Saturday, 5 April 2014

Unpacking The Feature Pack : GW2

The Big Reveal is over, the bags are all open, the cats all run free. Just ten more days to Magic Time, the Glorious Fifteenth, First Coming of The Feature Pack. Tyria will never be the same again.

Let's hope not, anyway. It would seem like an awful lot of fuss about nothing if, as I suspect might happen, the world just goes on turning in much the same old way. With game historians of the future in mind let's have a quick flip through the program and scribble down some notes while the orchestra's still tuning up.

Traits - A big change, for sure and, now I've had time to mull it around for a bit, one that I quite like, on paper at least. Hunting for traits in the wild sounds disturbingly like New Content, while being able to buy our way out of playing through parts of the game that we don't care for seems like a sound compromise. Being able to change trait builds free and on the fly is intriguing. Chances are I'll never remember to do it but so long as it remains "may" not "must" then I'll go along for the ride.

Runes and Sigils - Can't see any downside to this. A ridiculous amount of worthless runes and sigils rain down every day as I salvage the equally ridiculous downpour of worthless armor and weaponry. Probably three-quarters of them could vanish overnight and no-one would notice. Anything that streamlines the system has to be welcome although I don't see much in the blurb to suggest we'll see the back of all the +10% vs Dredge space-wasters and their pointless ilk.

Famous last words

Critical Damage - Nerf! Nerf! After a year of resisting the 'Zerker Meta I find I'm absolutely loving my Full Berserker Elementalist build, especially in WvW, where the supposed "Glass Cannon" factor rarely seems to come into play. Somehow, very few people seem to pay any attention to the Norn woman in dark blue lurking at the back even though she's raining continual fiery destruction on their heads and when the Commander yells "Push!" my main problem seems to be trying not to impersonate Sky Saxon. The number of times I've found myself behind the opposing zerg all on my own after two dodges and a Mist Form - and still they don't notice me, even as I pump fireballs into their backs!

I console myself with the thought that it's only supposed to be a 10% nerf and my DPS went up about 300% when I went berserk, so it shouldn't hurt too much. Of course, if a nerf doesn't feel like a nerf it probably won't shake the Meta up much either, assuming that was the intention.

Wardrobe  - Replace a cumbersome system with a slightly less cumbersome one, so net gain, I guess. I'd peg this as one of the many income-driving changes, where the secondary, if not the primary, function is to drive more traffic to the Gem Store. Since I very rarely change the looks of my characters once I've got them how I like them (hard enough to remember who I'm playing as it is without having them confuse me by looking different) I don't see this affecting me greatly one way or the other. For a change that's long been demanded, though, forum response has been more mixed than you might expect. I wouldn't be surprised to see more tweaks to this as the months wear on.

And put a sweater on, too!

Dyes - Changes things to the way most players probably thought the system should have worked from the get-go. I'll be in a tiny minority in preferring it the way it was but it's hardly a major issue - give up a small degree of character individualization and a self-created mini-game (who gets which dye) in favor of undoubted convenience. The really annoying (and entirely player-unfriendly) aspect is the removal of dropped dyes, another change blatantly intended to increase ANet's income stream, albeit with the rather happier side-effect of allowing crafters a rare opportunity to make a little silver on the back of it.

Social Play Improvements - I had to re-read this one just to remind myself what these "improvements" were. Meh. And that's over-egging it.

Account Bound Changes - At last! The long-trailed move to account-based ranks for WvW is finally (almost) here. Again, another anti-character move but that ship sailed so long ago and there were so many planks missing it must have sunk even faster than this metaphor. I'm just going to go with it from now on - The Account is the Prime Directive - All hail The Account. Now just give me my furshlugginer points already!

As for account-bound ascended gear, that does make it slightly more likely I might one day get around to getting some. Legendaries? I should coco.

Somehow the new champ bags didn't seem quite so exciting as the old ones...

Repairs and Champion Loot - I think I learned the expression "Indian Giver" from a Superboy comic in about 1966. I was never entirely sure what it meant. and by now it's probably one of those turns of phrase that can no longer be uttered in polite society but I'm pretty sure it applies to ANet here. How the removal of the minuscule cost of repairing your armor, somewhere around 8 silver if you turn up at the repair shop in your underwear at level 80, is supposed to compensate for what might be a heavy nerf to cash income from Champion bags, any one of which can theoretically provide enough silver to pay your repair costs for the whole day, beats me and everyone else.

