Guild Wars 2 plans balance patch, addresses lockbox regulation as armor crafting woes continue

    
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We’ve got a bunch of scattered Guild Wars 2 news to cap off the week! First up: the balance patch. Unfortunately, in typical recent ArenaNet fashion, we don’t know that much about what it’ll actually include. Reddit is hopeful anyway.

“We wanted to let you know that next Tuesday the Systems team will be releasing a smaller balance update,” the studio’s Gaile Gray told players last night. “This update is coming out a bit earlier than we normally release a balance pass – consider it a little bonus! The release is focused around updating some weapon traits to make them more broadly usable and splitting some skills between game modes.”

As for the Belgian players blocked from purchasing gems? There’s an update for that now too. We previously reported that after several days of silence, ArenaNet confirmed that the decision was in accordance with Belgian gambling laws and that ArenaNet was hunting for “more flexible solutions.” Yesterday, Gray posted a follow-up along with an FAQ.

“We recently disabled Gem purchases for players located in Belgium. This action was in response to the Belgian Gaming Commission’s declaration that paid loot boxes violate Belgium’s gambling restrictions. We have now implemented a more refined system, which only restricts the purchase of loot boxes and related items, such as chest keys, dye kits, and certain packs by players located in Belgium. For players located in Belgium, you will see the following message when viewing these items ‘This item is not available for purchase in your region.’ All other items and purchases are now available.”

Players report that it’s not just keyed lockboxes affected; things like the mount lockboxes are also off-limits.

Finally, the September forum chat is coming to a close this afternoon, with – as Redditors have pointed outstill no dev response on the Sigil of Nullification uproar we covered earlier this week. There’s at least one fantastic player solution in the thread, too: “Just put a kitten NPC in LA that accepts any sigil in exchange for the [Sigil of] Nullification.” That’d do it.

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Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I started putting around on my Reaper in Desert Highlands but got sucked back into ESO after learning I’d won a Mansion.

I’ve got to figure out how to download GW2 Hook, need to find a setting that gives me shaders to make it look like ESO.

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Toy Clown

Is it too hopeful to think that GW2 devs might change the gambling part of their purchases with this?

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Goettel

I guess Belgian tax payers aren’t considered adults by law. Wouldn’t want people to make their own choices, right?

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Mordyjuice

To be fair until they started loosening the Gambling laws in the US it used to be you could not gamble unless you went to Atlantic City NJ, or Nevada; yet the US is full of at least 200 Million Free Thinking Adults (figure 100 million are minors).

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Schmidt.Capela

They can gamble. Belgium has a vibrant gambling industry, including online gambling; I believe this makes legal gambling in Belgium actually more accessible than in the US.

But the company that provides the gambling needs to obtain a gambling license, make very robust identity checks to guarantee no minor or other persons barred from gambling participate in it, and follow a number of other regulations meant to reduce the allure of gambling.

Game publishers don’t want that. Apart from how following the regulations would bar them from using a lot of the tricks that increase lootbox sales there’s also how it would impact their image; can you imagine the PR disaster if you could point to a publisher and say it literally had to obtain a gambling license to operate one of their games?

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Goettel

Thanks for clarifying. Since I’m in the Netherlands, which seems to my uninformed eye to have a similarly draconian law on gambling, I do wonder why our mild government repression hasn’t been extended with this little tad of (unnecessary, IMO) restriction. The argument for protecting minors is fine, but surely there has to be a better way to do that without the state shoving its nose in to get grip and a cut. I’d rather have parents keep their kids save (not to mention educated and responsible) than the Man.

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Schmidt.Capela

Gambling is regulated for two main reasons. Protecting minors and other vulnerable people is just one of those, and the one that can better justify regulating lootboxes.

But gambling is also strictly regulated because unregulated gambling is one of the most effective ways to launder money from crime or corruption. Worse, you often don’t even need the company behind the gambling to help with it, as criminals can instead purchase winning tickets from unsuspecting patrons.

