Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is That Meant To Be Me? : GW2

We're coming up hard against the next beta weekend. It's The Secret World this time and I had a little more left to say on Guild Wars 2 but there's scarcely time. Maybe there's somewhere I could get some advice on pacing myself.

Luckily someone already covered the main point I had it in mind to make. Several someones, in fact. Syl, and Azuriel for two. The point in question is whether the MMO world is ready for a theme park that doesn't tell you where the rides are, which order you're supposed to ride them or when you get on and off. There may be some danger of culture shock and if we're talking MMO tourism, there did seem to be more than a few people on Yak's Bend last Sunday who'd found they'd gone on a Tyrian holiday by mistake.

That's 35xp right there!
Cries of "Where do I go to level up?" and "I did all the hearts and I'm still two levels too low for the next zone" echoed through Map chat in Plains of Ashford every time I passed by. Pointing out (as I did, frequently) that levels scale, events diverge and change, travel to other areas is fast and easy or even that you can get experience from pulling up an onion (a Ravious Top Ten Tip) was met by complete indifference. The most disheartening thing was that no-one even argued the point, they just reeled off the exact same prescriptive instructions you'd get from anyone trying to be helpful in WoW (oh, use your imagination - it could happen). "Go here, stay there this long, then go there", "Do this first, then do that".

My least-favorite "helpful" reply was "go do your Personal Story". Now I'm not knocking the quality of the Personal Stories. Wait. I'm not knocking the quality of the Charr Ash Legion Personal Story, that being the only one I've seen. Black Swans and all that. I did some more of mine and it's pretty good as these things go. My problem isn't with how ArenNet have done the Personal Stories. It's that they've done them.

Someone else in a similar place. Close enough.
I sent a good deal of negative feedback during the last beta test, using the bug reporting tool in creative mode. Most of it was about the UI, with which I have some serious issues. (I did try doing a post on that but even I was bored before the third paragraph). My other complaints were largely related to the existence of the Personal Story, which I felt was having the exact opposite of the intended effect.

Far from bonding me with my character,  I felt I was being invited to watch a movie about someone else entirely, with the screening being spasmodically interrupted and re-scheduled in increasingly inconvenient locations in and around The Black Citadel. It was enjoyable but it seemed to have nothing at all to do with the supposedly living, open dynamic world inhabited by my own character (you know, the one whose motivations, attitudes and personality quirks I decide).

Now this looks like a story I want to hear
Maybe it's possible to integrate an instanced, didactic, directed, inflexible Personal Story seamlessly with a quasi-open world filled with unpredictable dynamic events. If so, ArenaNet don't seem to have cracked it yet. I fear that, as Azuriel succinctly puts it, "You cannot start off with structured, instanced storytelling and then act surprised when someone asks when they can get to the next step". Which was what was happening all day Sunday.

Wake me up when it's all over
My personal solution is to think of my character's Personal Story as some kind of dream or fantasy he's having and not allow it to get in the way of him doing whatever the hell he feels like doing. That way I can enjoy the really rather good storytelling without being affected by the incongruity. Heaven knows I'm used to blinking at logical inconsistencies in MMOs. Sometimes I have to blink so often I must be at risk of strobe-induced epilepsy.

Ah well, plenty of people didn't "get" Guild Wars when it launched and that ended up doing alright. I'm sure it'll all work out in the end. Fingers crossed.


  1. Oh, definitely there's gonna be culture shock. I think that's going to be a major reason why a lot of people won't like the game (that and the lack of a gear treadmill to give them direction).

    In terms of Personal Story, I've decided to ignore it every 20 levels or so, and then do several chapters in chunks. Otherwise it was feeling very fragmented and interrupted to only be able to do 2-3 chapters before having to go back into the 'real world' to level up.

  2. I agree with your personal story critique; it was the least immersive part for me and didn't help in connecting to my character (also dying frequently and the resorting to stand back and let the NPCs fight doesn't help). Tbh I found AOC's realisation of personal story loads more well designed and engrossing.

    However, while the concept also makes little sense in regard to the other events, I don't buy into the suggested causal link between that and all the questions you described from zonechat. It's not like all players jumped straight into their personal story, got programmed to "this means that's how the entire game must work!" and became helpless kittens later when it didn't....
    That kind of programming is a lot older and took place for much longer. I've sympathy for MMO newcomers and would certainly exclude them from my harsh judgement (gw2 is not too beginner friendly either) but the rest just no. That explanation is just too wishywashy for me and basically assumes stupid players where I suspect lazy ones.

  3. Yep, it clearly can't be the cause of the reluctance to go with the dynamic flow, but it can't help but reinforce it. One thing I sent some fairly harsh feedback about in-game tied some of my UI issues together with the Personal Story issue: as far as I can tell you cannot stop the current stage of the Personal Story from displaying in your on-screen pending "quests" window (top right of screen). Nor can you stop the location of the Personal Story instance from being highlighted on your mini-map, and in a much more obvious and insistent way than any event or Heart quest is highlighted at that.

    I think that sends a strong and constant message that whatever you are doing you *should* be getting on with your Personal Story - it *must* be the most important thing becasues it's both top of your "To Do" list and flashing on your map and it won't stop until you go and do it. It drove me nuts.

  4. Well, basically I disagree...'problems'-with-personal-story-and-renown-hearts-content/

    The so called "problem" is created by the attitude of the players who are stuck in an "old paradigm" mind-set and are not open to the process of learning. In my opinion, it is not ArenaNet's responsibility to "fix" these people.

  5. I'm slightly puzzled by your disagreement. Aren't we both suggesting that it's the unwillingness of players to adjust to a new paradigm that's causing the "problem"? I thought I made that pretty clear.

    The only fault I'm finding with ArenaNet is their inclusion of an out-of-place legacy feature from the previous paradigm, namely the Personal Story, which I feel is throwing a drag anchor on the rest of their innovation.

    1. I simply don't feel like the inclusion of "optional" content is at fault at all. The "problem" exists solely due to the myopic approach of these players.

      Even if it's optional content I personally choose to not participate in, I like that the options are there.

    2. I'm far from convinced the Personal Story is considered "optional" by ArenaNet. I resisted it robustly but the insistence of both the quest tracker and the map on pushing it made that hard work. I believe they even use the same map icon for the Personal Quest that they use for your current active quest in Guild Wars, meaning that Guild Wars players will be pre-conditioned to respond to that symbol as a priority. It certainly had me going in the wrong direction many times.

      If they'd allow me to opt out of the Personal Story completely and never see or hear of it unless I opted back in, then I'd consider it optional content.


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