User:Erasculio/Suggestions For GW2
- 1 I) Introduction
- 2 II) Instances versus Persistence
- 3 III) Questing
- 4 IV) Random and Improved Enemies
- 5 V) General PvE Suggestions
- 6 VI) Character Development
- 7 VII) Skill System
- 8 VIII) The Professions
- 9 IX) Economy
- 10 X) Items
- 11 XI) Final Notes
a) What is this?
This is an index of my suggestions for Guild Wars 2, together with the reasoning behind each of them. The game is still in the early stages of development, and while we do not have much information available to us, I believe it is worth expressing our opinions now before all the game features are set in stone. I will use examples from Guild Wars 1 as a way to help everyone understand my points – it’s simpler to say, for example, “an Elementalist using Firestorm” than “a damage dealing caster profession using area of effect damage over time spells”, even if Elementalists and Firestorm won’t be a part of GW2. The suggestions focus more on the PvE side of the game (although it’s impossible to not mention things that concern both sides), as that’s the game mode I’m more familiar with.
b) Why is this here?
The logical choice would have been to post this on a Fansite forum. However, I have decided to keep this information here for two reasons; firstly, I’m using this article to remind myself of the Wiki formatting syntax (unfortunately I have forgotten all of it, and writing this here is a good way to train). Secondly, even though it’s finished I like the ability to making small changes once in a while, something that is impossible to do in a Fansite forum.
c) Is this article finished already?
Yes, it is. : ) While I’m going to listen to what the community has to say about these suggestions and make some small changes once in a while, this article covers all the points I wanted to address.
d) It took you MONTHS to finish this >.>
OK, so I’m a slow writer. Shoot me <.<
e) You also don't write that well
I don't, that's true. Thankfully Zaxares from [TEL] took his time to edit this entire article in order to improve the writing, and thanks to him it's in real English now. Thanks again, Zax : D
II) Instances versus Persistence
Guild Wars 1’s utilization of instances was interesting, but mostly it aimed at preventing common problems found in persistent MMORPGs – spawn camping, loot stealing, finding someone annoying as we play casually etc. While avoiding those problems was an excellent move, such use of instances was both limited (as many more things could be done with them) and limiting (as it removed all the advantages of persistence).
a) Persistent Areas
Persistence allows for a feeling of community. This is by far the greatest advantage of such a system, and it happens in many different forms. The simplest is just meeting random people when going outside of towns to do something – a player who meets another doing the same quest, or going to the same area, may decide to tag along and thus have a strong feeling of being in a populated world. Even smaller interactions, such as just using “buffs” on nearby characters as one moves past them, is a way to give the feeling of being in a community.
Currently, we have learned of another system Arena Net plans to use in persistent areas, the dynamic event chains (such as the one described in the PC Gamer article, in which all the players in an area may decide to act when a specific event happens). Those are great as they add a new level to the community feeling – they turn the player into part of a team, without the hassle of having to spam “Looking For Group” somewhere – those who are in the area of the event decide (or not) to act on it, and that’s it, the team has been made. Those interactions “on the fly” are something absent in GW1, and that could greatly benefit the next game.
Therefore, a good way to use persistent areas would be by making outposts and cities persistent zones. Thus, even if Map Travel is kept, those who are going for the first time from an outpost to somewhere else will still be able to meet each other easily – it would only be a matter of seeing those walking in the direction one wishes to go, and the potential for tagging along would be there.
One way to improve upon the feeling of being part of a team is to add different tasks that require different abilities. For example, if an event is to kill a flying dragon, characters that excel at doing damage from a distance would be much more useful than someone who focuses on doing melee damage (and therefore may not be able to hurt the dragon at all). The Fort Aspenwood map in GW1 has a different approach; two teams face off against each other, but the defending team has many roles that need to be fulfilled, from attacking the enemies to protecting the relevant NPCs to running around with amber pieces to capture strategic points. While that’s a complex example for an event, it illustrates how the same goal may require different people to act differently, giving all kinds of players a role in which they feel they are useful.
On the other hand, persistent areas have many problems. Some have been mentioned, and others have been felt by those who played any MMORPG that focuses on persistence, but I would like to focus on one specific flaw of this system. While persistence makes the community prominent, it also reduces the value of the individual – the team is important, but each player matters little to the final outcome. In other words, it removes the feeling that our character is the hero in the game, replaced by the idea that he is one among many. This is made stronger by how one player’s decisions cannot change the persistent world – it either does not change (a common boss killed will have to respawn, so the next players may kill it themselves), or it changes only by the community’s impetus (such as in the events mentioned above). This can create some awkward situations – for example, in a quest in which the goal is to rescue a NPC, the rescued character would have to remain in his “prison”, so other players may save him.
b) Instanced Areas
Instanced areas are, in many ways, the opposite of persistent areas; the community does not exist, but the player becomes the hero of the game. This feature has been used often in GW1, such as in the cinematics (when we see the NPCs talking specifically to our character) and in areas such as the Throne of Secrets and the Divine Path, where our character is praised as being the savior of the respective continent.
More importantly, this gives the player the ability to change the world, based on his decisions alone. The best example of this is the quests “First Born”, “Second Born” and “Third Born” in Istan, Elona - the player chooses who, among three NPCs, will receive an inheritance and, the next time the player enters that instance, the NPC who has been rewarded will have changed the way the village is run. The player’s actions have permanently altered the world.
Unfortunately, this is a feature that has been underutilized throughout GW1, and much of its potential was wasted (more on this in the next section), but it is a great tool for allowing the player’s decisions to have repercussions – something more appropriate for decisions based on personal issues, such as who to favor among a few well liked NPCs, who to kill among two gruesome villains etc.Those individual decisions are impossible in persistent areas, but they are easy to implement in an instance.
a) Changing the World Through Quests
One of the most advanced features of Guild Wars 1, in my opinion, are the instances, but I have always felt that they have not been used to their full potential in the game. Most places are static – whether you enter them one time or a hundred times, they will always be the same. I would like to propose a system to change that in GW2, that whenever we enter an instance, there would be a probability that there will be one among different quests there – quests that change the landscape somehow, either by changing only the monsters that spawn around us, or by changing them and the world itself.
After taking each quest, we would eventually have a choice in how to proceed. Each choice would give us different results, by making permanent alterations in the world around us and in our characters.
(I know, I know, the world “permanent” makes a lot of people go “Boooooo!” in a MMORPG. Bear with me a little – this will not prevent people from accessing content, as I’ll explain later.)
Example – Continuation
"But what if I have chosen to do something, and I want to see what would have happened if I had done otherwise?"
"What if I just want to do both the quest ends with the same character?"
"What if more than one human player go together into that zone?"
All those questions have the same answer. Whenever a group with more than one person enters that instance, it will change to reflect what the party leader has or has not done. So if you have chosen to destroy the village but would like to see what would have happened if you had save it, just join the group of someone who has saved it and go outside. Likewise, if you want to do the quest of saving the village, join the group of someone that is about to do that quest and go outside – it would not change the outcome for you (since you already did it), neither would you get the reward, but you would be able to play it normally. This is more for those who want to help their friends in doing a quest, or who want to see everything that could happen in the game.
That’s how we would change the world – but there’s also a way to change our characters as well. There would be a new kind of "faction" (only I would rather not call it faction, since we already have things in GW1 with that name, so we would just call it favor, which is also a familiar but less used word), or favor, in the game: favor for each of the gods. Specific quests (and specific ways to finish quests) would reward us with favor from one of the six gods (or more, depending of how much the world has changed in those 100 years), and when we have enough faction from one of them, people would react differently.
