Here I am, out of semi-retirement otherwise known as hating my hosting provider to gripe about the new Guild Wars 2 (GW2) expansion Heart of Thorns (HoT). Well not all of it, just one tiny aspect that I had been SERIOUSLY looking forward to.
Which part? The elite specializations.
Now to tie in the title, I feel that the elite specializations in HoT were not much more than a beta bait and switch.
Here’s my reasoning. They allowed testing of the elite skills by players who purchased the new expansion. When we created the characters we had access to the Specialization Line, all the Skills and the Weapons specific to each class. Well once they were made available of course.
Secondly, during the final beta weekend, when we started at the beginning of the new content we instantly had access to the Elite Specialization.
To my knowledge during all of this time nothing was mentioned about gating the Elite Specialization line, at least not by ArenaNet. There was a post related to earning Hero Points in WvW. Though honestly I ignored it as I thought it was a quality of life improvement for WvW players who wanted to level exclusively through WvW. Note that even THIS announcement was made 4 days before HoT went live.
While there probably was some form of announcement made about gating the Elite Specializations with Hero Points made earlier than even the news blast about earning Hero Points in WvW. I don’t recall seeing any earlier posts about that in the forums. CrankyB haunts them religiously so I’m pretty sure we’d have seen something. If someone else can link an earlier post, I’ll be happy to revise the statement.
Apparently after the WvW news blast people started asking questions. At this point we all found out that it would require 400 Hero Points to unlock the Elite Specialization. Not 400 total Hero Points for your character, but 400 Hero Points on top of completely unlocking every talent and skill available to your character’s class. Remember, this was all of 4 days before HoT went live. Some of us paid for the expansion MONTHS in advance of release.
For those who don’t play GW2, you use Hero Points to unlock your skills and you earn those throughout the PvE game world. You also earn a good portion of Hero Points just in leveling your character. You kind of need this so that you have enough talents to actually engage effectively in combat.
The most dedicated players who have completed the whole of the old world end up with about 200 hero points. So that is about half of what you need to completely unlock the Elite Specialization.
ArenaNet tried to calm it’s solo happy and path of least resistance PvE content players by stating that they would be able to unlock 10 Hero Points per Hero Point location in the new HoT zones. Personally I was skeptical but CrankyB wanted to give ArenaNet the benefit of the doubt.
It turns out that I was valid in my skepticism because guess what? Those lovely 10 point Hero Points are gated behind Masteries. Masteries are gated behind both story missions and small to large group oriented zone content.
What this boils down to is that players who were expecting to use the new Elite Specializations to play the new content in PvE, have to UNLOCK the PvE content BEFORE they can unlock the PvE content that lets them unlock their Elite Specializations.
Yo Dawg I heard you like gating content.
To the bulk of the PvE’rs looking forward to playing this expansion, this logic is completely ass backwards. They wanted to use the Elite Specializations to enjoy playing the new content. They weren’t expecting to slug through such grindy content just to eek through their Elite Specialization one excruciatingly earned talent point at a time.
To ArenaNet, a bunch of goodies hidden in with unlocking the talent points justifies adding such a large talent point cost to the Elite Specialization. ArenaNet is adding new crafting recipes, item skins, and exotic gear. I assume they believe that these unlocks justify gating talent trees behind not one but THREE layers of content.
That’s right, THREE layers of content. Story content, Masteries content, and then Hero Point content.
The Story Content is similar to the living stories, where you follow along some of the most whiny and annoying emo heroes since independent comics just to complete a set of objectives. Also, you can’t access the new content or begin unlocking the new content Masteries without first completing a story mission.
The Masteries Content is basically zone xp that you garner through a zone chock full of events. Don’t get me wrong, unlocking glider mastery seemed super neato, but needing to level up using a bouncing mushroom seemed a bit off.
Now once you manage to master the basics of the zone, you can then BEGIN to start looking for and obtaining the zone Hero Points. Some of which apparently are jumping puzzles that require the new gliding skill. That seems neat enough. But some of them require defeating a melt your face champion before you can access them. In the old world you maybe had to defeat a veteran or an elite. There may have been some champions guarding Hero Points in Orr, but these were for the most part ignored by anyone that wasn’t trying to get a map complete.
Now, honestly the Masteries idea is a neat and novel concept. I also agree with CrankyB that the day/night cycle in the zones is also pretty bad ass.
