Trait Disappointment: A Followup

As I wrote about yesterday, I am pretty unhappy with how the new trait unlock system works. One thing I noticed from comments I’ve received on twitter and the like, is that a lot of people, having had characters already made and leveled before this change was made, were unaware of how bad some of the required unlocks are. This post will serve two purposes: to list out all of the current trait unlocks, and then to list some of the ideas we’ve come up with that would make good replacements.

This will be a long, text-heavy post. But I hope it’ll help in getting more attention brought to this issue and for it to be rebalanced in the future.

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Trait Disappointment

So the feature patch for Guild Wars 2 has been out for a few days now. It’s not 100% perfect – there are some bugs, such as dailies not resetting properly for some (a problem I had happen), chat breaking on Tuesday, and some things not unlocking properly, but largely it’s been a smooth roll-out. The wardrobe is great; it took me a few tries to get all of my PvP skins to unlock, but once I did that I wound up with over 600 skins unlocked on my account. Account-wide dyes are also amazing, and I was surprised by how many unidentified dyes I wound up with once I finished going through all of my characters. I’ve actually been playing some sPvP and enjoying it. Megaservers I’m not really a fan of, but thus far I’ve seen no real glitches with them.

There is one thing that really has me bothered though, and it annoys me even more because it was something I thought had potential to be really cool, and that is the trait unlocking.

So to start out, when I initially logged into all of my characters, it became clear that unlocks are the same across every profession. The new trait for each profession in trait line A are unlocked by fighting the Risen High Wizard in Cursed Shore, B are unlocked by defeating the Priest of Grenth, and so on. That was the initial disappointment – that there’s no variety across professions. There are so, so, so many options available out there…so why lock every profession to the same few events? There’s also the fact that unlocks are character-specific instead of account-based, so if you have a lot of characters…have fun doing those same things repeatedly to get all of your new traits.

The other thing is that the unlocks are not even remotely even. Of the new grandmasters, they consist of the Risen High Wizard and Priest of Grenth, as I mentioned, as well as the Karka Queen, Risen Priestess of Lyssa…and going to a ship in Straits of Devastation. Um, what? I don’t really get this. The ship is minorly annoying because it’s underwater and there’s a couple vets there, but that’s all. Grenth is an event that is very easy to mess up and fail, Lyssa is just long and tedious, Karka Queen is a pain to spawn…High Wizard is generally pretty easy, to the point where it dies too quickly.

The disparity in how to unlock the traits becomes even more apparent when you look at the adept and master traits, though. One of the things I did on Tuesday was make a new characters, specifically for playing through with the new changes. The character I made was a thief, as she is based on a roleplay character of mine. To start out, thief is a hard profession to play without traits, so not having any until level 30 was painful. When I did hit 30 last night and was able to unlock a trait, I decided to look through the unlocks for major traits and…ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

An adept trait, that you'll have trait points for at level 36...what.

An adept trait, that you’ll have trait points for at level 36…what.

There are so many problems with the requirements to unlock traits. For starters, the vast majority of the adept traits, which you’ll have points to unlock starting at level 36, require completing content far above that level – one requires map completion of Gendarran Fields, which is somewhat reasonable, but very few of the others were anything below level 50. Many require keeping up on personal story. There are ones that require map completion of zones such as Fireheart Rise, Mount Maelstrom, and as pictured above, Frostgorge Sound. To which I have to say – seriously? These are low-level traits that people should be able to unlock easily. They are ones that you should be able to use at low levels. They should not require mapping level 70-80 zones to get. Most of the master traits require lower level content than many of the adept traits, and that, honestly, is just wrong.

The other major issue I have with it is so many traits are tied to personal story or map completion. Why do this? That, along with there being no variety between professions for unlocks, just makes zero sense to me. There are so many events in this game – thousands of them. So many jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons. More than enough that they could have easily tied each trait on each profession to a different, level-appropriate event, and not had any problems, or doubles. This also would do a much better job at encouraging people to explore zones than just…having them map a handful of mid to high level zones.

I’d say it’s more worth it to simply eat the gold cost to unlock traits…

This must be the new goldsink now that armor repairs are free.

This must be the new goldsink now that armor repairs are free.

…they aren’t horribly expensive individually, other than the new grandmasters. But at the same time, it’ll be far, far more expensive to unlock traits this way than simply buying a trait book last week was. It’s 10 silver per adept trait, as well as the skill point cost. Six adept traits, across five trait lines…that’s 3 gold right there. 10g for the master traits. A whopping thirty gold for grandmaster traits. On top of having to spend 300 skill points. That is, of course, if you want to unlock everything. But with free trait resets being available whenever you want, why wouldn’t you want all of your traits available to you? How are you supposed to experiment and find a build that you like without having all of the options available to play with?

The changes to traits really, really bother me. It had so much potential to be something really neat, but it just feels like the ball was dropped so badly on this one. I’m not one of those people who thinks this whenever there’s something I don’t like, but this made me really wonder if whoever selected the unlocks for each trait actually plays the game.

Between the level increase to unlock traits (seriously, waiting until level 30 is terrible. If it had to have been changed, it should have been to level 20, at the highest), and the requirements to then unlock traits, I see this as being something that is more likely to hinder and put off new players, rather than make it easier, as was the intention. I really hope that these things get looked at and adjusted to being something more reasonable. I know this will likely put a dent in my desire to make and level tons of alts, and I know the game very well.

This isn’t a quality of life change; this is one that has potential to cause real harm to the game. Someone please rebalance these!

Edit: I’ve written a follow-up post where I go over the details of every single trait unlock, as well as make some suggestions as to how to fix this. Please take a look!

Feature patch, day four: Social upgrades, account-bound goodies, and saving silver

As yesterday’s feature patch announcement was a fairly small one, I decided to wait until today’s information to write about it, and just group it all together. The new features that had info about them released over the past few days were mainly quality of life changes, but good ones to hear about nonetheless.

