Jon Peters (“Pepperjack”) and Jonathan Sharp (“Chaplan”) gave me so much information, my simple sheet of paper with a few questions looks like five different people wrote across the page as fast as possible. There are arrows, sideways sentences, boxed off areas, and I’m not sure it will even all be able to be translated here. Whereas other developers at the NCSoft Meet and Greet at PAX East represented the content, lore, or art departments. These guys represented all things mechanics. With that there was one dominant theme in my talks with Peters and Sharp, they are still iterating on nearly every mechanical feature in Guild Wars 2. It is important to keep in mind that even things fans “know” now because of the demo, interviews, or official articles might be obsolete on launch.
I’ll give an example, at the outset, with the vitality attribute. With a blog article on the newly condensed attributes, many fans were unhappy with vitality. Toughness seemed like the cool attribute reducing the damage per hit, but vitality simply gave more health. Peters said that a necromancer, for instance, is still going to love vitality because it synergizes so well with their skills and Death Shroud. Yet, they understand that vitality might need a twist, similar to how the precision attribute garners crit effects. If toughness is the straightforward “reduce damage,” and vitality gets that twist, then the pair will more closely mirror power vs. precision. This is not to say that vitality will definitely change, but it is important to note that even the most basic mechanics are still being viewed with a careful eye.
Going off of attributes, I asked a few crit questions. Peters said there was a [non-finalized] crit cap, but it was unlikely many would hit it. I saw during my level 27 necromancer demo that my crit rate was a little over 25%. They were still in discussion about raising the crit rate temporarily with skills, but I felt for MMOs that a one-in-four hits crit chance was pretty high. I still had to ask the community question where if in a string of bad dice rolls, the player doesn’t crit and then loses. Peters said it wasn’t an issue. Crit is not a replacement for damage, rather crits are used to change the field of play. An example he gave me was when a player had a trait that applied the chilled condition on a crit. All of the sudden, things changed because the chilled enemy was slowed in movement and could not dodge. This is what crit-heavy players are going to want to look for because the best way to use it is to follow the crit with a change up. The better the change up, the more devastating that crit will have been.
I had one enemy-related question ready to go, but I was going through questions so fast (and Peters was spooking me by looking at my cheat sheet) that I needed to follow up after the convention. I asked: Are individual player activities and contributions persistent with regard to both individual enemies and events? In other words, will a monster immediately reset on aggro loss, as in many other MMOs, or regenerate naturally, like in the original Guild Wars? Also, will a player’s contribution erode over time in an unplayed, unfinished event, such as the raven shrine event in the Wayfarer Foothills?
Jon: How monsters reset is something we are still working on. It is a fine line between keeping players from gaming them by resetting aggro and not frustrating players who reset them unintentionally. It is our goal to find the best middle ground.
As for events, participation does not decay. Once you have participated in an event you are rewarded for it regardless of when it completes.
Back at the NCSoft Meet and Greet, I asked both Peters and Sharp about how iteration played on profession niches. The warrior’s greatsword build was just released for the demo, for example; had that pushed some of the niche boundaries? Sharp did not seem to be concerned with any type of niche protection. Guild Wars had a splash mechanic where, for instance, they added a shadow-stepping assassin profession, and then everybody could shadow-step because of the secondary profession. The wanted to carry that degree of customization over to Guild Wars 2 (without the secondary profession). The thief was designed as a master of mobility, but that did not mean no other professions could have teleports. However, the other professions teleports would have to be balanced within the profession. Still, Peters said, that niche protection was important when a player was asking “how do I want to play?” Thieves and guardians both have ways to teleport, but they will play very differently.
Turning to the balance side of things, I asked how hard it was to balance skills and stats at each level tier. Peters said that it actually wasn’t that hard. He said that Izzy Cartwright was the spreadsheet king, and Cartwright had all the stats worked out for every tier. One thing they noticed was that at the cap for each tier game play was the most balanced. There was also the fact that so much of the balancing relied on more than simply numbers vs. numbers, such as dodging, positioning, use of barriers, etc. This non-numerical activity makes balancing a little fuzzier.
