[GW2] Achievement-Colored Content

I was having a lot of fun in Aspect Arena, which is one of the three new activities in this bi-weekly Guild Wars 2 update, Cutthroat Politics. It’s more or less capture-the-flag with three classes (wind, sun, and lightning). I was also working on the Kiel Supporter meta-achievement, which can be filled, in part, by playing Aspect Arena.

The baseline achievement for Aspect Arena is simple and does not color gameplay. Aspect Arena Frequenter just requires 15 games to be played, but time flies when you are having fun and trying new tricks and strategies. Crystal Capper is also pretty simple because it requires that the player capture 10 crystals. In a sense it focuses gameplay, but capturing crystals is really the focus of this PvP activity anyway. Crystal Breaker was where I started seeing the achievement taint gameplay.

On paper, Crystal Breaker looks fine; kill 15 players that are holding crystals. Players do want to stop the other team from scoring. After playing 15 games, every player with reasonable skill should have a few crystal bearer kills. Yet, I saw on Tuesday night that Crystal Breaker was affecting gameplay because many people were focusing on killing crystal bearers. In some games it was laughable at how neither side wanted to pick up a crystal because the players wanted crystal bearer kills. A few times a teammate and I would stand at the base of one of the side towers waiting for some poor schmuck to get up and grab the crystal. Without that achievement, the focus would have reverted to a more natural gameplay state.

In olden times, there would be two content guides in order of focus: quests and achievements. The quest line for the content update would direct people to the content, where they could check that content off for completing the quest. An achievement would increase the content’s playable time or skill become a content guide for an additional challenge. Players then could have the feeling of pure completion (“I did all the quests!”) without bashing their heads against really difficult achievements. The casuals and hardcore each had their cake.

In Guild Wars 2, achievements have replaced quests wholesale in these bi-weekly updates. Players now look to achievements as content guides and additional challenges. The separation of time and skill is no longer there as pure content guides (go watch this cut scene), reasonable play expectations (play a few games), and difficult challenges (don’t get hit by lasers, ever) are all crammed in to one place. In my opinion, this puts way more focus on unintended ways to play.

Another Cutthroat Politics achievement is Southsun Survival’s (Guild Wars 2 Hunger Games PvP) High Scorer achievement requiring 2500 points to complete. Forums seem to suggest that the average points/game is about 30-70 with each game lasting 10-15 minutes. Instead of focusing on being the last survivor (there is no second place survivor), players are now trying to find ways to maximize point gain per game without worrying as much about being a survivor. One player wrote a really good way to play the game entitled “How To Get Points”. Other players are killing themselves in the water to become a point-gaining ghost as quickly as possible. Is this all intended gameplay? Probably, but I feel that a very time-consuming achievement is putting much greater focus on points than would exist if the achievement wasn’t there.

The most disappointing culprit is Advanced Support, which requires players to complete Tiers 3 and 4 of the Candidate Trials, a PvE defense-type activity. Instead of coming together as a flash community to figure out how to beat some incredibly difficult content, players are playing solo and hiding well away from the intended defense point to cheese the plunderer NPC’s as they spawn in. These half-hidden players are then ignored by all the other enemies. The groups that want to get together to beat the upper tiers legit seem few and far between.

I feel again that the using achievements as primary content guide and additional challenges in one go is the main culprit. Would these issues with Cutthroat Politics activities exist without the offending achievements? Perhaps, but not to such a great degree. I feel this is incredibly compounded by the time pressure, and it always feels and looks worse in the 2-week period of content. The Bazaar of the Four Winds achievements by comparison felt perfect.

All of this is relatively small potatoes compared to actual gameplay instead of achievement-colored gamplay, but I do find it interesting to see what has happened in this quest-less world of Guild Wars 2. Small changes seem to have some unintended consequences. I know I feel much more inclined to do achievements, which in any other MMO, I would have ignored. Others probably are able to see through that theory of fun to walk their own path in Guild Wars 2. I do hope that each scoreboard of achievements, ArenaNet can learn and improve based on the statistics we will never see.


