Shades of Zoo

A zoo is a different kind of theme park, but there are many different kinds of zoos. Guild Wars 2 fans are trying to envision that upcoming game through the lens of Rift. I wouldn’t say it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but it might be better to say the arena is Disney’s Animal Kingdom versus the San Diego Zoo. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is on the borderline of being a theme park in the harshest MMO sense. The caretakers call the exhibits “stages” or “sets” (my former zookeeper wife couldn’t exactly remember), and they want every zoo patron to see exactly the same experience. On the other hand, San Diego Zoo is a “progressive” zoo, which seeks to put the animals in as natural a cage as possible without it being a nature reserve.

Like real zoos, MMOs with dynamic event systems can vary along these shades of gray as well. In Rift, events are like a calling. I drop everything I am doing and run towards the rift, invasion, or my favorite a planar tear, which I can open with a skill to start a rift. They are the exciting thing going on when the rest is filler by comparison. It gets even more interesting, in a Skinner sense, when players are rewarded more so for attacking specific colors of rifts, such as death in the latest world event Grim Harvest. I’ve seen other players completely ignore, for example, a dominating life invasion to go for that one death rift in the corner of the map. In Guild Wars 2, since everything was an event, I didn’t really care whether there were other players or how active the event was. I just went where I wanted to play during the demo because activity was everywhere.

Guild Wars 2 lead developer Eric Flannum put a fine point on this difference when he wrote at Guild Wars 2 Guru:

Originally Posted by Maarius View Post

why is it different than Rift? Simple answer: DE in Rift are not the main content, they are, more or less, rare spawn-events. In GW2 events are EVERYWHERE, the people will spread after the tutorial I imagine, because theres this big focus on exploration. What I think will become a problem: experiencing events in the open world WITH other people (sure, you don’t always need them, but sometimes it makes it more fun to play with strangers and trying to cross combo).

You have this exactly correct. Even when we have one of our company “all-calls” and play the game with 200+ people jumping into the same starting area at the exact same time we have found that it is rare to have more than 10 people at the same event as people spread out very quickly and start to do different things. We’ve also found that unless the encounter is built for it, more than 10 people starts to become more confusing and less fun for players. Events that are designed for more people like the Shatterer are designed to last longer and draw more attention to themselves so that they draw more players to them.

All of that being said, it is possible for us to change these numbers around and we have certainly done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future as we gather data and see how people play (especially once we go to beta). But for now, 10 is the number that works for the game.

I found Flannum’s post interesting because it is a professional opinion on the core difference between Rift’s dynamic events and Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events. I definitely felt this difference when I played the Guild Wars 2 demo at PAX East after having played Rift betas and launch, and I agree with Maarius and Flannum.

This doesn’t necessarily make one dynamic event system better than the other. Just like some people prefer the focused experience of Disney’s Animal Kingdom to the San Diego Zoo, so to will some people prefer Rift’s guided approach to Guild Wars 2’s events-are-everywhere approach. We are seeing different sides to Rift only because it is live and being experienced by so many. Obviously Trion Worlds hit their first stumble when trying to provide a singular whammy of an event last Saturday. It will be interesting to see what we and ArenaNet learns when the masses hit their servers. Trion Worlds is already learning from theirs.

–Ravious

11 thoughts on “Shades of Zoo”

  1. Hey nice write up. It’s good to see people churning their brains with the ‘next big thing’ in dynamic events and the multiple ways of providing that content

    One of the things I want to see in Guild Wars 2 when we get a chance to play it is how open it is. Their are moments in Rift where you can’t complete certain dynamic content due to various reasons. I want to see their version of scaling whether I stumble into an area by myself or people hop in and out. Also with the recent Trion event. it didn’t go so well but atleast they are pushing to experiment. I hope A.Net does the same with their system.

    Good post as always Ravious

  2. I’m almost certain that somewhere around here there’s a cold turkey joke begging to be made…

    But yes, new terminology is certainly needed to underline the difference in design philosophy between restrictive (on-rails) and laissez-faire themepark MMOs.

  3. I play Rift and I’m waiting with baited breath for Guild Wars 2. I can almost guarantee I’ll prefer Guild Wars 2. For one thing, Rift is not a game friendly to altoholics with only 2 starting areas, and a very linear quest progression.

    As for the Rifts themselves, and the invasions that come out of them, I admit being worried when I first experienced them. Worried for Guild Wars 2. Because there was a trialer for Rift saying that invasions can happen anywhere, and that the invaders can take over towns (paraphrased).

    They don’t really take over towns, so much as kill all the NPCs in town and then sorta amble around until players come and kill them.

    But the big disappointment in Rift is that Rifts that aren’t closed disappear on their own anyway in about an hour. This means there’s no real reason to do them. They don’t really matter to the world and indeed, very often, people ignore them.

    I hope in Guild Wars 2 this doesn’t become the norm. And I hope that I feel more immersed in the world, because that’s what I’m looking for.

    1. I think we Anet will really deliver on their word. They have previously stated before that if an enemy takes over a stronghold, it will remain taken until someone takes it back.

      Events run in chains, if they take it over, they may continue to push unless they meet resistance. Once we do that, you can push them back, and move them into their territory. I suppose its kind of like a continuous tug-of-war. Thus, using this system, enemies can’t simply disappear from the town.

      1. That’s what I’m seeing too, but of course, until you play a game, you don’t really know. I mean in Rift, during the earlier betas Rifts didn’t dissolve if you didn’t close them. Trion made that change before release. I thought it was better the old way, where people had to close rifts. Now they’re more like a side show.

        1. A problem with Rift’s earlier approach was that new players coming into the area can’t accept the quests from the hub that was taken over by the Rift invasion. Nor can the players return quests. Rift’s progression is based on quest chains and it is not fun to get stuck at a hub like that.

          GW 2 doesn’t have that problem. If you have the numbers, go try to take back the village/whatever. If not, you move onto other dynamic events of your level.

  4. I’m happy I have already taken some psych for my undergrad program or I might have missed that B.F. Skinner/operative conditioning reference lol.

    I’m happy to see that the powers that be are actually addressing the fans concerns and comparisons to other games. I feel most just find it annoying and ignore it.

  5. I’m playing Rift while waiting for GW2, but 10 player group? That is imo way to small. Being lvl 50 in rift we can be several hundred ppl rifting and fighting invasions. Not to talk about the event where there were thousand of players.
    Rifts will spawn invasions for a long period if they are not closed.

    1. While some ideas are the same, from what I see, Rifts and Dynamic Events are still quite different.

      Dynamic Events are more like the quests of GW2. These are things that you really don’t see hundreds of people doing at the same time, and it at times might not make much sense. Imagine having over 100 people all guarding a single caravan, and you can see why they’re not made for a huge amount of people (Although I’m more than sure someone is going to try to do something like this to see how the event scales).

      Its the larger events such as The Shatterer in which we will see the large amounts of people. From my knowledge, The large groups of people in Rift form a type of zerg, and just run from one place to another destroying each rift. From what we have seen in The Shatterer event, There are more direct roles to fill. For example, while people are fighting The Shatterer, its minions, could break down some of the artillery machinery that players could man in order to aid in battle. Thus a new objective occurs in which people can repair the artillery to make sure it is functioning while the battle is occurring. By doing things like these, we will still have massive battles, but the amount of zerging should decrease.

  6. Going to be great. I expect most events will be tailored for casual players but it doesn’t really matter, there will be dungeons for the more hardcore players and they can still have fun with the events without worrying that you need a pro group or will wipe for hours.

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