The Gates Have Opened

Yesterday, season two of the Living World, the Gates of Maguuma, released, giving us our first taste of how the living story is going to be handled in Guild Wars 2 from here on out.

Thus far, I am quite impressed with what we’ve been shown so far, and eager to continue on.

Now, I’ve been taking something of a break from the game the past couple of weeks. A combination of stress in my personal life and just a general feel of burnout made me just not have the desire to log in. It happens, and for me, is a thing that tends to happen fairly regularly with games. All that said though, I was pretty excited for this new release. New content was exactly what was needed to make the game feel fresh again, and also made it apparent just how used to the biweekly content cycle I was.

So yesterday morning…might have found me breaking the map in Brisban, waiting for the new update. Hee.

At least I wasn't the only one.

At least I wasn’t the only one.

It was an entertaining way to kill time while waiting for that ten minute warning to pop up – all sorts of entertaining glitchy things would happen over in that corner. Things like jumping near a ledge and hovering. Of course, when I logged back in after the patch hit, I kinda was stuck in the map.

At least this time was due to something I had actually done and not an occupational hazard of playing a mesmer.

That's also a really good shot of my mesmer. Neat.

That’s also a really good shot of my mesmer. Neat.

I…kind of wasn’t able to get out of that corner. Oops. Waypointed out, partied up with some friends, ran back, and we decided to immediately dive into the story.

I’m not going to talk about the story much, because it just came out yesterday and I don’t want to spoil things much, but…it is so very clear that they listened to the criticisms of the first living world season and personal story, because the quality is far higher than previous releases. Amazing lore information (when you enter the zone – talk to Nimbus. Go through everything he’ll say. Just do it. You won’t be disappointed.), great NPC interactions, and just good stuff all around. The writing is a lot tighter than before in general. Also, there was actually a lot of story given to us yesterday. Episode one consisted of something like a half dozen different story steps, and it gave us more story in one go than we’d see across several releases during season one. So that was a definite improvement that pleased me and I hope continues going forward.

One nice little touch about the story journal, by the way, is that if you go back through everything, it lists what year it all took place in, so we can see how time has progressed in game. It doesn’t have the season one stuff listed, but still, a neat little feature. Two years has passed in-game now.

I blurred out the text, so no spoilers here!

I blurred out the text, so no spoilers here!

So! The zone itself. We are heading into Dry Top, as was correctly guessed by Dak last month.  The entrance was basically exactly where he guessed it would be, so that was neat to see how spot-on accurate he was. The zone itself is very small – Dry Top in Guild Wars 1 was a tiny zone, but not quite this small. However, I doubt it will stay this tiny – I’m certain that as events progress in the story more of the area will open up and we’ll eventually head through into new zones.

The zone so far.

The zone so far.

As small as the zone is, though, it feels larger than it actually is…due to the fact that it has a large amount of verticality to it, and requires use of Zephyrite crystals to navigate fully. Which, by the way, is not as easy as it sounds, as they are crystal fragments and have a limited timer. Personally, I find the timers to be a bit frustrating at time, and spend a lot of time backtracking all over to find the crystals I need to get somewhere, only to have them run out halfway…but if you move fast enough, you can get to all sorts of crazy places in the zone.

That's a jumping puzzle, by the way.

That’s a jumping puzzle, by the way.

One of the main features of the zone is a sandstorm that blows through every 40 minutes. While the sandstorm is active, there are different enemies in the area to fight, as well as Buried Locked Chests to track down and open. They are very much worth hunting down, as they give quite nice rewards. Champ bags, new crafting materials, possibility of new crafting recipes, and so on.

If I may go on a temporary tangent, in fact, I just want to say that the rewards this time around? Very nice. I think they took to heart that a lot of people were finding rewards to be too stingy, and they decided to change that. Every story step I completed basically had me going “sweet, sweet loot!”. I’ve also had good luck with getting tier 6 materials as drops.

Back to the sandstorm! It definitely is an interesting mechanic. It also makes traversing the open parts of the zone very disorienting. It, in fact, got me killed during my very first trip into the zone yesterday. Whoops.

This is what exploring during the sandstorm looks like...and that's surprisingly clear for that area.

This is what exploring during the sandstorm looks like…and that’s rather clear for that area.

