Happy Third Anniversary, Guild Wars 2!

Three years. That’s pretty good for an MMO to remain in some limelight. To my knowledge the only other two NA-market consistencies are the mythic World of Warcraft and the dark horse EVE.

Players with three-year old characters get a new finisher, some buff goodies, and their choice of a gem store dye (account bound). The latter is really nice for anybody not selling those dyes because you can get a swank 100+ gold dye for blowing out the third year birthday candles.

News? Well of course there is the expansion – Heart of Thorns. It is something that perhaps should have been done before the Living World experiment, but perhaps now there can be both. Question mark. ArenaNet hasn’t really discussed their beyond the expansion plans.

After the first beta weekend for Heart of Thorns, getting to play the reaper (necromancer elite spec) and part of the new map without a 2-hour time limit. My only response was “yup, I’m ready”. A release date would be nice, and a good place to announce it would be at PAX, you think?

There will be a big announcement tomorrow morning at PAX. Basically IGN posted a Tweet (now deleted) in grave error that mentions “raids” and “play the core game for free”.  ArenaNet responded as gracefully as they could. I am certain that the internal response was much more… colorful. More discussion on that here.

Mrs. Ravious and I still log in almost daily, but it’s mostly for puttering about and doing the daily achievements. I have been working slowly on the Season 2 achievements and bringing an alt up to “co-main” status. I am actually getting sick of stockpiling things, and I’m starting to get that gold itch. Last time I scratched it I bought the whole Mordrem weapon set. I’d rather itch it off in the jungle.

Anyway tomorrow morning (or evening geo-dependent) at 10:30 AM Pacific head to Twitch for some announcement fun.


[GW2] Storm and Salt – What the Tempest Brings

We’re halfway through the elite specializations for the launch classes of Guild Wars 2. The reaper (necromancer), chronomancer (mesmer), and dragonhunter (guardian) were announced in a 3-week block a bit ago. This week owes hype to the tempest, the elementalist elite specialization for the Heart of Thorns expansion.

Off-Handed Additive

There seem to be two design documents for creating the elite specializations. If the class gets a two-handed weapon along with the 5 new skills that brings, then the core mechanic of the class gets replaced. Reaper gets the new reaper shroud, and dragonhunter gets 3 new virtues. If the class gets an off-hand weapon with only 2 skills, then the core mechanic gains an additive effect. Chronomancer gets a fifth shatter ability. I am really interested to see what happens with a main hand replacement.

The new tempest, which has an off-hand warhorn, follows this design. They can swap attunements like normal, and in doing so actually gain 8 new weapon skills from the warhorn. Additively, they can also overload their attunements by channeling the attunement for about 3-5 seconds. While the overload is occurring things are happening, and then there is a payoff.

For example, Overload Fire has the tempest making an “infernal tornado” that continuously damages and burns enemies while granting allies might. Completing the channel leaves the tornado at the tempest’s current location for a time. Overload Water provides regeneration and condition cleansing, and then provides a big heal.

The minor traits grant protection and swiftness when overloading an attunement. Minor traits are default for the elite specialization. If the elementalist gets interrupted from overloading, the attunement goes on complete cooldown.

Why Wouldn’t I?

The big question for both mesmers and elementalists at this time seem to be “why wouldn’t I just want this seemingly additive elite specialization?” One commentator I saw said something to the effect that the most well-rounded class (elementalist) was now even more well rounded. Wouldn’t every mesmer want a fifth shatter?

In the case of the tempest’s minor traits, I feel the case is slightly better for not slotting the elite specialization. The minor traits all deal with the new tempest core mechanic of overloading an attunement. This is different from the chronomancer’s two top minor traits which just add straight on to the core mechanic of shatter and movement.

In the case of the tempest, a player is using a whole specialization line to say “I am going to overload”. If they don’t, it’s a wasted specialization line. I have a feeling given the current state of PvE, elementalists are going to become the AoE overlords. I would be so pleasantly surprised if the AI in Guild Wars 2 was able to watch for these extreme channels and respond accordingly. More than likely I feel the “risk” of an elementalist overloading in PvE is going to be minimal. PvP will be a whole different ballgame with people saving interrupts for the overload, and WvW will be somewhere in the middle with the more chaotic frays.

