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Posted Falfyrel on 25 November 2012 - 08:57 AM
Progression in Guild Wars 2 - What Happened?
Before we even begin talking about the current reactions of players in Guild Wars 2 in regards to progression, it's first necessary to consolidate information about what progression actually means. Progression in any MMORPG essentially consists of the growing and/or strengthening of a character over time, to improve their abilities and add a sense of advancement and, well, progress to the gameplay. It doesn't necessarily have to be becoming stronger in flatly numerical terms, but oftentimes that's what it amounts to. But since there's a thousand ideas of what progression should be in particular in Guild Wars 2, it's therefore a better idea to look to two other games that are closely related and often compared to Guild Wars 2: the original Guild Wars, and World of Warcraft.
Hopefully, by doing so, we can come to a nuanced conclusion that explains why players are upset about the current state of progression in Guild Wars 2, how it compares to other games, and what can be done about it going forwards.
World of Warcraft: Vertical Progression
Almost everyone that has experience in MMORPGs knows or has heard of World of Warcraft's approach to adding in progression. In World of Warcraft, if you aren't level grinding, you're gear grinding. An ever-increasing amount of numbers is what progression in World of Warcraft embodies, at its heart. Once you've spent three months gaining max level, you then spend three months gaining the best gear possible to end up grinding your way into the best raid groups, and be able to dominate the most in the PvP that exists - only to repeat the process in the next expansion.
This works spectacularly in World of Warcraft, because all of the most devoted players realize that advancements are going to be ephemeral and there will always be something new to work towards. And for the most part, it's pulled off flawlessly. For all of the game's faults, Blizzard did an incredile job at creating a very real sense of advancement and increasing power - indicated by the game surviving and being popular as long as it has. And it's also important to note that the "raid subculture" that's spawned here (usually) does not mind the carrot-on-a-stick marketing, because it's what keeps them interested.
At the same time, however, there's a small issue: this very heavy "cliff" of progression can scare away many less devoted fans of the game from experiencing much of the content if not balanced perfectly, and the raid subculture of these games is oftentimes loath to give up what they consider to be their hard-earned work. It functions as a "badge" for them that they worked to get there. But this leads to two problems: one, there can often be a great deal of animosity between them and more casual players, since the hardcore players feel the casuals want the gear they worked for, without working for it. Second, if by any occasion they find themselves dissatisfied with the game, they're very unwilling to leave all of their virtual belongings behind - it's like abandoning your Purple Heart and going to another battlefield to earn it all over again. Yes it's an honor, and yes you're damn proud of it, but would you really earn it all over again?
And it's also important to note that in many cases, no, they wouldn't. I think this is a fairly big reason why many so-called "WoW clones" fail - simply because they can't attract the hardcore fanbase in quite the same way, or in the same numbers, that WoW did. But that's besides the point.
Guild Wars: Lateral Progression
Here's where it gets interesting.
In comparison to World of Warcraft, where progression was much like scaling a cliff, in Guild Wars 1 progression was much more akin to a zone of influence. After the very short grind of getting your character to max level and getting the best armor you could (which got even shorter after the release of Factions), your character would never get "better" in terms of stats. However, there was still a sense of progression because even if the digits on your health bar didn't increase, what you could do with the stats did.
There were thousands of skills in Guild Wars, all of which were usable by any character and all of which had to be gained slowly but surely. There was always a sense of achievement in earning another skill, even if you'd never use it, because the scope of what you could do and what you could accomplish had broadened. And by adding in various prestigious armor tiers that cost huge amounts of platinum to buy, ArenaNet was able to lure in many subsectors of the hardcore crowd as well by giving them an incentive to work for a "badge," too.
In many ways this was an ingenious solution to progression. Casuals could still get by with more limited options; hardcore players looked way better and had a lot more skills on their fingertips but still were on a broadly equal playing field. And since no new "tiers" of progression were added, yet more skills and armor sets were, both casuals and hardcores were pleased, avoiding the issues with the vertical progression system entirely. Even the storyline did this very well, since completing quests and missions ended up unlocking new areas in PvE to explore, and the areas were just hard enough to give a very real sense of progression without alienating players.
This even worked wonders in the PvP metagame! Even though both casuals and hardcore players had the exact same tools at their disposal, additional familiarity with what skills did could greatly aid hardcore players, and they would be better able to use their own options as well - thus leading to a relatively skill-based, strategic PvP system where fights were often fluid and required a large amount of clever tactics to win.