Environmental hazards tend to be a common theme in Dry Top. There’s the fact that most of the zone is a vertical maze that will have you hopping across precarious poles (and probably swearing profusely as you fall to your death). There’s the sandstorm. And there’s also a quicksand river that surrounds the town of Prosperity. When I got killed due to the sandstorm? I wasn’t aware the river was there nor could I see it, and walked right into it. It will kill you pretty fast. There is in fact an achievement for managing to stand in the quicksand river for at least 15 seconds and live. I’ve been seeing a lot of people try and fail that one so far, which is pretty entertaining to watch. It is possible to cross it safely, using crystal aspects, luckily. Generally if you get stuck in it, you are not getting back out.

While taking these screenshots, I watched someone try and live quite a few times. Key word: Try.

While taking these screenshots, I watched someone try and live quite a few times. Key word: Try.

There is, of course, a number of things to do in the zone. There are quite a few events that happen there, and completing events while the sandstorm isn’t active raises favor with the Zephyrites. Raising favor with them will change the things carried by merchants, as well as changing the prices on some of them. The events that happen are a good mix – one is essentially a capture the flag/keepaway game with Inquest, there are standard “rescue X NPCs”, hunting down and killing certain champions, blowing up a cave-in, and so on. There is also one area that only opens up during a specific event, and keeping that area open requires succeeding at that event, as well as followup ones that happen.

Some of the new stuff you can buy.

Some of the new stuff you can buy.

New items you can get include a new armor/weapon stat type (stats are toughness/healing/vitality), as well as new cooking recipes, and lockpicks that you use to open those chests you find during sandstorms. You’ll note that there’s a new currency at work here – geodes are a new thing that you can exchange for these new items. So far I’m kind of back and forth if I like geodes or not. They can be used for a lot of things, and it feels like getting them in large quantities will not be easy unless you farm events and get to favor tier two or three. You need them for lockpicks so you can open the chests so you can get Ambrite (the new crafting material). You need them to buy the new recipes. There are Piles of Silky Sand that drop, and you can use ten of them to try and get a geode, but so far I’ve gotten very low returns on that – over a stack of sand resulted in about three or four geodes total.

…but on the other hand, this has been around for all of a day and is permanent, so in the long run, it probably is not going to be an issue at all, and I’m likely just approaching it from a “this is going away in a couple of weeks” mindset, which will be hard to break out of.

And, one last thing, which just made me absolutely giddy yesterday:

I'm talking to myself.

I’m talking to myself.

Among the new NPCs scattered around the zone is one named Alana. For those who don’t know, that is my real name. I had been told ahead of time to look out for an NPC sharing my name, but that’s all. She’s actually the second NPC named for me (there’s also Explorer Verene, who runs in circles around Gavbeorn’s Waypoint in Cursed Shore), but still. So very cool :D

Thus far, I’m quite happy with the new living world stuff. I’m excited to see where things are going to go from here. I want to see more of the zone and figure out exactly what’s going on.

Is it time for the next release yet?

Journaling your story

Today, we got some information about how the Living World will function now, and just let me say.

I am one happy sylvari right now.

The new Story Journal was introduced today, which is how season 2 of the Living World will work. Originally I was planning on going over how this new system will work…but it’s already well-explained in Colin’s post. So I won’t.

What I will do, though, is write about what I think of this new change. And the short of it? I really, really like it. Everything about it is a step in the right direction.

First and foremost, content will now be permanent. So long as you’ve unlocked an episode, you can replay it to your heart’s content on any level 80 character on your account. It will always be there for you to do. One of the things I really enjoyed about GW1 was the replayability of the game – if I had completed a mission, I could always go back and replay it. I had been disappointed with how that was not possible in GW2 thus far – with personal story you can still replay it on different characters (though you cannot replay past steps), but LS season one was completely unable to be replayed. I could not go back to do any of it again on a different character, even. No longer will that be the case.


To unlock an episode, you simply have to log in once during the two week period in which it’s available. That’s it – just pop into the game for a moment and it will forever be available on all of your characters, though you can only play it on a level 80 character. Now, say, you are unable to log in at all during that time period and you miss an episode. You’ve gone on vacation, or your computer broke, or let’s say you’re simply new to GW2 entirely and you missed a few story episodes because you hadn’t had the game yet when they released.

You won’t have to miss it forever.

