The Guardian – Predictions, Predilections, and Prognostications

Most people who keep an eye cracked for Guild Wars 2 news have heard about the PC Gamer article that did some name-dropping in the caption of a GW2 image.  The “Blue Mace Lady” that we have all come to know and love has an official name: the guardian.

Until this coming Thursday, the newly-named profession remains shrouded in mystery.  Since speculation about this heavy-armor magic-user has run rampant for quite some time, however, the faithful (and frequently rabid) GW2 community has come up with plenty of hopes and theories.

Comparisons to other games have, naturally, cropped up ( – as well as cross-medium references to such heroes as the Green Lantern!)
Many forum-members across the fansites have been quick to point out the existence of a Guardian class in Lord of the Rings Online, a highly-defensive heavy tank that focuses on keeping aggro.  Since GW2 is hoping to do away with the conventional idea of tanking and replace it with an emphasis on control, the analogy couldn’t be perfect, but the defense (or support, to use GW2 verbiage) aspect of the LotRO Guardian has inspired comparisons.
NCSoft’s Aion has a moderately well-armoured melee magic-user called the Chanter, to whom tentative comparisons have also been drawn. Wielding a staff offensively and switching to a mace and shield for more defensive play, the Chanter offers effective DPS (and debuffs), player-based AoE buffs, and only minor direct healing.  Since many fans have long speculated that the BML is one of the options that will cater to those who enjoyed Monks in the original Guild Wars, the Chanter’s support-oriented blend seems like a likely parallel to the guardian’s theoretical role.
(In support of the guardian-Monk relation, folks have pointed out that the Monk skill “Guardian” seems to fit right in with what we’re expecting from the support in GW2.)
And, of course, one cannot talk about a heavy-armor support class without suddenly being hip-deep in references to WoW’s Paladin.  These gentlefolk are popular for their ability to withstand heavy damage, as well as providing support through their auras, blessings, and seals.
There are others. So many others.

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Seraph : The Second Soldier Profession of Guild Wars 2?

Warning: Minor spoilers for the two novels ensue.
Disclaimer: This was written literally a few days before the Guardian release. That said, I still think the political implications still hold merit. So have fun with it. 🙂

I think we all figure at this point that the 2nd solider class is a paladin-like buff / defensive profession. And that Logan has become one. Agreed? Agreed.

So many moons ago in my re-hashed Guild Wars 2 profession speculation post, I stated that I thought the Seraph was going to be the 2nd solider class. I reiterated the theory on the forums and was generally met with disagreement. I had just finished reading Ghosts of Ascalon which is how the idea solidified in my mind, although I think I had come to the conclusion earlier when I saw repeated screenshots and artwork of winged armor, a motif that’s been attached to the Seraph. I wasn’t the first one to come up with the idea, certainly, but in both cases most people shrugged it off as improbable.

The biggest argument against the Seraph as a profession is the need for it to be multi-racial. From the lore we know that the Seraph were founded by Queen Salma to defend Divinity’s Reach and the new Krytan order. In Guild Wars 2, they are charged with protecting the endangered human race, the remnants of whom as far as they know mostly live in Kryta (although we as players can assume there are survivors in Cantha and Elona, they don’t know that…yet.)

With these facts, I can see why it feels hard to believe the Seraph would open their doors to non-humans. But if we take hints from Guild Wars Beyond, bits and pieces from the novels, and even some artwork from trailers, we gather enough clues to point to clear progression leading up to a sound possibility of Seraph as the 2nd soldier class. And the kicker here is that the entire possibility centers around none other than our elusive Queen Jennah. So humor me for a few minutes as I explain why this can very much happen.

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Are F2P MMOs the new standard?

Rift is typical fantasy, but really beautiful.

If I learned anything from the recent trip to PAX, it’s that the world of MMORPG’s is ever expanding. Perhaps exploding is a better word? I must have played at least five different games: GW2, Rift, DnD Online, LOTR, Terra…and that’s just the start. The thing that shocked me most, though, was that most of these games come with a subscription fee.

