Friday, March 1, 2013

Exposing the Truth, Past and Present.

Purpose:  In effect, what I intend to do is expose ArenaNet of lies, deceit, and otherwise facilitating or spreading  false information for the sole purpose of garnering favor, attention, and playtime from the general public and its customers.  I intend to do this relatively systematically with use of direct quotes from the company, a list of facts, occasionally brief personal experiences and commentary, and a logical conclusion.

(This was originally designed for the official forum, although due to length I am posting elsewhere and I hope to have an abbreviated form on the official site soon.  I have taken careful consideration to keep this post from being incendiary or rude to the community, the players, and of course, the ArenaNet staff.  Any names cited, were for sole purpose of attributing ownership to used quotes and not meant to insult, or be otherwise disresectful to anyone.  I hope you agree, that I have followed the Code of Conduct to the best of my ability, to keep this thread from being deleted and to inspire useful discussions by all parties involved.)

Let’s start with something small.  It’s the moment to moment details that reveal the work ethic of a company and its concern for its players.  For those who don’t know Final Rest was a staff discovered in the game files that is visually unique and appealing to many.  However, for months the staff could not be found in-game.  Many player’s attempted to go to the forums, ask questions in interviews/AMAs, and even message employee’s in-game to discover it’s location or to show ArenaNet that it was indeed bugged.

Final Rest:

“I can’t give away any spoilers, but I can confirm that I’ve looked at the loot tables, and it is in the game. It’s a very rare reward from defeating a boss in the open world.”

"Just a quick note—I said the odds of it dropping was closer to .005 than the 1 in a million or so that was tossed out. Those aren’t the exact odds, but if my math is correct, 10 players running the event every day might expect one staff to drop after about 7 months. (And we haven’t been out that long.)"

-All from Jeffery Vaughn

The Facts:

-There are easily more than 10 (albeit likely different) people who participate in the event daily with various amounts of magic find.

-We were told it was not a bug, but a rare spawn that would take 10 players 7 months to see a single staff drop.

-In six months post-launch, we have not seen a single Final Rest.

-March patch = boom hundreds of Final Rests.

Logical Conclusion:  When you said you “boosted” the drop rate in a recent quote, you really meant included it in the drop table bug free, and decreased it’s rarity several logs.

Question in a Recent Interview: Where's Final Rest?

Colin: Someday you will all discover it and everybody will be really excited.

How does a bug fix on a staff dropping from an event that many people do daily, make us all “really excited”?

As easily surmised, it’s not only easy, but probable a company will be make poorly worded quotes without malicious intent.

Ascended Gear

Let’s move to the now infamous ascended gear debate, albeit briefly.  There are many arguments for either side that has been said and heard hundreds, if not thousands of times. I intend to avoid it, and expose direct quotes which are plainly “wrong.”

Ascended Gear Quotes:

“We absolutely design everything we do with minimal grind and will continue with this principal moving forward.”

-Chris Whiteside

What is your/ANet’s definition of grind?

Repetitive game play that is not fun. –Chris Whiteside

These quotes were taken from a Reddit AMA in November of last year.  At the time Ascended gear could only be achieved through Fractals, a mistake that was later admitted to by the company.  We have since moved to several, yet still unachievable in major features of the game like WvW, options of achieving them.  You can do dailies for approximately a month for each ascended piece of gear. You can farm guild missions and commendations, and achieve them through a combination of gold and commendations, or 40 laurels and 50 ectoplasms. Or you can simply gain some from Fractals, or a combination of materials (gained from Fractals) and craft your own.  The problem is that these are largely out of reach by a majority of the playerbase without investment of significant “grinding.”  Dailies are often the definition of “do these things every day” and achieve a small reward.  ArenaNet has now provided a diversity of things that we can do to achieve a daily, which has only missed the point.  If you kill 20 rabbits one day, and then are asked to kill 20 underwater creatures the next, that doesn’t suddenly change the nature of the daily. It’s intended to be a short repetitive activity that is completed daily or nearly daily to artificially create a form of progression for an item.  It’s still repetitive…and as one of the few opinions in this thread, is not fun.  I have yet to find myself, friends, guildmates, or anyone exclaim “I’m excited to do my daily today!”