The option to unlock an episode for gems is a good one, I feel. The content is free for people who play regularly (or who just log in every couple of weeks), while still being available to be purchased for those who have missed out on it. 200 gems per episode may seem a bit steep, but think about it in the long run. If they do new content every two weeks for a full year and you miss all of it, that’s going to be just about $60 to purchase it all in one go, and that’s assuming they don’t do some sort of Season 2 pack where you can buy it all in one go for a discounted price. Frankly, I’d be surprised if they didn’t do that. But also think of this – I remember interviews released during Escape and Battle of LA (though now I cannot find them for the life of me) saying that they were going to try and aim for shorter story arcs. If they keep to the biweekly release schedule, ten episodes is five months’ worth of content – and if you miss everything, it’d be 2000 gems to unlock. That’s $25. That’s certainly less than an expansion would cost. So the pricing feels right. The biggest quibble I have with it is the gold to gem ratio is currently pretty insane; I feel like something needs to be done to control that a bit more so that converting gold into gems will be a viable option for someone who wants to play an episode they missed.

I’m also a fan of the changes to rewards. You’ll get rewards for completing the episode itself, and there’ll be new rewards added to open world content through each episode. It is separating itself from achievements; previously most rewards required you to complete the meta-achievement. They aren’t tied any longer, but the achievements aren’t going away entirely – a set of achievements, said to be fairly challenging, will be unlocked by completing the episode. This is great for multiple reasons – people who want to just play more casually and care more about the story can still get their rewards. People who are achievement hunters can still do that – and since they’ll always be available once unlocked, no one will have to feel like they must rush to complete everything.


This will also solve a problem that I know I fall into with most releases – play the new content, speed through the meta, and then find there’s little else to do because, well, I’ve done it all! I’ve commented before that tying the LS releases so closely to achievements basically makes everything feel like a checklist. I do hope this means that releases will be much more heavily story-based; if they are given more freedom to work with the story and don’t have to worry about it being completable quickly, I feel like this will help the story’s quality and they can play around more.

In all, these are great changes, and I am very happy with this. It shows that ArenaNet was listening to what people wanted. We get new free content, but no one has to miss out on it forever. We can replay it – it won’t be going away. We can take our time to get through the story instead of having to rush it. This is a vast improvement over how things were handled in season one. Well done, ANet – this is all good stuff, and benefits all of your players!

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:


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?


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.

Festival Falters

Festival of the Four Winds has been around for a few days now, and there’s good and bad to it. There’s stuff I like, and there’s stuff I don’t. So what’s bugging me?

Well, I’m going to start off with talking about the things I do like about the event.

Baby dolyak race. It's pretty great.

Baby dolyak race. It’s pretty great.

Labyrinthine Cliffs remains one of my favorite areas in the game. It’s a gorgeous non-combat zone (there are things to fight, but for the most part you won’t ever draw your weapons), with a fair amount to do there. Sky crystals are back! Collecting these will test your jump puzzle skills, and while many are in the same places they were last year, there are also ones that have moved. There is also the addition of Master Sky Crystals, of which there are ten in total. They are supposed to be trickier than the regular sky crystals to collect. I haven’t gotten all of the regular crystals, nor all of the master crystals (I believe I’m at 24 regular crystals and 4 master crystals), but so far the masters don’t necessarily seem all that much harder than the regular crystals. I do remember some intensely tricky crystals last year, though!

There are two new events this year, that I greatly enjoy over the ones they replaced last year. One has you collecting essences from various charged crystals around the map and bringing them to the bar in the second level of the Cliffs, and the other has you racing to the top of the map as a baby dolyak. It’s silly, it’s adorable, and it’s a lot of fun. It functions similarly to a guild rush, where you have to beware of traps along the way, but unlike guild rushes, the traps are much more forgiving – they simply knock you down or cripple you for a short while, instead of potentially killing you outright.

There is one thing that the events do very well here, that I really like and allows everyone in the zone the ability to participate, as well as essentially guaranteed rewards for all. Each one works on a timer – you have a certain amount of time to turn in essences or race to the top. You then work towards different tiers of completion – the more racers that make it, or the more essences that get turned in, count towards getting that reward level to silver or gold tier. Even once it hits gold tier, you can continue to participate until the timer runs out. My only quibble with it is that the dolyak race only allows a person to complete it once – you cannot redo the race to help push the rewards to the next tier. As I’m used to guild rushes, where someone can complete it multiple times and each one count towards completion, and as the essence collection event allows you to turn in multiple ones and they all count, that seems weird to me, and as a result I’ve never seen the dolyak race finish with higher than silver.

Also, as the Cliffs are largely vertical, you will still fall and die a lot, though the addition of nets in certain areas helps with that.

I had been trying to take a screenshot from a crystal location. I stepped just a bit too far towards the edge of the rock though...whoops.

I had been trying to take a screenshot from a crystal location. I stepped just a bit too far towards the edge of the rock though…whoops.

