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.

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