The Future of Guild Wars 2 is ten-man instanced raids that reward Legendary armor with stats no different from Ascended. Beginning with one raid two weeks after the launch of Heart of Thorns and building from there.
The full details are on the new, highly irritating, overwrought Heart of Thorns website. The PAX presentation this time round was a lot sharper than the last one I watched, or at least it was once I managed to get shot of the warm-up stream's hosts, with their unbelievably awful music that sounded like ELP failing to get to grips with early 90s drum'n'bass.
Colin Johanson was fairly clear and concise on the new raid setup. There was one point where he seemed to be wandering off-message and I thought for a moment he was telling us that all the existing world bosses and dynamic events were going to be revamped as raids but I am 99% sure I misheard that part.
Prior to the show, Jeromai felt he needed to consider his own future with the game based on his fear of what raids might do to it. I feel much the same over the whole new direction. The mantra is "harder, more challenging, group content" whereas, given a choice, I'd opt for "easier, less challenging, solo-friendly". I'm out of sync with the zeitgeist apparently.
That said, adding raiding, in and of itself, means nothing to me. Many MMOs I've played and enjoyed over the years have had a full-on raid-based endgame. i just ignore it. I can very easily ignore GW2's as well.
The problem comes with just how much of the game I'm now planning to ignore once the expansion lands on October 23. I already ignore both dungeons and fractals. I mostly ignore Dry Top and Silverwastes and their associated map-wide, sequential events. I ignore Three-Headed Wurm.
The prospect of four new maps (and yes, it's now confirmed there are just four, which is it at the low end of the speculation curve that followed the earlier "several") that all operate like Silverwastes on steroids means it's pretty likely that, while I definitely won't ignore them, at most I'll explore them once each and then never visit them again unless I'm driven to do so for the new Personal Story and the next Living Story arc. If there is one.
As for Guild Halls, they appear to be entirely out reach. I have a great antipathy for the entire concept of guilds in MMOs other than very, very small family and friends guilds. I don't intend to join a large guild just to rattle around in a ruin in the jungle so that's probably more content from HoT that I can safely ignore.
The new WvW maps do look intriguing but reading the website spiel reminds me just how PvE-oriented they appear to be. I'd forgotten that whole "chase dinosaurs for power cores every three hours" bit. We'll see how that works out. I wouldn't be surprised to see those mechanics getting roundly ignored if one server is dominant. WvW players have a long record of skipping whatever PvE content they're asked to do unless it involves hammering on a keep door.
That leaves the Mastery system, the Specializations and the new Revenant class, all of which fall towards the innoffensive-but-not-particularly-interesting-either end of the spectrum. I've already pre-bought the expansion and, while I'm confident of getting my money's worth just from the initial exploration and the new stuff to see and do, it seems increasingly unlikely there'll be anything there that will hold my attention once the novelty wears off.
Which makes the other half of the Big Reveal, F2P for the base game, feel all the more significant. The real big surprise of the day for me was that the transition to F2P is effective immediately. If you've wanted to play GW2 for three years but were never willing to get your wallet out even for the 75% off sales then now's your chance. Come on, there must be someone...
There's a FAQ that gives the typical F2P/Sub comparison table we're used to from other conversions, although in this case it's actually a F2P/B2P split. There's no Premium Membership. Most of the expected restrictions aimed at preventing goldspam and trolling are in place - chat rules, level-locks on specific content and areas, controlled access to trade et cetera. It was particularly reassuring to see that characters on F2P accounts will need to level all the way to 60 before they can enter WvW.
Given how likely it seems that most of my (probably soon to be heavily reduced) time in GW2 post-expansion will be spent in Pact Tyria, the move to F2P ought to work in my favor. There must have been a danger that the old world maps would have become heavily de-populated as ANet pushed everyone into the jungle and directed all their development time there. At least a steady flow of F2P players should keep the World Boss trains running.
Like Kaozz, my favorite part of GW2, the one thing that really sets it apart from all the other MMOs I've played (apart from early Rift), is the wealth of drop-in, easy access, really huge-scale fights. I just love to be in a huge horde of people with a thousand spells going off at once, all piling on to a single boss with a gazillion hit points. That's far closer to my idea of a "raid" than ten people in a private room learning dance steps. With luck F2P might at least keep that dream going for a while longer.
One odd crumb of information that might have got more attention on another day was the news that there are only two more beta events, including next weekend's. Frankly, that sounds nuts. The content we saw last time was buggy as hell. All the new specializations have been massively revised after each outing. I find it next to impossible to believe the thing is anywhere even close to being ready.
When you think of how much content there is that we have never seen and are now clearly never going to see prior to launch I have no expectation whatsoever of most of it working. It's 55 days til the expansion goes live. It feels like it needs another three months. Or maybe six.
Oh well. It will be what it will be. I am as sure as I can be about anything that hasn't happened yet that I'll be playing GW2 until it stops or I do. I'll be cherry-picking the bits that suit my tastes and playstyle, though, and the chances of that providing the kind of full MMO meal it has for the last three years seem pretty darn slim.
Never mind. As Jeromai said "...that situation isn’t the end of the world. Just the end of me playing one game". Or, in my case, playing one game quite as much.
On A Rainy Evening
53 minutes ago