Guild Wars 2 – It’s all about the hacks

Rant – It’s still all about some hack or other


I played GW1 for 2 years. All my 9 toons [of all classes] have done Ring of Fire. So I’m not saying that I’m the coolest player, but I have some chops.

So here’s my Rant.

With Arenanet, it’s not about careful design, it’s all about the hack.
They may think they are doing careful design. But by hiding that design and making it non-obvious, it’s really all about the hack that we eventually discover and document.

BTW: By hack I do not mean any exploit of the game. I mean an obscure play style, or path that allows you to solve a game problem. A solution that is totally legal and in keeping with the terms of service of the game, but is so obscure that you are not likely to find it without help.

Here are some examples.

Skip to the end at “GW2 RANT Continues” if you don’t care about GW1.

I don’t really want to get in a pissing match about who’s hack is better. That’s not the point. The point is that hacks are the game with Arenanet games. The hacks I found are probably kindergarten compared with better ones out there. But these are examples of the hacks that I needed to discover to progress in the Guild Wars Games.

Crystal Desert

Everybody is a Mesmer
Everybody is a Mesmer

In GW1, years ago now, I quickly got my toon leveling and then went to Crystal Desert and BOOM. The Tyranosaurs took me out [I forget what they are really called, and I didn’t go back and check.]. Nothing I could do to get by them. Until I gave up, leveled up to 20 without that, did Eye of the North. Got Gwen and went back and kicked butt. Because the HACK was Mesmer interrupts – which the mercs in town didn’t know how to do. If you don’t have heroes yet, you use the mercenaries in town – robot characters to party with. Nice idea – except they are dumb. They don’t work to progress in the game. You need hacks.

What I found was that the Mesmer skills were so powerful that I made my Assassin and some other classes as secondary Mesmer’s and played the Mesmer skills.

Here’s another example of a Hack. To beat the last quest of Cantha, most folks hire a runner. The runner is an Elementalist / Mesmer who uses a straight forward method to beat the boss. So the complicated skills of the classes and the boss were open to a hack that allows an easy win. Most folks just pay 1G to a runner who sits around waiting for folks to show up to run them through this one. By making the end battles too hard and complicated, Arenanet just opened it all up to hacking.


Pain Inverter

To level in GW1, I learned to do Eye of the North first. Completely. And then come back for everything else. The keys to this was to get Heros that you could control and gear, and to get Pain Inverter. That was a long and difficult chain, but Pain Inverter was the hack that beat all other hacks. No boss was too big. The bigger they are the harder they fall with Pain Inverter. There is a quest in Nightfall where you fight you way into a dam and find an Earth Elemental Dragon at the back in the water. He does wicked damage, but with Pain Inverter, you get you and all your heroes fairly close, cast Pain Inverter on him and the more damage he does to you and your heroes, the quicker he dies. Hack.

Discord Team

Discord Merc
Discord Merc

But that wasn’t the biggest hack. The next big hack was to figure out DISCORD teams. So you went all over the place looking for the 3 necro heroes and built an unstoppable DISCORD team. For those who don’t know DISCORD is a Necromancer skill that ignores armor and someone figured out how to build a team with heroes that had both Necro and Ritualism skills that both healed and did damage. You were pretty much unstoppable for everything with Pain Inverter on your main and a DISCORD team.


But next the great thing happened with Mercs. Mercs are an add on that allows your other characters to fight as heroes along side you in your battles. All you have to do is buy Mercs and then visits a Merc warden, or whatever he was called, and sign up. Then you have a hero that you can change in many way, except for primary class. To get any class Merc you want, you could HACK the Merc system by rolling a PVP char, Merc-ing it, and then deleting it. When you delete the original character, you get to keep the Merc. And rolling a PVP char is an instant level 20 [max] character. Rinse / Repeat. Yet another Hack. So then you could build a whole team of Necros and not chase all over the place to get the three expansion pack necro heroes. Now you could have as many DISCORD heroes as you want – up to 8 in a team including you.

Beyond Eye of the North

But then they put in content after Eye of the North. This added a series of quests in all the major cities. One section was called War In Kryta I think. But it caused you to die when you went North out of Lion’s Arch or outside one of the towns in Cantha – I forget. But as you adventured into any of these places after you finished Eye of the North, suddenly you were trounced on by a pile of level 24 mobs. That was particularly nasty since when you left Lion’s Arch, you were only allowed a party of 4. What fun is that? sigh…
That’s when I gave up on GW. I wasn’t up for learning yet another hack to advance in the game.

Wow Does Not Require Hacks

So then I went to Wow – World of Warcraft. What a difference. No Hacks required.
Sure there is lots of learning. But no hacks are required. Just straightforward learning of the skills and so forth.

There were some frustrations. Some of the classes were not well balanced for quite a while. I joined in 2010 and even then they were tweaking the classes. Long before Pandaria there was a major update that changed the way Mana worked for basically every class. For example, in trying to level a priest I hit a wall at about level 25. After the update, no problem. Before the update, if you got jumped by two mobs you died because you ran out of Mana to fight / heal until they died. After the update you didn’t die since the skills used much less Mana and you re-genned it faster. Anyway, if you played Wow during that period you know what I’m talking about.

Over a year and a half, I leveled about a dozen toons to level 85, maxed out crafting of all styles to pre-Pandaria levels, and took a couple of toons into Pandaria. At that point I got bored. Blizzard made Pandaria a real grinder, IMHO. But that’s another rant that doesn’t belong here.

