[GW2] AMAA Ascended Gear

Chris Whiteside, Studio Design Director at ArenaNet, headed up a lengthy Ask Me Anything (“AMA”) session on the Guild Wars 2 subreddit yesterday. A “transcript” is also available. The point of discussion seemed to be largely about Ascended items and the apparent destruction of ArenaNet’s “no grind” philosophy. This was no accident since Whiteside was a major deciding force in starting the Ascended gear as soon as possible in fragments.

My rage was non-existent for the most part. Unlike many, I simply could not believe that in one swoop ArenaNet would head towards a treadmill-based gear slog based around dungeons, which is heralded in so many conventional MMOs. Instead, their opening move just appeared that way.

Whiteside lamented the fact that Ascended gear, the stepping stone between Exotic and Legendary, was not in before launch. He also knew that there would be backlash because Ascended gear is only available via the new dungeon Fractals of the Mists. It all came down to a failure to communicate.

Before I go any further I want to touch on what Ascended gear means. Ascended gear is an upgrade on your fancy armor spreadsheet, but in Guild Wars 2 terms one dodge roll or well-timed skill shot is going to be much more worthy than a 5-10% slot upgrade. Nicer is not necessary. The other prejudice is the content gate. A player decked out in greens should do okay in every Fractal, and every Fractal can be experienced on difficulty tiers 1-2. If a player wants to get up to difficulty 20+, then yes, Ascended gear becomes an issue. This however is a gate to difficulty, not content. Bottom line, players that casually enjoy Guild Wars 2 will not need Ascended gear.

The biggest issue for me was the laser focus on how Ascended gear was gained. I could not “just play”. I had to play Fractals. Ascended gear needed to come out with Fractals because it was content that could utilize the gear. The content designers did not have WvW, crafting, and other PvE systems ready to receive the more involved gear tier, and adding Ascended gear afterwards to Fractals would have been worse. Whiteside was left with the big-bucks decision on his desk: hold Fractals until other systems caught up, or launch it as a fragment of things to come.

ArenaNet is really good with communication for many things. Taking hours out a studio head’s day to do an AMA (including all the support staff he needed to do this) is a pretty big deal. It just seems that with ArenaNet sometimes seems to communicate afterwards on hot button items. Ignoring the fact that there is only 24 hours in Whiteside’s day, nearly all of the answers on Ascended gear for this AMA could have been disclosed before the Lost Shores update. Nearly all of the questions answered had already coalesced as soon as news of another gear tier was disclosed. I do truly appreciate ArenaNet’s willingness to step in front of the firing squad though, even after a few guns have gone home.


10 thoughts on “[GW2] AMAA Ascended Gear”

  1. I spent a good while today reading through the Reddit thread. A vast number of questions, many of them very interesting, were asked but sadly most of the replies were on the Ascended fiasco. While I do feel after reading it all that we are probably not going into a full-on vertical gear-grind conversion, and while I completely agree with you that for anyone but min-maxers Ascended gear really has little relevance anyway, I did feel the rpelies were somewhat evasive.

    It was emphasized that the way the Ascended gear was rolled out was badly done and that it should have appeared through a number of routes rather than just Fractals, but if there was ever a clear explanation of why it had to be rushed into the game now, I must have missed it. If Ascended gear is coming in multiple delivery channels next year, why couldn’t we have waited until next year for it period? What was happening in November, three months after launch, that necessitated an interim gear tier being shoe-horned in?

    Overall, I’m happy with the direction of the game but I think it’s very clear now that the apparent unified, serene “this is how it will be” approach that typified the entire long pre-launch build-up has not survived the stresses and strains of a Live environment. I’d expect many more “outrageous” u-turns and swerves to come. It’s turning out to be a regular MMO after all, in other words.

  2. “Bottom line, players that casually enjoy Guild Wars 2 will not need Ascended gear.”

    This is it for me. Talking with other players, I feel the term ‘casual’ has experienced a kind of shift at some point – as the idea of a ‘normal’ MMO player has become more hardcore, ‘casual’ has been shifted up in intensity, or so it seems to me. I am a casual player. By this I mean that I only occasionally run dungeons, take what gear I’m given unless there’s something I especially want, don’t spend time farming (again, unless there’s a specific goal I’m working towards) and play with a limited amount of available time.

    It seems these days like a lot of players think players like me can’t exist. Either you’re a noob, not really a gamer, or you are a dedicated, meta-game-following, min-maxing player. Perhaps that is because most truly casual players don’t post on forums and suchlike – because they don’t dedicate that much of their time to the game.

  3. Ascendant gear isn’t going to matter anyway, because they’re planning on raising the level cap. THAT is the kind of lazy, bullshit MMO-progression design that pulls away from GW1, in my opinion.

