Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Everybody Kill The Dinosaur: GW2

I've been holding back on commenting on the presentation on the new borderland maps for WvW that ArenaNet gave at last weekend's EGXRezzed convention. Mostly because I haven't bothered to watch it. No-one else much seems to be have been talking about it until today either.

Dulfy, of course, had a full and detailed precis up almost before the ANet devs had toweled down and Ravious was quick off the mark with his reactions. Other than that we had to wait for The Mystical Mesmer to frame the entire thing in detail and tease out the implications.

This morning I flicked through some of the video of the presentation. It would be charitable to suppose the two presenters were still suffering from jet lag or the after-effects of a great con party the night before. Possibly both. On the evidence of the few minutes I watched neither of them seemed interested in what they were showing, much less excited by any of it.

I did catch the moment that The Mystical Mesmer highlights, when one of the presenters describes the way defenders are compelled to stand in a line along the top of the gate of a Keep, something that she apparently believes is common practice in WvW, but which I have rarely if ever seen in all the countless hours I've spent there.

It really is one of those "do you even play the game?" moments and exactly the kind of evidence WvW players love to point to when claiming that ANet have no clue what WvW players want. Almost all of the problems the developers seem determined to "fix" aren't even on the radar of WvW regulars, while the many longstanding, serious, well-documented issues that do concern them go completely unattended.

ANet just doesn't understand Career Soldiers like us.

When considering upcoming changes to MMORPGs you always have to begin with the proviso that things may play very differently in game than they look as though they will from the developers' descriptions and the PR releases. Usually that means you need to dial down your excitement and remember that what you get is usually a lot less impressive than what you were promised.

In this case the proviso stands but for the opposite reason: maybe, just maybe, it won't be completely awful. On the evidence so far, though, things don't look good.

The litany of inappropriate concepts included in the thirty-minute presentation is breathtaking. In essence it's a long string of gimmicks dragged wholesale from other parts of GW2. Moreover, they are largely those gimmicks that were themselves dragged wholesale from other video games and shoehorned uncomfortably and unconvincingly into the MMORPG framework, where they have rankled and irritated genre purists ever since.

And again, and again...

The obsession with turning every aspect of Tyria into one giant jumping puzzle continues unabated. After Heart of Thorns releases we might as well tag GW2 with a new acronym - MMOPG - Massively Multiple Online Platform Game. The "Desert Borderlands" are set to have our battle-hardened veterans of the Mists leaping and hopping into battle like so many leaden-footed ballerinas. It doesn't match any conception I ever had of the grim reality of war, that's for sure.

Then there are the Boss Fights. It seems that in New Tyria, as in all good platform games, everything drives towards the End of Level Boss. WvW, being an environment in which players pitted their skills in both fighting, strategy and social organization against those of other players, hasn't previously needed "Bosses".  The nearest we have are "Drivers", the recognizable and often reviled Commanders who lead their mindless zerg armies against our own noble, always outnumbered but always better-skilled, forces.

Well that's just not good enough, is it? Everyone going for The Charr Legend With The Blue Hair doesn't cut it. That's not a proper Boss.

The solution? Upgrade the NPC Lords to full Boss status so they can Seriously Contribute to Keep Defense. Never mind that all they're really there to do is mark ownership. Never mind that no-one cares about them in the slightest and never has done. Let's make fighting a bunch of NPCs the real focus of this PvP environment and turn the rest of the players, attacking or defending, into faceless grunts.

Could this mean the end of the Golem Rush as we know it?

Not that any of that is by any means the worst of it. How could it be, when there are dinosaurs that need to be burped?. As if there wasn't shark-jumping potential enough merely in the appearance of these previously unsuspected Creatures That Time Forgot, we're asked to accept that they eat "Power Cores", and at such a phenomenal rate that every three hours we must drop everything and punch them until they cough up.

Then we run to The Men From The Priory who take the bile-dripping cores and install them in some revamped, upgraded version of the old Quaggan Weather Machine that lasers down Keep doors from the skies, undoing all the work actual players have put in to restore order since the last time that happened. Talk about a Sisyphean task. And a thankless one.

There's a lot more and all of it is just as dismal. The new environments look fantastic, of course. There is that to say for them. ANet's Art Department remains, as always, the shining beacon of hope in what is otherwise mostly a sinking sea of despair.

And if nothing else at least it'll be something new. There will be a period, quite possibly a lengthy one, where no-one quite knows how anything works. When new tactics and strategies come into fashion overnight and are countered then abandoned just as fast. When players are overwhelmed with new concepts and new content and the established order may crumble.

I'm quite looking forward to it.


  1. The asura on the left definitely stole the show here. WvW? What's that? The only thing that ran through my mind was, "I had no idea that look was possible... need a make-over kit and a free character slot..." *altholic twitch*

    1. Hehe! That one's all Mrs Bhagpuss's doing. I'm the one on the right. The one on the left is still in junior school and she carries her spam sandwiches in a lunchbox in the satchel that you would clearly see on her back if she turned around.

  2. "Never mind that no-one cares about them in the slightest and never has done."

