My Take on Ascended Gear in Guild Wars 2


If you play or follow Guild Wars 2, you’ve probably heard the uproar regarding the introduction of Ascended gear with the big Lost Shores update that was released on November 15th.

The community has two broad concerns regarding Ascended gear:

  1. The current limited avenue for acquiring Ascended gear
  2. The impact of gear progression on the game experience

Acquiring Ascended Gear

Ascended gear is currently only acquireable via running a level 80 dungeon, Fractal of the Mists (FOTM), repeatedly.

FOTM has 50 tiers, and its design encourages players to only group with other players of the same tier. Dulfy summed up situation eloquently on Reddit:

Before FOTM, all the LFGers are in the same pool. With the FOTM tiered system we have now, [our 500-member dungeon running guild] is divided into…a span of 20-30 small groups that usually don’t interact with each other. In addition, with the ever increasing and infinite tiers, I always feel that I am behind and that if I don’t run FOTM today, everyone else will be 5 tiers ahead of me the next day and there will be no one to run FOTM with.

If I have limited time to run FOTMs and only have time for one full run of FOTM, I am more inclined to run something to increase my max tier level rather than helping a lower level guildie/friend. Yes, it is very selfish of me to do so but I don’t want to fall behind if I have limited playtime.

On the recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread on Reddit, ArenaNet acknowledged that having Ascended gear only acquireable via FOTM was a mistake and that players will be able to earn Ascended gear via other avenues, including WvW:

Our intention is to deploy ascended components and gear across the whole of the game rather than focus it in one particular location. This was a a mistake and one that we will not be making moving forward. We do hope to find a balance and ensure that the world of Guild Wars 2 is as accessible and populated as possible and moving forward you will be able to see how we intend to execute on this goal.

Players in WvW will be able to acquire Ascended items within that area of the game soon.

So at least the acquisition of Ascended gear will be fixed.

I have not run FOTM, but based on what I’ve heard, I have no interest in grinding the dungeon to earn Ascended gear. I play GW2 for fun, and this sounds like tedious work.

So this brings us to the 2nd concern of the community…

The Impact of Gear Progession

When GW2 launched, the highest gear tier was Legendary, and below that was Exotic. For most players the practical target was Exotic gear, and all items for a given slot for the same tier shared the same stat budget.

Ascended gear is now BiS (best in slot) for 3 slots: backpiece and rings. ArenaNet is planning on increasing the stats on Legendary above where Ascended gear is now. Many players are concerned about the introduction of gear progression just 3 months after launch and the longer-term direction ArenaNet is taking the game.

To understand the implications of gear progression, consider the distinctions of GW2 in terms of the game mechanics:

  • The extent to which a player can customize their class is very high, via weapons, utility skills, elite skills, and traits
  • The extent to which a player can customize their gear is very high; there are multiple sets with different stat combinations

Gear needs to synergize / support the class customization. Therefore, to play different builds for the same class typically requires multiple sets of Exotic gear. A full set of crafted Exotic gear as of today costs ~50g (armor, weapons, and trinkets), and the popular gear upgrade components (runes, sigils, and jewels) cost another 10-20g. So ~65g for a full crafted set of upgraded Exotic gear.

Whenever better gear is introduced, you have to acquire the new gear to keep up with the players who have the time / money to spend acquiring it, and this is particularly painful if you want to play with multiple gear sets. New gear also has the negative effect of forcing players to focus on acquiring a particular set of gear first, which restricts the variety of builds the player can play effectively until they can gear up multiple sets.

I dinged level 80 on my Warrior a couple weeks ago and have gone through the process of upgrading from level 80 Masterwork and Rare gear to Exotic, and I’ve been able to get a sense of how much the stat progress impacts character strength in WvW. Stat increases matter, even modest ones.

Ascended Gear Doesn’t Align with Previous Expectations Set by ArenaNet

ArenaNet is positioning their vertical gear progression as being very a “shallow power curve” and that “there should be no straying from the intended power curve that you see in the game now, in terms of trajectory”. However, this is inconsistent with earlier messaging. The game was framed as having no “mandatory gear treadmills” and that those opting out “are just as powerful” in the Is It Fun and The Golden Rules of Guild Wars 2 articles posted by ArenaNet in June and July:

  • Fun impacts loot collection. The rarest items in the game are not more powerful than other items, so you don’t need them to be the best. The rarest items have unique looks to help your character feel that sense of accomplishment, but it’s not required to play the game. We don’t need to make mandatory gear treadmills, we make all of it optional, so those who find it fun to chase this prestigious gear can do so, but those who don’t are just as powerful and get to have fun too.
  • Respect the player. Whatever your reasons for spending time in Tyria, we don’t want to waste it by doing stuff that isn’t fun.

My belief is that ArenaNet has made a change in their progression philosophy, because they are trying to create a stickier experience. The active playerbase for Guild Wars 2 has dropped noticeably between September and November, and the pre-Lost Shores implementation of endgame horizontal progression was not particuarly sticky for many players.

The issue here is not whether horizontal progression works – it’s whether the horizontal progression scheme as implemented at launch was sufficiently engaging in terms of rewarding players. Guildees who are not playing as much or at all didn’t feel like there was meaningful progression, in terms of things to strive for.

In today’s market, gamers often equate gear with progression, because this is all they know based on the industry’s offerings.

However, there are many options for creating sticky horizontal progression, as I discussed earlier this year in my vlog entitled “Why Games Should Scale Horizontally Instead of Vertically“. When players accomplish meaningful things they should be rewarded with non-imbalancing rewards, such cosmetic items and bragging rights – titles, leaderboards, etc – not statistically superior gear. Why? Rewarding skilled players with better gear is unnecessary – they’re already good – and rewarding players who play the most creates a negative experience for more casual players, which makes it difficult to grow a playerbase sustainably.

