[GW2] Mounting the Learning Curve

Guild Wars 2 has special mechanics for its classes. I have no idea how they work and have no idea where in-game would explain it. I assume the wiki has some information. I also assume that there will be more information available somewhere, sometime, but that it felt suboptimal to implement that while major changes to those mechanics are underway.

I tried two new classes for the last BWE, Mesmer and Thief. I knew that Mesmer abilities revolved around clones and confusion. Okay, first fight, I have just my basic attack, here we go. Bam, bam, why is there a clone of my by the enemy? There’s another one. Oh, they’re gone. Trying that out of a few fights, my basic power was flipping between three different versions faster than I could read the text on what it was doing. Oh, so those little lights indicate how many clones I have out. I’m not entirely sure what the clones do beyond what it says (use one attack).

The Thief comes with a Steal ability, which picks up an ability from the target. That will involve learning some icons to make full use of it. Thieves stole the GW1 Assassins’ shadowstep, and they have Initiative dots. Initiative is … I don’t know. It looks like an energy system of sorts, because I at one point did not have enough initiative to throw a dagger. Skimming the forums, it looks like they’re mid-revamp (or maybe just balancing heavily), so it seems unprofitable to learn much now. Having played only a few levels, it only mattered once, and it mattered by stopping me from doing what I was doing. I presume it matters more later.

Part of a GW2 training area will need to be an explanation of what your class mechanics are doing. Maybe that comes later in life. I was only getting to Engineer kits on the first character I tried, and the Elementalist’s element swapping is intuitive once you notice the icons. I haven’t even looked at half the classes, so I may have quite a bit to muddle through. I can see level 20 players in groups saying, “Is that what that does?” for the next two years.

: Zubon

49 thoughts on “[GW2] Mounting the Learning Curve

  1. Ano

    I am confused by the Mesmer as well. I assume during a fight my clones appear up to a count of three and then I can use a consume spell to activate them (like builders/consume in TSW). It isn’t always consistent though as sometimes only one or two clones appear even while I am still attacking the same mob! :)

    1. spinks

      The mesmer is very random. There is a percentage chance for a clone spawning (aside from other abilities you have which will create a specific type of clone).

      1. Jondifool

        There is actual not a random chance involved.

        The scepter in its current form is just a confussing weapon (no pun intended) to start with.

        And the third part of skill ones attack chain summon a clone. And if you break the chain and use another skill, the chain resets.

        They have changed the starter weapon away from the sword because puting the mesmer in meellee range was not that newbie friendly , while you learn to deal with shatters and illusions.

        Scepter is just not ideal either, and is btw properly subject to change before release

        1. spinks

          You know, maybe I’m actually too dumb to play a mesmer. I never realised that. (After this BWE which is the first time I’ve seen it, I’m pondering whether I’m too dumb to play GW2 at all. Although the WvW seemed fun even when you don’t have a clue.)

          1. Tib

            You’re not dumb, it just isn’t explained.
            You can see the chain skill icons “flip” on your bar, but it is very hard to see what they do.

            The mesmer scepter isn’t even the biggest problem. Someone mentioned the ranger sword below, the 2nd part of the first skill makes you jump towards the target.

            It is very useful, and a great skill, but it causes lots of problems, and you probably want to disable auto-attack on the sword because of it.

    2. Aillas

      They could use some nice class tutorials… those mesmer clones are considered illusions, and some skills destroy them for various effects (e.g. one will destroy them for extra damage against the enemy).

    3. karln

      OK so

      Various skills make illusions. The tooltips will say that they do this, but at least one is buried at the end of an attack chain (Scepter skill 1, third hit) so you probably didn’t see it. Each illusion is linked to the enemy you cast it on and will vanish when that enemy dies.

      Your F1-F4 skills each shatter all your illusions to cause effects: AoE damage, AoE confuse, AoE interrupt, or make you briefly invincible.

      And yes this is poorly explained in game :( I’m not that confident that it will ever be better explained; of the MMOs I’ve played before (WoW, CoH, GW1) none of them really bothered to explain complicated mechanics well. GW1 kinda tried a bit in Factions but it didn’t seem very helpful.

  2. Hornedcatmonkey

    I know what everything does due to essentially camping ANet for the last two years.
    Knowing how to use it all, however…

  3. Kring

    > I can see level 20 players in groups saying,
    > “Is that what that does?” for the next two years.

    Isn’t that the most awesome thing of a new MMO?

    1. Zonian

      This ^
      So far this has been one of the best parts of the BWEs. Discovering what a spell/skill does and then testing it out on bad guys. There can be some clarity added, a spell/skill book where you can reference the abilities perhaps. The last thing I want is to have my hand held from level 1 to level “X”.