Mystic Forge - ANet buried that in the same announcement but I've pulled it out. It seems to have passed almost unnoticed. Hardly surprising because there's precious little information there. It's more just putting us on notice that big changes to the money pit often unfondly referred to as the Mystic Toilet are on the way. Could be good, could be terrible, except that the Forge is so terrible already any change almost has to be good.

As opposed to all those other proverbially trustworthy genies?

PvP Stuff - Pass. Oh, wait, no...that's just what these changes are supposed to stop me doing, aren't they? This whole everyone-must-play-all-parts-of-the-game trope that ANet desperately hope might catch on. Nope, sorry. Not playing. Next.

Megaserver - The Big One. Literally. Didn't see this coming. Don't much want it, either. I thought I'd again be in a tiny minority not getting out the flags and bunting for this but although first reaction was predictably positive, the sprawling threads all over the forums suggest that, given time to consider the implications, quite a few players could see the holes in the Emperor's New Clothes (yes, I know...).

Can't have a Themepark without a Schedule
World Bosses - And this is why. Leaving aside the disorderly retreat from the moral high ground of a " living, breathing world" (whatever happened to Martin Kerstein, anyway?) plenty of people see the combination of ever-changing maps, no firm home ground and fixed daily boss timers as things that will reduce their fun and stop them doing things they enjoy. Where's the value in all those Infinite Harvesting Tools now all the nodes wriggle about like bait in a bucket? How are you going to run a World Meta Train if there aren't any worlds? How can a Commander gate into LA (or I guess now Gendarran Fields) and rally the PvE troops for a golem rush when half the people listening might come from the Other Side?


A million increasingly angry questions and so far precious little in the way of answers. Oh, and that "all waypoints are now contested" thing? Why didn't you just schedule that for it's own Reveal and call it "Huge New Gold Sink"?

Guilds and the Future - And out we go with a whimper. I don't like guilds and I don't much care what happens to them in any game just so long as I can go on ignoring them. Plenty of bad feeling about this one from small guild players who do care, though. At least WvW is "safe" ... for now.

When ANet came up with the idea of rolling a whole lot of structural changes into one big "Feature Pack" and plonking it down in the gaping content hole between the end of Living Story Season One and the start of Living Story Season Two, some dev I can't be bothered to look up and link made the cardinal error of likening it to the amount of content you'd expect from an expansion. Cue frenzied forum speculation on the Coming of the Tengu, Dragons, Housing, Mounts and the Moon on a Stick.

Happens to the best of us

The Official Wet (Safety) Blanket was deployed to dampen down ardor and enthusiasm and someone probably got a right ticking off but in essence the comparison wasn't unwarranted. The Feature Pack does contain about as much in the way of structural and systemic change as the average MMO expansion. It just comes unsweetened by any actual content.

I'm sanguine. I no longer feel emotionally connected to Guild Wars in all its forms the way I am to, say, the Everquest franchise (as it now appears officially to be known). It's become no more nor less than a rather amusing, entertaining game that I play, not a virtual world in which I imagine I am living. On that basis I'm willing to entertain any changes that might make it more amusing or entertaining. Whether these are those changes only time will tell.

Oh, and there's one more similarity between the Feature Pack and a real expansion. I bet lots of these changes won't work properly for a good while and we'll be patching well into May before things settle down. Fun times ahead!










27 comments:

  1. It's the Orrian temples that got the short end of the world boss stick:

    Want to go to LA to recruit people for the final push against Balthazar? Nope! Want the temples to affect state across maps to make clearing them almost meaningful? Nope! Want to check Union Waypoint from anywhere in the world to see if people are actually doing Lyssa? Nope! Want to use an API to find a server with Balthazar open if you just want your Obsidian Shards? Nope!

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    1. I don't spend a lot of time in Orr but it was clear from the forum thread that people who do really don't like the proposed changes. And no-one at all likes the WP change.

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  2. I'm really angry about the megaserver.. and very worried as well as to how this will affect all of our's gameplay. Once that schedule hits, I'll never see the karka queen or tequatl again I think. I also don't like having specific boss times dictated to me. What if I don't much like the ones that are up during that time frame? Not to mention I won't be able to do nearly as many bosses as fast as I normally do. They've been all about giving choices to players in the past, yet this takes them away.