Yesterday’s post mostly mentioned improvements to social play within the game. There really wasn’t a whole lot that was mentioned here; one of the things it did go into was a feature that will allow guild leaders to see when members have last logged in. As a guild leader, I do very much like that feature being added; it is one that should have been in from the start, but late is better than never. I also hope that it is the tip of the iceberg in what they will eventually add in for guild leaders to work with; there’s a lot of functions that we currently lack that I’d love to see. Also mentioned are upgrades to the LFG tool, including adding in WvW channels, and the ability to specify the group’s main language – something that will be handy for players on multi-language servers. Last is a mention of support for guild members and other changes to reduce griefing; this is something I’m curious about, there are no details on it yet. Soon!

The heft of today’s news came from the first post released, talking about account-bound restrictions. There are several major changes that they are making here, all of which I am very happy for.

The first one I’ll mention is that world experience is finally going to become account-bound. Now, I don’t WvW a whole lot, but wxp was added in around when I was doing map completion there on my ranger, so by default my ranger gained levels fairly quickly early on. As a result I basically only WvW on my ranger, because she’s got the highest WvW rank, and hence the most points to play with.

Like I said...I don't WvW all that much.

Like I said…I don’t WvW all that much.

Most of my other characters have at least a few ranks, though, and most of my 80s are somewhere between rank 5 and 10, but my ranger remains the main there. With wxp going account-bound, all of my characters will benefit from the time I’ve spent in WvW and (more often) EOTM, and at the same time she’ll benefit from the ranks scattered around my other characters. And hey, maybe I’ll actually be able to go into WvW on my mesmer – you know, my main who has a commander pin – and not be hindered by my lack of wvw ability points.

Now, the bigger one. Legendaries and ascended items are no longer going to be soulbound on use, but rather will remain account-bound. I was excited a few days ago with the wardrobe making legendary skins account-bound, but now I can pass my weapons around my characters as needed! That is an amazing change that I’m really happy about and have been wanting for a very long time. Not only can I put my Bifrost’s skin on a staff for my mesmer or necro, but I can take the staff itself and give it to them if I want. This change is also what has me finally considering doing some ascended crafting – I had held out for so long because the price wasn’t worth the tiny stat boost. But if I can share the items between all of my alts…it suddenly becomes so much more worth it. I probably won’t still bother with armor, but if I make just a few weapons, I can essentially use any alt I want for Fractals.

I can share around this stuff, too. Sweet.

I can share around this stuff, too. Sweet.

Also, I really must say, all of these changes that are making things much more alt-friendly are great.

The last thing that was mentioned today were a few more small things, that will have impacts on the game’s economy. Trait resets will now be free, but with the changes to traits that were mentioned last week, this one is far from being a surprise. Armor repair costs are being removed, which I think is great. I never liked repairs having a cost; it was a gold sink, but a not very effective one, as it punished newer players while being a non-issue for people who have played more. Waypoints are a much more effective goldsink in the long run. So I’m glad to see repair costs go. Since that way of removing money is being taken away, the amount of gold earned from events and from champion loot bags is being reduced.

Now, gold being reduced from events is a bit annoying, as you get a trivial amount for that anyway…but with so many other ways of making gold, it’ll wind up to be a minor change. The gold reduction from champ bags I am totally okay with. I don’t see it being a major change to the game’s economy, but it will turn into a small nerf to the champ farming trains, which is fine by me. I don’t like what champ farming has done to the game and the economy, so anything to try and get it back under control is a good thing, even if it will just be a small thing. There are other changes I’d like to see made to champ bags, but I’ll save that for another post.

The last note is that there will be adjustments made to the Mystic Forge, to give more variation to the stuff you can get out of it. Precursors, however, will not be touched. So basically Zommoros might be a bit kinder…unless you want a precursor. Then you’re still screwed.

(I joke. I got a precursor from the Forge. It just takes insane amounts of luck.)

We’re now two-thirds of the way through the new features announcements for the feature patch, and so far everything’s shaping up nicely – just a few more days to go now.

Feature Patch, day three: Wardrobe and dye, oh my!

So, I’m not going to lie. This was the feature update information I was waiting for the most, and man was waking up to see the new blog posts this morning a way to get me excited.

We got two new things announced today; the first of which is a wardrobe system. Let me just let that sink in for a moment. A WARDROBE SYSTEM. The basics of it are that skins you have will be unlocked for your account, and can be changed on the fly by using Transmutation Charges, which is similar to the way the current transmutation system works, but easier to work with.

As someone who loves armor, but doesn’t like how much space carrying multiple sets takes, this has me really pleased.

This doesn't show other skins I've had and have since salvaged or transmuted over - just sets that character currently has on her. Also, whoops, forgot to repair my armor...

This doesn’t show other skins I’ve had and have since salvaged or transmuted over – just sets that character currently has on her. Also, whoops, forgot to repair my armor…

Equipping different stat types will be now separate from equipping skins; stat types will still be equipped through the basic hero panel. There will be a different panel specifically for the wardrobe, though, where you can view all of the different skins you have available to you, preview looks until you’re happy, and then apply. I transmute tons of armor (I tend to buy my characters nice sets at a low level so they’ll look pretty while leveling and then transmute my way through), and I know that sometimes when transmuting I double and triple check to make sure I have the right combination selected – especially on certain armor skins where they have generic icons (norn cultural heavy, I’m looking at you!). Don’t have to worry about that anymore!

Our hoards of transmutation stones won’t be going away, either – they’ll be transferring into the transmutation charges used in the new system. There’s some other neat changes – town clothes are mentioned as being turned into outfits which will be unlocked account wide and can be equipped over armor without using a transmutation charge, similar to how costumes in Guild Wars 1 functioned, which is very cool. Certain clothing items that can’t be bought any longer will be turned into endless tonics. Also, for items that went through a skin progression, such as a legendary? You’ll unlock both the legendary’s skin, as well as the precursor.

