Heart of an expansion

The Guild Wars 2 community has been on the hype train recently, which shows no signs of derailing as more and more of the upcoming expansion Heart of Thorns is revealed and teased.

xIx84dlNo brakes indeed.

They have a lot of plans; a new PVP mode, a WVW 1 map, and a whole slew of PVE content. The PVE content involves a new class, class-specializations and new forms of progression. There’s a lot coming, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed there hadn’t been any announcements regarding dungeons. I hold out that they are just saving the best for last.

Where I have concerns though, is that this is confirmed as an expansion pack you have to buy. This is the first of the game, which up until now has released it’s content updates for free as the “Living Story” progressed.
This introduces an interesting variable, in that some of the features coming in HoT seem like they would have to be part of a free update release simultaneously to the expansion, lest they risk shutting off a chunk of their users who are unable to buy an expansion pack.

  • Guild Halls are a good example of this. Guilds have existed in the game since the beginning, and the game thrives on the communities built in the form of Guilds. After years of this feature being requested, a home instance for guilds is finally being implemented in Heart of Thorns.
    But if it becomes part of the paid expansion rather than free, it means guilds would end up divided internally into those who can enter their Guild Hall, and those who can if they shell out X amount of money.
  • Stronghold is the name of the new PVP game mode, and it’s another one that could have an interesting and possibly detrimental effect on the community if it is part of the paid expansion. Right now, the whole PVP community plays the same pool of game types and maps, and games are found relatively quickly (in my experience).
    If you could only play Stronghold if you pay for Heart of Thorns, you would separate the community into two smaller groups that will have less players to play with.
  • A new WVW map could make the game mode suffer similarly as it did when they added the Edge of the Mists map. EotM features a better reward system to normal WVW, and splits the community. Instead of having the entire server banding together to dominate WVW, you have a chunk of them chasing loot in EotM. You can’t begrudge them for that, but you also can’t deny that it’s had a bad effect on the main WVW game.
    If they had the reward system of EotM in this map without revamping the original maps and bringing them on par with it, then it will further pull people from the main maps.
    It gets worse if the map is only playable if you buy the expansion. In my server, we travel as a large group jumping from map to map fighting where we need to. Imagine you have a group of 40 people and you needed to jump into that map for the fights, but only 25 people in that group have the expansion. Suddenly your group is nearly halved and you are at a major disadvantage. Wouldn’t that suck massively?
  • The Living Story is the last thing to bring up in this series of points. It’s one of the games big draws, and despite a shaky start as they tested what worked and what doesn’t, it’s pretty cool. The basic concept is that even when you aren’t playing the game, the story is moving along. Every few weeks, the next chapter of the story is released, and you can play along with it and participate, unraveling the plot as it goes. This has always been for free up until now, taking us all over as we uncover secret plots and dragons are awakened.
    However, Heart of Thorns will apparently take us deeper into the Maguuma Jungle and give us new maps to explore in the main game. The Living Story will beyond a shadow of a doubt take us into these areas.
    So, if those areas weren’t free, those users who for years have been following the stories and events of Guild Wars 2 closely and participating in everything suddenly hit a wall. We were left on a cliffhanger at the end of the second season of the Living Story, and it would probably kill it for a lot of people if ArenaNet suddenly held out their hand and said “You have to pay for the rest”.

That’s most of what was revealed though…

GW2-HeartOfThorns-screenshot-4.4f626f12

Yes, outside of their masteries progression system (which looks awesome and is confirmed to be expansion-only content), new classes and class specializations, there isn’t much that was revealed that I feel can be paid for unless it’s cosmetic (like Legendary weapons. I’m happy having to pay for more alternatives). This is purely because you have to take into careful consideration not impeding a player’s enjoyment of the game if he chooses not to buy the expansion.
It’s with that belief that I hope we haven’t had everything revealed to us. We have heard absolutely nothing about dungeons for example, and they’re some of the content that seems to get the least attention. There’s still no release date set for the expansion, so maybe when whatever date they have planned gets closer, they’ll refresh us and get the hype train going again with fresh news.

I’m curious as to how they will maintain the delicate balance between those who buy the expansion and those who don’t. I’ll be buying it regardless, but I hope ArenaNet have learned how to hold the community together.

If you’re interested in what the expansion offers, I suggest checking out WoodenPotatoes YouTube channel. He covers, theorizes and speculates about lore and other aspects of the Guild Wars universe, but with Heart of Thorns being the hot topic, he’s releasing multiple videos discussing and dissecting what we know.

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1. Server versus Server mass-scale PVP