I stole that image from Aywren who, like an awful lot of people, has already decided to sit this whole thing out at least until after launch, if not for ever. There's a reddit campaign up and running that aims to persuade people to boycott the expansion. It's currently 84% upvoted (whatever that means). The thread on the official ANet forums totals eighty-two pages as I write, with over 4000 posts, most of which, if a random sampling is anything like a guide, are vows not to buy HoT until Something Is Done About It.
Ravious makes a heartfelt plea for tolerance and compassion for the poor artists and designers. They just tried to make a nice game for everyone only to find themselves hounded off Twitter and reddit by the baying internet hordes, all for something that they didn't even have anything to do with. Tobold, who doesn't really do nuance and doesn't have a dog in the fight anyway, since he doesn't play the game in the first place, chips in to lay the whole thing at the door of "the usual entitlement kids".
I guess we should go round them up. Anyone know where they usually hang out? Oh yes, Twitter and reddit and the forums. Not on nice blogs like these, that's for sure. Oh, never mind that anyway. It's too late to close that door.
This is just a sample of the furor. The story hasn't made the BBC Technology News pages yet but I imagine it's only a matter of time.
My own first reaction was mostly along the lines of "what's all the fuss about?" Yes, $50 (£35) is on the pricey side for a bog-standard, basic version of an MMO expansion but it's hardly out of the ballpark. The perks and extras in the deluxe versions do look a bit weary and shop-worn but then, to me, they almost always do, which is why I have never in fifteen years bought one.
|Wait, I think I can make something out through the fog...is it a release date? Nah...|
Dig a bit deeper, though, and reasons to be scornful begin to make themselves clear. There's the highly contentious issue of ANet overtly promoting the base game over the past few weeks with the strong message that it's needed to play the expansion, only to reveal, after (presumably) many thousands of people had taken them at their word and bought the game, that it in fact comes bundled with the expansion anyway.
That is, at best, clumsy marketing. Some people, quite a lot of people, think it's more sinister than that. I'd probably be one of them if I hadn't experienced enough marketing cock-ups from the inside over the years at various places I've worked to realize that it's entirely possible the people who wrote the sales blurbs had no idea what the guys setting the parameters for the pre-purchase had in mind.
Ah, there's that word again: pre-purchase. It's an unusual one for MMOs. We're used to all kinds of Early Access deals that are, effectively, pre-purchases but when it comes to expansions for existing games we're more accustomed to pre-orders. The difference is whose bank the money is in between now and launch and when you can change your mind: pre-release means "yours" and "any time until release"; pre-purchase means "now" and "never".
|Got to cure this acrophobia somehow before all that verticality arrives.|
Still, if you're sure you'll want it when it comes and you can afford it then why not pay now? Well, perhaps because as yet no-one has any idea when "when it comes" is going to be. We're no nearer knowing a release date now than we were in February. It might be August, it might be November, it might be 2025.
Of course, if you do make that pre-purchase you get immediate access to all the beta events, of which there are currently none scheduled. There might be some. There probably will be some. A few of them might even last longer than the two-hour sessions we've seen so far, or take place in more than a corner of one unfinished zone, or not be open to everyone anyway.
Oh yes, zones. About time they got a mention. It's traditional to at least list how many of those a given MMORPG expansion is going to add to the game it expands. Here's what Zam said about EQ2's last expansion, Altar of Malice:
"In total, the expansion will include:
- Level cap raised to 100 for tradeskill, adventuring and guilds
- 2 new overlands zones
- 14 new heroic zones
- 6 new raid zones
- 6 new advanced solo zones
- HQs, L&Ls
- 4 new avatars
- New tradeskill quests
- Tradeskill apprentice with "best in slot recipes"
|Guild Halls are going to be wasted on some people...|
The thing is, even without the rather expensive box price, the very lackluster selection of "goodies" and the absence of a free character slot to for the new Revenant profession (just plain mean and a terrible PR own-goal), HoT looks, well, pretty ropy.
So far it looks like a claustrophobic jungle where we expand only upwards, like a 1960s urban redevelopment project. "Verticality" stands in for horizontality or what we traditionally call zones, maps or explorable areas.
That does not appeal to me and nor do the recently-revealed Guild Halls which, ironically, look as though they would serve perfectly well as explorable maps themselves. I get the feeling our three-person guild would be as lost in one of those as three mice in St Paul's Cathedral and have about as much impact on the space.
In fact, hardly anything about HoT appeals to me. Some of it is meh, the rest is yikes! Nothing I've seen so far is wow! Or WoW for that matter, which at this point I am thinking is a negative, not the positive it would have been four years ago. I could go through the whole "feature list", such as it is, and detail why I'm not excited but, well, I'm not interested enough.
Zubon suggests that I should already know by my emotional reaction that I'm done with GW2 and don't need to buy HoT. "Do big changes inspire interest or dread?" he asks. "You have already made your decision, you just need to recognize it".
|We may be at Jormag but our minds are on Our Glorious Leader|
Well, yes, that's all very well except for one thing. I do, very definitely, want to go on playing WvW. I am very excited about that. As I type this there is a fantastic, nail-biting match going on in which Yaks Bend may just sneak a win over the combined efforts of a cheating Fort Aspenwood and their lick-spittle sometime-lackeys Sea of Sorrows.
Mrs Bhagpuss is in there right now and I want to get this written so I can join her and the rest of our brave, beleaguered forces. As things stand only blogging is getting in the way of me doing just that but come the release of HoT it won't really be an option at all unless I have bought and installed the expansion, which replaces three out of the four WvW maps with new ones.
Or so I believed until half an hour ago until Ettesiun and Jondare started me wondering with their comments. Actually it turns out this is completely untrue! I went and did some fact-checking and, as you can hear Colin Johanson say at around 11.55 in this interview with Angry Joe, all players will have access to the new WvW maps whether they buy the expansion or not. I do think he sounds a bit as though he wishes it were otherwise but still, there it is. There goes my Ringo joke. I was rather fond of it too!
So it now appears I don't have to buy the Heart of Thorns expansion in order to go on playing WvW in a full and meaningful fashion. I'm going to have to come up with some other reason to buy it I guess. Damned if I can think of one off the top of my head though.
And all these facts have made a right old mess out a perfectly good argument, too!
Come on the Yaks!