The Scrying Pool: Group Challenges

In this week's Scrying Pool, we talk more about the PAX Panel and Challenging Group Content.


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.

Next weekend is PAX Prime. ArenaNet has announced they will be on the show floor during the weekend as well as host a panel on Saturday morning focused on challenging group content and the Future of GW2. In the last couple of weeks I have talked about the road to the panel as well as what the Future of GW2 portion could be, so this week I’ll dive into the challenging group content side.

In the official blog post announcing the panel, ArenaNet threw out a few big key words such as “intense challenges” and “endgame experience”. It goes on to say that ArenaNet’s Mike O’Brien and Colin Johanson will reveal all of the details behind what challenging group content is in Heart of Thorns.

It is weird that they say they will reveal all of the details, as I think that what all of the details mean to them and what it means to the community reading it are two different things. I am sure that we will get alot of the details, but there will still be many secrets left for players to discover upon the release of this challenging group content.

The biggest details that I am positive that we will receive are what form these challenges will take. A big part of the community is positive that this content will be GW2’s form of raids. There have been a lot of little clues leaning toward this, such as a job posting here and a blog post saying Fractals is endgame 5-man content hinting that challenging group content will not be for 5-man parties. I think that we will be getting raids, but I don’t think they will encompass the entirety of challenging group content in HoT.

Before we go into what I believe is the rest of challenging group content, let’s talk about raids just a bit more. There are a lot of different expectations when it comes from raids such as a challenge, larger team format and progression. The first of these is almost a given if it is being heralded as the challenging group content, so I will just go ahead and skip that assuming that it is already covered.

Next up is larger team format. Currently for group content you are stuck with a team of five or less, whether that content be dungeons, fractals or personal and living world instances. I think that these raids will allow for teams larger than five players, something that I had been hoping for since I talked about my dungeon path redesign to include a 10-man path in a Scrying Pool almost two years ago.

While back then I had talked about a 10-man dungeon, what I’m expecting these raids to include is slightly off from that with raids encompassing parties of either 8 or 12 players. Something that I have thought about combat in GW2 for a long time is that once you start getting more than five players in an area the combat starts to fall apart a bit. Instead of a challenge of positioning and using the right skills, combat breaks down into a blob of bodies and skill effects with little control other than running head first into the nearest wall or cluster of enemies.

With that in mind I think the design behind raids is going to rely heavily on splitting up parties to tackle—or juggle—different objectives on the map. If raids have 10 players and a split is needed you could end up with two parties of five, which wouldn’t be that interesting as five is the default size for parties. With 8 or 12, this split results in 4 or 6 members in each party respectively. This puts a bit of a spin as you end up with a non-normal party size, and if you do decide to go with one of the split parties having the default five members then you end up with an even odder party of 3 or 7 members. Out of these two, I think 12 is the more likely as it is a bigger number and therefore more impressive to many MMO players, but more so that it is a throwback to GW1 with its elite areas hosting a team of 12.

Aside from the number of members that can enter a raid together, the only other details I am expecting are some of the logistics. How many raids will there be? How long will a raid take to complete? How many bosses are in a single raid and will you need to defeat all of them for a success? Also, what kind of rewards will raids offer for players who complete them?

Outside of the numbers, I think the only additional details we will get are on a few of the rewards and maybe a boss. Something along the lines of teasing us with an image or trailer of the what a raid’s environment and boss looks like and some of the abilities that the players will see with that boss. After that I think everything will be kept secret for players to discover with its release. I mentioned in an earlier Scrying Pool that I didn’t think the BWEs would ever host much of the content of the expansion and raids fall into that category of we won’t see them until launch.

The other thing I think we will get some more information on is some of the rewards. Recently ArenaNet has announced the introduction of legendary backpieces that players will be able to earn from high levels of play from Fractals of the Mist and the new PvP Leagues system. During the panel I expect ArenaNet will announce that there will be a third legendary backpiece available to players only through the completion of this raid-like content.

But will it only be raids? -->

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