    I'm also wonder how any of us will ever participate in a temple event again. How on earth are we to know when those are running? And how on earth are any of us to find an open Balthazar temple when we need obsidian shards?

    The 'all contestable WP are contested' is super dumb and annoying as well. ESPECIALLY for dungeons. How will a group of my guildies be able to run CoF or CoE in a timely manner after this change. The need to remove contested dungeons like last year anyway, imho.

    I'm also quite angry about what this will do for orichalcum/ancient saplings gathering. I would seriously like the devs to enter a new map with a new toon and see how long it takes them to find the nodes, then do it all over again another two times at least. I've financed several things through a lot of gathering and this is going to screw over people who would like to have a decent income whilst soloing. They should make ore nodes static across all maps. They can change after a patch, but not be random for every freaking map. It's just so very dumb.

    And honestly, I don't want a crowded map all the time. I'm on a server that was free to transfer to a couple weeks ago and we got a massive influx. I'm finding world events less fun now. You can't even see the bosses through all the particle effects and tagging adds before the melt is sometimes impossible.

    And what was really infuriating was seeing Mr. Johanson on the Ready Up stream yesterday, cheerfully hyping this all up, how it's gonna be awesome, it's so exciting, blah, blah, blah, less than 24 hours after a vociferous response on the forums. Seriously, it's rare to see someone happy with this idea. I've become more and more tired of him, all his hype and marketing speak. It's gotten to the point where nothing he says is believable in a way.

    /rant :P

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    1. Great rant! If I was still emotionally invested in GW2's PvE I'd be just as angry as you and even being as chilled out as I am about it all I agree with just about everything you said.

      I just spotted that ANet have already altered their plans in the face of the negative reaction. This from Samuel Loretan, the unfortunate dev who's acting as the public face for all things Megaserver:

      "I’m very glad and excited with your overwhelming responses regarding the MegaServer system. We are still working on establishing the best roll-out plan for this feature. I’d like to provide you with an update on our plans. It was announced on the blog post that we planned to start with the PvP Lobby, the level 1 to 15 maps, as well as the cities. As MegaServers evolved into a finished product, we have changed our initial roll-out plan.

      We are now planning on releasing the system starting with the PvP lobby and low population maps, and incrementally moving onto the maps with high populations. With this approach, the behavior on level 1 to 15 maps won’t change until we’ve seen the positive confirmation from the community as well as from our metrics that MegaServer is working as expected on lower population maps."

      Translation: "Oooookayyyy! You hate the idea. What say we try it out in some maps none of you play in anyway, just to see how it goes? It won't affect the Queensland Champ Train or your Frostgorge Ori runs one little bit. Then if you'll all just damn well calm down a little maybe we can get this train back on the tracks..."

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    2. One of the interesting suggestions I saw on Reddit was to leave the cities alone. That way, there's still a sense of server community maintained at the hangout spots and a refuge for RPers, though that doesn't solve the PvE complications from the Megaserver system.

      The Orr temples being de-linked is rather dismaying from a "world impact" perspective, but looking at it in a more cynical light, the green goop around the statues just made everyone avoid the area and made life for lone people attempting world completion more difficult.

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    3. I've been really surprised at the strength of the negative reaction. I bet ANet have, too, judging by how fast they've rowed back. I love the blustering excuses: "As MegaServers evolved into a finished product, we have changed our initial roll-out plan". What, really? They "evolved"in these past few days, did they? And they're a "finished product" even though they won't be used for 90% of the game until you find out if they actually work? Just how stupid do you think your players are? Probably better not answer that...

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    4. It is good that they can alter instead of going ahead anyway.
      Anyway while Queensdale champ trains would be affected Orr node runs and frostgorge sound wouldn't be affected by the level 1-15 areas being changed.

      Regarding how will people know if an event is running or not the API will still be able to say if it is running or not.
      One can say "yeah but I don't know if it is in my map or not". People from the same servers will still end playing together so there will still be a Desolation map, a Gandara map. Smaller servers might share a map or just ft in the space of a smaller server.

      And with less Orr maps running, each map will have more population so there is a higher chance the temple events will be completed.

