[GW2] Transitory Content

Saylah inspires me:

I’m baffled by what they’ve done and not done with GW2. Am I really in the minority in wanting them to add more persistent content and new zones similar to the campaigns in GW1??? Can’t they do both?

As much as we love having frequent updates, building churn into the content has not been healthy for quality, community, or game-building.

  • Tuesday is bug day and update week is bug week.
  • The temporary content encourages massive zerging. It was less severe when the Living content was around for four weeks, with overlap between events. When you have just two weeks to complete your meta-achievement, and possibly only a few days where you have both the critical population mass and a playable, balanced game state, it’s zerg zerg zerg zerg zerg. An occasional mass convergence is exciting. A constant mass convergence is a swarm of locusts.
  • These combine to create a player experience that is disproportionately zerggy and buggy. Players are being channeled into the content when it is in its least functional state. If it takes a week to get the content working as intended, and it cycles every two weeks, the game feels like it is half-broken and always crowded.
  • The need for a critical population mass undermines small servers. If you want 125 people to fight the marionette, how often can you bring that many together on a Bronze server? People carpetbag guest to the larger servers, which further weakens their ties to the home server. Small servers do not need further impetus to disloyalty unless server merges are the goal.
  • Yes, it simultaneously feels like we have everyone in a zerg and like we have too few players to meet the content effectively. If you have not had that experience, guest to a server in the bottom half of the population distribution and play outside prime time. 50 players in a blob is too many to feel like you matter but too few to deal with a zone-wide event.
  • And it keeps happening. Instead of leaving Living content in-game or making it available some way (ala City of Heroes Ouroboros? new Fractals?), it goes away once it is fixed.
  • If the Living content is working, players will feel a need to keep up with it. If you keep up with it, you experience all of the above. If you do not, you feel like you are missing out on everything, and you might as well quit for your next three-monther. And if the players do not feel like it is important to keep up with the Living World, that is a lot of development time that could be better spent.

There would be more high quality content in the game if they left the content in the game instead of cycling it out just after they get it working as intended. Players could experience it at their own pace, and it would not need to be balanced around the assumption that half the server will be there to fight it.

: Zubon

17 thoughts on “[GW2] Transitory Content”

  1. This sums up my feelings on GW2 entirely. I really like the game, I would rate it one of the top MMOs of all time . . . at release anyway. The way they’re adding (and removing) content from the game leaves me cold. I have two characters at level 80 and an alt of almost every class . . . but these days I just can’t bring myself to play. The content is whizzing by far faster than I could possibly consume it, so I don’t even bother.

    I would KILL for a new campaign ala Guild Wars. Seriously. Certainly I would pay new game price for it all over again. Arenanet, TAKE MY MONEY, PLEASE!

  2. Given that half of the permanent additions have been dislike by the playerbase – the changes to fractals were not well-liked, Aetherpath is still rarely run and of course there’s everyone’s favourite zone Southsun Cove – I’m really not surprised that ArenaNet is focusing on the stuff that players actually demonstrate that they play. People like to argue that temporary content wastes development time, but as we’ve seen, a lot of the mechanics and concepts get repurposed in later content, and it’s not hard to argue development effort was wasted on permanent content if no-one ever plays it. Very few players go into the other zones, despite low-level mats being more profitable than ever.

    Still, the spanner in the works for the entire argument on both sides as presented is Edge of the Mists, which is a wildly popular new map with a lot to it.

    Reading between the lines, it’s clear what the real problem is – the lack of Explorer content in the Living World updates, particularly galling because the base game rewards exploration like very few MMOs before it. There’s been some, but except for the Bazaar it’s been over in a couple of hours.

    1. Good catch.

      As a point of discussion though, how best would one include such Explorer-centered content given the kind of time constraints the devs are working with?

      And will it always end up containing jumping of some sort (Labyrinthine Cliffs, SAB) to provide a challenge, or can something else be used that won’t be up on a third-party website in less than an hour from patch?

      One other thing I’m reading between the lines is a demand for less scheduled “hourly” need-a-huge-group affairs, so that it’s more possible for players to go solo or in their small groups at a time of their own choosing, to explore slowly.

      That’s something I feel the Bazaar gave in spades, too.

      1. Personally, I don’t care if a guide shows up on patch day. If the content is doable without the guide, I’ll do it myself and enjoy the exploring, and the people who just want the achievement can use the guide and fast-track it. Everyone wins.

        My favorite example of that was the Mad Memoires scavenger hunt in Halloween 2012. (or the coded letters in Flame and Frost) You got a clue, you followed the clue, you got a little lore with each find in addition to the achievement. Plus, it wasn’t jumping, and mostly soloable.

        The heirloom hunt in Escape from LA shared some aspects with the sky crystals, in that you had a pretty small zone to look in, a lot of things to find, and you didn’t have to find them all. But you only had two weeks, and spending time looking for them would hurt the group goal.

        1. What’s particularly interesting about Escape from LA is that you only needed about 30 people or so focusing on the group goal to succeed, and more didn’t necessarily help. If civilians had reliable escorts, and people kept the escape routes clear, success was easily in reach – the events didn’t give enough of a bonus to be a viable way to rescue 1200 civilians.