    I've found the Keep / Tower Lords of EotM to be way more fun. The Keep / Tower Lords of vanilla WvW are inconsequential and boring. Might as well be a reinforced cardboard box that says "to raise flag of ownership, hit here".

    Now the argument is "we've done our [PvP] part of cracking the egg on this objective and don't need a [PvE] boss". For the most part on many tiers of play I have experienced cracking the egg is very boring. Defending cracking the egg is boring. Defending the reinforced cardboard box is impossible with a stacked zerg. Numbers win.... that's boring.

    Now, if the PvE boss were smartly designed so that a few defenders could actually help make a mess of a zerg (even if they ultimately lose), that feels like a worthwhile change to me.

    1. Having just spent two hours defending Hills, Bay and Garrison from a heavily numerically superior force I'd have to disagree. What's more, the defense had been running for two hours before I joined in and is almost certainly still running now. We had to shuttle our limited forces between the three keeps and in four hours we lost only Hills.

      Tower and Keep defense is something I find intrinsically enjoyable and satisfying, especially when numbers are against us. The Lord, like the Ring, serves a useful purpose as a rallying point for a final stand, something that can often mark an epic culmination of a long, long struggle, whether defending or attacking. While I certainly wouldn't, as a defender, turn down the additional firepower and the prolonged resistance that the new Lords are supposed to offer, if they do turn out to be genuinely hard even for a full zerg to handle then I very definitely would see their addition as diminishing and diluting the experience for defenders and making it more annoying and irritating for attackers.

      Ultimately, though, whether it works well or badly, it's a PvE solution to a problem only PvE players will believe exists in the first place. The real reason all these changes are coming is that ANet understand that they have very few primary PvP players and that only by masking PvP heavily with PvE trappings can they hope to persuade more of their customers to use that part of the offer.

      Clearly they have seen that EotM, which purports to be WvW but which allows players to avoid each other entirely, has been extremely popular with PvE players. Similarly the addition of massive PvE rewards to sPvP has increased attendance there. The Desert Borderland changes may well be equally popular with PvE players but you can hardly expect those players who spend all their time in WvW precisely because they have little or no interest in PvE to welcome them.

      In the end, though, I imagine the resilience and effectiveness of the new Lords will turn out to be highly overrated. Unless they plan on setting them at the level of Tequatl or Tri-Wurm they are going to drop as fast as every other Boss when a 40-man zerg focuses them.

  3. Having just spent last night defending Hills, Bay and Garrison from TWO heavily numerically superior forces, I want to belabor the long dead horse of missing Dark Age of Camelot. DAoC sieges took planning, coordination and HOURS. But is my memory rose-coloured? I remember that in open field, numbers usually won, but skill could make a substantial difference. (I am not skilled. My favorite armor is stone.) Fortifications were an equalizer of sorts. Good defense could hold off an army. In GW2 it's all over in matter of minutes, even with defense. The architecture is so restrictive (and stupid, who designed those things? The Helms Deep guy?) that it allows for very little variation from one battle to the next. I had been hoping for some improvements, but from your report, it’s not looking good. I don’t know if I want NPCs to be more of a challenge, but we lost our Hills to two people, and one of them was sorting his mats. In the time that it took me to run from Garrison, and I’m built for speed. That can’t be right.
    Also: Apologies to the Asura, but do we need more sci-fi tech in our ersatz magic world? Gunpowder is bad enough, pace engineers, but outright Federation shield generators? Must we?

    Wintercrow, SoR

    1. I played DAOC for almost a year from launch but for most of that time my PC went into slide-show mode during Keep battles so I never really knew what was going on. Everyone seems to remember them as being wonderful though.

      When I wrote the above post ANet hadn't put up the dev post about it. If they had then my tone would have been somewhat less snarky and my speculation a bit more positive. It seems there will be more similarities to the current set-up than the presentation and subsequent reports suggested and the gameplay may not be quite as radically different as it appeared.

      The changes to Dolyaks sound very positive and it was interesting to have it confirmed that the scoring system remains unchanged, too. They also said that the Alpine BLs will definitely be back at some point so perhaps there will be some variety along the way. All in all I am cautiously optimistic. More so than I am for the core HoT content, that's for sure.


  4. Well, that does sound somewhat better, yes. At least they use 'strategic' as a bullet point. The cosmetic descriptions are, as you say, going to be great, but that's not substance. (Unless they use the proper elements: Fire, Ice, Candy, Slime)

    Re cautious optimism: Will attempt to do same. Thanks!


  5. More jumping puzzles. Huzzah. *tabs out*

    I'm a bit struggling to see why they keep touting "more verticality" as a positive. I truly struggle to recall the last time I heard something like "this zone really would be better if it had a small footprint and was five levels deep."

    I guess at this point I just don't have a lick of faith in the design team. I may have moved over to "won't buy expansion until I've seen something attractive (to me) in the videos in the first month past release."

    1. Well at least Nintendo have their blueprint for Super Mario Online

    2. Heh. But, dang it, there's some good stuff here too. Really torn as to what to do as someone that loved Gw1, loves Tyria, loves the class design, isn't really fond of "dodge or die" and loathes jumping.

      At least there is EQ2. For now.


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