Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Long Lost Shores: GW2

In a comment to a recent post by Syp at Bio Break, Telwyn said

"Guild Wars 2 makes me sad, it’s a game I loved for a year or so after launch and played with close friends and family. As you said in your post, I didn’t feel like the game was catering to my sort of player anymore, especially with Living Story season 2. I doubt they’ll come back to what the game was at launch, why would they? But that’s the game I wanted to play."

This is a sentiment often expressed, both by ex-players and some who still play. I've said much the same myself, often. I wonder, though, how true is it, really?

For quite a while, years, the infamous Manifesto would get dragged out and waved about like a torn and bloodied flag. That happens less now, although it's been linked and excerpted several times on this very blog, mostly when I wanted to rail against some betrayal of faith or hold some errant dev to account.

If the brave claims and promises of that proud document were ever enacted in the game itself, though, it was only briefly. People talk about the second Living Story marking a step-change for the game, the moment when most of the lore action moved to instances that could be packaged for cash shop sale, but the first and so far only expansion, Heart of Thorns, seems to be the tipping point most commonly defined.

My contention has always been that if GW2 did lose its way, the turn from the righteous path was taken long, long before any of that. The only version of GW2 that resembled the vision so energetically promoted in dev blogs and PR promos throughout the long march to launch was the one we saw in the six beta weekends and in the game's first three months. Everything since then has been ANet's New Game Experience.

Forever Ascalon
GW2's short-lived Golden Age ended with the catastrophic release of the game's first major live event, The Lost Shores, on November 16th 2012. With a prescience they could hardly have predicted, the ANet PR department trailed the update with the tagline "a massive one-time world event that will change Tyria forever!"

And it did. Player feedback was so virulent, so corrosive, the entire direction of the game changed as a result. The fundamental conception of the GW2 project, that there would be a dynamic, unpredictable, ever-changing world that players could affect and be affected by, was abandoned almost overnight.

From then until now the direction of development has been focused on making as certain as possible that no-one can say they didn't have at least a fair chance to do everything. If it isn't exactly "all must win prizes" it's certainly "all must have an equal opportunity to win prizes". And, failing that, buy them.
Maybe I did buy my hat in the Gem Shop. What's it to you, pal?

The result has been a relentless slide towards predictability. Everything happens on a schedule. There is always a tick list. Some things have a limited duration, it's true, but the limit is measured in weeks. Any sense of event or surprise is meticulously excised. There must never be any suggestion that anyone might miss out on anything.

It took a long time and many of ANet's famous iterations before these processes were sufficiently codified, tested and confirmed. The first season of the Living Story failed to take replayable accessibility into account, an error that means it cannot now, years later, be offered to those who missed it, tied up in neat Gem Shop bundles the way Seasons Two and Three have been. There are still plaintive posts about that on the forums now and again.

Once the revisionist steamroller began to pick up pace, though, it flattened everything. Megaserver tech removed variations between worlds, annihilating server cultures and collapsing alternate timelines. No more guesting to find a version of Tyria where the battle against Zhaitan's Risen was succeeding when it had failed in your own.

Even in the days of the Megaserver a very late map can give you that 3-man Maw experience you crave.

World bosses lost their power to surprise, weak as it was. Instead of a somewhat randomized "window" in which they might appear they were all issued with a strict schedule. Every quarter of an hour, to the second, a specific major threat would step out from behind the curtain, make a short speech and wait to die. There's a timetable.. More than that, there's a train.

I could go on. For four and a half years, beginning immediately after the perceived failure of the Karka Invasion of Lion's Arch, GW2 has stumbled towards order. The game that exists now, the game many ex-players dislike and avoid, is merely the later stage of the process that has been with us almost from the start.

Like the apocryphal frog who never notices the warming water it may be that those of us who stayed don't realize the trouble we're in. That's not quite how I see it. More likely, I think, the changes most widely reported and condemned seem more onerous, more divisive, less optional, when seen from the outside, than they really are.

Yes, I heard you the last seven hundred times.

