Saturday, September 22, 2012

What's My Motivation? : GW2

Tyria is a land not just of seasons but the archetypes of seasons. The country of the Charr glows with the rich tones of deep autumn. Honey gold and darkening blue, all the colors of the Fall. Queensdale stretches out across the long, high summer of between-the-wars. North with the Norn midwinter snow lies Christmas card pristine.

Mmm! Smell that mountain air!
Look past warring centaurs, angry ghosts, berserker insurrectionists. What's left is idyll. This is how most MMOs begin; blue skies, green fields, warm sand, clean snow, bright, clear sun. Villages, towns and farms where people, still familiar furred or feathered, huge or small, go about business that's easy to understand, asking only help that's simple to provide.

These are places that feel good not just to visit but inhabit. Life could be good here. Life is good here. 

Carry your rabbit? Why certainly, madam!
Fast-forward to the end game. Such a loaded term. Beckett took the title of his masterpiece from gaming but it sometimes seems gaming has snatched back from Beckett tropes of alienation and despair. Shall we go? Yes, let's go. They do not move.

It's not Beckett I blame for all this, though. It's Tolkein. He's generally the go-to guy for blame it's true but in this case there's a specific. It's that "journey", isn't it? The little guy starts out in an idealized Edwardian vision of the Cotswolds and ends up in Hell. He marked the trail that we have to follow. Only when Frodo got there he threw the damn ring down the hole and came back. We get to stay on Mount Doom forever.

My eyes! My eyes!
There's always just been a cataclysm and there's always about to be a war, if it hasn't already started, and it's always the Last War (and where have I heard that before?). There's always a Dragon to kill and the undead are always swarming out of their graves and the sky is forever rent with purple slashes and a hand reaching through from The Void. End game? If only! It never bloody does end, does it?

For once, how about we start after all the misery? How about we step into a world torn asunder by malefic forces, riven by war and shattered into ruins and we put it back together? How about a narrative where our characters leave the scorched and blackened lands where nothing grows but poisoned purple rot and set out on a quest to find somewhere worth living? And find it!
Here should do nicely, once we get rid of these locals

I'm tired of guiding my characters through fascinating new worlds for hours, days, weeks only to be rewarded with barren landscapes, ugly scenery, harsh colors. The air gets thicker, the horizon closes in and it no longer matters what dyes I used because the light casts everything in a sick, green hue. I came all that way for this?

Dunno about you, boss, but I feel right at home here!
Ah well, the lot of the Hero I suppose, and mustn't we all be heroes if we want to grow? No settling down in The Shire for you, my lad. Just shoulder that pack and off you go. Gandalf wouldn't take "bugger off, you interfering old man" for an answer and doesn't every game designer secretly see himself as Gandalf, moving each mere mortal player to take up a destined role in some greater plan they cannot hope to understand?.

Thank the gods for snow, at least. Even a miserable, trammeled snowscape like Carpathian Fangs is nicer to look at than ash and magma or brackish swamp. Seems Frostgorge Sound's my new home for a while. I just wish I could find somewhere warm to sleep.


  1. Oh my god, how can there be no comment yet??
    This gotta be one of my favorite reads of yours - beautiful!! :) and so much to ponder. the reversed dramaturgy you suggested is intriguing.

    I LOVE the autumn and winter zones with a passion in GW2. now that I'm 60+ there's more and more of the usual armaggedon scenery coming up and for some reason that bugs me a lot more in GW2 than it used to in other MMOs. maybe because the entire leveling experience feels so flat and I didn't get this feeling of linearity, the game pointing towards a certain direction, up until now. it's certainly reflected in the pace of the personal story too. luckily, returning to any zone will always be an option in this game. and I will definitely create alts!

  2. Just wait 'til you get to Orr!

    Thanks for the kind words. My page views are rising nicely - I had my best month so far in August and September is going to beat it - but increased traffic doesn't seem to generate any more comments. I like to think that the comments I do get are of very high quality, though :)

  3. I keep meaning to comment on this, but I keep coming up with "yes, agreed, more of the same, please, great screenshots!"

    That just sorta sounds trite, so I let it stew for a while to see what else settles out. As it happens, just navel-gazing. *shrug*

    This really is a great post, though, Bhagpuss.

    Oi, here's an echo of a thought, though. Taking your "progression into a dour, bleak future" thought even further, it's always bothered me that the "endgame" of these games almost always funnels into squirrely little Groundhog Day-like pockets of the world. There's this awesome world out there to save, and the heroes wind up forever puttering around in caves, trying to pump their gearscore. There's just something... wrong... about that.

  4. Funny enough, I agree and disagree with you at the same time. (Playing the catch-up game after my vacation, only slowly progressing through older posts.) I agree that sometimes end zones can be all too dreary.

    On the other hand, most games start out too war-torn and hectic for my liking already. There are just too many "We are under siege! Hero, to arms! Show why everybody looks up to you!"

    The game that gave the best starter experience in my opinion was, ironically - LotRO's Shire. Or maybe not ironically, seeing how that exactly follows your argument. Counterexamples include WoW's redone Cataclysm zones, and especially Rift, where the whole pretense seems to be that you were chosen to single-handedly save all earth and civilization - just like 1500 others around you.

  5. Isn't what made Guild Wars 1 so great was the dichotomy they played up? The beginning of Prophecies started out in a peaceful, idyllic land, that was subsequently torn to shreds. The story then had you lead the survivors out of the harsh, decimated land, through the mountains, and finally to the greens and sun of Lion's Arch. After that, I'm not sure... I didn't play it much after that, but a lot of that story up to it was all about finding safety, and I remember that story being fantastic. :)


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