Everything We Officially Know About Heart of Thorns (Updated 10/20/15)

As more information gets revealed about the upcoming expansion to Guild Wars 2 some of the information has started to get lost and forgotten, which has lead to some rather depressing debates on various forums. I have put together the following list (and sources) to help everyone keep track of the information better and help the general discourse be a bit better informed. All of the information I am including here is information Arenanet has either released themselves or has confirmed as being true. As a result some information we only know from datamining is not listed.

Aside from questions about what we do know for sure a big sticking point for many people has been “what content will everyone get and what content will only be available if you buy the expansion?” To help with this I have come up with the following color coding system:

Things you can only access if you personally have the expansion

Things you can experience if you play with someone who has the expansion or can have limited access to without buying the expansion

Things I think will be locked to the expansion but Arenanet hasn’t confirmed yet

I’ve done my best to gather all the official information I could find, if  I missed anything please let me know (and ideally give me some way to find the official source). I haven’t had time to go back through the PoIs and Ready Ups so anything revealed on those isn’t currently included.

Launch date October 23, 2015! (source)

The Heart of Maguuma Region (source)

  • Four new maps, all with increased virticality (source)
  • Jungle made up of 3 biomes (source)
    • Roots, Floor, Canopy
  • Find Glint’s Legacy (source)
  • New types of content and new challenging content (source)
  • The Verdant Brink is the map where the expansion will start (source)
  • The first map (source)
    • Handles what happened to the Pact Fleet
    • Build defenses during the day
    • Mordrem will come out at night and it will be a fight for survival
  • Each map will be focused on 3D play space and provide high replay value (source)
  • Outposts (source)
    • Events will be tied to what is happening at a specific site
    • Results of localized events will be shown through what happens at the outposts
    • The night phase challenge in the first area are wyverns
    • Make as much progress as possible during the day to have a chance during night time
    • Some out posts will have multiple upgrades which will make them stronger and offer new rewards
  • Adventures (source)
    • Repeatable on-demand bits of content
    • Will require practice, mastery, and skill to master (source)
    • Will unlock as progress is made at an outpost
    • Have their own UI and offer some amount of active challenge
    • Progress through an adventure will be tracked and scored; players will be able to see the scores of friends and guildmates
    • Will be displayed on the world map
    • If an adventure isn’t currently open, there will be an explanation of how to open it in game
    • Other players will have no impact on success or failure, ie won’t have to compete for resources or objectives (source)
    • Will be reliant on patterns and systems players can figure out to improve their play (source)
    • Players will be able to quickly quit and restart with minimal downtime (source)
    • Each adventure has its own distinct separate leaderboard (source)
      • Each leaderboard has daily participation rewards
      • Leaderboards will be divided into three tiers and the first time a player moves into one of those tiers they will receive a bonus reward
      • Higher tiers have higher rewards
  • Story instances will be replayable and players will be able to make different choices when they replay (source)
    • These will also have difficult to obtain achievements (similar to Living Story Season 2) and they will yield Mastery Points
  • Player character will be speaking in the open world as well as in story instances (source)
    • Lines will also vary depending on race of the player character
  • Two new armor sets to work on in the open world content, 5 new weapon sets, 60 additional unique skins, miniatures, and more (source)
  • New map rewards (source)
  • If you own the expansion you’ll be able to gain access to upcoming new living story (source)

Raids (source)

  • First raid will have three wings, the first of which will open up a few weeks after HoT launches
    • The delay gives time for balance passes to be done on professions and the new elite specs
    • Also players will have time to earn some of the mastery abilities they’ll need to beat the bosses
  • The remaining two wings will be opened in sequence after, depending on how quickly players are moving through the first wing
  • The first wing will have three bosses
  • First wing will require players to have unlocked gliding and a few different ways to interact with mushrooms (source)
  • 10 Player instanced content
  • Uses the event system which allows for greater variety of mechanics and tactics to be used
  • Players will need to be highly coordinated to beat these bosses
  • There won’t be a traditional raid frames set-up, players will have to communicate and pay attention each other to make sure they can down bosses
  • There will be new Mastery Tracks and Abilities which will be tightly tied to boss mechanics
  • Will be how players get Legendary Armor (source)
  • Old raids won’t become a wasteland of irrelevance
  • In addition to boss fights there will be event styled things for the group to accomplish IE holdouts, assaults, captures, defends, etc (source)
  • Encounters are designed to push players to use a variety of builds, weapons, and armor types (source)
  • Groups will use the squad system (source)
  • Can earn unique rewards once a week (source)
  • Some types of rewards exclusive to raids are special minis, weapon skin, titles, and a special trophy for your guild hall (source)

Mastery System General (source)

