Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dismal Science : Trolling the Theorycrafters

I can nearly imagine the entire conversation at ArenaNet when they were discussing changes to put in for BWE2.

According to my best ability to make things up that sound half-reasonable, it probably went something like this....

"Hey everybody, welcome to our planning meeting for BWE2!"
"Hi, Colin!"
"So, first thing on the agenda. Our players think they've got our combat system figured out."
*group laughter*
"What can we do to completely ruin everything they thought about everything?"
"Let's add tiers to traits, so that you can only put certain traits in certain slots!"
"Brilliant! Any more suggestions?"
"Let's add tiers to skills, so that you can't just purchase the skills you want right out of character creation!"
"BRILLIANT! Any more suggestions?
"Oh, I know! Lets change all the traits too! That way, all of their old builds will be completely ruined and they'll have to figure everything out all over again!"
*group laughter*
"And that's why they pay us the big bucks. Take five everyone."


So. In case you haven't heard, ArenaNet has decided that traits and skills needed a major overhaul. And by major, I mean "partial-apocalypse." Thus far, we know from the press beta weekend that this includes as least three major components.

1. Skills now exist in tiers. From what we've seen, it looks like there are three tiers of utility skills and that you will be required to purchase at least 5 skills per tier to begin to access skills on the next tier. It appears that skills have been sorted according to "power" along these tiers, with advanced skills like "Summon Flesh Wurm" and "Spectral Walk" being moved into higher tiers.

Necromancer Utility Skill Tiers
2. Traits now exist in tiers, meaning that more powerful traits have been fixed into certain blocks. Essentially, you can no longer go 10 points into a tree to pick up the most powerful trait.

Necromancer Trait Line Tiers
3. Traits have been massively re-worked. Everything has been nerfed, everything has been buffed. Every build you thought you were going to use no longer exists, welcome to a brave new world, all over again.
New Traits

Thought #1- New traits? Yes, please, thank you. A lot of the old traits were lackluster, at best. By lackluster, I mean terrible. Seriously, who thought up "Toxic Landing"? Whenever I take falling damage, the first thing that runs through my mind is, "Wow, I really wish that I was summoning a cloud of poison right now." I mean, I'm not the only one who's had that thought, right? Right? Right? Oh, wait. In reality, a lot of the previous traits, for most professions, were of marginal value at best. A serious overhaul to make traits a choice between lots of great options, rather than choosing the least bad ones, would definitely be welcome.
Thought #2- New traits? Butbutbut, I liked my old ones. Really, this means that any builds that we've put time or work into are essentially obsolete, for better or for worse. A lot of people have been decrying the weakness of Minion Master builds for a while now, maybe this overhaul might give them a lease on life. Still, if they take my conditionmancer traits, I will be one sad Charr.
Thought #3- So, now I have to spend skill points on a lot of skills that I don't want to work myself up to the ones that I do? Gee, thanks.
Thought #4- I can see how adding tiers to skill points will increase the depth of PvE. When I PvE'd on the previous BWE, I simply made sure to get enough skill points to buy the skills that I wanted, and then left them on my bar. This way, as you grow and level up, there will be a more tangible sense of progression. I can definitely understand ArenaNet on this one.

Still, we'll really have to wait until Friday to see what ArenaNet has cooked up for us. Until then, we'll just have to hold our collective breath.

(Source: http://www.arena.net/blog/the-big-beta-weekend-preview)


  1. Replies
    1. I know I shouldn't complain, it IS beta. But still. *sigh*


  2. I already ranted about this here:

    but essentially, "YES" to everything in this OP, and I would just like to add, "WTF ArenaNet?"

    Bottom line:
    The skill systems discourage the creation of alts. It’s a matter of degree… it discourages everyone, but the tolerance level of some folks is higher than others. Some folks will still persevere with the creation of multiple characters, but everyone is discouraged from doing so to some degree.
    They seem to be suggesting (not unlike every other developer out there) that they are tuning to the lowest common denominator. Some folks are so hopelessly inhibited and/or stupid that they are feeling “overwhelmed” by so much choice and creativity, so we’re introducing the tiered structure to reduce the choice and creativity available so that these retards will feel a bit more comfortable. Gee… thanx for that…
    “It encourages them to experiment with different skills as they increase in power…”
    It encourages players to race to max level as quickly as possible in the stereotypical speedleveling/ignoreimmersion&content/gettolevelcapRIGHTNOW fashion so they can by pass your ridiculous restrictions on their ability to build the type of character THEY want to play – as opposed to the type of character YOU think they should be trying/experimenting with.
    It saddens me that I even have to say something like this, but I really still like this game. The art direction, character archetypes, structure of PvE and PvP styles of play, and many, many other facets of the game are what I’ve been craving from an MMO for a very long time.
    However, the design choices they are making with their skill systems are depressingly piss-poor and are simultaneously stunting both creativity and replayability in the game.
    Of course everyone will adapt to this… eventually, given enough time, folks can adjust their expectations to almost anything, no matter how unpleasant or disappointing it is. However, I will personally never forget that at one point in time, this part of the game was on a much better course, enabling and encouraging creativity, and steering away from the stereotypical race to level cap.
    It’s 2+2=4 folks…
    If you lock options and player choices behind higher/max levels in a game, then players WILL race to those max levels in the fastest ways possible… and in the process, much of the beautiful content you’ve designed will simply be missed, a casualty of this hideously stupid design choice.