I had a blast for Halloween in Guild Wars 2! It was one of the best holiday events I can remember. I sadly did not get to participate in the new meta-events in Kessex Hills, Queensdale, and Gendarran Fields, but I made sure to try every other new thing at least once. One whole night was dedicated to the Mad King’s Tower, which was the most controversial addition to the Shadow of the Mad King.
The lead designer for the Mad King’s Tower, Josh Foreman, has taken the brunt of feedback head on. This amazes me. Not only is ArenaNet’s policy to let their employees have a voice, but Josh is stepping directly in to the line of fire. I believe that this humanizes the relationship between player and game. It reinforces Guild Wars 2 as a service for a community.
For example, I think the biggest problem we had at Kill Ten Rats was that the combination of the puzzle with the grouping mechanics was akin to ice cream and oil. Josh, on his personal blog, came out and agreed that a soloable instance without a wait time would’ve been “no-brainers”, but technological limits were stopping the player’s route of least resistance. He reinforces this on the official forums. Josh goes on to say:
From the ground up, we designed our game mechanics to encourage cooperation and altruism in the community, and this JP’s mechanics broke that design aesthetic. It was an accident, but I still accept responsibility for it.
Another big issue, I think, was that players did not seem to understand that the Mad King’s Tower was optional to the main achievement for Halloween. There was still an achievement for completing it, but the title did not rely on the jumping puzzle’s completion. Here’s how Josh designed it for more casual players:
When I made this map I was HOPING that people who aren’t into jumping would do exactly this. They’d see a fun Halloween looking environment, maybe get to the first chest and snag a goodie, then be on their merry way. I see now it was a mistake to make the hardest jumping challenge in the game part of an in-your-face update like a holiday event.
Josh goes on to also discuss his method of testing jumping puzzles (as the biggest norn), and on his blog mentions that Wintersday is going to more “chill” (pun included). Come next Halloween, Josh is also on board for taking the Mad King’s Tower down, literally.
I think Josh appears to know how to take this in stride. Reddit’s top comment is he shouldn’t even apologize. Josh’s other jumping puzzles are some of the most heralded portions of stunning game design on an MMO not really intended to be a platformer. (For more of Josh’s works, also check out his deviantART gallery.) It seems he has incorporated that knowledge in his responses to the feedback.
I am glad that ArenaNet allows its developers to push forward in game design. It is a risk not to play it safe. We wouldn’t have Guild Wars 2 if that was not a key part of their studio’s philosophy. Unfortunately, some things simply won’t work as well as they seem to on paper. ArenaNet, and Josh, seem to appreciate, respond, and iterate on feedback quite well in that regard. I am also glad that ArenaNet gives their designers voice. Josh handled the feedback with humility and aplomb, and responded in kind. Hopefully by this weekend, we’ll all be missing the pain and joy caused by the Mad King’s Tower, lost in the Mists for another year.
said the joker to the thief