Tuesday, March 22, 2022

A Window On The Future: ArenaNet's Plans For Guild Wars 2

 

Oh, isn't that just typical! Couldn't have released this yesterday, could you, ANet? Thanks a bunch!

If the massive "Studio Update" (Seriously? Can't call it a "Producer's Letter" like everyone else?) had dropped a day earlier I could have incorporated much of it into my "Guild Wars 2 is World of Warcraft wearing a hat" post. It would have stood up nearly every point I was trying to make. Also, why did I not think of that title yesterday? It's so much better than the lame one I went with.

Let's leave that in the dust for now in favor of ripping through the massive screed to see if there's anything in there worth talking about. Gotta be something. Oh, hey, here's one... 

"The number of active Guild Wars 2 players has more than doubled over the last three years."

Weirdly misreported by MassivelyOP, in quotes, as "the last two years." I wonder if they got it wrong or it's been changed at source? Either way, it's a very interesting statistic. As a regular player, the game always seems very well-populated although the megaserver tech makes it hard to be sure. I was a little puzzled when Belghast described GW2 as "a game that deserves way more attention than it receives." It always seems to get plenty to me. Now I guess it's going to get even more.

 At first it seems like a trend-bucking stat. We're used to mmorpg populations declining inexorably over time. Then again, these have not been normal times. I wonder just how many mmorpgs have populations that increased during the pandemic and how many of those new or returning players are still hanging around as the panic winds down. Maybe it matters more than I thought, whether that growth happened over three years or two.

Let's have another quote. How about this one? 

"We need to prioritize delivering consistent updates for our players...specifically, how we provide regular content updates to our players and what those updates contain."
Ya think? Ten years of whiffling about cadences and here we are, almost a year on the far side of the last new non-expansion content. Yeah, I'd say you need to prioritize that. Also make your minds up on a delivery schedule and fricken' stick to it.

"This means continuing to tell compelling stories that expand the world of Tyria while providing a better experience for those who enjoy game modes such as World vs. World, Player vs. Player, and endgame group content."

I find that worrisome. Not so much because I don't think all those interest groups deserve service, more because I doubt ANet's ability to keep that many balls in the air at once. There's been precious little sign of them being able to do it over the last ten years. Arguably (And I'd be one to argue it.) all these groups have the opposite of synergy. They fight each other for scraps like a pack of starving dogs and there aren't enough scraps to throw to keep all of them from tearing each other apart. Good luck keeping them all satisfied.

What next? Oh yes, Steam launch!

"You only get to launch on Steam once, and we want to make sure we do it right... We’re not ready to commit to a hard date for Steam quite yet, but our hearts are set on launching this year. "

Kicking it down the road for now. Fair enough. I wonder just how big a deal it would be anyway? Obviously it's a whole new potential audience but there are quite a lot of mmorpgs on Steam these days and none of them seem do great numbers. Okay, Lost Ark. Still, better to be on Steam than not.

And now the BIG SURPRISE..."Living World Season 1 Returns."

Oh ffs! You're kidding me, right? I only just got finished banging on about how so much better than all the rest Season One was, because it was a one-off, never to be repeated, live game experience that managed to convince us that playing a video game somehow mattered! It wasn't memorable for the story, that's for sure. 

Sticking the key plot points into five instanced chapters of the Living Story isn't a horrible idea. It'll be nice to have the option to see some of the events again, not to mention Scarlet Briar. Don't begin to kid yourself it's going to be like "being there", though. If they do a really great job it'll be like watching the Woodstock movie compared to, y'know, having been at Woodstock. If they do a bad job, I guess it'll be like being at Altamont.

How about World vs World, the game mode that was "a cornerstone" last summer but which, for End of Dragons, got... fishing. And even that doesn't work. 

"Now that Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons is released, we can further increase our support for WvW."

That's nice. What are you going to do for it? 

"Our priorities for WvW are largely unchanged from what we talked about in our “Future of World vs. World” blog post in September of last year."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't those the same priorities you talked about in the previous two major statements, going back several years? We've been waiting on the Alliances remodel since at least 2018. Forgive us if we don't take the roof off cheering when you tell us you're still working on it.

This paragraph, however, I found much more intriguing:

"As we mentioned last year, once population balance and rewards are addressed, our theory is that WvW gameplay will see a significant shift. At that point, we intend to look very hard at core WvW systems (upgrades, scoring, siege, etc.) and balance them to ensure that the WvW experience is still reflecting our vision."

The original "vision"for WvW was as a massive PvPvE battle for territorial advantage and possession. Over time, as more and more PvE players bounced and more and more RvR players boiled away. WvW has moved significantly towards being all about the fights.The people who care what the fights are about are in a minority now and have been for a while.

My interpretation of the paragraph above is that ANet want to get a lot more PvE players into WvW, as was originally intended. That means making the scores matter because PvE-oriented players like that kind of structure. Just running about looking for people to kill isn't going to do it for them.

If the changes successfully bring back casual WvW players from the PvE game in large numbers I foresee a lot of conflict with the self-defining "WvW Players". Could be a bloodbath, especially if certain factions organize, something the Alliance system is pretty much designed to facilitate.

Coming to the end now....

"We’re happy to confirm that we’re working on the next story update for Guild Wars 2, including a new map set in the Cantha region."

Kinda figured we'd be hanging around there for a while. Is that story update in addition to the Season One highlight reel or do we have to wait for that to roll out before we get something that's actually new? Oh, wait, there's a timeline... let's see... nothing before the end of June, by when we'll have had just two of the first five S1 chapters. If that's the cadence, expect nothing new until the autumn at the earliest, then, I guess.

And finally...

"We’re happy to confirm that there will be a fourth expansion for Guild Wars 2!"
Oh thank the lord! No more of this "Will they, won't they?" nonsense. No more saying "Probably not happening" when you're already working on it. And yes, ANet, we know "Expansions take a very long time to develop" but most companies manage it in about half the time End of Dragons took to cook. I don't expect an expansion every year - I mean, it's not like you have Daybreak's resources after all - but an expansion every other year ought to be within your grasp.

I think that's everything I wanted to mention. There's some other stuff in there but those are the bones. I'm very happy to hear the game's picking up players. Let's hope it can hang on to them. 

I'll be staying. A couple of months back I wasn't so sure I'd be saying that come the spring. End of Dragons has restored some of my affection for the game. We'll see if it lasts.

4 comments:

  1. ::hands over a pint::

    Might as well raise a glass in that players are returning.

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  2. FFXIV has also been having a big population increase for the last few years. I wonder if it's more a bump to all of these games from Covid-19 lockdowns, or if it is WoW slowly imploding and players looking for new homes.

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    Replies
    1. I imagine it's both of those things and also, in GW2's case, the fairly well-managed pre-publicity for the new expansion that offered a convenient and attractive on-ramp for returning players. If the growth really did begin three years ago, though, rather than two, then that predates all of the above factors. I'd really like to see some more detailed info on that.

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