Last weekend was a big step in Guild Wars 2 because it had an event centered around new, permanent content. Instead of creating a quest chain to introduce every player on their own time, ArenaNet created a story revolving around the event. It is this story that gives players the reason to explore the new zone Southsun Cove (as well as the new dungeon). For a good rundown of the event head over to Inventory Full.
Hunter’s Insight puts what I feel is the most important reason to have these one-time weekend events: putting a lot of people together is a lot of fun. There is something quite unique in knowing that this is it, this can’t be spoiled, when I see it it will be my first time and everybody else’s. The flow of reactions through the player mob compounds this feeling. I see comments of first impressions, which are sometimes the most honest comments available. Even bad content can be fun when played together.
This is likely an important concept to ArenaNet’s business model. Get people excited, and get them together. Excitement bleeds out across the internet for new sales. It also loosens pocketbook strings of existing accounts. I would guess from a developer standpoint, player excitement can be an excellent drive to create better content. It is clear that given the Lost Shores update was started after launch along with the amount of bugs, this content was driven hard.
Timely Invisible Bugs
The worst thing about this weekend was the amount of bugs and system strain. The opening event was a karka attack on Lion’s Arch. This was quite a treat given that all cities have nothing to fight. The ancient karka brought a swarm, and we had to drive them back off of Lion’s Arch real estate. The system lag was so bad that people were saying they could not get off their auto-attacks. My own auto-attacks seemed to be separated by a good 3-4 seconds, and using utility skills was practically out of the question.
This was a big disappointment because ArenaNet could have modified the overflow capacity so that there would be less players per instance, and also less system lag. Instead it seemed like each Lion’s Arch map was capped for normal play. The system did not like a combat scenario for the normal amount of Lion’s Arch players. Systemic issues also arose in the final event where player and monster culling was ridiculous. I could only see a fraction of the players and monsters at any given time.
My favorite moment to love and hate was when a veteran karka appeared on the karka hive’s stairwell a couple feet away. Rolling at me. It was such a “rocks fall, everybody dies” moment that I had to just laugh. Thankfully, I was grouped up with Massively’s Lis, who crashed, and our party rejoined in a less populated overflow where culling did not seem to be as big of an issue. It seriously made all the difference, and ArenaNet either needs to tighten the population cap on overflows for future events or they need to fix how player culling is handled. I would prefer a bit of both actually.
The other bugs were the progress blocking bugs from Phase 1 where players are sent across Tyria to learn about the devious Consortium corporation and the mysterious karka threat. The events for each quest bit simply did not work. Some players accidentally killed an NPC outright (who should’ve stuck around for some post-defeat commentary). Some NPCs decided to leave their protective entourage and vacate the quest area completely. Bugs being bugs, this issue was made exponentially worse because time was an issue.
A player having an hour to play on Friday night would have easily made it through the quest chain if it was bug free. A player only having an hour to play for Phase 1 would have basically missed out on most of it without much of a recourse.
Let’s Call It A Duck
Savvy readers, such as yourself, probably noticed that I used the “q”-word in the last section. Quests are one of the best storytelling mechanics in an MMO. Guild Wars 2 own personal story line is essentially an instanced-based quest chain spanning across 80 levels. Much of Phase 1 of the Lost Shores event was also quest-based except I needed to hear about it by mail.
Lionguard Kiel’s investigation bordered on so clunky it was humorous. All told it was a decent investigation quest in to figuring out what went wrong with the Consortium, a trading company rival of the Black Lion Trading Co. I would hit the next bit of content, such as badgering Blingg in to dumping some critical information to me, and I would get some mail. This mail for all intents and purposes was a vanilla quest turn-in screen, with the only difference being that I could retain or delete it when I wanted.
Clearly ArenaNet values quest-based mechanics to tell stories. I don’t understand why then we don’t get a “event only” personal story. Instead I get quests-by-mail. It feels like a full step backwards. ArenaNet has a quest (the personal story). They have sidebars that can act like quest updaters and guides. However, they then use the mailing system instead to guide players on a quest. Hopefully ArenaNet can find a better way to tell these small linear stories for future events.