Yeah, I’m putting Bifrost, Kudzu, and the Minstrel on everyone I can.

Part of me is slightly frustrated at this coming in so late – I have bought SO many armor sets, including multiple sets of t1 and t2 armor across characters (or in some cases, rebuying them). But honestly…it’s just money, in-game money at that. Big deal! I’m excited to see all of the fun I can have with this. There’s still some things we don’t know yet – it’s mentioned how skins will be unlocked, but not if there’ll be any changes with how armor stats will be obtained – but over all, I’m really happy with this.

Now! Blog post number two today was about account-wide dye unlocks! Again, let that sink in for a moment. All dyes you’ve unlocked will be now unlocked account-wide.

I have something like 300 dyes unlocked on my mesmer, including a number of rare ones (Abyss, Celestial, and several of the various limited-time dyes). I love dyes. This is so great.

It scrolls. A lot.

It scrolls. A lot.

“But I’ve unlocked X color on more than one character!” you say. They’ve planned for that already – when you log in after the April 15th patch, if you have a particular color unlocked more than once, then you will receive an unidentified dye for each duplicate you’ve already unlocked. Personally I can’t wait to see how many unidentified dyes I wind up with after that, as I know there are a ton of colors I’ve unlocked multiple times (Icing, I’m looking at you).

The flip side to this is that dyes are going to be removed as a random drop; the logic behind that decision is that dyes will go down in demand due to unlocks being account-wide, and I can certainly understand that…and I feel like in a few months we won’t care about it. But right now there’ll be a lot of people wanting to finish up their dye collections (or at least get all of the colors they’ve wanted), and it’s going to be difficult. At the moment, dye prices have spiked dramatically – blue quality dyes that previously sold for under a silver are now about 40s or more each. The good thing is that it says they’ll still be available through select in-game rewards, and they only specify them being removed as drops, so I assume that we’ll still be able to spend laurels on dye. They’ll also still be sellable on the trading post, as well as able to go into the Mystic Forge, so that’s good. I’m mainly wondering if they’ll still be an occasional bonus you can get when gathering herb nodes, as I personally love when a node gives me vanilla AND a dye.

I had tons of armor in Guild Wars 1. I spend way too much time in Guild Wars 2 previewing armors and playing with dyes (the number of times I’ve started redyeing my armor in the middle of a dungeon run…). This is such great news for someone like me, and holy hell am I excited to log in on April 15th and see all of the new options available on all of my characters.

Bring on the feature patch!

Feature patch, day two: Critical damage, runes, sigils, and balance

Today came the second and third of the blog posts about the upcoming feature patch; this time we got to learn about the changes that will be made to critical damage, as well as updates to runes and sigils, and some general balance updates that are being made.

First, let’s look at the crit damage changes. The biggest thing about it is that critical damage will be tied to a new stat of its own, Ferocity. It’ll work the same as any other stat, starting out at zero and being able to be increased through traits, gear, and other buffs. The hope is that by doing this, it’ll make critical damage easier to understand, as well as make it easier for people to experiment with builds and still be able to crit. This will also have the effect of a slight nerf to full berserker builds; they say that at level 80 with a full zerker build this will work out to about a 10% decrease.

An example in the blog post of how the hero panel will look with Ferocity added in.

An example in the blog post of how the hero panel will look with Ferocity added in.

Now, full disclosure here: I run berserker gear on four of my characters (mesmer, ranger, necro, and warrior). And I am totally okay with this change. My mesmer sits at 103% crit damage, without any buffs, and with a couple pieces of gear still not being berserker (for some reason I have a valkyrie sword on her. Don’t remember why I did that; I suspect to save on money). I also on other characters play a variety of different builds; my guardian, for example, is full support. My engineer is conditions/support. My ele swaps between damage and healing. My thief currently is running venom shares. And my second warrior does a hammer control build. Even my berserker necro has a mix of rampager and rabid trinkets and still pulls heavy condition damage. My healing/boon shout guardian is as fun for me to play as my DPS-heavy phantasm mesmer – they’re different builds, with different uses. And the damage nerf will not be so hard to my DPS-based characters to put me off them, but it will give more opportunities for my more support-based characters to shine.

Build diversity is always a good thing, and I like how this change to crit damage will make things a bit more even of a playing field, and make it easier for people who like playing builds that are more than just “hit that thing with a stick until it dies” to show their stuff, as well as facilitate more experimentation.

Speaking of build diversity, let’s take a look at the post about runes, sigil, and other balance updates. One of the things they mention as working on for runes is updating the stat boosts given to be stacked more towards the fourth, fifth, and sixth effect; a lot of people sometimes mix and match runes, and they want there to be a real benefit to sticking to a single set. It’s also said that this will make it easier for newer players to pick runes.

Now, sometimes mixing and matching is a necessity – my guardian, for example, uses a mix of three different rune sets to get what I want. One of the things that is also being done is that a number of rune sets are being reworked, to take away some of the need of this mix-and-match. It also says that more runes will be updated to have a specific focus, such as a certain condition or boon, which I can see being very nice in some situations. I know the Power runes in general could use a lot of this fixing – so many sets that give power either have might or burning as a secondary effect, but there’s not much else in there. I don’t even use runes on several of my characters, opting for orbs instead as there are no rune sets that do what I’d like for them to do, so changing things up so that there aren’t so many cloned rune sets and they’re all more clearly defined is something I’m looking forward to.

