[GW2] The Long Game

There are a lot of head scratchers in the halls of ArenaNet. It’s not that things are wrong per se; just that sometimes they are really going against the grain. For example, their dynamic events are incredibly deep as this video illustrated. Yet it took some small amount of effort to find the hidden depth of the dynamic event.

I admit that it can be hard to stop. Just stop. And enjoy the moment. The transitions  between most events are really quick, but the NPCs do take a small chance to talk. I noticed that I have to stop and pay attention. Fiddling with loot, trading post, or remaining enemies usually means I miss a bit of the story action.

I know that when Guild Wars 2 launches I am going to make sure to set up a chat channel for NPC discussions. Still, I wonder if I will train myself backwards to slow down and get the content hit as it happens. I wonder if I will care, or if it will be go, go, go.

When I am running through an area for the second or third time I might stop or take time to search out new experiences. This is why I can’t say that all the development resources taken to create these “missable” cut scenes were a waste of time. I think that the content’s depth of beauty won’t be found right away (especially as players rush to 80), but I do think it is worthwhile endeavor. Without the pressure of a subscription after the initial surge, I am hoping I can find a peaceful pace in time.

This is the long game ArenaNet is playing. They are banking on depth and new experiences to enhance replayability of areas. When everybody is so concerned about “the end game” for Guild Wars 2, perhaps the question has already been answered. There is no bait-and-switch-style end game. Just play.

This is compounded by ArenaNet’s plan to update the game with a live team [PC Gamer]. New events will just pop into existence without any warning. Patch notes will not herald the fact that perhaps the Queensdale Brood Mother event frequency has been halved and replaced with, I don’t know, a skale stampede running towards the smell of fresh baked apple pies. Man-with-the-plan Colin Johanson says in the PC Gamer interview:

“Our goal is that every time you make a new character, you might go back through a map that you played six months ago and you’re going to find completely different content.” New content, he says, will be spread across the whole game rather than concentrated in specific areas. As this happens, the events already in place will be altered to accommodate it.

To be honest, I am more shocked than anything. It seems to break two well-cemented  MMO rules: (1) spend development resources on things everybody will see, and (2) MMO players don’t like change. Yet, from the interview ArenaNet would be excited if something was patched in and found three weeks later!

Maybe a year from now all the Risen across Tyrian zones will begin to wane as more and more players defeat Zhaitan and the army of Bubbles, the Elder Sea Dragon arises from the depths. Or perhaps the Blood Legion gets uppity and easily aggitated creating a new type of renegade to deal with in Ascalon. It appears that the entirety of Guild Wars 2 is going to be a living document for ArenaNet instead of just expansion-type content.

It’s an exciting and scary thought, and I’ve actually reconsidered my alt-ing strategy in lieu of this. Is this just going to be a monumental waste of resources, or is the depth going to pay off in the long, long run? The original Guild Wars has maintained some definite life for seven years, and if returning to Guild Wars 2 launch zones a few years later is going to be a new experience… well, that might pay in dividends.


36 thoughts on “[GW2] The Long Game”

  1. Interesting. I had been wondering what the real endgame strategy is, because I personally felt that outside of world exploring and switching to PvP and running dungeons, there would be little else left to do.

    But if they are stealth adding new events, and frequently, and change the stories of the zones, well, that could be quite cool.

  2. This is just amazing. I love their answer to “Where’s the endgame?” It’s just, “Well, more of the game you loved so far!”

    I was hoping they would do this. The event system sets itself up perfectly for story arcs, and the down-leveling system insures that regardless of which character you are playing on you can enjoy the new content.

    I freaking love this game. I want to court it. I need to play it.

  3. I had a little tiny taste of this sort of thing during the BWE… some of the DE’s I experienced in Queensdale were when I was “testing” the scaling system out.
    *Very mild content SPOILERS below*

    After reaching level 15 (and having made my way a fair distance from Divinty’s Reach) I returned to Shaemoor to pickup some loot from the Trading Post, and decided to just have a look at ~how much does the scaling really affect the experience of going through content.

