World of Warcraft’s next expansion was revealed today, and its theme is… Guild Wars 2.
Sorry. It’s called Dragonflight, deals with helping dragons reclaim their legacy, will “provide a more in-depth open world experience going forward,” and features new dragonriding skill that lets you “defy gravity while using your momentum and skills.” Here is a video of it in motion:
I get that the entire history of WoW is copying other peoples’ homework and all, but something about this is… a bit too on the nose.
Anyway. There were some other items that popped out at me.
Cross-Faction Coming Soon. Technically old news (first revealed in January), it was nevertheless interesting to hear cross-faction grouping being brought up again. While Blizzard is still being ultra-conservative with it – not being able to join guilds is probably going to make organized raiding problematic – cross-faction play of some kind is one of those things that never really made sense not to have in WoW during its heyday. I have had real, non-theoretical conversations with coworkers in the past wherein we (briefly) got excited to learn the other played WoW, only to face the double disappointment of being A) on the wrong server, or B) the wrong faction, or C) both.
If only we knew why it took so long…
Talent Trees Return. Overrated. It’s mildly interesting that they have a class tree and a spec tree separately, but that is just lampshading the “lack” of a borrowed power system in the expansion.
WotLK Classic. Expected, but nevertheless still hit me in the feels. Everyone has a WoW entry point they feel nostalgic for, and for me it is WotLK… despite my actually starting to play in Burning Crusade. Epic scope, epic music, ground-breaking raiding (in 10m flavors!), and some great guild members relationships. Devs mentioned intentionally leaving out the Dungeon Finder for “social fabric” reasons which, okay, whatever. It will be interesting to see what happens to said fabric when everyone is trying to farm badges for gear.
UI Improvements. This sort of thing might seem minor at first, but not being able to get my screen looking like it did the last time I played WoW ends up being a rather large, subconscious barrier to reentry. Addon Managers can remove some of the tedium, but having a lot of the same functionality within the base UI is more ideal.
Cosmic Plot Intermission. Coming out of the narrative disaster that is Shadowlands, it’s refreshing to see Blizzard basically hitting the pause button. Nothing in the trailer hinted at some kind of Big Bad Guy to face, or that the fate of the world was once again at stake. It’s always possible that that comes later, but the tone is being set early on. Reminds me a bit of Mists of Pandaria minus the faction war.
Everything Else. K.
This is the part of the post where I talk about how I’m intrigued by what Blizzard is doing and will probably resub to see the new content. Probably not this time around.
A pause in the power escalation is necessary, but… I don’t like dragons. Not quite on the level of hate Syp has for elves, but dragons are a solid third place above “It was all a dream” and Time Travel in terms of ire. What possibly interesting story could ever be made concerning dragons? I don’t just mean in Dragonflight, I mean in any fiction. Yes, I watched The Hobbit, played Skyrim and Dragon Age, etc etc. In all cases, dragons could be replaced with an infinitely more interesting colossal beast with no impact to the storytelling. Dragons are flying, hoarding tropes. Vampires? A lot of directions you could take a story. Dragons? Replace it with an eldritch horror of some kind and get a much more engaging tale.
So, yeah. Good luck, have fun.
I am once again experiencing a long stretch of gaming ennui.
Guild Wars 2, which had hitherto commanded a solid portion of my daily gaming allotment, fell off a cliff in the weeks leading into the End of Dragons expansion. There were really three things in play. First, I was beginning to question “the point” of my toil – as good an indication of any that one has shifted from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation. Second, I could not readily commit to which version of the expansion to purchase. This remains a barrier even now, because when I do log in I see items in the Gem Store that are enticing, which suggests I should buy the $80 version of the game (which comes with gems). Surely buying the standard $30 version and then buying gems separately is the worst of all worlds. So… I do nothing.
The third reason was actually recently addressed: I was not certain whether End of Dragons was to be the last GW2 expansion. Who wants to grind things in a “dead” MMO? Well, ArenaNet announced they are working on a fourth expansion. Whether it is coming in 2 years or 4 doesn’t matter so much as that it is coming at all.
