February 29, 2012

[GW2] The GW2 TraitStorm – Community Reaction at its Worst

After finishing my Closer to the Grave post this morning, I was pretty much done with blogging for the day and was going to leap straight into some actual work. However, I made the mistake of checking Twitter before I did so, and noticed a #GuildWars2-tagged tweet that spoke of a “shitstorm” being “kicked up” about the Jon Peters blog post I linked a couple of hours ago.

Intrigued, I hit the link up, and promptly ran into a 60 page wall of vitriol and bile that in many ways just reinforces the points I made in my “Entitlement Culture” post.

The sheer amount of crying, bitching, and self-entitled moaning in the thread was staggering.

…a 60 page wall of vitriol and bile…

“The Holy Trinity is Back!” one poster complained, having read that the Elementalist’s Water trait line allows you to put points in a stat that slightly increases your Healing attribute, completely forgetting to provide any examples of how a Tank could be created without any aggro-generation abilities.

“I want to be able to respec anywhere, anytime,” another poster whines.

“This is just too inconvenient and goes against their design philosophy,” says a third.

And I just sat there, forcing myself to read through sixty pages, to see if there were any rays of sunshine posted by the developers.

Martin Kerstein actually did make a couple of posts, early on in the discussion, and I’m honestly not surprised by his tone: in his position I’d have done exactly the same thing.

He quotes poster Mordakai, who states:

“It doesn’t matter how great the system is. No one is going to waste gold trying out new “builds”. They will look up the most effective build online, and follow it. The end. This is not fun.”

(As an aside, this is absolute rubbish. The only people who are going to stress about this are the elitist powergamers. If there is a build that is most effective, then A-Net haven’t balanced stuff right. Personally I will waste as much gold as I need to trying out new builds to find which fits my playstyle best. I did it in Guild Wars. I did it in RIFT and WoW and DCUO. And I will group with someone who has a build that they find fun and rewarding for their own playstyle over someone who has felt forced into a cookiecutter build any day of the week. Maybe this is because I’m not longer part of the top 5% “raiding elite” mindset…)

Kerstein responds to Mordakai with:

“You haven’t played the system. You haven’t played the game probably at all or for a longer time period. You haven’t any overview how this interacts with other ingame systems. You completely ignore general philosophy behind the game by applying a Guild Wars look to it. And based on that, you judge that it will be no fun?

And then people had the cheek to call him out on it, saying it was unprofessional to point out to the community that they hadn’t played the game yet and had no idea how the changes would affect the game’s many systems as a whole.


My Thoughts

Firstly, this is not Guild Wars. People who want to play a game with all the conveniences, nuances, and playstyles of Guild Wars actually have a game to play. It is called Guild Wars. It has been out for a while.

People who want a game with all the conveniences, nuances, and playstyles of ‘Guild Wars’ have a game to play. It is called ‘Guild Wars’. It has been out for a while.

I try very hard not to compare GW2 to GW1, and in my mind that is actually pretty easy. The Professions are different. The mechanics are different. The design philosophy is different for the most part. The only things that are really the same are the races, lore, and world — and even a lot of that is new. Sylvari, anyone?

But a lot of people don’t seem to get that. People who have been following the development of GW2 since it was announced back in ’07 seem so hung up on how GW1 does things that they want their demands pandered to because they’ve been waiting so long.

I understand. I do. I’m not oblivious to their plight. We’ve all played sequels that simply didn’t live up to the standards set by the first game (hi, FFXIV. FFXI would like a word!) But the sheer amount of animosity spewed by MMORPG players is obscene. Is it any real wonder that I’m trying to get old guild members from games I played a while ago to sign up to play GW2 in An Unlikely Krewe, rather than expecting to make new friends?

I know forums are a poor place to get a real sense of a community. World of Warcraft and the MMOChampion forums prove that for every ten thousand players who are happily playing the game, one just has to bitch and whine about their own self-worth and entitlement.


So What Are They Bitching About This Time?

Good question. There are a handful of things.

1. Firstly, people are arguing about the “small fee” for respeccing. Because A-Net haven’t said “the 50 copper” fee, or “the 1 silver” fee, they’re blowing it out of proportion and expecting it to be a huge money sink with escalating costs. Maybe it will be. But if it is, deal with it. Moneysinks are good for a game’s economy. It also brings actual worth to your choices.


2. Secondly, there are people arguing that there shouldn’t be a fee at all. It should be free, and they should be able to completely rework their traits whenever they want. I admire people wanting to experiment with builds — I will no doubt do so myself — but there is already a 100% free way of doing so. Go to The Mists PvP lobby. You can play about with your build to your heart’s content there and it won’t cost you a copper.

