ArenaNet's Chris Whiteside takes to Reddit for AMA

Chris Whiteside from ArenaNet did a Reddit AMA over player concerns from the recent major content patch.

Chris Whiteside, Studio Design Director at ArenaNet, took to Reddit in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) to answer some of the questions and concerns Guild Wars 2 players had. As expected, most of the questions revolved around the latest additions to the game, specifically Ascended gear, the Fractals of the Mist dungeon, and the one-time Karka event.

For the one-time event there was not much to say from Whiteside other than that it was a learning experience for ArenaNet. Especially in terms of those not able to participate due to timezone confliction.

"Moving forward we are going to do our best to design events that are as accessible to the community as possible. We really should have thought about some of the ramifications in the design of the Karka event in more detail. In short its not something we wanted to happen and we will be rethinking how we do 1 time events moving forward."

The new dungeon, Fractals of the Mist (FotM), received some questions but focused almost entirely on the fragmenting of the player base due to the difficulty level system. Whiteside wanted to assure players however, that this was not an intended consequence. He even went on to say that they are working on a fix, but that the consequences of any fix need to be taken into consideration before a hasty patch is made.

"It was never a conscious decision to fracture the player base through the Dungeon. Honestly we were aware the dungeon was good but we didn't know just how popular it would be. Nearly straight away we saw the issue and have been working on a fix since, we have explored multiple systems and will land on one this week."

"We are currently looking at solutions, one of which is to set the levels into tiers whereby all those within that tier say 1-5 can participate. This has implications on reward and difficulty which is why we are still looking into it."

As for Ascended gear, there were many concerns: methods of acquisition, Gear Treadmill, vertical progression, and gated content through the Infusion slots.

First off is method of acquisition. Currently the only way to get these ascended gears is through running the FotM dungeon, which is not something ArenaNet intended or has ever wanted to be the case.

"We had/have a plan to seed ascended through the game. It affects many many areas and systems and we wanted to essentially rewire aspects of reward progression. This is an ongoing priority. However this is a multi phase plan and during the creation of the FotM I wanted to roll out a subset of the plan to the community."

"To be frank the ascended gear was designed to be earnable outside of the FotM and unfortunately we were unable to deploy this prior to the update."

Even in terms of WvW the Ascended gear acquisition system was not ready, but Whiteside says to expect it soon:

"Again however we would have much preferred to have released Ascended Gear across the whole of the game than in one area. Players in WvW will be able to acquire Ascended items within that area of the game soon."

As for the remaining pieces of Ascended gear: “Ascended Gear will be introduced throughout next year,and accessible through many game play activities rather than just one.”

As part of this talk on how Ascended gears are obtained, the question of the grind came up and Whiteside gave his thoughts.

"I think grind is repetitive game play leading to a goal where the activity of progression isn't fun whether it not be fun initially or it suffers from diminishing returns over a period of time. Both the reward and the path have an impact on 'The Perception of the Grind' ."

"So with this in mind it is our intention to ensure that progression is fun and that whilst different types of players enjoy different types of activities they can all appreciate the journey to the reward in their own way and that the outcome/reward of the journey is balanced."

While Whiteside assured players that there is no gear treadmill and vertical progression is in check, it was a surprise appearance by Mike O’Brien, President and co-Founder of ArenaNet and Executive Producer for Guild Wars 2, that stole the show.

"I hope we've been clear that GW2 is not a game with virtually no stat progression in it like GW1 was. That's why GW2 shipped with a higher level cap, and with a hard separation between PvE and PvP. In GW1 we never advanced the level cap through four campaigns/expansions. The game design didn't allow for it. But GW2 was designed without those restrictions, and we've always expected that we will someday raise the level cap in GW2.

"I wonder if the core sentiment is more this: It's only been two-and-a-half months! We don't even all have exotics yet, and already you're introducing another tier. Is this the start of a power progression curve that I'll never be able to keep up with?

"I certainly appreciate that worry. I myself don't want a constant struggle, as exists in some other games, to keep my equipment viable.

"Then we're left with a balancing act. Some progression is ok, but pushing players onto gear treadmill isn't ok and isn't what the game is about.

"So I would ask you to judge us by details, and not by making slippery-slope arguments. We introduced a ton of new content in November, and the sum total of new progression rewards we added to go with it provided a 5-10% stat increase in 2 of 12 slots. I hope you'll agree that that kind of very shallow and gradual progression does not force people onto a gear treadmill.

"I think it's important for GW2 to be able to have this kind of gradual progression. Of course we made some mistakes with the way we introduced ascended gear, but those are addressable issues. I don't think they invalidate the fundamental concept that GW2 can have gradual stat progression without being a gear treadmill game."

Whiteside gave some additional context to the new tier of gear in regards to ArenaNet’s design plans since launch:

"[Ascended gear] was not specifically designed before launch. However the concept of progression rewards with a shallow curve bridging other rewards was.”

“So as we know there is already vertical progression in the game and we do intend to keep moving forward with this philosophy. However we have no intention of adding a new Rarity of Gear such as Ascended.”

So ArenaNet is working on it. If they didn’t have a plan before then they have one now. One thing this AMA shows is that they are listening to the community and taking your feedback into consideration on how they will plan events and new content in the future. Just remember, if you want to help give feedback to improve the game please be civil about it. Whiteside answered some questions that were very aggressively directed at him and the team at ArenaNet as a whole. There are not many people who would give their time of day (of which Whiteside gave even after going home from work) to answer such questions. Props to you Chris.

Matt "Mattsta" Adams

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