If you’re unfamiliar with the patch content, know that this is a long-awaited, largely reparative update that seeks to quell the most pressing issues the community is currently voicing. Zadorojny described the goals for the update as “reducing the perception of grind the players had with HoT, increasing the overall rewards and payouts the players get for playing the content, and getting to the fun faster.” Prepare for a long but worthwhile read: I’m hoping that this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles will help you figure out how valuable the patch will be for you and your guildmates, especially those of you who aren’t active right now. I’ve divided the information into handy content-specific sections, so feel free to scroll to the parts that are most relevant to you if you’re pressed for time.
The most surprising feature that was shown to me was the addition of a free level 80 booster for every HoT owner, both present and future players included. Hughes explained that “the max level boost is an item that’s delivered to the inventory through a new shared inventory slot, a sort of bank slot that’s available to all of your characters directly from their inventory windows. We’re adding that free slot with this item, which means you can access it on any of your characters. This new shared inventory slot doesn’t count towards your limit of how many you can buy from the gem store either, so it’s a nice bonus.”
Explaining the thought process behind introducing the max level token to all HoT owners when asked about its benefits for both old and new players, Hughes stated:”This certainly benefits new players, but at the same time we know that many people already have Heart of Thorns and are enjoying it, so we just give the boost to them as well so they can try another profession. In our game, masteries allow us to make level 80 such that it’s really your passport to everything else because we don’t have a vertical level progression system past the base levelling. You just need one level 80 and the whole world is open to you, so it’s a great way to maximise the potential of the expansion for the majority of players who don’t yet have a level 80.” I find the inclusion to be a very clever way to encourage the bulk of MMO players who never reach the level cap to explore what GW2 has to offer, especially since the expansion was so weighted towards improving the endgame.
Tangled Depths, Auric Basin, and Verdant Brink have all seen significant innovation happen within the original day/night cycle: The daytime participation trackers have been removed entirely in favour of more spread-out rewards that better facilitate exploration of the zones in question, and inventory issues have been remedied by reducing the amount of unstackable bag drops. The night cycle has retained its reward coordination since it best represents the coordinated, strategic nature of the events, but new once-a-day rewards will complement this alongside generally higher instances of chests, keys, event chain currency, and general rewards.
Finally, Dragon’s Stand is much more open and easier to navigate than before as, with the exception of the final boss area; the map is now accessible from the moment you walk in and the zone has twice the number of noxious pods as before. Enemies have been reduced along major pathways, and those pods now glow to make them easier to see as well.
The LFG tool has also had a significant revamp, enabling both raid and squad support and also three new categories. Raid teams can look for single raid members and likewise, raiders can find a suitable raid team, and this is complemented by the new raid lobby. Zadorojny described the lobby as an “explorable instance in the south of Lion’s Arch that will take you into an area with access to all of the raids via portals, all of the vendors you’ll need, and training dummies to allow you to start practicing before jumping in.” Roleplayers, newbies, and achievement hunters rejoice: Three new categories mean that the aforementioned community members can now receive support in their exploits.
Dailies have become much more exciting too: HoT-specific additions grace the usual lineup, and we’ll also start to see jumping puzzles, adventures, mini dungeons, and dungeons paths crop up too. The meta achievement for completing three dailies now pays out two gold as well to further incentivise regular play. The two legendaries promised during Mike O’Brien’s unfortunate announcement that further legendaries are indefinitely on hold have released too, and the shortbow comes with a complete legendary journey.
One of the major talking points of the session was understandably the WvW improvements, and I’m so glad that I have plenty to share with you in this respect. As Davis admitted, “There’s been a lot of buzz around WvW for a while now, and I know fans have been waiting for us to finally deliver something.” Changes to both matchmaking and rewarding WvW players should hopefully start improving this gameplay from Friday’s reset whenever the changes go into live beta. The two headline features for WvW are world linking and WvW reward track implementation, and Glicko will also see a reset this week to account for the large number of players who’ll inevitably jump into WvW to see the changes.
