Lots of neat tidbits in the latest ArenaNet blog post including UI changes, character customization stuff, and skill quests. Okay, so that’s not what they’re called. “Skill challenges” is the official title, but this new system for getting the non-weapon skills unlocked has me squirming a little. Flannum writes:
Skill points can be acquired by undertaking what we call a skill challenge. There are 200 skill challenges in the game, and they range from defeating tough opponents, to answering riddles, to drinking a particularly potent drink.
He goes on to say that this is an evolution of one of their earlier profession specific “challenges” because this new iteration allows for players to group up to do a skill challenge together, regardless of profession makeup. Sounds pretty good, until I looked at the picture. That’s a lot of things to unlock.
What has me squirming is the necessity in Guild Wars 2 to be versatile. Weapon switching goes a long way, and it is truly the meat and potatoes of the desired role a player chooses. Yet, the supporting sides have to be tasty with the main dish. A throwing spear pickle goes great with my sword-and-board burger, but I’d rather not have that accompaniment with my long-range chicken’n'dumplings. So I am forced do extra skill challenges to make sure that my utility sides match up to each of my main weapon bars and roles.
I am also squirming because these ‘skill challenges’ sound like vanilla-MMO quests pushing their way back in. The personal story “quest” was a tad different because it had significant purpose beyond the quest mechanic. The personal story was about the journey. Skill challenges are going to be about the reward for doing a small activity. It compounds in to the danger zone because unlike so many vanilla MMO quests, doing skill challenges are going to be crucial for character development.
I feel also that something is lost by moving from profession challenges to all-purpose skill challenges. Profession challenges could have been constructed more as skill puzzles specific to the profession. They could have been used as “tutorials” in a way for each profession. Now, it just sounds like a quest.
There are way too many assumptions to make to really say anything but this system feels dangerous. How easy is it to get skill points? Are they along the path of story and zone events, or out of the way? Is this going to just be wiki fodder so people are just trying to hunt down skill challenges so they can get a skill instead of enjoying the challenge? How many skill challenges need to be completed to get full unlocks? What is the design goal for the character level for full unlocks? Will WvW fanatics have to constantly break from their world crushing to head out and complete these mundane tasks?
I know that when I played the dungeon during Guild Wars 2 Fan Day, if I did not have all the utilities I had available, there was no way I could have beat the portions of the explorable mode we did. I am also worried about this getting more players looking for community-approved leveling builds instead of just picking what’s cool. The more time and effort needed to unlock skills, without a refund or takeback, the less likely players are going to pick a skill that sounds cool.
Like most of what ArenaNet shows, this type of system would be best shown and related by actual players. It’s going to be an issue of getting it to feel right for Guild Wars 2, and with ArenaNet’s dedication to iteration, I hope that the next time I hear how this system has progressed, been tested, or been played I won’t get any squirmy feeling. This design is really edging a danger zone due to the necessity of the advancement. I hope in the end it adds more fun than work.