Monday, January 19, 2015

Ten Things I'd Like To See In Heart Of Thorns: GW2

Just five days to the Big Reveal and considering the build-up it had better be good! Could it be that we're all reading too much into the whole event? Just because ANet have been trailing and promoting Mike O'Brien and Colin Johansen's upcoming Pax South double act since the turn of the year doesn't necessarily mean the pair have anything earth-shattering to tell us, does it?

You certainly wouldn't think so from the official announcement: "Join us in person at the show or watch the livestream for a sneak peek at what’s next for the game." Not exactly giving it the hard sell, are they? That could be nothing more than a puff piece for the next Living Story arc and notification of a few tweaks to systems and processes, like the upcoming balance changes.

Nah, that wouldn't get its own Twitch stream, would it? Although, having watched a few of the Landmark and EQNext streams, it's surprising just how much fuss some MMO companies can make over not very much at all. Or, indeed, anything.

This one, though, is going to be very special. It says so right there on the promo page - "a very special Guild Wars 2 PAX South presentation". And there's the whole trademark and trailer thing going on with Heart of Thorns. Surely no game company pays for trademarks and makes trailers without a product launch coming along behind?

Forget the dragons. Let's get back to the important stuff.

In just five days we'll all know, which leaves a very small window of opportunity for wild speculation; everyone and their dolyak is getting in on the act already. Wooden Potatoes has three-quarters of an hour's worth of close textual analysis. Deany Kong is more succinct. I tend to go with Deany.

An expansion, then, or something so close to an expansion as to be indistinguishable, even though it may go under some less controversial name. But what's going to be in it? Oh, dragons, jungles, fighting and all like that. And will we have to pay for it? Yes, and with proper money, too, none of your gold or Gems.

There; those are my predictions. Beyond that I don't care to speculate. I will, however, expand a little on what I'd like to find inside Heart of Thorns. It's a much more interesting topic anyway and one you might have expected to garner more than 111 responses on the official forums by now, given the three million plus boxes sold. Maybe everyone's on Reddit.

Here's what I'd like in my expansion:

  • At least one new playable race. My first choice would be Skritt, with Dredge as runners-up, but I'd take any of the existing races, so long as it doesn't have feathers. A new race altogether might be even better.
  • At least one new class. Profession. Whatever. The elder Guild Wars has ten professions, only half of which made it into GW2, so there's plenty left in the tank. I'd go for Monk. Let's not have the one that uses a scythe, though; I never thought that was a good look. 

More World Bosses. People like World Bosses. Or is it loot? One of the two.

  •  Plenty of brand new Overland maps, all of comparable size to those that we got at launch. Mini-maps like Dry Top and Silverwastes won't cut it. Not all jungle either. Let's have some variety.  An underwater map would be nice - GW2 has the best underwater mechanics of any MMO I've played - might as well show them off. How many maps? As many as you've got! Anything less than half a dozen would be a severe let-down. It'd be nice to get at least ten. 
  • And speaking of ten - ten more levels! Yes, I like leveling. No expansion feels entirely "real" to me if it doesn't come with a new level cap. We'll have another 100 tradeskill points, too, please.
  • While we're on the subject, let's go for a full revamp of crafting. It's really all over the place now. Messy, unintuitive, grindy and quite dull. Sort that out if you'd be so kind. 

Remind me, which century are we in, again?

  • Another tranche of the content around which GW2 was built: "dynamic" events, Hearts, vistas, even jumping puzzles, even though those aren't my personal thing. And I mean proper events, too: short, self-contained mini-stories in which we help ordinary Tyrians do ordinary things, not endless chains of ever-repeating Terribly Important Mega Events
  • Lots and lots of new stuff: weapons, armor, pets, minis, you name it, I want it. I like stuff. And I don't mean in the Gem Store, either, although some purchase-worthy items there would be a welcome innovation, now I come to think about it.
  • At least half a dozen new World Bosses. I love doing WBs. Let's put some more carriages on that train.
  • New combat mechanics. Not the full trinity but something that gives more agency to the player and allows for more specific roles. Swiss army knives are great but you wouldn't want to prepare and eat an entire meal with one every day.
  • A complete and full revision of WvW. New maps, much more reactive and responsive matchmaking, better-defined objectives across a wider variety of timescales. Not - repeat not -  anything remotely like the disastrous Edge of the Mists experiment.

And I didn't even mention housing. I'd trade all ten of those bullet points for the kind of housing option the game deserves.

Who would live in a house like this? Me! I bloody would! Me! Let me have it!

