[GW2] We Hold These Truths…

I read Ben Miller’s blog post today. ArenaNet’s golden rules of development sound like they would be stone-forged on the groundbreaking of any MMO studio. I’ll rewrite the rules real quick : 1) prop world is boring, 2) solo MMOs will never be as good as single-player games, 3) pixel bitching sucks, especially in MMOs, 4) copying World of Warcraft is dumb, 5) slap-shod work is only worthy of seppeku, and 6) love thy customer.

Seems pretty obvious for the most part. I think the big missing link is why Miller took the time to write what gamers would think would be as evident as kindergarten rules. Except for rule 6, they can all be distilled in to the conundrum of all work. Quality, cost, speed – pick two.

There is another way. Many whisper it’s name as Valve time. Apart from Steam, which is a cash cow of its own, Valve’s games are generally regarded as elite-tier quality. Blizzard generally falls in this area too (although one wonders about Diablo III’s misgivings). These studios are built to output games without the overbearing conundrum.

ArenaNet’s latest blog post emphasizes much of the qualities of a studio on the so-called Valve time. Yet, the most interesting part about the post is that it is at the end of a development cycle. Oh, let’s not kid ourselves… the Reese’s and RedBull are likely flowing through IV’s in this two month period to launch. Still, to say that ‘we adhered to these principles for years of development’ in this age of copycatting, rubber-stamp sequels, and vaporized studios is noteworthy.

I applaud Miller because it is probably hard to explain in words why ArenaNet is a great game development studio. How to describe something felt in your core, especially for such a long time? It’s easy to say these are your ideals, it’s another to say these are what we’ve held to for the long game.



19 thoughts on “[GW2] We Hold These Truths…”

  1. Well, yeah, it should sound obvious… now. Brilliance = (how obvious it seems in retrospect) / (how many people figured it out at the time). The greatest innovations always seem obvious in retrospect.

  2. They’re obvious to gamers, I’d say, but not always the people with the money who get games made. That ArenaNet is devoted to these principles at the highest level is, I think, why it continues to be a truly innovative studio in a time where the word “innovative” has begun to lose its meaning.

    1. Agreed. I’m personally becoming unreasonably jaded with the word “innovative”, since one doesn’t need evidence to back up the claim.

      “Innovation” and “Social Media”

      The two magic words to get funding any prospective developer. Woo!

  3. I’m only nervous because, just like when you get too close to your work, all you see is the minute details and lose sight of the big picture. I have loved every moment of the GW2 BWE’s, but still feel there is something missing to tie everything together. Its a big beautiful world full of color and personality for me to kill things in. I can walk around and look but not touch. All that is missing is to be able to actually plant crops in the field that I just killed the worms in and fed the cows of. I want to actually fish in the river I just cleared of skales. Basically just want to become part of the landscape. Its the sandbox element that is missing from GW2 – so far its just WoW 2.0. WHich still makes it great, but not at all transcendent.

    1. But half-heartedly throwing in sandbox elements just to have them kind of goes against point 4. If you’re going to have farming or fishing, they need to tie into the central gameplay somehow, otherwise they’re pretty pointless. And if they’re going to give any bonuses, you need to balance them against all the other activities so people who choose not to participate in the farming/fishing aren’t at a disadvantage, otherwise it becomes pretty much mandatory. And all this is taking up designer/tester time that could’ve been spent tweaking the combat classes…

      1. I agree, but in-game “hobbies” can do well. I like that LOTRO called fishing a hobby. It wasn’t crafting. It wasn’t core. It was an aside.

        I think there will always be plenty of room for that and more controlled player housing in any MMO, even Guild Wars 2.

      2. Good point.
        The Wizards of Name your Developer decide to bring fishing into Name your Game… after a very brief “now this is something different” spasm of reaction, the farmers and bots take over [or it just fizzles, even if the players say “now this is how you do fishing”]
        … point being, it was never part of the game, it was and acted like a bolt on element and felt it.

        Let’s not even talk about the cynicism of the calculation … “if we add this, we will keep n% of players x% longer” and that will make the bean counters happy.

        ANet gets it… Funcom [finally] got it TSW is brilliant, Blizz gets it but the “other” guys are still making creative and game play decisions, based not on “does it make this a better game” but on the cheapest, fastest, lowest maintenance model.
        And their games feel like it…


      3. @Meagan – I don’t know of any mmo’s where not having a fishing/farming toon puts you at a disadvantage. WoW has some great titles/cosmetic gear from fishing, but it won’t help you in PvP or PvE (ok fish as ingredients in Cooking…).

