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Aidan's Guild Wars 2 Blog

A in-depth review of Guild Wars 2 from the perspective of a long time Guild Wars 1 player. In this blog, I look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of a promising new title.

Author: Aeander

The MOBA Flood - A Genre Takes Its First Breaths

Posted by Aeander Tuesday July 22 2014 at 2:46PM
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Introduction

 

The MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre (also known as the ARTS or Action Real-Time Strategy genre) is one that has become all the rage, to both the excitement and exasperation of the gaming community.

With MOBAs being one of the most publicized and frequently developed online gaming genres at this time, it should come as no surprise that nearly every MOBA announcement is accompanied by tired cries of "ANOTHER ONE?" from the gaming community. Indeed, it would seem as if most new MOBA titles are brushed off or discredited at the moment of their announcement by people who are too closed-minded (or perhaps too ignorant) to care.

In this post, I'll explain, in simple terms, why it's happening and why it may very well be a good thing.

 

Why are there so many new MOBAs?

 

This is an effect with multiple causes:

1) The MOBA/ARTS genre is young and its popularity is recent and exciting by the standards of the gaming industry.

2) MOBA games have a low development time compared to many other genres. A MOBA game can enter open beta and thrive on just ONE map, a plethora of items, and about 30 characters, each of which only needs 4 skills as a genre standard. 

3) The genre has already shown wild success in its two flagship titles - League of Legends and DotA2. But, as is the case with all gamers, moba gamers tend to be experimental, if judgmental with new titles. Newer titles - namely Smite, Awesomenauts, and Dawngate, have already proven that a new MOBA title can claim its own piece of the pie and establish its own existence, even at an early stage of development.

4) MOBA's are an incredibly vague and generalized genre framework that can encompass a great deal of different philosophies and designs. 

 

The significance of this

 

Note that at no point during those four reasons did I ever provide any negative motivation for the creation of new mobas. All of these reasons have merit and can work together to fuel a genre that can quickly grow and mature in new and interesting ways.

 

Reasons 3 and 4 are particularly telling. What do they entail for the genre? In effect, they highlight that MOBAs are a genre with great potential for games that are wildly different from established titles and which can succeed on their own merits.

 

The MOBA flood is an exaggerated problem

 

There are about 20 (if that) commercial moba titles in the NA scene. Off of the top of my head, I can think of:

League of Legends

DotA 2

Heroes of Newerth*

Smite

Dawngate

Awesomenauts

Infinite Crisis*

Super Monday Night Combat*

Prime World*

Smashmuck Champions*

Guardians of Middle Earth*

Sins of a Dark Age*

Strife*

Deadbreed*

Heroes of the Storm (Alpha)

Gigantic (Pre-Alpha)

TOME*

* Denotes games that are struggling and which will probably die due to redundancy and poor management.

Underlined titles are in open beta or an even earlier stage of development.

 

While it should be noted that I have left out titles that don't really constitute a MOBA except in the vaguest definitions (such as Bloodline Champions), dead titles (such as Rise of Immortals) or titles that have died in or have not yet made it to the NA scene (such as Realm of the Titans or Core Masters), I believe I've made my point. There are NOT that many current or upcoming MOBA titles, particularly when one considers the low development time for a MOBA and their surge in popularity.

 

And new releases can and WILL, as I have marked, be balanced out to some degree by the deaths of more derivative or poorly managed titles - those titles that represent directions that the genre must not go.

 

Where do harsh judgments of new MOBAs come from?

 

This part is quite simple. MOBAs are plagued by the same stigma that holds back the MMO genre. Too many copy-cats.  Rather than say who ripped off of whom, I will cover mechanics and derivatives which have held the genre back. 

Now, as a general disclaimer, let's hold back from condemning the genres first three major commercial titles, League, DotA, and HoN, due to the early births of the first two and the fact that the last of these was originally intended to be DotA on a commercial engine.

 

The traditional trilane map:

Often hailed (fallaciously) by closed-minded members of the community as the only legitimate competitive map style for the genre, a refusal to significantly deviate from this map style has held back new titles. It is the central competitive map style for League of Legends, DotA, Heroes of Newerth, Infinite Crisis, Smite, Prime World, and the upcoming God of Destiny, among other titles, both living and dead.

This is NOT to say that trilanes cannot be unique or revolutionary, but I will make the bold statement that they have not been significantly re-invented yet.

Some notable exceptions -

Dawngate with its competitive two-lane + control point map.

Awesomenauts - an oddball to the genre

Gigantic - which will apparently focus on a unique control point map.

Deadbreed with its dungeons, boss instance, and two-lane structure.

Sins of a Dark Age - utilizes a trilane, but its dynamic event system and somewhat different map structure help give it identity. 

