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Flameseeker Chronicles: Your Guild Wars 2 mileage will vary

There's been a good deal of talk, here in the early days, about the level and experience curve in Guild Wars 2. A great many people are tackling the game in a great many ways, which leads to a tremendous variety in folks' perception of the leveling curve.

There are a few of ways that your experience gain might not match up to your desired or expected level. These ways mostly deal with feeling underleveled for storyline content and zone progression. As I said, everyone's moving through the game differently: Some folks made a point to run around major cities right of the bat to tuck a few safe levels under their belts, while others made a beeline for personal story content, and others still (and I count myself in this category) are stumbling this way and that through content with all the focus and willpower of a drunken goldfish.

My main character, such as she is, has nothing at all like the problem of being underleveled. I don't think I've played content at my level since I was something like level 12. I keep playing with people, and those people keep not being at my level, so I go down and the next thing I know I'm level 50 but doing level 25 and 30 content because hey, it seemed like a good idea. I don't consider this situation to be a negative thing, but it means that I had to go out of my way on another character to see how the level curve actually feels for someone who is not crabwalking sideways through the leveling process.

I think one of the major concerns here is a matter of communication. For a very long time, ArenaNet rarely, if ever, mentioned the renown task hearts that dot maps. People barely knew they were a thing, especially when compared to the endless outpouring of information and excitement about dynamic events. In fact, renown hearts were so little-known that when people first started getting their hands on the Guild Wars 2 beta, they were confusing the renown hearts for dynamic events and being hideously disappointed with events as a result.

Flameseeker Chronicles Your mileage will vary
So for most of development, hearts were safely in the shadows. However, if you open up your game map now and take a gander at it, you'll notice that those renown hearts are one of the most prominent features on the map. They share map completion credit with waypoints, vistas, skill challenges, and points of interest, and they've even got their own scout NPCs dotted about the map to point you to 'em, so how could players not think they're significant? But renown hearts were never meant to make up the meat of the game's content.

Hearts intended to be a measurement of progress, not the sole measure of progress. In an interview with Guild Wars 2 Hub, Colin Johanson said that renown hearts "play more of a supporting role in the game" than dynamic events and that "there are hundreds of hearts while there are thousands of events." Hearts are meant to give you some background and connection to a specific area, fill the time between dynamic events, and keep you exploring. They weren't designed to be the core of experience gain.

When people zip about from heart to heart and then talk about "grinding events" to get on-level with the next zone, then there's clearly some sort of miscommunication at hand.

Key bits

Some of the renown hearts feel really slow, especially if there aren't any events running. Hearts can be filled multiple ways, and nearly every heart can be filled by slaughtering local beasts and baddies, but if an event isn't running to bring those beasts and baddies into the line of fire, it can be painful to fill certain hearts -- surely not all of them, but those agonizing few tend to stand out.

The whole point of a dynamic (and here I mean chaining and changing) system is that the world does not feel entirely predictable. One afternoon the Flame Legion scoundrels might be building a new base within spitting distance of the Citadel, and another day they might have decided to raid a scrapyard instead. This at least gives things an appearance of being fresh, and at any rate, it raises the replayability and life-likeness of areas. However, the downside to that is that there's rarely a guarantee that a certain zone will be packed with events, which can make it difficult to do anything more than run around from heart to heart and waypoint to waypoint.

It's a lot easier to see hearts than dynamic events. Aside from listening to map chat, keeping an eye out for contested waypoints, and walking hither, thither, and yon in hopes of getting an event notification, you don't really have a reliable way to know where events are going down most of the time. While some large events are marked on the map at a much larger distance, many of them have a freakishly small distance threshold.

Any heart which can be filled by making tiny animals love me is FINE BY ME
It's hard to suggest a "fix" for this whole issue because for many people things work out just fine, and those people find themselves precisely where they like to be on the leveling curve. Playing a Human and trying not to dally with extraneous content, I found myself hitting 100% completion on Queensdale just barely before hitting level 15, and I've a new Sylvari who's level 10 with about 60% of Caledon Forest left to go. Scott Hawkes of GuildCast and ZAM fame has made a video exploration of the leveling curve, and his experiences were similar.

If you do find yourself behind where you'd like to be in relation to zone content, ask yourself this: Have you been waypointing around to skip as much travel as possible? If so, you're likely missing out on the way that events were intended to be discovered. Have you been avoiding gathering and crafting? While you shouldn't feel the need to craft if you've no desire to, gathering tools can be got very cheaply (in fact, they're free as some personal story rewards) and can provide you with an easy way to get experience as you're running about your merry way. Are you just completing hearts, or are you going out of your way to find skill points, vistas, and points of interest, too? Have you considered moving to another zone (most low- and mid-level characters will find multiple zones that suit their level) to spice things up? The world is broad enough that even if circumstances do conspire to keep you from the level you like, there's not really a reason to feel as if you're "grinding" events to get to 15, or 20, or what have you.

And other stuff

Can we talk about how cute the Quaggan are? The Quaggan are so cute. I want to give all the Quaggan character artists and voice actors a big hug.

Also, you might have noticed that we now have a launch trailer! And digital sales have resumed! So everything must be totally perfect and functioning exactly as intended, right? Right? Well, either way, I don't think a game gets much more launched than this.

Happy week three, folks. May the wind be ever at your back.

Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at

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