[GW2] Freshman Year Storytime

“It’s like a teenager figuring out who they are.”

“Yeah, but that’s every [MMO] their freshman year.”

-Chris and Celeste, Guild Wars Reporter Episode 70

A month from now Guild Wars 2 will be one year old. I’m sure I, and everybody else, will have memoirs of journeys, troubles, and a look back when that time comes. For another month, though, we’re still in the freshman year. Except, it would be like if the freshman’s big sister went to high school in a conventional way, and then the freshman (and school) changed everything. There is no convention to follow. ArenaNet is trail blazing the entire way, good or bad, for the rest of the industry to follow (or not), and for a cohesive story in the Living World, it’s been a rocky path.

In the fantastic GW2Hub interview with Bobby Stein, Stein remarks that they don’t yet have a mechanism to log what’s past and what’s to come for the Living World story. It’s slated to come later this year. ArenaNet understands that it’s hard for an average player to make sense of it all with the two-week increments. I agree that the road the past couple months has been jarring. Conventionally, MMO players are used to festivals as being… breakaways. For Guild Wars 2 (post Flame & Frost) it feels like each month is a new breakaway.

I think Stein understands this. It’s one thing for a player to understand that while the Bazaar of the Four Winds is a breakaway there are connections to the Lion’s Arch happenings as well as the Aetherblades. It’s quite another for a player to see where they are heading, and I can’t imagine any Guild Wars 2 player understanding where they are heading. For example, next week is the Queen’s Jubilee in Divinity’s Reach, which right now feels like another breakaway (although it seems like Rox and Braham are present in the header). I guess Aetherblades could also swoop in from the sky at any time to crash that party too.

I am even more troubled with Syp’s recent post about having a “dead interest” in the Living Story. He writes the troubles in another way:

I’m feeling both overwhelmed and underwhelmed with the living story lately.  I’m overwhelmed that it’s rolling in every couple of weeks now, making me feel as though I’m perpetually behind the curve and trying to catch up with whatever needs to be done.  I’m underwhelmed because I still don’t get how this scattershot activity setup is supposed to be spinning a great yarn.

It always happens on vacation. I’m riding through southern France on a small winery tour bus. I see beautiful vineyards, Roman ruins, and farms, and I am soaking it all in. After about an hour, as much as I am enjoying the ride, I still want to know where I am going and when I will get there. I am getting a little hot, and I would definitely like to be drinking more wine. Kids usually have a much shorter duration of “along for the ride”-enjoyment. Are we there yet? (repeated ad nauseum)

More importantly, in Guild Wars 2 where are we going?

I don’t mean the whole of the game. ArenaNet recently posted a pretty comprehensive feature list for plans the rest of the year. There is a lot to look forward to in that regard. Already with the Queen’s Jubilee players will be getting a currency wallet, new rewards for dungeons, champion loot updates, daily mini-game rotations, and a much-asked for effects detail system. PvP is getting more WvW ability lines, a solo queue, and permanent finishers. Features are not the issue here. ArenaNet is winning heavily on that front. The issue is with the story and story locations.

In the Stein interview, he mentions that ArenaNet is currently finalizing their plans for the rest of this year, and starting to make decisions on the direction of next year’s story and character arcs. What I want is an actual campaign that we would get in an expansion. Breakaways are fine, but as slow as it was I liked the direction of Flame & Frost immensely more than the current world tour. I want the four Living World teams to feel like they are coming together creating a semester of inter-linked content rather than four vignettes. And, honestly, I want things less clever. Nobody wanted “Dragon of the month”, but right now my characters are playboy, murder hobos heading off to the next festival to kill whatever needs killing.

Unlike Syp, I am still having a blast on all eight with Guild Wars 2. Next Tuesday I know my wife and I are going to be staying up late with the guild because there will be an energy flowing through the game that I cannot currently find anywhere else. There will be new things to explore, new mechanics to learn, and new achievements to chase. I will be looking out that tour bus window in awe. However, I am fairly certain after a couple days when the buzz from the Abbey’s wine is wearing off, I’ll turn to the other passenger who will be asking me… “Where are we going?”


