A not so Living World

Arenanet has released another blog post centered around their thoughts for the future of guild wars 2 and I can’t help but once again feeling a little skeptical..yeh, yeh I know. I’ve been disappointed so many times regarding these updates that I just can’t muster the same feelings I used to. I can’t even feel that rage as it came from a deep-seated feeling of hope and that is no more. It’s the same PR routine that preaches far more than it ever delivers. I don’t hold them to these since what they are claiming would be virtually impossible, an expansion’s size worth of content and quality content updates every week is a dream that is great to aspire to but not to be taken seriously.

More talks about the living story and their plans for continuing this kind of content which I honestly couldn’t care less about. I’ll do it sometimes if the mood strikes me if it looks like something interesting but it really adds nothing to the replayability of the game. Overall I’m just not sold on this whole “living World” idea quite yet as from what I’ve seen it has been far from creating that feeling but I’m guessing it really depends on who you ask as to how they are doing. It has a lot to do with the expectations we had for Guild Wars 2 before release, expectations about what a living world meant. We saw videos of centaurs marauding across terrain and demolishing buildings, we heard ideas of enemies taking controlling and expanding territory but so far we only see this kind of content in rare set pieces. Mobs are still overly predictable and while it isn’t as bad as the lack of movement present in other games it still gives the same static feeling.

Events are too contained and far too regular to feel anything like a living world and this hasn’t changed, if you can time events to the minute like we do with the Lagons then you’ve done something wrong. There has been a wide range of content involved in their updates so far, with some of them being rather impressive but to me though “world” implies permanent additions to the game world in it’s entirety but we’re only seeing small changes in restricted areas that aren’t as dynamic as they could be. I look at the development and gameplay of Firefall and it’s a far better interpretation of a Themepark creating a living world being guided by the players actions than this… I wonder what Guild Wars could have been if it followed this style more closely.

There are probably many reasons behind the direction of this holiday style content development, and i won’t get into the cash shop rhetoric that I could. Regardless of the reasons though I just don’t like it, they’re great to add a certainly novelty to the experience and to break up the regular play but when they are constantly being spammed they cease to be something different and lose the novelty… and when they lose that novelty you realise just how boring this content style is. Secondly, I don’t know why but they just don’t feel like real content.. more like the filler we used to do to be able to do content. The kharka event was decent even if I didn’t get to participate (besides the lag) and even the recent Soutshun Cove update was rather good but mostly it’s all inconsequential to gameplay.

The other question is “When is it too much?” I make no pretense in knowing what the optimal time and quantity of updates should be but 2 weeks just seems like too much. Keeping up with the changes, strats of new content, achievements and where and how to get new items every couple of weeks seems like it would be exhausting. Being temporary content as well instills a certain compulsion to complete the new items and yet it’s just too much for the average player to do.

And where’s the challenge. They certainly know how to make things difficult bordering on insanely frustrating  but i don’t see any open world content that consistently uses teamwork and strategy over zerging. And apart from the odd dungeon of varying quality it’s all seems like fetch quest grind. Bhagpuss is just as puzzled over the direction as much as I am but probably for different reasons but he does have a point. When you fill your game with something unappealing and a lot if it is to me, it lessens the enjoyment of the content you do like.

To quote little mermaid ” I wish I could be, part of this world”, and I never really have felt that I was. I don’t know why this is at all and I would like to but I guess it all started in the beginning with their Dissociative Disorder in their development with how they were of many minds but no clear vision. In the recent video Colin himself says that they’ve been very experimental in their approach and it shows… they really had no definite plan and it was a mystery how it would all work once it went live. They have never understand what the player base wants and how they will react to the content. It does seem like it is all changing very fast and with each iteration you can see improvements in how they release this new content based on their learning’s from feedback however this change has been slow.

However, a second element was missing. We heard questions from our players, old and new. What about events that are more time limited and won’t continue to happen forever? What about holiday events we can look forward to each year? What about events that can permanently change the world and create stories to share for years into the future? Isn’t that truly what is required to achieve the concept of a truly living world?

