Guild Wars 2 players upset at the apparent arrival of an end-game armour grind

Has ArenaNet contradicted itself?

Guild Wars 2 maker ArenaNet has been criticised by players for having what looks like double-standards.

The debate revolves around the new Ascended tier of armour being added this month to the MMO. In ArenaNet's own words, "This new rarity type falls between Exotic and Legendary on the spectrum of rarity and has slightly higher stats than Exotics." The crucial part of that sentence being "slightly higher stats"; we were assured there wouldn't be statistical differences between armour sets at level 80, only cosmetic alterations.

Some players now find themselves in the frustrating position of having spent lots of real-world money, or lots of game time, amassing suits of armour they believed would be future-proof, only to discover now that they won't be: they'll be statistically weaker.

"Eventually, you'll be able to kit yourself out with a full set of Ascended gear and high-end Infusions to help give you the edge in end-game content," wrote items designer Linsey Murdock (more on Infusions later).

ArenaNet's explanation for Ascended gear boiled down to 'hardcore players have run out of ways to progress' - the sort of reasoning we've heard elsewhere before.

"We don't want to overlook the basic need for players to feel like they are progressing and growing even after hitting max level."

ArenaNet's Linsey Murdock

"As we watch Guild Wars 2 mature in its Live environment, we have found that our most dedicated players were achieving their set of Exotic gear and hitting 'the Legendary wall'. We designed the process of getting Legendary gear to be a long term goal, but players were ready to start on that path much sooner than we expected and were becoming frustrated with a lack of personal progression. Our desire is to create a game that is more inclusive for hardcore and casual players alike, but we don't want to overlook the basic need for players to feel like they are progressing and growing even after hitting max level.

"Adding item progression is a delicate process normally undertaken in an expansion, but we feel it's important to strive to satisfy the basic needs of our players sooner rather than later.

"We have always worked hard to create a sense of satisfying progression rather than gear grind and this new item progression initiative is no exception. By adding challenging new combat mechanics to end-game content and ways to mitigate those mechanics through gear progression for high-end players, we can add personal progression without making the game feel like an endless treadmill of gear that is just out of your reach."

That end-game mechanic is Agony, a condition you'll come across in the new Fractals of the Mists dungeon that damages increasingly more health over time the further you get. Unless, that is, you mitigate Agony with Infusions. Infusions are a type of upgrade component in the Ascended gear. Exactly what statistics they bestow beyond mitigating Agony damage isn't known; the blog mentioned offensive and defensive and "omni" Infusions.

(Incidentally, Legendary weapons will be boosted to be on a par with Ascended weapons, according to Murdock, leaving Exotic weapons slightly behind.)

The community furore surrounding Ascended items prompted ArenaNet's studio design director Chris White to issue a statement.

"We will not be adding a new tier of gear every three months that we expect everyone to chase after and then get the next set and so on."

ArenaNet's Chris White

"Our goal is not to create a gear treadmill," he stressed. "Our goal is to ensure we have a proper progression for players from Exotic up to Legendary without a massive jump in reward between the two.

"We will slowly add the remaining Ascended gear items and Legendary items in future updates to allow people time to acquire them as we add exciting new content that deserves exciting rewards.

"We will not be adding a new tier of gear every three months that we expect everyone to chase after and then get the next set and so on."

Importantly, Ascended items won't count in PVP, where characters are automatically set at level 80 and equipped.

"PVP will remain unaffected to ensure our intended PVP balance going forward," stressed White. "We are also working on other reward and progression systems for the game that tie into current and new content and features."

The November changes to Guild Wars 2 are headlined by the once-in-a-lifetime Lost Shores event this weekend. Various objectives will unfold over the weekend, offering all sorts of unique loot, culminating in a huge battle against the powerful Ancient Karka crab alien ugly things.

Also coming this month is the above mentioned Fractals of the Mists dungeon; a new beta PVP map called Temple of the Silent Storm that's set on a kodan iceberg; Ascended gear and Infusions; and new Lost Shore items at the Black Lion Trading company.

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