Tangled Paths and Eternal Fears

Well, that sure was an update wasn’t it? I laughed, I cried, I remembered that the Pale Tree and I are already on excellent speaking terms, and there’s no reason why I should have to wait two weeks to have an audience with her! But most of all, I was intrigued by the news found in this update, and some bits in particular have my mind absolutely spinning with possible implications. And so, it’s time for another installment of Dak’s Overly-Deep Analysis Corner!

But let’s back up – Just to be safe, this post will be rife with spoilers. If you haven’t played through Entanglement yet, stop reading, go play and see it all for yourself, then come back and read this. We good? All back? Sitting comfortably? Let’s go!

So, the more easily understood big plot point first: The thorn-covered vine tendrils we’ve been seeing aren’t simply signs of Mordremoth’s corruption – they are Mordremoth. Physically, they are connected to the newly-awoken dragon, and since the end of last season, it’s been quite literally extending his reach across Tyria.

And that reach is the first point of my speculation. Just how far has Mordremoth extended his planty grasp? Luckily, as the Dragons are attracted to magic, we have a handy indicator of Mordy’s current range: the waypoints it’s been prodding at, entangling, and sapping of energy. These waypoints have been found from Brisban and Kessex, along the edge of the Sea of Sorrows to LA and Bloodtide, all the way out to Timberline.

Don't mind me, just poking this floating rock!

Don’t mind me, just poking this floating rock!

There’s a couple neat points here. First, with the exception of Brisban (which has proximity to the Maguuma Jungles) every one of those areas has been subject to Risen. Which may relate to something that’s intrigued me since the early days of the game: Dragon minions stay out of each other’s way. It has always been status quo that Ascalon belongs to the Branded, the Shiverpeaks are Icebrood, and the coasts of the Sea of Sorrows, belonging to Maguuma, Kryta, the Steamspurs, and Orr itself are the domain of the Risen. The only oddity are the Destroyers, who pop up where they will, but they only make things more interesting, because in the areas that they do emerge (Kessex, Maelstrom), they still avoid the Risen. It seems that in some capacity, the Dragons, while not necessarily allies, follow a sort of standing boundary where they’ve split up Tyria, but don’t bother each other.

Which is why it’s interesting that Mordremoth seems to have, in some way, laid claim to zones previously “belonging” to the now-eradicated Zhaitan. Is it, somehow, aware of what’s happened to Zhaitan, and now stepping in to pick up the pieces? We still don’t know much about how the Dragons think, but it’s certainly possibly from what we’ve seen.

Second neat point is, look at the map. Dry Top, Brisban, Kessex, LA, Bloodtide, Timberline. It describes a rather clear arch, following the coast of the Sea. It’s not random, we know, because now we understand the ley lines, and the waypoints that exist were placed atop strong ley line nexuses. Fort Salma and Fort Concordia both harbored strong magical objects, and were subsequently overgrown with Mordremoth’s vines. The vines in Dry Top are around the Zephyrite crash site, where the ground is now scattered with Glint crystals, even more magical objects. Taken all together, I believe that Mordremoth’s vines are following the ley lines underground, surfacing where they detect strong magical energies directly above. If the Breachmaker woke the dragon by tapping into the nexus beneath LA, it seems Mordremoth has followed that same line back, and is branching from there for unknown reasons. The question now is… will the Dragon reach north, deeper into Kryta? Or will it loop south, into Orr, now free of any more than the lingering influence of its dead kin?

Mordrem Path

The vine path of harassed waypoints, from Dry Top to Timberline.

But wait – there’s more. At the very end of Entanglement, we see what Scarlet saw – a vision of the Eternal Alchemy. A symbol that we’ve been told represents the Pale Tree leads us into seeing a collection of globes similar to orreries, or spherical astrolabes. The center, largest sphere, according to the books in Scarlet’s hideout, represents Tyria. Arrayed around it are six smaller orbs in various colors. We see them spin, and then the green orb slams into the center, seeming to consume it as we hear a low snarling. This is what Scarlet saw, what pushed her to insanity! But… what does it mean?

