Tag Archives: Guild Wars 2

There’s Always Something To Do

Vacations (or, more generally, time away from your games) can do the strangest things with you. Before I went, I was totally engrossed in TSW and its story. Little did any other game pull me away from it. While I was on vacation, though, my mind wandered and arrived, of all games, at Rift. I’ve said many things about Rift before, but the bottom line is that I found it an enjoyable game, but a shoddy world. With factions gone away for all intents and purposes (cross-faction guilds, mail, etc.), the game piqued my interest again. I have no love for artificial (read: not decided by standings that can be influenced by the player after rolling a character), set-in-stone factions. Just the fact that a game would tear down its strict faction barriers is so laudable in my opinion, that the game in its entirety felt interesting to me again.

To Take or Leave the Deal

That left me with a hard decision. I could, of course, play a low-level alt, and indeed, on Friday night, I dabbled around a bit with a rogue. On the other hand, what I really wanted to play was my 43 mage. Especially with the expansion around the corner and no level 50 in my roster.

Trion, like always, took a page out of a competitor’s book and improved on it. (They’re a bit like the Japanese used to be, aren’t they? Rarely invent, but often copy and improve.) If you buy a year of subscription, you get the expansion for free. And as opposed to Blizzard, the expansion is less than two months away now. Also, as opposed to Blizzard, they point out to you that this is a one-year prepaid offer that does not automatically renew, since, in fact, it is not a subscription, technically. It’s like buying a year of prepaid game time. On the other hand, I did the math, and with the expansion at a mere 30 Euros, I can subscribe for 8 months out of 12 on a month-by-month basis and still come out ahead.

So I decided to take the safe path and subscribe for one month only. I figured, if I still enjoy the game two or three weeks from now and feel like I’ll stay, I can always pick up the offer then. If it’s still available then; I couldn’t find any information about how long the offer will run. Maybe until the expansion releases?

Thanks, but I’ll pass, at least for now.

Events, Events, Events!

One thing I noticed was that the server numbers have decreased since I last played. Like, a lot. Honestly, I can’t remember what the numbers were back when I was last playing, but I’m sure it was more than 12 (4 English, 4 German, 4 French). To boot, my server seemed quite empty. Now, I fancy emptiness in MMOs to a certain degree. I feel that most MMO worlds are woefully overpopulated, and it is much more in tune with the scenery if you only run into another player every once in a while. On the other hand, for leveling, especially in a game like Rift, there is a case to be made for many bodies around. Thankfully, server transfers are free, instant, and easy in Rift, so I went over to the most populated server, Icewatch.

Holy Event Batman. Now, it seems, I can’t play without running into “dynamic events”. I started playing on Sunday morning. My plan was to do some dungeons, run the daily allowance of instant adventures, then do some rifts. Instead, I did a rift event. Then another. Then I had a look at the current seasonal event. Then I did my instant adventures. By then, more rift events had shown up again. And before I knew what was happening to me, I had been in front of the screen for 9 hours, and hadn’t eaten more than a piece of chocolate in the meantime.

By 6, I was finally able to pry myself from the constant frenzy, not the least because I was feeling completely exhausted, sucked dry, and hungry. It was strange. The regular, global announcements of “something is happening in zone X! Come now to help out and collect rewards!” never stopped. “You can’t go now! There’s stuff happening!“, it insisted. No time to smell the flowers on the way, or you’ll be too late to the killing party. That’s the exhausting part: I can play for 9 hours, but I can’t play for 9 hours in a constant mob-hitting frenzy.

That is definitely more than I bargained for. I hope I will be able to resist the urge to finish every single event that shows up from now on, because it isn’t healthy. Not for me (at least a small break to rest your eyes and get some tea is always a good idea), and not for the game, either. The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long, and I’d rather be burning my Rift oil steadily, instead of burning out in no time.Though if that should happen, at least I can say that I chose the right subscription option.

Let’s Compare

I haven’t played GW2, but I wonder whether its dynamic events would end up doing the same to me and my play time as Rift’s. From what I heard about them, that might be possible. Has anybody had the feeling that they feel dynamic events keep them playing for longer, keeping them from “cooling down” in between?

Looking at the other extreme, this feels to me as the antithesis to EVE: While there’s no time to rest and breathe in Rift because you are always urged to do something now and do it fast, in EVE, I lately had the feeling that there’s nothing to do at all: I log in, queue a new skill, sit in chat channels for half an hour (while I read blogs on the side), and then log off because nothing seems to be going on. Of course, there probably is stuff going on, but either in different time zones, or in smaller groups of people I’m not part of. And even in other groups (for example, when you read Wilhelm’s EVE posts), it seems that not doing anything is a big part of EVE.

