Monday, October 30, 2017

Let's Jump The Broomstick : GW2

GW2's business model is based in large part on selling "cosmetics" in the Gem Store. The idea is that players pay real money to purchase Gems with which they then buy outfits, pets, skins and the like. Utility items like harvesting tools are gussied up with effects to appeal to players' vanity and a way has even been found to add visual flair to services such as in-game mail - for a price.

It's not just the business model that runs on looks. With no real vertical progression to speak of, either in gear or levels, bragging rights, such as they are, come as much from how you look as what you can do.

Legendary weapons and armor, which take a very great deal of time and/or money (usually both) to acquire are no better at killing mobs or protecting players than their much easier to get Ascended equivalent. The point (apart from stats that you can switch on the fly) is for other people to see you wearing or wielding them.

My problem has always been that I think most of them look bad and would make my characters look bad. The Legendaries, with a handful of exceptions, are either pompous and overwrought or downright idiotic. Almost all high-level armor skins are even worse. Just browsing the style tabs of the Wiki or Dulfy is enough to dissuade me from making the effort and as for the never-ending stream of tat coming out of Evon Gnashblade's Emporium aka The Trading Post aka The Gem Store - well, the less said about that, the better.

So, when something finally does appear that fires my imagination and makes me reach for my wallet I think it deserves to be mentioned. And it happened this weekend.

Or to be accurate I noticed it this weekend. It probably happened when Halloween arrived a couple of weeks back but since I'm not in the habit of browsing the fashion shelves and since Mrs Bhagpuss, who is, hasn't played for a month, it was pure chance that I happened to catch sight of the promotional banner when I opened the store to start selling.

In five years, apart from upgrades to my account like extra character or inventory slots, about the only things I've ever bought from the Gem Shop have been "toys". Toys, in GW2 parlance, include Minis (short for Miniatures. which is what ANet call vanity pets), musical instruments, kites and balloons.

The  category also includes things that you ride around on that are definitely not mounts, oh no! In the long years when ANet denied such a thing would or could ever become a feature of the game, players jonesing for a ride had to make do with a Magic Carpet that moved at regular running speed.

As well as the carpet there was a tunneling drill and a sparking electrical storm... I bought them all. The only one I didn't buy was the broom. Either I kept missing it when it was around (because Evon likes to swap things in and out of his warehouse to create imaginary scarcities) or I just wasn't in a buying mood when it appeared.

Then yesterday morning I happened to see a cat. See a cat, want a cat is the way that goes, for me and for a lot of people, which is why you see so many cat-shaped things in stores both real and virtual. And it works. All Anet had to do was put two small triangles on top of the existing Commander tag and call it a "Catmander" and people were queuing up for WvW who'd never killed a player in their life.

This time it was "An Elonian Familiar", a strange black cat with orange "whiskers", ready for Halloween in a witches hat and riding a broomstick. Cats wear hats in Tyria. Last year I got the "Feline Familiar", a sleek, midnight-black cat that also wears a witches hat, albeit with significantly more elan.

Last year's cat has been padding alongside my Necro ever since but since she's the one who does all the busywork every Halloween she thought she deserved the new one, too. It was then, as I was looking at the price and deciding whether to stump up the 400 Gems, that I noticed the same cat looking at me from another store window.

ANet like package deals. They're always bundling things together, usually things that seem like a worse deal in a bind-up than they would be on their own. This one was different. It was good.

For 1000 Gems you can get the new mini, the Riding Broom and a broomstick skin for your glider. Now that's a decent offer, especially when you consider I was already going to get the mini, I've on-and-off wanted the broom for five years and I have had more fun and enjoyment out of the Magic Carpet glider skin I bought a while back than pretty much anything in the game ever.

A thousand gems is a lot. I don't think I have ever spent a thousand on a single item before. If you were going to buy them with real money it would cost you $12.50 - except you'd have to buy $20 worth to get a thousand because ANet only sell Gems in multiples of 800.

Are an imaginary cat, an imaginary broomstick and another imaginary broomstick worth $12.50? I don't know and I don't care because, of course, I bought them with Gold. I still don't entirely understand how game companies make a living selling virtual goods when they also allow you to buy said goods with virtual money as well but I'm not complaining.

Due to the aforementioned extreme shortage of anything I want to buy I have a lot of savings in my Tyrian bank account. Until yesterday I had over 6,000 gold on my main account and about 2,500 across the other two. It's a bit less than that now.

Before I bought anything, though, I went and told Mrs Bhagpuss. As I said before, she hasn't played GW2 for a month. In fact, since we got back from Italy she's played exactly once.

I had a suspicion she'd be somewhat miffed if she decided to start up again in a few weeks only to see me promenading around on a genuine flying broom with a cat on the front (did I mention the cat rides on the broom you use as a glider? No? Well it does!). So, I told her about it and she took a look.

Then she logged in, graciously allowed me to gift her the pack since she was, as always, broke, did the Halloween dailies, interrogated me about the new Halloween weapon skins and armor set, farmed the Labyrinth for about five hours and logged out. When I woke up this morning she was already in the Lab doing the dailies again.

I bought the pack on two of my three accounts. The screenshots are from my second account, the Ele modelling.

It's remarkably hard to get screenshots of Minis since they move about to keep a certain distance form your character. It's even harder to get screenshots of a glider in flight. And finding a clear, uncluttered backdrop is the hardest thing of all. Consequently it's not as easy to point out the best features as I wish it might be.

There are several really excellent flourishes in the detail. With the broom equipped as a toy and selected as a glider skin you appear to be broom-mounted at all times. The transition from ground to air is neatly covered in a flash of lightning that works wonderfully to distract the attention in true sleight of hand style.

In flight, the broom trails bats but the very best part - the thing that above everything sold it to me - is the outrageously joyous expression on my Asura's face. It makes me happy just to look at her. Whether it will look so convincing on a Charr I have yet to discover. I suspect not but it should be funny.

So, there we have it. That one item got me to spend 3000 Gems (actually about 750 gold at the current, very reasonable, exchange rate) and brought at least one wandering player back into the fold.

Here's hoping we get something as appealing for Wintersday. I should have replenished the coffers by then.


  1. Your character is sooo adorable!

    1. Thanks! I didn't see why Mrs Bhagpuss should have all the cute ones.

  2. Patience is a virtue.

    For $1.30 of real money (through in game currency) I could speed up the rate at which my Warframe (basically, a new character class) is ready for me to play from 3 days to instant. I am in no rush and there is plenty to do so I wait the three days. I could see how $1.30, less than a cup of coffee, would make some people BUY NOW BUY NOW.

    Knowing I have something 3 days from now is as comforting as immediately to me. Suspecting I may be in the minority.

    1. Same minority as me! I get so much pleasure from deferred gratification that I usually don't need to get whatever it is that I'm deferring at all. Indeed, doing so can be a positive anticlimax. If everyone was like you and me the whole industry would have to close down.


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