    My necro (Anec Dotal) was much more powerful at that point, having unlocked some utility skills as well as the trait system, but I was curious how that would relate to his ease in going through this early content that I had first experienced at character creation.

    There is no question that I felt much more powerful on this second run through the lands adjacent to Shaemoor, but I was definitely not in “god-mode” as would have been the case in some other MMOs. I still had to take the mobs seriously, and still had to stick to basic fighting principles I had learned.

    The real treat of this experience however, was “discovering” a different combination of DEs in the area.

    On my first run through, there had been bandits attacking the farm, no broodmother, and harpies attacking the dam… On the second run through a giant queen worm was attacking the farm as I approached, the broodmother spawned, and instead of harpies at the dam, an enormous elemental (similar to the normal earth elementals there but much, much larger) spawned and had to be put down.

    The poisoning of the water supply was something I had missed altogether on my first pass through, and it was in full swing when I got around to that part of the area on the second run.

    Much less flashy, but also of note; on my first run through I came across the widower, and his son DURING THE DAYTIME and I dutifully helped them out by killing some worms in amongst his crops and recovering the child’s lost pet. On my second time through the area it was NIGHTTIME when I happened across their home. The widower and his son were nowhere to be seen (presumably, they were rather sensibly inside their home fast asleep instead of wandering around the countryside in the middle of the night with an axe, looking for “things” to kill) and instead, over by the tombstone of his wife’s grave (placed lovingly under the boughs of a tree on the family property) there was a female NPC standing, and looking down at the tombstone. This was the ghost of the wife.

    Not only was there different content depending on your timing in going through the area, but there was different content depending on what time of day it was!

    There was 10 to 12 character levels difference between the two runs, yet I still enjoyed the combat the second time… perhaps even more because I had more of my character’s options unlocked and was definitely more powerful, but certain content in the area was still very challenging (thinking specifically of the boss Bandit in the cave… that dude is definitely “group content” no matter what level you encounter him at) and although I saw some “repeat” content that I had already experienced, there was other stuff going on that made me question if I had “rushed” too much on my first run through.

    There are “hidden” depths to the game that many (perhaps most?) folks won’t see on first blush, and it really does require an adjustment in mind-set for “veteran” MMO players. I thought I was mentally prepared for the difference, and yet I still found myself thinking “oh, it’s not like THOSE games” on an all too frequent basis during the weekend.

    I almost feel like someone handed me an extremely elegant and expensive glass of wine which I proceeded slam back in one go and then wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my forearm and handed back the empty glass. “Crackin’ great grape ya got there Gov’ … ‘ow bout another?”


    Please be patient with me ArenaNet. I’m damaged goods from my time in “those other” MMOs, but I’m not beyond recovery, and I promise I will be able to “develop my palette” and eventually be able to truly appreaciate what you’re offering.

    Now they’re telling us they’re going to “tinker” with things behind the scenes after launch for us to “discover” later (again at our own pace.) Dude! I’m already doing that!

    1. I love the wine metaphor. It’s perfect. I also love it that I already have places I want to revisit because as much as I was taking it all in, I still missed some things. And they are things worth going back for.

      It’s just a fun world to exist in.

    2. Great post man, it’s funny how I was looking always to the zone at my level to do DE while I can actually go anywhere and still have fun and most of all, keep my char progressing, old habits die hard

  4. I just hope that ANet understands by now, that whatever the official name for that underwater dragon is, people will always call him Bubbles! (And it will be awesome :))

    1. For me it depends on what the official name will be. If they have another name like Kralkatorrik (which I think is an epic name for a powerful antagonist dragon) I will definitely switch. :)

  5. Oh! But it says in the Wiki that the drake mother spawns every 4.5 minutes … moan :). Here’s hoping that Anet really mix things up!

