Death by Stoning

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Wait...What?

Judging by the reaction to one of ArenaNet’s latest blog posts you’d be forgiven for thinking they had just announced Guild Wars 2 was going to require the sacrifice of a small animal once per month in order to play.

But no. One statement

With the transmutation system, you’ll be able to acquire new items known as Transmutation Stones through our in-game store that allow you to customize your appearance.

in conjunction with principle #3

Guild Wars Principle #3: Players should look the way they want to look.

is what caused all the trouble. Well, most of it. The perhaps slightly clunky way it was delivered probably didn’t help much either.

So, say you have a totally kick ass sword. You’re rank 50 when you get it and, unsurprisingly, by rank 60-odd you’ve outgrown the sword stat-wise (max level is 80 btw). You even have a couple of other swords in your bags but they don’t look anywhere near as cool as sword you’ve got. Transmutation stones solve this issue. Sword A (cool skin) + sword B (better stats) = sword C (cool skin + better stats).

Awesome feature huh? I was certainly impressed and excited. Then I read the “in-game store” bit. Oh. It’s something I need to pay for. With real money! My excitement diminished somewhat, but as I mulled over the matter I ended up pretty ok with it.

Being able to combine items to keep that weapon or armour you love relevant to your level is an excellent option. Many games include a costume slot for just this purpose (for armour anyway, not sure if any give you a weapon slot) but most of these games are pay-to-play. Given that Guild Wars 2 will follow in the footsteps of its predecessor and be buy-to-play, a steady and ongoing income stream beyond the initial surge of box sales are something ArenaNet (and NCSoft) are going to be keenly interested in.

Microtransactions already exist for Guild Wars. You can buy extra storage panes (guilty), costumes (guilty), skill unlock packs (PvP only), makeover packs and a few other odds and ends that give you absolutely no in game advantage.

Transmutation stones will confer no in game advantage. Zero. Zilch. None. Unless you count looking cooler than the next dude an advantage. A lot of the stink seemed to arise from a comparison with Guild Wars end game armour. For those unfamiliar, you can reach max level (20) in Guild Wars quite quickly (so fewer changes of clothes on the way). There are a lot of end game armours to pick from and they don’t have inherent stats so you can choose whatever strikes your fancy then slap runes and insignias all over it to customise the armour to your build.

Guild Wars 2 armour comes with multiple stats on it per piece. These stats can then be further augmented by crests but the largest contribution comes from the armour itself. This then makes the stats more important and creates a dilemma for the fashionistas (and I don’t mean that nastily) – keep wearing that unbelievably cool looking set of armour and gimp your stats, or upgrade your stats and bemoan how that new pair of pants makes your characters bum look big.

Enter transmutation stones. And lots and lots of qq’ing.

After much consideration, I’m fine with the stones. The (much needed) subsequent blog post clarifying the issue somewhat I think will help. Making the stones obtainable in game (somehow or other – super rare random drop? dungeon reward? weekend event drop?) will also help.

Guild Wars 2 is shaping up to be an incredible game. Transmutation stones are an amazing feature and if you want to use them you’ll have to pay real money (or not, depends how the “We’re not certain at this time whether or not transmutation stones will be available outside of the in-game store” comment pans out) but that’s one thing that doesn’t affect gameplay in any way, shape or form.

Isn’t there some saying about glass houses?

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