Sunday, 29 April 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta: what needs to be worked on (grind!)

Over the course of a couple dozen hours of the Guild Wars 2 beta this weekend, I noticed a few potential problems which I hope will be adjusted by the next beta (or failing that, release). Of course there were some bugs, but that's what a beta is for - I reported the ones I came across. But by the end of my play time, I started to question whether GW2 is really getting rid of grind as ArenaNet has been saying.

First up: weapon skill unlocks. You start with only one skill per weapon, and unlock more as you defeat enemies using your weapon skill(s). Early on, it's a great mechanic: it helps you learn the game and your abilities over time as opposed to throwing a million things at you. But it does have a few weaknesses.
  • Multiple weapon sets: every class has several weapons, and you have to unlock the skills for each weapon independently. For example, unlocking axe skills won't help your sword skills, so when you try out a new weapon you suddenly have only one skill again. Makes sense, but eventually I couldn't help but think "Okay, I know how to play the game, just give me my skills". 
  • Elementalists: the elementalist has fewer weapon combinations than most classes, but you have to unlock each skill for each of the four attunements separately. In other words, there are twenty staff skills to unlock, not five.
  • Underwater: I think each class only has one weapon for underwater combat, but the problem is that there are far fewer opportunities for underwater combat. I got over level 20 and still didn't have all my underwater skills because there's just not that much underwater content. Again, this is worse for elementalists, because you have four sets of skills to unlock instead of one - so when I say I didn't have all my underwater skills yet, what I really mean is that I almost attained my last fire magic skill and hadn't touched any of the other attunements.

What does all this add up to? 
Unlocking your first set of skills is fun and gives you a sense of learning and progression. Unlocking your second set is cool because you find entirely new ways to play your chosen class. But by the fifth and sixth and seventh it's really starting to get boring. Worst is the fact that once you reach a certain level (10 and up for me), your basic skill isn't enough to take out enemies on its own - you need more skills, but you don't have them. So your choice is to either group up and contribute very little, or to grind it out against weak enemies. Neither are what I want to be doing.

Second problem: the rate of experience gain. If you earn 100% completion on a given map - which is a lot of work, given the huge size of the maps - you'll probably be a high enough level to complete all your story missions associated with that map (depending on how many dynamic events you complete, which are worth a lot of XP but don't contribute to completion). If you don't quite make it, or you aren't the kind of person who aims to complete every quest and explore every nook and cranny, you'll be under the recommended level for your personal story quests, meaning you'll often find them prohibitively difficult.
And what happens when you're too low a level to finish the quest you want to play?
Grind until you hit the right level.

Fortunately this problem is an easy fix: simply increase the experience gain, either for certain objectives (completing hearts, dynamic events, and/or story quests) or globally.

Third problem: travel and repair costs. For most players, this will probably never be an issue. The cost to travel to a waypoint or to repair broken armour is fairly minimal. Skilled players will rarely spend on armour repairs because they won't be defeated frequently. The problem arises at very low levels or with unskilled players - in other words, the very last people you want to erect barriers around. 

When your armour starts to break instead of just being damaged, you start to lose out on your defensive capabilities and stat bonuses. When you lose a sixth of your armour stat in one go, that's a major penalty.
When you're defeated, you have the option to wait to be revived, or to teleport to a waypoint, which costs a little bit of money. If you have no money on you, you can't teleport at all. And if you die somewhere off the beaten path, it could be hours before someone comes by. This part is a really serious problem, because there is no other way to revive yourself.

Again, this is an easy fix: choose one waypoint per map to be free to teleport to if you're already in that map. I would suggest making the nearest waypoint free, but that could encourage players to throw themselves at a massive boss, die, teleport, do it again, and just keep looping until they're naked from armour breakage (which they then might not be able to afford to fix).

These three points mean that grind has not been eliminated for everyone in the Guild Wars 2 beta. If you're just in it for the story, or if you want to settle on a preferred weapon set early, you're going to be forced to grind until you're the right level or have all your skills unlocked.

Fortunately, since this is just a beta, there's plenty of time to solve all these issues to everyone's satisfaction. When the next beta rolls around, I'll definitely be looking into whether these three points have seen any change.

1 comment:

  1. i see your points and get what your saying especially underwater .. i still had my 1st skill.

    however just playing normally i was able to unlock every weapon skill except underwater i only played some Saturday and Sunday and once you get a set you like you only need to learn a new set if yours inst working.. by 80 normally playing you should have everything

    ele is a different story and i didn't get past lvl 1 before i switched classes maybe make it so you get 1/5th the exp from other attunements so that by the time you have all 5 fire you have 2 of the others

    I also experienced the.. experience issue but because you dont have quest logs and because you can go anywhere pretty much i just left he human starter zone and went to the norn didnt feele like i was grinding just more content to experience.

    Anet also said it helps if you do a little of everything renown hearts points of intrerest personal story and dynamic events should keep your lvls on track