“Oh, 7pm? I’m just in time for the Megadestroyer!” Read that in a faux British accent for maximum effect. I also appreciate how they gave us a generous 15 minutes inbetween world-destroying bosses. “You too can save the world four times an hour, on the hour!” Japanese train conductors would be so proud.
That said, I am actually somewhat interested in ArenaNet’s April not-an-expansion expansion. I decided to give TESO a pass (technically I’m gambling on a Press™ copy) but just the thought of character progression of sorts was tempting me to boot up some MMO or another¹. GW2 is free, so why not, right? Titanfall has scuttled the plans for the time being, but maybe soon.
Well, provided I have enough hard drive space…
¹ The Secret World is still installed, actually, and I still play it from time to time. I consider that a single-player RPG though. Still, it is 40gb…
The press release is fascinating, showing, I think, just how extraordinarily difficult it is going to be to balance a genuinely “dynamic” virtual world with customer expectations of a commercial product. Taking ANet’s description of the event at face value, there’s an intrinsic and apparently insoluble problem and in just three-paragraphs they hammer home relentlessly precisely what it is :
“we want to make sure that you are not missing out”
“an Event in Lion’s Arch that you don’t want to miss”
“make sure you will not miss it”
“this will only run once, so make sure you will be there!”
Whether the event will live up to the hype, whether it will be truly world-changing, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the insistence that this is something all Guild Wars 2 players must not miss. That raises expectations that simply cannot be met in full. A lot of people aren’t going to be there, no matter how much they’d like to be. The balancing act between building excitement and fostering resentment is a high wire to walk, that’s for sure, and the fall is steep on either side.
Then I received an email notification about this comment from João Carlos:
I am sure Azuriel will go crazy bitching mode when she knows about the one time events at 16-18th…
But I am sure GW2 at XFire will go up that weekend.
As an aside, if I were not actually a dude, I think I might have been offended by the “crazy bitching mode” characterization.
Anyway, mere minutes later, I browse down to NoizyGamer’s latest Digital Dozen post:
Event Aftermath – Another trend is that following in-game events interest in a game tends to decline. Two games that held in-game events on 28 October saw the Xfire community spend over 20% less time playing those games on Sunday. Vindictus fell out of The Digital Dozen after a nine-week run with a 22.1% decline following the celebration of the Nexon game’s second anniversary 27-28 October. The second game, Guild Wars 2, experienced a 21.2% decline with the end of its Halloween event.
So, I would respond to Senor Carlos by saying: I would hope GW2’s XFire numbers go up the weekend of the 16th. Because, ultimately, I think that is sort of the entire point of having these Dynamic Events By Appointment, vis-a-vis to drive engagement and capitalize on gaming news-cycles.
Even if they really are being earnest when they say it is all about making the world feel alive, it begs the question of “what is the world missing, that it needs one-time events to feel alive?”
In any case, this is not an ArenaNet-only thing – every seasonal event in MMOs basically amounts to the same deal – and I am not even saying developers spicing things up is necessarily bad. These sort of events simply hold zero interest to me, even if they were not starting at 3pm EST (are they timing it for the schoolchildren?). I never considered showing up for a raid at 9pm on a Tuesday evening particularly dynamic, and I have to wonder how many scheduled one-time events someone can consume before the suspension on their disbelief finally gives out.
If you made it past 1, you are doing better than me.
A few days after logging out last time, I crack my knuckles and get ready to head back into… Tyria? Whatever the Guild Wars 2 world is called.
I am feeling so spunky, in fact, that I take a Waypoint directly from the Asura Borg Cube I use as a home-base back to Sparkfly Fen. Nearly two whole silver? I am living on the edge, man. Can’t stop me now. I spot a large blank area on the map, and decide to tackle that first.
Nightmare Court mobs in a dark tunnel? I can eat these guys for breakfast. /attack
I am not going to lie: I almost logged off right then.
In the four minutes between zoning and death, I killed two of packs of two Nightmare mobs. The next group was three linked together, which did not seem insurmountable at first. Unfortunately, one of them was a Necromancer who proceeded to ramp up ranged damage to some ludicrous degree before I noticed. Perhaps I could have squeaked out a victory had I blown ALL the cooldowns, but the certain knowledge that I died within 20 feet of the entrance, the down-leveling mechanic ensuring that trying to explore this tunnel solo would lead to inevitable death, and getting double death taxed¹ on top of it all – within four minutes of logging on – punched through the paper-job I have hitherto made over the cavernous enthusiasm gap that is GW2 combat.
That was a long sentence. Let’s take a breath together.
