Friday, 11 September 2015

Call That An Invasion? : GW2

I love a good zone invasion, me. The first one I ever saw must have been way back in the year 2000. I was minding my own business in Qeynos Hills, scalping the odd gnoll pup, putting rabid bears out of their misery and generally trying to avoid unwanted attention from local eco-vigilantes Holly Windstalker and Cros Treewind, when suddenly undead began to rise from the ground all around me.

Giant skeletons, as tall as the half-timbered Qeynosian cottages, cackling like loons, chased terrified level fives back into the tunnel to Surefall Grove. Swiftly, word spread. The spires and rings began to hum as wizards and druids ported in parties of adventurers ready, eager and willing to send the undead hordes back to their unquiet graves. It was stunning, overwhelming, memorable, magical.

Over the years I was lucky enough to see many more uprisings and invasions all across Norrath, from werewolves in the Commonlands to dark elves in Firiona Vie. It only took the merest hint of a rumor to set me scrambling towards danger, throwing myself into the thick of things, my only goal not to die too much because back then dying hurt.


One of the most attractive features of Rift when it arrived was the way it institutionalized invasions. Seen at their absolute best in the beta weekends but still robust for as long as a few weeks after launch, the elemental armies that spewed forth from the cracks in Telaria's skies commanded the roads and overran the camps, creating a sense of perpetual anarchy that worked well for me.

Sadly, too few players felt the same way. Paying customers objected strenuously to the denial of essential in-the-field services and the inconvenient interruption of their questing. War's all very well but not when there are hand-ins to be handed in and trash to be sold.

Still, the complaints Trion had to field back then were as nothing compared to the criticisms Anet receives every time they try to rally favor for a mass incursion. Look no further than the Great Karka Debacle to see the way that land has always lain.

There was one brief moment when it looked as though the wind might have changed. When Scarlet first sent her hybrid armies out across Tyria players welcomed them with open arms and fireballs. Experience and loot rained down and we scooped it up by the bagful. The joy was unrestrained for, oh, almost a whole evening.

Then factions developed. Some were still working on achievements for the events while others who'd finished them wanted to farm. The forces opposing each invasion splintered into competing alliances that bickered fractiously as they pursued their incompatible goals.

ANet responded by removing most of the indirect incentives. The mobs kept their drops but the champions lost their bags. In later iterations on the invasion theme the directive process was refined further, particularly with the addition of Elite mobs, as tough as champs but with no loot table at all. And now we have The Mordrem Invasion, in which the dead hand of central control tightens its grasp to strangle all the life out of the entire event.

The set-up is promising. Mordremoth, the great jungle dragon, star of the second season of the Living Story and of the game's first expansion, Heart of Thorns, has sent his limitless minions to spread fear and chaos across Tyria. Well, across three somewhat out-of-the-way maps at least, where they won't really inconvenience anyone all that much.

Brisbane Wildlands, Diessa Plateau and unlucky old Kessex Hills are the venues for the current batch of pre-expansion shenanigans, a limited engagement lasting just four days. The stage looked set for a wild romp across open country with fifty or a hundred of your new best friends. It's a shame that's not how things went on the opening night.

In what looks dangerously like yet another attempt to troll their own playerbase the doors opened yesterday to a fumbling, unrehearsed mess of an event. An amateurish performance riddled with bugs and wrought with what appear to be terrible shortcomings in design.

That the event didn't work properly should have surprised no-one. New events in GW2 almost never do.Two or three fixer-upper patches is par for the course. Sometimes it takes half a dozen. Even so, when launching your prestige, premiere curtain-raiser for an expansion you're hoping to persuade people to shell out anything up to a hundred dollars for, you would think some measure of quality control would be advisable, if only for reasons of staying in business.

Long-suffering community rep Gaile Grey was firefighting on the forums within minutes. I doubt anyone envies her that job. She did her best as she always does but there was little she could do to quell the growing resentment and disgust as players found that not only did the event not perform any of the most basic functions expected (no loot, no experience, no karma, nothing but wasted time and expense) but that even if it had been working perfectly they would need to do nothing but invasions non-stop, save for sleeping just a bare few hours a day, from the beginning of the event to the end if they hoped to buy the top items on the event currency vendor.