Last time around, I didn’t really bother with the Queen’s Gauntlet all that much. I didn’t find it fun, and I found the fights to be annoyingly difficult. I didn’t even finish the first tier of fights. The Gauntlet has returned and your progress from last time is still available, and now there’s a new title for defeating Liadri: The Blazing Light. Not going to lie, I do want that title. I decided to switch over to my ranger to do these, as my mesmer simply lacks good sources of stability (tons of stunbreakers but…not enough actual stability) or snares, which are greatly helpful. Yesterday I finished off the first tier and sailed right through the second tier with very few problems. And I currently have a note taped to the corner of my monitor that says that my ranger currently has my ascended sword and gauntlet tickets…because if I didn’t do that, I’d log onto my mesmer, wonder why those items were missing, and panic.

The Festival also has seen the return of many previous Living Story rewards. You can turn in the tokens you’re collecting for former meta rewards from different living story releases – there are skins like the Fervid Censer and Gas Mask, the Candy Corn node, as well as a variety of minis available to trade tokens for. The prizes average around 800 tokens, with a number of them at 1600, but gaining the tokens isn’t too terribly difficult – I’m sitting on just over three stacks right now, and you get 1600 tokens for completing the meta achievement.

Now…the Pavilion. You’ll note I haven’t said anything about it yet. The Pavilion has changed a lot from last year, and while some of the changes are positive, for the most part…this is where the Festival really falls flat. Last year during the Pavilion at any given point in time there would be two bosses up at once; between bosses there would also be events where you would have to clear enemies off the ‘spokes’ of the wheel that the Pavilion is shaped as. On top of that, the Pavilion was a great farming area. There were veteran enemies everywhere (seriously – everything but the bosses were vets), and the loot was good. Perhaps a bit too good, but spending time in there was certainly profitable. Boss mechanics weren’t much to speak of, and generally they died fast.

All six bosses run simultaneously now.

All six bosses run simultaneously now.

Yeah, that’s all changed. Now we have Boss Blitz – an event where all six bosses are up at a time, and they must be killed within a certain period of time. The fast you get them down, the better your rewards are for the event – gold tier gets you eight champ bags and a few other items, where as bronze – when the timer’s run out entirely – gains you two champ bags and a green. The bosses have greatly upgraded mechanics, which make them more interesting to fight, and when they die, they pass their abilities to the remaining bosses.

They also scale up to a ridiculously high amount of health if too many people are fighting them, which makes them take a very long time to die, so ideally people will split into smallish groups (about a dozen seems to work best) and each tackle a boss, aiming for near-simultaneous kills. Unfortunately, the game simply lacks options to really organize people in such a way – you can direct people via say and map chat all you want, you can try and get people to group at gates before the event starts so that everyone is split up…but realistically, it’s just difficult to coordinate people while playing the game. The UI lacks HP bars for all the bosses, so you have no idea how things are going in other areas. There’s no real way to tell how many people are in an area other than yours. There’s no way to call targets on anything for anyone other than party members. In other words, the fight is very anti-zerg, but it does not give us any way to try and break people from zerging.

The Watchwork Knight fight had a buff you needed to obtain to do damage, and they made it so only so many people could have the buff before there were no more available. You could easily see how many of these buffs were left and thus you could easily tell how many people were in an area and it was easier to direct people around. I honestly am confused why a mechanic like this was not included. Something as simple as a UI pane that shows the HP bar of each boss, as well as how many people are fighting there, would make things so much easier to organize.

Commander tags are generally useful for organizing players, but this is a place where they are actually a hindrance most of the time. If you have commanders on the map, you need enough so that there’s one for each group. That’s simply it. If you want to try for a gold finish, you will need at least four commanders – that are willing to work together – and preferably six, so that there’s one for each boss. I saw a suggestion on the forums that having a donation NPC (I’ll get back to that) at each gate, so that it would be easy to see how people are splitting, and for them to also sell temporary commander tags – one per area. If you have a large enough guild to fill a map, then you’ll be able to organize and get gold tier rewards – easily. But few are lucky enough to manage that.

