The Dungeon Rejuvenation Initiative (aka Fractals?!)


Ever since Guild Wars 2 was announced, there was a feature that had me very excited, dungeons. ArenaNet had promised to deliver us a challenge for groups of 5. They promoted dungeons as the competition to the instanced-type of content other games provide. That promise was delivered to an extent, with the explorable mode of Arah back in the day, claiming that title and being without a doubt the hardest challenge the game had to offer.

Story mode was a good entry point to dungeons for players of lower-than-80 levels, trying to get into them while leveling up in-between the main story of the game. Playing a part in uniting Destiny’s Edge after the events of the second novel, Edge of Destiny, was a pretty exciting concept, basically being almost a direct sequel to the story the book had set. Then came the explorable dungeons, group content for players that had reached level 80. Here is where the main problems started, not from the beginning but after players had pretty much cleared the dungeon content. We had the Fractals introduced to us alongside ascended gear, a slight revamp of the Ascalonian Catacombs and a bit later a new challenging path for Twilight Arbor. Oh and let’s not forget the increase in rewards! Dungeons were in a pretty good place, since the only complain was mainly that they were too easy and players yearned for new group content. The introduction of Twilight Arbor’s Aetherpath though was the last time ArenaNet showed any interest in the old Dungeons system, focusing more on polishing the Fractals of the Mists experience.

Even then players did not stop doing their dungeon runs. Some people were there for the gold, others were farming dungeons for the exclusive gear they offer, in order to perhaps complete the respective collections and get their hands on the cool ascended trinkets at the very end. At the same time, there were always those that liked searching for hidden lore (let’s not forget how we found out about Mordremoth! Looking at you Subject Alpha) and last but not least, those who simply wanted to have some fun with friends or who wanted to challenge themselves. Me and my guildmates were often running trough Arah for example for the fun of it, while other people were trying to solo Lupicus. Now that is, in my eyes, an achievement worthy of the best of us!

Joke’s on you mate ;D

Some years went by and suddenly people started yearning for that bigger challenge, the word “raid” started to echo everywhere in the community. Then came the announcement of Heart of Thorns with “New Challenging Group-Content” on the horizon. We were all sure it meant raiding, we only had to wait for ArenaNet to announce it! I was thinking back then that the raids would be tied to the elder dragons and keep dungeons for the side-story content, and I couldn’t be more wrong. Not only was Mordremoth tied to an instance and an admittedly cool event, but the side story, which was the result of the Dragon’s demise, ended up being the raid, replacing the concept of dungeons completely.

No new dungeons in Heart of Thorns.

The expansion brought along some new features for the Fractals of the Mists, but even then we did not get any “true” new content. Don’t get me wrong, I love going through my Fractal dailies, as a player that dedicates most of his time on casual group content though I feel the need to see new things. Especially when the whole Fractal system has the potential to offer some very cool content.

Then came a decision that saddened me a lot, one that I will always have in my mind as perhaps the worst ArenaNet has ever made. Abandoning Dungeons almost completely and as an end result, crippling the playerbase that they had.  They said that the decision was taken in order to boost the interest in Fractals, which were to replace entirely the concept of dungeons. In other words, they would willingly cripple content that everybody was so passionate about in favor of another.

We were used to a different ArenaNet in the past. One that was so stubborn that focused on improving instead of abandoning projects. That ArenaNet would take storytelling to another level for example by introducing the living world content. They would even create Fractals of the Mists to further improve dungeons as a first iteration. And there’s no doubt they could have succeeded in that if they had brought new rewards on the table or added new maps down the line. Sadly, the ones that had to pay the price were the dungeons.

Huh? A connection perhaps?

Going back to today, almost 5 months since Heart of Thorns’ release, most Fractal runners have gotten their precursor backpiece. At the same time, many have abandoned the Maguuma maps, which even though beautiful and interesting, being built upon constant timers and huge amounts of grinding make their concept pretty tiresome.

So where are we standing now? What do we have in our hands? Is it just the one Raid Wing we can deal with? I undoubtedly like what it has to offer, but I believe that it caters more for the part of the community that has plenty of time to invest into the game. It feels like there is a gap between these two types of players that enjoy group instanced content these days, one that right after the game’s launch was definitely not so apparent. Much like I described above, dungeons might had always been an easy experience but people were doing them for multiple reasons. There was something there.