There’s a third, if less known, reason for regulating gambling: because gambling debts can be used as leverage for blackmail. It’s why in Belgium no person involved in dispensing justice can take part in gambling, why in Korea company CEOs can go to jail for gambling, and why in Brazil you can’t sue anyone over gambling debts.

In short, the reasons for regulating gambling go far beyond merely protecting children.

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Barnoc N'Draak

I’ve gotten back into game after a 4 year absence and was going to roll a new char because I don’t trust myself to be competent with my ele anymore.

This gives more choice anxiety, any recommendations for pve?

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Arktouros

I’ve found Revenant to be pretty decent substitute for my Elementalist.

Lotta passive, tanky survivability built in with options to swap around as the situation requires with two sets of Utilities. Condi build is pretty easy to play and offers ranged options now with Short Bow (previously had to player Power with Hammer).

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Barnoc N'Draak

Hmm, thanks. I would not have figured that based on what little I know about them. I will have to check on out. Was actually going to get the xpacs today.

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Arktouros

Yea where the Ele swaps their main hand skills to elements the Revenant can choose two legends which are their utilities. So you can weapon swap with 2 weapons and you can utility swap with 2 legends. The downside is you’re locked into those legends in combat so whatever utility sets you got are what you got with no real options to swap out/in others.

However it’s pretty nice. For example you can throw on Mallyx for strong condi application (torment, burn, etc) but then you can swap your utility to Kalla legend which lets you drop down Spirits which act like Wells that buff or do AOEs. I’ll be doing a world boss or bounty and drop down Razorclaw’s Rage on my allies which all their attacks then inflict bleed for me.

The heavy armor, medium health pool, and strong boon focus for Herald is also very handy as well. Most of the game content I might have struggled if not playing top of my game on my glassy Elementalist can be done with ease by comparison with the Revenant.

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Mordyjuice

I tried Herald but I still get eaten alive compared to my Reaper.

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Arktouros

I mostly run Renegade with Mace/Axe with Short Bow and Mallyx/Kalla. This combo puts out a tremendous amount of conditions of various types to the point it usually can just brute force encounters with decent condi gear.

Herald is more difficult in that you typically have to run Sword/Shield and Glint trying to rotate defenses (Unrelenting Assault, Crystal Hibernation, Facet of Light) to keep yourself going on top of dodges of course. Damage output is a shadow of what it once was though due to all the nerfs because of SPvP and raid content.

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Bruno Brito

Warriors, necros. They’re relatively easy and sturdy.

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Barnoc N'Draak

I will probably at least try my Necro as a reaper… Already he kinda looks like sephiroth..

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Mordyjuice

They buffed them recently.

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Mordyjuice

What do you do to stay alive on a Warrior, I tried doing a few HPs around Amnoon and got eaten alive?

I see by your profile pic you’re a cat person too ;)

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Goettel

Capped one of each class, except guardian, but I always seem to get back to my staff tempest for open-world (meta) fun: versatile and challenging at times. Engineer (holo) turned out to be a lot of fun too: easy to play, hard to master. Other favorites are vanilla necro for easy mob grinding and my druid healer for bounties. Berserker warrior is fun with daggers and axes. Burned out long ago on my mesmer and thief, and revenant still isn’t really clicking. Welcome back!

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Brother Maynard

Good reaction from Anet – no passive-aggressive PR statements, no lockbox last stand pathos, no hyperbole, no misleading phrases or outright lies, as we have seen so many times recently… Just a calm update of their service and a level-headed statement to explain. That’s how it should be done.

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Sally Bowls

Any speculation on why we had the interim system? Once Anet had made the decision to change to something felt to be more compatible with the Belgian Gaming Commission’s declaration, what was the need for the less refined system to be implemented for a week? Why not just wait a few days until the system and announcement above were ready? An inferior system, implemented without accompanying PR lubrication, seems like they were in a hurry.

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Arktouros

Belgium is probably doing the rounds going from one major company to the next. When you really get down to it there’s a crazy amount of developers both big and small they’re going to have to go through. Think of the innumerable mobile games that all have RNG elements in their shops.

