Heads Up! Iteration Incoming

by Colin Johanson on October 27, 2015

Hey, folks,

It’s been about five days since the launch of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™, and it’s been a really exciting time for all of us at ArenaNet and for the game. We’ve had an incredibly smooth launch with very few major game issues, despite the huge surge of players back into Guild Wars 2 to play all of the new content and features of the expansion! This will go down as the smoothest launch we’ve had in the history of the Guild Wars® franchise.

Because we’ve been able to get through this smooth launch so quickly, we’re able to rapidly move to our favorite part of the live experience at ArenaNet: the chance to iterate on feedback and make the things we’ve shipped even better. This is a huge part of how we work as a company. We might not always get every detail right the first time—I’m not sure you can when you try to innovate—but we do always try to do what’s best for the game and our players through iteration. To that end, we’ll be making some changes in an update today that will address some of the things that have come up as players have dug into Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.

We’ve had a lot of really positive reactions to our new take on endgame progression with our Mastery system. However, we’ve received some feedback on our elite specialization system, the rate at which elite specializations are unlocked, and how that ties in with the Mastery system.

When we ran our beta events for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, we allowed everyone to instantly access fully unlocked elite specializations with all their skills and abilities so we could get balance and gameplay feedback on them. We’d also always said you’d need to unlock your elite specialization, but we were never explicit on the details of how characters do this and the hero-point costs associated. We always viewed the elite specialization as one of the major rewards in expansion—but between the betas and lack of unlock info, we didn’t do a great job properly aligning expectations on how your elite specialization is earned. This left some players in a position where they expected to have their elite specialization very early on (or immediately!) in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. Our goal was always to have elite specializations as a part of character progression, but it’s clear that a segment of our players was so excited about the elite specialization system and abilities that they really wanted to experience most of the expansion with them unlocked.

We’re going to update the elite specialization unlock to find a better middle ground by reducing the cost of unlocking every possible ability for an elite specialization from 400 hero points to 250 hero points total. This means you will be able to access them much earlier in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns PvE or World vs. World and fully unlock them much earlier as well. This also means you’ll be able to experience more of the expansion story as your elite specialization earlier on while still maintaining some of our core goal. This should also help players with lots of alts try out more of the elite specializations. If you’ve already put more than 250 points into your elite specialization, surplus hero points will be refunded to your character for future use.

We’ve seen feedback that people love our new Adventure minigames in which you can compete for rewards, experience, and leaderboard standing with your friends. People like them so much, they want to play them more! We’re going to take another pass on adventure availability so you can play them more easily. Most of them are only closed when events that could happen on top of them in an event chain would break the adventure—and we can’t do anything easily about those. But we’ve identified a few adventures that could be more accessible and aren’t as susceptible to influence from nearby events. The Bugs in the Branches, Shooting Gallery, Flying Circus, and Beetle Feast adventures will now all be made open for play more often. While major mapwide events are going on (survive through the night, the battle for Tarir, and the Trexus boss battle), adventures will remain unavailable as the map is under assault and needs your help!

Finally, we’ve discovered a setting that was creating some lower populations in maps in the Heart of Maguuma than we’d ideally been looking for with our megaserver system. We’re really happy with the difficulty of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns—our players have asked for more meaningful challenge from Guild Wars 2, and we believe Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is bringing that—but having lots of players to play with makes that much more fun, so we’ll make sure you’re always in maps with numerous friends (and soon-to-be friends) to play with.

Iterative development and player feedback are extremely important to us at ArenaNet, and of course we’re going to continue to make Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns even better by listening to all of you. We’re looking forward to sharing even more of that experience with everyone soon with the upcoming activation of our raids, enhanced squad UI, new legendary weapons, and PvP leagues!