million in cash laying around and little fear of reprisal for criminal actions because of their political connections.

With that much money and resources, there's really no reason they can't generate a massive army of thugs to perform the medieval equivalent of a curb stomp on every punk rival family member there is, thus ending the game.  But they don't; instead, they sit around at home, perform duties at the town hall, attend church, and basically just act like hapless bystanders.  It would seem like they're waiting around for the player to catch up and beat them and that's actually rather patronizing.

This assumes the AI isn't straight up broken, which is certainly a possibility.  Artificial intelligence is not particularly easy to program but, in this case, all it would really have to do is pick a rival dynasty and execute the occasional attack (political, criminal, or literal) to bring them down.  There are some indications that the AI knows the "how" of launching such attacks, as I have seen a few in actions.  I think the "when" might be the holdup, because rarely ever do these attacks seem to come about.  I suspect that the AI reserves those attacks for enemies, but they are not particularly prone to making enemies on their own, so are generally quite content to live and let live in another nod towards realism.
Another unfortunate habit that the AI has is firebombing their competitors... irregardless of the high potential for the fire to spread and set the entire town on fire, including the buildings belonging to the original attacker!
Each game becomes a long slog. While I would prefer an "Extinction" winning condition game to start each dynasty on equal footing and immediately begin competing to see who comes out on top, that's not the approach that the developers of The Guild 2: Renaissance would seem to have taken.  Instead, at the beginning of the game, you will find your rival dynasties assigned roles seemingly at random, resulting in radically different levels of wealth and social standings between the different dynasties.  This is what may have necessitated a passive, non-aggressive AI, as otherwise all the competitors would immediately be marched to the gallows by the dynasty in greatest power.  However, this non-aggressive AI is not very exciting, as it generates behavior that leaves me wondering if I actually have any opponents at all.

Perhaps the solution is to play The Guild 2: Renaissance with another goal besides the "Extinction" setting, but the alternative game modes are either undefined or would be even less balanced.  Something else that may help would be to choose a smaller map, as this would force the various dynasties to step on each others' toes more often.  In the end, it's probable that the solution is to seek a better balanced game, which I am loathe to do simply because what The Guild 2: Renaissance sets out to do (marry a life simulation game to an economic strategy game and have plenty of opportunities for drama to unfold) is such a fantastic and novel premise that I am not sure a better game in their vein actually exists.


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