Next, sigils! They’re looking to take away all of the hidden rules that sigils have and make it much clearer how they work. Things like recharges, how they stack, and so on will be made clear in the sigil’s description. One thing they mention is that each sigil will have its own recharge, but they do not stack. To explain that better, this is the example given:

A character with two Sigils of Blood (minor, major, or superior) who activates one will set both sigils on recharge.

So doubling up on sigils won’t be worth it, which is actually not a bad thing by any means, as it’ll encourage people to play around with more types of sigils for different effects. And do people really double up like that anyway?

Sigil of Fire with an updated description.

Sigil of Fire with an updated description.

Another thing that is made note of is on-kill sigils will get a few updates. The first is that killing a human opponent in any game mode (PvP or WvW) will gain you five stacks, as opposed to just one. Regular monsters remain at one. The second is that more strict rules on their use will be applied; namely you can’t build up 25 stacks and then unequip the weapon for another and keep the stacks. Again, a good change, as being able to do that just feels like an exploit to me.

Oh, and by the way, if you use a two-handed weapon? Two sigils. On the weapon. This was the part that had me the happiest (until I got to the bottom of the post, anyway). Just, enough said on that. Two-handed weapons can slot two sigils. I love that change. I’m excited for that change. I’m already planning out what I want to slot on my weapons to add to them.

Several sigils will be getting updated to make them more desirable; this ranges from things like some of the “on-crit” defensive sigils to be changed from “on-crit” to “on hit”. As someone who uses Sigil of Water on my guardian’s staff, I’m loving that change, especially as it’ll give me more wiggle room when playing around with builds. A number of sigils will be getting tweaks on numbers (recharges, how often they trigger, how hard they hit, etc), and there’ll be some that get reworked entirely. The example given for that are the Sigils of Conjuration and Sanctuary, which currently both have the same effect (which is not a terribly useful one). They’ll both be getting majorly changed; Conjuration will become Celerity and give 5 seconds of quickness once hitting 25 stacks (guess what I want for my mesmer’s greatsword), and Sanctuary will become Benevolence and increase ally healing (guess what I want to put on my guardian’s Bifrost along with her Sigil of Water).

Last but not least are a preview of the balance changes, all of which look good to me. Elementalists will get some more survivability when using main-hand dagger, which is handy. For engineers they’re looking to increase build diversity; they say they’re aiming for more power-based builds as well as more support opportunities. Anything that can break people out of the mindset of “grenades are the best ever” is good by me; just don’t nerf my elixirs! Guardians they say will mainly be quality of life changes, but at the same time they want guardian burning to be the strongest burning conditions in the game. Warrior changes will mainly be bug fixes as well as slight nerfs to regen. Necromancers are getting a good number of changes; a big one is Death Magic no longer requiring you to run around with minions if you trait into that line, as well as more survival options and some Death Shroud. For rangers they primarily mention pet AI changes, which are always welcome. Thief they mention some bug fixes, and some more support and survival via traits, such as the Invigorating Precision trait mentioned in yesterday’s trait blog post.

And mesmer. I had to give mesmer its own paragraph, because I love mesmer, my main is a mesmer, and the updates listed for mesmer just make me so happy. More options for conditions. More support and survivability. Updates and bug fixes to illusions, with Illusionary Warden being specifically mentioned as having been fixed. The sigil changes being very good to us. And yes, Maim the Disillusioned is an amazing trait name.

Unlike yesterday’s post on traits, where some of it had me a bit unsure, today’s information I am solidly behind and like quite a bit. So far so good, and as I pointed out yesterday, I’m really enjoying these posts detailing the changes. The next two blogposts, to judge by their names, have to do with armor, town clothes, and dyes, so I’m excited to see what’ll be announced there. My mesmer currently has over 300 dyes unlocked, so I’m really crossing my fingers hoping that account-wide dye unlocks are coming. There’s not much that could make me happier right now.

If only precursor crafting hadn’t been confirmed to not be a part of this patch…ah well.

Feature patch, day one: Traits

So, today information on the upcoming feature patch for Guild Wars 2 has finally started to be released. Yay! Over the next two and a half weeks, we’ll be getting a number of blog posts going over each of the new features or major changes, culminating with the patch going live on April 15th. They have listed the titles and dates of all of the upcoming blog posts, hinting at what’ll be coming, and a lot of it looks like it’ll be really neat.

Today they started off by talking about changes that are being made to traits, and I have to admit, a lot of it looks really good. There’s a few parts that I’m not 100% set on, but for the most part…good stuff. Here’s a highlight of the big changes:

  • Tier unlocks will be automatic and free at a certain level
  • Trait points will be condensed and earned at different levels (including when you start learning them)
  • Trait refunds will be free and available at any point not in combat
  • Major traits need to be unlocked via “trait guides”
  • Each profession will be getting a new grandmaster trait in each line (forty new traits!)
This window will be looking a bit different after April 15th.

This window will be looking a bit different after April 15th.

So what do I think of all of this? For starters, free tier unlocks (and them being automatic) is a great thing. I hate having to go back to buy trait books, especially as they reset your traits when you use them. On top of that, I hate having to spend so much money on them. Yeah, at this point, 3.1g is nothing for me. But when the game first launched? Saving up that single gold for the level 40 book was an accomplishment. So was the 2g for the level 60 book. I remember feeling rich in the BWEs if I had 10s for the level 11 book. If you just started out playing, you’re not going to have money for those things at the appropriate level, more likely than not. And that’s assuming you even realize you have to go buy them! So doing away with that is great.

My quibble on it is the level changes that come in to this – you start getting trait points at level 30, with master unlocking at level 60 and grandmaster at level 80. This…I’m not so cool with. There are certain professions where playing them without any traits at low levels can be very difficult – thief and elementalist in particular come to mind, and mesmer may also be very tricky. But we’ll see. Perhaps other changes being brought in will balance that out. I also don’t like master and grandmaster unlocking so late. I feel that around levels 60-70 I have a good idea of how my level 80 build will play out, but now that will no longer be possible.

