[GW2] Pacing and experience points

As more and more feedback on this past GW2 beta weekend is surfacing on blogs and official forums, it gets apparent how different players experienced certain aspects of the game, such as the events, personal story, pacing and leveling process. What becomes all too clear too is that while there are still issues in these departments, many players struggle more with their own mindset, habits and internal “MMO programming” than the game itself. They ask for the kind of guided ride and road to success that is characteristic of WoW’s questing model where it’s hard to go wrong and the game will always tell you where to go next.

GW2 isn’t that kind of MMO. It’s nowhere near a sandbox, but it does return some agency to the player and asks him to find his own adventure. There are different paths to success and while the heart quests are in fact ordered by level, you can easily wander off and lose yourself in other activities. Off the beaten track, players will find surprise and wonder that are easily missed on the highway. To some this presents an overwhelming sense of freedom and disorientation at first. I would claim that this is only temporary – but it’s strong enough a feedback that many bloggers have recently asked the question of whether the playerbase can handle different? Tremayne has gone as far as stating that if it does not, that would be a grave setback for the evolvement of the entire genre. I happen to agree with him.

Azuriel argues that part of at least his own feelings of disconnect spring less from the novelty factor and more from ANet’s failure to accomplish a more open and free playstyle fully: why design a guided personal storyline that is not in sync with the new questing philosophy? And why indeed stick to a leveling system at all, instead of skill-based progression? I have asked this last question before and personally I would have preferred not having any levels in GW2. It seems to run contrary to the game’s overall concept.

Be that as it may, I would like to take the opportunity to point out a few ways of gaining experience points in GW2 while you’re engaged in PVE. I’ve read comments of players claiming that you need to PvP or engage professions in order to keep up a good “speed” or that they were forced to constantly repeat the same events; well, I cannot confirm any of that. There are possibly pacing disparities between some of the maps (apparently Queensdale has such issues), but there are still many more ways to gain experience if you make use of them. This won’t be big news to seasoned MMO veterans, but may be useful to those asking for guidance.

Ways to gain experience points while questing in GW2

The following pointers are based on my own beta experiences. I am the errant traveler / explorer type who likes not to focus on getting the job done as fast as possible. Coincidentally, I never had pacing issues this beta or the issue of not knowing where to go next – mostly because there was nowhere I needed to be. I did plenty of heart quests and events but also general exploration. I did not PvP once nor look into crafting. Here’s what I recommend instead –

1) Zones consist of more than hearts
While the heart quests give you a general sense of direction and offer useful rewards, they’re only an excuse to be at the right place where many events can happen. I found the heart quests rather boring and trivial compared to the rest. If you’re hunting EXP, keep in mind that zones offer many more points of interest than just hearts. Do the trait point challenges, check out special sites and also discover all the waypoints – they yield EXP!

2) Joining / Assisting in ongoing events
All events can be joined at any time and rewards will be dished out according to participation effort. You do not need to wait for an event to re-start, although you are free to repeat them (hearts are not repeatable). Likewise, you can join other players in killing mobs and get EXP for that – grouping is not required.

3) Following through a chain of events
Heart areas have the tendency to literally “be at the heart” of different events being triggered all around them, at various stages of progress. Spend time in these areas and check them out. Often events will continue with a next step or then suddenly the quest NPCs are attacked and offer a next chapter. This can easily occupy you for 20 minutes or more and lead all the way to killing a big baddie with fifty more players.

4) Returning to / repeating events
You may repeat events for EXP. Besides that, it makes sense to return sometime because there’s always a chance for more to happen or to experience scenarios you had missed the first time around. When I visited Hoelbrak and took this picture, I had no idea that other players had previously fought to restore that statue (thanks Rakuno for pointing this out!). For me that means I will be back to see that part of the event myself.

