Guild Wars 2 designer John Hargrove gave players a look into the Guild Wars 2 item and loot system in a recent update to the official ArenaNet blog. The article was both controversial and revealing, though apparently not revealing enough, as a follow-up Q&A article featuring John Hargrove and lead designer Eric Flannum was published to the ANet blog last Wednesday.
In the original article, John started by emphasizing that ArenaNet is focused on “rewarding players individually.” Basically, they want to put an end to the annoying arguments or discussions revolving around loot. Devs want to eliminate the drama and uneventful content runs where players receive nothing either due to rolling poorly on loot or due to everyone’s favorite group member: the ninja looter. To that end, players get their own roll on loot. This applies to dungeons as well. Upon completing a dungeon each player can open the chest and get individual rewards. Resource mining works this way too; each resource node can be mined by multiple players.
All of this goes back to ArenaNet’s philosophy of making it so players don’t approach grouping with trepidation. MMOs are social, but most MMOs put barriers on grouping (often unintentionally). This specific example, as well as the overall philosophy regarding group play, is one of the more subtle but stand-out design choices that ANet has made with Guild Wars 2. I don’t play World of Warcraft, but I’ve been there for all the Ventrilo arguments over loot and all the other drama. I’ve also personally felt trepidation at another player’s approach when questing in other MMOs, not wanting them to steal my quest kills or clickies. Why do we hold onto these archaic designs? It’s good to see that someone is finally turning these conventions on their heads.
The next major bit John went over was the fact ArenaNet has plans to solve what I like to call “Clownsuit Syndrome.” Clownsuit Syndrome is the puzzling yet continuing tradition of forcing players to put together clownsuits of mismatched pieces of armor in order to be competitive in either PVP or PVE content. This doesn’t seem to bother the majority of people who proudly don their hideous gear as long as it lets them have the edge they’re looking for. If you’ve been keeping up with my Star Wars: The Old Republic column, you’ll know that I love my individuality in games and I appreciate games that allow me to have it. Some games have offered ways around this issue, such as offering appearance item tabs, or in the case of City of Heroes, separating gear entirely from your look, but Guild Wars 2 will be going a bit of a different (if somewhat controversial) route.
Guild Wars 2 will allow players to combine items so that players can use the appearance of one item while having the stats of another. This process is called Transmutation and makes use of Transmutation Stones. When players use a Transmutation Stone it destroys both items (as well as the stone) and creates a new item that is a hybrid of the two original items. Of course, the player chooses which one will be the appearance and which one is used for stats. The catch? These stones will be available in the game’s item shop.*
Yep. Guild Wars 2 will have an item shop. This little detail was kind of tucked away into the article and I actually somehow missed it on my first read through. Obviously, this didn’t sit well for some players, and I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I guess I’m not. For some time I’ve been wondering how exactly ArenaNet plans on putting out such a large-scale MMO with the same economic model as the original Guild Wars, which wasn’t even considered an MMO by ArenaNet. I suppose we have our answer! It’s important to note that the in-game store will not be Pay-to-Win, something I learned when speaking to Colin Johanson last week during the New York Comic-Con. They’ve not worked out all the details on the shop yet, but I wouldn’t set the house on fire just yet. In any case, I’m incredibly glad I won’t have to don a “clown suit” in Guild Wars 2 in order to beat face in PvP or PvE content.
Another point in the article that had me cheering was the section on upgrading gear in Guild Wars 2. Item sets are all the rage (even Team Fortress 2 has ‘em now!) and so I was a bit worried that transmuting would be moot if the best gear was part of item sets. However, set bonuses will work differently in Guild Wars 2 as well. Instead of pieces of armor that belong to a set, Guild Wars 2 will feature upgrade item sets that can be applied to armor and weapons. These items will confer bonuses in the same manner that item sets would. For example, the Crest of the Legion set (six pieces, cloth armor upgrade only) gives players +10 intelligence for a single crest, +20 perception for two crests, and so on. Players apply these crests to slots in their armor or weapons and can tune their gear in a more modular fashion this way.
I’m not completely sold on the in-game shop yet, I need more details. I’m sure ArenaNet will provide them once they’ve got things nailed down on their end. But I’m really happy with what I’ve learned about the game’s loot and item systems overall. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
*Eric Flannum responded to concerns over Transmutation Stones in the item shop as part of the follow-up Q&A article, stating, “We haven’t finalized the pricing structure on transmutation stones. We’re not certain at this time whether or not transmutation stones will be available outside of the in-game store. Philosophically we believe that players should have a way to acquire items like transmutation stones through the course of playing the game and not just through purchase in the in-game store. We’ll talk in greater detail about how we plan to accomplish this when we arrive at a final paradigm.”