Recent Events

Let’s move to the current January/February Release window and talk about a quote that has been thrown around quite a bit by the community, and examine the recent releases of content.

January/February Release Quote:

"But January and February are actually our biggest updates to date. They’re even bigger than all the stuff we did in October, November and December. And I think that when people see how much stuff they’re gonna get for no monthly fee in January and February, they’re probably going to be blown away. These two months combined are basically an expansion’s worth of content for free."

-Colin Johanson

The Facts:
-The WvW patch that was slated for January, was pushed back to February, and then moved back to March was originally intended in the “expansion worth of content” Colin was referring to at the time.

-There are usually around 5 major features in each patch, which typically include, for lack of a better word, content.

-2 of the 5 for February’s patch were “Choosing Your Own Daily Achievements” and Previewing on the Trading Post.

-The only additional content increase in February were a couple of cash shop items, a new sPvP map, and essentially the addition of portals and non-unique enemies in the Living Story.

-January included guesting that was intended to be included at launch, an improved achievement system, and bug fixes to WvW.

-The major points of a patch should not include bug-fixes and revamps of existing, broken content.

Logical Conclusion: What we have seen is nothing even resembling an expansion worth of content.  (Even if you want to include March’s content, which admittedly has yet to be fully revealed, it would not resemble an expansion.)


Let’s move to WvW, arguably one of ArenaNet’s most popular features.  In six months of release, the only thing added to WvW were bug fixes.  Instead of attempting to stop hacks and exploits by single players, ArenaNet chose to simply remove the orb system.  Before everything was incredibly dynamic, due to mismanagement in realm populations (free realm transfers for roughly five months again due to guesting), and no, we see the opposite side of that coin, it’s static to the point of decay.  Realm ranks are hardly changing, and each week the story seems to remain the same.  The same realms place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd each week, rarely changing tiers.  No forms of progression or reward have been added in six months, and we are holding on the promise that the WvW patch will come out next month.  Even with the promise of new content, it’s the length of time that has passed that is discouraging for many of us.

We have seen dungeon revamp after dungeon revamp, waiting for you to finally get it right.  We have watched you include temporary content again and again, without adding to the core of the game.  We have been waiting for ArenaNet to wake up and improve on their original design.

Let’s examine material that has yet to be fully made, that holds the potential of promise, and a return to original design principles:

The Living Story

We have seen two installments of the story, with the promise of much more exciting material to come in March.

The Facts:

-The first installment included random NPCs walking towards two major cities in two zones that “needed” aid.

-It included collecting mementos, fixing signs, and curing the cripple condition off them, with less than 5 unique dynamic events and a single title to come with it.

-The second installment now includes two main objectives, fighting portal-spawning enemies, and providing refugees with lost items.

Logical Conclusion:  There are not a lot of content or interesting things to do in-game involving the living story.

An addition of twenty dynamic events would arguably have more content than these last two installments of the living story.  There is nothing that makes it special, unique, rewarding or even interesting to the average player.  And once again, we are relying on a promise by Angel McCoy, a chief architect along with Ree Soesbee and Jeff Grubb that created the lackluster personal story.  Even worse, it appears as though ArenaNet is making the same mistakes.  

“In order to make this easier on ourselves, and on you, we’ll be introducing a set of characters specific to the Living Story, at the end of March. Hint: one’s a norn, and one’s a charr.”

-Angel McCoy

The Facts:

-In both the Lost Isles Patch and the Halloween patch,the ArenaNet team was largely criticized for a lackluster, initial phase of events because there weren’t many things a player could do.

-The Personal Story was largely criticized for revolving around a NPC rather than the player, making the player feel less than heroic.

-The Living Story appears to have the same flaws as both the previous patches and Personal Story.

Logical Conclusion:

ArenaNet is not learning from past mistakes.

I could use this remaining time to talk about the blatant lack of additional skins to the game.  The large majority of skins released have been temporary releases.  I could elaborate more on the failures of the Personal Story, and the complete reluctance by ArenaNet to address or fix it.  I could address the growing concern by sPvP players that ArenaNet is not doing enough for the e-sport community.  However, I think by now you understand my point.  I am not satisfied with the games progress post-launch, nor do I find it acceptable for ArenaNet to continue to make false claims nor learn from previous self-admitted mistakes.