This part is obvious; note the colors of the arrayed orbs. The choice of colors is far too exact to be coincidence, they represent the Dragons. Six Dragons, six orbs, surrounding the world of Tyria. What is interesting is the placement.

Can I have one for my living room?

…can I have one for my living room? V: Uhh, where would we PUT it?!

The Eternal Alchemy, as understood by the asura, is the equation by which the world is balanced. It is a massive mechanism, a machine, by which existence turns, inexorable. It’s a system of balance. The concept of a balanced system of existence isn’t a new one; world mythology has the idea in spades, with opposite elements or beings perpetually in… not so much combat, but opposition that keeps both sides in check. In the array we see here, the bright green orb – Mordremoth – is directly across from… a dull, grey/green-and-black orb, which by process of elimination must represent Zhaitan. And speaking of elimination, we sure managed that, didn’t we?

Which brings me to my point on this vision: I think we made a huge mistake, one we could have never known we were making! We destroyed Zhaitan, throwing the Eternal Alchemy out of balance, and leaving Mordremoth unopposed, perfectly poised to consume all of Tyria. And Scarlet found that out. She knew the Dragons consumed magic, and she discovered the Cavern of the Shining Lights, a powerful ley line nexus. In her own mad way, she confirmed her theories across Tyria, and then occupied Lion’s Arch, where she could use the ley lines to strike Mordremoth directly. But was her intention to cause the vision… or prevent it? Was it, perhaps, all a ploy to force the Pact to rally against Mordremoth specifically, so that we could eliminate it before the imbalance destroys Tyria? Why would she wake it early? Perhaps it was a desperate act; can you imagine how utterly lost we’d have been if the Pact were fighting, say, Jormag, focusing their efforts elsewhere while Mordremoth awoke and took control unopposed? Or perhaps even with Mordremoth slumbering, simply leaving one side of the balance intact would have had untold effects on the world.

This all remains pure speculation on my part… but I believe the pieces are there. Are we now in a race against time, to stop a Dragon we accidentally aided? Perhaps we’ll find out… you know, in two weeks. When the Pale Tree can fit us into her schedule.

 

EDIT: Aaand we’ve found another vine-harassed waypoint, this one in Lornar’s Pass, Guutra’s Homestead!  This new waypoint follows the arc I drew out, and alleviates a concern I had about the vines skipping from northern Bloodtide to Timberline!  (Interestingly, the Cascade Bridge Waypoint north of it is vine-free, but flickering…) If any of you find a waypoint I’ve not mentioned, please comment and let me know.  I’m keen to map this phenomenon accurately.

Living World Season 2!

Hello hello, Dak here.

So, what an exciting time for Tyria now, eh?  We’ve vanquished Scarlet, for better or worse, we’re chilling at the Labyrinthine Cliffs or the Crown Pavilion in celebration, and recovering before our next grand adventure.  And yesterday, in our launcher, we got the official announcement that Season 2 of the Living World will begin July 1st, as well as this image:

Image

But just a moment here, let’s actually look at this image.  It’s time for Dak’s Overly-Deep Analysis Corner!

The image is something we all know, that good ol’ glowing gateway between adjacent zones.  Where is it, though?

Remember after the Battle for Lion’s Arch, when we relaxed with the gang in the Dead End bar?  Jory’s sister Belinda, one of the Seraph, mentioned that she was to be sent on a long expedition to Brisban Wildlands, going after rumors of some black market traders hiding out there.

We know that Mordremoth is somewhere in the west of Maguuma… good bets right now are Magus Falls in the south, or the Wastes to the north.  And for those of you who were playing 250 years ago, how would you get to those areas, from the areas that are now Brisban?

gw1gw2hengemap

Why, from the Henge of Denravi and Aurora Glade!  These two areas, quite close to each other, now lie in what is called Toxal Bog, in Brisban’s southwest corner.  And wouldn’t you know it, the light quality, walls, ground, and trees are all eerily like the portal seen in the Season 2 promotional image.

