Wintersday, Guild Wars 2′s 2014 Update Schedule, And What It All Means

Originally posted on Gamebreaker January 18th, 2014.

After the many changes to this year’s Halloween event, I was a little anxious about what Wintersday would be like. Happily Wintersday arrived and it was nearly exactly the same as last year.

The Wintersday jumping puzzle received a similar makeover to the one Clocktower received. It’s now considered a PvP area, though players have no skills and cannot attack each other. However, unlike the new Clocktower, players were not transformed into wisps during the puzzle. Probably, the best change was the ability to pick which path you started from, whereas last year it was random and there was no way to change paths. Allowing us to pick a path was helpful because it allowed players to focus on learning one path which aids the jumping challenged among us.

Another positive change is, at the point where all three paths converged there is a fire to rest and regain health. Additionally players can talk to Tixx here and he’ll offer three options for finishing the puzzle. The first option is to take a gift he gives you and open it there and forgo the bonus gift at the end of the puzzle. The second option is to take the gift and deliver it to the children at the end for a greater reward. Lastly, players can forgo the extra gift completely and instead have a checkpoint at Tixx set-up so if the player falls before reaching the end they wouldn’t have to go all the way back to the beginning. As anyone who has watched the Wednesday night Gamebreaker Nation streams knows, I am jumping challenged and as such I found the option of having the checkpoint a huge help.

The only real downside to this year’s version of the puzzle was not being able to do it with friends. It never fails to amaze me when MMOs put in awesome content that players can’t tackle with friends if they choose too. At least last year players could group up to enter together. We wouldn’t always start at the same spot but when a player fell they would be able to see their friend going on and that was at least something. This year getting into the same one with a friend was a sad matter of RNG. I don’t think content should necessarily require grouping to complete, but the option to group up to do things shouldn’t be taken away.

The Bell Choir and Toypocalypse were essentially unchanged this year. One thing I wish Arenanet had added to Bell a Choir was some sort of reward for obtaining the highest score in an entire game of the Bell Choir. Players are rewarded for doing well by getting presents at the end of each round if they manage to not kill themselves, but aside from that there’s no real incentive to do well. Over the last few days some fought hotly for the top spot. It would be nice to have some recognition for that.

buildingDespite the good things about most events in Wintersday being the same there is a downside. We’ve now had the Wintersday patch for over a month, and I have recently realized this pause in the content patches has taught me something new about how I play MMOs; I really need the short content cycles to maintain my attention.

When Arenanet first announced they were entering into a 2 week content cycle I was a bit nervous. On the one hand my main issue with many MMOs has always been doing the same content for far too long. I have never been the sort of person who really enjoyed doing the same content over and over even if there was something cool and shiny in it for me. I want to see new things, maybe do them a few times, and then move on pretty quickly. On the other hand I do have limited amount of time I can play games each day so I was concerned with not being able to fully explore each patch and falling behind in terms of amount of content I had done.

Arenanet quickly fell into a pattern of each month the first patch was pretty big and would continue on after the second patch of the month hit which I enjoyed immensely. This pattern allows even people with sort of limited playtime to have a lot of opportunities to finish all the content added for that month. This cycle kept up the feeling of needing to get things done, but never made it feel really overwhelming.

Now I understand the stopping of the updates over the holidays, and I understand that they are trying to make sure each update is as polished as possible. However, I must confess that when they announced a bit of a break from the two week patch cycle I immediately felt less of an urge to play and was distracted by other games…so much so that I randomly realized last week I needed to get cracking to finish the meta achievements. Knowing I always had another patch right around the bend managed to help keep me focused.

This concerns me a bit because Colin Johanson recently indicated these breaks might be more common place this year than they were last year. In an interview with EuroGamer he said, “When [Living World Season One] ends [on 4th March], we’re going to take a break for a little bit and then we’re going to do one really big feature patch that is more akin to what people see from some of our [MMO] competitors, where they bundle a lot of features together into a really big patch every now and then.” While I am definitely looking forward to this large “features only” patch I am concerned about how long the break will be and how stagnant Guild Wars 2 might feel during it.

Let’s just say they’ll take a month break after the March 4th patch. That means the features patch won’t come until April 1st. I wonder if that means no there will be no new Super Adventure Box? Also if these four patches are just story content and the WvW changes are going to be part of the features patch that would mean the earliest we’d see Season 2 of WvW starting would be May 2nd. That’s a huge lag for people who mostly want to do WvW and for the people who mostly just play Living Story content… well we’d be looking at a potential two months of doing whatever the finale of Scarlet’s storyline is.

As itchy as I am for new content after just one month… a two month lull seems almost unbearable to me. It’s amazing how just a few months of constant content updates can really change a person’s perspective.

Guild Wars 2 “Large Features Only” Patch Predictions

Originally posted on Gamebreaker January 2nd, 2014.

What new features can we look forward to in the “feature only” patch coming up?

In a recent blog post Colin Johanson reviewed some of the changes Guild Wars 2 has gone through this past year and gave us a brief preview of what we have to look forward to. Obviously the first big thing is the conclusion of the Living Story Arc which really started a year ago with the first Flame and Frost patch. This conclusion will unfold over four patches, and after the end of this story arc we’ll get a big patch which a bunch of features without any story. If the four patches happen every two weeks we won’t see the features patch until  March 18th at the earliest. But three months away doesn’t mean it’s too soon to speculate!

