Last night the ArenaNet blog updated with a post by John Hargrove, Guild Wars 2 game designer, presenting an overview of some of the reward and upgrade schemes in Guild Wars 2. There are five main design points followed by a look into how they incorporated that point. These are some pretty cool concepts incorporated in to the game. For example, a player’s loot roll is personalized. If there is a dungeon boss chest, the player gets her own roll on the loot table to find out what that she earned.
This one concept is resounding, and can be a dual-edged sword. The loot distribution at the end of a dungeon was almost a kind of bittersweet celebration. It was exciting to see what we as a group had won, but then often times others would get some of the loot I wanted. Instead they use a system similar to Dungeons and Dragons Online where the group after-event is gone in place of a personal moment with the chest. Hopefully they can find some way of taking back a little of that group reward by perhaps allowing a person to donate an item in-chest (before it gets bound) to another player.
The blog post then leans heavily in to the most iconic rewards in the MMO genre, gear. With gear players become walking trophy cases of accomplishment, and coming off of the excellent dye post, we know ArenaNet wants players to look exactly how they want to. However, this luxury is not without cost anymore.
Stepping back from that dark edge for a second, the blog post is 95% positive and exciting. There will be a light, medium, and heavy armor set created thematically for each dungeon. The concept pieces look amazing. Each of these armor sets are heavily customizable not only with up to 4 dye channels but also by adding stat changing crests.
Crests are the next iteration of Guild Wars insignia and runes system, but some will act in the manner of having a set bonus. So if a Tailor (subtle nod to crafting, ArenaNet) made a player 6 Crests of the Legion, the player could assign the 6 Crests of the Legion to his 6 armor crest slots (presumably 1 for each armor) to get the full set bonus on top of the armor stats. Or, the player could choose to use 4 Crests of the Legion and 2 crests from another set. I think it’s a pretty decent nod to NCSoft’s City of Heroes/Villains armor system.
The sticky issue, which caused a lot of heat in the forums last night, was for the use of Transmutation Stones, which are purchased in a cash shop. The T-Stones allow a player to take the stats of one item and the visual look of another item and combine the two items into a final item having the stats of the first item and the look of the second. Basically players are paying extra for the privilege of the way they want to look if they want to “break” the rules to wear a low-level item with high-level stats. I think that’s pretty fair. The subscription-based Aion uses the same mechanics (for free, I believe), and the freemium Wizard 101 sells this feature in their cash shop as well.
I think paying for this feature is fine, even if the way ArenaNet presented it was a little underhanded in the blog post. What I don’t like is the mechanic itself,* which is amplified by it becoming a microtransaction. In view of both Lord of the Rings Online’s outfit system and ArenaNet’s own Guild Wars costume system, it’s a less elegant solution. First of all, I can guarantee that some players will transmute their item the opposite of what they intended. Second, as presented it destroys the stat item allowing for reduced flexibility. Finally, in view of a microtransaction it has the appearance of milking the fashion-conscious player. If a player loves her level 20 dungeon armor she either has to wait until level 80 to buy the T-Stones to finally wear the armor or continually buy T-Stones as they are presumably used as she levels and needs to upgrade her armor.
My armchair solution is to keep the costume / outfit system of Guild Wars and Lord of the Rings Online, but make it so that T-Stones destroy the items stats and give the item the Costume tag. Then allow only items with Costume tags to be placed in the Costume slots. This would be my ideal solution, but I doubt NCSoft and ArenaNet would go for it because players would believably buy fewer T-Stones.
With the good possibility of dyes being sold in the Guild Wars 2 cash shop and knowledge that Transmutation Stones will be for sale in the cash shop, I think it is pretty apparent that the Guild Wars 2 cash shop will be more intertwined than it was in Guild Wars. Yet, I think fans are getting a bit antsy as to what products will be available in the cash shop, and with the small forum fires that caught over this small luxury, I think it would be best for ArenaNet to set a good, thorough foundation for what they want and don’t want to sell that way.
ah, I knew you by your voice
* To be fair, I didn’t like it the moment I first saw it in Wizard 101.