Beyond all that, I am actually playing a lot of different games. Not the ones I committed to in December, of course. I completed Undertale, but then hit a wall with SOMA insofar as trying to decide whether I wanted to keep playing with monsters on or off. I (used to) own all of the Silent Hill games and enjoyed all of the Resident Evils through the years, but I’m not a particular fan of the helpless horror genre. Dead Space and Prey? Good. Amnesia and Alien: Isolation? No thanks. The anxiety and thrills feel cheaper than, say, from a roguelike or at the end of a long raid-dance sequence – I either one-shot the area or get killed enough times to abstract the encounter into a puzzle.
In any case, I do not particularly want every post between now and Summer to be an Impressions piece of whatever indie game I take for a spin. So, I have been writing next to nothing. Which is probably worse, on balance. Hmm. This is what I have been playing recently:
- Black Book
- FAR: Lone Sails
- My Friend Pedro
- We Happy Few
- Sunset Overdrive
That last game, Sheltered, is really a sort of Fallout: Shelter-esque time-waster that nevertheless sucked 6 hours out of me and reignited a burning need to collect random garbage in survival crafting fashion. Unfortunately, I have pretty much played everything in the genre already, and what’s left will remain unpurchased until Epic’s Summer Sale. A mere 50% off doesn’t do it for me anymore: I need 50% + $10 off.
So, that’s my life at the moment. How are you?
The hardest thing is starting. The second hardest is continuing.
In the past few weeks, I have formulated zero long-term gaming memories. I have continued to throw myself into Guild Wars 2 and Hearthstone, making quite some “progress” in both. The time passes easily enough. And I am entertained during play. But I couldn’t tell you specifically what I was doing last Tuesday. I cannot present an argument for why you should (or shouldn’t) play GW2 or Hearthstone in a way that did not already exist a month ago.
Things happened, but nothing changed.
It is a tad early for resolutions, but here is mine: commit to distinct experiences. Any given MMO can consume thousands (or more) of hours of your time. It is indeed a great value, in comparison to how much money you would have had to spend on the equivalent games. Journey is what, 2-3 hours? And yet the experience of Journey remains a core memory eight years later. That music, the visuals, that nameless stranger who guided me to the summit. Would I have traded 100 Winterberries for that experience? It’s absurd, and yet I find myself doing that every day.
Prose aside, this desire came from a Reddit post talking about how there would be no Dark Souls without ICO. While I have not played Dark Souls much – despite owning several of them – I understood the sentiment because I played ICO. And yet how many people out there never did, or ever will? That game is a transformative experience. One that predated my first contact with MMOs. What if I… hadn’t? Too busy with WoW or whatever? Could there be an ICO in my unplayed gaming hoard right now?
Now, I’m not actually expecting to find another ICO in my library. And this sentiment is different than the sort of vague, “I should play everything just in case it’s genius.” I’m also still planning on squeezing in some MMO time in there too, assuming I’m not hooked on something else. But! Let’s take some baby steps towards the thing I actually want to do – generate unique experiences worth talking about – and not get sucked into killing time all the, er, time.
It’s silly, but here’s my starting list:
- Death Stranding
- To the Moon
- Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
- Final Fantasy 15
Some are 100s of hours, some are less so, some aren’t going to be worth it. Final Fantasy 15, for example, gets shit on a lot. Let’s see why, eh? I’m getting better at dropping “good” games that have exhausted their novelty, like Dishonored 2 and Subnautica: Below Zero, so that shouldn’t be a factor.
I owe it to myself to give these games (and others) a chance. Especially since, you know, I already own them. I’m not going to find my next Xenogears just doing daily quests all the goddamn time.
Specifically: what do I really want to buy with money?
Short answer: I dunno.
Long answer: buckle up.