  3. The fact that most of the permanent additions are disliked doesn’t necessarily mean such additions are a waste of time, perhaps the devs just chose to keep the wrong things? The Bazaar of the Four Winds was my favourite LW addition by a long way.

    I agree with the comment above, the game was vaguely broad in terms of activity types at launch, but it is narrowing down on achiever/killer goals too much now, becoming just like so many other MMOs.

  4. As the saying goes, too much of anything is bad…

    These big events are nice but we are getting too many of them. Anet need to mix things up a bit and give multiple options.

  5. I wonder if part of the solution could be for them to back off content updates to every month or two months, and do balance, polish, and QoL patches every other week.

    I love some of the smaller features they have added to the UI (achievement panel, damage text icons, skill tooltip improvements, etc) and welcome those changes on a regular basis (hello… trading post UI?). The content is nice, but like part of the post said, it’s too much, too fast, and too focused on zerging.

    Actually, interesting idea… why not instanced content that scaled to group size/level? Or is something like WoW’s “Phasing” possible?

  6. Scaling to group size is something they’ve been trying from open world to instanced combat for a while now, although often tuned too high for a good chunk of the player base. Bazaar of the Four Winds had that Defend the Treasure mini game that scaled, and after testing it there they used it again for all the instance chambers in the Tower of Nightmare, including the very top.

    I’m not sure if the argument is that people want new content to explore or just want more content they can explore at their leisure. It doesn’t help that much of the LS has held events that took advantage of its temporary nature to draw people in like a new expansion launch.

    Still, much of the content from the past season of LS can’t be reused anyway since it asks for so many players. So in the future they’ll need to focus on creating more content for lower player counts to make everyone happy. They just seem afraid of making another game that turns into a single player game.

  7. I am absolutely rock-solid in the dead center of the faction that wants real, boxed expansion content with the full complement of features that implies – new explorable maps/zones, an expanded open world, new races, classes, combat abilities and spells, new itemization, new mobs etc etc etc. My impression is that a lot of players feel that way. It’s not a forlorn hope, either. Colin Johanson’s January interview ( http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-01-14-you-thought-that-was-it-for-guild-wars-2 ) comes close to confirming they do have people working on something along those lines.

    However, for the moment my impression is that someone (or several someones) in a sufficiently ascendant position at ANet to enforce their will has pinned their career and/or reputation on making a commercial success of the “free” content flood of the Living Story. While that situation persists I don’t see it going away.

    And the question none of us can answer is how commercially successful it has been. We may all complain about various aspects of it but my own anecdotal experience is that each LS content drop brings in a large wave of players who consume it voraciously. Judging by the kind of conversations in map chat and the Gem-Store purchases from each episode that suddenly appear, worn or wielded by characters all over my screen, players may complain about the mechanics but they covet the goodies and are willing both to play and pay for them.

    If the Living Story project had failed badly commercially I very much doubt we’d be hearing all the talk about Season 2. Perhaps things might change when the upcoming wave of AAA MMO releases and expansions hits. I’m not sure even about that, though. GW2’s “drop in any time you fancy” open door business model may well mean they gain as much from disgruntled three-monthers coming back as they lose from ex-customers settling down in pastures new.

    1. From my vantage point, I think this is what happened: ArenaNet wanted to build a themepark MMO where the world felt dynamic – that was one of their core design principles. They talked a lot in pre-release about the event chains that would leave persistent marks on the world. Upon release, they discovered their approach fell short; because they needed to ensure that there were things to do in the world, it meant that the world was clockwork, more than dynamic. Shadow of the Mad King seemed to be taken as a sign that players far preferred a specific storyline than the event changes made through the world, and Lost Shores was a prototype of the kind of stuff we’re seeing now.

      We’ve seen the Living World change as it’s progressed: Flame and Frost started off with a few events and signposts, which feels very similar to the pre-release idea of ongoing storylines; player criticism seems to have morphed it into storylines with very specific content that can handle large amounts of players at one time, in part because players by and large seem to be more comfortable in an amorphous blob.

      I strongly suspect the reason why we haven’t seen much in the way of new zones is because of comments made last year (while the Living World was being designed) that ArenaNet were focusing on the existing zones; I’m pretty concerned that this still hasn’t meant a lot in the way of explorer content.

      I think we’d see a ‘traditional’ expansion if it turns out that ArenaNet a) have a way to make a dynamic world that’s better than the approach they’re taking (maybe they’re less married to the themepark than we thought?) and b) if that needs lots of specially made content to work.

  8. GW2 is a quality game and generally the Living Story updates are quality updates, but I have sadly had to conclude it’s not destined to be a ‘hobby MMO’ – there’s constant content turn-over, but the game itself doesn’t actually change or evolve.

    I do have a few grumbles about the game-play itself – primarily from loving GW1 (e.g. absence of build creativity by comparison, static skill repertoire, lack of feel personal contribution matters) – but as an MMO GW2 is still light years ahead of the archaic MMO’s released & to be released since.

