Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Lost Shores - Be There or Be Square: GW2

Probably as a result of the furor that followed the Mad King's controversial one-time literal pop-up event in Lion's Arch, ArenaNet decided to post a schedule for the upcoming Lost Shores extravaganza. It comes in three Acts, beginning on Friday November 16th and running through Saturday and Sunday with a special event each day at Noon PST.

The press release is fascinating, showing, I think, just how extraordinarily difficult it is going to be to balance a genuinely "dynamic" virtual world with customer expectations of a commercial product. Taking ANet's description of the event at face value, there's an intrinsic and apparently insoluble problem and in just three-paragraphs they hammer home relentlessly precisely what it is :

"we want to make sure that you are not missing out"

"an Event in Lion’s Arch that you don’t want to miss"

"make sure you will not miss it"

"this will only run once, so make sure you will be there!"

C'mon bird! You must have seen something!
Whether the event will live up to the hype, whether it will be truly world-changing, that doesn't matter. What does matter is the insistence that this is something all Guild Wars 2 players must not miss. That raises expectations that simply cannot be met in full. A lot of people aren't going to be there, no matter how much they'd like to be. The balancing act between building excitement and fostering resentment is a high wire to walk, that's for sure, and the fall is steep on either side.

The timing of the events is intriguing in itself. The opening Act falls on a Friday which is, as far as I can tell, a normal workday in the United States. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management Schedule of Public Holidays for 2012 has nothing listed for November 16th, anyway.  The first event that we don't want to miss kicks off at midday Pacific Standard Time, which is three in the afternoon on the East Coast and eight in the evening GMT.

An elephant? No, wait, is it two camels playing Twister?
Well, it works for me. I'll be comfortably home from work when it all gets going. Much of America, however, will still either be at work or at school. Just as well they "will be able to enjoy additional content afterwards even if [they] cannot make the kick-off time" then, although whether that will make up for missing the unmissable special event (albeit an event not as special or unmissable as Sunday's "big Finale") I beg to doubt.

The same timings repeat on Saturday and Sunday for the following acts. Less problematic, obviously, on a weekend, but again I'd say it strongly favors players in GMT timezones and using the exact same times does risk locking out the same people from each phase. The timing seems especially odd when you consider that GW2 has separate European servers, but as other MMOs have discovered, letting half your customers in on a secret before the rest get to find out what it is never plays well.

Ships they come, ships they go...
All in all, what I conclude from this and from my time in Rift is that truly dynamic events are hard to bring off without riling up a sizable portion of your player-base, and that's without even considering what events different players would recognize as "dynamic" in the first place. Trion made a lot of tweaks to the way they did theirs, with the result that, in my opinion at least, they bled virtually all of the dynamism out.

ArenaNet seem much more determined to match the addition of ongoing, universally available content ("There will be plenty of content available to enjoy that will remain permanently in the world as a result of the outcome of this event") with genuine Saint Crispin's Day moments. So far, at least. Going to be very interesting see how the policy plays out over time.

One thing's for sure - my much-anticipated first weekend of Storm Legion is now holed below the water-line!

8 comments:

  1. They just cater for their highest populated times - maybe it means Europeans happen to hold the majority of players on that "Friday afternoon" start. Would probably be a wierd time for the finale (I think that would be my Monday morning). :P

    All they can do is give a heads up and then it's up to the players to be there if they are so inclined. I'm quite fine with the idea that my guy can't be everywhere at once so if I miss out on stuff it's all ok. I have no need to complain either, got more than my money's worth with the standard content (aaaand the game was a gift to me in the first place)- everything else is free. ^_^

    I find it funny reading all the whiners on the GW forum saying it's at a wierd time. If you -really- want to be there, then just take the day off. There should be no problem if the game is -that- important to you and if you can't then obviously it's not as important as you are making it out to be. (which is good, RL should always come first!)

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    1. They're damned if they do, damned if they don't, really. Someone's going to be angry however they do it. I'm just happy it works for me for once - playing on U.S. servers I've had years of things starting at about midnight to two in the morning.

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    2. If you -really- want to be there, then just take the day off. There should be no problem if the game is -that- important to you and if you can't then obviously it's not as important as you are making it out to be.

      That's... such a bizarre argument. Is there no such thing as legitimate criticism? Is there no basis for disappointment that a game's developers are spending time on content that you will be unable to experience?

      I still don't buy the Simultaneous Worldwide Release or Bust argument either. Just because New Zealand & company celebrate New Years first, doesn't make the party in the US any less special hours later. If it really matters, they could always switch up which time zones start first, since obviously there are going to be a lot of them in the future.

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    3. If they pump out content at the rate they've threatened taking days off to experience it could easily eat the entirety of an American vacation allowance, I'd guess. I get nearly seven weeks annual holiday so it would be a realistic option for me, and I did indeed take time off for GW2's Headstart. I can't imagine making a habit of it, though.

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  2. Can't serve everyone - here, it's not just a phrase.
    it boggles the mind why it's such a drama to some players to miss something sometime, especially if we're talking icing on the cake. I mean, I am gonna miss LOADS of things in any MMO due to things like playstyle or playtime - and how is that any different?
    so, you have a busy agenda? deal with it! they're already timing these events for prime time and announcing them, what more can you wish for?

    sigh.

    a while ago I suggested devs should stop creating huge expansions and instead do mini-patches of ongoing, changing content every 2 weeks. and not announce a thing in patch notes. let players hunt down the world themselves.
    I seem to be quite the oddball. ;)

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    1. In an ideal world I'd prefer more big expansions and less dynamic content. I liked the old EQ schedule of a boxed expansion every six months and I was quite annoyed when they dropped that back to one a year. That was when expansions actually came in boxes, though. I liked going to the store and coming home with a box a lot. Digital downloads don't have any of the same anticipatory added value and they are a pain to download, so if we're stuck on that road then yes, smaller ones more often and preferably for free gets my vote, too.

      On the other hand, I really don't care if I miss one-off events. Scarcity = value, so every one I do get to catch is worth more relative to how many I miss. I don't like prolonged events much, like Rift has, where content is temporary but long-lasting. I think that's a poor compromise.

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  3. I'm sort of interested in checking this out. I wonder how this event will be, not a fan of events that are 'one time only' but as I will be available I might as well pop in. I'd also prefer more expansions or lasting content instead of these one shot deals, we'll see how this goes.

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    1. The thing that puzzles me is that it's an awful lot of build-up for the addition of what is apparently a smallish island with light-hearted content and a dungeon. Makes you wonder what kind of fanfare a major addition might get.

      All the timings are so convenient for me, though, that I'm very happy to turn up and enjoy whatever happens.

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