Really? The way i see it these things do not make a living world all by themselves, they are an addendum to it. They enhance the feeling of a world already alive but in its absence all they make is a pale imitation of it. Projects like Embers of Caerus, Pathfinder Online, Star Citizen, The Repopulation, and of course Eve are what I imagine a living world to sound like.. Guild wars 2 is a themepark trying to emulate this in the best way it can and that is not necessarily a bad thing but i don’t think doing this is working towards the strengths of the game.

The next patch, Bazaar of the four winds is another step towards this but I don’t think they will ever be able to change the base product enough to be where I would like in terms of being a living world. Pretending to have a living world, no matter how well implemented will never equal the real thing.

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11 thoughts on “A not so Living World

  1. Like you, I remain to be convinced by the “Living World”. The world they described before launch – before beta in fact – did sound like a living world, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. What we actually got was a very wonderful static world with a large set of highly predictable cyclical events, few of which have any real significance for players. They’re great fun to watch and participate in, especially the first few times, but they play out over and over like clever mechanical toys.

    That at least was an attempt at something new(ish). What they are now calling the “Living World” is much more traditional than that. It’s very astute of you to point out that most of it seems to be a mix of typical holiday event type material as seen in most MMOs for the last decade or so, albeit here not always specifically tied to a real world or even in-game “holiday. Most MMO holidays do include some limited-term instanced content so I wouldn’t even count the dungeons as anything unusual.

    Also, the idea that adding content at this speed is ground-breaking doesn’t chime with me. I remember Everquest patching a lot more frequently than twice a month back i the pre-WoW days and a quick look at the invaluable Allakhazam patch archive shows me that’s not nostalgia talking: between April and October 2003, just to take one snapshot, SOE revamped 14 existing zones (most of those revamps were very significant as I recall, with long-lasting change-of-use impact), added three completely new zones and launched the expansion that brought instancing to the game, changing it forever. Plus a myriad of smaller quality of life changes as usual. And all of those were “permanent”.

    We’ll see where this goes. As I said, I’m going to give up any intention I ever might have had to treat the thing as a coherent package. It isn’t. It’s a compilation of lots of largely unconnected set pieces that just happen to take place in a shared gamespace. Nothing wrong with that but it’s not a “world”.

    • @bhagpuss “As I said, I’m going to give up any intention I ever might have had to treat the thing as a coherent package. It isn’t. It’s a compilation of lots of largely unconnected set pieces that just happen to take place in a shared gamespace.”

      They have 4 diferent teams working for create the living world. It is very dificult 4 diferent teams produce a coherent package. They will need time for make mistakes, learn with that mistakes and see what work and what not work. Only after they have a “standard” fixed for each team follow they can start to make a package that is more “coherent”.

      There is a diference between what happened to Everquest and to what is happening to GW2 (I was plaing EQ that time). Everquest changed zones for adequate them to the new technology developed after the game was launched, better graphic cards. EQ philosophy was a change that had a limited scope of time and intent: they made that changes and stoped them after they adequated some zones to new graphics, but not changed quests or mobs in that zones.

      GW2 living world philosophy is diferent: the change is permanent adn more radical. There is not a time limit for when the change will stop. There is not a limit to what they can change after some time: if they want introduce new dungeons, new jumping puzzles, new DE, they will do it, and if they want get rid out old dungeons, old jumping puzzles and old DE they too will get them out.

      So, while EQ revamped zones had the same mobs, with better graphics, and same quests after the zone revamps, GW2 want change mobs and DE at each zone they revamp. What you call “PR” come from a developer director and not from a PR officer, so he is just expressing what are the intention of the company: change DEs, change mobs, change geography. The same director said one month ago that they itnend to make the living world event go faster, maybe each 2 weeks.

