Fixing the Personal Story

The Personal Story is a large part of Guild Wars 2, and yet it’s one that’s always had its issues. The September Feature Patch restructured the Personal Story, moving it to chapters available every ten levels.

There were a lot of reasons I disliked that move. The biggest one is that early personal story is a good way to level up a character and immediately immerse you in Tyria; now a new character cannot start until they are level 10. To me, this feels more disconnected than having a new step available soon as the previous was complete, but with a level suggestion on it. The other big issue that was created by this change was later parts of the story going completely missing.

During the Light in the Darkness story step, your character is asked by the Pale Tree what their greatest fear is. This response used to lead to one of three different storylines, depending on what you responded with. This arc, called the Greatest Fear storyline, was removed entirely with the September patch. While this storyline was removed, though, there were reports from people playing through that the following steps seemed disjointed, and still contained references to the storyline that now did not exist. A problem? Yes.

This is how my Chapter 7, the story having been completed back at launch, looks. Everything in the current order after Battle of Fort Trinity is in Chapter 8.

This is how my Chapter 7, the story having been completed back at launch, looks. Everything in the current order after Battle of Fort Trinity is in Chapter 8. I had chosen “Letting an innocent die” as Liusaidh’s greatest fear.

There’s been talk for some time now of the story steps being restored to where they were and the Personal Story being fixed, and today Bobby Stein made a post on the forums outlining exactly what is going to be happening when the changes are made. Essentially what will happen is that the story steps will go back to their previous locations – the Greatest Fear storyline will go back to comprising Chapter 7, and the steps that are in 7 currently will return to Chapter 8, as they were initially. There’s no date as to when this patch will go live, but Bobby notes a few things – if you haven’t completed A Light in the Darkness or Forging the Pact, you shouldn’t have any problems. If you have completed Forging the Pact and went ahead to Battle of Fort Trinity, you will not be able to play the Greatest Fear storyline. And if you’ve gone past that, you must complete through Source of Orr to start Chapter 8, otherwise you will be skipped straight ahead to Victory or Death once the update goes in.

I’m summing things up, so make sure you read the post for more in-depth info.

The other big change that’s being made is to Arah. At current, the personal story ends with having to complete the Arah dungeon in story mode.

This is and has been a problem since launch for several reasons.

To start out, essentially the entirety of personal story was designed to be able to be played alone. Sure, some steps are easier if you’ve got another person with you (I’m looking at you, Claw Island), but it was essentially soloable. Suddenly you are faced with a dungeon that requires a full team of five players. It’s a bit of a disconnect there.

To do Arah, you needed to find a group of four other people to do it with you. Now, here’s another issue – Arah’s story mode is long, and has a lot of places where you’re just sitting there waiting for things to happen. That made it hard to find groups, and even in a guild it wasn’t a dungeon you’d do at the spur of a moment. I always hated when people asked to do Arah in guild chat – not because they wanted to do it (I’ve done it a good dozen times since finishing my own personal story to get others through it), but because I’d have to tell them no, not right now, this is a long mess of a dungeon and if you want to do it, we need to plan ahead and get a group together in advance. If you didn’t have people willing to do it? Forget it. I know people who’ve been done with their story for months but still haven’t actually finished because they still need to do Arah.

And so here we get the other big change being made. Arah, as a story mode dungeon, is being retired from the game. Instead, it will become the Victory or Death story step (which before simply told you to go do Arah). It will not require a group of five – while you can go in with five people, the difficulty on it will be scaled down so that someone can do it solo. As a result, you can only do it once on a character (unless you join in with someone doing it), Arah explorable modes will be unlocked by default, and the Arah PvP reward track will be unlocked by either completing the PS or doing an explorable mode.

This is a fantastic change. This is going to make it so much easier for people to complete the content. No longer will they have to wait for a group to be able to finish their story – they can jump in whenever they have the time to do it. I feel that this is also acknowledging the fact that a lot of people will be moving on from the Pact Tyria to Heart of Thorns content soon, and so this will allow new players to get into the action quickly.

Overall, I approve heavily of this change.

There’s no date announced when the change will go in, but Bobby does mention in the forum post that it will be at least eight weeks from now – which gives people plenty of time to get to the correct story steps so that they won’t have to worry about anything breaking or missing any content.

Also, on an aside, this is the sort of communication I like seeing. Straightforward information about what’s going to be happening and why, and what to expect. I’d like to see more of this, please!

How to achieve things and be an achiever

Are you a new player to Guild Wars 2, who’s seen the Achievements panel and wants to know how to earn points and rewards? Or perhaps you’re more limited with in-game time, and are curious what options you may have. If either of these are the case, then this post is for you!

Why are achievements worth it? Well, they didn’t used to be – they were just points that had no meaning other than showing you played the game’s content. In July of 2013, however, they added in an achievement rewards system, and suddenly those meaningless points meant that you could earn actual rewards for doing them. Weapon skins, money, account bonuses, and a variety of other items are what you can earn for hitting certain achievement milestones (the first chest is at 100 points, and then you get one every 500 points).

The main achievement panel screen. It shows your points, your next few chests, your daily rewards, recently completed achievements, and nearly-completed ones.

The main achievement panel screen. It shows your points, your next few chests, your daily rewards, recently completed achievements, and nearly-completed ones.

But where to start? I’ll go over some of the different categories available. Keep in mind you won’t get to 10k AP in three days, but these will help you build up that number (and your rewards!) in good time.

The absolute best way to build your achievement points with minimal time and effort: DO YOUR DAILIES.

I just finished mine about 15 minutes ago.

I just finished mine about 15 minutes ago.

The dailies system has changed quite a few times over the life of the game. The current system gives you rewards for logging in, and then you can complete different daily achievements that are on a rotation – three are required to get your AP. What you get varies based on the highest character level on your account. If your highest character is only level 10, you will see one PvE, one WvW, and one PvP daily. If your highest is between 10 and 30, you’ll see three of each. If you’re above 30, you will see the full rotation of four each (12 in total).

Which ones you actually do is entirely up to you; one of the advantages of this system is that since you only need to do three and the variety is pretty wide, you do have plenty of options. Vista viewer and any of the gatherer dailies are no-brainers; they both take no time at all to do. Usually when WvW Big Spender is in the rotation, I do that one, though today I decided to do Kessex Events and Kryta Forager at the same time. Generally I’ll do two PvE and one WvW daily, unless I’m in the mood for PvP; if you do PvP and have the full set available to you, you can often get all three done in one match.

Completing three dailies gets you an even 10 AP – all for just a few minutes’ work – as well as various rewards for the specific dailies. They’re worth doing. It’s fast and it’s easy AP. Just try and do them every day if you can.

Have you started the game recently? Or just haven’t done certain portions of it?

New Guild Wars 2 player? Great! Welcome and I hope you’re enjoying the game. There are a few categories you will be able to make immediate progress in. You won’t max out everything in them quickly, but you will gain points almost immediately.

ap3The Hero Category is one that encompasses a lot of the things you’ll be doing just by playing. Personal story, for example – as you play through your personal story, you will earn points for each chapter you complete. There are three chapters available for each race (the level 10, 20, and 30 story chapters), one for joining each of the three Orders, and then one for each story chapter after that (I think. As the personal story setup changed significantly since I completed everything, it may be slightly off).

This category also contains such things as completing hearts, participating in events, earning skillpoints, completing story dungeons, and doing map completion. And the latter ties in nicely to the next few categories!

ap4The Explorer Category is basically exactly what the name says. Simply by exploring Tyria and uncovering new areas of the map, you will work on the various Explorer tracks – there is one for each region in the game. It can be tricky to find all of these areas! But it’s also fun to see all of the little things the game contains.

