[GW2] Conditioning The Precious

As part of the pre-PAX week, ArenaNet has posted an article on their blog about Attributes and Iteration. It’s a great read for anybody interested in the nuts, bolts, and granular advancement of their future Guild Wars 2 characters. I definitely appreciate the newly updated attribute system because truth be told, I really did not care for the one I saw last year. The simpler the better, I say, but I do agree that there has to be enough attributes to cause a choice. This choice is compounded by itemization, where Izzy writes:

With our current implementation of the item system, items raise single attributes higher than when they raise a pair. However, the total number of points will be higher for a two-attribute item than for an item affecting a single attribute. For example, a Rare Ruby Ring gives +40 power; an equal level Gold Topaz Ring gives +33 power and +25 vitality; and a Pearl Ring gives +25 power, +25 vitality, and +25 toughness. This item system enhances another choice: do you max out one attribute or raise the total effectiveness of all your attributes? The character who deals the highest raw damage is someone who has maximized the offensive attributes, but the character who diversifies becomes a jack-of-all-trades while mastering none.

Except that rarity could already affecting the choice. I am making a decent assumption here that we have a gleaming Rare Ruby Ring, a notable Gold Topaz Ring, and a Pearl Ring likely caked with oyster byproduct gnarling the hands of wearers and passersby. I am not going to go so far as to say that this itemization example is definitive for the whole Guild Wars 2 system, but it is interesting to examine.

It is interesting because it relates to how the developers are conditioning the players. Rare items are good and special, and so things related to rares must also be thus. Uncommon items, barely above vendor trash and then so only to be deconstructed for crafters, are not special. In many MMOs, the color of the item’s name carries as much if not more weight than the statistics it provides. Now most devs make sure that the higher the rarity, the “better” the stats, but what about in the diversified itemization system that Izzy paints for us.

Going back to his example, we have one item that gives 40:1 points per attribute, another that gives 58:2 points per attribute, and the third that gives 75:3 points per attributes. The choice of becoming super specialized versus jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none is easily apparent. Yet, when the choice is tainted by item color or rarity, I can’t help wonder how much affect this will have on players.

I actually just experienced this dilemma in Rift. I looted my first purple item, and it had a single stat boost. I had never seen a +18 stat boost before, and my current trousers had three stats in the +8-12 range. They were green. So did I want about +30 attribute points spread across three stats, or did I want the monster increase on a single stat? I kept the green because not only would the trousers give way to higher level wear in a short amount of game time, but for leveling purposes I wanted to be balanced. Still, I was a little miffed that I was not going to be donning my first random purple because I have been long conditioned to want to have the shortest-wavelength colors equipped, and it was not the best choice for me.

At end game, the color spread of a character’s armory becomes a badge of honor. Rare things are harder to get so a character decked out in colors of a peacock strut about with their nose sniffing slightly cleaner air. Yet, so far ArenaNet has seemed to be pushing for role variation. They want an elementalist ready to switch from air to water as the need for more support arises, and they want warriors to be ready to switch to a rifle as they jump out of a mace-n-board melee-control role to a ranged damage role. Yet, I worry that if rarity of items is already conditioning players to play for extremes, all the iteration will vanish into a trinity of a different color.

The “easy” thing to do is to have items at each rarity level with each of the various point spreads, and ArenaNet might already be a hundred-fold iterations past my issue. Perhaps we will learn a little more about itemization and rarity with the crafting article set to be released tomorrow. Regardless, I definitely want to learn more about ArenaNet’s take on itemization and progression, a core element to so many MMOs and their ancestors.

–Ravious
what’s in my pocket?

38 thoughts on “[GW2] Conditioning The Precious”

  1. The switch from the GW1-items which were differentiated mostly by skin to this system is a huuuge step back. “Can I come on your raid plz, I have the mighty ring +300 BS-attribute.” Anet pandering to the wow kids … again!

      1. Well, it certainly represents another departure from the GW1 design philosophy, where what you know (your build and your playskill) were more important than what you grind (items, stats, and level).

        I wouldn’t call it “pandering to wow kids” because that’s excessively pejorative – and WoW spans a huge age range, after all – but it’s certainly a shift towards the WoW design philosophy of constantly giving the player little carrots to keep them hamsterwheeling.

        1. Agreed. Again, trying to not be negative, but as a player of both WoW and GW, one of the things I very much like about GW is the low level cap and the flat weapon / armor stats. This is a strong differentiator and is being lost.

          Currently GW is very much not a “treadmill” game. Advancement brings more choices, not so much more raw power. GW2 is taking another route.

