Pax East Interview With Colin Johanson And Isaiah Cartwright

Originally posted on Gamebreaker March 10th, 2015.

During PAX East Guild Wars 2 game director Colin Johanson and lead game designer Isaiah Cartwright took some time to go through their Heart of Thorns demo with me and answered a ton of questions about the upcoming expansion. Unfortunately, there is still a lot information they aren’t ready to talk about yet, but what is available so far is pretty interesting.

Story and Feature Updates

The storyline for Heart of Thorns picks up the very next day after the last episode of Living Story Season 2 ends. This of course means between now and when Heart of Thorns launches there won’t be living story updates. For people who really enjoy the story and seeing the world progress this is a bit of a disappointment because we will have awhile to wait before the story continues.

This, however, does not mean GW2 will be stagnant until then. The recently announced camera changes will be live in the game in a couple of weeks, and they have more unannounced feature changes planned as well. In addition there will be other events similar to the Lunar New Year festival. So while we are all anxiously waiting to see where the story goes next, we won’t be left with nothing new in game in the meantime.

Surveying WreckageGuilds are a main focus in Heart of Thorns

One of the main things I was hoping to learn more about is what they have planned for guilds in the expansion. So far the only thing which has really been announced is the Guild Hall, which although interesting and exciting seems a little light for an expansion. Guild Halls on its own seems like the sort of thing which could be implemented as a major feature patch if there was nothing else to go with it.

Unfortunately they weren’t prepared to reveal anything new for guilds today. However, Johanson did emphasize guilds are a main pillar for HoT. They really want to make having a guild and being in a guild matter in a larger way in the game as a whole. For example making it easier for guilds to work together to accomplish tasks in a collaborative way is something they are interested in.

They couldn’t get into specifics of course, but something which seems likely is improvements to how guild missions work when multiple guilds are trying to do them. For example, rushes currently work really well with multiple guilds, but puzzles are often problematic. Expanding out guild missions as a whole seems a likely possibility as well as giving us new types of content to do as a guild. Also there was mention of more support for guilds doing “non-standard” types of events.


The playable demo had a level 80 Revenant available to play with the Hammer skill set and the two Legends they have announced already Mallyx the Unyielding and Jalis Ironhammer.

As previously revealed which Legend the player currently has active will determine what skills are filled in the 6-0 slots. Currently, the functionality is there so the player can switch which ability is in which slot. So instead of having the chain skill in the 8 slot the player could change it to the 9 slot. There is the potential for there to be more skills available than can be slotted (similar to how skills in other professions work) but they haven’t really decided on it yet and they expect it’s one area where the beta will help fill in what is needed in terms of customization.

Hammer as a ranged weapon actually works fairly well mechanically. It is sort of similar to how a Mesmer uses a Greatsword where there are various effects which come out from the Hammer. It’ll be interesting to see how everything functions and works when everyone is playing a variety of professions and specializations instead of everyone playing a Revenant. Though the chaos which ensued might be a good indication of what the first few weeks after launch will be like.

There have been some people out there wondering if perhaps the Revenant will start off at some level higher than level 1 to give players an easier time catching up and to be able to play the new content quicker. However, Johanson did confirm they will start at level 1. So everyone planning to roll a Revenant right away should stock up on those tomes of experience.

Pale ReaversRelease Date and Beta

They’ve just opened up sign-ups for beta here at PAX East and on the GW2 website by signing up for the Guild Wars 2 Newsletter. There won’t be an NDA for the closed beta which makes life a bit easier for everyone. invites will be staggered to slowly ramp up and test their systems. Content testing will also likely be staggered.

One thing Colin was pretty emphatic about is they don’t really have a set release date for the expansion. Heart of Thorns is going to set the foundation for how Guild Wars 2 will grow and expand over the lifetime of the game, so they really want to make sure they have it set properly before release. He expects a lot of changes will happen during beta and they really want to make sure they have the flexibility to adapt to those changes.

Next Week at EGX Rezzed

A lot of the focus here at PAX East has been on getting players into the demo and experiencing the first taste of the new areas and mechanics. Next week at Rezzed the focus will shift a bit to be more on the new Boarderlands map and WvW as a whole. Johanson indicated they have a lot of changes planned for WvW, so next week should be interesting.

Blizzard Hitting All The Right Notes With Warlords Of Draenor

Originally posted on Gamebreaker on Nov. 18th 2014.

