Guild Wars 2 Events: De-Compartmentalizing

There are a lot of great effects stemming from the Guild Wars 2 event system.  Constant activity, grouping by just playing with nearby players, and a dynamic world are some of the biggest features.  Yet, in a game without the exclamation hat-wearing questgivers a lot of compartmentalized functionality that quests embody could be lost.  We are so used to modularity; will we be ready for the leap to a dynamic world MMO?

The biggest change in functionality is at the start and end points.  A quest is started punctually with a lead-in story.  There are wolves in the walls, and Farmer Neil and his pig cannot sleep.  It is irrelevant when the wolves got there because as far as you are concerned, the problem just arose.  Sure, Farmer Neil might’ve told tale of how he has not slept in days, but you are there now.  The world is as Farmer Neil told.  So, you go around the farmhouse, crawling into nooks and crannies, killing respawning wolves, and looting [jam-filled socks] off their dying wolf bodies, and after ten dead wolves or so, you return to Farmer Neil with a new look above his face.  He tells you how grateful he is to be able to sleep, gives you some money, and the module ends.  The story might continue with word of the biggest, fattest wolf on Tooba Hill for the next quest, but during Farmer Neil’s quest, a complete compartmentalized story was told.

Now, place Farmer Neil and his pig in to a dynamic, event-based MMO world. You arrive for the first time, and Farmer Neil has been sleeping soundly at night for days.  No wolf trouble (event) here.  Or, what if Gothmog the Warrior (a player) arrived 5 minutes before you and triggered the event.  Wolves start creeping in from the surrounding fen to go snuggle in poor Farmer Neil’s walls.  Gothmog has been hacking away with Farmer Neil crying out his woes (and story) for quite a few minutes.  You see your pal, Gothmog, and you see a good farmer crying, and you see enemy wolves with red names that need killing.  You basically already skipped the start-point quest text.  Did I forget to mention the part where Cinderegolas (another player, but we don’t like her) braved the wolf fens and gave Farmer Neil a few crates of meat jelly, and he put the meat jelly in his house while the eyes of the enemy were watching?  The story is not nearly as compartmentalized, and if you log off before Farmer Neil talks about the biggest, fattest wolf on Tooba Hill who ran off with his wife, the Queen of Melanesia, you might never know that the story continues past the simple defense event.

So, you head to the wiki to learn about the event chain.  What’s its name?  Where does it start?  Does the event end somewhere or just cycle in a loop?  Can you get to Event 527 (with the juicy lore tidbits) without losing Event 429?  Will you get a better event, with a bigger story, if you can get five more people to show up?  The mind starts to boggle at the unraveling that could occur for some players, like the completionist Explorer (cut from the Explorer-Achiever ilk).

It’s a scary prospect to step away from the amusement park rides that compartmentalized quests seem to create.  People in sandbox games have been splashing in the ocean waves for some time, never knowing where one story ends and one begins.  Will Guild Wars fans, and PvE fans, be able to step towards the unbounded beach?

I asked ArenaNet if they wanted to talk on this new leap of faith and gameplay within this post, and they came through big time.  Eric Flannum, sixth god of Sacrifice and Lead Designer for Guild wars 2, comments below:

This blog post comes at an interesting time.

You see, we’ve been running some brand new players through Guild Wars 2 in some very targeted focus tests lately to see how they’ll react to the world we’ve created. Some of these players have been strongly conditioned by years of MMO playing to look specifically for quest bangs over the heads of NPCs and ignore everything else. We have found that at first, they tend to ignore the events going on in the world. They might run right past a fisherman imploring passersby to kill a marauding Drake Broodmother and they might even run by a wheat field being burned to ground by bandits.