Guild Wars 1 wasn't a perfect game by any means: skill imbalance lead to the PvP often being lead by a hugely dedicated "meta" who figured out the most imbalanced and powerful builds, before being countered by another equally imbalanced build; the PvE content was oftentimes a bit repetitive (especially in regards to title grinding) and got way worse after both heroes and some of the more infamous PvE builds; and some of the classes, especially Dervishes and Paragons, got utterly shafted since they never got any skills to replace the ones they missed out on earlier. In many ways, it was a game with a fantastic concept and a quality of content just good enough to do it justice, even if it could be improved - and due to this all, it developed a "cult" of loyal players who utterly loved it.
Which leads into the third game...
Guild Wars 2: Progression?
Let's be very honest here.
In Guild Wars 2, after the slog to max level and obtaining all of your exotics, there isn't a whole lot left to do that leads to any discernible improvement to your character.
At least before the infamous Ascended patch, progression in Guild Wars 2 was generally unsatisfying and half-baked. The slog up to level 80 was somewhere inbetween the short breeze to get to level 20 in Guild Wars and the gigantic upwind gale to 60/70/80/85 of World of Warcraft; but afterwards, all you had to get was your Exotic items, which for most people was simply a weeks' worth of grinding in Cursed Shore. Class skills, which were once a huge thing in Guild Wars, are now relatively static and uninteresting: each class has an incredibly modest selection of weapon skills to choose from, coupled alongside three generally-situational utility skills, out of a pool of about 8 usable ones per class. All in all a character usually has access to most, if not all, of their decent options by level 50.
The issue with Guild Wars 2 is that the highly lateral progression of Guild Wars 1 was completely abandoned, and it wasn't replaced. Developers seemed to want players to invariably come to the conclusion that going towards a Legendary was an end-goal: but some players, myself among them, looked at the legendaries and paused before going what the hell is this? In spite of their hugely prestigious reputation, some of the legendaries looked ugly as sin: I wouldn't be caught dead using the Meteorlogicus on my Necromancer, for instance, and due to many of the "common" skins looking even better than some legendaries, many players didn't bother.
This has also affected the PvP poorly - as most or all choices ingame are so homogenous, there's not a huge amount of time before all players learn what all skills do, and due to the limited amount of tools at players' disposal, most PvP instances are or will become become very generic, consisting of the same few general builds ad infinitum, using the same tactics against each other, in the same arenas - because 70% of a fight in Guild Wars 2 is decided before the battle has even begun, and there are so few choices, everyone ends up with something pretty damn similar to everyone else.
So then the issue becomes both relatively obvious, and two-pronged: there is a lack of real progression at the endgame in Guild Wars 2, and the "badges of honor" don't appeal to a great deal of the playerbase. The latter is easily fixable, the former... not so much.
ArenaNet's response to this: add in Ascended items, and promise more Legendaries in the months to come.
After the introduction of Ascended items, there has been a definite shift in terms of Guild Wars 2's progression philosophy, slanted towards the vertical school. Issue is, in its current state, this hasn't been executed terribly well.
A vertical progression scheme necessitates a "gear treadmill" a la the World of Warcraft example to sustain itself. In a vertical system there always has to be some drive forwards to keep getting more stats - the treadmill can't just slide off after a certain point. The endgame right now in Guild Wars 2 is an example of why this is: after the vertical treadmill is over, many players sit at the end and wonder what they're even working towards. However, be this as it may, Ascended items were a very poor misstep in even promoting vertical progression, as right now they require a very specific method of allocation that can and will annoy many casuals and WvW-centric players. Not to mention the Infusion slot, which is hideously expensive to fill and only affects PvErs - the least likely to be annoyed about Ascended items to begin with!
That aside - at the moment, all that Ascended items do is give a short extension of about 2-3 months on the current "progression wall" until many players start catching up, at which point it's back to square 1. And the new "badges" promised in more Legendary items do little to alleviate this, as 1) the players who already hugely wanted a Legendary have already got one, and 2) thus they're less likely to work towards yet another, leaving the people who were probably lukewarm on legendaries to begin with. If ArenaNet is truly dedicated to promoting a vertical progression system in Guild Wars 2, then almost by necessity, they will have to introduce another item tier after Ascended items.
So what are ArenaNet's options?
The Future of Vertical Progression
This is the reason why so many people are incensed by the Ascended items.
