Monday, March 21, 2016

Where Does The Time Go? : Black Desert, GW2

If you took this blog at its word you might think all I was playing right now was Black Desert. And before that it seemed as though I was playing an awful lot of Blade and Soul with some Ninelives for spice.

This is not the case. The first quarter of 2016, much like the whole of the three and a half years before it, has been taken up with playing Guild Wars 2. This last weekend, for example, which I had entirely free and clear to do with as I wished, was mostly spent sorting my inventory (five hours on Saturday afternoon just to do a basic pass through my second account to make it playable) and defending the much-maligned honor of The Yak in World vs World.

J3w3l has a post up about how time just vanishes for her when she plays Black Desert. It's almost the opposite for me. Fascinating though I find the mechanics and the unraveling of them and beautiful and entrancing though I find the world, I'm not at all convinced about the gameplay. Oh, I think it's probably fine in and of itself but I don't feel it's a good fit for me. I've never in my life wanted to work on an imaginary farm or run an imaginary trading empire and as for fighting other players, I can barely master the extreme basics of BDO's action combat so that's a non-starter.

At the moment the newness and strangeness of it all is carrying the momentum. Behind that is some great solidity in the excellence of the world-building. I do think it's an MMO I will keep coming back to in the longer term but I am very definitely not getting that "think about it all the time when I'm at work" or "wake up wanting to log in and play" feeling that's the mark of a real new obsession.

When people talk about needing a new MMO I think that's the feeling they're missing and that's why so many people seem so jaded, so disappointed, so out of sorts with the genre, not just now but year after year. It's asking a lot of the industry to keep providing that kind of a hit over and over. Too much.

Looking back at my long history of playing these games I can count the times that's happened on the fingers of one hand: EverQuest, Vanguard, GW2. Maybe you might hope to get one of those games once every five years or so.

Which doesn't really answer the question of why I'm not writing more about the MMO I'm playing for the great majority of the time rather than sending out flurries of posts about the ones I'm merely dabbling in. There are two reasons:
  1. Nothing much is happening in GW2 right now.
  2. No-one much cares about GW2 any more.
Last year the buzz around the upcoming Heart of Thorns expansion kept the pot simmering for the best part of nine months even though nothing much else was going on in the game itself. Then HoT launched to a resounding "is that it?" and everyone wandered off to do something else.

The introduction of a gear-grind Raiding end game to the MMO that famously was never going to have either of those things has tied the development team up in a Gordian knot of self-induced navel-gazing. The commitment to complete both a second expansion (for a game that was dead set on never having a first one) and three "wings" for The Raid appears to have sucked in all the resources available, leaving the supposedly "Living World" dead in the water.

Even the Great WvW Reboot has been scaled back. It's not on the scale of the cancellation of EQNext, but it seems that the full year's work done by the team tasked to bring GW2's large-scale realm vs realm offer up to scratch has largely been set aside as either unworkable or too much work. Mike "Two Hats" O'Brien popped into the lengthy thread on the topic on the forums with this unusually concise and definitive response:

Hi all,
This is a great thread. It’s constructive. We’re all reading it and referring to it in team discussions.
As we said in the AMA, our top internal priorities have been population balance and rewards. From this thread, your top five priorities are, in order:
1. Stability & skill balance
2. Fix or revert DBL
3. Rewards
4. Population balance
5. Scoring

He then went on to confirm that, contrary to expectations, all this wouldn't be happening sometime anytime never but :

I want to reiterate that everything we work on either ships in April or starts beta-testing on Live servers in April. We’re locking down dev work for the April release soon — next up is localization, QA, integration and regression testing — but we’ll extend the deadline for WvW skill balance.
All of which is rather exciting for those of us still playing but of precious little interest to anyone else. Ditto the very exciting, tense matches and sessions we're having in Tier 1 even now, with all of these issues still unadressed.

Let's face it, almost no-one else in my Feedly or blogroll even posts about GW2 on an occasional basis anymore. Ravious hasn't posted at Kill Ten Rats since late last year (Indeed, the once-mighty collective is now a ghost of its former self, with just a few, short, sporadic posts by Zubon keeping the flickering lights on). Jeromai is out of sorts and out of patience with the game but at least he still writes about it. Occasionally.

Even the sudden and unconvincingly-explained departure of Colin Johanson, GW2's public face and one of its founding fathers, barely caused a ripple of interest. I only mentioned it in passing here, whereas other, less significant pronouncements by the man have merited entire posts of close textual analysis.

Frankly, I don't have the energy for it any more and I don't imagine anyone reading this does either. Until something actually happens in GW2, something that might stand a chance of being experienced by more than a relative handful of "End Game" raiders, there's really not much to talk about.

All of which goes some way towards explaining why the MMOs I choose to write about aren't necessarily the ones I'm playing the most, nor even the ones I'm most excited about. I'm a lot more excited about April's upcoming changes to World vs World and the difficulty pass (read: nerf) to Heart of Thorns than I am about anything happening in or likely to happen in Black Desert or Blade and Soul. Even the hint that we might get the Alpine Borderlands back starts my pulse racing. Just think of it - two hour sieges to take Bay, three hour Garri defences...

But no-one wants to read about that. It won't get hits the way a google search on "Black Desert boat" is bringing them in right now, that's for sure. And neither will anything I write about EQ2's big spring update, which looks fantastic and which will almost certainly result in another flurry of posts about that game. Although, let's be fair here, there do seem still to be more people interested in reading and commenting about EQ2 and any of Daybreak's games than there are about ArenaNet's flagship, even though I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the latter has more active players than all of the former's added together.

In the end, though, I guess I'll just write about what I want to write about. More than anything, this blog is the diary I always wanted to keep but never had the discipline to maintain. If it gives a misleading impression of my gaming life then so be it. It can't do a worse job of that than my own memory, that's for sure.


  1. I think there's a difference between what makes for good play and what makes for good blogging. For example, I've played an incredible amount of Heroes of the Storm over the past year or so -- possibly more of it than any other single game, really -- but I've done relatively blogging on it. Most of the time, there just isn't much to say about it. I pick Tassadar, I carry teams to victory, I spit vile curses upon the game when I end up on Dragon Shire.

    By comparison, WoW tends to provide a pretty steady stream of good topics to write on even when I'm not actually playing it. It's never lacking for controversy, and controversy makes for good reading/writing.

    1. It's so much easier to write about change, that's one thing. A game that's in a good place, running smoothly and successfully, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily need to change very much. Not that many MMOs are lucky enough to be in that position. The thing about GW2 these days is, I'm not sure I can summon up the effort to say all that much even when things DO change. Still enjoying it a lot, though.

  2. Hey, is that title a reference to Fairport Convetion?

    And if it is do I get a prize for recognizing somewhat obscure British pop culture?

    - Simon

    1. Heh! It actually isn't, although I did use "Who knows where the time goes?" as a title for a post back in February 2014, writing about Landmark. It's a great song.

      I often use partial song titles or lyrics in the post titles but rarely does anyone comment on them so consider yourself No Prized!

  3. Where does the time go, indeed. I devote a solid 5-6 hours a week and I'm still no where near close to completing doing all the HoT maps.


    1. I have done map completion on Verdant Brink six times now! Have to do one of the HoT maps for each of the specialization collects and I know how to do VB. Nowhere near it on any of the others.


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