Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Outskirts Of Expansion : GW2

I thought I'd pop this up to bookmark the day it happened. ArenaNet just soft-announced the third expansion for Guild Wars 2.

And when I say "soft" I mean talc on Mohs' scale of hardness. The reveal is virtually buried at the end of a dev blog going under the tedium-inducing title Looking Ahead to Spring, Summer and the Future. It doesn't tell us very much. It's more an announcement that one day there will be an announcement:
Development is underway on a third Guild Wars 2 expansion. The team is hard at work, and it’s much too soon to talk about any details right now, including features, story, release date, or development timeline. We’ll have to stick to that until we’re ready to reveal more information to the world. When we are ready, you’ll definitely know!
Path of Fire, the second expansion, went live in September 2017. I would have said the third expansion should have dropped absolutely no later than two years after that. Judging by the above quote, I guess we might expect to see it  sometime in 2021 at the earliest.

A four year gap between expansions is desperataly unhealthy for a supposedly successful MMORPG but at this point I'm just surprised - amazed, even - that we're going to be getting one at all. The previous management at ANet seemed to be fairly committed to not doing any more expansions ever again if they could possibly avoid it.

When there was regime change last year I did momentarily imagine attitudes might shift but the party line held for a good while. Now it has finally collapsed and ANet appear to be ready to rejoin the rest of the world in seeing expansions as a natural and desirable part of the process rather than some dire fate to be avoided at all costs.

We're going where? Sorry, never heard of it.
I suppose I should be pleased but the prospect of playing the thing is so remote I can barely manage a tickle of interest. The fact that I strongly dislike the last expansion, to the point that I can almost claim it ruined the game for me, is not helping me to drum up enthusiasm for whatever it is they're working on.

That said, the Icebrood Saga so far has been a significant improvement over pretty much everything added to the game since Heart of Thorns. I particularly like the sound of the forthcoming instalment focusing on "capturing and defending territories in a PvE map, using objectives similar to WvW". If they can pull that off I could see myself playing it a lot.

The "early concept art" included in the announcement has everyone believing the expansion will take us to Cantha, although that bridge just reminds me of one in Vanguard's Kojan. I guess they all draw from similar real-world source material.

For some reason I can't fathom, Cantha seems to represent the promised land to many former Guild Wars players. I played some of the content there but I have only the dimmest memories of it. It certainly holds no strong nostalgia for me.

At this point I don't really care where we go. Anywhere is better than nowhere, which is where we've been going for the last three years. I hope the inevitable Big Feature, when it's revealed, turns out to be proper housing. That really would fire my enthusiasm. It won't be, though.

Anyway, at least we're getting something. And whatever it is, it can't be worse than PoF. Can it?


  1. There goes my GW3 theory, though that ranked as a wildly unsubstantiated guess in any case.

    1. I hadn't thought of that. I guess it does knock any idea of a secret team working on GW3 on the head. Shame. I'd have been a lot more excited about a new game than an expansion for one that will be closing in on ten years old when it comes out.

  2. Cantha was notable in a time when all MMOs were extremely western-centric - medieval dark age period was about all the aesthetic inspiration there was. If you wanted to be different, dragging us into modern day western cities was already a shift.

    Enter Guild Wars who pulled in both Asian and African aesthetics (extrapolating them into fantasy worlds) to stand front and center in full expansions, and you have a tone shift similar to Hollywood embracing Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther.

    I'm still mostly in wait-and-see mode, but at least I'm not full-on depressed any more. Had enough of blue and white Norn ice for quite a while and looking forward to going somewhere with a bit more green.

    Whether my internet connection to Anet's rickety Amazon servers lasts, that's another matter altogether. It was at a ridiculous 700ms ping the day before - no idea if that's due to them sneaking in the next update behind the scenes, sudden increased visitors from the Cantha announcement hint, or routing issues, but it's annoying whatever the cause. Glorious art is one thing, but there needs to be some technical/engineering competence behind the scenes to support it as well.

    1. I just took the trouble to do some googling on Cantha to see if I could nail this down. No luck yet, but there's an immense and entirely unhelpful thread on the GW2 forums (58 pages!) in which many explanations and arguments for the popularity or distaste for the setting are suggested. The problem is, many of them are contradictory or mutually exclusive and all of them (that I read on a skim) are pretty much subjective, personal views.

      I wonder if this, from a 2006 preview of Factions in beta, might be more of a key indicator to the setting's enduring populatity: "the Asian flavour of the graphics is little short of spectacular. Guild Wars was always an aesthetically striking title, and Factions is even more so. Similarly lavish attention has been paid to the animations for the two new character professions: Ritualist and Assassin."

      That's basically saying that, for the time, it was gosh-wow gorgeous. That in itself is often enough to fix an opinion in gaming that something is excellent. A GameSpot review of the released version is equally effusive about the look of the thing but much less so about the gameplay: "the story itself--involving a plague causing Cantha's populace to turn into aberrations that look a lot like the Flood from Halo--isn't particularly well told. Apart from some story cutscenes delivered using not-particularly-convincing voice performances, quests are given in little text windows that don't do a great job of drawing you into the plot. And since you're not really earning much in the way of new stuff once you reach the maximum level, the campaign might not hold your interest. "

      One interesting thing I note is that quite a lot of the comments refer to the Russian feel of some of the Factions setting. I didn't know that was a part of it. I'd be interested to see some Russian-style architecture and culture in GW2, something I've only really seen in MMORPGs when I played Allods.

    2. To this day, it's still gosh-wow gorgeous.

      The multi-story slums that stacked on top of each other to form a city blew my friend's mind at the time. Me, I've always been partial to the petrified Jade Sea, verdantly violent and seemingly dynamic, yet frozen and fossilized.

      I suppose the Russian feel might be the Kurzicks? The Luxons were some strange cross of Dune nomad and goodness-knows-what. It was all pretty far-out fantasy, a blend of less-seen stuff to create something new and novel, rather than copying one more medieval cottage. The worldbuilding was spectacular in that respect.

      Gameplay-wise, I think the only thing notable that I remember was that it embraced the whole power-leveling aspect the most. It was the fastest of the three campaigns to hit max level with. Some people seemed to have quite a fondness for its Alliance Battles.


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