This is the part where I think ArenaNet should start thinking about reviving or rather, rejuvenating the whole concept of dungeons. They don’t have to do it alone though! There are tons of players out there that have many interesting ideas worthy of mention. And as you all may quite possibly have guessed already, this is where the main, titular, point of my post comes in, the Dungeon Rejuvenation Initiative (what can I say, I am also an Avengers fan :D).

First of all, ArenaNet should keep dungeon-content as part of their release schedule. They should keep them coming alongside harder group content like raids. We are talking about a 5-man group content experience, mirroring the purpose of the original story modes. They could feature soloable story modes creating side stories for the living world, or they could even provide the main story of the game. That being penultimate points in the arcs of the story, while explorable modes could offer the semi-hard challenge some 5-man parties have been asking for. And this is where Fractals come in, offering challenge modes for existing dungeons or even raids themselves! We have seen those 6-man-no-updraft Gorseval kills and since people actually manage to achieve such stuff why shouldn’t the game reward them for their effort?

People will eventually though get over that content at one point or another and they will ask for more. Let’s say that those dungeons and raid wings that would be released over the time or even the new fractals, would not be enough for them. What could you do to ensure that this wouldn’t be the case? While thinking about that I remembered the dungeon-maker tool Neverwinter boasts so much about. Could ArenaNet turn a system like that around to fit in Guild Wars 2? Giving the players the choice to challenge themselves instead of having the developers challenging them sounds very interesting concept-wise and it’s something very feasible in Guild Wars 2’s case. Allow me to remind you that Fractals feature instabilities!

Think of it this way. When a player manages to complete every path in a dungeon, he unlocks a total of 2 fractals, a core fractal and a boss fractal. That is similar to how  Molten Facility and Aetherblade Retreat were incorporated on the platform. Through that system the player would be able to choose the equivalent of the path they would like to do. And this is where instabilities come into play since they could practically offer that “challenge mode” I brought into discussion before.

Having challenging instabilities in place, like making the players face Lupicus alongside the Mossman, could result in some crazy situations that could really push players to the limit! Awarding players for the crazy stunts they always had fun pulling off in dungeons would make things even more engaging! Speed runs, solo kills, challenges that could also blend into a leaderboard system creating some sort of competition. We have sort of been there in the past, with some now retired instabilities.  Who can forget Mossman traversing through the mists in order to chase you around in various random Fractals? It was so cool and it made so much sense lore-wise, with the Fractals basically being realities blending into one another.

Instead, we have to deal with the current set of instabilities which offer next to no challenge and only manage to make things extra boring. I would take a crazy Mossman anytime if I had to in place of additional boons on critical hit.

ArenaNet could evolve the instability system by simply giving the players the freedom of choice. It needs to become both the challenge and the creation tool that could elevate the dungeon feature as a whole.

Squeeeeeee! What a mix!

So to summarize we have:

a) Casual 1-man, or more, content in the form of story mode dungeons
b) Semi-hard 5-man content with explorable mode dungeons
c) Challenging 5-man group content through the Fractals of the Mists
d) Challenging 10-man content in the form of Raids

In my opinion this would be a great way to give new life to the dungeon community. This breakdown would be rewarding players for going crazy in there and accomplishing new feats every time, while at the same it would bridge the gap between the various distinguished modes.

And since rewards always play a big part in such discussions, let’s see what we could come up with on the matter. In my opinion the dungeon reward system should be influence by both the state of pre-HoT dungeon rewards and the current Fractal rewards. ArenaNet could create thematic gear for each new dungeon they implement in the game and Fractals could see the use of Fractal Relics being expanded.

That all sounds familiar though, so let’s introduce a twist to the system. Borrowing this idea from the golden Fractal weapons being “evolved” forms of Fractal weapons, a player could acquire a skin from the explorable mode of a dungeon using dungeon tokens and evolve it into a “second” form of some sorts through the Fractals experience. Even though the explorable paths would offer a more casual experience, skin hunters would still need to track down a skin from them in order to acquire its cooler, “evolved” (or attuned maybe?) version.

In the end keeping people interested in group content is the hardest part to achieve because usually players will get through the content a lot faster than companies normally expect. Giving players the power to “create” though by utilizing the instability system, and potentially letting them share their creations with others would give, in my opinion, a new side to the whole dungeon experience. It would inspire everyone to push the limits and overcome a brand new challenge each time. With the extra addition of achievements and specific collections, players should have enough in their hands to hopefully keep themselves busy until the next batch of dungeons arrives.

So, this is just my opinion and I would like to hear as many peoples’ opinions and suggestions as possible! Let’s try helping ArenaNet understand how important the dungeon experience was to the community!

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