14 thoughts on “[GW2] Achievement-Colored Content”

  1. I really, really wish they’d stop with these specific mini game achievements as they’re making people play for them and not necessarily how the games are meant to be played. They cause people to stress out over them, get aggressive or even grief (such as crystal bearers suiciding to prevent people from getting kill credit.. or back in Wintersday, people camping the present spawn in the snowball game.) I really wish these games were presented as they are, for fun, and not more objectives to check off. As much as I want APs, some of these achievements just aren’t worth the bother as I don’t really enjoy pvp minigames so much (that’s one thing that’s disappointed me about this update: hardly an pve for the pve story.)

    I disagree with what you said about the candidate trials. I did try tier 4 with a group a fair bit and it seems they’ve got the scaling off. Any groups that are completing this are using the exact same tactic that the soloers are using as it’s frankly suicide to engage as many vets that spawn, with all the cc and bleeds going on.

  2. Funny, but I had a similar thought earlier today. It occurred to me that I’m not “playing my way” anymore. I’m aying to try and get as many AP’s before the content disappears as I can. The two-week period now seems too short for an update and I find myself wishing they were still one month things.
    I’m taking a two week vacation in August and won’t be near a computer. I can’t help but think “damn you ArenaNet — I’m going to miss two updates worth of AP’s in all likelihood.”
    So yeah… I’m not fond of this AP-driven gameplay, but as a completionist (and with the new AP reward chests), I feel compelled to try and finish achievements.

    1. The temporary (or even gated) content removes control from player so you are no longer player “your way” and this is really annoying. What is the main reason for these living story to be temporary? Some lore reason? I have read some guide about living story content and I can’t think of good reason why they have to be temporary.

      1. 1 reason – to keep You playing on daily basis. You will get back day by day to catch all the pokemons. And I think they overdone it to a point, I’m sick of the 2week content rotation.

  3. This is an excellent article. I QQ at friends that try to find a way to do achievements the easy way. They say “get off your high horse”. We laugh, but it is interesting to think about.
    In one way, chieves give people something to do and bring more people to new content, but we see the unintended consequences.
    Why don’t we try to help Anet find solutions? Do you guys have any ideas?

    1. Sure. If they don’t make new achivement action-bound (headshot someone, survive till end of match) and create more point based achives (get X thousend points by simply playing minigame) it would be step in right direction (for me). They fear that people will leave those minigames after farming enough points? Great – give chest at the end of every minigame match that have some (riddicoulously small) chance of droping special skin. some players (me included) will stay and farm it till my eyes and fingers bleed ;P.
      That situation will occure because I want something and not because I’m forced to do another achivement by my completionist nature ;).

  4. That is something to really think about and I don’t think anyone has put this in writing before, so I hope someone at Anet reads this blog. Obviously they need to severely reduce or totally removeany achievments that cater to selfish playstyle in these otherwise pretty fun mini games.

    But long term they need to get back to the mission style content of GW1. All it would take is a personal story that the entire playerbase would share. One mission per content update that continues a story line with solo, group normal&hard mode, and other achievments, and given it would be run multiple times by most, more players would be drawn into the lore of the world.

  5. The “every two weeks” pace of new content is in many ways a delight, but yeah, if you’re a light player or an irregular player, it can be awfully stressful. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get my personal quartz node from the Bazaar achievements (as it happens I was fine, since they are continuing for another two weeks) and it definitely caused me more ill feelings than a fun content patch should have.

  6. Achievements are here to make you play, but if it was fun you would not need them….

    The funny part is that if you didn’t like the activity in itself like grinding, people are usually happy with a counter on how many mob they killed, that give a small sense to a useless activity.

    But when the activity is already fun, then you have a problem with two incentives not always compatible.

  7. I never thought I’ll say that. I miss quests. I miss missions.
    Anet did something that amaze me in not so positive way. They managed to replace quests with new system that actually share all flaws of predecessor, miss some of it benefits and bring not enough new pros to a table to be worthy. Not to forget that the cons of new system bite my ass really hard with this new 2 week content rotation.
    I see what they wanned to do, I really like the idea on paper, but implementation is big NO-NO for me. Ouch.

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