 

Refusal to create custom item systems:

Most item systems are derivative of either League's or DotA's, right down to the stats and passives of specific items.

Notable exceptions or partial exceptions -

Dawngate with its branching item trees, simplified universal stat system, and unique items.

Smite - an exception in its item system but not in its items.

Prime World - Leaned more towards MMO mechanics.

Awesomenauts - obviously

Deadbreed - Items are divided into MMO style gear slots. Too shallow at the moment, however.

 

Most new mobas include a summoner spell system, directly ripped off:

League's Summoner spells were an interesting, controversial idea. There's no problem with including them in your game. The problem comes in when a new game uses a summoner spell system that is too similar to and uses spells that are clearly ripped off from League's system. For this derivative, exceptions will be those games which INCLUDE a spell system but which divert from League's.

Notable exceptions or partial exceptions:

Realm of the Titans - Limited to one spell per player. Players could evolve their spells as the match progressed, even swapping one spell out for another (with a long cooldown). Some spells were derivative, others were not.

Dawngate - The system is unique (three spells at max level, 1 at the start of the game). The spells are not.

 

Characters clearly inspired by the characters of other games:

This one shouldn't need a terribly large amount of explanation. It's also grounded on more reasonable factors than the other derivatives, as the genre has hundreds of characters and the number of REALLY unique design possibilities drops with each release. It's also less immediately noticeable and less important than the other derivatives. 

 

What must a new MOBA do to be successful?

 

For a new moba to be successful, it must find a niche. In other words, it must be significantly unique in a way that catches the attention of potential players. Surprised? You shouldn't be. That tends to be the case for every genre.

 

A new MOBA developer should first ask themselves a question. The common question seems to be "how can I attract players from League of Legends or DotA?" This is ill-founded and leads to derivative design. The real question should be "what kind of players do I want to attract?" This is where innovation and coherent design is found.

 

The most important step a new MOBA can take is to readily define their map and their art style in a way that leaves a lasting impression. If it has a trilane, it better be a UNIQUE one or supported by unique game mechanics. If it doesn't have a trilane, it best make sure its map style is deep and fun to support its unique nature. A new MOBA only needs ONE map to be successful, and I'd personally recommend that it stay that way, as it is best to flesh out one map to its highest possible quality. A unique art style (which we have seen in titles like Gigantic, Awesomenauts, and Dawngate) can go a long way in establishing a game's initial reception.

 

There is one all-important word - IDENTITY. If a game cannot boast enough of a distinctive identity to warrant its existence in the genre, it will cease to exist, and probably quickly. 

 

The un-explored  potential of the MOBA genre

 

"MOBA" is a highly general term, but even within the generally expected (but not official) identity used to define a game as a MOBA, there is ENORMOUS room for experimentation and innovation. 

 

Let's cover the areas which can be experimented with:

Core mechanics

The map 

The characters

The number of skills on each character's skill bar

The combat system

The items

The item system

The number of players per team

The number of teams in a match.

The objective of the match (base destruction, point control, capture-the-flag, etc.)

The camera view (top-down, first-person, third-person, etc.)

Integrated elements from other genres (character creation from an MMO, an RTS-style player commander on each team, etc.)

Bosses (including player-controlled bosses)

The boss system

Account/Out-ofmatch Progression (such as rune pages), if any

Summoner spell systems, if any

Entirely new mechanics which I can't even conceive of

 

And most, if not all, of these can be changed while keeping the game competitive!

 

 

So, my conclusion is this:

 

Keep an open mind. We've already seen unique titles step forward. We've already seen new titles be successful. We've already seen titles suffer or entirely die because of their failure to further the genre. We KNOW that the genre has a lot to offer and we know that it is young enough and has enough interested developers to see that potential reached.

 

So keep an eye out for new MOBA titles instead of dismissing them outright. Give your feedback to developers. Express discontent over a genre's faults and condemn games that fail to make an identity for themselves. Do not judge the right of the genre to exist and receive new, interesting titles. The result may surprise you.

Improving the Professions of Guild Wars 2 ~ Part 4 - The Guardian

Posted by Aeander Tuesday January 8 2013 at 6:52PM
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The Guardian is perhaps the strongest of the game's professions and the one with the fewest issues. The strengths of the class lie in its incredible bunkering ability, utilities, weapon skils, and group support, as well as its good damage potential.

 

If I were to identify a weakness, however, it would be the traits for the most part.

 

This is the combined opinion of myself (a Thief main) and a friend who is an avid Guardian player.

 

Zeal

 

Zeal is mostly solid, but:

 

Symbolic Exposure needs improvement. 1 stack of vulnerability for 3 seconds per pulse is only relevant in PvE - and barely at that.

 

Improve scepter and focus trait support.

