Saturday, October 8, 2016

No Going Back : GW2

There's a developing trend in GW2 that I very much appreciate. It's the addition of new content without fanfare or publicity.

We have the big ticket drops in the two-to-three monthly installments of the current Living Story and I very much welcome those but for a long time now we have also been receiving a patchwork of events, activities and what in any other game would be called "quests", all dished up under the rubric of "Current Events".

While these are clearly designed to give people something to do between Episodes they are nevertheless a lot more intriguing than that suggests or demands. All of them, even those that seem light on context or narrative, add texture to the weave.

Stop it! It tickles!

I hate to harp back to the good old days of EverQuest yet again. Okay, I don't - I relish the opportunity - but this really does remind me of how things used to be, back before the hand-holding got out of hand and the trainer wheels got welded on to MMOs, seemingly for good.

It used to be par for the course in EQ to log in after a patch and find something had changed but no-one quite knew what. It created a buzz. People puzzled over what it might mean, discussed it in Guild and zone chat, fired up their Wizards and Druids and began porting. It was one of the ways we felt we were all in a world not just a game...well, some of us.

Evon was robbed!

That's not to say I don't appreciate the conveniences that came along as the genre grew and broadened and sought for mass appeal. I was never a denigrator of feathers. I didn't feel I was too good for sparkly trails or blue patches on the map. Like Kaozz I have reservations about the wisdom of trying to turn back progress as Daybreak seem determined to do.

It seems to me that the old rule about always adding something, never taking something away, when you hope to make a change and have it accepted, has weight here. DBG have decided to drop quest markers from their expansion content entirely and I'm sure a goodly portion of their longtime, aging playerbase will accept and even welcome that call-back to the days when EQ was the big name in MMO gaming.

I've been waiting for you.

ANet, however, seem to me to have taken a smarter path altogether. Rather than, for example, remove the orange rings and icons from the map for new Dynamic Events they've chosen to create event-like happenings that operate in a more subtle fashion instead.

The mechanics for the recent Gillscale Pond sequence are positively abstruse. The deliciously named (by players I believe) "Sad Anomaly" plotline floated in like thistledown. Indeed, the Sad Anomaly didn't even signify its presence by the now-traditional single, enigmatic line in the Update notes. It just happened.

Often, when the possibility of smuggling mysteries into an MMO is discussed, the less-easily-convinced point to the godlike presence of the internet, that all-pervading hive mind that relishes the tearing of veils and shines a klieg light into every backstage corner. That misses the point.

Don't cross the streams!

Yes, Dulfy had guides up for both the new rifts and the anomaly in a matter of hours. Good. Very, very good. Dulfy, along with the wiki workers, provides an essential, much-appreciated public service.

These aren't spoilers. They spoil nothing. They are valuable resources to be used, gratefully, by all those who don't find mysteries amusing, or who come home from work tired and irritable and just want to Get On With It.

Their presence in no way detracts from or diminishes the value of the approach taken by the designers, who wrinkled up the surface of the world and left it to us to decide how we'd smooth it out. I chose to work through most of both events based on trial and error, head-scratching, the ignorance of crowds as demonstrated in Map and Guild chat and sheer bloody-mindedness. Then when I'd had enough I looked some stuff up on Dulfy.

Stop shoving at the back!

The two events felt very different, too. The Rifts are a communal, community-building experience, not least the part where twenty players jostle for a foothold on some wind-tossed crag where the latest port deposits them. The Sad Anomaly, something whose beginning comes upon the player privately and unexpectedly, is a much more personal affair.

I am not at all a fan of what we might call the BioWare approach to storytelling, where your character is confronted with seemingly endless "meaningful" choices, the consequences of which are not immediately apparent. My character is not there to be moulded or messed with by hands other than my own.

That doesn't mean I disdain hard choices. Not at all. I welcome those unpredictable turning points, when an action has repercussions that can be surmised but not yet quantified. They can be nerve-wracking but they add depth and a resonance that echoes.

It was, perhaps, ironic that this evening, when my Elementalist made her decision and allowed Historian Tranton of the Durmand Priory to irradiate her with a mystical object he didn't understand in order to cure a malady he could scarcely define, she did so with Evon Gnashblade's favor hovering over her shoulder. After all, she chose Evon in that fateful election and look how that turned out. She had her Scarlet Briar Hologram mini out too but really, let's not read anything into that...

Ironic foreshadowing?

Now, for good or ill, she goes forward under the twin influence of The Shadowstone and The Priory. It has to be better that than The Consortium and their snake Krait Oil

Doesn't it?


  1. I'm greatly appreciating the exploration focus of these new current events too. Let the Bartle explorers have their day in the sun to chew on secrets and mysteries before handing them over to the achievers to checklist as multiple tasks.

    I do hope ArenaNet is interpreting their metrics correctly though. For example, I didn't act on the anomaly stuff for a few days because I was waiting for a nice long uninterrupted weekend to explore and discover on my own accord first, before using dulfy to fill in the blanks. I think there's an increased tendency for players to put off or procrastinate when a) things aren't clear tasks and/or b) they feel they can do it on their own, except they need the right time in their schedule for it.

    As for the Burden of Choice, I'm not really a fan of permanent choices made with no indication of how it might affect us in the future, especially since it affects the entire account. I would have preferred character specific, since that makes more roleplaying sense.

    Still, as long as it's kept to two choices, all it encourages me to do is consider boosting a second account to where I can pick the other choice too. More than a little bit meta, but eh, what can you do when everyhing is tied to the account, rather than the character.

    1. I agree entirely about the character/account issue. While I appreciate the convenience of account-wide unlocks and access I would generally prefer a more character-specific approach. Still, I already have two actively-played accounts so I'm covered! And I would be very surprised if it turns out that The Consortium play a really significant role to the point that aligning with them is a major gameplay decision - they seem more like comedy relief to me.

  2. I feel exploration is really the strong point of GW2, so it makes me happy to see the developers working on this aspect.


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