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Thieves Can't Count, But We Can Read

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July 4, 2012 - 12:45pm -- Xerin
Guild Wars 2 Community Spotlight

Thieves Can't Count, But We Can Read

By NikaroTheSwift

Several changes have already been made to some game mechanics or their visual representation (the previous endurance bar made it hard to tell when a dodge was available) and apparently this third BWE will focus on PVP balance. If ArenaNet are trying to push Guild Wars 2 as an e-sport it is something they need to get right and if there is something fundamental about any e-sports game, it must be full control over what you are playing. And for the Thief...well, there is something extremely important missing.

When playing with any other profession, if you ticked the right box in the option menu, every cool down will have a timer, down to decimal values, giving you great control over your skills and their activation straight out of cool down, or the knowledge of how long they will be unavailable. During a fight you can take one quick glance at your skill bar and pretty much know exactly when your skills will be available for another use. This of course also extends to the thief, or does it?

As a half truth, yes, our utilities and elites get a timer just like any other class, however our weapon skills have no cool down. How do we know when/if/why we can use them? By looking at our initiative bar. A class that is already crippled by the use of one initiative bar for two weapon sets, while other classes have separate cool downs, makes every initiative point extremely valuable.

We have to be careful with how we use our initiative; currently the only way to know how much we have is by looking at the initiative bar and counting. In a bar that has a maximum initiative value of 15 if traited, it is sometimes difficult to know exactly how much initiative we have left to use at any given point. 

In reality, we should always know exactly how much initiative we have. An individual might argue that for them it is easy to read when low or high, but that is besides the point. A bar with several points is no way for a potential e-sports game to tell players how much of their main resource they have. Numbers are.

Imagine yourself walking around your favourite sPVP map and while nothing is really happening you have all the time in the world to mentally add up your initiative points. Suddenly you are caught in a fight, start using your initiative, and there is a crucial moment in the fight where you can down your opponent with a big damage skill. You confidently hit the skill number but nothing happens. You are confused until a punishing red text appears to reveal “Not enough Initiative”, or in other words, your initiative guesswork was wrong in that split second you had to count. You missed your big opportunity and for examples sake, the tide turned and you got downed. 

Some fights last quite a while and every time you cannot use a skill for lack of miscalculated initiative the clock is still ticking and all of those miscalculations may add up to 10 seconds (for examples sake) of gameplay in which you would have reacted differently. The thief is a class that is heavily punished for gameplay mistakes, and anyone unfortunate enough to not be a good guesser or quick to add up points gets an extra dose of the whip.

The problem isn't miss calculating every once in a while, it is the fact that in combat you never know exactly how much initiative you have. How could you? There are traits that increase your initiative regeneration and others that give you 2 or 3 initiative points in their descriptive situations, besides already having initiative regeneration by default plus using skills kicks the initiative bar back to your left. This makes it very hard to keep up with how much initiative you have in combat when the only way to measure it is counting points in the midst of battle; hardly practical. The thief is all about synergy between skills and chaining them, but the current system cripples some of that possibility.

My suggestion is not about changing the whole initiative bar to numbers. More casual players might not mind it in its current form, but any competitive thief (be it PvE or PvP) wants to keep up with their initiative count just like other classes can keep up with their cooldowns. My simple suggestion would be to move the steal box to the left and place a box of the same size where steal used to be, just before the initiative bar. Inside this box would be a numerical value that shows your current initiative total in real time (as shown below).

Guild Wars 2: Thief Initiative

That way we can quickly glance at our initiative and know numerically exactly how much initiative we have, and more importantly, we will be able to know exactly how to spend it.



GrandmaFunk's picture
Submitted by GrandmaFunk (not verified) on

That's a pretty solid idea and seems relatively easy to implement without impacting the rest of the UI too much. It could also be a simple toggle between numeric display and bar display, or even have it as an overlay.


I'll definitely suggest it in the official forums during the next beta weekend.

Swiftly's picture
Submitted by Swiftly (not verified) on

I would most certainly support this.

Rin Aki's picture
Submitted by Rin Aki on

This is a simple and great idea. I like this a lot.

Order of the Ono & Semper Dius

NikaroTheSwift's picture
Submitted by NikaroTheSwift (not verified) on

Thanks for supporting the idea guys!

Am looking to open a thread on this during the next BWE, would be great if you all could chip in to help this get across. Needs everyone's help :)

Lokh's picture
Submitted by Lokh (not verified) on

In fact, I opened a thread sugesting the same during last BWE and people liked it, so I can anticipe you will have their support :P

Brent's picture
Submitted by Brent (not verified) on

I've been playing a Thief for the Beta Weekend Events and I'd support this addition.

Akilles7's picture
Submitted by Akilles7 on

Agreed with the article writer, the Thief isn't my main, but I can understand your concerns.

Good article.

Terra's picture
Submitted by Terra (not verified) on

Like the idea and think AN should implement it. I would prefer a total black background though to make the number a little clearer.

Sardu's picture
Submitted by Sardu on

This suggestion definitely gets Sardu's Seal of Approval. Hopefully we can get some buzz going for it and help insure that the folks at ArenaNet take notice. :)

Moxin Rift's picture
Submitted by Moxin Rift (not verified) on

I agree with the problem, but I would doubt Arenanet would implement it in this form - simply because you then have two UI elements doing the same thing. The bar becomes pointless when the number is there.