Some areas that look likely - light quality, ground, and large trees near walls all match the teaser image.

Some areas that look likely – light quality, ground, and large trees near walls all match the teaser image. Be sure to click the image to see them larger and in better detail!

So, taken all together… what does that image really say about Season 2?  I think it says we’re taking the fight to Mordremoth.   Every previous dragon’s awakening has been followed by a massive catastrophe.  I think it says Season 2 will be a season of adventure, pushing deeper into those dense jungles, as we seek to end Mordremoth before even more destruction is wrought on our world.  I think Season 2 will add brand new zones, one by one, as we search for the newest Elder Dragon.  Perhaps we’ll travel through some old familiar lands… does Ventari’s Refuge still stand, two and a half centuries later?  Is Quarrel Falls still as beautiful as the scenic outpost that amazed adventurers in the distant past?

Soon, perhaps we’ll see.  And I think I’m excited for what awaits.

Edit, 6/3/2014:

With today’s patch, there’s a curious thing visible on the map now…what appears to be a new path leading to a new zone from Brisban Wildlands. In particular, in the Toxal Bog. To be really specific, it’s located where the top-right screenshot posted above is, and it looks like it leads into (what was) Dry Top.

Looks like our speculation was very close to the mark…

Location of the new path leading out of Brisban.

Location of the new path leading out of Brisban.

A Year of Guild Wars 2!

So, Guild Wars 2 just turned a year old, and as that landmark passes, it’s neat to reflect on the game, how it’s changed, and how it’s changed me as I play it.

I started as, frankly, a very casual player of MMOs.  My interests lie more in the direction of action/adventure than… well… bothering with other people.  I’d dabbled in WoW and TOR with friends, but there were a great many issues with the very core of the gameplay that kept the genre from really grabbing me.  However, the very little bit (only a few days really) of Guild Wars that I had played felt different, different enough for me to take interest in the prospect of Guild Wars 2.

Dragons  The dragons helped.

As the game loomed closer, I planned out my characters.  My main would be an Elementalist asura named Zott who primarily used lightning, and I would try a norn Ranger.  A charr Warrior and a sylvari Necromancer would follow.  I decided to add a human, in the interest of rounding out the races, and figured this throwaway character without a planned name would be a Thief.

Headstart opened, I furiously created all my characters to secure their names, and that unassuming Thief got an old standby, Rhys, and a spur-of-the-moment surname, Elmbrier.  He’d be something to turn to when I wanted a break from the ones I actually cared about.  Just to play around and relax.

Long story short, 12 months later Rhys is my only level 80, and that first asura, norn, and sylvari are no more.

RhysProgressIt’s been a long road, Rhys.

My girlfriend told me to join her guild, which I was fine with being a part of as long as I didn’t have to interact with the other guild members.  I’m not very social, and with my prior MMO experiences I had no intention of dealing with a bunch of jerkish, game-obsessed twits.

TWITsLittle did I know…

Yeah, that changed too.  She coaxed me onto Vent with them, and after my initial shyness, I consider my guildmates some of my best friends.  Meeting up with a bunch of them at PAX East this year was an amazing experience, and it sounds really sappy when I say it like this, but Guild Wars 2 did in fact change my life.

For the game itself, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the outset, but previous experience suggested a massive world with things of interest stretched out a great distance from each other.  GW2 quickly showed me I was wrong on that count: It was in fact a massive world with things of interest so densely packed that it’s a wonder the zones weren’t bursting at the seams.  Every crossroad, every hill, every half-hidden cave entrance promised – and delivered – something new, interesting, and rewarding to find.  I fell in love with exploring Tyria, and even with my dedication to discovery, I only achieved map completion a couple weeks ago.