  • Account bound PvE progression system
  • Reinforces the idea the journey is the main goal (source)
  • Gain Mastery Points as you complete content (source)
    • Completing elements of the Story
    • Reaching hard to find & hard to reach locations
    • Defeating “incredible” challenges and “incredible” group challenges
    • Map completion
    • Challenging achievements “across the jungle and beyond”
    • Each point can be obtained once per account (source)
    • Players will be able to earn Mastery Points before lvl 80, but won’t be able to spend them until after (source)
    • Points gained in an area can only be used to unlock Masteries in the same area (source)
    • A good number of points earned before HoT will be awarded to players with the release of the expansion (source) (more info)
  • Experience bar will change to the Mastery Training bar at lvl 80 when in PvE zones (source)
    • To train a Mastery you will have to first unlock it by spending a Mastery Point
    • Each unlock will have multiple tiers with more powerful abilities in each subsequent tier
    • Select the Mastery to be slotted on the Mastery Bar and then any experience gained will be put towards increasing the mastery level
    • Players will set their active Mastery by region and the bar will automatically switch when the player changes regions
  • Exploration Mastery (source)
    • Hang gliding
      • Higher tiers allow for longer flights, ride wind currents, jump higher, and launch into the air with greater force (source)
    • Ability to use mushrooms to move around The Heart of Maguuma faster (source)
  • Lore Mastery (source)
    • Learn to understand the languages of civilizations deep in the jungle
    • Gain access to hidden locations only people who understand the language will be able to access
  • Combat Mastery (source)
    • Will allow players to learn new abilities which will help them overcome challenges
    • Master abilities to defeat champions (source)
    • Become more deadly to the new creatures in the jungle (source)
  • Legend Mastery (source)
    • Learn to craft current precursors (source)
    • Learn to craft new precursor for the new legendary weapons
    • Current precursors (source)
      • Three tiers
      • Visit Mastery vendor to pick which to start
      • First tier focuses on one theme of the Legendary
      • Completing the first collection will unlock the ability to craft a “distressed” version of the precursor and won’t be tradable
      • The second collection will focus on doing research about the legendary, which will unlock another exotic non-tradable version of the precursor
      • The third collection will focus on the secondary theme of the legendary weapon and will yield the recipe for the final version of the precursor
      • Will be tradeable
      • Skins will be updated to look like “lesser” versions of the legendary weapon they create
      • Having any version/step of a legendary will automatically unlock all previous skins attached to it
      • Will only be able to craft one of each precursor per account this way
      • All current methods of obtaining a precursor will remain intact
    • New Legendary Weapons and their precursors will not be tradable (source)
    • New precursers will not drop anywhere in game (source)
    • New Legendaries which will be available to make shortly after HoT launches along with raids (source)
    • The first three will be Astralaria (Axe), H.O.P.E. (Pistol),and Nevermore (Staff) (source)
    • Recipies to craft the new legendaries will be the specific precursor, a Gift of Maguuma Mastery, a Mystic Tribute, and a unique gift associated with each legendary (source)
  • Fractal Mastery (source)
    • New depths in the Fractals
    • Gain new abilities for use in the Fractals
    • Get better rewards
    • Unlock more powerful infusions

Specific Mastery Lines

  • Gliding (source)
    • Glider Basics
    • Updraft Use
    • Lean Techniques
    • Stealth Gliding
    • Advanced Gliding
    • Ley Line Gliding
  • Itzel Lore (source)
    • Bouncing Mushrooms
    • Itzel Language
    • Blazing Speed Mushrooms
    • Itzel Poison Lore
    • Itzel Leadership
    • Adrenal Mushrooms
  • Exalted Lore (source)
    • Exalted Markings
    • Exalted Acceptance
    • Exalted Assistance
    • Exalted Purification
    • Exalted Gathering
    • Exalted Honing
  • Nuhoch Lore (source)
    • Nuhoch Hunting
    • Nuhoch Language
    • Nuhoch Wallows
    • Nuhoch Stealth Detection
    • Nuhoch Proving
    • Nuhoch Alchemy
  • Legendary Precursor Crafting Mastery (source)
    • Revered Antiquarian
    • Magister of Legends
    • Historian of the Armaments
    • Scholar of Maguuma’s Secrets
  • Tiers in Fractal Mastery (source)
    • Follows Advice
    • Agony Channeler
    • Mistlock Singularities
    • Recursive Resourcing
    • Essential Singularities
    • Hyperactive Singularities
  • Pact Commander (source)
    • Pact Mentor
    • Productive Downtime
    • Supply Line Management
    • Noblesse Oblige
    • Advanced Logistics

Elite Specializations (source)