In conclusion, this post is meant to raise public awareness of ArenaNet’s past remarks and errors, and enact change to the game to make it better.  ArenaNet, you can do better.

Sanctum of Rall

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Growing Pains of WvW

WvW is why I play Guild Wars 2.  My time in WoW was very much post-Tarren Mills/Southshore era, and most of my open world combat consisted of raiding Stormwind with a handful of Horde. Pre-launch, WvW appeared to be one of the greatest aspects of Guild Wars 2.  And to me, it has been.  That being said, there are some very real problems with the current implementation of WvW.  The WvW community has seen four patches come and go without any real changes, (no, fixing culling does not count...) and I'm hoping to see some great progress made in March.  

First and foremost, WvW is largely a zergfest.  Yes, there are the videos of 5 vs. 30s with smaller groups winning the battle, but they are very much the exception.  For the past 3-4 months, my guild of 3 have attempted to challenge the zerg.  We have had some incredible successes, but in the end we can only do so much.  We quickly found out that if you are to survive against zergs, there are really 3 competitive classes in the guerilla warfare style of combat.  Thieves, Mesmers, and the Elementalist.  Any other class does not have the mobility and escape mechanisms to be competitive in variable environments outside of the zerg.  

Furthermore, there are very few incentives in attempting to defend supply camps.  You can upgrade them all you want, you can even add some sieges here and there.  However, with the possible exception of Pangloss in Eternal Battlegrounds, you are simply going to fail when the zerg shows up at your doorstep. Most commanders seem to be permanently on offense, directing their swarm of karma-frenzied pests from one point to the next.  

However, all of this would be pointless, if zergs were less effective than smaller groups. ArenaNet has stated that smaller groups are much more effective than larger groups in WvW, and yet the predominant strategy by the top servers are largely mega-servers, led by Teamspeak and a commander, zerging their away across the landscape.  One can ask, if smaller groups are so much more effective than larger groups, why aren't we seeing that strategy emerge more and more in WvW?  The simple answer, is that they simply aren't.  

But, maybe you are asking a second, more subtle question:  what's wrong with zerging in the first place?  Well, ultimately it requires less skill, less coordination, to execute than simultaneously placing smaller groups that communicate between each other.  If you placed 40 people on a map and told them to attack point A, against 4 small, allied, teams of 10 people that each had real-time strategies to execute against the 40 people.  You would expect the 4 allied teams to win?  In Guild Wars 2, I would expect the 4 teams to win as well.  So why aren't we seeing that in practice?  

I'm not sure.  It may be a combination of the systems in place, and human nature.  The rewards are much greater for the average person to join a larger group of players than if he were to play by himself or with a small group. The commander system and "crossed-swords" on the map were designed to implement communication to the players on the map, and they have really just become signals of hotspots of activity.  If you are in a small group, you tend to avoid your commanders.  They simply attract way too much attention, and they can quickly get bogged down in long skirmishes.  Or maybe it's that we are innately lazy.  It's much easier simply to clump together and follow, than for multiple people to lead in diverging, strategic groups.  If it's truly the latter, than there may be little hope for WvW.

Among the other main problems of WvW, progression and rewards are the other two most notable challenges that ArenaNet must face over 2013.  The WvW patch will probably be released in March, and we will see how much they change.  So far, it merely seems to be aimed at progression, and I'm hoping they aim their sights much higher in the coming weeks.  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Real Money Buys You

(I'm a proud owner of the Quaggan backpack, and I'm not afraid to show it.)
Let me tell you a tale. A story about gifts, the power of money, and the ever elusive line of "pay to win". 

For Christmas and my birthday, my brother was kind enough to provide an in-game gift of gems. I was growing a little bored of thieves and decided to level up a new profession. Using these gems, I was capable of leveling a guardian from 10-80 in about 7 hours of game time.  I then spent a little bit of money on my own, to completely deck my freshly dinged guardian with full exotics.  I was able to do this in one weekend of moderate play.  

