I was going to write about necromancers today. ArenaNet decided otherwise. Their public face has swung a gigantic hammer today. Not only do players hear about the next new thing: The Bazaar of the Four Winds, but ArenaNet put up a wave of discussion on the service they want to provide. I highly recommend listening to the Game On podcast at mmorpg.com and reading and watching Colin “The Serious Don’t Smile” Johanson’s official post.
Stepping back to view our favorite genre, MMOs are a service. At the base level the developer hosts a playground. In the current MMO market, the service must also include updates to be a viable studio. Updates are the lifeblood of MMOs. What other genre has fans chomping at the bit to read patch notes? Patch notes can bring swarms of players back to the game. They are like treasures such that people are willing to break contracts to leak them out. For quite some time, MMOs have been living worlds and their living documents have been the patch notes.
In conventional cases, the cadence of these updates is rather slow with regard to the degree that players can consume the content. Usually the stickiness of this content is placing repetition in to this content to require players to re-consume the content. This has caused the pockmarked term “themepark MMO” to become one of derision. How many times must I ride the same ride?
Guild Wars 2 is attempting to change the face of Western MMOs. Every two weeks they want something new and significant. In this two-week cadence, for example, there is a new, difficult dungeon, a treasure hunt to return to out-of-the-way places, and a new, permanent jumping puzzle. Last bi-week there was a festival and small, personal story. Next week there is new zone, PvP map, mini-game, and a significant update to the achievements/reward system.
I say Western MMOs because I’ve heard that the Eastern MMOs coming out of Korea, China, and Japan already have an MMO culture where content updates are expected at least on a monthly basis. I wish I had a concrete article to cite, but I’ve heard it mostly through the grapevine. Oh and I’m just about to lose my mind. Where was I?
The interesting buzz word I see emphasized in this crashing wave of publicity is “permanent”. I know when I decide to romp through Southsun to get a few daily achievements and flowers, I feel a slight pang of loss. This land was active and good, until the next update attacked. I think there was a small backlash with all the non-permanent additions that people could miss. Now, the July 9th release is stacked with permanent content in addition to non-permanent.
Now in my opinion this is the kind of service I would expect from a subscription MMO where an automatic tithe was withdrawn each month from Uncle Amex. So far ArenaNet has not required any sort of DLC purchase or anything similar to play the game. This is amazing, and also a little worrying. It really puts the onus on players to have to decide themselves to support the game. I usually spend about $10 a month on gems. I also usually ask for gem cards for gifts. I’m sure there are a multitude of active players that have never bought gems in any fashion. It is a good idea to tip your server.
With this constant update schedule, I know that some other second-string MMOs I play and love have simply fallen to the wayside for now. I still haven’t decided whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I am loving the freshness that ArenaNet brings to Guild Wars 2 nearly every week.