Over the three years it's been up and running, beta weekends included, I've taken over six and a half thousand screenshots. They pop up randomly as my desktop background, a new one every ten minutes. As we move steadily into the future these begin more and more to resemble glimpses of a lost age.
Living Story Seasons One and Two account for much of the change. I diligently documented their convoluted, fractured progress as I attempted to follow the quasi-linear narrative. One would not, perhaps, expect the chapters of a completed story to remain in play indefinitely but seeing those fragmentary images of the past reminds me strongly just how much happened that can never happen again.
|A rift in reality|
The changes made to the way Season Two operates, packaging it up into re-playable, purchasable instances, attempts to square that circle with some constricted success but despite the ongoing clamor for something similar to be applied retrospectively to Season One, it's very hard to see how something like Scarlet's Invasions could be replicated for latecomers. Even relatively simple events like the Shiverpeak refugee crisis would only be feasible with the introduction of the kind of phasing technology used in WoW and ESO, something I can't see as either likely or desirable.
Still, one doesn't expect an ongoing storyline, necessarily, to remain persistently available throughout the life of an MMO. Every MMO I've played for long enough to see it happen has had one-off story-driven events that did or didn't change the world. What's more surprising to realize, as these snapshots of the past pop up, is just how many set-piece events have been added to GW2 and then discarded in less than three years. Events that would, in other MMOs, most certainly have represented permanent recurring content.
|A rift in surreality|
Over in EQ2 right now Errolisi Day has just ended and Brewday is coming in. Those holidays come round every single year, bringing with them all the content they've accrued over the life of the game. Most years something new is added but rarely is anything taken away. Any year that I get the itch to revisit holiday events in Norrath or Azeroth or Middle Earth or just about any other of the imaginary worlds I've called home for a while I can be fairly confident the party will still be going on.
I'm hoping to visit FFXIV during the current "don't make a stranger of yourself" welcome back week that runs until the ninth of March. There I mean to board the much-ballyhooed Golden Saucer to see whether Triple Triad is really anything like Vanguard's much-missed Diplomacy card game. No-one knows what the future holds but I feel reasonably assured in suggesting that if I don't make it to Eorzea this time round the Chocobo races will still be running whenever I do find the time to drop by.
Things just don't work that way in Tyria. For all the lather and strop over "limited time events", for all the hue and cry and tarring and feathering after the Karka Invasion and the Taming of Southsun, the game has largely carried on with a modified version of the St Crispin's Day Solution.
|Can't say we weren't warned|
Remember Dragon Bash? In Telara something very similar happens every year. In Tyria it's a once-and-done deal. The Bazaar of the Four Winds managed one repeat appearance before it crashed and burned. Literally. Super Adventure Box similarly managed a single encore before the plinky-plink music stuttered into silence. When you come to think of it, what set festivals do we have left in GW2? Halloween, Wintersday and... erm...that's it.
Really, check the Wiki. Two, count 'em, two whole holidays! WoW has thirteen, EQ2 ten, LotRO has a big bash for each season of the year and half a dozen small celebrations scattered around between. You can quite literally mark them on your calendar except you won't need to because you'll have a calendar in the game itself that keeps track stuff like that.
Good luck planning ahead that way in GW2. True, you don't have to be there at a set time on a set day or forever wonder what could have been, the way everyone complained about so bitterly back in Autumn 2012. No, you just have to be there at some point during a set period instead and you'd better be paying attention because, likely as not, there won't be much warning before it starts.
|We'll always have Halloween|
Once that extended moment, which you can generally bet on stretching for two weeks, Tuesday to Tuesday, passes, chances seem to be increasingly slender whether you'll get a second shot. The subtle way this change has been slipped under the guard of the frenzied supporters of equal access gameplay is exemplary. Give the people what you want them to have while telling them you have listened and are giving them what they said they wanted. Slick.
Counter to that, though, I do notice, as I gaze nostalgically at shots of Scarlet's probes in The Mists or blocky, primary-colored animals cavorting through Metrica Province, there is a move afoot to package and conceal temporary content neatly away in instances, where it doesn't frighten the horses that we don't have and can be sold on at a profit. The recent Golem Invasion that turned out to be a player-exploited bug not the harbinger of some unexpected World Event, reminded me sharply of how long it's been since some strange, unexplained addition to the open-world landscape sparked frenzied speculation.
I do hope things aren't going to become too tidy. I love looking back at all these lost moments. I love knowing they will never return. Let's have more of it. With an expansion in the works it's a fine time for some excitement-building intrigue and mystery. I never travel anywhere without my camera and soon I won't even have to be in every shot.