This is also where you will find achievements for mini-dungeons, which are essentially simple puzzles that usually contain some fighting and jumping and have a chest at the end. Some of them can be more difficult, so if you’ve got some friends to play with, take them along for those, as well as for the next category…

ap5The Jumping Puzzles category keeps track of the various jumping puzzles you’ve completed in the game. They are similar to mini-dungeons; however jumping puzzles are more about platforming and tend to lack fights. They vary in difficulty; I’d definitely advise bringing a friend along for these. Some puzzles are more forgiving, so that if you miss a jump or fall, you can get back to where you were fairly easily, but others will make you restart. Having a friend makes it less likely you’ll lose all of your progress, because then you can be ressed easily.

The next two can be easily progressed in tandem:

ap6The Weapon Master category…

ap12…and the Slayer Category.

As you play the game, you will kill things. Many things. Doing so counts towards achievement tracks in both of these categories. Really, I’d say to not worry about these two categories much – I bring them up simply to let you know they’re there. You’ll naturally make progress on tracks in both just by playing normally.

Have you been playing the game for a while? Have some money to play with? Do you have any level 80 characters?

If so, take a look through these categories:

ap7The Tradesman Category will keep track of your crafting progress, among a few other things. I’ll be straightforward – for the most part, this is the “Throw money at the problem until it goes away” category. One of the achievements in this category, Gold Hoarder, is for saving up 200 gold. Most of the rest are for crafting, and crafting isn’t cheap. That said, there are separate tracks for getting a crafting discipline to 400 (the original max level), and then again for raising it to 500, so you can potentially bank a lot of points in this category. It’ll just cost you.

ap8Collections are iffy, but I’m going to bring them up anyway. You don’t actually get many achievement points from completing these, and some can be annoying, expensive, or both. That said, you can get some neat rewards for finishing them, and for a lot you’ll wind up getting a good chunk of the stuff without really trying. For the record, Wintersday Toy Weapon Collection can be completed for a few silver by buying everything off the trading post.

ap9If you have any level 80 characters and have unlocked the second season of living story, peruse through and work on the Story Journal achievements. They can vary greatly in difficulty, but you do get pretty good rewards for some of them, including free ascended trinkets for completing all of the achievements for a specific story step. This is worth noting as currently that is the only way to get the particular stat type that those trinkets come in. Give them a go, and check out a guide if you get stuck.

Do you have a good guild or group of friends to play with?

Then it may be worth your time to work on these two categories:

ap10The Dungeons Category

ap11…and the Fractals of the Mists Category.

Now, you can do dungeons and fractals through PUGs, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re aiming to complete achievements – most people in such groups are just looking for the path of least resistance and want to get to the end in the shortest time possible. Do these with friends or guild members who’ll be understanding of your desire to do slightly out of the way things.

The biggest problem with the Dungeon Master achievement is that the game does not track in any visible way which dungeon paths you have done. And believe me, it can be frustrating if you can’t remember if it was Path 2 or Path 4 of Arah you haven’t done yet, and then doing the wrong one. So if you are working on Dungeon Master, create yourself some sort of list to track what you’ve done and what you haven’t.

Also note that one of the paths of Twilight Arbor, the Aetherpath, has its own achievement category. It was added in after release, and is a level 80 dungeon path (as opposed to level 55 like the rest of TA). It has a different set of achievements that can be trickier to complete.

What else is good to work on?

Well, there are a lot of different categories, really! Fashion and Community are ones that you’ll make natural progress in through play – Fashion is unlocking various weapon and armor skins, while Community contains things that will happen as you play with others. Bosses is pretty easy to fill out if you do world bosses. And there is the Competitive section, containing PvP, WvW, and a variety of mini-games. You can pick up some points there if you like those things. The PvP category in particular is full of AP, with various tracks having a high number of tiers. They’ll certainly take you a long time to max out, but you can still get a lot just by playing; the more you play, the more you get.

And of course, most important is simply to keep track of new stuff being added to the game! New content tends to come with new achievements to work on. Festivals often have their own achievement categories as well – these are temporary, however, so make sure you’re aware of how long they’ll be available!

Good luck, and have fun adding to your list of accomplishments!

Precursor to Greatness

Precursor crafting is probably one of the most anticipated and desired features for GW2. It was promised to us back in 2013…and there was nothing. Absolute silence on the subject. It wasn’t mentioned at all again until last year, when it was confirmed to not be a part of the feature packs. Finally, when Heart of Thorns was announced, precursor crafting was announced to be on the horizon – as a part of the expansion, along with new legendaries. A few other bits of info came about quickly – namely, that it’d be done through collections and that each precursor would be obtainable once per account.

Some more information was released today on how this process will work. It seems that each precursor will require completing three collections, which will allow you to craft your precursor in varying stages – you start off with a “nontradable exotic weapon with a distressed version of the existing precursor skin”, as it says, and the second and third collections will be about upgrading that into the actual precursor itself.

Most of those are almost certainly placeholder icons, so don't go nuts because you need Chaos of Lyssa.

Most of those are almost certainly placeholder icons, so don’t go nuts because you need Chaos of Lyssa.

A few things of note: It’s noted that completing a collection will not actually give you the weapon itself, but rather a recipe to craft it. If you’re working on the Legend, for example, you won’t actually get it at the end. You’ll get “Recipe: The Legend” or however they’ll be named. What the recipes will consist of is not specified or even hinted at. I admit to both being curious and worried about this. Are crafting the actual weapons going to be as much of a pain as crafting ascended is? Or will it be more along the lines of “Congrats, you did all this work to get the recipe” and doesn’t actually require much to create? I’m hoping for some sort of middle ground, personally. Precursors are only exotics, so they likely will not use ascended materials for the weapon itself (though I’m certain that they’d be used for the collections themselves). Most of the crafted recipes for exotics are pretty simple – the really expensive ones are Mystic Forge recipes. But on the flip side there’s nothing that prevents them from creating a crafting recipe that requires expensive mats in large quantities, since the current gifts for legendaries are like that. So we definitely need more information on that.

Also I want to know if I should get my Huntsman up to 500 or not.

The "distressed" version of Energizer. Looks a little beat-up there.

The “distressed” version of Energizer. Looks a little beat-up there.

One of the other things noted is a change in skins for precursors, and personally I’m pretty pleased with this. More unique skins are always good. I know that when I was trying to get the Legend for my Bifrost, I had a lot of moments of “oh my god-DAMNIT!” while throwing stuff in the Forge – so many times it spit back out Imryldyeen. Precursors having unique skins will hopefully mean they have unique icons and hence will cut down on that sort of nonsense.

The new precursor skins will hold a similarity to the legendary it’s for, just simpler. As the article says, “We like to think of these new precursor skins as the legendary weapon before it is embodied by its soul.” This is also neat for people who kinda like a specific legendary but think it’s just a bit too ostentatious. For example, I don’t like Sunrise/Twilight/Eternity because they are way too damn flashy for my tastes. If Dusk and Dawn have similar appearances but toned down, then I think I might actually like them. The article also notes that if you do get a precursor not through the collection system, it’ll unlock the previous two skins, so you won’t miss out on those if you decide to go the “throw money at it” route. Or if you get really lucky.

See, I quite like how that looks.

See, I quite like how that looks.

What the article doesn’t say is if you already have a legendary, will you also unlock the new precursor skin as well as its other two forms? I certainly hope this to be the case; when the wardrobe was added in, if you had a legendary you automatically unlocked the skin for the precursor. So I’m betting that will continue to be the case here. Some confirmation either way would be nice, though.

One thing I am surprised at is the fact that crafted precursors (for the pre-existing legendaries, anyway) will be tradeable. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect this will have on the precursor market and if it balances prices out any. That all will likely depend on how difficult the collections are to complete and how neat and popular the new precursor skins are. It is noted that neither the precursors nor the legendaries themselves for the new legendaries being added will be tradeable. This will add more prestige to the new legendaries – someone who has it you know didn’t just throw money at the trading post, but they built that thing up from scratch. On the flip side that means you can’t gift someone with a new precursor or anything like that.

