Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Backpack Feature. A Feature In Which I Back A Feature Pack That Features Backpacks : GW2

This week's Feature Pack for GW2 fell at an awkward time for me to make a thorough examination and assessment before penning a pithy post on its benefits and shortcomings. Fortunately Jeromai and Ravious have both found time to give it the once-over in some detail.

With luck and a following wind I may find time to give a more considered impression later although the upcoming World vs World tournament may have something to say about that. Whatever, we're certainly going to be chewing on this Feature Pack for some time given the unwelcome announcement that we'll see no more Living Story this side of November.

For the meantime I do have a few scattered thoughts.

Crafting and Backpacks : Undoubtedly the standout feature of this update and quite possibly this year. Being able to click through recipes to their sub-components is a joy. Of course it's also a feature that most MMOs include from the start but better two years late than never.

There are forty new backpack designs, all different. They are all extremely cheap and easy to make. Mrs Bhagpuss made all forty on the first evening. Some are the exact type of realistic, practical-looking affairs I've longed for since beta, others are utterly insane. Something for just about anyone. Now can we have some decent hats, please?

Collects : Good framework for future development. Deeply uninspiring use of said framework so far.

Trading Post 2.0 : Embarrassing attempt to sell the addition of basic features that should have been there in beta, like a proper search function, as "upgrades"we should all be gosh-wowing over. New interface is clumsier and harder to navigate than the one it replaces. New back-end does not appear, as claimed, to be faster to access and use.

Selling things is now particularly painful. What used to take me a single click now takes several. The lack of a single-click "sell stack" option is physically painful.

Commander Tags :  A hideous blot on the landscape! We are now in desperate need of a "Do not display" toggle at least in PvE. I cracked and bought one last week but only on one account. Don't judge - it was a bargain!

Minis : Embarrassing attempt to sell the addition of basic features that should have been there in beta, like cross-map persistence, as upgrades. Still, better two years late than never. I'm beginning to sense a theme here.

Class Changes : My eyes started to blur half way through the patch notes for the second class. Frankly, who cares? It's not like I knew what most of this stuff did before. Why would I start caring now? I play all the classes and I was happy enough with each of them. I do quite like the marginal extra control over summoned elementals, although I'm pretty sure it's mostly cosmetic.

And the BIG one...

New Player Experience : Otherwise know as the NPE. Hmm...that has a ring to it, doesn't it? Reminds me of something though...

I was in Wayfarer Foothills for my usual couple of hours last night. It's the Norn 1-15 map and since Megaservers arrived last April the conversation there has mostly been cheerful and upbeat, mainly new players (of whom there appears to be no shortage) asking questions and getting helpful replies. After the patch that changed to a non-stop rolling debate about the changes to the leveling process. Suffice it to say I did not hear a single positive comment in two hours.

Established players hate the changes because they perceive that they make leveling both slower and more tedious. New players, from that sample at least, hate the changes because they feel they are being held back from getting to the good stuff and treated like incompetent children to boot.

I don't have a really low level character, nor a free character slot, and even if I did I don't have time to level one up right now. I'd like to reserve judgment until I give it a go but on paper it does look like a very odd way to address the perceived problems.

It transpires that the port of these new functions from the Chinese version has glitched somewhat and the version we are seeing has a number of bugs. Colin Johansen posted a long, detailed and very interesting explanation on the forums, where tar and feathers were being readied and torches lit. By the time I get to try out the NPE it will probably already be the New NPE.

As things stand I very much agree with both Ravious and Jeromai that the NPE represents a significant shift away from the Explorer paradigm GW2 started out with. It also indicates another strong move towards a much more traditional themepark approach. I think  ainekitten on the forums sums it up beautifully in his elegant and heartfelt comment.

Anet thanked him on his feedback. I hope they also take it to heart.


