ArenaNet triggered a divisive debate when it announced the arrival of Ascended gear as part of the Lost Shores mini-expansion arriving this Friday. As a stopgap against the "Legendary wall" of end-game gear tiers, Ascended loot constitutes direct upgrades from the current Exotic armors. Scores of Tyria's defenders took to the forums lamenting the MMO's "grindification." In a message sent yesterday, Studio Design Director Chris Whiteside attempted to calm the rising storm.
"Our goal is not to create a gear treadmill," he explained. "Our goal is to ensure we have a proper progression for players from Exotic up to Legendary without a massive jump in reward between the two. We will not be adding a new tier of gear every 3 months that we expect everyone to chase after and then get the next set and so on."
It's important to note the key difference between Exotic and Legendary tiers is purely a cosmetic one—Legendary items simply provide unique appearances or effects but retain the same stat value as Exotic. Ascended, meanwhile, represents an actual, full-fledged armor tier above Exotic with increased bonuses.
Whiteside also stated Ascended gear is acquired from both PVE and WVW modes "and be made available through all sorts of content around the world including existing content." PVP itemization stays the same for the sake of balance.