Is that okay?  I'm having a hard time deciding whether it is or not.  Many would argue that the "pay to win" line has become so commonly used in debates, that it's been twisted to each author's own view points.    

It appears as though "Pay to Win" has adopted many forms over the years:

-Cash providing an exclusive benefit, that other players cannot achieve through in-game means
-Cash providing a time advantage over other traditional players
-Cash providing the "best" gear in line with other players

I am a PvP player at heart, and thus most of the above statements can appear biased. For many PvE players these phrases can be substituted for "Cash allowing you to  overcome the system"

A person's opinion on shops such as Guild Wars 2's infamous Black Lion Trading Company (specifically talking about the Gem store and Currency exchange, is the qualifications of the term advantage or benefit.  How much is too much?  What is considered fair?  I don't have all the answers, and I'm still trying to determine it myself.  When did game philosophies get so complicated?  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Time Flies...

It slowly dawned on me two days ago that I have yet to add another article.  My friend asked me what happened, and I actually didn't have a reasonable answer.  Time has flown by over these last few weeks.

I am rapidly becoming a huge indie game follower. I've dabbled in/finished /listened to the glorious music of Minecraft, Journey, Flower, Dear Esther, and the Unfinished Swan over the last few weeks.  I have finished Journey and Dear Esther, and rapidly making progress in the Unfinished Swan. They are really some amazing games, and it blows my mind how great they are.  I turned a potentially two hour game (Journey), into like a 10 hour game attempting
to find and discover all of the secrets for that gorgeous white cloak.

I have also played Path of Exile's latest beta.  For those who haven't heard, it's essentially a Diablo II style experience, which I think the cool kids call it an "arpg".  I have never touched Diablo, Torchlight, or any of the other clones for that matter, and I never really had much interest.  To be honest, I was bored and a little bit curious.  I chose a ranger and picked up the class, and I finished Act 1 two days ago.  I also got a really nice exotic sword, that I'm pretty sure is really rare.  People were cursing at me on the first day of beta for getting it.  Figures I get the leet weapon in a game that I don't tend to stay in very long.  Overall, I've been surprised how much I like the game, and yet how little I care about the story.

Speaking of terribly boring story, I tried Tera for the first time this evening.  It was...interesting.  I don't really understand the starting experience, and why they decided to throw you into a level 20 area without knowing how to even attack.  I picked up a sorcerer and had leveled up while following wherever the latest quest took me.  It struck me how fast I started ignoring the quest text, only to move on to the objective.  The days where that kind of gaming was fun for me, I think are long gone.  I'm not sure if it's the dynamic events in Guild Wars 2 that spoiled me, but I don't think I can ever click on that damn exclamation point again.  I found the critics of Tera to be pretty accurate. The game is beautiful, and the combat is decent (though not being able to move while casting was a rather big letdown), but the quests are terable (sorry for the pun).  I think I'll be dropping this one quite soon.  I think the PvP could be potentially pretty awesome in this game, but I just don't think I can get past the leveling aspect of the game.  I think I'll leave it on the desktop for a rainy day.

Overall, I have played a myriad of games, and have been impressed by most of them.  I think there's something to be said about the games like Journey, PoE, Flower, Dear Esther, the Unfinished Swan and the like.  Massive corporations with multi-million dollar budgets commonly fail to capture the beauty  elegance, and simplicity of indie games.  I suspect in the future with Kickstarter and the like, the most popular games will eventually start spawning from more and more unknown developers.  And I think that may be a good thing, a world where finally innovation and design are the only things that matter. No matter what happens, I think gamers will "win".

