River Of Tiers

June 4, 2012 at 9:44 am | Posted in Guild Wars 2, Mechanics, mmorpg | 16 Comments
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Brief look at skill tiering.

Recently we learned that Arenanet is trying out tiered progression with both traits and skills. I said I wasn’t a fan in my last post, but it’s a pretty complicated subject. I’m not unhappy with every aspect of tiered progression, but for the most part it doesn’t sit well with me.

I imagine Arenanet is thinking that they want players to experiment more with skills and traits, to have a better sense of progression, and to learn the game with simpler skills in early levels. They also probably have balance in mind as it seems Arenanet is quite obsessed with it. Also they might be trying to stretch out progression beyond level 30 as far as skills are concerned.

Players on the other hand are probably thinking about being constrained, wasting skill points on skills they don’t want, having their hands held like children, worrying about grind, and disappointed that Guild Wars 2 isn’t more free and open.

Without testing it out myself it’s hard to know where to stand between all that.

To begin with I don’t understand the need for this at all. There was already some level of skill tiering in place. Simple to use or less powerful skills cost less skill points. More complicated and useful skills cost more. Some might argue that little has changed, except now we’re forced to buy skills we don’t need or want to get to the skills we do.

It certainly compels people to try out skills, exactly what Arenanet is hoping for, but in my opinion this is only temporary. People will discard the skills they’ve been forced to purchase the moment they can unlock the one they want. Skill tiering is effectively a skill point sink.

And that’s not fun. That’s not even close. Nobody likes arbitrary hurdles. I will give Arenanet points for making those hurdles fairly insignificant however. 5 skill points is something you’ll have before you leave your first zone. By the time you’re in your 20s skill points come more quickly.

The end result is that you end up buying more skills than you want or need, and we won’t have the skills we want when we want them. Fortunately the wait doesn’t seem like it will be too bad. I don’t think skill progression is stretched out beyond more than about 10 levels. It’s the 2nd tier elites that will be annoying to get to and purchase.

The trait panel. You have 70 trait points, 30 max in a trait line.

As for traits I assume the tiers are all about balance. If you put 10 points into each line and grab the most powerful trait from each, that seems ripe for exploitation. You would also have to make each trait as desirable as the next. Not an easy feat, so I understand this change more than the skill tiers.

Another positive point is that this must make it much, much easier to balance. Keeping only a few high powered traits at the top of a trait line simplifies things immensely for developers, and perhaps, even for players.

However it also seems like you would have to create a lot of not so great traits to put in the bottom tier. You’re also limiting the number of trait builds that will be tried out. Odd considering the point of the skill tiers is to diversify what people are using, but the trait tiers seem to do the opposite.

The way I figure it people will be trying out 30/30/10 builds or 30/20/20 builds and that’s about it. I don’t see anyone going out of their way to try out multiple lines with only 10 trait points.

Or at least I don’t see people going out of their way to do that in PvE when there is a price on respeccing. Something I’m much more unhappy about than either of these tier systems.

Unfortunately this entire post is without really getting a look at which skills or traits are available in which tiers. A better understanding of the whole system would definitely come from using it. For now I’m left comparing these tiers to the skill tree systems of other more traditional games.

The tiers have the potential to be either tedious grind or fun decisions. Hopefully Arenanet will iterate their way to the right path.


  1. As you said, we can’t know for certain until we experience it first-hand, and this is (hopefully) subject to further changes just as other parts of the game are…
    By comparison, when the system for weapon skills was first announced they had it tuned to where it would take approximately 30 minutes to unlock a single weapon fully, and in response to the (f***ing obvious) negative feedback from testers they tuned that way down to the 5 minutes it’s currently at.
    Most folks find that 5 minute mark for the weapons acceptable, and only a minority (including myself) who play multiple characters still find it arduous and unpleasant to the point where they consciously avoid unlocking all weapons for a particular character, or avoid the additional character altogether.
    It’s more than possible this latest “unpleasant, unecessary, gameplay complication” change to the utility skills and traits will also begin at a place where the outcry is nearly unanimous, and then is tuned down to a point where only a few folks (like myself) will still view it as a thoroughly negative aspect to the systems and mechanics of the game.