Last week, I made a somewhat controversial remark that GW2’s combat was not as responsive as WoW’s. “Responsive” was not the right adjective to use, and my follow-up explanation in the comments felt unsatisfying even to myself. The mobility does feel fun. There is a sort of sponginess to the button-presses –> attack result, but even that is not the precise issue. And while my next instinct was to say it feels shallow, it is pretty clear that there is a lot that can go on simultaneously (especially in PvP).
The combat simply feels… insubstantial.
I fully admit this could just be an Elementalist problem. I do not actually enjoy the Attunement swapping mechanic in general, even though I engage in it quite a bit. But I do not think it is just an issue with the class I am playing; I got the same general feeling from my level ~20 alts as well. I can quite literally run circles around most of the mobs I face, avoiding 100% of their attacks without even needing to Dodge. Then you start facing Risen, who comically run around at 300% speed and basically make your mobility moot – I stand and cast in their faces, lest my directional-attacks miss while they continuously readjust. With the ranged Risen and the Nightmare Necromancer that sealed my fate earlier, often it feels like my HP pool just fills or empties randomly with little input or feedback from me.
All that may not even be an adequate explanation of the feeling GW2 combat evokes, but there it is.
Instead of calling it quits, I rez at a Waypoint way the hell away from there.
Heading North along the West side of the map, the
Shadowform tooltip most verbose Renown description I have ever seen pops up. Apparently another frog-dude (Costi Atl) wants me to feed him, this time by shooting termite mounds with a cannon, grabbing the grub by the tail, killing it in normal combat, picking up the shiny thing it leaves behind, aiming that at the campfire, and then clicking on the fire afterwards. Or you can talk to and then fight with the frog-dudes. Or, I think, kill spiders.
A bit north of there was an Event-camp overrun by Risen.
This little Event really drove home the insubstantialness feeling I had earlier. Those Speedy Risen may as well be DoTs and my attacks against them a Recount DPS meter. The perma-snared tough ones are more like normal enemies, but again, fighting and killing them brought no satisfaction. While clearing the camp, I starting thinking back to all the skelks, spiders, fireflies, Nightmare Court/Inquest/Bandits/etc etc etc I have killed in the past 65 levels, and how much of a pain in the ass the Kill 15 Enemy Types daily is. Most games have recycled and color-swapped mobs, of course. But, Jesus, it feels like there isn’t a lot of variety in mob types/abilities, and I am heading into even deeper into Risen territory.
Oh. Looks like I died at some point.
After rezzing and coming back and clearing the camp, I switch from Dagger/Dagger to Scepter/Dagger. I leveled 1-20 with staff, 20-40 with S/D, and 40 onward as D/D, so I am pretty familiar with all of them. It is my hope that getting back to a more combo-oriented and sort of wind-up gameplay will make things more interesting again.
The camp Event turns into an escort Event, followed by another escort Event. Two people show up near the start of the 2nd Escort, and it’s nice. Then the Event turns into a Champion fight, and then the two strangers leave without even attempting to engage the Champion. I do likewise. There is never really a sense for how strong a Champion is versus another Champion – some can probably be 2-manned, while others usually need a full zerg. The risk simply isn’t worth the ~2s reward most of the time, especially when so many don’t have chests at the end. Considering this entire Event chain revolved around blowing up this Lich’s tower and then killing him, simply leaving felt incredibly anti-climatic.
I do some more Renown Hearts, fight some more dumb Risen, then log off.
At this point, I have read the comments to Part 1, and realize that a lot of people are suggesting that the zones/enemies/storylines get dumber the farther South you go. Good to know. But then I realize I am two Hearts and a handful of other things away from 100% map completion. We get a warning that the servers will be down for maintenance in 60 minutes, but I figure I will be done by then anyway. I zone back into Sparkfly Fen, and head SW.
This area looks promising.
In the comments to Part 1’s post, I mentioned the reason why I dislike the concept of timed Events. Inevitably, timed Events break down as follows:
- You arrive just in time.
- You wait around for it to start.
- You miss it entirely.
In this specific instance, I landed squarely into A). No sooner than I talked to Kamma and picked up my quest gun to kill Risen with, an Event popped up to… kill Risen. I do so, completing the Heart in the process. Before I even have a chance to finish looking over the Karma rewards, Tequatl the Sunless shows up without preamble. I do my civic duty in letting Map Chat know the dragon is up.
At first, I head over to the turrets and try shooting a few times. I do not see very many people, and begin to get worried. A bunch of Risen show up and kill the turret and nearly me along with it. I see only a few people at other turrets, and then I see no one at all. A mob of Veteran Risen surround every turret, and then I get one-shot by an exploding Risen while trying to rez some of the NPCs near the big Asura cannon thing.