The Dark Salt

The most surprising community response to the tempest was from the necromancer community. The necromancers are the scholar profession that gets the most spite and the least amount of groupability. An easy comparison to make is that elementalists are the well-rounded golden children while necromancers live in that shadow.

I am hugely excited about the reaper, but it already appeared to receive some nerfs when its main condition, chill, was adjusted last big patch. That diminished a lot of the hope that necromancers had in the reaper becoming something people wanted to group with.

Then one of the easily top-three professions, the elementalist, a very well-rounded, enjoyable to group with in any gamemode profession, basically just gets more. Nothing crazy. Maybe a bit more risky in some instances, but mostly on paper it just seems better.

Then the Points of Interest stream occurred, and every necromancer was just watching through salty tears. Want a Well of Darkness that moves with you and damages enemies? Want to shout and harm enemies with no cast time? Tempest, yo. Well that’s okay, reapers are masters of chill right? Nope, tempest can “cheese freeze” with aplomb with, again, a shout with no cast time.

I am actually getting sick of the necro salt that’s been going on in the community. I sign on my necro main, and I have great fun playing it. I wish that was all that was needed. Why is there such a divide between how ArenaNet apparently sees necro’s power and viability and the community’s?

Back to the Front Line


Tempest is clearly going to be a front line monster. It has to get in there, and I’ve found playing against elementalists, they are very good at getting in and out. They feel way better at creating that frontline havoc than say a thief since elementalists are running by with 8+ boons on it. The “celestial” feel of their shouts being offensive and defensive, and their jack-of-all-trades mastery really surges upward with the tempest. If every ele in Heart of Thorns wasn’t running around as a tempest standing toe-to-toe with the Heart of Maguuma denizens I would be really surprised.


Bad, Exciting Changes: Weekend Events

In one of my favorite analogue RPG’s, Nobilis, there is a heaven and hell. Heaven is a place of stark, clean beauty. Rarely are souls allowed in heaven because most are not banally pure. Hell is a place of dirt and passion. Everybody is allowed! It’s the Jackson Pollock blender of creation. Of course, the dilemma in the game is which is better.

It’s a bit waxing, in a poetic and philosophical sense, to bring this high ideal to the living document of MMO’s and online games, but the pale reflection appeared to gleam a bit more this weekend. Would you rather have cold, perfect beauty or dynamic imperfection? Continue reading Bad, Exciting Changes: Weekend Events

[GW2] Stronghold Pacing

This last weekend’s beta event was quite fun and relaxing compared to the last couple 2 hour sprints in Guild Wars 2. I made a revenant just to toss things around, but I did not want to learn to play without a DPS legend (believed to be this week’s Shiro) and leveling up. It is very hard for me to grasp builds when they are just given to me wholesale.

What I did enjoy was Stronghold. I have been pretty much sold on that PvP gameplay type, and Mrs. Ravious is fanatic about it. The latest changes made it all the better. I was pretty surprised at how turning a couple knobs could really get it closer to the pacing and engagement it should be. Continue reading [GW2] Stronghold Pacing

Modicum of Interaction

I started playing World of Warcraft again. I wouldn’t have done it without a friend of mine who is a huge Blizzard fan, going to Blizzcons and all that. I asked what server he played on. Ravenholdt. Sounds good, I thought, as I watched the World of Warcraft client update after nearly a decade of dust.

Then when it came time to choose that character’s home, I gulped when I saw Ravenholdt. “RP”…. okay, whatever, and “PvP”… what? PvP meant that if I was out in the open world picking daisies any dirty orc player could come and gank me. I was never going to be safe from the darkness in the hearts of humans IRL.

I can feel Syncaine’s future eye roll already.  Continue reading Modicum of Interaction

[GW2] Lion’s Arch: The Mnemonic Connection

This morning I had my coffee while doing my daily. As usual, I do my last 1-2 daily achievements in World vs. World. The exit portal from that eternal battle heads in to Lion’s Arch, where I usually log off now. It’s just a nice place to be. A place with history.

When I logged on – in Lion’s Arch – I had an NPC on a broomstick floating by. Other days I see Suriel the Blazing Light jogging through the city to train for her next fight. The city feels alive, but more important than activity, the city feels personable.

