As part of the GuildMag hosted blog carnival, I am writing about the end of Living World Season 1. The tl;dr even in my mind is… I think I had fun? It’s kind of a weird feeling. I know I am a Guild Wars 2 ”fanboi” in the best and worst senses. So we have that. But, then I think I am honestly critical of where I see flaws in my favorite MMO.
I feel with the end of Living World Season 1 like I did after each season or the finale of LOST. It was an awesome journey. There were horrible plot holes, silly episodes, and moments of TV-gold. At each “end” of LOST, it felt like the whole season was just swept away, and all that was left was a fine point. I have great memories I can dredge up about the journey, but the journey is over. Now, I just want to look ahead. I don’t know if I can write this post without trying to look behind.
Spinning in the Sandbox
SynCaine who wrote in response to one of Zubon’s posts here summed it up pretty well: after all that, what do we have? It’s kind of ironic coming from SynCaine who is a sandbox MMO maverick (who hopefully is looking in to Das Tal).
Sandbox MMOs provide a journey, but they also spin in place. There are plenty of additives, especially with EVE’s expansions, but there is no culmination like there often is with expansion-based themepark MMOs. An over-distillation could be “we just mine and fight.” In World of Warcraft, I feel, there is a point where a player “wins”. They can hang their boots up until the next big update or expansion. In sandbox games there is always something to do, however mundane.
What I feel ArenaNet has done is kind of brought a large shard of sandbox into the themepark. Each bi-week there was something to do that could be “won”. It could be played more to get more rewards and experience too. Then it went away.
I am still unsure as to whether this is a good thing. On one hand I find that I keep coming back. Each bi-weekly update I have a blast seeing what is new and churning through the content. Some bi-weeks I play the entire time going back to all the events or new piece of gameplay. Other bi-weeks I finish my meta-achievement and hang up my boots. So as a Ravious-standing-outside-of-
A conventional MMO expansion is a double-edged sword. It slices forward with great, new, permanent content, and then it backstabs all the older content, which becomes pretty lonely. However, players can easily point to what they now have. A new class. A new race. A new zone. New personal attributes (skills et al.). New ways to progress usually with level cap increase. It is very easy to answer the question to what is new with the conventional MMO expansion.
I don’t feel it’s as easy to answer the same question with direction to ArenaNet’s Living World replacement to expansions.
If I take time to ponder I know there were good permanent additions in Guild Wars 2. There was one new profession healing skill, which at least for the necromancer was easily forgettable, and then a generic heal for all professions. There was a new zone, which was amazing, and got taken away. No new classes, but that’s a good thing as of now since a few professions are still having identity issues. And lots and lots of skins.
ArenaNet has also smoothed out the progression with Ascended gear. I know it still sticks in the craw of many, but I like the longer-term progression. It’s definitely not necessary, especially in PvE, but it is nice to work for and have. But, since it came out sporadically throughout the year (and even pre-Season 1) it’s hard to say that this was a Living World Season 1 feature.
Probably the best thing in Season 1 by far was the Edge of the Mists update, which was as close to expansion-like as could be. I still go there quite often, and I love laying claim to the towers. However, it has the feeling of a step-forward to something greater in WvW, which is at least two steps back. Unlike that conventional MMO expansion feel Edge of the Mists is not the “replacement” and can give that grass-is-greener feel to ye’ol WvW.
I get the feeling that ArenaNet knows this. They have been holding off on adding a feature here, like perhaps 500 cooking or 500 jewelry with the story updates. Instead they are going for a full-on feature update. Unfortunately there is very little to know about this so far.
“A feature release is not an expansion, it’s a release focused on game features. Examples of game features we’ve done in the past would be: guild missions, account achievement system, spectator mode, new pvp maps, daily world boss chests, removing culling and giving visibility options, the WvW WxP system, etc.”
He gives no hints as to what we will get, although other devs are talking about the mega-balance aspect of it. Anyway, with that list it is clear that ArenaNet has added a lot since launch. I hope that combining all that into one ginormous patch will help with that feeling of, perhaps… complacency.
One of my favorite “dailies” is the new Tequatl. I love the bit of community party right beforehand. I love the fight. And, the rewards are pretty darn good for 15 minutes of fighting. Yeah, I might be doing it in the futile hopes of getting a Tequatl weapon, but I still like the content.
In a way it feels like it’s always been there. I think that’s kind of what ArenaNet wants. I have fuzzy memories of the easy Tequatl and Rox being at the later fight. But, for better or worse, ArenaNet wants to bring the entire game along with the Living World. They are not looking to create three new zones, a few new dungeons, and then forsake everything else.
Like a new LOST season, I think the entire field is going to shift. Season 1 was pretty bumpy, but it is also done. Scarlet is gone. I know ArenaNet has grown and learned with Season 1, but 2013 was a virtual free pass for ArenaNet. Now they have new MMO contenders in 2014. They will have to raise their A-game in Season 2.