Guild Wars 2 is doing very well. Even setting aside ArenaNet's announcement last week that the game is officially the fastest-selling MMO ever, GW2 has enough players who are dedicated to it and spending money on it to justify a content patch every two weeks, and the development team is showing no signs of slowing down. It's a success story in an unforgiving industry where successes are few and far between; while many other studios are restructuring and redefining their games -- or even shutting games down altogether -- GW2 is holding steady a year after launch. Happy birthday, GW2!
I love this game. If I didn't, I'd be nuts to devote time to writing a weekly column about it, let alone play it almost every day. Even though I had nothing to do with its creation, I'm proud of it in a way, and I'm happy for the people who made it because they deserve success. Based on what's been talked about, I feel pretty good about what's coming up in the second half of the year. There are a few lingering nitpicks I have, though, that run the risk of becoming so entrenched that they hang out on the back of the priority list for years -- and they're at the top of my wish list for things I'd like to see before GW2's two-year anniversary rolls around.
An overhaul of the heart system
Renown hearts are weird. They were initially designed to guide players who couldn't quite grasp the dynamic event system to areas where a lot of events spawn, but in practice they dominate the leveling experience. It's at least easy to fill most hearts by doing events in the surrounding area, but most hearts only have one or two events attached to them (if any) and it's common to complete them without ever seeing an event spawn. The vast majority of them are also completely useless once completed, since very few of the vendors sell anything of lasting interest.
My favorite idea for giving them more appeal is to bring back Nicholas the Traveler... or his modern counterpart, at least. Nick traveled with his dolyak friend Professor Yakkington in the original Guild Wars, and you can find their graves at Ebonhawke. In exchange for trophy items gathered from enemies, he gave gifts which contained sweets, alcohol, fireworks and sometimes rare weapons or miniatures. Many of the enemies surrounding hearts continue to drop their turn-in trophies after the hearts are completed, so a great way to get people back into the world might be to put in a brand-new traveling NPC with a desperate need for skale oil glands and Seraph badges and give his gifts a rare chance to drop Black Lion claim tickets or something.
More tools for guild management
Lead content designer Mike Zadorojny caused some disappointment when he apparently said in an interview that improving tools for guild management isn't a priority. The original interview was in Dutch, so it's possible that something got lost in translation, but the information wasn't received well by the fanbase, with good reason.
The current guild management system is serviceable, but only barely. Officer permissions are all-or-nothing, it's hard to communicate effectively with people who aren't online at the same time using the tools available, and there's no way to tell when the last time someone bothered to represent your guild was. The ability to join multiple guilds is neat, but it's hard to justify doing that when game mechanics clearly reward being in a big guild with a gameplay focus over a small social one, and representing one guild means the other guild loses out on influence. If we were able to chat in multiple guild channels at the same time, that wouldn't be as much of an issue.
I like mounts and I think GW2 ought to have them. This is something of a controversial position to take; there's still a weird "us vs. them" attitude of resistance to the idea in the playerbase that reminds me of some Final Fantasy XIV fans' adamant refusal to accept being able to jump. Other games have jumping -- we don't need it! Other games have mounts -- we don't need those, either! Go back to World of Warcraft! I'm still baffled by the casting of people who want mounts as representative of soulless efficacy and immersion destruction because I'm a roleplayer who loves to explore and I always rather liked them.
The biggest argument against mounts pre-launch was that we don't need them when we have waypoints. This has fallen off a bit; waypoint costs add up pretty quickly, and skills and traits that grant swiftness are very popular. It's already possible for several professions to gain a permanent 25% speed boost through signets, and the professions that don't have access to those signets are definitely less convenient to run around with. Mounts that grant a 25% to 33% speed boost would be an equalizer without being any faster than skills already available in the game -- and there's a good chance they'd stop the ongoing debate over where Tyria's horses have all gone when they're referenced constantly in dialogue but never seen.
Greater cosmetic freedom
I initially liked the idea of town clothes. I can see where the idea came from and why it sounded good. In practice, it feels like a waste of neat skins that we could actually be wearing on our characters for more than ten minutes. The fact that even roleplayers, presumably the target audience for town clothes, are less than thrilled with them is pretty telling, but we've been told that they won't be combat-wearable because of concerns that it would break immersion. Frankly, it breaks my immersion a lot more knowing that which shirt I can transmute onto another shirt is determined entirely by game mechanics. "These jeans are magic, but these jeans aren't" doesn't make a lot of sense when we're talking about immersion, and if the point is making sure that people can't run around looking goofy in combat... come on. We have combat-capable plushy quaggan backpacks, so who cares if somebody wants to wear a matching hat? The "other people's characters are impacting my immersion" ship sailed a long time ago, with a magenta-haired Charr wearing armor dyed in chalky pastels and wielding a bow that fires unicorns at the helm. I just want to wear my glasses while I fight.
There have also been requests for more armor that shakes up the standard visual tropes for each armor class, or even for special transmutation stones that allow us to wear the appearance of armor from different classes. Nearly every suggestion for greater cosmetic freedom is met with people arguing that things are the way they are because PvP requires being able to tell at a glance which profession you're fighting. Structured PvP already has an entirely separate cosmetic progression from the rest of the game, so if we're talking about World vs. World, I have to cast a skeptical eye on anyone who claims that he's always able to tell which profession he's up against immediately as things stand now. I suspect this argument originated with WoW, back when Blizzard was claiming that it couldn't allow players to customize their armor because class silhouettes and level identification were important in PvP. Subsequent games that have both PvP and the ability to wear whatever the heck you want have proved that to be kind of silly, and even Blizzard has changed its tune; if it's really that important for players to be able to instantly identify what they're fighting, slap a big profession icon over everyone's head in WvW.
More user-friendly miniatures
Considering how often minis are offered as event rewards and gem store items, they're really hard to enjoy. Even keeping one in your inventory requires either the purchase of an invisible bag to put them in or the fortitude to never click "deposit all collectables." They vanish every time you zone, and the majority of them are dismissed by entering water. Most annoying of all, the little guys lag something like twenty feet behind a moving character, making them poor adventuring companions when you usually can't even see them unless you're standing still. All of the suggestions for using them in future games of Polymock are great, but at this point I'd settle for minis having their own equip slot and moving at the same pace as Ranger pets.
My main concern is that "vanilla" GW2 is destined to become something of a graveyard for incomplete, abandoned, and half-implemented systems and that we'll come back three years from now and marvel at all of the stuff that didn't quite make it to greatness as though levels 1 through 80 are some kind of bizarre museum. Granted, that's not exactly uncommon in MMOs, but I hope that ArenaNet's desire to polish the world over the second half of the year will make it less likely. I'm happy enough with the state of the game and the direction ANet is taking it that most of what I want to see changed amounts to little annoyances and a desire for more character customization options; the really big stuff I'm hoping for -- housing, new races, more challenging gameplay, expanded weapon options for each profession, more connections to GW1 lore, and the return of Cantha and Elona -- have already been addressed as being in the works or on the table.
What's on your wish list for the coming year? Or are you just focused on getting ready to give Scarlet a well-deserved beatdown? Let us know in the comments below, and I'll see you in the Mists!
Anatoli Ingram suffers from severe altitis, Necromancitosis, and Guild Wars 2 addiction. The only known treatment is writing Massively's weekly Flameseeker Chronicles column, which is published every Tuesday. His conditions are contagious, so contact him safely at firstname.lastname@example.org. Equip cleansing skills -- just in case.