    1. Yes, if they want us to savor the depth and nuance, they’re going to need a respite between frantic combat. This will be tricky…

      1. BWE timings for events is likely to be off, anyways. Odds are that the frequencies were either ramped up specifically for the BWE or else the huge numbers of people around triggered an accelleration factor…

      2. I meant that tongue in cheek – hopefully there is some randomisation & the live team can mix things up a bit so that GW2 can’t be set in wiki stone as GW1 is.

  6. I watched the video and very interesting it was too. Unless I misunderstood it, though, didn’t the player record several iterations to let us see all the outcomes?

    I hope that was how it was done because I thought that was more encouraging for the way the game works. I like the idea of events spinning off several outcomes, only some of which it will be possible for any one player to experience. To see all the outcomes, as shown in the video, would require a rather recursive, even contrived playstyle, returning repeatedly to the same event and following different plotlines.

    Or have I misunderstood the whole thing? Did those various storylines happen sequentially rather than concurrently? That wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.

    1. I think the events were staggered so that they happened one after the other, but the background dialogue and “cutscenes” happened simultaneously such that you’d probably be only to see some bits of the story each playthrough but could still experience all of the events.

      It was pretty cool to watch an event chain that I did realise was a linked chain at all when I played through the area, will definitely have to pay more attention next BWE.

  7. I absolutely love the new system. Instead of adding a patch that just adds a new zone or adds new quests in one area, everything is scattered. This game really rewards the “explorer” archetype so much better than other MMOs. As the “rush to end game and do competitive PvP” type player, I was so surprised in the last BWE event how much I enjoyed the PvE aspects of the game.

    1. Well I guess as you can do competitive PvP from lvl 2 just as good as you can at lvl 80 you’ll naturally enjoy PvE more, as any you are doing you are doing because you want to.

  8. You don’t even need Dynamic Events to watch the world change. I was out in Queensdale, south of the dam (near the orchard) when I spotted this scene;


    Note the woman cowering behind the tree, her picnic rudely interrupted by Yogi there. There were no breadcrumbs or shouts for help that lead me here, I simply stumbled upon it.

    I decided to get rid of Mr. Bear, just to see what would happen;


    The woman stood up, walked out from behind the tree, and resumed her picnic. There wasn’t any dialogue or reward, but I was simply amazed that one of the developers took the time to put this little loving detail in. I only wish she said something.

    When I returned to this location on another character (at night) she was gone.

    1. I wonder… do human rangers begin with a bear pet? And, if not, then is this little tableau in place to give them an opportunity to tame Yogi?

      Regardless, it’s an incredibly fun little detail (one of many) that demonstrates the care, and craftmanship being put into this game.

      Btw, I absolutely love the screenshot of you sitting your charr butt down for a sip o’ tea. :-)
      pure awesome man.

      1. Didn’t play a human ranger (only Charr) but I think they can grab bears as a starter. If not you have to find baby animals to add them to your menagerie, fully grown ones will just swipe your face off.

      2. To be honest, I was trying to see if there was some action I could take that would elicit a response from the damsel I had just saved. I was hoping she’d at least say “Thank you” or the picnic would become a lootable item with some tasty snack inside. I figured as long as I was sitting it would make a cute screenshot.

        No dice, which was a minor disappointment, but still an amazing little encounter even without a reward. Perhaps better without one, now that I think on it, because then it would just become another stop for power-gamers looking to do everything. A blurb on a wiki that becomes a checklist. Better to keep this little treasure to myself.

        The whole thing reminds me of another little loving detail, too small to be an Easter Egg but significant in its own way. In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (my all-time favorite game, for what it’s worth), there’s a tiny mouse that runs back and forth inside a little enclosed roof area in the Outer Wall. He serves no purpose and cannot be interacted with (I’ve tried everything, even dropping a “cheese” consumable nearby). He’s just a detail put there by some random developer who obviously loves their job and thought “You know what? That little roof area needs a mouse”.