It also says that the new legendaries will be created slightly differently than the current group – it’ll be similar, but, as it states, “refined…into more of a journey, similar to precursor crafting.” How similar it’ll be is the big question. Will it still use the base stuff like Gift of Mastery, Clovers, Gift of Fortune, etc? Or will those common components be replaced entirely? Personally I am hoping they’ll still be used, but that’s primarily for selfish reasons (aka I have a Gift of Mastery and set of Clovers sitting in my bank). The recent removal of World vs. World from map completion as well as the fact that the Silverwastes all but rains obsidian shards at least, in my opinion, points at those still being of use.

The last thing that’s announced in the post is Map Bonuses. This I really like. Different maps will have different rotations that’ll reward you with bonus items for playing – such as completing events, jumping puzzles, and mini-dungeons. An example is given as Giant Eyes being a possible reward during a rotation in Cursed Shore.


First of all, this will help breathe more life into maps that normally aren’t used. The new daily system helps, but if certain currently-hard-to-obtain materials can be gotten by playing in certain maps, people will go there. Another is that certain materials are ludicrously difficult to get. Giant eyes are one of them. They are an incredibly rare drop from heavy moldy bags – back when we were tracking HMBs, we got 15 giant eyes out of 12,121 bags. 15 eyes out of nearly 50 stacks of bags. The chances of getting them are tiny. Silver doubloons are another material that I’d like to see added to bonus rotations – right now the only vaguely reliable way to farm them is to park a level 26-ish character at the end of a jump puzzle and open the chest daily. I can also see this being useful for a number of more common crafting materials that are still overly pricey – cloth, for example, as well as cores and lodestones and t6 fine mats.

It’ll also have an effect on the economy, but frankly, most of those mats are frustratingly expensive because of how hard they are to obtain. Bringing them down to reasonable prices and making them easier to get is definitely a positive.

We’ve gotten a fair bit of info today, and while it doesn’t tell us everything and raises more questions, it’s certainly nice to see info coming out again. Next, let’s get some info on specializations, perhaps? I’d like to see that. Just saying.

Barring that, here's Jennah breaking out some dance moves.

Barring that, here’s Jennah breaking out some dance moves.

Community Communication

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, the Guild Wars 2 community was a large and varied place. Fansites, bloggers, artists, writers, podcasters, video makers, musicians, and any mixture of the above. The amount of content coming out of the community was as large and varied as the community itself. ArenaNet openly supported all of these avenues of creativity. All matter of creation was acknowledged and shared by official channels. Fansites and blogs were allowed to preview content before it came out, and were used to give away awesome things to the rest of the community at large. And for a time, it was good.

That all changed when Twitch attacked.

…okay, so that was a silly introduction to a topic that has rubbed me wrong for a very, very long time now, and resulted in a several-hundred-tweet long conversation between over a dozen people yesterday. Several conversations, actually. I’m still sorting through all of it myself, but the crux of it is that the current approach to community engagement is not a very good one.

Before I go any further, I want to bring up a post from three years ago about how ANet wants to build the GW2 community. Some select quotes:

“We will continue to work with fansites as we have done in the past, but in addition to “traditional” fansites, we will also provide a platform to support smaller, specialized communities/projects that would never have had a place in a traditional program, like blogs, machinima, etc.”

“One thing that is very important to keep in mind: there is no single “community.” It’s not a monolithic, unified demographic, but a many-faceted, living, breathing ecosystem. You will find communities on Fansites, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, guild sites, and lots of other places.”

“By working together, with you bringing amazing and great community projects to our attention and us highlighting them for the broader community, we will be able to build something great and lasting that will benefit each and every one of you.”

“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment that is respectful, welcoming, inclusive and friendly. We want to create a global community where people will feel at home, and an environment that will foster both creativity and collaboration…the main goal is to be inclusive, not exclusive, to encourage collaboration between communities, and to generate an atmosphere that is helpful, friendly, and above all, respectful.”

For quite a long time – from several years before the game launched until about a year and a half ago – this was the case. This is how things were done. ArenaNet did a great job for years of reaching out to and promoting all of the varying aspects of their community. They actively and openly supported all of the content creators within the GW2 community. And you know what, I’m not going to deny that I’ve got a horse in this race. I’ve been running this blog for just shy of four years, worked with GuildMag for some time before that, and was active on twitter and forums before that even. This blog is the definitely of a smaller, more specialized project that they mention above – I essentially run this thing by myself, with the occasional post from my husband. I did it because I enjoyed doing it, and was always thrilled when one of my posts got retweeted by the GW2 twitter account, or posted on their facebook. I thought it was great that I was included in things such as beta key giveaways, the big Collector’s Edition giveaway. That I was able to do two different interviews with ANet staff, and that I was included on the fansite previews of season one living story stuff.

Basically, for a long time, ArenaNet was awesome at taking care of and supporting their community and the content creators within it, and it flourished for years. And because ANet supported both small and large sites alike, it created a rather tight-knit community amongst bloggers and artists and other fansite owners, as well – instead of seeing each other as competition, as could well be the case, many of us saw each other as friends. There were so many different sites that no two people put out the same content, and so there was no need to compete for attention. We all talked, regularly linked to each others’ works, worked together on projects, became friends. Because that’s what happens in a good community.

And it all pretty much came to a halt overnight. The fansite preview project came to a halt after a couple of press sites broke embargo. There was essentially nothing but radio silence for several months. Once things started to come to life again, it became clear that the scope of what ANet wanted to promote for the community had changed, and changed drastically. And, quite frankly, it was not a change for the positive.

Earlier this week, emails went out for a stress test of Heart of Thorns. The wording of the email, mentioning “most loyal players”, created a certain amount of ill-feeling. Yesterday, this was tweeted from another GW2 player:

…and off it went.

As of right now, there are only a select few GW2 community members that get any support or promotion from ANet, and they all do the exact same things – stream the game on twitch and post videos on youtube. There is no variety, and there is little actual content being showcased (the sole exception to this being the GW2 tumblr, where some fanart and screenshots get reblogged). It’s pretty damn frustrating.

I’ve had this feeling for a long time. It’s been bothering me for well over a year now. I don’t like the idea that if you do any sort of work for the community other than stream on twitch, you are not deserving of recognition and support. And as that conversation was kicked off yesterday, and more and more people who are long-time community members (either as content creators or those who liked the massive amount of content that used to come out of the community) jumped in to voice their opinions – that after so long, it really sucks to suddenly be left in the cold as though all of the work you’d done for years no longer matters.

The Tough Love Critic managed to go through and create a timeline of all of the tweets from the varying branching conversations kicked off by that first tweet – it’s kind of disorganized, and sometimes you have to click to read more of a conversation, but it’s all there. And there are a lot of good points being made there, too. Such as this one from Ollanach, the creator of GuildMag:

Celeste of Guild Wars Reporter also said:

A comment from Tough Love Critic:

And then this one, from Tylluan, who isn’t a fansite owner but has been a member of the community for a long time and noticed the massive shift that happened, which rather hits the nail on the head:

I kept my opinions quiet on this matter for a very long time, because I wasn’t sure if me being annoyed about it was just feeling bitter about suddenly being left out, or if it were a more widespread thing. As it turns out, it seems like most people who felt like this have for some time but stayed quiet for similar reasons:

So, here’s the base of the issue – the sudden change to focusing on Youtubers and Twitch streamers to the exclusion of all other parts of the community not only goes directly against the original community philosophy espoused by ArenaNet three years ago, but it also served to suddenly cut out members of the community who had been supporting the game and creating content for and about it for many years – most of us long before the game even came out. It’s a slap in the face to all of us that have done so much work for so long. And, to be completely frank, it is a poor way to foster a good community.

