Flameseeker Chronicles: Examining Guild Wars 2’s winter 2016 update plans

    
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Guild Wars 2 Game Director Colin Johanson dropped a massive amount of information about the direction development will take in the first quarter of 2016 and beyond in his Q1 state of the game update yesterday. This is the second of this sort of update since the launch of Heart of Thorns and it most definitely hasn’t disappointed in its scope and breadth of information. General comments on ArenaNet‘s development rationale paired up with plenty of welcome Q1 improvements that will begin rolling out as soon as January 26th as well as more far-reaching outlines for the rest of 2016 that cover future expansion development, more fractals, a major overhaul of WvW, and the commencement of the Living World Season 3. With so much ground covered in one dev post, I thought it’d be helpful to summarise that information and add my thoughts for this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles.

gw2 winter 2016 update

Keynote information

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.

–Colin Johanson

gw2 winters day

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.

gw2 new year

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!

GW2 image

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.

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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209vaughn
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209vaughn

Can someone explain to me how WvW fits into the context of GW2 lore?  Like why am I teleported to some unknown land fighting these people for some unknown reason?

psizone
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psizone

I wish you didn’t breeze past the part where the WvW overhaul that was originally supposed to be part of HoT has been delayed again with no information given and it will have a beta sometime later this year (too vague for a game mode full of unrest).

The forums and reddit are both calling out for answers from devs (one of the few times both sites are in unison about an issue) and so far nothing has been commented on.

https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/wuv/Big-WvW-overhaul-later-this-year

WvW – Better Communication from Guildwars2

imayb1
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imayb1

TomTurtle Serrenity Tom, that’s my biggest issue with HoT, too: time. If I login at the ‘wong’ time, I can’t get things done in the new maps. In Verdant Brink, I have about a 10-min. window to get the last couple of POI I need for map completion. In Auric Basin, I bump up against full maps and disorganized ones. Tangled Depths is still very confusing to me and I don’t want to be there. Dragon Stand is a two-hour slog (IF you get in at the ‘right’ time) with pushy commanders demanding I go here or there, regardless of what I feel I need to do. As a result, I don’t spend much time in the new maps except to hit the flax farm. Most of what I need I get in Silverwastes, anyway…

Ata1
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Ata1

All changes sound really good. I am most excited about the WvW changes coming in 2 weeks. 

I really like the new WvW map, but what was killing it for me was the Automated upgrade system. The upgrade system made it so that my efforts as a solo/small group player did not count for much due to reduced dependance on supply.

The upgrade changes coming in two weeks along with changes to Rally, Player Revival and PPK will make WvW shine for me again.

BritoBruno
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BritoBruno

alexjwillis Bring me now Forgal and Sierra and i’ll be the happiest player in the world.
And Traeharne too please, i like the guy.

BritoBruno
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BritoBruno

“This means a focus on new content and polish for our existing, successful parts of the game. ”
RIP WvW, nvr fgt.

Superbrak
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Superbrak

TomTurtle I think Kralk is next as well, but not because of the Shatterer getting an upgrade. Tequatl’s upgrade didn’t really mean much lorewise.
All I know is if I were Kralk, I’d have a keen interest in the offspring of my traitorous lieutenant hatching in Auric Basin. Vengeful, murdery interest.

TomTurtle
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TomTurtle

confectionally Heart of Thorns felt rushed in ways and the story was one aspect that suffered for it. It was serviceable, but they could stand to do better, I agree.
I have to wonder if one complication ArenaNet faced was trying to balance the immediacy of fighting an Elder Dragon before it gains too much power against other details such as characterization. I imagine the Living World will slow things down a bit to allow for some more story depth. I hope it’ll be good, but I’ll refrain from expecting that at this point.

TomTurtle
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TomTurtle

Line with more hugs I am not a fan of snow environments so I’m dreading the content focused on Jormag.
Bubbles is an intriguing mystery that I have to wonder if ArenaNet would manage to find a way to make the content above water or not. But who knows, maybe they intend to rework underwater content and are saving it for that dragon like you mentioned.

As for Tangled Depths, I appreciate the artistic design and intent for that map, but it doesn’t really work all that well in practice. That was the most overwhelmingly complex map in Heart of Thorns, and it doesn’t help the chakk are frustrating to fight against.

Superbrak
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Superbrak

confectionally I did find it kind of funny that Colin says “all these questions await you in LS3!” and not “all these questions will be answered in LS3!” when talking about it in the blog post.