Check out my Gear! /flex
Tonight I focus on Gear in Guild Wars 2. The way I see it, there’s two real topics on this. First, how should the gear system work? As in, should the game follow the standard MMO method in which ultimately the character’s power is very deeply influenced by his gear, or should it follow it’s predecessor’s method of making gear a secondary thing? Second, what methods should there be to obtain gear and how should it be distributed across the different methods.
I believe this is another one of those community splitting topics. On one side you have the guys defending the “traditional” gear system, where you keep obtaining better and better gear as you progress in the game which allows you to deal more damage, heal better, tank better etc., which in turn makes possible trying to clear harder content for newer and better equipment, and from the top again. On the opposite side there’s the guys argumenting that gear should not be a stamp to a player’s skill. They believe gear plays a secondary role in an MMO (or should play) and that a player’s power should come from his skill and not his gear (think Guild Wars 1 on this). The way I see it, there is no really universal truth, no right or wrong side on this matter. It’s a matter of opinion.
On one hand I think gearing up is always an incentive, somehow, to keep playing as it feels like the game is rewarding me for the time I invested in it and in my character. It felt awesome when I got upgrades for my Tauren Warrior back in the day. Besides, it’s something that makes sense, as your character progresses and develops, he/she will want better equipment to reflect his/her higher level of knowledge and power. Gear also serves as a way to further customize your character, allowing you to make options that further differentiate your character from those of the same class.
On the other hand it’s also true that gear tends to become a very proeminent indicator of a character’s power, sometimes the only one. This is a bad thing. We all know one’s gear isn’t always a viable indicator of one’s power. We have all had that dude in one of our groups that had those amazing pieces of equipment but was actually pulling your group back. There’s another problem. Above I said gear also served as further customization. But in fact, quite often do you see people (yourself included maybe?) become more and more alike the other players of the same class, as gear choices tend to funnel down as you move towards higher difficulty content.
Trying to come up with an objective answer as to what is the better system is, in my perspective, impossible. It’s time to take on the second issue regarding gear and equipment.
Where should it come from? For a lot of people, gear comes from loot. Period. These are the dudes that you see running the same dungeon(s) time and time again to get upgrades or the more-than-casual raiders. I remember back in 2006 WoW was like this. There were a few equipment-crafting professions but they would almost always be overshadowed by loot, for two main reasons. For one, the “upgrades” they provided would get outdated pretty soon; second, crafting high level gear required a lot of investment, be it gold or time (most often both). Creating professions that require high amounts of grinding to get compensations that would in fact become obsolete rather soon, is a big mistake if you ask me. “Recently” in WoW (anything higher than 1.12 is recent to me, pardon my ignorance) a “new” way to get gear was introduced, trading gear for points. These points would be acquired in certain dungeons and/or raids and would be tradable for certain pieces of equipment in specialized merchants. I always felt sad whenever I would read about this. To me it’s very un-MMO-y. I feel it kind of tells players “Hey there’s this dragon over there, go kill it so you can get awesome stuff from this Merchant right here!!”. Know what I mean? The dragon is now somewhat secondary. I know they still kept loot on the bosses themselves and you needed a Token for the vendor gear, something that had already been used in a way when the original Naxxramas (patch 1.11) was introduced. But still…
As far as I’m concerned, Guild Wars 2 should follow a hybrid between the two gear systems (standard MMO vs GW1-style). I feel none of the systems is really better than the other, so a mixture of both seems ideal. Keeping gear’s rewarding nature without allowing stats to feel a mandatory thing to min-max in your character. From what I’ve seen of GW2, I think the developers followed this idea. I enjoyed the rare upgrades I found along my path, but never did I really really notice a deep impact equipment X had on my gameplay. Plus, the trait system seems to have higher impact on my stats than gear. So we get the best of both worlds! Of course you could argue I’ve only seen a very very small amount of game and equipment. True, but I have faith!
Regarding the source of gear, I’ve always loved Crafting. To me it’s sad that some crafting professions are abandoned or simply not picked because they don’t really offer anything interesting. I didn’t get a chance to give GW2′s crafting system a decent look, but I plan to in the future. I’ve read and heard good things about it, so let’s see how it ends up. The ideal way of delivering equipment to players, in my honest opinion, should be a mix between Loot and Crafting. “But wait, you said you “loved” Crafting?”. Yes I love the idea of players being able to craft at least some of their gear and give them the possibility of trading with other crafters for pieces they cannot create. But not everyone wants to dedicate time to crafting. I’m actually a bit like this. Maybe it’s because I’m used to a grindy crafting system, but sometimes I don’t really want to spend time gathering materials to craft a piece of equipment, even if it is a solid and lasting upgrade. Besides, loot is always a good thing if you’ve just killed a boss. There are (a lot of) people that get enough rewards in knowing they overcame the challenge, maybe they even did it with friends which boosts the reward feeling they get from beating it. But not everyone thinks the same way, and loot is somehow a “one size fits all” reward, everyone likes new stuff.