What solutions are there? Personally, I would be happy with going back to at least some of what we had before. I’m not even asking for big things like being flown to conventions and ArenaNet’s offices, as awesome as that would be. But, please, just recognize that we are still an important and vital part of the GW2 community. Recognize and promote the work we do. Acknowledge that many of us have been at this for closing in on half a decade or more. We had a hand in helping to shape this community – give us back the ability to continue to do so. Many fansites have closed down or slowed in the intervening year and a half – and I’m sure the culture of neglect has had a hand in that – but many of us are still around. Allow all aspects of the fanbase to flourish, all type of content to be created and promoted and supported – not just one very narrow section of it. Just…stop ignoring us. Please. That’s all it takes.


A Time-Limited Person’s Guide to the Silverwastes

So it is no secret that I have little free time these days, as my inactivity on this blog shows. My work schedule is such that the hours I’m free during the day are when no one else is online, and generally are taken up by other things that need to be done (sometimes, being an adult sucks).

The Silverwastes is a fun map to farm; you can get a good amount of loot from there, and you’re basically required to spend time there to get the Carapace armor sets. The entire Breach event cycle can take a while to complete, which can be tricky if you’re limited on time. And so here I am to help you with that!

Step One: Get your stuff together.

If you’re farming in the Silverwastes, you’re going to wind up with a bunch of stuff. Bandit Crests, shovels, keys, sand, etc. If you have multiple characters, try and remember who has it all, and try and keep everything together. That way you won’t get into the map and realize that a different alt has all of your shovels or something like that.

sw-invIt’s not organized, really, but it’s all there. Stacks of crests, shovels, bandit keys, nightmare key pieces and key, etc. Also, make sure you have salvage kits on hand and that your bags are otherwise pretty empty. You’re going to wind up with a lot of loot.

Step Two: Get to know the map.

Silverwastes is kind of an annoying map to navigate, in my opinion, but updates have made the map easier to get around. There are, for example, three waypoints now, instead of one. You’ll only really need to worry about two of them, though.

sw-mapCamp Resolve is the start of the area; this waypoint is always available to you. The one in Sharp Valley – Hidden Depths Waypoint – was added when the Labyrinth was added, and this waypoint may contest if there’s an event going on there. I highly recommend uncontesting this waypoint as soon as possible if you see it contested; the event is not hard and can be done solo in just a few minutes. Having this waypoint open makes it much easier to get to the western side of the map, and is especially important to have open during the Vinewrath fight.

There are also skritt tunnels that let you shortcut through the map; the tunnels link up in pairs. They are not always open, however; if bandits have overrun the skritt camp, you have to wait for that event to activate (sometimes it takes forever and is really frustrating) and then kill bandits until it completes. The most important part of the skritt tunnels is that the Far Silverwastes can only be accessed that way, and you’re required to go there to do certain steps of the Living Story. Otherwise, Hidden Depths Waypoint is more important to keep open.

Step Three: Use the Looking For Group tool.

Let’s talk map hopping. I get that some people don’t like it, and that there should be more rewards to incentivize staying in a new map and building it up. I agree, to a certain extent. The problem is it can take a long time to build up a fresh map. While many map hop to get the most rewards they can, others do it because they’re limited on time.

sw-lfgApparently TTS was setting up for Triple Trouble when I was taking screens today. Other than that, as you can see, people advertise Silverwastes maps in LFG. This helps to build up a map that’s already gained some momentum, as well as to get it as full as possible, so there’s as many people around for Vinewrath as possible. The Breach bosses can be done with only a handful of people each, but you really don’t want to have only five people in a lane at Vinewrath.


The most common things you’ll see are maps around 30-70%, maps where Vinewrath is starting, and maps where people are doing chest runs. Silverwastes parties and maps do fill quickly, so if one you try is full, don’t worry too much – there’s new ones being advertised all the time. Most of the time if a map is advertising Vinewrath starting, I don’t bother – they’re trying to squeeze a last few people in if possible, and chances are it’s full already. Anything above 50% I find chancy about getting in, though ultimately it depends on the time of day. Right around now, getting into a 70% map wouldn’t be difficult. During prime time, trying a 40% map may get you “map full”.

If you’re going to make a listing in LFG for your map, by the way, try and be accurate about how much progress has been made. Don’t list as a 50% map if you’re only about 25% of the way through. Yes, since it’s just a bar with no markers you have to estimate and the estimates may not always be entirely correct…but being that far off isn’t simply a poor estimate.

Step Four: Know the encounters.

When you’re doing the Breach and Vinewrath, make sure you know what you’re doing. Of course, in some cases other people make it hard to do the fight properly – people who stand on the lip at Copper while fighting the Husk and shouting “NO AOE” will make the fight harder (hint – you just need to kill the poison bubbles before they reach the husk. AoE is perfectly fine. Also if everyone’s on the lip there’s a risk of the husk resetting; melee is quite safe if there’s someone kiting the offshoots). And sometimes things just go wrong.

But for the most part, just be aware of what’s going on. If Vinewrath is starting and there’s 60 people at the south lane, go to the middle or north – they nearly always need people. Don’t tunnel vision in on protecting only the siege carrier and forget about what’s going on at the ammo pile – trust me, you do not want to have to be collecting ammo while there’s a Champion Terragriff rampaging around because no one bothered to keep watch on what’s happening there. The north lane is especially bad for this, because of how it’s set up.

And make sure you know the encounters for the bosses themselves. They aren’t hugely difficult, and generally there’s someone in say chat who’ll give a brief instruction of what to do. For the Beekeeper, bring bees to the honeycomb and stand behind it when he goes to the front of the room. Reflects are useful against the Mangler; kill the pustules that spawn and then go stand in the white pyramid on the floor when he goes to the front of the room. Pop the flowers when fighting the Dark Wing and stand on them when he goes to the front of the room.

Step Five: If you defeat, it is faster for you to waypoint.

This is why you want the Hidden Depths waypoint open. Frequently it’ll be faster for you to waypoint there and run back to wherever you were if you are defeated. Now, if you’re downed, people will res you. But a defeated person takes a long time to res, especially when you’re in combat. I have seen the Breach fail because of everyone at a boss slowly getting defeated and refusing to waypoint and run back, causing the boss to reset.

Step Six: If you’re limited on time, skip the Labyrinth until later.

You can open the Greater Nightmare Chest as many times as you have complete keys. So if you finish Vinewrath and don’t really have much time to do anything else, just save up your keys. You can use them later, when you’ve got some more time available to you.

Step Seven: Opening bags and salvaging everything will take forever.

I’m not kidding. You get a lot of champ bags, bags of gear, etc. from doing these events. It will take you a good amount of time to open everything up, salvage stuff, sell off items, and so on. Silverwastes is brutal on inventory management. So, again, if you’re out of time, leave that stuff for later when you can dedicate a good fifteen minutes to getting everything organized.

Step Eight: Have fun.

Don’t force yourself to farm Silverwastes (or run dungeons or anything else) if you don’t enjoy it. I enjoy Silverwastes, but I rarely have the attention span to go through it more than twice in a row. So I don’t. I go do something else instead (once I’ve emptied my inventory). This is a game, after all, so you should make sure that you’re having fun with whatever you are doing.

PAX South and Heart of Thorns

Okay. It’s not a secret anymore. The world now knows about it. Guild Wars 2 is getting an expansion at some point in the semi-near future, as was announced this past weekend at PAX South.

I would have written about it sooner, but I was at PAX, and I couldn’t even try and make a post from my phone due to terrible cell reception. And at this point, there’s more writeups of the info that was shared and what we now know than I could count. The speculation is through the roof. But just being there was such a special, amazing experience, which began on Friday upon arrival.


These nifty little cards were being handed out at the entrance to the convention center, and I must say, they are nice. The GW2 HoT logo is in a beautiful shiny green, which is why the picture looks rather strange, and it’s a lovely heavy and nicely sized card. Mine is going to be hung up on the wall with the rest of my GW2 artwork. And really, it was just really neat to immediately see these upon arriving at the convention. This is big. Companies are not going to go through the expense of printing something like this unless it was for something big and important, and I also thought it was just a nice little thing to have and collect.