I don’t think ArenaNet’s shift towards more vertical progression makes sense, nor do I believe that it will satisfy the majority of players. As Kuldebar wrote on Reddit:

The ironic thing is if ANet waters down vertical progression overly much in a foolish attempt to keep that particular beast on a leash; it will not satisfy the players who relish such progression in their games and those players will leave. (Players that came for the ideal of playing a horizontally scaled game will have already left the building.)

All this said, I am having a blast in Guild Wars 2. WvW on Blackgate has been the World PVP experience I’ve been missing since Warhammer Online. I’m working on WvW video content, so stay tuned.

For more Guild Wars 2 content, subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter.

Update (2014/02/01):  it looks like ArenaNet took down their blog. I was able to find the source articles from the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and updated the links above

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Posted in Game Design, Guild Wars 2, PVE, PVP
46 comments on “My Take on Ascended Gear in Guild Wars 2
  1. Thanks Ed. I haven’t been playing GW2 very much, been so busy in my other MMOs. So, it’s not that GW2 lacked gear progression that has cut down on my game time. I just didn’t see enough end game content to make it a rush to finish leveling my Charr Elementalist.

    My concern is what happens six months to a year, when some players have a full set of Ascended gear and other players (or alts) may be sitting in rare/elite. Can Arenanet really design new content that is challenging to all players along this gear power curve?

    While I enjoyed GW2 WvW, it’s not really World PvP. It’s a very fun to play large instanced PvP map. But it’s not World PvP.

    • taugrim says:

      Dularr (@dularr) :

      I just didn’t see enough end game content to make it a rush to finish leveling my Charr Elementalist.

      Curious to hear which endgame content (PVE, sPvP, WvW) you spent your time at level 80.

      Dularr (@dularr) :

      My concern is what happens six months to a year, when some players have a full set of Ascended gear and other players (or alts) may be sitting in rare/elite. Can Arenanet really design new content that is challenging to all players along this gear power curve?

      That’s one of the implications people are concerned about. GW2 is fairly friendly towards alts without gear progression, but it becomes increasingly grindy the more gear changes over time.

      Dularr (@dularr) :

      While I enjoyed GW2 WvW, it’s not really World PvP. It’s a very fun to play large instanced PvP map. But it’s not World PvP.

      What makes you feel that WvW is not World PVP? There is queuing when the maps are full, but I’m OK with that as it keeps numbers from getting out of hand to the point of degrading performance.

  2. Nice post Taugrim. I don’t really have an issue personally with the ascended gear, as long as it comes out slowly and is attainable through multiple ways in the game like they said they were planning. The dungeon itself is actually pretty fun, but the implementation of ascended gear could have been done a lot better.I did however write a pretty lengthy post on the forums, on how I feel PvE guilds need more things to do in terms of progression. I agree however, that a gear grind probably isn’t the answer for guild wars 2. Currently on the PvE side of things there isn’t much to do in terms of large scale guild content besides running around doing dynamic events which weren’t supposed to be super challenging to begin with. For PvP players currently, if they want that large scale cooperative gameplay with a guild they have WvW. While I do partake in PVP and WVW frequently( Our server is actually fighting you right now lol. SOR) most of my guild at the moment does PvE content primarily and aren’t super great at WvW or PvP yet.
    One thing I suggested on the forums was that they could include guild housing for a more social aspect of guild progression and something like 10 man instanced content such as raiding. Most GW2 players like those large scale battles whether it’s PVE or PVP, but the fear that most have about raiding is the gear grind. This doesn’t have to be a factor if they do it correctly by simply adding meaningful rewards such as awesome looking cosmetic items, maybe rare crafting mats or cool titles etc. As opposed to gear that gives you a huge stat increase. Adding leader boards to this for the top PvE guilds would probably make most flock to this right away. Since this game is supposed to be a “skill based game” I hope they are considering making some of the future PVE content lean more towards guild progression as opposed to gear progression. In most cases the gear is only used as a tool in order to progress through the content.

    I feel that if they substituted the emphasis on gear and replaced it with an emphasis on a guilds skill and teamwork needed in order to clear challenging content, then it would be a lot more meaningful. Overall I’m still enjoying the game and playing a ton. While I have seen players drop off I have also seen new players just about every time I log on. I know they have some awesome PVP/WVW features coming soon so one can only assume they are doing the same for PVE. Glad you’re enjoying the game Taugrim, see you on the battlefield!

    • taugrim says:

      Corey Crimzen Jenkins :

      I did however write a pretty lengthy post on the forums, on how I feel PvE guilds need more things to do in terms of progression.

      Can you share the link?

      Corey Crimzen Jenkins :

      Our server is actually fighting you right now lol.

      What’s your guild tag? If you see a Sylvari Warrior with a white ponytail and silver/blue/green armor and MVN, that’s me.

      Corey Crimzen Jenkins :
      most of my guild at the moment does PvE content primarily and aren’t super great at WvW or PvP yet.

      I find WvW to be more enjoyable the more I play, and the more I evolve / tweak my build and setup. I have a full set of Exotic, so to some extent I can simply play and relax. The last upgrade I’m going to make in the short term is buying a Sigil of Superior Fire, but it’s not urgent (the Major version with 20% proc rate is a great value for 3s).

      I even went ahead and bought the Vigil Honor Rifle, so I could reskin my Berserker’s Pearl Blunderbuss.

      Corey Crimzen Jenkins :
      One thing I suggested on the forums was that they could include guild housing for a more social aspect of guild progression and something like 10 man instanced content such as raiding. Most GW2 players like those large scale battles whether it’s PVE or PVP, but the fear that most have about raiding is the gear grind. This doesn’t have to be a factor if they do it correctly by simply adding meaningful rewards such as awesome looking cosmetic items, maybe rare crafting mats or cool titles etc. As opposed to gear that gives you a huge stat increase. Adding leader boards to this for the top PvE guilds would probably make most flock to this right away. Since this game is supposed to be a “skill based game” I hope they are considering making some of the future PVE content lean more towards guild progression as opposed to gear progression. In most cases the gear is only used as a tool in order to progress through the content.

      Totally agree.

