GW2: That Multiheaded Hydra – Choice Paralysis & Dailies & Story Overwhelm

Guild Wars 2 has always been a haven in the MMO space for horizontal progression.

No vertical forever-treadmill where one chases higher and higher numbers, for glory and ambition or merely for the sake of not falling behind. Proponents of lateral progression, of which I am one of them, herald the inherent freedom in being able to strike out along multiple paths and feel like one is still earning valuable rewards.

Instead of a blinders-like simplicity of hanging clothes on your virtual doll to make numbers go up, there are the spicier complex options of following your heart and intrinsic motivation (or simple whim) and having a variety of stuff fall into your pockets regardless, or strategically optimizing different maximized routes towards different goals.

Such goals could be specific pretty clothes for your virtual doll, or specific gear/resources that make numbers go up (to a point) or change the numbers around more easily, or gaining knowledge and practice in improving player skill (thus making numbers also go up), or making other numbers (gold, achievement points, etc.) go up.

Lately though, I’ve been wondering if there might come a point when enthusiastically added content over a long period of time might ever amount to TOO much.

Take GW2 dailies:

We began with a simple daily tab (and a weekly tab that has now since been removed). There were PvE dailies, PvP dailies, WvW dailies. Doing a mix of those or solely those in the game mode one prefers, nets you the daily reward. Sounds great! Flexibility of choice and all that, no?

Somehow, over time, we’ve had EVEN MORE daily tabs added. There’s festival dailies, when a festival is running. Dailies for strike missions, dailies for fractals, dailies for a whole bunch of living world season zones if you happen to be still doing those and a very random one for krait hunting and swim infusions.

Roughly a week ago, Mailvatar was lamenting about how dailies in most games cause FOMO. I can confidently say that GW2 does not have that specific problem with its dailies, because there is no human being that can finish all of GW2’s dailies in a day, and repeat that feat for days on end.

No, seriously, the above are not all the dailies there really are in GW2. GW2efficiency will tell you that THESE are all the things that reset on a daily cycle that would net you rewards.

All 286 of them. Many on timers. Some group content. All the jumping puzzles in the world (literally.) Go.

Go on, go.

Go do your dailies!

Hahahaha. Mental shutdown is more likely.

Out of pure survival, I can pretty much guarantee that every single GW2 player knows how to pick and choose what dailies they want to do. Be it absolutely none of them (except by accident) or a very specific subset of them.

But rest assured, it IS a subset.

Heck, I’m a GW2 veteran, dealing with dailies is small beans. When I decided to restart GW2 and go after Chuka and Champawat, I made my own mini-kanban on Notion to figure out what dailies I wanted to do. Priority: earn game money; Condition: please don’t make me face instanced group content daily.

The actual three dailies for 2 gold, the ley line anomaly, maybe some map metas or world bosses that bring in gold, some gathering nodes and so on are on the list. Everything else is not.

When I get bored of that pattern, I’ll change it up. It’s not like I have a SHORTAGE of possible dailies I could be doing.


The quest for Chuka and Champawat followed the same idea.

Here’s a long term project that you’ve decided is your goal, here’s your customised quest list to go get the materials you want. Direction. Focus. Narrowing down of options amidst a sea of possibles.

Yesterday though, that quest came to an end.

The let’s-make-it-a-big-deal UI screen. Somewhat gratifying, yes.

I was a -little- confused when the shortbow disappeared from my inventory. After a bit of panicked searching, I eventually figured out that it auto-added to my legendary armory, because gen 2 legendaries are account-bound.

Ah well. Okay, then.

Is it weird that I would have liked to have a tangible virtual icon to play around with for a moment, before I selected the Add to Legendary Armory option? Simply because the whole process of legendary making is so involved, it ought to result in a simulated object?

The overly smart “let me shortcut that process for you” caught me off-guard for a bit.

