Tuesday, 3 May 2011

We Gon' Flux it Up Like it's your Birthday

Guys? Really? I go away for like... 4 days and we get Guild Wars updates up the hoo-hah, DDOS attacks on GvG players and the opportunity to become a Guild Wars 2 Ambassador?! Anyway, quick update before I take a look at the Anniversary stuff:
  • I still don't have internet access at home - the landline becomes active next Monday and then my broadband provider will have the internet done by the end of that week. So, it's going to be a little longer than I thought before I'm back to daily blogging.
  • In addition, apparently the people I work for have read the strict instructions of "you cannot increase the workload" as "increase the workload". So I'm currently facing one hell of a week.
Right, admin out the way - onto the meat of the matter.
Recently Guild Wars hit its 6th Anniversary. As Ravious has said over at KTR, it is impressive that Guild Wars is still going strong after so many years and as much as the vocal end of the playerbase might complain after each and every update, there are countless other players who still enjoy it on a daily basis (I've been known to fall into both camps). This year, ANet shook it up a bit with their updates - full details can be read over at the developer update page. Along with Hard Mode quests, Razah becoming some kind of "super" hero and Costume/hat makers being added to presearing - there were a few interesting updates in there - Birthday Tonics, Mutual Friends lists and The Flux.

Birthday Tonics

With each anniversary previous to this one, ANet have released a new set of miniatures and players whose characters have reached their birthday for that year would receive a gift which contained one of those new minis. The upshot of this was that the mini market would grow gradually each year - become ever more diversified and bloated. I imagine there aren't a huge number of new accounts being created each year, but as each player's characters mature and reach their birthdays the market becomes ever more filled with tiny little Rurik’s and Wind Riders. Frankly, the mini market has always confused me and I'm glad they've drawn a line under it.

This year ANet decided to drop the birthday mini and instead release a tonic. Now, when I first saw this I thought - well, that’s just another aesthetic item, just the same as the minis. But actually it's quite clever - it has no effect on gameplay, it doesn't impinge on their costume selling business, it doesn't affect the mini market, and the tonic market is relatively small in comparison. The tonic transforms the user into a legendary NPC or monster, it is everlasting and tradable (so people can liquefy it into money if they so choose it).

Mutual Friends List

Another nifty introduction is the mutual friend list. If you and your friend both have each other on your friend list, you will be able to see where they are at that moment. Its not groundbreaking stuff, but it’s a pretty useful little mechanic. I haven't had a chance to see this yet - but I also imagine it will let you know who your real friends are (as you'll be able to see who has you on their list too) and then you can stop pestering that one monk you met back in '06 who never really seems to want to reply to your PMs. WHY WON'T YOU TALK TO ME!?

The Flux

Probably the biggest change (and the one which has caused the most controversy) has been the introduction of the Flux. The Flux will be an ever changing Meta mechanic which will affect all PvP (from AB/JQ/FA right up to monthly GvG tournaments and HA) - it will change monthly. For example, the first Flux is "Lone Wolf":

Lone Wolf: "If you are not within earshot of an ally, you deal 10% additional damage and take 10% more damage."

Now, where the Flux comes from will take a little bit of lore knowledge so here goes: last October when the Lunatic Court attempted to release the Mad King Thorn from his realm into Tyria all sorts of odd goings on... went... on. Apparently, in their haste to emancipate him, a number of seals were broken and cracks began to form between Tyria and the "Mists". The result of this has been growing instability in places where Tyria and the Mists are closest (i.e., all PvP arenas) - and so, the Flux has occurred (or is occurring, or will occur? Not sure of the tense...).

Now, a lot of people are very excited about this update, and a lot of people are very worried/angry about it. Those who are worried/angry see it as another mechanic which counteracts the balance to which all PvP should be striving - where all skills, builds and professions are equal and all player vs. player interactions are decided on player ability alone. I can see where they are coming from, but I have a counter argument:

You know what I think about balance? Balance is BORING. Balance stays at home on a Saturday night, collecting stamps and watching Antiques Road show. Balance could spend an afternoon alone in a room with a tea cosy and not even consider putting it on his head. Change, however... now that’s where the excitement is. Change spends his Saturdays drunk on rice wine, having hot tub parties with playboy bunnies, snorting coke off an anaconda's back and dancing to hard techno. Change would wear that tea cosy like a boss.

I understand the compulsion to work towards balance, but with 10 professions, numerous primary and secondary profession combinations, hundreds of skills and millions of skill combinations, finding ultimate balance would be nigh on impossible - particularly considering the size of the GW Live Team. The only way to truly create a fun and dynamic PvP environment is to embrace the chaos that all those variables creates. ANet will know sort of what will happen when each Flux is released each month, but they won't know for sure - whatever is dominant in the meta might suddenly become hugely impractical. Eg, if you are running dual E/D Mind Blast spammers with Aura of Restoration, Fire Attunement and Mirage Cloak and then the Flux switches to: "All hexes and enchantments last 50% shorter" you're going to have to rethink your strategy. The Live Team know that they cannot release monthly skill updates to keep the meta fresh and to sort out any kinks which came with the previous update, they simply do not have the time - but they know that with the Flux at least the game will change every month without fail. If players want to be successful in PvP - they will have to learn to ADAPT.

I realise this post is getting on a bit, so I'll wrap it up:
ANet have stated that they are using Guild Wars as a proving ground for mechanics they will be slipping into GW2. So, expect the mutual friends lists and Flux to make its way into the finished product as long as they are well received. If you aren't fond of any of the updates, it's worth voicing your concerns to those in power - they probably won't remove the feature just for you, but they will certainly take your opinion into account.


  1. I have not logged on to my guild wars account for a very long time, only a year after it was released. Would I have any benefits from playing the first and having such an old account?

  2. Well, if you still have your characters then they would all have birthday presents - so that would stand you in good stead (they go for a decent amount). Also, theres quite a few people coming back to the game, so there would be plenty of people to help you with the lower content.



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