"Guild Wars 2, an egalitarian enjoyable game, bent over to cater to the strident demands of the "we need raids and like the exclusivity it brings because then I can feel better than others" subset and ripped apart the community in the process."
It's true. It's also utterly confounding. Over the lifespan of GW2 other MMOs, almost across the board, have progressively withdrawn from exclusivity in favor of a variety of mechanisms designed and intended to open up previously elite content to the widest possible audience.
WoW introduced "Looking For Raid" to facilitate pick-up raiding. Rift created Intrepid Adventures "to give all players a chance to experience some of the lore of the high level raids". LotRO redesigned Fellowship Quests so that they could be soloed rather than requiring a full group.
There are many similar examples of MMO developers re-tuning their games to reflect reality: players are less social than they were, they don't play as often or for as long as they did and they have a lot less patience for anything that they don't find fun. As Jeromai points out "Wildstar should have been an object lesson in catering to only one small subgroup and expecting the bills to be paid."
Of the MMOs I play the one that has benefited the most from this change of attitude is EQ2. It's a game that has always had a storyline but for many years it was a narrative largely recounted in raid instances.
At some point when I wasn't paying close attention this began to change. When I returned after a break and played through the 2012 and 2013 expansions Chains of Eternity and Tears of Veeshan I was surprised to find the entire storyline laid out for me, not just in the open world zones but in specially-created Solo and Advanced Solo instances that mirrored those for groups and even raids.
By the time we got to last years Kunark Ascending the sales pitch made that realignment abundantly clear: "All new dungeons for Solo, Heroic, and Raid parties alike". Note that equivalence. It's important.
The move towards inclusivity extends to open world content as well as instancing. ESO recently flattened the level barrier with the "One Tamriel" initiative and EQ2 has long had the option to recalibrate your character's level to match the zone.
Then there are the open world, raid-like events that bypass traditional raid requirements. Generally considered to have originated in Warhammer Online's "Public Quests" before being refined and formulated by Rift with its "rifts" and "invasions", this kind of all-pile-on, zerg-friendly content perhaps reached its apotheosis of public acceptance in last year's pre-event for WoW's "Legion" expansion.
GW2 was an early adopter and something of a market leader for this kind of thing. The game has auto-leveling maps and well before launch ANet made a huge play of the "Dynamic Events" system. However original, let alone mold-breaking that may have been in 2012, nearly five years later it appears little different from the industry standard.
Rift certainly did much of what GW2 does back when GW2 wasn't even in beta and EQ2 has been dabbling with this kind of open-access, inclusive, large scale content since 2011's Destiny of Velious expansion, albeit with mixed success. The current iteration that came with Kunark Ascending, however, is proving extremely popular.
Four months after the expansion arrived, every day at the time I play, which isn't even during North American prime, there's a good chance there will be multiple instances running for Obolous Frontier, Jarsath Wastes and Fens of Nathsar. General chat pings constantly with calls for OF2 or JW3 and ad hoc pick-up raids form, although there's no requirement to be in a raid to participate.
It's all remarkably good-humored. Other than the occasional request that someone drops a mercenary to make space for another player I have seen absolutely no histrionics, arguing, complaining or elitist jerkism.
The events are fun although the aging EQ2 engine does make it hard to tell what's going on at times. They are popular primarily, though, not so much for the gameplay as because they are immediately accessible to anyone of the appropriate level and they offer a good chance of desirable rewards.
In this respect Blizzard and Daybreak, like Trion before them, seem to understand something that ANet have never acknowledged, namely that giving people what they want will get them to log in and play. In GW2 the expectation is always that you won't get anything you want from doing an event; in other MMOs you know it's not guaranteed but you feel you're in with a fighting chance.
Contrary to popular belief, GW2 mobs do have desirable drops. Every mob has an infinitesimal chance to drop a variety of "good" items, while "named" mobs such as World Bosses have specific items on their loot tables. The problem isn't what they can drop. It's what they do drop. GW2 has always been exceptionally ungenerous in its in-game rewards. Even though the frequency has been tweaked upwards over the years it remains far and away the most miserly of any major MMO I have played.
This ethos of scarcity (or should we call it meanness?) doesn't extend only to drops from mobs. It even includes holiday events. Compare the recent Lunar New Year event in GW2, in which about the only interesting item (and that's stretching a point) was to be found as a very rare drop from Lucky Envelopes, with the holiday running in EQ2 right now, Erollisi Day.
Erollisi Day is Norrath's analog of Valentine's. It's a relatively minor holiday in the Norrathian calendar. It brings with it nothing much more than ten repeatable quests, six one time only quests, ten achievements, nine books of crafting recipes, a collection, a race and two vendors selling holiday items of all kinds.
Every year the developers add something new and occasionally they retire something old from the line-up. This year they added a short quest called You Don't Bring Me Flowers, which I did with my Berserker on the Skyfire server. It was simple and straightforward and it netted me a pink, patchwork baby dragon for my house.
That was a reward worth considerably more to me than the small effort it required. I logged in my Shadowknight on the Time-Limited Expansion server, Stormhold with the intention of getting him a dragon too. I then found myself wrapped up in all the other entertainment on offer. I ended up taking him racing, doing the collect and completing several of the older holiday quests until eventually I ran out of time before I got around to the doing the thing I came for. I'll be going back again for the little pink dragon and I'll try to get it for several of my other characters as well.
Before that, while I was there on my Berserker I noticed some calls for a Public Quest in Kylong Plains. I didn't know there was a KQPQ. I traveled there by world bell, asked for a raid invite in chat, clicked on the window that popped up, flew to the spot on the map and joined in what turned out to be one of the best PQs I've seen in EQ2 and certainly the most visually appealing.
All of this I did instead of what I'd expected to be doing, namely the new GW2 stuff that came with last week's update. I did it because it was fun, it was easy and it was inclusive. It was, in fact, the very antithesis of "preparing to have fun rather than just having fun".
Those, by the way, are the three words I used to associate quite specifically with Guild Wars 2: fun, easy, inclusive. The addition of instanced raiding (now with even more elite "Challenge" mode!) and the tuning of more and more content, including both open world and solo instances, towards players able to demonstrate skill sets honed in and for a raid environment, seems to me to mitigate strongly against all of them.
It's painfully ironic that it's GW2 that seems to be focused on adding elite content right at the time other MMOs are tearing it down. For a game that Mike O'Brien promised wasn't about to "fall into the traps of traditional MMORPGs" it seems to be making a pretty good fist right now of jumping feet first into the very same traps those traditional MMOs finally escaped.