GW2: Tree Falls in Forest, No One Around To Hear?

The biggest damn tree of them all...

If constant, gradual change happens and no one can even remember how it was before, is it still a Living Story?

One man zerg of a now-ignored dynamic event.

One man zerg of a now-ignored dynamic event.

I’ve been taking advantage of the very subtle living story prompt to wander Kessex Hills on my necro alt.

The secondary purpose is very leisurely map exploration (since the checkpoints are there) and seeing if I get any lucky colored key drops, but primarily, I’m doing it because I like trundling along in the open world with a minion zerg going glompglompglomp, killing anything I see and denuding the place of any gathering nodes.

Given that the number of people I see doing something similar can be counted on one hand, on Tarnished Coast – reputed home of PvE crowds, I can only conclude that this activity is about as popular as street-sweeping was in City of Heroes.

Oh, the crowds are on the map, all right.

[Viathan Waypoint] [Gap Waypoint] goes my mapchat every so often.

They’re running in a little triangle between the wurm queen, the alchemist and the two possible spider queen locations. Chasing champion bags, keys and Living Story achievements.

It’s so crowded that getting the wurm queen shockwave jumping achievement is tricky because she only gets off maybe a few shockwaves before falling over dead. The best advice I got was to go guest to a less crowded server to do them.

(I went to Fergusson’s Crossing during offpeak, and was amazed to find only 3-5 souls having the run of the map and the champions. We get zergs of 15-30+ bumrushing every Nightmare is Over event – if you aren’t already waiting there, there’s not much hope of getting to it before it dies. T’was much easier to do the achievements when you have a chance of actually getting damage credit.)

But I digress.

The point is that I haven’t seen much comment on the more subtle changes to Kessex Hills that address the fallen tower’s aftermath.

Quaggan refugees are all over the various havens and outposts. This batch is the cutest, the calves rearing on their hind legs and staring agawk at the big village and the magic snow.

Quaggan refugees are all over the various havens and outposts. This batch is the cutest, the calves rearing on their hind legs and staring in amazement at the big village and the magic snow.

The Moogooloo village waypoint was staved in by collapsing debris. Overheard conversation: Quaggans planning to relocate.

The Moogooloo village waypoint was staved in by collapsing debris. Overheard conversation: Quaggans getting a relocation effort underway. The lake can no longer supply sufficient security, non-toxic food and clean drinking water.

Spillage from the collapsed tower appears to have made all the fish in the southeast outflow toxic. (Ok, so my necromancer probably isn't helping either.)

Spillage from the collapsed tower appears to have made all the fish in the southeast outflow toxic. (Ok, so the stuff spewing from my necromancer probably isn’t helping either.)

And what of Triskell Quay, where fishermen make their living? Many villagers have been sickened, in a new revision of the heart, which was originally to rescue them from kidnapping krait, iirc.

And what of Triskell Quay, where fishermen make their living? Many villagers have been sickened by toxin, in a new revision of the heart, which was originally to rescue them from kidnapping krait, iirc.

In Kessex Haven, a fisherman valiantly tries to offload his *hem* perfectly edible catch.

In Kessex Haven, a fisherman tries valiantly to offload his *hem* perfectly edible catch.

Much to a sharp-nosed charr's frustrations...

Much to a sharp-nosed charr’s frustrations…

How do we interpret this lack of reaction?

Is it that the changes are so small and atmospheric that no one thinks they’re worth commenting about?

Is that the changes are so small that they’re hard to notice?

Is it simply because no one is even around to notice them because they have no reason to walk around all of the Kessex Hills again?

Or is it the vagaries of memory putting a damper on the idea that we can have constant gradual change in an MMO that will be appreciated by players?

To be honest, even I don’t remember how it was before.

Overheard: Lionguard clarifying their stance with centaurs, and distinguishing themselves from Divinity's Reach. Was this conversation always there?

Overheard: Lionguard clarifying their stance with centaurs, and distinguishing themselves from Divinity’s Reach. Was this conversation always there?

I feel like there's more ruins exposed on this bandit hideout... but I suspect they've always been like that?

I feel like there’s more ruins exposed on this bandit hideout… but I suspect they’ve always been like that?

I can only highlight places where I think there was nothing before, but now have something.

Well, besides the honking obvious changes...

Well, besides the honking obvious changes…

...the Consortium is busy hassling quaggan refugees while the Lionguard are wondering where to put them all...

…the Consortium is busy hassling quaggan refugees while the Lionguard are wondering where on Tyria is safe to put them all… (while the idea of quaggans in tropical Southsun paradise sound great on paper, one can’t help but think we may as well grind them up and put ’em in a can labeled karka chum)

Other atmospheric conversations abound. I suppose this is why asura invented baby bottles and golem nannies very quickly, rather than suckle their young for long.

Other atmospheric conversations abound. I suppose this is why asura invented baby bottles and golem nannies very quickly, rather than suckle their young for long.

