The gloves come off this week for the latest round of The Last Whiskey Bar. While both Xerin and Sardu agree that the tiered trait system is a perfectly viable switch, apparently the same doesn't necessarily apply to other aspects of the game.
Both participants come out swinging this round as they attempt to address: Tiered Utility Skill Unlocks: For or Against?
Xerin is firmly in the 'against' camp, while Sardu is all for this major change to how utility skills are unlocked for players. Read on to witness both sides of the argument in our latest and greatest virtual bar brawl to the death!
Progressive Skill Unlocks - Against
Progressive skill unlocks; what is this offering me as a player? What is implementing this system really achieving? I’ve thought about this since its reveal and long after playing with the system. Being unable to access certain skills for my profession, until I’ve spent points in skills I don’t want, doesn’t sound great to me. In practice, I’m not sure it’s much better.
What I find frustrating in this system is that it’s purposefully restricting my choice for no specific reason. Are ArenaNet acknowledging that some skills are more powerful than others? Are they wanting me to unnecessarily spend my skill points so I complete more skill challenges? Are they doing it to hold my hand and gently expose me to the power of Elites in a laborious fashion?
I just don’t know the answer, as I cannot see that there is one. What I find most frustrating is that I now cannot obtain the skills I use so readily in structured PvP until I’ve unlocked ‘X’ amount of skills at my current level. As a result, I’m forced to use Skill Points I would have normally saved and spent on more ‘expensive’ skills.
I must stress and digressing a little, I’m all for tiered Traits. I whole heartedly agree with their implementation and both Sardu and I would agree it is a much better system than what we had previously. But when you also begin to tier skills while still tying them to your level doesn’t this only serve to prolong the inevitable?
By level 80 everyone will have all skills, so why prolong the agony along the way? With access to skill slots already tied to level, surely this was enough. The higher skill point cost on certain skills more than made up for this and was a wonderful system as it gave users flexibility.
If I wanted to obtain Elixir B, because it was cheap (1 Skill Point), I could. If I wanted to obtain Elixir Gun after saving my points (6 Skill Points), I could. Instead, I now have to wait even longer for weapons or skills that compliment my play style.
Perhaps there is an element of impatience here on my part, but I just feel that this is an unnecessary step backwards that provides an obstacle for the player, that doesn’t need to be there.
If anyone can provide me with a justifiable reason as to why progressive skill unlocks are a good thing, I will be more than willing to change my stance but I think even Sardu will struggle to justify this change.
Tiered Skill Unlocks – A Perfectly Sensible Switch
When I first heard that a tiered component to utility skill unlocks had been added to the game, I squinted at the system, unsure of what to think. Heading into BWE2 I continued squinting, but have come to a very simple conclusion.
This is a good and necessary thing for the game.
Everything relating to character progression is gated in some way in GW2, and for good reasons. This applies to weapon skills, utility slots, the elite slot, trait tiers, and even the upgrades you place on gear. Why shouldn’t this same concept be applied to utility skills then?
Here are some of the core benefits this system clearly provides:
1. Learning through progression
Players don’t start out with all utility slots unlocked. Requiring players to purchase 5 different tier 1 skills to use initially exposes them to a broader spectrum of skill types for their profession. For example, it is a massive learning tool to give players a chance to begin understanding the difference between things like wells, signets, or mantras, rather than throwing them in at the deep end before first teaching them how to swim.
From that basic understanding of various skill lines within a profession, you can then more wisely make decisions the further you progress. By the time you have your second utility slot unlocked you will also have enough skill points to progress past the first tier of skills. Again, this forms a very natural progression.
2. Balancing Creature Complexity
Since creatures also become progressively more complex the further you advance through the PvE game, it makes sense to have a system in place to insure that combat abilities between creature and player are somewhat relative.
Think of it this way. Nobody complains that they can’t roll into a dynamic event at level 2 and decimate everything in the area by popping their elite skill. So why should you have access to the most powerful utility skills straight out of the gates?
But if you allow players to use the most powerful options immediately, you necessarily have to balance creature strength to account for it. Then what happens to the players who don’t want to save points to unlock the most expensive things first? They’re suddenly forced to play the game in a way they didn’t choose to keep up with the average strength of creatures. Not fun, or cool.
3. Too much, too soon
When we did our Ten Ton Hammer staff roundtable immediately following the first BWE, Xeri himself noted:
“I had a number of people this weekend directly ask me for help, knowing that I’ve played it before. They said they found the game incredibly confusing, and these are people that have played MMOGs for years.
There have been some people complaining that the combat is too simple and button-mashy, but on the flipside you have people instantly hitting H, teleport to the Mists and complaining that it’s too complicated and that there are too many skills.
But ArenaNet’s system of going through and unlocking each weapon skill is all designed to gently expose you to those concepts and those skills.”
I consider this the heart of the matter, in a nutshell. Thanks for summing my argument up so nicely Xerin!
For the average player just getting into a game, you never want to present them with too many options, too quickly. It makes the game appear far more confusing and complex than it actually is, and creates a situation where a casual gamer suffers from deer-caught-in-headlights syndrome the first few times they play.
By having all utilities available from the word go, you’re forced to sit down and read every single tooltip to understand what they do, not knowing why one might be better than another. If you’re not a GW1 player, you probably have no idea what wells, sigils, or mantras are. And you certainly don’t know why one might be better than another.
What ArenaNet has done is implement a system that is still far better than visiting a skill trainer to learn one spell or skill every two levels, but retains a proper perspective on the learning curve for average players. Just because many of us spend countless hours obsessing over builds and skills between beta events, I guarantee that is not the case for the vast majority of gamers who will be playing GW2 at launch.
So for all of the reasons outlined above, the tiered utility skill unlock system is absolutely a worthy design decision. And just like the tiered traits, I suspect it will continue to be refined until it reaches a point where even Xerin will see its brilliance.
We've had our say, and now we'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter, and which of us should be declared the victor for the latest round of The Last Whiskey Bar. Do you believe Xerin makes a better argument against the tiered utility skill system, or side with Sardu in thinking this switch is good for the game? Let us know in the comments below!