Eventually it will start dawning on them that something different is going on in this game. One of our testers, upon seeing a huddle of sick villagers standing around a poisoned well, made the comment, “I feel like someone is trying to tell me something.” She ran down into the valley and noticed that the irrigation towers that water the fields were pumping out a green noxious liquid and that the fields were being overrun with grubs living off of the poisoned water. When she reached a giant water reservoir brimming over with noxious poison, she said, “Ah, this is where my peeps are being poisoned.” She immediately looked around the area for some solution to the crisis, found a waterworks worker who knew how to remedy the solution, and helped him do it. Once the reservoir had been cleansed, the villagers got better, the irrigators stopped spewing poison, and the grubs started to die. She received a nice reward of XP, gold, and karma for helping out.

All of this occurred without her accepting a single quest, and our tester got a nice heroic story about how her character helped save an entire village. Of course, she arrived somewhere in the middle of the event chain—she didn’t even find out what caused the poisoning in the first place. This particular tester was satisfied that she had helped the poisoned villagers, and didn’t go looking deeper for what had caused the poison in the first place. However, if she had wanted to look deeper, she could talk to some of the inhabitants of the area and learn that they’ve been having problems with bandits who inhabit a nearby cave system. She might even have learned that these bandits poisoned the water reservoir. Now it would be up to her to decide whether or not she wanted to go into the bandit caves and try to stop them further or even stick around and defend the reservoir in case the bandits tried anything else.

She could also choose to ignore the problem entirely and look for other things going on in the world. Setting up these kinds of choices and opportunities for adventure are what the event system is all about, and it has proven to be highly satisfying to players with a strong “explorer” play style. These players get to go out into the world, draw conclusions by looking at the evidence around them, and then discover things to do. The event system is so much more than simply running around until you stumble across something to do (although that is also possible and sometimes very fun).

Of course, the event system is very open-ended and does not necessarily satisfy the “achiever” play style. We understand this, and have many systems in mind to help out. Let’s talk about a few of them.

First, we have the character’s personal storyline, which makes use of instancing and will always give the player an individual goal of some sort. Second, we have our achievement system, which tracks a player’s activities and rewards their progress with titles.

At first glance, these three systems of events, personal story, and achievements may not seem to mesh very well, and may even seem at odds with one another. But let’s consider how they work in the example I cited above. Our player very likely would have had a goal given to her by her personal story to investigate the bandits (the bandits are one of the main antagonists in the early human storylines). By finding the poisoned reservoir, she would be learning more about the bandits that have been giving her problems in her own story. She may have even been looking for their hideout and in helping clear the reservoir, she found out where it was. At the same time, she has probably been earning achievements by killing bandits, grubs, fighting with a particular weapon, and simply by taking part in events. In cleansing the water reservoir she completed an event, advanced in multiple achievement tracks, and came closer to crossing off one goal in her personal story. All of the systems in Guild Wars 2 are designed to work with each other in this way while satisfying the desires of different types of players. It is my belief that far from being endangered, the “completionist explorer” will thrive in Guild Wars 2.

Thanks, Eric, for stopping by! Be sure to check out ArenaNet’s blog for tons of info (and more fun examples) on the Guild Wars 2 event system.

–Ravious
…good for your Soul

47 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2 Events: De-Compartmentalizing”

    1. Yes, unlike those before them… they come at us with example after example. You can tell they are playing it now… it’s not some BS on paper. Plus, like they did here, when players bring up “issues” they actually respond!

  1. Unbelievably awesome description of their events system. So many of us have been begging for real exploration in these games and that’s what’s being described.

    I hope they pull it off in a big way.

    1. I’d be cynical that this was a Shadowbane promise-the-moon deliver-green-cheese snowjob, but for one fact: ArenaNet has already delivered one game that was exactly what it promised, and got better over time.

      I’m much more excited for Guild Wars 2 than I am for the Star Wars thingie from Bioware.

  2. Sounds like a welcome change, guess we’ll just have to get past the whole compulsive behaviour of travelling to a town and seeing and completing every quest, and be happy with a dynamic snapshot.