 

Radiance

 

Combine signet traits to improve them and open more trait slots.

 

Add some cooldown reduction to Powerful Blades.

 

Improve trait support for the Torch.

 

Valor

 

Combine Meditation traits to free up trait slots.

 

Up Retributive Armor to 10%. At 5%, it is worth approximately 3% crit chance with high toughness - pitiful.

 

Improve Mace support by adding some cooldown reduction to the trait.

 

Glacial Heart doesn't really add anything to the hammer. A chill on a long cooldown that you cannot control is redundant and often useless on a weapon that already has high crowd control.

 

Honor

 

Fix the "immune" bug on Battle Presence.

 

Combine shout traits. 

 

Combine symbols are larger with symbols last longer.

 

Virtues

 

I pretty much love this line as is.

 

Weapons

 

Scepter:

Smite should be a symbol (with no change to its current function). This would allow for trait benefits on the weapon.

 

Weapon Suggestions

 

Main Hand Axe

Guardians currently lack a condition damage weapon. They rely on burning as their sole damage condition. A bleed-stacking main hand weapon would alleviate this.

 

Warhorn

 

Crossbow 

Two-handed 1200 range weapon that specializes in piercing shots and vulnerability.

Improving the Professions of Guild Wars 2 ~ Part 3 - The Thief

Posted by Aeander Wednesday January 2 2013 at 1:09PM
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The Thief, while one of the stronger overall professions, alongside the Guardian and Mesmer, has its own issues, just like any other profession. 

 

To sum things up, its central issues are low weapon variety, extreme weapon inequality, poor underwater skills selection, and certain bad traits and utilities.

 

Weapon Sets

 

Dagger / Dagger 

Fine. No downsides. Synergizes reasonably.

 

Dagger / Pistol

Fix the rooting bug on  the Dual Skill and it will be fine.

 

Shortbow

Fine. No signfiicant issues. 

 

Pistol / Dagger

A condition damage set that lacks in cover conditions - too easy to remove. Dancing Dagger was overnerfed. Body Shot is just bad. Overall, however, this is a fun and mostly-synergetic set.

 

Pistol / Pistol 

An awful set that displays poor synergy all around. 1 and 3 do not synergize. Body Shot is awful. Black Powder doesn't particularly synergize with a ranged weapon. Head Shot does poor damage for its cost. No way to enter stealth. No escape. Main damage source is a mediocre, high-initiative, easily-avoided move. Set is boring to use in general.

 

Sword / Pistol

With the Pistol Whip nerfs, the Thief is generally better off auto-attack, but this is otherwise a solid set. Infiltrator's Strike could use some work n terms of bugs and clunkiness. 

 

Sword / Dagger

Weak Dual Skill. Needs a faster animation and higher damage or a faster animation with a lower cost. Dancing Dagger was overnerfed. 

 

Overall thoughts

Get rid of Body Shot in favor of a short backwards leap that allows Pistol / x Thieves to combo finish with Black Powder and better kite enemies. Add on a weak burning or poison for a cover-condition or rework Vulnerability as a condition to effect condition damage - both Vulnerability and Condition Damage builds could use some buffing. 

 

Underwater

 

Increase initiative cost of Nine-Tailed Strike (Spear 3). It's currently a free, spammable block - which speaks of poor design.

 

Thieves are currently stuck with only their weakest elite (Basilisk Venom) and a poor selection of utilities underwater. Most of their Tricks, all of their Traps,and their Deceptions can't be used underwater. That's about two-thirds of their slot skills! That is a serious issue and makes underwater a frustrating experience at best for them.

 

Rework their underwater utilities to give them some variety. They are already missing valuable dfensive moves like Black Powder - don't rub salt in the wound.

 

Traits

 

Improve trait support for:

Traps

Deceptions

Sword

Shortbow

 

Make Last Refuge a Major. A Minor trait that can get you killed is bad design.

 

FIX FLEET SHADOW.

 

Utilities

 

Improve non-Ambush Traps. 

Fix bugs with Smoke Screen that can cause projectiles to ignore it.

 

Weapon Suggestions

 

Staff

A melee weapon used with the Acrobatics line to block, counter-attack, and leap around.

 

Off-Hand Torch

Improves condition damage builds by providing access to Burning. Used to distract foes, stealthing allies who are a sufficient distance away from the thrown Torch. (Like a reverse Shadow Refuge).

 

Mace (Both Hands)

Provides the Thief with disables. You are a sapper now.

 

Off-Hand Sword

Provides the Thief with a block + counter and a ranged, single-target nuke. Dual Skill stealths with Sword / Sword.

 

Rifle

Stationary camouflage coupled with slow, high damage attacks. 1200 range.