I rez at a nearby Waypoint, look at the dragon and… wait. Was that a Fireball? There are people down there? I run past all the Risen mobs and destroyed turrets and Asura superweapons and… see a bunch of people whacking on dragon feet. Okay, then. Let’s roll.
At some point, I see extra-large Risen spawn, and I mouse-over – apparently they explode, and also explode on death. Good to know. DPSDPSDPS. I notice someone 20 feet away eat an explosion and go to the downed state. Immediately afterwards, a pile of poison gas settles over them and they die. I run over and try to rez from the edge of the poison cloud. I get a 1-2 seconds of rezzing in before I start taking 2k damage per second from the poison. I back away and start attacking the dragon again, knowing that this person can rez themselves at the Waypoint and be back in half the time anyway. Then this exchange happens:
Do you know when you encounter those people who say things like “Get the government out of my MediCare?” Words fail me to describe how stupid this exchange was. Which was perhaps appropriate for this dragon encounter, as it felt about as difficult as those Prologue events were in the Beta Weekends, back when bosses could 1-shot you.
A minute or so later, dragon dies.
Somehow, 1.53 silver and 8k XP don’t seem to cut it. There was a big treasure chest, of course, filled with 4-5 blues too… about half as many items as I got in the Risen Event immediately before this one. But perhaps it is an appropriate reward for killing a dragon I never knew existed, nor know what role it played in anything up to this point. Surely, the dragons were talked about somewhere, right?
Between the impending server shutdown and that run-in with the dumbass, I lose all motivation to continue onward and log off.
As you might infer from the tone, I feel the experiment is at its logical end. While I cannot discount the possibility that my enthusiasm was hamstrung from the start (due to endgame concerns), these play-sessions very clearly brought out the perhaps hitherto repressed feelings of… blah when it comes to the combat system. I might enjoy the game more with the Warrior or Thief, or maybe even the Necromancer, but I find myself unwilling to throw away 40+ levels of progress.
My current plan is to simply level up the rest of the way to 80 via Crafting, knock out the all the Story missions, and maybe try to hit all the dungeons. Indeed, dungeons were the one bright spot when it came to enjoying playing my character, even if the specific dungeons I have played thus far have been fairly bad; Caudecus’s Manor in particular is the worst designed dungeon in any MMO I have ever played.
Once complete, I’ll set GW2 aside and move on to other things. I am trying to imagine what would bring me back after that point, but am kinda drawing a blank. Maybe an Elementalist class redesign, or if ArenaNet fixes a majority of those 100+ Necromancer bugs. I dunno.
¹ The double-death tax being your gear taking damage plus the cost of reviving at a Waypoint.
One of the best 1-month reviews I have read is Julian’s over on KTR. Not so much for the content of the review, but rather for evoking that sort of hollow feeling that I find Guild Wars 2 gives off.
Guild Wars 2 is like bungee-jumping without the cord. It is all fun and excitement on the way down, but there isn’t anything that snaps back and keeps you in the experience.
A lot of the reviews I have been reading (save one) do not do much in the way of differenciating between the game and the MMO aspect. From a game aspect, sure, it will give you more than a 2:1 return on hour of entertainment per dollar. If you are looking for a one-month stand, so to speak, by all means GW2 is your girl. In fact, with all the dynamic events and no-strings attached spontaneous grouping, it is practically a swinger’s paradise.
If instead you are looking for an MMO you can develop a relationship with, one that both allows investment and a perceived return for time spent, you are still basically stuck with pandas or space trolls.¹
But let me zero in on a couple of areas, including the ones I called out pre-launch.
A lot of people talk about the freedom aspect of GW2 questing, of spontaneity. And it is true. But it is a freedom derived from walking around not giving a shit.
It still boggles my mind how little press the complete elimination of quest text has gotten. I have talked about this before, but a month in, these Hearts feel worse than the most banal of WoW’s daily quests. I do not care if you never read quest text anyway, the point is that a writer/designer still had to at least go through the motions. Where are the motions here?
Have you even tried talking to these Renown Heart guys? The dialog interface is awful, and outside of Gravedigger Dumpy, it all feels like it was written by an accountant. Has anyone actually encountered a coherant narrative in the Renown Hearts? I haven’t. And what I mean is have you actually been interested in what is going on beyond the strict gameplay elements introduced? Do you remember any of the NPC names?
This is not about “location-based” questing, this is about questing without context. And if you have filled one meter, you have filled them all.