        I look at the picnic in the same way; someone at ArenaNet saw a idyllic overlook and said “This looks like a nice spot for a picnic”. From there, I imagine someone happened upon it and said “You know what would be really cool…?” and that’s how it came to be.

      3. You can start as a ranger with one of several different pets including a bear (if I remember correctly). You can then tame a *huge* amount of other pets though you can only equip 2 terrestrial and 2 aquatic at any one time.

        The ones I tamed were marked as “juvenile” – not sure if that’s a general identifier for tamable pets, but it probably is.

  9. As someone who played a lot of Guild Wars but never played WoW or most of its subscription-based imitators, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of endgame. Or rather, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea that the point of a game is to reach the endgame so you can start enjoying it. Come to think of it, which is it unacceptable that Final Fantasy XIII took about 40 hour of play to be good, but when an MMO is boring for the first 80 hours it’s just normal?

    This is one of the many reasons I love the ideas behind GW2. They’re actively encouraging me to enjoy playing their game, from day one, not rush through content to get to “the real game”. It just makes so much more sense to me.

    1. Ad reaching endgame, even GW2 does it to some extent – while structured PvP is available from the start, WvW probably needs a couple of levels to get some skills but (explorable) dungeons are only available close to halfway through the leveling. As for me, while I haven’t played GW1, I certainly will not mind if MMOs stop forcing players who want to enjoy the endgame to “pay the tax” by engaging in the boring parts of the game. (Interestingly enough, AFAIK GW2 does away with the potions – consumables are form of the endgame fun tax too.)

      1. Why would you need dungeons for skills? Those are from skill point challenges which are unrelated to dungeons. I have around 14 points on my Warrior without doing any dungeon but you are supposed to be able to acquire skill points in WvW as well anyway.

    2. I didn’t finish any of the end games of GW1 campaigns until they got a second purpose in points for the HoM. I loved the story, but just playing and enjoying it was far more important to me. Now with all the awesomeness PvE in GW2 has to offer, I will most likely be exploring a lot and enjoying every second. Playing the game should be the purpose of any game, not the means to get to an endgame. An Endgame should be a nice reward for following a storyline through, but when it becomes the only purpose, then where is the fun in playing a game? The way Arenanet has set up PvE for GW2 has made me fall in love with the game from the second I entered. So mucho to eplore and such awesome details to be found. Great job!

  10. Seems to me a bit like a “clever” movie (thinking Fight Club or Donnie Darko) where the first time you watch it you miss all kinds of subtleties because you’re too busy trying to keep up with the plot. When you go back for a repeat viewing you suddenly notice and appreciate all kinds of little touches because you’re now aware of the context.

  11. “no Endgame” opinions really irritate me. Just because every other mmo requires you to grind through the game to reach the only good content doesn’t mean gw2 will do the same.

    Treat the entire game as end-game, just play it to have fun. If you stop having fun, put it down and maybe come back later, don’t worry, you’re not wasting your subscription fee…

    1. John, I want to give you a hundred thumbs up.

      Just like GW1, GW2 provides a completely different experience to any other MMO, even though technically its an MMO too.

      GW1 was more of a competitive/co-operative RPG than an MMO, and they tried to market it that way for a while, but people couldn’t get over the fact that many people playing the same game online-only must mean its an MMO, which must mean it must compete with WoW. I’m sick of people comparing Guild Wars games to WoW, and although they haven’t done it that much with GW2 (because it crushes WoW so easily) people still try to apply tried and true MMO rules to it just because it falls into the same genre. GW2 is more like a true MMO than GW1, but it’s designed to keep you having fun. It’s not designed like other MMOs to keep you addicted and playing for as long as possible just to keep you paying the subscription fee. But you’ll be addicted anyway because it’s so much fun!

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