21 thoughts on “[GW2] Freshman Year Storytime”

  1. Thanks for this perspective — I know you’re much more plugged in to GW2 than I am, and it helps to see it through someone else’s eyes.

  2. Yep, that’s it. It’s not that there’s anything too much wrong with what they are doing, it’s mostly that it’s both too fast and too slow all at the same time.

    Two weeks for content drops is too fast, although ironically it’s usually a week’s worth of content (at best) that outstays its welcome by another week. Nevertheless it’s wearing, enervating, exhausting, almost all of which comes from the Achievement structure and the limited duration. Dropping permanent content additions every couple of weeks that could be consumed at leisure indefinitely would be so much better.

    Then at the other extreme there are al the “by the end of the year” promises for things that really need to be sorted out a lot faster than that. If we have to wait until Christmas before the story starts making sense, will anyone still care?

    I thought it was a good interview, though. He’s clearly as aware as we are of the problems. Like the couple of interviews back in February, though, I got the distinct impression that lack of resources is at the root of much of the trouble. It sounds like they’re stuck with doing the best they can with what they have, not what they’d really like to do.

  3. @Ravious “I guess Aetherblades could also swoop in from the sky at any time to crash that party too.”

    Well, I think it is everyone guess, so I fear Anet will play some surprises: maybe the Molten Alliance will reapear. Remember, that was a big hole at that city place. And I think I saw two NPC from F&F (an anime eyed charr and an emo norn) at the pictures from that Queen Jubilee event. I continue to see burned books and notes and dynamic events in the dredge and Flame Legion places that hint the Molten Alliance not ended.

    We know there is a main villain behind everything. It is time for Anet give us that villain name, maybe that link all living story events together.

    @bhagpuss “It sounds like they’re stuck with doing the best they can with what they have, not what they’d really like to do”

    That have a name: management. It is the art to make things with the few human resources you have.

  4. I can’t believe it has been one year ago since Guild Wars 2 has been released. I stopped playing this game around 6 months ago as it got a little repetitive for me. But i must admit as you have mentioned, it did leave me with nice memories.

    Additionally it must be said that GW 2 is a very polished game and the mechanics are top notch. I am not too sure about the end-game content though.

  5. Great article, Ravious. I really couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately I’m blitzing through this new ‘bitty’ content in hours as soon as it launches. That’s inevitable but there is a side of me that wishes ArenaNet stacked some content then dropped several at once for greater impact and cohesion.

  6. I had to take a rather long break in my playing thanks to work/family obligations, so I missed pretty much everything since the first week or so of Flame & Frost. I’m fortunate to have a good friend who has tried valiantly to bring me (and my husband) up to speed on things, but it’s still a little confusing and I’m still not sure exactly how one thing ties into another.

    I’m actually a little relieved to hear that even players who have remained active feel a similar confusion… it makes me feel a bit less lost overall.

    One thing I have kept up with are posts here on KTR. I get the “Daily Digest” every night in my inbox and a quick scan of GW2-relevant entries from here have – I think – helped me to have not completely lost my connection to GW2 during my hiatus.

    I loved the lore of GW1… it felt very cohesive and natural. But I remember when I first began doing the EotN expansion story lines, I had a similar feeling of being overwhelmed and lost by what was going on… that soon passed, and so I do have faith that somewhere in the midst of all of this I will find – or ANet will provide – the Rosetta Stone I need to feel all of these branching stories are part of a larger whole.

    I just want to note particularly how much I appreciate the posts here on KTR about GW2. You are often the first place I learn of new things happening in GW2 that I really want to know about… you’re actually the only fansite I follow for non-professional reasons, which makes you pretty awesome in my book. :)

    1. Thanks! Yeah I plan to continue my new and returning player’s guides because they seem well received. I appreciate your compliments!

