Thieves Can't Count, But We Can Read
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).
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.