Warlords of Draenor has been live for a few days now, and it seemed like a good time to take stock of how everything is going. Having spent a fair amount of time in both the Alpha and Beta I expected the first hour or so of gameplay to be pretty boring. I have been pleasantly surprised in this regard.

I should warn you, that although I am going to stay away from any major spoilers I will be talking about things which occur in questlines and as such there will be minor spoilers. It should also be noted that since I played the Alliance side, any zones or persons mentioned will be related to that.

bannerTanaan Jungle

The questline for Tanaan Jungle is very straightforward and linear, which is why I originally planned to just push through it as fast as possible. I had gone through the questline in Alpha/Beta and already had a general understanding of what should happen. However, there are a several short cinematics sprinkled throughout the zone that really help to both lighten the mood and draw players into what is going on.

One fantastic moment occurs right at the beginning as we are about to go through the Dark Portal for the first time. Maraad and Thrall are fighting through the orcs and doing a great job of it. Then as an orc emerges from the portal Thrall kicks it in the stomach returning it back from whence it came. It was simultaneously a hilarious moment and a “yea way to be a badass, Thrall” moment. Especially nice to see after watching Thrall get his butt kicked by Garrosh for months.

Additionally, every time we meet one of the warlords we get a close up of the warlord and, hilariously their name written in big golden letters so you know exactly who you are meeting. It is a bit campy, but it also is nice to see them get those moments right upfront. In addition, it assists people who don’t know the lore so well put names to the orcs, and each clip is only a few seconds long.


I knew going into WoD that Garrisons we’re going to be something I really enjoyed, but apparently the fact the game is officially live now made it even more enjoyable. I had planned out my entire Garrison before launch right down to when I was going to build the things and when I’d switch out buildings for other buildings. Even so I was a quite excited to build my Barracks and get my first follower. I’m trying really hard not to think of Followers as Pokemon.

One thing I’d really like to see added to Garrisons is an expansion to the Armory mobile app that will allow us to manage our garrisons even when we can’t login. Being able to send followers on missions, or build buildings remotely would be a huge bonus. The basic in-game interface is very similar to a webpage already, so ideally they could build it into the website.

banner2Profession Improvements

I really really dislike leveling professions, it’s the one aspect of MMOs which tends to annoy me often. Going into Warlords of Draenor I was really happy with the change to gathering professions which gives players the ability to collect from any node regardless of profession level. That was a huge Quality of Life (QoL) change. This only left me really having to slog through leveling Jewelcrafting.

Due to time and money restrictions I had only managed to get my Jewelcrafting up to 379. So I had prepared myself for the fact I was likely going to either spend a ton of gold to buy materials, or I was going to have to go back to old zones and do a lot of farming.

However, pretty quickly after arriving in Shadowmoon Valley I looted a scroll which said it would teach me to make Draenor Jewelcrafting items. It didn’t have a profession level requirement, so I went ahead and used it figuring at least I’d have the ability when I got my Jewelcrafting to a higher level. I was pleasantly surprised to see I could use the new Draenor mats immediately to level up my profession.

No going back to old zones. No buying tons of things on the auction house to make tons of things I’d never use and couldn’t sell because no one else wanted them either. I could just start increasing my Jewelcrafting now with the new ore I was getting. This also made me decide I am definitely going to swap out mining for Enchanting after my mine is built. Oh happy day.

Queues, Crashes, DCs, and All The Lag!

Warlords of Draenor definitely had a bit of a bumpy launch. Queues were extreme, in many cases the seeing a queue of over 1k was not unusual. While it isn’t unusual to see queues during an expansion launch these seemed much longer than they normally have been.  I can’t help but wonder if maybe all the realm linking Blizzard has been doing over the last year sort of exacerbated the problem. With the return of many previous accounts I could see how it could possibly overload things, of course we don’t know how many people waited until just before launch to reactivate their account. Either way Blizzard acted swiftly to make improvements and get people in game much more quickly.

Once players did get in game there were a lot of problems with lag in the world and getting to various parts of it. Players often ended up either unable to get to their Garrisons or unable to leave. No matter which side you were on it was frustrating. Blizzard did some maintenance on Friday and Saturday to help with these issues and for the most part they seemed to have gotten most things under control. Of course everything isn’t perfect, as I write this I am unable to hearth into my Garrison.

