Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Time To Build: GW2

Yesterday's update saw the arrival of Build and Equipment Templates for Guild Wars 2. As the lengthy and detailed official guide has it, Templates are "a much-requested feature" that's been "in development for a long time". Someone has a gift for under-statement.

Even I, as far as I am from seeing this kind of build management system as a necessity, indeed tending to think of it as yet another blinking nuisance I might one day have to deal with, could hardly have remained unaware of the demand. For years I've listened to people mithering on about the lack of such a facility, how it ruins their enjoyment, how primitive GW2 is compared to [insert name of any other MMORPG here] and how they're sure some solution could be implemented in an afternoon by any halfway competent intern.

ANet's developers, infamously, grind slower than the mills of the almighty, albeit to a far coarser scale. They've spent so long, first ignoring the demand, then delaying on their promise to meet it, that a third party alternative has been in place for years.

GW2 is not a game built for Add-Ons. They have a very dubious status and players can and do get banned for using them. Over the lifetime of the game there have been many anxious posts on the official forums requesting clarification on the legality of various unofficial plug-ins.

Usually such pleas receive nothing more than ANet's trademarked stony silence. Once in a while, when some such device becomes too popular or notorious to ignore, an official statement on its use will manifest. Even then, as a user of such an add-on, the best you can hope for is a vague, handwaving non-assurance that you won't find yourself locked out of your account for installing it...for the time being.

Consequently, even with an apparently satisfactory third-party option available, there will be considerable pent up demand for an unequivocally approved version that doesn't require a lot of fiddling about and doesn't have to be downloaded from a potentially problematic source. Unsurprisingly, that's a demand ANet would love to monetize.

Massively:OP ran a piece on the potential cost of using the new system to its fullest, suggesting that "If you’re the kind of person who runs nine characters, one from each class, then your fee could be pushing over $360." Well, possibly. Technically. Theoretically. Maybe.

There is, predictably, some outrage over both the implementation and the expense. It all seems a little overdone to me, although I freely acknowledge I'm not the target market here. I tend to agree with  Bree, author of the M:OP post, when she concludes, "...not a whole lot of people will need to buy anything at all". I'm pretty sure I won't. (Then again, there's this, which appeared just after I finished the post. Arguments over design and costs are one thing but breaking the whole game is something else again.)

More than that, I initially believed I wouldn't even use the system. I loathe changing builds. I quite enjoy setting them the first time but my preference is to do it just once for any given character and then never open that screen again.

In GW2 it's something I like to do as soon as the character dings 80. At that point I decide what the character's combat function is going to be and what they are going to look like. I go through my warehouses of rainy day items, go around the relevant vendors, pore through the Trading Post and have a jolly good time.

It's a little treat I often save for a Sunday after lunch. It takes me a good few hours. Once it's done, my fervent hope is that I'll never have to do it again for that particular character. Unfortunately, what with MMORPGs being vibrant, living worlds (hah!), inevitably there comes an update when I have to revisit and revise.

What I have never seen myself needing is a whole slew of pre-set options allowing me to turn, say, one character from a healer to a damage dealer in mid-fight. Except, actually, maybe I have and just hadn't allowed myself to recognize the fact.

When I logged in today to claim my free Build Template on all three of my eligible accounts (because my rule of thumb is never to turn down a free lunch even if I'm not feeling hungry) it took no more than a few minutes for me to realize that I had, after all, some pre-existing, vestigial pretensions to build diversity.

If not, how would I explain the full sets of soulbound gear mouldering at the bottom of the bags of several of my characters? I'd all but forgotten that, when some of those unwelcome updates had forced me to reassess and re-gear my most played characters, I'd stashed everything from the outdated build "just in case".

My Necro, for example, started out as full Condition (damage over time to the non-GW2 player). Inevitably, at some point and for some reason I can't now recall, the meta shifted to Power (direct damage) for classes that had previously relied on DoTs.

I was playing a lot of World vs World at that time and my Necromancer was the main character I took to The Mists. Condition builds were very lackluster in that mode and although I resisted for as long as I could, eventually I cracked and converted to Power.

My timing was terrible. Very soon afterwards ANet massively buffed condition damage and we entered what became a lengthy meta based on that change. Power necros became passé almost overnight but, as it happened, I was in the process of switching to Elementalist in WvW anyway, so it didn't really matter all that much.

My Necro these days mostly does content that requires a lot of AE tagging - something that occurs very frequently in GW2 - so she's back wearing her Condition gear to support her ground-targeted Marks. In her bags, though, she still has all her Power gear.

Well, she did. Until about an hour ago. Now it's all in her second Equipment Template and the space it took up in her bags is...well, space.

There will be plenty of people who bemoan the design of the new templates, which require you to own the gear you want to use rather than have your right to ownership recorded in a database, the way Skins work. As someone who keeps all kinds of used items in storage because they feel more "real" that way, I strongly approve of my gear not vanishing to leave nothing behind but an entry on a list.

I realize this is insanity. If there's an eternal debate on the meaning and value of authenticity in the physical world, which there most certainly is, how much more abstract must the argument become when the items in question only exist as icons on a screen? 

How can an icon in the grid of my bank vault be more "authentic", more "real", than the identical icon in the grid of my Wardrobe storage? I can't answer that. I just know it can. It is.

For that reason alone I welcome the new templates. I can keep my old gear and and have the bag space back. What's more, of my nineteen characters only a handful have cast-off gear sets but my storage is stuffed to bursting with gear I've acquired over seven years and haven't yet found a use for. Now I can move a whole lot of that onto Templates and free up yet more valuable space so I can fill it with even more worthess crap precious momentoes and valuable items.

Whether I'll ever use the Templates for their notional function - changing the way my characters behave in combat - I'm not sure. I might.

I almost certainly will on the Druid/Ranger I take through Living World instanced content. I use him because he's specced for extreme healing and very high survivability but his DPS is correspondingly dismal. I have, on occasion, re-dressed him in his old Condition gear to get past a particularly egregious roadblock so it will be very good to be able to hot-swap him from Heals to DoTs as needed. In fact, I've already set up his basic Equipment template for that.

I haven't yet looked at the other Template, his Build. I will, though. Since it's there I'll probably take the trouble to set one up for each of the characters I kit out with a second set of gear. It's not something that needs to be done this week or even this year. It'll save for those long Sunday afternoons in Winter.

To conclude, much as it surprises me to say it, I'm finding Templates a lot more useful than I expected. Notch up another win for the new management.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide