Armchair Developer is a segment where we brainstorm changes to the game we would like to see and flesh out how they would work, given infinite resources to develop them. They're half OP-ED, half wishful thinking. We encourage discussion based on the ideas we put forth here, but please take them with a grain of salt. ~Sincerely, The Management
Leaving Renown Hearts Behind in HoT
As I contemplate pursuing world completion again, I find myself dreading the mindlessness of redoing many of the more boring renown hearts in the game. I know I am not the only one who has issues with renown hearts as I periodically see Reddit and forum posts lamenting their existence. Even more than annoying the old guard; renown hearts confuse new players. Every time there is a sale on Guild Wars 2 newbies pop up on Reddit to ask why the renown hearts do not provide enough experience to out-level the zone. Nearly three years in Guild Wars 2 has evolved significantly. With the upcoming launch of Heart of Thorns I believe ANet can leverage new and existing systems to remove renown hearts while continuing to help new players learn and keeping old players engaged.
Directed Away from Events
The main reasons ArenaNet added in renown hearts was to provide new players with a visual and tooltip indication of how they should progress through a zone as well as direct players to areas where level appropriate dynamic events were spawning. Except for a few notable exceptions; (Meatoberfest, Harathi Hinterlands, Hylek town in Sparkfly Fen), dynamic events are rarely tied to completion of a renown heart and if they are they tend to spawn infrequently. While the hearts succeed at directing players to level appropriate areas it has had the unintended consequence of many new players thinking that completing renown hearts rather than dynamic events is the best way to level. Scouts in the world exacerbate this misconception by pointing out renown hearts rather than dynamic events. If scouts would show dynamic events that are active or about to begin (within two minutes) they would better serve as guides to get new players playing dynamic events instead of grinding renown hearts. In addition to scouts ANet added the compass functionality for the new player experience. By programming the compass to prioritize dynamic events that are level appropriate across the entire zone players can follow it to level relevant content.
Content is the bread and butter of an MMO and removing renown hearts from the game would leave a dearth of content in the open world. One reason this will lead to content gaps is because rather than directing players to dynamic event rich locations renown hearts often replace the dynamic events. An option would be to take the current renown heart tasks and turn them into dynamic event hubs. Most renown hearts have objectives that you find in dynamic events so they would transition well. Making renown heart tasks would not only help new players understand dynamic events better, but also allow long term players to drop by and help out their favorite NPC. It would also let groups in which one player tends to finish renown hearts faster keep abreast of one another.
Making Renown Hearts into Hubs
Reworking renown hearts as dynamic event hubs would be not be a simple endeavor. In the upcoming expansion Heart of Thorns the new zones have replaced hearts with outposts. You can read more on the outpost system here. Implementing an outpost system in the old world would be the best way to phase out renown hearts. Let’s take a quick look at one of the first renown hearts human characters encounter in Queensdale and how it could be transformed into an event hub.
The renown heart in question asks players to “Help Diah tend to her farm”. The title of the renown heart tells us the guiding design principal for the outpost. The requirements to complete the renown heart further give us direction with two actions that can be taken; tend the farm or kill enemies attacking the farm. Diah’s farm specializes in both corn and cows we can use that information to create our first dynamic events. The first tending the farm dynamic event could deal with the cows. There are many creative ways to make feeding cows fun; from dodging stampeding bulls to avoiding cowpies that cause your character to slip. The dynamic event for tending corn would require the current corn spawns to be moved as there is just not enough space right by the farm house. Fortunately there is a field just up the hill. Not only does the field up the hill provide space for players to help garden it also has dynamic spawns (Wurms and Oozes) that changed the nature of the event. Both tending events would be followed up with collection events.
The collection events could be similar to the gathering events for rubble in the Silverwastes. Hungry animals have come to eat the well fed cows and ripe corn, they must be driven off while some players milk cows and gather corn. Completing the collection events will fill up and outpost event bar. Once the bar is full Diah will send out a caravan with milk and corn to divinities reach. This would open a vendor selling bulk milk and corn. There is one more problem though.
As the collection bar fills it attracts unwanted attention. At 25, 50 and 75 percent a flag is triggered. After the next collection event a random group of either wurms or bandit will come to steal the goods. Players would have to defend the milk and corn from the attackers, every bandit hauler and hungry wurm queen that manages to get away with some of the food would cause the outpost’s collection bar to drop. The enemy assault would come in waves rather than being timed allowing them to completely drain the collection. Every twenty five percent of the collection drained would grant the invaders (wurms or bandits, but not both) a stack of the well fed buff which would grant them some stat buff. The well fed buff would be applied all enemies of that type in Queensdale for some amount of time.
The above change to a heart requires seven new events be created. If ANet could average needing only four additional events per former renown heart that would require over 1200 dynamic events be added to the game. For reference Guild Wars 2 launched with just over 1500 events. To actually get this change moving it would probably require ANet to work backwards from Orr and Frostgorge Sound and eventually get around to reworking the starter zones in 2817.
Changing Renown Hearts to Outposts solves the issues of introducing players to dynamic events, but it would also remove the heart vendors that provided players with access to regional armor and weapon skins as well as leveling trinkets. One solution to the loss of access to these items would be to turn each renown heart NPC into a simple karma vendor available to all, but I feel that the mastery system can provide a much more interesting alternative.
The mastery system gains experience as you play at level 80 replacing the skill point gain on level up. One interesting thing about the mastery system is that it can track multiple experience tracks. Currently there exist mastery groups for The Road to Orr and for Heart of Thorns. I propose adding another mastery group that fills as you complete dynamic events in a zone. This track would not have points to spend like the masteries at 80 and it would be available as soon as players complete the tutorial. The zone mastery system could be split into multiple tiers. At tier one only the first renown heart vendor’s stock is available, but it is available on all of the zone’s former renown heart vendors. As you increase through the tiers of zone mastery you would unlock more and more of the stock. To encourage players to meet all the former renown heart vendors each vendor could sell a unique collectible. The zone mastery collection could be used to unlock the final tier of zone mastery. Since collections are account bound it would only need to be completed once. When a zone is mastered it could provide any number of bonuses to the character, from a passive magic find bonus in the zone to the ability to purchase a treasure map which would allow you to spawn dynamic events on the map.
The zone mastery system could be expanded to even zones without renown hearts. In Dry Top you could unlock the map tiers over time so that whenever you hopped into Dry Top you would have access to T6 vendors. The zone mastery system could allow you to use shovels in Silverwastes more than once. In cursed shore you could have your damage against risen increased or perhaps gain the ability to travel to contested way points. In Southsun Cove you could purchase a Karka Salvage kit which would allow you to periodically salvage T6 mats off of a veteran karka’s corpse. The possibilities are incredibly varied, and could serve to provide a unique flavor to each map in combination with the new map bonuses revealed to be coming in Heart of Thorns.
Mastering a zone would be done on a per character basis rather than on an account level and would replace renown hearts in the zone completion requirements. I believe this system would improve the world completion experience for veterans by providing many of them with more of their preferred content type, dynamic events, over the static renown hearts. It would also remove an element of game play that many new players find confusing and by extension direct them to the core open world content, dynamic events. It would also provide a simplified version of masteries for new players to learn.
What do you think? Do you love renown hearts? Do you hate them with a fiery passion? Let us know in the comments or come yell at me in our forums.