This evening Chris Whiteside, studio design director at ArenaNet took to reddit in order to let community members ask him anything about the game. It turns out community members mostly want to ask about Ascended gear and why ArenaNet is trying to ruin the game. As someone who has written about ascended gear and its effect on the game, some of his answers were reassuring.
In response to a question about if the community response to a new rarity was expected, Chris had a very direct acceptance of the issues:
“Yes the response was definitively expected. We did not intent [sic] for the information to come out this way...And for this i take responsibility and apologies. However the future of [vertical progression] and the design challenges it throws up are going to lead to a pioneering world and one that we are very excited about.”
He continues in another response regarding vertical progression:
“First of all in retrospect it would have been better to have included Ascended Gear at launch. It is designed to give users a progression path that is between Exotic and Legendary (Legendary Items will be at the same power level as Ascended) and the gap between them in terms of time is very large.
So to the question of vertical progression. So as we know there is already vertical progression in the game and we do intend to keep moving forward with this philosophy. However we have no intention of adding a new Rarity of Gear such as Ascended. Instead and as we evolve the game existing Rarity's will evolve over time. However these will not be common occurrences, for example full Ascended gear will be introduced over a long period of time and will be earn able through lots of different parts/activities of the game. We had intended for example for the first release of acsended [sic] items come from other parts of the game but sadly it did not work out this way. Moving forward this is how it will work however.”
This open admission that the roll out of Ascended was both mishandled from a communication standpoint, and also mishandled from an in game acquisition standpoint has comforted me some. It makes me feel like we are currently playing a half baked build of the game. One in which Ascended Gear exists but in a broken, incomplete way. Why they chose to roll it out when they did, and as unfinished as they did, is another question and one I haven’t (yet) seen an answer for in this AMA.
He covers, briefly, some other topics as well, but it appears the bulk of current community focus in on the new rarity tier in the game. I think ArenaNet did right by trying to get in front of this issue and speak directly and plainly, albeit a week late. I think it’s clear from these answers ascended gear was not ready when it launched however. Time will tell if the live team can learn to live up to the “when it’s ready” mantra like the pre-launch team worked so hard to achieve.
The rest of the AMA can be found here: I’m the Studio Design Director on Guild Wars 2, AMA (Update: including this very nice response from Mike O'Brien who jumped into the line of fire regarding the manifesto)