This being a review of the event and not the Southsun Cove area, I was pretty pleased with the weekend event’s content. Phase 1 was an interesting storytelling exercise in the clash between Lion’s Arch and the Consortium, and the mega-event involving the ancient karka was pretty fun as a massive group event.
My favorite part of Phase 1 was getting to know the three “friendly” aquatic races a bit better. There were three events relating to quaggan, hylek, and largos, respectively. Each event had its own style which reflected the race. The Lionguard vs. Consortium story turned out to be realistically silly. The Consortium headed to Southsun Cove, whacked the karka’s hornet nest, and fled to the safest place they knew: Lion’s Arch. The karka retaliated against Lion’s Arch, and the Consortium didn’t want to say why. So I had to beat out a few answers.
Phase 3 involving the ancient karka was really fun, but it was horribly marred. Lionguard finally realize the Consortium sucks, and they have to kill the ancient karka to protect Lion’s Arch from further karka incursion. They do this by planting explosives in the karka hive, except this tactical maneuver rouses the ancient karka out of the hive. The next two hours are then spent as players are trying to move this ancient karka donkey back to it’s hole.
My favorite leg of the event was planting boulders into steam vents, and then the steam vents would build up pressure to shoot the boulders out at the ultra-armored ancient karka. There was also a part where players felled a huge tree onto the ancient karka, and another party where players had to explode gas vents to scare the ancient karka back. Lots of fun, except that the bulk of the two hours was in two phases of killing karka reinforcements. This artificially extended the event, and I went AFK very often.
In fact, I rarely let my young girls play my character for fear of item destruction and armor repairs. I let my three year old play through much of the kill karka reinforcements periood because a) the event was getting too long, b) I was getting bored, and c) with people knowing to rez each other I felt my character was really in no serious danger. I feel that this event should have been timed to one-hour. That is a good “required” game period.
I liked that I was there to fell the ancient karka, and I took a lot of good snapshots. Overall, I am happy that I had time to do it. I would do it again with the same knowledge, but I would have a tad different control over my time.
I would be remiss not to discuss the “all I got was this t-shirt” rewards because players did get some pretty good stuff from participating until the brutal end. Everybody that received participation for killing the ancient karka received a 20-slot bag and a really nice account-bound trinket. They also received two exotics and two rares. Some people received precursors for the legendary weapon, which turned appearances of decent reward into “this reward was f’in critical”.
I don’t agree with the random loot, but I do think that the set loot was exceedingly good. Real quick, with the random loot the precursor drop rate was increased. Therefore, anything that will give an exotic, now has a better chance of giving a precursor. Hit that loot bag thousands of times, and yes people will get precursors. The same probably now goes for Orrian map completion.
The set loot, I feel, for most players is going to be a must equip. 20-slot bag is going in to luxury. My biggest bag was 15 slot, and I only had one. A 20-slot bag costs almost as much as a full set of exotic armor. The trinket is interesting because it ups every stat, and costs approximately 13 gold (1000 karka shells to trade with Lionscout Tynuli). So that’s over 20 gold worth of unmarketable, must-equip goodies for showing up at the right time.
It’s hard to place myself in a position as if I wasn’t there, and it’s harder to take people seriously that did receive the rewards but are complaining on the grounds of if they hadn’t. Between this and the Mad King’s rewards, I feel ArenaNet is still experimenting with finding the best possible route.
The event is over, and we now have a fantastic new dungeon and a dangerous new zone. These I will discuss after the U.S. holiday since I will be out of internet commission for awhile. The event for me was mostly positive, but I did put too much work in to enjoying much of it. Some people are still really rubbed raw from the whole experience. Others, like me, see mostly sunshine.
I am looking forward to more content introductions in this way. It is exciting. It can be a lot of fun. I hope ArenaNet takes all the feedback and is able to iterate in a positive direction.