[GW2] Energy Blast!

Since I had the unfair advantage of tempering my opinions on the twopart Guild Wars 2 interview for 1.5 weeks while I was on the road, I asked frequent KTR commentator and Guild Wars 2 community celeb, Vulturion (or Vorsakan depending on where you stand), to write a follow-up guest piece. He graciously accepted. Enjoy! –Ravious

It’s been a big week for Guild Wars 2 here at Kill Ten Rats, with two huge servings of information and insight. Hang-up your hang-ups, and enjoy some musings on the role of energy and potions in Guild Wars 2.


If the energy bar loves offense and hates defense, will we be spamming attacks 24/7?

No, quite the opposite.

Firstly, ArenaNet has not strayed too far from the bold position they began development with – no resources, only cooldown to constrain skill use. In the convention build, the cooldown times we saw on skills were predominantly higher than we are used to in Guild Wars 1 – disturbingly higher in some cases. Consequently even absolute beginners (traditionally one of the most spam-happy demographics) were taking control of level 47 charr and working their whole skillbars for 40 minutes, because (by and large) there simply isn’t the option to spam anything besides the autoattack surrogate in the first skill slot.

Secondly, using skills mindlessly in Guild Wars 2 won’t be an effective tactic. Significant cooldowns only compound the challenge presented by the removal of autofacing, the ability to launch attacks/projectiles when your intended target is outside of range and the all-encompassing phenemenon of targets actually being able to evade harm by moving out of the way. These may not feel revolutionary individually, but together they offer tremendous opportunities to waste attacks performed heedlessly.

In the face of these dynamics, the days of having the course of our actions dictated by the movements of a blue bar should feel positively quaint. Combat won’t be about performing the most powerful action you can afford as often as you can, but rather about choosing the best action for the demands of the moment – and using it at the right time in the right way, so as not to waste it!

Blue Planet?

So if energy is no longer the bright blue boss of us, why do we need it at all?

A big part of the need for an energy resource is undoubtedly the dodge mechanic; players can roll swiftly in any direction they choose by double-tapping a movement key. This is a huge element in both making combat more dynamic and placing responsibility for each player’s health in their own hands; unlike the Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots combat model, in Guild Wars 2 all damage will be avoidable. With this formidable new capability comes an equally formidable need to limit its use, else rolling becomes the most attractive combat option for all modes of play – binding skill usage to a resource that is depleted by 5% every time you roll is one sound way to accomplish this goal.

Obviously the good folks at ArenaNet aren’t going to add a resource and leave it outside of player’s hands though, when they can implement tools to let us tinker with it too. The fixed section of our skill bar – those skill dictated by armaments – is a finely tuned affair: a very cheap skill that we can use without cooldown (as the aforementioned autoattack surrogate), then four more skills with progressively higher costs and cooldowns. In essence you can plot a fairly flat line through the energy impact of most of these fixed skills – using the cheapest skill as often as you can (that being all the time) is about level with using the most expensive skill as often as you can (that being once every 30-40 seconds) – with the consequence that you’ll be unlikely to run out of energy just utilizing them with any degree of discretion.

Now the healing and utility skills we select offer comparably energy efficient options that can be used in addition to – or interchangeably with – our fixed skills without threatening our reserves. But if we want to skew our energy usage one way or the other, we have options to do that also. Yearning for a heal that you can use to heal any amount you want, and you’d like to waive the cooldown? Done; but it might cost you 5% of your energy per second to use. Added one too many costly skills to your repertoire and cannot afford to dole out any more energy? Slot a signet and enjoy a passive effect at no cost – but if you need to trigger the active effect be warned it’ll have lower power or higher cooldown than the skills you could have taken.

There’s a lot of middle ground between eliminating energy as a resource and allowing it to dominate gameplay, and it appears that ArenaNet is pitching to stand us slap-bang in the center of it while furnishing us with the tools to choose our own direction. You can be a model soldier and build a signet warrior whose energy bar is a deep reserve of tactical rolls. You can be a heedless necromancer who burns through energy with the costliest utility skills around, and simply resolves never to roll to compensate – if you fall it only unleashes your Death Shroud form, after all. Choice can be a fine thing.

