Wednesday, October 21, 2015

They Couldn't. Could They? : GW2

It seems idle at this late stage to speculate over what Heart of Thorns might or might not include. After all the thing's going to drop on us in less than 48 hours, whereupon all will be revealed. (There's no such word as whenupon, is there? There really should be).

Still, idle speculation is a hard habit to break and in any case I'm not sure I'd want to try. I'd rather indulge, frankly. So let's away.

I gave it just a passing mention earlier but one of the many undiscussed details is what will happen to Achievements. I suppose you could argue there's no particular reason to think anything's going to happen to them, of course. You could very well take the total silence on the subject for an indication that the status quo will roll on as before and maybe it will.

Achievements and the associated points and rewards have, however, been a very large part of GW2's core gameplay for almost the entire three-year life of the game. There's even a whole leaderboard dedicated to achievement-based epeen-waving, for heaven's sake. Given the attention, indeed prominence, previously allocated to the mechanic you might very well have expected it to feature heavily in the promotional build-up yet as far as I can tell it hasn't gleaned a single mention.

In game it's possible to look 2,000 points ahead so I can see as far as the 17,500 milestone. The current board leader sits at just under 30k AP. Does the breadcrumb trail lead on forever? Whether or no, the supply of points dries up eventually beyond the trickle from dailies and the like.

If HoT comes with the traditional full fat AP for map exploration and new content completed built in then a lot of people are going to get a huge leg-up the ladder. Since most of the rewards add meaningful percentage increases to basic account functions like rate of xp, gold and karma gain, could someone have spotted a potential problem with turning on a firehose of new achievements and decided it would be better instead to turn off the flow altogether?

Apart from forming something not far short of the spine of the game itself, Achievements were one of the lynchpins of the Living Story. The way they were used was tweaked between Season One and Season Two to add a supposed level of replayability to the packaged, instanced content we got second time around.

But then, the Living Story itself is another of those previously indispensable core features that's gone mysteriously missing. Since Season Two ended there has been not a word about any further episodes. Instead, all the attention has passed to the continuation of the Personal Story which, together with the narrative woven throughout the rest of the expansion, appears set to carry the storyline on to its conclusion.

My feeling is that the Living Story experiment is over and ANet are hoping that if no-one mentions it the players will forget it ever happened, what with the excitement of an expansion and a raft of massive and disruptive structural changes to keep them occupied. Instead we'll get some kind of nebulous, ongoing Living World (not that they're calling it that, as far as I know). In other words the same thing every other MMORPG has been doing for years.

It was while I was researching these absences that I came across the following direct quote from Colin Johanson embedded in this Eurogamer interview from January.

"We will never add more levels to the game, we will never add more tiers of gear to the game. The tiers and levels we have today will be the tiers and levels we have for the rest of the life of Guild Wars 2."

Now, I knew that was the general principle under which they were retailing the current
version of the game but I had been unaware the policy was being flagged up with such absolutist zealotry. Reading the quote I had two thoughts, one after the other:

  • That sounds like the death-knell for my long term interest, then. If I can never level up again and never improve my gear I'm all the more likely to end up wandering off to somewhere where doing either or both of those is still a thing.
Quickly followed by:
  • Oh, maybe it doesn't mean quite what it looks like it means. Maybe it really means they don't plan on keeping GW2 running for very much longer. If they already have another project or a sequel in mind then naturally they wouldn't need to plan for the progression of their old game. 
And indeed I have seen players speculating in-game about the likelihood of a GW3. Guild Wars ran for seven years before they mothballed it and GW2 took some five years of that time to develop. If they are planning a sequel they'd probably already have started.

And even if they have no intentions of making another Guild Wars game, GW2 has taken three years and then some to get to its first expansion. If it takes as long again to get to the second then it'll have lasted longer than its predecessor. Maybe it will be about ready to be pensioned off by then even if there's nothing coming up to replace it and at such a glacially development pace I guess there wouldn't be much point planning for new levels or gear tiers.

It's more likely they're planning on running one of those MMOs that never ends, like Lineage or EverQuest but I wonder if that's a realistic option for post-WoW MMOs? Does that level of franchise loyalty still exist in the genre? And if they are thinking along those lines then maybe they should have stuck with the original. MMO sequels, especially sequels with the numeral "2" appended, don't seem to have that great a commercial track record, after all.

Oh well, just some idle speculation and conspiracy theorizing for a wet Wednesday afternoon. The week before the expansion comes is always a bit of a silly season. Because the rest of the time we're all always so frighteningly rational, aren't we?


  1. Extremely interesting speculation.

    They've backed away from so much of the pre-launch roadmap for GW2, that is might be easier just to make a new game. That's what happens I think when you change course in midair, add new systems on the fly etc.

    To a certain extent they are actually lucky (or perhaps were skilled enough), that the changes didn't alienate their entire player base. Many left, I was one of them, but enough stayed. Unlike, for example, LOTRO, where massive changes (class revamp, mounted combat, and RTS big battles etc.) have decimated the game to the extent where it is now obviously in maintenance mode.