Keeping with the skill questions, I asked about complementary skills. Were they just ground effects plus action? Peters said that specific skill types, such as “fields” would react with other skill types, such as “whirl.” So players would know that if they see one skill type being used, they can use a complementary skill type to combo. I showed Peters my made-up skill combo, the elementalist’s Meteor Shower and the thief’s Leaping Death Blossom, which I actually thought up to try and throw them away from the “thing on the ground” plus “action” type combos. Peters really surprised me when he asked me what that combo would do instead of laughing it away and providing one of his own examples. I stuttered… makes… more… meteors? Regardless of my armchair example, Peters said that all this information will definitely be in the tool tips. There won’t be a hidden formula because they want players to know that certain skill types will combo.
Following up after the convention, I wanted to make sure I knew what information would be in the tool tips and UI because Peters ran off a list, which in my hieroglyphic notes could be easily misinterpreted by yours truly. I asked: At the NCsoft Meet and Greet, you mentioned ArenaNet wanted to show significant amounts of information in the UI that were currently not implemented, such as showing damage in the tooltips or bleeding damage per second. I wanted to make sure I understood you correctly, and to understand the extent of information provided. For example, will we see enemy skill usage or enemy hit points? Will the tooltips update to take in to account attributes?
Jon: Here’s what I know we will show: Skill damage, conditions applied and their effects, boons applied, thief effects, and status effects applied such as stun and knockback. We will also show the effects of active traits and will display some information about cross-profession combos. These tooltips will update based on new weapons and assigning/re-assigning attributes.
On the enemy side, this issue is less discussed. I suspect we will show enemy health more clearly, even if only as an option. Showing enemy skills is far less likely as we intend to use animations and effects to telegraph enemy skills in order to keep players focused in the worlds.
Finally, on the skills side I asked whether there could be a rock, paper, scissors type gameplay if players equipped weapons and traits to extremes (especially in PvP). For example, a “balanced” warrior could use a dual axe and longbow combo to switch from a melee damage role to a ranged area damage role easily, but what if the warrior went full-on aggressive with a dual axe in one weapon set and the greatsword in the other. Sharp said they were not seeing that as an issue. He likened the build balance issue to Guild Wars Random Arena. If we take away monks (read: healers) in that arena, Sharp said, it gets a lot closer to how Guild Wars 2 PvP will play. One build, like a Domination mesmer, can certainly crush another, such as a slow spell-casting elementalist, but it takes significant skill for the same Domination mesmer to be able to react to all the melee enemies running the arena. In Guild Wars 2, a super-aggressive warrior is not auto-stomped in rock, paper, scissors style, but that warrior will still have to be more careful of enemies able to readily manhandle a melee foe.
We turned our attention to the newly discussed crafting. With all the focus on getting rid of conventional MMO profligation, I asked why they still wanted people to craft at crafting stations. Peters said it was much the same reason that people wouldn’t have infinite inventory space. They wanted people to gather during a down time, and having the crafting stations moved Guild Wars 2 away from it’s socially-insulated predecessor.
There were two mechanical points Peters wanted to make with regard to crafting. First, the recipes would have a cyclical nature according to the level tier. At the start of each tier the crafted items are going to be very powerful, and then they will lower to the balance found at the cap of each tier. Therefore, being able to craft as a player levels is going to help immensely with progression. Furthermore, crafting items allows players to really tailor their build. For instance if a warrior likes to amp up with poison conditions he could make a sword hilt that gives poison on crit and then combine that with a sword blade with a heavy crit modifier. The crafting system is going to allow for a lot of this flexibility.
Turning to the materials side of crafting, I asked if the recipes are going to be random or if they will make sense. Peters said that like materials will make like products. The developers were fans of Minecraft’s crafting system, and they wanted to make the Guild Wars 2 crafting system similarly intuitive. Finding the materials to make the specific item is going to be a very big part of the crafting system rather than grinding out 30 copper sword hilts from one raw material. Peters said they were still working on the flexibility of low-level materials when I asked whether the low-level materials would retain worth as a raw material for high-level products. Those ideas are still on the table.
Peters and Sharp wanted me to pass on that they are big fans of the active Guild Wars 2 communities, and that they are listening to all the feedback they can. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, many, many things are still in iteration mode; fan-written constructive criticism can still go a long way in shaping Guild Wars 2. I want to thank Peters and Sharp again for talking with me extensively at PAX East, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us with two remaining, supposedly craziest, professions.