[GW2] Gates of Maguuma Story and Writing

Hitherby Spoilers

There are 3+ new story instances in Gates of Maguuma, the most recent update and the start of Season 2 for Guild Wars 2. They are repeatable in that players can always go back to that instance through the new story journal. They also tell the story of how you, the hero, and all the NPC notables travel west to Dry Top.

I need to start with Bhagpuss’s thoughts on the Gates of Maguuma’s story instances:

The plotting now seems to sit somewhere around journeyman comic-book level (that’s a good thing) with the dramatics hitting a solid soap-opera groove (so’s that). No pretensions to be anything more than hokum but at least now it’s competent, professional hokum.

I disagree, and then I agree. His statement infuriates me, but at the same time I think it’s good. One can never tell with a crazy cat.

The bottom line is that, for me, at least the writing is very tight. The storyline is cohesive (in the opening, so far), and it has a lot of good hooks. All in my humble opinion, of course.

Why Bhagpuss’s comment rubs me a bit raw is that he is comparing very different mediums to Guild Wars 2. I guess it’s good that Guild Wars 2 is comic book-like because it has to be snappy and quick. No one, apparently, wants to read more than a Tweet’s length of a quest description, so a huge monologue is not going to fly for all the time-starved players, as it were. Soap operas too have to have incredible drama because otherwise why watch? It’s good that Guild Wars 2 has that instead of we heroes going off to Dry Top to mine copper.

Then there’s the biggest issue of our mostly silent hero. I mean ArenaNet could have one weird character talking to our silent character throughout the entire instance, but I have a feeling that only works once. Our hero isn’t silent though, and I have a feeling so many players are going to miss some of the more important dialogue by clicking through responses. Our character’s response can actually be very meaningful.

I feel like the medium of Guild Wars 2 is pretty constrained, and the writers are doing a very good job of writing within those constraints. That’s it. I don’t feel like I can compare it to any other medium because of those constraints.

The plot itself is very RPG-like, but again, we are playing a dramatic moment. Imagine all the boring stuff on your own time. A sylvari Zephyrite goes mad, cuts a bunch of people on a Zephyrite ship, causes the ship to crash in the Maguuma Wastes, and then sets off after survivors. Specifically, he goes after one survivor, the Master of Peace.

After it’s all said and done there are a lot of questions, but given the path that Scarlet has cleared, it’s really less of a jagged pill. We don’t know why the sylvari went mad, but it seems awfully similar to Scarlet’s madness. The Master of Peace walks away at the end of episode one, since you kill the sylvari, but he was on a journey anyway. A secret journey, making more mystery. Oh, and there’s this whole thing with the nearby town that should really not exist, but it does. Funded by someone or something in a not entirely legit way. Finally, it seems like much of the Zephyrite fleet was unharmed and flew off to their happy place. I like that’s there are a lot of non-pressing questions. I like that there are multiple mysterious routes, which may or may not interweave.

I really liked that Scarlet was there in that town in her mad beginnings, and there might be a map of the Realm of Torment on her wall. I still hold that when she saw the world as a whole she didn’t see or get touched by a dragon, which apparently is just a magic sponge. I think she hit a piece of bigger clockwork in the Eternal Alchemy… like a god.

The NPC’s dialogue is feeling tighter. There is better interplay and banter. I still love Delaqua’s sing-songy 1920’s Radio Hour way of talking. That will never get old. Braham also found some great legs with Taimi.  Braham never seemed to flourish with Rox. I also really like the casual banter one hears out and about in Dry Top. I don’t like that often two overlapping conversations will occur at once, but the things they talk about are really quite nice adding to the mysteries above.

The best part about the story update is that you can experience it at your leisure. I would definitely sign on your Guild Wars 2 account to snag the episode for free, but the whole thing only takes a few hours. More hours are dedicated to exploring the new area, and getting achievements.

I feel like ArenaNet has really listened to community criticisms of the story, dialogue, and characters of Season 1. Guild Wars 2 seems to improve like that, albeit sometimes taking a whole season to reboot the way things are done. The next update, “episode 2” is hitting servers on July 15th.


7 thoughts on “[GW2] Gates of Maguuma Story and Writing”

  1. It’s always dodgy to use one medium as a yardstick for another. As a comics fan of half a century’s standing I know just what I meant by that comparison but it’s open to a wide range of interpretations not only from people who don’t have much knowledge of or affection for comics but also other comics fans of different vintage and enthusiasms than my own.

    I was quite specifically thinking of the kind of comics written by Marv Wolfman or Doug Moench in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The kind of writers who would be seen by editors as very safe pairs of hands indeed and by fans as genuine and committed professionals who, nevertheless, would set few pulses racing when their names appeared on the title page of a new issue.