Will we get all of the above? Like heck we will. Be lucky to get half. Very lucky. Honestly, if 2015 ticks three of those ten boxes I'll call it a good year. Whatever's in the Heart of Thorns box (and wouldn't it be great if there really was a box?) it needs to be at least as much. That's a bare minimum. Anything less wouldn't qualify as an expansion in my book. A good expansion should add three to six months content for the averagely-committed player. If it launches in September the bubble shouldn't float to the top before Christmas.

Enough speculation. Roll on Saturday. I'm not working so I'll be watching the Twitch stream. I just hope they do actually have some hard facts to announce. Even if it's not what I want to hear I'd rather hear something of substance than come out the far side wondering what all the fuss was about.


  1. Housing ! That would be... just steal Wildstar housing, I never played this game, but this would so much fit GW2 horizontal spirit...

  2. just let me paint the buildings and customize interiors of our home instances. I'd be back in game in a heartbeat. Adding housing customizations items to loot drops - huge.

    1. @Unknown and Ettesiun - I don't think I've ever seen an MMO more obviously suited to player housing. They must have seen how popular and successful it has been in other B2P/F2P MMOs like Rift and EQ2, where it forms a major part of the revenue stream. Sometimes I get the feeling ANEt just don't like money.

  3. Your list is pretty close to my list. I'd love housing... but I might get hyped over a new race (skritt would be my first choice, too) or a new class (I have duplicates of some classes right now and no motivation to finish leveling them). I'd also like them to clean up the mess they made of crafting. I haven't touched anything beyond level 400 because it looks way too expensive and annoying.

    1. I have a 500 skill weaponsmith but I didn't enjoy those last 100 points much. It felt too much like burning money to keep warm. I really hope they give the whole system a good going over at some point, preferably even before any expansion arrives, which will probably be another six months.

  4. A full expansion is just about the only thing that could reignite my interest in GW2 at this point. Even then, I doubt I'd stick around long-term, but I could see myself returning for a few weeks to explore the new goodies.

    A new race and/or class is always a good feature for an expansion. An interesting new class, in particular, is always a good way to get my attention. I might settle for some new weapons and skills for the existing classes, though.

    Lots of new zones is definitely something I'd support. The feeling of exploration was the most appealing thing about GW2 for me. A bunch of new areas to explore would perk my ears up.

    I'd definitely like to see a good player housing system -- maybe even open world. I think it'd fit very well in GW2. In general, anything to make the game more sandboxy would be good. And I'm normally a die-hard themepark fan, so you'll very rarely hear me say that, but I think GW2 is a game that would really benefit from more potential for player generated content, emergent gameplay, and the like.

    The best thing they could do to keep me over the long haul is to provide a good story I can get invested in, but given the quality of their storytelling to date and my missing two seasons of Living Story and thus being thoroughly out of the loop, I don't think that will ever happen.

    1. The thing that really puzzles me is that the Buy-to-Play boxed expansion model apparently worked well for GW1 and there has never been any strong player-based objection to the same model being used in GW2 that I have seen. ANet just seem to have been determined to run the game purely on original box sales and the cash shop for reasons of their own that they never disclose. Maybe someone stands to lose a bet.

  5. Don't get my hopes up about the housing bit. There would be an explosion of fashion the likes of which the world of Tyria has never seen. And they'd make a killing in the gem shop.

    I don't need a new race. New professions would be nice - Ritualist, Dervish, Monk, whatever. Give Necromancers greatswords and a two-handed sickle weapon which creates "Death" fields and perhaps give Engineers superior siege upgrade/repair capabilities and -

    there I go again. Settle down. Five more days until PAX South.

    1. I don't think for one second they will announce housing, although they did back off from saying "never" when interviewers were pushing hard on the idea a year or two back and they have been adding things to the personal instances lately, which could be seen as a way to familiarize GW2 players with the concept of home ownership.

  6. They'll show an overhauled trait system and the audience in the room will be underwhelmed.

    I still say Skritt as a playable race ought to have a group mind mechanic but that's entirely too complicated. Also, zergs would be... well, ridiculous in a new way.

    What, what, whhhaaat?!

    -- 7rlsy

    1. I'd like to have the Pax South tar and feathers concession if that's the big reveal!

      The Skritt hive mind for PC skritts would be utterly awesome. MMOs don't play around enough with the multiplayer aspect of the form when it comes to passive game mechanics.

    2. Yarrr,, how about you have more weapon skills the closer you are to other skritt?

      Come, all! Stack, stack, stack! Much shinies to be had!

  7. omg, I can hear them (us?) yelling that...

    -- 7rlsy

  8. I would love love love housing and definitely level cap raise, new zones and a new race :)
    It's exciting to hear about a GW2 expansion after all this time, especially now that it's looking like a slower year for MMOs. Time to update my client :)


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