I have not reached the conclusion of the Story quests, so I shall reserve final judgment on them. But to be honest, most of what I have seen has been phoned in. Story mission difficulty oscillates between trivial and broken, the tone of the narrative is all over the place (one minute everyone is Lawful Good Looney Toons villains, and the next we torture/kill in cold blood), and I have seen no indication that this story is any different than every “dragon terrorizes the land” story ever made. Including and especially the one presented in Cataclysm, which I suppose is unfortunate timing on ArenaNet’s part.
As I said last time around:
If anyone in-game talks about Events a month after launch, it will solely be in the context of “Where do I level now?” and “Where are all the Events?” and “I’ve been waiting for X Event to spawn for six minutes now!” and “Lame, the Waypoint I wanted to use is contested.” Events are not Guild Wars 2′s killer app. Events are fun the first time, promote spontaneous grouping in the immediate area, and technically have branching paths, I guess.
Events also scale horribly with a lot of people (melee in particular get hammered by dozens of instantly spawned +2 level mobs), are boring the 2nd/3rd/nth time around, interfere with normal questing/exploring in the area (yay, 20 kobolds just spawned in this cave again), are not easy to find or fun to wait around for, and become just plain tedious when completed alone. Regardless of how successful or not GW2 does sales-wise, it will not take but a few weeks for the playerbase to diffuse across the leveling/zone spectrum, making the outdoor-raid-esque feel of beta Events turn into the Warhammer’s “Forever Alone” Public Quest ghost towns.
At a minimum, I try to complete the Daily Achievement during my play session, which requires 5 Events. For every day of the prior week, I have had to cheese the achievement by logging onto an alt and flailing about in the rapidly reseting starting zone Events because I simply did not encounter five working Events in 2 hours of level 50-60 gameplay. When non-bugged Events do spawn, a handful of people usually appear out of the ether, but the mood is more akin of starving dogs swarming over table-scraps than “oh, hey, here’s another one of those things which the leveling system is supposedly built around.”
Which is just as well in the scheme of things, because the majority of Events are worse than the Renown Hearts under close scrutiny. Kill X waves of Y monster. Pick up Z items and return. Aaaaaaaaand that’s it. Maybe I am doing the wrong Events? If so, go ahead and tell me where I can find these good “Dynamic” Events and how long I would have to wait in that general area to trigger them.
Is there anyone who is playing GW2 who feels like WvW was designed/executed properly? Anyone?
What I will grant is there are a lot more Waypoints than there was in the beta, making the graveyard slog not as bad. And it is nice that they are dropping the bags of loot from dead players at your feet now instead of asking you to drop down from the castle walls to collect your tokens. Then again… why are you asking players to furiously press F as they dodge and strafe in the press of the zerg, with people dying left and right? Is it a cynical design ploy to help throttle the volume of items generated in these encounters, since X% of legitimately earned items inadvertently go unclaimed?
Ho boy. I have completed two thus far, and… I am going to save my descriptions of them (and hopefully the others) for a future post.
By the way, I spent 45 minutes trying to get a party together for Twilight Arbor story-mode two days ago. As in, I was apparently incapable of getting four other random people grouped together. Is the lack of a LFG tool really a boneheaded mistake that every game designer is going to have to make from now on? Because let me tell you, limiting your LFG “tool” to self-flagged people only in that map is bullshit design that should have been laughed out of the office in 2012. Dungeons were already going to be a niche activity no matter what ArenaNet did, but to further drain the available pool down to “someone with an hour to kill, who hasn’t done the Story mode yet, who happens to be on a level 30/40/50+ character in a level 1-15 zone for some goddamn reason, who specifically replies to map chat requests” is beyond asinine.
With free server transfers, cross-server guilds, multiple guilds, and anonymous grouping, “saving the server community” is not even remotely a legitimate concern.
MMO Aspects Aside…
As a single-player game, it is probably worth your $60. Combat is nowhere near as responsive as WoW, character progression basically ends at level 30, and of course there is no endgame. But what Guild Wars 2 does succeed at is simulating an MMO without all that messy commitment. Which is kind of a shame considering how it succeeds in providing incentives for cooperation that most real MMOs curiously lack altogether, or feel necessary to induce via the threat of pain and loss.
In any case, we will just have to check in two months from now and see where things are heading into the holiday season. I am asking Santa for an actual LFG tool in GW2 and for Blizzard to tweak/remove the rather archaic-seeming mob tagging mechanic, myself.
¹ Yeah, yeah, or Tolkein, or rift chasing, or whatever else you are playing long-term.