Some of the problems on launch day weren’t really Blizzard’s fault, someone decided to be “cool” and DDoS them, which was a real drag for everyone. On the upside Blizzard is giving everyone 5 days of free sub time which does take the sting out of the problems for many, though it doesn’t really help people who were planning to go for server firsts in leveling.

flyingOverall Warlords Is Amazing

Like I mentioned previously, connection issues are consistently getting better and servers are pretty stable at this point. There’s no reason to believe Blizzard won’t continue making improvements and making the overall experience better. At this point I’m ready to just kick back and enjoy the expansion. I am also wholeheartedly enjoying not having to rush to get raid ready in time for the first week of raiding. Here’s to hoping we have 3-4 weeks after every expansion launch before we need to get to raiding!

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments Review

Originally posted on Gamebreaker on Sept. 30, 2014.

As a long time fan of most adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, I was quite excited to play the newest game, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments, by Ukrainian developer Frogware Games. They took inspiration from various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and combined them all into one interesting package. Furthermore in this game the player doesn’t merely follow along as Sherlock solves the cases, rather the player is the driving force and makes all the investigative choices.

Gathering Information

The main goal in Crimes and Punishments to solve a series of six cases through investigation, deduction and the careful application of deduction; anything else really couldn’t be considered a Sherlock Holmes game. In most games things start off easy and get more difficult and complex, but Crimes and Punishments didn’t follow the formula. The first case is definitely not the simplest case, I’d actually place it about middle of the road in complexity. However, it did do a great job of introducing many of the mechanics involved in gathering information and coming to conclusions. Thinking back, it was nice to have a fairly complex case right upfront and getting the more simple cases later were a nice break after intense cases.

Interviews are one of the primary ways of gaining clues and finding insight into the cases. For every character who is interviewed Sherlock also builds a “Character Profile” in his Casebook. The player is given a slice of time slowed down to look over the interviewee and make observations. There is a blurred list at the start so it’s easy to know when all the clues have been found. To find these clues it’s a simple matter of mousing over the character, though as simple as it is there were a few times where I knew I had just one more clue to find but it took me a bit to find it.

Sometimes while questioning a subject there will be follow up questions, for instance when we know someone is lying. When this happens an extra option pops up, on PC it was press “Q”, then a list of clues to choose from appears. Often the correct clue is something gathered during the character profile, so doing those first is always a good idea. I was a bit disappointed to discover if the wrong clue is selected I was just told to try again. In most other aspects I was able to make wrong choices and deal with their consequences.

For the most part there is very little hand holding in this game. There are prompts to explain how a skill works or what might be useful, but how you work through the case is up to the player. Additionally there are many puzzles throughout the game to solve; from picking locks to mixing the correct solutions to testing something. Sadly, it is possible to just skip any of the puzzles or challenges and the game acts as if you had solved it. Which is good if a player were to really get stuck… but being able to skip all of that stuff really makes a large part of the gameplay pointless.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewSolving Cases

It is quite possible to interpret the clues in a case and come to almost any conclusion, which truly let me feel like I had a really important role in how everything played out. For example in the first case Peter Carey is run through with a harpoon. Sherlock and Watson set-up an experiment to see how difficult it would be to harpoon someone into a wall. The result shows, quite obviously, it’s a fairly difficult task to accomplish. On the deductions page the two ways to interpret this information is either it was done by someone with strength and skill or someone got very lucky. Either way will change how all the evidence fits to conclude different people are innocent or guilty.

However, I was not able to come to illogical conclusions which makes sense for a game about Sherlock Holmes. Any deductions which conflict will be highlighted in red and won’t be used in forming a conclusion until the conflict is resolved. Additionally once a deduction is made it isn’t set in stone. I often went through and made every possible combination of deductions just to see what the different possibilities are. I found this particularly helpful for the hardest cases because it often boiled down to what scenario seemed the most likely to me.

After each case is solved the “punishments” part comes in and the player has to make a moral choice about the crime. Was it cold blooded murder or was extenuating circumstances? Does the murder deserve to hang or is some other arrangement possible? Not only did I get to pick which option I thought fit the crime best, but I got to see the outcomes of my choices and their consequences. This added another layer to the game which also opens areas for personal introspection. When it comes to making moral judgements many games would take the opportunity to preach about what the “right” choice was; Frogwares happily decided to avoid trying to push particular value system.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewSide Theme

Concurrent with the main storyline there is a bit of a side story which comes to the fore near the end of the game. The side story deals with the concept of if people have a right, or even an obligation, to rebel against people in power if they perceive the people in power to be corrupt. I was not expecting the storyline to go there, but after I reached the end and thought back over the whole game I realized the hints had been there the whole time.