          Mind you, in GW currently some of that “more choices instead of more raw power” is a bit of a myth, see PvE skills and the fact that so many Nightfall skill just outperform Prophecies / Factions skills. But I’ll miss the lack of a gear grind.

          1. Currently we do not know how much these items are limited by aesthetics, etc. However, I was under the impression that (perhaps besides jewelry) most of the armor was cosmetic, and stats were things you put on it through the Crest system. Sure it’s a step away from the pure-aesthetics system in Guild Wars 1, but I think that as long as they discourage homogeneity with sufficient aesthetic diversity for each tier of power, this will not become a problem.

            Especially with the fact that you can play with friend no matter what the level differences are, since the game will scale you up to their level, or scale them down to your level depending on what area you visit.

    1. Items at max level in Guildwars 2 will behave exactly like Items in Guildwars 1: They will have max stats.

      I.e.: Guildwars 2 endgame will be pretty much what Guildwars 1 endgame was: You will have a phletora of different weapon and armor “looks/skins” … but there will be no grind for stats. None at all.

      You need to do some more research, badly. You whole article is based on outright false assumptions.

  2. This iteration of the system is certainly superior to the last one, but I’m worried about a couple things on a really basic level. Firstly, I hate-hate-hate the addition of crit-based proc effects on abilities. This kind of randomness is – to be cliche – a huge step backwards from GW1. Firstly, it destroys choice for me – personally I’ll almost always take crit over raw power, just because I value utility effects so much more than pure damage. Secondly, it will introduce situations where you win or lose based on a random crit chance, which is just rubbish.

    I’m also afraid that toughness will almost always win out over Vitality given its superior scaling properties, but it’s hard to say without knowing more about exactly how they work.

    Which brings me to my other complaint – this article, while nice, didn’t really tell us anything about the new attribute system other than what we could see in one screen shot. I would have liked more specific examples of how much your damage is improved by focusing on power, or how drastically your crit rating can change when you focus on Precision. Knowing more about how toughness works would be nice, too.

    Honestly, I just think putting numbers on gear is feeling pretty tired at this point. Maybe I’m just getting bored with RPGs, but I really want to see someone play with new ideas in gear and character “stats”.

    1. “Firstly, it destroys choice for me – personally I’ll almost always take crit over raw power, just because I value utility effects so much more than pure damage.”

      You’re making a choice there, though, based on your playstyle. Other people might not like the randomness of crits or might want to see giant numbers stack up instead of focusing on effects. The choice is only already made for you in the sense that you like utility effects better than raw damage.

      “Secondly, it will introduce situations where you win or lose based on a random crit chance, which is just rubbish.”

      I don’t think this follows, unless they’ve come up with such a useless combat system that you’re absolutely depending on those crit effects or boosted raw power to even make your baseline skills effective.

      1. GW1 has critical hits. And the assassin’s Critical Strikes attributes give sin better change of making a critical hit. Sounds like GW2 is allowing for every profession to have an increase chance of critical hits of the players so choose.

  3. I arrived at the same concern over item colors vs. stats Ravious. Having recently played around a lot with heroes in GW (gee, I wonder why) I have been making greater use of minor and major runes over superior ones. For one, their cheaper, but the main difference is that there isn’t a big difference. The only superior rune I run around with anymore is Death Magic because it affects my minion cap. It was all about maxing stats and now that I’ve gone with lesser runes, I’ve found that my heroes and I survive longer. The changes in damage output and skill durations are negligible at best.

    The same can be said for my weapons. I bought a max purple off-hand item for my elementalist for thousands of gold cheaper than a gold off-hand. There was absolutely no difference in the stats, yet every time I look at it in my inventory, I feel a little disgusted that it doesn’t match the pile of golds I have. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE, and yet, I still feel like I need to track down a gold and transfer all of the mods over.

    I think stats in GW2 will vary by profession for me. I’ll prolly pack an item for each profession that maxes out a single stat and one that is more balanced. I’m more of a balanced type of gamer anyway, but I respect the benefits of maxing out a stat.

  4. I actual like very much that this opens up for some basic character design combos.
    I just hope that it doesn’t end that the best item is the common +20 all.

    asumming that some specialization is worth it, i am looking forward to play with toughness and precission.

    1. This approach also allows decision diversity because you actively put points in your attributes as you level up, unlike other MMORPGs where your base stats are set for you with every level. So a player might decide to balance his stat distribution and then wear a one-attribute accessory, or he could choose to dump all his points into one attribute and augment that with spread-attribute items. I like the choices that such a system gives us.

  5. I think there will always be some people that assume rarer is better and will farm for weeks to buy a set of pure +Power gear to make the ultimate glass cannon. The informed players will probably favor a more balanced set though, and if it’s easy to acquire so much the better.

