Monday, October 19, 2015

Fasten Your Seatbelts: GW2

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.


  1. I haven't played for a couple of months (logged in a few times to grab rewards). Sadly there were nothing in Heart of Thorns which sounded interesting to me. Combine that with the fact that last time I logged in, it appeared that they had completely redone the skill system for no apparent reason. I can't be bothered figuring that out, so enthusiasm is at an all-time low.

    1. You're in good company, basically. I have been playing but... plenty of "meh" to go 'round. Nope, I'm not buying the expac either...

      -- 7rlsy

    2. I think there's some law that says no MMO can ever go more than 18 months without a full skill revamp.

  2. ...Meanwhile, there's entirely too much going on over in Norrath, still. Dem bunnies! Helms! Explosions!

    TLE! Nostalgia woo-hoo!...

    Yeah, all that, yeah yeah right right. Today: EQ2's version of "infusions". Well, they did say they were revamping the deity system. The bit I like is having other things on which to spend XP, especially when you're max'd. So far, I haven't been likewise impressed with Anet's solution to that.

    Anywho, my curiosity extends about as far as the Borderlands post-HoT without having bought in. Offhand, doesn't the Elite system suggest otherwise well equipped players are more likely to end up as rally bots? hmmm...

    -- 7rlsy
    AB, Stormhold, and BG
    "Welcome to the stagnancy that is Tier 1 (until further notice)."

    1. I can't see how non-HoT players are going to prosper in WvW for exactly that reason. I imagine there will be a new hierarchy of denial: no uplevels, no-one who doesn't have HoT, no-one who won't join a Squad. Of course there's little anyone, Commander or not, can do to prevent people turning up and playing if they don't conform to the standard so at least there's that.

      If there's one good thing that might come out of the WvW changes it's a shake-up of the established order. I was right behind the push for T1 (not everyone was) but I never wanted to stay there. Just to say we'd made it, you know? Playing the same two servers every week month after month is just soul-sapping. Fingers crossed the changes break the status quo somehow.

      The EQ2 expansion just looks better with every new reveal. The new options for xp gained at level cap look excellent. I'm going to pre-order this morning.

    2. Yup, yup, yup and hells yup.


    3. While Im a little nervous about some of the changes to Wvw ,the squad issue is not one of them. One of the commanders I follow wont even get on TS most of the time, I cant see him worrying about squads. While I can see it becoming a nice tool, I dont foresee it become a required system for pugs currently, unless your commanders are a lot more strict then ours are.I think ours are just happy to have people on tag.

    4. Yes, I imagine it will vary a lot, both by Commander and by server. I would expect most of our regular commanders to use it though. Guess we'll soon find out!

  3. I've taken a couple days off myself. I'm mostly expecting chaos and things breaking left and right, but I have that sort of crusty cynical mind protecting my soft squishy emotional insides.

    There are things I'm looking forward to with the expansion - action combat camera, minion changes, overall new content and progressing storyline; things that sorta sound interesting, even though they'll take 'work' to grind or learn them - masteries, guild halls, legendary precursor quests, new legendaries, even *ulp* raids...

    ...but I'm oddly feeling very immune to expansion hype right now. There's no 'dreams' to me being sold, if you'll excuse the weirdly put turn of phrase. It's like some people buy a new car and imagine themselves gliding along the highway with shiny glossy paint and think 'freedom' and 'speed', and here I'm seeing the car loan and road tax and time/effort of maintenance alongside and feeling just a bit over-grounded in reality.

    1. The action camera allows you to turn the game into the exact kind of game I try to avoid so it's no draw for me...but I do like the way they've been able to add it in on top of the existing control system so players get to make the choice. There are several MMOs I'd play a lot more if they retro-fitted a tab-target/hotbar UI on top of their action set-up.

      Otherwise I'm largely where you are. I see the expansion as "better than nothing" and not much more than that. It's going to be more work than play as far as I can see.

      It's a sharp contrast with the upcoming EQ2 expansion which has me quite fired up, not just over the new mechanics, which as 7rsly says should add a lot to playing at the level cap, but especially over the new lands and how they fit into the lore. Can't wait to explore an ancient dwarven city we'd all thought lost to time and save it from an existential threat. Fighting frogs in a jungle really doesn't cut it compared to that.

  4. About Economy : the economy is really buyer oriented : the price are as low as possible which is the good position for the casual gamer. Luxury object are higher priced, so people can dream of them - and rich player show them ;-)

    As a casual gamer I love the economy of GW2 : I do not have to mess deeply with it to have most of its benefit (= selling and buying at a correct price). I can understand that for those who love to 'play' the economy an efficient one is not very fun.

    About Raid : Booh !

    About WvW : in my server nobody was ever defending, and the few times I tried, the 3 defender has always been killed after having been ignored by the crowd of attackers at the gate. I know (with envy) that on your server the defender were there and defending, and my understanding is that they are trying to bring this fun to the rest of us. We will see if this will work !

    PS : It's too late now, but I would have been very interested by a tutorial on how to defend as a small group (or individual) in WvW. Any tips ?

    1. The real key to defense is having a core of obsessive individuals who think a fun way to spend five hours is to sit in a tower refreshing siege and staring at the map. There have been times when Yak's Bend has had someone doing that in every tower on our home borderland all day long, with roaming scouts checking the camps and spawns as well. That way it's hard for anything short of a 15-strong small zerg to get siege up and a gate down before word is passed and a defense team arrives. Also, with every tower and keep properly sieged up with superior quality siege engines correctly placed to cover all the entry points and usual approaches its possible for two or three people to take offensive siege down faster than it gets built.

      That's how it was in the glory days. One of the unexpected and disappointing side-effects of going to Tier 1 has been a significant reduction in YB's defensive play. We still do the massive multi-hour keep defenses but the days of taking other people's keeps, sieging them up and holding them for a day or more seem to have passed. Not sure if that's a change of policy, a lack of capacity or just that the whole tier is so far in the doldrums now that no-one really cares. I hope HoT really shakes things up - it's pretty much bound to I think.

      I should do a post sometime about how the whole approach to WvW changed over the years, at least on Yak's Bend. I can very clearly remember the long, slow process as commanders learned how to place siege effectively, where to put it, what to use, how to "throw" it so it was harder for enemies to target and so on. How scouting and guarding became codified. How routines were established for the "tapping" of siege. All the changing trends and fashions from door trebs and laurel portals to Omegas holding the ring.

      How much will survive the coming wholesale re-writing of the rules remains to be seen. I'm looking forward to watching a whole new set of behaviors develop.


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