      • Here’s the link to the post I made. Looking back on it I probably could have shortened it a bit, but I feel that they were issues that should be addressed with the guild system and sense of progression primarily in PvE. https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/suggestions/Issues-with-the-guild-system/first#post896493

        I actually ran into you during the first week we faced you in WvW . At first I wasn’t sure if it was you, but then I recognized your fighting style from watching all of your warrior vids lol. we had a short mini duel outside of stonemist, but then some of my allies showed up. We traded a few kills back and fourth that night though lol. My guild is Kaiketsu. You might not remember since it was just me out there pretty much and I know all of the fights can blur together. I play a Thief by the way, loving the class.
        I’m a huge PvP person as well as PvE and am really trying to push my guild into getting into it more heh. A few of us have managed to place in some tournaments, but since we’re a fairly new guild, I’ve just been trying to set things up one step at a time. It’s been a blast fighting you all in WvW though. The past few weeks going up against you guys have been pretty epic.

        • taugrim says:

          Corey Crimzen Jenkins :

          Here’s the link to the post I made. Looking back on it I probably could have shortened it a bit, but I feel that they were issues that should be addressed with the guild system and sense of progression primarily in PvE. https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/suggestions/Issues-with-the-guild-system/first#post896493

          Thanks for sharing your link!

          That was a good read, although you might want to break up your paragraphs for ease of reading.

          Corey Crimzen Jenkins :

          I actually ran into you during the first week we faced you in WvW . At first I wasn’t sure if it was you, but then I recognized your fighting style from watching all of your warrior vids lol. we had a short mini duel outside of stonemist, but then some of my allies showed up. We traded a few kills back and fourth that night though lol. My guild is Kaiketsu. You might not remember since it was just me out there pretty much and I know all of the fights can blur together. I play a Thief by the way, loving the class.

          What race is your Thief and what weapons do you use? I’ll keep an eye out for you :)

          • Yea, I had it more spaced out originally but, the max character space on the forums made me have to condense it a ton lol.

            As far as weapons go, I’ve been messing around with some different sets, but I normally roll with either s/d or d/d as my main set and shortbow as my second set for WvW. I have the Orrian reward breastplate on though so that might be easier to look for heh. It’s the medium set with the dragon like features, with the tail and all that from Arah explorable mode.

  3. Sleeper says:

    Nice writeup, few minor corrections:

    Ascended sits b/t Exotic and Legendary in the amount of time it takes to acquire, not in stats. It has higher stats than both Exotic and Legendary, though at some point in the future all Legendaries will be patched to have Ascended stats.

    The Trading Post is cross-server, all servers have the prices there.

    Good point on collecting multiple gear sets, that’s exactly what I’m working on, but won’t be farming FOTM for Ascended. That’s work not play.

    There’s another issue with Ascended as well – it replaces Rune slots with Infusion slots, so say bye bye to your 6x Rune set bonuses. For classes like Thieves that are just fine with pure stats in their rune slots, that’s no problem, and in fact works out better since Infusion gem stats will be higher than Superior Rune stats. But for classes or playstyles that depend on a set of utility Runes, they opportunity cost vs pure stats will be even greater.

    • taugrim says:

      Sleeper :

      Nice writeup, few minor corrections:

      Ascended sits b/t Exotic and Legendary in the amount of time it takes to acquire, not in stats. It has higher stats than both Exotic and Legendary, though at some point in the future all Legendaries will be patched to have Ascended stats.

      The Trading Post is cross-server, all servers have the prices there.

      Thanks for the corrections, article updated.

      Sleeper :

      Good point on collecting multiple gear sets, that’s exactly what I’m working on, but won’t be farming FOTM for Ascended. That’s work not play.

      Agreed.

      Sleeper :

      There’s another issue with Ascended as well – it replaces Rune slots with Infusion slots, so say bye bye to your 6x Rune set bonuses. For classes like Thieves that are just fine with pure stats in their rune slots, that’s no problem, and in fact works out better since Infusion gem stats will be higher than Superior Rune stats. But for classes or playstyles that depend on a set of utility Runes, they opportunity cost vs pure stats will be even greater.

      That’s not good.

      One of the things I love most is how *customizable* classes and gear are with the different item sets and upgrade components.

      • S1eeper says:

        That’s not good.
        One of the things I love most is how *customizable* classes and gear are with the different item sets and upgrade components.

        Same. Though it’s possible they figure out a way to combine them or something, we don’t know yet for sure. I have hard time believing they’ll completely obsolete the Rune system, they can’t be that dense.

        But on the other hand, so far they’ve said the Infusion slot replaces the Rune slot, without any kind of addendum on how it might work differently with Ascended armor. So we’ll see.

      • S1eeper says:

        PS – They’re not planning on increasing Legendaries above Ascended, just equal. They’ll effectively make Legendaries into Ascended.

        Of course there’s another issue there as well – will they replace the Sigil slot with an Infusion gem slot, same as other Ascended pieces? Can’t wait for shitstorm if that happen, people losing their Superior Sigils of Rage and whatnot in their Legendaries for some boring stat gems.

        • Yamirashi says:

          At this point, they’ve not shown how they are going to implement Ascended weapons, or armors for that matter. They have shown rings and back which the only upgrades available for those are pure stats (exotic gems). We’ll see how they handle the upgrade slots for Armor and Weapons when they get there, but if they take away the Rune/Sigils on those that may in fact be a good thing. Another trade off so to speak: more stats with infusions on ascended that probably help with FOTM dungeons vs the extra effects and such from Runes/Sigils that are more valuable in other areas of the game. However to avoid issues with Legendary weapons we’re probably going to see Ascended weapons keep the Sigil slots available to them.

  4. Dave Columns says:

    There are a few inaccuracies in this article:

    Legendary and Exotic weapons currently have the same stats, Ascended items are the new maximum stat tier for rings and back pieces only. No legendary rings or backpeices currenly exist. It’s a fallacy to say they sit ‘between’ legendary and exotic, although its a fallacy that Anet would like that you to believe.

