This is a continuation of my last post covering the GW2 Livestream that just took place on twitch.tv. They covered a lot more in this part than the first, so I hope I do not miss anything.
*Edit to add links to the archived versions of this video, here is a link to part 1, and here is part 2 (will link when available). Dulfy also has a rough draft of a transcript up here.
Balance inside and outside PvP
The developer's feel that a lot of the classes are close to where they want them. They want each class to have a number of different abilities and options in different situations. They would also like to see the classes balanced over all types of play, WvW, PvP, PvE, such that when you learn a class in one of these environments the skills will transfer to another environment.
When pressed specifically on the PvP balance and meta-game they agreed that there is work to be done. More roles are needed to make things more dynamic. They gave the example of the bunker builds (ie tanks) that can lock down a position in definitely. This makes for a stale game, where you need a person playing that position to win. They want to expand the game so that the meta-game can evolve new strategies to counter the current paradigm. Specifically, they name the bunker Elementalist build as being a potential problem that they had their eye on.
They also mentioned the Mesmer's portal ability and how it was causing problems in WvW. They do not want teams to always have to have a Mesmer and the portal ability to be successful. They mentioned giving players access to the ability in other ways, for example, through class abilities, or potentially siege. They do not want to nerf it out of existence because they feel the ability is cool. This is a kind of theme when they are talking about balance. They want to avoid nerfs and figure out new mechanics to shift the game forward.
They also touched on the subject of the Area of Effect nerf's that were mentioned in the last part. They wanted to assure people that this is not going to be a quick fix where they just nerf AoE across the board. Instead they are closely looking at data and comparing abilities to get a sense of where to go. It is true, that AoE concerns them, but it concerns them because players can take AoE spells and use them in 1 on 1 situations as effectively as if they had chosen single target abilities. There is no down side to picking AoE abilities. They mentioned that the solution does not have to be nerf's across the board, but instead a potential solution could be to add a new mechanic such as certain mobs being resistant to AoE damage allowing for single target dps to shine.
The developers were pressed for quite a few details on WvW. Firstly, they were asked what they mean by progression in WvW. They were reluctant to provide details, but did say the goals were to encourage people to defend and get in the action. They want to try to break up zergs and show people how strong spreading out on the map can be. They want to focus on rewarding players for their individual actions. They also want to continue on the design philosophy of ensuring that the ways you are rewarded in all aspects of the game are similar in terms of reward and mechanics.
When asked for more details about WvW specific abilities, they replied by saying that again these tied into their goals for adding progression. The abilities will be very WvW specific, relating to supply, movement speed, or siege skills for example. The abilities will only be used in WvW and that is also where they will be most useful anyway.
Finally, they discussed showing player name plates in WvW. They came up with pros and cons for both sides. Against it they mentioned trying to build a sense of "us vs them" instead of "me vs that guy". They want the enemy server to seem like a faceless giant. Not showing name plates also prevents people from griefing and harassing others in game. They are not completely opposed to the idea though because it adds the bragging rights that everyone enjoys when they are winning. If they system was added it would have to be voluntary, perhaps paying to display your name. Also, they would need to lock down harassment issues. They did suggest that if you are looking for that kind of glory than you should check out PvP because that is after all player vs player, whereas WvW is more about guilds and servers.
PvP and Custom Servers
The crew discussed what will be possible with custom servers. This was a time during the live stream, that they said they couldn't really release details, or say something was coming for sure, but their body language said, "yes, this stuff will be possible". Specifically, they talked about there being features and settings that the server host would be able to toggle on and off to create "pseudo" new game modes. Conquest isn't going anywhere. It is Arena Nets flagship PvP style that they want to continue to promote and build upon. The way I see it is that they are saying that if you want to play death match style, than a server admin will be able to setup a server where the only thing that grants points are player kills which would be team death match in conquest mode. They did not say this explicitly, but that is my interpretation from reading between the lines.