What isn’t so bad ass is that there are very few waypoints in the zone and almost as little players. That’s right, brand spanking new content almost completely devoid of players. So those Hero Points with the face melting champions? Well you better hope that you have someone in that new mega guild you just joined to come help you out or you’ll just have to wait until either other people are desperate enough to go against the champion OR ArenaNet nerfs the content.
We saw maybe 3 or 4 players other than our group in the content. Except when one waypoint was unlocked. Then a few people showed up just to go for the unlocked Hero Point and subsequently disappeared again.
So there’s this whole new set of zones chock full of group based content that people more or less have to solo because no one else is playing in the zones.
Which is funny because a great deal of GW2 players enjoy solo PvE, but can’t solo this content because it’s designed for small to large groups.
I’m not sure if that’s the definition of Irony, but it’s got to be close.
While the lack of players might be a megaserver issue, I highly doubt it. Every other zone entered worked just fine and the standard PvE hotsposts were still humming right along.
Now this means that despite the fact that ArenaNet is trying to force players into the new content by gating the Elite Specializations behind these Hero Points, no one is taking the bait. Why? Because people would rather slog through the old world content to unlock at least half of the require Hero Points OR they’re farming them in WvW.
Because despite the few players who tell the rest of the player base to just “get better” or “toughen up”, the bulk of the GW2 player base is the “path of least resistance” type of player. They’ve been trained to play that way based on the options that had previously been available in the game.
Obtaining the most grindy loot in the game the Ascended gear and the Legendaries, wasn’t really even that grindy. You could just farm for gold to buy your legendary or even use gold to buy a spot in a fractal which awards ascended gear. If you just convert gems to gold you don’t even have to work THAT hard.
Honestly I’d love to see ArenaNet pool the numbers to see which of the Hero Points in the new zones are completed the most frequently. I’m pretty sure that they’d see that the ones that don’t require player assistance are the ones completed the most often.
The people that play solo in GW2 silently outnumber the folks who loudly whine for more challenging group content.
So while these up until now silent solo players have been happily humming through almost 2 years of barely changed content in GW2, they’ve just been slapped in the face with a huge expansion cost and a bigger Hero Point bill.
Hero Points that they can barely access or can’t even access at all without the help of players that they hadn’t needed to play with before. I mean maybe we all grouped together in short spurts to take out a champion or two, but then we all went on about our own merry way.
Even in WvW you have roamers that prefer to play solo or in small groups when running around looking for other players to kill.
Solo WvW roaming or 1v1 PvP is still a viable option for gameplay in GW2, but solo or small group PvE is quickly becoming frowned upon. Honestly I have no idea why this is even becoming a thing except for those few players who log into the forums demanding “more difficult content.”
The problem is that I’m not even sure that developers understand that “more challenging” content translates to “give me a loot grind.”
The bulk of the PvE players are in Orr, SilverWastes, or batting at any event that proves to be a loot pinata as CrankB likes to call them. SilverWastes proves to be one such loot pinata. You can obtain a crap ton of loot just for spending relatively little time in a zone as long as you’re stubborn enough to endure the annoying knock down mobs and load up on condition purging skills. The attack on Lion’s Arch was another such loot piniata and let me tell you, that map was ALWAYS full during the event.
The old world PvE seems to be alive and kicking without a hitch. The new, large player focused and grind happy content that was made for the “I want a challenge players” is practically barren ONE DAY after launch.
So yeah, apparently players aren’t going to play “challenging content” over loot pinata content. They might play raids if they offer enough rewards. Chances are though, if they don’t the megaguilds that were so anxious for the raiding content are going to be hard pressed to find enough players willing to bother doing raids for more than a one time achievement unlock.
What players are doing is earning the additional Hero Points through World vs World, or the old world content. IE, they’re going to take the path of less resistance to get what they want and maybe, just maybe, they’ll swing back through your difficult content if it turns out that there’s some achievement or another they feel they need.
Also, if they just want to play with the new Elite Specializations without doing ANYTHING at all, they can simply enter the PvP lounge where they have direct access to the Elite Specializations, no Hero Points required. Because PvP.
I’m sure that this is part of the “Play Your Way” bull crap that they’re trying to advertise. To begin explaining how much of a farce this line is becoming in GW2 post HoT requires a blog post of it’s own.
If they really wanted to let us play it our way, they’d let the PvE and WvW players have access to the Elite Specialization the same way the arena PvP players have access to it.
Now before you tell me “well that’s just GW2”, let me politely remind you that this game has not been a grind up to this point. It was even advertised as such.
If someone who plays as casually as I do has 6 max level toons, that has to tell you how little grind there is to be had.