    FOTM has 50 tiers that we know of, not 30

    You say ‘on my server exotic gear sells for about 3.25g a piece.’ – there are no servers on guild wars 2, only worlds and overflows. The trade post is the same trade post on every world, so exotics sell for 3.25g everywhere, not just on blackgate.

    Otherwise, nice article :)

    • taugrim says:

      Dave Columns :

      There are a few inaccuracies in this article:

      Legendary and Exotic weapons currently have the same stats, Ascended items are the new maximum stat tier for rings and back pieces only. No legendary rings or backpeices currenly exist. It’s a fallacy to say they sit ‘between’ legendary and exotic, although its a fallacy that Anet would like that you to believe.

      FOTM has 50 tiers that we know of, not 30

      You say ‘on my server exotic gear sells for about 3.25g a piece.’ – there are no servers on guild wars 2, only worlds and overflows. The trade post is the same trade post on every world, so exotics sell for 3.25g everywhere, not just on blackgate.

      Thanks, corrections incorporated.

  5. poetiq says:

    It’s an interesting and complex problem. There are a bunch of problems they are trying to solve at the same time, and I believe there is some sort of compromise that needs to be met. I’m neither for complete horizontal progression, nor am I for a steep vertical progression. It’s the equivalent of being a moderate in politics. I suspect most people aren’t completely on the left or right on this debate. I’m still at a wait and see on where the barrier to acquire is with ascended ends up landing because I can buy that exotics were too easy to acquire (even though I was happy not having another tier), Truth be told they are in the same MMO space where they have to compete with players being trained with a certain expectation of how much work should be involved in acquiring top level gear,

    I also think with the current state of MMOs, players have been trained in a way over the years to equate the acquisition of more powerful gear with fun. So after they got exotics they were lost and it didn’t feel right cause they were so used having some tier of gear that they needed to grind for. I see them coming to this conclusion similar to how they came to implement dynamic hearts, because it was more familiar to players. It’s a catch 22.

    For me, as long as it’s not a replacement for generating fun content, then I can live with it. And the great thing about fractals some of the mechanics are genuinely fun, and you can do all that all in the first tier.

    Anyhow, I’m a big fan of your videos, my warrior runs with your Captain Hammer build and I love how disruptive it can be. I’d love to see what builds and gear you run with in WvW.

    • taugrim says:

      poetiq :

      It’s an interesting and complex problem. There are a bunch of problems they are trying to solve at the same time, and I believe there is some sort of compromise that needs to be met. I’m neither for complete horizontal progression, nor am I for a steep vertical progression. It’s the equivalent of being a moderate in politics. I suspect most people aren’t completely on the left or right on this debate. I’m still at a wait and see on where the barrier to acquire is with ascended ends up landing because I can buy that exotics were too easy to acquire (even though I was happy not having another tier), Truth be told they are in the same MMO space where they have to compete with players being trained with a certain expectation of how much work should be involved in acquiring top level gear,

      Understood.

      I’m a big believer in horizontal progression – so long as it’s done in an engaging way. Collecting different weapon sets, different skins, titles, leaderboards / ladders for all kinds of things, tracking of personal and guild records (e.g. fastest dungeon X clear), etc.

      These are not novel concepts I’m talking about – they’ve already proven to work in social media. People love achievements and sharing them.

      poetiq :

      I also think with the current state of MMOs, players have been trained in a way over the years to equate the acquisition of more powerful gear with fun. So after they got exotics they were lost and it didn’t feel right cause they were so used having some tier of gear that they needed to grind for. I see them coming to this conclusion similar to how they came to implement dynamic hearts, because it was more familiar to players. It’s a catch 22.

      I think the lack of having more gear to obtain would have not stood out as much if there were more horizontal rewards and social engagement than there is in the game.

      poetiq :

      Anyhow, I’m a big fan of your videos, my warrior runs with your Captain Hammer build and I love how disruptive it can be. I’d love to see what builds and gear you run with in WvW.

      This is the WvW-optimized “Run and Gun” Warrior build I’ve landed on, and I love its capabilities. The trait selection is very intentional based on testing and trying different setup and weapons:
      http://www.intothemists.com/calc/?build=-s70F-0-VKkN0Z47L-60;9;49T;0T4;026A;439AL-k06W

      • Jae Sun says:

        On that build you have sigil of bloodlust on both sword and warhorn. Are you getting two stacks per kill doing that or was that an oversite? Also, wouldn’t you want your aoe flameburst on your melee weapon as the flameburst is localized around you?

        • taugrim says:

          Jae Sun :

          On that build you have sigil of bloodlust on both sword and warhorn. Are you getting two stacks per kill doing that or was that an oversite?

          You get 2 stacks per kill. I call it “speed stacking”.

          Jae Sun :

          Also, wouldn’t you want your aoe flameburst on your melee weapon as the flameburst is localized around you?

          The Sword / Warhorn is the mobility / defensive set for this build, so I am not as concerned about its offensive capabilities.

          The important thing is to have an offensive proc sigil on my Rifle.

          • Attic Lion says:

            What sort of gear to you run? Full Berserker and Soldier Runes for condition removal or something more off the wall?

            • taugrim says:

              Attic Lion :

              What sort of gear to you run? Full Berserker and Soldier Runes for condition removal or something more off the wall?

              Pow/Pre and a mix of Tou/Crit Damage.
              6 x Runes of the Soldier

  6. sd_fuller says:

    Nice job Taugrim, as usual you bring some common sense to what can easily become an emotional issue – gear. I can understand the concerns of the community around ANet’s “slight” course correction, but think it is unlikely to have the desired outcome of making GW2 “stickier” for those players looking for gear progression. I thought the idea of making “rare” skins etc. instead of increasing stats on gear was a good one, but ANet knows more than I do and maybe that was just not working – which is too bad.

    For me, I enjoy questing and seeing all of the areas of Tyria and with the down leveling it is fun despite my character level – so this is a non-issue for me. Keep up the good work!