Even worse, if you could completely rework your traits at a moment’s notice, people would expect you to do so. I dunno about you, but I want to play the way I’m comfortable with — that’s the whole point of the role in role-playing game.

Let’s use Demajen Thorngrave as my example. She’s a specialist in manipulating the forces of death, thanks to an unfortunate experience she had as a child. Since then, she’s worked at manipulating supernatural forces to grant life to the inanimate or deceased. She’s a minion master, accompanied at all times by bone minions, bone fiends and, sometimes, a mighty flesh golem. I don’t want some random person in a dungeon to tell me that I can’t play as a minion master, and that I need to spec for something else.

If I know my build and how it works, the pros and the cons, I can adapt to them far better than simply respeccing at a moment’s notice and having to work in a potentially unfamiliar way. That’s the whole point of having a limited skillbar in the first place. Forcing us to make choice, but allowing us the freedom to adapt a bit as and when we need to. Being able to 100% completely adapt to any new challenges kind of nullifies challenges in the first place.


3. Thirdly, the fact that in order to respecialise your traits, you have to use a Trainer. Yes, because the ludicrous amount of timesaving the game’s waypoint system gives you just isn’t enough… “Oh, but it’ll be so expensive, because it costs money to waypoint back, money to respecialise your traits, then money to waypoint to where you were in the first place”… Errr, so if it isn’t important enough to be worth the money, don’t do it?!


4. Fourthly, they argue that being locked into traitlines would also lock players into group roles (as opposed to the thematic roles I brought up in point 2). What, really?! Because I thought they were on top of what we could already do. Using the example of my necromancer, I want to be a minion master, so I add to Blood Magic, Death Magic, and Spite traitlines to supplement the role I want to play. If I decide on a particular day that I want to try something new, I have plenty of ways to change my weapons and utilities without ever touching my traits. And if I want to go the whole hog, I can retrain those too. I lose out on a tiny bit of specialisation if I don’t re-trait, but it isn’t likely to break my usefulness in content — and if it does, then again it is a balance issue that needs fixing, not something that is inherently wrong with trait lines/respecs.


Concluding Thoughts

What we really need is numbers, and we’ll get them soon. The next closed beta is at the end of March, and undoubtedly theorycrafters will descend on the game and try and pull the traits system apart. And that is fine. If it turns out that they find things that A-Net has missed, so be it.

But ranting, raving, bitching and moaning right now about something we have no numerical evidence to support seems a bit daft. Speculation is fine. Constructive criticism is fine. Self-entitled bitching simply isn’t. It is incredibly rude and unproductive, and it amazes me that people today think that it is okay.

And, as a final closing thought, GW2Tools have released a trait calculator to let you play around with the traits system as it currently stands. Have a play, see what you think, and feel free to comment on this blog below.



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Written by: demajen
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About the Author

Jon Burrage, aka Demajen. Urban Sci-Fantasy writer, digital artist, supply teacher, evil genius. One of these things is not like the others...



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  1. karln

    “I don’t want some random person in a dungeon to tell me that I can’t play as a minion master, and that I need to spec for something else.”

    And I don’t want the game system to tell me that just because I played MM in the last instance, I can’t run Curses or Blood (or even a different profession entirely) in the next one. I care a lot more about being able to try out lots of different styles that I do about making up stories about my avatar. I know everybody’s different and all, I’m just sad that instead of making GW more open to build-switching as I’d hoped, they’re locking it down in many ways, and my friends are looking ready to all move to GW2 where I’m increasingly convinced I’d be miserable :(

    • But the game isn’t telling you that. You can go Curses or Blood in the next one if you want to. You can go to the PvP lobby and experiment as much as you want too. You can still switch your build. You just can’t adapt on the fly to every challenge. However you’re quite right: different strokes for different folks.

      But I’m intrigued: what else is making you think you’ll be miserable? :-/

      • karln

        From the official site: “After a character has spent their trait points, they can visit a trainer to reset their traits and refund their previously spent points for a small fee.”

        It doesn’t sound like I’ll be able to respec freely from one mission to the next. I haven’t heard anything about using the PvP lobby to respec for PvE missions, is that not just for PvP?

        As for other things I Do Not Want: First and foremost there’s the removal of instances. I want to play with my (IRL) friends and nobody else, so this is a huge step backward for me. I’m introverted and misanthropic, so GW’s instance-everywhere approach was perfect for me.