Raids, for example, are entirely ignorable in exactly the same way raids have been entirely ignorable in every MMO I have ever played. No-one needs to raid. Most MMO players never raid. Raids stand to core GW2 play as sPvP used to and still does stand. If you played GW2 in 2012 and never felt like you "had" to do sPvP then you can equally play GW2 in 2017 and never feel like you "have" to raid.

Fractals, that infinite hamster wheel of achievement, are equally avoidable. What happens in Fractals stays in Fractals. Don't do them and you will never need to do them.

Ascended armor, the once controversial extra gear tier ANet either said they'd never add or always said they'd add depending who you believe, is a useful but absolutely optional addition. If you do choose to raid you'll need it because raiding is about marginal efficiency. If you WvW it's better to have it than not but only if you WvW seriously, with the whole VOIP and guild-build nine yards.

If you're raiding or WvWing in that manner then getting good is part of the deal you accepted. Everyone else - just chill! There is nothing anywhere else in the game you can't do in Exotics. Frankly, I doubt there's much you can't do in Rares. And you absolutely can WvW in Rares - I have characters doing it all the time - when there's a map call and I'm at the bank in Citadel I go with whoever I happen to be. You don't have to wear pink to fire an Arrow Cart or fix a gate.

Map calls know no color.

Heart of Thorns is an issue. Not having that flag on your account is a limiter, there's no denying. There's still a lot you can do without HoT but ANet's clear intent is to tie most new content to ownership of the expansion even when the content doesn't happen there.

After nearly five years, though, it hardly seems unreasonable to ask people who want to do anything more than dabble in the game to pony up just once more. Or, indeed, just once if it really is the first time.

And contrary to what you may have heard, Heart of Thorns is good. It's beautiful, it's content rich, it's varied and above all it's fun. It never was anywhere even close to being as "challenging" as the reviews suggested but what little added difficulty it ever offered has long since been nerfed into history.

I've been wearing this outfit since 2012 and I see no reason to change.

Masteries are mostly soloable and enjoyable to collect. The big events mostly run regularly and successfully even now, something that still surprises me. If you prefer to potter and wander and explore, though, then the Heart of Maguuma is your playground. And gliding in Verdant Brink is worth the price of entry on its own.

So, the game absolutely isn't what it was, or what they promised it would be, but then, when was it? That time was so short it seems like a dream. If I hadn't recorded how it was back then I'd scarcely believe it ever happened.

All MMOs change, at least while they live. GW2 has changed, for the worse and for the better. Whether it's shifted further, either way, than any other MMO I've played I somewhat doubt, although, maybe, it stumbled and lurched a little more along the way, trying to get there. I'm pretty sure it did that.

I wouldn't let what it's become stop me enjoying what remains of what it used to be, though. There's plenty left. And more besides.


  1. I concur with your identification of the "Lost Shores" event as being when things began to turn. I would add an additional data point at the initial "Queen's Jubilee" as well.

    The key part of "Lost Shores" that led to such outrage was, to my recollection, not just the "one-time" part of the event but the fact that the game engine just couldn't keep up with the load that was imposed on it. At that time my entire family was playing -- the wife, both kids, and myself. It was a nearly unplayable slideshow, where the dreaded Queen Karka probably killed me, but who knows... I certainly didn't see it. Having a telegraphed, dodgeable insta-kill ability on a non-rendered enemy did make the event memorable, but not in a good way.

    The outrage over it being "one-time?" Oh, some was that you couldn't see it... but nobody else could, either. No, the issue was that precursors dropped. It was a loot question.

    "Lost Shores" is thought of as being a low point, but I think it was better received than the boards indicated, but also not received as expected. There was one part of it that I recall was very popular -- though I may be confusing this with part of "Secrets of Southshore" -- where a zerg formed that ran between two of the many points, doing the same two events over... and over... and over... while mostly ignoring the rest of the island. For a week.

    At the same time, the popular events in the low level areas were the zergs that ran from boss to boss. The subtle content, new events being added, the Skritt Burgler et al? No posts. But the zergs were very popular.