With that in mind, I really, really, don’t understand why they had to add the Hero Point grind, on top of the Masteries grind on top of a Story Arc grind. Though apparently they are removing some of the Story Arc requirements. With the new stat types they’ve added, I’m pretty sure that adds a gear grind for using optimal gear with your Elite Specialization, just a icing on a grind-tastic cake.
It wouldn’t surprise me if all of this crap was just considered to be raid attunement for HoT. Look how well grindy raiding attunements worked for WildStar.
What bothers me is that as a player who has NO interest in raiding period, I feel almost forced through this content just to “play my way” with an Elite Specialization.
Ask anyone who has a Guardian. You don’t see them even attempting the new content as you simply need a solid range option until you unlock enough masteries. Sure you can try it and die horribly and repeatedly, but let’s be honest, who finds that to be FUN?
If “Playing Your Way” was truly something that ArenaNet wanted to take to heart and wasn’t just some marketing scam, then the PvE and WvW players would have as direct access to these skills just like PvP players.
They can gate the crap out of the fluff content that goes along with it. That part I agree should be earned in a 100% fashion. But the skills themselves? No.
Rift tried gating talent trees behind dungeons when the game launched. A small part of the player base thought this was a novel and ideal approach.
Let me tell you that a large and largely non vocal majority thought this was bull crap and didn’t buy the game. How do I know this? Because later all of the talent trees were available from a vendor. Then later still they were all available to all players from the start. If players LOVED this option, why didn’t it remain gated?
I might also add that Rift went from pay to play to free to play in a year. Meaning that the game did not keep enough players to support its self on subscriptions alone.
It doesn’t matter if a few players think that things that are a horrible grind make them feel elite. The fact that the rest of us paid for the content too and would like to at least have a chance to play it, makes our say just as valid as theirs. Furthermore, the bulk of players out of any MMO are going to choose the path of least resistance and aren’t even going to bother with the difficult content until they have people that can help walk them through it.
WoW has been listening to their players tell them this. That is why their dungeons and raids are the way they are now instead of requiring the heavy attunement and 40 man spread that was found in vanilla WoW.
I don’t even listen to the old fogey gamers that try to tell me that such a thing was the epitome of gaming. I’ve talked to players who actually DID the 8 hour 40 man raids and they wouldn’t go back to them unless they were paid to do so.
WildStar tried to out the elite old school WoW raiding and ended up hemorrhaged players in it’s first month live. They THEN went free to play in it’s first year live. I was there for the first two months. Many of the zones looked even more barren than the new Hot content.
Hopefully developers will finally figure out that trying to gate content needlessly and limiting their players’ character doesn’t make their players happy. Like ever. Also, grind without a significant loot factor is also not going to win them any awards.
I’m hoping that someone politely reminds ArenaNet.
Though I do feel assed out in my HoT purchase, my one saving grace is that I still have the Revenant to level. For the time being that is the ONLY aspect of HoT that I will have access to for the forseeable future.
Because despite buying the expansion IN ADVANCE, and PAYING to beta test their product, I’m assed out of a good quantity of the product because I’m not willing to join a faceless megaguild just to participate in the content I paid for.
Now what I fear is that all soloable or small group PvE content will be removed from the game in favor of trying as hard as they might to get MORE players to play the game by making content that just plain requires more players to play it.
From what it looks like now all that is going to create is a bunch of empty zones.
Having one zone like Silverwastes that requires a large amount of player cooperation is one thing. Trying to spread that out through 4 zones where people are trying to accomplish all kinds of goals on their own on top of getting bumpkiss for loot?
Yeah, I wonder why people are asking for refunds.
No matter how hard the 1% of Min/Maxing hard core gamers try to convince the rest of the population, the bulk of the player base wants loot now, and with minimal effort. What they’ve forgotten is that the bulk of players go for the path of least resistance and probably won’t play content that they can’t cake walk through.
That means that the bulk of the player base is not going to play this new content until it’s dumbed down or until it becomes enough of a loot pinata that they won’t be able to resist.
This also means that few people are going to bother completing the Masteries or Stories in the new content. Also few are going to bother gathering the 10 point Hero points until the entire area has been made accessible by at least the median class of casual player.
So hopefully them raider types got everything they were hoping for out of this new expansion.
Though granted, they didn’t get their raids, because well, those aren’t done yet. But hell, at least they have 4 maps worth of large group content to ignore until their raids are ready. Because everyone knows that raiders spend a lot of time grinding through open world PvE content.
Way to go ArenaNet.
Now I will leave you with one of the best analogies yet for HoT: