A Dialogue of Dissent

It should be no surprise right now that I looooove a good rant from time to time but I don’t just like writing them, I like reading them as well. It’s not all rainbows and puppies in the land of Tyria at the moment with many voicing dissent about nearly all aspects of the game so there are a glut of rants out there to indulge on. Now we see a lot of QQ in every mmo but I’ve never really seen it this focused with a large population before, usually it is surrounding a singular aspect but this time the issue seems to be at the core of what Guild Wars 2 has become as well as a general malaise regarding the direction of the mmo genre. It is obviously not just the vocal minority this time.. well not entirely, as there seems to be many people supporting the same message across the blogs, reddit, game sites, and on the forums.

Kichwas recently had an interesting rant regarding the direction of how the story is progressing with these “living” story updates and he isn’t impressed.

I see all the signs of a focus on short term shinies and addictive repetition and no signs on larger plot development. They seem to have completely forgotten their own setting’s lore in favor of chasing context-less quick patches that have nothing to do with this setting.

I have to agree with his assessment of the quality of the tales told by the living story. Apart from this being a mmo about “horizontal” progression, a big part of the pitch was experiencing an ongoing and engaging story but it has been far from that. Check it out for my, and many other replies from different view points.

The Man himself, Ravious also had a rather demure rant recently about how the focus on achievements is beginning to guide players behaviour in game, not in a good way either.

In Guild Wars 2, achievements have replaced quests wholesale in these bi-weekly updates. Players now look to achievements as content guides and additional challenges. The separation of time and skill is no longer there as pure content guides (go watch this cut scene), reasonable play expectations (play a few games), and difficult challenges (don’t get hit by lasers, ever) are all crammed in to one place. In my opinion, this puts way more focus on unintended ways to play.

The focus on achievements guiding our play has been steadily increasing over the months to something I’m not exactly comfortable with anymore. It went from being entirely forgettable and optional to this obnoxious system enticing the masses to conform to one dominant playstyle.. and it isn’t a very nice playstyle either. Check-box ticking with very little thought about those around you and seems to me that instead of the feel of cooperation we used to have it is now a competition surrounding achievements. Playing as a team or a group comes second to completing these and when achievements don’t align with the mechanics you end up in a a system, and with gameplay that is not fun… not even close.

The best analogy I can think of regarding this decent into achievement induced madness is the whole Frog in water experiment. Drop them into hot water immediately and they remove themselves from harm, however slowly heat the water up and the frog boils to death none the wiser.

It all started innocently enough with the addition of the dailies, monthlies and Ascended gear. Then achievement guided new events and Guild missions came a bit after, and finally a game completely guided by checklists. It was such a gradual thing that it seemed like a natural progression but before you notice your stifled by something that is literally killing the game for you. I miss the game Guild Wars 2 used to be were people’s interests guided their play rather than a shiny new menu, when the only thing to aim for was exotic gear and it could be gained in a variety of ways, when you picked and chose the achievements that were interesting to you rather than based on some holy doctrine.

Which brings me to the recent post by Bhagpuss.

This water feels so warm, so comfortable. Lie back, relax, enjoy it.

hmmm.. seems rather familiar to that frog and you’re damn right the best thing to do is rip that plaster off… or at least in this case, jump the f out and turn off the heat. Address the cause of the infection and not the symptoms.

Are dailies really necessary? I believe dailies can be a positive influence and guide for players based around progression or just what to do but there are extremes to that and these extremes aren’t very well known until it’s too late. There is a defined line between being just a guide or a complete focus, it might be hard to ascertain at first but you will know when it has been crossed. Dear Arenanet, you not only crossed that line you you created an achievement for doing so.

I seem to be immune to the addictive influence of the daily so it is hard for me to really describe but from the outside all these show to me is that your game is lacking in some sort of fundamental way that you need to obscure. Shouldn’t these activities we are completing be rewarding enough to entice us on their own, wouldn’t the recent trend towards dailies you complete in your usual play just be better served in improving these actual activities. I don’t know… it just seems to be another band-aid that needs ripping off in order to let the wound truly heal.

