This week the Scrying Pool speculates about the road to Heart of Thorn's launch.
The Scrying Pool is a Guild Wars 2 column where I simply ask what if? Nothing is off the table as I dive into possible features and future content, looking at what currently exists in Guild Wars 2 before I answer my own what if question with how I think the feature and content could be implemented.
This week I’m going to talk about Heart of Thorn’s launch, specifically the time leading up to it. I feel like we are entering the polish phase. We have seen that the World vs World Desert Borderlands map and the PvP Stronghold map are basically done with just some minor touches needed to make them truly great. This weekend we are getting our hands on the full core Revenant and the first four revealed Elite Specializations. I think that each of these are in their final iteration, with only minor changes coming based on player feedback.
When I talked to ArenaNet for the Guild Halls interview prior to the E3 announcement, I got the impression that guild halls were also done for the most part and had entered polish mode. Since then, I have also heard rumors that the open world maps are all but complete with the environment art.
This leaves us with what’s left that we need to know. Barring any unknowns, the only big reveals to come are the five remaining elite specializations and the reveal of whatever Challenging Group Content is.
The most recent elite specialization that was revealed was the Tempest, which unlike the previous reveals came sans teaser trailer. That left Tempest week with just the concept art teaser, the full reveal and the Points of Interest livestream at the end of the week to show it off. This leaves some nice room to speed things up, as a week could fit two elite specialization reveals in a single week with concept A, reveal A, concept B, reveal B and the livestream filling up the week. Will this happen? Probably not, but it is one of the things I think about whenever someone asks when I think the expansion will be released.
Earlier this week during a gamescom livestream, ArenaNet confirmed that they are committed to release HoT this year. It surprised me how many saw this as shocking news. There isn’t too much more to be revealed, just the five elite specializations, challenging group content and a few minor things.
The Beta Weekend Events do not hold too much sway over the release either. Colin said in a blog post that what we see this in this weekend’s beta event will be the majority of the content that we see before launch. This didn’t surprise me at all with the reveal earlier this year of the open world being heavily tied to the events of the personal story that takes place through each area of a map. Getting to see the other maps could potentially be very spoilery of what the expansion story will be. Also, the original GW2 beta events also only showed a fraction of the maps that were available at launch.
This is also similar to other features that we don’t currently see in the BWE. Guild Halls are rumored to have some kind of story connection. This combined with guild halls being mostly a progression system make them hard to be featured in a BWE and will likely be kept somewhat secretive until players experience them at launch. Similarly is the method by which the Elite Specializations are unlocked in the open world. There has been a lot of speculation in the community with Marjory and her sister’s greatsword as well as Braham possibly taking up Eir’s longbow that I think there might be some more story tied into the unlocking of these elite specializations.
To be super optimistic, I think we could see HoT by mid-September. Doing multiple elite specialization reveal in a week could have the remaining specs revealed and ready for another BWE the last weekend of August during PAX Prime, with ArenaNet announcing both the release date and challenging group content during a panel at PAX. This gives the time post-PAX for implementing feedback from the community on the second BWE as well as some of the more minor announcements such as the reveal of the new legendary weapons.
If you put two and two together, I said mid-September release with the release date announcement the last weekend of August. The original GW2 release date announcement came only two months before the launch of the game and I don’t think that HoT will have even that long of a gap. I think it will be no more than a month gap, potentially being closer to only two weeks before the launch. Many people take ArenaNet’s “When It’s Ready” to only be a bad omen of them holding back, but it also leads to the release being closer than we might think. The last elite specialization reveal I think will herald the launch of the game with a very short break between.
There is one last thing revolving around release that I want to speculate about. What if the Challenging Group Content isn’t released with the rest of the expansion, but instead delayed to two weeks post-release?
There is a few reasons I think that Challenging Group Content would be best delayed a couple of weeks. When mushrooms were mentioned, there was this idea that you would need different mushrooms such as health regenerating and cooldown reducing in order to be able to defeat some encounters. If the little bit of what we have seen of the first map is anything to go by, the mushrooms don’t seem all that needed or useful in the open world. I could however, see that they become very needed in whatever challenging group content is. Having this content delayed by a couple of weeks gives time for players to get these masteries learned so that players are ready for when this challenging content comes out.
Doing this gives Challenging Group Content the spotlight. We will get a little bit of focus on it before launch when ArenaNet reveals what Challenging Group Content is, but if it releases with launch, it would get drowned in the noise with all of the content and story that is coming across the entirety of the game. If this content gets pushed back to two weeks after launch, it will be the major thing that players will be talking about at the time of its release, giving it the spotlight that I think it deserves.
This would make the release fall a little more in line with other MMOs that time gate their raid content for shortly after the release of the expansion. More importantly for Guild Wars 2, it gives an amazing platform to jump back into the two week cadence. Post release is an awkward time as you wouldn’t want too much new content coming out as much of the player base is still experiencing the expansions story and content, This time gated challenging group content can serve as a buffer, filling in this awkward gap before other content and holidays come out in game.
Matt "Mattsta" Adams is ready for the first Beta Weekend Event!
I am excited to get some play time on the Reaper this weekend. Everything about the Necromancer's Elite Spec had me really excited. I will also check out a little bit of the other elite specs as well as the changes to Revenant over the weekend, but the Reaper is definitely what I will play first. Also interested to see what the map rewards looks and plays like.
If you have a question for me or a topic you would like to see talked about here, leave a comment below. You can also tweet your question and topics to me on twitter @MattstaNinja. Also, check out my site Mattsta.Ninja that focuses on guides and more for Guild Wars 2.