Balance between classes in Guild Wars 2 is an always changing thing. We managed to take questions from community members like Metabattle and PVE Specialist to probe ArenaNet for their thoughts on the matter. Read on for some insight...
MMORPG: Condition damage, like any damage over time, is designed to be more powerful the longer a fight goes for. Is there any concern that current condition based builds are dishing out their damage too quickly?
ArenaNet: In a recent AMA, Irenio Calmon-Huang laid out our intentions regarding condition builds.
Power is intended to be more spike damage-centric, wheras Condi is meant to be more ramping, sustained damage. Currently there are some issues with how quickly condition damage can be spiked up, negating the benefits of power damage.
If I presented you with a power skill that dealt 1,000 damage instantaneously and a condition one that dealt 1,000 damage over 4 seconds there wouldn't be a question about what build to choose; you'd go with the instant option every time. Not counting other effects, condition skills must inflict more damage over their duration in order to make power vs. condi into a real choice.
Moving forward we'll be aiming changes to bring a bit more parity between the options through the ramp time and using that to emphasize some of the differences. That said, a fundamental issue is that foes whose health pools allow them to survive a significant amount of time (beyond the point of condition stack ramping) are going to favor condition builds unless they specifically have mechanics which deal with conditions.
MMORPG: How much does community feedback through official forums, reddit and in game, impact the team’s decision making? Does this ever create a feeling of unrealistic expectations that clashes with the team’s plans?
Karl McLain: The team gets feedback from a variety of ways. Forums, Reddit, Discord, media outlets, direct communication in game, Vulcan mind-melds… we get a lot of it, and it’s easy to get lost in. When making changes, if we run across valid feedback on the area of interest that could potentially change the design direction we’ll do some evaluation by comparing it against other feedback, analytics, spreadsheet values, and a few other points. Feedback and general player discussion definitely does influence us. While it may not seem like we listen to players at times, this is due to how large the playerbase is and the variety of feedback that comes in as a result. Feedback can differ in the extremes even from players playing the same game mode using the same profession. We can listen to both pieces of feedback, but we may only act on one or the other (or neither of them if we don’t feel it’s a solid direction for the game).
As for creating unrealistic expectations, feedback and ideas posted in forums and on Reddit can definitely frame player expectations in ways which are hyperbolic or run counter to profession goals.
Metabattle Team: How much does the current metagame impact balance choices from the team? Is the balance directed strictly at currently used builds and setups, or is the team constantly looking at new ways to update and refresh underutilized specializations?
Karl McLain: The team does indeed keep an eye on popular builds found on websites like Metabattle and takes them into account when making balance updates. When approaching balance updates, we try to not improve already strong builds as much, but instead make efforts to improve lesser-used aspects of the combat system. Sometimes strong traits or skills are increased, but these improvements are generally made to help support less popular builds and it ends up being more of a coincidence. We’re constantly on the lookout for builds that are just out of reach or are waiting to be discovered!
PvE Specialist: When the team created instanced content such as high-level fractals and raids, what was their vision for class diversity? How has that changed and adapted as the game evolved through expansions?
Jason Reynolds: A core tenant of Guild Wars 2 gameplay is that each class can essentially perform everything they need to play the game. Each class needs to feel thematically and mechanically unique, but they also need to be self-sufficient. That’s a critical component of designing for instanced group content. Making sure no class is explicitly cut out of an encounter due to a mechanic is always at the forefront of our design process. For example, we won’t create an encounter that requires players to use Memser portals to complete.
As we were developing Raids early on we wanted the players to feel comfortable bringing whatever they enjoy playing. To achieve this we focused on developing Build and Play Roles into all our encounters. A Build Role will define what skills player are encouraged to bring: condition cleanses, stun breaks, crowd control, etc. Play Roles are where we get to be more creative, and typically they define mechanics in an encounter. They can be as simple as clustering a few players at a specific point to prevent raid-wide damage, or more interactive like smashing an orb with your attacks to move it through goal posts. What’s important is that these Play Roles encourage fun game play, and don’t punish players for playing the class they enjoy playing.
Overall, that design principle hasn’t changed. Raids and fractals remain mostly unaffected as far as balance is concerned because we are able to design them around game play mechanics, and not around what unique class gimmicks are being brought. It is possible to run all raid and fractal encounters with a fully Thief party - and those videos are amazing to watch.