Regardless, all my shortbow wielding characters now have a black, red and gold tiger bow that can swap stats at will. So that’s nice.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have this mental post-it note that I might want to bring the ranger out again to make my beginner way through PvP or WvW roaming.

A little more front-and-center was the thought of getting the hang of the revenant/renegade/herald what-have-you fancy schmancy “new” heavy armor class that I barely understand.

Condi renegade is apparently quite a thing, though it takes a while to ramp up and I don’t know if I’ll ever learn, let alone master, the optimised dps rotation. But taking it for a spin in the open world, and learning each skill slowly, over time? Yeah, maybe. Could be fun. Shiny new shortbow was one of those steps towards that project.

Turns out, it’s a little more involved than that.

I have heavy legendary armor, so gearing up that part was quite easy. The shortbow covered one weapon set. I had an older legendary axe that covered half of the other weapon set. Mace? Er. Nope, no legendary maces here. So I yanked out an ascended one left over from raid drops and committed it to Viper stats for good.

Trinkets though. Urgh. Legendary trinkets are on the to-do list. Digging through the horrible mess that is my banked storage for ascended trinkets is not a project I particularly enjoy. Committing ascended trinket stats is hard. I always worry that I won’t have enough for a particular need if I make too many of one type or another. At present, I have a really weak grasp / overview of all my characters and what they’re equipped with and what they need, and I don’t really feel like sitting down to organize them all.

For now, the shortcut was that I flung some spare celestial stat Ascended trinkets onto the poor chap (still missing half of them) and took it out for a very casual spin.

It’s not bad. Quite fun, actually, even though I’m pretty much only spamming shortbow skills at the moment, having nothing more in my brain capacity to learn the other bits as yet. Those can come later. We all start somewhere.

Runes? Sigils? Nope, still yet to be equipped. Traits? Barely any, enough to flip over into renegade, is about it. I still have to bring him hero pointing for enough points to finish off all the revenant traits.

Long story short, from one goal of “get legendary shortbow,” it’s morphed into three additional goals:

  1. Get enough hero points to get full traits for the renegade
  2. Figure out some kind of solution for the renegade’s trinkets (wait for legendary trinkets? assess my ascended trinket inventory and what I can afford? Use some random stopgap stats that I already own?)
  3. Put runes and sigils on the renegade

Oh, you multi-headed goal hydra, you.

Then again, I’m in the throes of post-legendary “I’m broke and poor now” syndrome.

Legendaries eat up an enormous amount of banked resources. More than 500g of mystic coins? Wiped out. Every last T6 trophy I own? Gone. 500 T5 trophies of each type are also consumed, so even that most populous category is at dangerously low levels.

I broke into the gold bank to buy the components to mystic forge my remaining amalgamated gemstones, so I need to re-top it up to the tune of 110g or so. (I also wiped out 400g of spending money on the Dreamthistle skin collection – something I was waiting for literal years to come back into circulation so that prices lowered.)

All in all, that adds up to one of those over-arcing back-of-the-mind goals of play more GW2 and keep accruing all the things because -everything- needs restocking.

Problem is, where do I even start?

It’s not a new problem. Plenty of GW2 newbies run headlong into this and simply shut down. They can’t process the overwhelming number of things they -could- be doing with their game time, and get caught up in choice paralysis, ending up doing none of them and backing away from the game instead.

Regular GW2 players will keep harping on the fact that learning how to make these decisions is a vital player skill for thriving in GW2’s open smorgasbord of gameplay activities.

It’s not like the developers don’t try to help narrow this down for players from time to time. Sometimes there are festivals, or over-arcing events like world boss tour or added rewards in WvW week and so on. So there’s a pretty big nudge in the direction of current events.

Then the developers had the brainwave of re-cycling Living World episodes (themselves over-arcing events that drew focus at the time of their release) and creating new achievements to point the way to visiting a particular zone for a week. Hence all the “Return To _____” achievements lately.