The other night, I spent literally 40 minutes agonizing on whether I was going to buy 2000 discounted gems in Guild Wars 2. The agony was specifically derived from the fact that there was a 20% discount on Shared Inventory Slots, but only for one day. Discount of a discount is a great deal, yeah? The way the math worked, I could buy 3 Shared Inventory Slots for about 1500 gems, then combine the leftover gems with an upcoming 400 free gems I was earning for hitting 5000 in-game achievement points and then buy a 800 gem Character Slot. Best of all worlds!
Alternatively, I could not buy Shared Inventory Slots at all and just get three Character Slots with the same gems. Which got me thinking: “what’s the actual value to me of… any of these things?”
A Shared Inventory Slot is what it sounds like: a slot that is shared across all of your characters. I have two of them currently, as one comes with each expansion. Right now, the first slot is filled with a gem-store item that basically disenchants gear. That’s helpful when cleaning up all the random crap gear you get showered with in this game. The second slot used to have a portal scroll to the most effective farm area (Bitterfrost). I now have it filled with the Quartz resource, as I use my alts to farm 10 Quartz at a specific area, then log into my main and turn 25 of that Quartz into one Charged Quartz, which is a time-gated crafting material for goods down the road. All of which is convenient, but not particularly exciting.
So what would I even do with three more? Don’t get me wrong, those slots would get filled with something of marginal utility. There’s a neat “positional rewinder” item you can get to help with Jumping Puzzles, for example. But I’m not using my alts for Jumping Puzzles. In fact, right now, I’m not playing my alts at all, beyond the 30 seconds of farming Quartz. I’m really focused on the “Return To X” achievements, both for the rewards and the fact that I actually never played some of these Living World stories. So even in the case of Character Slots, it is not as though I would be utilizing them right away. So maybe I just don’t buy anything at all.
“Besides, there is so much more I could buy for $20-$40.”
That thought got me down another rabbit hole. Because… is there anything else I want to buy? Surely, yes? I have 44 items in my Steam Wishlist, for example. But even with deep, current discounts, I have had zero compunction to purchase any of them. About the closest ones are Wildermyth, Red Dead Redemption 2, Disco Elysium, Horizon Zero Dawn, and some random assorted Roguelikes and Early Access Survival (redundant, much?) games. But would I really stop my current routine to play them immediately? And if I didn’t, what are the odds they would end up on the Game Pass by the time I did?
Yes, folks, Game Pass really has broke me. Know what the final straw was? Dicey Dungeon.
I really had not played a single game on Steam throughout all of August and September and most of October. Then I bought Dicey Dungeons on October 24th for about $5. Played it about 3-4 hours. Guess what showed up on November 11th? Yep.
“It’s just $5, who cares?” It’s the principle. I already have hundreds of purchased games I’m not playing, on top of free* games I’m not, to be buying more. Although I guess in this case I actually did play it right away, so whatever. The principle!
This journey of self-flagellation did reveal something a bit deeper to me. Namely, that I can’t really answer the question in the title. I’m apparently actively avoiding spending money in Guild Wars 2, I don’t want to buy games on sale lest they become free on Game Pass, but I’m also not particularly saving towards anything either. I mean, I’m not a mindless consumer that feels as empty as my shopping cart. But is that also a proxy thought to not looking forward to anything? What am I excited about? It was going to be Battlefield 2042, honestly, but it plummeted to the the top 10 worst-reviewed games on Steam within two days of release.
So, yeah. I got nothing. Or maybe just gaming ennui.
I think it’s safe to say that I will still be playing Guild Wars 2 in February, which is when the End of Dragons expansion is coming out. Which means I need to start doing some expansion math.
Under normal circumstances, I never opt for anything but the base expansions for whatever MMO I am playing. GW2 is a bit different since it’s more freemium and cash shopy – there are more utility items than straight cosmetics. For example, the base expansion costs $29.99 and includes (among other things) a Shared Inventory Slot and a max-level boost. The latter two items cost 700 gems and 2000 gems, respectfully. Or roughly $8.75 and $30. So… if you wanted an instant-level 80 boost anyway, you get the expansion for free! Not that an instant 80-level character is that valuable, of course.
