If you recall, a while back we asked for questions to take with us to PAX East this year. Unfortunately we were unable to attend the event as we had hoped, but ArenaNet was glad to help us out by answering our questions anyway! The following questions are those submitted by you, the community, and answered by Jonathan Sharp and Jon Peters. Enjoy!
Do you foresee the addition of more skills for each already existing weapon, or at the moment are you content with keeping it the way it is with only one set of skills per weapon?
Jonathan: The big thing right now is that we're trying to keep it focused on content. You guys will see that a lot of the patches coming out in the future will be really focused on a lot of new content that we're trying to do. One thing we want to do right now, though, is that we want to keep the number of skills on weapons the same. What we're really trying to do, as far as balance goes, is really focus on trait revisions. We feel that traits open up a lot of the weapons for a lot of the classes. And the reason for this is that some of the classes don't have as many viable options, maybe in PvE, or specifically in dungeons, or PvP or WvW. What we're basically seeing is that some of the classes have one or two viable builds. And a lot of the times it's the traits that help open up viable builds for people. So right now we're focusing more on traits and less on the weapons themselves, but in the future that could be something we do - add more stuff to them.
Jon: The game is maturing a little bit, as well as the playerbase. It's certainly not a thing we would ever say, "Oh yeah, right when you first pick up a sword you just pick and start swapping stuff like crazy on it." It's always important to us that weapons are builds - they form the basis of your build. I think as more of the playerbase reaches the maturity where they understand what every single thing a weapon does, it's kind of the thing where it starts making more sense to us - to when you're at that high level you can make those changes potentially. That's where we would expect to do something like that in the future, if we even went there, as opposed to just changing the system. I don't think the system is ever going to change, it may be at higher levels that it's further on in character development that it might expand, but it will never be something that affects early gameplay.
Do you know if there are currently any plans to add new weapon types to the game in the future, be it in a distant update or even a later expansion, or is this something that you plan to avoid?
Jonathan: This is something that we definitely want to do. As a lot of people on the forums have picked up, the system is pretty much designed to do exactly this. For instance, you can just give one of the classes a new weapon and all of a sudden they have a complete new way to play the class that interacts with the utilities, the heals, the elites, and the profession abilities. But it's one of those things that we want to wait on until the time is right. We still feel like there's some work to be done on the traits for all of the classes and getting those up to par. And again, going back to what we talked about in the first question about making sure that everybody has a lot of viable builds - we want to make sure that that's the case. Once we feel like that has settled down and everything's got a really good feel to it, then we can start talking about adding new weapons. We don't know when that will happen, or how that will happen, but it's definitely something that we've talked about.
Jon: We don't want to add new, you know, non-viable things to the list, right? We have enough stuff that we feel we want to massage and get to the point where it serves a much better purpose. We don't need to add to that list, we need to first add to the list of stuff that's good. This question is kind of vague and I think there's two answers that we didn't really get to. The answer to both of these is "yes," but, "do we want, you know, warriors or thieves to have another weapon that's already in the game," and "is there a point where we're going to add a completely new weapon, a new set of animations, something that no one uses right now?" Obviously the first one is more likely to happen earlier than the second one is, as it has less dependencies.
Are you happy with each class's ability to avoid damage, and do you take a class's ability to pull aggro into consideration when working on methods of damage negation? Are there any classes that you feel need more or less work in this respect?
Jonathan: The TL;DR answer is yes, yes. But let's go into it a little bit more. The the classes overall are pretty okay. What we're finding is that different builds that might be really strong, for instance in a PvE dungeon, that same build might be no where to be seen in WvW or PvP. When we start looking at stuff like that, we try to balance the classes in different ways, in different places. For instance, in dungeons and PvE, guardians and warriors are really strong. But that same warrior build, if you take it to a competitive PvP match, you'll just get blown out of the game because he just doesn't bring the things to the table that the current meta dictates. So that's one of those places where we have to do a little bit of different balancing. And this is one thing that we've talked about before, which is basically we wanted to keep balance for all three major types of the game - PvE, WvW, and PvP. We wanted to use a lot of the same numbers so that players could come into the game, quickly understand their class in relation to all other classes, and then if they go and play a different game type, they'd still have a sense of what's going on. But now that the game has matured enough, we're feel like we're going to start doing a lot more splitting of skills. What we might do, for instance, that PvE warrior might need to be toned down a little bit, but with that same spec, if you take it to PvP, actually needs to be improved a little bit. So we're going to continue to split those off from one another because they're basically two different classes now because of the demands of the different game types.
