I’ve been working on one of the rare collection achievements as a long-term goal waiting for Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns. It is a “hardcore” goal requiring a lot of commitment, and if you don’t want to go insane, a lot of community support. Luckily there’s all of that in my wheelhouse, which I will write about later this week.
Anyway, I started pondering ArenaNet’s greater plan. We had years of Living World updates with new systems, new zones, and a general polishing of the entire core. Now we have an expansion coming. Everybody, facetiously, wanted an expansion. That was the Guild Wars 1 way. That’s what most MMO’s do. We aren’t paying a subscription for this constant update nonsense so give us a huge content drop we can buy.
Perhaps, I pondered, whilst sifting through hundreds of handfuls of sand… Perhaps, ArenaNet was not ready for an expansion.
Take WvW for example, one of the game modes for Guild Wars 2. There have been constant updates with progression, ways of scoring, etc. But the biggest addition was separate from the core WvW. Edge of the Mists (EotM) was a hodge-podge of ideas of what WvW could be in a constantly changing environment. So much can be gleaned from EotM, like shorter matches, PvE bosses, yakless supply, and special mechanics, such as Blue’s Arctic Cold, which reduces movement of enemies in blue region for each controlled objective.
All of this could’ve just been added straight up to WvW. It wouldn’t make sense on the seemingly “vanilla” Alpine borderlands map, but Arctic Cold could’ve been added. PvE-style bosses could have been added. It all could have conceivably been done. So why didn’t ArenaNet just do that?
I feel it’s because with all of their data gathering and playing around with EotM, they are now ready to provide a comprehensive change with the Desert Borderlands coming with Heart of Thorns. Between Ruins in Alpine and EotM, we’ve been “beta”-ing in the live game to get to this point where an entire map could be changed.
Another data point, Mawdrey. How long ago did Colin, holy be thy smile, say that they wanted precursors to be this “scavenger hunt” across Tyria? Two years! In a red post, he wrote that ‘the proper solution needs to be part of bigger systems’. How come it wasn’t until their first expansion that we finally get legendary precursors being fixed?
Because, finally all the systems are in place. I feel that the latest “beta” test for the precursor was Mawdrey, which was the Season 2 backpiece involving progress through many different parts of the game. It was a “scavenger hunt”, a crafting bit, a gathering bit, and achievement bit. If Mawdrey is not an indicator of what we might expect for the precursor “scavenger hunt”.
Yet, ArenaNet got to “beta” an idea for the precursor in their live game. Hopefully they’ve learned good and bad things from Mawdrey, including ways to manipulate the economy based on this “end game” goal. (See also leather supply/demand.)
Finally, we have Dry Top (later this week, I promise) and the Silverwastes, which were both added in Season 2. Both are starkly different, but are evolutions of the core maps because they are both maps with purpose. Dry Top is all about efficient event farming and use of movement crystals. Silverwastes is about community response and formation. Both have cycles, rhythm, goals (including a long-term one each), and a general purpose for existing. However, they are different and with reason.
I feel ArenaNet had to get a sense of these “maps with a purpose”, especially with regard to the stickiness of the zones and creating an “end game” around open world content. We know the first map of Heart of Thorns will let the Pact set up defenses in the day to try (first phase) and survive then at night (the second phase). How much of these new maps with a purpose did ArenaNet learn from their small-zone Season 2 offerings?
As a Guild Wars 1 fan, waiting for an expansion has been tough. I loved the campaigns of Guild Wars 1, and buying the boxes (I have every Collector’s Edition), and the dump of content. Yet, as I sift through the data it feels like ArenaNet has been aligning many big systems and planets for the perfect time. We’ll see what comes of the actual Heart of Thorns beta events, starting tomorrow night.