Johanson deftly wielded some reassuring buzzwords throughout his introduction that I wanted to highlight before we launch right into dissecting the content of his update. I appreciate the emphasis on “a more balanced focus,” especially since some of the features that have been mapped out for 2016 have been rather neglected priorities for a year or more. A dedication to depth instead of a breadth of content is news to my ears for much the same reason: I feel as though the ANet team has really taken on board the HoT and pre-expansion criticism levied by the fans and is now using that to reshape its collective approach to development. I’d like to think that the team isn’t so focused on the development of a second expansion that the issues we have presently will go ignored, and the regular seasonal updates should help the team to maintain that direction.
Over the years, Guild Wars 2 has built up a wide variety of content and feature types. 2016 is the year where we’ll be focusing on the parts of Guild Wars 2 that have been most successful and giving our full attention to those areas by adding depth to them. This means a focus on new content and polish for our existing, successful parts of the game. Though our big overhaul for World vs. World is still not ready for prime time, all other parts of the game are at a point where we can focus entirely on polishing the systems we have and continuing to add new content via live updates and our next expansion.
Winter 2016 update (January 26)
The first of the promised quarterly updates will come to us in a mere two weeks and will bring with it a truckload of quality of life improvements and significant additions across almost every one of the main gameplay features. We’ll be able to put our gliders to use in Central Tyria: This will be available to every account that has unlocked the Glider Basics mastery in the Heart of Thorns mastery section. The Shatterer is receiving a revamp that includes additional challenging elements, a new achievement category, and increased rewards that include a unique new back slot item. Fractals are receiving several neat wee quality of life improvements that includes the ability to adjust the difficulty from within the fractal.
Event participation rewards will be more reflective of the new emphasis on combat roles, so healers and support builds who land some hits will gain additional credit for heals, condition removal, and boon application. The Squad UI is also getting some neat new tools that introduce lieutenants and squad markers. There’s a major emphasis on PvP, which isn’t surprising considering that the esports push is here to stay and Johanson views this avenue as critical to the game’s continued success. We’ve previously heard about the WvW upgrades and differences to how rallying and reviving works in WvW, and we now have a date to place beside these improvements. We’ll also welcome a new Stronghold Mist Champion called Tybalt Leftpaw, and there are major balance adjustments coming for each profession. Whew, that’s one big update, and that’s not an exhaustive list either!
Firstly, I’m impressed with how extensive this update is planned to be: If this is indicative of how meaty each of these seasonal updates will be throughout 2016, I’ll be delighted with development progress. I’m a little bit worried about how gliding will be handled in Central Tyria, especially with so many jumping puzzles and hard-to-reach but totally rewarding vistas that could potentially be affected by this new sort of map navigation. Will we see some invisible walls surrounding jumping puzzles, perhaps? I can’t wait to find out how it’ll work! We had hints of what was coming in this update, but it’s nice to see it all tied together.
The rest of Q1 (January 26 – late February)
The Lunar New Year kicks off in Divinity’s Reach on January 26th with the Winter 2016 update and runs until February 9th. It’s set to be a fun-filled fortnight packed with fireworks, Dragon Ball PvP, and the usual decorations. The next raid wing, Salvation Pass, opens up some time in this quarter too: We’ll have new bosses to smash up against, new masteries, new rewards, and further progress toward our legendary armour. A new PvP League season kicks off on February 23rd as we’ve already heard, and the Pro League Season One finals happen next month too.
I love new year events in MMOs, and GW2‘s Lunar New Year event is no different, so I’m really glad to see its return. Just say the word fireworks and I’m there! I’m super stoked for the next raid wing, and I’m particularly intrigued about the new masteries: I have no idea what those are going to be, but I love the mechanics that have been used so far. I’m not a fan of PvP, but I’m hoping that the PvP League does well after the push it’s had. Nothing in this section is particularly shocking, and it seems to fit in quite well with my 2016 predictions, so bonus cool points for me!
The rest of 2016
Aside from plenty of hard graft on the next expansion, we don’t know very much about what the development plan is for the rest of this year. ArenaNet doesn’t often discuss content that isn’t ready for our scrutiny, so this section remains fairly brief. We’ll see Living World Season 3 later this year and it’ll pick off directly where the expansion’s story left off. I love how the story flows so neatly in GW2, and I can’t wait to see where we go from the point at which we’ve been left off. I want to keep my column spoiler-free for another month or two to let everyone have time to explore the story for themselves, but if you want some hints regarding the questions that Season 3 might answer, check out Johanson’s update post.
We know that the fractals are getting some major development time this year: I’m looking forward to some new fractals, a rebalance of the existing fractals, and the promised “additional reasons to play all the different fractals” too. Last but by no means least is the big WvW update that has been in the pipeline for a long time that will hopefully eradicate some longstanding issues with population balance, rewards, and scoring.
Over to you!
I believe that ArenaNet has taken on board much of our criticism from 2015. This dev blog is perhaps one of the most detailed overviews we’ve received recently, which is a brilliant sign that communication about future content will be more explicit in future. What do you think? What are you most excited for in the quarter ahead and in 2016 in general? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.