    • taugrim says:

      sd_fuller :

      Nice job Taugrim, as usual you bring some common sense to what can easily become an emotional issue – gear. I can understand the concerns of the community around ANet’s “slight” course correction, but think it is unlikely to have the desired outcome of making GW2 “stickier” for those players looking for gear progression.

      Agreed.

      It’s a short-term solution – after acquiring Ascended gear, gear-progression fans are going to be bored again.

      sd_fuller :

      I thought the idea of making “rare” skins etc. instead of increasing stats on gear was a good one, but ANet knows more than I do and maybe that was just not working – which is too bad.

      Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I spend 5.62g last night buying the Vigil skin for Rifle so I could transmute my current Exotic Berserker’s Pearl Blunderbuss with that badass looking skin.

      sd_fuller :

      For me, I enjoy questing and seeing all of the areas of Tyria and with the down leveling it is fun despite my character level – so this is a non-issue for me. Keep up the good work!

      I love the down-leveling mechanic – it creates the opportunity for players to play together and not suffer from the level / gear divide that exists in most games.

  7. What really bothers me about the whole ascended gear isn’t even the grind. It is the RNG nature of it. Having ascended rings that have a chance to drop off one of the daily chests and have a chance to be the stats you want is just annoying. It is like the PvP boxes very early on in SWTOR – some people can get very lucky while others get screwed over.

    • taugrim says:

      Kristina Hunter (@dulfycleric) :

      What really bothers me about the whole ascended gear isn’t even the grind. It is the RNG nature of it. Having ascended rings that have a chance to drop off one of the daily chests and have a chance to be the stats you want is just annoying. It is like the PvP boxes very early on in SWTOR – some people can get very lucky while others get screwed over.

      Agreed.

      I hate RNG when it comes to drops, because it creates a frustrating experience for some players. Token-based systems work much better – there is no element of surprise and it’s fair for everyone.

      On a side note, it’s awesome to see how strong your reputation is for the Guild Wars 2 community. It’s well-deserved :)

  8. Eclipses says:

    I saw that in some of the comments you were corrected about a few of your mistakes so I’ll skip those, otherwise: great article.

    The thing about FOTM and Anets philosophy U-Turn is that not does it exemplify so much that’s currently wrong in the game – but it also introduces new problems.

    I totally agree that they were attempting to make the game stickier, however I feel that not only did they go about it the wrong way, but that they interpreted the complaints by players of a ‘lack of progression’ the incorrect way. Instead of interpreting it to mean that they needed to work harder on more creative horizontal methods, they believed they could solve players saying they had nothing to do by giving them a gear treadmill.

    That’s sad and pathetic. Why not introduce new traits? New skills? New elite skills? GW1 had almost hundreds of skills and dozens of elite skill choices for every class. What about new gear stat combinations? This would have introduced possibilities for new builds, new testing, new metas and also introduced a horizontal “gear grind” for those interested in such avenues.

    Instead they took the easiest, most grindy way out. It’s hard to blame them however when 4 months after launch there are classes almost utterly broken and almost all of them with buggy abilities, broken traits, incorrect tooltips or simply undescriptive tooltips. There is also practically 0 communication to players on the state of their respective classes or even an attempt to create a dialogue with them about it.

    Nonetheless, FOTM has also made whole swaths of content irrelevant, by virtue of not being as rewarding as grinding FOTM. As you have often said Taugrim, vertical content pressures developers to constantly rush out new content – and it also invalidates all of the previous forms of content. There is no one running any of the low level areas anymore, no one running the meta events in Orr, no one running Ascalonian Catacombs or Eternity or Zhaitan. It’s just, “FOTM lvl xxx need xxmore pst”.

    By not giving Ascended gear Rune slots, they just completely invalidated all of the work they put into runes and their variety pre-launch, but they also ruined many of the builds that was built around it. Grinding FOTM is way more rewarding that WvW, and while WvW is smashy goodness, as someone who led a Titan Alliance guild in its heyday – the lack of progression/consequence makes that content rather stale if played at any level above casual.

    Taken from the AMA:

    “That is why there is no plan for new Rarity Tiers of loot but there are plans to enhance or gain items within the existing rarity design whose properties continue on a shallow power curve.”

    – What this (most likely) means is that while there may not be a tier after Ascended, they’re still going to make you grind for greater and more powerful Infusions. The grind is here to stay in GW2 and it isn’t going to go anywhere.

    I have to say that through all of this: the introduction of a ridiculously grindy gear treadmill, to lack of creative progression in PvE, sPvP or WvW, to the lack of class balances/fixes/dialogue/communication to utter abandonment of many of the principles we believed they supported and hyped themselves to have – it has just really disillusioned me to the game and the company as a whole.

    • taugrim says:

      Eclipses :

      I totally agree that they were attempting to make the game stickier, however I feel that not only did they go about it the wrong way, but that they interpreted the complaints by players of a ‘lack of progression’ the incorrect way. Instead of interpreting it to mean that they needed to work harder on more creative horizontal methods, they believed they could solve players saying they had nothing to do by giving them a gear treadmill.

      Agreed.

      My guess is that this entire direction was seriously debated within ArenaNet, and that whoever was pushing for or defending a more horizontal approach lost the arguments internally.

      It’s a shame. I was hoping that GW2 would help to educate the players and the industry on the rich possibilities of a well-done horizontal progression MMORPG.

      Eclipses :

      Nonetheless, FOTM has also made whole swaths of content irrelevant, by virtue of not being as rewarding as grinding FOTM. As you have often said Taugrim, vertical content pressures developers to constantly rush out new content – and it also invalidates all of the previous forms of content. There is no one running any of the low level areas anymore, no one running the meta events in Orr, no one running Ascalonian Catacombs or Eternity or Zhaitan. It’s just, “FOTM lvl xxx need xxmore pst”.

      This is maybe the saddest fallout from the FOTM/Ascended implementation – the rest of the world is much less populated.