    Which brings us to the "Queen's Jubilee", which coded that entire gameplay solidly as the entire event. No story at all, really. Just a big zone with bosses that spawned that could be (needed to be) zerged down and looted as quickly as possible. A big ring of loot pinatas. Wildly popular.

    Who killed the manifesto? I think we the player base did. But I don't like zergs, and I'm not into jumping puzzles, and an expansion which had a key point of "more verticality" and a new system of grinding to fly didn't interest me, and so none of us bought it. My wife still shows up, almost daily, to run her dailies and get her "jiggle box". But she didn't buy it, either, since it had nothing that looked like it would be fun to do to her.

    I might sound bitter. I'm not. I got my money's worth from the game, and have moved to things I enjoy more (EQ2, for example).

    1. That's an excellent analysis of what happened. As I recall it, a lot of the complaining prior to the event was about the one-off nature of it but as soon as it started that swiftly changed to complaints about how unplayable it was. It was certainly very laggy and parts of it were indeed a slideshow on my machine too, particularly towards the end. I've seen worse, though, and it didn't spoil my enjoyment although it was very nerve-wracking at the climax when there seemed to be a chance of disconnecting and missing out on the rewards.

      The pre-cursor issue is interesting. For most of the life of GW2 one of the primary complaints about the game in general and big events in particular has been that the rewards, particularly the drops, never seem like an adequate reward for the effort involved. I think that stems from Lost Shores, too. Because that was a one-off event and a big ticket one at that they decided they could be very generous. Pre-cursors were a more common drop than they have ever been since and if you missed out on that you got a 20-slot bag which was an extremely desirable item then and nothing to be sniffed at even now. I'm still using mine.

      Once they moved to content that had to hang around until everyone had had a go at it, though, they couldn't be as generous ever again. And everyone who hadn't been able to make it to the event or couldn't stay connected because of the lag felt ripped off that they'd missed out on their only chance at a pre-cursor. That left a sour taste that lingered for a long time.

      I had forgotten how significant the Queen's Jubilee was to the process but you're absolutely right. It was quite controversial at the time, the way it boiled everything down to the basics - go here, kill this, get loot - in a way that seemed completely at odds with the supposed design ethos of the entire game.

      There was a period of maybe a couple of years when everything seemed to be directed towards pure zerg play. I loved that. I think zerging is the true USP of GW2 and ANet should design around it as the default. Nothing in MMOs beats the sheer, exhillarating thrill of those ad hoc, rolling, map-wide zergs such as we saw in Southsun (and yes I think it was the later event) and especially the Scarlet Invasions of Season 1.

      Wild zerging gets a bad name for so many reasons, though, and in the end they seem to have tried to go for an uncomfortable compromise between the hive mind of the true zerg and some form of hot-join quasi-raid structure. They trialed that in Dry Top and have been iterating on it ever since.I do hope they have a new idea for Expansion 2 because I have had about as much of the squad-based junior raid as I care to take for now.

      I just wish they'd finally announce that new expansion and start churning out the PR. The wait's getting ridiculous now.

    2. Sorry, but I disagree entirely. People reacted to Lost Shores, sure, but it was mostly regarding the sheer technical brokenness of it that led to unplayability even for the people already there. People were excited and made time to attend the event and were exceedingly disappointed when they missed out (especially on potential loot) because the servers themselves couldn't support the load, causing dcs and fps drops to near zero.

      In other words, reception of the event was almost too good. Players just wanted -more- chances at the same thing, especially for those who couldn't make it for that one session. All they had to do was schedule it for more staggered timeslots over several days (being fair to all timezones) and players would have lapped it up.

      Instead, they took entirely the wrong message from the reception and decided "welp, no more one-off world changing events entirely" and went down a different path of iteration.

      Which also ended up NOT entirely bad. The two week/four week cadence we settled into was pretty well-received by regular players (though those who couldn't play regularly started to feel they were missing out and maybe could have started churning).

      The major complaint at this period was mostly regarding the story and the plot and the characters. Which again shows players were engaged and lapping it up, to the point where they could have debates over the Mary Sueness of Scarlet.