In any event, the tiers get a bit weird.
Standard – $29.99
- Shared Inventory Slot (700 gems or about $8.75)
Deluxe – $54.99
- Additional Character Slot (800 gems or exactly $10)
Ultimate – $79.99
- 4000 gems (exactly $50)
Again, there are additional items in the tiers there that I don’t care about, and thus value at zero.
Character slots are definitely something I want more of, but that middle tier ends up being much more expensive than what I could buy via gems on my own ($25 vs $10). But once you hit the Ultimate tier… things change. It costs $50 for 4000 gems, bringing down the hypothetical cost of the Ultimate tier down to the Standard level. But since you get the character slot from the previous tier too, the scenario is that I would get 5500 gems worth of things I value (or roughly $70) and the expansion itself for $10.
How could I possibly afford not to purchase the Ultimate edition of this expansion?!
It’s a trap, of course. Ish. Getting an MMO expansion for $30 straight-up is pretty good, notwithstanding it comes with something as valuable as a Shared Inventory Slot. And let’s also be clear that nothing here is breaking my bank – I’m just a parsimonious bastard. But kudos to the accountants at ArenaNet for making me do some math and seriously consider paying $80 for something I’ve spent less on in the last nine years of playing.
[Fake Edit: Black Friday Sale Edition]
I drafted everything above last week, but as it turns out, there are sales happening on Black Friday:
- 20% off Gem Cards – $20 = 2000 gems ($25 normal)
- 20% off Shared Inventory slot – 560/1512/2240 gems (700/1890/2800 normal)
Doing the math… nothing much changes, actually. The relative value of the Ultimate deal drops since it costs $40 for 4000 gems instead of $50, but that still doesn’t make the Deluxe edition worth it at all. What it does do is make it a bit palatable to skip the Ultimate tier and just buy what you need with gems. Getting 4000 gems with the Ultimate tier all at once will mean they’re gone on possibly silly shit within minutes. For example, there are infinite gathering tools on discount currently, and those + 3 shared inventory slots is basically 4000 gems right there.
On the other hand… ugh. The “discount” forces you into the $20 for 2000 gems category, which means that I’m going to be buying the Standard edition ($30) + 2000 gems ($20) and immediately spending at least 800 of them on a character slot anyway. Having 1200 leftover gems is, again, way better than the Deluxe edition. But now I’m at $50 vs $80 for the Ultimate, the latter of which includes a Character Slot.
Like, props to the fucking sadistic accountants over there at ArenaNet, but this shit right here is a dumb position for any player to be in. I shouldn’t need to do calculus to see if something is a good deal or not. Yeah, my situation in valuing only certain items is probably unique, but needing to math things out at all is likely to result in my purchasing nothing instead, as all thought shuts down from overheating.
That and, you know, I could buy a lot of other games for $80. Probably 4-8 of them, even.
After loading Fallout 76 for the seventieth time, it occurred to me that I should really like Guild Wars 2 more than I do.
In Fallout 76, I’m basically logging in, collecting some resources for later, progressing down the seasonal reward track via daily quests, and killing everything in 1-2 hits. The last part really is silly, as I spend a considerable amount of time farming/grinding new weapons despite already owning several that destroy everything. For example, I watched a video showcasing a sort of Gatling Shotgun and decided I had to have it. So I do… and it kinda sucks. But… horizontal progression!
Meanwhile, I have found myself logging into GW2 to at least progress through the calendar goodies before immediately logging off. The thought process is that if I ever get gung-ho about the game again – there is an expansion on the horizon – I will be glad my past self was so thoughtful.
But why log off immediately? Whereas my “progress” in Fallout 76 couldn’t possibly matter at this point, stuff in GW2
does could. So this weekend I logged in and stuck around.
… and remembered why I don’t.