They also talked about how they were going to evolve the conquest mode going forward. They want to push the boundaries of this game mode in new ways. They have tried building stuff like a MOBA style arena, capture the flag, death match, etc. and tried playing them in house. They have to constantly ask themselves, "does this work in our game". A lot of the time the answer is no because it is not fun, but that doesn't mean these kinds of things won't make it into the game. Its just that if they do they will take a GW2 twist through the lens of the conquest system. This will help lower the barrier to entry by keeping everything on a similar frame work. The conquest system is the seed that they want to use to grow PvP into and eSport.
Evolving the game
A number of questions were asked that all tie into the idea of evolving the world as the game moves forward into the future. The first set of question on this topic were with regards to how Arena Net prioritizes changes to the game. They explained that their primary goal is to first build a stable foundation that works the way they want it to. Once they have this they can build on top of that. The use a feedback system of looking at data from newly released content, seeing how they can improve it, implementing that, and repeating. A good example is of the fractals release. They mentioned how much more dynamic the fractals encounters were compared to the other dungeons. On seeing peoples reactions to this they said, why not bring the bar up across the board.
Later on they came back to this when talking about how they would improve existing encounters. A lot of what they had to say involved looking at what they had done right and what they had done wrong and building on the good stuff. They want to make things feel more like the fractals encounters. Here things are always changing and you have to learn and play with the environment. This makes the encounters feel hectic which is what the developers want. They believe this will help make things feel less stagnant. Also mentioned were new tools that now allow scripters and designers to create better encounters. This will allow they to revisit old ideas that might not have been possible in the past.
Finally, they touched on how the persistent game world will evolve going into the future. Again they touched on past successes and failures this time naming the Karka Island events as an example. They mentioned changes that are coming to Orr that will build on what already exists there. There will be new events, encounters, rewards, animations, and effects here. All this will continue to build on the story that they have already been working on and encourage people to return to check it all out. With respect to the rest of the world they wanted to ensure us that they want you to go back to zones you have already played and continue to have unique experiences.
There were a couple short random question that didn't fall under a specific category so I thought I would quickly cover them here. Firstly, when asked about new weapon combinations for existing classes all three developers started chuckling and saying, "that is a great suggestion," "maybe that is something we will see in the future," "this works great with out current system". They couldn't go into details, but by the way they reacted to this I would swear that we will see this coming soon. Also, when reflecting on the answers they gave to the balance questions about giving classes more options, this seems like an obvious route to achieving that. They should read my article on weapon categories and varieties.
The topic of Guild vs Guild came up. I never played GW1 so I am not missing these in GW2. They explained that GvG was the primary competitive play style in GW1. Basically you battle and try to protect your guild lord while trying to defeat the enemy guild lord. The devs see this as being in GW2 in the form of 5 v 5 PvP and the primary competitive modes in GW2 have evolved to PvP and WvW. By the sounds of it there will be no GvG in Guild Wars 2.
Finally, there were some questions regarding the new crown system. Most were answered already in the forums by Colin, but there was some new stuff. Specifically what would be obtained in the class specific loots boxes that were pictured in Colin's "big post". They stated that this gear would not be cosmetic gear tied to a specific class, but instead would be a chance at guaranteed gear that your class can use. For example, Guardian and Warrior use the game armour but they use different weapons, so that would be the difference between their specific boxes.
This was a great little session with Arena Net where we got some honest answers straight from the developers mouths. Sure, they were limited to talking about specific topics, but the answers that were given elaborated on a good number of things and provided some unknown details. I hope they do this kind of thing again in the future. This recent media blitz from Arena Net has done a lot to calm some of my fears, but at the same time it has raised a number of new questions and concerns. That is another article though. Arena Net should continue this outreach as it shows they care about the community. I gained a lot from watching these live streams and in turn feel more connected to Arena Nets vision for the game.
Again I apologize about the wall of text. I wanted to get this posted as quickly as possible after the event, and skipped some of my usually editing steps. If anything is unclear or you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I also tried to avoid giving my opinions and instead just reported what was said.