Saturday was the big day, though. Saturday morning was the panel and the announcement. We were lucky; we got to get in this line.


Thanks to this, we were seated right up in front – fifth or sixth row, and almost dead-center in the theater. I could not have asked for a better spot to be; it was amazing. We also had the luck of being in a spot where we were clearly visible on the stream when they showed the audience; my phone was blowing up with texts and tweets from people saying that they could see us. It was great. ArenaNet had put small inflatable bats at each seat for everyone; when inflated they made a ridiculous amount of sound when hit together. Noisemakers so we don’t destroy our throats screaming? I can go with this.

Now, I just have to say this much. The atmosphere in that theater was insane. Everyone was so excited, so hyped up for whatever we were about to be shown. The room was just full of this really intense feeling that can only come from having so many people who are so eager to find out about something in a small-ish area.

And then Jennifer Hale walked out on stage to start things off, and everything blew up. In a good way.

My cell phone doesn't have the best camera. Oh well.

My cell phone doesn’t have the best camera. Oh well.

Okay. So before I started writing this post up, I sat at my computer for a good half hour just staring blankly at it, because I had absolutely no idea where to start with this. I still don’t know. But there was so much cool stuff talked about. Revenant, the new profession (I need at least two). New maps, with a heavy emphasis on verticality, which will greatly increase the amount of new stuff we can get in a zone. Masteries, which give us neat things like the ability to hang-glide, read ancient languages, and even new collections which will allow crafting precursors (FINALLY). Specializations, which let professions play with new weapons, skills, and traits. Staff ranger – the Druid – was specifically mentioned, as was necromancers getting to use greatswords. There’s new content, obviously, GUILD HALLS, a new SPvP mode, a new WvW map…

And here’s the thing. They barely scratched the surface on what we’ll be getting. We know two specializations, and the trailer showed two others (a mesmer with a shield and an engineer with a hammer). We know that the Revenant profession is a heavy armor profession and channels powers from legendary heroes of the past – it holds a striking similarity to the Ritualists of GW1, complete with the blindfold – but nothing else. We know only a little bit about what kind of Masteries will be available. There’s so much more info about this that they are going to be gradually revealing to us.

I was, to say the least, incredibly excited.

We went to the GW2 party that evening, and it was just the same feeling all the way through. Excitement. Happiness. Wanting to know more. And, well, it reminded me a lot of something else, and I wasn’t the only one that had that thought:

It was just like the time leading up to the release of Guild Wars 2, all over again. Excitement. Happiness. Impatience to learn more. Not wanting to wait to play, but knowing it’ll be worth it. There was a very definite feel to the community during the pre-launch days, which has been gone for quite a long time. It’s returned. And I love it. I love seeing people come back to the game that haven’t played in a while. I love seeing everyone just so hyped up about things. This sort of thing, this is the community that I know and love. And this is the feel of it that I’ve missed so much.

So, well done, ArenaNet. Well done on keeping this such a closed secret for so long. Well done on such an amazing presentation. Well done on doing such an amazing job at revitalizing the community and so many people’s love of the game. Thank you, Rubi and Stephane, for letting me chatter excitedly at you at the party, and Lis for hanging out with us throughout the weekend and not cracking at all. Thank you to everyone who let that panel go off without a hitch. And thank you, to everyone at ArenaNet in general, for, well…this. There’s nothing else to be said there. Just, thank you.

Now, to wait impatiently for more info…

No Turning Back

With Tuesday’s release, Point of No Return, the second season of the Living World has come to an end, and boy has it done so with a bang. The name is an incredibly accurate description of the events that take place – there is no going back from what has happened. A terrible truth has been learned, the attack has been launched…things have changed.

Okay, before I start too much, I’m just going to point out that this will be rife will spoilers. Good? Good.

So, finally the threads have come together (for the most part). If there was one thing about this storyline, it’s that frequently it felt like we were pursuing a number of disparate threads; the sudden switches between the content of the different instances could be jarring at times, as it didn’t feel like there was much to link them together. Jumping back and forth between directly fighting the Mordrem and things like digging around the Priory could seem weird. This patch brought together most of those events, but there’s still tons of questions left.

I just love this loading screen.

I just love this loading screen.

So, in a fast summary, previous episodes saw us trying to find out what the Master of Peace had been up to while the Pact readied to launch their fleet. Going to the Priory brought us to Ogden Stonehealer, a familiar face to Guild Wars 1 players, who led us to Glint’s Lair. There we found that the Master had been protecting Glint’s egg. We track down the Master, but he is killed, and Caithe steals the egg and vanishes. The Pale Tree is distressed by this fact and gives us “memory seeds”, which we use to relive moments in Caithe’s early life, in an attempt to find where she had gone. We also essentially witness the birth of the Nightmare Court through these memories, which revolved around Caithe and Faolain trying to find Wynne, another Firstborn, who knew a secret about the sylvari that Faolain was determined to discover. The previous episode saw us faced with a cave that was locked with unknown magic, but that we needed to gain entry to.

Point of No Return picks up with our character returning to the Priory with Marjory to find out how to enter this cave. This instance is another GW1 lore bomb; it will certainly be very familiar to those who played Prophecies. Don’t forget to interact with that Old Mirror! Having found what we needed (hopefully), we head back to the Silverwastes to meet with Logan, Eir, Zojja, and Trahearne, before setting off to where we must go. Camp Resolve falls under attack from the Mordrem first, and they are barely fought off. Do make sure to stick around for the dialog after the fight ends – the conversation between Zojja and Logan is quite funny (clearly the years and events of the game have healed the rift between the two quite well), and there’s a rather sweet one between Eir and Braham.


The third and final instance, The Mystery Cave, is the heavy one. Once we gain entry, we’re faced with a massive cavern, with everything a glittering gold color, and there is an entrance (blocked with a sandfall) of a massive, ancient structure. This cave reminded me heavily of Elona; in particular it reminded me of the Hidden City of Ahdashim.


Scattered through the cavern are a few objects – some chairs and mugs and a blanket – which the game makes a point to state how odd it is to find something so ordinary in a place like this. Near the blanket is the place for the final memory seed, and we learn what happened so long ago.

First of all, I believe that this is the point where Faolain fully embraced the Nightmare, and where Caithe finally turned away from her and stepped back. Having finally tracked down and cornered Wynne, Faolain is so determined to learn what this secret is that she decides she will torture it out of her fellow Firstborn. Wynne is terrified by this; she knows how far Faolain’s cruelty will go. She begs Caithe to kill her, knowing that if Faolain found out this secret, she would not keep it to herself, and it would mean the end of the sylvari.


And so we learn that sylvari were created by the jungle dragon, Mordremoth. Born to be his minions. When you confront her back in the present, Caithe confirms that what you saw was true – that she did indeed murder one of her fellow Firstborn, and that sylvari were indeed born of Mordremoth. She also says that at this point, the secret will make its way out either way – sylvari have been starting to lose control of themselves. She then vanishes with Glint’s egg, saying to remember that she is on the same side you are.

Okay. I have to admit. I am not exactly happy with the revelation that sylvari are dragon minions, and that old fan theory being proven to be true. I have never been a fan of it. I don’t like the idea that a playable race was made to be minions of a dragon. It just sits poorly with me…plus I love sylvari too much to want to think that my beloved flowers were created by a dragon. However, it does add an interesting depth to sylvari and the game’s lore, and I certainly cannot complain about the presentation of this information. But there are still questions that this brings up.

The first is, what exactly is the Pale Tree? The popular theory has always had her seen as a champion of Mordremoth, but with how things have been presented it does not point at this being the case. Rather, I believe her to be something of an anomaly, with the early tending of the sapling by Ronan and Ventari, as well as the teachings on Ventari’s tablet, subverting her nature to be opposed to the dragon. There is also the Dream; this is something that not even she fully understands, despite being the guardian of, and she’s the only one who can directly access. It is known that there is at least one other sylvari tree in Tyria, and the single sylvari that has been met from that tree, Malyck, had no connection to the Dream and knew nothing of it.

