Flameseeker Chronicles: Getting to grips with Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire mounts

ArenaNet dedicated last week to all things mounts, so it stands to reason that I’d simply have to provide you with a run-down of the flashy new expansion inclusions for Guild Wars 2: Path of FireRather than filling a perceived travel efficiency gap, the steeds created for PoF include a fairly extensive suite of travelling tools that help set them apart from the run-of-the-mill mounts in more traditional MMOs. These mounts are built to feel weighty and move realistically, changing how the player interacts with the virtual environment and allowing for more freeform map designs than ever before.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’m going to discuss all things mounts and dig into the development rationale behind them. I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on how the mounts might impact future map development and change how we approach travelling in Tyria as well.

Changing scales in PoF maps

One of the most immediately noticeable benefits of mount mechanics being introduced in PoF is seen in map sizing and open-floor scale: From early in-studio playthrough accounts and the testing weekend, we already have a solid idea of how appreciable the scale difference between Heart of Thorns maps and the new PoF maps will be. Of course, there are few better environment settings to really suit the open scale afforded to this expansion by mounts than the deserts, so for me, the timing on the inclusion of mounts is impeccable. Just when we might need a little pep in our characters’ steps to navigate more effectively, the mounts come along and offer not only that speed boost, but also a suite of movement utilities.

I imagine vast expanses of arid outcrops, waves of sand as far as the eye can see, sandstorm-decayed rock formations to leap on, and oasis-type breaks in the harsh terrain when I think of desert designs, and mounts most definitely allowed the ArenaNet team to deliver on this front without leaving the player struggling to navigate a samey wash of beige. Verticality is one of those buzzwords that always comes to mind from Heart of Thorns map design discussions, and while the layering was technically impressive on those smaller maps and was thematically just as clever as using more open spaces for a desert theme, I feel as though I personally understand the more low-key, fluid verticality that comes along with the mounts far better.

Portable, flavourful movement mechanics

One of the major mechanical breakaways afforded by mounts in my mind is the portability factor offered by mounts. Older masteries are very location-sensitive and normally rely on the presence of static interactive terrain objects to use, which automatically limits the use of imagination in navigating older maps. How many times have you looked up at a canopy or outcrop in a HoT map and wished that a bouncing mushroom was placed to allow access, only to have to loop around the structure to find the developer-envisioned access point instead? Mounts, aside from speeding us up, allow players to tackle an environment in a way that is sensible to them rather than ultimately railroading players through a predesignated, preferred path.

Tack onto this the fact that each mount adds a diverse set of movement tools and it’s clear that GW2 mounts are not simply a new skin on a convenient vehicle: Each animal has an absolutely distinct form of motion that just feels right. Of course, we’ve only been hands-on with the raptor, but the last week has shown us the other mount types in motion. The springer feels hoppy and bottom-heavy, with powerful bounding strides and ginormous vertical leaps that tie in beautifully with the mount’s combat engagement. Contrast this with the skimmer’s undulating, fluid hover or the raptor’s rangy, wild charging and a picture emerges of mounts with unique personalities. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the movement features came before choosing the mount that would best represent that toolset: Need was prioritised over aesthetics, and that shows in the end design of each mount.

Engagement skills

Whenever there are speed and motion differences between the character and the mount, it stands to reason that the transition between one and the other could be jarring without paying due attention to the switch visuals and mechanics. Dismounting is fluid, with the mount zipping in and out with a smooth lowering or raising of the player model, but what happens when a character is moving in and out of combat? In PoF, the other major expansion feature is a new set of elite specialisations, so the mount development team were cautious to protect the wow factor of the new elite specs by not bringing mounts strongly into the combat sphere as well to avoid putting both new features in direct competition with one another.

This left the developers with a little bit of a conundrum to solve, and this is where the development of engagement skills came into play. Rather than awkwardly stalling the commencement of combat to facilitate dismounting, each mount has a unique way to dip, dive, or roll into combat, dealing some damage and bringing the player seamlessly into battle. I particularly love the springer’s cannonball and the raptor’s enemy pull upon engagement and I do hope it makes the regular dismounting as smooth as it can be.

The programming behind mounts

Each mount was considered individually when it comes to the under-the-hood stats, which allows for much more common-sense use of those movement tools. One small but important example is that a springer can take much more fall damage than its counterparts: It makes sense that a creature that is designed to make great vertical leaps would also be able to absorb the resultant impact. Mount scale was programmatically challenging: All of the final mounts were at one point much larger than they are as we know them — the skimmer was approximately 30% bigger at the beginning — but the map and screen clutter considerations outweighed the desire to have physically intimidating mountable creatures. Nobody wants a world boss to be dwarfed by obnoxious mounts or to lose city buildings behind some rather ginormous derrieres!

The mount models actually scale slightly to character models too, just to ensure that no character is swamped or giantised on the mounts. This scale is within a natural tolerance level for the creature and although I did notice that my charr friends seemed to sit taller on their raptors, it wasn’t a jarring visual at all. The variable height and movement styles of the mounts required very separate approaches to this engagement, and I love that the engages use the height or speed factors to create unique battle commencement visuals.