Now, there’s another big problem with the Pavilion, and that is that there is absolutely no loot to be gained there. The only thing that the enemies drop there are gauntlet tickets and festival tokens. There is no loot for killing veterans, there are no champ bags if you kill a boss, and there is no area chest once a boss has been defeated. I just…absolutely cannot understand why they did this, especially looking at the achievements. There are six different “kill 50 enemies” achievements – one for each enemy type present in the Pavilion. For all of those achievements you have to kill 300 enemies in total. And you will not get a single thing for it but a handful of tickets, tokens, and some achievement points. I can possibly understand them wanting to lessen the amount of loot that was dropped by enemies, but not remove it entirely. This is especially irritating, being as to get the Boss Blitz to start in a decent amount of time, you must donate money to Heal-O-Tron. Money that you will not make back in return.

I see people on the forums complaining that the Pavilion last year broke the economy. Let’s get something straight here, people. The Pavilion did not break the economy. It helped it more than anything previously in the game (and since) had. It infused the game with a large number of materials and other items. What it did not do is introduce a large amount of actual gold – people were making money through Pavilion last year by selling the materials they were getting on the trading post, which is a minor gold sink, and were getting their money from other players. What broke the economy and got it into the state it’s in now was the large amounts of gold that were introduced once champion train farming took off.

When the Chaos of Lyssa recipe finally appeared on the trading post, this is what it was selling for.

When the Chaos of Lyssa recipe finally appeared on the trading post, this is what it was selling for. Note how many were available. As of writing, there are zero available on the trading post, and buy orders are now up to 1300g.

The other major problem that’s being seen is, as ever, RNG rewards. Sanctum Supply Boxes are meant to have a chance at dropping some of the previous LS items, as are the Gauntlet Chances that you get for winning a fight in the Gauntlet. The screenshot of the Chaos of Lyssa recipe when it appeared on the trading post yesterday just goes to show how incredibly rare these items really are. Rare drop rates on RNG rewards are nothing new. RNG is how GW2 does its major rewards. I hate it, but it’s simply what they tend to go to. The truly annoying thing is that these items, the supply boxes and chances, are by no means easy to get. Supply boxes you can get by turning in various materials – a thing that caused the price on many mats to instantly leap in price. Chances are gained for defeating enemies in the Gauntlet – one for winning, and additional ones for using gambits. Why don’t these work like previous boxes have? Why don’t they drop from regular enemies? Why aren’t you able to trade tokens for them? Something like that would instantly cut the rarity on these items. The Wings of Dwayna and Shadow of Grenth recipes were rare drops from Wintersday presents, but they weren’t so rare that getting one would make you rich. Even now they’re only a few gold apiece.

I was really hoping to get the Sun and Wind Catcher skins, since I didn’t buy them last time. I really want that Chaos of Lyssa backpiece. But with the rarity of these items, I cannot see that happening. I don’t have hundreds of gold. Right now I don’t even have a hundred gold, and my plan for making some money during this patch has been dashed.

There is a good amount to this patch that I like, but overall, it leaves me with a poor taste. It’s just…disappointing. I had initially hoped that the lack of drops in the Pavilion was a bug, but as there’s been several bug fixes since Tuesday and not a word has been mentioned about that from any official channels, it clearly was intentional in design. I can’t see any reason to go into the Pavilion once I finish those achievements unless I’m just going to go do the Gauntlet. The Cliffs will keep me interested until I finish finding sky crystals, but that’s about it. The patch as a whole just feels like a step back from previous events like this, and a lot of it has left me rather disheartened.

Give us ways to organize people in the Pavilion easily. Give us rewards for all of the things we need to kill in there. Make the RNG rewards more obtainable. Throw us a bone, and make it worthwhile. Please.

Festival of the Four Winds

It’s been some time since we’ve gotten a content-based update in Guild Wars 2, hasn’t it? I didn’t realize how spoiled I was by the biweekly release schedule until the first arc of living story ended.

But next week that changes, with Festival of the Four Winds! The Zephyrites are back in the Labyrinthine Cliffs, and Queen Jennah is reopening the Crown Pavilion and the Queen’s Gauntlet. Now, as I wrote about last year, those two particular updates were my favorites of the living story as of yet, and at this point, they still remain very high up there amongst the content that I loved best. They were fun, they were full of things that would definitely last you the full time of the patch being around, and they also added quality of life features that were greatly helpful. They were also ones I really wished would have been permanent in some manner, so seeing them return has me excited.

Also I really love the design of the pavilion area.

Also I really love the design of the pavilion area.