This is another area where Frogwares could have used Crimes and Punishments to push a certain agenda, but again there is no preaching. When the time comes the player is completely able to make whichever choice they want and live with the consequences. There is a ton of room for personal introspection into real issues which are actually relevant in the today’s world. Not many video games seem to be able to successfully delve into those areas, and this one manages it brilliantly because anyone not interested in that sort of experience wouldn’t be forced into it.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewTechnical Aspects

The most impressive technical aspect of Crimes and Punishments was the quality of voice overs and animations during dialogue. Each character who was directly interacted with (about 4-5 per case) had a different voice with a bit of a different accent. Even Sherlock would have different accents when he disguised himself as someone else. It was really impressive, and all the conversations felt fluid and natural. The dialogue animation wasn’t perfect, corners of lips and eyebrow movement were often a bit off, but it was still very well done. Even on the close ups the characters skin looked like there was actual depth to it.

One downside to the flow of the game was that there are a lot of loading screens. Most aren’t very long, but some of them certainly didn’t feel necessary. There were, however, two nice consolations for the loading screens when moving between locations. The first is the loading screen is actually an animation of Sherlock (and anyone else traveling with him) in a carriage. Particularly entertaining about this, aside from it just feeling real to the story, Sherlock would often be reading either the Casebook or a copy of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. The second nice thing about the traveling loading screen is during them the casebook and deductions page are both available to be used, so the waiting doesn’t have to be empty time.

There is a lot of area in the game which is fully explorable, but there are also a great many invisible walls which diminish enjoyment just a bit. Most of the invisible walls make sense and are clearly there because this isn’t a fully open and explorable world. Others seem pretty random and pointless. For example in one area there is a little pond in the middle of a garden. I thought it seemed logical to be able to just walk across it, but sadly there was an invisible wall blocking the pond off. I could walk all the way around it, but I just couldn’t stick a single toe in.

I played the PC version through Steam and I didn’t have any real issues with graphics or sound. There was one minor glitch the first time I went to Scotland Yard, but it cleared up quickly and never happened again. Additionally, the music and environmental sounds worked really well together to set the mood and FPS was consistently smooth.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewConclusions

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a very strong and intriguing game with a lot to offer. It does have some minor drawbacks such as the load screens and invisible walls, but those inconveniences are really minor when compared to the strong storytelling and the important role of player choice. This game works well for someone just looking for a fun game of solving crimes and equally well for someone who is looking for more of an intellectual challenge and perhaps to delve into their own moral code a bit.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments will be available on September 30th on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.

Revolution 60 Review: The Next Evolution Of The Mobile Game

Originally posted on Gamebreaker July 25th, 2014.

When I first sat down to play through Revolution 60 I had some idea of what the game was like from previously playing a demo last Fall. I had been intrigued by it because Revolution 60 was trying to offer an experience in a mobile game which I have only ever experienced with PC and console games. A story driven game which is also challenging and fun. I wasn’t disappointed.


Revolution 60 is set in a futuristic world where China and the US are competing for control of a space station weapons platform. The player mostly fills the role of Holiday, who is the assassin on a team of elite spies, though there are a few points where the player will also control Min and Amelia. Before too long, the mission starts to go sideways and it’s up to the player to prevent a major international incident from happening and to prevent a psychotic AI from getting free.

rev60_3All of the story scenes are done in a very interesting and compelling way, which flows naturally into gameplay. There are quite a few instances where what seems like a cut-scene will flow seamlessly into an action event. If you are slow on reacting to this it can have dire consequences.

Additionally, the choices made during gameplay affect how the story unfolds, and having a certain amount of reputation with Min or Amelia will open different dialogue options throughout the game. One of the best surprises in Revolution 60’s story was it’s possible to play through the entire game and still fail the mission. And it’s not all dependent on one choice which is made at the end of the game. How the story ends is completely dependent on choices made throughout the game.

Along with the story, the music and voice overs play an important part in emphasizing story points. This is definitely one game you’ll want to have all the sounds on for. The level of detail the environment and character animations also worked well in selling the authenticity of the setting. Revolution 60 is the the first mobile game where I legitimately got so wrapped up in the game I lost track of time.

Proficiency Points

Lack of story isn’t the only area most mobile games fall short on, complexity of gameplay is also a key area which is generally lacking. Revolution 60 uses a number of different mechanics to decide if an action in the story is successful or not.

rev60_1During the entire game depending on how well tasks are performed “Proficiency Points” are earned. Failing at a challenge will subtract points from your total, and succeeding but not as well as you could have will reward less than doing something perfectly. Dying also comes with a Proficiency Point charge.

