Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Fork In The Road : GW2

So now we know. The Future of Guild Wars 2 is ten-man instanced raids that reward Legendary armor with stats no different from Ascended. Beginning with one raid two weeks after the launch of Heart of Thorns and building from there.

The full details are on the new, highly irritating, overwrought Heart of Thorns website. The PAX presentation this time round was a lot sharper than the last one I watched, or at least it was once I managed to get shot of the warm-up stream's hosts, with their unbelievably awful music that sounded like ELP failing to get to grips with early 90s drum'n'bass.

Colin Johanson was fairly clear and concise on the new raid setup. There was one point where he seemed to be wandering off-message and I thought for a moment he was telling us that all the existing world bosses and dynamic events were going to be revamped as raids but I am 99% sure I misheard that part.

Prior to the show, Jeromai felt he needed to consider his own future with the game based on his fear of what raids might do to it. I feel much the same over the whole new direction. The mantra is "harder, more challenging, group content" whereas, given a choice, I'd opt for  "easier, less challenging, solo-friendly". I'm out of sync with the zeitgeist apparently.

That said, adding raiding, in and of itself, means nothing to me. Many MMOs I've played and enjoyed over the years have had a full-on raid-based endgame. i just ignore it. I can very easily ignore GW2's as well.

The problem comes with just how much of the game I'm now planning to ignore once the expansion lands on October 23. I already ignore both dungeons and fractals. I mostly ignore Dry Top and Silverwastes and their associated map-wide, sequential events. I ignore Three-Headed Wurm.

The prospect of four new maps (and yes, it's now confirmed there are just four, which is it at the low end of the speculation curve that followed the earlier "several") that all operate like Silverwastes on steroids means it's pretty likely that, while I definitely won't ignore them, at most I'll explore them once each and then never visit them again unless I'm driven to do so for the new Personal Story and the next Living Story arc. If there is one.

As for Guild Halls, they appear to be entirely out reach. I have a great antipathy for the entire concept of guilds in MMOs other than very, very small family and friends guilds. I don't intend to join a large guild just to rattle around in a ruin in the jungle so that's probably more content from HoT that I can safely ignore.

The new WvW maps do look intriguing but reading the website spiel reminds me just how PvE-oriented they appear to be. I'd forgotten that whole "chase dinosaurs for power cores every three hours" bit. We'll see how that works out. I wouldn't be surprised to see those mechanics getting roundly ignored if one server is dominant. WvW players have a long record of skipping whatever PvE content they're asked to do unless it involves hammering on a keep door.

That leaves the Mastery system, the Specializations and the new Revenant class, all of which fall towards the innoffensive-but-not-particularly-interesting-either end of the spectrum. I've already pre-bought the expansion and, while I'm confident of getting my money's worth just from the initial exploration and the new stuff to see and do, it seems increasingly unlikely there'll be anything there that will hold my attention once the novelty wears off.

Which makes the other half of the Big Reveal, F2P for the base game, feel all the more significant. The real big surprise of the day for me was that the transition to F2P is effective immediately. If you've wanted to play GW2 for three years but were never willing to get your wallet out even for the 75% off sales then now's your chance. Come on, there must be someone...

There's a FAQ that gives the typical F2P/Sub comparison table we're used to from other conversions, although in this case it's actually a F2P/B2P split. There's no Premium Membership. Most of the expected restrictions aimed at preventing goldspam and trolling are in place - chat rules, level-locks on specific content and areas, controlled access to trade et cetera. It was particularly reassuring to see that characters on F2P accounts will need to level all the way to 60 before they can enter WvW.

Given how likely it seems that most of my (probably soon to be heavily reduced) time in GW2 post-expansion will be spent in Pact Tyria, the move to F2P ought to work in my favor. There must have been a danger that the old world maps would have become heavily de-populated as ANet pushed everyone into the jungle and directed all their development time there. At least a steady flow of F2P players should keep the World Boss trains running.

Like Kaozz, my favorite part of GW2, the one thing that really sets it apart from all the other MMOs I've played (apart from early Rift), is the wealth of drop-in, easy access, really huge-scale fights. I just love to be in a huge horde of people with a thousand spells going off at once, all piling on to a single boss with a gazillion hit points. That's far closer to my idea of a "raid" than ten people in a private room learning dance steps. With luck F2P might at least keep that dream going for a while longer.

One odd crumb of information that might have got more attention on another day was the news that there are only two more beta events, including next weekend's. Frankly, that sounds nuts. The content we saw last time was buggy as hell. All the new specializations have been massively revised after each outing. I find it next to impossible to believe the thing is anywhere even close to being ready.

When you think of how much content there is that we have never seen and are now clearly never going to see prior to launch I have no expectation whatsoever of most of it working. It's 55 days til the expansion goes live. It feels like it needs another three months. Or maybe six.

Oh well. It will be what it will be. I am as sure as I can be about anything that hasn't happened yet that I'll be playing GW2 until it stops or I do. I'll be cherry-picking the bits that suit my tastes and playstyle, though, and the chances of that providing the kind of full MMO meal it has for the last three years seem pretty darn slim.

Never mind. As Jeromai said "...that situation isn’t the end of the world. Just the end of me playing one game". Or, in my case, playing one game quite as much.


  1. I admire your ability to ignore everything you don't like. For me, I end up feeling like I should at least try all of the game's content and play it up to the point I decide the activity no longer interests me. If the mountain is there, I feel compelled to climb it. If not, then I might as well just go play another game...

