Q: "Here’s what we believe: If someone wants to play for a thousand hours to get an item that is so rare that other players can’t realistically acquire it, that rare item should be differentiated by its visual appearance and rarity alone, not by being more powerful than everything else in the game. Otherwise, your MMO becomes all about grinding to get the best gear. We don’t make grindy games — we leave the grind to other MMOs."
That was the quote that sold a lot of people on Guild Wars 2. For years we waited for a game that would give us horizontal progression, not vertical progression. We were told that you were building the game around that.
Then, only a few short months after release, a new higher-stat gear grind was added. Why? Why cater to a sub-section of your playerbase who are cannot stop being, for lack of a better term, WoW-minded when it comes to progression? Why go back on your word to a loyal playerbase that supported you guys for so long?
Also, you stated there was a gap between Legendary and Exotic progression. There was no stat gap, so I can only assume you meant a time gap. But there was a filler -- unique Exotics that were harder to get than the normal, base ones. Please clarify what you meant by that gap.
A: Thanks for taking the time to post your questions. Mike O will respond to the top question and I will respond to the bottom section.
Ascended Gear is designed to fill the 'Time' gap in regard to the distance between exotic and Legendary in terms of progression and in retrospect would have been better to have been rolled out pre launch.
I would also like add that we have never said there would be no vertical progression. We do intent to focus on horizontal but we will have vertical progression moving forward with the focus on zero grind and a very low power curve.
Please understand that we see the community as a 'whole' and therefore are not intending to design again for one specific type of player over another. This is a misconception and one that is not promoted by the team. We will continue to develop the game for the community as a whole offering game play that caters to lots of different types of players in a unified approach that will evolve over time based on feedback and the direction the team as a whole wants to take.
Edit: Mike O's response is below.
(Mike O Brian) A: Hi! I'll respond to the top part since it's a quote from me.
Obviously the key phrase I'm going to point you to in that quote is, "if someone wants to play for a thousand hours to get an item that is so rare that other players can't realistically acquire it". That really is the litmus test we've used. That's why, at ship, we gave better stats to exotic gear and didn't give better stats to legendary gear.
More generally, I hope we've been clear that GW2 is not a game with virtually no stat progression in it like GW1 was. That's why GW2 shipped with a higher level cap, and with a hard separation between PvE and PvP. In GW1 we never advanced the level cap through four campaigns/expansions. The game design didn't allow for it. But GW2 was designed without those restrictions, and we've always expected that we will someday raise the level cap in GW2.
That's why we've always said that GW2 rewards players through both progression and collection, whereas GW1 primarily rewarded through collection. Presumably players aren't shocked that GW2 rewards through progression, since it has a level 80 cap.
I wonder if the core sentiment is more this: It's only been two-and-a-half months! We don't even all have exotics yet, and already you're introducing another tier. Is this the start of a power progression curve that I'll never be able to keep up with?
I certainly appreciate that worry. I myself don't want a constant struggle, as exists in some other games, to keep my equipment viable.
Then we're left with a balancing act. Some progression is ok, but pushing players onto gear treadmill isn't ok and isn't what the game is about.
So I would ask you to judge us by details, and not by making slippery-slope arguments. We introduced a ton of new content in November, and the sum total of new progression rewards we added to go with it provided a 5-10% stat increase in 2 of 12 slots. I hope you'll agree that that kind of very shallow and gradual progression does not force people onto a gear treadmill.
I think it's important for GW2 to be able to have this kind of gradual progression. Of course we made some mistakes with the way we introduced ascended gear. (See ChrisW's answers for details.) But those are addressable issues. I don't think they invalidate the fundamental concept that GW2 can have gradual stat progression without being a gear treadmill game.