  1. As an explorer type myself, the NPE changes appall me from that angle. I loved the freedom to just wander around finding things. Locking skill points and all that because it's no longer allowed for you to see them on the prescribed track you're supposed to be traveling is such a disappointing change. I really don't understand why GW2 seems to always misunderstand what aspects are it's strongest and keeps veering off into things that fall flat and betray it''s original vision (which was what drew many of us to it in the first place).

    But whatev. I only log in anymore to do the new Living Story things, so perhaps my opinion doesn't really count.

    1. Oh, and apparently they've deleted several chapters from the Personal Story, which now skips around and makes no sense toward the end during the Orr parts because several parts are now in a different order and/or reference events in chapters that no longer exist.

    2. There was something about the Personal Story changes in the patch notes. I am doing the PS with my newish Asura Warrior but he hasn't even reached Claw Island yet. I was annoyed about the bundling of chapters because I was making a game of taking him through at the most under-leveled I could manage, generally 4-6 levels below the recommendation. Now I don't think I will get the option.

      As for why they are doing all this, Colin's post and some other recent dev comments have made it quite clear - they fear for their future income stream. No-one is even pretending it's an aesthetic choice - they have metrics that tell them an unacceptable number of purchasers don't continue after a short period and clearly you can't sell gems to people who aren't playing.

      My concern is that the changes they are making are more likely to exacerbate the problem than alleviate it. Yes, they have exit polls and interview data but when people cite things like that I always think of Henry Ford's purported quote : "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses".

  2. So I bought a GW2 account the last time it was on sale. I'd been wanting to try it for a while (On Yak's Bend too just 'cause of reading your blog and having nothing else by which to pick a place. lol) The leveling without the traditional quests I'm used to seemed weird to me for about an hour and then I'd picked up on how it all worked and it was fine.
    So then I logged in after the new feature pack, and I was actually really disappointed and unimpressed. Sure it tells me some helpful stuff like which map I should try next but it also nags me to go all over the place to stuff that I can already see on the map and would get to when I wanted to if it would stop bugging me with its flashy things. Also they took my baby guardian's shield away and wouldn't let him have it back until level 7. Not cool. And where did all my personal story quests go? I had some and now I don't. I think they spaced them differently or something but in either case I'm a bit disappointed. As pretty close to a brand new player I can honestly say it doesn't feel that helpful at all.

    1. That's great feedback. Welcome to GW2 and Yak's Bend! Of course, since the coming of the Megaservers, choosing a server doesn't mean all that much unless you plan on doing a lot of WvW. Speaking of which, Tournament starts tonight - we need every fighting Yak's Bender we can get!

      The map pointer is a good example of how the whole thing doesn't seem to have been thought through clearly. I'm not at all opposed to having one - they can be very useful - but this one seems pointless. All it does it point at the exact same things you can clearly see marked on your map, only with a lot less detail.

      ANet have said they are going to monitor the effect these changes have on new player retention and if it doesn't seem to be improving they'll tweak things. I hope they don't take another two years getting around to it.

  3. My only complaint about the new pack is 1) selling items on the exchange now takes longer with more clicks, it's not as efficient. Buying may be better, but I sell about 100x more than I buy. 2) I love the minis out all the time, but went into areas where it said there were too many players, so minis weren't happening. The option should be called "minis shown, but only when we say so". 3) I love the idea of having a pointer showing me where to go next for map completions, but only because I'm max level. If I were a lower level, I might not enjoy them as much, but I'm not sure how much I'd really care. Especially if there is a way to turn it off. 4) Gating leveling content? Meh. Seems okay to me. When I started my elementalist, I hit level 40 and felt that I had unlocked everything... and so stopped playing for a while. If things were gated, I may have pushed on. I didn't see the purpose of pushing on to max if I had everything at 40.

    1. I have some good news on the Selling thing: I discovered tonight that if you double-click on the relevant "Current Buyers" line (instead of the obvious single-click) it sells the full stack. Makes a big difference although its still not as straightforward as the original version. Not sure if that was there from the start or if they patched it in - there was a small update when I logged in tonight.


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