GOOD RIDDANCE.

GOOD RIDDANCE.

Trait condensing. Again, a thing I like. Right now, you gain 70 trait points by the time you’re level 80. With this, they’re going to make it so that you’ll gain a total of 14 trait points – each point will be worth five points with how they are now. This makes it so that trait points have more effect and will be noticed more readily; in the post they also mention that this will make it easier for newer players to figure out the system – they give the example of someone who may not know better putting 11 points in one line, 14 in another, and unintentionally giving themselves a far less effective build than they could have. Starting at level 30, you’ll gain a point each six levels; at level 66 it’ll then be 2 points per six levels. I do like the extra points in your last stretch of leveling; they recognize that at this point you’ll be settling on what you want to play at level 80 and giving you more to play with. I just wish that grandmaster wasn’t at level 80.

Free trait refunds. Oh man, this was the best part of it, I think. WE NO LONGER HAVE TO GO INTO A CITY AND PAY TO REFUND OUR TRAITS. The fee was paltry (3.5s at level 80 with all traits used), but it was an unnecessary inconvenience. Now, at any point you’re not in combat, you can refund and change your traits from the hero panel. I’m so excited for this – stuff like this will make things like high level fractals and certain dungeons much easier, as well as swapping builds for World vs. World. It also promotes experimenting more since you can change things whenever you want. The only issue that will arise from this is gear – most people pick their gear based on their build. Trait resets are great, but there’ll be issues with people either feeling they need to carry around a half dozen sets of armor, or complaining their builds are now sub-optimal because their gear doesn’t match. Personally, I’m not too fussed on that, but I can see why it’d be a concern. I also would kill for a way to save build templates, like in GW1, but we’ll live for now. That’d be a great quality of life change, though, hint hint!

Major traits will need to be unlocked. Okay, so this is actually really, really cool, I think. If you played Guild Wars 1, you’ll remember capturing elite skills from bosses, or using skill tomes to learn skills you’d already unlocked on your account. This is similar. Major traits will be learned from trait guides that can be found from completing specific content – anything from personal story to WvW to dungeons to meta-event bosses in the open world. And if you don’t feel like going out and finding that specific trait guide? You can buy it from your profession trainer. I really like this, myself; it gives a bit more of a sense of accomplishment in your build, but if you’re looking for one that you simply cannot get, you can still get it.

The example image used in the blog post, showing a trait unlocked by taking the Gates of Arah.

The example image used in the blog post, showing a trait unlocked by taking the Gates of Arah.

And last but far from being least, each profession will be getting new traits – a new grandmaster trait for each tier, which is a total of forty new traits in total. New traits are always a good thing, as they mix things up and give more chances for build diversity, a thing I’m always a fan of. They gave an example of a new trait for each profession, and I do have to say I’m impressed and excited to see what all of the new ones are going to be. The elementalist one listed, for example, will be a must-have for my ele, and as a longbow user I’m also really liking the ranger one. The thief one is a great way to give thieves more survivability when attacking. The engineer trait makes turrets not entirely useless. And so on. The mesmer one is the only example given that I’m not 100% sold on, but that’s simply because of other game mechanics (I’m looking at you, defiant) and enemy AI getting in the way, but I can easily see how it’d be very powerful in WvW and sPvP. And personally I’m hoping that the new Inspiration grandmaster will be another phantasm trait, as I’d take that in an instant ;)

So far? This is good stuff. There’s a lot more to come, though – tomorrow will be posts about combat and critical damage, which I’m certainly interested to see, as well as the Ready Up livestream where ArenaNet will talk about some of the feature changes. It’s good to see how openly they’re communicating these new changes with us – it reminds me a lot of the pre-release blog posts, and I’m glad to see that format return. I hope to see more things discussed with us like this, as the more communication, the better.

Living World Wrap-up

With yesterday’s patch, this first season of the Living World storyline has come to a close. It’s been an interesting over-a-year, and it’s certainly had it’s ups and downs.

I’ve been skeptical of this Living World concept from the start. As it turns out, some of my worries still hold, and some came to be nothing. Overall, I did enjoy the content that we’ve been given since it started, while it wasn’t always perfect, it was at least generally enjoyable to play through (some things moreso than others).

It was slow to start off, with the updates originally coming weeks apart and being very light in content. Once we got the Molten Facility update, though, things started rolling in a bit more frequently, though it took months for things to start to actually come together and make sense as to how they were connected (and some things, like Southsun, still remain unconnected to the storyline). I also had some issues with how disjointed things felt for a long time – for example, there was the attack on Dragon Bash, and then we went to the Labyrinthine Cliffs. Sure, there was the sub-story there of voting for a new captain on the Lion’s Arch Council, and I loved the Bazaar of the Four Winds update, but it felt…jarring. Once Scarlet arrived on the scene, though, things began to flow together more smoothly.

Queen's Jubilee - zerg content, but fun zerg content.

Queen’s Jubilee – zerg content, but fun zerg content.

The dungeons we were given through the Living World updates were phenomenal. Molten Facility, Aetherblade Retreat, and Aetherpath were all dungeons that brought some challenge to the game, but with a bit of skill and time to learn the mechanics, were not horribly difficult. I didn’t do Aetherblade Retreat as much, but Molten Facility we ran basically daily, and Aetherpath is something we still do on a semi-regular basis. The Tower of Nightmares was an interesting intanced area that was like what an open-world dungeon would be like. It was fun to go through, but I admit that I did not actually go through the Tower more than once or twice.