      The hidden unspoken problem was evidently something going on in the Anet offices where the constantly-reorganized teams were feeling that they couldn't keep up the pace of producing this sort of content. I suspect quite a bit of politicking behind closed doors.

    3. Come Heart of Thorns and this was the death knell to GW2 as we knew it. Anet was hiring for AI specialists and raid designers around this period, and these new guys are likely to have brought in and/or supported the philosophical faction with the standard MMO mentality (aka hardcore, challenging, difficult, competitive, content belong at the top of any MMO endgame).

      Most likely this factionalized into work teams (like a team for raids, a team for fractals, etc.) and you can see this culture and ethos in the various' designers behavior when they show up for AMAs and so on. The raid team is totally prepared for salt from the greater part of the community, they're prepared to be adversarial and divisive. Makes them stronger, or something.

      The problem with this is that it seeps back into the game as well. We've gone a long way from the admittedly somewhat preachy ethos of "oh, being divisive is just like acting like Destiny's Edge in a petty fight and we should all come together and cooperate to defeat the Elder Dragons" to a more meta "here's the challenge, here's the line drawn in the sand, step over if you can. If you can't, well, the line will still be there tomorrow, up to you."

      One faction in ArenaNet evidently lost this fight. All those leaving to get poached by Amazon Game Studios have evidently decided that staying at Anet is no longer a more positive future for themselves and their career than working someplace else on a new game. Cue culture shift.

      Player culture has also shifted as a response to this. Ditto the shifting population of players who have decided to play and pay less or not at all, and those who are in fact drawn back to the game due to having aspirational challenging goals.

      There are no more shared events and experiences to talk about in GW2. (Or at least not until the rehashed Super Adventure Box festival comes around.) No more Scarlet as a uniting factor. Everything has become factionalized. The raiders talk raids. The fractals play their fractals. The open world people play Lake Doric and whatever other zone they like. The WvWers remain in their silos, unsoweiter. Feel free to ignore all the other content that is not being played.

      Feel free to ignore all the unhappiness from camps/teams that are not your own, keep your head down and just work on your part of the contribution to your game. Fight for your team as the rising star in Anet.

      It's playable, sure. But it's a very different game in feel because of all this ignoring. And I point the blame squarely at Heart of Thorns and the introduction of raids.

      Hell, these days, I am ignoring everything else but raids, so I am part of the problem too. But I did it in response to the signposting and design decisions of the devs, so whose fault is it really?

      In an earlier age, I would have been contributing to the zerg or gathering under the banner and leadership of a larger, more flexible, organized-zone group commander, adding to overall group success.

      Now I'm only concerned with one group's success. The rest of the game is dead for me, because I don't have the time to do both.

      Eh. Meh. I'm putting my money on another game that projects a more unified, happy image to the outside world.

    4. Part 1:

      The problem with any and all of these analyses is that at pretty much any given time the loudest and least ignorable voices from the playerbase come from the dissatisfied. That's true of all MMOs I've played but I have found it to be particularly true of GW2.

      I liked LS1. I have the blog posts here to prove it. That was very much the minority opinion at the time, though. I certainly don't remember it ever being well-received by a majority of the people who make it a habit to express an opinion publicly. The two/four week cadence was roundly criticized at the time, the emphasis on zerg play (which I loved and still do) was the center of prolonged and very angry arguments and the whole stately progress of the Living Storyline itself was ridiculed. Scarlet certainly acted as a lightning rod, drawing fire from all directions, but it's hard to paint that as a positive, I think.

      In retrospect I would rate the LS1 era even more highly than I did. We didn't know how lucky we were. Back then, though, I think almost everyone saw the change to a more stable, predictable format in LS2 as an improvement. It wasn't but we didn't know that until it was too late, by when we had bigger things to worry about, like the long content drought and then the disastrous introduction of HoT.