  • Every profession will get an Elite Specialization/Secondary Profession
  • General Elite Specialization info (source)
    • Will always introduce a single new weapon type for a character
    • To use the new weapon or skills, players will have to both unlock and equip the Elite Specialization
    • Almost every Elite Spec will get a new heal, utility skills, and elite skill
    • Will make core changes to how a profession is played
    • Has a full set of new traits
    • When HoT hits each profession will get one Elite Spec
    • Only one Elite Spec will be allowed to be equiped
    • Unlocking an Elite spec will also grant new runes and sigils, a fancy weapon skin for your new weapon type, and an armor skin for a single matching piece of armor (usually headgear or shoulders)
    • Elite Specs will automatically be unlocked in PvP
    • Will need to have core lines completly unlocked before being able to unlock any of the Elite Spec (source)
    • It will take 400 points to unlock an Elite Spec fully (source)
    • Hero Challenges in the Jungle award 10 points instead of one (source)
  • Ranger’s elite specialization will be Druid (source)
    • Allows use of Staff
    • A new heal skill
    • A new elite skill
    • A new set of utility skills
    • New resource called astral force which is used to enter the new Celestial Avatar form (source)
    • Celestial Avatar substantially boosts the healing abilities of the Druid (source)
  • Necromancer will get Reaper (source)
    • Allows use of Greatsword (source)
    • Grants a completely new set of abilities in death shroud and creates a shadowy scythe when entering death shroud
    • Death’s Charge replaces Dark Path and causes the Reaper to dash forward dealing damage as you go and releases a poison cloud at the end
    • Shivers of Dread inflicts chill whenever fear is used
    • Cold Shoulder increases the duration of chill and reduces the amount of damage chilled enemies do to you
    • Most attacks will be slower, but will also hit much harder than you might otherwise expect
    • Gravedigger is a slow skill which delivers a devastating blow to all enemies nearby
    • Reaper will also get a full set of shouts focused on harming foes
    • Rise is a shout which will hit all enemies in the radius for a small amount of damage and will summon a jagged horror for each foe struck
  • Mesmers will get Chronomancer (source)
    • Will gain use of Alacrity which will speed up skill recharge times
    • New weapon is off-hand Shield
    • Tides of Time – destroys projectiles, stuns enemies, and granting quickness to allies
    • Gain access to time themed wells
    • Well of Precognition – causes the attacks of allies to become unblockable and when it ends allies can evade all incoming attacks
    • Continuum Split/Continuum Shift is a new Shatter mechanic which allows the Mesmer to revert time and undo everything which happened to them during that time
  • Guardian will get Dragonhunter (source)
    • Focuses on ranged combat and back line support
    • Allows the use of Longbows
    • Spear of Justice – Virtue of Justice becomes a thrown spear which will tether enemies as long as they remain in range
    • Wings of Resolve – Virtue of Resolve will become wings of light which will allow the player to leap to an area and heal allies and can be traited to also deal damage
    • Shield of Courage – will allow attacks to be blocked for allies
    • Abilities will retain passive properties conferred by traits
    • Will have trap skills
    • Heal trap will heal allies while simultaneously heal allies when the Guardian triggers it
  • Elementalists get Tempest (source)
    • Allows use of Warhorn
    • Adds full set of 6 shouts
      • Wash the Pain Away – heals allies and cleanses conditions
      • Feel the Burn – Causes flames to erupt from a specific location
      • Eye of the storm – calls down a storm which breaks stuns and grants superspeed
      • Aftershock – creates a force around the Tempest which will cripple enemies and after a delay it will immobilize them
      • Freeze – freezes air around enemies damaging and chilling them
      • Rebound (elite) – causes all allies around the Tempest to have a 25% reduced recharge on their next ability used
    • Adds Overload mechanic to attunements
      • Overload Fire creates an infernal tornado which continuously damages and burns enemies while giving allies might
      • Overload Water creates a bubble which will grant regeneration and cleanse conditions from the Tempest and allies, when it end the bubble will burst and provide a large heal to allies in the area
      • Overload Air creates a nimbus cloud which strikes enemies repeatedly, at the end of the ability it will leave behind a lightening field
      • Overload Earth rends the earth and grants protection to allies and cripples enemies, at the end of the ability it’ll deliver a large blast of damage
    • Overloads will cause a longer than normal lockout of an attunement
  • Revenants get Herald (source)
    • Allows shield as an off-hand weapon
      • Envoy of Exuberance – Glint’s energy shoots out healing allies and grants protection on the way back
      • Crystal Hibernation – Channel a shield that renders the player immune to damage and gives a heal
    • Legendary Dragon Stance (Glint) – Support via boons, utility, and personal defense
    • Facets of Glint Utility Skills (all are upkeep skills)
      • Facet of Elements – Grants a pulsing swiftness buff
      • Elemental Blast – Ground targeted skill which consumes Facet of Elements and applies conditions to foes
      • Facet of Chaos – grants nearby allies protection every few seconds
      • Chaotic Release – consumes Facet of Chaos and grants super speed to allies while also damaging and knocking back foes
      • Facet of Nature – Pulses every few seconds and increases the outgoing boon duration for allies
      • One with Nature – Consumes Facet of Nature and applies boons all the other facets would apply to allies
  • Warrior gets Berzerker (source)
    • New weapon is torch
      • Blaze Breaker – send a cascade of rock and flame which travels to your target, crippling and burning any foe in the way.
      • Flames of war – Light yourself on fire burning off any conditions and creating a fire field that follows you. When the effect ends it explodes a applies more burning to foes around you.
    • At max adrenaline the bar will change to a single bar with only 10 adrenaline (instead of the normal three tiered bar with 30 adrenaline)
      • Give new weapon burst skills which can be used more often
      • Scorched Earth (longbow) – leaves a trail of fire on the ground in a straight line, is an aimed skill
      • Skull Grinder (mace) – short disrupt and applies multiple conditions to your target
    • Primal bursts are considering tier 3 bursts for traits
    • Feel the Rage – new type of utility skills called rage skills
  • Thief gets Daredevil (source)
    • Gains the use of Staff
    • Highly mobile fighter who is capable of taking on multiple enemies at once
    • Will have an extra endurance bar
    • Grandmaster trait line enhances dodge options
      • Lotus Training – each dodge throws daggers which cause bleed, torment, and cripple to foes and additionally functions as a whirl finisher
      • Bounding Dodger – gives the ability to leap in a specific direction and deal crushing damage where you land, additionally it functions as a leap finisher
      • Unhindered Combatant – Dodge becomes a dash which increases the distance you dodge and removes cripple and chill effects from you
    • Channeled Vigor – pulses heal and endurance regen, also heals for an additional amount if endurance is full