At the end of the game depending on how many Proficiency Points have been accumulated success or failure of the mission will be determined. Having gameplay throughout the game be a determining factor and not just a single choice is huge and really makes the entire game feel important.

In Normal mode the player does get a couple of tries at succeeding, but like I mentioned previously those extra tries do come at a cost. Sometimes a combination of movements will need to be performed, other times things will need to be done in a certain amount of time, and some times it’s a combination of these things.


Combat is based on a grid system and as you fight the different enemies you’ll learn certain sounds indicate a certain types of attacks and each attack also has a different animation associated with it. Learning to recognize this information is important because it is possible to interrupt an attack if the you hit the enemy at the right moment, though the enemy can also interrupt you as well.

COM_Capture1-2048x1536-1302053214It’s also possible to chain together movement and attacks to quickly accomplish an attack or dodge. However, if you aren’t careful you might just move yourself into the line of attack. Learning when to go all out, and when to bide your time is a vital skill in getting through combat as efficiently as possible.

Every time a successful attack is made on an enemy a certain amount of energy is earned. When enough energy is obtained and the player is standing in the front row they gain access to a special more powerful attack. These special attacks require specific action events to be done and success depends on how well they are preformed. In most fights each special attack only requires two skill challenges, but later on there are ones which require three or four of these challenges. Also near the end of Revolution 60 every time a special attack is used in a fight it’ll ask for a different combination of action events.

What RPG would be complete without a talent tree system? The system in Revolution 60 is pretty simple, but it is also full of tough choices which all have a direct effect on combat.

There are 9 levels in the game and each time a level is gained one point can be put into the talent tree. In order to get to the most powerful abilities, you’ll only want to pick one thing in each level to put points in. It seems like any combination of skills is viable, but some combinations are clearly better than others.


rev60_2There are three difficulty levels Easy, Normal, and Girlfriend (Hardmode). Easy is designed for kids and people who aren’t really experienced gamers. Normal is where everyone else will start out and is challenging without being overly punishing. Only a successful completion in Normal Mode (meaning the mission doesn’t fail) will unlock the Girlfriend mode. People looking for a real challenge should definitely aim to unlock Girlfriend mode and spend most of their game time there.

My only real disappointment with Girlfriend mode is the tutorial still functions as a tutorial and since you have to get through normal to even play Girlfriend mode, it felt a bit redundant. However, the tutorial passes quickly and Girlfriend mode is a ton of fun if you are looking to be challenged.


My first “ah ha” moment in gaming was when I played Final Fantasy VIII, it was the first game I ever played in which I felt completely wrapped in a world and had a gaming experience which was more than just completing tasks. There was a story I felt part of and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

ss-013Mobile gaming has existed in a state similar to what I experienced prior to playing FF8 for the first time. There are fun mobile games but they all have the barest story, if any at all. Revolution 60 is pushing mobile gaming to the next level and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Revolution 60 launched on on July 24th in the Apple App Store. It’s free to try, and $6 to unlock the entire game. Even if you only play through once it’s still multiple hours worth of content. Revolution 60 will also be released for PC and Mac later this year.

One last thing; Revolution 60 doesn’t end until after the end credits are done so don’t bug out early! Plus you get to listen to “2-Player Co-op (Player 2 Press Start)”which is a bonus.

Revisting SWTOR Part 2

Getting back to talking about SWTOR has been really difficult for me. My feelings about everything is extremely jumbled and teasing these things out is not straight foreword.

Let’s Start With The Good Things

Nothing has really changed with the level 1-50 storylines, and they are definitely still worth seeing. The best way to see all of the storylines is to level with three other friends, each playing a different class. This way you won’t have to go back through leveling again (which can get pretty tiresome) and you’ll still see all of the storylines which interweave with each other in interesting ways.

When it comes to the Rise of the Hutt Cartel there is only one story per faction, and both are worth going through once. My recommendation would be to do the Republic story first, but it doesn’t matter very much. Making the content from this expansion available to F2P people is one of the better changes BioWare has made as it encourages less stratification of the player base.

The best change which has been made recently is the addition of Galactic Starfighter. For anyone unfamiliar with this addition, it’s free-form space battlegrounds. I had more fun in these battlegrounds than I have had in a long time playing and characters can take part in battles at any level because it’s the quality of your ship and your skill which matters not the lvl of your character. Here’s a short video I made soon after this feature launch where I was playing with one of my friends.