Oh, how nice, a guide list for things you might want to do in the Sandswept Isles.

In order to ensure that people who aren’t logged in for a period of time don’t miss out, they leave the Return to achievement tabs available for all time, so that any returning players can get caught up on them later, at leisure. (Though some group stuff might be a little more difficult to accomplish, the long tail of trailing players means a certain level of activity is still likely in the older zones.)

At what point though, I wonder, does this list start to look like the Dailies tab?

That’s getting to be quite a LONG bulleted list. And long bulleted lists veer towards scary and overwhelming territory.

Sure, you could just pick one tab at random to complete and ignore all the others till done, and get through all of them in a sequential fashion that way. It’s doable. It’s decision-making. Of a sort. Certainly has focus and direction. May not be -optimal- though.

Min-maxers might want to do a bit more strategizing. Look at all the stuff they have yet to complete. Get a bigger picture. Try to organize like goals together and do them all at once. Layer overlapping goals so that everything that needs to be done in one zone gets done, before moving on to the next, and so on. That sort of thing.

The part that has finally broken MY mind, somewhat, is the onset of the Festival of the Four Winds.

Oh look, here’s a festival ON TOP of your Return To content, as well as your dailies, if you are so inclined.

You know, as a vet, I’ve already finished the three tabs above this one, so I don’t have to worry about it. One wonders how the new players deal.

The festival lasts 21 days, so yeah, there’s plenty of time. The annual stuff is easily done in a couple of days. Forever in the back of my mind though, for the next three weeks, is going to be some FOMO that if I’m not farming champion bags in Boss Blitz, I’m losing out. Or at least, incurring some serious opportunity cost. *sighs*

That opportunity cost is likely going to have to be incurred, because I have a serious amount of leftover Return To achievement tabs I want to get cracking on.

The most onerous part of each tab has been the story episodes.

I mean, I could replay them all in a supremely focused fashion by taking my main through each required story instance, but that would mean zero rewards beyond getting an achievement ticked and getting it done as fast as humanly possible.

I thought it might be nice to take a new character through the story, in a sort of story marathon to experience the story uninterrupted by months and years of development time in between updates, and earn rewards and unlock story chapters and stuff at the same time.

Thing is, I vastly underestimated just how lengthy and meandering these story instances have been.

My enthusiasm for re-experiencing the story started to dry up as the NPCs talked at each other for 5 minutes or longer each instance, before progressing on to the next scripted step, that produced even more talking, until maybe there would be a quick fight (utterly destroyed by a power-creeped spin-to-win reaper shroud) and then even more talking. Oh, and a gimmick fight or two which takes FOREVER in contrast to slowly solo mechanics, in contrast with the reaper’s overpowered AoE.

When you start playing songs in Youtube in the other window and hoping the scripted NPCs will start moving, you know you’ve quite lost it with any pretense of keeping up with the story.

It doesn’t help that there have always been issues with GW2 storylines.

Some of it seems to be grand plans derailed by having four different teams take on conveying different parts of the story. Some of it seems to be horrible characterization as produced by writing committee. Some of it seems to be shoehorned-in excuses for stuff that needs to happen plot-wise because we have certain level designs and maps and things we need to hit somehow.

Taimi can be a competent and bratty progeny in most scenes, but then suddenly turn into a wailing freaked out human girl cosplaying as tiny asura because the PLOT needed her to get in trouble and be rescued by the Commander.

We need Marjory to become a greatsword reaper and sell a samurai sword gemstore skin, so let us create a new baby sister (with samurai sword) for Marjory, kill her off abruptly in the next couple of story chapters, then bring her back as a ghost to magically charge up the greatsword skin, which Marjory will now use. Can I have some instant grief on tap for Marjory please? Thanks!

Yo, this egg needs to exit stage left, because the Commander can’t have it until they buy the Heart of Thorns expansion. And we need to hint that the sylvari are all going nuts because Plant and Mind dragon. I know, let’s have Caithe just grab it and go. Cos reasons.

