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Flameseeker Chronicles

Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's post-feature pack experience

Fantasy, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Befuddled sharktooth flopears, for testing purposes.
On April 15th Guild Wars 2 got its first feature pack, as packed with features as advertised. After the first day or so of trying to figure out where our town clothes disappeared to, it's becoming clear how much has changed: There's a lot more to take in and adjust to than might be immediately apparent.

The experience for new GW2 characters has changed so much that I rolled up yet another alt post-patch to try it out. That was my plan all along, and I didn't do it because I just bought another character slot and didn't have an Asura yet. I chose a profession that's known for being less fun without traits, so I could see what it's like to not have them before level 30. It was not because I wanted another Engineer and already have two Necromancers, two Guardians, and two Mesmers.

It was also necessary to use a total makeover kit for legitimate data-gathering purposes. Aww, look how cute he is! I can use all of my unlocked dyes on him, and dress him up in outfits, and -- right, down to business.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Customization and playing together in Guild Wars 2's feature pack

Fantasy, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Plush bobblegriffon!
As of last week, ArenaNet has revealed all of the major features Guild Wars 2 players can expect to see in April 15th's highly anticipated feature pack. When I say "highly anticipated," I mean that a large part of the playerbase is collectively vibrating and may soon gain enough momentum to will April 15th into arriving immediately. If they don't manage it, at least we've only got a week to wait.

Until then, we've got plenty of GW2 discussion to tide us over. Most of the feature pack announcements have been well-received, and there's a lot to look forward to, but I still have a few minor nits to pick. Blame it on nits being easier to find when everyone's head is 200% bigger.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Looking forward to Guild Wars 2's feature pack

Fantasy, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

What a good dog.
The dust has barely settled on the Battle for Lion's Arch: Aftermath release, but ArenaNet is already releasing blog posts to discuss Guild Wars 2's April 15th feature pack. What's a feature pack? Well, it's exactly what it says on the tin: We'll be getting a big chunk of gameplay updates, quality-of-life improvements, and balance tweaks that don't fit into the living world or have story components. I usually refer to this stuff as "stuff," but "feature pack" definitely sounds more classy.

As I write this, we've gotten posts on three of the topics locked up in the official feature pack site's nifty little sidebar doodad: one covering updates to the trait system; another to outline balance changes for runes, sigils and professions; and another to talk about swapping critical damage percentage for a new attribute called Ferocity. I have a lot to say about traits, but I'm also going to spend some time speculating on the next two blog posts in the lineup. There's nothing I love more than making half-baked predictions.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's season finale doesn't quite soar

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Lion's Arch before the fall
I've been critical of Guild Wars 2's living world over the past year. It was an experiment that I thought sounded excellent on paper but hadn't proved itself in practice. ArenaNet's goals for the story were very ambitious, but most video game fans -- and MMO players especially -- are used to developers talking up lofty plans and then delivering products that don't quite leave the ground. These days it's easy to let go of some disappointment if we're promised a flying car and instead get a new four-door sedan that actually works as opposed to, say, a Biturbo that rattles apart on the highway. GW2 at launch was at least airborne, and it had a good foundation to build on. The question was whether or not ArenaNet would build on it.

Now that we've seen the last part of the first living world story arc, I am ready to tentatively classify GW2 as being in the "hovering" stage of flight. Jump past the cut and let's talk about Battle For Lion's Arch -- but only if you're cool with spoilers. Are we cool with spoilers? Cool.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Meeting fun halfway in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Mourning LA
Lion's Arch is gone. What's left of our city is rubble and fire and the echoing screams of terrified survivors. The day Scarlet Briar's army attacked dawned clear and mild; by the end the sky was choked with smoke, poison, and the silhouette of Scarlet's massive drill ship. Thousands of people died, are dying, and will continue to die -- all we can do for now is to try to save as many as we can.