  3. i don’t doubt there will be problems, but for the most part it just sounds great and like they’re trying to foresee all those problems.

  4. This to me falls into the category of engines running on water, financial regulation and weight loss pills:

    I wanna see it working well first.

    1. Fair. Horizons had similar dreams of undead hordes that would accumulate if left unmolested and launch attacks on player-run cities. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

      1. Definitely. And, what really sucks is there is a definite difference between starting population and the leveled out population sixth months later. If they do not have systems in place for this specifically… I think it will tarnish any vision they want to share.

        So not only will it have to be experienced to be judged b/c it is so different, but the time it is experienced will have a huge impact.

  5. Again, on paper this sounds great. And if you get the right type of player, in the right setting, it plays out like it did above.

    Then comes release, a fansite makes an event wiki, and shortly after a storyline monkey UI mod that directs you to the tower to trigger the bandit cave to trigger whatever is next. No exploring, no talking to NPCs, no noticing the poisoned well or the grubs, and all of this done in 1/10th the time ArenaNet thought it would take the player. That’s assuming the chain gives some good reward at the end, because otherwise it will be skipped entirely.

    I mean I get what they are trying to do, but it just sounds like they don’t get how the majority of the mass-market MMO playerbase goes about things.

  6. Syn raises a good point: Just how far removed will all this be from the optimal player path?

    Sounds very nice, but I’m gonna guess it will take all of 3-4 days (week, tops) for players to collectively identify the path of least resistance to progress and funnel themselves accordingly. If that funneling leaves parts, or most, of all this out, then what? Force-feed them progress through this system? (I can think of at least two ways). Toss it aside and basically just ‘aw, fuck it, we tried?”

    It -needs- to be fine tuned exquisitely from the get go because as soon as word gets out that (hypothetically) one progress-hour of killing mobs equals 2-3 progress-hours of dealing with this system, -having- to explore, dealing with other players, etc… done deal. You won’t get those players back into the system unless you force them into it.

    1. It reminds me of one Oblivion quest where you have to watch three people a crazy guy suspects are trying to kill him. The first time you do the quest, it’s amazing to sneak around and observe the NPCs as they go about their business. Due to random factors, sometimes it even seems like they are indeed plotting something.

      Then you read the wiki and find out you can just fast forward the whole thing (rest), and still complete the quest. Just knowing that was a possibility, and that no matter how well you sneaked it did not matter, ruined the content for me.

      I just can’t help but feel this will be somewhat similar, only worst given the semi-competitive nature of an MMO and the need to progress.

      1. If you’re looking for an MMO to be all things to all players then yes, this is a major problem. If, however, you look at GW2 as an MMO designed primarily to appeal to the Explorer subtype, then maybe not so much.

        If you play current MMOs a few levels down from the pacemakers, trendsetters and opinion-formers in the Achiever vanguard and its attendant cloud of wannabes, you’ll find there are already loads of players who don’t use wikis or websites unless they are absolutely stumped. There are still people playing who refer to these sites as they used to be called in the Abashi days of EQ – “spoiler sites”.

        If these people are able to make progress on their own in-game goals and are having fun, they really don’t go looking a lot of stuuff up. And when they do, they tend to look up just enough to get them over whatever hurdle has them stymied. These are the kind of people that made games like Myst and Broken Sword big hits and they are still around.

        Current MMOs tend not to serve them well, but it looks as though GW2 might. Yes, if GW2 is a hit and has a critical mass of players sufficient to suppoert them, WoW-scale spoiler sites will appear, and many will ruin their own potential entertainment by treating them as essential. The rest of us, though, should be able to have a kind of fun we’ve only imagined in MMOs so far.

        Personally, I really don’t care if 95% of all players read spoilers and cut straight to the end of the chain. The GW2 team have already said that all this stuff will be scaleable, so as long as Mrs Bhagpuss and I can wander about and right wrongs (or wrong rights, if that’s allowed) wherever we happen upon them, what odds is it to us what everyone else is up to?