The eastern-style of free-to-play MMO-RPG’s making it’s way over to the other hemisphere has been a hot topic for a while now, but the ball really got rolling when Tom Chilton of Blizzard fame suggested that subscription-based cash-cow World of Warcraft may one day follow suit and EverQuest II announced a watered-down F2P version of itself.

Needless to say, online gamers all over America and then some flipped their collective shit at the “news”, freaking out and wrongly declaring “FREE-WOW WORLD, DREAMS HAVE BEEN REALIZED” malarkey.

Unsurprisingly they ignored the fact that he also declared this wasn’t going to happen “anytime soon”, if at all, which likely means Blizz is waiting for their next big hit to take the place of WoW. Let’s face it, guys: Blizzard will most likely be the ones to make the much-fabled WoW-Killer.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened sooner rather than later. For the first time since WoW started, subscriptions have declined. They continue to do so, and that’s with nothing out there right now that’s even much competition. People are, as many have said said, simply getting bored with it. This is following an overall trend in subscription MMO’s losing players, with the exception of seven-year-old Eve Online who have boasted more players than ever.

Subscription MMO's dying slowly from lack of HOTs.

The reasons is pretty clear: there are tons of free to play MMO’s out there of notable quality, and others that are dropping their subscriptions in favor of micro-transaction supported markets. This is a very Asian concept and is common in flashy Korean and Japanese based online games. It’s worked well in the far-east, but never quite picked up in the west until now. These days there are many options where players can get their hack and slash fix without paying 10-25 dollars a month for it. People are willing to settle for something a little less in terms of content if it means it’s free, and who can blame them with the economy being what it is? But free doesn’t have to mean a shitty game, either.

Guild Wars was one of the first western MMO fantasy games of quality to dedicate themselves to  a free-to-play environment from the start, supported by new content every six months and small upgrades like storage and character slots.  Once they switched gears to their new game,  additional content ceased and they added vanity micro-transactions like make-overs and costumes to continue financial income. Determined to stay true to their original gaming model, ArenaNET has promised that the sequel would be just as free to play as the original and offer nothing less than groundbreaking graphics and gameplay. Ambitious, yes, perhaps a little risky. But brilliant, none-the-less, and very necessary a move to shake the long-stangant idea of what an MMORPG needs to be.

Most people will pay for one game only, rarely two, which puts all subscription games at ends with each other. Theoretically, a game is more likely to have a larger or more dedicated player base if it’s free to play than not, because they’re not competing for a spot on the “please pay for me” ballot. A F2P game is more likely to have people return to it after absences and warrants much less feelings of forced play-time and resentment (“Oh, I have to play to make it worth the money I put down…”). Someone who has their main sub-based MMO likely has their guilty side-dish F2P games as well (GW, TFII, and Starcraft would be mine :D).

One huge fear gamers have about F2P supported by Micro-Sale games is that they feel selling vanity services eventually leads to selling items that give them clear game-play advantages over others. People seem to have this huge vendetta against the idea of “paying for content” because this is immediately what they assume is the case. Every time WoW puts another vanity item in the online store, you get droves of threads crying out blasphemy and wondering when they will cross over to the dark-side of selling gear and levels. But there is a deep irony hidden in these caverns.

Everquest II’s  “extended” model is another, albiet misunderstood, marketing tool that takes advantage of the popularity of F2P mmos. The part many gamers initially found hard to swallow is that it’s basically a glorified eternal trial-version. You’ll eventually cap-out on stuff to do unless you pay, and that part is where the “optional” content comes in and this is what the gaming community is hemmraging about. But the very people who scoffed at the idea of EQII:E’s model are the same ones blowing 25 bucks on ponies and ponytails. And lets consider this: how would one define WoW-style expansions ? Oh yeah. Paying for additional “optional” content, except that it’s not. WoW expansions are literally optional, but far from it in context. We all know this.

So then, what difference is there between buying the expansions every two years for WoW or paying 10 dollars in EQII:E for a new level cap and gear tiers? Absolutely nothing.