Also, if you are waiting for me to actually get back to writing about Guild Wars 2.  Don't worry, it won't be long.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Looking Forward

The year is rapidly coming to a close, and the rewards have been rolling out for Guild Wars 2.  GW2 has won best PC game by IGN, best MMO of 2012 (and also "Most Disappointing") by Massively, and came in second just behind Pirate101 over at (yes...that was certainly surprising.)  It seems that everybody has something to say about Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 has certainly been successful.  Every other major MMO company that released this year has suffered layoffs, restructuring, and replacements of top employees.  ArenaNet has been the exception...(arguably I am not counting the realignment currently going on at Guild Wars 2's publisher NCsoft.)  However, with success often comes criticism.  I think we can all agree, ArenaNet hasn't done everything right.  So with that being said, here's my list of the top 5 things I hope to see change in 2013, listed in no meaningful order:

1.  A Massive Increase in Cosmetics.

For a game touting horizontal progression as a viable end-game, there hasn't been a great deal of expansion on gear since launch. I would like to see a massive increase in gear, ever-lasting tonics, weapons from WvW, dungeons, world events, and vendors.  I would love to see tools like Auction House previewing, a dye system for weapons, and some new types of neck pieces (like scarves for example) and more back pieces.  I would love to see some different color variations of each too.  The Gem Store options are also terribly slim, with only 3 armor sets offered (not counting town clothes).  ArenaNet could make a ton of money by simply adding more armor sets through the Gem Store.

2. Removal of RNG from the Cash Store.

This topic has attracted a great deal of debate from the community.  I tend to lean on the side that views randomness in a cash store as unethical.  To me, it fosters the development of gambling to less than appropriate age groups, and is simply not fair to players.  Players have a right to get something for what they pay for.  And no single-use tonics and a boost simply does not cut it.  And finally, the poor clarity of wording on the chests offered in the Black Lion Trading Company are not helpful either.  Even lottery tickets are required by law to provide accurate chances of winning on the back of them.

3.  More Permanent Content

With all three content patches since launch focusing on temporarily available content, I feel that ArenaNet is not adding enough to the game for players in between those one time available events.  Yes, I had tons to do when each of those three patches came out, and I do recognize that some permanent content was added (namely a dungeon, jumping puzzles, mini-dungeons, events, and bug fixes), but there just seems to be large areas of nothing to do.  The new zone introduced in the Lost Shores patch is absolutely a barren wasteland.  Orr has lost it's appeal long ago, the only people who still go are farmers, bots, and people leveling for the first time.  WvW hasn't seen any new content since Launch, and some would argue lost content (via Orbs for balance reasons).  There's also little reason to do WvW, dungeons, or events once you have the karma, WvW, or dungeon gear, unless of course you personally enjoy the content. Now bear in mind this next part is solely an opinion, an opinion that many in the community would disagree with... events haven't been dynamic or even unique enough to really be fun several months post-launch, nearly all paths of each dungeon have been run numerous times, and WvW offers the only area of fun that simply lacks rewards, and can sometimes accurately be described as a "zergfest."

4.  Revamping Rewards

ArenaNet has definitely seemed to struggle with balancing difficult content with good rewards.  Fractals is perhaps the only successful areas where it's been done well, but it's been done well where for most players, the opitmal way to make money is to simply spam run Fractals.  Yes there are some other small options. If you want maximum rewards from the world, just farm Plix with some Magic Find gear.  If you want maximum rewards from dungeons, just run the easy paths (CoF 1 and 2 both come to mind quite quickly.) If you want maximum rewards from WvW, well...good luck.  No seriously, you may even lose money in WvW if you are responsible enough to bring some siege equipment.  The tokens are close to useless, only providing a single type of gear (Toughness and Vitality) and more siege equipment.

I hoped that Guild Wars 2 wouldn't resort to Grind Wars 2.  And the only content that doesn't feel grindy, is WvW which simply doesn't any viable rewards other than a tank-like set.

I propose adding extremely challenging in-world events that provide better rewards.  Add dragons the way they were meant to be.  Make them hard, and have them scale properly so they can't simply be zerged.  Make WvW rewards in-line with Fractals rewards (specifically loot scaling to the time of the killed player's last death) Think a system like bonus experience.  If you kill a player that hasn't died for several hours, you receive better rewards.

5.  Emerging as an E-Sport

This is definitely a feature that is in the works.  ArenaNet has stated several times about their intent for Guild Wars 2 to become an E-sport.  This requires a spectator mode, dueling, constant interactions with the community, sponsored and rewarding tournaments, and overall class balance.  Most of those features have been confirmed to be deep in development, and I hope to see ArenaNet unveil these throughout the year.