Now, both the Bazaar and the Pavilion last year brought a lot of new things to the game, and there were a number of other things that happened with it due to the new stuff. These patches were the ones that introduced the ability to craft Celestial gear, achievement chests, champion loot, dungeon rewards, and the account wallet. While they were primarily content patches, both also contained a number of quality of life changes that, at this point, I can’t imagine not having. Sure, I became very sour on champ bags after a while, but it’s nice to see enemies that are meant to be some challenge give guaranteed loot. The account wallet keeps my bank under control (in theory. It’s still a mess, but at least it’s not due to dungeon tokens!). Achievement chests are a nice little extra reward for doing things in the game. Guaranteed dungeon rewards are great, as I enjoy doing dungeons. Celestial gear was less important for me, but selling quartz crystals is a steady handful of silver a day (so long as I remember to go gather in my home instance), so I’m okay with that.

So the first thing I’m wondering is, are there going to be any other new things added in with this update? Now, I know that the big feature patch happened just a month ago. But there’s still plenty of little tweaks that could be added. We still know that precursor crafting is a thing that will be coming at some point, though I see it highly unlikely to be happening now. If it was, they would have said something about it, because there’s been requests for precursors to be fixed since launch. But there are other things I could see being added in. Trait unlocks being tweaked, or adjusting megaserver algorithms.

Celestial crafting is a bit...involved.

Celestial crafting is a bit…involved.

There’s also the question of, what exactly from those two patches last year will be returning? I still have Fortune Scraps in my bank, for example. Is it safe to assume that they’ll be usable again? As the Bazaar was when Celestial gear was added to the game last year, and the only time recipes were obtainable, will those be dropping again? Personally, I have no interest in Celestial crafting, but look at what you’ll pay just to get the recipes for a set of light armor right now. I really feel for anyone who didn’t get those last year while available, and then decided recently that they wanted Celestial gear. Ouch. Personally I think they also should no longer be account-bound. Crafting has actually become profitable now (well, for some items), so give people who like crafting another bone, okay?

The other thing that will be interesting to see is how the Pavilion is going to effect the current game economy. The Pavilion is basically one huge farm – more vets than you could hope to count, events happening frequently, and lots of loot to be gained. It was a fun farm, though, and very lucrative (especially if you farmed things other than destroyers). The prices on a lot of things dipped last year during this, both due to farming the Pavilion and the addition of champ bags. Precursors saw a price drop (not a huge one, but still enough to be noticeable). Many T6 mats went down a bit, while vicious claws absolutely tanked in price – I remember buying a stack for 8s a claw. Destroyer lodestones also saw a price drop that they’ve never really recovered from.

Without much information about what will actually be included in this update, as far as things returning from the previous two updates as well as new stuff, it’s hard to really say. However, I will say this much. I loved Bazaar of the Four Winds. I loved Queen’s Jubilee. And I will be playing the hell out of Festival of the Four Winds.

And hey, maybe we’ll get a peek at what’ll come in the new Living Story…

So what’s been going on?

As far as the game goes, stuff in Guild Wars 2 has been a bit light as of late. The feature patch has settled in and everything has turned over to megaservers. There’s as of yet no news as to when Living Story season 2 will start. The game has launched in China, though that has little to no effect on us. Basically, there’s not much happening right now!

And as such, I thought this was a good time to just sort of sit down and go over some of the things I’ve been doing lately.

So what have I been doing as of late?

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned already, I finished the Minstrel back at the start of April, bringing my legendary weapon count up to three. I think I’m going to take a break from making legendaries for now; I’m at a point where there’s only one or two that I haven’t done yet that I’d consider making. The price of precursors is currently ridiculous, so I’m not even going to start thinking of that for a long time. There are other things I’d rather work right now anyway (I want the scepter Immobulus, for example), so I’m good on legendaries.

Rianna Xi, the newest of my level 80s.

Rianna Xi, the newest of my level 80s.

My baby thief that I made the day of the feature patch has hit level 80, and I came up with a ridiculously silly and fun build to run on her. She is based on a roleplay character of mine, so to remain true to the character that limited me in a lot of ways – for example, pistols cannot be used. Main weaponset had to be melee. Luckily, dual-wielding daggers on a thief perfectly matches said character. Peacemaker and Dark Asuran daggers were as close to the look I wanted as I could get, but they match pretty well. The build I’m using is 4/4/0/6/0, based on signets. It’s very powerful, it keeps you alive forever, and it’s terrifyingly effective. I’m having a great deal of fun with it.

For all that I’m unhappy with the current trait system as it stands now, leveling to 80 with such a limited trait selection did mean that I wound up using ones that normally I wouldn’t have played around with, and found them to be better than I had expected. So there was that. This was also the first character I leveled up where I didn’t do any crafting. I got to level 50ish and at that point decided I was determined to play through to 80 without getting any levels from crafting. As a result I actually made a pretty significant amount of money while leveling – I did tons of gathering, and the 50-70 zones in general tend to be good for money due to the t4 materials you can get there.