Drink Of The Gods?

But if I swig energy potions, can’t I do it all?

Yes and no. But mainly no.

For the duration of your potion cooldown, you are the most vulnerable you will ever be. Seriously. You’re flying a kite in a thunderstorm. You’re running with garden shears. Because in Guild Wars 2 you are responsible for your own health, and if you run out of energy you have no means to restore that health or safeguard it with escape maneuvers. Other players can certainly support you, but with placed effects, splash effects and proximity effects – all of which require you to be in the thick of the action, which is probably the last place you’ll want to be in a fight when you’ve no energy and diminishing health.

While you’re not in potion cooldown, you’ve always got a good number rolls or potential healing and control measures in reserve; while you are in potion cooldown, that blue bar and your ingenuity are your only resources. The real kicker when it comes to potions in PvP? Potions have a subtle visible effect (a brief blue aura), so any opponent who notices yours is going to know you’ve playing without a safety net for the duration of your cooldown – and if it comes down to a chase, anyone not on cooldown likely has more rolls available than you and more energy to spend on mischief… As is so often the case in life: drink responsibly.

–Vulturion (Vorsaken)

26 thoughts on “[GW2] Energy Blast!”

  1. “the removal of autofacing, the ability to launch attacks/projectiles when your intended target is outside of range and the all-encompassing phenemenon of targets actually being able to evade harm by moving out of the way.”

    “unlike the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots combat model, in Guild Wars 2 all damage will be avoidable.”

    Ugh. If these are true, then you might as well just not bother playing if your reflexes or mouse are in any way slow or if you’ve got bad latency. Nothing screams “FUN!” like dying over and over because you can’t keep up with your target.

    *sigh* The more I hear of what they’re doing in GW2, the more certain I am that (even if I get a computer that can handle it, unlikely since they seem to be going for people with near top of the line rigs) I won’t be buying it.

    1. Actually, Anet have revealed quite a few concessions on the latency front:

      * Small party size, including organized PvP.
      * ‘Modest’ system requirements.
      * Removal of “twitch” mechanics e.g. 0.25s interrupts.
      * Non-American data centers available, again.

      It really should be quite kind on the latency front, certainly compared to a lot of current & upcoming online games.
      Reflexes & awareness are going to play a role though, especially in organized PvP – though that’s true for almost any real-time game with a human opponent.

      1. I was going to ask about this point too. So does this mean no TAB-targeting? As in fling spells/arrows/melee a la FPS? And if your target moves you do no damage. If so wow – even more respect for GW2!

        1. You are able to select targets – and if you have no target when you use an attack the game will guess the nearest potential target for you.
          So we can play without the tab key if we care too – just point yourself towards foes. ^_^

          Regardless of target selection though:
          * Any attack can be launched at any range, including melee attacks.
          * Attacks are launched at the spot were the target was when the attack was released, and if they aren’t there when it lands (moved, dodged, knocked back etc.) it will miss.
          * Attacks strike the first eligible target, so a standard trajectory projectile will connect with the first foe to cross it’s path even if you specify another target.
          * Ground-targetted attacks must always be placed manually; you can’t just tell a cone, beam or circle effect to center on a particular target. Obvious risks of missing, but does allow you to try and maximize the number of enemies hit – or even target empty ground where you anticipate them being next!

          1. That sounds fantastic. I’ll have to watch the videos to get a betters idea of arrow/spell/melee execution speeds – thanks for the explanation!

      2. “Reflexes & awareness are going to play a role though, especially in organized PvP – though that’s true for almost any real-time game with a human opponent.”

        God save ANet. As in GW, reflexes and intelligence seems to be a core part of this game, and that is the feature that makes it unique, in my opinion. If they manage to solve the latency issue in a way that you have to care of things and actions in the order of seconds, than this is MY game.

    2. Have you ever played Guild Wars as someone who specializes in interrupts? Let me assure you: It is the most latency-critical thing I have ever done. Compared to interrupting less than 1s casts, Guild Wars 2 will probably be relaxing to play.

      By the way, ArenaNet states in every single interview that they’re actually going for people with middle to lower class computers. Eric Flannum once said in an interview that he was developing the game with a graphics card you would not be able to buy today for it being so old. And with their first game they proved how nice a game can look with moderate system requirements. By now I can see no reason to doubt their promises.