The point is that Wow doesn’t rely on HACKs to get ahead in the game.


Not Shabby Guardian
Not Shabby Guardian

So now to my RANT about GW2, now that we have some background. I have 5 toons, in all classes- or almost all classes. I played shortly after GW2 came online, got bored and went off to do other things. I’ve been back for a few weeks now and it seems better than it was.

So what I like:

  • No backtracking, no holy trinity, level adjusting, yada yada yada. I’m all fine with this stuff. It’s great. I don’t want to go back.

But, the hacks are still there. Here’s the RANT items that I’ve come across.

Arenanet cannot design games in a straightforward way. They must build in Puzzles. I don’t mean Jumping Puzzles. Those are great. Non-obvious hacks that allow you to progress in the game. And they bust your chops if you don’t know the hacks.

  • Area design is messed up as you transition from one area to the next. For example, if you level up in Metrica Province to say level 16, and leave to the North into the 15-25 area, you are jumped by stuff at level 17 and you can’t make any progress. So back to Metrica and level to say 20 and come back. Why does it say 15-25 if you need to be 20 to go there?
  • The Fire Elemental boss in the Thaumanonva Reactor is Ridiculous for a level 16 area. The fire elemental is designed to do what exactly? Make everyone humble? Ok. It’s clear that we can design a game where the bosses are ridiculously strong. And in spite of the fact that we are all leveled down to 16-17 to work it, it can easily kill everyone. That’s easy. So, there must be a hack to kill it. That is non-obvious. I think the hack is that the down-leveling scheme for high level characters is not well designed. So that level 60-80 toons that come back here are the ones that can do damage to the boss. So the boss is a HACK that gets around the bad down-leveling scheme? OR vice versa.
  • Which brings me to the next HACK that I haven’t discovered yet. How do Guardians do ranged damage? Surely not an oversight. There is probably a hack. I got clobbered by the elemental – as a level 18 Charr Guardian leveled down to 16 [I think. I didn’t check the video]. Of course I died. You can’t melee against that sucker. So I went off to discover what weapon I could use – I like the weapon skill design of GW2 – got a staff and learned it’s skills on some bees or something. But the staff is really not a ranged weapon at all. As far as I could tell it’s a nerfed healing device. The primary skill is a short range burst AoE burst. So as a guardian, what’s the hack to contribute to that boss battle? I’ve read enough that healing your comrades does not get you credit in the fight, just as killing minions does not get you credit. I’m sure there is some non-obvious hack. I’ll have to use google to find it I guess.

I could go on. You get the idea.

No matter how much time passes, Arenanet thinks these games are all about the hacks. The puzzles in all areas of the game that you must solve to progress in the game. I’m talking about the non-obvious and invisible hacks that you need to discover.

Well, Earth [or Google] to Arenanet. That’s a silly strategy. ‘Cause once one person finds it and posts it, then we all know the hack. Why not save yourself the trouble and just make the game relatively straight forward.

  • make reaching the vista’s hard but relatively easy to find the path. If you try to make a puzzle out of it, folks just post the YouTube video of the solution to the puzzle and the hack is blown. What? You don’t all use YouTube to find the Vistas? They are all there. Even the paths through the sewers in Lion’s Arch. – Hack blown.
  • make the down-leveling straightforward, or if not, then at least make it work fairly. There is some hack going on that allows high level players to still be higher level when they down-level in an area. I’m 18 – with several masterwork items I’ve picked up along the way – playing at 11 or whatever, and the 50 or 60 playing at 11 is much stronger. What’s going on. Some hack. Something that isn’t done right or fairly. Probably not completely nerfing the traits back to level 11 is my guess. So the traits and other buffs keep working for the high level player even at level 11. And of course I don’t have all those traits since I’m only level 18. To make it fair, you have to nerf the high level traits, not just reduce them. Since low level players don’t have them, and therefore the area and mobs were designed to not require them, then the high level players have an advantage if they have the traits at all. Right. Simple math.
  • It’s seems like a fairly straightforward design to say that all classes need both Range and Melee damage and to allow the guardian to have a bow, or to make the staff skills work at range. How did we miss that? Or where is the hack that allows me to do damage to the fire elemental and get some credit. What’s the sense of putting a wickedly powerful boss in a low level area if the low level chars in that area have no prayer prevailing against the boss? So this Ancient Fire Elemental is actually End Game Content for the level 80’s to find when they come slumming back to the level 1-15 area? No Damn Fun for us up and coming folks, I can say. [Update: And the Hack is: Use a Scepter. It’s nerfed too, but at least it can reach the boss so you can get credit. Once per day per account.]
  • Oh. And last rant. When you die during that champion [aka boss] battle and you go back and try again. You can’t get credit at all now, because it’s a daily or something [non-obvious and hidden. But I’m sure I can look it up on Google.] and no matter what you do you can’t credit twice the same day, even if you got no credit the first time. You folks have had quite a lot of time to make things fair. So, either you have a strange idea of fairness or there is some HACK that makes that statement not true. Wow has dungeons too that drop nice loot. But I can cycle them like 10 times a day- there is a limit, but it’s not ONE. So if I want to solo a dungeon – which is an unthinkable concept in GW2 due to downleveling – at least I can do it a few times a day to learn about it. [Update: I got reasonable credit using a scepter. As level 18, I got 647 exp, plus reasonable stuff. ]So I guess it’s ok.

I don’t mind complex. I love it. But a game full of hacks and workarounds is not good design, it’s just hacks.

– ww