Guild Wars 2 has some improvements on standard MMO mechanics that are so obviously better that I have found it unpalatable to go back to older MMOs or to play new games that clone them. One of these is the use of hearts and events to level, rather than quest hubs. For the kind of content quest hubs most often deliver (kill things, click things, collect things), hearts just seem obviously better than clicking an NPC; hearing a story about too many wolves, needing wolf pelts, or wanting you to click on six specific wolf den rocks to investigate; kill/click/collect, then going back to click on the NPC. The flow of play is better, and if you don’t feel like collecting things, you can just kill and/or click. Using events to make impromptu groups and to replace “take this message to Bob in the next town” quests is just better.
Also, in GW2, you can almost always rez the NPC in an escort quest. See Rurik or Sara Oakheart.
GW2 also demonstrated that hearts and events are horrible ways of telling stories, so bad that they spent part of the first year trying to retrofit a classic quest system into mail system or the personal story model. They seem to have settled on the personal story model, an interesting choice given how few players would cite the personal story as one of the better parts of the game.
It’s been a few days since the second Feature Pack arrived from Guild Wars 2, and large chunks of the vocal community are in an uproar. My favorite description of the Feature Pack contents comes from Bog Otter’s delightful YouTube video, but for the written word head to Jeromai’s overview.
So there were some class changes. Mrs. Ravious loves her new Ranger Power! I haven’t had a chance to dabble with a dagger necro now with mini-cleave (pinky to mouth for effect). There’s some new WvW stuff, and I’m getting used to the new Trading Post updates. Yay for speed, Boo for default to list the item instead of auto-selling it. Double Yay for improved search and sell from my backpack power! Continue reading
Mawdrey is one of the chase items for the first half of Season 2 in Guild Wars 2. Unlike most of the other chase items, Mawdrey is not random-chance loot. It is quite the opposite. Mawdrey is a large treasure hunt, crafting spree, and tree destroying quest rolled in to one.
In The Dragon’s Reach: Part 1 sequence of story instances, players begin to receive items when each instance is completed. The first one appears in the story instance Uprooting the Iron Marches, which involves defending the charr region from planty mordrem attacks. One of the rewards is a Mysterious Seed with the instructions to “[p]lant in a Ley Line Infused Clay Pot to germinate”. The capitalization of course notes that another item will be needed, and they come uncompleted in the later story instances of the same chapter. Continue reading
Credit where it is due, and I am surprised I did not note it at the time: Guild Wars 2 includes potentially useful information on its loading screens. It charts your progress towards 100% zone completion. The theme park says, “You have ridden 13/16 rides from this zone on this character and seen 9/10 photo spots.” I can still dream of the more exciting tips from my old post, but this is more than most games try to offer.
Guild Wars 2 is two. Two years. I don’t even need to really look at my /age, and honestly I don’t really care. ArenaNet has made a pretty good thing. Not the perfect thing, but Guild Wars 2 is starting to get pretty comfortable. We’re at the point in this relationship where things are a nice burn instead of all hot and firecracker’y, intense and sometimes caustic. Continue reading
The third installment of Guild Wars 2’s second season of the Living World has finally rebooted my love and energy for the MMO. I liked the first two episodes, including the new zone and story instances, but I didn’t feel that drive. Now, I feel like season 2 has become a full expansion of the game. All it took was a backpiece, a trip far from Dry Top, and balance. Continue reading
Episode 2 of Guild War 2’s Season 2 (that’s a lot of 2’s) feels like rising action, a flashback, and also foreshadowing. Episode 1 was an easily-digestible story in the desert as we figured out who sabotaged the Zephyrites. Episode 2 starts adding a bit more complexity to the story. There’s good and bad, but it’s clear (especially from the teaser for Episode 3) that the picture frame is expanding. Spoilers herein.
Entanglement starts off where Episode 1 left off: with Scarlet. Or rather, with Scarlet’s memory and effects. At the end of Episode 1 we left Taimi in Scarlet’s old holdout to catalogue and research Scarlet’s early workings. Episode 2 sends us scrambling back at the request of Braham because Mordremoth’s (the plant dragon’s) vines have overtaken the town of Prosperity killing virtually everybody off but the bartender. Drooburt couldn’t get away in time because he was overladen with “donations” (read: death weights) of the players. Continue reading
Episode 2 of Guild Wars 2’s Season 2 came out earlier this week. They at least tripled the size of the new zone, Dry Top. There are a handful of new story instances, and there are two new weapon sets. Everything once again feels very tight and polished. The world has changed in bits. The world has expanded in others. All-in-all, ArenaNet’s sophomore production is going great.
Topping Off Dry Top
I haven’t really commented on the design of the new zone Dry Top. I don’t mean the fantastic art design, which is fantastic. The canyon that I saw near the new Uplands sub-zone is amazing. It looks artistic and real at the same time. Mostly it just looks impressive, and I feel trapped in it. The canyon leads to the first hints of the Maguuma Jungle, by way of Dry Top, and then south of that it turns back to windswept desert. There is also a secret place I’ll discuss next week. No, as usual, the ArenaNet map squad has done brilliant work. Continue reading
Game developers manipulate player desires by presenting the same options differently. Player reactions are empiricably testable with cash shop setups.
I frequently cite the example of having a “hunger” debuff versus a “well-fed” buff. These can be designed to be numerically identical, where the character has higher base stats that are debuffed by hunger or lower base stats that are buffed by food. You balance content around the higher number in either case. Players will complain about a hunger debuff but feel like they have been given something extra with a food buff. Even if the numbers are identical, humans are unhappy if you tell them you are taking something away from them, whereas they barely notice if they fail to gain something.
Many cash shops have some sort of lottery option. You can give the developers $X for a chance at items or whatever. What you see at least as often these days, because we would predict that it works better, is giving you a lottery ticket or prize you can pay $X to unlock. In the former case, you can play the lottery by giving me $X; in the latter, this lottery ticket is now yours, but you cannot redeem it unless you give me $X. Same lottery, same prize, same $X. If you doubt which implementation yields more sales, look at where the developers are betting. Team Fortress 2? Locked crates with keys in the cash shop. Guild Wars 2? Black Lion chests with keys in the cash shop.
Developers can make this more concrete by adding time pressure: the box/ticket expires in a week or after the event. Some players might still see a locked chest or lottery ticket as a failure to gain, but if it is going to disappear in a few days, they have definitely lost something, even if only an opportunity. The perception of scarcity also plays in here; you always have access to thousands of TF2 crates and GW2 chests for a few cents, so it is harder to instill the idea that you are losing any opportunities, while other games might make those drops less common (but still give the player frequent opportunities to buy things). Hence TF2’s time-limited crates, and doesn’t GW2 have occasional seasonal Black Lion chest items?
There are 3+ new story instances in Gates of Maguuma, the most recent update and the start of Season 2 for Guild Wars 2. They are repeatable in that players can always go back to that instance through the new story journal. They also tell the story of how you, the hero, and all the NPC notables travel west to Dry Top.
I need to start with Bhagpuss’s thoughts on the Gates of Maguuma’s story instances:
The plotting now seems to sit somewhere around journeyman comic-book level (that’s a good thing) with the dramatics hitting a solid soap-opera groove (so’s that). No pretensions to be anything more than hokum but at least now it’s competent, professional hokum.
I disagree, and then I agree. His statement infuriates me, but at the same time I think it’s good. One can never tell with a crazy cat. Continue reading