      As I have said repeatedly, I like HoT. I didn't expect to. On paper it had almost nothing to interest me but it turned out to be stuffed with things I found fun. I also found the supposed difficulty level to be laughably over-stated even before any nerfs. Doing the big, map-wide events like Auric Basin (pre-exploit) and Dragon's Stand are still some of my favorite times in GW2 and gliding in Verdant Brink is beyond compare.

      That said, I completely agree with your analysis on just how very bad it was for the game as a whole. It absolutely destroyed WvW, which will never recover, and the addition of Raids changed the tone and tenor of the entire game, also in a way that will and can never be fixed - unless they abandon raiding one day the way they abandoned dungeons. I also think you are almost certainly right about the factions within ANet and how that plays into the change of direction. That's something I have seen at other MMOs and the details only usually emerge years later when someone no longer works in the industry and doesn't are how many bridges they burn.

    5. Part 2.

      As for picking and choosing and siloing and ignoring all the bits of the game that you don't personally like, again I would contend that this is exactly what GW2 has always been. Mrs Bhagpuss, for example, has literally never set foot in an sPvP instance despite having been a fairly hardcore player of Battlegrounds in several other MMOs. My friends list is peppered with WvW players who have been on Yaks Bend since the beginning but who have only ever entered PvE with the greatest reluctance, for the minimum possible time, only when it was unavoidable to acquire some WW-necessary item. I'm certain there are plenty of people who pretty only did Dungeons for the first two years and who now only do Fractals. There were always many mansions in ANEt's house.

      When ANet deign to add a genuine open world PvE event (most recently the Running Man sequence of Current Events) the turnout is huge and it feels very much like the good old days. I keep wishing they'd see that and work with it but somehow they never do. I'm hoping the mysterious second expansion will include more of that wide-open play but I am not expecting it. Someone fell in love with instancing a few years back and I fear we are stuck with that decision forever.

    6. Jeromai, reading your blog, it seemed at the time of the run up to Heart of Thorns that you were quite concerned about the philosophical break in the idea of "everyone gets to play" to the concept of raiding. From what you've said, I gather you are still fairly unhappy with the impact this has had on the community. I don't disagree that this was a line that was significant change, but I do think this is a change between "GW2 mark 2" and "GW2 mark 3".

      I think I'm mostly pondering the breach between "GW2 mark 1" and "GW2 mark 2", the "just run around in the world and see things happen around you" to "here's the story that we are telling and you the customer experience".

      It's harder for me to judge the impact of the pre-expansion to post-expansion changes, as my family bailed out prior to the expansion (well, the wife still does the daily fairly often, but didn't purchase HoT). But it does feel like yet another breakpoint, one that pushes further from what I'm interested in.

  2. You know GW2 almost got me to come back based on HoT gliding mechanic. But that expansion was far to expensive at release for a game that already has a cash shop. Why is gliding so attractive? Dont know but it was a huge reason for me sticking with Aion so long. Just adds an actiony element that matches my dream flying (run, jump, glide for a bit per laws of gravity, repeat) that I enjoy so much in a game. Then low and behold, WoW of all games added an entire class (Demon Hunter), that could jump then deploy wings to glide over steep terrain. I dont know if GW2 has integrated gliding into every aspect of gameplay or if its specific to certain zones? But being able to jump a foot in the air then glide for the next 15ft avoiding rocks, difficult terrain - it is a game changer for me.

    1. This is exactly how I feel. I love flying in MMOs and the gliding mechanism, with the updrafts and the drifting is somehow even better than straightforward flight. GW2 allows gliding in all open, outdoor maps, including cities but not in instances or in WvW. Generally it only allows you to move, not fight, but some of the more recent maps, and some specific events in older ones, allow fighting too.

      Verdant Brink is the best though. And thanks for the tip on Demon Hunter. I wasn't going to make one when I finally get round to playing Legion but now I definitely will.

  3. Lost Shores may have signaled the change for PvE players, but for pure WvW'ers it was the announcement of Ascended Gear. And I wasn't sure of the relative timeline, but after googling, it looks like Ascended Gear was announced on November 13th, three days before the Lost Shores Event of November 16th:

    So, I think that since the Ascended Gear announcement does in fact predate Lost Shores, it might be more accurate to the use that as the first date of the new GW2.

