Last year, Guild Wars 2 was perceived as experiencing three-monther doldrums and had calls for increasing character advancement options. Lost Shores included the first Ascended items and Fractals of the Mists, a dungeon where rewards increased at deeper levels and an “agony” mechanic demanded item-based progression. Developers promised more character advancement, a higher level cap, and more tiers of loot. I flipped out and stormed off. I read that as the death of the horizontal endgame I signed up for. Respect for Ravious’s ongoing enjoyment was the main thing that kept me from posting daily screeds.
Fast forward six or eight months, and I became willing to give trust another chance. Now about half the slots have Ascended items, with many options and several ways to get them. The level cap has not increased. The endgame is still mostly horizontal, with expanded Achiever content through achievements, appropriately enough. I do not feel obliged to delve thirty layers into Fractals to have a worthwhile character in PvE or WvW. sPvP remains insulated.
I am still expecting more character advancement. Long before the latest update, a guildmate described anticipated crafting changes as a precursor to Ascended armor; we happened to get weapons first. I still think Ascended gear is a design mistake, but since the tier is here, sure, complete it. The slow pace implies that we will not be seeing a new tier several times a year, which is comforting. Several proposed changes are expanding character options, not creating a new layer of them. Again, comforting — “more options” is what I signed up for.
I do not know if I overreacted or if ArenaNet changed plans. I certainly heard “more progression” and “we never promised a horizontal endgame.” I saw the worst advancement schemes from WoW (item-based progression), LotRO (gloom), and DAoC (Trials of Atlantis) being planned all at once. If that change is coming at this pace, I can deal with it; that could actually feel like “progression” rather than “churn.”
I may still flip out and storm off again if character advancement pressures accelerate. I am already concerned about how they are affecting alt-friendliness.
In the long run, trying to retain players through planned obsolescence is just prolonging a death spiral. The further the endgame is from the start, the less attractive your game is to new players, and every time you have a gear reset to bring the new endgame back closer, you upset your existing players who can see the treadmill more clearly.