[GW2] Free-to-Play Sunday

Yesterday ArenaNet aimed to impress with their PAX presentation including the Heart of Thorns release date of October 23. The company brass talked about the vision of Heart of Thorn expansion and beyond, notably with raids (10-man instanced, difficult content) and the core game going free. Except for the forced clap pauses that seem to be part of all video game presentations, I was pretty impressed with the information drop. In reverse order…

Free Core

The biggest note for MMO’dom in general is that Guild Wars 2 is now free. It’s really not F2P, which is a moniker used more to hint at the need for microtransactions and gimped gameplay, or a subscription game changing business models in an extreme manner. All content that is currently available is free. The Heart of Thorns expansion and all that content, with a few exceptions, will be paid.

There are restrictions. The vast majority of them are aimed at protecting the existing community and economy. No daily log in reward was a big one that I saw the community worry over. No sending gold or items by mail or getting access to a guild vault is a huge blow to any thought of gold buyers getting a heyday.  Players also can’t access WvW until level 60, which I feel is reasonable, but the WvW community still talks like the sky is falling to spies, griefers, etc.

The notable “F2P” exception is limited character slots and bag space. Two character slots for free seems reasonable, but 3 bag slots seems tight. A player can go a cheap route and buy gems (with cash, not gold) to increase bag slots, or possibly find a Guild Wars 2 “core” key. But, I feel if they are invested enough to want bag slots, they would probably want to go the full mile and just buy Heart of Thorns.

Unlike the World of Warcraft “free demo”, where I hit the wall at level 20 and never came back (despite many thoughts of re-subbing), I feel free Guild Wars 2 players can get the full tour of what I’ve been playing the past three years. It’s the beyond that they won’t be able to get without heading through a pay wall.

Raids

Part of this beyond will be raids, which was the info drop that started the presentation. These are 10-man instanced bits of content. The first raid will have three wings, with the first wing coming a bit after Heart of Thorns launch.

Colin explained one tactic with a boss in the first wing. There is a platform, and the boss is aiming to insta-kill anybody on the platform. Players must get off the platform, use gliders to float above the platform, and fall down to CC (creature control) the boss before the cycle repeats.

Raids will have masteries tied to them, which we’ll learn about in future blog posts. However, Colin was very exact in saying that there would not be raid erosion in Guild Wars 2. It will never be easier to beat a raid by out-powering a raid with higher gear or character level tiers. I think that’s pretty cool.

The biggest shake-up with raids was that it would contain legendary armor. This has some worried about the rifts it might cause in the community. Legendary armor is the same stat-wise as ascended armor, which anybody can make. However, legendary armor can have its stats changed at any time. Ascended armor requires a modest reforging to do that. That gives legendary armor the slightest of edges to call it best-in-slot.

My gut feeling is that raids will be hard at first, just like Tequatl and the tri-Wurm. Players will find good mechanics and group compositions, and the raid love will trickle down. I think that ArenaNet will make raid accessible for the core players, but I feel like it will be made difficult.

Heart of Core

What has really happened, I feel, with Heart of Thorns is that the core game’s water is rising almost as much than the expansion-only content. Right now it seems like the expansion-only content will be the four new maps, the story missions, elite specializations, and raids. The core content will be Stronghold (PvP), new WvW borderlands, and new Fractals of the Mists (5-man dungeon) progression. I am not sure where masteries fits in. Early on ArenaNet has said that masteries was a Heart of Thorns only thing, despite there being core masteries. We’ll have to see if they stick to their guns on that notable mechanic.

However, I think most of the future updates will be behind the Heart of Thorns paywall. The presentation hinted that the Living World updates would continue, possibly with the raids being a large part of that. It is likely they will continue in the Heart of Thorns maps, or even add new maps.

ArenaNet took a lot of developer time this expansion cycle to work on the core game. Hopefully that is time well spent because I would love for a faster-than-three-years future expansion cycle. If we can get to Cantha in a year or so…. well, dreams can come true sometimes.

–Ravious

9 thoughts on “[GW2] Free-to-Play Sunday”

    1. I doubt that they will tie the Living Story in to raiding, i.e., requiring raiding to advance a portion of the Living Story. I do think they will interrelate the Living Story to the raiding. The first raid details finding a lost Pact recon squad. If there is a Living Story during that time I bet the recon squad will be of importance. Who knows though? It’s almost new territory.

  1. As bhagpuss, I feel that the direction ArenaNet is taking is becoming more and more different from what I love in GW2 : discovery, freedom, a world that exists and is coherent. I was convinced by the manifesto.

    For me it look like they are trying to create the end-game they did not have at the begining. Orr, Southsun, fractal, dungeon, mechanic map in the west, all of those give a very different approach than the leveling game, Maybe it is because the levelling game attract a lot of player, but does not succeed to retain them : as soon as it is finished, they leave the game and no longer buy micro-transaction. And so this is logical from a business point of view.