Striking the right balance between boredom and overload in a game is hard. It’s also very dependent on the player. At the moment, I feel like Rift is doing too much and EVE is doing too little. But that might change. Today, it’s a holiday here, so I’ll check out both again. Let’s see how it’ll go today.

Another Chapter in the Endless Story of Gamification

Keen notes that many MMOs these days focus on “unconventional gameplay”, and he names TSW’s investigation missions and GW2’s jumping puzzles as examples. In the comments, some people say that MMOs are returning to how they used to be and how they should be, while others point out the inevitable “but X did that, too”, which, in this case however, is an important note: it tells us that probably these things were never fully gone from games.

And indeed they weren’t. Jumping puzzles have always been in MMOs, they were never gone. I’m sure almost everybody at some point wondered whether they can climb a particular mountain, or house, and tried for a couple of minutes, and either succeeded, or gave up. More dedicated souls might have stretched the trying to hours. I know that back when Vanguard was releases, one of my favorite pastimes was climbing up mountains or towers, and just gazing at the amazing landscape. (Granted, that had as much to do with Vanguard’s at-the-time amazing graphics as it had with the game being released with buggy combat and insufficient content in the classic sense).

In that way, GW2’s jumping puzzles are simply another step on the way to more gamification. Of course, the term might not fit perfectly, because you could argue that jumping onto hills, trees, or houses is already a game, so it’s hard to define how to gamify it. But what GW2 does is apply gamification techniques, notably achievements, to broaden the appeal of one game aspect. It used to be that hunting vistas was an explorer’s game. Now, it will be also a thing for achievers to tick off their list. Google a list of where to go, how to jump, collect map, ignore view, go to next puzzle.

OK, that sounded a bit mean. I’m not opposed to this. I’m just torn. I said before that I think there is good and bad gamification. This one might be good, because it broadens the appeal of a part of the game. It might also be bad, because the original intent (get up the mountain, enjoy the view) is lost, and becauseĀ  more obsessive achievers might feel they have to complete an arduous task they don’t enjoy just to tick more items off their list.

TSW’s investigation missions are different, but similar. In contrast to jumping puzzles, they were probably almost completely gone from MMOs for some time. That doesn’t mean they never existed before. Anybody remember Mankrik’s wife? That was one of the more simple investigation quests you could think of, and its infamy shows two things: MMO players, or at least WoW players, weren’t big fans of that kind of game (cue “Where’s Mankrik’s wife?” Barrens chat), and in effect, it was s solitary experience, a kind of test balloon, only rarely used as a bit of spice in some other missions. The Onyxia attunement springs to mind, and it was… a divisive quest chain. Let’s keep it at that.

Mankrik’s quest was removed in Cataclysm without replacement or followup. I guess the developers didn’t see a place for it in a world of streamlined leveling and quest locations on maps.

To go one step further back in time, Everquest’s quests didn’t have exclamation mark indicators. They often enough didn’t send to you a specific location, instead requiring you to roam the world to find the next place to go to. In MUDs, a typical quest might start from an item you found, and a cryptic information that “you should find someone who knows more about this”. If you were lucky, you might be told that finding the blacksmith who forged it might be a good idea, which reduced the number of possible targets from “all people in the world” to “all blacksmiths in the world”. Or, even more obscure: no notification at all, but when you talked to people while in possession of an item, you might get additional conversation options. Keep in mind that back then, not only did there exist no wowhead, no thottbot, no allakhazam. It was actively frowned upon to “spoil” these kinds of stories and quests for others.

The temptation to spoil or be spoiled when it comes to riddles is larger these days than it used to be. While investigation missions in TSW are not repeatable (as opposed to almost all other missions, after shorter or longer cooldown timers), they give, as a compensation I assume, a large amount of XP. I heard (delightfully rarely, but once or twice) the notion that “they are a great source of XP, especially because they are fast to do with a walkthrough”. Gamification and obsessive achiever mindset, indeed. I think these people miss the point. Yes, these missions give a lot of XP, but not more than a couple of the repeatable, more conventional missions. In return, you lose out on one of the strongest points of the game. Bad tradeoff, if you ask me.

So, the whole thing is a double-edged sword in my eyes: it’s good if games return to a broader appeal and range of activities. On the other hand, I’m not sure why game companies think they need to attach additional rewards to them. Do they think players might otherwise skip them because they aren’t “worth it”? Are they too scared that players might rather stay in their box than move out of it?

What I’m not playing: GW2

This is the second of what I expect to be three posts about three games that I’m not playing, each for another reason.

