Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where Is Everyone?: GW2

Guild Wars 2 is currently suffering what has been perceived to be the worst content drought in the four years since launch. The situation is so dire that even head cheerleader Mike O'Brien felt compelled to acknowledge it in his recent "Don't give up hope" forum post.

Thanks for your patience through the recent content draught. 

Well, I assume he meant "drought" although since the spelling error has gone uncorrected for nearly a week, who knows for sure?

I'm very familiar from my working life with managerial doublethink. People who used to be in charge of something turn around and rubbish the way it was managed even though they were largely responsible either for the decisions or the implementation or both. It seems that changing seats is often enough to absolve a person of any responsibility, at least in their own minds.

Even so, it's not often a senior official will openly acknowledge the failings of the company that pays their mortgage. Not to the customers, anyway. MO, as he is generally referred to nowadays, seems to want to make a virtue out of hair-shirting.

The post itself is vague and ill-defined but that seems to rest more on hasty construction than any intent to obfuscate. Even as the post was acquiring a comet-tail of speculation and conspiracy theory the first broadside of hard information hit the official website.

The first episode of Living World Season 3 is coming to Guild Wars 2 on July 26

This was followed by two crowd-pleasing Lore pieces featuring journal entries from probably the only major character from Season 2 to have acquired something akin to a fan following - Taimi.

Someone is clearly working hard on both damage limitation and rebuilding trust. In addition to fine words and promises the game has actually received quite a lot of low-key hydration over the past few weeks. A connected and accretive series of open world events backed up by Achievements have kept some of us reasonably busy and passably entertained, while WvW has actually seen more attention and alteration than at almost any time since launch.

These things don't count for much among many. For most MMO players it seems that the definition of "content" is quite rigid: new explorable areas, new classes, new races, new quests (or in GW2's case quest-like activities), new plots and storylines and anything that makes their characters significantly more powerful. And Festivals.

For some reason, recurring festivals, even if they're almost identical to the previous year, count as content to a lot of people. ArenaNet have been absurdly unwilling to capitalize on this easy win. For four years the only highlights on the Calendar have been Halloween, Wintersday and Lunar New Year.

Super Adventure Box, following years in the wilderness, was re-instated as the fourth annual holiday a few months ago. Dragon Bash, Queen's Gauntlet and Bazaar of the Four Winds, all of which are eminently suitable for an annual appearance (and I could write the lore get-out for Bazaar in ten minutes) languish in limbo.

In nine days the second of what MO has already chosen to stop calling "Quarterly Updates" will drop. In keeping with the new mode of "show, don't tell" we probably won't have much idea what it contains until it arrives. It apparently includes "content and quality-of-life updates for several other game modes" but the big ticket item will be the first episode of Living Story 3.

And what does that mean, precisely? MO mentions in his forum post that "nine or ten releases" from 2013 equate to something "that we’d today call a Living World episode". 2013, of course, was the year of Living Story 1, the cadence that began with a series of open world updates that, at the time, were perceived to be very low in content indeed

Even so, nine or ten releases? Really? That would mean the July 26th update would have to contain as much Living Story content as we got from January to July of 2013

Flame and Frost: Prelude - January 28, 2013
Flame and Frost: The Gathering Storm - February 26, 2013
Flame and Frost: The Razing - March 26, 2013
Flame & Frost: Retribution - April 30, 2013
The Secret of Southsun - May 14, 2013
Last Stand at Southsun - May 28, 2013
Dragon Bash - June 11th, 2013
Sky Pirates of Tyria June - 25th, 2013
Bazaar of the Four Winds - July 9th , 2013
Cutthroat Politics - July 23rd, 2013

Full details here.

If that's true then I'll be very impressed. And surprised. Even if we do get a drop of equivalent scale, however, I can almost guarantee that players will have burned through the entire thing in a lot less than the proposed three months before the next one lands. No wonder MO hopes to get the engine ticking over a little faster:

we may be able to increase the pace, ramping from four bundled releases per year towards six

You'll need to. You'll need to get more Festivals in place to tentpole those releases too. And information about that second expansion needs to come out from under the cloak of invisibility pronto. Presumably we're looking at a 2017 release date at best.

At the moment there is a lot happening in the world of MMOs and MMO-like experiences. The firehose of Western WoW-alikes dribbled to a trickle a while ago and now appears to have dried up completely but the torrent of Eastern imports continues unabated. Meanwhile the genre has opened out to include action-oriented and fps iterations, transcended the console barrier and is presently colonizing the mobile space.

With the beyond WoW-level success of Pokemon GO, hailed by one of the founders of the form as "just a virtual world, an MMO", we may be on the verge of a paradigm shift for the hobby. Existing MMORPGs that want to retain market share are going to have pedal really, really fast to keep up with the vanishing MMO event horizon.

So. Living Story 3.

It better be good.


  1. I took a look at your list of Jan-Jul 2013 and I laughed, out loud.

    My expectation is set at -one- Living Story chapter, as in something like one Prologue: Rally to Maguuma or at best, one episode akin to that of Living World Season 2.

    That way, anything extra is a pleasant surprise bonus.

    1. The original release of SAB was in there too - I didn't even mention that.

      When I read Mike O'Brien's post I thought the numbers sounded off, which is why I took the trouble when writing the post to check what "9 or 10" LS1 releases actually looked like. It's easy to forget just how much content we used to take for granted back then. Looks very much as though Mike can't remember.

    2. My interpretation of the "nine or ten" comment was that if you bundled up the non-festival content updates in all of 2013, you could break it into nine or ten Living World episodes. So of your list, all of Flame and Frost would be one or two, then the Southsun updates would be one, etc.

    3. (And really, the buildup we've already gotten is about as much as Flame and Frost Prelude + Gathering Storm.)


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