Flameseeker Chronicles: Recapping Guild Wars 2 in 2015

    
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The holiday season is well and truly upon us, so it’s that most wonderful time of the year during which the Massively OP reporters cast their minds back over their game-specific 2015 column entries to remind you of the highs and lows over the last year. ArenaNet has had a particularly packed 2015, so I’ve plenty to cover before Guild Wars 2 rings in 2016. Of course, the launch of Heart of Thorns is the big talking point of the year, but there were plenty more points of interest during the last twelve months. In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll reflect on 2015 and recap the year, focusing on both ArenaNet’s and my personal highlights.

tina

The good

Picking up the Flameseeker mantle

It’s probably ridiculously obvious that my personal highlight of 2015 is taking on this column back in March. I can’t lie: I had some very big Toli-shaped shoes to fill and was justifiably very nervous about the goliath task I had ahead of me. After I can now say that I’m super-comfy with the column after riding out the ravaging storm that was the expansion launch, and I’m so pleased with how FSC is shaping up as we head towards the new year. I looked back on my introduction recently and realised that, if nothing else, I did manage to keep a strong hold on my enthusiasm for GW2 throughout 2015, and I actually adore the game perhaps even more now at the end of the year than I did at the beginning. I do try my best to temper that enthusiasm with some logical criticism and a healthy dose of skepticism, though, and I hope that came across in the last year’s column entries.

Interviews galore!

My absolute highlights in terms of 2015 content have to be the various interviews I’ve conducted over the last year. I love everything about them: Listening to new, exciting information, asking my questions and getting answers, and revisiting the nuances of the responses given as I transcribe the interview. The Hylek interview that outlines the tribal characteristics of the Maguuma Hylek made me fall in love with the race. Scott McGough’s enthusiasm is absolutely infectious and there were some great never-before-seen details in there that really hinted at how ANet would handle the mastery system before that plan was solidified to the public.

In a similar vein, I particularly enjoyed my mastery system interview with Crystin Cox at Gamescom since it was face to face and uncovered one of the most fundamentally game-changing new systems that HoT brought to the game. I’m cheating a little since this wasn’t technically part of my column, but the mastery exposé was so important to advancing us along the road to expansion launch that I had to include it as a 2015 highlight. I also got to reveal the Revenant’s elite spec to the interwebs, and the short interview with Roy Cronacher helped to solidify my opinion on the Herald and tease out more details than the press release had given me.

Silky smooth launch (for most at least)

As I highlighted in my launch diaries, the expansion launch was one of the cleanest MMO expansion launches I’ve been part of, so I have to give major props to the ANet gang for that. Most of us got through launch week with only minimal disruptions to the play experience, and those of us who were more inconvenienced were swiftly dealt with through the continual bug fixes and patches that filled HoT‘s launch week. The 64-bit client testing was a welcome addition shortly after launch as well, making the play experience that much smoother without running out of memory.

esports

The bad

Too-quiet start to 2015 / Lack of story updates

The biggest entry on my 2015 bad list is the lack of story progression during 2015 in the run up to HoT. I most definitely understand that creating such a hefty expansion is a huge undertaking that drains resources across the board, but I would have liked to have seen less of a pre-expansion lull during the first quarter of the year. Beta testing certainly helped when it began, but perhaps making some pre-beta story drops that helped to tease the HoT content a little more would have helped blast away the tedium felt by a solid proportion of the pre-expansion playerbase.

I’m imagining some more groundwork for the foot team entering the Heart of Maguuma, maybe some sort of path forging or jungle razing missions to make creating a foothold within the Jungle that little bit easier? I may be in the minority, but I actually enjoy completing the occasional mundane busywork in my MMOs because it makes being a hero feel that much more realistic: It can’t all be valiant rescues and epic battle you know!

The push of e-sports

I can’t sum up Guild Wars 2 in 2015 without mentioning e-sports! The buzzword has been hot on the lips of ANet’s PR team, but I wonder if the players support the movement as much as the hypetrain wants us to believe. The movement against the PvP pro league is so strong that Colin Johanson had to make a forceful statement in its defence on Reddit in which he said in no uncertain terms that the esports push was vital to the future growth of GW2. I can only agree with in insofar as the recent balance patches are needed and that balance should be continually reassessed because the game is so PvP focused right now, but I don’t think voicing our concerns on PvP and its future is really jeopardising the future prospects for the title.

raids

The contentious

I should preface this section by saying that while I enjoy each of the elements mentioned below, they have undoubtedly split opinion in the GW2 community to the extent that I couldn’t include them in the good section despite my personal enjoyment.