Jon: So for instance, in PvE, you've got your shout warriors which are extraordinarily strong, not just at mitigating damage because they're warriors, but also healing themselves back up. In WvW, you see guardians, some elementalists, as it starts to kind of... The guardian is the transition, he's kind of the WvW one so he bleeds over into PvE and PvP. The ele is the PvP extremely powerful at evasion right now. But even then, he bleeds into WvW, he is adamantly not useful in PvE as a damage mitigator. The warrior is the epitome of the damage mitigator in PvE and he bleeds a little into WvW but he has no play at all in PvP. We'd like to think that every class actually has a pretty decent way to avoid damage and deal with it, but the problem right now is that, in each of these aspects, there are some that just stand out enough that they're making other ones slightly less viable. And that goes back a little bit to that first question and viability. The sword/dagger thief is a good example - this is a build that's close to being a viable damage mitigation build, but it's just not quite there in any of those formats. We don't expect that if we make it viable that it's going to be viable in all of them, but we'd like to think that everyone can have stuff that's more along the lines of what the warriors have there in PvE and maybe the ele can come down a little more along the lines of others PvP damage mitigation. I don't think it's that the other classes don't have it, but it's just that when one is outshining by a little bit, you tend to see people magnetized toward that profession. That's always going to exist, but it has always been the goal of the game that for people that want to play damage mitigation don't say, "I play a warrior," they say, "it doesn't matter which class I pick, I gotta go look at the thing for my class that does this well." And there are builds out there for every class to do damage mitigation in every format, it's just a matter of their effectiveness right now, like how far away they are on that sliding scale.
How do you feel about the fact that groups for high level fractals or specific dungeons are starting to look for specific classes when forming parties. Is this something that you find troublesome, and if so what do you think can be done to change this moving forward?
Jonathan: I think this goes right into what Jon was talking about. You basically have these classes that you have this perception that they're just better at doing that job than anybody else. I think as long as you have that perception in place, players are going to say, "this is what works, I know it, this is what I saw on the forums, let's just run that."
Jon: One thing, though, that we have been trying out recently - this just triggered, I wasn't going to say it for sure, but you know, streaming - if you look at games that have a lot of really good streaming with their playerbase, that perception can be changed even without changing the balance sometimes. Where you see, like, games that are popular and have popular streamers, tend to have that understanding and [help it] filter down to the average populace. So part of it, like we said, is perception and trying to mitigate that and one of the ways to do that is streaming. Part of it is not perception, part of it is just, for instance like we've said - you're talking about high level fractals or dungeons - there definitely are professions that feel like they fill those roles a little bit more, and certainly, if nothing else, they fill them more easily. It may be the case that you can be just as good as being a support guy with an engineer, but it's definitely not as easy to do as with a guardian. That path of least resistance tends to also drag people in that direction. I think it still holds to some extent, at least for me when I'm forming PvP groups, I find that 99% of the time I'd rather choose the person that is good at running their profession and build than the person that is just running the build that people say is good. That has always been the goal. I don't think it's hard to completely overcome the perception that, you know, guardians are blue and they have blue bubbles and that makes people think they're the best supporters. Literally sometimes it's just stuff like that. We're probably never going to completely overcome that perception, even if we make guardians the worst support class in the game. I think there needs to be the sense that, even if we can't succeed at doing the perception thing, we still should still be able to succeed in the fact that if you are good as an engineer at doing support, that people who understand how that works will still bring you because they will understand the value of player skill over the value of copying builds.
Currently in PvE and WvW a player must go to a trait NPC and pay a fee each time they want to change their traits. This makes it somewhat difficult to test different trait combinations, and also takes away some player versatility. Is this intended, or is it something that we may see tweaked in the future?