5) Resurrecting allies
Over the course of events many NPCs will die, as much as players. Ressing folk on the way yields plenty of good EXP, in fact more than if you had just killed a mob instead. It is also recommended to res NPC guards and defenders because they will support you in freeing areas or beating bosses.

6) General exploration
Like for most MMOs, wandering around and discovering all parts of a map yields good EXP (and achievements). Don’t forget about cities here and their numerous waypoints. Hunter made a great overview of all the jumping puzzle sites he discovered this beta – did you happen to find any yourself?

7) Gathering / crafting
I did not personally look into crafting yet, but while you’re out there doing events you might as well use nodes or gather herbs on the way. This is not the competitive nightmare it is in other MMOs and is basically easy additional EXP.

8) Personal story
While the personal storyline has some issues at this stage, for myself mainly in terms of difficulty / balance, following through as far as you can yields both EXP and rewards. It is possible to come back later and finish off with more ease or to share your personal scenarios with party members. They will be able to assist you in funny ways. If you are clearly too low to beat the next chapter, the quest tip will say so.

…And that’s pretty much it. Keep variety in your activities and “grinding mobs or events” should be the least of your concerns. Wander off – albeit not into higher level areas. If you still feel bored where you are, take a portal or waypoint to a different map; new hearts, events and trait points await! And lots of EXP for the weary.


  1. This is one of the things I *do* give kudos to A.Net for implementing: quest locales. The infatuation with these laundry-list taskings is anything but a ‘quest’ (Merriam and Webster state: a chivalrous enterprise in medieval romance usually involving an adventurous journey). While not ideal, the removal of this checklist that a questing log has become is a huge *THANK YOU* to the GW2 team.

    1. It’s odd how liberating such a seemingly small change can be. So indeed yes, big thanks for that! The one thing I am sad about though is that they did limit things upwards; I would’ve liked the world to be completely open via scaling both ways. That would’ve been fantastic.

  2. I commented on the thread following the Azuriel post you linked to that I saw a lot of “Where do I go to level next?” and “What do I do? I ran out of hearts and I’m still two levels short of the next zone” type questions in Map chat over the weekend.

    I really think ArenaNet have a problem here, although luckily for them I think the payment model they are going with (box sale + cash shop) will get them past the worst fallout. I’d envisage a fairly high attrition rate of disgruntled players over the first 2-3 months, hopefully followed by the same extremely long and robust lifespan for those who do “get it” that GW1 has enjoyed.

    Guild Wars was met with much the same incomprehension back at launch, being so different from anything else around at the time. That worked out ok in the end. I just hope it goes that way rather than a desperate attempt to re-tool the game into a more traditional format post-launch. ArenaNet strike me as too canny for that, though.

    1. I heard a lot of that too; I wrote this overview particularly with those players in mind. It would be a shame if they disliked the game on grounds of pacing alone and because they were too focused on hearts. I always feel bad if others don’t make good experiences while I do; it’s a bit of an obsession in me to try and change that.

      It’s a good point about GW1; that was an even weirder game tbh. :p from that POV things look fairly positive for the successor.the payment model is definitely well conceived.
      I want really wish for GW2 to succeed, too: for all us hungry MMO veterans but also the industry as a whole. It’s time for next generation. It will definitely need adjusting though, but then I don’t actually think the general MMO population is either uncapable or unwilling. All it takes is time.

    2. It’s a great rundown of the ways you can receive experience. My beef however is that the game has terrible pacing if you do everything on that bucket list and you STILL have problems advancing. Then it becomes too frustrating. The hearts aren’t supposed to be the primary experience source. I look at them as markers where to explore next, and as a general point of interest as a lot of dynamic events begin in the immediate vicinity of the heart quests.

      A pacing problem exists if you access every possible source of experience, and still cannot advance properly without running around like a chicken with its head cut off, praying for yet another event to trigger. I feel particularly frustrated by posts like this one because I had issues this BWE that had absolutely nothing to do with me not understanding how GW2 handles progression. If I as player have issues advancing on a weekend when zones are densely populated, what will the latecomers do when events trigger a lot less frequently?