Reading blogs at the moment, it seems everybody is preparing for the next big event this year. It feels a bit like being a child at the start of the big summer holidays. Everybody’s packing to leave for vacation. For some reason, I stay at home, though. It turned out that Greenland is all the rage this year, and I don’t like shivering in June, so I’d rather stay here anyway, on my own. Collecting keys for all the houses, so I can water the plants, feed the fish, empty the mailboxes, et cetera, until they’ll all be back and show me long slide shows of glaciers, or whatever there is to see on Greenland.

Getting off on the wrong foot

The first time I heard of Guild Wars was shortly after I started playing WoW in 2005. Some guild mates on Ventrilo talked about this game they enjoyed on the side. When I asked what it was about, they told me it was awesome because it was “all instances” and “totally PvP-focused!”.

I don’t think I ever lost interest in a game faster. “All instances” and “all PvP” thenceforth were burned into my brain as description of Guild Wars, and it was neatly filed under “games you don’t care for and are not interested in”. And let me tell you, once I decided something is not for me, I have an impressive ability to ignore it. I literally never so much as heard from Guild Wars again until a couple of months ago, when I started reading blogs that talked about it, and a successor.

The first thing I was surprised about was that the game still existed. The second thing was that, supposedly, it had become much more PvE-focused. The problem was that still, nothing that I read made me really yearn for the game. I had a lot of other games I enjoyed at that time. And let’s face it, it’s not a UO or EQ: games that feel I need to have tried out just because of their name and influence, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not.

Continuing on the wrong foot?

What I read about GW2 so far is the following: It will have Dynamic Events, just like Rift. Wasn’t a big fan of them there, either. Especially if you do them on your own because everybody else is in other areas. And I like somewhat empty areas, so it’s bound to happen to me in dynamic event games.

It will be the same “select monster, hit actions on your bar, loot” model that almost every other game has had in the last years. And don’t tell me about “dynamic dodging” and such, we’ve already had that couple of times, too (TERA and TSW are the ones just from this year that spring to mind). Now, being just like the others is not a fault. (I actually still like the target-and-use-abilities system.) It just means that you don’t set yourself apart in a positive way, either.

Finally, PvP. Yeah… well. I heard it’s mostly WvWvW. And the way I understood it, it will be a large battleground, WoW-style (as in AV 1.0, when battles could take days), capped at a certain number of people per side, to encourage “fair battles”.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t like fair PvP. Actually, I don’t like PvP much at all, but if it happens, I like it with 5:1 odds, preferably more. Why? Simple. I suck at PvP. I don’t win 1vs1. It’s one of the things EVE does right: you rarely fight at even odds. You fight when you think you outnumber or outgun your enemy. And you fight back when you think you have people ready to tilt the odds in your favor. It feels a lot more natural to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t like fighting other people much to start with. I’m more of a cooperative person. Add to that the fact that PvP seems to bring out the worst in people. So if I fight, I don’t fight for fun, but to win and get it over with. And I don’t care whether it’s fair or not.

Compelled to stay on the wrong foot

Also, there’s a certain… attitude to a very, VERY vocal minority among the soon-to-be GW2 players. I’ve seen rabid fanboyism before, but not at this scale: descending on every argument against their game. A game that, in their mind, will open the seventh seal, signal the second coming of Christ Almighty (minus those pesky riders), and deliver us all from the Evil that is every other game. But only for true believers, of course. If you dare question any of the dogmas, all you’ll get is a “shun the non-believer! shuuuuuuuun!“. If you’re lucky. If not, something like this happens. (From there on down, pretty much.)

Oh my. This is just… I’m at a loss for words. And all of this to a person who actually has preordered the game, so decided that it’s worth playing for him. The one thing we can all hope for is that those people will soon start playing their game, then promptly descend on the forums to spew all their hate towards the GW2 developers for developing what is only *gasp* a game! No game could seriously fulfill the inflated expectations by this point.

Will I ever get back on the other foot?

GW2 has one thing going for them: You buy the box, and from then on it’s F2P right out of the door. I will glance over the inevitable avalanche of posts about the game, starting from next week. If I like what I see there, I might pick it up later. That will have another huge advantage: the vast majority of the toxic fanboys that descend like locusts on blogs right now will have stopped playing by then. They’ll realize that, in the end GW2 is a game, not eternal salvation and deliverance from evil. It will probably make for a much better community and chat channels that you don’t have to leave immediately for fear of eye cancer, stomach ulcers, or fits of rage. I really feel for those who will have to wade through this in the coming weeks once the game goes live to enjoy the game they’re looking forward to. I hope all the nice bloggers will find some fun in the game, I really do! After all, it’s probably not a bad game. Just one that didn’t perk my interest when I heard of it, and then spoiled by the attitude of a minority that I think would make it impossible for me to enjoy the game at this point in time.