And that's it for me.  How's my list? Massively provided a post with a similar idea, but I became pretty dismayed at most of the author's choices.Guild Wars 2 has many problems, but I found most of the problems to be out of touch with the community at large.

Anyways, I hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wintersday: A Step Back or Forward?

I had a hard time gauging my exitement pre-Wintersday.  Yes, Christmas (and all of it's Wintery counterparts in MMOs) is my favorite Holiday.  I thought Halloween in Guild Wars 2 was the most well done holiday in any video game I have ever played, so my hopes were pretty high.  That being said, Halloween had some low points, most notably RNG cash shop items and quite a few people were ticked off by ArenaNet's jumping puzzle design.  (I however, loved the jumping puzzle by the way.)  Furthermore, with major content patches being released in both January and February that are said to be equal to the amount of content in an expansion, I wasn't sure how much time and care ArenaNet would put into Wintersday this year.  All in all, I had a mixed bag of emotions coming in... after all both prior content patches were met with mixed reviews, and I wasn't sure if this would be the patch that would break the streak.

Let's start with the jumping puzzle.  I think the theory of the puzzle was implemented brilliantly.  ArenaNet heard the communities complaints about character models cluttering up the screen, and split us off into several different starting areas.  The environment and staging was stunning, and also perfectly themed.  I loved the frostbite slowly ticking away my health, the bursting presents, the wintery winds, and even the terrifying boulder that has killed me more than once.  It really was set up to be a fantastic puzzle.  However, in practice, it just simply was too easy. Now you may call this subjective, because there certainly are people who are unable to finish it.  I am generally a very good platformer, I've completed every jumping puzzle in the game, and finished the Halloween puzzle in about forty five minutes.  However, it took me around 2-3 tries to complete this puzzle.  The exhilaration I felt after beating the Halloween puzzle was immense....this..this just felt like....well..yeah.  It was just too easy, and all in all not that rewarding.

ArenaNet did make some major improvements to the cash shop this time around. There were sets of weapon skins that could be bought straight out for 500 gems.  The price may be high to some, but I'd rather have a higher price than worry about RNG.  However, ArenaNet still left RNG chests to be opened by those who wished for the minis.  Among them was the rare Festivoo the Merry (a Quaggan in a Christmas hat)...really who could resist that?  You could even combine the three common mini's for the much rarer Festivoo.  The problem is that each mini is account bound, effectively making these cash shop RNG only items.  (Unless of course you get extremely, I mean extremely lucky in opening gift boxes) And while this time around, the cash shop was implemented better, there's still the basic moral question: Should RNG be present in a Cash shop?  My answer remains the, it should not.  However, I think we can all agree, a mini is hardly game breaking. 

The Infinirarium was masterfully crafted.  Tixx's giant golem blimp hovers above the major cities of the game, that houses the Holiday Dungeon.  It really is breath taking from the ground and the interior.  The dialog in the dungeon is witty and diverse, and the miniatures present within are adorable.  I loved coming across each major city in miniature form, and I think my favorite is the simple Grove.  Thus far, I've seen Toy Ventari, Dolls, and Miniature soldiers try to kill me.  And I've had fun doing the dungeon each day to see the changes.  It's really quite fun.  However, you can only craft two out of the five toys this holiday. I've even independently confirmed this by talking to a developer in-game.  And the only alternative available is to buy them through the cash shop.  A fair amount of the community has criticized this move by ArenaNet, and I am hesitant to do so.  One of World of Warcraft's holidays centered around orphans and you could only receive  2 out of 6 available toys.  (My memory may serve me wrong, it could also be 1 out of 6)  And I don't remember people being mad about that.  It seems silly to have so much arguing over minis anyways.  And finally, since when has collecting not been expensive?  I don't see why ArenaNet cannot just sell the minis in the cash shop.  At least they don't have RNG attached to it.

There were some other great additions to Wintersday.  I love both the Bells and the Snowball Fight mini-games.  Both were very cleverly designed, and extremely fun to play for Guitar Hero and PvP enthusiasts alike.  The siege weapons have also been changed in WvW, which look amazing by the way.  Nothing says Christmas like raining down Candy Cane death from above. There's also the smaller touches: the little snowball fights that break out in Lions Arch, the snowmen that can be made around Tyria, the new crafting recipes, and the presents full of skritt and toys alike that can be found in very aspects of the game.  