The future of Guild Wars 2 in terms of vertical progression would mean a focus on stronger gear, more grinding, and more dungeon content over other aspects of the game: but the gearless PvP in Guild Wars 2 is incompatible with this system as they aren't affected whatsoever by these changes - slightly alienating them despite ANet's insistence at making PvP an e-sport. At the same time, casual players - who came to Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 in droves to escape the gear treadmills in World of Warcraft and other similar MMORPGs - now find that their older progress is rendered obsolete as the wheels keep turning. And even the hardcores would be a bit miffed, due to ArenaNet's standard policy of punishing overgrinding - see diminishing returns in Guild Wars 1, and the continual rebalancing of loot, especially regarding tokens, in dungeons.
At the same time, the development team is rushed to create new content - much of which would likely be similarly buggy to the Southsun Cove event - but on the plus side, the new gear is trivial to create, as all it involves is modifying a few digits. The hardcore crowd and the dev team's sanity are the only real winners in this regard, but again - trying to cater heavily to the more hardcore crowd is usually a losing prospect, because if you've earned a Purple Heart you usually wouldn't start over and earn it again.
Not to say this future would be all bad - but it's certainly not what was promised.
The Future of Lateral Progression
Lateral progression isn't exactly what the developers promised before the game came out, but it's a hell of a lot closer.
An increase in focus on lateral progression would focus on new skills being developed for classes, an increase in the types of stats on gear rather than the amounts (think Apothecary's), older areas being retooled to be relevant even at level 80, more depth added to the PvP, and new game mechanics. This approach has its own faults too, of course - the dev team can't exactly fart out hundreds of skills in the matter of months without an immense amount of bugs, it may require complete changes to fundamental aspects of the game like the weapons system, it'd violate their statements saying they wanted to avoid the "feature bloat" in Guild Wars 1, new game mechanics could range from highly praised to widely reviled, and retooling of older areas may result in extremely unsteady progression if not done perfectly.
On the plus side, if it's done right, Guild Wars 2 could again reach Guild Wars 1's ideal of appealing to casuals, hardcores, and everything inbetween. If done wrong, Guild Wars 2 could become a buggy, broken, bloated mess filled with everything good and bad except players.
The real cause of the issue
None of this changes the fact that Guild Wars 2 was, for better or worse, released without a true progression philosophy, and thus it's not going to be optimized for either vertical or lateral progression. However, it's much easier to tweak a few numbers here and there, and then throw the "new" armor and weapons out into the game at ludicrous prices, than it is to end up introducing new skills, new mechanics, and a broader scope of goals that increase options rather than power.
In hindsight, the largest cause of this was probably the dev team's insistence that "the game is the endgame." While it's good to introduce content that is relevant at all levels, the issue is that not every part of the game is going to appeal to everyone so you can't simply make the endgame PvE or WvW or PvP, and on top of this you still need to add something to keep peoples' attention. MMOs run on the carrot-on-a-stick philosophy on a incredibly deep and nearly defining level. You can't just take away the carrot and leave the stick if you want to make an immersive game that will continue to grasp people's attention - it's just not how modern MMOs operate.
The end perspective
I think that we'll most likely be seeing a future prospect similar to the vertical future, with possibly some minor aspects of the lateral future mixed in. Simply put, it's far less demanding on a dev team that's already overtaxed fixing god-knows-how-many bugs and desperately flailing to keep the servers operational and the game running smoothly.
And on a qualified level, I agree that there will be more gear tiers beyond Ascended items. It's simply necessary if you're going to adopt a vertical scheme - and even though Ascended items are meant to buy time to make more new content, I think it's still pretty certain that said new content is going to be the content that can actually be bug-tested and released in two to three months. And that means more vertical progression.
Guild Wars 2, most of all, will be held back by the lack of any real progression philosophy upon release. And while implementing one is more or less necessary at this point, alienating at least one player group is going to be inevitable. I just hope that ArenaNet makes the right decision, whatever it may be, that will allow the playerbase to remain involved and intact; the dev team not overworked to death and back; and that will give a true sense of progression in the game.
But regardless of what the right decision is, I've already earned one Purple Heart by getting to the top. I don't know if I could stand to work towards another.
Posted bcbully1 on 15 November 2012 - 01:15 PM
This thread has been deleted from the official forums without any reason. Banns have been issued to the people posting. Please spread this information.
I did not get banned, i am merely reporting this to the various gaming press outlets. I know friends in game that have been banned for as little as quoting an ANet developer.
=== Snip ===
*1. “The game will be released when it’s done”. Yet at release date several of the things that were promised and were sometimes even indicated as being ‘top priority’, weren’t “done” (and several of those still aren’t available):*
• account security measures (these were only implemented after launch, when the damage was already done)
security is a big, big priority for us.
