Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Life Moves At The Speed Of Information: GW2, Ashes of Creation

Well, it wasn't an official announcement with a firm launch date but Mike O'Brien did open the window for the launch of GW2's long-awaited second expansion. He began yesterday's AMA on reddit by saying:

"’s episode, Flashpoint, is the second-to-last episode of the season... there’s one more episode after this, and then straight to the expansion pack... our rough plan is to slot the expansion pack into the release cadence as if it were an episode..."
That would place the release somewhere between September and November.

He did allow himself some wiggle room, warning:

" ...shipping an expansion pack is a big deal logistically and will probably take longer than the 2~3 months we normally allocate between episodes."
Reading those runes I'd say it's nailed on for this year and I'd be surprised to see it arrive any later than mid-November. Sod's law dictates it will come out on the same day as the EQ2 expansion.

Wary of the major hit his game took after the botched handling of the first expansion, he was also at pains to re-assure a skeptical audience that there would be no repeat of the six-month content drought we had last time:

 "A lot of you have been wondering about the upcoming release cadence, given that last time around we took a long break from Living World releases to get Heart of Thorns out the door and then to support that expansion after release. The good news is that this time around we have two separate fully-staffed teams that are both hitting on all cylinders."
 We'll see if that means a new Living Story in February 2018 but by then I might be too busy with the Ashes of Creation closed beta to care. According to Cutie DarkFay in the comments to my post on the AoC Kickstarter, "early 2018" was the estimated start of CB2 according to the official Twitch stream. Sounds very optimistic. We'll see.

As you may surmise, I did finally hop off the fence to stump up my $40. I say "finally" but the campaign's barely started. Syp was wondering what's the point of backing one of these projects when it's already crossed the funding line. In my case I am quite literally paying $40 for closed beta access and I'm mostly doing that so I can blog about it. There'd better not be a strict NDA!.

The speed of the whole thing seems to have surprised no-one more than Intrepid Studios themselves. The would-be Savior of the Genre (Crowfall probably should have copyrighted that) funded in twelve hours and the developers seem to be in a state of delirious disbelief right now. I got an email from them this morning saying:
"We are in awe of the support everyone has shown us! Ashes of Creation has obviously struck a cord with the MMORPG community, and we could not be any prouder!"
Tyler F. M Edwards noted, also in the comments, that "...the fact they actually called a class "tank" is a huge red flag to me. It tells me that they're not putting much effort into immersion or world-building".  The fact they can't spell "chord" (or, worse, think the expression actually is "to strike a cord") doesn't inspire confidence either but they get a pass for over-excitement - this once.

On the other hand, the fact that their immediate response to unexpected success was to promise everyone a puppy makes me wonder if they have any clear idea who or what their audience is:

"At 6,500 backers, everyone who is a part of this kickstarter will receive a baby kitten/puppy pet in game! "

Also, "baby kitten"?  Is that one that hasn't opened its eyes yet? Am I going to have to feed it with an eye-dropper? Maybe we'll all get one of those if we hit 7,500 backers.

What with the kittens and puppies and the very first stretch goal, already achieved, being "Parlor Games" in taverns, I'm getting a very blurry impression of what this supposedly PvP-centric MMO is all about. Should be fun finding out - in a year or so.

While all that was going on in the background I was playing through the penultimate episode of Living Story 3 - Flashpoint. That's where all the screenshots are from.

As always, there's not much that can be said at this stage without severely spoiling someone's enjoyment. Unfortunately, fear of spoilers also means by the time it's safe to discuss the plot everyone's moved on and no-one's interested any more.

That would be a shame because there's a lot to discuss. Blimey, Guvnor, isn't there just! One genuine gosh-wow reveal and a bunch of "well, I'm going to have to think about that for a while!".

The actual story part is very short. I know, LS2 and 3 chapters have always been that way. I've mostly been able to wrap them up in the first session. Still, even by those standards, this is a quickie.

In my opinion, though, it's all the better for it. For once there's no obvious padding and the inevitable Big Boss Fight at the end doesn't outstay it's welcome like they so often do: it's one of the shortest and least annoying I can remember. I really enjoyed the whole thing.

As well as the story there is, as we have now come to expect, a new map. It follows the exact design of all the other new maps - four repeatable Hearts, many, many dynamic events, a new travel mechanic, a new gatherable currency...

This process has become so predictable and formulaic it's almost funny. We complained for years about not getting any new maps and now we get the same new map once a quarter.

That said, this one, Draconis Mons, is fantastic. It's beautiful, bizarre and overwhelming. When I finish posting this I'm going to go and explore the entire thing. As long as ANet's artists can keep pumping out eye-candy this delicious they're going to keep me as a customer. Anything else is a bonus.

Oh yes, and they added some Legendary Armor or something but I don't suppose we'll be hearing anything more about that...


  1. I might be spoiled...

    I actually am downloading GW2 again! Going to start fresh and see how far I can get this time. Of course, I am just base game so I am sure you are spoiler-ing the expansion stuff, which I most likely will never see.

    I always fundamentally loved the concept of the Mesmer, (but went Guardian, easier to play) so going to try that this time. I hope they don't suck, and I dont suck playing one.

    1. For general leveling up and fun casual play no GW2 classes come even close to sucking. They're all great. When it comes to raids or WvW or PvP there are some that have issues but I don't think you need to worry about that. Welcome back!

  2. Thanks for the mention :)

    It's been mentioned a couple of times in their streams, and was mentioned again this morning (my time) that this isn't a PvP game, it's a 'PvE game with meaningful PvP'. If you've got the time I do recommend the streams, they're informative.

    CB in early 2018 may be optimistic, they've mentioned Alpha 1 in Q1 2018 and Alpha 2 sometime after that, so 'early' probably isn't that early.

  3. I got permission to promulgate this also, hopefully it answers some of your questions about AoC:


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