Example – Continuation
"What if I want to see how people react or what they would do for someone who has more favor from another god?"
Join the party of someone who has favor from the god you want to see. Since the entire instance assumes that the party did what the party leader did, it would consider that the entire party has more favor with that god – in other words, even someone with more favor from Dwayna would be able to do a quest for people with more favor from Melandru.
"OK, but what would be the in game advantage of having more favor with one god than with another?"
I guess some people must be puzzled by this reply, but let me try to explain. This idea has been suggested to add flavor to both the world and to our characters, as something completely optional that is only there to make the experience deeper. By giving a reward, any kind of reward, for having more favor with one god than with another, people would begin to choose their sides completely based on the reward, not on the experience itself. Even worse, it would eventually happen that one reward would be considered better/more valuable/more powerful/more useful than the others, and so most people would choose the same path (regardless if that requires them to do the quests they actually want to do or not) just to get the prize at the end. That’s not something I agree with, and something that I think would take away from this idea.
Example – Continuation
b) More than "Kill, Kill, Kill"
Many of the quests in GW consist basically of killing enemies. That is not necessarily bad – for any quest we have to go from place X to Y, and we will find enemies to be killed in the way, so it’s hard to make a quest that has no killing at all. More important, in my opinion, is what else we are doing other than killing enemies, and that’s where quest design becomes more complex.
The goal of the quests should be something interesting, and something linked to the world of the game. The dreaded “FedEx” quests ("Hello, I’m NPC A, please take this package to NPC B") are an example of quests that not only are boring, since they just require players to walk from point X to Y killing everything in the way, but also don’t add anything to the story of the game. Factions was amazing regarding that feature – a quest such as “Luxury Goods”, in which we just have to give a few items to a few NPCs, becomes more than a FedEx quest when it allows us to learn more about the world of Cantha, and to see first hand part of the reasons behind the decadence of the city.
On the other hand, we have quests that are very interesting, but don’t really add to the world of the game, such as the “Double Dog Dare” quest in Nightfall. It doesn’t tell us much about the world of Elona, and we have to kill some monsters on our way, but the quest is so amazingly clever, and so different from what we have seen before, that it’s often considered one of the best quests in GW.
Both those quests, “Luxury Goods” and “Double Dog Dares”, are excellent examples of fun and memorable quests. However, an even better way to make a quest is to join both elements - making something that is interesting, gameplay-wise, and also lets us know more about the world our characters are in. The best example of such a quest, in my opinion, is the “Althea’s Ashes” quest from Prophecies; it brings us closure for a character we had met a long time before, and it requires us to fight through an impressive Charr fortress. This quest also exemplifies how NPCs are important to the game – by creating NPCs that truly feel alive and that have an impact on the player, quests about such NPCs become more interesting than they would have been if they were about a random character we had just met. The greatest example of this in all of Guild Wars is Gwen – by now, if Gwen suddenly appeared and told us to bring her flute to her mother, the quest would be far more interesting than a random FedEx quest thanks to how interested in Gwen the community is as a whole
Those are the kinds of quests that GW2 should have, in my opinion; quests that tell us more about the world, quests that have cool gameplay, quests about important NPCs, and quests that combine some or all of the previous characteristics together. What it should not have are quests that just follow the FedEx model, or quests that consist on killing X enemies of one kind (something especially troublesome on non-instanced areas, where players would form queues waiting to kill the required enemies), or quests that consist on getting Y of a random drop given by some enemy (such as the “Sticks and Stones” quest in Nightfall), as those not only require players to find and kill a specific kind of enemy over and over, but it can also result in frustration if enemies will not drop the specific item the players need.
c) There and Back Again
It has been mentioned that the “Map Travel” feature, the ability to instantly jump from one outpost to another, is coming back in GW2. This is a good thing, in my opinion – not having to waste time going from location X to location Y allow players to focus more on what they want to do, as opposed to on what they have to do. However, this leaves us with a problem; there is an entire persistent world filled with people to be explored, populated with many dynamic events, and if players don’t go outside when going from outpost to outpost, when are they going to meet those players and those events?
That is a new role the quests are going to have, in GW2. Quests should keep the players playing through an area often enough that they would meet the same players more than once and also find the dynamic events. At the same time that they should not make a player go through an area so often that he gets tired of it (a problem that is both increased and decreased by persistence – if an instance spawns different enemies in the same area depending on what quest you are doing or who you are going to meet, how you are going to play changes in persistent areas but not in instances). The proposed model of allowing players more freedom, so they choose where they want to play the most, is perfect for this; it’s important that the “required quests” (what we see today as Primary Quests) allow players to see an area and get a feel for its “mood”, while plenty of secondary quests (that a player may ignore, if he liked another area more and want to spend more of his time there) allow players to go back and forth in such areas, meeting people who also like that area and finding the events there.
A difference that would be nice, though, is if an area has more content to keep players busy after they have moved past that point of the game. For example, today we have Lion’s Arch – it’s a popular place to be, but once a player has moved past that point in the main storyline and done all the quests that are there, he has no reason to go back to the areas around that city. The same holds for Kaineng Center – after being there and doing the quests we find, bye! It would be good if new quests appear – not only in quest chains such as the ones we see today, but also if being to a new area opens a new quest in those old areas. We have a very good example of this (that would not work in a persistent world without some changes) in the Titan’s Quests in Prophecies: a way to go back to areas that players would have left and do more things there (in this example, killing the new enemies that appeared there after we finish the Prophecies campaign). Quests that add a new purpose to things we had seen before also fit in this idea. For example, say that, by the end of Prophecies, we find a quest about that floating castle we see nearby the Temple of Ages, and then we begin a quest chain to open it – it would be a way to make players remember something they had seen (and maybe even forgotten) in a new way. At the same time, it creates a feeling of discovery – if the floating castle, that would have been dismissed as just part of the scenery, had a hidden meaning, what other things that were ignored at first could also have a meaning later on?
IV) Random and Improved Enemies
a) Random Enemies
The enemies in GW1 were often fixed – when leaving Droknar’s Forge you would always find the same enemy groups around you, in the same group composition and using the same skills. This leads to a somewhat stale environment that, while keeping gameplay easier (you know exactly what to expect), also keeps it a bit repetitive. One way to deal with this is by adding a small element of randomization to the enemies – only a small one, though. I don’t think completely random skill bars would work (I’m sure we would face some enemy groups where no one has a damage dealing skill and everyone is a monk), but I would like systems such as the ones we already have in Nightfall, where an enemy group has random elements and some enemies have more than one possible skill bar.
In the Dajkah Inlet Challenge Mission in Nightfall, we have to fight against multiple enemy groups and kill their Guild Lord. However, the most interesting feature there is how not only the members of each enemy group change slightly each time we enter said mission (for example, the first group may have one Warrior and one Elementalist one time, while two Warriors and no Elementalists on another, etc), but also how the same enemy has more than one possible skill bar. The Corsair Wind Masters, Elementalist enemies we find in said mission, for example, have 4 possible skill bars – assuring that, whenever a group of players enter that area, the gameplay experience will rarely be the same.
This is a very powerful mechanic that I wish would be seen far more often in GW2. Ideally all enemies would have that feature, but if that’s just too much work, it would be nice if at least some enemies within each group had more than one possible skill bar. It would be interesting if each enemy group follows a theme, making it possible to create alternate skill bars that, while being different, follow the same direction – this way we would add both the advantages of randomization and the ability to give players a chance to prepare themselves, as long as they are ready to counter the overall theme of those enemies.
