- 1 Skill points
- 2 Zone design
- 3 Expansion design
- 4 New profession
- 5 Introducing new effects and the defiance mechanic
The expansion is replacing level progression with the mastery system and removing the reward of skill points for levels after 80. The main method for acquiring skill points will be for champion loot bags. Before we discuss changes to skill points, we must look at the bags themselves.
Champion loot bags
The design of champion loot bags is to make exploring the world more rewarding. The bags are also designed to engage more players in events, with one of the primary event types: boss event. Tying champion enemies to events provides the synergistic reward of the dynamic event and the bag from the champion. The bags are tied to character level rather than area level, which matches the downscaling that encourages higher level players to participate in low level areas. Scroll of Experience drops primarily from high level areas, targeting players that are unlocking the rest of their skills or playing alternate characters. These are the same players that are farming bags. The world boss events and reward chests are a direct implementation of this design philosophy, which is why most give champion loot bags.
Another key design aspect is champion loots bags are a primary farming source and method of introducing currency into the economy. You can find detailed information on champion farm. This is done through the bags giving coin and in combination of dynamic events as mentioned prior. We can also see that events are used as regulatory device for farming champion bags. Defeat the three Drakkar Spurs champions was added for the Frotgorge Sound farm and champion NPCs not linked to events were downgraded to veteran in starter areas. The downgrade is a side effect of farming in low level areas having a toxic effect on new players with veteran players attempting to farm events due to a scarcity of resources, resources being the events. Restricting Scroll of Knowledge to high level sources further encourages players to participate in high level areas for farming.
As a result, skill points could be acquired rapidly from both dynamic event experience and obtaining bags in high level areas. The bags have other incentives, including a primary source of luck from salvaging fine and masterwork equipment, exotic weapons being connected the Exotic Hunter collection, and a source of Pile of Bloodstone Dust. Because of the excess of dust, Mawdrey II was added as a currency sink.
Skill point mechanic
Skill points are a progression mechanic linked to vertical progression of the player level. Players receive 21 skill points on their way to 80 and further skill points are obtained for leveling after 80. This is not enough points to unlock every skill and would be a hassle to change any time new skills are added. At this point, skill points take a form of currency than progression after players unlock all their skills. This takes the form of tying skill points to Mystic Forge, which is the source of endgame equipment such as legendary weapons.
This mechanic actually returns from Guild Wars 1, where skill points were used to obtain skills and buy Signet of Capture for elite skills. Later on, skills were given directly in the form of a consumable obtained from activities in hard mode, acting as the endgame. Once all the skills are purchased, the only use for skill points was the gw1:Star of Transference, allowing players to move skill points to their alts. This design philosophy has slowly carried over to Guild Wars 2, where ArenaNet replaced skill books and the star in a generic consumable to give a skill point. The primary source of the skill points is still the endgame, being connected with the same endgame and a focus of allowing players to progress on their alts while playing their main character.
So what does this mean for the expansion? The reason ArenaNet is removing skill points from leveling is because they already have the systems in place for players obtaining skill points. By removing the reward of a skill point to level progression, the game encourages players to focus on high level events that spawn champions for their activities. The focus of the expansion will be just this, with level 80 characters participating in the meta events.
The origins of the vertical design can be traced back to jumping puzzles and the platforming elements. The implementation has its start in Super Adventure Box of all things, where launch Pads were introduced to add vertical movement. This isn't so much for variation in SAB as much a focus on the platforming elements. We see this introduction into the main game three months later with the release of Bazaar of the Four Winds and exploring Labyrinthine Cliffs with the various aspects.
Redesigned meta events
The design will be similar to the Dry Top meta event, where the primary source of bags will be the champion or legendary rank NPCs at the climactic dynamic events and the unique currencies tied to the zone. The meta event design is a further refinement on world bosses and their related meta event, wrapping the entire zone in a global meta event. We already see an example of this design with the Legendary Wyvern being the climax for Verdant Brink zone. Because the meta event is being pushed to the global area instead of a localized area of the zone, ArenaNet decided on smaller and more compact zones with the focus on a primary narrative. This smaller area has the implication of encouraging more vertical movement within the zone and sticking more content into less space.
Kites and jumping puzzles
With the design of the new Living World zones being received well by players, ArenaNet could now focus on making movement in these vertical space more enjoyable. While aspect crystals were used for carefully designed platforming challenges, the gameplay isn't very interesting for players because they served primarily as puzzles for collecting Sky Crystals in Labyrinthine Cliffs and progressing along a linear path in Dry Top. This is the primary reason crystals in Dry Top are on a timer, relatively disparate, and used for more object collection in the form of Lost Coins.