I would suggest an alternative - divide the bar into segments of three. That would be four or five segments, depending on traits. Give the segments two different colors - say red and white. That way it becomes easy to learn to read the bar quickly.

Marcus Bison's picture
Submitted by Marcus Bison (not verified) on

I havent played theif yet, but honestly, when I looked at the screenshot showing the initiative bar, I had absolutely no idea how many points were there. My first instinct was to split the bar into groups of 3 so you have 3, gap, 3 gap, and theres a total of 12 so it works. Threes and fours are easy to absorb at a glance, so just a tiny change of increasing the spacing between initiative points in 3 places makes a drastic improvement. This is a smaller change than the endurance bar moving to the top of the health bubble, but has just the same, if not greater, effect. The number seems like overkill.

styopa's picture
Submitted by styopa (not verified) on

There are at least a dozen places where the UI could use more attention, which is why I constantly post about how wrong-headed I think the dev's lockdown on UI mods is.  People have different ideas, and I would argue from 7 years of WoW that if there is one consistent truth it's that 7+ million players ultimately end up having some ideas that are better than those of a dozen devs.


Initiative bar with numbers.  Linear health scale instead of a misleading 'orb'.  Dodge scale with numbers, or quantized into units of "dodge available now".  Customizeable hud.  Configurable buff and debuff locations/sizes/etc.


Really, they want us to be playing the game and not staring at the UI.  In my view, then, it's logical for them to let us configure the UI for our own maximum utilty, not how "they think we should use it".

GrandmaFunk's picture
Submitted by GrandmaFunk (not verified) on

'Dodge scale with numbers, or quantized into units of "dodge available now".'


They've already added this. if your bar is full you have 2 dodges available, if it's right of the middle bar you have one left, if it's left of the middle bar you have no dodges.



Nuu's picture
Submitted by Nuu (not verified) on

I actually made a thread on Reddit about something a bit similar to this for mesmers and being able to have a purple circle for phantams and some way of finding out health. THis seems so ingeniously simple...

Oda's picture
Submitted by Oda (not verified) on

Definitely needs to be added. Mesmer has a similar issue with phantasm and clones being the same in their ui.

oneeyered's picture
Submitted by oneeyered on

Yet to play this class but that was a great read and I would support this for sure.

Its a simple world for complicated people



MathimCaim's picture
Submitted by MathimCaim (not verified) on
As a Thief I would rather have another system. Skills become grayed out when we can't use them so why not add a countdown for them as for normal cooldown based on how much Initiative we have. This is a example with made up numbers: If we get like 1 Initiative per second and for the time being have 0 Initative then skills that costs 2 Initiative will have a visual 2 second cooldown (even though they have no real cooldown) just so you know exactly when you can use it. With this way they can also be exact with decimals based on seconds. The number you suggest is pretty ugly in my opinion and you placed it in the way of the Initiative bar, I mean that bar isn't fully traited.

konvay's picture
Submitted by konvay (not verified) on

I think a solution that would stay with the painterly but still give Thieves quick-glance knowledge would be to make the 5th, 10th, and 15th initiative to be larger. No skill costs more than 5.

I'm all for easier resource view!

DrunknGod's picture
Submitted by DrunknGod on

Sounds like a solid proposal.  For some reason I just can't play the Thief, but if this makes it more viable for others I'm all for it!

Carlos's picture
Submitted by Carlos (not verified) on

I hope they go back and also reduce the amount of Initiative, we used to have 10 (13 if traited) which was a relatively easy number to read and add up, compared to say, 15. In the end, since thiefs got a increased bar they also increased cost of most skills around, for it to feel more natural and easier, I think reducing the number and utilization for each skills  would also go a long way in improving gameplay for Thief.

Ettesiun's picture
Submitted by Ettesiun (not verified) on

One other way is quicker but not very pretty : it is to added the number of available competencies : If an action cost 2 points and you have 5 it would display 2 or 2.5. Or if a attack cost 4 and you have two it would display 0.5. So without knowing the exact cost of every action you should be able to know what to do.

A prettier solution would be to use the timer used for other professions that should be complete not with second but with points !

Raneldor's picture
Submitted by Raneldor (not verified) on

the number and a bar that fills around it letting you know how much time till it increases

Nyth_'s picture
Submitted by Nyth_ on

This isn't a bad idea. I personally thought it would be much cleaner to put seperators in between each set of say 5 initiative. That way you get something like:


And you can quckly judge a full set of 5 + 2 in a glance. Seperators are often easy ways to prevent you from losing count.

The number idea isn't bad either though; either way I hope they implement something.

ArcherAvatar's picture
Submitted by ArcherAvatar on

Um... everyone does know that your weapon skill icons "grey out" when you don't have enough initiative to use them... right?

*shrug*  Seemed like a clear enough indication to me of which skills were available for use.

Phenoca's picture
Submitted by Phenoca (not verified) on

Math blows my mind. Maybe practice for a half-hour and you won't need an initiative-number.