Monday, October 1, 2012

Umm... That One's The Brake: GW2

With my Charr Ranger tucked tidily away at 80th, popping out just once or twice a day to pick up his permitted ration of Orichalcum and Ancient Logs, my focus has shifted away from the possible problems of whatever end game Guild Wars 2 may or may not have. "Alts" is a term I don't much like, carrying with it as it does a vague aura of the also-ran, the second-best but like it or not, alternative characters is what they are and where I am.

Rift was the first MMO I ever played where I made a conscious decision to stick to one character all the way to level cap before rolling an army. My willpower failed me, but by the time I had my Level 50 I believe I only had one other character, around 20th. Shame I wasn't blogging back then or I could just flip my back pages and check.

Want to be Level 80? Press this button.

For all the long years before, my natural inclination had been to make half a dozen or more characters within the first few days and let them fight for my attention. Eventually one or two would establish themselves and become by practice if not by design my "main" characters. If the world ended up being one where I lived for a good while, Telon, Norrath old and new, Telaria, for example, a point would come when those favored characters could add no more levels to their count. Not until next expansion, at least.

Before WoW that process took years. Expansions for Everquest arrived faster than I could level. I didn't have two characters at cap there until Planes of Power, if I remember rightly, and that didn't last long. My current highest is beached at 84th and despite Rain of Fear ushering in the century in November that's likely to be where she'll stay.

As the years pass, leveling curves have shortened. I had two level 50s in Vanguard in the first nine months. From memory I think it took me a couple of months to hit fifty in Rift. For someone whose primary interest when it comes to what we now seem to be calling "progression" comes from leveling itself, this is probably a good thing. I'm not entirely sure. I like to play a lot of characters and being able to get more of them further, faster sounds like it would be a good thing.

Max level! Enjoy it while it lasts.

On the other hand, it takes time to bond with a character, or if you prefer something less fey, for that character to gel. I have deeper affinities with some of my old Everquest characters who barely got out of single figures than I do for some of my more recent high-levels elsewhere. It's hardly surprising. I almost certainly spent more time getting my troll shaman to 14th, where he still rests well over a decade later than I spent with my Pyromentalist on his trip to fifty in Rift.

All of which brings me to a surprising observation. Leveling speed in GW2 is variable and control is in our hands.

I was wondering why it seemed to be taking my Asura Engineer much longer to level up than it had taken my Charr Ranger. Usually the second character goes much faster than the first; you know the best places to go, you don't take ages learning new game systems, you have more resources from already having a higher character and so on. My second focus character was going more slowly.

I wondered if it was the class, but no, the Engineer is a DPS machine, killing far faster than the ranger while enjoying equal survivability. The race? Surely the days of racial penalties (another reason I spent so long with that Troll shaman) are long gone? Was I just playing him badly? Always a possibility!

Finally I figured it out. I have a penchant, a predilection, even an obsession with low-level zones in MMOs. One of the reasons I used to make so many new characters was to be able to play repeatedly through the starting and early leveling zones that I love. Mentoring in its various forms meant even older characters could relive their youth and GW2 goes that vital step further - it rolls time back for you wherever you travel.

These centaurs don't kill themselves, y'know

Consequently my Engineer has barely left the level 1-15 maps. All his dailies are done in Plains of Ashford, Queensdale or Wayfarer Foothills. Occasionally, for a real adventure, he might step into Diessa Plateau or even Brisban Wildlands. With what must be around the same time played, my Asura Engineer is 26 while Mrs Bhagpuss's Asura Engineer is 36. She's in Lornar's Pass doing mid-30s events while I'm defending the Armory from the Flame Legion's crack level 6 assault force for what must easily be the fiftieth time.

Because the scaling is so smooth, so unobtrusive and especially because you get drops proper to your actual level not your scaled level, it's very easy not to notice that the experience you're getting doesn't scale the same way. So easy that I didn't notice. You get xp, of course you do, and Karma, but more appropriate to the Map.

I knew this, but I didn't know it. I was intellectually aware of the existence of the mechanism but in game I was so engaged with what I was doing that I didn't remember that I knew it. The higher I climbed, the slower I was going.

Now that I understand, I have my hand on the varispeed slider. If I want to go slower, I go lower. Faster, I move where mobs and events come in at or better yet slightly above my real level. I always wished MMOs would let me choose how fast I wanted to level. This is a baby step in the right direction.


  1. *raises hands* I did the one toon thing in GW1 until the release of EOTN, and I had to use different classes to farm stuff.
    In GW2 It was week two and I had all 8 of my babies rolled out and playing.
    You are spot on with the leveling slow stuff. I could have hit level 80 with Sia three times over If I didn't take the time to enjoy the game.
    What is your favorite starter zone??

    1. I like the Charr zones best, all the way through Ascalonia and up to the Shiverpeaks. I love the autumn colors there and the Charr are endlessly amusing. That was actually what the post was going to be about until it span in a different direction.

      I like all of the starting areas except the very start of the Sylvari area which I really can't stand - claustrophobic and garish - but even Caledon Forest is fine once you get up the long ramp.


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