    1. Being able to pick and choose activities in an MMO as if from a menu is great up to a point. The problem arrives when the list of things you're ignoring becomes larger than the the list of things you're doing. That's the time when you really have to start wondering if indeed you should just go play another game. I think we are heading towards the same end point from different directions.

  2. I also tend to just ignore things I don't like... such as the huge complicated boss events. I'm not in the least impressed with the idea of raiding in GW2. I also agree I'd much rather see engaging and less challenging content that's actually fun. Their description of Leet Leet Leet LEET head bashing against the wall for nothing more than cosmetics is not appealing to me in any way.

    I continue to be glad I sat this one out. GW2 is moving further and further away from the game I loved at launch everytime I look at it. : <

    1. The most disturbing aspect of the whole thing is the doublespeak. Objectively, the direction the game is now taking is almost 180 degrees away from the one that Anet promoted prior to and for a short while after launch and yet they continue to present every violation of those principles as an affirmation of them.

      I'd respect them a lot more if they just came out and said " We tried to make a different kind of MMO but it turned out not enough people wanted one. We couldn't make enough money carrying on like that so we've had to give in and make our MMO the same as all the others".

    2. What Anet says and then what happens later on is not always the same thing.

      Anet tends to listen to the players.
      The problem is that most players talking are the one sunhappy with something.

      That means players that wanted raids or something akin to Domain of Anguish, Urgoz Warren and the Deep, were the ones talking while the others were happy playing.

      If the raids prove to be a hostuile place to pick up groups and the general population. Anet will waste no more time adding new raids like they did waste no more time revamping dungeons or adding more dungeons.

    3. That's very true and its a problem for all MMOs especially in this era of "partnership" between developers and players and in light of the pressures social media can create. I'm no fan of metrics but at least they tell you what your customers are actually doing with the content you've already offered them.

      And yes, it's very apparent now that they've abandoned dungeons completely. I wanted to work that into the post above but didn't have time.

  3. Both "The mantra is "harder, more challenging, group content" whereas, given a choice, I'd opt for "easier, less challenging, solo-friendly"." and "I'm out of sync with the zeitgeist" really resonate with me.

    1. Are we really out of sync with zeitgeist or is it a question of Anet responding to pressure from social media, which are mainly comprised by the hardcore?

      There are no metrics on how much GW2 players want to play raids at this time and many GW2 seem to show distrust to the raid mentality.

      I'm not 16-24yo, playing 8-12 hours a day anymore and all of the drama that encompasses being involved in a guild that can pull off hardcore content doesn't suit me anymore.

      We will see.

  4. Um raids? Not really sure where they are going with all this. I was going to buy this expansion outright even though I haven't playing in over a year and a half, but I think I'll sit back and see what it is they actually come up with.

    I assume this is out of left field. Coordinated instanced group content is pretty low on the list of things that GW2 really got right. I could see them maybe adding this to try and bring in players from other games. I'm not sure how that is going to work out without the progression system that's in place in other games.

    Very confusing. Will start watching their announcements a little more closely.

    1. Raids aren't even part of the expansion. That's another weird part. Effectively the first raid will be the first free post-HoT content drop although it appears pretty clear that owning HoT will be a pre-requisite to raiding.

      That's an interesting topic in itself. Will the base game, free as it now is, receive any further development at all? Any new content? We just don't know.

  5. Since Anet has gone back on almost every design point promised in the Manifesto, do you ever think they would institute the Trinity?

    That is the only thing that would get me back in GW2. (I left in November 2013 when it finally became impossible to ignore Ascended gear and still be a competitive WvW player).

    - Simon

    1. From their perspective they already have...or more accurately, from THEIR perspective, the Trinity was always a core part of GW2. Players were simply wrong when they believed otherwise.

      Colin talks about the Trinity several times in the presentation as if it's something we all already know and use every day in GW2. The thing is, it's not the same Trinity WoW players know and either love or hate. GW2's Trinity is Control, Damage, Support not Tank, Heals, DPS. While he makes a big deal about everyone being responsible for their own health and safety and not relying on a healer to keep them alive, he says pretty clearly that there are specific roles and those roles will have to be taken by someone. The idea is that they can all be taken by anyone but we all know a meta will form and roles will be handed out to specific builds, if not to specific classes.

      As for Ascended I'd have to disagree. Other than rings and other cheap accessories and whatever random drops I get all my 80s are in exotics and I don't perceive any disadvantage in WvW. In one-on-ones it might be a factor but if you're involved in a 1v1 in WvW then in my opinion you're doing it wrong :P

  6. The announcement of raiding has put a serious damper on my cautious optimism for Heart of Thorns, and now it's looking pretty unlikely I'll be giving GW2 a second chance after all.

    Raids are pretty much the exact opposite of what GW2 was supposed to be about based on pre-launch rhetoric, what the game does well, and what I want from the game. The whole appeal of GW2 for me was that it was a laid-back, low stress open world-focused game. "Rawr hardcore" instanced content is antithetical to that.

    It also seems like raids will be essential part of the story, which kills the last hope of my ever being able to follow or be invested in the plot of GW2, and story is essential to my enjoyment of an MMO.

    Granted, I'm not terribly active in the GW2 community, but was anyone actually asking for raids? I can't recall ever seeing anyone express an interest in the idea. It just seems like a really random and strange decision to me.


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