 And Onto The Bad Things

My biggest issue with SWTOR for a long time has been how they chose to run their F2P system. This aspect has gotten a bit better over time but I still often feel like I am being strong armed into giving them money. Most things can be bought with credits, but it takes a lot to get enough, especially as a first time player. I had a bit of a leg up because I had Preferred status.

The biggest annoyance I have with the F2P model they went with is it stratifies their players. Remember how I said the best way to experience the class stories is playing with friends? Well you’ll want to make sure everyone is either subbed or is F2P together. When I first started playing again I accidentally aggro’ed  too many mobs and sadly I died. I was quite happy to see I had the option to rez right at my body. Naturally I thought to myself “oh cool, I guess they let you have a certain number of rezs at your body now.”

The next day I was working on clearing a four person Heroic with a friend. We unfortunately pulled a pack we were trying to avoid and died. Much to my chagrin I had no option to rez at my body. There was only the one time. Just once. Now for my friend and I, this wasn’t a huge deal because he was willing to run back with me. If I had been running with a group of strangers  it would have been a bigger deal. Especially since the area to rez was outside the instance and there were a few mobs which needed to be killed before zoning in which makes running back take even more time.

Another issue with playing with friends who are subbed when you aren’t is they will level twice as fast. To even this gap out the F2P player will have to spend a fair amount of time playing on their own to just stay even with their friends. Some of this discrepancy can be mitigated by buying the experience boosts in the Character Perks Menu. There are six lines and each line only affects one area. To fill out all the lines all the way would cost 150,000 to 275,000 credits depending on which lines you buy. Alternatively there is the “Ultimate Leveling Bundle” which contains all the XP unlocks for 5,125 cartel coins (4,100 sale right now) which would run $$39.99 with a few coins left over.

Another thing which really rubbed me wrong is some of the restrictions on what rewards can be selected after completing quests. I don’t in general have a big issue with not having some of the rewards available. Quests have two level of rewards, automatic and optional. Restricting optional rewards seems fine, not awesome but definitely livable. However there were a few quests where both of the automatic rewards weren’t available to me, which just really rubbed me the wrong way. I mean an automatic reward should be automatic.

So is playing F2P really worth it?

SWTOR is still a lot of fun and like I said even if nothing else interests you seeing the class stories is fun and interesting. Though my recommendation would be to sub for a month or two and see all the class stories you want and then unsub. Playing F2P isn’t really worthwhile and more than likely will just be a frustrating experience for most people. Which is just all around sad because overall I really enjoy playing SWTOR. Their current business model just makes me resent giving them money.

Let’s Talk About Guild Wars 2′s Living Story Season 2

Originally posted on Gamebreaker May 7th, 2014.

The first season of the Guild Wars 2 Living Story wrapped up back in the middle of March and the “Big Features” patch is done, so now seems like a good time to start thinking about what I’d like to see happen in the next season.

Mordremoth and the Sylvari

In the very last story instance to wrap up everything from Season 1 Taimi talked about how Scarlet has awoken Mordremoth. She sets the stage for what will likely be the first act of the next Living Story Season, Mordremoth awakening and becoming active.

We know he is starting to stir because of the tyriaquakes which have been happening ever since Scarlet set off her device. However, he’s clearly not fully awake since nothing catastrophic has happened just yet. When he does wake we should see some zone altering changes and an outpouring of plant minions.

On that note the fact this Elder Dragon will be obviously of a plant type, there should be some interesting implications for the Sylvari. I wouldn’t be surprised to be meet another group of Sylvari who represent what they would have become if the Pale Tree’s seed hadn’t been stolen. If no one else does the Priory should be able to connect the dots on it. Assuming the truth of the Sylvari isn’t just said outright, there might be some people questioning if any Sylvari can truly be trusted. Additionally it will be interesting to see how the Nightmare Court reacts to all of this. I’d expect the Sylvari to also have a lot of soul searching to do. If any of them suspect they are creations of Mordremoth’s then there would be a whole interesting moral dilemma for them to deal with. What matters more? Who created them and why or what happened to them which made them different than what they were intended to be?

seperator2Rebuilding Lion’s Arch

Currently Lion’s Arch is just a mere shadow of it’s former self, which it should be. Rebuilding this city should absolutely take a lot of time and we definitely should not get LA back to exactly how it had been before. Rebuilding too quickly or making it exactly the same again would just undermine the importance of it being destroyed.