Jonathan: The short version of that is yes and yes. It is absolutely intended and it's something that we may see tweaked in the future. It's intended in the sense that we believe that role-playing games and games are about making choices that have consequences and permanence. It's going to be the case that there are systems in the game, traits being one of them and items being another, that have some permanence, or temporary permanence to them, or some cost to changing that permanence. And that's important for defining your character. However, it's fairly obvious to us, and we don't disagree, it would be nice if I just had a PvE build and a WvW build and I didn't have to pay between those two. There are certain points of this where it's like - I understand if you want to change your farming build, but I don't have the same sympathy [for you] as for those who are playing two different pieces of content that we clearly balanced and made for different kinds of builds. We do want to solve the problem in the future, of in the "this is my PvE build and this is my WvW build and I don't want to have to go to the trait NPC and pay a fee every time I'm going between the two things." Maybe it's even just as much as, "this is my support build and this is my defense build and this is my offense build." You know, just to kind of get that feel. Those kinds of choices I don't think we want players making, but we do want players making choices like, "I'm going to change from one offensive build to another offensive build." Maybe it's the case that you're making the choice of how many builds you want. It's just the idea that when you're trying to fine tune things, there should be some amount of cost there.
Jon: I think you kind of covered it.
Jonathan: (laughter) I covered it in about the most confusing and rambling way I could.
Due to high material prices, it is currently next to impossible to actually make profit through crafting. Is this something being looked at, or was crafting always meant to be a means for things like creating legendaries rather than turning a profit.
Jonathan: The short answer is that we do want it to be something that you can do. What we're trying to balance there, though, is that we want it to be a mode of progression, we want you to do some profits with it, but the big thing is that that's where you get all the cool stuff from. We want people to have different ways where they can acquire really cool things in the game. We want to make sure that, like legendaries - that's something you can get there, but you can get it through other game types as well. One of the things that we also have to keep in mind, which is talking to our economists. With the global market, sometimes things have to be shifted and adjusted - to watch for things, to watch for exploits - which is why we're trying to keep a tight reign on that stuff - to not let the crafting stuff start to turn too much of a profit so that it blows the economy out of the water. So that's something we're trying to balance for players so that they can have a really fun time and they do get to make some profit from it, but we really have to keep a close eye on it, as I'm sure you guys know from sitting in Economics - you really have to be careful with the economy to make sure that you don't blow it up.
Jon: I think there's a thing of like, because of that, we had to make sure that crafting has a role outside of that as well. That's kind of why we've done these other things with crafting. We discuss all of this stuff often, but as long as we can keep the idea that crafting serves more of a role than just being the thing you do when you are trying to make money. Crafting needs to be a part of the game, too, and not just a part of the economy.
Can we expect to see any new mechanics added to world bosses in the future? Currently many of them simply soak up damage, which pleases more casual players but doesn't do much for players looking for a challenge.
Jonathan: Yes. (laughter)
Jon: I think it was always our intention that these giant world bosses would kind of define the zones they are in, that it would feel a little more like the old school open raids. They capture some of those elements, but they don't capture all of them. This is a difficult problem to solve because we couldn't know how people were going... I think I've told this before, but if we took everyone in the company and all we did was test for 10 years, that would be the equivalent of four hours on live. (laughter) And so, it's hard to know until we have metrics and data of how these fights are playing out and empirical evidence of how they are playing out when there's millions of people playing them. It was hard for us to estimate how these things were going to play. We've learned a lot about that, we know we want to make them cooler, we know we want them to be more both defining as fights but also defining as how they change the zone and how they make you feel like this is a living world. The things we've talked about at some point, but you don't know when this is going to happen, but you know, when you defeat The Shatterer, what happens to the map when you don't defeat him, which you know doesn't happen right now? What happens to the map and how is that going to change when these things are hard enough? There's a lot there and we feel that there's a lot of room to grow in the game, especially in a game where we want to make it more about the open world and having these things where big groups can do together and work on together and really interact together. This is what we feel that these MMO's are about. So this is an area where we are doing work, but this is work that is like, as a lead time. You start working on it and there's all these things that have to happen for it to become a reality so for us to say like, "yes, you're going to see new mechanics in the world in the future," people are going to thing like, "oh awesome, we're going to see them in May!" That's just not how game development works, especially on a game this big with this many moving parts and interacting pieces. This is like an important part of our future plans and our future goals for the game - that things like this are important and an exciting part of the game. There's no question that there will be a point where these things start changing and they start becoming much more interesting without necessarily becoming more bad for casual players. So we have to solve all of these problems and take the time to do all of that work, but that stuff is being worked on.