For example, an enemy group could focus on using skills that do Area of Effect damage over time. This adds many possible skill bars for Elementalists in the group, while also adding many possible skill bars for the non Elementalist enemies: we could have a ranger with crippling skills, while having as his alternate skill bar Beast Mastery skills that focus on crippling and knocking down the players; a warrior with Crippling Slash and other skills that limit movement, to keep the enemies a longer time inside the AoE spells, with an alternate skill bar focusing on knock downs, that would have the same effect but in a different way.
The next step in that line of thinking would be to add, to one of the alternate skill bars, a skill from another profession than the enemy’s primary one. Today, in GW1, we know to kill the enemy monks first since they are the only source of healing in the group, something that was changed a bit in Factions (thanks to the Ritualists) but which still holds true in most of the game. It would be interesting if it were possible that a warrior monster had, some times, a healing or a defensive spell – not as powerful as the monk’s one, but rather something to encourage battle awareness, as players would have to pay attention and learn where the extra healing is coming from. The same could be said, for example, about Elementalists that sometimes bring a Mesmer’s hex removal skill, and so on.
There is the problem, however, of random monsters becoming not random – for example, if you have a group of 5 rangers, and each one has a 20% chance of having an alternate skill bar, this means that most often we’ll just fight a group with one ranger having the alternate skill bar and the four others with the common skill bar. A way to avoid this is by making more than one alternate skill bar, and is likely going to be enough in the well mixed groups (in which there’s usually not more than two enemies of the same profession anyway). In the homogeneous groups, though (the ones in which all enemies belong to the same profession), it would still be a problem… A workaround would be that, only in homogeneous groups, if one enemy has an alternate skill bar, all the enemies in the group would have the same alternate skill bar. This would solve one of the problems this kind of enemy mob has (of being too easily countered by a few build but being too strong against a few others), while making each of them more interesting – we would never know if that incoming group would be a piece of cake or if it would pose a challenge.
Lastly, bosses would have random skills in a limited away as well. They would always spawn in the same place and always have the same elite skill (so those interested in capping their elite skill, assuming those mechanics carry over to GW2, would not be frustrated), but the rest of the skill bar and even their secondary profession would change… This means that one time we would find, for example, Cairn the Destroyer, a Ranger/Elementalist boss with Barrage, Conjure Flame, Power Shot and etc – while the next time there maybe we would find in the same place Cairn the Relentless, a Ranger/Monk boss with Barrage, Shielding Hands, Troll Unguent, etc.
(The ideas above apply to both instanced and persistent areas, but with a difference; in an instance the enemies are defined when we enter it, but persistent areas don’t work in that way. My suggestion is to make the change – in other words, decide if an enemy will have skill bar 1 or skill bar 2 etc. – when an enemy has been killed and before that enemy spawns again. Since enemies killed in persistent areas come back after a delay, changing the skill bar and even group composition in that moment would assure that even the players who killed those enemies the first time would not know exactly what to expect, if they meet those same enemies after they have been respawned.)
b) Different Enemies with Different AIs
This is a suggestion to deal with the age old problem of how good the AI is. I think the best way to deal with this would be by making different kinds of enemies to have different AIs – for example, I would not be surprised if low level Devourers were, in fact, dumb enough to stay inside a wave of Firestorm as they burn, but I would be surprised if the Mursaat were dumb enough to not avoid AoE damage when they’re under it, to avoid trying to defend their healers etc. This mechanism could be paired with the random skill bar feature to make an area harder, instead of relying always on gimmicks such as “double damage from all enemies”, “impossibly huge enemy groups” and other things that may make an area more annoying than challenging. Both could in fact be used at the same time – one area could have both a huge wave of less powerful and dumb enemies, and a few strong enemies. “Strong” in this sense would mean enemies with a higher probability of having a more complete and more powerful skill bar and with a better AI, not simply having a higher level and the ability to deal more raw damage.
c) Shutting Enemies Down
One of the major problems in GW1 lies in the Mesmer profession – not because the profession is weak (as seen by how important they are in PvP), but rather because the role they excel in – single enemy disruption – is almost useless in PvE, with its focus on many enemies being thrown at the players in any given time, and on being far easier to kill one of those enemies than shutting them down.
That feature is one I would like to change – even if Mesmers were reworked in GW2, the idea that it’s always better to kill an enemy than shutting him down, and that energy denial doesn’t matter, limits the value of many strategies in GW1 (in fact, it makes the “kill, kill, kill” approach the best one, removing a lot of depth the game could have). There are many ways to deal with this – for example, by making areas with lesser enemies with very strong armor against physical and elemental attacks, and therefore it would be so hard to kill them that shutting them down would be important. Another way to deal with the same problem is by the double damage bosses we see in Factions and Nightfall – by being able to kill the party faster than the players could kill them, those bosses make the players see the utility of disruption.
There are other, more complex ways to deal with this problem as well. For example, a few groups which have a boss would have one of two new mechanics; the boss may only be killed if all the non-boss enemies in the group have been killed, or the non-boss enemies in the group may only be killed after the boss has been slain. The “invulnerable” enemies would be unable to lose health through any means (be it direct attacks, armor ignoring attacks, health degeneration or life stealing attacks), but they would still be vulnerable to any kind of shut down – be it disabling conditions such as Blindness and Dazed, be it interrupts, be it skills that disable other skills (such as some Mesmer skills) or even, in some cases, energy denial. By having a powerful enemy that is invulnerable for a short while, it would be interesting to disable him for a time; likewise, having one powerful enemy that makes the others invulnerable would make the idea of someone capable of killing one target quickly (such as the assassins) interesting.
(This is a feature I’m blatantly copying from another game, but in my defense it’s not a MMORPG. Rather, it’s a squad based game, X-Men 2: Rise of Apocalypse.)
V) General PvE Suggestions
a) How Hard Should it Be?
The difficulty of PvE is linked directly to how many ways players have to succeed in any given area. A very easy area allows almost any build to be used – from Warrior/Monks using only healing spells to Mesmer/Necromancers using only Conjure Phantasm. The advantage here is freedom – players are able to take whatever build they want knowing they will succeed, so if someone wants to play with a very odd combination, more power to him/her. However, the flaw is obvious – by having no challenge, not only will players go through the content quickly, but they also will get bored with it very fast. In the other extreme, we have areas that are very hard and very challenging, but that give the players the feeling that they are limited to only a few builds.
An example of an extremely hard area is the Domain of Anguish. In DoA, there are so many different ways in which the enemies are more powerful than us that only a few selected builds work there – the result is that we, the players, cannot adapt our builds or our strategy to DoA. Instead, we have to adapt ourselves to the specific build and specific strategy it requires. Sorrow’s Furnace, for example, was different – it is harder than the areas surrounding it, but it is harder in such a way that making adaptations to the builds we use often (and that we like to use) is enough to survive there.
That in-between, adding a challenge while still giving some freedom so players may chose to play how they want, is the goal Arena Net should strive for, in my opinion. For example, enemies that require some kind of snare to be defeated are fine, as there are many ways to snare someone and that’s something everyone can adapt in their builds. Enemies that require a snare and damage mitigation always on together with the prevention of enchantment removal while in an area with environment effects that prevent some skills from working is not – that is not something a build (or even most builds) could be adapted into, it’s something that requires very specific solutions.
