GW2: “Backpacks are the New Hats” (No, They’re Just Carrots)




I think I need to clarify something that’s being misunderstood. This isn’t a post saying “I want free things without working for them.” I honestly have moved on from GW2 for the most part, and don’t expect or want anything out of the game.

Rather, this is an observation about how the intention behind “free” cosmetics has changed between GW1 and GW2.

I don’t mean to belabor the topic I wrote about yesterday, where I discussed the direction GW2 has taken with their gem shop cosmetics, especially festival items in particular. However, I got a comment that made me think up an addition to that article. While I did reply to that comment, I wanted to discuss this a bit more here.

I don’t mean to sound rude, but this comment made me think how well GW2 has trained the players to jump through hoops for “free” cosmetics, and not question it. The way I see it, there’s a huge difference between the intention behind the cosmetic hat gifts in GW1 and the cosmetic back items you have to work grind for in GW2.

Claudius commented:

Backpacks are the new hats. You can get a free ram backpack this festival. Last Wintersday you got a free outfit. I am not sure that your anger is justified 🙂

Firstly, I will note that I am not angry. In fact, I’m pretty much apathetic about the path GW2 is going down because I’ve seen the evolution, I don’t like it, and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

I’m more disappointed. Because I knew Guild Wars when it was a different sort of game. Now it’s a monetized and over-hyped shadow of the spirit that used to drive the series, and it doesn’t have to be.

No, these back items are not “the new hats.” I’ll tell you why.

It’s All About Intentions

gwf-dragonfestival_1600Let me explain how it worked in GW1, since it seems some folks may not have experienced it to understand the difference. The devs created a festival event, usually tied to a RL holiday. There was a lead-up event, sometimes with optional quests and ways of earning special treats throughout. On the last day of the event, was a grand finale that lasted anywhere from 15 mins to half an hour and repeated throughout one day.

If you attended the grand finale (which was usually fun within itself), you’d earn a bunch of free treats for interacting in the right way. For example, playing the Mad King Says and getting the responses correct would give you trick or treat bags. Then, at the end, a free hat appeared in your inventory. Even if you screwed up every Mad King Says, you still got the hat.

It was a gift, something given freely, simply for you being there. It was a way to celebrate that holiday, a way to remember that you attended that in-game event. It was part of the whole festival that everyone got, and something people looked forward to getting. Something people collected and loved to wear in towns, especially during random dance circles.

Good times.

Of Carrots and Sticks

Where GW1 festival items were a gift, GW2 festival items are a carrot on a stick that prods you to grind the content or log in every day. There’s a big difference.

The patch notes for the current Ram event says:

Play in the revamped Dragon Ball Arena, try to get your Lucky Great Ram Lantern backpack, and join us in welcoming the Year of the Ram.

The key word is “try.” You don’t have to try to get a gift. A gift is freely given.

I looked up what it takes to get a basic backpack, and the wiki notes:

Lucky Ram Lantern is a back item, rarely rewarded from Lucky Envelopes.

Researching the Lucky Envelopes, these come from finishing achievements and playing the Dragon Ball arena. So, you get a chance at the backpack (the wiki notes it’s “rarely rewarded”) from envelopes you only get by jumping through achievement hoops and grinding the arena.

Basically it’s a carrot on a stick to nudge people to run the content in order to get the prize. For those who are tired of this carrot thing, apparently the back item is also purchasable on the trade post.

Mawdry's crazy shopping list
Mawdry’s crazy shopping list

This isn’t quite as bad as the hoops you had to jump through to earn the free back items in the past. Mawdry is one that comes to mind. I knew things were getting way out of hand when I saw the grocery list required to craft that thing.

The one exception I can think of was the very first cosmetic back item they introduced, the Mad King’s Memories book. You earned that by undertaking a series of story quests and a scavenger hunt that was pretty fun. Sadly, they’ve removed these quests and the reward from current Halloween events.

Regardless if you’re beating on an endless number of dragon pinatas, collecting samples around Karka-infested South Sun Cove, running Sanctum Sprint a million times, collecting a gazillion blade shards, or grinding through story achievements, the outcome is the same.

The back item is there to provide incentive to run the kind of content the devs want you to run. It’s there to keep you logging in, even if the content is repetitive.

It’s a carrot, not a gift.

The cost may still be free, but intention is completely different. That’s my beef with it.

PS – I wasn’t involved in Wintersday much last year, but Dulfy doesn’t show any free outfit obtained from the event.


  1. Honestly, it sucked that you could only get the hat if you showed up and participated on a day that was often a RL holiday. If you had plans you were out of luck.
    Plus, I got both backpieces just from opening envelopes earned from dailies. Didn’t really need to grind anything.
    P.S. The non-gem store outfit was the Hexed outfit for Halloween.

    1. Depends on your definition of grind. I consider dailies in GW2 pretty grindy and quit doing them over a year ago. That still doesn’t make the backpack a gift if you’re having to work for it… it’s just a carrot to encourage you to do dailies (which is dev-picked content that they want you to do). Same thing as what I described in my article, IMHO.