        I’m worried about the huge number of levels, that I predict will lead to the same dicking around, trying to level in lockstep with my friends, that I hated in WoW (they all play way more than me so either I’d be under pressure to play more, or they’d have to hold back a toon each to play with me). I was hoping that the sidekick/exemplar level adjustment system would mitigate this somewhat, but I can’t see them granting a sidekicked character access to the, quote, “major upgrades” represented by Major Traits that my natural level doesn’t have yet.

        And finally, the massively reduced number of potential skill combinations. Dual professions are gone and each skill slot is restricted to taking only a small subset of all your profession’s skills. I’ll have to wait until release to be sure, obviously, but the skill system they describe looks like there’ll be much less room to play around with new ideas, and it’ll be much quicker to reach the point where there’s not any really new combinations to try out.

        I still love the idea of picking up new temporary skills all over the place — new skills are like crack to me — and healer-less team balance, so I’m probably going to play anyway. I’ll just hate all that other stuff and feel bad that I’m ‘encouraging it’ :(

        • Ah I was implying that you could experiment with builds in PvP, sorry. Wasn’t clear there. Serves me right trying to type coherently after a day teaching xD

          A small fee and trainer is still pretty easy IMO. Gives weight to your choices. Guess it depends how small the fee is an if it scales.

          Sounds pretty much like you just want to keep on playing GW1. I can see where all your points are coming from, however. Personally I don’t think major traits are going to be THAT much of a gamechanger, and to be honest, it isn’t something I would worry about. I play games to have fun, not stress about if my friends are doing 5% more dps than me. If they’re my friends, why would they care about being ‘held back’ — there’s no rush to get to endgame content because gw2 doesn’t work like that. The emphasis on player skill should, hopefully, mitigate and lack of raw power you have from side kicking up. And it’s a far better system than holding an alt back to play with ya!

          Maybe it is because I came to gw1 late — or revisited it late, should I say — but I found the sheer number of skills in gw1 far too overwhelming, and most of them seemed like junk. But I appreciate where you’re coming from… A smaller number of skills overall should produce more balanced combinations, so I cam see where ANet are coming from.

          Hopefully there’ll be something in the game for both of us :)

  2. […] culture and supporting the developers, Closer to the grave – Minion mayhem redux,  The GW2 traitstorm – community reactions at its worst and Traits – Putting the “Role” back in “Roleplaying […]

  3. […] Demajen — The GW2 TraitStorm: Community Reaction at its Worst. “After finishing my Closer to the Grave post this morning, I was pretty much done with blogging for the day and was going to leap straight into some actual work. However, I made the mistake of checking Twitter before I did so, and noticed a #GuildWars2-tagged tweet that spoke of a “shitstorm” being “kicked up” about the Jon Peters blog post I linked a couple of hours ago. Intrigued, I hit the link up, and promptly ran into a 60 page wall of vitriol and bile that in many ways just reinforces the points I made in my “Entitlement Culture” post. The sheer amount of crying, bitching, and self-entitled moaning in the thread was staggering.” [Raphia: I managed to avoid reading much of the wailing — thanks to all the bloggers who didn't indulge in a temper tantrum — and again I fully agree with Demajen on this issue.] […]

  4. ArcherAvatar

    Well done, well said sir.

    And you are, by far, a more tolerant man than I am… there is NO WAY I would have been able to get through that many pages of that thread… I barely made it into double digits before I closed the window and got on with my day.

    Your counter arguments are very well made… and aught to be completely unnecessary…

    I would just add here the same point that I added over at Under the Pale Tree;

    “there is also the consideration of “unique identity” and “growing attached” to a specific character from a RP viewpoint. Systems like what RIFT uses with their Souls are simultaneously, an effort to put a band-aid on the open wound that a trinity-based class system automatically comes with, and also represents the introduction of a “new” problem in that, the players becoming so distanced and dis-associated with their characters that no emotional bond is formed – no sense of identity is developed.

    I’ve lost track of the number of occasions when I’ve heard a player complaining about the lack of “connection” they felt with their character in RIFT, often while simultaneously praising the flexibility of their Soul system.

    ArenaNet are not telling us we’re “stuck” with whatever choices we make… they are just encouraging us to give some careful consideration before making those choices and applying a small “d’oh! tax” for folks who go with the “ready, fire, aim” method of character development.

    And they have provided a “worry free” area for experimentation in the PvP lobby, where re-spec is free, and convienent, and can be done at level 80 so you can see how it really turns out. For those folks who are agonizing over the decisions, they can just pop into the lobby and satisfy all curiousity there, prior to making “slightly” more permanent decisions on their PvE character build.”

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