Raids

I actually have nothing but positive outpours and happy squees to add to the topic of raiding. I have been enjoying the first raid tier and I think the dedication promised by the team in regards to this new endgame content direction is most welcome, especially for those who are disappointed by the wishy-washy support of fractals and dungeons. My column has been filled with raiding information recently, and I particularly enjoyed smashing my head against raids because I knew I could create some boss guides.

As I mentioned, not everyone is convinced that raiding belongs in GW2, and that opinion comes from an understandable opinion that what made the game great was the lack of competitive, “hardcore” endgame content. Open-to-all, friendly content has always been a firm favourite of mine too, but I’m not convinced that such content has quite as much of a compelling endgame feel, which is perhaps why so many people incorrectly dubbed GW2 the MMO with no endgame.

Verticality

I have mentioned this several times before, but I really appreciate the verticality offered in the Jungle. It feels as though the team have moved a long way from the original experiments in verticality such as Dry Top to the amazingly rich jungle playground that is the Heart of Maguuma. I don’t think it would have worked as well as it does without the mastery system, so I’m very glad that ANet went in this direction for mastering the tricky jungle environment.

I have to acknowledge, however, that many other people are unimpressed with the new zone and what it brings to travelling, and that in fact many explorers feel railroaded by the mastery prerequisites that serve to block further exploration. For me, the two systems go hand in hand to make the Jungle seem vast, virtually unnavigable, and unforgiving for non-natives. I really like that we need to work to tame the wilderness, especially since it lies deep within enemy territory.

Barriers to endgame “completion”

I’ll wrap up this list by pointing out how much effort is required to gain full competency over your character and his or her environment in Heart of Thorns. I’m personally delighted that my character’s journey isn’t over within just a few short weeks, but a sizable amount of criticism was earned by ArenaNet for including questionable grinds within the new expansion. As a result, we witnessed the point requirement for maxxing out elite specializations plummet not long after the expansion released, and mastery requirements for story progression were also revisited. These changes are great compromises, reducing the grindy feel of the new mechanics without getting rid of the effort required and satisfaction that the expansion affords us.

Over to you!

2015 was filled with expansion hype, reactionary changes just after launch, and a newfound emphasis on competitive PvP. What were your highs and lows for Guild Wars 2 this year? Let me know your thoughts on how successful ArenaNet was in 2015 in the comments below.

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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boots2
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boots2

mosselyn “I’m sure they only did it that way because they had to due to resource constraints, but, please, never do that again.” 

You can’t have it both ways, with people constantly asking for an expansions, they thought “ok let’s do an expansion” and the result is of course not enough devs to work on the smaller regular updates.

skoryy
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skoryy

Its late and I’m late to the party, but let’s do this.

The good: 
– Verticality: One of my favorite parts of HoT is scanning the area and plotting ‘if I jump here and make that updraft and float over there and fall and hit my glider just right…’ Wandering the maps finding hero points, mastery points, and little things like lute-playing treefrogs has been a true joy.
– Elite Specs: Brazil showed me how awesome necromancers could be, Reaper cranked that up to 11. I love my vampire GS build. My Chronomancer’s pretty nifty from what I’ve tried with her and I’m eager to see how Dragonhunter and Scrapper fare. (Daredevil was meh, but that’s on trying to PvE with a PvP class.)
– The World: I have now decided I want a playable Itzel before a playable skritt. Sorry, shinies. Ameyalli provides. Tarir is gorgeous, the jungle is gorgeous, the Exalted are gorgeous, the Chak can die in a fire, and there’s still more to explore out there. I want to see it all!

The not good:
– The Story: Remember how this felt like this was the sylvari moment of the plot? Questions answered, old friends reuinted, the Nightmare given a place of prominence, old friends turned threats, long lost cousins found. Ha ha ha, no. We’ll fridge a couple beloved NPCs and tell you jack all about sylvari history. Malyck? Ronan’s cave? Other Pale Trees? “I’m not your enemy?” The Dream and Nightmare? OH HEY LOOK RAIDS AND WHITE MANTLE AND BLOODSTONES. I could feel the disappointment from my entire sylvari RP guild over this.
– Best Community My Leafy Posterior: Every day I log in to /r/GuildWars2 to see what new source of disappointment they’ve come up with and the ‘Best MMO Community’ never fails to deliver the invective and doom. Listening to the fanbase, you’d think this was Wildstar Mk II. Hundreds of upvotes this week for a post complaining about emptying bags. No, seriously, emptying bags. Of course, they profess to love the game, at which point better left unsaid comparisons come to mind and I figure I’m better off just Not Reading The Comments.  (Unless its Massively comments. >_>)

