Quality of Life

There’s a new blog post today. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this blog has read it already, but in case you haven’t, check it out. The major theme of this post was quality of life. There have been a lot of things that have been frustrating much of the dedicated player base with regard to end-game elements and time:reward ratios. It was a huge info-dump, which as coincidence would have it is my favorite type of info-dump.

Colin talked about everything ranging from Living Story, new character progression, new crafting, crafting precursors and ascended gear, WvW, magic find, dungeons, champion rewards, and some casual mentions of PvP and expanding into new markets. While I have thoughts on all of these things, I’m going to limit this post to discussing crafting and magic find. While I am fairly excited for new skills and traits, there isn’t a lot of meat to get into there.

Turn it up to 500!

Crafting is getting a new tier. We all knew this had to happen some time, I just don’t know if anyone expected it to be before an expansion. Of course, there might never be an expansion, so I guess now is as good a time as any. I’ve been saying for a long time that I was very frustrated with the implementation of Ascended gear, most specifically that the only way to get it was either via the new flavor of the month addition to the game (Fractals, Laurels, Guild Missions), or through an incredibly time gated and high opportunity cost method (Laurels). This fixes that! Mostly. Ever the skeptic, I have a few concerns, but I’ll get to those later. Overall I am incredibly optimistic about this news.

Mechanically, this will be time-gated. Much like the quartz crystals introduced in the most recent patch, we will only be able to refine new materials into their craftable form once per day. There are some pretty obvious pros and cons to this system.

The biggest con is that, once again, it will hurt players who like to alt. Looking at the current celestial recipes, it takes 30 days (assuming you log in every day) to get a full set of armor for one character, not including trinkets. It takes 60 if you do. That’s two months. To put that into perspective, if you were able to log in every day and upgrade quartz from day one of the launch of this game, and you had the money all that time, you would be just finishing up your fifth character’s celestial gear.

All of this is assuming that you got the gear stat of your choice correct when you first picked it. I don’t know about everyone else, but several of my characters have changed around as I and the game have evolved. That factors in very heavily with time-gated content.

However, as I said, there are some pretty large positive aspects about this as well. First and foremost, it puts some real value into investing in crafting. Currently, crafting is largely used simply as a tool for leveling up. Previously, Ascended gear made being a jeweler somewhat frustrating because there was better equipment than you could craft, and all the other professions knew it was heading that way eventually.

Being able to get Ascended gear adds back real value. Being time-gated also means that while the supply of resources will be high, the output will be low. This makes anything that is crafted at 500 inherently more valuable because the market cannot flood as fast. This is a great thing. I’m unsure just how much 500 crafters will be able to actually sell though since Ascended items will remain account bound. What else do weapon and armor crafters make that you sell? Perhaps the answer is exciting: new things!

On top of that, we’re finally getting something that most of us enthusiasts have been clamoring for: a guaranteed way to chase precursors. Finally. I’m seriously so excited and happy about this. I’m sure it will take ages. I’m sure it will take lots of materials. I don’t care. Having a surefire way to obtain them is infinitely better than having to rely on the mystic toilet for them, or having to try to compete in the endlessly inflating economy for them.

Even better will be if we are allowed to sell them after crafting. Surely they will still retain value by being time-gated and expensive, but it should help curb the inflation on them at the moment. Besides, people can still pray to the djinni in the toilet for luck. I’m so ecstatic about this I can’t even explain it.

I’m not gonna lie, I compromised on getting the legendary I would have really wanted in order to get a legendary I felt that I could attain because of precursors. I have notoriously bad luck in games, with the apparent exception of forging mystic clovers. The thought of saving 700g or just throwing away potentially hundreds of gold on gambles was just not something I was willing or able to do, so I bought a cheap precursor, and went from there. Now that I am working on my second legendary, I have hope that it will actually be something that I really really wanted, and something I can attain. Seriously, this is the most exciting part of the news for me, and I’m sure many others.

However, I do worry about one aspect of this new system, and that is cost. It’s not so much that I want things to be cheap or free, but that I want the game to truly reward you for playing in more than 3.5 zones or a couple of the top-tier dungeons. What I am referring to is T6 materials, and the fact that they drop very rarely in relatively few zones. It seemed that the best way to get them was to load up as much magic find as you could and farm your little heart out in Orr, Southsun, or the top third of Frostgorge. Otherwise, you’d have to buy them, and for the most part they have always been on the rise in price while methods of making pure gold have been fairly steady. Which brings us to:

(Magic) Finding Items

So first off, great move ANet. I mean it. I have always held that Magic Find at the cost of stats is degenerate game design in team environments (like GW2). It puts players into a prisoner’s dilemma. Magic find is not a bad concept in and of itself, but choosing between being effective and being rewarded is a shitty choice to make. I didn’t think that you would actually do it, but you are going to and I’m happy about it. Really happy in fact.

Moving it to account and consumable-based rewards is the right way to go about it. Refunding or compensating players that bought MF gear is also the right thing to do, though I am sure it may be somewhat difficult or may have some wrinkles. Seriously, I commend you for making this change.

Along with this change also comes the new types of crafting materials. These are both time and location gated, but location gating seems to be the main limiting factor. If you travel around and do a lot of different things, you will get a lot of these new materials. This is a brilliant way of getting people to try out new things, while simultaneously not overly punishing people who don’t want to try out any one or two things.

Again, it’s back to my complaint with Ascended items; if I didn’t like fractals, I was SOL for getting Ascended backpieces and basically rings. This solution will reward some players more than others of course, but there are so many ways to get them that nobody will do all of them, so most people will be closer to the average. This is incredibly elegant game design. Another hearty “Well done!” from me.

Now for the inevitable trepidation. I am slightly worried about inflation. I don’t know all the details about the new MF consumables, nor do I know about the crafting requirements. All I do know is that the drop rates for lots of things are either abysmal, or extremely funneled into a very small portion of the game. T6 mats continue to rise for the most part, and Southsun’s +200% MF boost really highlighted just how much we need to start feeling like drops are at a “nice” rate.

If getting from 400-500 crafting takes the same amount of T6 mats as 300-400 requires T5, we’re looking at ~130 T6 mats to go up to the new crafting tier. That’s no small chunk of change, and there will be a high demand for whatever it takes to go up to 500 crafting. Given the potential for a drastic drop in MF% for farmers, I can potentially see prices raising to compensate. My main worry would be widening the gap between the hardcore and the casual-hardcore, and even further demolishing the true casuals. It’s not easy to earn gold in this game, especially now that they will be nerfing CoF P1 (another change I am completely fine with), and earning materials is limited to a very small number of zones relative to the world size. 

Perhaps we will be lucky and they will only be using T7 mats to go from 400-500. That would certainly also limit some of the richer players from auto-crafting to 500 on day one due to the time gating mechanisms. It would also encourage more spreading out of players and activities rather than trying to shove them all into the only 4 zones you get T6 from. I also sincerely hope they look at their loot tables if MF% ends up being lower than, or even equal to what it was before. One can hope.

It’s going to be an exciting year for quality of life in GW2. A lot of these changes are a long time coming, and I think that overall they will all be very positive when impacting the nature of playing the game. They are doing a ton of things so very right with these ideas, both from a game design perspective and also a business one. I hope that we can ride out any waves that these changes bring and sail into amazing new places together.


One Response to Quality of Life

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