To be fair, the comparison is unfair. I stick with Fallout 76 because the moment-to-moment gameplay is enjoyable, even when there is little personal danger. GW2 gameplay is… different. Not terrible. Not great. It definitely lacks the satisfaction of, say, pushing buttons as a Frost or Fire Mage in WoW. Or Rogue. Or most other classes in other MMOs, period. But maybe I’m just out of practice.
Indeed, that continues to be the biggest hurdle: the impenetrable nonsense from a decade of horizontal progression. Where do I even start? Goals are good, I guess. So let me see:
- Unlock Griffin
- Unlock additional character slot
- Unlock some Quality of Life upgrades
The Griffin requires me to clear the Path of Fire expansion, which I apparently didn’t do, so that’s a start. The other two are solvable with $$$ at borderline exploitative rates, or they can be grinded via gold farming. I’m not against some casual farming, even if it takes a while to reach my goals, so let me just see the avenues to get gold in GW2…
[Two hours later]
Welp, there’s all my gaming free time.
Again, unfair. If I just log in and do some WvW or whatever it looks like the zerg is up to, chances are I’d be 80% effective at gold farming compared with casual optimal. But I don’t like not knowing what I don’t know, you know? Learning anything in-game though is nearly impossible – there’s literally ten thousand+ achievements and collections, some of which actually give you permanent bonuses. Great for veterans needing long-term goals, less great for returning optimizers.
We’ll see where things go. I never imagined that GW2 would be some kind of MMO sandbar for me, so some of the blockage is my own mentality. But if you guys have some 5-10 minute routes or something surprisingly worth it to unlock, let me know. Last time I played, I spent about three months farming Winterberries to gear my alts, for example, and I considered that reasonable/entertaining enough to keep my toes in the water.
One of the events coming back in Guild Wars 2 is the Twisted Marionette encounter from early in the Living World days. You know, when the devs thought it would be super clever to spend tremendous resources on unique events and then literally delete them from the game after X weeks. That sort of nonsense has been a bad idea forever, so my interest was piqued when I heard ArenaNet is bringing back some of the Season 1 content.
Then I came across a helpful guide to the encounter on Reddit:
New drinking game: take a shot every time it mentions an ability will one-shot you. And prepare to be downed yourself.
I slid off Guild Wars 2 towards the beginning of Season 1, so I have no attachment to this “fan-favorite” event. And, granted, I led raids in WoW for many years which had the same sort of one-shot, “wipe the raid because one person didn’t dance correctly” mechanics. Perhaps that was the idea of the time, to craft an encounter similar to those of its peers, even though I don’t think anyone ever actually thought it would be a good idea in GW2. Sure, put on some zerg protection for X number of bosses to shake things up. But this sort of thing? Yikes.
So, anyway, Twisted Marionette is back for whomever still enjoys that sort of thing.
It was interesting feeling my physical revulsion bubble up just from reading that guide though; a sort of literal gut check of where I am in 2021 regarding group content. I do still log in very occasionally to GW2, sometimes seeking out the world events and killing dragons. The zerg is much maligned as mindless, and I suppose it is, but that has always felt more core to the GW2 experience than anything else. A big pile of people and particle effects, working separately together, without competition or ego, achieving great things. I never felt bad seeing another player beside me, or was concerned about their DPS performance or general competency. The more the merrier!
I have been out of the raiding game so long that it’s difficult to imagine ever enjoying the opposite experience. Highly regimented, strictly choreographed, tightly tuned… school group projects. Wherein your personal aptitude is diluted in a pool of randos who very much care less about the final grade than you do. Sometimes it’s even worse when you know everyone else, because now you have worry about letting them down, or worry about pretending you aren’t annoyed when they let you down.
Is there a sense of pride and accomplishment when you finally defeat the difficult encounter as a group? Sure. Although it’s more relief than anything, as I get to avoid the awkward, weekly debriefing in which I try to delicately tell our best DPS that her healing boyfriend needs to step up or he’s getting benched. And even though we succeeded, there are those who wanted both gone due to drama.
I used to do this sort of thing for fun? Christ almighty. No thanks, I’m good.
[Fake Edit:] For the complete opposite take, look no further than Bhagpuss.