Motion sickness and settings to try

I was delighted to hear that the motion sickness complaints have been taken seriously, having suffered pretty badly myself during the weekend playthrough. I found that many of the gorgeous tricks that make mounts feel so realistic built up to create a nauseating visual experience and I was unfortunately not alone in feeling this way. During the mount-related Guild Chat, the team stressed that new camera controls would help to reduce the impact the mounts have on those who are easily made motion sick. I’m hoping that this additional control over the visuals pays off for me because the mounts appeal to me greatly in every other way.

Roy Cronacher, the Mounts Team Lead, admitted to struggling himself while finding the mounts’ starting point for those flashy effects, and he also felt ill when tuning the features for showcasing. Reducing visual blur, camera rolling, and other flashier visuals should do the trick for people like me, with any luck. The graphical effects could be much more noticeable since they’re apparently only tuned to around 5% of what they could potentially be, but that’s not a great deal of consolation if that 5% still makes you feel unwell. This is an aspect of the expansion that will undoubtedly make me nervous until I get to test it out again.

Over to you!

How are you feeling about mounts after mount week? If you missed the mammoth Guild Chat on mounts, you should catch up: The conversation was very interesting from a design aspect, and the developers’ enthusiasm is positively contagious. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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22 Comments on "Flameseeker Chronicles: Getting to grips with Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire mounts"

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Krista Allen

Sorry, GW2 having mounts won’t be enough to bring me back. There is zero sense of character progression in the game

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Paragon Lost

“Reducing visual blur, camera rolling, and other flashier visuals should do the trick for people like me, with any luck.” -Tina Lauro

Honestly Tina, I’m not risking it. I’ll throw money at an mmorpg repeatedly and am one of those whale players. That said motion sickness kicks my ass big time and makes me miserable after playing a really short time for hours and hours most of the time. I end up just laying down, closing my eyes and hope to die.

So I have no plans at this point on risking buying this one at this time on the chance of any luck. Funcom taught me a lesson and I won’t accept relearning it from ArenaNet.

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Yuri Geinish

The mounts are very well done. The bunny though looks quite out of place. It looks more fit for a kids platformer game.

abyssalstar
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abyssalstar

This is a game with glider skins that look like bubbles or wings that trail musical hearts behind them. The bunny mount is not that unusual.

miol
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miol

They mentioned, it was initially a more reasonable looking kangaroo, but of course they couldn’t help themselves… :/

miol
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miol

If they already feel not being able to juggle mounted combat and elite specs at the same time in this 2nd cycle, I’m worried for every new elite spec coming for the 3rd expansion!

It could have also been solved with a very sensitive dismounting mechanic or by simply making them not as viable but for casual solo PvE!

Anyway…

Dear Anet, from now on please stop teasing us then with adding any more enemies who are able to do mounted combat ingame, like the Mordrem Cavalier, or any concept art depicting it! :/

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Josh

Umm…what? ANet never promised mounted combat, so I’m not sure how you felt “teased”. Was it because they gave open and honest perspective into their development process after the fact? If so, then that’s on you.
As for “how” they should have solved it, your suggestion would be terrible. If they would have added in full mounted combat that was useless everywhere except for casual open world PvE, the community would have been in uproar, justifiably. That would have been an incredible waste.
They made a fair compromise by giving the dismount mechanic a combat interaction.

miol
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miol

Since when is a promise part of the concept of teases?! o.O

A concrete promise would have been WAAAAAY beyond that, sir!
As you really need that to be spelled out for you!

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Josh

I think you may have somehow misread or misunderstood my post.

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Alex Willis

I’ve really only started playing GW2 again regularly in the past 2 months, and I had not done any HoT content before I had stopped last time. So the ways that gliding opens up the map and exploration have been really fun and eye-opening to me. So the news that terrain is being done in concert with new modes of travel is so great to me. While I understand that some older areas will feel “underdesigned” relative to the mounts, I don’t think it will be too bad a clash. On the whole, I think they’re a very positive addition and MANTA RAY MANTA RAY MANTA RAY

…ahem. Anyways, question for those better versed than I am: will mounts be allowed in WvW? If so, they are going to change the shape of zergs pretty substantially. And if not, people are going to get PISSED at how long it takes to move anywhere.

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Terren Bruce

We don’t know for sure yet, but they did recently add gliders to WvW using a territory system where you are allowed to glide only in territories your world controls. My theory is this system will be expanded to include mounts, meaning maintaining a route that your mounts can use will be rather important.

miol
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miol

They already tried mounts in WvW way back when they were testing the new Desert Borderlands with those Charr bikes and it didn’t work out!

It felt there were much less strategic roaming, promoting senseless zerging, and no chances for any surprise attacks as the reaction time for defenders with mounts was way faster, before there was even enough time to tear down a wall or gate! Aside from making the maps fell very tiny with the much higher speed!

