ArenaNet:Developer updates/Archive Jan-Mar 2009

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March Skill Balances - 05 March 2009

March 2009 PvE and PvP Skill Balances

This month's balance update is focused on PvP issues. In cases where we believed the changes would be bad for PvE play, we modified skills in PvP only. Most of the changes apply to both formats, though. The skills that were weakened are not featured heavily in PvE, and we expect that players won't mind the improvements to the skills that were made more powerful.

There were a few different issues were wanted to address: We felt that some of the more versatile spike builds needed to be toned down, so we made changes that would make it harder to have a really powerful spike build without giving up some utility or defense. We also wanted to make split tactics more effective and viable in GvG, so we weakened key skills that can shut down attempts to split and improved a few skills that help characters be more self-sufficient. Thirdly, we've seen a few skills become problematic in 4v4 play, such as Wail of Doom, and we have modified them accordingly. Finally, we made another adjustment to Primal Rage, which has been too good in general.

Let's go over each issue in more detail.

Reducing Spike Effectiveness

  • Read the Wind (PvP) Read the Wind (PvP): functionality changed to: "For 24 seconds, your arrows move twice as fast."
  • Flail Flail: decreased duration to 1..15 seconds.

Rangers had been outshining spellcasters at dealing damage and could do so while being much more resistant to pressure damage. This made them ideal for spike builds. By removing the damage bonus on Read the Wind, we're cutting the damage they do with each attack, and by dropping the minimum duration on Flail we've made it harder for them to get an attack speed boost without any real drawbacks or costs. (Rangers can't put points into the Strength attribute, so they can never increase the duration on Flail. Warriors who use this skill should be unaffected by this change.)

  • Distracting Strike Distracting Strike: functionality changed to: "If Distracting Strike hits, it deals no damage and interrupts target foe's action. If target foe has Cracked Armor, that skill is disabled for 20 seconds."

Distracting Strike was being used as a powerful follow-up in spikes. This gave spikes a versatile follow-up and interrupt. We want spike builds to choose between versatility and raw spike power.

Removing enchantments from the target is a big part of a successful spike. We increased the casting time of these skills to give opponents an interrupt chance and defend themselves against a spike. We did not change the Elite enchantment-removal skill Pain of Disenchantment. Teams can still choose a more effective spike-oriented skill, but at the cost of sacrificing an Elite.

As part of toning down powerful spike builds, we also adjusted Ancestors' Rage. The skill was damaging adjacent foes too much and too quickly, so we made it last longer while doing less damage. This spreads the damage out over time, which gives defenders more time to heal and react to the damage.

Encouraging Split Tactics

The changes below are targeted at GvG.

  • Shadow Refuge Shadow Refuge: increased duration to 6 seconds.
  • Ether Feast Ether Feast: increased Health per Energy drained to 20..65.
  • Aura of Restoration Aura of Restoration: decreased Energy cost to 5; increased recharge to 12. Functionality changed to: "For 60 seconds, you gain 0..1 Energy and are healed for 200..500% of the Energy cost each time you cast a spell."
  • Healing Signet Healing Signet: increased Healing to 82..172.

To split effectively, characters typically need more self-sufficiency than they do when fighting in a big group. With that in mind, we've made a selection of self-healing skills more powerful.

Mobility is key to split tactics. Hidden Caltrops, which slows an enemy using both a hex and a condition, has been a powerful way to reduce the mobility of split characters, who rarely have the ability to deal with both hexes and conditions. When used by Assassins to slow potential victims, it wasn't overpowered; this change is aimed only at making Hidden Caltrops less effective for more defensive characters to use. Along those same lines, the 15 second Crippled duration when Illusion of Haste ended was a severe penalty for Mesmers, who lack condition removal options. This shorter duration should give Mesmers the option of waiting out the Crippled rather than feeling like they have to recast the enchantment simply to move at a reasonable speed.

  • Weapon of Warding (PvP) Weapon of Warding (PvP): functionality changed to: "For 5..10 seconds, target ally has a Weapon of Warding, granting that ally +2..4 Health regeneration and a 50% chance to block. Weapon of Warding ends if that ally attacks."

