Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. Earlier this week, Age talked about the disappointment and concern with the latest announcement that new Legendary Weapons were being “cancelled indefinitely”. I agree with most of what Age said, so for the Scrying Pool I’m going to focus on what I believe is the core reason for this shift: precursor crafting.
Precursor crafting has been “on the table” for a very long time. The idea of getting lucky—either through the forge or getting a precursor as a drop—or spending hundreds of gold to buy a precursor was always a large deterrent to crafting a legendary. It just isn’t fun to constantly wish upon a star or throw your life savings into something that is only a piece of your true end goal.
This is where precursor crafting came in. Instead of being an all or nothing goal, precursor crafting was going to give players a more measured approach to getting that singular, yearned for piece of the legendary puzzle. Instead of going all in to buy a weapon, the idea was to slowly save toward it.
This is where collections were going to see their grand triumph. The parts of the collection might end up adding up to the same cost that buying a precursor originally entailed, but the journey, the slow completion of a collection would divide that cost into more manageable pieces.
In place of this simple goal, we ended up getting a much more bloated system. Now instead of a singular precursor, every legendary weapon has three different levels of precursors. While the idea is interesting—letting players craft a broken prototype of a weapon that slowly builds in grandeur until the final legendary is built—we end up with a bunch of weapons that most people will never use. How often will you want to roam around with a gnarled looking staff once you have the Nevermore staff to wield in its place?
While having two additional skins creates some bloat and more development time for the artists to create the skins, I don’t think that it is the art side of precursor crafting that is the real problem. The larger problem is the implementation of more steps and collections than were needed.
It is kindof cool to make the legendary journeys unique. Each weapon gives a little bit of story and place within the world of Tyria. The benefit of these unique stories however, does not match up with the development effort to implement them vs how many players will see these journeys. A long time ago I talked about how cool it would be to get new skins for existing Ranger pets. One of the largest negatives about the idea was that it would reach very few players as the only ones that would be interested in these new pet skins were players that actively played a Ranger. While the potential playerbase for these new precursor journeys is not limited by race or class, I feel the percentage of the playerbase that would pursue them would be smaller even than those interested in pet skins.
Even if there are a lot of players who go after legendaries, the likeliness of them going after a second or third is incredibly low which is a problem when ArenaNet spends the development time making every legendary journey unique. If there are players that go after every single legendary, it then doesn’t mean that those journeys are going to be memorable enough to bother making them all unique.
A number of weeks ago I had started working toward H.O.P.E. and successfully finished the first collection and crafted its subsequent precursor. They only thing I remember is that I needed bolts of damask to filter some honey. I don’t remember anything of the journey so far and it isn’t something that is repeatable. There is no going back and “reliving” that part of the world. After it is completed it is essentially removed from both the game and my memory.
Which all ties into the ultimate problem of precursor crafting. It is stupid to make content that very few players will see, fewer will remember, even fewer would share and rewarded with “broken” versions of weapons that most players won’t care about.
The problem of these legendary journeys extends beyond just the development vs. benefit issue. These journeys are also tying the world down in various ways. There are now events, mobs and random interactable objects that must stay in the world for the rest of the game’s lifespan. Want to blow up a city or have a corner of a map come overrun with dragon minion’s? First you need to go through and make sure that removing the existing content won’t interfere with any of the 24 precursor journeys that will be in the game once the new short bow comes out in the April Quarterly.
That isn’t to mention the bugs that we are seeing all over the place in terms of the legendary journey. Remember the Shatterer remake? ArenaNet went and remade an entire world boss because the fight caused a single issue with just one of the precursor journey requirements. Multiply that development time by the number of bugs across the number of precursors and a large issue becomes clear.
Precursor collections should have simply been the 2nd tier of each legendary. Talk to any master crafter related to the weapon to learn how to grow as a craftsman. Now blowing up a city doesn’t matter as there are 5 other cities with those master craftsman plus the handful littered around the open world. There isn’t worry about random event X being broken that then causes players to not be able to make a certain legendary.
The second collection by itself fulfills what precursor crafting was set to do. It gives a way to slowly progress through smaller pockets of progress. The second collection is very easy to copy paste across all of the weapons making development time on it short and simple. Then because the formula is the same across all the weapons, players can help players understand what needs to be done even if they haven’t worked on that specific precursor.
This solution comes from a good friend—a Mr. Clouded Chimera—who brought this up as I was talking about how the legendary journey should be. He brought up the solution of simplifying the journeys into a single repeatable journey for every legendary.
One of the problems of the current system is that most players won’t experience most of the journeys. Even if a player went and made 6 legendaries, they are only seeing a quarter of the journeys that ArenaNet developed. With a single journey for all the legendaries, players only need to go after a single legendary to see everything.
I would even go farther as to make a different journey for each core set. The original 20 legendaries would have the Core Legendary Journey as the source for their precursor. Complete the story and at the end you would get a chest that lets you select one of the core precursors. The new HoT Legendary weapons would have the HoT Legendary Journey. Finish this story and likewise get a chest that lets you select one of the HoT precursors. Ready to release the next HoT Legendary? Just put its precursor in the chest.
Focusing on a single journey could also allow more development to be put on making it more memorable. While it removes the uniqueness of lore bits for each weapon, ArenaNet could potentially build this into a small personal story complete with instances and cutscenes. A small part of the current journey and its lack of memorability, is that the journey in no way feels Legendary. This solution would put more development into a single journey that could feel way more epic.
The first solution is definitely the easiest, as all of the pieces are essentially in game to set up the simplified journey. I do however like the second solution which keeps the idea of a journey intact. While the second would take much more development time to get implemented, once the current two journeys were completed it would become more manageable. Expansion 2 could have its journey implemented with or near the launch, be a major bullet point of the expansion and be easily expandable to include all of the legendaries until the full set is released.
While the second solution still has the problem of tying down the world—with NPCs, objects and instance locations needing to remain in the world—limiting it to just one journey per expansion makes it easier to manage and see where items/NPCs that can’t be messed with exist.
I hope that this decision to stop production on legendaries doesn’t discount the release of Legendary Weapons in the future. Instead, I hope it allows ArenaNet to step back and see where they can improve in the future to make these items more easily implemented.