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

I love the mounts. The thing I like most about them is that the mounts in GW2 have skills like the mounts in BDO but they are so different. It’s really great when you have two games you enjoy a ton both do something well and totally different from each other. More games could stand to glean a few things from both games but still find a way to make their own version interesting.

The thing about mounts I don’t like is they are effectively versions of HoT masteries in mount form except now ArenaNet has a clever way to sell you skins for game play mechanics you’ve already spent a ton of time with in HoT. For example, the bunny mount is just a jumping mushroom with a cute skin that won’t be very cute or desirable once they have a WAY better bunny mount replacement skin in the gem store. Sure, the bunny is a mobile version of said jumping mushroom, but its a version of it that ArenaNet will monetize extensively whilst still not offering enough earnable new armor skins in game.

Cash shop monetization makes sense if there’s a balance of earnable rewards vs. cash shop offerings. This can be abused though. There’s still nothing that is as rewarding as earning skins for these mounts would be. Sadly, ArenaNet take way too long implementing promised stuff like earnable Legendary skins in comparison with their clockwork-like cash shop offerings.

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Josh

With the cost of making any decent game nowadays, microtransactions are just a reality of the business. At least in GW2, they’ve kept it to only be a cosmetic thing.
Also, I don’t see how your comparison of stationary bouncing mushrooms strictly within HoT fits against a mount that gives vertical mobility to every map in the game.
And why are you griping about earnable rewards? A) All “cash shop” items are earnable with in-game currency via exchange and B) We won’t even know of all skins directly from the game until later.
However, the flashiest and most prestigious armor skins are still strictly from earning in game (legendary armor).

7BitBrian
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7BitBrian

I mean technically them selling mount skins is pure speculation atm. They haven’t said whether they will or will not despite being asked alot. And data miners haven’t even found any new mount skins.

So while it’s likely to happen; maybe we should hold off on criticising HOW they sell mount skins until we know IF they are going to sell them, and the hold off again until we actually see how they implement it?

Maybe? Seems reasonable enough to me.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Based on their track record they will 100% sell mount skins and they will come out as regularly as other skins in the cash shop have over the course of the past 5 years. What I said wasn’t wild speculation and unjust criticism.

The only skins they have a spotty record of releasing in a timely fashion are earnable skins. The legendary skins Colin promised in 2012 didn’t come out until HoT and they hid them behind the paywall of HoT. When he promised those legendaries, ArenaNet weren’t even considering paid expansions much less hiding promised earnable legendary skins behind a non-existent expansion paywall.

The criticism isn’t baseless. It’s based on their track record.

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Josh

How else do you expect ANet to pay the bills? If they made all mount skins free items given out like candy within the game, do you think the playerbase would suddenly start mailing cash donations to the devs? Or do you think that all the post-launch content will just come from devs who decide to work for free??

7BitBrian
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7BitBrian

Oh I see, we’re pushing more of the “colin promised this” stuff even though it’s been shown multiple times that he never officially promised anything, just talked about things they were working on bringing to game. And never said they would be for free.

It’s why ANet stopped talking to the community, because people took everything they ever mentioned in passing as a damn promise. And now people complain they dont communicate enough.

And it’s all subjective anyways, people always say the Gem store gets the best stuff, but thats not true if you dont like those skins. Hell going by the AH alone the most desirable stuff in the game is only earnable in game, Legendaries and infusions, and there is not way to get something like it in the gem store at all.

While there are valid criticisms about ANets cash shop this really shouldn’t be one. Especially in a B2p/F2P title that gives out so much free content to it’s players rather than charging for each DLC individually or on a per month basis just to play.

And I still cant believe people are bitching about something that hasn’t even been implemented, or even talked about being implemented, yet, just because they “know how it will be”. Seriously. -_-

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Alex Willis

There is zero reason to believe there won’t be cash shop skins. We’re all playing the same game; we know they will sell skins. Let’s not pretend like it’s not going to happen!

And I for one am 100% OK with this. It’s exactly the kind of thing a cash shop can and should support.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

if you go back and read my original comment I am not criticizing cash shop skins. I am criticizing the disparity between how regular cash shop offerings are and how irregular in game earnables are.

the cash shop stuff gets put up always on time but there have been myriad times they’ve said things are coming for us to earn only for them to be delayed by literal years or just never mentioned again and never coming out with no response as to why.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I certainly hope there are skins for sale. Customizing your character with fluff is one of the best parts of any game. Since we know that cash shops keep most games running, hoping for more fluff in the cash shop is just common sense.

Being able to earn fluff in game is important, but I see nothing in GW2 that makes me think that would ever happen outside the seasonal festivals, if then. ANet has no history of giving the most sought-after fluff items as in-game rewards. So, yup, if there are going to be skins for mounts (still highly speculative) they will be cash shop items, as they should be.

7BitBrian
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7BitBrian

Technically, based on price, the most sought after fluff items are infusions, and are only earnable in game.

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