Thursday, April 2, 2015

This Joke Isn't Funny Any More: GW2, EQ2

Yesterday being April Fools Day, the year's most pointless and irritating "holiday", MMOs far and wide just had to throw some spanners into their own works. Wilhelm has his own tradition of recording these things for posterity, particularly when it comes to WoW. I prefer to wait them out, knowing they'll soon be gone, rather than give them any encouragement.

EQ2 does All Fools Day the way I prefer. The game has a long history of one-day quests and collects that can only be completed on the day itself and April First used to be the only time outside of Frostfell itself that you could craft that festival's special recipes. Daybreak added a new quest for 2015 along with a rabbit collection that awarded achievements and a house pet.

Some people did wonder if Holly Windstalker Longdale's announcement that EQ2 was going out of the expansion business in favor of "Campaigns", something better understood as a switch to a DLC model, was itself some kind of elaborate leg-pull but it turns out it's no joke. The jury's out on whether this will end up being a good or a bad move -- that depends on how good the Campaigns are and whether they represent value for money - but in a way it's something of a return to to the original conception of the game.

For a while, back then, we had "Adventure Packs" inbetween expansions. They were generally solid, replayable entertainment that I remember being moderately well received. I have played through all of them a number of times. If that's the sort of thing we're going to get then I think it's a good move.

Of course in the old days we were spoiled - we had our big Expansions to look forward to as well as our little Packs - but times change. Since the change of ownership over at ex-SOE Towers there seems to be a new sense of realism in the air and I can't say that's a bad thing.

Realism must have been the last thing in the mind of whoever thought up GW2's April Fool's stunt. I was under the impression that meta-referential post-modern irony was horribly out of fashion in our new age of authenticity and heartfelt emotion but apparently not everyone got that memo.

Where the relevance to Tyria, let alone the Elder Dragon War, lies in the layering of a sepia-toned visual patina reminiscent of a 19th Century "What The Butler Saw" machine over the sounds and actions of a Biggles-obsessed seven year old growing up between the wars beats me. Surrealism aside, there were plenty of not unreasonable complaints about the real-world insensitivity of the prank, given the recent aviation disasters that have filled the news, but it also seems to me that the "joke" is completely insensitive to Tyria's own recent history.

Here we all are, running around with our arms outstretched like fixed-wing planes, wearing flying helmets and making extremely irritating engine noises, all not a few short weeks after the total destruction of the Pact air fleet and the supposed loss of many  of our characters' close friends and allies. If Super Adventure Box, which itself debuted as an April Fool's frippery,  can't make its long-demanded return because it clashes with the serious mood of The Living Story, well what are we supposed to make of this?

Leaving that tangle of real and imaginary ethics and aesthetics aside, it was bloody annoying. It's not that I didn't appreciate the artistry or that I didn't find the visual joke funny. I did and I did. For about five minutes. After which, like most people if map chat is anything to go by, I switched post-processing off to get the color back to normal, hid the hat and goggles, muted the character sounds and swapped to an Asura, whose stubby little arms were small enough for me to affect not to notice them.

Jokes like this really need an off-switch. For someone who just logs in to do the dailies and doesn't trouble the megaserver for more than a few minutes it's an amusing little skit but for anyone trying to get on with a few hours steady play it's like having the same five-minute sketch playing on a loop dozens of times. It's not as though we don't get enough of that already with the NPCs and their incidental chatter.

Whatever, it's all over for another year. Hooray!


  1. Hmm, makes one think the devs of GW2 have reached the "I hate my players" stage of their lifecycle.

    1. I'd like to say it's a bit early in the lifecycle of the game for that but the evidence seems to suggest otherwise...

  2. Ngggggeeeeeooooooowwwwwww.... I liked it, I was running around everywhere that night because standing still seemed so inappropriate. Even did bombing runs on Taida's gate instead of waiting lazily to one side. Charrplanes are sexy sexy beasts.

    Then over in Path of Exile it was "mmmmeeeeeooowww," as a bunch of skills developed a typo to produce "cats on damage taken", "cats on crit" and so on. Black cats spawning everywhere. All good fun for a day.

    1. Hehe! I love the way some people talk about "cats" in WvW - "three cats up at NWT" and my favorite "cats on leopard hill"... well there would be, wouldn't there? Clue's in the name.

  3. In Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", the protagonist spends a bit of time at one point trying to teach a sentient computer about humor. He divides jokes into "funny", "not funny" and "funny once". This one was a "funny once".

    It is a sad, sad day when Bhagpuss is more grumpy about something in GW2 than I am. I found it reasonably well done (I rather liked how the voicework matched your behavior, making a crashing sound if you hit a rock, for example). But after 10 minutes I was quite done. Fortunately, EQ2 ---> that way...

    1. There are those who'd say I'm rarely anything other than grumpy about GW2 nowadays. I actually liked the execution of the joke (although the relevance of it still eludes me). If we could switch it on and off at will I'd definitely play around with it sometimes. The sepia effect gives great screenshots and I did like the death music.

      Having all of it on for hour after hour, though...that was a bit much, to put it mildly.

    2. It was a beta bug that led to the creation of youtube videos.
      It was interesting that I had just been watching the world at war documentary and seen japanese school kids wearing airplane costumes run around making that kind of sound.

      I still didn't play much that day, although not because of the joke.
      I agree a switch on/off would be nice.

    3. Oh yes! I saw a couple of people mention the beta bug in map but only a couple and no-one responded to them. I have the vaguest memory of seeing it before myself although I could have sworn it was in another MMO. I played all the beta weekends so if it happened during one of those I would probably have seen it - I wasn't in closed beta though if that's where it happened.

      Nice to know it did at least have some relevance to GW2!

  4. "the year's most pointless and irritating "holiday""

    While I agree with that completely, I still got major kicks out of telling people on twitter CD Projekt Red delayed Witcher3 for another 3 months! >=D

    1. That one would have gone straight over my head!


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