      Eclipses :

      By not giving Ascended gear Rune slots, they just completely invalidated all of the work they put into runes and their variety pre-launch, but they also ruined many of the builds that was built around it. Grinding FOTM is way more rewarding that WvW, and while WvW is smashy goodness, as someone who led a Titan Alliance guild in its heyday – the lack of progression/consequence makes that content rather stale if played at any level above casual.

      That’s really disappointing to hear :|

      No runes = fewer choices for players

      One of the reasons I am such a big GW2 fan is the extent of build customization.

      I thought AN was genius for creating rune sets with various stats and effects that were shared across classes, so any player chose chose which runes they wanted to run for a given class, instead of creating class-specific “runes” or sets and thereby creating concerns about class/gear parity.

      • “It’s a shame. I was hoping that GW2 would help to educate the players and the industry on the rich possibilities of a well-done horizontal progression MMORPG.”

        This was my hope as well and I feel it can still be done, but I worry about it.

        I do feel, that on some level, people who have previously only been for vertical progression would enjoy horizontal progression if given time with the concept.

        The burnout phase with vert. progress comes when you realize you’re in the same boat as a gear plateau game but you’ve wasted a lot of time and energy on things you’d rather not do to get there. It’s that, “Oh, Power Creep means that even as I get stronger everything else gets stronger so I’m on the same relative level.” Then the progression starts to feel like an illusion.

        This burnout is also pretty harsh. Not that I haven’t taken breaks from horizontal progression games, but I do tend to come back to them (Team Fortress 2, Guild Wars 1.), but when I burnout on vertical progression, I find it very hard to come back.

        For that reason, I think it’s smarter business-wise to avoid vertical growth. It feels like something that will be come less and less endearing to consumers as people become more aware of its limitations.

        • taugrim says:

          aseriousmoment :

          I do feel, that on some level, people who have previously only been for vertical progression would enjoy horizontal progression if given time with the concept.

          I do too, but part of the issue is that there are not enough horizontal rewards in GW2 at endgame. GW2 has cosmetic rewards, but there are many other things that could be implemented.

          aseriousmoment :

          This burnout is also pretty harsh. Not that I haven’t taken breaks from horizontal progression games, but I do tend to come back to them (Team Fortress 2, Guild Wars 1.), but when I burnout on vertical progression, I find it very hard to come back.

          I’m the same way.

          It’s the reason I have not picked up WoW MoP, even though I’ve played Vanilla and the 3 subsequent expansions.

  9. Ace says:

    First I’d like to say I enjoy reading your articles and watching your videos, they have helped me a lot especially Buildcast. It sucks that Buildcast is on a hiatus but oh well.

    I don’t agree with this article however. The amount of players have dropped from September but not by a large amount, if you look on xfire and I have been checking it every day since GW2 launched you’ll see that GW2 has been in the top 5 since its launch despite many big name titles being released. Now I know xfire isn’t a representative sample but it does give you an idea.

    Ascended gear has really been blown out of proportion, if you look at some of the other long time GW2 channels that have a hardcore following such as Woodenpotatoes and Dontain, they haven’t reacted with the some vitriol as some other players in the GW2 community have. Woodenpotatoes thinks some of the complaining is trivial and Dontain thinks ascended gear is a good thing.

    Me personally, I would be considered a GW2 fanboy and I don’t like vertical gear progression, but the important thing to realise here is it doesn’t stop you from experiencing any content at all, you can still experience the same content without it. I actually like that there is more equipment to get, I’ve run FOTM and although I haven’t gotten around to getting the Ascended items since I’ve been working on WvW and a legendary when I do decide to get them it won’t be an issue. You can craft the backpiece using materials you would normally find from the world and a vial of condensed mist(which I found in one of the first fractals I did). Not to mention that Fractals are awesome.

    Well that’s my opinion, I think its important to keep perspective here and I look forward to your future videos.

    • taugrim says:

      Ace :

      First I’d like to say I enjoy reading your articles and watching your videos, they have helped me a lot especially Buildcast. It sucks that Buildcast is on a hiatus but oh well.

      The show may come back eventually. GuildCast is still going strong and the hosts on it are awesome.

      Ace :

      I don’t agree with this article however. The amount of players have dropped from September but not by a large amount, if you look on xfire and I have been checking it every day since GW2 launched you’ll see that GW2 has been in the top 5 since its launch despite many big name titles being released. Now I know xfire isn’t a representative sample but it does give you an idea.

      http://www.xfire.com/genre/mmo/massively_multiplayer_online/

      GW2 is seeing ~15k hours but three months ago it was multiples of that. I’m not concerned about that per se, dropoffs in the first 3 months happen to every MMORPG.

      That said, the # of active games in sPvP has really dropped – prime time you’ll see maybe 30-40 servers that are half-full with players.

      I do hope to see the game become more sticky over time, in ways that are healthy for the game and experience.

      Ace :

      Ascended gear has really been blown out of proportion, if you look at some of the other long time GW2 channels that have a hardcore following such as Woodenpotatoes and Dontain, they haven’t reacted with the some vitriol as some other players in the GW2 community have. Woodenpotatoes thinks some of the complaining is trivial and Dontain thinks ascended gear is a good thing.

      I wouldn’t categorize my post as “blown out of proportion” or “vitriol”. I strive to post constructively.

      To me the main thing is that ArenaNet is not staying aligned with expectations they set over the summer.
      http://www.arena.net/blog/the-golden-rules-of-guild-wars-2

      “Fun impacts loot collection. The rarest items in the game are not more powerful than other items, so you don’t need them to be the best. The rarest items have unique looks to help your character feel that sense of accomplishment, but it’s not required to play the game. We don’t need to make mandatory gear treadmills, we make all of it optional, so those who find it fun to chase this prestigious gear can do so, but those who don’t are just as powerful and get to have fun too.”

      Ace :

      Me personally, I would be considered a GW2 fanboy and I don’t like vertical gear progression, but the important thing to realise here is it doesn’t stop you from experiencing any content at all, you can still experience the same content without it.

      It doesn’t stop you from trying content. You will struggle to finish FOTM above tier 20, and over time if more Ascended gear is introduced, you will be less powerful than other players.

