GW2: Some Love For the Open World

We interrupt this irregularly scheduled focus on the Queen’s Jubilee to bring your attention to a very important discussion thread now taking place on the Guild Wars 2 forums.

Has Guild Wars 2 deviated from its originally stated Manifesto and stress on a Living, evolving world to bring us instead neatly packaged, themepark seasonal content in episodes?

We may disagree on some of the specifics, and the initial frustrated tone of his first few posts, but the original poster Fiontar makes a lot of important points throughout the thread that are well-worth reading through. A few choice quotes:

What should you have done? Well, you should have stuck to the original plan you talked about last fall and created boatloads of new Dynamic Event content. Content that would have advanced the story with in each game zone told by the Dynamic Events that were there at launch. Adapting some, replacing some, rotating some in and out of circulation. That would have created a Living World. that would have preserved the sense of a dynamic game environment. That would have shed the negative stereotypes about Theme Park MMOs.

If people appreciate the ways the game is departing from the Manifesto and prefer adventure by checklist over the great potential the game and the manifesto offered us, I’d be happy to hear about it. Maybe Anet just has a better finger on the pulse of the players and has decided that the Manifesto and the core game design were a mistake to be rectified.

It’s even produced a developer response and spawned a Reddit thread with some hyperbole in the title – “Dev says there is little player interest in adding more events, JPs, and mini-dungeons across the world.” Among other things, Anthony Ordon welcomed the continued feedback but pointed out the following:

The very first living world team actually did the thing some of you have called for. Some 40 or so permanent events were added around the game in our very first content update. They were met with little interest or fanfare. Granted, Halloween may have stolen the show. But those events are still in the game today. I’ve seen very little reaction to them, however, positive or negative.

Fiontar’s response to Anthony is Quote Post of the Day-worthy – if there is one link you click, this is the one. I cannot quote parts of it. It is too beautiful not to be read in its entirety.

Readers who follow my posts regularly will know that I have just finished leveling a necromancer to 80 during the tail end of the Cutthroat Politics update. I went back to basics with this one, systematically map exploring zone by zone, as well as genociding mobs in my way and even revisiting parts of the Personal Story (up to the Straits of Devastation where I hit 80, anyhow.)

In Fireheart Rise, I was just meandering along mining all the things when I suddenly got jumped by a Charr engineer with turrets on steroids. It was a crazy fight, involving lots of stray mobs and hiding behind boulders to avoid splash damage and desperately cursing a necromancer’s lack of dodges while trying to prolong one’s life with death shroud, downed, life drain something back to the world of the living, rinse and repeat. (My leveling gear was all power/precision for swift killing, y’know.)

In another corner of the map, some crazy Norn who seemed like a wererat and was like a mini version of Yanonka the Rat Wrangler with all the summoned rats ambushed me too.

I did notice that both of their Dynamic Events were labeled with Modus Sceleris and vaguely recalled a prior instance of encountering a guild group with this title and an elaborate three event chain fight while leveling the warrior alt. (Well, he had no problems with them and had a great time parading proudly in front of their guild as a prime specimen of Charr ferocity.)

It was the first time I actually encountered these two specific events though.

Did I enjoy them?

Yes.

Was it cool to have a novel experience while leveling that I’d never seen before?

Of course.

Did I specifically know whether they were new or old DEs and exactly -when- they were added?

Hell, no.

I’ve also told you all about the first time I encountered the Skritt thief in a chest.

It took Bhagpuss telling me in the comments that it was added in the Halloween update. I found it in February.

Since then, I’ve run into it a few times more, twice with a guild doing guild missions, which was great fun chasing it down together.

40 permanent events were added, you say? Great! But many players are simply going to run right past them without noticing them, and still less would be able to tell you if they were new.

If your metric of success is the number of players playing a particular aspect of the game, taking notice and commenting and providing feedback about it, then I suddenly understand why all the last updates have been full of festival fanfare and literally signposted and checklist content.

It’s problematic, yes. If a lot of developer effort goes into barely noticed dynamic event content, players may complain that there’s nothing happening, even when it’s going on right under their noses and things are changing around them.

But players notice when stuff is static too, and promptly abandon zones that are not rewarding and boring in the limited number of repeat DEs they’ve seen ad nauseam.

