1. The Tourney
2. The Tournament of Legends
3. The Feature Pack
The Tourney is just the new World vs World "Season" that everyone's either been anticipating or dreading since the last one ended, way back before Christmas, given a new lick of paint. The Tournament of Legends is the latest step in the eternal plan to make GW2's PvP something that matters to someone other than the closed coterie it currently attracts, while keeping that coterie firmly onside. The only mildly surprising aspect is the prizes, which include Legendaries and Precursors.
The Feature Pack - now that's something else entirely. It's a bundle of game-changing revisions, heavily trailed and hyped in a way that's frequently been misinterpreted and misunderstood by a segment of the playerbase, who've decided it's an expansion in everything but name. It's not an expansion but it looks set to disturb the peaceful waters every bit as much as a real expansion would, only without the ameliorating benefit of any actual content.
It consists of ten Features, each of which gets its own separate news release/PR puff/blog post according to a schedule. So far we've had The Great Trait Revamp, Runes and Sigils and Crits. Dulfy, as always, has the clearest and most succinct overview. There's also apparently a Livestream, which I haven't watched because, frankly, life is just too short.
We have a few days to digest the first three before Tuesday brings what looks to be something about outfits and dyes. There's some speculation that it'll be a Wardrobe and Account-Wide Dye System, a hint of which was apparently data-mined from the upcoming launch of GW2 in China. Further out floats a whole raft of mysteries culminating with an introduction to something enigmatically labelled "Friendly Play" that's apparently so momentous it not only comes as the climax of two weeks of PR blitz but requires three days to explain.
Reaction on the official Forums has been surprisingly muted. There are no threadnaughts building, no protests forming, no harassed Moderators slapping down bans. In fact, no one seems all that interested, possibly because the changes so far announced are largely pushing against an open door.
|But..but..I liked being a Berserker!|
Nerf Berserker builds? Everyone saw that one coming (apart from me, it seems. I finally succumbed to the zeitgeist and spent all last Sunday converting my Elementalist to full zerk mode. Been enjoying it, too).
Hunt your skills (okay, traits) in the wild, GW1 style? Should have been that way from the start is a popular view and for those that don't agree they'll all be vendor-purchasable anyway.
Rationalize runes and sigils so they actually a) work and b) make sense? Who's going to argue with that? Well, people who spent a fortune on expensive upgrades that are no longer fit for purpose but hey, there are winners, there are losers, right?
So far, so uncontroversial. Still, there's a lot of oddness in there when you dig down. For example, if the intention is to "foster a healthy balance environment that encourages players to experiment with their builds" how is that achieved by rationalizing Critical Damage and reducing it across the board by 10% ? As plenty of people are pointing out, in relative terms that that leaves a Berserker build exactly where it is now, at the front of the DPS parse, only in a new world where everyone's Time-To-Kill is reduced.
|As if they weren't already hard enough to kill.|
People are crunching the numbers but as yet we don't really have the numbers to crunch. We don't know the full detail of the changes to runes, sigils and traits for one thing. Maybe when we see all the changes in action ANet's Grand Plan will fall into place and the Day of the Berserker will be over after all. I'm not holding my breath on that one, though. If there's any build that kills faster than the rest, it'll be the new orthodoxy within days of being discovered.
More puzzling to me is this, from the Rune and Sigil announcement:
"...we’re making it easier to understand the benefits of sticking with a single rune set....we simply want the PvE rune system to be as clear and approachable as possible for new players, so we’re making it easier to understand the benefits of sticking with a single rune set.".
Why would ANet even care what runes a new player chooses to slot? I very much doubt the player does. Leveling up in GW2 is so straightforward, it really doesn't matter what gear you use, let alone what upgrades you put into it for the few hours you might keep any given piece of armor or weapon. When I was leveling up I just put in anything I found, if I bothered at all. Trying to convince new players it "matters" to have the "right" gear and the "right" upgrades is untrue and a terrible idea.
|Don't say it out loud! Someone might hear you!|
ANet seem to have some peculiar ideas about new players all round, though. The revamp of the Trait system includes this:
"...we’ve pushed back the level at which the different trait tiers unlock for new characters in order to better pace the early game experience and to add more meaningful character progression from levels 30 to 80. Starting with this feature pack, new characters will unlock the adept tier at level 30, the master tier at level 60, and the grandmaster tier at level 80."
Because making new players wait longer until their character gets a fresh trick always makes things more fun, right? New players just love that! Nothing builds affection and loyalty to an MMO in a new player faster than making him use the exact same set of abilities for 20 or 30 levels at a stretch. Of course, as has been observed, not least by me, new players don't have the same points of comparison as veterans and so may not feel nerfs as strongly but even so, this logic does seem more than a tad unconvincing.
The counter-argument would be that leveling in GW2 is already very fast and somewhat trivial and that anything that makes it feel more solid and substantial is at least worth trying. I'm sympathetic to that. On the other hand, unless there are some radical changes in the works then I would guess plenty of new players and most experienced ones are going to be bypassing the whole "better pace" by using one of the many existing means of avoiding the entire open-world leveling process altogether.
Ah, but of course there are radical changes coming. There's that whole "Facilitating Friendly Play" thing. That's got to be radical if it's going to take three days to explain. There's been some wild speculation on what it could include; even some crazy talk about the implementation of player housing and Guild Halls. Good luck with that.
|Friendly? Oh yes, we're "friendly" alright...|
I have my own theory, which I'll outline now so that I can look smug if it turns out to be anywhere close to the mark or an idiot if it turns out to be completely barking. From the changes so far announced I discern a pattern. My feeling is that, after a year and a half of seeing their game spin away in directions they almost certainly never expected or intended, they are going to attempt to wrestle it back onto the track they were hoping to travel before launch.
GW2 was very heavily touted as a paradigm shift in MMOs, where players would seamlessly co-operate with each other in an ever-changing, dynamic world. There would be no need for formal groups or raids since wherever players happened to find themselves in proximity all their efforts and rewards would be shared equally by default. Outside of instanced content, which at that time was only going to be a handful of dungeons and the Personal Story, we'd all be in it together.
|One Charr's View|
Increasing utilities directed at helping others around us while at the same time reducing our ability to kill so quickly alone suggests an attempt to make both supporting and being supported by others a more valued and valid playstyle. Sending us out to hunt for our traits in all kinds of content, much of which I am guessing will not be easy to solo, adds motivation to find people to help. And it all fits with the clear direction of most of the Living Story updates this year - encouraging players to operate as a team, not just as individuals, in or out of a zerg.
Anet have always been fond of social engineering. Most MMO developers are. It looks as though they've decided to come out into the open about it for once. That's my take, for what it's worth, and there's not long to wait to find out if I'm right.