The maybe:
– Raids: I’m still waiting for some good ol’ fashioned raid drama to come along but so far the word from my guild and others has been positive. Still not doing them, even with my Reaper I’m still not that good.
– ESPORTS: I understand the Massively community eyes PvP much like a five year old eyeing a plate of liver and onions. Throw in a community more interested in shouting to the heavens about how everything’s unbalanced as opposed to L2P and I wonder why Anet bothers. But Colin says PvP is driving players to the game, and frankly with his job depending on it I think there’s weight to be taken in his words. Its fun and it puts a spotlight (good or bad) on the game. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

I thought 2015 was a terrible year for the game, expansion notwithstanding. In a game designed around the notion of constant small updates, going 3 quarters with nothing was terrible. I’m sure they only did it that way because they had to due to resource constraints, but, please, never do that again.
As far as the expansion goes, some of it works for me, some doesn’t. Since I’m not a raider, it nets out to a B/B+ for me. 
Good: The zones are nice to look at, populated with interesting monsters. The mastery system is OK (though I feel they’re really struggling to find a purpose for most of them beyond the 3rd tier). Gliding is the absolute bomb! I’m enjoying my Rev, and I like the variety introduced by the Elite specialization. Unlike a lot of people, I’m satisfied with the number of weapons and skins you can work towards in game (if not necessarily the means of doing so). Though I don’t like all of them, I like having Adventures in the game.

Bad: The zone-wide meta-event thing is over done for me. Too much repetitive, on-rails, clockwork play. I really hate having adventures and portions of zones blocked off or otherwise gated by the meta events, too. Guild Halls, in their current incarnation, are a bit of a flop to me, mostly due to the silly way they implemented scribing and the too-large space. I can’t imagine it ever being decorated enough to feel “lived in”.  I don’t WvW, but I have many guildies who do, and the expansion seems to have crushed that whole scene. I’m not usually one to grumble about bugs, but there have been an appalling number in the expansion.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

dragonwhimsy SomeNerdGuy 
I agree, at least in the aspect that Black Desert looks to be another ArchAge.  That game made people turn tail and run towards their previously abandoned/break from games.   And they just keep fumbling it more and more each month too.

dragonwhimsy
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dragonwhimsy

SomeNerdGuy People always say that about Korean games and it never happens. Once Black Desert actually comes out here it’ll just be another Aion or ArchAge.

woolydub
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woolydub

I think November/December were great for the game overall. The first 10 months? Deplorable. They had a sale for copies of the base game when they knew full well that with purchase of HoT, the base game would be included. They knew they were going “free to trial”. $10 is nothing but would I have spent it knowing that the base game would be included with HoT? Heck no.

Their communication needs work across the board. My guild had fun with HoT for about a month. These are fans of the franchise since it came out and people that have been playing GW2 since launch. No one is doing anything except daily logins anymore. With dungeons gone, and it taking two months to fix Fractals and also hiding fractal rewards behind the mastery system…sigh.

I get fired up about this game because I adore the base game. WvW is an unmitigated disaster. The lack of skill splits have hindered every mode at every turn. I adore PvP, but all the builds are elite spec builds. If e-sports is such a push for ArenaNet, why don’t they look to industry e-sports leaders(LoL/DOTA 2)and why their business models are so successful. Those games don’t hide the best specs(heroes0behind paywalls.

ArenaNet charged a premium price for this expansion. Where’s all the new armor sets to earn in game? Weapons? Backpieces? Earnable gliders? Why weren’t there any new hairstyles or faces thrown in for people who purchased HoT? HoT Fractals? I think they didn’t pad out the expansion as well as they could have for the premium nature of the price point.

I’ll close by saying that everyone I know enjoyed HoT immensely for a few weeks. No one I have talked to argues the quality of what’s there. It’s telling to me that no one is playing it anymore in my guild though. These aren’t casuals. These are people who adore the base game. The quality is there, but there just isn’t enough there to justify pricepoint. Fortunately though, there were day 1 gem shop outfits. Those couldn’t be thrown in the game to earn as a reward? You know, for playing the game with the $50 price tag?

NebHatesYou
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NebHatesYou

Control F -> WVW -> Straight to comments. (Had to double check!)

Come on yo.

hardy83
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hardy83

Quincha McGuffn hardy83 If you responded to me I may not have known. I wish livefyre had a little indicator like disqus does when people replied/liked your comments.

hardy83
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hardy83

McGuffn hardy83 It’s okay you pointed out my stupidity. lol I’m just happy to know that’s true.

McGuffn
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McGuffn

hardy83 Masteries are account bound, by definition you don’t need to do it on more than one character. Any progress you make on any of your characters is tied to your account mastery.

You can see this for yourself in game. Unlock gliding on your main character and magically, all your alts can glide too!