ArenaNet took the time to make Wintersday extremely memorable.  I'm impressed, especially considering the huge, looming content patches coming in January in February.  No one can dare say they aren't working hard.  I'd like to see them add more permanent content to the game, which will hopefully be the main focuses of the next few patches. Even with more holiday content left, even with the small let down in the jumping puzzle and RNG minis, I have to say I am enjoying this holiday even more than Halloween.  

See you on the snowy battlefields!  If you see a snowball send you to your death from the shadows, it just might have been me!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wonderful Gifts of Wintersday

There were several nice reveals today for what's to come during Wintersday.

First there was a video featuring a new jumping puzzle, a massive mechanical golem blimp hovering over various racial cities, Toymaker Tixx, new towns clothing, and a wintery transformation of Lion's Arch.  All in all, it looks incredible.  I'm very excited for the new jumping puzzle, and I am practically begging that it be presented to us in a similar format as the Mad King's jumping puzzle.  I know many had problems with the format, but I personally loved it.  It provided hours of frustration, entertainment, and hilarity, and I think it provided a great sense of community to Guild Wars 2.  We will just have to wait and see though.

Secondly, there are some great quality of life changes occuring in WvW this patch.  While most of WvW changes will be happening in February, these small changes will greatly enhance the experience for most players.   Players will no longer be able to escape death by intentionally disconnecting or closing the game.  This has become a widespread problem in WvW, and I'm overjoyed to see the exploit be exposed for what it truly was.  A coward has no place in WvW.   There's also a feature added to WvW that will greatly aid realms who are severely losing on specific maps.  Essentially an event will start, which a raid-like boss will provide supply and siege weapons against the opposition and will lead the charge to begin aiding the realm's inhabitants to establish a foothold on the map.  When a map is being lost severely, it's very hard to regain momentum on the map, and is overall a fantastic change. I can however see this feature being easily exploited, and being too strong or even too weak, so I hope they have tested the numbers very thoroughly. There are some other relatively minor changes coming to WvW like annoucements, etc.

All information can be found here.

Lastly, the content page for Wintersday has been updated.  There seems to be a huge amount of events planned, and it's very nice to see ArenaNet learning from past mistakes. The final event will be featured over a relatively long period of time, so that all players can participate.  I'm really excited for the Wintersday weapon skins, and I am praying that they will be better than the Lost Shore Skins, which for me were really a bit of a letdown.  Eh, I'm neutral about towns clothing, but I understand that many roleplayers love it, so come what may.  As for me, I would like to be able to wear my clothing both in and out of battle.  I'm excited to see the variety of events lined up for each city over Wintersday, and once again, I am totally ready to tackle the new jumping puzzle.

All information can be found here.

All in all, it once again is lined up to be a great patch.  I'm just hoping that ArenaNet continues to learn from past mistakes, and makes this Wintersday one to really remember.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Odds and Ends

Guild Wars 2 has slowly drawn it's creeping tendrils into me, and I keep becoming more engrossed into the world of Tyria. I don't play too much, but I keep feeling these strange urges to keep returning.

1) I look fricken adorable.  No one can even deny that.

2) Every once in a great while, my brother proves useful.  He found an interesting little cave on the side of the Borderlands jumping puzzles.  Cats may be trying to take over Tyria....

3)  Every once in a while, the coincidences in life are just a little too creepy for my taste.  One of my best friends plays this game, and his name is Totes Ma Gotes, and is an engineer.  So imagine my surprise when I stumble on a friendly engineer on our server named Totes in WvW.  I asked him to pause and wave, and he dared to challenge my friend to a dual for sole claim to the title of "The Totes".

4) On a side note.  I had a blast on my server tonight in Eternal Battlegrounds.  I found a friendly guild of thieves, and we plunged ourselves into the jumping puzzle only to rape and pillage both of the other servers quite severely.  After we finished there, our realm accumulated 8-10 golems mostly through the donation of the guild USA and me.  We attempted to storm Stonemist, and we were halfway to breaking down the inner wall before we got massacred by a very angry pile of Blackgate invaders.  We may have failed, but it was still a blast.