Improving the Professions of Guild Wars 2 ~ Part 2 - The Ranger

Posted by Aeander Sunday December 30 2012 at 4:02PM
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The Ranger, like all professions, has some issues of its own. With this post, I'll suggest improvements to traits, weapons, utilities, etc.

 

Pets

 

Make them deal a smaller percentage of the Ranger's damage by upping the Ranger's damage. Currently, pets are about 45%+. Make them more along the lines of 30%.

 

Separate pets between PvE / WvW and PvP. Buff their defenses in PvE and WvW.

 

Continue improving AI. 

 

Reduce or remove delay on f2 skills.

 

Weapons

 

Up damage from the following weapons: all of them. Especially the Greatsword, Longbow, and Axe.

 

Fix the Sword bugs (auto-attack rooting). Improve accuracy of 3rd skill. Speed up 2nd skill.

 

Condense the Long Bow's second skill into a shorter channel time. It's an inferior Unload that takes about 3 times as long to perform. 

 

Give the class some dedicated weapons. With the current design, every weapon, with the sole exceptions of longbow and shortbow, is trying to be both direct and condition damage. MH axe could benefit from being a direct damage-oriented weapon, as could the Greatsword.

 

Trait Fixes / Improvements

 

Beast Mastery Majors need to be rethought completely. Most of them are situational or outright awful.

 

Marksmanship Minors are worthless against competent players and completely useless in drawn-out fights (such as bosses). The entire design is bad because they are burst-oriented traits on a class that typically lacks burst. In other words, they are Thief traits, not Ranger traits.

 

Moment of Clarity is still pretty underwhelming for a grandmaster trait.

 

Move trap traits to Wilderness Survival where they belong.

 

Add something to Wilderness Knowledge. For example "All survival skills have a bonus effect," such as causing Sharpening Stone to add flat damage to your attacks, Lightnitng Reflexes to leave a Lightning combo field that stuns foes briefly, Muddy Terrain dealing damage pulses, and Quickening Zephyr losing the heal penalty.

 

Improve the Nature Magic majors. Certain ones (like Evasive Purity) are pretty lackluster for where they are.

 

Rethink the bow-based traits. I would combine Piercing Arrows with Quick Draw and add a dedicated Shortbow trait - such as increased condition dmage + duration or chance to inflict burning.

 

Improve might duration of Companion's Might.

 

Improve bleed duration from Sharpened Edges.

 

Add some cooldown reduction or a precision bonus to Honed Axes.

 

Trait Compression

 

Combine Martial Mastery with Two-Handed Training.

 

Combine spirit-based traits to make them take up 2 trait slots, not 4.

 

Buff Beastmaster's Might and combine it with Signet Mastery.

 

Utilities

 

Spirits:

Improve health considerably.

Improve trait support.

Make "following" baseline, rather than a grandmaster. 

Make spirit skills ground-target, rather than a delayed point-blank effect.

 

Shouts:

Improve trait support.

Improve effects. Rework some if necessary.

 

Signets:

Reduce cooldowns.

Improve trait support.

Make Signet of the Hunt's active not suck.

 

 

Weapon Ideas:

 

Rifle 

Racks up vulnerability with a fast, 900 range auto-attack before finishing them with a 1500 range burst.

 

Off-hand sword

Direct-damage off-hand that parries attacks and punishes foes with a bursty counter-attack and a skill that throws your sword at the target location to be fetched and wielded by your pet.

 

MH Pistol

Inflicts rapid, low-duration bleeds from 600 range.

Improving the Professions of Guild Wars 2 ~ Part 1 - The Warrior

Posted by Aeander Sunday December 30 2012 at 3:10PM
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Every Guild Wars 2 Profession has significant issues. Bugs. Bad traits. Bad weapons. Bad Utilities. Bad elites. You name it. In this first post I will focus on the most basic profession, the Warrior. I'll touch on the other professions in future posts.

 

Why the Warrior? Because it's essentially the "first profession" of Guild Wars 2. Simple. Easy. Popular. Relatively few issues.

 

Bugs are a basic issue with only one solution - fix them. As such, I won't cover them.

 

Trait Fixes / Improvements

 

Add reduced cooldown traits to each weapon, even if it's only 10%. Traits like Dual Wielding (weapon offhand cooldowns), Axe Mastery, Blademaster, etc. should give CDR.

 

Improve Longbow trait support. The range increase should be baseline, with Burning Strings as the trait with added Cooldown Reduction.

 

Warrior's Sprint from 10% - 15%.

 

Add reduced Stance cooldowns to one of the stance traits. 

 

Trait Compression

 

Combine Lung Capacity and Vigorous Shouts as a Grandmaster.

 

Combine Deep Strike and Signet Mastery. Nerf one or the other if needs be.