    But I fear that they are missing the point if they do not create the core content (events in a real map) in the expansion. I hope that the new maps will not be Gimmick map on steroid, but real world we will be able to explore leisurely, with fun events bringing tens of players together without any organisation.

    I just love the Zerg ;-)

  2. GW2 was designed to be a game of equals, which resulted in an awesome community. The game was designed from the core that other player are always an advantage and never a disadvantage for you.

    The introduction of raids will change that equalness. They didn’t use a level system like they did with fractals. There is only one difficulty. And, because it’s raids, it will required fix time commitments and organisation.

    Sure, everybody can raid who wants it enough but not everybody wants. This is the first time that the player base will be split between those wo do have legendary armor and those who can’t be motivated for a fix time commitment to farm that on some guilds schedule. GW2 was always about logging in and deciding what to do. GW2 wasn’t about logging in because it’s Tuesday evening to raid.

    raids are going to devide and ultimately poison the community. You either raid, or you’re a non-raiding scrub. Player will look down on you because you’re not one of them who beats the “challenging group content”. The introduction of raids will have a similar effect as the dungeon finder had in WoW on the community.

    Will it kill the game? Probably not.
    Will it destroy it’s awesome community? Unfortunately, yes.

    We didn’t have a new dungeon for 3 years (neglecting the failed Etherpath), even Blizzard adds more dungeons to WoW… The fractal system never grew the way it would and should have. And I don’t think they will add another raid after the first one because, let’s face it, it will not drive the gem store sale enough to justify it’s costs.

    I don’t get why they add a single raid to GW2. There are tons of other 3 year old or newer F2P games with more and probably better raids. Do they really expect that to be a selling point?

    1. I disagree with most of your conclusions. I definitely do not agree that adding raids is anything like adding a dungeon finder to WoW. A dungeon finder reduces the need for any communication or personable interaction. Adding a raid is exactly the opposite.

      The GW2 community is largely built around open world content, which HoT will have. There are already sub-communities that require elite participation (‘zerk frac level 50, 15k+ AP, no necros). The sky hasn’t fallen because of them.

      1. I worded that confusing. It won’t be for the same reason. But adding raid will mark the point where the community will start to change, as the WoW community did with the introduction of the LFD (for completely different reasons).

        In WoW there is a way to play it right (raiding) or wrong (not-raiding), which the majority and even Blizzard thinks is true. That’s the reason why Blizzard is making it easier to raid (LFR, Flex, etc.) to push more people to play their game right, instead of adding more other content. There is no alternative endgame.

        At the moment there is no way to play GW2 the wrong way. The game is about enjoying it and yourself. (And if someone is looked down upon it’s the 15k+ AP zerker.) That will change with raids. Now the game, and Arenanet, tells you that there is legendary armor you can only obtain in those raids. Everyone who doesn’t raid isn’t worthy to wear said armor.

        At the moment nobody cares if you got your Arah set from running the dungeon, from PvP rewards or by buying dungeon runs. There’s no way to play it wrong. In the future there will be only one right way. And that’s going to divide the community.

        1. The critical difference is that in WoW best-stat-in-slot was from raids. In GW2 best-stat-in-slot is ascended armor, which anybody can make. All legendary armor does is allow for cheaper changing of stats (free), this is very nice say if you have to go from ‘zerk to Knights, etc. But, nothing requires that over ascended.

          1. That’s right and the feature isn’t that useful as it doesn’t swap runes. I know that you don’t have to have it.

            But it’s available, therefore I want it. I’m willing to work for it but I’m not willing to commit to a fixed schedule for it. I did play GW2 because it’s an MMO were you’re not only fed left over bones if you don’t raid.

            I now have 3 options.
            1) Commit to a raid schedule.
            2) Skip raids and don’t have legendary armor.
            3) Skip GW2.

            I’ve bought the addon on day 1 and I will get my fun from touristing the new zones. But it will be option 3 for me. If the best rewards are obtained in raids I can, and will, stay with WoW. :-)

            1. I think there’s some unchallenged assumptions here:
              1) Raiding is going to be the only major hurdle to making legendary armour.
              2) Raiding is the only way to acquire certain items required to make legendary armour.

              I don’t know if they’re safe assumptions.
              1) Given how much work legendary weapons involve, and how they’re introducing yet more complications to the process, I’d be surprised if making legendary armour didn’t involve things like capturing WvW objectives, completing PvP reward tracks, and collecting open world items, all of which are about more than just clearing raids. I don’t think the community will divide into the haves and have nots quite so cleanly as you predict.
              2) ArenaNet have been pretty good about providing several different sources for prestige skins unless the prestige skin is designed as a resource sink. Based on the pattern they’ve shown in the past, with precursors, Rime-Rimmed Breathers, etc. etc. I’d imagine that the only predictable source for a certain item will be in a raid, but it can be found outside raids if you’re aggressive, lucky or rich enough.

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