Revenant (source)

  • Ability to channel and control the Mists (source)
  • Heavy Armor
  • Uses energy as a resource (source)
  • Will use Hammer as a ranged weapon (source)
  • Can us Mace in the main hand (source)
  • Can use Axe as off-hand (source)
  • Can use Staff as a melee weapon (source)
  • Will be able to use Sword in main hand and off hand (source)
  • Will have weapon swapping (source)
  • On swap sigils activate when switching Legends (source)
  • Will use Spear underwater (source)
  • Use of Great Legends of Tyria
    • King Jalis – Tanky, Brawly Playstyle
    • Malyx – Conditions
    • Ventari – Support and Healing
    • Shiro – physical mobile dps

New WvW Borderlands Map (source)

  • Each Keep has a separate theme
    • Earth keep will raise up to defend itself against attackers
  • Fire Keep (source)
    • Located entirely underground
    • Has lava pools surrounding it
    • Fire imps and charred fleshreavers guard it
  • Air Keep (source)
    • Cut into the walls of the cavern
    • Has Tengu guarding its heights
  • Earth Keep (source)
    • Corrupted asuran complex
    • Has rock formations and boulders floating in the air
    • Golems are the guardians
  • Holding a keep will give buffs to the world which has it
  • There will also be changes to core WvW
    • Holding objectives should be a bigger component of victory
  • Will have 3 Keeps, 4 towers, and 6 supply camps (source)
  • The towers are an ogre outpost, a charr military depot, an academy of magic, and a necromantic spire (source)
    • Towers will actually create choke points and be of strategic importance
  • The gates of towers and keeps will be more lethal to attack head on (source)
  • Shrines (source)
    • Outside each keep
    • Three shrines of matching elements to the keep they are near
    • Can be capped by a single player
    • Capping the shrines will give buffs and bonuses which will make taking and keeping their keep easier
  • Oasis (source)
    • Located in the middle of the map
    • Multilayered and full of all kinds of hazards (including dinosaurs)
    • Players will collect cores to charge up the giant cannon
    • When the cannon fires it will start to fire blasts of energy at all enemy towers and keeps, gradually obliterating their gates
  • Dolyaks will gain significant buffs if a friendly player is near them (source)
  • Sentries will be guarding tiny outposts and will have a cripple skill to hamper enemy dolyaks (source)
  • Players will also be able to pick-up medkits at their outposts and use them to heal dolyaks, gain some health, or grant swiftness (source)

Changes to all WvW maps (source)

  • Upgrades will have no gold or supply cost
  • Less supply will be held and transported
  • There will be upgrade tiers instead of tiers
  • Upgrades happen automatically over time
  • Camps will have 2 tiers and all other objectives will have 3 tiers
  • Higher tiers take longer to upgrade than lower tiers.
  • Dolyak shipments will reduce the remaining upgrade time
  • Total time needed should be about the same as before the changes
  • Changes to WvW Abilities (source)
    • Guard Killer and Defense Against Guards will only have 5 ranks instead of 10
    • Applied Fortitude and Applied Strength will be removed
    • Ability lines which increased percentages from 1% to 5% will increase percentages from 2% to 10%
    • Siege weapon lines and the Supply Capacity line will have a reduced cost
    • All lines which have 5 ranks will cost 35 points per line
    • All lines which have 4 ranks will cost 15 points per line
    • The main player XP bar will change to track WXP when the player zones into WvW
  • Players will be able to buy Notarized Scrolls of Heroics and Notarized Scrolls of Maguuma Heroics which will allow players to unlock Hero Challenges through WvW play alone (source)
  • Changes are being made to prevent players from stocking up liquid world experience for launch day of HoT (source)

Strongholds (source)

  • Fight for Supply
  • Spend Supply to help your team
  • Players will be able to choose is they prefer Conquest, Stronghold, or Both and will be able to queue for the type they prefer (source)
  • Join with heroes to help in the fight
  • Kill the Guild Lord
  • More Mist Champions will be added through new reward tracks in the future (source)
  • Unlocking a Mist Champion reward champion track will also allow players to unlock a second track which will reward that champion’s mini (source)

New sPvP Ranks (source)

  • Everyone who owns the expansion will start at Jungle Rabbit rank
  • As a rank reward track is unlocked the next one will open up until you reach your current rank, all the way up to Dragon
  • Jungle Dragon rank has a new finisher which is Heart of Thorns themed

sPvP Leagues (source)