 

Weapons

 

Main Hand Axe - Improve Triple Chop. People weren't "accidentally" cancelling it. It does less damage than the rest of the chain.

 

Off Hand Axe - Improving Whirling Axe is key. There is little reason to use it outside of bleed-stacking with a MH Sword. While increasing the damage is a basic solution, a more interesting one might be to add cc immunity, projectile reflection, might stacks over the duration, OR increased movement speed.

 

Off Hand Sword - This off-hand is currently lacking as a whole. I would add a leap to Riposte to counter ranged attacks and cause Rip to deal slightly increased damage based on the number of bleed stacks on the foe.

 

Utilities

 

Allow physical utilities to work underwater. Some might need reworking for this.  The skills themselves may also need buffs - with the exception of Bull's Charge. 

 

Fix the Endure Pain bug - make it last the full 5 seconds.

 

Shouts and signets are largely fine - Dolyak might need improvement.

 

Improve Banners to be comparable to Shouts. 

 

Elites

 

Give Rampage a form of consistent anti-kiting. It is lacking in terms of constant pressure.

 

 

Future Weapon Suggestions

 

Off-hand Torch 

Like the Warhorn, used to inspire allies, granting them might pulses while burning foes. Can be thrown to create a straight-line fire field. 

 

2H Axe / Halberd 

Slow, heavy hitting attacks. Focused on pulling foes to you from a short distance, immobilizing them, and unleashing its powerful Burst Skill - Execute, which deals more damage to foes with lower health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trahearne and the Sylvari (spoilers)

Posted by Aeander Monday October 29 2012 at 2:04PM
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If one were to pick words to sum up the Guild Wars 2 community's opinion of Trahearne, they might go with "horrible," "cliche," "Mary Sue," or "the worst character ever." Simply mentioning his name in any zone will quickly stir up revulsion among most players who have experienced the personal story past level 60. 

 

But do these insults hold up? In this blog, I seek to answer this question by pointing out the good, the bad, and the misunderstood aspects of Trahearne's character.

 

 

He is a walking cliche.

 

Yes, he pretty much is. Despite the unique flavor of the Sylvari race, the entirety of their role can be viewed as one big Deus Ex Machina that comes out in Tyria's time of dire need with an immunity to the dragons' corruptions and heroes with birth rights to defeat them.

 

Trahearne is especially bad because the entire story seems hand-crafted to fit him. He is the very first of the Firstborn. The original Sylvari with a divine right to save the day and undo Zhaitan's work. He is given a magic sword that is the bane of his foe's existence. He is respected by all groups and feared by an enemy who seemed fearless. Even your own player character immediately respects him and willingly becomes his lackey.

 

So yes, he IS cliche. And he is a Mary Sue at face value. But there is more to him than this.

 

He comes out of nowhere and steals your personal story

 

Well...... yes and no. This is an issue of PISS-POOR PRESENTATION.

 

The truth of the matter is that Trahearne is very important to the story of Guild Wars 2 because he represents something your character does not. A neutral, informed character who has a history of fighting the Dragons in his own, unique way that is crucial to Tyria's success. He possesses knowledge that all of Tyria needs. And he was not given this knowledge - he earned it through 20 years of dangerous and extensive research.

 

Your character possesses none of this. You did not immediately set out to kill a dragon (unless you chose Sylvari).  You merely lived your life as you could and rose to the challenge, becoming a hero through your choices. And while you were initially neutral, you lost this when you joined an order out of necessity. Because of this, you became unfit to lead the pact. 

 

The big problem with Trahearne's role in your story is that it LOOKS like he comes out of nowhere. It is easily the worst implementation of a main character I have ever seen in any game I have ever played. He was not mentioned in any Guild Wars 2 novel. He was not alluded to at any early point in the Guild Wars 2 story. If you were not a Sylvari, you didn't even meet him until about level 50. If you were not a Sylvari, you did not get to witness his vision of the future at the Pale Tree. In other words, if you were not a Sylvari, he most definitely DID seem to come out of nowhere. And even if you were a Sylvari, you had probably forgotten about him until his reappearance because he made such a small impression.

 

Why do all of the Orders respect him?

 

Believe it or not, he deserves their respect. Each Order has a logical reason for wanting to recruit him:

 

The Vigil

 

Here we have an organization dedicated solely to combatting the Dragons and their minions. Trahearne has more knowledge of Zhatain, the Undead, and Orr than anyone in Tyria. It is natural that the Vigil would seek to recruit him, learn new ways of killing the undead more efficiently from him, and train him to be a tactician in their army.

 

The Durmand Priory

 

The Priory are knowledge seekers in all aspects and Trahearne could be viewed as the Scholar-who-got-away in regards to their organization. He has spent his life doing the most dangerous and important research of anyone. In other words, he would have been an excellent leader in the Priory.

