There are a lot of great effects stemming from the Guild Wars 2 event system. Constant activity, grouping by just playing with nearby players, and a dynamic world are some of the biggest features. Yet, in a game without the exclamation hat-wearing questgivers a lot of compartmentalized functionality that quests embody could be lost. We are so used to modularity; will we be ready for the leap to a dynamic world MMO?
The biggest change in functionality is at the start and end points. A quest is started punctually with a lead-in story. There are wolves in the walls, and Farmer Neil and his pig cannot sleep. It is irrelevant when the wolves got there because as far as you are concerned, the problem just arose. Sure, Farmer Neil might’ve told tale of how he has not slept in days, but you are there now. The world is as Farmer Neil told. So, you go around the farmhouse, crawling into nooks and crannies, killing respawning wolves, and looting [jam-filled socks] off their dying wolf bodies, and after ten dead wolves or so, you return to Farmer Neil with a new look above his face. He tells you how grateful he is to be able to sleep, gives you some money, and the module ends. The story might continue with word of the biggest, fattest wolf on Tooba Hill for the next quest, but during Farmer Neil’s quest, a complete compartmentalized story was told.
Now, place Farmer Neil and his pig in to a dynamic, event-based MMO world. You arrive for the first time, and Farmer Neil has been sleeping soundly at night for days. No wolf trouble (event) here. Or, what if Gothmog the Warrior (a player) arrived 5 minutes before you and triggered the event. Wolves start creeping in from the surrounding fen to go snuggle in poor Farmer Neil’s walls. Gothmog has been hacking away with Farmer Neil crying out his woes (and story) for quite a few minutes. You see your pal, Gothmog, and you see a good farmer crying, and you see enemy wolves with red names that need killing. You basically already skipped the start-point quest text. Did I forget to mention the part where Cinderegolas (another player, but we don’t like her) braved the wolf fens and gave Farmer Neil a few crates of meat jelly, and he put the meat jelly in his house while the eyes of the enemy were watching? The story is not nearly as compartmentalized, and if you log off before Farmer Neil talks about the biggest, fattest wolf on Tooba Hill who ran off with his wife, the Queen of Melanesia, you might never know that the story continues past the simple defense event.
So, you head to the wiki to learn about the event chain. What’s its name? Where does it start? Does the event end somewhere or just cycle in a loop? Can you get to Event 527 (with the juicy lore tidbits) without losing Event 429? Will you get a better event, with a bigger story, if you can get five more people to show up? The mind starts to boggle at the unraveling that could occur for some players, like the completionist Explorer (cut from the Explorer-Achiever ilk).
It’s a scary prospect to step away from the amusement park rides that compartmentalized quests seem to create. People in sandbox games have been splashing in the ocean waves for some time, never knowing where one story ends and one begins. Will Guild Wars fans, and PvE fans, be able to step towards the unbounded beach?
I asked ArenaNet if they wanted to talk on this new leap of faith and gameplay within this post, and they came through big time. Eric Flannum, sixth god of Sacrifice and Lead Designer for Guild wars 2, comments below:
This blog post comes at an interesting time.
You see, we’ve been running some brand new players through Guild Wars 2 in some very targeted focus tests lately to see how they’ll react to the world we’ve created. Some of these players have been strongly conditioned by years of MMO playing to look specifically for quest bangs over the heads of NPCs and ignore everything else. We have found that at first, they tend to ignore the events going on in the world. They might run right past a fisherman imploring passersby to kill a marauding Drake Broodmother and they might even run by a wheat field being burned to ground by bandits.
Eventually it will start dawning on them that something different is going on in this game. One of our testers, upon seeing a huddle of sick villagers standing around a poisoned well, made the comment, “I feel like someone is trying to tell me something.” She ran down into the valley and noticed that the irrigation towers that water the fields were pumping out a green noxious liquid and that the fields were being overrun with grubs living off of the poisoned water. When she reached a giant water reservoir brimming over with noxious poison, she said, “Ah, this is where my peeps are being poisoned.” She immediately looked around the area for some solution to the crisis, found a waterworks worker who knew how to remedy the solution, and helped him do it. Once the reservoir had been cleansed, the villagers got better, the irrigators stopped spewing poison, and the grubs started to die. She received a nice reward of XP, gold, and karma for helping out.
All of this occurred without her accepting a single quest, and our tester got a nice heroic story about how her character helped save an entire village. Of course, she arrived somewhere in the middle of the event chain—she didn’t even find out what caused the poisoning in the first place. This particular tester was satisfied that she had helped the poisoned villagers, and didn’t go looking deeper for what had caused the poison in the first place. However, if she had wanted to look deeper, she could talk to some of the inhabitants of the area and learn that they’ve been having problems with bandits who inhabit a nearby cave system. She might even have learned that these bandits poisoned the water reservoir. Now it would be up to her to decide whether or not she wanted to go into the bandit caves and try to stop them further or even stick around and defend the reservoir in case the bandits tried anything else.
She could also choose to ignore the problem entirely and look for other things going on in the world. Setting up these kinds of choices and opportunities for adventure are what the event system is all about, and it has proven to be highly satisfying to players with a strong “explorer” play style. These players get to go out into the world, draw conclusions by looking at the evidence around them, and then discover things to do. The event system is so much more than simply running around until you stumble across something to do (although that is also possible and sometimes very fun).
Of course, the event system is very open-ended and does not necessarily satisfy the “achiever” play style. We understand this, and have many systems in mind to help out. Let’s talk about a few of them.
First, we have the character’s personal storyline, which makes use of instancing and will always give the player an individual goal of some sort. Second, we have our achievement system, which tracks a player’s activities and rewards their progress with titles.
At first glance, these three systems of events, personal story, and achievements may not seem to mesh very well, and may even seem at odds with one another. But let’s consider how they work in the example I cited above. Our player very likely would have had a goal given to her by her personal story to investigate the bandits (the bandits are one of the main antagonists in the early human storylines). By finding the poisoned reservoir, she would be learning more about the bandits that have been giving her problems in her own story. She may have even been looking for their hideout and in helping clear the reservoir, she found out where it was. At the same time, she has probably been earning achievements by killing bandits, grubs, fighting with a particular weapon, and simply by taking part in events. In cleansing the water reservoir she completed an event, advanced in multiple achievement tracks, and came closer to crossing off one goal in her personal story. All of the systems in Guild Wars 2 are designed to work with each other in this way while satisfying the desires of different types of players. It is my belief that far from being endangered, the “completionist explorer” will thrive in Guild Wars 2.
Thanks, Eric, for stopping by! Be sure to check out ArenaNet’s blog for tons of info (and more fun examples) on the Guild Wars 2 event system.
…good for your Soul