Escape From Lion's Arch is a truly impressive piece of storytelling and atmospheric set design, and I found it immediately comparable to similar missions in games like BioWare's Mass Effect series. I've never really played anything like it in an MMO, and I think ArenaNet has done a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of a city under attack. It's been a bittersweet time for fans of Guild Wars 2; as I discussed last week, roleplayers have responded to the release with a flurry of creative activity, and the general consensus seems to be that the story, dialogue, atmosphere and artwork are all excellent -- if only we weren't forced to mindlessly farm for loot! Wait, we're what?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: How Guild Wars 2's living world can liven up roleplay

Fantasy, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Roleplaying, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Lion's Arch fountain at dawn
Scarlet Briar is planning an attack on Lion's Arch, the central hub city of Guild Wars 2. L.A. is the city where all of the playable races -- and plenty of individuals from others -- live together in one big, piracy-flavored metropolis; despite the theme of ruthless capitalism, it's also a place that symbolizes peace and camaraderie. Humans in Kryta may view diversity as an astonishing novelty, but the people of L.A. chortle at the hayseeds and go about their business.

Among the GW2 roleplayers I know, several have characters who live in Lion's Arch. A few of them were born and raised there. After watching some of us chat about the massive upheaval the city's destruction will create in the lives of those characters, one of my favorite people ventured that this was probably a bad time for her to dip her toes into GW2's RP scene, right? Nope. In fact, there hasn't been a better time to jump in since, well, ever.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's adventures in babysitting

Fantasy, PvP, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Edge of the Mists--Frostreach
I'm having a great time in Guild Wars 2's new Edge of the Mists map. It's rekindled my love of World vs. World. I've spent so much time there that I've gotten pretty good at not accidentally running off ledges (although I've probably just jinxed myself), and my collections of empyreal fragments and badges of honor are steadily growing.

Against all odds, I also managed to tear myself away long enough to write this column, which is good because there's a lot to talk about this week: What's so great about this cluster of floating rocks? How is Braham handling his new caretaking responsibilities? Why do people keep referencing the Zerg from Starcraft when they talk about GW2?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Living on the Edge (of the Mists) in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Culture, PvP, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Dancin' in front of TC Borderlands gate
Regular readers of this column may have noticed that I spend very little time discussing Guild Wars 2's PvP scene. Some of you may have even jumped to the conclusion that this is because I suck at PvP and my only reason for even entering the Mists-based sPvP lobby is to try on clothes in the locker, so I'm here today to set the record straight: You are absolutely correct.

I do enjoy World vs. World, both in spite of and because I am terrible at traditional team-based PvP activities -- unless you count some special event minigames, which I am inexplicably OK at. On the whole, ArenaNet has done a pretty good job in GW2 at giving someone who has no business trying to poke fancy cutlery at other players avenues through which to do it anyway without bringing the whole structure crashing down.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The greatest Guild Wars 2 love story ever told

Fantasy, Culture, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Kasmeer and Marjory
I enjoy the Twisted Marionette fight, and I'm looking forward to smacking some wurms if I can ever make it off the overflow servers, but what I really love about Guild Wars 2's latest content release, The Origins of Madness, is its emphasis on characterization. Some of you probably think my cheese has slipped off its cracker for finding a mini-instance in which NPCs chatter at each other the most charming part of an update, but I am what I am.

I feel a little less alone in this since I'm not the only one turning cartwheels over it. A recent ArenaNet developer livestream contained a reference to the relationship between Marjory Delaqua and her partner, Kasmeer Meade, as a "love story." For those of us who had already picked up on their affection for each other and were hoping to see them become a couple officially, this was very exciting, and their interaction in the current release has shown them growing closer. But why are Kas and Jory such a big deal? They're just a pair of NPCs, right?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The calm before Guild Wars 2's next release

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Twisted Marionette (ArenaNet official screenshot)
It has come to my attention that the title of the latest Guild Wars 2 release is not GIANT KILLER LADY ROBOT. It's actually titled The Origins of Madness. "GIANT KILLER LADY ROBOT!" is just what I yelled after seeing the Twisted Marionette world boss because I can't think of many things cooler than that, and now we're going to have one right here in our very own GW2.

Apart from the presence of the Twisted Marionette and jungle wurm world bosses, ArenaNet is keeping the content of this release tightly under wraps. Not that I blame it; with Scarlet Briar's story arc ramping up to a finish, it wouldn't do to let too many details slip.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Taking Guild Wars 2 job specialization to a new level

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Sylvari standing in front of Pact thorn wall
Have you been missing something in Guild Wars 2? Do you wish your character had a way to unlock new abilities that was more involved than spending a handful of skill points? Did you ever dream of subclasses?