It’s hard to say who’s right. I love the idea of new stuff taking place, and things being different on a subsequent playthrough. Just the same, I hate the idea that we might lose some of the old stuff to make room for the new stuff.

You know me, I want my cake and to eat it too. I’d love for more possibilities to be layered on top of each other – grawl chain here, stampeding herd there, merchants having trouble with an avalanche squishing their dolyak and just generally the chance for more DEs to take place utilizing the same area.

A quick nod back to the Queen’s Jubilee. Having met my initial goal of defeating basic Liadri, I finally got the chance to venture out to the open world to work on the hot air balloon achievement.

At least, that’s what I originally thought I was going to do. Hit every map, run to balloon icon, click chest, collect loot, increment by 1 until done. Easy, methodical, that’s why I left it as one of the last things on my list.

To my immense surprise, amazement and delight (and okay, a little frustration from being roadblocked, by escort quests especially, yeeugh,) it wasn’t as simple as that.

Those balloon pilots sure are picky. The gates stubbornly remained closed as they pointed out they were under fire from that sinister airship over yonder, couldn’t leave until a way overdue emissary arrived, or invited all to test their mettle against a Queen’s Champion.

I’d like to echo what Ravious said about the balloon towers: They make sense. Their stories are intertwined with the ongoing event. And as a result, they’re pretty immersive.

(Yes, even the Overdue Emissary event which causes a metagame groan from me when I see how far that marker is from the balloon tower and how much longer it’s going to take to increment the number by 1 as a result.)

Without words, the story is told. "So -that's- why they're late," you think, as you come across the scene.

Without words, the story is told. “So -that’s- why they’re late,” you think, as you come across the scene.

One especially nice touch is how the event NPCs interact with the other NPCs in the vicinity. They fight each other. Yes, you are not the center of their world. Imagine that.

An Aetherblade Norn goes ice wurm hunting after a hard day's work beating up an emissary.

An Aetherblade Norn goes ice wurm hunting after a hard day’s work beating up an emissary.

Vicious rams join in the action. The same group was beating off some arctoduses when I arrived.

Vicious rams join in the action. The same group was beating off some wild arctoduses (arctodi? what is the plural of arctodus anyway?) when I arrived.

Even the emissaries are fairly rabid, and while it again produces a fourth wall-breaking sigh from one part of me that wishes they would just get with the program already, I’ve also exclaimed in-character at mangy Ash Legion charr representatives not to be distracted and to double time it, quick march to the balloon, stat.

Because when the event feels like a part of the world, you want to be a part of the world too.

I’ll leave you with one final thought, another quote from the thread which saves you from wading past naysayer eyesores who produce pithy Twitter pronouncements of “you suck” “learn to play” “you must have failed at something” “I liked it, can’t imagine why you couldn’t” without actually specifying any reasons for their different opinion:

From minbariguy:

I honesty feel that you guys need to focus more on putting the choice of when to play content back into the players’ hands.

Food for thought, indeed.

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8 thoughts on “GW2: Some Love For the Open World

  1. bhagpuss says:

    I’m going to read that thread at work tomorrow – not got time tonight, dailies to do, y’know.

    Seriously, though, Fiontar absolutely nails it. Before I came here and read this I just read Ravious’s piece and commented on it, saying among other things that “I struggle to think of any MMO I’ve ever played that seems as purposeless, directionless”. This is why.

    The thing that’s so hard to process for me is that while I understand intellectually that I disapprove of much of the new content added under the Living Story banner, emotionally I find much of it pleasant and diverting to play through. That’s what I was struggling with in some of the posts about it at Inventory Full.

    I still don’t fully understand what’s going on, but one thing keeps coming back to me over and over again: Bejewelled. That’s something that’s utterly pointless but endlessly diverting. Many people play games like that for countless hours. I’ve never been one of them but I’m beginning to wonder if, when I’m playing GW2, I’m not doing much more than playing Bejewelled with a Heroic Fantasy wrapper.

    That wasn’t quite what I had in mind a year ago.

  2. bronkitus says:

    “One especially nice touch is how the event NPCs interact with the other NPCs in the vicinity. They fight each other. Yes, you are not the center of their world. Imagine that.”

    In Harathi Hinterlands, it’s a bit of a change to see Capt. Ganes and Lt. Lin defeated with a bunch of other dead troopers south of Seraph’s Landing, a good bit away from their normal pathing, with Aetherblades milling about, when they are supposed to be running off trying to take forward camp from the centaurs.