  7. That’s another great article here Ravious! Each time you post something you make me think “this is what I’ve been meaning to say/write, but why does mine take twice the space?” :)

    I can not shake off Syp’s fears and concerns either. He has a point and a very good one, too. While discussing with my guildies each new content as we experience it, I can see that them, much like me and Syp and yourself, are torn between two standpoints. On one hand one feels there’s a lot to do and it’s all too short-lived to afford not playing for a week. On the other hand it all comes out as so sporadic and the occasional -cameo- appearances of named or famed NPCs don’t really reveal the grand scheme of things, making people pray and beg and howl for an expansion. Mr. Stein says we’ll soon get to see (or glimpse at) this greater scheme; I cannot (but) wait. If all four Living World teams are working towards this goal, then I expect it won’t be long until we start seeing a broader and escalating -hopefully!- storyline.

    My biggest drawback so far is the way we are driven through each new content. We get a mail with a ‘Show me’ button attached, we open our map to scan for tiny orange vortexes or out-of-the-ordinary icons, like baskets, – and that’s basically it. Or we pay a visit to the city’s Herald. Or we open up our new and wonderfully redesigned Achievements panel and start blindly going through the listed steps. Personally, I never do that; I already go through such a process each time I pick up the shopping list and go to the supermarket. The Herald and the mails are alright, but I’m more attracted to things that actually require some thinking on my part. Perhaps it has to do with my background of adventure games playing, I don’t know. But personally, my most favorite scavenger hunt so far has been the one in Halloween. Call me a weirdo, I don’t mind :)

    Eventually, what the majority of people end up doing is to rush through the content as quickly as the new achievements’ list allows. “Today, tomorrow and the day after I’ll do 3 dailies for Kiel, a dungeon run and a fractals run. Friday through Sunday I’ll do the same for Evon. Now, what else can I do for the remaining 3+3 achievements to get my two minis?”. It’s time efficient, surely, but hardly immersive at all. The second week feels to these dedicated achievers like a stale, ‘what now?’ awkwardness. Frankly it reminds me of a football game’s extended time: last chance for the losing (i.e. slow) players to score a goal when they’re already losing 10-0. The winning team has totally lost interest in the game and are bored as hell. What’s more important however is that when either of them, winners or losers, are asked “what was this release about, lore-wise?”, they do not have an answer.

    – How is this connected to everything that we’ve seen before?
    – It isn’t. Is it?

    1. I thought a lot about this over coffee this morning. So thoughts might be jumbled.

      Let’s think of the alternative. You sign on and get a quest, which leads to another quest, and another… more than likely all these are fed-exers. Then the activities start opening up. Go here and play this once, go here play this once, etc. Play them all again for achievements. Is that necessarily better or worse?

      I don’t know. I do know it will appeal differently. Right now you are the master of what you want to do. If you wanted to get to Southsun Survival right away because it was the awesomest sounding thing ever, you could. No hoops along the way. Of course you might have also missed all the reasons for it along the way.

      I would say take time that first night to wander. For even just 20 minutes, wander around, talk to NPCs, take things in at your own pace. Then open up achievements.

      It can be much tougher to restrain yourself when faced with this buffet, rather than the devs bringing out metered courses via quests. Just try it though. I’d be interested to see if you feel anything changes.

      1. “I do know it will appeal differently. Right now you are the master of what you want to do…”

        This is one of the things that actually appeals most to me about GW2 overall, even if I’m confused about the cohesion between the existing story and each new Living Story introduction.

        I truly enjoy the fact that I’m not cut off from access to anything new that catches my interest simply because I haven’t played long enough to have a character capable of accessing the content (I do have one lvl80 and then 7 more that are all under lvl20 with most around lvl3).

        When I first started playing GW1, it was mid-October. I spent nearly two weeks in pre because, silly as it may sound, I was quite nervous about venturing out of that training area without my husband & best friend bringing their toons along. They had less time to play than I did, so they were moving more slowly through the pre content.