Hard Mode is in the limit of what would be too hard; it gives players freedom to choose among many different strategies, while requiring skilled application of said strategy in order to succeed. However, the problem of Hard Mode lies in how it achieved such difficulty – by increasing numbers, while modifying environments (such as changing the kinds of enemies, modifying patrol groups) and, mostly of all, changing the AIs (so one enemy group knows how to prioritize targets, is harder to exploit with things such as Spiteful Spirit) would have been better. That kind of change was not really expected, given how hard it would be to implement all those changes to 3 games, but hopefully they will be feasible in GW2.
(Hard Mode also happens to be a good example of the kind of “content that calls more content” trap Arena Net falls into sometimes. Players would expect any kind of content released to GW1 now to have both Normal Mode and Hard Mode – since the 3 current chapters have both, everything else is going to also have both, right? Regardless of how right or wrong that kind of expectation is, it exists, and so it means that any new chapter Arena Net added to the game would be expected to have more content than the previous ones did at release.)
b) The Story is Important…
In any RPG, even if its online, the story is of utmost importance. It’s one of the main elements of immersion, one of the elements that drive players forward in the game world, and even by itself it’s a source of entertainment. The main storylines in the first two Guild Wars game were very weak – in Prophecies, after our characters left Ascalon, we were presented with plenty of NPCs that didn’t matter to us and to predictable situations (it was kinda obvious the Vizier was evil). In Factions, the story is just a “let’s go kill the bad guy” with plenty of plot holes that were addressed later, in the third chapter. Nightfall, in other hand, was better – not only the story was more complex than in Factions, but also we were introduced to new NPCs more carefully, being given time and reasons to actually know who is who. For example, the many times Palawa Joko was mentioned in the plot made his appearance more important, and the fact the players didn’t do the obvious (kill him because he’s “evil”) made that character stand out. Nightfall was also able to avoid a very common cliché; in many games, the players begin as minor characters under the watch of a powerful and important NPC, slowly growing in importance until said NPC dies and the characters are allowed to become the heroes. We saw this in Prophecies with Rurik, we saw the same thing in Factions with Master Togo, and we saw it in Nightfall with Komir… But in the last game we got a surprising ending for Komir, one that did not involve her death. This kind of twist on familiar concepts is something that really adds to the storyline, making it both familiar and different at the same time.
However, the main plot is not the only story element in the game. Side stories are one of the most classic elements in RPGs, and they add to the feeling of immersion by showing players how much more there is in the world than a single storyline. Many quests added to this in GW1, as mentioned above in the Questing section, but even outside of them we got very interesting story elements; almost the entirety of Pre Searing Ascalon is filled with small stories and quirks about each person that is part of that world, stories that continued in Post Searing Ascalon as we followed what happened with some of those characters. The stories in Nightfall about the Scarab Plague are another interesting element outside of the main plot, by letting players find bits of information about something that happened before the game began. Those small details show a great amount of care with the world of the game, and they are something I would really like to see more of in GW2 – especially since some parts of GW1 (such as the Shiverpeaks, Kryta, the Ring of Fire, etc) lack the same attention to details.
c)…And so is Exploration
Exploring just for the sake of finding new, interesting things, without getting new items or other “rewards” for doing so is also a classic element of RPGs. But in order to do this, there has to be things hidden to be found, something that was more common in Prophecies than in the other chapters. Not only had we places to see such as the Temple of Balthazar in the Maguuma Jungle and the Temple of Grenth in the Sourthern Shiverpeaks, but we also had a different incentive to explore; the small bits of lore we could find hidden in some places, especially the Bleached Bones in the Crystal Desert. Those were small details, but the stories they told, about the Elonians who died in the desert before being able to ascend, were not only sad (even frightful a few times; I love the one about the teeth stealer) but also very interesting. We had a bit of that in the Crystal Overlook area of Nightfall, and it would be very pleasant to see the same thing – beautiful places and hidden lore – to be found in GW2.
d) Different Points of View
A small feature we saw in Prophecies was the availability of quests to only a few characters – some quests in Ascalon were exclusively for Warrior characters, for example, while others were exclusive to Necromancers, and so on. Those quests had relevant bits of information about the game world, and they added a bit of replayability to the game – someone who was playing as a Ranger after playing as an Elementalist would have different quests available to him, quests that happened to be interesting as well. Given the concept of having different races in GW2, I think the same could be applied to that game: to have some quests specifically for Asurans, for example, while having other quests exclusive to Sylvarians and so on. This would have to be done in moderation, to avoid preventing two friends from different races from playing together through most of the game, but it would be a feature that would allow for deeper race-specific content, at the same time it added a bit of replayability.
A different way to add more than one point of view to the game is by allowing the players to play as other characters in special circumstances. Using an example from Nightfall, what if, instead of reading about the Scarab Plague, we actually took control of a few characters from that period of time, with a different skin and different skills? This would be both a change to gameplay, by changing completely who we control, and a way to let we, players, learn something our characters would not be able to see (and those “temporary” characters would be able to die and suffer other things that our main characters may not do, as they cannot truly die in the story). This is something we kind of see in GW1 through the Junundu, the giant worms we control in Nightfall – they are basically temporary characters with a different skin and unique skills that we play for a short while. The only problem with the Jurundu was their lack of flexibility – they have only one possible skill bar, something odd in a game in which experimenting with skill combinations is important. One way to fix this would be by giving those “temporary” characters a limited number of skills, enough so more than one build is possible but not as many as a real character has.
For example, assuming we have to fight against, say, the Margonites in GW2, and that said game has the same “8 skills in a bar” system GW1 has. In a part of the game (say, one or two missions) we would actually play as the Margonites, showing their advance through the world of Tyria from their own point of view. A Necromancer would become a Margonite Necromancer, a Warrior would become a Margonite Warrior and so on. Like the Jurundu, they would not have access to all emotes, only a few of them. We would be given 16 unique skills belonging to the Margonites, a few of them belonging to each profession (so the skills available to a Margonite Ranger would not be exactly the same as those available to a Margonite Elementalist), and we would then be able to combine those skills to make the 8 skills build we would play with.
(An example of such feature may be seen in another MMORPG, Chronicles of Spellborn. There, when reading “scrolls”, players take control of fixed characters in the past and play those events as they happened, with different scrolls allowing players to act in different time periods, playing with different characters.)
e) The Absence of Heroes and Henchmen
This is something we have been told – GW2 will not have heroes or henchmen. It will have, instead, a system in which each character may have a companion, and those who choose to not have one will be buffed to make up for it.
Yet, without a context, that bit of information doesn’t really say anything. Are we expected to always play with human players in GW2? To play solo (or with the single companion) most of the time but with other human players once in a while? Something in between? Without more details, all I may do is point out what I think would be better for the game, and state why I think so.
One of the main advantages of Guild Wars is how it’s friendly to casual players. You don’t have to be playing for a long time and be part of a hardcore community to be able to just log in and play; you may just log in and do a quick mission or a quest even if you don’t have much time to play, and so on. Henchmen and Heroes are an important part of those aspects as they give us the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want without wasting time asking people to join and setting up a party. A persistent world has the advantage of allowing players to meet each other in the field – forming a party would become less important if you could find people to help along the way. However, this approach is not reliable; a player could not go to a hard area by himself hoping he would meet someone to help along the way, only to find himself alone against enemies more powerful than he could handle alone. The bigger the game world becomes, through expansions and other add-ons, the more unlikely it would be to find other players to help.