  • There will be six divisions – Lowest level is called the Amber Division and the Highest is the Legendary Division
  • Players will be matched up with other players in the same divisions
  • Players will earn pips from winning, and when enough are earned they will move up to the next division
  • If players are matched against a team outside their skill bracket they will have to reach a certain score threshold to get awarded their pip
  • Crossing into a new tier or new division will earn bigger and more prestigious rewards (the first time in a season this is done will give the biggest rewards)
  • The Amber Division will only award pips, it won’t take them away for losing
  • In divisions two and three players can lose pips but they won’t lose tiers
  • Starting in division four players can lose both pips and tiers
  • During a season players will never fall back to a previous division
  • The sixth division (Legendary) is a repeatable division which plays can fill out for repeatable rewards
  • Different divisions will have different badges for player nameplates
  • Badges are earned for each current season; as soon as a new season starts all badges are reset and must be earned again
  • Anyone who makes it into the Legendary Division will earn a permanent title
  • League Tokens are a reward for crossing into higher divisions and can be used to buy the first level of the “Wings of Glory” back item and can be used to upgrade it
  • New items will be added in the future and the newest items will always be at a discount
  • League play will also unlock the ability for players to craft a precursor and eventually craft that item into a legendary back item
  • Dishonor system will be returning
  • Guild Teams in sPvP (source)
    • A guild team is a named five player group who compete in sPvP together
    • Each team will have their own rating and place on the new guild leaderboard
    • A single guild can have multiple teams but each must have a unique name
    • Each team will have one captain
    • Must have 3 members of a team queuing together in order for a match to be counted as a team match
    • Matchmaking will use the team rating instead of personal rating when playing as a team
    • Guilds can unlock perks, for example the guild anthem can play at the end of a match the team wins
    • Will be active during all league seasons (source)
    • Ratings will decay with time (source)
    • Rewards will be given at the end of season based on where teams end and will also be used to determine who will be invited to higher-tier tournaments (source)

Guild Halls (source)

  • Home base to build & grow
  • Core hub for a guild
  • Guilds will choose between Lost Precipice and Gilded Hallow (source)
  • Claiming your Guild Hall (source)
    • Guilds will register themselves with the Guild Initiative
    • Guild Initiative Headquarters is an instance shared by guild members (sort of like a mini hall)
    • After clearing out the Modrem a Guild Leader will interact with a crystal to claim the Hall
  • Building the Hall (source)
    • To upgrade Halls guilds will use a combination of specific crafting materials, favor, and aetherium
    • Aetherium is generated automatically over time from the guild mine
    • Buildings form instantly when you pay for them
    • Six main buildings Tavern, Mine, Workshop, War Room, Market, Arena
  • Consumable upgrades which have been purchased should be used before Heart of Thorns goes live (source)
  • Once the Guild Initiative Headquarters opens Guilds will be able to trade a limited amount of Influence for Favor everyday (source)
  • Influence will also be used to purchase a small increase to aetherium production, once a day (source)
  • Guilds will also be able to convert as much influence to resonance as they like (source)
  • Merits will be retired (source)
  • Heart of Thorns will introduce the ability to view and talk in any guild chat of which you are a member even if you aren’t currently representing (source)
  • Guild Mission changes (source)
    • Will be how guilds earn favor
    • Missions will be free to run as often as wanted, but rewards will still be once a week
    • Guilds will start with a few missions available, and as the guild levels up more missions will open up
    • Guild Challenges and Guild Puzzles will be instanced
    • Only one mission of a given type can be active at a time
    • A guild portal in the guild hall can be built and will transport guild members to the start point for each guild mission available
  • Guild Crafting (source)
    • Guild Items will have a build time requirement
    • This time can be shortened by using resonance
    • Resonating shards will drop while playing grouped with guildies and is the main source of resonance
    • Scribes can create guild consumables, improvements and tactics for claiming in WvW, and guild hall decorations
  • War Room (source)
    • The ability to claim objectives is unlocked through the war room
    • The guild with the most members present when an objective is taken will have first priority in claiming
    • If three guilds pass then anyone can claim
    • Guilds can only have one objective per map claimed (source)
    • Objectives can be claimed by clicking on the objective in the map (source)
    • Claimed objectives will be marked by a shield on the map (source)
    • Upgrades are upgrades to an objective that give it better defenses and new functionality
      • These improvements last for as long as your guild has the objective claimed
      • Tier I unlocks after guild has objective for 10 minutes, Tier II at 30 minutes, and Tier III at 60 minutes (source)
      • Each tier offers options for the upgrades and it will take 3 minutes for the upgrade to be built (source)
    • Tactics are objective-based abilities that players can activate to temporarily boost or defend an objective

Changes to Fractals (source)