      Per this post on Reddit:
      http://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/comments/1441rj/my_take_on_ascended_gear_in_guild_wars_2/c79qxjt
      http://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/comments/1441rj/my_take_on_ascended_gear_in_guild_wars_2/c79r1wk

      For existing Ascended crap, here’s the actual progression.

      Ring Major Stat: Rare 79, Exotic 92, Ascended 103
      Ring Minor Stat: Rare 56, Exotic 63, Ascended 68
      Back Major Stat: Rare 40, Exotic 47, Ascended 56
      Back Minor Stat: Rare 28, Exotic 31, Ascended 35

      Ring Major Exotic is a 13 point upgrade, Ascended has an 11 point upgrade.
      Ring Minor Exotic is a 7 point upgrade, Ascended has another 5 point upgrade.

      Back Major Exotic is a 7 point upgrade, Ascended is an 9 point upgrade.
      Back Minor Exotic is a 3 point upgrade, Ascended is a 4 point upgrade.

      Sometimes the Exotic->Ascended increase is bigger than the Rare->Exotic jump, sometimes smaller, but they’re all similar.

      When they temporarily increased legendary weapon stats to ascended level by mistake, Twilight had 1045-1155 on it. Exotic greatsword is 995-1100. About 5% more which I believe will directly become 5% more damage in the combat formula before other stat changes.

      That sounds like ~10% damage increase when you factor in both the stats increase and the weapon base damage increase. That’s significant IMO, especially for WvW.

  10. [...] (beyond my own thoughts of course) was one written by Taugrim in which he quoted Dulfy on Reddit (link). I quote Dulfy [...]

  11. Josh says:

    My biggest complaint about GW2 is the lack of meaningful rewards and the abysmally-low rate at which loot is given out. I like achievements. I also like loot. I like the feeling I get when I get a cool new item. Whether that’s aesthetically-cool or stat-cool is irrelevant.

    I don’t mind vertical gear progression,and I don’t mind horizontal progression, but ArenaNet has made it pretty difficult for me to actually get the feeling of ‘progression’.

    There comes a point at which I am no longer willing to grind (“farm” if you like, but let’s not kid ourselves) dynamic events just to get the karma that I will never spend because I can’t get a legendary precursor. Among other things.

    Don’t even get me started on dungeons.

    Long story short, I used to be a huge GW2 fanboy, but the endgame implementation has left me jaded and frustrated.

    • taugrim says:

      Josh :

      My biggest complaint about GW2 is the lack of meaningful rewards and the abysmally-low rate at which loot is given out. I like achievements. I also like loot. I like the feeling I get when I get a cool new item. Whether that’s aesthetically-cool or stat-cool is irrelevant.

      I don’t mind vertical gear progression,and I don’t mind horizontal progression, but ArenaNet has made it pretty difficult for me to actually get the feeling of ‘progression’.

      Agreed.

      I play the game for fun, but it would be a lot more engaging if there were more meaningful rewards. I want leaderboards, so I can see which players and guilds are rocking in particular contexts (WvW, PVE, and sPvP).

  12. [...] My Take on Ascended Gear in Guild Wars 2 (taugrim.com) [...]

  13. [...] My Take on Ascended Gear in Guild Wars 2 (taugrim.com) [...]

  14. Chuffy says:

    I have to wonder how much of the decision was down to how badly sPvP has fared, sPvP has tanked pretty spectacularly, on all levels from casual players to dedicated teams, it just seems it launched without the required features in place to make it fun / competitive, the idea of it being an e-sport seems pretty laughable at this point.

    I also wonder how much influence NCsoft with its ever falling share price had, not to mention its new shareholder Nexon, maybe none, but either way a company doing a u-turn three months in is pretty bad and as cost them players, but I guess they figure turning it into, to use Mike O’Brien’s phrase, another “WoW 2.0″ clone wil keep more than they lose.

    All I know is, two weeks ago we had 6-8 full servers on the EU group at primetime, tonight we had 1-2, that the zones are more empty than ever (even on a “full” server) and that I know of 4 WvW guilds who have left for PS2, the final straw for some was the ascended gear.

    That was my last MMORPG (unless someone gives Ed the job of game director :)) and it shows precisely why the MMORPG sector is considered stagnant.

    • taugrim says:

      Chuffy :

      I have to wonder how much of the decision was down to how badly sPvP has fared, sPvP has tanked pretty spectacularly, on all levels from casual players to dedicated teams, it just seems it launched without the required features in place to make it fun / competitive, the idea of it being an e-sport seems pretty laughable at this point.

      There has been a noticeable drop in the # of concurrent sPvP hot-join games running during prime time, and I think players were expecting tournies and viewer mode would have been fully live by now.

      Chuffy :

      I also wonder how much influence NCsoft with its ever falling share price had, not to mention its new shareholder Nexon, maybe none, but either way a company doing a u-turn three months in is pretty bad and as cost them players, but I guess they figure turning it into, to use Mike O’Brien’s phrase, another “WoW 2.0″ clone wil keep more than they lose.

      Where did you hear Mike make that reference? Can you provide a link?

  15. I think its pretty funny how much the game was actually originally targeted towards WvW and sPvP players and they’ve recieved proportionally the least amount of content. To date they’ve only REMOVED content from WvW due to exploits and bugs they couldn’t address. So Chuffy, I agree with you to an extent.

    The pluside about this game and the reason i’m sticking with it …. its free. Yet ArenaNet isn’t treating it like a free mmo.

    I also had my own article posted before Taugrim did on the ascended issue though it largely mirrors what he thought. More interesting though to me was his posting of a quote from Dulfy. The one thing that this game REALLY blows chunks at is creating and supporting communities within itself. If they can’t course correct that, you will see a much larger population leaving the game. Its really hard to login and do some of the large group activities WELL without a guild… yet they seem to be almost ignoring the concept of guilds as a community driving tool.

