Trait-orous Fandom Scandal?

Dak here again, to provide my not-a-longtime-player-of-GW1 perspective on a big explodey thing that’s popped up.

It seems that Jon Peters’ blog post on how the new system of traits and attributes work has caused quite a stir among the… shall we say, powergamers?  Complaints about everything from the fee for respeccing to the fact you require Trainers to the trait lines themselves, and how mathematically speaking this system will make GW2 RUINED FOREVER.

Now… it seems like a lot of these complaints come from the view of having played the first game for a while, so can I just ask all the angry people to breathe calmly for a second while I explain my thoughts on it?

First, why the complaints about a respec fee, and going to Trainers?  From a game design perspective, small fees like this serve a two-fold purpose: Helping the game economy, and instilling a sense of worth to your build.  The first part is self-explanatory, but the second: If you can switch your traits at any time, with no repercussions, then do your trait selections really matter?  Who needs to think about it; just drop ‘em in wherever and don’t worry about it until you come up against something too strong.  Then you might as well just pump all those freely “respecc-able” points into whatever trait will maximize your usefulness against that particular mob, and then do it all over again on the next one.  But… we’ve kind of lost the “RP” part of the RPG there, and instead have adopted a ruthless “numbers killing numbers” game which happens to have pretty graphics.

Instead, the fee adds weight to your trait choices.  Is your Mesmer’s playstyle better suited to Dueling, with its high-spike criticals, or should you perhaps add that next point to Illusions, the better for Shattering effectively?  When you know that these choices are relevant, you’ll most likely end up playing smarter, and since you’ll have to live with those choices (unless they’re really not working for you, in which case that small fee probably won’t look so bad to rework it, eh?), you’ll learn how to use them more effectively and you’ll end up playing better, too.

Going to Trainers is, speaking design, another way of controlling respeccing so that there’s further weight to your choices, but I look at it more from a story perspective.  GW2 is a very heavily story-oriented game, so from a plot perspective what makes more sense: Magically getting better at something right when it’s convenient, or going to a master to learn a new fighting style in a time of extreme need?  Since GW2 is by all evidence a well-written story, I think we all know the answer to that.

And the traitorous trait lines themselves?  Clearly there won’t be one particular trait that makes the most effective Guardian across the board; if there is, it’s a balance issue that will need fixing.  The traits are so that, like your well-adjusted face and build, your personal backstory, your highly customized armor, even how you fight can be uniquely tuned to how you want to play the game.  Don’t believe that impression?  Play around with the trait calculator for a bit and see how you feel about the system.

So just… don’t freak out over something you haven’t had a chance to play yet.  If you get into the beta, then you can freak out (you just can’t tell anyone).  Until we’ve gotten to play, let’s just not assume the worst yet.

Gah, “trait” no longer looks like a real word…

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16 thoughts on “Trait-orous Fandom Scandal?

  1. ” But… we’ve kind of lost the “RP” part of the RPG there, and instead have adopted a ruthless “numbers killing numbers” game which happens to have pretty graphics.”

    This! This just nails it!

    Imho people are just scared that it’ll end like WoW’s endgame number-bitching. I never cared too much about those and still got through every content. Just because certain things are on a forum doesn’t make them almighty. Find out what suits you the best and make it work!

  2. There is a complaint that GW was well served by free respecs and people don’t want that changed. Now, this is hard to be sure of until we play GW2 and see what the situation is like, but the fact here is that GW had a bit of a mess of a skill system what with all the varieties of skills and secondary profession combos that became such a headache for Arena that it became one of the main causes of them dumping GW and starting GW2 instead. In that environment you sure as heck need free respecs because constant experimentation is almost mandatory at high level play and it is far too easy for people to get stuck in a worthless combination.

    That didn’t make free respeccing innately desirable; it made it necessary in that context. Hopefully GW 2 is different there. The most important thing, though, is that you don’t get trapped at level 70 by some half-informed decision you made at level 5, or some equivalent. If the respeccing fee is reasonable, then all is good.

    I also understand there is a training area where you can test specs at will.

    • You can play around with it in the Mists, yeah.

      And really, as far as I can tell, it only applies to traits anyway…you can still fiddle around with skills to your heart’s content, whenever you wish.

      We both just think that people are making too big a deal of things…as usual.

  3. Well done, well said sir.

    In addition to the many fine points made here in the OP, there is also the consideration of “unique identity” and “growing attached” to a specific character from a RP viewpoint. Systems like what RIFT uses with their Souls are simultaneously, an effort to put a band-aid on the open wound that a trinity-based class system automatically comes with, and also represents the introduction of a “new” problem in that, the players becoming so distanced and dis-associated with their characters that no emotional bond is formed – no sense of identity is developed.

    I’ve lost track of the number of occasions when I’ve heard a player complaining about the lack of “connection” they felt with their character in RIFT, often while simultaneously praising the flexibility of their Soul system.