      1. “Eric Flannum once said in an interview that he was developing the game with a graphics card you would not be able to buy today for it being so old.”

        Are you sure? I kinda doubt that, since when they showed the demo, they said that the only graphics card GW2 would currently work with was the GTX460, which is by no means that old.

        1. “said that the only graphics card GW2 would currently work with was the GTX460, which is by no means that old”

          huh? Where did you get that info? Last I knew it was like nVidia 8800GT. At least something like that.

            1. What they are running the game on and what they are developing the game on are two different things. The development computers are using older graphics cards and CPUs to ensure the low requirements ArenaNet wants to have.

              The demo computers are top of the line to give the best impression of the game. (In my opinion, the cards must have been donated by nVidia, because I can’t believe anyone would actually buy the 460.)

    3. Okay, some people will thing this takes a ‘top of the line rig’ but it won’t. At best guess I’m betting the minimum specs will be a upper X-series ATI GPU or a 7K series Nvidia GPU, recommended HD series ATI, 9K+ for Nvidia. As for CPU, most likely P4 2GHz or higher, dual core will give an edge to Vista or 7 users. RAM will be 1G I’m sure. I actually have to say I laugh at people who thing just because a new game comes out they have to build or buy a new system. A simple graphics or RAM upgrade can do wonders for an older system, especially ones with onboard graphics and under 1G of RAM.

      As for the game, the more I hear the more I love it. Think, dare I say, Elder Scrolls III & IV. You had to get in proximity of your enemies to attack them, you had to have a target on them to cast against them. They could dodge, so could you. GW2 will be more about skill rather than skills, meaning the better you learn your controls the better you’ll do in a fight. GW1 has become about who has what skill bar, and many players trash talk others because of the skills they use regardless of how they use them. I see this as a remedy to that problem.

      PS: Latency issues are rarely a hardware issue, as RAM is just about the only piece of hardware that makes a huge difference. I’ve both tested and proved that by going from a 2.1 dual core to a 2.8 dual core. Latency comes from you’re connection both ways. Meaning if you have a very good high speed connection, but the connection from GW2 servers is bad, your latency will not be at its best…same vice-versa.

      A final note, to ANet if any of the dev team reads this…Guild Wars 1 was amazing. Everything I’ve seen for Guild Wars 2 is amazing. I’m ready for the next Guild Wars to begin!

  2. Great post! I know a lot of people have been bemoaning the lack of energy management, but as you point out the combined costs of the utility/heal skills should be something that needs attention, rather than having to fit in another slot dedicated an energy management skill.

    I didn’t know that last point about chugging a potion being visible to the other team, that should act as a gauge of how much pressure a team is under, in a similar manner to being forced into triggering elite skills.

  3. Really solid analysis of the energy system in the upcoming GW2 my friend. I was actually thinking the other day, right after I read the two-parter, that it makes little sense for you to manage everything via “energy”, yet for the energy pots to be “abundant in the world”. Now it makes perfect sense, using clever cooldowns to manage your highly valuable and very limited resource.

    But here is a question: it says your energy bar will deplete a lot faster if you play defensive. Does that mean that in a 1v1 battle, the DPS’er will always win against the Healer/Tank?

    1. Bronte: There isn’t really a heal/tank role as you can switch weapons and playstyle around on the fly no one will be locked into a role that will have no chance 1v1.

  4. Good article. I’m really looking forward to the combat in GW2 among other things.

  5. I’m still torn in my opinion about energy. I’m very excited about what we’ve read about combat and tactics. But, I don’t see the reason for energy’s necessity, and it seems the other aspects of combat and skill usage mentioned in this post make it redundant. Then again, Izzy said explicitly that they tried it without energy and they didn’t like it – and I trust him, obviously.