I know friends who have bought the gem store broomstick so when Mr. Broomstick goes floating by the pot stirs with a plethora of those memories. I have fought Suriel, and her presence brings up memories of the Queen’s Gauntlet and that whole celebration. There are memories and secrets tucked in to every corner of the city. Bhagpuss covers secrets quite well.

I think ArenaNet hit the perfect MMO city for those two reasons – memories and secrets, that is. Any MMO developer can create a fantastic city of activity and architecture. ArenaNet themselves created five more. Yet, unless there is a connection to be there, all the superficial beauty in the world is wasted. Continue reading [GW2] Lion’s Arch: The Mnemonic Connection

[GW2] Meaningful “Guild” in to Guild Wars

The end of last week was a huge info dump in Guild Wars 2 with 6 blog posts detailing the guild system that is coming with the Heart of Thorns expansion. I admit with the extent of this information, I have not been able to process the entirety of it, but my gut reaction was that “they are bringing ‘guild’ in to Guild Wars”.


Guilds have been part of the lore since the pre-history of Guild Wars 1, where they were so powerful they started shaping the flow of kingdoms. The kings were not able to control them. They fought against one another. There was no peace across the land. It was in a way ironic to name the game after such a dark time. I wonder what some original concepts of Guild Wars 1 looked like; EVE Online perhaps? Finally, the charr invaded and the human kingdoms crumbled since the guilds, more powerful than any kingdom’s army, were already embroiled in conflicts of their own.

The power of the guilds never reached any similar level in the gameplay of Guild Wars 1. The closest it may have come to this prehistory might was a huge reputation grind in Factions, where a guild could “own” an outpost. The GvG system also helped a little in that a guild was an entity that fought on the leaderboards. It appeared that whatever powerful mechanics guilds would have imagined by early ArenaNet, they really did not culminate.

Guild Wars 2 had this inside joke: “where are the guild wars?” Guilds could claim objectives in World vs. World, which had little meaning to the attackers. Guilds joined teams for competitive PvP, but they felt like a shadow of Guild Wars 1 where people would sell off guilds that had won championships just to be able to have a cape trim. In Guild Wars 2 PvP teams will merge, separate, rename themselves and boot someone out without thought for the brand of that guild. A guild was a pretty bare social construct in early Guild Wars 2.

Finally, ArenaNet is going back to the earliest fiction and game concepts of what it meant to be a guild, and they are implementing those ideals in game. Continue reading [GW2] Meaningful “Guild” in to Guild Wars

Revive or Flatline?

Expansions are intended to reinvigorate games, but they are also what usually convinces me that I am done with an MMO.

When I am into a game, every new thing is exciting. Changes may or may not be good, but I am passionate about them. Revamping major systems is a learning opportunity, a whole new batch of Theory of Fun fun for a spade like me who is an Explorer of design and mechanics. Every set of patch notes is the seasonal menu at a fine restaurant, and an expansion is a smorgasbord of new content.

When I am not into a game, I can coast for a long time. Sometimes that is just downtime, waiting for something new to revive that spark after I have done all the things. Other times, it is a misguided sense of commitment and loyalty, not yet ready to admit that I am done. The current free to play trend lets one drag that out for a long time, logging in for a quick daily to keep a faint spark alive when a subscription fee could force an “is this worth it?” decision point.

An expansion forces that decision point on a grander scale. You need to buy something. Large mechanics are changing. The level cap is probably going up, and if not the population will still be moving to the new areas, so you must follow or be left behind.

And so I look at my emotional reaction. Do big changes inspire interest or dread? You have already made your decision, you just need to recognize it.

: Zubon

[GW2] Lash and Love


Picture this. You are watching your boss on stage at E3. He’s about to launch the pre-order button for something you’ve been working on for months. The community has been positive. You feel good about your work. You have a lot of work left to do. Now people will start to speak with their wallets. It’s a scary time, and then the worst possible public reaction occurs.


This is not a post on the right or wrong of the situation. It’s a post in the hopes that fans who have free voice remain mindful of the power of their words. Continue reading [GW2] Lash and Love