Jonathan: Another way to look at it, too. We talked about the maturation of the playerbase. Things that might have been challenging at ship, you know what I mean, seven or eight months later are no longer challenging to the same players. They conquered those hills and they've actually seen those battles and they know what to do now. So what Jon's talking about, too, is that if we wanted to add a condition to the game, or let's just say a boon, that's something that we'd have to think about - how does that impact every single piece of content for every single player in the entire game. That's why we have a lot of proposals for those things - we are very careful to make sure that, okay, this might be awesome for dungeon players, but maybe this is something that players playing their personal story, it's going to screw up some of the content there. So we have to be really careful with that. So it's something we have to really, really be careful with, but at the same time we realize that the same challenges that were challenging six months ago for some players are no longer challenging. So we need to give them a new hill to climb, so to speak, which is something that is definitely very important to us. That's kind of what actually happens behind the scenes - we're kind of eluding to that process a little bit.
Jon: Right. I think to go into that a little bit more - let's pretend, hypothetically, there was this boon called Stability and we thought it would be awesome if, "hey, you know what we just thought of? We now have stacking and we could make Stability stack." And then what happens is, instead of just blocking CC's every time you got hit with Stability, you would lose a stack of it. Okay, wow, this is going to give Stability so much more play in the game. Now this is is a discussion that we've had at some point. There are benefits to it and there are drawbacks to it. There's also every creature that uses Stability - how would we have to rebalance how many stacks they're putting on themselves, and how are the player skills working and how is this going to be affected in WvW. Some discussions like that come and go because of what they create and sometimes they can be revisited and stuff like that. But, you know, it's just that idea of somethings are so bigger than they appear to be.
Currently the only reliable way for PUGs to find groups is to use forums and outside websites. Are you guys actively working on the LFG system in GW2, or is this even something currently on your radar?
Jonathan: The short answer is yes, it's very much on our radar and it's actually something that we have people looking at right now. The intention is to make a single system that we want to use across all game types. We want to do something where basically once you've learn for one specific type, like looking for dungeon help, if I jump into the PvP lobby, I can use the exact same system there. So that I get good at the system, I learn how to use it, learn how to filter with it, then I can use it everywhere I go in the game. Can't say when it's coming, but it's definitely something that we're working on.
Jon: Yeah, it's pretty easy to say that it's on our radar. (laughter)
What do you feel is currently the biggest issue with class balance in PvE?
Jonathan: There are a few things. It differs by content slightly. One of the big things in dungeons right now is that obviously people know that warriors and guardians are really good. We know that rangers are sometimes seen as very weak because of the liability that is the pet so right now we're actually working on a lot of stuff to bring the ranger up and to get on the same page to be able to compete with the other guys who are taken very often into the dungeons. We're also looking at all the different classes to make sure that they all have a role that they can fill. This goes back to some of the earlier questions. If you've got eight classes and five slots, somebody's going to get picked more often than others. That's something we want to make sure that we don't take away some of the power that all the classes have and that they enjoy those top spots, but we want to give everyone a chance to be in there. We want to make sure that that ranger is getting a lot of help to pets and spirits and utilities. We want to get them back up there. Thieves as well.
Jon: One of the biggest issues with balance in PvE is that is skill cap. We see there are certain things that, as soon as we try and balance for a certain thing, we can't change... One thing we could do, we could just make creatures do more stuff and more difficult stuff, and what would happen is... So I think one of the things is that the warrior and guardian are pretty straightforward professions. And creatures tend to be more straightforward for players to fight, so warrior and guardian tools are are straightforward tools that work well toward these more straightforward creatures. We could just make our creatures less straightforward, and that would actually kind of solve some of these problems, but it would create a new problem for players that are not good at dealing with these less straightforward situations. We would have a lot harder time balancing our encounters if we made our creatures that way. There's kind of this fine line that we have to walk of encounters need to be understandable to a large variety of players, but at the same time in understandable encounters are probably more straightforward for classes with more straightforward tools to deal with those encounters and are generally going to be more effective in those areas. There's work we can do and what we are doing on both ends to solve this, but that's just one of the biggest issues. It was an issue before and it's an issue now, it's kind of the issue that got us to the point we're at now and why we have that problem.
Jonathan: But another overarching thing we can talk about real fast is that a lot of the class balance we've tried, as we've said earlier, we try to keep it as homogenous as possible. We try to make sure that the PvE numbers match the PvP and the WvW numbers so that you kind of have the same familiarity with everything. As people are learning the game and are really starting to push the min/maxing for some of these things, we're just starting to split skills more and more and more. We're starting to say, "okay, let's tone this down a little bit for maybe this area and that area but then over here in area C let's actually take it up a little bit because there it's not used at all." So we're starting to split that stuff up a lot more than we were before.