      Regarding players not being able to see world bosses due to schedule - Guilds will be able to start the world boss events and anyone will be able to join.

      While there is potential for some problems (and people will lose the ability to just go wherever they want via hosting) there is too much screaming of sky is falling without sitting for a minute and think.

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    5. Gaia - There will no longer be an API to follow as there won't be proper servers anymore. Why do you think they made the schedule that they did? And how will there be a higher chance at the temple events being completed when there is no way to know they're actually able to be run unless you're on the map? Are we supposed to WP to each map every 15 minutes and check?

      Also, the only world bosses people will be able to start is the Karka Queen, Tequatl and Three-headed Wurm, not the rest of them, so I'm afraid you're not informed on that matter. Also the later two of those bosses takes 100-150 people. How will my guild of 30ish people manage that? Also, the mega-guild groups such as TTS/TxS aren't actual guilds. They've little influence to actually start unlocking the research needed nor do they ever do guild missions. A guild will need guild merits to kick off one of those major bosses.

      And I waited several DAYS before formulating any sort of response so I have thought about it for more than a minutes. No thank you to your condescension!

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  3. Sure it ruins Orr, World-Mega Bosses, the interaction with WvW and PvE, server identity in general, shovels people that like busy servers and people that like quiet servers into a moderately occupied pseudo-server and makes people use two waypoints to get anywhere but think of all the benefits! So many benefits! God Bless the Benefits!

    This kind of thing goes with the territory now. If you don't like it you don't like MMOs

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    1. Now look what you did! You went and broke my irony meter!

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    2. One of the criteria to match people in a map is same home world.
      I'm from desolation. I currently end in the desolation map (if people from other servers aren't hosting). After the mega server I will end up with people from desolation.

      Ok, maybe a smaller server will end up with people from their server and another 1 or 2 small servers But soon those 3 servers end up playing all the time together.

      Sure, brisban wildlands might end up with people from 20 servers.
      But is anyone really screaming because of that?

      The waypoint thing is silly though, unless they make the first waypoint into the map free (or the second). Of course when you waypoint somewhere more likely than not you going to do some world boss event and those few silvers don't really matter. And if you aren't most likely than not you are mapping the area or farming.

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    3. I'm placid about the waypoints as I prefer to walk. ANet can't win, we all know they can't. The Mega-server was presumably well-meaning, we can all imagine mythical 'new players' being wildly excited about seeing other people in Lornar's Pass, forging lifelong friendships and getting married and such like. I'm just not sure these not-actual-people's needs stack up against those of the people that already play and I kind of like those guys. I don't personally share their issues, but we are all GW2 players. Feel the Love.

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  4. Awwww.. don't you get all jaded on us. You're our last bastion of hope left.

    I do mostly agree though. There decision making is just so abstract in trying to change towards an idea or goal while constantly keeping a grip on the past. It's amazing too just how much the tend ruin the good changes they do make, two steps forward one step back.. forever and ever.

    i also don't think they've thought through this megaserver thing entirely. It doesn't sound like it is really that compatible with the design of the map, zones and events

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    1. I have a very odd relationship with GW2, getting odder as the months and years go on. I never for one moment believed the hype about a "living, breathing world", or at least not the ridiculously overblown promises they made for it, but I did expect a high-quality, detailed imaginary world in which non-player characters provided a convincing backdrop against which I could use my imagination to fill in the rest. And that's largely what I got in beta and up until the first Karka event.

      After that went very badly indeed it was as if there'd been a palace coup. The entire direction of development changed and ever since we've been on an increasingly desperate flight away from a virtual world and towards a computer game that makes a lot of money for its owners. So that's a negative, you'd think.

      But...it's a bloody good computer game, one I thoroughly enjoy, haven't tired of and don't expect to anytime soon and about which I remain genuinely and continually excited. They said it would be a paradigm shift for the genre and in a way they were right, at least as far as my conception of the genre goes. As a result of playing GW2 for two years I am now conditioned to enjoy computer games without really thinking about how ridiculous they are and how much better my time could be spent doing almost anything else.

      I used to require the illusion that I was stepping into another world to get that disconnect. Now I don't. Is that progress?