We are taking account security very serious and there will definitely be ways to protect your account.
• measures against botting (still being implemented)
Discouraging the use of third party programs that exploit the game and negatively impact the experience of others is a top priority for us.
• no guesting (still not available)… which is becoming more and more of a concern now that world transfers are limited to once a week:
When Guild Wars 2 launches, you will also have the option to play with your friends on another world with our free “guesting” feature.
• no rollback functionality for accounts (still not available)
And I won’t even mention spectator mode or ladders for pvp, as ArenaNet has been evasive about when those would be made available from the very start (and I’m not much of a pvp person anyway).
*2. Dyes are character bound, not account bound.*
In short: a lot more grinding is required (or cash shop purchases) to get all the dyes you want on all characters.
And what we do is, as you find sets of dye, you unlock them for your account. So as you unlock dyes for your account, your characters just have them available for them.
Once you unlock the color, it will be available across your entire account, not just the individual character.
3. No dedicated healers, every profession was supposed to be equally viable in all roles, and every profession would be equally welcome in a party.
Yet (for example) the guardian (with most of its stills being support/healing based) is so close to a healer that he is always welcome in a party, 90% of his skills are support oriented, whereas a thief or ranger (with much less support options) are often refused from parties and are much harder to spec for support (with far less options). In short: ArenaNet’s implementation of professions failed to make them all truely equal.
*4. No need for “LFG” for hours to get into a group.* Yet the cities and the lower level zones are filled with people just looking for a group who wants them so that they can play through a dungeon in explorable mode. This is actually a follow-up to the previous point… if all professions would be equally effective at all roles, then nobody would have a reason to refuse people from their party because they are a ranger and not a guardian.
Also, there isn’t enough motivation to play through story mode dungeons with lower level players. A level 35 player wanting to do Ascalonian Catacombs will have to spend a long time looking for a group, because very few groups actually want a level 35 stranger in their party when they do dungeons. There isn’t any kind of reward for the party for playing with lower level players.
*5. Ever branching story:* with only 1 ending and several knots where branches come together again, these story branches are extremely disappointing.
I would at least have expected different endings if you choose The Vigil, the Durmand Priory or the Order of Whispers.
Every race has three branching dynamic stories right off the bat where they can pick from. So, for example, the humans you can pick to be from the city streets, the city nobility, or a commoner, and based on that choice you get a completely different personal story than somebody else. And then within that story, there are more branches that you can make decisions that further branch the story in other directions. So, I can be from the commoner class and you can be from the commoner class and we might experience a different story because of that. And then if you take that and say, all those options are available just for humans, then the other four races all have all these other completely different branching stories you can do as well.
This is just plain misleading. Very few of the branches are only available to one race, most of the branches actually are identical and not race dependent at all.
It’s not a branching story, it’s a ‘merging’ storyline… it starts off with a couple of different branches per race, but it quickly merges into one main storyline, with a few very small branches (paths) along the way that quickly merge back into the main story. After the first few levels, what race you took and what options you chose at character creation quickly become irrelevant, and you are all merged back into the one story thread.
*6. No grinding dungeons for tokens. Earlier on in the development, PC Gamer spoke to Eric Flannum, and he confirmed:*
“It’s more of a badge system, so this is something that we did in Guild Wars 1 as well. Our basic philosophy is that you should never complete a piece of content and get something you don’t want. So it’s going to be the case where you go through and are guaranteed to get a piece of gear that you didn’t have before, and that you’re going to want.” So, you’re guaranteed to get a piece of gear every time you do a dungeon? “Yes.” Sweet.
By now we all know how much grinding is required to get the dungeon pieces.
In fact, there wasn’t supposed to be any need for grinding at all.
On top of that, there is a severe lack of personal goals once your have reached max level and you have explored all the zones. There aren’t any long-term goals worth going for, other than the dungeon gear (or the legendary gear). So if you don’t want to pvp, all that’s left to do at max level, is the repetitive grind.
Most MMOs these days make you grind and do really repetitive, boring content over and over again. There are moments of fun, but then you’re back swinging your sword over and over again, chasing around a moth or an ogre that’s standing around in the world doing nothing. That’s the part of the genre we think players are done with. We want to make something that’s better than that.
I think MMOs have two primary stigmas attached to them that non-MMO gamers hear and drives them away. The first one is the ‘grind’, the idea that you’re going to have to do a repetitive task over and over again… we wanted to eliminate that.
We don’t want the player to ever have to grind and do something they don’t want to do to progress in the game.