If WoW’s recent, though sometimes questionable, dabbling in micro-transactions on top of subscription fees and Guild Wars’ F2P model supported by micro-sales are any indication, we see clearly people -are- willing to pay extra for vanity items. Pets, mounts, costumes, and make-overs. Transfers, bonus missions, storage, and sex-changes. If you offer a good game to base something on, players won’t mind investing a little extra into it, especially if that game is free-to-play to begin with and they feel compelled to support something they enjoy.

There are many games that will doubtlessly continue to charge monthly, especially those based on franchises like Final Fanatsy or Starwars. But we could definiately see a huge shift towards the end of free to play MMO’s supported by optional content and this is something that I think everybody should be excited for, not fearful of.

Now to encourage all you lurkers to comment, I have some questions for the masses: Do you think F2P will eventually eclipse sub-based mmo’s? Why or why-not?

Guild Wars 2 Profession Speculation: Reprise

 

In my first speculation post, I was pretty sure we’d be getting either the new class or the rehashed assassin, but instead we got the Necromancer. I got thrown for a loop regarding it’s location on the profession drawing, too. I can fully admit my folly; that first post is pretty old and I had since admitted (especially after reading GoA) on one of our podcasts that Necromancer would make the most sense to be next. So with new speculation on last four classes for Guild Wars, my final predictions for the rest of the releases will be [Theif/Sin] > Mesmer > Templar/Seraph > Engineer/Alchemist/Gunner.

With the convention release being the Necro, the only sound opportunity for one of the two new professions to step up to the plate has passed. I don’t figure there’d be any reason not to leave them for last at this point. So, I’m going to assume the 2nd to last will be the Blue Mace Lady (Soldier) since we’ve at least -seen- a lot of art of this class. The last profession release will be the 3rd Adventurer class that we know pretty much nothing about (Engineer / Alchemist / Gunner). That leaves us with our 2nd Adventurer (Theif) and our 3rd Scholar (Mesmer), both of which have concept art and screenshots from the game that we can pretty much trust at this point.

There’s been a lot of screenshots of a plated class with the feathered-designed helms. At first everybody assumed it was just a warrior wearing pretty armor, but since then there’s enough reason to believe that these soldiers are in fact the new profession, or the armor is in the style of them.  I have a solid feeling the 2nd heavy armor profession will be the Seraph as mentioned in the book. They are predominately a force in Divinity’s Reach, lead by Logan Thackeray, that defends humans but there’s a possibility they will open their doors to other races in the new book, Edge of Destiny. Replacing monks is likely what these guys are doing, so I assume they are going to be the templar / paladin type profession who are charged with buffing and protecting their comrades. For all it’s newness, we have a pretty solid idea with this profession is likely to be about, it’s just the name that escapes us for sure.

The assassin class we’re getting is actually a little mysterious, more so than the [Seraph]. With our current four professions all being able to dual wield daggers, and the ranger getting a lot of the swift poison / dodgy melee mechanics that were what defined the sin in Guild Wars Classic, it’s really up in the air what exactly the new style is going to be. ArenaNet did say way back in the days of yore that we would see old classes return but rehashed enough to be re-named. I think our sin is going to be that class. There are still some old mechanics that’ve yet to be claimed: namely speed buffs and shadow stepping. Good friend and fellow podcaster Malchior silently fumes at the thought of the return of such a thing but I kind of want it to come back. I enjoyed shadowstepping to allies and enemies and it was a difficult skill to use correctly. However, his very logical alternative idea is that the sin’s upgrade will be stealth, something they didn’t have before. It fits; brand new to Guild Wars, it’d be just enough of a shift to warrant a class name change. There were allusions to this profession in the Ghosts of Ascalon book, as well as possible lock-picking. We’ll find out soon as it’s most likely the next big reveal (guessing mid-September).

Ninja stars suggest wall-climbing, stabby stabby goodness may be coming.

