Once upon a time – three months ago, to be exact – I dropped a napalm bomb on my Guild Wars 2 account and said I wouldn’t be back until design changes had been made that brought the game closer to its original philosophical standpoint. It seems the departure of Colin Johansen and his oft-lauded smile have heralded the opening of the floodgates: we have been inundated with pages of good decisions. Anyone else at ArenaNet who was emulating his smile may well have been wearing a different type of grin.
Overnight, someone found the tech to switch back to the Alpine Borderlands hidden under one of the tables at ANet HQ and placed it on the table. Previously subdued employees have been crawling out of the woodwork to celebrate on reddit. WvW maps are populated with commanders, lieutenants, scouts, and roamers gleefully discussing the garrison-hills-bay trifecta. Blobs are finding blobs on terrain that functions as mise en scène rather than as the centerpiece of a gorgeous single-player map. In the meantime, the Desert Borderlands will be polished, refined, and eventually spun back into play.
The sum of this provided enough impetus for me to create new characters. My nascent Sylvari twins with entirely new names have nothing to do with my empire of old; one of my personal goals is “freedom from suffering” which entails not attaching to things so firmly that it becomes painful. That doesn’t make my decision to delete all the stuff I paid real money for any less stupid, but, ya know, at least I have a lofty philosophical tenet to fall back on.
One of the new features is a level 80 boost that you can try out on as many characters as you like simultaneously before committing to one of them. I used mine on a staff Elementalist and took her through the entirety of the personal story in Soldier’s exotics (survivability) with full traits and the whole shebang. I then immediately jumped into WvW which has proven to be a good decision. The addition of reward tracks to WvW provides one with a steady supply of Tomes of Knowledge that can be used to level up other characters. If you hoard them, you can skip the leveling process entirely which is exactly what I’m doing with my Sylvari Mesmer. I’ve liquidated the entirety of my crafting stockpile to the tune of 250 gold, so there’s plenty of money for the necessary WvW equipment.
It’s the malleability that attracts me. A fundamental principle of stimulation is making things easier. Stimulate spending by giving people money. Encourage player fights by making it easier for people to find and reach other players. Make alliance-based warfare a rewarding activity at the account level which encourages the creation of alternate characters who, through a combination of Tomes of Knowledge and Proofs of Heroics, are immediately feature-complete when they step into the Borderlands.
I’ve been playing GW2’s WvW to the exclusion of other games for the past week, in part because Crowfall doesn’t exist as a finished product yet. I’ve also had a hankering for large-scale fighting which Smite does not satisfy. I’m just now learning how to navigate the floating crap shoot of Red Rings of Instant Death in the ebb and flow of zerg combat. My fingers race frantically to swap to the correct attunement and drop whatever fields are called for within the next two seconds lest I hear an audible sigh from the commander on Teamspeak. My frame rates seem to hold up well enough even if my escape attempts sometimes backfire due to my inexperience. I suppose you have to make a lot of bad decisions before you learn to make good ones.
It was good decisions that lead to this phoenix rising from the ashes; it is my hope that they presage a new trend.