 

Much like the Vigil, the Priory wanted his knowledge.

 

The Order of Whispers

 

It is rather subtle, but the very nature of Trahearne's job in Orr implies a gift for stealth and a desire to observe secrets and learn information. This is the very nature of a Whisper's Agent. Trahearne could not have surived on Orr without these traits. As such, it is natural that the Order would admire him and seek to recruit him.

 

Why are the Sylvari even here?

 

The Pale Tree seems to be a sort of living McGuffin. I figure that she is either:

 

A) A part of Ancient Tyria that is as old as the Dragons and naturally opposes them.

 

This is evidenced by the fact that she was but one seed found in a mysterious cave with little to no knowledge of its existence. It may have been forgotten by history. It would also explain her immediate need to give her very first child a divine mission to undo the corruption of Orr. This is also supported by the immunity of Sylvari towards corruption by the dragons and their natural base nature of good vs. evil.

 

This means that the Pale Tree could be a piece of Tyria itself. A force sent by the world itself to resist its demise.

 

B) A relatively new entity that did not exist in Tyria's older days and was created by magic of some sort. Perhaps, she was created by one of the races that previously fought the Elder Dragons.

 

All evidence that supports the initial claim would support this as well. If the Pale Tree and her sibling seeds were created to combat the dragons.

 

Being a new life form would provide the simple explanation (which is guessed at by ingame NPC's) of "They can't corrupt us because they don't know how we work yet."

 

Either way, we have established that the Sylvari are heavily ingrained into the plot of Guild Wars 2, moreso than any other race, even though they are a new face on Tyria. It is only natural that a Sylvari would be the hero of the storyline.

 

His dialogue is too wordy.

 

Yes, but he's a scholar. He has spent the majority of 20 years being far removed from all other life on Tyria and thus should be expected to have very low communications skills. He is not good at speaking in a natural way, and this shows.

 

He is way too self absorbed

 

I can't really refute this... because I kind of agree. He is the most important man in Tyria and he knows it.

 

His Voice Acting / Appearance is terrible.

 

No..... arguments..... here..... They need serious work and revision for Trahearne to ever be a respectable character.

 

He needs character model improvements and a voice actor who shows some personality, rather than draining the life out of a scene the moment he appears.

Rangers - More well-designed than you may think

Posted by Aeander Sunday October 28 2012 at 4:13PM
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Preface

 

I have logged almost 500 hours into Guild Wars 2 thus far and have played every profession to an extent - with most of my time on the Mesmer, Elementalist, and Ranger. 

 

The Ranger is a class that gets a lot of flack on the Guild Wars 2 forums, almost to the degree that ranger players believe that their profession is the weak, unplayable, poorly-designed red-headed step-child of Tyria. 

 

I'm not going to say that we do not need some tweaks on our spirits, a couple signets, and a couple shouts, but overall, I would say that the Ranger is the most well-designed and well-balanced class in the game. 

 

Your Pet Is Everything

 

What a lot of Ranger players don't understand is that without proper pet selection, "micro-management", and swapping, they are GIMPING themselves. A Ranger's pet is roughly half of his damage, depending on the build. More importantly, however, is the fact that Ranger pets provide valuable utility in both their passive skills and their F2 skills that a Ranger player needs to take advantage of to master the profession.

 

"But I can't control my pet!" BULLSHIT. With proper use of active/passive controls, calling your pet's target, calling your pet back to you, and swapping your pets out, you significantly increase the life-span of your pet, especially if use your healing skills to support it.

 

One of the most important things a Ranger player can do is coordinate his pet choice with his build and learn how the pet's naturally act. I, for example, use two Canine pets and swap between them, taking advantage of the fact that they often open up with their knockdown leap immediately upon being summoned. 

 

Everything is Designed Around Your Pet

 

Contrary to popular belief, MOST of the Ranger's design is not incoherent or random. It's weapons are not bad and the class is not thrown together.

 

Your weapons are weak because they are only half of you. Furthermore, they are clearly designed to support your partner.

 

Longbow:

It is held together by Hunter's Shot. While Vulnerability is normally one of the weaker conditions, it synergizes beautifully with the direct damage role of the weapon and your pet. Also, the swiftness makes your pet more difficult to kite.

 

Sword:

Designed expressly to make foes incapable of kiting you and your pet while buffing your pet and evading damage. It does have some oversights and flaws on its abilities, however.

 

Greatsword:

Designed for bursting with your pet while providing defensive utility.

 

Warhorn:

Designed explicitly for AoE boon support - IE: Your pet.

 

Torch: 

Designed for synergy with your traps and for pets that have combo finishers.

 

Dagger:

Anti-kite, just like the sword. Evades help keep you alive while your pet does your job for you.