The traditional expansion approaches by introducing a large amount of content for players to consume and then forget about. This approach has shown that you are biting the hand that feeds you. Players previously consume content from the game before the expansion and forgotten about, waiting to repeat the process with each expansion. This creates a demand for developers to give players a quantity of content and perpetuates itself. Developers have to provide the same amount or more content each expansion or people will feel ripped off.
ArenaNet has decided on quality of the content that players will visit again after consuming it for the first time. This isn't unfamiliar territory, as much of the zone design encourages players to visit all the zones in the world instead of staying in the high level zones. This is done through jumping puzzles, collections, champion loot bags, ascended equipment crafting, map completion, and rewards being a percentage of the experience bar. The idea is that players can continue progression no matter the area they are in and this makes exploring low and medium level zones.
As experience is removed for mastery after level 80, it makes sense that ArenaNet split the mastery regions between the Living World content and the core game. This gives feedback to players about their progression as they explore existing zones that the experience bar previously handled.
A new profession is a big deal as ArenaNet makes a point in keeping the professions tightly balanced. The professions have been organized to have some base line with having access to damage, control, and support, and then have some professions have more access to certain aspects. That's why ArenaNet has been hesitant about introducing a new profession that has to capture some niche not covered by the others. The first worry is that the revenant feels squished among the core professions ArenaNet has spent the last two years balancing. The existing professions still have some kinks in their design that makes introducing a new profession feel claustrophobic. To ArenaNet's benefit, they left a soldier class open and left the condition side of the balance underdeveloped. To give the revenant breathing room, the game is introducing slow and resistance.
The limited skill bar and resources available for the player doesn't give much room in designing a new profession. Most of the variations come from changing the weapon skills by the use of weapon sets. This is implemented in the weapon swap mechanic, which harkens back to weapon swapping in Guild Wars 1 and much of th design comes from this standpoint. This is expanded upon by the elementalist using attunements and the engineer using kits to have access to additional skill sets derived from the profession mechanic. The only part of the bar left unexplored is the profession mechanic being connected to the right side of the skill bar. This makes it an obvious candidate for the new profession.
Channeling is a hybrid of the elementalist attunement swapping and resource management from initiative. Like the elementalist and engineer, this means the revenant gets one weapon set and weapon swap mechanics take place between swapping stances. The trait design also follows the elementalist pattern with connecting a trait line to each form as the skill type and the last trait line to the profession mechanic. The only clear connection is Corruption to Mallyx while the other two trait lines are left some flexibility. We can extrapolate that ArenaNet plans to introduce two more stances alongside the last two trait lines. The design is a safe choice for ArenaNet in introducing a profession in their first expansion.
Introducing new effects and the defiance mechanic
The slow condition comes in after torment and likely will be a primary focus of the revenant like burning is to the guardian. And like torment, there are going to be very few sources upon introduction and will likely remain that way. The pattern is the same from the time Cracked Armor was introduced in the first game. One can say ArenaNet is fervently conservative in introducing new mechanics to the game balance. A new condition also means new sigils and runes for players to obtain as rewards from the expansion content. ArenaNet has used this pattern consistently with the releases and I don't expect this to change later on.
The defiance mechanic has been a thorn in ArenaNet's side since the start of the game. I would not be exaggerating to say that ArenaNet should be ashamed with how they handled a core design aspect of the combat in regards to PvE. It's gotten to the point of ridicule that two years have passed and players still find crowd control a triviality in PvE. The plan for defiance was to make fights with champions more dynamic by introducing disable resistance that requires players to utilize their crowd control rather than maxing out damage output. The origins in the defiance design start back with gw1:Kuunavang where interrupts had a chance to fail. You may also notice this is a point where players use skills that slow activation time on Kuunavang's skills to give enough time to interrupt the action. The similarities of the Legendary Wyvern fight to the gw1:Unwaking Waters mission should not be lost to players. On a side note, Unshakeable is a parallel to Natural Resistance on bosses in the first game.
Defiance is being reworked so that blind and other conditions now also affect the boss. You can be sure this includes the slow condition. This follows another long term issue of conditions being ineffective in boss fights and dungeons due to condition caps and slow kills. ArenaNet experimented with condition resistance back in The Battle for Lion's Arch with the Legendary Blue Dynamic Assault Knight using Condition Crash and Condition Reflect.