I’ve read several threads recently where people have discussed what profession they feel is the most difficult to play and most challenging to master. What keeps crossing my mind during this topic is the insistence on determining a professions skill ceiling. Should we really be defining professions by how difficult they are to play?
It was originally thought that the order of profession reveals was based on difficulty or learning curve, with the most complicated being last and the easiest or the most accessible being first.
Having only played the Elementalist for the first time recently, it surprised me as to how much skill was necessary to manage your attunements and skills well. As the first profession to be revealed, I don’t believe anyone would doubt that the Elementalist has a reasonably straight forward play style. The complexity arises through the micromanagement and timing of your attunement swapping but also remembering all your weapon skills and their current cooldowns. I would imagine however that once you’ve learned such skills, their eventual use simply becomes second nature and the profession returns to being a traditional spell caster.
In contrast to the idea that 'reveal' directly relates to difficulty, several ArenaNet developers (specifically Isiah Cartwright) went on record, unsurprisingly, to say that some professions turned out to be harder to master than expected than originally expected;
“The mesmer is the most difficult to play, but the necromancer is probably the most challenging to master”.
While this quote remains very subjective and is based entirely on personal opinion, it did cause me to raise an eyebrow. How do we go about determining what profession is actually difficult to play or master? Are we judging a professions difficulty by the number of skills it has to juggle or the finer nuances, such as the management of pets or resources?
I don’t entirely agree with Isiah for several reasons. Firstly, I’m not entirely sure there is any way of determining what profession is the hardest to master as this is entirely determined by the user. Inevitably, some may find one profession of great ease to play and others will feel it is incredibly complicated.
Secondly, in my experience of many MMOGs, players naturally gravitate towards a profession that allows them to be challenged, but remain comfortable in their personal ability and preferred play style. This will naturally distort any perspective they have on what is difficult and what isn’t.
Were we all to be of an even skill level, I don’t believe any profession in Guild Wars 2 would have a higher mastery than another. I’m of the opinion that that all professions share the same or incredibly similar difficulty levels when played from level 1, but some have just have an easier entry level of understanding; difficulty is then only determined by your previous exposure to the genre and similar professions. All professions are inevitably born of the same stock and the principals surrounding all professions are the same.
From all of this, I consider that difficulty and mastery are nothing more than perception; perception that is built upon your personal exposure to a profession in the present (and historically) supported by your experience of similar or current games mechanics.
What are your thoughts on profession difficulty and mastering them?