  4. Aly

    Later professions (thief, engi, mesmer) are more complex by design. The GW1 mesmer was also considered an advanced profession, and in many ways the Gw2 mesmer is actually more accessible than the original despite its complexity. On the other end of the spectrum you have a profession like the ranger, whose unique mechanic is a pet and basically in line with similar classes in other games. Warrior and guardian are pretty beginner friendly as well, and my husband seemed to pick up on the necromancer just fine.

    The unique mechanics of professions are described on the official website, but they aren’t the sort of thing one can learn in a single tutorial due to the depth of the professions. That’s why skills and abilities are unlocked over time, to give players a chance to learn the basics. I don’t see anything wrong with not knowing everything about a profession within the first 20 levels, as long as you are able to progress through content.

    1. Tib

      I like the way weapon skills unlock, but It also gives me a new appreciation of the old fashioned skill trainer.

      I think you should be able to see the skill tooltips even when they’re not unlocked. Often skills will unlock in the middle of an event or in a dangerous area and I won’t read the tooltip for 5-10 minutes. When you go to a trainer and purchase the skill you probably take the time to read it.

      1. Lethe

        You can, just not on the skill bar. If you go into the weapon skill section of your hero panel, you can hovertip weapon skills you haven’t unlocked yet. The downside is it doesn’t list the chains many weapons have in the first skill slot.

        1. Zubon Post author

          “Gun: weapon skill. When you pull the trigger, it makes a clicking sound.” We couldn’t think of a good way to then describe what happened later in the chain.

        2. Tib

          really? I tried that for the traits, and I’m almost sure that didn’t work, because it would be a great help if you could see what traits you can choose from before you put points into the tree.

          I certainly hope they put the hero panel weapon skill tooltips in the trait tab too.

  5. MalkContent

    I think they need to add a section to the skills and trait tab specifically about class mechanics. In a similair way that if you are unsure if you want to bother learning a weapon you can go to the Weapon Skill tab and see all that a weapon has to offer. Even then that could use some improving as the chain skills in that tab (like the mesmer skill you mentions) only tell you the first part of the skill.

    Not that any of them tend to be too fancy, though I did find my Ranger getting himself killed because apparently the 3rd part of his chain skill involves jumping towards the enemy and as such when I was trying to disengage from a scary swamp monster the skill kept dragging me back in.

  6. darkeye

    They used to have the chain skills displayed in the skill panel, but now it only shows the first skill and being able to see all the skills in a chain is a must. The sceptre that mesmers start with, has a 3 skill chain that creates a clone on the 3rd hit. But what’s the difference between clones and phantasms, and what causes them to vanish, I can see why it is confusing. I’d say mesmer is the least finished, hopefully see changes such as separating phantasms from the shatter mechanic.

    If you listen to the forums then thief has the worst mechanics of any class. Found steal quite easy to get to grips with, ‘blinding tuft’ and ‘throw gunk’ came up a lot and found them quite useful. Initiative is a better way to do energy mechanics common to rogues in other games, it is easier to know how much initiative you have at a glance.

    1. Malygon

      In the first BWE I started playing a thief and I quickly found the steal ability to be quite useless, I got to about level 25 and I didn’t use it since about level 5. But that was the first BWE, the melee unfriendly one where you ran a lot better when you used ranged weapons. I love the Initiative mechanic though, sometimes on other classes it gets boring watching those cooldowns rotate, waiting for one to get ready…

  7. The Ogre

    The utter lack of a tutorial is a bad thing. Using hard to read (because they are fancified) popups that block your view in the middle of dodge-or-die combat to try and explain things is not good.

    Unfortunately, they went the City of Heroes revamped tutorial route and, instead of actually teaching you anything, decided to throw you at a giant monster because it is “epic”. (a giant monster that, depending on when you arrive and which zone, might have absolutely zero context – took my 3rd Asura before I found out about Teyo’s involvement in the starting area’s problem, a rather important fact for the storyline)

    1. MalkContent

      Agreed with the Asura thing. Ideally what should happen is an event on the previous portal (the one that leads to the boss zone) as something like, “Help x repair the portal” with fighting of waves and gathering bits, like you would find in the open world events, but have progress obfuscated. Once the previous group has finished fighting the big boss, allow the portal to be opened to let another group through.

      1. Bishop200

        Does i smell sarcasm, cause

        That actually the case already, there a event of fighting golem while they repair the portal. It’s just that the portal his open for too long after, so you can miss the start of the boss fight.

        1. MalkContent

          No sarcasm! I must’ve have ran through when the portal wasn’t being attacked (due to your aforementioned being open too long) and missed the fact that it even existed.