There was quite a bit of time in there that I didn’t really play the game much. Starting during the Halloween patch until towards the end of the Origins of Madness release (so mid-October until late January) I rarely ever was on. Still, in that time I didn’t miss too much – the Tower, which again, wasn’t quite my thing, Fractals, and Wintersday. Origins of Madness was where things started to really pick up, story-wise, and it was clear that we were steaming on towards the end game. Edge of the Mists is surprisingly one of my favorite updates thus far; I don’t like World vs. World much, but I was in the alpha test of EOTM and really enjoyed it, and I hop in there on a semi-regular basis. The Twisted Marionette was a great boss fight, requiring more coordination than most open-world bosses, and I find myself regularly wishing that it had been permanent, as opposed to the Jungle Wurm in Bloodtide Coast.

That poor lion...

That poor lion…

And then we come to the attack on Lion’s Arch and fighting Scarlet herself, which I’ve already written about, so I won’t go over here much. Escape from LA was a lot of fun, and I found myself running it regularly; helped that it counted for monthly dungeon completer ;) Battle for LA I also enjoyed. I missed most of the bugs involved with it, having done it initially soon as the patch went live, and then not going back in too frequently, but I did still go in and do the Knights and Hologram fights every couple of days. It wasn’t content I felt the need to do constantly, but it was fun nonetheless.

As of yesterday, Lion’s Arch is no longer a battleground, but it is by no means back to its former glory. The city is a complete mess – even more destroyed than it had been while Scarlet’s armies had still been in there. The destruction of the Breachmaker has taken its toll on the city, and now there are pieces of the ship scattered everywhere, including a particularly large one that is taking up most of Fort Marriner. There are several bulletin boards located around the city (one with notices for those who went missing, one memorializing the dead, and one thanking those who fought), and a graveyard. There’s also lots of dialogue to be had if you talk to NPCs.

You are given recognition for your part, of course.

You are given recognition for your part, of course.

If you talk to her on a sylvari...excuse you, I killed Scarlet!

If you talk to her on a sylvari…excuse you, I killed Scarlet!

There’s also an instance in the Dead End in Divinity’s Reach, where you can talk to and witness a number of conversations between the biconic characters. I liked the instance, even if things felt a bit stilted and the pacing was a bit off, and honestly, I think that made it feel a bit more real. We just killed a horrible person that’s caused a huge number of deaths and woke up a dragon. We’re trying to celebrate that this particular terror is over with, but things are far from being back to normal, and so it’ll be awkward. Trying to be happy for the sake of the others while at the same time trying to not dwell on the terrible things that have happened. That’s a thing that happens in real life, so I’m okay with it happening here. I know I’ve certainly been in situations where I had the thoughts of “Okay, pretend to be happy, don’t think about it. Crap. That silence went on for too long. Say something! Ugh, that was awkward.” going through my mind, as I’m sure most people have, and that’s what this instance reminded me of.

On a sidenote, I’ve seen people complaining at the fact that the characters didn’t know that a dragon was woken up right away. We as players saw that cutscene. The characters did not. If you tried to interact with the control panels on Scarlet’s ship, you were unable to unless you were an engineer. So there’s no reason they should have known that.

That'll be fun to move...

That’ll be fun to move…

So at this point, we’re left with…what’s next? We’ve got a major city in rubble and a new dragon waking up. I’m certain that Lion’s Arch will eventually be rebuilt, but it certainly will not be an immediate thing. But for now, we don’t know what’s going to come next. I do feel that things may change a bit with what ArenaNet has learned from the past year. I am personally hoping that the rumors of an expansion coming next year are true, as I would hope that facing another dragon would be expansion content, and not temporary living world content. We know there’s a large feature patch coming soon, but what that will consist of so far we’ve gotten little in the way of hints.

If I were to guess, I’d think that the next Living World story arc will revolve around dealing with the aftermath of what happened (rebuilding LA), investigating events connected to the dragon waking up, pushing further west into Maguuma (read: I WANT NEW ZONES), with things eventually culminating in the dragon fully awakening and revealing itself, and then everything from there on being an expansion. On top of that, I’d really love to see some changes in Orr; I want to see it start to return to its former self, instead of just a realm of the undead. Zhaitan is gone, and I’d like to see this reflected in his influence going away and the land healing.

For now, we just have to wait and see. And hope we get some info soon on what’s to come!

Bad karma

I am currently in the process of crafting my third legendary; I am right now working on the Minstrel for my mesmer. I decided that it was finally time for me to make one for my main, the character I play the most. And for having really only starting a week ago, I’ve done incredibly well on progress. I finished up my second map completion, I bought the precursor and icy runestones, I’ve got the Gift of Energy finished and Gift of Music nearly finished, and I’m slowly starting to put in buy orders for my t6 materials. Clovers were already finished when I started.

The part that is annoying me the most, though, are the obsidian shards. I’m at about 150 there, of the 250 I need for Gift of Mastery. Getting that remaining 100 shards is proving to be a pain, though; spending all of my fractal relics every time I do a run on a couple shards, turning in Found Belongings for a shard at a time, heading to the Temple of Balthazar every time it’s open to spend the karma I’ve scraped up on a handful of shards.

Karma is a currency that it seems like they’ve never really known what to do with. When the game came out, saving up large amounts of karma took time, and it was character-bound, not account-bound, but it was possible without too much hassle. It was certainly a bit of a grind to get the several hundred thousand karma you’d need for a full set of karma armor, or for a legendary, but it was doable.

Suddenly, karma was added as a reward to everything. Karma was added back to hearts (having been taken out during beta), karma consumables were added as rewards for dailies, monthlies, dungeons, and a dozen other things, and it was good. It was, in fact, to the point where karma was insanely easy to get…other than the fact that it was still character-locked. This lead to people hoarding all of their consumables so that they could blow through them all on one character, so as to not waste a single bit of it.

Then karma was made account-bound when the account wallet was added…and life became even better.