        In the end, we moved into post on the last day of the Halloween festivities. I met a nice lady who had members of her guild willing to run me to LA so I could see the decorations and such… but by the time we finished the run, the decor was already gone. It really bothered me that I could not even get a glimpse of the content because of a lack of access/level. Certainly I didn’t expect to be able to dive into doing FoW as a noob, but timed holiday content? That was a bit of a bummer.

        So I like that the limited content, like the Living Story (or LA in general – especially at holidays) is accessible to anyone, at any time. I like that my ability to acquire time-limited rewards isn’t locked into how long I’ve played the game (or how much time I have to devote to it in the months leading up). I can’t spend 15 hours a day at my computer, playing GW2… and if the game were designed in such a way that such “devotion” is what would be required in order for me to enjoy new content, I would quickly find something else to devote what free time I DO have, to.

        Instead, ANet keeps a loyal follower loyal. They get tons of money out of me (and my husband) in the gem shop. And I get a game that I actually CAN walk away from if real life calls, all the while knowing I can jump back in at any point and not have a bazillion hoops to jump through (or rats to kill ;) ) before I’m advanced enough to enjoy whatever new content they’ve brought about in my absence.

        I may not be a hardcore player, and I’m never going to show up on any leaderboards anywhere, but I have been a devoted gamer since I was 4 years old and my brother sat me in his lap and showed me how to play ‘Pong’ on our B&W set. Nearly 40 years later, my love of gaming remains… tempered by life, children (albeit, now grown) & family, work, etc. I don’t want to play a game that penalizes me for having a life. ANet doesn’t do that, and that puts them at the top of my list.

  8. I’d like to put in a prediction that Marjory and Kasmeer will make a re-appearance during Queen’s Jubilee – it is set in DR, their home turf, plus Kasmeer’s armour has turned up in the gem store. That may link events in with the mysterious ‘E’ and thus the background to other things. Braham and Rox are featured in concept art and it’ll be good to catch up with them. Plus, we should all know by now that no festival in Tyria goes off without some threat or disruption; I don’t know that Aetherblades are who I’d pick, but someone or something in going to mess things up! And we – with out living story heroes – will fix it, of course.

    Things are definitely loose and disjointed at the moment, I agree. However, I still believe there is a long-term plan here, as with any of the world-building in GW2. It’s just possible that what we’re getting now is, essentially, filler content, while they get things off the ground (or lay groundwork without being obvious about it).

    1. Yes, it sounds like we’re in the first cycle, and while things were getting set up each team may have been allowed more freedom to stretch their legs a bit. I don’t know.

      Eventually players will want to go fight another Dragon (2014). I expect at least there the 4 teams will have to really band together.

      1. It’s possible that the teams could still do their own sections month to month, if they wove them together into “things the Pact needs to do/sort out on the way to the dragon.” There could be separate storylines going that were all obviously part of a greater plan, and immediate sub-plots which we could solve to make the way a little more open each time. Then, in stages, the fight to and with a dragon. At that point things *would* have to get more unified.

  9. I’m still absolutely in love with this game. I don’t understand half of what is going on. My living story quests are 20 levels below me because I keep forgetting to do them. I don’t PvP or WvW more often than I’d call “dabbling”. I don’t chase achievements. I don’t even try to participate in these short events most of the time. I’m just happily wandering the world, solving problems and saving people from the fires. I’ve got one level 80 and my 2nd character just reached 60. This game is perfect for me and I enjoy it the way I play it. I pop in once or twice a week and just head “that’away” and see what the game brings me.

    I have to keep reminding myself that I am paying $0 per month for all this too. Crazy.

    1. This is me. I “dabble” when I can, and there is always something there for me, something new and intriguing even if I don’t have the time to follow it through to every conclusion. I’m still having so much fun and I don’t mind at all that I’m behind or flit off forgetting to chase whatever one-time-only achievement has lit up the margins of my page.