        I am hoping Anet keeps adding more of the gameplay that lets you interact with the environment itself. You can already pick up farm tools and tree branches and brain enemies with them. Fishing isn’t my favorite non-combat activity in other mmo’s, but the point is anything that brings more ways to interact with the environment, the better. But more importantly, its got to be something that is outside of the leveling game, but that will draw you into the world as a participant instead of an admirer. Great game currently, but definately part of my wishlist for the future of GW2.

  4. I will be in a better place to judge Arenanet 9 months down the line, when box sales alone are not paying for server maintenance. Until then, this is a feel-good marketing pitch that ticks all the right boxes.

  5. @Coppertopper

    I got this feeling a little too. But, for the most part I was in the starter areas (and they sure beat face rolling wolves and boars in WoW) during the BWEs and things do become more complex and less frenetic as you progress.

    Whether, one will ever really feel that the centaurs (say) are agents, rather than scripts, and a threat that *needs* to be addressed, remains to be seen. And whether one will be able to see the world as a dynamic evolving environment rather than as a series of chained events that oscillate backwards and forwards is another thing.

    One things for sure though is that dynamic event chains are a big step forward over static quests and spawn camping, so it will be interesting to see how they play out in practice.

    1. “Whether, one will ever really feel that the centaurs (say) are agents, rather than scripts, and a threat that *needs* to be addressed, remains to be seen.”

      It does? It took all of one BWE to confirm that what GW2 has here are PQs, with the major difference being you can go from stage 2 back to stage 1, rather than having to wait for the timer to run out to reset things.

      Is it fun-enough? Yup.
      Is it anything more than a PQ? Nope.

      What has me worried is that when you talk to A.net, they seem to believe that the centaurs are dynamic, which is a little scary.

      1. I always thought they called them dynamic events because the events changed the world, not that the events themselves were dynamic…. although they are for scaling purposes.

      2. Thats because DE’s are dynamic.

        You are probably confusing hearts with Dynamic Events. In the starter areas the dynamic events often arnt too complicated, but they can get on a different level entirely after you leave the newbie zones. However there is still very detailed chains in the DE’s in the newbie zones.

        Did you watch the video from CaraEmm on youtube Syn?

        Also the DE’s wouldnt simply reset. In kessex we destroyed a bridge the centuars were using. Instead of the event ‘resetting’ so we have to destroy the bridge again, another event with the centuars attacking the guards at the destroyed bridge and attempting to repair it was triggered. As long as the players could keep the centuars at bay, the bridge would not be repaired and thus it could not reset to stage 1. Make sense?

        DE’s do affect the world, but they dont always make it obvious to how. Heart events do not change the world, but they are also not DE’s.

        1. We have different views on dynamic then. I don’t consider beating stage one and having a warp point open up as ‘dynamic’, but I guess to some that’s ‘changing the world’.

          The real problem I saw (in addition to the general PQ’ness) is that if you zerg the event hard enough for long enough, it gets ‘stuck’ at the final stage, and you can just repeat that event over and over until people get bored and things escalate down. Will make it tough seeing all aspects come launch, and the reverse will be true a few months after launch.

          Overall I like the content, just like I enjoyed it in WAR as PQs, but GW fans talk about this stuff like it really will cure cancer. It’s a nice +1 to PQs, but lets not go overboard here and try to pretend its more than that.

          (And that video drives my point home perfectly. That trophy that goes up? It goes poof and repeats over and over. Not exactly what I would call ‘changing the world’)

          1. Going to agree with you here as its been nagging at me for awhile now. Although there is a new area for each race, at some point you are going to see the same npc saying ‘hey stranger can you help me out here’ even though you’ve escorted him 3x already. The thing is, you don’t have to level the same way everytime. THere is the story quest, crafting exp (don’t discount it – you can get some serious exp here), heart quests, WvW, PvP, and just straight grinding. although I am dreading seeing behind the curtain which is going to happen eventually, the first playthru of each race is going to be amazing.

          2. I think the “will cure cancer” aspect is part of the MMO hardcore hoping against hope that GW2 will be the savior of MMOs. To me, it’s pretty obvious that the era of MMOs is pretty much over. But, a lot of people have held out hope about TSW and GW2 revitalizing things. TSW is kinda neat, but I see it following the same trajectory as SWtOR after launch. So, that leaves GW2 to do the impossible. I wish them luck, because the team is already under tremendous pressure to not screw up their chance to redeem NCSoft.

            So, unless GW2 absolutely does better than anyone’s expectations (and expectations are already super-high), it’s going to be grim. (I was going to say “hit it out of the park”, but baseball metaphors probably aren’t the best way to wish people luck in the MMO space currently.) I just know that although Storybricks isn’t quite dead yet, I’m not sure that what we will release will be recognizable to people here as an MMO. Hell, it’s been suggested by at least one MMO-experienced outsider that we should release something on Facebook instead.

            Interesting times, indeed.

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