    Again, from a WvW'ers perspective. Our guild stuck around until the introduction of Ascended Weapons, which was roughly a year later I think. Trinkets you could ignore, but not the Weapons power differential.

    And it wasn't just the current advantage of Weapons. Why would we trust Anet's handling the direction of the game after they tossed the Manifesto for Ascendeds? It was best just to cut our losses and leave. This decision of course was bourne out by the HoT xpac which completely destroyed WvW.

    From the pure WvW'ers point of view, the HoT devastation was inevitable once Ascendeds were introduced. It was just a matter of time.

    - Simon

    1. It's actually the same thing. Lost Shores was the name of the November 2012 update that introduced both Fractals and Ascended gear to GW2. The Karka Invasion was the weekend-long live event that came with it.

      I wrote the above post off the top of my head without doing any research. I was actually planning to post about LotRO but then this just popped into my mind so I went with it. If I'd had any idea it would spark a discussion of this depth I'd have been a lot more rigorous with the terminology and included better links!

      The forum thread that followed the announcement of Ascended gear reached an astounding 222 pages! It was unbelievably controversial and without a doubt was the tipping point for the direction of the game.

      The whole WvW thing is very interesting - that deserves a post of its own. My take on it is that ANet did not then and would not now recognize that there is such a thing as a "pure WvW player". I am fairly sure I could find a statement from Mike O'Brien that says something along the lines of "all WvW players are PvE players" - in fact here he is saying it! I believe Anet did see WvW as one aspect of end game play but never as a standalone game mode. That has been demonstrated over and over again in almost every change and addition to WvW over the life of the game. They basically wanted it to be large scale PvPvE for core PvE players. As such, naturally, they would expect players in WvW to be comfortable with doing PvE outside WvW inn order to gear up. That has been a problem ever since.

      Anyway, too much for a comment thread. Wherever you set the exact date, the point is the "real" GW2 lasted less than three months. Everything since is a new game.

    2. Yes, indeed. It was only three months, however you look at it. I can still remember my heart sinking when I read that press release, specifically this sentence:

      "Eventually, you’ll be able to kit yourself out with a full set of Ascended gear and high end Infusions to help give you the edge in end game content."

      Even here, even in GW2, I thought.

      And before launch ANet, and specifically Colin Johansen made it clear you wouldn't have to PvE if you wanted to play just WvW. I remember that clearly as I had been following development pretty religiously, which was a new thing for me. My background in PvP was actually in FPS shooters, so if I had thought WvW was going to be typical gear-grind MMO PvP I just wouldn't have bothered.

      And in fact, I can remember the exact moment my heart sank the second time, and it became clear ANet was going to make WvW'ers play PvE (beyond the requirement for Ascendeds). It was when they introduced Guild Catapults and made them only available through PvE Guild Missions. That was the first time I heard my co-guild leader say "F* you Anet". (Later they relented and made Guild Catapults tradeable, so we just bought them on the AH, but the damage had been done--just more evidence we should get out while we could).

      And also as an aside, the experience with GW2's "volte face" on the Manifesto has strangely served me well in the MMO Arena. Pre-ESO launch I was fairly excited for their PvP. Then they released their pre-launch pricing structure, and they pay-gated an entire race (Imperial) behind their deluxe edition. This was after they made a big fuss of how their sub model was going to be value for money etc. Based on what GW2 taught us about warning flags, we decided to sit out, and this turned out to be a wise choice, as the game was not worth playing really until a year later.


    3. I too remember the Ascended gear controversy. Very sad point for me as well, especially given my joy in original Guild Wars with its strong support for the PvP community.

      I still think GW1 was the better game. GW2 is prettier. And you can jump, if that's your thing. But I've never seen anything better than GW1. The worldbuilding was spectacular. Some of the storylines were, for MMOs, quite good (Factions) to outstanding (Nightfall) to really different (Hearts of the North). There was no real gear grind. Improvement was about more options, not more raw number creep.