      I knew someone would find the outfit I was looking for – so it was Halloween and not Wintersday as the comment suggested. Makes sense. I didn’t log in for the Halloween event, but it’s good to know they added something free to it. According to the wiki, it cost 3 candy corn cobs, which is 3,000 candy corn. Yeah… even if candy corn is fairly easy to get, that’s pretty grindy, and also not a gift item.

      It did suck if you weren’t there on the specific day to get the item during the GW1 event. But I think they added some kind of token exchange that allowed you to get the hat after the event, even if you missed it. At least, I believe they did that for the Dragon festival. Can’t remember about the others.

  2. You got an essentially free mask for attending the Mad King says event – where the Mad King wanders around Lion’s Arch, cracking jokes and playing Mad King says – during Halloween, just like in Guild Wars 1.

    Basically your commenter got his terminology wrong. I would not describe the ram backpack during this Lunar New Season as “free.”

    I would describe it as an RNG possibility with fairly decent chances, or available for purchase on the TP for reasonably cheap (ie. under 10 gold and probably crashing down past 5 gold or less by now.)

    Token-bought rewards are not “free” either. They are “earnable”, mostly through the expenditure of time doing some activity or another.

    “Free” is stuff that pretty much lands in your inventory upon log-in, like the log-in rewards.

    Or perhaps this hat over here:

    Which was given by merely showing up to watch fireworks at a given time.

    1. I did include the Mask of the Night in my previous post, where I got together a list of the real free stuff I could remember. The idea was that GW2 didn’t start out this way… it used to be a bit more like GW1, actually.

      At the risk of sounding like a complainer, though, it’s been the same reward for two years now. It’s also a very underwhelming reward compared to the much, much cooler things they put for sale in the cash shop… and even compared to the witches hat we got the first year, to be honest. I guess there might be some folks who like a mask skin, but I’m not going to use it.

      Ah, I DID forget about the dragon bash helmet in my list! Good catch! I was really excited to join in for the fireworks and earn that piece for my characters. That might be the last time I’ve seen them do something like that, though. Feels like most of the focus has been on achievements and dailies, rather than a special event that creates a good memory (like the Dragon Bash fireworks).

  3. I have to admit… while I see your point here, ‘Wren, I personally don’t see this as much of an issue. Perhaps it’s just because I don’t care much about cosmetic items unless they really fit my character.

    1. Cosmetics are super important to me! 😛

      However, it’s more of the idea behind all this that I’m trying to point out… the fact that a game series I’ve played for a very long time has become so monetized that it’s almost unrecognizable now. And that bugs me a LOT.

      It’s also something you’d had to have been there to experience in GW1. These items held sentimental value (to some of us), and now I’m seeing that being sold in a gem shop. It’s just a shame.

        1. Hmmm… it was just occurring to me how I might be coming across here. “Yes, I understand that you’re hurt by this… but it doesn’t hurt me, so it’s not important.” That’s *not* what I was going for, and I apologize if it’s how I sounded.

        2. It’s not that I expect anything out of GW2 at this point, to be honest. I’m hardly even playing it. I’m not worried about what I’m not getting. So this has nothing to do with what I want from GW2.

          It’s more a principals thing.

          It’s my observation that games like GW2 are throwing stuff at us all the time (weekly), and always in the gem store. And the things that are “free,” are no longer freely given gifts, but things that they dangle in front of players to play the game the way devs want (achievements, dailies, etc). It’s a big change from what games like this used to be.

          I’m not sure if I’m being very clear, though. Sorry. :/

        3. It’s okay. It’s hard to explain an attachment for a silly dragon mask that came out in a game 9 years ago.

          I understand cosmetics aren’t everyone’s thing. These particular pixels were linked to an experience and a good feeling. So it wasn’t the item, it was more a memory of something that made me happy many years ago. If that makes better sense.

  4. I get more free stuff in GW2 then I ever did in GW1 to be honest. I get something useful, just for logging in game in GW2.

    The holiday stuff is also easier to get in GW2 than in GW1 (except dragon bash 2013). Just playing the holiday content in your own time will earn most of the rewards. The game does not force you to do specific content at specific time as much as GW1 for holiday rewards.

    Mawdry is one of the most fun crafting projects I have ever under taken in an MMO. It sends you on an adventure all over Tyria to collect materials for crafting and upgrading it. For me Mawdry is a good example of how players should be rewarded.
    Mawdry also provides a good way for crafters to make money.

    1. I do agree we get lots of stuff just for logging in now days with GW2. But the point of this article wasn’t “I want free stuff!” Rather, it was about the intention behind the free stuff and the differences behind how/why we obtain it.

      It just feels like GW2 is doing everything it can to keep people logging in, and grinding achievements and dailies. The new daily login reward is proof of this. I benefit from this reward, but it seems pretty desperate, rather than just generous, to me.

      Anyhow, we’ll have to agree to disagree on things. I don’t want to have to do what I feel are grindy holiday achievements to get a reward. I personally miss the times of attending a festival and being given a gift for attending, which bonded a fun memory to that item.

      Mawdry looked like a massive grind fest and a total pain. I had no interest in attempting running around after that carrot.

      However, I understand there are folks with time and want to do these things who probably do enjoy it. And that’s fine – everyone enjoys different things. It’s just not for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.