So I believe that what we currently know points at the Pale Tree likely not, in fact, being a champion of Mordremoth; she was actively working to protect the sylvari race, and Mordremoth sent his champion, the Shadow of the Dragon to directly attack her. The Dream and Wyld Hunts are also concepts that are unique to sylvari born of the Pale Tree, so far as we know (we know the Dream is, at any rate), and it’s worth remembering that at current, if you play a sylvari, you currently have the Wyld Hunt of destroying Mordremoth.

Somehow I doubt the dragon had any control over that.

gw222So my personal theory remains much as it was the last time I wrote about the topic of sylvari and corruption – that it is a strong connection to the Dream that is important for protection of sylvari. Some things have changed, however; knowing now that sylvari are the creation of Mordremoth explains their inability to be corrupted by the powers of the other dragons. It also explains why the two sylvari we know to have been corrupted by Mordremoth, Scarlet and Aerin, were able to have that happen – Scarlet learned things she shouldn’t have and made herself Soundless, and Aerin also was Soundless. Cutting themselves off from the Dream made them open to Mordremoth, who was able to then take control of them. The Pale Tree is currently in a weakened, near-death state, which likely is the cause of sylvari starting to lose control; without her to guide the Dream and her children, her protection against the dragon is become weaker and weaker.


So the big question here is (or one of several, anyway), what is going to come of the sylvari? Clearly not every sylvari will come under the thrall of the dragon – it’s simply not possible for that to happen without turning many players’ characters evil. Caithe appears to still be fully in control of herself despite being highly secretive and running off with what everyone considers to be the key to defeating the dragons. In the second cutscene you see, Canach is present, facing off against a large mob, and states “Stop treating us as monsters, we are not the enemy.”

Just what is protecting some sylvari from this corruption while leaving others open? I’m guessing it’s any number of factors; a strong connection to the Dream, a powerful Wyld Hunt, a particularly strong will in an individual, or the presence of especially powerful magic could all be things that lend to this. As sylvari players, we have the first three present, coupled with the fact that our current Wyld Hunt is to kill Mordremoth. Canach is the very definition of stubborn, plus his recent association with Anise means that he is frequently in the company of an exceptionally powerful mesmer, which could be assisting.


What role will the Nightmare Court play? We see Faolain in the cutscene in the midst of a fight, but it’s not obvious what side she is on; she impales and kills a being that does not look to have any vines or other corruption around them (like other creatures scene in that part), however, so I’m doubting she’s on the side of good. I would hazard a guess that the Nightmare Court, due to their darker natures, will be more open to corruption, despite the fact that they still maintain a connection to the Dream. I had assumed previously that the Nightmare Court would be likely to side with the rest of the sylvari in a fight against the dragons, but with what we now know, I’m finding that less likely. It’s far more likely that they would revel in the chaos and let themselves become corrupted, seeing Mordremoth’s corruption as freeing others from Ventari’s teachings.

And the most important question. WHERE IS ALL OF THIS GOING. Well, right now we have something of a hint…


…and shortly we will know more. This logo was leaked early Tuesday morning by someone doing some digging around and discovering that NCSoft had trademarked the name “Heart of Thorns”, and then it was shown at the end of the second cutscene. It was followed with when to find more information – at PAX South. And, well, I really think we’re finally getting an expansion announced. People have said that before, but I think this is it.

Several things here to look at. First is the very fact that the name has been trademarked. None of the other LS stuff has had that happen. Usually trademarks are only filed for if it’s something big. Second is the fact that the second season is over with, and realistically, very little has happened other than set up a much larger story. Third is the panel at PAX South itself. It is a Saturday panel in the main theater. Saturday is a prime day at any convention – that’s when the big things happen. That’s when the most people are there. It’s always the busiest and biggest day. Then, the fact that the panel is in the main theater. That is huge. Looking at the PAX South schedule, there are only ten panels (and two concerts) in the main theater. A very notable fact there is that the GW2 panel is the only game specific panel. The panelists listed? Colin Johanson and Mike O’Brien.

Add all of that together. Trademarked name for something teased at the end of a LS season with an announcement at PAX, on Saturday, in the main theater, being the only game to have a panel there, and who is presenting the panel…they are absolutely announcing something huge. They would not go to that much effort for something like another LS season.

Also, I feel the need to point out that I will be at PAX South, and so I am just a tiny bit excited to be at this panel and see what’s going to happen.

We really have hit a point of no return. If nothing else, the title of the episode is true in rather a number of ways.

The Silverwastes

After a far too long break, Living Story has started up again, with yesterday’s release of Echoes of the Past. The story continues on where it did before (presumably some time has happened since the Summit at the end of the previous episode, but it’s not really specified), with trying to organize efforts against Mordremoth. We also are introduced to another level 80 map, the Silverwastes, which has rather a different feel to it than any other map in the game.

I’m not going to go into the story part of the update too much, simply because there’s already a ton of other people doing so right now. It is extremely lore-heavy, however, and one hell of a nostalgia bomb for Guild Wars 1 players. The Priory has a massive library in its basement, with all sorts of neat, creepy, or just plain magical things…as well as an artifact that sends you to somewhere perhaps slightly unexpected.

Also, it has books. Lots of books. Lots of little tidbits you can read. It’s really cool.

I want to live here.

I want to live here.

But besides that, there’s also the new map, Silverwastes, that I mentioned. And it is, as I also mentioned, very different from other maps in the game. As far as size goes, the map itself is a bit smaller than Dry Top, though one advantage it has is that we apparently get the full map right away (it does not appear that it expands further, but there may be other zones that will open off of it). The story will lead you there, but if you are impatient, you can access it through Vandal’s Claim in Brisban Wildlands.

The Silverwastes

The Silverwastes

As far as location goes, it is north of Dry Top, so for GW1 zones that would place it roughly around Mamnoon Lagoon and Silverwood (hence the name), perhaps very small parts of Aurora Glade and the Sage Lands. It’s a much less vertical map than Dry Top is, which is very much a good thing as there’s no real Zephyrite presence here and hence no aspect crystals. Instead Silverwastes is a Pact staging ground, to take on Mordremoth, and is very clearly a hostile area.

In short, there are Mordrem everywhere.

It also differs from Dry Top in that Silverwastes is full of very old, crumbling structures – the forts that the Pact is trying to hold, as well as a number of other ruins that are scattered around. Dry Top really didn’t have anything like this; other than Prosperity, there was little in the way of actual buildings.

Just out of the frame is the corpse of a giant.

Just out of the frame is the corpse of a giant.

Silverwastes is a map where essentially the entire zone is one big meta event. Dry Top worked something like that, where you wanted to get the favor level as high as possible before the sandstorm to max out rewards, but Silverwastes operates very different to that. In the Silverwastes, there are four forts that the Pact is attempting to hold and defend from Mordrem attacks, and over time they can be upgraded. The most common events that happen in the zone are defending a fort, retaking a fort if that fails, guarding supply bulls that travel between the four forts, and thinning out the Mordrem. As forts are held and upgraded, the meta “timer” fills; when it fills, the Champion Mordrem bosses are available to fight.

It holds some similarity in World vs. World, in having to take and defend areas, upgrading them, and making sure supplies get delivered, but at the same time it’s very different.

Almost two stacks of crests, and I really haven't spent a huge amount of time there yet.

Like in Dry Top, completing events grants you a new currency item (Bandit Crests, this time), and they can be spent on a number of items, including keys to hidden chests, new stat type recipes, and some other neat things. I feel like the costs of these items, as well as the speed of gaining crests, are far better balanced than the geodes in Dry Top. You still only get a few per event completed, but events are far more frequent than in Dry Top, so it’s much easier for them to build up.