Mesmers are equally difficult to pin down. They already said there aren’t any hexes this time around but there are skill classes that are hex-like in their mechanics. With Necromancer not having many, we can assume whatever it is will be the mesmer’s job. I imagine they will be able to dual wield pistols, too. By imagine, I mean hope with all my nerdish heart. I’m not sure if we’re going to see a return of interruptions, the mechanic that absolutely defined mesmers in PvP. With the lack of a dedicated healing class, a huge chunk of utility for interuptions is lost. That isn’t to say they won’t make a come-back in a dumbed down version (not much unlike Fear), but it definitely won’t be to the degree it is in GW:Classic. I assumed they might be different enough to get a name-change, but mesmers the got a specific mention in the Ghosts of Ascalon book which may allude to them still being around.

So down to our final mysterious adventurer profession. There is precious little on this guy, and not even the armor class is truly known (we assume it’s Adventurer, but if the Mesmer is stepped up a level it could be a Scholar). There’s no art or screenshots that could possibly suggest or give any sort of hints. Guru has one lengthy thread on the topic with speculation and gathering of clues. It seems people are leaning towards a funky utility class like Engineer or Alchemist, both of which have gotten passing mention in one way or another but no confirmation on their implementation in the game.

It’s hard to say. ArenaNET is doing an amazing job keeping this last profession under wraps. We’re hoping to get more clues as opposed to simply being kept in the dark until its official release, but who knows!

Final word: in the event A-Net decides to get crafty, they might release that new soldier class after all, in which I will officially throw in the towel on trying to guess.

GW2 Profession Response: Necromancer

Well, we’re halfway through the profession reveals with the Necromancer being officially released this week after its soft release at gamescon last weekend. We did a lot of coverage on what we learned from the con last week on Episode 7 of the Guild Mag Podcast, and we went ahead to discuss the new info on the official release in Episode 8, so give us a listen.

I have to say, although the preview and information seemed kind of short, it’s most certainly been the most unique and exciting profession reveal for me so far.

My favorite character right now in GW: Classic is my necromancer. I generally run Mystic Minion Master as much as possible in PvE and PvP.  I deviate to SS or Discord for PvE, though, and even enjoy a wells / support build every now and then when running PvPvE missions.

Needless to say, the Necro is one of the most versitile and involved professions of Guild Wars, and I’m really excited that they have carried on their overall feel and function into Guild Wars 2. THeir skills are much darker and even creepier than before; even knowing the demo vids are spiced up in post editing, you still really get the feel for macabre awesome that necromancers are all about.

The legacy of the minion master continues, although in a new unique form. Gone are the days of corpse reaping armires, something that would be too difficult in a persistent world where people don’t actually die (any MM who’s suffered from Lack of Bodies syndrome knows how painful this can be!). Instead, we’re getting skills to summon 3 different types of minions. Once summoned, their skill icon turns from a summon to a utility like gaining health or exploding them for AoE damage.

Necromancer threads are pretty badass.

Wells, another unique skill class I loved in GW:C will also be making a comback although only one at a time which is a little sad. Again, with no corpses the Wells will simply be summoned at the caster’s location and remain for a duration depending on that skill and traits, affecting their targets within range. Marks are new and similar to wells, except that they are targeted location and will either activate on their own after a given amount of time or manually by a second click of the skill button.

My favorite new mechanic, without a doubt, is the Death Shroud. Being the masters of death and chaos, Necromancers gain this spirit form instead of going into a downed state (or perhaps in addition to, I’m not 100% sure yet.). While active, they are given a unique set of destructive skills making them especially dangerous when downed.

Without a doubt, I will definitely be choosing Necro as my demo profession and am really excited about reporting in on what that’s gonna be like.

The necro release has been covered all across the internet: Kill Ten Rats scored an interview on the necro with ArenaNet, while PC Gamer, IGN UK, Massively, and MMORPG all excitedly responded to the reveal.

Fellow bloggers and community wigs have been covering the news like mad, as well. Hunter over at Hunter’s Insight goes into some pretty in depth detail on the videos. Nox of Conjure Phantasm’s response was short but hilarious. Belzan responds with some insightful thoughts and comments but isn’t as thrilled with death shrouds as I am!

GuildWars2 Guru is a flutter with responses, concerns, questions, and speculation!