Of course, map completion was part of the greatest lunacy I’ve committed in this game: The forging of a Legendary weapon.  Me, a casual player who despised grind, slowly but surely working toward creating an item that takes hours and hours of dedicated effort and so many hundreds of bits of defeated animals.  I’ve got a long way to go – apparently I’m about 27% done – but I will have my Quip eventually.

And how has the game itself fared?  In my opinion, it’s only gotten better and better.  Southsun was a good idea with imperfect execution, but now that the living story updates are chugging along reliably, Clockwork Chaos is my favorite event to date.  The world really does feel alive, and it really does feel like we players are affecting it.  Tyria is huge, but I only want more.  I’m looking at you, Deldrimor Front…

As someone who didn’t know what to expect a year ago, and was blown away by what I found, I can only say that I’m eagerly looking forward to what will come from the second year of Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 Launch Event – September 1st!

Just a real quick note – ArenaNet is holding several launch events in five cities across the US on September 1st, with employees present to sign all your GW2 memorabilia, giveaways for both physical and in-game items, and a raffle at each event for a Collector’s Edition!
Since no event was hosted near Verene (very sadly, I might add) I’ll be headed to the Austin event myself!  Expect pictures, and if any readers are going to the same event it would be awesome to meet and chat.

Some simply shiny sentences showing skritt sentiment.

Dak here, with an in-depth look into one of my surprise favorite elements of the game.

So I briefly mentioned the skritt in my last post talking about the asura.  Now, I’ll be… not so brief.

The skritt are a ratlike race who, along with the asura, were originally living in the depths of Tyria but were driven upward by Primordus and the Destroyers.  They are opportunists, but not scavengers – rather than dig through your garbage, they’ll mooch off you instead; doing their best to convince you you don’t really need that neat shoulderpad, or if your backpack is really heavy they’ll be happy to relieve you of any unnecessary items.  They’re also exceptionally curious, so if they get their paws on an unknown device, they’ll eventually sort out how it works and why.

Now, what makes the skritt so interesting?  They communicate in a high-pitched, almost inaudible chittering, through which they can relay a vast amount of information in a very short time.  While a single skritt is only capable of basic tasks and survival skills, through this chittering a group of skritt can work together to solve a problem.  The larger the group, the more complex the tasks it can tackle.  While a single skritt is rather dim, a big enough group could potentially rival an asura in intelligence.

Over the beta weekend, the skritt were available for interaction at last.  I first encountered them in a fort just south of Artergon Woods: a pair who had been trained for the simple task of guarding supplies.  I was instantly enchanted when I heard them concentrating so hard on guarding that they were, in fact, saying “Guarding.  Guarding guarding!” back and forth to one another.  My amusement was interrupted by a sudden hylek attack on the fort, which a group of players and I managed to repel. (one thing to point out, I love how whenever an event begins, a group of players seem to materialize from nowhere to join in and make the event more… eventful).  The invaders successfully routed, the Lionguard commander in charge of the fort decided it was high time to take the fight to the hylek and regain their stolen items, and sent a single skritt named Rikkiti to a Lionguard assault force near the hylek village.  The event is then to escort her as she runs the message to attack.

Rikkiti started out dutifully enough, but soon was distracted by the much more interesting moa nests by the side of the road. “Stuff stuff stuff!” came her shrill cry, until an angry moa (which we swiftly subdued) scared her off and she fled back to the path.

Imagine, if you will, the sight of some 20 people of all races chasing after an eager, innocent skritt as she quite accidentally attracts the ire of a giant grubs, a golem, disgruntled krewemembers, hungry raptors, and a full pack of apparently teleporting jaguars, with shouts of “Ooh, shi-hi-hinyyy!” and “What’s that!” It was quite the unexpected quest, and a ton of fun centered on a surprisingly endearing individual.