We’re basically trying to extrapolate and essentially guess what server populations are going to be like, especially around a new feature update or any sort of content drop. The other thing that’s kind of hard to quantify is how many players are going to return for this update, considering lots of the changes are directed towards WvW players and they’re things that they’ve been asking for for a very long time. I can imagine some number of players coming back to play the game again. — Joshua Davis
World linking is ANet’s solution to the population issues that have plagued WvW and isn’t permanent like a full-scale shard merge. World linking will “pair servers together using some criteria internally, such as server population at peak time, and group them together”, according to Davies, and is the process will “work slightly differently in EU because there are language considerations there.”
Reward track development is far from over, and I was reliably informed that a Gift of Battle reward track would be added with several more after the system comes out of beta testing to replace the vendors. Scouts won’t be left to suffer for the thankless job anymore, and now those who have been assigned the task will be able to earn participation points proportionally. Davis explained that “for every 5 players in your squad, your commander can designate a scout, and that scout will gain participation points based on the overall participation levels of the squad.”
A new ability line has also been added with some most welcome QoL benefits. The Provisions Master line will improve a player’s ability to loot and will grant players access to the portable provisioner. The portable vendor will require badges of honor for his wares and another new WvW vendor will swap your spare badges for 18 and 20 slot bags too. I’m glad to see a better use for the badges… I know so many of my in-game friends have plenty to spare.
“There are five levels of Provisions Master and pip one allows you to purchase a permanent portable provisioner from any WvW outfitter, allowing you to purchase siege weapon blueprints from anywhere in WvW. Pip two allows you to purchase tricks and traps from the permanent portable provisioner and level three allows you to purchase food and utility consumables. Level four — and this is one we’re particularly excited about — allows you to automatically pick up loot from fallen foes. It’s happening! The final tier increases the number of badges of honour found on looting fallen foes.” — ANet’s Joshua Davis
Stability stacks will be much easier to retain from now on due to several small yet important improvements to how WvW combat will work: “Stability is changing to have an internal cooldown,” explained Davis, “so that if you get twice with 0.75 seconds, it will only consume one stack of stability.” He admitted that “this alone is probably not enough to fix the whole ‘pirate ship’ meta that’s going on where players play very conservatively or passively where they use max range and two zergs would operate like pirate ships passing by and nuking across at one another,” but an additional change to CC fields complements the stack consumption nerf nicely to hopefully make WvW combat much more active in future since “now only the first 10 players affected will get CCed or will have a stability stack removed, and then the skill will fade away and disappear.”
Rounding off the pile of patch notes laid out in front of the ANet devs during our chat was a little pile of improvements made to several Conquest maps, mostly focusing on the outdated secondary mechanics that “have fallen out of style since release or they’re used differently in existing meta to account for how players approach the game since players are much better in general than they were three years ago,” according to Davis.
“We mainly focused on two of the maps, the first of which was Spirit Watch. This is very close to being a competitive map, it’s a beautiful map that is one of our most recent ones, all things considered. Every two minutes in Spirit Watch going forward, the orb will spawn and will be worth double points. It will remove all your skills from your bar and replace them with a ranged autoattack and an AoE stun.
Skyhammer has been a very polarising map for a long time… some players like it, but most don’t. It just didn’t feel good and was a bad experience, so now there’s a barrier on the entire outer perimeter of the map. We replaced the glass panels on the floor, and we reworked the secondary objective. On three minute intervals, the skyhammer gate will open and teams will fight for the skyhamer platform. If you capture the hammer, all points you don’t own will be neautralised and the hammer will fire at all points simulataneously.” — ANet’s Joshua Davis
I’m certainly pleased to see that more general PvP hasn’t been ignored, and I have to admit that it was the first of the improvements that I clambered to experience when I was let loose in the stage client. The maps definitely seem much more strategic and the secondary mechanics actually feel secondary for a change, which is quite a departure from the frantic races to control those features that I knew so well.
Over to you!
I want to know everything, people! How are you finding the expansion? Has it made the expansion more enjoyable for you? If you were an inactive player, has ArenaNet done enough to get you playing again? Let me know in the comments below.