At the same time it shouldn’t just be an NPC only rebuilding process. Instead of having the rebuilding be a small event which happens during this season Arenanet could make it longer one which spans the whole season or more. For example one part could be a collection of wood and metal to help the rebuilding. Every person who contributed could help the process along and once a certain number of materials were collected that stage would be done.

With the implementation of the megaserver Arenanet could even set to goals for the entire population of GW2 to work on together. And it doesn’t need to just be collecting materials, there’s all sorts of events which could be utilized to help players feel like they really had an important part to play in the rebuilding.

New Boss Fight

Currently in the new universal Boss Timers there is a spot for an TBD boss. Now first thing first, it is unlikely this fight will be Mordremoth himself. I’m not sure how Arenanet intends to implement Elder Dragon fights in the future but making them a reoccurring fight seems unlikely. The only way I could that working out is if we fought him until he was forced to retreat, and then after he was beaten a certain number of times the final fight would be triggered (which would probably be a different fight). After that the time slot would go back to being a held time-slot for when the other Elder Dragons are faced.

While all that is possible, I don’t think it is likely. All the other dragon fights on the timers are champions of other dragons so it probably makes sense for Arenanet to stick with this pattern. The only real issue with making the new boss fight be the Champion of Mordremoth’s is we might find ourself in a similar situation as we are with Teq. If the plan with Living Story content is truly to tell stories which have a real and tangible affect on Tyria, fighting the same bosses forever will need to be addressed at some point. The current issue of still having to fight Teq after Zaihtan has been defeated for people who have finished the Personal Story.


I’m not too worried about this next season of the Living Story starting of as slow as the last one. Near the end Arenanet really seemed to get a handle on how to present the story in an engaging way and when to reveal important info.

What I am concerned about is better story progression overall. My biggest annoyance with Scarlet was how we were always trailing behind her and never actually prevented her from doing anything. Every time we faced her it was on her terms and while we might have accomplished little things (like destroying the nightmare tower) it was only after she had accomplished her goal for that particular endeavor.

We a absolutely should face technical failures when facing very formidable beings. But never having any real success is extremely discouraging. I’m not saying we should be given some simple tasks to get our successes and make us feel good, but we should be able to at least occasionally actually accomplish something.

guild wars 2 mmorpg features 2     Lets Talk About Guild Wars 2s Living Story Season 2The new icons

One big loose end still out there is Rox needs to go face Rytlock and wrap up the whole part about how she was supposed to help kill Scarlet to get into his warband. I was really disappointed to see there was no real personal growth and self awareness from her at the end of the last season. Braham could use some personal growth and self awareness as well.

Mr. E… Yea we still don’t know that is or really anything aside from whoever it is was trying to help Marjory. I really hope that side story is developed more.

Taimi and Zojja could really use some “on screen” time together. All of their interactions so far have happened somewhere else and the we just get a recounting of what happened from Taimi, which is just disappointing. I’d really like to see how those two affect each other over time.

All that boils down to…

A catastrophic awakening of Mordremoth, some interesting consequences for the Sylvari, a new dragon fight, new icon character development, and an engaging rebuilding of Lion’s Arch. For everything I am expecting to happen (and I am sure there will be other things I haven’t thought of) I would guess the next season will last either an entire year or maybe a bit more. What are you looking forward/hoping to see?

Let’s Talk About Wildstar’s Elder Game

Originally posted on Gamebreaker April 15th, 2014.

When it comes to max level content the Carbine team has been relatively quiet except to say there will be things for everyone to do. Some of these things are raids, events, PvP, dailies & events; and yes it’s called Elder Game not endgame. However, many of the specifics with these systems have been left undisclosed aside from superficial information (like the size of raids). Thankfully the Wildstar panel at PAX East was all about Elder Game content and I was able to talk with Stephan Frost, design producer, for a bit on Saturday and gleaned even more details from him.

Raids Are Hard

No really Carbine’s design philosophy when it comes to raiding is, raiding should be some of the most challenging content in the game. I have seen a number of people claim telegraphs make avoiding damage too easy. Unfortunately this perspective seems based on low level content which is easier because leveling is designed to teach players to deal with these mechanics throughout the process. When it comes to raiding Carbine is taking full advantage of the telegraphs to really challenge players.

Not only are there some pretty wickedly shaped telegraphs used, but when combined with other mechanics (like the floor dropping away) there is little room for error. With a limited amount of dodging allowed reacting at the wrong moment or in the wrong direction can seriously ruin a boss attempt.

