Sadly that didn't happen. Even though Scarlet only opens her puppet show every couple of hours she must have other important things to do outside the house for the rest of the day because once you find your way into the rather uncomfortable pied à terre she maintains below the Durmand Priory you're free to stay as long as you like without fear of interruption. It's just as well. There's a lot to take in as well as a lot to take away.
Since the discovery of the lair speculation has been running wild. There's a lengthy thread on the forums filled with ideas about where this runaway train of a storyline might be headed. Favorite theories include
- Scarlet is working to end the Elder Dragon threat
- Scarlet is trying to take an Elder Dragon's power for herself
- Scarlet is luring the Elder Dragons to Lion's Arch where they will have a massive fight, destroy the city and each other, leaving her in complete and undisputed power
- Scarlet is controlled by and/or working for one of the Elder Dragons
- Scarlet is being run by some non-draconic power (Abaddon, The Mursaat, Dhuum) for purposes unclear
- Scarlet is going to kill The Pale Tree
If no-one ever said the inaugural Living Story season wouldn't have draconic influences or repercussions, then there could be a dragon in there somewhere. Sentiment seems to be running towards either the Jungle Dragon, unofficially named as Mordremoth, or Primordus, the earth/fire dragon currently being held at bay by the entire dwarven race somewhere in the bowels of Tyria.
One commenter came up with a very convincing and coherent outline that not only speculates on the final outcome but gives solid commercial and gameplay reasons why ANet might have chosen to go that way. I'd really like it to be true but I fear it would be a step too far. It's Zayd Akira, half-way down the second page. He writes with a freestyling disregard for conventional spelling, punctuation or indeed paragraph breaks but don't let that put you off; there's nothing lacking in the clarity of his thought or logic. The way Zayd nails exactly the issues with the Personal Story that are acting as a drag anchor on all future development and extrapolates clean and clear ways those outmoded ties could be cost-effectively removed and remodelled suggests to me that someone at ANet should be reading his resumé right now, although if so I hope he didn't type it up himself.
Whatever the outcome, everyone seems to agree it has to be something big. ArenaNet are hyping expectation with their claim that the final resolution of the storyline will "change the face of Tyria forever". My own pick of the theories, that Scarlet will launch a successful and fatal assault on The Pale Tree (alright, it's more of a hope than a belief) has already been deemed insufficiently climactic by some.
There's a real Catch-22 going on for the developers here and it's hard to see how they're going to resolve it. Experience by now must have taught them that no matter how GW2 players may say they want real, meaningful changes in the world an awful lot of them react extremely negatively when they get them. On the other hand, if the resolution of a year-long, frequently unpopular and unwelcome storyline turns out to be some weapon skins, a few achievements and the death of an NPC no-one liked anyway the forums will resound with howls for heads to roll. Again.
Speaking of deaths, there's got to be at least one, hasn't there? To give the whole story arc some impact, some gravitas, someone has to not make it through to the end. It might be Scarlet herself, but that would be a waste in so many ways. Sure, she's really hated by a lot of the playerbase and for all the wrong reasons: not because of her evil (or are they?) in-game actions but because she's been seen for a long time as a derivative, amateurish, poorly-written Mary Sue. At long last, though, there are signs that people are slowly beginning to come around to her.
On the forums and in-game there are more and more people prepared to admit to at least some grudging recognition that Scarlet might have some redeeming features. At the Marionette event I've heard plenty of conversation between players about what she might be up to and the haters and don't-cares are no longer in the ascendancy. People are beginning to be curious. It's taken long enough...
The first year of Living Story has been a very rocky road and a very steep learning curve, like driving a lorry full of explosives around hairpin bends on a mountain pass. Alright, not so much like that as like sitting in your office while people are mean about your work on the internet and you wonder if you'll keep your job, but I'm sure it's been the developer's equivalent of a white-knuckle ride.
If the black spot's not to go to Scarlet then who gets it? Apparently the smart money's on Lady Kasmeer, which would certainly motivate Marjory if nothing else. It's my impression that both Marjory and Kasmeer, as characters, and their rather cleverly developed, carefully coded relationship, have been something of a hit with many players. If ANet learned one thing from the Personal Story it should have been that if you're going to kill off a character it had better be one, like Tybalt, for whom the players have developed some affection and who they'll miss when they're gone. Watch your back, Kas.
Of course this is all sheer imagination. We could go on like this for weeks and that's the fun of it. As far as hard facts go, for all the fancy theories based on confident detective work done in Scarlet's lair we can't even agree whether the wall-screen shows the future or the past. No wonder the devs are "having a good time reading the speculation" to quote Danicia the Community Co-ordinator. I bet they can't eat their donuts for laughing.
Whatever the final outcome, when it's revealed a few weeks down the line I very much doubt we'll get any lore-convincing explanation of where Scarlet's seemingly endless resources came from and I'm still of the opinion that, while there may have been some kind of twelve-month outline from the outset, the individual episodes have been turned out in a much more piece-meal fashion. And yet...
...and yet I can't say I haven't enjoyed it. It's been far too long, far too baggy and there have been far too many longeurs and lassitudes along the way but mostly I haven't been bored and often I have been intrigued.
ANet no longer talk up their iterative design paradigm the way they used to before launch. It's hard to iterate before a live audience as I'm sure they've found. The process served them well enough in development, though, and if we expect GW2 to be around for a decade or more then, as a first iteration, this Living Story may just have served its purpose after all.