5) And last but not least...stumbled upon this horribly dirty and profane image that had me chuckling far too hard.

Posted Image

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reddit AMA

We were lucky enough to have several ArenaNet developers, most notably Chris Whiteside, join us on Reddit for an Ask Me Anything session.

What I thought was rather striking was that a Reddit user accumulated some of the most commonly asked questions on the forums and placed them in one large post. The user really tried to keep things organized, and I think the community is rather thankful.  However, initially, ArenaNet seemed to ignore/refuse to answer any of the questions listed, and would rather answer questions from multiple people, and not just a single user. As time went on, Reddit users flocked in reply to say that the user was a voice for them all, and that they would be happy if ArenaNet would take the time to answer them.  Chris is slowly working his way through them as we speak, and some of the answers are quite interesting.

Some of the biggest highlights:

  • ArenaNet has admitted to making several mistakes in Ascended gear design
    • Information detailing their release should not have been told to us by third party sites
    • The idea of Ascended gear was meant to be included in release ("the concept of progression rewards with a shallow curve bridging other rewards was")
    • They were meant to be included in all aspects of the game upon release, and were never intended to be soley from Fractals of the Mists.  Additions to several other areas of the game are coming very soon.
  • ArenaNet anticipated the backlash they would suffer from the news release on Ascended gear
  • ArenaNet has clarified that they believe there has been no change in their initial philosophy
  • Vertical Progression is indeed in Guild Wars 2, however, it is not supposed to be a gear treadmill, but represent a "very low power curve"
  • Ascended gear is intended to be bought with "zero" or "minimal" grind.
  • One Time Event Timing (specifically for Oceanic players) was not thought out properly, and moving forward they will be rethinking it
  • A fix for Fractals is coming soon, specifically the fractionating of players amongst different levels
  • WvW Additions are coming in the "near future" including "progression, reward, and beacon mechanics"
  • Expect big improvements on "bugs" soon.
  • Expect several big additions to the Trading Post in the "not so distant future"
  • Asura Weapon Size is currently being evaluated
  • ArenaNet is looking for ways to make cities other than Lion's Arch more populated
  • They are being extremely careful on gating content, and are currently evaluating their future plans
  • ArenaNet does plan to build on Southshore Cove in the near future
My Opinions:

I'm extremely pleased to see ArenaNet admit their mistakes.  As a person who vocally wrote about each one of those points, I'm glad to see they will not be making these errors again going forward.  I'm rather skeptical that ArenaNet knew of the impending backlash, and still went through with allowing third party sites tell us of this massive, controversial change to the game. Furthermore, if you intended to include Ascended gear in all aspects of the game before they were added, what was the rush to add them during the Lost Isles patch? I'm happy to see quality of life changes to world population distribution, ascended gear being added to other parts of the game, elimination of bugs, FoTM grouping changes, WvW additions, Southshore Cove additions, and improvement of the trading post.  All are common sense improvements that should greatly help the game over the long-term.  I have also felt very bad for Oceanics who have not been able to join one time events, and I'm glad to see ArenaNet address them directly.  

However, my biggest WTF moment was when Chris stated that ArenaNet's philosophy on Ascended gear currently requires very little grind.  The Final stage of the Fractal Capacitor costs 2870 tokens....How is that no grind at the moment?  A full set of exotic gear costs me roughly 20 gold, how can you justify a single piece of Ascended gear costing several times that? There just seems to be a giant black hole between ArenaNet and a substantial portion of the community.  If Ascended gear had very little grind to achieve it, I'm not sure many of us would have been so against it.  Are we playing the same game right now? Even if ArenaNet plans to fix the amount Ascended gear costs, that fix will have to be carefully implemented and will most likely need to include a refund for players with the gear.  It's all rather complicated, convoluted  and not entirely well answered by ArenaNet.

Once again, I'm torn between two very different impressions of ArenaNet.  They seem to design somethings very well, and are extremely well thought-out, other times I'm just left scratching my head.