    I’m wary about energy because it seems backwards. In GW1 energy was a currency – you traded so much energy to do so much damage or healing etc. By that analogy, GW2 energy (as I understand it – an encouragement to play conservatively and prudently), is a fee. It costs you more if you play carelessly, but there’s no positive tradeoff as in GW1. The playstyle the energy system encourages is a benefit in itself. What seems backwards about it is that it’s a resource pool that’s depleted; perhaps it should be more like Fatigue in other games, which builds up. I think that psychologically a player will feel less “punished” by not playing well if their effort is to keep a so-called Fatigue bar low rather than keeping an energy bar high, as long as the energy bar isn’t offering any positive tradeoff. Then again, the blue bar is part of GW1’s brand, and they may be reluctant to abandon it.

    I wish I understood their philosophy better when I was playing the PAX demo. I found pressing [B] to quaff a potion to be a big nuisance, but I was being swarmed by branded creatures and rolling like crazy all over the place between using skills.

    Thanks for these articles, KTR. You folks are always so clear and collected in your analysis.

    1. I must say have a fatigue bar going up rather than an energy bar going down would be quite an attractive proposition – but it could look a bit odd on the healing front… you’ll be getting fatigued refreshing yourself with a soothing Healing Spring!

      Fatigue doesn’t have quite the same ring as energy for using in skill titles either, though that’d probably only be an issue for elementalists traditionally.

      I think a bar moving in either direction would’ve been fine for me, overall.

    2. One could say the same thing about “health”. The “positive tradeoff” for good play is simply that your health diminishes less quickly.

      Basically, GW 2 has a passive health bar (health), an active health bar (energy), and a cooldown-limited recharge for the active health bar (potions). It makes more sense if you view energy this way, not as equivalent to GW1 energy.

  6. I don’t think enough people who are complaining or worried about potions and long term energy management realize the effect of no ‘autofacing’. A player becomes naturally more selective about their casting habits when there’s a target that can easily evade it’s attacks. A player isn’t going spam a costly spell when it’s missing the target because there are other factors involved besides managing the energy bar.

    I just think it needs to stressed more often that there’s no ‘autofacing’ as it plays huge part in energy management. It’s a natural process that many are overlooking. Which I believe is core reason why there’s a lot needless complaining.

    1. I agree. In fact, I think for GW1 players, because it was automatically taken care of or restricted in that game, I don’t think as many of them realize just how much of this combat system does not actually rely on the numbers, but on more externalized factors.

      People can look at the numbers, the energy costs, the cooldowns, and not realize just how much of combat will be other factors such as dodging, repositioning (i.e. moving closer, further, facing the enemy), trying to flank the enemy to get the from-behind bonuses, diving behind objects or even the soldiers to block the projectiles (sorry guys, it’s gonna happen). The fact that many, if not most, skills can now be used on the run will encourage this even more.

      This is stuff you can’t really theorycraft, so some people tend to forget about it or underestimate how much it will be necessary, and therefore underestimate how much time will be spent on it even for skilled players. Active Defense rocks!

  7. Wow, thank you very much for this write-up Vorsaken!
    Gotta be honest I was kinda skeptical about potions, but this makes the mechanic sound much more intriguing than I had originally believed, and now I am actually looking forward to seeing it in-game :) I knew Izzy and A-Net could come up with something!
    Also, I agree about the autofacing and movement being undervalued thing, but I like that change from GW1… makes combat more mobile and (imo) visceral/realistic

  8. Thank you Vorsaken for the clear and precise article. I can now say I understand how the system works.

  9. Right at the beginning I found a point of contention: “no resources, only cooldown to constrain skill use.” Doesn’t every profession have their own specific resource? While they don’t constrain all skills at all times they have a large impact on skills (what you can use and when) and thus playstyle (what you can do at certain points).

    Warriors: adrenaline, skill chains, and burst skills
    Elementalists: attunement changes
    Necromancers: life force, minions, and shadow form
    Rangers: physical pet, pet synergy, skill chains

    So while energy is not the same resource (and thus balancing factor) it was in GW1 there are still resources, however they are used to more specifically define the differences between professions, which is a needed step in my opinion with the larger number of roles and dual roles. I think that assertion of cooldown only strips away another layer of complexity in combat that will be very apparent to us at all levels and will be an aspect we pay attention to when making builds.

    1. As written: “no resources, only cooldown to constrain skill use” was the position from which they BEGAN developing the system – they’d hadn’t designed any profession mechanics at that point! ^_^

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