    Think back to GW1 and armor runes. Minor runes were the most common, but also the most used because they provided the best benefit:cost ratio. Some specialized characters would take the health cost of applying a Superior rune (or even 2) but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion to be sure, despite the fact that Superiors were more rare/valuable.

    I think the real question is whether casuals can understand the opportunity cost inherent to GW2 itemization compared to the very obvious health cost of Superior runes in GW1. Really, they’re pretty much the same concept with a different presentation. I don’t really mind if casual players prefer rare gear regardless of its functional value; it gives the number-crunchers an opening to rise above, and it also means I can make good bank selling off the gear I don’t need.

    1. Good points. Hopefully as the game is so based on “non-numerical activity” (e.g., positioning, rolling, etc.), that having balanced gear that isn’t all purple/orange is going to be good enough if you know how to move your class well.

      FWIW, I almost always trend towards the more stats, less points per stat, than less stats, more points per stat.

  6. I like every point in a stat to matter, prolly comes from my DnD background in which it doesn’t, so gamers stick to the best values in the scale…
    Makes sense, but kinda breaks everything to me.

    Every stat should matter equally, and every point should matter too.

    As for equipment, a colour=level rule doesn’t matter to me.
    However, one very important thing to me in GW is that I can have the best armor for “cheap”.
    It’s won’t be the best looking one, but I won’t be at a disadvantage simply because I don’t spend all my time in-game, yet those who do get a reward by having a great looking armor.
    I can only wish GW2 will keep that state of mind.

    1. The designers at Arenanet have stated specifically that they never want players to look bad. Armor obtained in dungeons will simply have different aesthetics than that obtained outside them at the same level, but stats will always be comparable. I’m not even sure that inherent stats on armor will be anything but armor value itself, with all the additional stats being Crests that you graft on.

  7. “Frankly, we felt our item system was lacking when compared to other games we’d played. We found that our item system had become more about skins than it was about stats, which made the system cool, but limited our ability to make interesting items.”

    That just depressed the hell out of me. Not only are they kicking one of the best things about GW1 to the curb, they don’t even seem to understand how brilliant it was.

    The two things about GW1 I always wished would take off and get copied by other games, the two killer mechanical design features, were the low level cap and the fact that items precisely *were* about the skin and not about the stats. Naturally those are the two systems they’ve abandoned in favour of chasing the mainstream.

      1. Agreed ^3

        Well, there’s been plenty of other GW2 news that’s concerned me, but these have been the hardest for me to accept.

        1. Psh. I’m just going to hold my judgments on this information until I can actually PLAY the game. I’m seeing a lot of, “OH GOD, THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING!” crap similar to when Transmutation stones were mentioned.

          Every one just calm down! They’ve already said that the system could change again.

          1. As far as we know, Guild Wars 2 is keeping the same gear-grind-less design philosophy as its predecessor. Just because gears now have stats doesn’t mean that they will be dungeon-exclusive, or that gear commonly found in world won’t be comparable to gear found in dungeons. In fact, they have specifically stated this.

            The only thing they are doing is preventing low-level players from being completely overpowered for their areas. If you think about it, the Guild Wars 1 system was very similar in that the armor rating of the armor you could obtain increased as you progressed through the game. The perception is only altered because of the smaller numbers involved (level cap of 20, etc)

  8. I agree with wanting gear to be more about aesthetics than progression, but that still seems possible given the current system. It’s all in how the items compare across the gear spectrum. They just need to get 2 things right:

    1. Make all attributes desirable to all characters. It sounds like they’ve done that with the current 4 attributes, assuming they’re correct in saying that dedicated healers aren’t feasible in GW2.

    2. Make rare items statistically identical or similar to common items. This means another criterion is needed to make the items stand apart, such as choosing balanced or stacked stats (to use the example from the article). And of coarse “cool” skins versus standard ones.

    Both of these points support a gear system that’s based on choice rather than linear progression. Selecting gear becomes a tactical/playstyle decision rather than a simply an economic one. Choice makes it interesting.

  9. I liked what I read in Destiny about slotting gems in weapons. This sounds… different. Guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the crafting system to be sure.

  10. Gear hopefully will offer choices beyond attribute modification. This is already in GW2 for weapons, for example, ice weapons that have a chance of “breaking” to do extra damage from shards of ice, and the line of weapons that does life stealing at night. What about boots that offer a 5-10% speed boost, or extra jumping height. Repulse armor that causes knockdown, or a minor damage blast on the next attack after taking X amount of cumulative damage. Anyway I certainly expect choices that are not as straightforward as maximizing damage.