        And yes, that is a bit of a “solo hero” attitude, but I never claimed to be a team player :)

        1. I agree with Blagpuss. In fact I think the majority of players still fall on the category of explorer types,as they traditionally have been. They just aren’t as vocal as the achievers, who– let’s face it, also tend to insist they’re the ones who drive everything (that’s pretty much the definition of the type, isn’t it?).

          The past few years we’ve seen almost the whole games industry cater to achievers, or at least cash in on shortcuts to do so. Shortcuts for explorers haven’t worked out so well.

          ArenaNet has their work cut out for them and I’m sure they really want to appeal to everyone. Maybe they’re gambling on what I assume: once they have a good exploration game, players may care less about the quickest route to achievements.

        2. Two issues:

          One is that if you are part of the guild, it takes only one person reading ahead to guide everyone else, and that happens often.

          The second is that if GW2 is aiming at the mass market, and I believe it is, then the achievers far outnumber the explorers, especially when you factor in that many who think they are explorers are not (similar to how far more people believe they like sandbox games than actually do).

          People like Bhagpuss will indeed have fun regardless, but if too many people speed through and are asking for more too quickly, that creates a major problem for ArenaNet.

    2. Julian: I agree that for pure Achiever players, it’s important to make events worthwhile. However you need to realize this is extremely easy to balance: in addition to the monster loot/experience, events give a developer-fixed amount of gold, experience, and karma.

      Whether an event is worth the trouble for pure Achievers is determined solely by the whether the combined reward is greater than that of non-stop monster killing at another location. This is tweakable via the event reward, and should probably be based on real-world results and, at least as a first approximation, on the amount of ‘downtime’ the event forces on the player (e.g. how much of the time is spent fighting versus moving?)

      Best of all, GW2 will probably be like GW1 where they can not only patch the server without downtime, but change a lot of parameters live, without anyone even having to notice! So balancing that over time might be easier than you’d expect.

      BTW, an interesting point I haven’t seen mentioned: the experience reward will probably depend on the event difficulty/downtime percentage, but the ratio of gold to karma will probably vary more for roleplay/coherence reasons; i.e. if you save a poor farmer’s house from ogres you’ll get more karma, if you save a rich village of merchants from bandit raiders you’ll get more gold.

    3. Not hard to get players to travel different paths. Have the rewards be modified by how often, comparatively, the event has been done in the last month. Doesn’t have to be a big difference, but it will make sure that people don’t ignore 3/4 of the content and travel the same path as everyone else. If one event gets sidelined, people will pick it back up again for a bit because it will have become the best xp/hour.

      It also throws a small wrench in the wiki’s trying to say definitively, what is the best to do, and what to ignore.
      People will still look up guides, but that happens on EVERY SINGLE video game in existence. So long as events are not too reliant on a single person being able to screw it up, to the point where others get the ‘elitism’ that infects other MMO’s, it will keep people from feeling like they have to research it before they play it (like WoW’s instances).

  7. Its thousands of events and probably thousands of ways locking up new events. If a player would like to know how to ulock all those event chains that would take months..maybe years.

  8. I really really hope they can pull it off, but a few beta players is a whole different game than the hordes that will run though the game at launch.

    And people will certainly try to play the system and maximize whatever the rewards may be. Oh well, one can hope anyway.

  9. Notice how they point out that their testers have been “conditioned by years of MMO experience to only look at the quest givers and ignore the wrest of the game.” This made me laugh. It sounds like they had some semi-retarded WoW players testing the game. (Which is what I see the general MMO population as.)

    Guild Wars 2 is going to be quite different from a standard MMO, and I’m not sure if many people will be able to adapt to this. I also fear that the dynamic event system will eventually just become a predictable chain of events that min/maxers will ruin. Hopefully we will see the best come out of GW2.