“Sheriff want shinies back. Rikkiti get shinies!  Teach hyleks stealing bad.”
“And did our ineffectual sheriff offer any thought on how precisely we might accomplish that?”
“Yes… no… what?”
“(sigh)Sheriff say how we get shinies back?”
“Oooh.  Deputy talk like Rikkiti stupid! Rikkiti not stupid!”

All the more surprising was when we reached her destination, and it flowed smoothly into a more traditional event: Destroy the hylek village and essentially burn -everything-.

Rikkiti joined us for that, too, and soon she had gathered all the “shinies” from the decimated village and returned to the fort while we taught the hylek chieftain that stealing was bad.

That event chain left a great effect on me, and I was delighted when I moved north into the Brisban Wildlands and found that there was, in fact, a massive skritt city called Skrittsburgh dug deep into a mountain.  While none of the skritt there were as singularly endearing as Rikkiti, it was interesting in another way: With so many in close proximity, these skritt were, in fact, more intelligent.  They were able to speak about more complex ideas and offer rewards for tasks, and as I delved deeper I found among their piles of hoarded items full, working tailoring and smithing stations.  Only a short way away there were even shops run by entrepreneurial skritt.  In the deepest reaches of Skrittsburgh, skritt soldiers held back encroaching Destroyers from underground.  It was a full, living city, and the race isn’t even a main one!  Kudos to Anet for this sort of dedication and the masterful way in which they fully realized this concept.

While I’m looking forward to the entirety of the game, when we hit launch I’ll be putting aside time to spend with the skritt, whether it’s helping them defend what they’ve rightfully stolen, or just chuckling at their more innocent antics.

Gotta give credit, that is pretty accurate.
…hey! – V

Dak’s Beta Weekend!

Time for my take on the final Beta Weekend!

While Verene spent almost the entire weekend as a sylvari, I immersed myself in the much-anticipated experience of the diminuative asura.  Through what I believe to be a combination of factors, this weekend was a marked improvement over the previous two, and the coming weeks will prove a most grating ordeal of impatience indeed.

Dashing, isn't he?

My character of choice this time around was Zott, a dignified asuran Elementalist from the College of Synergetics, with a particular affinity for the lightning strikes of Air attunement.  His first invention was the Infinity Ball, a remarkable device that predicts the future (and so what if it doesn’t predict it correctly every time?).

The asura experience begins with a call for aid in pacifying malfunctioning golems (not yours, of course), which introduces you to the Inquest.  The Inquest is a sort-of krewe, who believe ethics only get in the way of scientific progress, and without them the true nature of the Eternal Alchemy can be unlocked and so enable them to run the world like a massive machine.  During my beta play, this usually manifested itself in experiments fusing asura with their golems, whether the asura in question really wanted it or not.

The asura as a race are absolutely unique, and my new favorite.  The info we’d gotten from the team in the past always seemed to paint them as rather serious, almost dour scientists, studying the world yet aloof from it.  In actual play, this is far from the truth, and the asura don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as the other races think.  For instance, the first area, Metrica Province, contains a school full of asura children (called progeny).  As you walk by, you hear many bits of childish chatter, and one part that stood out to me was the “your mom” jokes.  Oh yes:

“Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks norn cows go ‘moot’!”
“Well your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks ‘elemental’ is four letters in the middle of the alphabet!”
“…Seriously though, your mom is really smart.”
“Yeah, yours too.”

It was a heartwarming, adorable moment that really cemented the asura as a living race for me.
Other notable looks into asura-based humor included “STA/B-0 the Super Golem,” and another golem labeled “OVR-9000.”

The asura themselves seem to slip and then stumblingly recover their aura of dignity in conversation.  And if you look hard enough, you’ll find individuals who just really, really like bunnies.

Open-ended research could mean a lot of things...

Not so above it all, eh Zojja?