I don’t know how but I miss the years of mmo’s I never played where players had there own goals rather than these being dictated by developers. How can I miss something I never tried or tasted, and how will I know it when it comes along? Well, this rat will try a different maze shortly to find out but the infection does seem to be spreading… time to amputate.

11 thoughts on “A Dialogue of Dissent

  1. IMHO, maybe the question you need make is: it is working?

    I see a lot of new players and old players returning to GW2…

    I too guess this system will work fine with the chinese gamers. Can Anet see more 3 million copies being sold when they launch their chinese version?

    • I’m not arguing against it’s popularity but the question still remains “is it working”. recent news out of China stated that they have 2.5 million active players every week, an impressive feet. But when you get into how much time players are spending in game it only averages out to something like 1hour 20 evrey week, a little over 10 minutes a day… that’s terrible. A majority of people it would seem then are just logging on to do their daily. If this game was a sub then these people would have left a long time ago but we are in the confusing situation of analysing a mmo without a sub where players can jump in and out. What does active players mean in this situation?… I would actually be more interested in concurrent players than that.

      Also if players Aren’t really spending that much time in game and only doing so to complete rote activities and achievements i would hardly call that an engaging style of. Even without a sub Arenanet is still relying on it’s playerbase to pay for the game and if people aren’t engaged I wouldn’t think they are spending that much, if at all. How long before the whales they’ve been poaching give up? I would be very interested in seeing sales data now.

  2. I only played GW2 for a few days during early access; other game matter got higher priority then (City of Heroes shutdown was announced) and later I did not have the urge to try it out again. So I cannot judge how the game has changed now.

    It sounds like a far too common in software – some kind of feature/solution works quite well and suddenly everything needs to be solved using that feature.

    MMO quests and some features there started out in similar way when EQ2 and WoW had tons of them, fairly simple ones, and that ended up in many doing the same thing – filling the games with them.

    In the short term things work well; the long-term direction and vision tend to get lost when focus is on short term gains.

    • Haha, yeh it is kind of like that. Companies so often peropetuate a solution to a problem that it eventually becomes the next problem needing to be fixed.

  3. The reason my post that you kindly linked is so eliptical and asks so many rhetorical questions is that I genuinely do not know what I think. I played MMOs for years, over a decade in fact, watching and listening to other people being drawn in, taken in, by more or less subtle attempts to manipulate their in-game behavior, brand loyalty and spending habits. I felt, often with an unattractive overtone of self-congratulation, that I was above such things, saw through them, could not be manipulated, went my own way.

    Only now I find that although I can still see the levers being used to tip me in particular directions, I can’t always be bothered to roll off the side and go round the back the way I used to. I’m having to ask myself some very difficult questions, not least about whether I’m having fun and whether I would even KNOW if I was having fun.

    The plain fact is that I agree with almost everything you say about what’s wrong with GW2 but I still enjoy playing it. I also agree with Joao that it very definitely IS working. The game is heaving with people, including lots and lots of names I recognize but haven’t seen for a while. The nature and tone of conversation in map chat reflects acceptance and the kind of frustration you get from people who are invested and want more, not who are fed up and angry.

    Unlike Joao, however, I don’t think that because something works for ANet commercialy and increases the popularity of the game that’s an unalloyed good. Frankly, so long as ANet make enough money to keep the servers, or a few of them, going I could care less how popular the game gets. I actually think there is a real chance now that GW2 WILL be the new WoW. Not 12 million “subs” but quite conceivably five million or more of whatever ANet count as paying, playing customers. Huge popularity and success did not, in my opinion, improve WoW as an MMO. I don’t imagine it will improve GW2.

    That’s the macro. The micro is whether or not I believe it is good for me to enjoy playing GW2 the way it is clearly being redesigned to be played and whether I should allow myself to do it. There are many, many things that I enjoy that I DON’T allow myself to do, or at least not in an unlimited, unrestricted fashion. Eating donuts is a comparison I often use – one every few weeks is a treat; a bag of six every day is insanity. Just because something is fun while you do it is rarely a good enough reason to keep doing it indefinitely.

    I don’t know where this is going. Everything changes. Maybe the new MMOs are better than the old. Maybe it really is ridiculous to feel that moving pixels around on a screen for 40 hours a week one way is “creative” while moving them another way is “self-indulgent”. I don’t have a clear answer yet and may never have one. If all this sounds confusing it’s because I am completely confused.