 

Main-hand Axe:

Slow down foes for your pet to damage while you attack from afar. Basic skill set, really.

 

Off-hand Axe:

Designed for BEASTMASTERS. Swap for quickness and use crowd control pets to unleash PAIN with the 5th skill.

 

Shortbow:

Designed to synergize with ranged pets, primarily. Try using Crippling Shot with a Lashtail Devourer's F2 Skill. You will be pleased.

 

Beast Mastery is a Good Trait Line

 

Yes, the majors mostly suck. Never speck 30 points into the line, because the Grandmaster Majors REALLLLY suck.

 

THE MINOR TRAITS ARE SOME OF THE BEST TRAITS IN YOUR ARSENAL. I can't emphasize that enough. 

 

I speck 25 points into Beastmastery to take advantage of the powerful minor traits:

 

When I swap pets, my swap cooldown is 16 (living) and 48 (dead). That is considerably better than the agonizing 20/60 second pet swaps when untraited. With this reduced cooldown, I can easily keep my pets alive and take advantage of their pet skills.

 

When I swap pets, I gain 2 seconds of quickness each time. Can you name another profession that gets a burst of Quickness - the most overpowered mechanic in the game - every 16 seconds? This is quickness that has no downside. No reduced healing. No endurance drain. No increased damage taken. Use this to greatly increase the damage you put out and unleash devastating comboes (such as those involving Whirling Defense).

 

10% of my healing power becomes Power. This allows my damage to be relevant in a support build by using Cleric's equipment.

 

 

Your Pet's Do Have AI Tendencies

 

Learn them. 

 

With my dogs, for example, I quickly learned that they often use their leap (if off cooldown) immediately after I swap them in. This means that I can swap my pet to gain the quickness and trigger the knockdown to follow up with a Whirling Defense for a powerful combo - much like the Warrior's Hundred Blades combo or the Mesmer's Blurred Frenzy combo.

 

That's beautiful synergy between the pet and their master.

 

You Have the Best Attribute Combinations in the Game

 

Power / Condition Duration (Used by every profession)

Precision / Prowess (Natural combinatin. Much more effective than Precision / Malice).

Toughness / Malice (Durability naturally synergizes with a condition damage build).

Vitality / Boon Duration (Probably the odd one out. No particular synergy, but the line itself works).

Healing Power / Pet Bonuses (With this, you buff your pet in 4 areas while increasing your survivability + support capabilities, making this the most beneficial point allocation attribute-wise IN THE GAME).

 

The only other class that can approach you attribute-wise is the Elementalist, which is unfortunately shafted by poor trait synergy and a need to speck highly into a line that gives no character stats (other than boon duration). This on a class that needs to play catch-up because of their low bases.

 

We have some of the BEST trait compression in the game

 

We have a lot of traits that offer a lot of things in one neat package:

 

Off-hand Mastery (Wilderness Survival)

Buffs all off-hand cooldowns and increases their cast ranges. No other profession can claim a trait compression of this level.

 

Martial Mastery (Wilderness Survival)

Reduces Sword, Greatsword, and Spear cooldowns by 20%.

 

Range and damage on longbow are buffed by the same trait. Engineers, on the other hand, have to take two traits to receive this benefit on their rifles.

 

Trap traits are highly compressed: 50% larger + ground targeted for one and Cooldown Reduction and condition duration for the other.

 

Etc.

 

Does that Mean We Don't Have Issues?

 

Of course not!

 

Every class currently has issues. What are ours? Our spirits suck, some of our signets suck, some of our shouts suck, a minority of our major traits suck, and our sword has a gamebreaking bug that causes you to be rooted in place while attacking with it.

 

Trait compression on the spirits could also use hefty improvements - especially considering almost all of those buffs should be baseline.

 

If those are fixed, the profession will be remarkably solid. 

 

 

It is already a decent profession, even if the holy qua.... quad..... SOMETHING of Warrior / Mesmer / Guardian / Thief is still superior to it. 

 

 

Guild Wars 2 - The Beautiful, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Posted by Aeander Monday October 1 2012 at 10:24AM
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Preface

 

I am a long time Guild Wars 1 player with roughly 3k hours logged in that game. Thus far, my Guild Wars 2 account has logged just over 339 hours (let's be generous and say about... 20 of those were afk, for the sake of fairness), with a roughly 200 hour old main.

This means that I have a large amount of insight as to what the game is, what it offers, and what needs improving.

 

This first blog post is a general one that focuses on a large-scale overview of how I currently feel about the game. Future posts will go into greater detail.

 

If you came here expecting me to spout the good news of Guild Wars 2 and hand out Arenanet bibles, then you will be sorely disappointed. The same can be said if you expected me to condemn the game as a flop and a failure - which it is most certainly not.