On the other hand, in a persistent world players are going to meet each other and are going to wish to tag along for mutual help. If players were able to fill a party with computer-controlled allies, they would risk finding someone in the field they would like to join with but would be unable to do so thanks to not having free party slots anymore, and that is something that would hurt considerably the cooperative aspect of the game.
Another aspect of the problem is that a game based on solo playing (or even duo playing) is very different from a game based on group playing. A pure support profession such as the Mesmers we have today, for example, or the Ritualists, would suffer considerably if trying to play solo; even with an AI companion, they would have a far harder time than a Warrior playing with a Monk companion or the other way around. But having those support professions add an extra degree of strategy, especially to the PvP part of the game, that would be missing if such roles were not viable in PvE.
My suggestion would be, then, to keep the henchmen we see in GW1, although in a limited way. For instanced areas, we would be able to take a full party of henchmen, as we are not able to find other players to join our team in that kind of environment. For persistent areas, players would be able to change their parties while outside – so a player that has taken 3 henchmen and meets someone on the way would be able to replace one of the henchmen with the newcomer, in such a way that someone who began with a team of henchmen could end, in a persistent area, with a team filled of real people. A way to reinforce this would be by limiting the number of henchmen a player could take – less than a full party, but enough to make playing through an area to be possible – so it would favor making players look for each other to join forces, as the extra benefit of having someone more in the team would compensate for any lack of skill the newly found player could have (in a somewhat similar way to the idea behind World PvP).
VI) Character Development
a) Skill versus Time Spent in PvE
This is a feature that has been at the core of GW1 – a character who has been playing longer than another is not significantly more powerful, thus leading for a state of balance between characters. Often, this was considered to be a feature for PvP (in which the players need a level playing field in order to fairly compete), and so, under that view, the proposed PvP in Guild Wars 2, that would automatically change a character’s power level so all are equal, would wave the need for the “skill versus time spent” mentality in PvE.
This is something I don’t agree with, and I would like to explain why. PvE has its own kind of balance; not between the players and the enemies, but rather for what kind of character an area has been designed for. GW1 allows Arena Net to easily deal with this by making most of the content for level 20 characters – which means, the difficulty of any given area could be created having the level 20 as the standard for any player’s power.
What would have happened if characters were allowed to progress beyond level 20, or to have weapons with twice as more damage, or any other change to GW1 base level of power? The current areas would then be easier for those characters, who would eventually lose the feeling of challenge in the game as most enemies would be defeated rather easily. The solution would be to make those areas harder, so they would become challenging even for the characters at higher levels or with better items – but by doing so, those same areas would now become too hard for the characters at level 20, making them feel they need to increase in levels of farm for better items in order to progress.
In GW2, this could lead to some problems. If an area is a challenge for level 30 characters, it would be too easy for level 50 ones, who would be able to rush past that part of the game with little to no thought or strategy. If the same area is now a challenge for level 50 characters, it would be too hard for level 30 ones, who would then feel they need to stop progressing through the game normally and kill monsters repeatedly instead (“level grinding”) in order to advance. The same rationale may be applied for items instead of levels – if an area is balanced for a specific power level, characters with weapons twice more powerful than the others will have a very easy and unchallenging experience, while those with weaker weapons than the others would feel they have to farm better items to advance.
Most games deal with this by creating a continuous flow of progression: areas for level 30 characters would then be followed by areas for level 40 characters and those would be followed by areas for level 50 characters. This creates two problems, though:
1) Loss of “replayability”. Once a character has grown in power, previous areas of the game will become too easy for him. This is currently avoided in GW1 by having most of the content focused on level 20 characters, but in an environment in which levels go from 1 to 100, the amount of content for each level would grow smaller and smaller. Another problem is how this would actually hurt player cooperation – for example, if a player with a level 30 character wants to play through an area for level 30 characters with a friend, and said friend has played longer, his character would be so much more powerful that he would eventually remove the challenge in that part of the game for himself and for his friend.
2) Reliance on time instead of skill. Once a player learns that, no matter the challenge, he may defeat it by “level grinding” in order to become stronger than expected for that area and then easily cut his way through it, the game would have a large contingence of players that avoid thinking about strategy and the utilization of skills in order to progress. This becomes worse when it turns into the behavior expected by the community, so things such as acceptance in a group would require a player to have “level grinded” before reaching an area (for example, in an area meant for level 30 characters, players could only accept in their teams characters with at least level 40). The “sidekicking system” mentioned in the PC Gamer article (in which a character may pick someone under his level as his side-kick, giving him some benefits) may make this problem even worse, by allowing players to rely on more powerful characters to boost their power far beyond what expected for a given area. For example, say a mission has been designed for level 30 characters – players with level 30 characters could, then, ask for a level 60 character to come and boost their power, reducing significantly the challenge of the mission. The problem this creates is that a group of players would then rely on others to progress easily through the game, instead of relying on their own characters (in a phenomenon similar to “power leveling” or “running” in GW1). It also adds a problem for players who did not choose to “level grind”, but simply play a lot in a given area. For example, in Guild Wars: Prophecies, a character that is aiming for the Tyrian Grandmaster Cartographer title would explore each part of the map in great detail, and in the process he will acquire levels faster than someone in the same part of the game – the result is that the player would be at a higher level than expected for any given part of the game, and would therefore have unintentionally removed part of the challenge for himself.
On the other hand, some players (especially the so-called “hardcore players”) want to be given rewards by the time they spent in the game – the concern is not about the gameplay itself, rather about becoming better than other players. “Grinding” (in other words, the repetition of the same content in order to get a specific reward, be it a higher level or a rare, better item) is also an easy way to increase the longevity of the game, and players that enjoy both this aspects of gameplay (becoming better than the others and having things to “grind” for) have complained about the lack of such things in GW1.
Yet, this creates a great divide in between the players, and it leads to a somewhat unhealthy community. Currently, someone who "grinds" and who believes himself to be better than everyone else (regardless of skill) because he grinds more may only display status symbols - game-wise, he's not really better than anyone. This is a fundamental feature of GW1 - a change in the current system would only feed the arrogance of such players, who would then become more and more vocal, not only claiming that they are better but also actually being so thanks only to grind. This - both the idea that grind is needed to become powerful and older players flaunting themselves - is something that scares new player and opens a whole new can of player abuse.
How to deal with this, then?
b) Dealing with Higher Level Caps
Just as how in PvP all players will have access to the same weapons and skills (as described in the PC Gamer article), the same could be done for PvE; make all characters, regardless of their level, have the same stats depending of where they are. So, for example, in an area meant for level 30 characters, everyone would have stats as if they were level 30 characters, even if they are actually level 1 or 100. This would make level design easier – by fixing the characters’ power level, it would be easier to make content that is challenging (without being too hard or too easy) for everyone. At the same time, those who like to “grind” would still have a reward – they would be displayed as being at their true level, so a level 100 character would be seen as a being at level 100, even if his stats were reduced.
There are 3 different ways to implement this idea:
1) Local: players would progress normally from level 1 to level 100 and beyond, increasing in power and finding better and better items as they do so. Yet, in some specific areas, their stats would be handicapped (or increased) to fit what is expected in that area. This would work best if limited to areas that are noticeably different from the rest of the game – for example, in the Mission Outposts (since GW2 will also be mission based, as mentioned in the PC Gamer article). There, and only there, all players would be equal in power, even if some would have status symbols (displaying a higher level, having a weapon that is better but had its stats reduced, etc). It would make the level design of the missions easier, while making them a challenge for everyone, and allowing people to play together in the same standing, no matter how long they have been playing.
2) Global: same as above, but it would apply in the entire world – everywhere, a character’s power would be set depending of where he is, and things such as levels and rare weapons (that, as in GW1, would be different only regarding skin, as their power would be set depending of where a character is) would be only symbols of status – levels would represent “veterancy”, nothing more. This would give players a small reward for grinding (the status of being known as having a higher level and special skins), but power level would be set everywhere, changing depending of the area.
3) Guild Wars 1 Lite: an in-between the above ideas and GW1’s current method. The players advance normally through levels until a specific limit, and from there on all further advancement changes only the displayed level, without any change on the characters stats. In some areas, players would be given a boost in power making them more powerful for that specific mission/quest, but those would be temporary. This keeps the status symbol of those who “level grind”, but avoids reducing the power level of characters (something that would likely annoy some players) and allows level design to aim at a specific ceiling.
VII) Skill System
a) Basic System
The current skill system in GW is one of the most unique features of the game, and one that adds plenty of gameplay elements – there is not only the strategy in choosing which skills and attributes to take for any given situation, but also the feeling of how different a character becomes just by changing the build being played. My suggestion is, then, to keep the basic skill system as it is today – limiting how many skills a character is able to have at any given moment. The number of skills itself doesn’t matter much – I would suggest a small number, in order to avoid turning the game too complex for skill balance (too many combinations would be troublesome to predict) or for new players (who could feel overwhelmed with so many possible combinations). Something in between 6 and 12 would be my guess, but that depends on too many other game elements.
A very important point, linked to the above, is to keep the current degree of flexibility we have. Right now it is very easy to change our skills, attributes and even secondary professions, but it has not always been so – and it is my opinion that the game became more interesting, strategy-wise, after the removal of Refund Points and with the ability to change secondary professions at any given time. GW2 should allow the players to similarly change their characters (within some limits), so adaptation continues to be an important part of the game.
Also, the current attribute system is an interesting part of GW – by avoiding the often repeated division into “Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, etc” and using new, profession-related attributes, GW creates a balanced mechanic and something innovative as well.
b) Less Is More
One problem of the current incarnation of Guild Wars is the number of skills. New players would feel overwhelmed when learning that there are more than one thousand skills in the game, and it is very time consuming to balance all of those – the result is that some skills are forgotten both by players (and therefore almost never used) and by developers (so they remain underpowered for a very long time, as the more commonly used skills require more attention). This creates a situation in which, despite of the huge variety possible in the game, some skills aren’t as viable as others.
Taking the above into consideration, I believe GW2 needs less skills. We would likely end with more viable skills than we have today – by giving the developers less skills to keep balanced, it would be possible to fix underpowered skills sooner, and therefore keep all skills useful at all times. It’s important to introduce new skills slowly, as well, to avoid creating the same situation we had with the GW chapters: each 6 months, they were expected to introduce 25 new skills per old profession, plus 75 new skills for two new professions, meaning soon we would end with way too many skills. A slower pace in GW2 would be better – we still do not know how often expansions will be released for the new game, but if it had as many as GW1, something comparable to 70 skills for a single new profession and 10 skills for old ones would be easier to handle for everyone.
c) A Small Note for the Sake of PvP
As mentioned above I’m primarily a PvE player, so I’m refraining from making PvP comments in this suggestion lists. There is one thing I would like to say, though: IMO, the game benefits more from skills with a broad scope that are able to counter partially many things, than from skills that are able to completely destroy one very specific thing. The latter favors a "rock/paper/scissors" situation, in which if you are facing the right enemy you will win, if not you just wasted skill slots (one example is the Frigid Armor skill – it completely nullifies the elite Searing Flames, but if the enemy team does not rely on that skill you have just wasted a skill slot). "Softer" counters, that are useful against many things, favor winning through skill as opposed to winning because you got the right build – a very good example of this is Diversion: it counters most things, although it does not “destroy” almost anything, and it’s so well known that mindless spamming it is a waste, while carefully employing it may help your team enormously.
d) Skills for more than Combat
The skills we have in GW1 are our tools to defeat our enemies (with a few exceptions, such as the skills that increase a character’s speed). It would be interesting if we could use them for more than that – if it were possible to use skills to modify the environment, be it by creating an ice bridge to overcome an apparently impassable obstacle or by using a Mesmer spell to deceive a NPC. Full terrain deformability is not possible with the current technology available to PC games, but that’s not really needed – if using specific skills under specific conditions triggered an effect, it would be enough. For example, using an ice spell everywhere would not create something out of ice – but using the same spell in some places would actually create the ice bridge mentioned previously. Likewise, using a Mesmer spell (such as Empathy) on any NPC would usually not result in anything, but in some situations it would make the NPC change his position about some matter. This would add a feeling of exploration to the skills (“What would happen if I used this skill here? And there?”), as well as allowing players to find many secret paths and short cuts along the game areas, plus to create different ways to solve a given quest. Currently there is one single example of this in GW – one of the Junundu skills may be used to make a pillar fall in one Explorable Area, opening a new path and access to a new quest. This should be developed further, so skills could be used in creative ways, which would make the game more interesting as well as add replay value by making players wonder how many other ways they would have to do a given task or reach a location.
e) Skill Acquisition
We have seen different ways of earning skills through Guild Wars: from Skill Quests in Prophecies, that were easy to obtain and yet limited to a few choices, to having to buy almost all skills in Factions, a method that both limited and increased the number of skills available to each player, to the Hero Skill Points in Nightfall. This last system, although limited (considering how few Hero Skill Points were available to us by normal play), is, to me, the best among them; it rewards the player for playing the game (as opposed to reward farming or other similar activity), it allows players to get new skills easily, and it gives them options of what skills to pick. The fact the Hero Skill Points cannot be traded prevent them from becoming a trading commodity, meaning concerns such as what impact they would have on the economy, and how they would increase the demand for gold, may be ignored.
My suggestion, then, would be to merge both Prophecies and Nightfall systems; to give Skill Acquisition Points for doing quests, points players would be able to use in order to get skills (without any other cost) at Skill Trainers. This would keep the ease of access from Prophecies (as well as giving an important reward for questing), together with the ability of choosing which skill will be learned, like in Nightfall. Those points would not be tradable, like Hero Skill Points, but, unlike them, we would be able to see how many we have when we look at our character’s stats.
If Arena Net would like to limit skill acquisition, it could be done by making it so only the harder quests give Skill Acquisition Points, and that only a few may be learned from any given Skill Trainer (much like the Hero Skill Trainers we have today). However, I would suggest making it possible to earn most of the skills in the game using Skill Acquisition Points, not only to make it more important to quest than to farm for gold, but also to favor learning new skills in order to experiment with new skill combinations. In a game such as Guild Wars, in which much of the strategy consists in finding new ways to use old skills, making it easier for the players to earn new skills and so experiment with more combinations is extremely important.
VIII) The Professions
a) Planning Ahead
Planning ahead is the best suggestion I could give here. In GW1, the idea originally (as far as I understood it) was to have the six core professions, that would be supported in each chapter, and non core professions that would be supported only in their native chapter. After the release of Factions the community complained against this, and so Arena Net decided to implement support for all professions in all new campaigns. That was a nice move that showed, again, how Arena Net listens to the community…
…But it was a really, really bad idea. The result was that each new chapter would need exponentially more content than the previous one – while in Prophecies we had skills and armors for six professions, in Factions we had both armors and weapons for 8, in Nightfall to 10, if we had had a chapter four it would have been 12, and so on… This progressive increase in the content needed would eventually become impossible to deal with, not to mention it would give the game way too many skills and even too many armors.