Ritualists have been too good at preventing physical attackers from killing NPCs, primarily because of the power of Weapon of Warding. By making Weapon of Warding end if the character under its effect attacks, we're aiming to leave the skill just as effective at protecting players who are in danger, but remove it as an option for protecting NPCs, who would continue to attack any enemies, thus removing Weapon of Warding from themselves. This is a big change to a key Ritualist skill. We'll be keeping an especially close eye on how this plays out to see if we need to approach this issue in a different way.

Addressing Problematic 4v4 Skills

In 4v4 game types, shutting down a single enemy character is extremely effective. When this skill was combined with offhand and main hand equipment that provides up to a 40% chance to recharge your skills 50% faster (and sometimes a 40% chance to cast faster), it had a strong chance to shut down an opponent for 10 seconds. We felt that this was too powerful, so we have adjusted the skill to compensate.

These stances were originally balanced with 8v8 combat in mind. In 4v4 play, where there are fewer attackers and enemies cannot have as wide a range of utility skills on their team, Monks using these stances have become a problem. We've lowered the durations and armor bonuses to help 4v4 teams fight through these defenses.

General Playbalance Changes

Despite a power reduction in a previous update, this skill continues to outshine other Warrior Elite skills. Even though Primal Rage makes you take double damage while in effect, players could easily change to another stance when threatened. We like this tactic, but the skill's extremely short recharge also made it too easy to immediately activate Primal Rage again when the threat had passed. To make stance swapping a more effective drawback to using this skill, we increased the recharge time.

A Letter to Our Fans - 16 February 2009

To our fans,

There have been some published rumors over the past few days about Guild Wars 2 delays, and I'm writing you today to set the record straight.

You've all seen announcements about restructuring at NCsoft West, and it's natural to wonder whether that restructuring impacts ArenaNet's Guild Wars 2 development. In fact, the reason NCsoft West is restructuring itself is so that the company can put all of its focus into its top-tier games like Guild Wars 2. Our team continues to grow, and has the strong support and financial backing we need to achieve our goal of making Guild Wars 2 the best online role-playing game ever created.

On Friday, NCsoft released investor materials that showed a very broad release window for Guild Wars 2, with the explanation that release timing is still "to be announced." ArenaNet has never given a release date for Guild Wars 2 other than "when it's done." NCsoft's investor materials are a reflection of that philosophy.

I know some fans had hoped for a smaller gap between the launch of Guild Wars: Eye of the North and the start of beta testing for Guild Wars 2, but we communicated last summer that it would be some time before we could commit to any beta or launch dates. Guild Wars 2 is a large and ambitious game, and we're going to take the time to do it right.

I'm immensely proud of what our team has accomplished and continues to accomplish with the development of Guild Wars 2. We'll have a lot more to say when we're closer to release. Until then, we thank you for your continued interest and ask you to stay tuned.

Mike O'Brien

February Skill Balances - 06 February 2009

February PvE and PvP Skill Balances

There are a couple of main goals to this month's balance update. First, we want to encourage faster victories in GvG (without reverting to ganging up on a defenseless Guild Lord, which was a popular strategy in early Guild Wars GvG). Second we wish to review skills that are performing better on secondary professions than on primaries.

While Guild Wars PvP focuses a lot on character combinations and build-making decisions, some skills that are balanced and designed with their primary profession in mind become used more frequently by secondaries. This is due to a number of factors:

  • Some professions rely more on elite skills than others. For example, many of the best Mesmer skills are non-elite, but Assassins and Dervishes get unique, important functionalities from their elite skills.
  • Different professions manage Energy pools differently, so high-cost skills are more readily-available to some primary professions than others.
  • Professions that can use secondary skills that behave more like primary skills are more likely to take them. For example, an Elementalist or Mesmer can use Assassin skills easily within their arsenal of other spells. Typically, spells designed for melee classes are faster because their reliance on positioning makes long-casting skills undesirable.