 

The reality is that it is a promising, misunderstood game with an incredible core experience that is more than a little rough around the edges.

 

The Beautiful

 

No subscription fee. Reasonable cash shop.

 

Bang for your buck. As of now, I have logged over 300 hours into the game and have barely scratched the surface. Dungeons still have a lot to offer me. I've barely scratched WvW, and I'm only rank 9 in sPvP, which still feels fresh. I bought the Collector's Edition, so that's about 2 hours for every dollar I've spent. If that were a standard edition, the ratio would be 5:1. Incredible.

 

The world. My God. The world. Tyria is gorgeous and interesting to an extent that I can very rarely say for fictional realms. 

 

The painterly art style. No other online game can come close to the art style of Guild Wars 2.

 

The soundtrack is top-notch.

 

The world feels ... not necessarily alive but.... lively, at least. With the exception of Orr, for perhaps obvious reasons.

 

The core combat system is far superior to every other game in this genre (with the sole exception of Tera Online - which offers great combat... and nothing else). 

 

Player vs. Player is based on skill, not gear or levels. This is incredibly important and means that the game may eventually evolve into a thriving e-sport.

 

The game is immediately enticing. Content is fun from the start and stays that way for a long time. 

 

No inherent barriers to entry. Every class is useful (or will be when balance reaches a point of relative stability) and all PvE content can be successfully run with any class combination.  Levelling is fast and gear is not terribly difficult to obtain.

 

The Good

 

Plentiful, varied content.

 

Good character creation.

 

Good graphics.

 

Nice spell effects (unfortunately a bad thing as well).

 

Challenging to a degree one wouldn't normally expect from an MMO.

 

Great humor and ambient dialogue.

 

Varied armor designs to cover a wide palette of tastes.

 

Superb dye system that provides loads of character customization.

 

Grind is reasonably low, so long as you aren't striving for a Legendary or karma gear. Consider these things optional goals that you put on the back-burner while you do other things.

 

Game mechanics encourage exploration and map completion.

 

Tons of hidden puzzles, activities, and other things to discover.

 

Dynamic Event system and other core PvE content provides a great method of presenting traditional content.

 

The Bad

 

Spell particles can be excessive, leading to confusing fights on any sort of larger scale.

 

Dungeon mobs are bullet sponges. They just don't die. Seriously, dungeons would be considerably more fun if they chopped down mob health by at least 20%.

 

Gameplay often doesn't bring out the merits of the combat system. While you COULD do amazing combos, kite constantly, use your godlike dodge reflexes, and coordinate with others around you, you rarely have to. This varies by class, of course. An Elementalist has to work way harder than a Warrior to achieve the same results. Which brings me to my next point...

 

Class balance. The game is new. What did you expect? Why would I ever take the time to master the slightly underpowered Elementalist and Necromancer when I could faceroll as a Guardian for often better results?

 

The weapon system is a good idea on paper and in practice. The problem? It is a threat to the game's longevity. The solution is to add more weapons and to unlock previously unusable weapons for all classes. If half of your bar is a pre-made template, there better be plenty of those templates to choose from.

 

The story is weak. Dialogue is often lacking, voice acting is lackluster, and characters are forgettable at best and despised at worst. The only lovable characters take a dirt nap before you even get to know them. Oh, did you come in here expecting no spoilers? Too bad. Your personal story dies at Claw Island. Enjoy.

 

The Ugly

 

Trahearne. The very mention of his name will usually bring up instant revulsion in any map chat. Trahearne makes the "Personal" in your Personal Story a lie the moment he appears. He immediately hijacks your story as your character proudly makes himself Trahearne's lackey. Trahearne has a terrible voice actor, bad dialogue, a self-absorbed personality, and a list of Mary Sue traits that would bring shame to Micaiah from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.

 

Orr. Orr is the worst end-game zone that I have ever seen. It has more bugs than undead - and it is nothing BUT undead. These undead are not fun to fight. They are difficult to kite. They attack in huge numbers because there are simply too many of them on the map. They respawn too quickly. All of them have anti-run mechanics (slows, pulls, stuns, etc.) so you are FORCED to fight them. 

Orr simply has no life, no interest, and no reason to stay there other than that the only alternative is to accept weak loot and little challenge in low level areas or to go to Frostgorge Sound, a single level 70-80 area.

 

Underwater combat is a disease. It is currently clunky, typically boring, and full of frustration. It is bugged beyond reason - the worst bug being the one that causes AI allies and enemies to go through walls and stay there until you get lucky enough for them to come out. This is a terrible experience that creates something that should never have existed - underwater wall ninjas. Yes. Underwater.... wall.... ninjas. Take that in for a moment.

 

WvWvW queue times.

 

Large number of bugs that will hopefully be ironed out asap.

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