This is the kind of thing Arena Net has to avoid at all costs – content that requires more and more content as time goes by. The solution is to plan how many professions, how many skills and how many armors each new expansion (or chapter, or whatever the add-ons to GW2 will be called) even before the main game is released. Introducing new professions slower than in GW1, not supporting them in expansions other than the ones they are introduced, and giving them more armors and skills that the original professions had at release are all ways to avoid bogging down the game on the long term.
If GW2 had 6 core professions, for example, my suggestion would be to have:
GW2: 6 professions with 50 skills and 10 armor kinds for each of them.
First Expansion: 1 new profession with 70 skills and 12 kinds of armor; 10 skills and 2 kinds of armor for each of the 6 original professions.
Second Expansion: 1 new profession with 70 skills and 12 kinds of armor; 10 skills and 2 kinds of armor for each of the original 6 professions, nothing for the one introduced in the previous expansion.
And so on… The idea is to give the new professions more than the original ones had at release to balance a bit how said new professions will get less new things than the original ones as the expansions come. At the same time, we avoid the exponential growth of skills and armors that has been seen on GW1.
(One of the rumors we have heard is that there will be no more profession-specific armor in GW2, rather that armors will be divided in kinds – such as heavy armor and etc – and that each profession will be able to wear one or some of those kinds. Sounds good to me, and would simplify the problem presented here. If that is true, the only thing I would like to suggest is to have enough variety in armor looks so we don’t end with one very popular choice and thus almost everyone wearing the same thing.)
b) Generalization versus Specialization
In a game based around solo play, having a profession that is a generalist – able to do a bit of everything, from tanking to doing damage to healing to disrupting the enemy etc. – is a good thing, as that allows a player to rely only on himself and not be dependent on any outside source of help (be it a damage dealing pet to complement a defensive character, a monk hero to complement an offensive profession, etc). In GW1, the closest we had to this was the Dervish – able to attack many targets, tank, heal himself and his team, cause conditions, etc.
However, in a team based game, especially one with a limited party size, a generalist profession doesn’t work that well. In a group, specialized characters are favored – between choosing to pick a profession who is the best damage dealer in the game and a profession that is the best healer in the game, or two members of a profession that does damage more or less and heals more or less, most players are going to aim for the former. That’s because, in a group, players look for roles to be fulfilled, and in doing so they look for the best way possible to fulfill it. A specialized character will be preferred here, as we may see in GW1 by how a team would often take one damage dealer Elementalist and a healing Monk instead of two Ritualists.
Which translates to, all professions need a role, and said role has to be valuable to the party, enough to take that character as opposed to another damage dealer or another healer. This brings us to…
I’m very fond of the Ritualists in GW1. I think they are, aesthetically-wise, the best profession in the game, and I’m very fond of their playstyle.
However, what is their role? Do they deal direct, ranged damage as well as an Elementalist? No. Do they heal as well as a monk, or protect as well as they do? Well, no, either. They work like engineers do, in other games; it appears that their role is to take control of an area, both offensively and defensively, and on that they are better than any other profession.
And what does that mean, in PvE? That, in a game in which the missions reward you more if you play through them quickly, we have a profession that favors slowly setting up a control zone and bringing enemies to said zone. What does that mean, in PvP? That we have turtling, the ability to stay inside a defensive zone and be safe there as long as you don’t venture outside, something many competitive games (including Guild Wars) have taken measures to prevent.
Not only that, but the skill balances done to the Ritualists have partially removed their abilities to create a defensive zone, rewarding them with buffs in other areas… But what roles do they have now? Direct damage dealing-wise, an Elementalist will often be better. Healing-wise, a Monk will often be better. If originally the role of the Ritualists was something limited, now their role intersects with the ones of other professions even more, creating comparisons the Ritualists cannot win...
That kind of thing should not happen – the role a profession has, at least the main role, should remain as constant as the profession’s name, and should be something that knowingly is going to have a good impact in both PvE and PvP. That Arena Net was forced to change a bit the role of the Ritualist wasn’t that much of a problem, but the fact that the same thing is currently being done for the Paragons, again because they had too strong defensive abilities, does not make sense.
This, then, is my suggestion; when making a profession, decide what role it will have, how that role will set it apart from the other ones, in which area it will excel, be sure that said role will not hurt the game, and do not change that role, ever.
I think all professions have some problems that may be tweaked for GW2 – the Assassins, for example, are too limited to what they may do in PvE; their role is to kill things quickly, placing a lot of conditions on their target before it dies. All other professions have more roles and more flexibility, but I don’t see that as a feature that would require the Assassin profession to be removed from GW2; not even Shadow Stepping, if dealt with differently than what has been done in GW2, has to be removed, IMO.
However, the Paragons are different. I enjoy playing them, but I cannot prevent myself from feeling they have been a mistake. The mechanics of a profession that has very strong defense, is able to keep buffs that cannot be removed on many party members, has many skills that favor a defensive and passive style of play, and becomes more powerful the more paragons there are in the team, in my opinion, simply doesn’t work. I would ask Arena Net to either remove them from GW2, or completely change how they work in that game (for example, by making all Paragon shouts and chants into skills that have to be maintained, preventing the paragon from doing anything else as long as he’s keeping those effects up).
a) Trade House
The game needs a Trade House.
It’s a different kind of need, though. I’m not sure the introduction of a Trade House (or Auction House) would change Guild Wars that much today, and I don’t think it would add a vital function to Guild Wars 2. But it is a feature asked very often by the players, and one whose absence in GW2 would upset part of the player base enough to launch a massive wave of complaints.
In order for a Trade House to be effective, it needs some properties in order to be made better than the current “WTS spam” we see in GW1 – given how many GW1 players will likely move to GW2, if the trading system of the new game isn’t much better than in the old one, it’s likely that many players would just keep doing what they are used to doing (a scenario that we already saw, for example, in the introduction of the “Looking for Group” feature). A Trade House would, then, need:
• To be global. A Trade House that only benefits a small area around the player (for example, by having one independent Trade House in each outpost) would reach almost the same audience as just spamming “WTS”. The game needs a unified system that takes all items for sales, no matter where the seller was, and makes them available to players everywhere.
• To be organized. Assuming it works, and thanks to being global, the Trade House would quickly be overwhelmed with items. For buyers to find anything, the Trade House needs a strong Search feature, one allowing the players to filter what they see as much as they want. Using items from GW1 in order to make an example, we would need a division between professions, in each profession a division per kind of weapon (wand/focus/staffs for casters, for example), a division per attributes for weapons that may have more than one attribute (the casters’ weapons), a way to sort by the prefix, suffix, requirement or inscription, and, in each of those, ways of sorting, for example by price. • For example, a player who wants to buy a Necromancer staff for Blood Magic, with an Insightful Staff Head giving +5 energy. He would access the Buying interface, then chose Necromancer items, then Staffs, then Blood Magic Staffs, then choose to sort by prefix, and scroll to the section with Insightful staffs, that would be sorted by price. Alternatively, he would have been able to use the Search to search directly for a staff with an Insightful staff head requiring Blood Magic.
