The February patch for Guild Wars 2 dropped yesterday. March is going to be the month where all of the content of that patch slowly unfolds. I think it’s hard to fathom for some players that each patch ArenaNet is trying to extend the game’s life in the long term. The expectations seem to be set for a content dump. Instead ArenaNet seems to largely focus on foundational issues and long-life new features. There is of course immediate content to be had, but even there ArenaNet is working on a slow-release.
The most apparent change was how daily achievements work. Players that logged on saw all new achievements, do a group event, complete a story step, sacrifice things to the Mystic Forge, or make a couple steals in Keg Brawl. I spent a good amount of time last night in Wayfarer Foothills, and I was amazed at some of the questions. “What is the next story step?” “What is a group event?”
The daily achievement is now the best tutorial in the game. Sure, it’s nice and all to have a lot of activities to choose from for obtaining that yummy karma and laurel platter. But in a brilliant design move, casual players are going to click on the “more” button in the daily achievement UI. They are going to see a swath of activities, many of which they’ve never done before, and learn more about Guild Wars 2. In Colin’s “Rainbows Over Europe” tour he mentioned that last month’s rotating dailies were used in part to teach people how to dodge. The selectable dailies is simply another improvement as a teaching tool.
For hardcore casual and above, I feel it further emphasizes how ArenaNet wants Guild Wars 2 to be played. They don’t want players to run at one thing, like a single path in Citadel of Flames, over and over and over. They want to break players out of their routine. Who knows how many more items were thrown down the mystic toilet bowl? Last night I would guess that Keg Brawl saw activity that it hasn’t seen in months. I am really impressed at how such a small change can have such a long-term effect across the entire community.
The Living Story continued, and The Gathering Storm feels a lot more significant than the Prelude. It’s still the beginning part of the story, but the hints to the future are much less vaporous. My favorite hint was actually found in the Guild Commendation vendor. The description of the molten object nods at the dark union between the Flame Legion and dredge. I liked seeing that because so many ascended items are historically based. The biggest hint to the future is going to be the ominous fortress of Dolyak Pass in Wayfarer Foothills near the steam vents that appeared last month.
There are two new achievements that fill the role of quests for this part of the Living Story. The Gathering Storm achievement has players killing invaders, either Flame Legion or dredge, that pop up in Diessa Plateau and Wayfarer Foothills. The invaders seem to prefer big fiery portals, but they also use dredge vehicles. Either way a FLedge army is clearly on the offensive. With the amount of active players at these events killing 150 invaders was a simple execution of napping and AoE-ing. This was something I saved for later when both sides are weaker.
The other achievement revolves around finding objects lost in the two zones to get refugees that made it to Lion’s Arch to open up about their story. Each object has multiple spawn points so while a guide is handy, players are going to have to heroically hoof it to get the hidden object. The slow-release comes in the form that only 2/6 objects with accessorized refugee are available right now. Whereas last month only a few valiant players kept returning to the mundane refugee camps, now there is an achievement incentive to do so.
In my opinion, this feels like a substantive prelude. The enemy is known. There are moving players on the board, such as surprisingly The Consortium, responsible for the karka Lion’s Arch attack. There are even a few events, as simple as they are. It’s not a big content update, but it’s something. Feels more like a sizeable appetizer right now, when last month was an amuse bouche.
The big controversy of this update surrounds guild missions. The issue is that it takes significant activity and/or resources within a guild to unlock guild missions with Influence. Many guilds that have been more lackadaisical with activity or Influence spending were blind-sided with the cost of getting control of that content. I might as well throw my hat in on the issue.
First, this is going to be a harsh tutorial on gaining Influence. In hindsight it seems obvious: play with guild members to get more Influence. Yet, there is a magnitude difference in Influence amount, which even I wasn’t really aware of. I am sure many smaller guilds will be playing catch-up as they learn how to maximize activity for Influence. I agree that the cost to get guild missions is high especially considering how many guilds are only really learning about Influence now, but with concentrated effort in a guild it is not unreasonable. My preference is still that ArenaNet would have designed it so “the first one is free”, but I can also see that forcing a time/cost to entry will make it so every guild on the server is not searching the finite bounties on patch night.
Second, the guild missions feature is going to be a long-term goal for many guilds. Do you have an active small guild? Don’t BS me with your 10-player guild with 1-2 players active per night. If you have an actual, active small guild that plays together, great! Turn Influence in to a goal. A couple events or dungeons runs with the guild together a night where drop proceeds are offered to guild coffers easily results in 1000s of Influence a night. The whole point of a guild is sharing activities and resources. Influence and the accompanying progression of guild upgrades / guild missions simply reinforce that.
I can’t help but feel that a lot of the outcry is from players that did not share activities and resources with their precious guild. A guild of self-centered players with a shared chat room is not the type of “guild” ArenaNet is creating these activities for.
Third, this content is not for every guild. Can a guild of three best friends take down a WvW keep alone? How about cleansing the temple of Balthazar in Orr alone? A group of 5 seems to be ArenaNet’s happy baseline for group content, and I would imagine that Tier 1 guild missions were designed with that holy number in mind. If more is needed, put some effort in to it. That a mega-guild zerg can smash through a guild mission far easier than a small guild is a dumb comparison because they can smash through tons of other content already existing.
I see a lot of complaints about players being “forced” to migrate to larger guilds to experience content. Yet, all I see is the “I want it now” attitude. How about network with other small guilds? How about making use of that friend’s list to guest people in? Oh no, there is effort involved! Perhaps players migrating from small guilds are actually realizing that they don’t play with people in their guild. The biggest benefit of a small guild is having a personable, tight-knit group. If players are truly migrating I can’t help but believe that whatever benefits a small guild would offer over a faceless big guild simply weren’t in their small guild.
It is clear that a ton of content was made for guild missions, some of which won’t be experienced for weeks. ArenaNet wasn’t adding in a feature that was instantly accessible to everyone right away. They created a slow-release progression that could benefit the life of the entire game. They created a goal to unify guilds to work together. They created activities to get guild members to work together and with the server community. ArenaNet is playing the long game.