  • Each fractal run will consist of one fractal from a static list instead of three random fractals with a random boss at the end
  • The static list will be dependent on the scale of the fractal (source)
  • Lower scales will be adjusted to help new players learn the mechanics
  • Maximum fractal scale will be raised from 50 to 100
  • Past 50 the difficulty curve will not only adjust health and damage of creature but will also adjust other stats (ex toughness and precision)
  • Existing mistlock instabilities will either be updated or replaced
  • In the higher scales there will also be multiple mistlock instabilities active at the same time
  • Dessa will also have new consumables for fractals available which will stack with other existing consumables
  • Fractals will have their own achievement tab and will have special rewards for completing them
  • Daily fractal achievements will be divided into three level ranges 1–20, 21–50, and 51 and above
  • The final chest in every fractal will be a tradeable lockbox called a fractal encryption which has the chance to contain the following (in addition to other things):
    • Mini Professor Mew
    • new ascended aquatic-breather recipes
    • high-level crafting materials
  • Mini Professor Mew can be combined with a fractal ingredient to create the full set of cat golem mintures
  • Changes to fractal weapon skins
    • Addition of a collection for obtaining all the skins and a new reward
    • After completing fractal scale 50 golem BUY-2046 will sell a fractal weapon crate for pristine fractal relics and players will be able to pick which skin they want
    • New skins will be added but will only be obtainable at the 50+ scales
    • Will be able to take any of the new fractal skins and convert it, in the mystic forge, to a new fractal weapon skin of the player’s choice
  • BUY-2046 will also start selling Ascended Salvage kits
    • Salvaging any ascended item will have the chance to yield a ball of dark energy which is needed for crafting new legendary items
    • Salvaging rings will yield stabilizing matrices, useful for legendary crafting or can be traded in for fractal encryption keys

Legendary Backpacks (source)

  • Will be account bound
  • A guide in Mistlock Observatory will help point players in the direction of new types of challenges, timed boss encounters, and collections of items to obtain both inside and outside of the fractals
  • Those achievements along with armorsmith, leatherworker, or tailor profession will enable players to build their precursor back item
  • The last step to making it a legendary item is called Ad Infinitum

Other sources:

About Guild Hall availability: https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/hot/Guilds-and-Guild-Halls/first#post5195339

About needing HoT to make a Revenant: https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/hot/Have-to-buy-HoT-to-create-a-Revenant/first#post4867494

The ability to train Masteries is unlocked at level 80 for all players that own Heart of Thorns”: https://www.guildwars2.com/en/news/reimagining-progression-the-mastery-system/

“While elite specializations will be available to everyone who purchases the expansion, the upcoming core specialization changes will affect the base game.” : https://www.guildwars2.com/en/news/ready-up-core-specializations-summary/

About Leagues being tied to HoT, I talked to John Corpening about it at the GW2 Pax party, I’ll update with a link when his new post about Leagues gets posted.

The Problem With “Future of MMOs” Panels

Every year at PAX East there is a panel called “The Future of MMOs” and as someone who enjoys MMOs and really cares about them, I always attend this panel. It isn’t always hosted by the same publication, this year it was done by MMORPG, but regardless of who is leading the panel it always has the same huge failing. The focus is never on the future of MMOs but on whatever games the panelists happen to be working on.

Now you might think to yourself “if the game they are working on isn’t out yet, then talking about their game is the future” and in a very small sense you would be right. The thing is, any MMO currently being worked on and played, even in closed betas, is part of the current landscape. People are experiencing the game and pushing its current development. It might be idealistic of me but when I think of the “future” I tend to think in terms of more than a few years from now.

I’m not saying people currently working on MMOs shouldn’t be on the panel, they absolutely should be. They just shouldn’t be focused on promoting their individual projects. And mentioning the games shouldn’t be forbidden. Absolutely introduce each person and their game, heck even give a quick synopsis of the game; it gives the audience an understanding of where each panelist is coming from. But then move on to the broader topics MMOs face, there are so many to choose from.

Here’s a few choices topics which could easily fill an hour long panel.

The first is “leveling experience versus endgame experience”. Anyone who has played multiple MMOs knows there is often a huge disconnect between how a MMO feels while leveling and how it feels at max level. Often players find the way they were able to play while leveling doesn’t work well when they move on to max level content. The end result is often one of two things. At max level the player discovers either the class they thought they really enjoyed and liked they don’t enjoy anymore, or the player misses out on playing a class they would enjoy at a lot at max level because the leveling experience isn’t fun. In the end this is a problem because it creates a barrier which causes people to stop playing.

Another interesting topic is payment structures and pitfalls. I know many Devs would rather not think about the monetization of their games, but it is a business and MMOs aren’t cheap. No matter if a game is subscription, buy to play, or free to play the choice of which model to go with will have an affect on the game and who is willing to try it. The MMO community has a lot of differing opinions about the payment models and hearing Devs discuss them in an open and honest way could be a really interesting discussion.

A related but huge topic on its own is, how fears about ‘pay to win’ are affecting MMOs. No MMO wants to be labeled as ‘pay to win’ but what does it even really mean? There have been huge discussions, and arguments, in the MMO community about at what point a MMO becomes pay to win. In fact it seems the only thing the community agrees on is pay to win is universally bad. The one thing I haven’t really seen is Devs talk about it, except to say their game isn’t/won’t be pay to win. This could actually be an interesting discussion if people didn’t spend the whole time trying to sell their game.