I’m sure the list will expand as more things are added (I’m almost certain that will be the case, in fact), and there’s one item in particular there that most people will probably be working towards getting two of anyway.

Chests work a bit differently in here; you get Shovels for various things (LS episode rewards, the occasional event reward, etc.) and can use those to dig up chests, which then can be unlocked with a key. When a chest is uncovered, it’s pinged on the map and is visible to everyone. I also find that the loot out of the Bandit Chests is, so far, better than the loot from the Hidden Chests.

There are new achievements; they primarily revolve around various steps of the meta event (defeating the Champions, defending upgraded forts, killing various rare bosses), as well as other things such as collecting Lost Badges, uncovering a chest, and donating crests.

I may have gotten my 13k chest today.

I may have gotten my 13k chest today.

There are two new collections, and…MY FAVORITE THING…a new armor set.

Not an outfit. Not something gemstore-exclusive. But a new armor set that can be unlocked through playing the remaining Living Story episodes. In fact, there’s two armor sets. The first is the Carapace armor set, which can be unlocked gradually; the shoulderpiece is the rewards for completing episode 5, and more pieces will become available during episodes 6, 7, and 8. It’s quite a nice armor set, too, being butterfly-themed…so naturally I decided I must have it.

Liusaidh showing off the light Carapace set.

Liusaidh showing off the light Carapace set.

You can also buy pieces of the set with Bandit Crests, for 1000 crests. If you want the set for more than one armor weight, you can either do it this way, or by running another character through episode 5 – whichever way you’d prefer to do it. And if you want the second set, Luminescent, you’ll need to do this anyway. Luminescent is essentially the Carapace armor, but shinier, and it’s unlocked through completing collections.

The collection for the Luminescent shoulders.

The collection for the Luminescent shoulders.

Part of the collection for the shoulders requires having all three weights of the Carapace shoulders, so it’s pretty safe to assume that will be required for the other armor pieces as they become unlocked as well. Some of the other requirements are fighting each of the champion Mordrem bosses…and getting all of the story achievements for the episode. So it’s not exactly easy (I tend to skip story achievements because I just don’t find the rewards worth it)…but definitely doable. And hey, now I have an actual reason to do those achievements, so that’s neat. Maybe.

The second collection involves collecting all of the Luminescent armor pieces, which gets you a title. A very neat title. I like it. I want it.


So…new story, new map, and new armor. Are there downsides to this patch? Well…yes. I find that I’m not entirely fond of Silverwastes. Navigating the zone can be difficult, and while it’s a small zone, there’s only one waypoint. I definitely feel like the size of the map is far too large to only have that one waypoint, as it means you’re going to spend a lot of time running around…and oftentimes finding events blocking your way…which can mean death if you’re not careful. Event frequency is very high, which is nice on one hand, but annoying on another. It’s definitely a bit irritating to finish a defense event, rebuild the fort, and have it come back under attack almost immediately. It also means that events overlap a lot, which can make the supply escorts a fast failure if the bull’s path goes through other events in the area.

I’m finding myself feeling about it like I feel about Dry Top – fun enough, but not really my type of thing, and if not for the fact that I need to spend a significant amount of time there for the Carapace and Luminescent armors, I probably would stop going there fairly quickly.

Overall, though, I do enjoy this patch a lot. The New Player Experience soured me on GW2 for quite a while, even with a lot of the changes having been adjusted, and while Halloween got me playing the game again, it was this update that I was looking forward to. I was hoping it would get me back into the game, give me things I wanted to do, to work towards. This patch does that in the best possible way, and I just have to say…it’s about damn time Living Story picked back up.

The New Player Experience

Yesterday the September Feature Patch was released and, well…there’s a lot wrong about it. Normally when I’m writing about something I’m unhappy about I try to write about the positives first (and there are good things to this patch), but the bulk of it…yeah, I’m not too happy, and there’s a lot of big problems here.

So much of the feature patch revolved around changing things to make it easier for new players (supposedly). The very first problem here is that there is little in the patch for veteran players that have been playing for some time. I understand wanting to focus some stuff on new players, but this patch really felt like it was largely ignoring those of us who have been playing for a long while. And while the guild updates are great ([TWIT] is finally the way it was meant to be since before launch! Well, other than NA/EU still being data-center locked…), and account-bound commander tags are nice and the new trading post is lovely…none of those are things that are going to really keep people playing. I enjoy Living Story, but even that’s not enough to keep me wanting to log in every day anymore, and especially not with the next chapter not coming until November.

But the new player changes. Maybe it’s because I tend to not enjoy MMOs, or maybe it’s because I’ve been playing GW2 since BWE1, but I can’t see how any of these changes make things easier for new players. If anything, I feel like they’re going to make things harder.

Skill unlocks now go by level. This had potential to be good or bad. Having seen the levels they unlock at…I’m going with bad. The one balance to it is that you automatically unlock that skill for every weapon at that level…but that said, it was much faster to unlock all your weapons the old way. You get your second weapon skill at level 2, third at level 4, your offhand weapon or fourth skill at level 7, and your fifth skill at level 10. Ten levels to fully unlock your weapon skills. Oh, and you don’t get to swap weapons until level 15.

Get used to seeing this.

Get used to seeing this.

Your F1-F4 skills are also locked, and I’m going to be honest – I don’t even know where those unlock. I did have a keyfarming character at level 5 leftover from before the patch and when I checked her she had her F1 skill, but that’s it – the others didn’t even show up. So I’m going to assume that those start unlocking at level five. That’s annoying, as it then takes that much longer for a player to realize that their profession has specific skills like that, and it gets even worse when you come to rangers.

I made a ranger just to see this for myself.

I made a ranger just to see this for myself.

That’s right – if you start a new ranger? You cannot control your pet at all. You cannot direct their attacks, you cannot use their F2 skills, you cannot call them back, you can’t swap them, and you can’t even set them to passive! So, everyone starting out a new ranger? I wish you good luck, as your pet will be even more dead weight than usual. Frankly, I think that this is going to turn even more people away from rangers. They’re already one of the least-loved professions…so, good job. Make people like them less. Makes sense.

Utility skills have also moved at which level they unlock, and again…it isn’t an improvement. Skill seven unlocks at level 13, skill eight unlocks at level 24, skill nine unlocks at level 35, and you don’t get your elite until you’re level 40. Halfway through leveling up and you just get to start playing with an elite. Again, I don’t understand the logic behind that. Not only are those levels silly (what’s wrong with 5, 10, and 20?), but every eleven levels is just far too long, and you won’t even have all of your skills by the time you’re of a level to start being able to poke at dungeons.

It becomes worse when you compound that fact with the trait update from the April feature patch. It’s hard enough to play without any traits – and I’ve leveled two characters since the April feature patch. Even with lower-level areas being rebalanced to match the fact that you lack traits, those first 30 levels are a long slog to push through. Getting a single trait point at 30 helped a bit, but the larger help was having my elite skill available. Every profession is helped greatly by having their elite available. With some professions, it’s all but necessary. The characters I leveled that were made after April were a thief and an elementalist. I struggled with them quite a bit, and I’d leveled both of those professions before; my new ele was also my 12th level 80. How’s a new player going to feel trying to level?

One of the other big changes was how personal story was changed. Now, people on the forums are reporting that later parts of the personal story are all a mess (apparently an entire storyline arc is completely gone), but as I’m focusing on the early stuff, I won’t really touch that. We all know how personal story was done before yesterday; it was always available to you, each step having a recommended level, but really you could do it whenever you wanted, so long as you could survive. If you wanted the challenge of doing it several levels early? Go for it! Well, not anymore. The story is now locked into chapters and cannot be accessed at all until a certain level.

This bothers me, a lot. One of the things that I always loved about GW1 and GW2 is that it threw you into the story immediately – no silly grinding of early levels before you got to do anything interesting as is the case in so many other games. You got to start out the story as soon as you started your character. You cannot do that anymore, and it makes early levels feel…very empty. Almost boring. There’s a dearth of things to do, and where the UI formerly held your next story step, thus far it’s just been directing me from heart to heart.