Apparently we wanted to do something with the Nightmare Court, except later it will make no sense at all because it got cut during HoT development. But let’s zoom in for now close onto Caithe’s and Faolain’s relationship and backstory… except the relationship reads like an adult man trying to write two female teenagers calling each other sweet nothings… and one of the females acts like the world’s most gaslighty, illogically manipulative villainess, ordering people around and making demands of everyone. So… why exactly was Caithe in love with this person again? And so willing to do as she asked? Now that’s a mystery that could have used some storytelling… which we never get answered.

Eventually, I got whacked with a revelation.

GW2’s story suffers the same problem as its dailies as its achievements.

It’s doing too much. It’s carrying too much content. A multi-headed hydra of tangled plot threads.

No wonder players are overwhelmed. It lacks straightforward simplicity.

Nor do things tie together very well. It’s just a random assortment of stuff that happens. Braham has the world’s largest series of young person mood swings until he finally mutates into… well. something else.

Let’s make a charr warrior enact a Foefire Cleansing ritual with no prior research on exactly how this might work, and with all the expertise of a group of kids leaning over an Ouija board, so he can randomly generate a portal to the Mists and disappear inside to become a revenant, because marketing wants him in shiny black revenant heavy armor.

In the meantime, Rytlock can also pull double duty unseen in the background and release the Big Bad of our new expansion. because you know, we need a villain other than Elder Dragons, and gods might conceivably oppose Elder Dragons, and which god can we recruit for the Plot? Ah yes, someone who conveniently likes fighting, war, and fire, so he and his faction will look pretty cool. Because we don’t like any explanations at all, until we can retcon everything properly once the expansion is finally done, Rytlock will refuse to answer any questions about his experience in the Mists until we’re done figuring out what happened to him exactly.

Yea, well. K, whatever.

I’ve given up hoping it’ll make sense one day.

I’ll have way better luck just organizing my story to-dos for the sake of the chievos.

Which I did. In one night. Because I was sick of going through story mission after mission, seemingly without end.

Not knowing the full scope of it made it hard to grasp when it would ever be done.

This is much better. The stuff in bold are the missions that actually tick off the achievements for the Return To tabs.

I could see at a glance that I actually just have 6 episode chunks to go. One can probably plow through each chunk in 1-2 days. So suddenly from never-ending labor, the task scope becomes 12 days of effort, at max. Probably shorter.

I could also prioritize these chunks in a different order from sequential narrative order.

Living Story Season 2 has smaller number of story missions (though they tend to be very LENGTHY ones) and are almost done, so I could finish those off.

Living Story Season 3 is annoying because there’s a lot of story missions and only the first and last tend to count. I could put it off, or give up and just shortcut the process with my main. We’ll think about it.

Living Story Season 4 episode 2 is the current week’s episode, so it makes sense to do that first, once LS2 is done, so that I can get cranking on the current events and benefit from group interest while it’s there – like group bounties and so on.

We’ll get the story stuff done first, then clean up on the other achievements, and only then maybe we’ll have mental space for taking on and organizing the legendary trinket long-term project goals.

So it goes.

Guild Wars 2 drowns you in stuff you -could- be doing, if you wanted to.

And it’s on you to figure out if you want to, and where to even get started.

Could it be better? Possibly.

Are you going to wait until someone else makes it better for you? You’ll probably be waiting quite a while.

If you want it now, it’s on you to figure out how.

7 thoughts on “GW2: That Multiheaded Hydra – Choice Paralysis & Dailies & Story Overwhelm

  1. Thanks for writing this. It’s a ton of stuff I’ve been thinking about posting on for a long time but frankly could not summon up the energy for. As a very long term and very committed GW2 player – I believe it is now the mmorpg I have played both longest and most – the irony is that, although there is an almost inconcievable amount of “content” in the game, I still feel it’s one of the thinnest, most comtent-lite, repetitve and on far too many occasions flat-out tedious mmorpgs I’ve ever stuck with long-term.