          I like that this sort of thing can happen in the open world, as I can always see the event again and it adds to the liveliness of the world. Short of repeatedly making new Asura, I may never see the start of the game properly.

  8. Ravious

    Good call. I never put it together, but like Hornedcatmonkey I know it all, but using it is entirely different. It is quite reasonable that I never used it because I didn’t really figure out how/when to use it.

    I know what it does, but that’s different then figuring out when to apply it.

    By far the mesmer has the hardest and most-needed-to-be-learned ASAP for F1 skill.

    I do also agree with Aly. I’ve found things start to come together at level 20-30… with traits, weapons, and builds. As a thief in an earlier beta, I didn’t make good use of steal until that level range when I decided to get traits that made my steal (F1) special-er. By then I had my weapon switching rhythm down so I could start with ranged, switch weapons to melee, steal to get in melee range, and finish them.

  9. Gina

    I think you’ve finally put your finger on why I’m not enjoying the game at all. I’m completely lost no matter what I do.

    Also the brightness and sparkliness of the surroundings doesn’t help — yes, this sounds odd, but if you compare the brightness of GW2 to EQ2, everything just looks so anime and unreal. For me, that’s disorienting.

    1. Curuniel

      Pet peeve: when people use ‘anime’ to mean ‘stylized’ (is that what you mean here?). As an anime fan, I fail to see anything anime-like about GW2’s art style, but maybe that’s just me?

      1. Naqaj

        I think you’re on to something there. GW2 has a very strong, distinguished art direction, unlike many other western fantasy games. I guess since that is more common among JRPGs and Korean MMOs, people automatically group it with those games.

        1. Curuniel

          Yeah, I would still have been confused about what made it look that way to you. GW2 doesn’t look like anime OR like East Asian MMORPGs I’ve seen, to me. But I’m aware that might just be me!

    2. Aly

      My first intro to EQ2 was a trial with some sort of fairy race. The zone was very bright, and made the elf starting zone in WoW look positively lifelike. I imagine the human zones would be more naturally hued in EQ2, as are the human zones in GW2 (along with the norn and charr.) The sylvari zone can be bright and disorientating but it’s race specific.

  10. Sente

    I found both Mesmer and Thief intersting to play, but it really was irritating that information about the switching skills was no easily visible – trying to get a glimpse of the mouseover description took away some of the fun.

    I do not mind if the mechanics may have some complexity, but it should be possible to get the necessary information and make informed decisions from that.

    1. Azrael

      I was surprised about my clone popping up on my Mesmer the first few times as well, but figured it out after about 5 min.

      I went into this beta thinking “Ok, I’ve ruled out Mesmer, Thief, Engineer, Warrior and Necro as my main, that just leaves me three to concentrate on” I also had the thought “I know I dont want to be Norn, Human, or Charr”……

      I left this beta knowing that my main will be either Human Thief or Norn Warrior. Hehe.

      Forgetting to use the Thief steal mechanic for 10 levels led me to think it was useless.. then using it for 10 more led me to think “This thing so rocks!”. Not only is it great for transfering from ranged to melee distance but there will be times you will get a skill that can turn a battle, and everytime you get a nice advantage skill you didnt have before.

      While I didnt like Mesmer for my playstyle I can say that every class is fun and most are fairly unique, and for me.. this was the most fun I have had in an MMO since the first days of Everquest when all this MMO stuff was new. (FYI WoW was an Everquest rip-off dumbed down for the masses, so stop saying things are WoW rip-offs)

      1. Curuniel

        Things are WoW rip-offs! If more things were Everquest rip-offs (or rather, early EQ rip-offs), the MMO world might be a different place :P

        Incidentally, I believe ArenaNet have said that the original Everquest was very much part of the inspiration for GW2 :D

        1. Naqaj

          They mentioned DaoC a lot as an inspiration for their WvW. Other than that, thank god the PvE game is actually not inspired too much by either EQ or WoW :)

    2. HtF

      Well,

      aside from the “struggle to stay alive” skillbar you can always hit “H” to see your hero panel. There you see (outside of battle, in quiet) what which skill does and which skill will be available for what weappon/offhand combo.

      What is NOT shown, though, is the secondary or tertiary skill you usually get with the “1” attack.

  11. Curuniel

    I think the lack of a step-by-step tutorial is a very deliberate choice, and one that GW2 should stick by. It made my first tutorial stuff confusing as hell, but it’s part of the in-the-midst-of-things feel and it encourages the exploration mentality which I think will be crucial to playing (and enjoying) the game.