And the big question is, should the bulk of players care?

On one hand, no matter how the scenery changes, as a player, I still have a Kessex Hills to run around in. Metagame-wise, there’s always going to be mobs in my face to kill. Maybe a new dynamic event replaced an old one, or maybe the old one is still around as well. NPCs changing around me? Not part of my story, not on my attention radar.

What’s in it for me? The champions drop loot, the green names just spew endless text of one kind or another.

Inflict consequence, you say? Have players lose something for good? Something important that would hurt in its absence? Ah, then the crying starts. Wut? I never got to exploit this while the going was good! Unfair! The older players had an advantage I didn’t have!

Then again, if it wasn’t important, if it didn’t hurt, if there was something else in lieu of the other thing that went away, won’t we just run into the scenario of a big ol’ player shrug?

I frankly don’t know which way I’d want it.

Story and consequence-wise, one makes sense. Gameplay and convenience-wise, the other is a lot more attractive (and spares my bank from hoarding all kinds of stuff on the offchance it may disappear one day.)

Everyone's camping the shit up there.

Pretty much everyone but me camping the shit up there.

Obviously, a minority cares about the tiny details. I’m running around taking screenshots and forgoing goodness knows how many champion chest drops in an hour.

Then I hear for the umpteen time on mapchat, “Where is the tri-color chest?” and I have to wonder about the many players who can’t even bothered to look for a chest icon on their map and just demand their instant answers from the populace instead.

It’s enough to make a lore writer cry.

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10 thoughts on “GW2: Tree Falls in Forest, No One Around To Hear?

  1. Jonathan says:

    What came first, the chicken or the egg? The zerg that ignores everything that isn’t on an achievement list, or the achievement list that encourages a checklist approach that ignores everything?

    I can only say that while I find the daily achievements unpleasant and the long “to do” list of mandatory fun horrifying, they didn’t come out of a vacuum. We first saw this behavior in Southsun II, I think, watching the zerg go from champ to champ. And ArenaNet seems to be giving the masses exactly what they want — a detailed list of “do this, do that, do the other, get your ‘ding’ and move on.” I don’t think that is what they had in mind when they built this game.

    I personally didn’t see most of the items in your list. I have seen the Centaur Emissary before, using the same dialog since the game was released. There is a bit of back and forth at that spot that feels just as weirdly out of place in this blasted landscape as the centaur that is just determined to build that bridge in the middle of the toxic zone, as if it was still in a meadow. But I’m delighted to see that the quaggan and human villages weren’t forgotten in the building of the update. To be honest, I heard the zerg moving about, and the achievement list, and I hit the “oh, but I was naked the whole time” dialog at the camp, rolled my eyes and logged out. Now I feel sort of bad about that, but only sort of bad. Maybe I’ll wander back in and see it for myself. Maybe. But mostly I’m playing a different game right now, one without the frentic “gogogo” pace.

    My wife has still been playing. She’s been with the zerg on Tarnished Coast, and I’ve been listening to her complain about how quickly the spider dies and how hard it is to “tag” a cocoon before it’s gone. She also loves the lore, and she’s the one that spotted your post. But she also struggles to ignore a checklist, and to ignore “shinies” in her bags. She’s closing in on some very high number of achievement points, and would like to accomplish that. So the zone sits ignored, just as it did when she was going after her WvW dolyak pet.

    As she puts it — “When ArenaNet makes a detailed list that takes days and days to finish, they are telling me how they expect me to put in my time. They are telling me how to enjoy the game. Incentives matter.”

    I see it as like one of the new Lego kits that make, say, a Star Wars TIE fighter. Sure, you can just treat it as a collection of grey bricks. But you are paying for the mix of bricks in the kit, and the directions. Are you not going to put it together? And (in this case) it is gone in two weeks.

    How much time do you have? How will you choose to use it? Sure, you can ignore what ArenaNet suggests. After all, I am.

    • Ursan says:

      Pretty sure the chase-the-rewards mentality existed well before achievement points. i.e. within the first week after release when the Plinx farms appeared and the player base congregated in Orr.

      I think a history of MMOs have shown that players who are purely motivated by intrinsic rewards are very few. Don’t get checklists? People quickly turn to repeating the most efficient farm method ad nauseam.

      It’s all very depressing. But ah well, that’s MMOs for you.

      -Ursan

  2. Rowan says:

    Like I you, I vacillate on the issue of change in MMOs. The little changes over time were something I really in the game. If there are reasons to return to a place like Kessex Hills, I can certainly appreciate the efforts made by the devs to make it a breathing world.

    I dislike the daily achievements, though. Getting XP and rewards was cool, but then by not doing the dailies, it was like I was leaving “money” on the table. But pursuing them changed the way I played the game, and ACH burn-out was why I stopped playing early this year. When going back for a bit earlier this fall, my bride and I ignored those things and just enjoyed the local “flavor” while roaming around leveling lowbie alts.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    Great post. This is why I miss The Egg Baron. At the beginning of The Living Story he was assiduous at following this stuff up and documenting it and his blog offered a great place to discuss what was going on.

