Creep is a dirty MMO word. Yes, there are creeps who should be reported for saying things that would make any mother smack the scheisse out of them, but this is different. This is when a developer tries to make things more awesome and toes outside the earlier line of power, content, etc. and leaves the priors behind.
Creep in its worst sense is an erosion of the importance of earlier content. The most notable creep is power creep. In updating an MMO will add more levels or more gear tiers thereby lowering the importance of earlier accomplishments. Another might be feature creep that gives people the new ability (with expansion purchase) to fly anywhere.
I feel ArenaNet’s expansion is going to be one of the lowest amounts of creep we can possibly see for an MMO expansion. The reason: compartmentalization.
It’s evident even in Heart of Thorn’s open world content. In one of ArenaNet’s first blog posts on the expansion the devs bring up the ancient karka corpse. That takes some moxie because that was creep, in a lesser sense. That was when ArenaNet wanted to make content that people would experience once, and if you weren’t there for the three hours on a Sunday afternoon battling the ancient karka then you missed out. ArenaNet dev’s seem saddened as well since we can’t storm those shores again.
Another bit of creep they don’t mention is the effects of the Living World on the core maps. Kessex Hills is the poster child for dumping grounds with a destroyed Tower of Nightmares and closed off Fort Salma. I like that the world lives and grows, but it does so without integrating with the content that remains around it. The commanding officer walks around the vine-roont Fort Concordia talking about the Risen threat. That is Living World creep.
They write that Dry Top is what they are going forward with. “Maps with a Purpose” is the section headline. I know what Dry Top is all about. I know what my game time in Silverwastes is going to be like. They are clean experiences. They are compartmentalized.
The first map in Heart of Thorns tells the story of “survivors of the catastrophic Pact Fleet expedition” trying to build up outposts. Perhaps you kill Mordremoth or rebuild the Pact Fleet later down the road, but in this first map it is you helping these survivors survive the night after the crash. I also hope they can compartmentalize the personal story advancements (or “flashbacks” from the map. I feel sorry for players playing through a Season 2 instance and coming upon a destroyed Town of Prosperity in Dry Top when it isn’t time for that yet in the personal story instance.
This leads us to the next could-be-creep feature in Heart of Thorns: masteries. ArenaNet had another blog post this week further detailing the new way to progress. It is a horizontal-type progression. No, that’s not right, but it’s not really vertical either. Again, I feel it’s compartmentalized, and so I will go with it being “branched progression”.
Let’s take the biggest possible landmine in the blog post, Master Combat, where ArenaNet devs write “become more deadly against the new creatures waiting in the jungle”. That’s not horizontal progression. That is definitely improving upward. If your kill time drops 30% or something, that is vertical progression.
Yet, if they keep this combat mastery specific to Heart of Thorns they have avoided creep, which is the deadly pitfall of pure vertical progression. There is a big difference between “your poison causes vulnerability against mordrem in Heart of Thorns areas” and “your poison causes vulnerability”.
They’ve already said that hang gliding will be Heart of Thorns specific so that players will not make portions of previous maps or dungeons meaningless by just gliding through some area. They’ve compartmentalized the feature. They could even do it going forward. Perhaps in Guild Wars 2: Rise of Karka* they make it underwater/island themed and don’t necessarily want hang gliders for all the maps. If they want in Guild Wars 2: Domain of Winds* to make windy gliding areas that require more hang gliding mastery, it’s still compartmentalized. It doesn’t creep away the Heart of Thorns gliding. Possibly. Or, at least if there is creep it is very tightly controlled.
This is also why the mastery number on the nameplate will only matter to people you don’t want to play with. Sure, it’d be great to only party with people with maxed mastery numbers, but I feel that players that boot the expert Fractals runner because the expert hasn’t really chased HoT masteries deserve all the woe their idiocy brings them. The elitism will always be there either force ping of armor or Achievement Points (AP) or anything the idiots can measure, whether it’s worth measuring or not. Don’t surround yourself with idiots, and you should be fine.
A trunk can only go up with vertical progression leaving the rest closer to the ground. The leaves can only go so wide in horizontal progression before all the leaves start feeling like they have the same worth (leaves = skins, miniatures, etc.). I feel branched progression could be a really interesting as the way forward to expansion.
We saw the first hints of this in Guild Wars 1 Eye of the North expansion with reputation affecting some stats in certain zones (asuran rep gave more energy in asuran zones). With the exception of the massive grind needed for completion, it was a pretty good system I felt. Let’s see where ArenaNet takes it.
*I made these up. Hope that was obvious…