[GW2] Slow-Release Storm

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.

Dailies

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.

Living Story

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.

Guild Missions

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.

–Ravious

19 thoughts on “[GW2] Slow-Release Storm

  1. Tanek

    I don’t mind that the guild mission content takes a while to unlock, or that we need to gain lots of influence for it. As you say, we will get there eventually.

    My problem with the structure of the first bounty mission is its placement in the Art of War. A guild that was not looking to WvW might not have spent much influence in that area because there was not much there for them. I appreciate that ANet is now aiming to make all influence trees useful for all guilds, but they started by putting what people want all the way at the top tier.

    Being asked to spend a lot of influence to get the mission is one thing. Being asked to unlock tier after tier of upgrades you don’t want/need is another. Had there been additions along the way in Art of War that were not WvW, there would be less of a feeling we are just tossing influence into a pit. Maybe put in smaller versions of the reduced repair cost buff. 5%, then 10%, then 15%. Make us feel we are getting something.

    I do like that ArenaNet is planning for the long term and I think putting systems like this in place will really help int he future. I just think the presentation, the information we get before something launches, and the initial structure could use some more work.

  2. darkeye

    I agree about the guild missions too, sure small guilds miss out for the immediate future but I bet there will be attempts made by the community to get this content up and running and available for everyone. Can imagine some themed guilds popping up in the near future, like an ‘explorer’s’ guild with only Guild Trek unlocked, or a ‘bounty hunter’s’ guild with Guild Bounty unlocked.

    Really liking the new daily achievement, it seems plenty of diverse activities, and it looks like I’ll be heading to Keg Brawl for the first time since the game released this evening.

    And last of all, Final Rest has started dropping, rubs paws together, I’m expecting the price to become more reasonable soon enough.

  3. bhagpuss

    ArenaNet are very big on social engineering. Much more so than any other MMO developer whose games I’ve ever played. They have a clear, and I would say prescriptive, view of how their game should be played but rather than use the more traditional, harsher sticks we’ve seen in many other MMOs they prefer to dangle a whole lot of carrots. I’m beginning to feel like the subject of a university research project and I can’t remember signing the release papers.

    It may work. It’s not working on me but I’m fairly sure I’m not their target audience. So long as I have plenty to do outside of ANet’s preferred activities I’ll stick around. You’re very right about them planning for the long term. Good business sense. Much though I’ve enjoyed my time in GW2 so far, though, the current direction they are taking makes it less, no more likely, that it will remain my MMO of choice for years to come.

    On the positive side, there were plenty of things I did like in last night’s patch. The loot changes especially.

  4. Saylah

    I’m okay with it taking smaller guilds longer to access. My fundamental issue is it being embedded in the Art of War line of influence unlocks. PVP/WvW guilds maxed out that line while many PVE guilds didn’t bother which made sense as it didn’t offer them any incentives. Why bake the initial access to this content inside a WvW line? To me it smacks of them realizing the lack of use for that line and pushing/forcing guilds into spending influence in that tree.

    Conversely, WvW guilds would have been screaming if it was thrown into an existing PVE focused line they hadn’t bothered to invest into yet. Feels like a specific line would have been better and more agnostic to the current preferences for content types. This way, all guilds would have equal access to the first unlock in the tree regardless of the influence cost, since there wouldn’t have been any pre-requisites for it.

    1. j3w3l

      Not really, us pvp players are used to having to do PvE things for PvP, we grumble about it but keep doing it. The funny thing though is that we expected exactly that this time and I know quite a few of these wvw guilds that purposefully unlocked everything in advance.

  5. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Here’s another perspective about the guild missions: there’s already a ton of content if you want to solo, and there’s plenty of content if you want to be in a large guild (WvW, Orrian temples, etc.) What if you just have 4 good friends you just want to play with? Not enough to do dungeons without having to PUG, not enough to take WvW objectives. That many people playing open world content makes it trivial since most of the content was designed for soloing.

    The guild missions would have been perfect to address this size of team. Instead, the guild missions are content for groups that could already do WvW, or Orrian temples, or multiple dungeon runs, or whatever. Obviously there’s enough people out there in this situation that giving them some content would have been good. Given how much of the rest of the game is based on scaling up content based on group size, it seems like it would have been fine to let smaller guilds get access to the content without having to grind.

    I suspect the reality is that large guilds are gaining too much influence, so there was a design motivation to make the new guild content take a lot of influence to drain some of that off. But, this leaves some of the smaller guilds out in the cold. I think the fault here is the way that influence is gained, which rewarded large guilds simply for the virtue of being large.

    Reminds me of skirmishes in LotRO, how they completely ignored how many players played in duos, so they had to add a 2-person option along with solo and 3-person options once there was some outcry.

    1. Ravious Post author

      That is a great point. However, champ hunting and mini-dungeons fall in to that purview. However, I agree that a 2-3 person type content would be great for GW2. One of the devs just said he thinks he is going to keep working on guild content for next month with the guild content team, so hopefully they consider something along these lines.

  6. moondog548

    Even doing dungeons as a guild the Inf only ever seemed to trickle in. I’m trying to recall, I think we got a couple hundred for doing a story mode together, but it was hard to tell. 1000s in a night? loooooolz. Maybe if there was some instruction to go with the far off carrots and phantom stick that anet likes to “social engineer” with.