I’m also not saying mentioning how something is done in a game to illustrate a concept or give an example is a bad thing. There’s just a pretty big line between giving an example and promoting a game. One problem of course is at shows game developers are very much in the “promotion” mode. Breaking them out of this mentality to get to the deeper issues could be problematic, but it also is probably easier than some would assume. I have to think at the end of the day most people making a MMO are doing it because they actually like the genre. And because they work on them they have to at least thought about these issues on some level.

The real roadblock would probably the panel “moderator”. I say moderator in quotes because very little of what happens at these panels resembles moderating at all. Most of the time questions are thrown out, and then there is no attempt to keep things on point. Finding someone who would be willing and able to push back and really lead an in depth discussion of real MMO issues seems like it could be the real barrier. I mean, this year there was one panelist who talked about how no publisher is willing to pay for a fantasy MMO anymore. The kicker was he was sitting between two people who were doing just that. One who’s game has been out and successful for a few years, and the other on a game which just recently came out. It was mind blowing.

A panel which is focused on current issues and how they might or should be solved would be far more interesting than a panel about “why this game I am working on is awesome”. I am probably foolish in holding out hope this might become a reality… but it was be amazing.

What If Scarlet Doesn’t Die?

Quick word of caution, if you haven’t done the current Living Story story instance there will be some minor spoilers in this article.

The beginning of the end has started for the Living Story Season 1, and with it there have been some interesting developments. Our merry little band of NPC characters has now grown by one with the addition of Taimi, a precocious Asura who pretty quickly attaches herself to Braham despite his protests. Taimi’s ultimate goal seems to be to meet Scarlet and become her apprentice and eventually overthrow her. That’s a pretty big aspiration, even for an Asura. If we assume the speculation about this group of heroes basically being a Destiny’s Edge 2.0 is correct, then with the addition of Taimi we have one spot left to fill. And no Sylvari.

One of the more interesting conversations in the story instance happens between Rox and Rytlock. He finally tells Rox she can join the Stone Warband if she kills Scarlet. Now, I am pretty sure Rytlock isn’t saying Rox needs to go challenge Scarlet to a duel or anything, that would be a bit silly, but rather she just needs to be a big part of the effort to take Scarlet down. Similar to when Rox was hunting down Tequatl. Of course hearing this news upsets Braham because he still is dealing with his abandonment issues and there is a fight between them which is sadly reminiscent of Logan and Rytlock.

However, I don’t think the goal here really is to rip Rox away from this group. I’m expecting some character growth to happen with her where she realizes she already has a group she belongs with despite them not being Charr. Now this certainly could happen with Scarlet being killed and having Rox be offered membership and at that point realizing she doesn’t want to leave her friends behind… but feels a bit meh and formulaic. Now I am finding myself leaning more towards hoping there is some possible way to save Scarlet, and possibly even having Rox be the one to make the call not to kill her. Which is weird for me since I have been championing the idea of Scarlet dying one way or another.

Which leads me to an interview gamerzines posted with lead designer Mike Zadorojny in which he said something really interesting:

“This is the first time players get to see a little bit of the history behind Scarlet and tells the back story of how she looked into the eternal alchemy, and saw something looking back at her.This malevolent being out there was so powerful that it started taking over her mind and giving her suggestions in terms of what she should be doing and things like that. There is a big point here, in terms of the battle between Scarlet’s free will versus this creature’s and you’ll see her transformation.”

Now there are a few important things here. The first is this apparently is confirmation someone or something is controlling Scarlet. Now this is a really sad and almost perverse revelation for Scarlet personally. Right from the beginning she has always wanted to do her own thing and break free from any concept of what she was supposed to do. To know most of what she accomplished has only been under the influence of some other being is just sad. This fits nicely in with the bits from her journal in game which also indicate she was aware on some level of this thing trying to control her and her struggle against it.

The other important part is he mentions we will see her transformation. Which seems to possibly indicate we’ll somehow see the events when she was in the Asura contraption and see this thing take over her. Or possibly the events in the Edge of the Mists update will be a look into the pass and we might see the end of her struggle against this thing. Though it seems like an odd choice to at this point somehow go back in time and see things which have already happened. It’s possible but I’m not convinced that’s where this is going.

Instead, I am leaning towards in the next patch we will learn what is controlling Scarlet and we’ll either figure out how, or start working on figuring out how to free her from the control of whatever it is. Now there is some basis in the lore where Destiny’s Edge used magical tattoos to prevent the dragon champions and even Kralkatorrik from controlling their minds; it should also be possible to free someone of mind control using some sort of similar method. In this case the transformation we would be witnessing would be Scarlet going from this crazy, random, weird mess to a whole person who is possibly a bit horrified at some of the things she has done. If that’s how things play out then it is quite possible for Scarlet to then join up with our merry band of adventurers and work to try and rectify some of the damage she caused.