Features Left Over From 2013

Back in July, Colin Johanson gave us a preview of features that were planned for GW2 in the second half of 2013. Arenanet was able to implement most of the things mentioned in that post, but there are a few things they weren’t able to implement and it wouldn’t be surprising to see those in the big features only patch.

The most notable feature that didn’t make it in in 2013 is the Precursor update. Currently I find getting the Precursor to be the most frustrating part of crafting a Legendary. On the one hand pretty much every precursor is always on the Trading Post so currently players can just buy them. On the other, it comes down to pure RNG luck. Both extremes are rather lacking when it comes to what crafting of a Legendary should be. With the ability to craft Ascended Weapons and Gear currently live and the addition of all the Ascended crafting materials, all the foundation for building precursors in in game now. However, there is a second component which really hasn’t been discussed very much. The plan wasn’t ever to have precursors be fully craftable, that would make obtaining them way too easy. In addition to the crafting step Johanson also mentioned it would also require “a combination of other items earned for completing more specific content in the game”.

We don’t really know exactly what game content they have in mind. One thing I would really like to see is a scavenger hunt similar to the one we had for the first Mad King event. I know anything they do like this will have walkthroughs posted pretty quickly so people wouldn’t have to figure anything out, but it should be a pretty long scavenger hunt and probably should only allow you to do a certain about in a particular time period. For example if it had three stages they could limit it to only being able to do one stage in a 24 hour period. Another option would be adding an item to the daily drops for killing dragons/world bosses and require a certain number for one of the steps. Having some skill challenges would also be interesting, hopefully there will also be some objectives friends can accomplish together.

Related to the Precursor discussion Johanson also mentioned “you’ll also see new legendary weapons and new types of legendary gear in 2013″. Personally I am slightly less interested in what new Legendary weapons we might see than I am interested in seeing new types of Legendary Gear. The easiest type of Legendary Gear to add would be back pieces (yes I can hear all the groans of “not another back piece”) but hear me out on this. If they were to add Legendary Armor, it wouldn’t make sense to do just a helm or shoulders or anything like that. One of the huge aspects which makes Legendaries attractive is the particular look each one has. For armor they would have to design an entire set for each armor type to work together and accomplish a particular look, which is possible down the road but I wouldn’t count on getting it soon. Back pieces are the only other type of gear which is visible and not currently available as a Legendary so it makes sense to that route first.

mmorpg guild wars 2 mmorpg     Guild Wars 2 Large Features Only Patch PredictionsOther Potential Features

Last year we did see Arenanet start the addition of new skills when they added a new healing ability across all professions (Antitoxin Spray) and each profession also got a new individualized healing ability. I am expecting this to continue in the next big features patch but with a dps/cc type ability for each profession. Maybe professions which tend to be very condition focused could get a new direct damage ability and profession which tend to rely on direct damage more could get a new condition ability. Though in the second case due to how conditions work it would be less useful for those professions.

One thing Arenanet did mention last year but didn’t plan on implementing in 2013 was the change to WXP being across the account, which is an awesome change I am really looking forward to. This will completely solve the problem of playing alts in WvW feeling like a waste of time. I am pretty sure this definitely will be part of the big features only patch, it would just be sort of weird if it wasn’t in. I’m on the fence about if we are likely to see Edge Of The Mists then as well. I would guess it will probably be held until a later patch so they could really feature it. Although I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we see it because I doubt another WvW season will start before it is implemented.

Depending on how “big” this features only patch is we might also see some of the remaining changes to PvP go into effect. The next step in PvP changes will probably be the removal of the different distinctions of PvE and PvP gear. I am guessing this change will probably coincide with the removal of Glory from the game.

In the PvP Roadmap blog post John Corpening, PvP Team Lead, mentioned this about the upcoming removal of Glory “We will give advance warning when this is coming so you can spend all of your existing glory before that happens”. The implication there seems to be there won’t be any reason to hold onto excess Glory like there would be if say Arenanet was planning on converting your Glory totals to Gold you would have earned from those matches instead. If they are planning on doing a conversion I would certainly hope they would give us a bunch of notice of that as well. Either way I’ll definitely be looking for these two changes to happen with the first major features patch.

There is another change hanging out there which was briefly mentioned a long time ago, but I haven’t heard anything from Arenanet about it recently. I am referring to the idea of every profession being able to use every weapon. Granted we haven’t heard anything more about this since back in July, so it might be unlikely for the big features patch but it would be really cool to get it. One thing I have heard people express interest in is seeing weapons which are currently off-hand only being added for main hand as well and I would caution people not to get their hopes up for that. Johanson only mentioned the ability to use every weapon, not being able to use every weapon in every possible way.

mmorpg guild wars 2 mmorpg     Guild Wars 2 Large Features Only Patch PredictionsThe Take Away

Clearly if all of the features I mention were implemented in one patch it would truly be a massive features patch, so it’s probably unlikely we will see all of them. However, with the current break in patches and the fact the next four patches will be story only the possibility of a huge features patch is definitely out there. The concept of such an expansive patch is sort of scary because as every MMO veteran knows sometimes even the most innocuous change can break things in really unexpected ways, but hopefully that won’t be an issue here.

Are there any specific features you’d like to see added?