  10. The more I think about it… I don’t know. A lot of potential snags. I’ll be the first one to defer to the GW2 designers since they’re the ones working on it, but that doesn’t mean the questions go away. I agree 100% it’s a departure, and I commend them just for that alone, but I’m not so sure that it’s a departure to a destination I’d like to go.

    *cynic follows*

    How is this all this “dynamic”? You’re exchanging a location-tied NPC with an exclamation point to a location-tied world event without one. End result is the same. If by “dynamic” what is meant is “events start, run and end and players can join in at any point”, that’s a pretty fraggin’ flimsy hook to hang the “dynamic” tag on, in my opinion.

    Truly “Dynamic” would be the events having consequences that alter the playscape for players, both on success and failure (or even an ongoing state, if you wanna get ornate), as well as players -outside- the event.

    How -isn’t- this a rework/reword of Public Quests?

    *cynic ends*

    1. How do their events not have consequences? Each event is tied to more events, so if you push it one way a completely different event happens or if you don’t, yet another separate event happens. That sounds like consequeneces. Or how about buildings/infrastructure being destroyed, friendly merchants and other npcs dying, are these not good enough for you? There’s precious little you can do beyond that in a video game. Are you expecting real world effects like your girlfriend getting pregnant? Those are some pretty heavy consequeneces I admit. That would be one wicked video game.

      I expect snags and problems fully, but some of the criticisms being leveled seem unrealistic.

      A wiki is some peoples big worry? If it’s a problem for you, don’t read the wiki. A wiki doesn’t stop explorer types from exploring, if anything it makes them explore further.

      And of course players will find the path of least resistance, so what? At worst this makes gw2, what, no worse than any other MMO? So really you’re only problem is with the event hype?

    2. They have said that that would be the case, for example, an army moving across the map would take over small villages, and set up outposts, and position snipers, attacking players traveling through that part of the map. the taken over villages will be fortified and strengthened if nothing is done about the threat, there fore having consequences (success or failure) that alter the game as well as player not participating in the event, just passing through an are that is being effected by an event.

      1. Are these “consequences” permanent? For all players? If so, terrific. I have no need to worry.

        Do these “consequences” reset after (n) time for the next player to come along and do the same thing I did? Then PQ 2.0, I guess.

        My problem is not with hype, but with misrepresentation. I have to point out that I don’t think it’s deliberate or malicious at all, but frankly so far all I’ve read tells me this is public quests reworked. Is it a bad thing? No. Should it be tried? Of course it should. Is it a new idea? No. Will players embrace it happily? Who knows. My guess is more than we think and less than they hope.

        1. Julian: These consequences are indeed *permanent for all players* so long as the players do not complete an event chain that reverses it.

          My understanding is that each map will have a variety of events, and ArenaNet probably wants to optimize two points: a) there must always be events ready to start on every map, b) the consequences should feel permanent.

          So I suspect that how fast an event chain can restart might depend not just on the timing, but also the state of *unrelated* events on the map. If players were *very* active on a map, then it would feel less permanent because event chains would cycle fairly rapidly. The only thing compensating that might be fixed ‘minimum delay’ timers that would sometimes make a map event-free for a short time.

          If there was moderate activity, then it would be fairly easy to optimize the system to make sure that the same event chain doesn’t repeat unless at least some other events were played, which could make things feel very permanent and also less farmable.

          This would also make the Achiever farming strategy fairly clear if events on a given map were the best way to advance: just move from event to event, with those events sometimes following different conclusions, which is a lot more fun than farming the exact same spot again and again.

        2. These consequences are permanent for a certain degree. You can’t stop a village from repairing itself. If you go into the caves and defeat the bandits, the bandits are just going to get more reinforcements. That is dynamic: How one moment a friendly castle turned into a hostile enemy outpost. Or how one town is thriving with profit and people, and one day later the town turned into a ghost town and the villagers are captured. Whatever the case is, they don’t reset after time, because they are always moving.