    However we’re 19 months after GW2 went live now; no expansions (or intent to expansion) announced, only 1 solitary new skill per profession has been introduced, and the devs are still agonizing over minutiae like “Litany of Wrath: Reduced the cast time from 1 second to 3/4 second” and “Putrid Explosion: This ability is no longer unblockable”…

    For me at least it’s time to accept that the GW2 of August 2012 was a great game, but it’s the same game GW2 will be in August 2014, August 2016, and so on – returning every 2 weeks to achieve through some new temporary content isn’t going to make it a ‘hobby MMO’ like GW1 was*, it’s just revisiting the 2012 launch nostalgia over & over.

    *No matter what they say, GW1 was an MMO for a staunch solo/duo-ist PvE’er like me!

  9. I agree with bhagpuss in that it feels like someone with power is pushing the living story hard, but I think it might be driven by a larger concern. Colin Johanson (others, too, maybe; he’s just the one that comes to mind) has repeatedly said that Anet is very worried about fracturing the playerbase. Expansions do that–LA mostly emptied as soon as Factions hit, Kaineng mostly emptied as soon as Nightfall hit. Adding permanent content does that. Solution? Only add temporary things.

    I think they’re being driven too much by this concern. (I also want hard mode dungeons, and Colin has explicitly said that the reason we won’t get hard mode dungeons is that they’ll fracture the playerbase more, which I don’t think is as big a worry as he thinks it is.) But I also think that as long as they continue to worry so much about this, temporary content is here to stay.

    (I don’t mean to say that Colin is definitely the one pushing this idea. He might have just been convinced by someone else. But wherever it comes from, it feels like the idea pervades Anet’s planning.)

  10. (y) – thumbs up! For me, GW2 is an awesome MMO, particularly regarding artwork / graphics, sleek game mechanics, inventiveness / innovation and game complexity. However, the GW2 LS storytelling has definitely been a downturn compared with GW1. Mixed feelings: at its best, I view LS season 1 as a ‘trial’, testing different ideas and concepts … at its worst, it was a fail, story-wise. I envisioned one main story line, with some minor (shorter) storylines accompanying it. At the end, we got lots of really interesting minor storylines / characters (the Consortium, the Aetherblades, the Zephyrites, the Steam Creatures, clockwork teasers regarding Utopia, the “E” mystery, Scarlet / Caithe / Faolain, Kiel & Canach, Kiel & Evon, Logan / Anise / Jennah, Taimis back story, Hobo-Tron & Marcello Di Giacomo, Hao Luen, “Bonny” Anne Reid, …). But all these nice teasers just disappeared into manifest nothingness, which is very sad. The major Scarlet storyline, however, gained momentum very late (“Origins of Madness”) and right at the point where Scarlet began forming a personality, she was dead … =8-] Whats left for me from the past year are some single beautiful memories (the Zephyr Sanctum, Lions Arch Under Attack, Cutthroat Politics) and alot of zerg orgies (Queens Jubilee, Clockwork Chaos, Tower of Nightmares, …). Had Arenanet succeeded in creating a consistent, bold storyline, I think less people would be complaining now. I love the Living Story concept, but it should be done the right way. If Arenanet is unable to meet their own standards regarding this format, it might be safer to put their energy in a fully developed extension / addon.

  11. When the game launched, Anet stated that an expansion was in the already in planning and we could expect to see that about 2 years out. In the meantime, Anet has had much new content and now has 4 teams working on these living story updates that come out 2 weeks apart. They keep most of the player base involved, at least somewhat, with new content. Their aims not to split the player base are admirable, most certainly because they want us around until the expansion comes out. With the development time they have had, I hope the expansion will be at least as big as the original game was.

    I mention their concern to keep the current player base involved because they are obviously dedicated to that. We need to be careful what we wish for with a new expansion, but I trust Anet to be careful about that because of their stated concerns and the resources and planning they have put into the game so far. A new expansion will of course drastically change the course of the game. I recall when the Burning Crusade expansion came out for WoW. That was when I first purchased that game and I immediately had better gear in a matter of hours than players who had played the game for years(?).

    I suspect that the posters in this thread are far ahead of the curve of the average player in terms of leveling all the characters they plan to, completing all the achievements they plan to, etc. By the time the expansion arrives, I think more of the player base will be ready. If it is as extensive as the original game, and it should be, I would bet it might arrive late. (I am not onboard with a packet expansion of just several new areas.) I am not surprised we have not heard references to it. Anet has tight security involving their plans. In the meantime, we only hear about what they are doing now, because they are concerned about the quality of our gameplay now, and that is a good thing.

    I would not be surprised either to see the dragon that was awakened far beneath the ground to be a center piece of a new expansion. Nothing in the lore to date has mentioned such a creature that I recall. I heard that the living story as we know it was coming to an end. I haven’t heard more, but I don’t follow that kind of stuff closely.

    Anyway, just theory and conjecture. I think we just need to patient and understanding of other players pace of play, and of Anet’s concern for the communities quality experience. Nothing to see here. Move along :) Walls of text, I know.

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