I'm definitely stoked to see raids coming to Guild Wars 2, but I'd be less than truthful if I said everything looked perfectly rosy. Still, I made a September's Resolution (which is like a New Year's Resolution but done any time I damn well feel like it) to try and see the bright side of things more. With that in mind, here are three things I like and three I'm apprehensive about regarding raids in Guild Wars 2.
I'll start with my not-so-good points before moving on to my good points, because I'd like to end things on a high note. It's part of my resolution.
The 10-person limit. This is the raid-sized elephant in the room, and I totally understand why ArenaNet is fixing raid size at a specific number. It's just easier to create and balance content for a fixed number of players. That said, it seems like it wouldn't be an insurmountable challenge to scale content from 10 to 20 players and that it could be achieved much more readily than scaling content to upwards of 50 to 100 players, which has been an issue for big open-world events that often don't provide acceptable challenge for their scope.
Nevertheless, the 10-person limit will cause issues that strike at the core of Guild Wars 2's inclusive philosophy. Last week, 16 people showed up for our guild missions. If we were planning on raiding, 10 of us would have gone, and the other six... well, too bad, guys. This stands in contrast to one of Guild Wars 2's primary tenets, which is that players shouldn't be upset to see other players around, and that it shouldn't keep them from playing/enjoying content. I'm worried that the hard 10-person limit will create drama and probably a few hurt feelings, though I'm sure ArenaNet is aware of this and already working on ways to introduce a kind of “flex” raiding like World of Warcraft now offers.
Continued, timely support. This is one I almost hate to bring up, because, really, what MMO developer wouldn't build upon its raid structure and add new raids in the future? Well, maybe the one that took three years to put out an expansion... and hasn't added any guild missions in two-plus years... and has only added one new dungeon path... or expand upon whatever this was supposed to accomplish...
So yeah, you'll have to forgive me for being the tiniest bit skeptical about ArenaNet's ability and willingness to commit to its raiding experience and to improve and expand upon it in a timely manner rather than just try it once and then move on to whatever other ideas bubble up to the surface. Granted, other MMO companies struggle with this issue, too, but given ArenaNet's track record with such things, I'm far less interested in words than I am in actions.
Setting the challenge. Even with a fixed group in mind, the claim of “challenging group content” will undergo a lot of scrutiny, especially in the raid's early days. Too easy and it'll be another “ArenaNet fail”; too hard, and everyone will be calling for nerfs. And then, when things are changed, it'll be criticized again because it was easy-now-it's-too-hard or too-hard-now-too-easy, etc. ArenaNet's putting a lot of eggs in one basket here, and a few are sure to break. It almost certainly won't be perfect right out of the gate...
And now, the good parts!
A fine challenge. …but if they can get it right, it'll be a heck of a ride. And let's be honest, ArenaNet's really improved at this aspect of things as the years have gone by. Consider that there are 33 dungeon paths, each with roughly three bosses. That's around a hundred bosses the team had to design, plus all the open-world boss encounters – it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that many of them were lackluster.
More recent zones and encounters have been much more interesting and challenging, like the revamped Queen's Gauntlet and the Three-Headed Jungle Worm (which I still haven't beaten), which require a high level of skill and coordination. With years of experience developing the game and more time to get a smaller number of big fights right, I think they'll do a good job on this one. It just might take some time.
It shows a willingness to adapt. As cool as they sound, I'll admit I felt a little sad when raids were announced. They seemed like a sign of surrender, an acknowledgment that Guild Wars 2's ideas of a new paradigm of endgame for MMOs had failed. The 10-person hard limit also fed into that, making it feel like a game that had seemed trailblazing in its infancy was now going down the same familiar path that so many MMOs before it had trod.
As I've had more time to think, though, I've steered away from the “sky is falling” mentality and congratulated the team on being willing to do what it felt it needed to do to adapt to its player base's needs. I've criticized the game before for doing “stuff that would never work,” like the fancy currency wallet or the initial inability to do fractals with players too far from your progress level, both of which were eventually changed.
To me, that's different from “stuff that looked good but didn't quite work out.” I know that's a fine line to draw, and heavily subject to opinion, but I think enough people bought into enough of GW2's initial guiding premises to make it a highly successful game. Those are still largely intact, and I don't think the presence of raids will make other types of content obsolete or instantly unappealing...
Doing loot right. ...assuming ArenaNet does loot right, which is always a point of contention in high-end MMO raids. But this is one place where I do have a lot of confidence in the company, based on how it's handled things in the past. Right now, we don't know a lot about how rewards will be dished out, but there's little reason to believe it won't work like other instanced content, in that everyone gets their own rewards.
I'm a little apprehensive about how legendary armor will be handled, both in terms of the acquisition of the precursor armor – Will it be a loot drop? Will we collect tokens for it? Will it be bound? – and what it'll take to make the final product. The HoT site says that “Conquering raid content will earn you the pieces to build legendary precursor armors, which can be forged into legendary heavy, medium, and light armor sets.” I hope that means that the bulk of the work is beating the raid to achieve the precursor armor and the rest is relatively easy, and not something that requires the same kind of effort and resources as getting a legendary weapon. In any case, by identifying it as “sets,” it doesn't appear you'll need to craft helms and gloves and boots and...
Hey, maybe we'll finally have a use for all those extra World Completion tokens a lot of us have lying around! That would almost be worth a new grind...
Jason Winter is the semi-proud owner of an underwater legendary weapon. You can find him on Twitter @winterinformal. Also, make sure to check out his girlfriend's adorable Guild Wars 2 charms on her etsy shop!