    Looking back, GW1 was a much better template for gradual, coherent expansions, moving the game forward, but based on what went before.

    Which raises the question, what made them turn into full iconoclasts for GW2?


    1. I don't really believe ANet have any plans to junk GW2, at least not while it's still reasonably profitable, which could be many years if they farm their fanbase cleverly. That said, I also doubt they want to remain a one-game company indefinitely (Guild Wars in mothballs notwithstanding). It's probably not too soon for the next project to have started but secrecy on these things seems to be astoundingly good in the MMO industry so we almost certainly won't know until they're ready to tell us.

  2. Living World will continue.

    GW1 was not a better template for gradual, coherent expansions, and that is why that after 3 years (not 7) running, Arenanet decided to develop GW2.

    HoT has some interest concepts and changes (I know changes can be frightening). I'm sure Anet will totally miss a couple of the concepts (and will have to changed them at some point) and some of the changes are geared towards a type of play that I'm not interested, but I don't see the reason for such doom and gloom.

  3. Achievements were probably not mentioned because it's such a baked-in aspect of the game that no one even thinks about it at any more, just assumes there will be plentiful chievos to come.

    (Considering that they made beta achievements that didn't even carry over into the live game, presumably just to see if folks would test more with 'chievo candy on offer, and have sworn left, right and center that WvW achievements are getting reworked back to a more sane level, it's unlikely they're abandoning that feature any time soon... much to the horror of folks like you and Syl. ;) )

    I'm less certain about Living Story episodes as compared to achievements, but would be pretty dismayed if it were a one-off experiment. It seemed popular enough, and a solid enough accompaniment to the Living World changes that could be played by latecomers to feel a part of the story.

    As for never being able to level again, that's where masteries and elite specs come in. There's going to be -plenty- of grinding xp bars and feeling a sense of "ding" post-expansion... *winces slightly* I'm really just hoping the content will be interesting enough to not feel that it's an obligatory grind, but more of the old style GW2 open world running around and gasping at everything and not realizing that one is actually leveling... Jungle, jungle, mordrem and more uphill fighting mordrem doesn't sound that awe-inspiring though.

    1. I was mostly being whimsical about the Achievements although I do think it's odd they haven't even once used "Hundreds of New Achievements" as a marketing puff. They have made some fairly vague assertions along the lines of HoT itself being the next Living Story installment but that was a long while back. I haven't seen anyone even mention the Living Story in official communications for months. I think its safe to say that a new season doesn't feature in the immediate plans although I wouldn't be surprised to see Raids come in under the umbrella title somehow.

      Masteries and elite specs are the equivalent of AAs in other games - an alternate leveling system. I welcome that and indeed its one of the few features of HoT I'm really looking forward to but AAs are not levels. If the number next to my character's name doesn't increment then it doesn't count.

  4. I have no idea where gw2 will end up and that's definitely a major problem - you can't get invested in a game whose foundations and purpose can change on a whim. And we all know how well taking them at the word goes.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. As opposed to every other game where you have a complete detailed plan that it is strictly followed?

      Sorry but that is not a valid reason.

    3. Re your comment on 3 vs 7 years re-read what I wrote.

      Re your comment to J3w3l, anything a customer considers a problem IS a problem. Period. Any reason a customer has for not buying your product or using your service IS a valid reason. Unless you want to be EA and no-one wants that.

      More to the point, after more than fifteen years and well over 100 MMOs I have never, ever played one that was as prone to complete self-reinvention as GW2. Well, okay, maybe Firefall. It is not normative behavior for the genre and there are consequences to that which can't simply be wished away.

    4. If the problem is that Arenanet keeps trying new things and tries to innovate, then I guess GW2 is guilty of that.

      The game will change.

      Even though how much did it change?

      I guess compared with the glacial pace of change of the MMO genre it can seem otherwise.

      But we are talking of the first expansion more than 3 years after release.
      Most games get 3 expansions in that time.

      Did it change in the fundamentals?
      Combat is still exactly the same.
      Playing with other people just by being there is a huge part of the game.

      The new maps will bring more exploration and more of the silverwastes feel where everyone in the map is playing for a common objective.

      I go back to the manifest (the original written one and not the video) and I still find it to be true.

      (Sure they never succeeded in making a world where you make an impact, not that it seems feasible for a mass market game with financials constrains)

      I don't see how the foundations changed.
      The most substantial change was the introduction of ascended items 3 years ago. While the first iteration of it was rushed and a complete overreaction to a drop of player base that was never a target audience for this game in the first place, it actually turned into a decent system that had a zero effect in the day to day game.

    5. About the customer is always right.

      I can complain all I want that BMW doesn't make flying cars. No one else has a flying car in the market. So why is BMW being singled?

  5. HoT out.
    Tons of achievements.
    Living World is the second line of their patch notes.
    Desert borderlands first impressions aren't good.
    Requirement of 3 ppl instead of 2 for guild stuff is a bit disappointing as well.


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