    Unlike Jonathan above, I find Marjory and Kasmeer’s homoerotic flirting amusing. I wouldn’t dispute that their hinted relationship has more than a hint of nerd fantasy to it, but the voice acting, particularly Marjory’s, just about gives it sufficient weight to carry the subtext. I waited around on that hill until I’d heard everyone’s dialog often enough to be sure I hadn’t missed anything (and to take the screenshots I used on my blog) but I have to admit it didn’t even occur to me to go exploring to see if anyone else had anything new to say.

    In my defense I’d mention that I have never liked Kessex Hills. I dislike all of Kryta, pretty much, and avoid it whenever possible. Consequently I would be hard-pressed to spot any subtle changes (I had heard that Centaur’s speech before, though). I haven’t started on the achievements either, other than killing the Spider Queen.

    Jonreece commented over at my blog recently that “Watching the players spontaneously produce a zerg that just ran between two points, over and over again for two straight weeks during SouthSun II really shows that that is the sort of gameplay that many want”. He’s right, and we’ve seen ArenaNet consistently follow rather than lead player behavior pretty much since the first Karka event was received so badly over a year ago.

    As I replied to jonreece, the problem with zergs is that they are so bloody obvious. You hardly need sophisticated metrics to spot thousands of players across every server bunching up into mobs and running back and forth across small areas for hour after hour, day after day. It’s very easy to assume that’s what most people prefer to do.

    I wonder, though, how true that is. I have no way of knowing whether those PvE zergs represent 1%, 10% or 90% of the playerbase. It just looks like a lot. ANet must know, though, and thy have certainly chose, consistently, to add content and use a reward structure that both appeases and encourages that playstyle.

    I suspect part of the reason lies in the musings in your post. Making subtle changes to the permanent infrastructure of the world risks being ignored entirely while making meaningful ones risks creating strong player opposition. Instead they appear to prefer to go for the crowd-pleasing option of bread and circuses Tyrian style.

    At least there’s someone adding the delicate brush strokes to the background, although with so little interest being taken one wonders how long that will continue.

    • Jonathan says:

      Jonathan here = Jonreece there, just to clarify. Just the single opinion! Very much appreciate the thoughtful discussions posted here, over at Bhagpuss’ blog and at KTR.

  4. […] for the changes to Kessex Hills, Why I Game did a fantastic blog post on the good and the bad of the new Kessex and sums up how I feel about the changes pretty well. […]

  5. Ravious says:

    Great post! IMHO, this is more of an “art” issue. Think of it in another way: how much did you notice [artistic detail] inside the tower? Did you notice how the Toxic Hybrid moved? I think it is all along the same lines.

    All that “non-functional” content is art. It is a telling, and it is not for everybody. I would say that most art is lost on most people, but most people do notice some art. So you went around Kessex and documented a ton of changes, but hopefully most players saw some small bit… perhaps just the quaggans facing each other. Maybe someone noticed glowing fish.

    Is Guild Wars 2 better because of this extra art? I believe so, and I kind of think, perhaps naievely, that like the other art it really is not taking dev time from functional content.

    Anyway I do love posts like these.

  6. lothirieth says:

    Kessex Hills was a bit of a forgettable zone for the most part for me aside from it’s gorgeous scenery. I’ve sent two characters through it and I can only remember an event or two.

    I think we’re not hearing more about the changes to the region aside from the collapse of the Tower because it’s Wintersday, we now have Ascended armor and pvp rewards have started their revamp. There’s simply bigger things going on. Also, I have to wonder how many people pay attention to the environment and NPCs around them as they level. I really don’t know but I imagine it’s not the majority.

    I do plan on sending a toon through at some point. Would be lovely if they added some more events to it. I do remember it being a bit of a crap place to level due to the lack of events.

  7. Swoo Sousa says:

    In the Halloween 2012 patch, 40 DEs and a few open world mini dungeons were added to the game.

    Most players never noticed those.

    Until you remove all the rewards from MMORPGs you will never win this battle of having players doing whatever they want.

  8. Lithia says:

    I noticed the changes. Not all of the ones you mentioned, but I loved all the little quaggan stories. I really appreciated how one of the quaggans that spent a week delirious hooked up with a quaggan that on that week had been in a separate part of the map stranded from his people. It was cool to recognize them from the previous living world as small npcs getting their own stories. I also noted the asura talking about his (her?) progeny and it made me stop and wonder about how asura raise their children and the concept of asuran families.

    I don’t think every player will notice these little world flavors, but I bet more do than it feels like because a lot of players just quietly run through the world without chattering a lot on the mapchat or in the forums. Kind of like I did.

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