Karma gain was hit with the nerf bat last year, though, and it was hit hard. Karma boosts no longer would apply to consumables, but in return, consumables were being increased by 50%. However. This was also followed by karma consumables being removed from many things in the game, or the amount drastically reduced. Jugs of Liquid Karma, giving 4500 karma each, used to be the reward for dailies, with 10 being granted for completing the monthly achievement. You could get a Drop of Liquid Karma (600 karma) from Bags of Wondrous Goods in dungeons.

Not anymore. Karma was removed from Bags entirely. Daily reward was replaced with a Drop. Monthly gets you a single Flask, which is worth 6000 karma.

Let me do some math for you. With the old numbers, if you did your daily every day (assuming 30 days in a month) as well as completing your monthly, you would earn 180,000 karma, with no boosts on. Now, doing the same, you get 24,000 karma. This is nearly an eighth of what it would be worth before.

I'm a little broke at the moment.

I’m a little broke at the moment.

At the same time, ascended crafting was added. What does this have to do with karma? Well, a lot. If you play at all regularly, you’re going to wind up with more Bloodstone Dust, Empyreal Fragments, and Dragonite Ore than you can hold in your collectible tab. So, you want to refine them to take up less space.

Have fun spending the karma on obby to do so! Now, to be fair, a lot of people are doing ascended crafting, and some don’t care about this stuff in their inventory. But it’s rather aggravating that you need two obsidian shards for each thing you refine, on top of karma being so much harder to be gained now. And if you don’t have any use for these ascended materials, it becomes even more irritating.

Seriously. What do I do with this junk?

Seriously. What do I do with this junk?

It’s to the point where I just destroy the stuff as I fill a stack in my bank. I stopped refining it ages ago because I’ll never use it. If we were given something other than ascended crafting to use these mats for (hint: let us trade/salvage them for obsidian or karma!), I’d be a lot happier with that tab.

I really don’t understand why karma was nerfed in the first place, especially as more uses for it were being added. In the update notes for when it was changed, it says that the reason for doing so was because of the additions of Essences of Luck. Honestly, though, I don’t think the exchange is a fair one at all. Essences and magic find are nice and all, but they aren’t a replacement for karma. Magic find doesn’t increase how much karma you get, after all; the two things are completely unconnected. But as it stands now, the only real way to build up a large amount of karma is to farm events, farm champions, and do Fractals below your personal reward level. And as I hate when things are geared towards farmers rather than regular players…yeah, this bothers me a lot.

Please, figure out what you’re doing with this currency, ANet, and make it easier to earn, especially if you’re going to put in more uses for it.

Scarlet’s end and zerg mechanics

This newest update has made it so there’s so many things on my mind, and so many things I’ve wanted to write about, both good and bad. I’ve put off writing anything for a few days so I could let things settle in my mind, sift through all the stuff, and figure out where to start.

Well, the most recent patch has given me a good thing to focus on, but first I’ll go over a few other things. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but as the patch has been out for some time now, I’m not going to be as careful with that as I would have if I’d been writing two days ago.

The miasma has been pushed out of Lion’s Arch and to sea by the wind, so now it’s safe (relatively) to enter LA, and it can be accessed at any time now. There’s still plenty of fighting going on, including several new champion events that happen around the map. Escort quests are gone, but defense and miasma events still are around. The biggest one, though, is the Assault Knights. This is how you get to Scarlet; defeat her three Knights that spawn every hour, use those attunements to access her ship, the Breachmaker, and then you get the fight Scarlet.

Sort of.

Once you succeed at that fight, you get a story instance, where you face down Scarlet herself one last time, and are rewarded with a cutscene. Which…oops. Whatever it was that Scarlet had planned…I’m not sure this was exactly what she was trying to do, but we just woke up something we probably shouldn’t have.

gw299So, I do have to say, a lot of this update I really, really like. I like the actual fight mechanics, though there’s some bad parts there (which I’ll get t0). I love the instance (KAS AND JORY ARE SO DAMN CUTE YOU GUYS. As is Kas going full-out badass. Ahhhh I adore those two!). And that cutscene…wow. Not all questions have been answered yet, and more have been created. The maintenance patch on the 18th will have a bit more story just to wrap things up a bit more. Tuesday morning I happened to log on just as the patch hit and was able to fight the Knights and go against Scarlet the very first time doing so was possible, and it was truly an awesome and epic fight.

All that said. I’ve done the events a few times since the patch went live. The very easiest time I had of it was that first time Tuesday morning. When no one really knew what they were doing because it was brand new and no one had done it yet. When we just sort of figured things out by trying and seeing what happened. Every attempt since then has not gone nearly as smooth as that very first one, between failed attempts and coming in with only a few seconds left on the timer.

Here’s the big difference, though: Tuesday morning when we did the events, people were split up throughout LA, with fairly even numbers at the different Knights. It worked great. They didn’t scale too much, people figured out the phases pretty quickly as well as using the buffs, and other than one point where the blue knight healed up nearly to full (which we later realized was due to the group of Twisted Menders that spawns near there), it went great. We had plenty of time left. Same for the battle on the Breachmaker – we know now that we could have made it much easier on ourselves, but it still went well and we came in well under the timer.

Zerging is something that happens a lot in games. Just throw bodies at it until you beat it down through sheer numbers. You see it a lot in GW2 – meta events, WvW, the champ farming trains. People quickly decided to zerg the LA events. These events are not made to be zerged, as the update late last night shows. Throwing 150 bodies at a Knight just causes it to scale up ridiculously, and then you have to spend the time to run to the next one, and by the time you defeat them, you’ve spent more time than if you’d just had 40-50 people at each Knight.

The hologram fight is one where zerging actively punishes you and makes the encounter so much harder than it should be. After you get Scarlet’s Prime Hologram down to a certain level of health, it splits into three smaller ones, and you have to use the appropriate attunement to damage them. If you kill them one at a time, each holo splits into six smaller ones that are easier to kill but again require the right attunement. When you have 18 of those things running around, it makes things difficult because actually hitting what you’re targeting will be basically impossible unless you melee with single-target damage. Your AOEs will max out before you hit what you wanted to. And so on. It’s chaos.