      I guess that's part of my problem with GW2. Based on the team making it, and the stated goals they had, I had expectations that just weren't met. Alas, alack and all that.

    4. I like the original Guild Wars. Mrs Bhagpuss and I bought it just after release, when I played it for about six weeks she carried on for maybe a month after that. Once that short period was over, though, we never played (or really thought about) it again until GW2 was imminent and we went back briefly to earn some Hall of Monuments points.

      GW1 players who stuck with the game and played all the expansions have a very different view of both it and of GW2 than players like us, who only played Prophecies or who never played at all. The main reason I didn't carry on playing GW1 or even go back to play it each time an expansion arrived was that I never really considered it to be an MMO and MMOs are really the only video games I'm interested in. It was (and is) a very good game but it always seemed to me to be a co-op RPG not an MMORPG. What to call it was, of course, always a contentious issue, even when it was new.

      These days the definition of what is or is not an MMO has stretched and blurred so much that it's become largely meaningless and certainly pointless to argue over. GW1 is indisputably an MMO as we understand the term in 2017. It's still much less the kind of MMO I prefer than GW2 is, though. Even so, I wouldn't dispute that GW1 is much more coherent, well-managed and satisfying *as a game*. ANet very much knew what they were doing and where they were going with GW1, something that would be very hard to argue for the follow-up.

    5. As someone that to this day has 4 times more hours of GW1 than GW2, GW1 direction was exactly the same as GW2, same as in it zig zagged.

      The main difference is that GW1 had much less updates in between expansions and after those.

      Lets not forget that GW1 changed from a PvP game with a PvE tutorial to a PvE focused game (don't tell that to GvGers) with Nightfall and Eye of the North.

      To this day I'm still impressed with how many things from the original written only manifesto are still true in GW2, but lets leave that alone.

      What I think changed the GW2 direction was the unexpected amount of people at release (between 2-3 million players), the huge population drop by September/October and the incredible high gem store revenue.

      The high gem store revenue changed the plan for the game development - out with regular expansions, in with regular updates.

      The huge population and subsequent drop made Arenanet think they could go after the WoW-style of game crowd and the constant higher number gear/damage.

      Heart of Thorns catered to the original group of players but it was to difficult/tedious to navigate/hid most goodies behind grind.

      But today, for any player with max gliding mastery/mushroom/wallows, HoT is some of the most beautiful and interesting areas of the game.

      Hot still attempted chasing the hardcore/progression crowd, especially with raids.

      I believe that atm the dominant philosophy of Anet leans more to the original manifesto than towards the ascended/harcore/raid, but we will see with the next expansion.

      And Living World season 3, while not having that impact of waiting to go in Lions Arch for the first time after its destruction, is pretty good.

    6. One of the reasons we began playing GW1 shortly after but not right at launch was precisely because we hadn't been very interested in it as a PvP title, which is how it was mostly promoted before release. Then reviews and reports began coming in about the PvE game and it began to sound a lot more interesting. My memory of it is that ANet were already beginning to focus on PvE by the time we played, which was only a month or two after launch, and it just carried on in that direction thereafter.

      I'd forgotten the huge population and subsequent major drop in GW2. I did remember a lot of people left after 4-6 weeks but at that time were in the midst of the "three monther/WoW tourist" era and I thought that was to be expected. Apparently it took Anet by surprise. Another thing not mentioned much now is how very, very buggy much of the game was in the first 3-6 months. A lot of the higher content seemed barely to have been tested and many events got stuck or didn't work at all. So, even in the brief period when GW2 was the game it was meant to be a lot of it didn't actually work! I do also agree that HoT is in some ways a return to the earlier approach - only you can't really see that until you have most of the masteries, by when most people who liked that approach have given up.

      Oh well, the past is the past. What I really want to know about is the future and that elusive second expansion. They really, really need to announce something about that soon. I'm beginning to think it won't come out this year and the longer it takes the more incredible it has to be - and I bet it won't be all that incredible.


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