  3. I had a surprise doing one of those escort emissary missions. Instead of the usual aetherblade pirate ambush (x3), the last in the set was a fricking army of Steam monsters. O_O

    This was in the Gendarran fields nearest balloon from LA, not sure if it’s random but that was certainly surprising.

    Oh and another funny emissary escort in Bloodtide nearest balloon from LA. The first aetherblade group jumped the group early and after clearing them out was surprised to watch the emissary duelling the lionguard scout (normal one) while her honor guards looked on. I couldn’t help either side as both were green by then so like the guards I just stood there for 5 minutes until the scout finally won the duel. ;p

    Just thought I’d share! ^_^

    • Aspeon says:

      In addition to the steam creatures (I really hope they’re part of the ongoing story and not just a random throw-in; the lore around them’s pretty interesting), I hit another surprise on balloon #16. Turns out if you have enough people around when you finish the “drive off the Aetherblades” event, the Aetherblade Captain will join the fun, triggering a new group event to take them down.

      Those sorts of things fulfill one of the promises of the whole Event system: just when you thought you’ve seen it all, something new will happen. I wonder if the Queen’s Champions have a similar twist to them.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for bringing this thread to attention. I read the whole thing, and, yes, I kind of agree with Fiontar. What’s happening now is pretty much the opposite of what the “MMO manifesto” put forward, and pretty much the opposite of what I came here for, and what I love about the game. Over the last few weeks I had been feeling much the same, very negative, and then rolled up an alt and started leveling, doing the wonderful world content, following dynamic events, rediscovering what I love about GW2.

      That having been said, I think I understand what ArenaNet is up against here. As upset as Fiontar is, I bet it is nothing compared to the folks that recorded that manifesto. I think that ArenaNet is, in fact, doing exactly what a good company should do — it is listening to the customers.

      Why don’t we have more of the original content? Why don’t we see what the manifesto proclaimed — dynamic events, meaningful content, and no grinding? I think the answer might be very simple.

      Think back to the Halloween content. The clock tower got lots of press, yes, and was pretty popular. But what part of it really ran constantly, what had a constant flow of people that never let up? The Mad King’s Layrinth, where a big zerg of players ran through mobs getting constant loot.

      How about Secret of Southsun? Here we had a bunch of dynamic events, some story bits, and solo and multi-player dungeons. What really kept going around the clock, filling the servers and forming multiple overflows? Why, a zerg of people running back and forward between two specific dynamic events, so dominating the area that going anywhere else was difficult — you wouldn’t get any help, nobody was around. This really was emergent gameplay, I think — I suspect ArenaNet was taken completely by surprise here.

      What is the Queen’s Pavilion but the zerg from these made explicit? And… here’s the kicker… we are now a week into it. Nothing but a half dozen bosses. Utterly repetitive. Nothing new or exciting. And still full. Multiple overflows. The zerg is full.

      Compare that to all the folks that run up to a dynamic event, kill some folks, and run off, never even seeing the dialogs or the event chains. How many players don’t even know that events chain at all?

      Why are they changing the game, away from what they planned, away from what I personally want? Why, I think it is because we, the players, demanded it. If I was the designer, it would break my heart.

      • bhagpuss says:

        This is seriously making me wonder if the next wave of MMOs might be story-free, purpose-free, arena-based zergfests. They’d be much cheaper to make and it does seem to be what people want. What exactly are the hordes of people currently forcing 24-hour overflows for the Crown Pavilion trying to get? What are they planning on doing with all that loot?

        In a game that has virtually no vertical progression past the easily-reached level cap you’d think there’d be no stomach for this kind of grinding/farming. No-one needs the gear. No-one needs the gold. Yet it appears to be the main thing people want to do.

        I feel pretty confident that if ANet just put one infinitely respawning mob in a big empty room and gave it a very, very slightly better loot table than average that would become the most popular location on Tyria.

  4. […] up nearly straight away that sums up those growing concerns rather nicely and which Jeromai of Why I Game gives a good post directed at the developers response. Another to champion the cause before they […]

  5. […] up nearly straight away that sums up those growing concerns rather nicely and which Jeromai of Why I Game gives a good post directed at the developers response. Another to champion the cause before they […]

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