If you've wanted any of that -- or, conversely, if you haven't -- it might interest you to check out the progress of the horizontal progression collaborative development initiative thread on the GW2 official forums. Colin Johanson and Chris Whiteside have both been involved, giving feedback on everything from reward systems to ways in which subclasses might be unlocked and helping direct the discussion. If ArenaNet were to implement anything similar to what's being proposed, it would mean a massive shakeup in how GW2 plays, so let's break down how it could be implemented and why it might be useful for enhancing character progression.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: I'd like to build a Guild Wars 2 home

Fantasy, Culture, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Roleplaying, Flameseeker Chronicles, Housing, Buy-to-Play

Sylvari character in front of blue sky backdrop
Happy 2014, everybody! For the first time in a long while, Guild Wars 2 has gone without updates for a few weeks while the ArenaNet team took a well-deserved break. The next content release will drop on January 21st and will reportedly herald the beginning of the end of the Scarlet Briar story arc.

I've been spending my free time reading through the latest collaborative development initiative thread on the official forums. A few weeks ago I wrote about horizontal and vertical progression in GW2 and the CDI thread related to it; at this time the discussion on the forums has narrowed specifically to horizontal progression and what players would like to see from it. After posting our top three priorities for horizontal progression, we were asked to further narrow it down to one, in order to develop a proposal. Since it's been such a popular suggestion in the thread, I think it's a good time to talk about a subject near to my shriveled, cold Necromantic heart: player housing.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Why Guild Wars 2 shouldn't replicate Destiny's wedge

Fantasy, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Kasmeer, Braham, Marjory and Rox
When I look back at a year of Guild Wars 2 releases, one thing stands out to me: I really like Kasmeer, Braham, Marjory and Rox, and I'm not alone. ArenaNet's four newest iconic heroes have remained steadfastly popular in the midst of other criticism of GW2's living story. They're not universally popular -- no character is -- but you can usually count on their dialogue and characterization prompting appreciative threads and analysis. At the start of the Tower of Nightmares release, a few of my friends even linked to a forum post that theorized that Kasmeer might die (she didn't), and were deeply concerned until Wintersday came around. "ANet had better not," one of them said heatedly. "If Kas or Jory die, I'll quit."

While the iconics of the personal story and dungeon story modes, Destiny's Edge, have their fans, I've never heard anyone threaten to uninstall if one of them shuffles off to the Mists, even after a long history and a novel dedicated to their exploits. I think the main reason is that it's a lot easier to respect characters and want to be around them when you aren't left feeling like the only adult in the room.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: We will control Guild Wars 2's horizontal and the vertical

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Ranger and bird pet
While we're all exchanging our ugly knit goods for better presents, the official Guild Wars 2 forums are hard at work on the final collaborative development initiative thread of 2013. The topic revolves around horizontal and vertical progression in GW2, one of the more divisive issues frequently discussed by the playerbase. We're forever debating the merits of both styles of progression and trying to determine which of them has a place in the game.

According to ArenaNet's Studio Design Director Chris Whiteside, there's room for both, and he'd like to get us brainstorming about how they can work for us. My brain is pretty stormy at the best of times, so grab an umbrella and let's talk progression.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The trouble with Scarlet in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Races, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Scarlet from the Nightmares Within cutscene
Scarlet Briar has a lot of enemies. She's set up a little empire at the top of Guild Wars 2's hated character list, roasting marshmallows on the thousands of critical forum posts she's inspired. ArenaNet already has the living story's current arc planned out, but that hasn't stopped a number of forum posters from demanding an immediate stop to Scarlet's involvement and a complete retcon of the character. I think that's a silly thing to ask for, and I don't believe anyone would be pleased with the results if it happened, but disliking her is valid enough.

Wintersday will be the last GW2 content release of 2013, and it's been confirmed that Scarlet won't be putting in an appearance to ruin the holiday. To borrow ArenaNet's TV show metaphor, I'd say it feels as if the last few living story updates were sort of the season finale, so I think it's a good time to look back at our controversial primary antagonist and her role in the story.

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