    3. Oh, I absolutely agree with that. there’s only so much you can do as a player and if there are still pacing issues despite making use of all the resources in the game, then you can certainly expect the devs to address this issue and fix it. I have quite some tolerance for the grind myself, but that’s me – I don’t expect other players to find it fun and it’s a valid demand that an MMO of 2012 should offer a smooth leveling experience / curve.

      so to clarify, I understand the frustration of those who know they did everything and still the progression felt disjointed. I too didn’t find the personal storyline particularly satisfying.
      I am not addressing these players though where I am particularly condemning; and the guide is not written with them in mind. it’s a way to check if you maybe missed something and guidance for those that felt confused in general on how exp gain works (best) in GW2. everyone knows best if this applies to them or not and I don’t suggest anywhere that bad experiences ‘must’ be due to doing anything wrong – only that it ‘could’ play a part. 🙂

      bloggers and blogreaders in general are informed and experienced players…my qualm is mostly with some of the stuff I read on the official message boards or ingame. if you make zero effort to learn something new and act like a spoiled child while unable to formulate one correct sentence, don’t expect me to be particularly understanding of your problems. I feel the ‘gamer generation gap’ particularly strongly in such situations – and it’s not about people having other preferences or ideas than me but HOW they state them.

    4. By the way, I’m convinced the pacing issues you experienced in Queendale (and possibly all other areas too) will be addressed for the next beta. there’s been a lot of voices on this, like yours too, of people who have actually written detailed feedback on when/where they struggled with this most. the level range 12-15 seems to need especial work.

  3. I honestly think a lot of players that only play mainstream theme park MMOs are going to have trouble with this. I wonder of some sort of tutorial that forces players to do one example of everything you describe would help (i.e., smack players in the face with the fact that there is more to do than just heart quests).

    1. A tutorial would certainly help many, I think. I noticed the starter hints this beta, but they weren’t particularly evolved. GW2 doesn’t strike me as the most beginner-friendly MMO, especially for genre newbies. The submenus and functions did personally strike me as unintuitive, too. They’re receiving a lot of feedback at the moment, I could imagine a tutorial is already on the to-do list.

  4. I wonder if the XP issues right now is because the developers intended the hearts to be made side by side with the personal story. Since the latter is still being tweaked it might just not giving enough XP for people to do the hearts at level. This is just pure conjecture on my part though since I’ve been avoiding the personal stories just so I don’t get attached to a character that will be deleted before release.

    Also, just to clarify about the statue. I don’t know if it starts broken or if that was the result of a failed event. My guess is the latter and I just stumbled on it while hunting for interesting views for screenshots. Just thought I should clarify that in case you decide to go there and the statue is in pristine conditions. @_@

  5. You’re supposed to play it like an Elder Scrolls game then?

    If that’s the case, do they have something similar to the (much hated by purists) compass icons for all nearby points of interest that fade in and out by distance that Oblivion and Skyrim have?

    Also, have they built the personal quests in such a way that they shove you all over the world with long distances between where you need to be at various stages, forcing you to trek across the landscape and fall into doing a whole bunch of other stuff along the way?

    There are a whole bunch of tricks Bethesda uses to get you doing stuff off the main path, even down to being as simplistic and brutal as sticking mountain ranges in the way.

    1. It is definitely comparable to the more free questing in Skyrim; it’s however still not nearly as open as that world. there are still the levels and very pre-defined level zones, with mobs of according difficulty. that’s what I personally find lamentable, the free element is restricted to your level or downwards (you adjust HP downwards).

      There are a lot of map pointers and icons to direct players; there’s teleports and the personal quests do send you around a bit more. however you can skip most of that travel by using waypoints (Skyrim had fast travel). if you choose to walk, you will most definitely run into other events.

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