      Oh, and leaving aside the whole question of whether it's good for the game, does anyone think ANet will actually get the Megaserver to work? If it wasn't for two things - culling and bots, both of which they did literally fix overnight - I'd say there was no chance. Maybe it's just the content teams that can't make anything that works properly first time (or fifth time, often as not). It's going to be an interesting experiment at least.

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    2. Hah.. there are still LOADS of bots out there most likely. They're just much better disguised. Hacking seems to be a not-so uncommon thing (dunno if you've heard about the Far Shiverpeaks hacker that is causing huge problems in WvW at the moment.)

      The stuff that's going on for months and months is fairly disgusting:

      http://www.elitepvpers.com/forum/gw2-hacks-bots-cheats-exploits/

      http://www.elitepvpers.com/forum/gw2-hacks-bots-cheats-exploits/3139288-gw2-bot-gw2minion-2-0-assist-events-grinding-pvp-radar-quests-more.html

      So I've not so much faith.

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    3. I meant the farming/harvesting bots that were so prevalent in September-October 2012 that we were seriously considering whether we could carry on playing at all. There were literally more of them than live players on many, many maps. We went on holiday for a week, came back and ANet had done something and 90% of them vanished overnight. By the beginning of 2013 that was more like 99% and I have literally never seen a single farming or harvesting bot on Yak's Bend in the last 12 months. Not a single one.

      Botting in PvP I know nothing about since I never PvP and never will. Hacking in WvW happens a lot but I think that says a lot more about ANet's lack of interest in stopping it than lack of ability. I think they have the technical capacity to deal with these kinds of issues but not always the motivation. I'd hope that getting the servers to run would be a sufficiently important task that they might make the effort.

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    4. Reading that forum and from the hacks that have been in game from the beginning, it appears the servers inherently trust all data the client sends it and dutifully forwards that to players in range. Given that ANet's "lets do E-SPORTS!" focus sort of crumbled from neglect over the last year of balance tweaks, I'm not sure they really have a profit motive in instrumenting the servers and doing the BIG DATA batch modeling and analysis of player/game interactions to really catch any of the WvWvW players using hacked clients/overlays. Shame because that actually sounds like an interesting problem to try to solve (eg, catch it after the fact, with only the overhead of logging as opposed to modeling with server side checks).

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    5. Those links aren't pvp related. One of those links contains a video for a program that let you farm the Attack on Lion's Arch event... made the bot look like a real player. So my point was, you may think you've not seen any harvesting bot... but it seems they're well disguised now.

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  5. My guess... by the end of year WvW will be morphed to GvG... or maybe blue v red v green guild alliances.

    My big doubt is WHEN GW2 chinese launch will happen. I think they will take the one month window opened with 15th march big poobah patch.

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    1. They have taken the trouble to categorically deny they are going to mess with WvW. The actual quote is at the end of the final Feature Pack blog :

      "Though we are moving to our new megaserver model in PvE, it’s extremely important to us that we maintain the level of identity and competition in WvW that we’ve established since the release of Guild Wars 2. The entire game mode is based on battles between different players aligned to the named worlds, and as such we have no plans to remove this concept from WvW."

      Now I'm not naive enough to assume that means nothing will ever change but I don't think they'd be making such a strong statement if they knew they'd be making a lie of it within the next nine months. If nothing else, there's the income from World Transfers to consider.

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    2. @bhagpuss, they said they will change WvW in december 2014... with no servers, what will be the change? I doubt they can mantain the old server system with severs "no more". Too take note that the servers population unbalance is a permanent problem to WvW.

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    3. Well, you read it how you like but I don't see how they can simultaneously announce a plan ("We’ll also be discussing the long-term plan for guilds and WvW in relation to our megaserver system...") and state that "...we have no plans to remove this concept [Home Worlds] from WvW" and then go ahead and remove the concept of home worlds from WvW. There is simply no ambiguity there - they have a plan for WVW, they have no plan to remove the concept.

      Can't have something that contains the thing you don't have.

      I would guess that whatever changes are made to WvW , the Worlds will remain and will keep their existing names. The only other possibility is that they remove WvW from the game entirely and replace it with an alternate team PvPvE option under a completely differnet name. I wouldn't rule that out.

      If World vs World is going to exist at all though there have to be Worlds. I think that's kind of a given.

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  6. I have to agree with your assessment of the feature pack. I started out a strong GW2 supporter, having played GW1 since beta weekends, but I've become more and more meh about everything anymore. And I really hate feeling this way about a game I used to love so much!