          If you stopped the irrigation, another player might join you later on to fight off the bandits. That player didn’t know how the poison got into the water supply, and he might never know unless a bunch of events and variables are randomly triggered so that the bandits are once again trying to destroy the village. Probably, by that time, the two players are already on another event ;)

  11. The success of spoiler sites will really depend on how predictable these events will be. Will there be a set of in game action triggers that specifically set of a particular event, or will there be some randomness.

    If players will are able to force specific events, then over time the players will consistently force the most favorable event to always happen on demand. This is just the nature of online gaming now. You can not really keep anything procedurally produced a secret for long. Enough people will work to figure out the buttons to get the right pellet.

    With that said, I don’t think this is doomed to fail. I will have to go with Baghpuss and his missus that as long as a worthwhile award is achievable with out having to go to spoiler sites, some people will enjoy playing the game and not the meta-game.

    1. Another problem spoiler sites will have is quest/event identification. Its till possible of course, but it will be much harder to just look up an event when there is no quest title, etc. You’d have to go by location of the event somehow (landmarks/coordinates), not an ideal way to do it, especially when multiple events can travel across the same spot, etc. or stretch across large areas.

  12. What I understood from the information is that the results of an event will last for a period of time. So if centaurs attack a village and player(s) come along and save it, then when I come by the next day, I will see a village with damaged buildings and other signs of fighting. If I come back another time, the damage will be gone because they repaired the buildings.

    Eventually, the village will be attacked again and perhaps this time the centaurs win. So when I wander by I can try to recapture the town or just keep going. If I do nothing, then the next time I’m in the area, I might find a fortified centaur camp or a new village. It will depend on what other players have done.

    The Events will repeat over time, but unless you plan on spending your whole game life in the same area, you won’t see it.

    A player who likes to complete things would have gone beyond what the sample player did. He would have talked to people and received the bandit information and continued that event track. What you get in the game will depend on how you play more so than any other game I’ve seen. And, I imagine that the rewards will be less for people who don’t follow through which will affect their achievements.

  13. It’s all a matter of variables and scale. If they just have event A triggers event B and relatively short small event loops, even with permanence until reset, this can and will be gamed.

    If on the other hand they have a lot of interacting variables and on a larger scale e.g. centaurs rise up, form an army, start threatening nearby farmers, which reduces food supply to a nearby city, which increases demand for food, which increases guarded merchant trips to the city, which interdicts the recent increase in brigands, who would otherwise have poisoned a well, which would have left the city with fewer guards, then *deep breath*…

    you have the opportunity both for self-correction in the case of player incompetence/disinterest/laziness, and there are so many variables that players will actually find it quite hard to predict the results of their actions.

    We will have to wait and see whether GW2’s system is complex ‘enough’.

  14. Great article, and Neil Gaiman related examples are the best examples. That really made my night.

  15. Sooo,
    That original player solves the poison problem and defeats the bandits in their cave to complete a portion of their personal story, and gets a bunch of neat and possibly unique rewards.

    What happens to the next player who has the same or similar personal story? They get to the village with nothing going on – until the event somehow resets. No permanence there, unless Anet plans on having unique PSes for every single character created by every single player out there. None of the events can have permanent conclusions if they want to satisfy the achievers out there, because part of being the achiever is being able to experience all the content created.

    Doesn’t matter if the next player gets an event of his own to solve. The achiever will still want to be able to solve the poison problem himself as well.

    1. Hanok,

      The designers will have to ensure that the personal story does not depend on the world events and vice versa. The two streams can be related, but never dependent. An example would be the personal story informs the player of bandits doing bad things in a certain area. If the second player goes to that area and the poison has already been cleaned up, that player might find:
      a) the first player did not seek out the bandits so the poisoning has started again
      b) the bandits have resorted to outright attack on the farmers
      c) the farmers are forming up to hunt down the bandits
      etc
      So the player participates in the event(s) where ever they are up to, but it should still make sense in relation to the personal story.

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