The next two lanes also killed theirs but after that it was fail time for everyone, and we wiped. Second time around we did even worse and then I had to go to bed. It was a great introduction all the same.
He’s not being facetious. Dude is clearly an (inter)national treasure and we should all aspire to be this excited to still fail through no fault of our own, instead of considering that being literally the worst possible outcome.
There is a slow-burning dumpster fire in the Guild Wars 2 subreddit, and it seems to have been set by ArenaNet.
For those just coming onto the crime scene, the stage is set thus: GW2 appears to be in decline. Revenue is down. ArenaNet lost ~35% of its staff in February of this year. While there has been semi-regular Living Story updates, the last full expansion was released almost two full years ago. So when there was an announcement countdown livestream event on Twitch, the dedicated fans were hopeful. Maybe there would be a new expansion? Or new elite specs? Or some WvW/PvP love?
It was not a complete nothingburger, but it was clearly not at all anything that a worried fan might take solace in. Living Stories are now “Living Sagas,” there are some new Masteries coming, and… 10m starter raids called Strikes? When you lose a third of your entire workforce six months ago and leave an awkward silence to the question of whether your company can even handle another expansion, people start using phrases like “maintenance mode.”
The Content Marketing Manager response over this holiday weekend has consisted of… throwing around lit garbage.
Hey friends, this industry can be a weird one to work in and this year has been an especially roller-coaster-y one for lots of companies. A couple of important things to remember: (1/5)
If you’re abusing your fellow human beings because you’re mad about your game, that’s not “passion”. You’ve lost perspective and crossed a line. It doesn’t matter why you think a game has wronged you–attacking devs or your fellow community members has no excuse. Ever. (2/5)
“Be professional” is not code for “I am allowed to heap every vile treatment I can think of onto your head, and you are required to thank me for it, ask for more, and always treat me with the utmost deference. If I even THINK you aren’t, there will be hell to pay”. (3/5)
If you have to resort to hyperbole, snark, fact omission, mild truth-stretching, creepy comparisons to Hitler, or metaphors about “It’s like if you paid the bill but they turned off your heat in winter” to explain your fury, perhaps the situation is not as dire as you say. (4/5)
Save the “But you have to understand” devs deserve abuse. I’ve been working in this industry for 10 years and playing in it since I was a little girl. I’ve been Mad At A Game. I never *once* exhibited the vile behavior I see daily. It can be done. (5/5)
This has been received by the GW2 Reddit community… poorly. Even though she later clarified that she totally wasn’t talking about reaction to the ArenaNet event – that rant was apparently just apropos of nothing – it became somewhat emblematic of developer communication these days. Specifically, react and pontificate on the toxicity of your game’s community instead of addressing the root causes of ire.
I mean, what does this Content Marketing Manager expect to occur as a result of her posts? Has there been a single successful chastisement in the history of the internet? Even if it worked the end result would still be Reddit threads filled with polite questions and criticism and radio silence from the company that absolutely wants you to continue giving them money but won’t give you a hint that it’s secretly cratering and can’t possibly swing an expansion anymore. Which, okay, business is going to business here – why tell players the $5 (character-specific!) bag slot they’re about to buy will never contain new items when you can say nothing and keep the money?
Nobody wants to upgrade to a 1st-class cabin on the Titanic. At least, not after it hits an iceberg. And make no mistake, Guild Wars 2 has hit an iceberg. Probably a few. The remaining crew yelling at the panicking passengers is the exact opposite of constructive. Something useful would be informing them that additional lifeboats (expansion) are being constructed as we speak. Here are some life jackets (elite specs). There’s a nice band playing over on Deck 7 (WvW stuff). You know, anything to make the transition a more pleasant experience when it is literally your job to do so.
We’ll have to see how ArenaNet management react when they swing back into the office today. This tweet-storm is not on the same level as the Jessica Price fiasco a year ago, but it’s in the same neighborhood of dumb. Why people keep insisting on driving that route, I have no idea.