    Whether you get your Ascended gear or not, who cares? When the level cap becomes 90, you’ll have to grind for 90 gear, whether you were in greens or in Ascendant.

    1. Yeah, that ever so subtly slipped into the AMA and it knocked me back on my heels just a tide.

      On one hand, I acknowledge they’re designing at least part of GW2 for the WoW (and other typical MMO) masses who are used to and expect that sort of vertical progression striving over time. If they don’t get that dangled incremental improvement carrot leading them by the nose, they’ll quit out of boredom, which ain’t great for the game’s longevity.

      On the other hand, gods, it is going to suck so much when they do raise the level cap and make one’s hard-won gear effectively obsolete. That kind of thing has received scorn and derision from those that got jaded by the unending hamster wheel, and I can’t believe I’m going to willingly step into this one that is planned.

  4. I do not agree that it was a decision of “withhold fractals” or “introduce ascended gear”. But that is due to the fact that I find the idea of agony and infusion so blatantly bad, that I see no relation between the two whatsoever, apart from their worst decision regarding dungeons since designing the Zhaitan fight. Luckily a bad mechanic does not have to destroy a dungeon, like DoA’s idiotic lightbringer title “requirement” proved. It is still fun, once you have acquired it, the problem is that the need of acquiring is tacked on.

  5. I don’t agree that they needed to introduce ascended gear to combat agony right away, because by all accounts many of the sources of agony are avoidable, it’s only when agony becomes so severe that having that resistant allows more breathing space in an encounter that it feels like a really cheap gating mechanic.

    Other than the increase in stats, two other things really peeve me about the system: lack of customisation and horizontal progression becoming less desirable. Exotic accessories can be fine-tuned with jewels, e.g. putting rubies in emerald jewellery that I have on my mesmer, unlike the ascended items with baked in bonus stats. Why when the system of upgrade component with exotic gear was so flexible that they plan on throwing it all in the bin? At the least they should have put both a normal upgrade slot and an infusion slot. That’s one mistake to completely devalue a system already in the game.

    At the moment I have one set of exotic gear almost complete on my main, it is a balanced set, but I also want a condition damage set, In the future am I going to have to replace both of those sets with ascended gear? Where exotic gear is readily available now, albeit it will still take me a few weeks of play to acquire all the gear I want, the current ascended items are a much bigger grind. I’d likely quit before that becomes the norm, especially the possibility of doing it for each alt 2 or 3 times. This system really discourages players to widen their focus from one main or builds or else be stuck with an increasing spiral of grind.

    Even worse they mentioned an increased level cap and rolling ascended gear out to other areas, why does it need to be in WvW? Players don’t cast agony, and if keep lords start casting it, I think you’d see a massive desertion of the battlegrounds.

    How about this for a better model: Ascended gear has the same stats as exotic, but with two slots, one normal and one for infusions. Infusion runes sets and jewels should only give bonuses and stats that only affect fractals, e.g. when using an elite skill create a defensive bubble that gives immunity to agony for all players inside it, an ability like that adds to the gameplay.

    None of their answers were satisfactory for why they went with the system they did.

  6. “Yes, we’ve introduced a new tier of gear less than 3 months into the game, and yes, upgrading one slot in this new tier takes more time than filling the entire previous tier, and yes, we intend to raise the level cap and introduce more tiers of gear. Repeatedly. But don’t try to turn that into some kind of ‘grind.'”

  7. Is it me or do people completely fail to see that they only introduced “back” items for this tier..?! Yes it’s one above the exotic. No, it’s only going to affect the fractals dungeon. People complain about how this would affect WvW. I don’t see the problem here as WvW is mostly zerges and you are likely not on pair with your opponent anyway.
    The new level cap is likely to come out with a new expansion “it’s in the talks”. As is a new expansion but both are far far away as of yet.
    As for more ascended gear being pushed out from now on… Yes, but that gear WILL come through other channels than fractals.
    Before this there was a slew of people complaining about short vertical progression, now everyone complains that a new tier will “ruin” their progression… like wtf!? Can’t people at least know what they ask for!?

    I believe ANet know what they are doing, they know what the players are asking for and the ascended items and new level cap will not affect you guys at all for the moment being. Take a deep breath, take a step back and relax.

    Casual players like me will likely never see the end of the vertical climb. But then again that’s what keeps our retention put, as long as we are somewhere up there.

    For the rest of the semi-/hardcore players they will have enough time to stay on top for a while before grinding a bit again.

    (I have 1-2 exotics in my gear, and have run the fractals once. I was lucky but I am not far away from the “one” ascended item that exists. I don’t see what the grind-whining is all about.)

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