Monday, March 25, 2013

Ever Onward: GW2

I found this report on where GW2 may be headed somewhat disheartening. After a full six months of playing very little other than Guild Wars 2 I find myself in the uncomfortable position of enjoying it immensely in spite of the vision its developers have for it rather than because of it.

While there are elements with which I can sympathize, particularly the emphasis on keeping players out in the open world, much of what's reported there just rubs me up the wrong way. The two things I'd most like to hear that ArenaNet are working on - housing and an expansion - are completely off the table. Worse, the very types of new content that most interest me - new explorable areas, opening up the existing map, new races, new classes - can apparently only be expected in the expansion we aren't going to get.

Instead there's a whole lot of vague guff about how to "tell compelling stories" and teach players how to play. It looks as though the foreseeable future is more of that endless fiddling about with game systems that so obsesses developers of all MMOs, combined with a lot of bits and pieces that are supposed to (but don't) amount to a coherent narrative.

I'm not surprised by any of this. Well, perhaps by the determined insistence that there won't be an expansion in the "foreseeable future". That does seem to go against the commercial model established by Guild Wars, but otherwise it's not far off what I expected.

Compared to almost any other MMO house, ANet seem to think in almost geological time. Everything is for the long-term health of the game. Short or even medium-term pain is preferable to any kind of quick fix and the pig's ear they made of their uncharacteristic attempt at an emergency response with the Ascended Gear fiasco can only have confirmed their belief that slow and steady wins the race.

Tomorrow we get the first of the major changes to the structure of World vs World. From the limited information so far, that would appear to bolt a quasi-PvE model of character progression on top of what was previously a competitive ranking model at server level. It's hard to imagine how that will play out. The two concepts seem almost pathologically incompatible, especially when you consider that the new system is not just going to be per-character rather than per account but that "the team fully expects that players will initially feel that rewards take too long to earn".

In other words, WvW players will be faced with a menu of upgrades which they may or may not find attractive or useful, each of which will have to be ground out separately for each character the player wants to progress, at a speed which the developers have designed to be unacceptable. On the face of it, one might think the developers were telling players to suck it up and get on with it. Whether anyone's having fun no longer seems relevant.

Indeed, with all the talk of educating the players on how to play the game properly one might even begin to wonder whether these particular developers consider themselves to be in the entertainment business at all. Perhaps, like A Tale In The Desert, we should consider GW2 more in the light of a sociological experiment than a game.

It's just as well then that something else in that report turns out to be true, for me at least. "If you like playing only one part of the game, you should be able to enjoy the full game doing just that." It sounds like an oxymoron but I understand what they mean and it does gibe with my own experience. I like leveling up. I've been doing it for six months, I still like it and I am still finding a vast, a truly vast quantity of content to do that's new to me.

My Mesmer made 80 last week, leaving me just a Guardian short of the full set. Rather than hurl myself straight at that particular mountain I decided to give myself a treat and play up another ranger. I also decided to play him in an entirely different way to any character I've played so far - leveling him up by full map completion in consecutive maps starting from his own homelands.

So far this has been a fascinating, almost revelatory experience. It's like playing a different game altogether. No wonder so many people left after a month or two if they thought this was what the whole thing was about, that's all I can say. Well, actually, no, it's not all I can say. I can say plenty more than that and I will, another time, but right now I still have that first map to complete. Ever onward!


  1. It's wierd, isn't it? When what players want and what developers want clash, especially with the devs implying that what players want isn't what's truly GOOD for the player.

    I think that conflict will always exist, especially because the playerbase isn't some monolithic entity. Developers can never appease everyone. You'll always have someone who's not happy.

    But despite all the social engineering, I'm still having a ton of fun with this game. Just the other day I discovered the over-arching meta of Dredgehaunt Cliffs, and aided the Priory in securing the southern half of the map. I find new stuff like this daily.

    Though when the day comes that I will lose interest, I'll just drop it. If this game in the futrue somehow interests me, so be it, but its present form keeps me entertained. If I stop it, I may come back whenever I feel like, perhaps when an expansion drops.

    Sorry if I always get long-winded in my comments, but your blog posts almost always mirrors my thoughts exactly (and expressed more eloquently). I am again in complete agreement with you. Despite the wariness I have for the future, this game continues to delight me.


    1. Heh! Don't apologize for lengthy comments, especially not when you have lots of interesting and relevant things to say. Dredgehaunt Cliffs was, I think, the first full-scale meta-event I saw. Mrs Bhagpuss ran into it very early on and I came over to see it. It was very busy there then and the whole map was chaotic and crazy. I've been back a few times since and tried to do some of it but not with much success. I must go there again.

      I never really expected, or intended to play GW2 exclusively even for this long. We bought the Rift Storm Legion expansion with the 12 months sub in the expectation that we'd be mostly done with GW2 by Christmas. It hasn't worked out that way. I definitely see it now as one of those MMOs like EQ, EQ2 or Vanguard (or indeed the original Guild Wars) that I'll be coming back to over and over for many years. That in itself makes me a lot more sanguine about both the pace and direction of development.

    2. I just get very excited at all the intelligent discussion that goes on in the various MMO blogs. Rarely on the internet will you get discussion which consist of "This is what I think, and why" instead of "Think is what I think." Where the intent is good discussion instead of just shoving opinions down people's throats. Perhaps I'm just way too easily excited into words...

      Speaking of which though, the patch has dropped earlier than expected! I shall see you on the other side!



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