    One thing I I do know for certan is that I pre-ordered two copies of FFXIV yesterday, that Mrs Bhagpuss is playing EQ2 right now and when I finish typing this so will I be, and that the moment I can actually log into some version of EQNext whatever any other MMO may be doing will fade into complete insignificance, at least for a while.

    WvW has never been better, though!

    • Yeh, that is the hard part isn’t it. I tend to get overly critical when I’m unsure and my about it all are still a jumbled hypocritical mess. I’m happy to spend an entire day thumping in Firefall, ie grinding mobs but get sent into a frothing rage regarding achievements and dailies… It makes no sense. The type and extent of manipulation does vary but who’s to say which is good and bad. I’m only qualified to say what is bad for me. What is more tolerable and which levers give the tastier pellets to me. I think one key distinction is about a players sense of agency, but that is only part of the equation.

      Like I replied to Joan, it has been a success in certain terms. It’s made a profit, it sold a reasonable amount of copies I’m guessing they are getting a consistent amount, and the have definitely got a return on their investment. Compared to other games it qis a relative lightweight in regards to profit and yet has a comparable cost. I also judge mmo’s more on their long term potential then short term gain, snd this sort is more questionable. Also how can you call someone an active player when they are only completing the daily. Is that all we expect of our “world’s” now.. Such a thought makes me even more uncertain.

      I don’t think GW2 will be the next big WoW, but then again I don’t think there will be people game like that again. Even after the China boom it will be another bright spark that immediately fades. WoW isn’t even WoW anymore (hyperbole much) so we can’t expect any other game to be that, it was a product of the time just as much as it was pure luck. Having a good read through the WoW blogs shows they are struggling with the same core concerns we are debating. It i silly to think that these same issues will go away just because it’s a different setting.

      I think it comes down to either creating, or finding a healthy game balance. A balance around not just fun but challenge and perseverance. About community focused and solitary experiences… Direction and encouraging player agency. A very tenuous balance indeed snd once this junk food fad fades away we might just see that balance resurface.

      WvW is still the same, much to its benefit and folly

  4. OMG on the achievements as quests…

    This has been on my mind as I log int he past week for no reason other than making sure I get the daily while sporting some noob’s floating token so I can get them as a mini-pet… because much as I hate it, I too… am a Skritt.

    If I don’t chase that shiny, I won’t ever get it.

    Years of looking at people in WoW who had Murky, from Blizzcon in the primordial era… have trained me to never miss my chance at Murky again…

    BUT…

    I’ve gone from killing ten rats for 10 copper and a rusty sword… to… killing 10 rats three days in a row… for a mini pet of a rusty sword…

    WTF?

    GW2 has no quests. This is a quest free MMO where you play by richly engaging in the content of an area and stuff just happens… like say… finding 10 rats for 3 days in a row with the stuff that happens being a mini…. er….um… ack!

    Maybe I should look at WoW again. It has less questing than GW2.

    Heresy.

    But seriously, I’ve leveled toons there in LFG, and then gone raiding, and I’ve had a near max level character there pop the ’100 quests achievements’ while wandering around in a Cata zone.

    I think I did 100 quests in GW2 just over this last weekend… O.o

    Oh wait… they’re not quests now. We’re calling them achievements…

    I thought I was supposed to get an achievement for something like ‘soloing Logan Thackery without a female toon for him to booty chase’ or ‘finding the one true shiny to shine all other shinies and causing all the Skritt to faint at once while twitching their fingers anime style.’
    - You know… impressive stuff.

    Not: gathered up 20 sticks of wood in Queensdale.

    Or my favorite: kill 30 rats. Look it up, its a regular daily:
    http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Ambient_killer

    • It truly was a silly idea to think you could have, or even pretend to have an mmo without quests. I enjoyed the dynamic events as they felt like a more active quest, even the hearts were were a decent stand-in. But the focus on achievements on quest is just annoying. Haha, heresy indeed

      I’m a skritt too but this skritt only chases shinies on her own schedule

      Also don’t you dare talk bad about the ambient killer daily, it’s my favourite… I love blowing up those little critters

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