This also brings my total number of level 80s up to 10. I still have 7 characters that are unleveled – two (asura elementalist and human guardian) are in the mid-40s, the others are all in the 20s. I’m undecided yet as to who to level next. Logic would say finish the elementalist or guardian, but I find myself drawn to my sylvari necromancer.

As I’ve written about previously, I’ve been doing some sPvP as of late. It’s a fun way to do something different while in game. I also like to mess around in Edge of the Mists. I’m still not a big WvW person, but EOTM is fun. I do really hope that a lot of things that were done in there are brought into WvW proper, such as varying the bosses for different areas you’re capturing. I’m always in favor of boss mechanics that are more than just “lots of HP”.

Even though she has to share, of course my mesmer gets the new toy first.

Even though she has to share, of course my mesmer gets the new toy first.

Since ascended items are now fully account-bound, I decided to bite the bullet and make plans to make some ascended weapons. Yesterday I finally leveled my weaponsmithing to 500 and made an ascended greatsword. In a few days I’ll be adding an ascended sword as well. My mesmer gets first dibs on the shinies, of course, but these two weapons will be shared between her, my ranger, and my guardian. I cannot recommend enough that if you are going to craft ascended weapons, to farm as many of the materials you need yourself. I waited until I had almost all of the materials I needed for the swords themselves before crafting to 500, and in that time I was also able to collect fairly large amounts of orichalcum, ancient wood, ecto, and t6 materials. By the time I hit 500, despite having to buy more materials along the way, I had actually made a pretty good chunk of profit from selling the weapons I had made – by the time everything sold I had about 30g more than I had started out with.

Everything else has been more of the same, really. Running dungeons with my guild, doing gathering runs. I’ve been starting to hit world boss events every so often again – I had stopped doing those after the feature patch because I’m not a big fan of the schedule, but there are some good timers available now that make it easier to keep track of what is running when. My former Orr gathering runs have been replaced with gathering in Sparkfly, Timberline, and Maelstrom. I’m finding it to be as profitable as running in Orr was, as platinum and hard wood are so much more plentiful than orichalcum and ancient wood are to gather. All of these things mean I am able to steadily make a consistent amount of money. I’ll never be one of those people who is insanely rich (from playing the trading post, generally), but I generally sit comfortably around 100g. That’s enough money for my general needs and wants, so I’m happy with that.

So yeah, in a nutshell, that’s been what I’ve been up to for the past month or so in GW2. Anyone else up to anything new or fun?

Hello, Deer (rank)

She has amazing armor.

Today I would like to introduce you to a character of mine. Everyone, this is Carella, my necromancer. She was the…fifth character I got to level 80, if I remember correctly? She’s gone through the most changes of every character of mine except for my mesmer; when I first made her I was playing her as a straight condition necro. Rabid gear, Runes of the Undead, all that fun stuff. Her original armor set was a mix of Priory and (what is now called) Seer, the named exotic set.

A few months later I decided to change to a more straight DPS-heavy build, going heavy on power, and made a set of berserker armor. The main focus off this set was to be the Orrian leggings, from Arah. Initially I was going to use the Orr temple armor top, but I didn’t have enough karma, so I bought the Whispers top instead as a temporary replacement, and decided that fit even better. Some adjustments came over the following months, until finally I had something that was just right, both in looks and stats. She is, however, one of the very few characters of mine that hasn’t had an actual makeover kit applied to her appearance – I made her to look like me, and always had the idea of throwing away the idea of necros being dark and creepy. So she’s stayed cheery and cute. She now switches between wearing bunny ears and glasses, because both are awesome to wear into battle.

Carella is also the character that I leaned towards using when I considered doing sPvP. I did a few games here or there, but after the feature patch, I decided to give it another go, due to the new changes made. It still isn’t my favorite game mode, but…I actually enjoy PvP.

So, how the heck did that happen?

Well, to start out, there’s a few different ‘types’ of sPvP. There’s custom arenas (also known as hotjoin), solo queue, and team queue. Hotjoin is when you just hit the Play Now button and get thrown in a game. It’s fun if you just want to play a quick game, but the rewards for this game type are the lowest. They also tend to be very “every person for themselves” since it’s hard to communicate while playing (if you stop to type while in a PvP match, you are an easy target). But they can certainly be very fun!