    1. Yeah, stuff like this is what I’m pretty sure they were talking about when they said they couldn’t add anything interesting to items using GW1’s system. And while I liked that system for its convenience and lack of hassle and focus on aesthetics, I can think of several reasons why it would make sense for them to scrap it in favor of this (I don’t prefer it, but I’m not ready to write it off as a bad design decision or even get worried about it until we have more details).

  11. I believe that stacking attributes and mastering one area won’t have the wow-effect where attributes stacked in a single area will necessarily be the majority just because a group demands it for a raid. In those systems and situations, in order for one to master a particular area, such as agility, someone must be able to make up for the massive weaknesses it leaves behind, such as lack of armor. With no dedicated healer to hide insecurities, these flaws and gaps will be apparent and will require players to actually adjust their play style, instead of just charge in. I think with the 3 RPG roles gone, along with content that does not require grouping, self-reliance will be a huge motivator in gameplay decisions in ways we might never have seen before.

  12. I can understand where some people are coming from when they say that they don’t want to have to play a lot to get the ‘best’ items, but to be honest, what about the players who DO want to play a lot? Why shouldn’t get better anything to show for all of their efforts? Why should a game cater to only casual players?

    I’m honestly not trying to start a fight with anyone, but your status in a game should reflect the effort you put in. The idea of any casual player who spends 30 minutes a week playing being able to achieve the same results as someone who plays for several hours a night just depresses me – there would really be nothing to work for, so why should I play?

    There are plenty of games (non-mmos) that are good for casual gamers; single-player adventure RPGs, fighters, fps, plenty of things that don’t require a time commitment or keep track of cumulative play. So why does the only genre where this matters need to cater to the group that plays it the least and spoonfeed them everything?

    Just my opinion

    1. uff, I think I had my insert key on – should be “Why shouldn’t players get anything better to show for their efforts?”

    2. How much GW1 have you played? Players who play a lot *do* get “better” stuff, including the “best” items, and have a lot to “show for their efforts” (literally). Your status absolutely reflects the amount of effort you’ve put in. You just don’t get bigger numbers than everybody else.

      1. Furthermore, games that concentrate on grind don’t just discriminate among more casual players, it also discriminates against alts. If one player has played four thousand hours on one character compared to another that has played four thousand hours split between eight characters, does the latter really deserve to be put at a disadvantage.

        The mantra of GW has always been “skill over time spent”, even though that has been diluted since Nightfall was released (frankly, I’d prefer an experience-based system to a reputation-based one). If someone has the skill needed to play a particular zone, what does it really achieve to put an artificial mechanical cap on their ability to do it that requires hours of grinding to meet? There are other rewards for accomplishment, and if you have that much time to spend you can spend it playing alts or even playing other games – it’s not like you’re having to justify paying a subscription, after all. Myself, I /like/ the idea of being able to play with more casual friends without feeling like I’m babysitting or powerlevelling them.

  13. Yeah, status is really about bragging rights. Having the coolest looking characters is enough for that; you don’t need a statistical advantage.

    Think about it the other way: if you play five times as much as the “casual” guy, you should be better at the game due to experience and don’t need advantages to make the game easier. You should welcome challenge because you’re one of the elite players.

  14. Another advantage of primarily-cosmetic gear and a fixed level cap is that your ultra-l33t k3wl l3wtz stay cool and elite even when newer cool and elite gear becomes available: my Fissure of Woe armour I worked so hard towards back in Prophecies is still good (and cool-looking) today, two and a half expansions later. My full set of Rift (end-game raid) armour in LotRO? That went into permanent storage a few weeks after Moria came out, never to be worn again. (I just couldn’t bring myself to vendor it.)

  15. The thing with rare loot and the stats they bring, is the inbalance…I like the idea that gw1 bring to the table,that everyone plays with the same gear basicly. but bringing rare items in to the mix with diffrent stats makes the players focus less on skills to counter and more on gear… Making it alot like wow, “a gear based mmorpg”…wich is really bad thing in my oppinion.

    Atleast I hope they can make it so that pvp in gw2 isent gear based…because thats just isent fair play, even if i´m better then my opponent skillwise, he can have better gear and win due too his higher stats.

    1. Gear importance wise, WoW and GW1 are on the two opposite extremes of the spectrum. The fact GW2 is appearently moving a bit away from the GW1 model doesn’t mean it will be like WoW.
      There’s plenty of room in-between the two to have a system where gear matters a bit more than it previously did, without being the ultimate deciding factor in the character effectiveness.

      About PVP, thay always stated gear and level won’t matter, so you have no reason at all to be concerned on that front.

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