[GW2] Human Non-Elite Racial Skills Are Boring

Prayer to Dwayna is the simplest self-heal in Guild Wars 2, doing nothing beyond healing you. As a racial skill, it’d be nice if it had more flavor and excitement. Here are a few ways I’ve thought of to improve it:

  1. Make it usable while downed. (This seems very appropriate for prayers.)
  2. Let it heal a downed player in addition to you, if you use it while reviving them.
  3. Have it heal downed players around you.

Prayer to Kormir (which removes three conditions) and Prayer to Lyssa (which gives you a random boon and an enemy a random condition) also could use a little more spice. I like the idea of all of them becoming usable while downed, but I think the effects of Prayer to Kormir and Prayer to Lyssa would need to change to make that work well. (Can you have conditions or boons while downed? I’m not sure.)

Readers, do you agree this is a problem? Have any other ideas for fixing it?

New Plans

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this blog; whether I should put more effort into it, or if I’d be better off just posting in the official Guild War 2 suggestion forum.

Thanks to the Newbie Blogger Initiative, I’ve decided to continue blogging. The plan is to do at least one post a week. I’m narrowing my focus to three things — discussing areas of a game I think could be improved; suggesting specific improvements for those areas; and pointing out parts of a game that I like, and could be useful in other games. I’m hoping that by pointing out a potential problem area before I have a solution for it I can get more discussing going, and post more frequently.

I’ll be covering whatever games strike my fancy, but it’ll be mostly Guild Wars 2 for the near future. Not only am I interested in the game, I figure suggestions are more likely to affect the game while it’s in the beta stage.

Racial Skill Balance

So it seems racial skills may be less powerful than profession skills — for example, TotalBiscuit reports the developers told him that in this video. That seems clearly better than racial skills being overpowered, but clearly worse than racial skills being balanced.

I’m hoping this is something of a misunderstanding, and the situation is more like what was explained in this interview from over two years ago — racial skills are underpowered compared to a skill given by a profession that is strong in that area, but balanced for professions that are normally weak in that area.

What I’d really like to see, though, is to split racial skills for different professions, so they are always a balanced option. The easiest way, if it works, would be to just alter the recharge. So for example Prayer to Kormir could have a noticeably shorter recharge for a Guardian than for a Thief, since the Guardian’s existing options for removing conditions are more numerous and powerful.

Respec Costs

So there’s been quite a bit of discussion about ArenaNet’s decision to only allow respecs of traits at a trainer for a small fee. One issue I have with the given reason (and Kill Ten Rat’s reasons for agreeing) is that the same reasons would seem to apply when discussing allowing free, any-time changes to major traits and slot skills; why ArenaNet decided differently for those isn’t clear. Also, I’m deeply skeptical of any reason that would support the original Attribute Refunds system in Guild Wars over the system that quickly replaced it.

In a recent interview, John Peters states that the less important parts of the build have more permanence. I’m unsure of why — is it that they consider permanence good from a RP/story perspective, but bad for gameplay, so they only do it to the parts that are relatively unimportant gameplay-wise? Or that relatively unimportant decisions need the extra weight of lasting for longer?

Here’s what I’d like to see — remove the gold cost.  Like Hunter, I don’t think gold sinks should inhibit play. While I don’t want a cost every time you respec, I would be fine with an initial cost to unlock options. For example, instead of having a training manual for each of three tiers they could charge skill points to unlock a tier for one particular trait line — then you’d have the same choice of which option to unlock first that you have for skills, even though you’ll get all of them eventually, if you work at it.

As far as when they should be switchable, I’d like it to be something like the original Guild Wars, only in safe areas. I don’t want it to be possible to switch after every mob — as a general design principle, the most effective option should be fun, not avoided because it’s way too much hassle. The same reasoning applies to slot skills and major traits, and I’d like them to be handled the same way. Only at waypoints seems like a reasonable design — only at cities would amount to the same thing, except with extra hassle thrown in. I do think it’s important that you be able to switch before starting every dungeon. Also, since retraining makes no sense story-wise, I’d prefer to see it take place in the UI, without an NPC in the world.

Don’t Gold Sinks Need a Reason to Exist?

The fee for traveling to waypoints in Guild Wars 2 has been justified as a gold sink. I’ve seen no other justification, and I don’t think it’s intended to discourage using the fast travel system.

I don’t understand this. Yes, gold sinks are necessary to prevent inflation. But the amount of gold being put into the game is also a variable under the developer’s control. In cases like this, why not reduce the amount of gold dropped in the first place, instead of adding an annoying sink to remove it later?

It seems to me that the amount of gold flowing into the game should be matched by the amount flowing out through interesting gold sinks, and if there aren’t enough of those the amount flowing in should be reduced. But economies are complex — is there something I’m missing?

Gameplay vs. Story

So in an interview with Ree Soesbee at VG247, a question was asked as to whether the focus on story is hurting gameplay, and the reply included the line “I don’t think that story and gameplay are in any way harmful to one another”.  I disagree with this.

Now, I don’t see any evidence the focus on story has hurt the gameplay in Guild Wars 2 at all.  However, I do think the story could be better if they were willing to change the gameplay to match it. For one example, they’ve made a big deal of having characters face a large boss and become a hero very early on, at the end of the tutorial section. But gameplay wise, the character is still very low level, and less powerful than most monsters and NPCs in the game.  This dissonance between story and gameplay is just ignored.

The same sort of dissonance is why I’m leaning against playing an Engineer or Warrior.

I’m happy to see story become more important across all sorts of games; I hope one day we’ll see RPGs where the story and the gameplay actually support each other well, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close yet.

Character Creation UI

So one of the main components of a character creation system is selecting an option from a list of possibilities, for faces, hair styles, and so on. I always go through all the possibilities, noting the ones that I like, and then comparing those ones to each other until I narrow it down to the one I like the most.

I’ve never seen a user interface designed for this behavior though. I’d prefer not to have to make mental notes. What I’d like to see is buttons to go to the next or prior item in the list, and a button to reject an option, causing it to be skipped by the next and prior buttons.

So the first trip through the list for each item I’d hit either the next item button or the reject item button (and each should have a keyboard shortcut).  Narrowing it down after that would frequently involve going back and forth between two options until I decided which I preferred.

Readers, how do you create characters? Is this something you’d like to see?