Look! I'm a deer!

Look! I’m a deer! But no longer a bunny…:(

Solo queue and team queue are more organized, and the rewards you get reflect that. They’re ‘tournaments’, as opposed to the casual hotjoin games, and they have leaderboards. If you’re by yourself, you can pick solo queue, and it’ll place you in line for a game. When I’m playing alone, I tend to not want to wait for that, so if no one else is on I’ll just do hotjoin. Patience isn’t my thing.

Team queue, on the other hand, is what I’ve been doing a lot of as of late. Team up with some guildies, and cause some chaos. I like these because then I’m playing with people I know and we can coordinate what we’re doing (yay for TeamSpeak!), which makes things much easier. Since several of my guildies that I play with frequently are much more into PvP than I am, this also means I’m able to get valuable advice from them as to what to do and what not to do.

So what have I learned in sPvP so far? Well, first of all, knowing the layout of a map is going to be one  of the most useful things to you. Some maps are easier to learn than others (Forest of Niflhel is my favorite), but they all have unique layouts and mechanics. You want to know how to get from your spawnpoint to all of the other points on the map – preferably multiple ways of doing so if you like sneaking around to capturing the far point on the map.

As I said...I'm new to this.

As I said…I’m new to this.

Distracting is good, sacrificing yourself less so. Running into a point that the enemy team has captured and is sitting on and promptly dying helps no one but them. Your team is down a person while you respawn, and they scored points from killing you. On the flip side, though, if you can stay alive long enough for another person or two from your team to catch up, or are able to de-cap one of the enemy team’s points so they are no longer getting points from it…distraction. When I’m playing hotjoin, if the enemy team is camping out on the midpoint, I’ll frequently go and capture the far area, which then draws them away, which then (if the others are paying attention) lets us go in to capture mid.

The way you play in PvE is going to be very different than PvP. Some skills work differently, yes, though PvE/PvP splits are few and far between. The bigger thing is you’re playing against other people who are going to actually react to what you’re doing, instead of just balling up all nice and neat against a wall for you to spike to death. They will move around, dodge out of the way, stun you, fear you, knock you down, and you need to be able to react to that. I play Carella as a damage/condition hybrid in PvE; in PvP I go for conditions and minions. Yes, I know, minion necro is cheap and easy. That’s why I do it. I’m not familiar enough with PvP to want to start messing around with something new when I know I can do this well. Conditions are so much more viable in PvP than they are in PvE, and minions make great meatshields. More than once I’ve rallied off of someone who bled to death from bleed stacks I put on them before going down myself.

Try and communicate with your team. Even if all you can do is type in chat “going far” or “thief near mid” or “2 home”, that’s valuable information that will make thing easier for everyone.

Reward tracks! I should go do that next tier of Arah already.

Reward tracks! I should go do that next tier of Arah already.

So I’m not going to lie, the new reward tracks are a large part of why I decided to try PvP. There’s a number of different tracks you can activate, each becoming available in different ways, and then you work towards specific rewards. I’m currently doing the Arah track, so as I progress I will be getting Arah tokens, weapons, and a piece of armor. After that I may go do the Kryta track. Not decided yet! The nice thing is I can switch to another one – say I decided I really, really needed the Balthazar backpiece (I don’t, I think it’s ugly, but that’s besides the point) – and the progress I’ve made on the Arah track is saved for when I go back to it.

You also get reward chests as you rank up, but as ever, these are heavily RNG. I’ve yet to get anything decent from any of them. One of my friends has gotten a number of exotics. My fiance managed to get an ascended armor chest (Zojja’s, naturally), his very first PvP match. Talk about luck. But you still get stuff, as well as a gold reward when finishing a match, so it isn’t a choice between playing PvP and playing something in-game that will earn you money. You can do both.

There’s one more thing I didn’t mention yet, and that’s Team Deathmatch. It’s a new mode that was added, and isn’t fully supported, so you will only see it (and the map it’s available on, Courtyard), on player-owned custom arenas. It’s exactly what it sounds like – the map is tiny, with two spawn points and a courtyard between the two, and you simply go in and…try and kill the other team. That’s it. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also get unbalanced very quickly, and spawn-camping can be an issue. It is a highly entertaining fast-paced game mode, though, so if you see an open custom arena with it available, give it a try!

So, yeah. PvP. It will never be my favorite thing in the game, but it’s something that I’ve come to have fun with and play occasionally. I’d suggest, if you’ve never tried it, to give it a go. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it too!

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.

Continue reading

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 360 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.