This is why I scoffed at Chris Lee’s proposals in Hawaii where he wanted game developers to submit their source code for review to ensure none of the odds were being changed on the back end. The logistics in reviewing that let alone managing that would devour budget and shit out basically no real benefit on the other end.

Just another huge obstacle to making this work in larger countries where state/federal budgets are a big deal. Who’s going to pay for a new RNG gamblebox task force to review games? How the fuck can I sign up for that cushy, do nothing job? LOL

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Hikari Kenzaki

Dev time.

Shutting off the currency buy is the dev equivalent of flipping a switch. It takes relatively no time at all and prevents possible legal action against the company until they could create an actual code level fix.

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Sally Bowls

I agree it was the simple solution. But I still don’t get the why. They have been selling the offending items for years. The better solution was ready four days later. One can’t rule out anything with laws and regulators, but I don’t see how violating the laws for 1004 days is worse than 1000. Would any Belgian regulator have minded if they continued their old ways from the 24th-28th as long as they implemented today’s change? No matter how simple the change, it is still more effort to do both rather than just today’s.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Just playing CYA, I’m sure.
ArenaNet has never, ever, in recent memory, made a quick and snap decision before. /sarcasm

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

The Zommoros Raid made me want to go back because it was such a great idea but this Armor debacle reminded me why I left. They never change and can’t seem to help themselves from making terrible choices.

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Hikari Kenzaki

If I was in Belgium, my main outcry would be the dye packs… need them. But most of those can be gotten on the auction house and WvW.

The real sting will be the items you can only get in seasonal lockboxes and mount skins. Maybe they’ll find a way to offer those at a flat rate eventually.

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Arktouros

You should be able to still directly purchase the Mount Select License item that lets you choose which mount you want. It’s only 3 times as much as a normal one but I’m sure Belgians don’t mind paying 3 times as much as long as they’re protected from those dangerous RNG mechanics that would 100% scientifically survey proven make them gambling addicts.

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Sally Bowls

But most of those can be gotten on the auction house

Are things with random rewards still going to be available on the AH? (I loved the SWTOR system where the packs of random stuff and the no-longer-random contents of opened packs could be sold on the GTN for earned-in-game credits. No RNG or RL$ required. The removal of which, I think, is all the Netherlands needs to allow lockboxes.)

My understanding is that something with random rewards purchasable with RL$ or even gems can no longer be sold in Belgium. Doesn’t that mean that anything purchasable with gems can no longer be available at the AH? IANAL, but if I can’t buy a lootcrate for RL$ in Belgium, then buying gems, converting to gold, and buying the item with gold would also seem to fall under the RL$ for random pixels ban in Belgium. Or is that sufficient “money laundering” to allow it to still be sold?

P.S.: Belgium coincidence: last night’s restaurant menu had Liège waffles and an explanation of how they were different than the typical Belgian waffle.

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Hikari Kenzaki

I was referring specifically to items that can be obtained in game for no cash money that are then listed on the AH. I get dyes from there all the time.

Though, I don’t see how someone in the US listing already opened items and listing them on the AH would be a problem. The Belgium resident experiences no element of chance.

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Sally Bowls

Not for the US, but at least for the Netherlands my interpretation was that RL$ lootboxes with BoE gear was illegal and RL$ lootboxes with bound gear was legal. So by reducing the flexibility for the players and eliminating the ability to get the gear without RNG and without RL$, the lockboxes were legal. This strikes me as the worst of all worlds: the game companies can continue to sell RL$ gambleboxes and the players have fewer options.

I.e., I hope the Dutch solution to this does not catch on.

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Arktouros

I would have to double check but I think the Netherlands finding is that items can’t be traded again for RL$. So getting a box and trading for in game currency (IE: Auction House) may be okay since there’s no way to cash out your in game currency for RL$ (at least within the rules of the game).

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Schmidt.Capela

If I understood correctly the Netherlands interpretation is that items from lootboxes can’t be traded again, ever, even if no RL$ is involved.