We expect content—not long, grindy progression—to be the deciding factor that keeps people playing our game. We want everyone to stick with Guild Wars 2 because our content is fun and enjoyable, not out of some dogged determination to slowly, slowly advance.
*7. No gear treadmill...* yet after we reached max stat gear (exotics), ArenaNet first introduced Legendary weapons, now Ascended armor, and in the future Legendary armor… all with better stats. The rare gear (legendaries) was supposed to differ only in skin, not in stats:
The rarest items in the game are not more powerful than other items, so you don’t need them to be the best. The rarest items have unique looks to help your character feel that sense of accomplishment, but it’s not required to play the game. We don’t need to make mandatory gear treadmills, we make all of it optional, so those who find it fun to chase this prestigious gear can do so, but those who don’t are just as powerful and get to have fun too.
Here’s what we believe: If someone wants to play for a thousand hours to get an item that is so rare that other players can’t realistically acquire it, that rare item should be differentiated by its visual appearance and rarity alone, not by being more powerful than everything else in the game. Otherwise, your MMO becomes all about grinding to get the best gear. We don’t make grindy games – we leave the grind to other MMOs.
*8. Zones remaining “relevant”:* although the level scaling is a great idea, as it is right now, the game encourages grinding in only 1 zone: Orr. If you’re playing in Orr, you can easily make 6+ gold per hour and you can work on gathering resources that can be used to craft legendary gear. If you’re playing in any other zone in the game, then you can count yourself lucky if your “scaled up” rewards net you 2 gold per day, and you can forget about those legendaries.
Which is the main reason why Orr is still full, and most of the other zones are almost empty. There is nothing in those zones to entice players to keep coming back and do the events there again. Meaning that in many zones (even on full servers), a player playing through those zones will never be able to do the group events or take on the champions… because there’s simply no one else around to help out.
So please up the rewards in all other zones in the game and give every single zone something unique and worthwhile, to make it more interesting for max level players to return to every single zone and replay them over and over again.
On top of that, the scaling still doesn’t work too well, making lower level content far too easy if you’re scaled down from level 80 in full gear… even more so if you’re in a group. It doesn’t “remain challenging” as was the intention.
Right now, instead of addressing this problem of replayability, ArenaNet is spending most of its time into making new and higher level content to give players something new to grind for… and if that works, then Orr could soon see a significant drop in population as well.
*9. No crafting of throwaway items.* As it is, the tradingpost is a joke. Some higher level items are in huge This thread has been deleted from the official forums without any reason. Banns have been issued to the people posting. Please spread this information.
I did not get banned, i am merely reporting this to the various gaming press outlets. I know friends in game that have been banned for as little as quoting an ANet developer.
Our goal with our crafting philosophically is that you’ll never make an item that is a throwaway item. You’ll always be making something that is going to be valuable to someone. Whether it’s for yourself, whether it’s to put on the auction house, whether it’s a consumable that people want, there’s never a time when you’re just making something to increase your skill and then you’re just going to vendor it or chuck it or whatever else you’d do with it afterwards.
And finally, a few more of my concerns:
• The rates on the trading post and the currency exchange (gems) are ridiculous (15%/36%). Have a look at the rates on auction sites like ebay, as they are much more reasonable.
• Inflation on gem prices is ridiculous. On release date you could buy 100 gems for around 25 silver. Right now you’ll need closer to 90 silver for those same 100 gems. And still very few people actually consider it worthwhile to pay real money for gems to transfer them to gold.
so who want to level up their crafting skills are forced to make a fair amount of throwaway items.
Posted General Typhus on 02 November 2012 - 10:07 PM
Would detract from the essence and diversity of every profession type immensely. Would not like to see this change happen at all because I know it will lead to every single female human playing barbie dress up with an even wider range of barbie clothes.
Posted Tregarde on 02 November 2012 - 07:57 PM
Why would my Mesmer or Elementalist be running around in plat armour? The simple answer is - they wouldn't! Magic is their primary study, not melee combat. They haven't trained to fight in heavy armour for extended periods of time.
What I would like to see is more town clothes. Even "town armour" styles, for those folks who really want to strut around cities and be all shiny.
Posted TGIFrisbie on 02 November 2012 - 07:55 PM
Posted 3xyzzy0 on 09 September 2012 - 10:48 AM
But I wouldn't be bothered to report for it unless someone kept trying to do it to me over and over again.
Please find something more productive to do with your time, you're as bad as the mob-trainers.
Please find something more productive to do with your time, you're as bad as the people posting about menial things.