The asura starter area, Metrica Province, showcased the refinement of challenge as we inch closer to full release.  Events did an excellent job of guiding you around the area, keeping your experience gained about equal with your level needed for the next zone you were led into, giving the entire area a very dynamic feeling of organic growth.  The next thing you see is always a fun challenge, but never too difficult to take on.  It felt very good and I applaud them for that careful balance.  It also looks absolutely beautiful, and is filled with plenty of neat things to look at and do (oh Vistas, how I adore thee).  It’s great seeing how much the asura have built up in the last 250 years.  The events to be found were all very fun, and granted a new look at the hylek and the skritt (I will have to write a separate post on my beloved skritt).

My personal story was also a kick, dealing with unfusing golems and, eventually, a new application for my old Infinity Ball that, long story short, led to meeting myself as an evil overlord from another dimension’s future.  Talk about your fun cliches!  Every step was well-executed, and it left me eager for more when the game launches for real.

Actually sitting on top of a giant arch.  About 200 asura high.

Waiting…

38 Studios goes under, but the industry response is encouraging.

So 38 Studios announced a company-wide layoff today, and the closing of Big Huge Games, due to financial troubles.  For those who don’t know, 38 Studios was a promising company founded by MLB pitcher Kurt Schilling, due to his passion for MMORPGs.  They released Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning back in February, but unfortunately, it didn’t sell well enough to recoup the costs, and the sad result is before us now.

However, there is a glimmer of something that I want to focus on.  Following the announcements, 38 Studios was flooded on Twitter by other studios saying “by the way, we’re hiring.”  As sad as it is to see a studio go down, times like this remind me why I love the video games industry.  This list was compiled voluntarily for the employees, and includes over a hundred currently-hiring studios, from the huge names like Microsoft, Ubisoft, Blizzard, to medium ones like our beloved ArenaNet, to tiny studios like High Voltage.

If you don’t know, the video game industry can be rough.  Really rough.  Getting in to begin with almost requires you to already have studio experience, and even with that, you’d better be good at networking.  Once you’re a part of the industry, employees tend to be shuffled from position to position, game to game, studio to studio like so many playing cards, and as today reminds us you never know when an entire project will be canned and you’ll have to find someplace else.

So it’s amazing, truly amazing and heartwarming, to see the studio outreach today.  I just wanted to point that out, and give proper honor to you great guys and girls in great studios reaching out to help a colleague in a bind.  Thank you for your work and your humanity.

Everyone from 38 Studios, I wish you luck.  I think you’ll all be just fine.

Who am I? (Another Tale)

Dak again, to join in the GuildMag character diversity blog carnival!  This is written from the second person perspective, as speaking to one of my planned characters, since I couldn’t resist a chance to hear him speak myself.

Well, all of the stories, really.

Ah, hello!  Come, join me at the bar, my friend.  The stoutest ale for the both of us.

You seem new to these parts, so allow me to welcome you to Hoelbrak, my home and the home of many norn, when we’re not testing ourselves against the wilds.

Myself?  I am Arrun the Chronicler, son of Asgeir the Iron-Maul.  Norn are people of great deeds, and we achieve immortality by performing feats none other can.  When our tales have passed into legend, retold night after night by a raging fire, then we become eternal!  And I have taken it upon myself to gather those stories, catalog the greatest epics the world has to offer, then tell them wherever I go.  When my tradition is spread through the norn nation, then I, too, will be legendary, the Great Chronicler!

Ahhh… a wondrous draught if ever I tasted one.  Of course, I wouldn’t be much of a norn if I couldn’t handle myself!  I am a ranger, as fleet of foot as my arrows take to the air.  But in my mind, the most important quality of the greatest of heroes is cunning.  Only with guile can you outwit your enemy, or your prey, with truly legendary style.  Mental prowess keeps a hunter like me one step ahead.

For the most part, anyway.  We all have our lapses, and, well… at a recent moot, I had a bit too much to drink, and wagered a family heirloom on a test of strength… I lost.  But we norn are ever optimistic, and when I meet him again I will get it back somehow!