    Though wishing ANet would explain wtf is going on at any point of playing their games has always been an issue……. /sigh

    1. Ravious Post author

      Yes running most dungeons nets around 1g per person. 1g can be converted into 500 INF. That’s on top of the INF for simply logging in, and grouping up.

      1. moondog548

        Oh, selling your loot drops (savy-wise on the TP) in order to buy drinks to boost the guild at the exclusion of individual character advancement. I see. That sort of unintuitive indirect mechanic is par for anet’s obscurity course. (Though it’s a relatively minor offense, since this time the information is technically all in the game).

        The influence for logging in, etc, is not worth mentioning. It’s literally a dozen or two points for a small guild.

        1. Aspeon

          Every week you don’t quit your small guild to join a large one is already sacrificing individual advancement for the sake of your guild, since the calendar-gated commendations are required to get Ascended accessories in a reasonable timeframe. (1.2-6 weeks of guild missions and 5 gold vs. 1 month of dailies and 50 ectos.)

          I guess this was always true to some extent, since large guilds can afford to keep the Economy PvE buffs up 100% of the time. (Curiously, the new buffs that require merits are impossible to keep up 100% of the time, since merit gain per week is capped.) But there’s a psychological difference between 10% magic find and best in slot gear.

          As someone in a dead small guild, my impressions of the whole mission thing went from intrigued about something that might help revive the guild to okay with treating them as optional content I won’t do to annoyed that ignoring missions means “having” to spend more laurels on Ascended gear before I can consider doing anything else with them.

        2. Curuniel

          Our guild is about 9 people with a regular crowd of four or five, and while we won’t be doing guild missions any time soon, we get thousands of influence over the course of a couple of weeks. Seems reasonably paced for our smallness and casualness.

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  8. jcSadOne

    Not entirely agree but still. The fact that my small guild will need to struggle hard to even see a glimpse of guild missions doesn’t bother me (I’ll leave why I wont go to bigger guild to do it for the end). The problem lies in fact, the holy number as You called is set around 5. My guild have 6 members, and due to real life problems, 3 of them won’t be online this week, month and probably till late 2013. We have 2 really active players and 1 girl who join us every now and then. We all know each other in real life, and this game (and GW1 before it) was a way to keep us in touch, while life throw us around continent after school. So it’s different for me, when You say that 5-6 people can do the mission – if in this 5-6 there is my 2 guildies and 3-4 friends from other guilds, it’s hard to call it “my guild” mission, isn’t it? As You wrote – “Can a guild of three best friends take down a WvW keep alone” – no, but we can take down Supply camp and have a lot of fun doing it (heck – I can do that solo if it isn’t too heavily upgraded). There is no “Supply camp” guild mission for small guilds. “How about cleansing the temple of Balthazar in Orr alone” – and how about smaller events in Orr? We can do it in force of 3 (even 2) etc.
    I do understand why they did it, I don’t have a problem with influence costs (heck – my tiny guild have a lot of upgrades, mostly in economy and architecture, but still, we didn’t waste time since day one), but it still makes me sad and a bit excluded as a guildie. Because I’m maybe in many guilds, but there is only one true guild I feel attached to.
    And don’t give me crap about not putting effort into guild – we work as a team on every problem each guild member have – is it crafting, making legendary weapons or leveling another alt. We pump a lot of influence into architecture, just to help us deliver stuff more easily and save some gems on personal bank accounts ;). We’re like every other organized guild, just too tiny to count.

    So why I don’t want to take my friends from other guild on the trip? It’s about meaning. Do You remember first time You did a dungeon here? I do. We went there as a guild, watching every cut scene, rezing ourselfs all the way to King and learning on our mistakes while we did it. It was a guild moment (similar to Kodak moments ;) ), and the fact I did AC story few times since then, and explo paths in hundreds (for tokens)… if You ask me about really doing it, I will recall the memory of doing it with my guild. And when I heard about guild missions, I automatically thought about spending time with my friends, not searching for online pug guys to help me “done the task”. If You don’t see the difference – it’s ok. But it’s a huge difference for me.

    1. Ravious Post author

      Another good point. And really my post was aimed at the “gate” to content, not the content itself because I haven’t tried it.

      It seems the design intent was to almost provide raid-like activities. I read that possibly the world first Tier 3 bounty challenge took 90 people, and they hit it with seconds to spare.

      I feel like Psychochild mentioned above, getting that 2-3 person guild mission would be highly preferable. Perhaps a Tier 0. I don’t know how you would structure rewards in that case, but I do agree that creating content workable for small, close-knit, and active guilds, such as yours, would be better for the system as a whole.

      1. jcSadOne

        Oh yeah, I can drink to that :).
        But one thing for sure – those boss to hunt, that I see on almost every map are sooo irritating. It’s a tease, it’s like a promise of new shiny content we can’t check XD.

  9. Curuniel

    I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to join a larger guild on my server, I just haven’t found the right one yet. I head up my guild of a handful of real life friends, and I still intend for them to be my main play group. Guild missions are just one more reason why I’d like to join another on the side, though. Why not have a large guild which all 4 or so of my friends are also part of? The large guild has to be ok with us not representing most of the time, but they gain a working unit of members they can call upon and we gain a larger force to join for missions, WvW etc. If people accept this ‘being in multiple guilds’ deal, the barriers become less of a thing. If your whole guild of friends joins a larger guild as well, it functions much like an alliance.

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