BUT. If you kill all three within 30 seconds of each other? They don’t split. That’s an entire phase of the fight skipped and a good several minutes you can effectively add to the timer because you don’t have to deal with that mess. And in a small area where you can easily run from one to another, it’s not like coordinating that would even be difficult. If you see that one is at 10% and another is at 30%? Just stop attacking the first and go help at the second. Save the heavy damage and Time Warp for spiking them down to zero at once.

Actually, it would have been nice to know...

Actually, it would have been nice to know…

And despite knowing this exists, people still insist on zerging the holos down one at a time! Knowing that they are making the encounter take longer and making it more difficult.

Last night ANet added a bug fix that included making it so only 50 people can hold a color attunement at a time during the Knights encounter, making it so on larger populated servers people have to split up instead of just zerging them one at a time. As I don’t like that style of fighting things, I am totally okay with this. I am glad for this, because as I’ve said, the “kill one, run to the next, rinse, repeat” attempts I’ve done at this have been failures or near-failures.

People, of course, are complaining about it. “This rules out small servers who only have 50 people on at once because splitting won’t work and they have to zerg it!” If you have small numbers like that, zerg your happy little hearts out. No one’s stopping you. It’s stopping 150 people at once on one Knight. “But this forces events to fail because there’ll be X at blue, X at red, and Y at green!” Just say something in map chat! Say “Hey we have only Y people here, can some come help?” and balance the numbers. Simple. There’s time between when the Knights descend and when the fight actually starts – there’s time to coordinate and to get numbers situated.

It’s really no different from the Twisted Marionette, where you had to have even numbers split between the five lanes. If you didn’t, you would fail on the platforms because there wouldn’t be enough people to kill the champion Wardens. And yet once people got the hang of it, it went fine. It required a bit smarter play than a lot of previous content (outside of dungeons), but it wasn’t undoable by any means. The Knights and Holos are the same – split up evenly, watch out for red circles, and dodge, with the added mechanic of the three attunements and, for the Knights, watching to see if they’re reflecting conditions or not.

There are still bugs in this release – they’ve done a number of bug patches since Tuesday – but personally, my main frustration with it has come less from bugs and more from other players. Less zerging, more thinking, please!

Release Communication

So it used to be that for new releases, we would get a page on the Guild Wars 2 website that outlined some of the info for the release – some basic stuff about what the release was about, some info about other things that were coming in it than just living world, and so on.

I loved these pages. I liked having an idea ahead of time of what was going to be happening – especially if skill changes or other balance changes were coming. I liked having an idea of what the new content was going to be, especially as my life got busier and I had less and less time to play.

For whatever reason, they’ve decided to do away with these preview pages, instead turning to short cinematic trailers for each release. Okay, whatever. The trailers are pretty enough, but I keep running into the problem of they really don’t tell us anything. For example, the next release, coming on Tuesday, is Battle for Lion’s Arch. They released a lovely minute long trailer video, which is well done. However, it tells us nothing of what’s happening. This is meant to be the finale for the first season of the Living World content, and yet we are given no clues as to what’s actually going to be going on, other than we will be fighting in Lion’s Arch and, presumably, trying to wrest it back from Scarlet’s forces.

But we don’t get a hint of what Scarlet’s up to (people have made enough guesses, based on what little we do know of Scarlet and what we’ve seen her doing in-game, but nothing concrete). We don’t know if we’ll be taking the fight to her, and if it’ll be for real this time. We don’t know if there are any other changes coming in with this update – skill updates or anything like that. We just know that we’ll be fighting in Lion’s Arch…which, realistically, we’ve been doing for nearly two weeks now. I’m sure there’ll be a handful of interviews with various bigger gaming/MMO sites released over the weekend that will hint a little bit at these things, but I’m not a fan of that approach.

All that said, there’s one thing that has never been clearly communicated about any release (besides Lost Shores) – and that is how long the content will stick around.  Since they’ve moved to a two week release schedule, generally content sticks around for four weeks. But sometimes it only lasts two! Which wouldn’t be a problem, if, you know, we knew ahead of time how long the content would be available.

One of the big things in Escape from Lion’s Arch has been collecting Found Heirlooms and Found Belongings, which can be traded in for a number of things. Last night I completed my stack of Heirlooms and got my Selfless Tonic, and I’ve been trading in Belongings for Tomes of Knowledge to help get my baby warrior to level 80 faster. One question I’m seeing frequently on twitter and in my guild’s chat is, “Do I have to turn all these in by Tuesday?” “Can I still get them after Tuesday?” and so on. And we don’t know. We don’t know if the content is going to drastically change after Tuesday, if Found Heirlooms and Belongings are going to go away, if the collectors are going to go away or if they’ll stay around longer.

The thing I don’t get is people have been asking for information on how long a patch’s content will be around since, well, updates were switched over to this Living World thing. For whatever reason, ArenaNet has never seen fit to actually tell us this information, despite the fact that not doing so always causes confusion as to how long things will be available, not to mention frustration at things going away earlier than expected on the few that have disappeared after two weeks instead of the four that most have lasted.

The disappearance of preview pages is irritating, but this is far more so. I know that the storylines and patches are planned out well in advance. Why can we simply not get a note of “available for two weeks” or “available for four weeks” on the actual update page itself when they do go live? Or even better, an in-game timer? We have those for daily and monthly achievements now, why not attach one to the meta achievement so that people know how long the content will be around and how long they have to complete those things?

It’s a simple thing, and it would result in a huge quality of life change for the game. Come on. Please implement something like this. Remove the confusion and the frustration, and let us just know how long things will be available. Please?