  10. Some players are reporting a bug where they see sonic periscopes and the molten alliance’s portals.

    IMHO, we will see Molten Alliance returning. Maybe the enemies this time be Molten Alliance AND Sky Pirates. Both the sky and the ground will not be safe.

    I really want they show soon the evil force behind all this.

  11. @Ravious:
    You just mentioned the two keywords on which my objections are based: appeal and reason.

    Firstly, I find the way new content is presented to us to be not appealing at all. As I already wrote, it feels more like a shopping list to me than a guide. Add to this the fact that one has to read the official and/or unofficial (e.g. dulfy’s) guides/walkthroughs to figure out where to go and what to do and things only get uglier. Going away from the game because of the game is bad. (No, having your internet browser run on a separate monitor is NOT the right alternative! It still breaks immersion, trust me I’ve tried.). I always believed that the thicker the User’s Manual, the poorer the product’s design.

    Second and most important imho: the reason *why* we do the things we do –or, are supposed to, anyway. It seems to me that ArenaNet decided to merge (or conceal?) the indispensable Quest Log with(-in) their Achievement panel. It may look like a clever design decision at first, but the way it is abused right now it is a source of confusion. The list of achievements should be a completely separate thing from the living story. This is my main objection, right here: they have mixed these two together and probably haven’t realized it yet! People go through this list of things to do –for all the reasons mentioned above and below- and they get to complete the meta-achievement, but they don’t get the story at all. Because the story just isn’t there at all. Unfortunately, on most occasions it’s nowhere inside the game to be found as well.

    I believe the Achievements branch of each release is pretty well made. It is the story part that puts me off. Shallow and poor as it may be at present, it still needs some work in the way it is presented to us. It does not have to be through a chain of ‘fed-ex’ quests as you called them. All it takes is more text (dialog & documents), placed in the right places. The mail and the Herald are good for kicking things off; but it takes considerably more information to steer someone right and also help them understand what it’s all about.

    I think the story in ‘The Secret of Southsun’ is a very good example of this. There we had to collect some samples for Researcher Levvi. How did we know about that? We got a message from dear Inspector Ellen Kiel. In that message there was all the info one needed to get on the right track –and even some more. I call this good design. How did we learn more about what’s going on on the island? Through dialog with the NPCs and also some (3 I think) journals and logbooks wisely ‘misplaced’ around the camps. I also like this a lot, as it helps me ‘stay’ and live inside the game.

    Note that all these info, which pertained to the release’s *story*, were conveyed to us by means *outside* the Achievement panel. Speaking of which: how did we find those 10 (out of a total of 11) ‘Plant samples’ we needed *for* the achievement? One would have to blindly scan the entire SSC with the help of that mid-range Sample Detector we were given –in what is admittedly *not* the most friendly environment in the game. Instead the developers decided to include a hint about each Sample’s (rough) location in the respective achievement’s description. This had to do with just getting the achievement done; the story would progress regardless of your turning in those samples or not, so having this info *inside* the Achievement panel was correct and justified. It was reasonable. (I should add that to make things a bit less frustrating for the more impatient, I would have the Detector’s range increased to long and have it ‘ping’ the locations on our mini-map). All in all, I find the design of this release to be very well done.

    What about the Marriner plaques scavenger hunt before that though? How do we find out where each of them is placed? Cassin Hoppal gives us the location of the first, but to find the others one would need to read an out-of-game guide. (“Read the book” just spells extortion for me).

  12. What I’m missing about this Lining Story ‘thread’ is a motivation. Not for me as a player, but for my character. Why would he go to these places and kill/collect/do whatever needs doing? Because of some letter from my mentor? I haven’t met Logan in 6 months! A letter by E.? Who the f* is E.? What is my characters interest in the consortiums doings? Why should he care about the LA council? Actually, not why should he personally care (it’s not the personal story after all), but why should any player character care?

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