Get used to seeing this a lot.

Get used to seeing this a lot.

I don’t even dislike hearts all that much. Some are incredibly annoying, but they don’t bother me. I know a lot of players actively dislike them, and I know that the main reason they exist is to act like quests do in typical MMOs. But I feel like using them to carry early content is a bad idea. They really aren’t engaging content, and they don’t do a good job of showing off the game. Sure, personal story is far from perfect, but the racial parts – the first 30 levels – are in fact quite good. Part of me understands wanting to make it so you can play through it all in one go, but then they should have done something a bit different there. Unlock the first chapter at level 5, as just going through it straight will take you to level 10 easily, for example.

There’s a lot of other things missing from early stuff. Environmental objects don’t exist in very early level areas anymore – so the heart in Queensdale where you used feed cows and water corn as part of it? Now you entertain the cows by dancing for them. No downed state (according to a video Dak is watching as I write, you just simply do not die…and apparently when you do get downed, you don’t get your second skill until level 16 and third skill until 19). Enemies where dodging them would be useful are gone. And then this:



Note how bare the mini-map looks there. No gathering nodes. Yes, that’s right. Gathering nodes have, apparently, been removed from very early areas.

I don’t get these changes, at all. Rallying from downed state and dodging are pretty important parts of the game – those are huge mechanics that are pretty important to playing the game. Removing them (or the need for them) entirely from the first few levels isn’t going to make things easier for new players. I know there’s a new walkthrough system added into the UI – I was greeted by it when I logged into my mesmer yesterday, and one of the things it did was direct me to a specific area to practice dodging. And that is what new players need to get those concepts – but it shouldn’t be locked out until they’re starting to get used to playing, that should be something done right away so they do understand it and get used to it quickly.

The other things…I just really don’t understand. Why were environmental items removed? Like, I get that they’re rarely used outside of events where they’re necessary, but they’re a pretty big part of early hearts. It seems completely nonsensical to take them out. Same with gathering nodes – gathering is a good way to get both experience and money. Why remove these from the early areas? I can see a new player possibly being confused if they go up to a node and can’t gather it because they don’t have any tools – but if that happens, just put in a pop up that directs them to a merchant and explains gathering tools, instead of removing them entirely! Not to mention that this is going to have a negative effect on the game economy – potatoes are way up in price because essentially the only areas in the game they were available were starter zones, and I wouldn’t be surprised if green wood and copper starts to go up since many of those nodes are now gone.

I’m sure there’s even more that I haven’t even come across yet. But I just can’t understand why most of this was done. If it was being noted that new players were struggling with certain things, then more effort should have been put in to explain these things – not delaying when they come into play, which I just see being even more confusing for newer players. If new players were having trouble with dodging, teach them how to dodge. Teach them what downed state is and how to rally. Teaching people how to do things is much more effective than simply…dumbing it down early on and delaying the bigger, more important mechanics until a later level.

I don’t know. I really don’t. But I do know that this makes me unlikely to want to make or level new characters, which is something that I truly enjoy doing in this game. I just…I don’t get it. I don’t like it. And I can’t imagine this being helpful at all for new players, despite that being the intention.

A Second Year by the Numbers!

Today it has been two years since Guild Wars 2 has officially launched. Yay! It kind of feels weird that it’s been that long already, doesn’t it?

Last year I did a “year by numbers” post where I went over various details of my account and things I have accomplished since launch. Since it was fun to write, I’m going to make a Year Two by the numbers!

Number of level 80s: Eleven

Yes, that number has grown since last year. It’s funny, because previous to launch my plans had been to make a mesmer, ranger, warrior, elementalist, and thief. Guardian was added after I played one extensively during BWE3. Last year by this time I had an 80 of each profession; in the year since, I’ve added a second warrior, thief, and necromancer. Of the three newcomers to my max level lineup, only one – Alianah – was a character I had at this time last year. The other two were ones I made in the intervening months and leveled right away. Last year I went through all of their playtime and stuff like that; I’m too lazy to math so I’m not doing that this time. :P

The Adults

The Adults

  • Liusaidh, sylvari mesmer, wielder of the Minstrel
  • Rosheen, sylvari guardian, wielder of Bifrost
  • Brynja Rabbitfoot, norn ranger, wielder of Kudzu
  • Janan Savitri, human thief
  • Ragna Blazefur, charr elementalist
  • Carella, human necromancer, my go-to for PvP
  • Glynha, sylvari warrior
  • Searlaith, sylvari engineer
  • Ylva Mardh, norn warrior, may one day get the Juggernaut
  • Rianna Xi, human thief, based on a roleplaying character of mine
  • Alianah, sylvari necromancer

Number of characters below level 80: Currently six.

Some of these are familiar faces from last year. A couple are new; and Suvi Liina, my norn mesmer I had at this time last year, was deleted recently.

The Babies

The Babies

  • Deirvhile, sylvari thief, level 21, crafting character
  • Haneul Nae, human mesmer, level 30
  • Katta, asura elementalist, level 56
  • Astrid Cheval, human guardian, level 45
  • Siobhanen, sylvari ranger, level 21
  • Yseuldhe, sylvari elementalist, level 42

Number of character slots I have open for keyfarming: Currently one.

I don’t keyfarm often; I get bored with it far too often. I do have one open slot I use for that, though, for the time being anyway. My throwaway keyfarming characters are nearly always named Lady Verene, but their appearances generally change.

The current inhabitant of the slot:

I kill bandits with style.

I kill bandits with style.

I take this game very seriously. Clearly.

Number of hours played: 2,759

This is only a thousand hours more than at this time last year. I have gone through a number of periods this past year where I’ve felt burnt out by the game and hadn’t played much for a long time. I’ve also had things going on in my personal life that have kept me out of game. Still, that averages to about 115 hours per month, 26.5 hours per week, or about 3.75 hours per day.

Number of legendaries crafted: Three

Kudzu I had already finished this time last year – I crafted it in March of 2013. At this point last year I was working on Bifrost, with the intention of giving it to my mesmer. I actually wound up shelving it out of frustration for a long while, since I was having zero luck on the precursor, and around November the Mystic Forge finally spat out the Legend. So I quickly finished that…and gave it to Rosheen.

I had been planning on making the Juggernaut for Ylva after she hit level 80, but between the precursor and silver doubloons, I decided that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. I had bombed through making Mystic Clovers in a day, though, so they were sitting there in my bank, waiting to be used for something. I decided after a while that there was no way I could make another legendary for an alt while my main still didn’t have one, so I decided on a whim to make the Minstrel for Liusaidh.

Achievement points: 12,432

I’m not going to lie – many of my points came from the Living World meta tracks. As those don’t exist anymore, and you don’t have to do the achievements to unlock some special thing…I kind of don’t do them anymore. I was never a big achievement person anyway, so I like that I no longer feel like I must do them.

Number of makeover kits used: Around fifteen?

I like to redo my characters’ looks frequently, and if I had more spare cash that number would be much higher. Liusaidh has had at least five makeovers by now. I’m just saying, if a Permanent Makeover Kit was ever made (and wasn’t an RNG item like the permanent hairstylist kit), I would spend good money on it, because I sure as hell would put it to good use.

Oldest character: Liusaidh

Youngest character: Yseuldhe

Liusaidh wasn’t strictly the first character I made right at headstart (since I made throwaway characters to lock in names right away), but she was the first one to be made properly. Yseudhle, on the other hand, is my newest character, having been made just last week.


Number of things that Blink/Illusionary Leap has gotten me trapped in: ARGH TOO MANY TO COUNT.

Playing a mesmer can be dangerous and I have broken every map in the game at this point. Go. Me.

And I think that’s all for this edition of a Year by the Numbers! So here, have a Bobblehead screenshot from April Fool’s Day to wrap things up.