This past summer, as part of the changes to the way skill points and specializations worked in preparation for the new elite spec system, ArenaNet saw fit to change skill points to “hero points.” Hero points allow for a progression of skill points that honestly makes more sense and allows players to customize their class to their liking earlier on, with less wasting points on skills you don’t want just so you can unlock the next tier of skills. It also meant you had to spend hero points on unlocking your specializations, but again, now, if you’re really just interested in one specialization, you can dump all of your points into it and have it earlier on instead of having the specialization tiers unlocked as you level.
There are pros and cons to both systems, but we have the new system now so there’s not much point in worrying about which is better. The point is, when they made the switch to hero points, they removed the Scroll of Knowledge and converted them all to Spirit Shards, and made all activities that gave a Scroll of Knowledge now give Spirit Shards. Previously, players could continue to rake in a continual stream of skill points, which meant that, at some point, they became worthless for unlocking skills. Players could either transfer scrolls to another character, or exchange their unused skill points at a special vendor for Mystic Forge crafting ingredients. Honestly, it was weird that you could spend your skill points in the first place, so I’m not really upset about that. What I am a little annoyed at is the fact that, when I use Tomes of Knowledge to level my characters instead of mapping, they’re now at a disadvantage because, while you get a lot of hero points as you level, you’re still short a bunch. Maybe that’s the point–don’t let people skip the leveling process entirely by grinding a lot on other characters, just the hard part–but it’s still frustrating. Not only that, but my high level characters don’t have nearly enough hero points to train up their elite spec (my mesmer didn’t even have enough for the shield proficiency before they lowered the cost). This sounds like my fault–if this change was made over the summer, clearly I didn’t prepare for the expansion well enough–except that ArenaNet did a really bad job of communicating the fact that elite specs would cost hero points, and a lot of them at that. They did the right thing in reducing the number of points it costs to train you elite spec, previously 400, now reduced down to 250 (for reference, I had maybe 50 extra points at best on any given level 80 character). This solution means you still have a use for those leftover hero points, but those of us without near total map completion won’t have to spend hours in old content just so we can use our shiny new spec.