    It's all become Timer Wars 2. Everything is timed content -- events, character development and living story. And now, even world boss events are no longer (sorta) organic, but on some timer chart. So sad. What could have been a living world is now regulated to what hour it's showing on the clock.

    I guess long gone are the days of accidentally stumbling upon a zone-wide dragon attack like we once did when the game first released. Sure, the Shatterer was easy to kill, but it was quite the experience! Now? I've never seen a Tequatl success since they changed the fight, and I have a feeling I never will.

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    1. I've never killed Teq 2.0 either, nor the 3-Headed Wurm. I don't really like guesting at all - if I don't do it on Yak's Bend it didn't really happen is my feeling. I have guested a few times simply because there are things that never happen on YB at the off-hours I play, but I draw the line at organized cross-server guilds and without that the big events aren't happening.

      Once the Megaserver is up and running (if they get it working as described, about which I have my doubts) I guess all moral concerns over abandoning my World for personal benefit will become moot. Whether the changes will bring the big events any closer within reach is unclear at this stage and even if it does it remains to be seen whether that has the effect of drawing me further in or driving me further away. I don't think I'll know until I see how it all works in practice.

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  7. I never get what people have against nerfs. It's balance. If something stands out head and shoulder above the rest, it means something is wrong. When everyone flocks to it, it becomes the norm, so others get used to it, and everyone HAS to take up the standard to be normal. It takes away the whole point of character development. If they developed content around only the best builds, it creates and even further divide of the illusion of choice, and at that point, why even give players options in the first place?

    As for the removal of repair costs and the lessening of Champion bags, I think you missed the point. Repair costs are a much larger percentage of gold accrual for LOW LEVEL players, not 80s. Having repair costs doesn't matter a lick to level 80 champion farmers, they can make it up in one bag or less. Lowering the amount of reward from Champ bags, though, is twofold. 1) It makes the money being pumped into the economy a lot less. Since Champ trains (despite how boring they are) are one of the most "rewarding" parts of the game, taking money out of the bags slows down in-game inflation. And 2) Makes such boring content not as appealing to play, and so removes some of the lazy zerg population looking for the easiest score.

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    1. As a rule I rather like nerfs, at least when they're well-targeted, for the sort of reasons you give. Frequently, though, they aren't well thought out and result in further adjustments down the line. I often use the old cliche of sawing an inch off the leg of the dining table to get it to stop wobbling - if you don't get it right you end up eating your dinner off a flat board on the floor.

      The Zerker meta may or may not need nerfing or fixing but any fix that leaves Berserker as the clear and undisputed top damage build, as this supposedly does, isn't any kind of fix at all. Everyone who zerks now will zerk under the new system too, because while that build might have hit a speed-bump, to change to anything else will just make it even slower.

      Or that's what the number-crunchers on the forums calculate. I guess we'll see in due course. I can get my 10% back just by moving to Ascended if I actually notice the difference, but I bet I won't even be able to tell there's been a nerf.

      On repair costs, in GW2 they're on a sliding scale using the formula " 4 Copper coin plus 2 Copper coin per level of the item" (from the wiki). A level 10 wearing level 9 armor would therefore pay 22 copper to repair a single, fully-broken item (there's no need to repair anything before it breaks as there's no penalty whatsoever for wearing "damaged" armor). A full set would cost 1s 54c to repair.

      Even at level 10, one and a half silver is not a significant outlay (and when I was leveling up I barely ever repaired anyway - my armor rarely broke before I needed to replace it because I'd outgrown it). Putting it in perspective, a single piece of copper ore is selling for 44c on the TP as I write and you get a minimum of 3 from every node. A level 10 could make enough money in five minutes to pay for repairs for a week.

      I'd be very interested to hear the anecdotal evidence from anyone currently playing a low-level character who is finding repair costs difficult to manage. I find it difficult to imagine how that could happen, but then Mrs Bhagpuss complains bitterly about costs in-game that I regard as utterly trivial, so perhaps it's how you look at it...

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  8. About the zerker meta.

    People already bitch about some Fractals since zerker, especially non elite players, have a difficult time doing them.
    But other builds can do them.

    So it is quite possible to nerf zerker if they really want.

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