My only issue is while I could see things playing out like this and it makes sense, I have very mixed feelings about it all. I think it would be really cool if she died in a fiery ball of villainy; but if she is just some evil god’s pawn I’d rather she die under her own free will saving everything. I mean it would be cool to get to know her as a real character with a personality aside from brilliant insanity… Completely depends on how they play it out in game though. But I think it’s a very real possibility she might be the last member of the new icons group.

What Classifies A MMO As Successful?

A few months ago at a Media and Telecom Conference in New York Take-Two Interactive’s Chairman Strauss Zelnick commented on how they are pursuing online gaming and MMOs they just aren’t doing it in the US because MMOs don’t work here. To put some context on this Take-Two is known for games like Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, and Red Dead Redemption, so they aren’t exactly slouches when it comes to video games. I’ve had some time to really mull over my thoughts and feelings on this topic, so here is a consolidation of the most important points.

This is his exact quote:

We’re actively investing in online and MMOs, we’re just not doing it in the U.S. MMOs don’t work here. A couple of our competitors have found out that through very, very expensive lessons… at any given time 10 to 20 are successful in China and generating revenue.

There are a few weird things going on with this statement. The first and obvious question, why is he only thinking about the US and Chinese markets? I don’t know about everyone else but I sure know a lot of European and Canadian people who play MMOs, not to mention all the South Koreans who are also part of the larger Asian market. Maybe he just overlooked the rest of the MMO gaming world and happened to mention just the US and China. I really hope he didn’t intend to lump all the Asian countries in with China, and I REALLY hope he wasn’t intending to lump the rest of the world in with the US.

To support his claim Zelnick followed up by saying “How many MMOs have been successful in the U.S.? Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest.” Now there is no arguing Everquest and World of Warcraft definitely are examples of successful games, but they certainly aren’t the only two. Eve Online is not only a successful subscription MMO but it also has been consistently growing throughout it’s lifespan (something WoW actually can’t claim). Another very successful subscription game is Ultima Online, and these are just two examples off the top of my head.

Additionally if you consider the fact he picked two sub based games it seems like for him the definition of success is having a sustaining and profitable subscription model. That’s a perfectly fine way to model success. It makes it even stranger he wouldn’t include Eve Online if that is his measure of success. It boggles my mind to consider how anyone can consider Eve Online to be anything but a success.

However, if that’s how he wants to define success then his choice of using China as an example of where MMOs are more often successful is really strange because the dominant model for MMOs in China is free to play. It’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges, especially when there are certainly more than two successful US MMOs if we include free to play and buy to play games.

Which brings us to the whole debate about how to judge the success of MMOs. With games like Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic transitioned to free to play models does that automatically make them failures? Reportedly SWTOR has been doing better now after the addition of f2p than it was before, so it could be viewed as a success. However, the fact they had to change their model definitely can be argued as a failure. The same thing goes for Rift. Ever since they transitioned over the game has been booming, but I can see the argument for having to change at all being a failure. I am still not sure I would class either as a failure overall though.

If you start looking at free to play or buy to play games it can get even harder to tell what a success is since you can’t go off sub numbers. Guild Wars 2 has said a few times their gem store sales more than cover their costs and they have the most aggressive content schedule in MMOs currently. It’s really hard to see how GW2 isn’t a success. We are almost a year after the launch and they are doing so well they are focusing on giving content away instead of focusing on paid expansions.

In an interview with Massively Scott Hartsman (former Trion GM and CCO) talked about how the current business model for AAA MMOs is fundamentally broken and part of the reason is the development costs has risen exponentially over the last few years. While it might sound like a good thing companies are putting more money into MMOs, it puts greater strain on companies because it narrows the margin of error. We have gone from a model where a company could make mistakes and still have some room to cover.

In addition to the rise in costs player expectations have also drastically risen. It used to be a company could make a few mistakes but they could then learn from them and fix the mistakes and gamers would stick with them. Now it seems like as soon as a MMO has an issue a certain segment of players is out, and will go play something else. It’s not necessarily a bad thing gamers want more for their money, but it is another factor putting increased strain on game developers.

There is also something to be said for developers just not really being in touch with the MMO market as a whole. One example of devs being out of touch with the MMO community is SWTOR devs never expected people to play in one sitting for more than 3-4 hours at a time. I remember having a conversation with Cory Butler, Bioware Live Producer, at Pax East 2012 about that and being absolutely astonished. Even super casual players will have play times longer than that from time to time, and not being aware of something like that when you are making a MMO is a huge oversight.

It doesn’t end there either. Just in my general observations of MMOs in the last few years the standard life cyle is, a new MMO launches and tons of people buy it and start playing. Then a month or so later some percentage of players stop playing. Then the publisher sort of panics because for some reason they assumed it would just be clear sailing with no bumps in the road. Whereas, at least to me, it seems like they should plan for the drop off and have the ultimate goal to slowly grow the MMO over years. Instead it often feels like publishers just look at MMOs as quick money (after they launch) and if it doesn’t blow everything else out of the water they decide to abandon ship.

Personally I think the real measure of success should be if a game grows over time and if it is making enough to sustain itself. I get the argument about if a game lives up to expectations or not, but with publishers being so out of touch it seems a silly measure to go by. That goes double for living up to consumer’s expectations as well.