    What they could do to address this issue is just have a more prominent pop-up that says “Above your weapon skills are your profession-specific skills. Take a moment to read what they do!”. Or, what might be nice is if the profession trainers in starter areas offered to tell you how your class mechanic worked. Those first trainers are very easy to find, but they’re not relevant until level 11 – they could serve double duty.

    1. Zubon Post author

      Or, what might be nice is if the profession trainers in starter areas offered to tell you how your class mechanic worked. Those first trainers are very easy to find, but they’re not relevant until level 11 – they could serve double duty.
      Yes.

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  13. Vaelanis Duskfall

    I agree with the above comment about the choice to give very little explanation of skills and how they work as deliberate, and necessary. Sure, they could make things easy for all newcomers and just give everyone full information on how the mechanics of every system work. But then, that goes against the very grain of this world, this system and how it’s designed.

    Exploration and discovery are paramount to the style of play necessary — no matter if you intend to focus on PvP, WvWvW or PvE. In GW2 you are constantly learning, constantly adapting, and I expect that to NEVER change.

    I appreciate the style, the intention, because it flies in the face of perfect builds, perfect stats, perfect gear, etc. It allows the player to truly experiment, and become much more part of the world instead of part of the game.

    I read an article a while back about how players of games traditionally try to “game the game”, and it’s incredibly true. We, as gamers, will seek out advantages to game the system in any way we can. To some degree, I think ArenaNet completely flies in the face of that desire, and places every player literally in a level playing field from the very beginning.

    With all of this scatter-brainedness explanation, I doubt my point has been made. Essentially, if the world is all about learning and discovery, then so too should the methods of playing in the world. In real life, you learn by doing, by repetition, by *le gasp* failing repeatedly. I’m tired of being spoon-fed by games and MMOs, and I really do appreciate the innovative approach ArenaNet has taken with GW2. It may not work for everyone, but then again, who said they were out to please everyone?

    EDIT: And who is to say the profession trainers won’t have more “training”? We assume we know, but really, until early access we only know what ArenaNet has opened to us and allowed us to see/experience. There is much to learn, much to explore, much to discover.

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  15. Aly

    Looking back and reading through the comments I’m starting to wonder if what we’re seeing is an indirect fallout of the so called “WoW clone” era. In terms of basic game play mechanics, once you knew how to play one MMO, you pretty much knew how to play the next. GW2 is doing something different, and now we actually have to learn how to play. And at some point, the concept of learning has become stigmatized perhaps because we’re so used to being criticized or even criticizing others for a lack of knowledge.

    I think if players look back to their first MMO experience, it’s a safe bet they didn’t know everything about the game’s mechanics straight out the gate. I don’t think I truly knew how to play WoW until my first few raids. When the learning curve stands between you and progressing through a game, that’s a problem. But if you can continue leveling before you know everything, clearly you know enough and the rest will come in time. It’s an MMO. What’s the rush?

    I’m also starting to wonder if part of why so many gamers return to games like WoW is out of complacency. They “know how to play” the game. They have established characters. They don’t have to feel like a “newb.” Apparently there’s no worse feeling in the world to a MMO player than not knowing how to play.

    People say they don’t want retreads of previous games, or watered down content yet they resist anything new or different because of the stigma attached to learning. That saddens me.

    1. Ano

      Agreed. Since when did “learning to play” become redundant and not fun. I really hate what the WoW clones have done to the MMO genre. People just want to be led through the game, mash buttons, and rush to endgame. Thankfully we have MMO’s like The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 to inject some life back into what has become a completely stale genre.

    2. Zubon Post author

      No. Folks are conflating “learning” with “learning unexplained mechanics by blind trial and error.” You should not need to learn what happens when you hit the number 1 by watching it for several minutes and trying to pick out the pattern of why the attack is not doing what is listed when you read the description. You should not need to learn that your energy mechanic limits your actions by running out of energy and just getting a “you can’t do that” message.

      Deleting all the technology descriptions out of Civilization would not make it a better game. It would take you longer to learn what is going on, but it would not make Bronze Working more interesting.

      1. Curuniel

        Traditionally, in that golden age on MMOs many of us imagine (I can imagine away, I wasn’t there for it), in games that didn’t ‘spoon feed’ information to you, you asked other players. That doesn’t mean that giving less information is a better idea, though.

        I think Zubon is doing ArenaNet a service by pointing out areas that can be confusing or off-putting. It’s not like he’s saying “I played a mesmer and had no idea wtf was going on, this game is shit.” It’s constructive!

  16. melianos

    Thief is quite mobile, you often use dodge and then use an attack to go in again, or an attack to move out when things get hard.

    So you often need to manage your initiative to be able to pull out quickly if needed. And you need it to deal damage, of course.

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