    The first episode of Living Story 2 felt qualitatively similar to, say, an early issue of the Wolfman/Perez “Teen Titans”, a comic I liked very much at the time but which I never felt was any kind of work of art in the the way I would have (and still would) argue passionately for, say, Rober Loren Fleming and Trevor von Eeden’s “Thriller” or Gerber/Skrenes and Mooney’s “Omega The Unknown”.

    It’s also comparing like to like in the sense that (super hero) comics and video games are both forms of collaborative genre fiction in which the writer is the less-celebrated collaborator. If I was going to start comparing the writing to genre series fiction in which the writer is the primary (only) contributor (say, something like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels) then The Living Story would come off a lot worse and let’s not even think of comparing it to non-genre fiction. That would just be cruel.

    Soap opera, of course, can be a narrative method as well as a genre. It’s often used pejoratively but I’ve always loved the way it foregrounds the trivial and the everyday and uses quotidian detail to drive a narrative that flirts with and occasionally embraces the most serous of themes. It’s one of the great long-form options and an ongoing series that doesn’t utilize at least some soap-opera elements is going to have to work very hard to hold an audience’s attention. Even a nineteenth century series like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories has a powerful soap opera undertow for all the actual term had yet to be invented.

    Both comics and soap opera rely quite heavily on ironic foreshadowing and I find LS1 and 2 to be rife with it. I was very disappointed to hear ANet come out strongly recently to squash any burgeoning suspicions that Scarlet might still be alive. I understand why they felt they needed to do that but the possibility that she might still be a player in more than an abstract sense is threaded through the whole first episode. Smacks of editorial heavy-handedness to me.

    As for the Zephyrites I never, ever trusted them. Bunch of smarmy superannuated hippies that remind me strongly of some of the self-improvement cults that were doing the rounds in the 1970s and 1980s. Won’t name names but I’m sure you know the kind of thing. The Master of Peace has a name so ironic he might just as well have “Evil Genius” flashing in neon lights over his head.

    I really enjoyed the first episode and thought it was a lot better than much of Season One because I felt there was a lot going on that I wasn’t being told but was being invited to notice for myself. The whole milieu we have fallen into is soaked in lies and deceit, from the self-deceiving desperation of the flotsam washed up in Dry Top to the stranded Zephyrites willing to lie about their motives and circumstances even at the point of death to the pantomime asides of the “miners”. I laughed out loud at the exchange between Riot Alice and the so-called foreman of the mine and the quaggan sot begging at the bar door is almost too neatly placed to point up innocence corrupted.

    And into it all stride Our Heroes (not our heroes, that is, but Destiny’s Edge Junior), utterly oblivious, unaware and naive. For a hard-bitten PI Marjory makes a great ingenue. She’s playing a role, that one. Not for nothing does her sister sound like a 12-year old on helium – that’s telling you more about Marjory than it is introducing a new character. Kas, on the other hand, is the one who actually *notices* stuff. No wonder Jory needed an “assistant”.

    Braham almost has a personality now and Taimi has several, all of them convincing. Rox I still find fascinating. I wonder if she’s really safe to be allowed out on her own sometimes. As for the emotional tensions brewing between Braham, Taimi and Rox, hats off to the voice actors AND the writers for that – best part of the entire episode and it’s just two or three thrown-away phrases and a hitch in tone.

    I could go on at length but it’s late so I’ll restrain myself, but this is exactly how my then-peer group would have discussed the latest issue of The New Teen Titans in the pub back in the mid-80s, except with more arguing. Good stuff indeed. Looking forward to the next issue.

  2. I’m enjoying all the slow changes occurring around the world.

    I didn’t really spot anything this time around, despite what other players were noticing, but I finally saw a vine around the Prosperity Dry Top waypoint the other day, fully grown and constantly tapping at it.

    Some other player in the map looked up and had a heart attack and started screaming about a Mysterious Figure (which I was aware was back there, but hadn’t seen) and I looked up.

    Lo and behold, he’d come forward enough to be seen and was watching us. (Though with my zerg settings, he was still invisible to me beyond a name – ha!)

    From what other players have discovered, it looks like we’re about to have a severe waypoint malfunction in a line very shortly…

  3. I’m surprised they were able to add so much voiced dialogue, even though it repeats a little too much sometimes, it is still interesting and characterful, liked the banter that the priory NPCs outside Prosperity had. The foreshadowing with the vines creeping closer to LA and the ‘mysterious figure’ watching are also great touches. It will be interesting to see how the map expands too, looks like we’ll be taking an underground tunnel to the west soon, choosing to add sections of the map piecemeal rather than in one go.

  4. “Then there’s the biggest issue of our mostly silent hero. I mean ArenaNet could have one weird character talking to our silent character throughout the entire instance”

    So, after all the talk about how everything was voiced, and how important it was to telling the story and immersion, their desire to put out disposable content as fast as possible has dumped that view of game design, eh?

  5. Fully aware of Heroic Mimes and it would be acceptable if the PC was silent from the start, but this is merely a case of them being in too much of a rush (and probably too cheap) to properly voice the story…

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