Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Return To Concordia And Other Stories: GW2

Syp has a post up in which he summarizes the "story" part of GW2's Living Story Season 2 as he understands it. I can shorten it a bit more. Some plants did bad things. A dragon woke up. There was a lot of fighting. Some things got broken. No-one cleared up the mess.

Kessex Hills was a scrubby, unattractive enough place to begin with but after the baddies built a vast, noxious tower and the goodies blew it up, letting the wreckage pollute Viathan Lake, the entire region was left looking like the aftermath of a limited nuclear exchange. You'd think there'd be a refugee crisis (yes, another one) but with centaurs on all sides, clear-cutting the forests and culling the weak (that's anyone with fewer than six limbs) and the nearest major city still failing dismally to come terms with the results of a sustained aerial bombing campaign, where is there to go?

I try to give Kessex as wide a berth as possible but I happened to be passing through on business the other day. Most of the Priory team has moved on from Thunder Ridge but Arcanists Dolja and Kari are still there, doing...something. I chatted with them briefly. Kari passed on the sad news that Katterwik the skritt died when the tower fell but it was what Dolja had to say that really unnerved me.

She says the toxic Krait, a clique within the race of aggressive, amphibious slavers that Scarlet somehow convinced to join one of her nebulous and ill-understood alliances, fled the collapse of their tower through some kind of portals, taking with them their mysterious obelisk shards. Where they went, what the portals were, what they plan to do next, no-one seems to know.

Shouldn't someone be following that up? It seems like kind of a loose end. One of many. How's Cragstead doing these days? Ever wonder that? Braham doesn't seem to worry about it any more so I guess we don't need to either. Still and all, I do, a little.

And what about the refugees that fled the Molten Alliance? I guess they all went home. The ones whose homes weren't burned to the snow that is. At least, they don't seem to be squatting on the hard, hot iron of The Black Citadel and there's certainly no place left for those who fled to Lion's Arch, if any survived. Lion's Arch has its own refugees to care for now. They're still there, some of them, in that shanty town outside Vigil Keep, waiting.

Things are bad all over. I happened to pass through Concordia yesterday. Those vines are still there, the waypoint's still out of service, in pieces on the floor. Didn't Taimi come up with a fix for that? Isn't there some kind of Asuran Repair Krewe that could come out and throw some hazard tape around it at least? It looks so dangerous, sparking and sputtering.

See, this is what happens when you let narrative get loose across your nice, tidy world. These stories leave a residue and it sticks. I like it. It kicks up memories and feelings and it makes me think. But then, I was there when all these stories happened.

What does it all mean to players like Syp or J3w3l, returning from a long vacation, let alone to brand new players, only here because they saw a box on sale, 75% off? Would it serve them better to tuck most of this outdated, non-functional, ex-content tidily away in instances, where only the curious and the willing need ever concern themselves with it? Should open-world events neatly dissipate when their purpose is at an end, melting away more quickly and cleanly than dirty snowmen after the thaw?

Or does the shed carapace of narrative add depth, texture, quality to the world? Is this all just physical graffiti to be scrubbed away or is it the true patina of time passing in a world that wishes to be real? Is it better that some players are confused or irritated by remnants of memories they don't share or is that just the price you pay for coming in late while the movie's still playing?

GW2 players have often called plaintively for the game to have "permanence". What they seem to mean by that is the option to replay content and gain rewards at a time of their convenience. That's how a game works but not a world. A living world doesn't stand and wait for anyone. Should a Living Story?

I won't, I think, revisit and replay the storylets and missions, captured forever as they are in the amber of my achievement panel. Once and done for those. That's a permanence I'll choose to let fade.

I'll keep returning to the blasted heaths and sumps of Kessex, though, and to the vine-choked, blood-soaked confines of Concordia and Fort Selma. When I pass a shattered probe I'll sometimes, often, come close and listen for the hum. These things are real, for a given value of reality. This is permanence.

I started this post whimsically; sarcastically. As I wrote I logged in to check some facts and take some shots. Subtly my mood changed. It's easy to poke a little good-natured fun at the lack of rigor in the storytelling, the bag and sag and hanging threads. Harder, though, to gainsay the feelings and the memories, when you're standing in the ruins.


  1. Some guy linked the ol' Scarlet (Everybody wants to rule the world) video in Reddit the other day and watching it gave me chills. Good chills. Chills that went, daaamn, I was there when all this was happening, and all these images make meaningful sense to me, because of my memories.


    Alternate vimeo link in the description if the above one fails to work.

    1. Oh I hadn't seen that before - it's wonderful!

      It's so strange - we were all (well most of us) so hyper-critical of LS Season 1 while it was happening but, honestly, now it feels like a Golden Age. It's instructive to recall that, when I rated Season One at it's conclusion, just under a year ago, I actually gave it a B-, which is a very solid, positive score.

      If I was re-grading it now I'd up that to a B+. Power of nostalgia in effect.

  2. All this wreckage also give something for veterans to share with the newcomers.

    1. "I was there when we killed the abomination and the thing collapsed..."


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