    • Well like I said in the post I doubt the skill tier system is that big a deal overall, just irritating and a skill point sink. The trait system is the one I’m curious about, and I need a better look at that first.

  2. I think the main benefit to the skill tiers will be a lot less saving your skill points to spend later.

    • That’s a benefit? I’d like to be able to get the skills i want, when i want them.

  3. I’d like to know what you dislike paying for a respec? Would you rather more expensive repair costs or travel costs? There need to be money sinks and their have been respec costs long before GW2. If you are going to dislike something what are you willing to give up for change?

    • There are already numerous and plentiful gold sinks. Guild Wars is known for letting you play with your builds, I’d like that to continue.

      • And I’d like more PvP options and not being auto-balanced to the other team mid match. Thing is repairs and fast travel cost next to nothing, and since I can not say what the cost was for respecing I only see it as a minor issue with only real down side is I have to spend some money I can easily make back. If you don’t want to spend money on respecs that is what the Mists are for you can test builds.

        • Your comparison doesn’t work very well, of course we all would like to see something changed, but at least i have an argument for not wanting a gold sink that impedes naturally trying out new builds. I think the numerous gold sinks add up quite a bit and am not at all happy with trying out pvp builds in the mist versus trying them out in pve.

  4. It’ll all depend on which skills are available where. While i understand this from a balancing and progression standpoint, i don’t like being forced to spend points on ones i have no desire to actually use in my builds.

    • As far as which skills go where, I’m relatively certain Arenanet will do a fair balance job, but I’m not thrilled about the rest.

  5. I don’t mind trait tiers so much, but the Utility skill tiers bum me out, to be honest.

    • Agreed. Trait tiers seem like there may have been a legitimate balance issue, but skill tiers just seem arbitrary.

  6. Regarding trait tiers, I’ll appreciate having more focus both as a player and as a blogger since theory crafting makes me go cross-eyed. I may have had more options of how I built a mesmer as a slippery magical duelist, for example, but many would been bad, only a few would have been good, and most would not have had a significant impact on how my character felt.

    It’s a matter of quantity vs. quality.

    Unlike some MMOs, our weapon sets and skill selections are the cornerstone of our play styles; traits are merely a tool for enhancing them. I don’t anticipate the traits limiting play styles so much as subverting min-maxing by making all possibilities maxed. Otherwise, it’s Build Wars all over again.

    Like you said, it’s hard to say for certain until we see how traits are arranged, but I’m hoping for something more intuitive. I think the dots were already there, and they may simply be saving us time and misery by making the connections more obvious. At least that’s my hope. Then again, it will be a bummer if the only “dot” I wanted out of a particular line is in that third tier, but if it’s a matter of balance, I can’t argue against it.

    Now tiers on the utility skills does seem like overkill as there was already a form of tier’ing in place as you said. Unlike traits, balance shouldn’t be a concern as we can theoretically have all skills by the time we reach 80, and we have access to all of them in PvP regardless. Just seems like an unnecessary hoop.

    Plus you can’t re-spend skill points the way you can trait points.

    • While weapon skills are important, I think the traits are magnificently complicated and could very well lead to build wars but I’m not worried about it. I don’t see it as a bad thing. There will definitely be min/maxing. I really liked what I saw of them in the last bwe and can’t wait to more fully utilize them.

  7. […] adored the idea, I never had many great PvP moments in it. And what about the skill tier system? Hunter is skeptical of it, but like me he wants to know more before condemning it […]

  8. […] Hunter’s Insight — River Of Tiers. “Recently we learned that Arenanet is trying out tiered progression with both traits and skills. I said I wasn’t a fan in my last post, but it’s a pretty complicated subject. I’m not unhappy with every aspect of tiered progression, but for the most part it doesn’t sit well with me.” […]

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