One of the examples shown during the panel is a rotating weirdly shaped telegraph. Which doesn’t sound horrible, but with the rate the telegraph is rotating dodges have to be used. If a player happens to misjudge which direction they should go… well it’ll hurt a whole bunch. Or in Frost’s words “these telegraphs will melt your face.”

One of my favorite mechanics shown during the panel was a raid group fighting a boss on a bunch of interlocking platforms. There’s a mechanic where a player gets targeted with a “bomb” type effect. The way it seemed to be meant to work, is the player should jump off the platform… which in general is the last thing most people would think of doing. If done wrong however, well the guys in the stream wiped half their raid in one hit. Though it looked like there is potential if it’s done really wrong, a player could take out their entire raid team at once.

In addition the Carbine team is redefining trash mobs as “base population” and it’s not just a name change. Trash mobs will actually drop real loot and will have real mechanics to defeating them. As someone who generally hates trash mobs I am actually happy about this change. Most of the reason I hate trash, is because trash always seems pointless and just there to slow the group down. If the trash actually has some real mechanics and real loot it’ll be a huge improvement on the current state of things!

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameImbuements

One thing I hadn’t heard the Carbine team talk about much before is some items will have an imbuement which is basically a quest or task the player will have to accomplish to unlock more power on a item. Examples of tasks are killing a particular boss, collecting a certain number of items, max reputation with some faction, and other things along these lines. The items will be pretty good without unlocking these imbuements, but for players who really want to get the full power out of their gear tackling any and all imbuement quests will be something they’ll want to do.

Now personally I love the concept of imbuements. For me it reminds me (and yes I realize it’s not a direct correlation) of  forging Quel’Serrar back in Vanilla WoW. For anyone who was a warrior back then obtaining that sword was an accomplishment, and one where players not only had to kill a specific boss but had to do specific things during the boss fight… clearly it’s a memory I have held on to. As soon as Joe Piepiora mentioned imbuements and started explaining the reasoning behind them, I knew we were getting the type of content which will spawn stories and memories for years to come.

Piepiora also mentioned artifact weapons, which is the top most tier weapons only obtainable from doing the hardest content in Wildstar. Pretty cool. The Artifact Sword he showed off had SIX imbuements on it. As an example of how crazy it does get, at the end of the line on the artifact weapons to unlock the the last power players will have to summon two special bosses (which the group will never have fought before because they only exist for this imbuement) and defeat them at the same time (this is the 80 man raid some people have been mentioning). Talk about having a story to share afterwards.

Additionally… say I get this nice shiny artifact sword, great and stuff but then a new raid tier comes out. Well time to toss the old sword in the bank right (or relegate it to only being a costume skin)? Nope. Because of how imbuements work there is the potential to keep adding new imbuements on so I could keep powering that sword up and use it for a long long time. Not only is this prospect exciting, it’s also a great motivation to do some of these super hard requirements.

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameStory Instances

Story Instances are instances designed for a solo player to really delve into the deeper lore behind Wildstar. The player is guided through these encounters by A NPC everyone meets during the standard leveling quests named Drusera. Starting at level 35 the story instances will guide players to a deeper understanding of the history of the planet Nexus and what is currently going on.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve seen this content because you’ve met Drusera. Story Instances have not made it into beta, and might not be there at all until launch. Which makes me sad, though I understand testing group content in beta is a higher priority for a multitude of reasons. Also, if these were already in beta some jerk probably would have written about it and spoiled all the mysteries for everyone else. /whistles innocently

Another aspect I really like about Story Instances is they can be leveraged to propel the story forward in the future. While there undoubtedly will be some story in the raids, most of the story will be told in these instances instead. As someone who is always unhappy to have to skip cut scenes because I don’t want to get left behind, I really appreciate this separation.

One part of Story Instances I am curious about, and unfortunately forgot to ask Stephan Frost about, is if Story Instances can be done in a group at all. I have friends who enjoy the story and lore in games as much as I do and it is nice to be able to go through the story parts with them when we can. Sure we can, and will, talk about what happened after but it’s not the same as experiencing it for the first time together.

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameThe Takeaway

One thing Frost emphasized when I was talking with him is the Carbine team is focused like a laser on making sure there is plenty of Elder Game available not only at launch but also in the months following launch. As someone who watched SWTOR implode firsthand, knowing Wildstar isn’t just planning for the launch itself but what will happen immediately afterwards is reassuring. It’s also good to know they are planning for more than just raid content updates.

Now if I could just find out how exactly a group captures a raid boss to use on their Warplot…