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Flameseeker Chronicles

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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Flameseeker Chronicles: November is controversy month in Guild Wars 2

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

DO NOT TOUCH
November sucks. The only good things about it are food, my wife's birthday, and the birthdays of any other November babies (happy birthday). Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is at the end of the month, and Black Friday is a thing that still happens. Thank the Six it's December now. Get out of my face, November.

We've had only two Novembers' worth of Guild Wars 2 so far, but historically it has been a dark time. Last year we had mixed reception of the Lost Shores karka invasion event and the implementation of Ascended gear. This year we have a baffling marketing campaign and extremely unfortunate gem store armor skins. At this rate I'm predicting that next November will bring an entire set of novelty weapon skins patterned on Scarlet Briar's hair and a kissing booth that awards precursors with Zhaitan's ugly mug as the main attraction.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's Fractal algorithm

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

FotM loading screen
It's been just about a year since ArenaNet introduced Fractals of the Mists to Guild Wars 2, and so it's appropriate that this week's release centers on polishing and additions to the popular never-ending, increasingly difficult dungeon-ish thingies. We'll finally be seeing the results of the Cutthroat Politics vote. Agony infusions are being updated. New rewards will be added.

Heck, it's even enough to get me to give Fractals a second look, which is no mean feat since it's one of the few chunks of GW2 PvE content I haven't spent a lot of time on.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's tower flower power hour

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

Necromancer in front of Nightmare tower
I'm super into the idea of open-world endgame zones, which is admittedly strange because my experience with them hasn't been great. They usually involve a lot of dying in terrible places, kill-stealing, and people tripping over one another in a way that creates centuries-long mutual hatreds. Guild Wars 2's Tower of Nightmares zone manages to mostly avoid the latter two by virtue of ArenaNet's core game design choices, but the first appears to be a defining feature of the content. If you haven't yet found yourself pushing up toxic daisies while Scarlet's minions casually play board games on your corpse, you haven't... uh... lived.

It's pretty awesome. That might sound strange, but when everything comes together the tower plays like a big, magnificent dungeon where parties can form on the fly. It follows, then, that it's a lot less painful when approached as a dungeon rather than as a zone where the goal is to race to the instance at the end.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: How Guild Wars 2 can step up its roleplaying game

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

Norn Elementalist in the swamp
I'm a roleplayer at heart. My characters have backstories and relationships and hobbies and favorite foods. They have careers beyond "Necromancer" or "Guardian." They have homes and responsibilities. All of them have their own little places as supporting characters in the much larger story of Tyria.

Sadly, I've never found Guild Wars 2 to be the most welcoming MMO for RP, mostly because none of the above can really be expressed well through gameplay. There's a lot of emphasis on epic stories and your character influencing the world and being a hero, but because GW2 is such a combat-focused game, it's hard not to feel as though my characters are too busy being epic to have lives outside of tireless badassery. That confuses me because so much of what ArenaNet wants to do ostensibly revolves around making the game world seem more alive, and I can't think of a better way to accomplish that than by giving players the tools to help create that feeling for ourselves.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Cultivating positive growth in Guild Wars 2

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

Standing in front of the Nightmare tower
Guild Wars 2's Tower of Nightmares release has been with us for the past week, transforming formerly beautiful (if centaur-populated) Kessex Hills into a toxic wasteland. The source of the devastation is a massive, thistle-topped structure in Viathan Lake, which was built and defended by the Krait and Nightmare Court. A whole lot of mystery is tied up in that thing, from Krait religion to Nightmare ambitions to the involvement of Scarlet Briar, but Marjory Delaqua and her partner Kasmeer Meade are on the case. The Pact has also gotten involved by aiding with research and demolishing the tower plant's offshoots, which are spreading on the wind like dandelions, only I wouldn't recommend adding them to salads, and they're not fluffy.

The ArenaNet team responsible for this release has made some praiseworthy improvements over previous releases, which supports the idea that GW2's living world is still a work in progress with lots of room to grow. Combined with some interesting developer responses from the collaborative development initiative, I think it paints a promising picture of where the story is going in the upcoming months.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's rogue's gallery remixes

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

Flameseeker Prophecies
Guild Wars 2's wicked snake people, the Krait, are nasty on their best of days, and ArenaNet is making them even nastier in the new Tower of Nightmares release. The titular tower has been built in secret in Viathan Lake under a force field, and its unveiling will cause massive changes in the area. The trailer shows us green skies filled with black seeds and sinister winds; at the top of the tower is a plant of some kind. I'm not used to describing plants as lurking or looming, but this one is definitely doing both.

I'm excited for this release because it looks creepy, and regardless of how effective it ends up being, I almost always appreciate it when MMOs attempt to be scary. I like that the lore of GW2 doesn't always take itself too seriously, but when it goes dark, it can hit some disturbing notes. My misgivings about the patch lie in this being the third enemy mashup we've seen: Dredge and Flame Legion, Inquest and Aetherblades, and now Krait and what have to be some extremely persuasive snake charmers.

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