    There was also an excellent point made by Vorsaken over on the KTR site

    http://www.killtenrats.com/2012/02/29/gw2-stolen-thoughts-of-the-day-on-traits/#comment-75458

    that I agree with whole heartedly, since I’m also prone to “min/maxing” builds and strategies to some extent.

    ArenaNet are not telling us we’re “stuck” with whatever choices we make… they are just encouraging us to give some careful consideration before making those choices and applying a small “d’oh! tax” for folks who go with the “ready, fire, aim” method of character development.

    And they have provided a “worry free” area for experimentation in the PvP lobby, where re-spec is free, and convienent, and can be done at level 80 so you can see how it really turns out. For those folks who are agonizing over the decisions, they can just pop into the lobby and satisfy all curiousity there, prior to making “slightly” more permanent decisions on their PvE character build.

    • I just forgot to add that I thought Jon Peters did an outstanding job on the blog post, and I really enjoyed reading it … and re-reading it … and… man! I really can’t wait to get my hands on this game, and more details on it’s systems! This is like the anticipation of every childhood Christmas rolled into one for me!

  4. Excellent post. I’d just like to add that the people wailing and gnashing their teeth over not being able to re-spec whenever and wherever they want are ignoring something: namely, it’s not even something you can do in the original Guild Wars! You can’t change your skills in an explorable area, only in towns and outposts.
    Frankly, the only appreciable difference that I can see between that and the GW2 system is the fee, which will likely be nominal. Another reason for people not to freak out, if they needed another.

  5. Pingback: gamersPrivateClub.com » Blog Archive » [GW2] Stolen Thoughts of the Day on Traits

  6. As one of those who totally flipped out when I first read about “fees” and having to go back to the city…

    After looking at it, it’s a pretty cool system.

    I do want to point out one thing though, it appears from videos we can change Major Traits on the fly. Which makes me happy, but might make for some in-game tweaking annoying to some.

    (look at my blog for links to video)

  7. Pingback: [GW2] Stolen Thoughts of the Day on Traits | Kill Ten Rats

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  9. “If you can switch your traits at any time, with no repercussions, then do your trait selections really matter?”

    Does your weapon choice really matter? Does your slot skill choices really matter? You can change those anytime out of combat. Why are trait points different?

    Please answer this. Thank you.

    • I’d say they matter far more than your traits do, since those are what you’re directly using at any given point in time, and most people aren’t going to have every single weapon set available to them (instead maybe two or three tops) because you can’t just pick up every weapon and instantly have every skill unlocked for it, and everyone’s going to find a couple styles they like best.

      Same with your utility skills – you don’t just instantly have them all, you have to work to unlock them. Most people will not have all for quite some time, most likely, so you have to decide what you like best when spending your skill points.

      Elisabeth pointed out on twitter yesterday that in GW1, the fee for changing your attributes (your traits, as it would be now), was leaving the instance and losing all of your progress. Now you don’t have that anymore – even with dungeons, so long as one person stays everyone else can leave to respec if they really want. I’d say a small handful of coins is a way smaller fee than having to restart what you were doing because what you chose wasn’t working; and ultimately I don’t see a poor trait selection being as much of a hindrance as a poor weapon combo or utility skill selection anyway.

      • You don’t get all your trait points at once either, so how does not getting all your weapons or slot skill instantly bear on this?

        And yes, weapons and slot skills do matter more then traits. I am just pointing out the inconsistency, which people can’t seem to acknowledge. I do not believe the “permanency” argument for this reason.

        In the end, I don’t think the trait point thing is going to matter that much. But it still seems to go against the philosophy of the rest of the game.

        And most of all, I don’t see what the problem would be if we could respec traits without going back to town. We do it with everything else, so why not? It would be out of combat.

  10. “If you can switch your traits at any time, with no repercussions, then do your trait selections really matter?”

    Well, make that not any time, only in outposts, and it matters. You’ll need to pick a good choice of skills and traits for the mission you’re about to run. To this day I’m a little awestruck at the obvious rightness of this idea, which is how GW1 does it.

    You talk a lot about ‘a connection to a character’, but really, all I experience from systems that emphasize permanence in character building is annoyance and stress. If I want a try a new playstyle for a while, it’ll cost me, and then if I want to change again, it’ll cost me again. I don’t want to spend my gaming time stressing about making choices that I’ll regret later.

    I don’t care about feeling a connection to my character. I never felt that in WoW either. (I got it in CoH a little, but that was all about the appearance and backstory options.) All my characters represent to me are the rights to play certain playstyles in certain areas/missions, which I’d rather not have to spend hours grinding for in the first place. My Warrior is my ticket to play Warrior in any mission, and I don’t require that I be tied to ‘but only Strength/Swords unless I buy a respec’ in order to feel like he’s my special friend or something. Just let me pick a mission, a profession, a build, and let me play. The game can insert whatever character graphics and name it wants, I don’t care, the fun is in building the skills and attributes for each run and playing it.

    • Heh. Correction, whoever talked about ‘connections to characters’ evidently wasn’t you, I was conflating you with other writers I’ve seen. Apologies. Pick and choose what you feel applies to you.

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