On the other hand, if someone from a different country, where purchasing the lootboxes is allowed, opens it and trades the content with someone from the Netherlands or Belgium, that isn’t an issue; the player in NL or BE isn’t being subjected to the element of chance.

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Sally Bowls

I was nodding my head in agreement, then the question came up does ” items from lootboxes can’t be traded again, ever” refer to all loot containers or just ones purchased with RL$? I.e. a number of games spin it as “these things in the ca$h$hop are not p2w since they also drop in game” So if a boss dropped a sack with random loot in it, can those be BoE? If someone in Germany buys a SWTOR Cartel pack, can they sell that pack to the Belgian (someone spent RL$, but not the citizen covered by the regulation)

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Schmidt.Capela

I was nodding my head in agreement, then the question came up does ” items from lootboxes can’t be traded again, ever” refer to all loot containers or just ones purchased with RL$?

From my understanding, only those purchased with RL$, or any currency that can be obtained with RL$. If you want a lootbox sold to the players to be legal in the NL you need to make everything that comes from it BoP; identical items obtained through other means, including lootboxes that can’t be obtained directly or indirectly with RL$, don’t matter, those can remain unbound/tradeable if the dev or publisher wants.

The situation in Belgium is different, and stricter, mind; in Belgium selling lootboxes is seen as illegal by its gambling authority even if the contents can’t be traded at all.

So if a boss dropped a sack with random loot in it, can those be BoE?

If the player didn’t pay specifically for the loot bag, or the boss run, I would say yes, the contents can remain BoE.

If the player did pay for the boss run, though, all bets are off. It might slip below the radar as paying for game content instead of the random rewards, but by the same token might be viewed by the courts as intentionally attempting to bypass restrictions on lootboxes. It’s the same kind of legal uncertainty you would have if someone tried to determine the exact line between legal and illegal, for example by carefully insulting someone in ways that neither law nor precedent say whether it’s libel or not.

If someone in Germany buys a SWTOR Cartel pack, can they sell that pack to the Belgian (someone spent RL$, but not the citizen covered by the regulation)

If the Belgian player used in-game currency that can’t be obtained by spending RL$ then I believe it would be fine, though it might be cutting a bit too close.

If the currency can be obtained with RL$, though, it might open both the publisher and the player that sold the lootbox to a lawsuit in Belgium, depending on how the courts see the situation.

If I was the publisher I would thus prevent this kind of in-game sale from happening, as the consequences might be dire; would you play a game that allowed you to literally practice a crime in a foreign country and be prosecuted for it? Would you play any other game from a publisher that allowed that to happen, or worse, intentionally made the players vulnerable in a bid to change a law the publisher dislikes?

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Brother Maynard

I don’t know… I think I managed to buy pretty much all of the colours except the exotic ones for a few gold in total. Unless you need some kind of extra rare midnight blue or celestial white, the rest is pretty reasonable to buy on AH. Depending on your server’s or region’s economy you could get probably a good 1/3 of all colours for 1-2g. Some dyes are selling for a couple of coppers…

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Arktouros

Making Alts is huge too for dyes. I have 19 characters which all get varying years of birthday gifts based on start date. Gotten a lot of very expensive 100g dyes because of a new set of alts ticked over into year 4 or year 5 gifts etc.

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Arktouros

Well good on ANet for investing their time and resources into blocking part of the store instead of the whole store. However in turn I wonder if this means even if you earn gems through in game means (achievement, gold to gems, etc) that you’re still restricted from purchasing these items. I guess Belgian players are going to just have to consider that VPN subscription as a cost of playing games these days if they want the same goods as everyone else.

And absolutely there’s a lot of RNG in ANet’s cash shop. Beyond Black Lion chests there’s also the dye kits and mount passes. There’s also been an increasing number of cosmetic items exclusive to their RNG box offers as well as a huge number of mount skins are exclusive to those as well and the entire Privateer weapon set (first Black Lion set of skins that couldn’t be sold on AH).