The mood on the forums was (still is) incandescent.  In game there were more people prepared to go with the flow but even there patience was wearing very thin by the time I logged out for an early night. Personally, I enjoyed the invasions for the chaotic zerg fun but they really do seem rushed, thin and unconvincing compared to what Scarlet provided. Mordremoth seems like a feebleminded foe on this showing.

As for the missing rewards and the outcry over the expected grind, it seems ArenaNet are reaping the whirlwind of the Achiever-oriented audience they've so diligently courted these last three years. If you constantly wind people up to perform according to the rewards on offer then you have to expect problems when theose rewards don't match the effort let alone, much worse, when they don't materialize at all.

We have a couple more days of this event. Maybe they'll haul it around yet. I kind of doubt it though. Whether it's the only one scheduled before the expansion arrives in almost six weeks I couldn't say. It's certainly not whetting many appetites for more of the same, though, that's for sure.

7 comments:

  1. "As for the missing rewards and the outcry over the expected grind, it seems ArenaNet are reaping the whirlwind of the Achiever-oriented audience they've so diligently courted these last three years."

    Well, yes. I will say my achiever-oriented wife had fun with it, as did my daughter, who is a self described "filthy casual". No opinion from me, I didn't log in for it.

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    1. If you aren't interested in the rewards and like zerging it's a fun romp. The grind only comes if you want the top items on the vendor, which thankfully I don't. In fact I wouldn't use them if I was sent them for free. I just want 75 blooms for the Mini Egg and I got 60 in an hour and a half last night.

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  2. Probably the biggest problem is the way the design incentivises selfishness.

    If you're not aware, for each even you do, you get a stack of a buff. When the invasion ends, you then get currency equal to your stacks: 0 for 0-5 stacks, 5 for 5-10, 10 for 10-20 and 15 for 20+. Now, the problem is that the only possible way to get to 20 stacks is to equip all your movement skills, and then run and WP around, killing a single mob or two at each even, and generally being completely unhelpful in actually completing anything.
    How this system got through the vision phase i will never know, as even the most junior of game designers should have spotted what it was incentivizing.

    That being said, i am having loads of fun rocketing about like Sonic the Hedgehog on speed. Just as i'm sure i would have had plenty of fun donning my commander tag and actually doing the events, were it not for some of those skins i really want.

    (Also, in case you havent seen: The daily bonus chest is per zone, per day, per account, and especially the memories box has some quite fancy possible drops)

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    1. Thanks for all of the above! I wanted to work a lot of that into the post but it was a work night and anyway it was already long enough.

      After I finished writing I it I did two more invasions and enjoyed them a lot. Today at work I read a lot of the very lengthy "constructive criticism" forum thread, almost all of which I find I disagree with. It seems that most people want a much tidier, more structured event with harder fights, more complex mechanics and rewards at each and every opportunity. A very large number of people appear to want the whole thing simply to be another iteration of Dry Top/Silverwastes.

      I would say I want almost exactly the opposite. If I have time I might do a follow-up post on that.

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    2. "A very large".

      I think you mean a few people that actually go and write in the forums and other social media.

      Remember when they asked feedback directly in game during the beta?
      I wish they still had something like that that popped up when something new was added into the game and then periodically.

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  3. That sentence specifically means "a very large number of the respondents in the constructive feedback thread". I hoped that was clear from context but obviously not. What constitutes a majority opinion among the entire playerbase I'm pretty sure no-one including ANet knows. The problem with silent majorities is that they are silent.

    From another evening doing the events, however, my impression is that while people may be doing them not many will admit to enjoying doing them. Another problem there, even with metrics, which can tell you what people are doing but not why or how they feel about it.

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    1. I understand that. Not sure if Anet or the people actual vocal about stuff like "harder content" or "more power to the guilds" do, though.

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