    If you want to read my thoughts on the subject drop on over and read about the subject more in detph here: http://www.scree.org/guild-wars-the-decline-of-social-gaming-within/

    • taugrim says:

      Craig ‘Scree’ Schupp :

      I think its pretty funny how much the game was actually originally targeted towards WvW and sPvP players and they’ve recieved proportionally the least amount of content. To date they’ve only REMOVED content from WvW due to exploits and bugs they couldn’t address.

      I’m glad that AN has deactivated exploitable issues by bots and with the buff orbs (which IMO shouldn’t exist in the first place).

      It’s better to have problematic content removed than leave it in place and add more content IMO.

      Craig ‘Scree’ Schupp :

      The pluside about this game and the reason i’m sticking with it …. its free. Yet ArenaNet isn’t treating it like a free mmo.

      Yes, AN is committing to monthly updates as Colin mentioned in a recent interview, which is very impressive:
      http://gamingbolt.com/guild-wars-2-interview-we-talk-to-areanet-about-how-the-mmorpg-has-been-doing-post-launch

      “And actually, in February, we’re going to do a whole bunch of expansions on top of that world vs world area, to make that experience even more uniquely Guild Wars”

      “We’re focused on making the game we’ve got as amazing as we possibly can, every month giving out the kind of releases you would expect you would have to pay for, but we’re gonna give them out for free”

  16. Ace says:

    People love to mention that GW2 has lost players or its dying but they never give concrete data. For NA servers at least there are some servers that are always full and some servers I have never seen not full. I have never seen a server less than medium and I almost always play on off peak times. Also as I’ve said GW2 number of hours played on xfire have remained steady since the dropoff from the initial launch of the game. It’s been in the top 5 for 3 months, almost equaling WoW during the Lost Shores update. Right now its number 6, edged out slightly by FarCry 3 but that’s understandable considering FarCry 3 just launched. The games that consistently beat GW2 in number of hours played are LoL, CoD and WoW.

    So everybody chill and enjoy the game, or if you dont enjoy it there are other great games out there.

    • Chuffy says:

      Becasue there is no concrete data, as most game companies only release concrete figures when it is in their favour, such as intial sales or are one of the two MMORPGs (in the west) that actually grow – WoW & EVE.

      As for xfire all it shows is a downward trend (other than brief bumps at event weekends), overall it is a totally useless in regard to player population, unless you really are delusional enough to beleive GW2 has sold more copies than they claim, that no one has left the game and they do indeed as xfire stats show have at least half the playerbase of WoW.

      Whilst I agree claims of dying are way over the top, after all plenty of MMORPGS trundle on with far fewer players, it seems pretty obvious the game is losing players:

      – Two weeks ago on the EU group there were typically 5-8 “full” servers, these days there are two (Blacktide and Desolation)
      – GW2 has gone from being top 3 on twitch with 20K+ viewers down to as I write thsi 38th with 68 viewers (and this was a game promoted as an e-sport, LOL)
      – The zones even on full servers have been getting emptier and emptier for weeks, now because of fractals, even Orr lacks players, hence the posts of thr forums of peolpe complaining they can’t even do it on many servers now, because of the amount of contested waypoints.
      – Same goes for sPvP, there are threads on the forum stating that off-peak the waits for paid tournies in NA have become ridiculous, to the point of it being unplayable.
      – Again the majoirty of “pro” teams / players are not even playing the game anymore, let alone streaming, all that is left on that front is the reamains of Team Paradigm.
      – Same goes for hotjoin, just logged in only 27% of the servers have anyone on them and that is including ones with jus t1 person on, 6 weeks ago there were twice that at the same time.
      – Same with WvW queues, I’ve played on two of the busiest EU servers Blacktide & Desolation, the queues are absolutely non-existant now caompared to what they were even 6 weeks ago, I can only imagine the level of participation in the lower tiers.

      If the numbers were great Anet / NCsoft would be promoting them just like it did when it suited them when they hit 2 million sales, if yuo like the game fin, but maybe you shoudl chill out, the fact the game is doign what most MMORPGS do and is losig players or that people wish to discuss that, doesn’t effect your gameplay, does it.

      • Ace says:

        Once again xfire isn’t a representative sample but it gives an idea of player numbers. Guild Wars 2 has consistently stayed in the top 5 for 3 months and if you consider that the games that are higher than it are LoL, CoD and WoW that is impressive. I haven’t seen any evidence that GW2 is losing as many players as some people say. When I wrote that there are people who say GW2 is dying I didn’t mean anyone on here, if you look at what the fans of other MMORPGs are saying its rife with ”GW2 is dead” talk. Has it lost players since its launch of course it has but GW2 although it had a lot of hype behind it was never going to get a player base as big as WoW, GW2 is finding its playerbase right now.

        I do agree that sPVP is on the decline though, I don’t play sPVP because I spend all my PvP time in WvW because I like fighting players in an uncontrolled environment, however watching gw2gurus ‘State of the game’ podcast which has Jonathan Sharp on it gives me hope that there will be a turn around.

        I’m quite surprised at the reception GW2 has gotten, I remember following it from its announcement from when people thought it was vaporware. Then eventually it resurfaced with a great trailer but even though it only had a few thousand views, one day it exploded. I’m impressed with GW2, I’ve played it more than any game I’ve ever played and I’m not even close to bored of it. I hope in the future the player base increases but I suspect GW2 will have a mainly decent sized dedicated fanbase.

    • taugrim says:

      Ace :

      People love to mention that GW2 has lost players or its dying but they never give concrete data.

      Relax, I didn’t say the “game was dying”. Also, GW2 is not a subscriber game, so the game doesn’t “lose players” like a subscription model does.

      That being said, there is very concrete data that areas of the game are seeing less activity and that there are fewer active players overall. A great example is sPvP. Go to the Heart of the Mists and talk to the PVP Browser NPC. In early October, you’d see 100+ games that were at least half full (8/16 players or more). In early December, even during prime time hours, the number of games that are half full is between 30-40.

  17. Minis says:

    Great post Taugrim, I completly agree with you

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