I know this because Snow Leopard, one of our Spirits of the Wild, spoke to me when I was but a cub.  She teaches us strategy, stealth, independence, and how to laugh when danger looms.  Her wisdom has guided me since, and I know she has great intentions in store for me.  She has even sent me a snow leopard pet to aid my life’s journey, and its grace and stealth is ever an inspiration for me to act in kind.

Tomorrow I will go to the Wayfarer Foothills, and visit the shrines to the Spirits of the Wild there before heading to the Great Hunt with Eir Stegalkin and Knut Whitebear.  I’ve had a feeling that my life will soon change, and I intend to throw myself into it headlong.

I am Arrun the Chronicler, and in collecting the stories of many I will create a story all my own.

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…

In a World… vs. World!

Hello, Dak here, Verene’s boyfriend!  I’m doing a guest post here, after the recent announcement detailing GW2’s World vs. World (WvW) mode.

First, some background.  I’m not an expert on GW1, having played it little and relatively recently, though I’ve enjoyed what I have played.  I have a grip on how the various classes are played, but I don’t have all the best skill sets memorized or anything like that.  So this is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t really played GW, which should give a refreshing point of view from the rest of us who are merely waiting to be fanatics.

Second, I haven’t touched GW1’s PvP, at all.  While I like how GW handles PvP from a design perspective, beating up other people in a hectic battle isn’t my cup of tea.  I haven’t played PvP in other MMOs either, and as far as the other genres go… same deal, not a fan of deathmatches, capture the flag, and the like (the sole exception being Assassin’s Creed, for myriad reasons that are not the point of this post).

So what’s my view on GW2’s WvW, as a non-fanatic non-PvP upcoming player?  Simply put, I’m really intrigued!

The first thing that catches my attention is the scope of it all.  Massive maps designed to support 300 people at a time, filled with majestic castles, keeps, and camps awaiting worthy adventurers to swarm into them swords and staves swinging.  Battles so prodigious they’ll take two weeks to play out.  Just the prospect of being a part of something so colossal is alluring in its own way.  Even if I am a tad squeamish at the thought of joining a group of adventurers and thus having to cooperate with people I don’t know, the size of the undertaking in this case – combined with GW2’s simple and painless grouping system – reverses that worry: in a group of 100, I can work with the force as if they were much smarter AI NPCs in dynamic events.  Thank you ArenaNet, for developing a style of PvP that suits those of us who don’t like the pressure of close-knit teamwork.

Yes, that's a siege golem.

Second, the freedom.  Gw2’s philosophy of freeing the player extends to WvW just as much as every other facet of the game, and as a result the things you can do to support your world in its fight are numerous.  Join the frontal assault and crush an enemy’s defensive lines directly!  Aid the battle by erecting any of a handful of siege engines, and decimate enemy forces or shatter their walls!  Or defend incoming supply caravans, to ensure your front line’s steady flow of resources!  Roam the countryside to recruit mercenaries to your side, the better to defend your keeps or charge in for a surprise assault!  Establish your guild in a specific keep, to harden its defenses and give bonuses to your side!  The possibilities are vast, and with such varied objectives you’ll always have something to do, or switch to if you need a fresh approach to the conflict.

Third, balance.  Like the standard PvP, WvW adjusts everyone playing so that their power is roughly the same as it would be at level 80.  Players who have reached 80 will of course have access to many more bonuses on their weapons, and a plethora of elite skills that lower level players won’t have, but the fight won’t be a completely one-sided curbstomp either.  Leveling the field in this way means that playing experience counts, but newer players won’t be scared off by capped players decimating them at every turn.  And since you earn xp even while playing WvW, those newer players are leveling up and closing the gap as they learn the ropes!  Everybody wins!

WvW is an exciting concept unlike anything I’ve seen before.  Its accommodation for all kinds and all levels of players is very inviting, and its immense scope draws attention for the sheer sense of size and ability to influence the world.  All in all, World vs. World is just another facet to GW2 that causes this relative newcomer to await its release with growing anticipation.