• To be easy to use. Given how making people use this feature is an important goal, the Trade House has to be as easy to use as possible – which means, not only the interface has to be easy to understand (which goes a bit against the previous point…), but players should not have to pay anything in order to place an item to be sold, and pay no additional fee in order to buy anything. The amount of items that may be sold per player at any given time should be limited to a reasonable number, in order to prevent players from just putting anything they find it in the Trade House (cluttering it with white items, using an example from GW1).
• To be usable when logged off. Ideally, a player would be able to leave an item to be sold, log off, and, once the item has been sold, the gold would automatically be transferred to the seller, even while he’s still logged off. This may be combined with the limit on the number of items to be sold at any given time: when choosing the “Sell Item” interface, the player would be shown some item slots (in the size of a Storage tab we have in GW1) where he may place items he wants to sell, together with a price. Once all item slots are filled with items to be sold, the player would be unable to sell anything more until one of his items is bought by someone. When an item is bought, the gold would be sent directly to this interface, to be withdrawn by the player the next time he accesses the “Sell Item” interface.
I have been saying “Trade House”, as opposed to an “Auction House”, as I believe the system would be better without auctions: the seller just sets a price, and the first person willing to buy, who has enough gold, buys the item for that price. This would be simpler than having auctions, harder to scam (auctions may be easily manipulated), and it would favor competition among sellers (with a tendency of lowering prices) as opposed to competition among buyers (that would create a tendency of increasing prices).
b) Fighting Against Bots
All MMORPGs have to deal with Bot Farmers, tools employed to farm gold and sell it for real life money. The best way to deal with this, in my opinion, is to reduce the demand for gold, making the existence of gold sellers pointless. This could be done by giving rewards that cannot be bought, rather earned through play.
Currently, Guild Wars has both these aspects. The achievement in earning FoW armor, for example, is to get enough gold to buy it (and that process is made faster by buying gold from the Bot Farmers). The achievement in earning the Vanquisher title is to defeat enemies in Hard Mode, something that cannot be helped by Bot Farmers since it has nothing to do with gold. Both are long range goals that may keep a player interested in the game long after he has finished the main missions…Yet one attracts Bot Farmers, the other does not.
Therefore, my suggestion is to not reward the acquisition of gold. GW2 should base its rewards on achievements earned through gameplay – so, if GW2 had a FoW armor, for example, it would not be an armor that costs more than all the others, rather the reward for doing some hard and time consuming task such as Vanquishing a continent is today. This way, we would keep an element of grind and a long term goal to keep players around for a longer time, but it would not favor Bot Farmers – rather it would be a more direct reward.
"What about gold sinks?" The problem of gold sinks is that they often increase the demand for gold – they are not only “sinks” (as in, ways for the players to use the gold they have earned by playing), but they also encourage players to farm in order to get them, and by creating incentives to farm, it also favors Bot Farmers. GW2 should have gold sinks, and only gold “sinks” – things that are expensive, but that a player would be able to afford just by playing the game, so they would be a way to remove gold from the economy, not an incentive for players to add more to it. The perfect example of a gold sink in GW1 are the 15k armors – they are expensive, yet they are not so expensive that a player would need to farm in order to get them. By keeping a similar “soft” gold sink in GW2, we would have both a casual goal for players (something in between nothing and the more advanced rewards mentioned above), and a goal for the players who are willing to farm but not to do any of the other activities in the game, as they would be the only ones who would have multiple sets of 15k armor or equivalent in GW2.
c) Loot Scaling?
Ignoring for a moment the controversy around this update, if Arena Net would like to add this feature to GW2, I would suggest doing so right at the beginning of the game – the impact of loot scaling in GW1 has been less beneficial than it could have been since the amount of gold some players obtained through farming before the change is already too big. This is one decision that should be done before the game is released – later, it would only call for complaints from those who have been hit by the change.
a) Power and Balance
One of the main differences between GW and conventional MMORPGs is the lack of “uber” items – items so much more powerful than everything else that players waste months grinding in order to get them, getting a considerable advantage over other players as a result. The link between PvE and PvP prevented such “uber” items from existing in GW1, and, with said link being partially removed, they could exist in GW2.
However, I would suggest to keep the same item system GW1 has – a “better” item is better thanks only to having a better, more detailed skin, as opposed to having better stats. “Uber” weapons have more or less the same problems than a higher level cap, but it is made worse by how items may be sold and bought. If an item is more powerful than everything else, either the game will be balanced for that item (meaning everyone without it would experience a harder difficulty than intended), or it will be balanced for the lack of that item (meaning players with it would experience an easier difficulty than intended, and as result would be more likely to get bored with the lack of a challenge and just stop playing). Even worse, when grouping with other players, items may become a source of discrimination – if a player doesn’t have one of the weapons with better stats, he would be shunned by groups in favor of those who do. This would hit new players the worst, and could end with old players selling high stat items to new players (for amazingly high prices, of course) just to allow them to be accepted in groups.
(One way to minimize the later problem would be to add level restrictions to items, unlike what we have in GW1. But that has its own problems – mostly how it adds a second grind – having to reach level X – to another one – having to find the weapon in the first place. It would lead to new players not only seeking to buy powerful weapons to be accepted in groups, but also for them to want to be leveled quickly in order to use those weapons.)
b) Changing the Items Inside and Out
One novelty that came with Nightfall is the inscription system – together with the old weapon mods we have always had, now we’re able to change a weapon almost completely if we want to do so. This is a very good thing, and one that I would suggest to be kept in GW2 – the freedom of adapting a drop from something nearly useless to something very powerful is amazing, especially in a game that relies on random drops. This system makes it possible to use even the old “Items as rewards for quests” we saw in Prophecies – while those items were often of limited use and were later removed (with reason) from Factions, to give “blank” weapons to be modded as we desire would be an interesting quest reward – especially if the reward is a rare skin hard to found elsewhere.
c) The "Let’s go kill a boss but I hope you disconnect" Syndrome
This is a very interesting, if rarely discussed, change that Arena Net is introducing in GW1, and one that I hope will be seen in GW2 as well. As soon as green items were introduced, many players got together to kill bosses and maybe would get a green weapons – but despite how the team worked together, the items only dropped to a few party members. This led to an interesting development; while team play was favored, some players would be somewhat glad if part of the team disconnected right before that boss died, so it would be more likely they would be the ones to get that green weapon. The problem worsened when the “mini dungeons” of the Ruins of the Tombs of Primeval Kings, the Deep and Urgoz’s Warren were released; all three areas are (more or less) hard areas in which the team had to work together in order to win, but the reward at the end would be randomly assigned to a few players, leaving others (sometimes the majority) without the reward they were looking for.
Arena Net found a simple and elegant solution to this; chests that appear once the big enemy at the end of the area is killed, and that each party member may use to get a rare item. In this way, we remove part of the random elements in the reward system and ensure that everyone who was a part of the team is going to get at least something for finishing the challenge – an idea that not only favors team play (making it less important to enter areas with as few party members as possible), but is also more fair. This system, seen first in the Domain of Anguish and recently implemented in the Factions Elite Missions, was a great addition to the game and one I hope is coming back to GW2.
XI) Final Notes
Lastly, I would like to wish good luck to Arena Net : D It was a bold move to decide to launch GW2, but I think that was needed, as GW1 would soon become just “more of the same”. I hope Arena Net will be able to keep all the many good things that make the first incarnation of Guild Wars the great game it is, and hopefully implement features that will make the second game even better.