    I was in the middle of writing a really long comment but then I decided I would, after all, turn into that post. Although it’s going to be a short post. I do not want to waste time and energy on the detial of this stuff because that could take years!

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  2. That’s…a lot of dailies. O_o

    I agree that such an unmanageable amount of them (and stuff to do in general) might actually serve to prevent FOMO as you can’t possibly do them all anyway.
    But, as you also said, it may just as well seem too insurmountable and daunting to even start.

    It always boils down to the old predicament, doesn’t it? We want stuff to do, but it better be always somnething new, and not too much either lest we burn out while doing it.

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  3. I’ve been playing through the IceBrood and end of Season 4 stories (totally out of order) since I came back a few weeks ago, and I think you are too nice to the stories.

    The dialog is interminable. Yes, the original cutscene dialog with the characters popped out was awful, but at least you could skip it if you didn’t care. Now, the dialog is terrible and makes me just wait. That’s at least twice as bad, and not respecting my time is (for me) a cardinal sin of game design. I have found that they are good times to go into the kitchen and do RL chores or other things and just come back later so that the dialog is (hopefully, but not always) done.

    Even the gimmick fights aren’t nearly as bad as the dialog, at least I’m involved (for the most part) even if they tend to the boring.

    And, I never have understood any of the story at all. But, I’m sure that’s all my own fault since I go afk for the dialog and have the sound off!

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  4. IMO your order of ops is messed up?
    1) get HP for renegade
    2) get runes of torment ASCENDED. It’s epeen value only so…why?).

    And really why are you obsessing over legendary trinkets etc? Again, ASCENDED are *just* as good, and you can probably buy 30+ for the cost of one legendary.

    And condi renegade, why viper stats (power != condition damage)?

    Finally, I think you’re (like many) seeing the daily lists as to-do tasks invites being overwhelmed.
    Instead, decide what SORT of stuff you want to do – searching out crap, gathering, crafting, instances, jump puzzles, etc – and THEN look at the daily list as there are almost always a large and varying list of ways to profit atop whatever you want to do.
    But deciding what you feel like doing comes FIRST.

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  5. ^ my post got reformatted, it was
    2) get runes of torment — once you have these equipped you’re nigh unkillable.
    3) then worry about legendaries, (as they’re no better than ascended and you can buy 30x ascended for the cost of a single legendary which is only about Epeen anyway….so why?)

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    1. Because Ascended stuff is available to me any time I want – except it’s really confusing to check GW2efficiency to see which of 26 Ascended accessories, 7 Ascended amulets and 39 Ascended rings are the right stats (answer: none of them or I need to stat select and commit one more) or maybe I should just borrow Viper trinkets from the 4 other Viper geared characters, or decide if I want to spend magnetite shards or any of the gazillion Living World currencies on yet another trinket, and which is most economical – but legendaries are a nice long term goal to set my sights on?

      And would conveniently mean I never have to agonize about sorting through the pink stuff on my characters again?

      Because I am a terrible hoarder and decision-maker, when presented with way too many valid options? Which horizontal progression can provide too much of?

      For the record, I bought an Asgeir’s Amulet for the renegade the other day.

      I -think- and hope I won’t need extra eternal ice shards for anything else major. The Illuminated Boreal weapons are done, so I hope there’s no other collection that stems from it? I do have about 21 stacks of them remaining, so there should be spares, just in case. We hope.

      Viper is condition damage, expertise last I looked. With power and precision for additional deeps and crit chance.

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      1. You’re right about the viper, for some reason I read ‘berserker’ in my head. duh.

        But I’m serious about the runes; anyone playing a condi rev (herald or ren) really has to get them, they increase your damage a little but your sustain ridiculously.

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