It’s just fun to be in the midst of a week packed full of excitement... I hope my Guild Wars 2 friends are surfing that wave of excitement all of the way into the expansion. Bio Break
Erm...well...Ravious is. Jeromai, not so much. Is anyone else still playing?
Me, I'm more nervous than excited. Yes, there are some aspects of the New Order that I'm looking forward to - well, somewhat at least - as I mentioned a while back. I'm certainly happy to have new things to do, new places to explore, new mechanics to understand and all the rest of that Mom and Apple Pie Good Stuff so I guess I shouldn't complain.
And it's not like I wasn't one of the people agitating for an expansion all along. It seems churlish to cavil and nitpick now. Okay, it's not exactly a gift horse, what with the the box fee and all, but still. So why are my overriding emotions ones of anxiety and apprehension rather than joy and anticipation?
Partly it's that, for all the reveals and beta weekends and countdowns, I still don't really feel I know what to expect. It's not so much what's in the Heart of Thorns package itself. With only a few days to go we are, at long last, reasonably clear on that. No, it's more the effect this meteoric impact is going to have on the rest of the game.
|Undocumented Changes #247|
I foresee almost incalculable collateral damage to the experience of playing GW2 that has, more or less, kept me entertained and amused for most of my leisure time over the past three years. Although the Velvet Rope will be held very firmly in place to separate those who have stumped up the entrance fee and those who are keeping their hands in their pockets, this isn't one of those expansions you can easily choose to ignore.
For a GW2 player who decides against buying the expansion, the HoT action may all be happening in a land far away about which you care little, but there's no chance you'll be able to carry on as though nothing was happening. Every aspect of the base game will be affected, directly and indirectly.
There's the widely-expected creep towards Ascended gear as a baseline for one thing. The developers have made it entirely plain that all of their future content will be set in, and will require access to, the Heart of Thorns zones. That will most likley mean Raids, which are, as far as I can tell, the only publicly confirmed post-HoT content we have been promised.
|Has anyone actually mentioned new achievements for HoT?|
Those Raids both provide and require Ascended gear. It would be surprising if the developers then chose to add further content without taking that factor into account. Since the the first tranche of Personal Story and open world content that comes with the expansion was produced prior to the introduction of Raids it may be feasible to complete it in Exotics but how long can that stand?
Then there are the changes to World vs World. These are immense. It would be more than daunting enough if all that was happening on Friday was the replacement of the Alpine Borderlands with Deserts and Dinosaurs but there is much more to come to terms with than just a new set of maps.
The changes to how Squads work will, alone, radically alter the whole experience. The intention appears to be to give Commanders the full functionality that Raid Leaders enjoy in other MMOs, allowing them not only to monitor the health and condition of every character in the squad but also to dictate formation and function.
|They also serve who only stand and haste.|
The Commander can make the groups and move individuals within them. If what you want from World vs World is the true feeling of being an interchangeable, disposable grunt in a great military machine, learning to follow orders without question and follow a single commander to the death without worrying your pretty little head over tactics, let alone strategy, then this is the very innovation you've been clamoring for all these years.
If, on the other hand, you like to stand on the battlements chatting about sandwich fillings while flipping between maps to watch the ebb and flow of the battle before deciding which Commander to honor with your presence until you lose interest, it may not be quite the kind of quality of life improvement you had in mind. How many Commanders will welcome tag-alongs who decline to join their Squads remains to seen, although looking on the bright side there's not much they can actually do to stop you just running along in the pack. Not being in Squad may in the end be nothing more than the old not being in Teamspeak.
Add to that the almost universally reviled decision to change the weekly reset from Friday to Saturday plus the integration of the new Keep, Siege and Guild Claiming mechanics into the one remaining non-desert map, Eternal Battlegrounds, not to mention the integration of the Legendary crafting path and other PvE elements and it's pretty clear that WvW as we have known it is over. Whether WvW 2.0 will provide anything like the entertainment value of the original remains to be seen. Even if it does I'm going to miss those maps.
|Who needs gliders?|
Then there's the economy. There was a big row in map chat at Jormag last night over whether Anet were wise to hire an in-house economist in the first place. Well, I say "row". There was one "Ivy League Economics Graduate" bigging up the discipline and the entire rest of the map shouting him down.
I'm with the baying mob this time. I have no respect and little affection for MMO "economies" in the first place. I'd rather do without direct or indirect player-to-player trading at all than have a full, free market, whether "adjusted" by a professional economist or not. If we have to have game economies I'm all for developers intervening wholeheartedly to control prices for the health of the game and to increase the entertainment value for the players but that, very definitely, is not what John Smith is there to do.
|Uh...does no-one do Tequatl any more?|
A close reading of his recent post makes it very clear that achievement of some notional, theoretical economic model for the game trumps every other consideration. Fun and entertainment really do not come into the equation at all. Even so, Smith himself makes it quite clear such fine control is beyond him: "The combination of our changes and our new systems is sure to make everything go a little wild...Prepare for some short-term instability and a lot of big changes...we’ll be watching closely and updating constantly".
Or, in other words, we're going to press this big red button and see what blows up then we'll try and stick the bits back together later.
These are just the Big Ticket changes. There will be far more that we haven't thought about or talked about. The changes to Map Rewards in Pact Tyria may radically affect which parts of the world are heavily populated or shunned. An influx of players with the new, extremely powerful, Elite Specializations from HoT will surely change the experience of all shared content for those who don't have access to them. Even such apparently unconnected areas of the game as World Bosses and Dailies may require or receive a revamp to fit in with the prevailing zeitgeist.
|Or The Maw?|
There is so much we just don't know even now. My strong feeling is that, given the very limited amount of true public testing any of this has received so far, this will be a chaotic launch. I'm working Friday but I've taken Saturday off to give me a three-day weekend. I'm not expecting to get to play much but if nothing else it should give me something to write about.