Measures that allow characters to be proficient using skills within their primary profession let us balance those skills better. This narrows down the hundreds-of-thousands of possibilities, making it easier to reign in skills when there's an issue. This update includes a few different methods we use to enforce primary profession choice.


Mark of Insecurity was designed to give Assassins an anti-protection option if they decided to eschew a powerful shadow step skill or attack. Having it disable non-Assassin skills keeps it off of caster primaries who can both afford the elite slot and cast it more safely than an Assassin can. This change shouldn't hinder Assassin primaries because most strong Assassin builds do not use any secondary profession skills.


Unlike the changes to Mark of Insecurity, Signet of Humility is actually more powerful on a Mesmer because Fast Casting improves casting time of signets. This skill, however, is very powerful, especially when used en masse by an entire team. By discouraging its use on secondary Mesmers, we limit the number of copies that can be practically used to the number of Mesmer primaries on the team.


Attribute investment is another way we encourage primary professions to use skills. In the above examples, a scale of 0...2...3 requires a player to invest a 13 in Curses to get 3 Health degeneration. A Necromancer secondary can't reach 13 Curses, so by default these skills become more powerful on a Necromancer primary than secondary. This was done to keep fast-casting Mesmer/Necromancers from being better at these skills than those who invested deeply in Curse attribute point allocation.


The armor bonus on Protective Was Kaolai made it difficult to attack the person holding this bundle item. We wanted to encourage people to pressure players using this skill a bit more, so we dropped the extra armor to 10.


Primal Rage can be permanently maintained, so a 33% movement speed increase made it too hard to escape Warriors without a number of methods to slow or Cripple them. We've decided to reduce it to 25%.

Guild Battles

  • Amulet of Protection: increased the rate at which the Amulet of Protection buff reaches maximum damage. It will now reach maximum damage around 12 minutes instead of at 22 minutes.

The Amulet of Protection does a good job of preventing teams from rushing the Guild Lord within the first minute or so of a match, but its impact also tends to deter more aggressive play during the middle portion of the game. We wanted to increase the impact of teams splitting up to harass the Guild Lord earlier, and so have scaled the damage reduction accordingly. By reducing the protection effect more quickly, such "split" teams can attack the Guild Lord directly instead of just attacking other NPCs. This should support shorter games as well as increase the number of valid strategies.

[Dev Update] - 15 January 2009

Six months ago, we assembled the Live Team with one goal: sustaining high quality support for Guild Wars. We started with smaller changes, getting our feet wet by balancing skills and tweaking AI. After these initial successes, we moved on to title balancing and the golem Hero M.O.X. before finishing off the year with new festival content. As the Live Team looks to the new year, we are streamlining our processes, where we can create even more exciting new features and content than ever before. In this Dev Update, we explain the reasons for some of these changes and reveal tidbits of what we've got planned for the future.

Monthly Maintenance

Throughout the year, our regular monthly builds will include Xunlai Tournament rewards, changing out the Zaishen chest monthly tonic, and map rotations for Automated Tournaments. These builds may also include small skill balance changes, tweaks to AI, or bug fixes on an as needed basis. However, we are discontinuing the monthly ATS skill usage charts on the website as the feature isn't popular enough to warrant the time investment required to compile, sort, and publish the data.

Content Updates

Content updates will be done separately from the monthly maintenance and occur every three to four months. By spacing out our content releases, we gain the time to tackle larger and more difficult projects that, previously, would've been impossible. Some features that once seemed unattainable are now being explored as upcoming projects. We are even expanding the Live Team to offer more of the best quality support and content that we can for Guild Wars. With this new system, we release our new content in fewer yet more substantial updates. We want players to feel connected to what we are developing even though it may be months away from release, so during development we will be more open about our process and what we are working on.

Coming Attractions

The Live Team is now designing the first big content update of 2009, which we expect to release in April. We had many discussions towards the end of last year and ended up with a major wish list and a plan for what it would take to make that list a reality. At this point, we have a clear idea of what is ahead of us and we hope everyone will be as excited about these prospects as we are.

Here are a few features we are currently developing for April:

  • Increases to account-based storage
  • Improvements to character-based storage
  • Account-based changes to the Hall of Monuments