      The intervier give a hint from what they intent change in the middle future (IMHO, that question was pre-ordered before the interview). They want change the zones where the centaur appear. Look for a centaur historian at LA, near the lion fountain, that NPC will say the other centaurs exilated him because he said them the centaurs had to make peace with humans because humans are making peace with charr, so humans can concentrate all their power against one only enemy, the centaurs. So, the great war betwees humans and centaurs is hinted in game.

      Can they do it? Well, so far living world was an experimentation. A learning experience for the devs. But they changed tottally a zone, Southsun Cove. So, if they want, they can chagne any other zone, mobs, DE, geography. Not only a graphical change.

      While you want call it pure PR and say you are not impressed, it is good take note the game community is really impressed, you like it or not.

      But it will be good see other MMO adopting the “living world” concept (because it will happen sooner thatn you want imagine) and not, it is not a thing that EQ made in 2003, the “living world” model was set by GW2.

      If you don’t believe me, take note that FFXIV:ARR have Dynamic Events…

    • It is a fun system they have. That first play through… and even second for some of the zones was a lot of fun, the way the dynamic events occur brings more variability in play. But after that it does feel so terribly static.
      And the updates, they just aren’t very coherent when looking at them together. Being episodic isn’t neccessarily a bad thing but the lack of coherence in the story and how it progresses is an issue for an mmo. It’s supposed to be about long running change and progression not DLC

      @joa This is a great mdoel to work with and I think we will see a lot more mmo’s using this framework to deliver constant dynamic content to the players. As War was a model for many, GW2 will be as well. I don’t think this living world concept is a new idea though, just a reinterpretation of the usual content updates.

      Oh and yes he does have a proper position but he has had a big role in PR for a long time now.. and why not, he sells the game well with his charm, nerd appeal and passion about his project

      • nerds have no appeal, the “cool” people know it, but we nerds try to lie to ourselves.

        PR need be made by professionals. A dev trying make PR is a mistake, huge. They don’t have the skills

        As a nerd, that dev is expressing what they intend to do. You interpret it as if he is a lawyer and professional liar. Nerds are bad liars, everyone see when they don’t believe what they are saying, and everyone can see that dev believe at what he is saying.

        Just see what happened just after that interview: other dev said that Anet do’nt intend make an expansion at the next year or for two years. Then come a real PR for the company and say it is not exactly that, but too not say they will have an expansion at the next two year. That guy is professional RP.

        So, IMHO if you treat a dev talking about what the devs intendo to do as if the guy is a professional RP, but not a nerd, show your opinion is based only in a bias against the game. A biased opinion have no validity.

      • i think you’re selling his role a little short and think he is definitely cool with a certain appeal to the people who enjoy the game. There is probably a team of professional writers behind him but he is the one relaying information regarding his product. For many people he is the face of the company, kind of like the definition of public relations. And if you’re referring to the recent clarification about an expansion it was Colin, or at least his account2 that said it on the forums.

        It’s very similar to the role Joe Bylos has and that isn’t a bad thing but his words shouldn’t be taken as indisputable facts.

      • @j3w3l “There is probably a team of professional writers behind him but he is the one relaying information regarding his product. ”

        Can you prove it? Or it is an opinion based on no facts?

        @j3w3l “For many people he is the face of the company, kind of like the definition of public relations.”

        He is a professional RP or just an amateur?

        @j3w3l “And if you’re referring to the recent clarification about an expansion it was Colin, or at least his account2 that said it on the forums.”

        Clarification is very strong term, because what GAME DIRECTOR Colin Johanson said on forums have no substantial information:

        “We have no final plans one way or another about expansions at this time, and certainly haven’t ruled them out, it’s something we’ll discuss more in the future.”

        So, he said “yes” and “no” at same time. That is PR, he is trying to make NSOFT investors tranquil after what CONTENT DESIGNER Mike Zadorojny said:

        “So, right now we sare we’re not really looking at expansions as option.”

        Can you see the diference? That is a definitive “no”.

        So, basically you freaking about what STUDIO DESIGNER DIRECTOR Chris Whiteside answered to this question from Massivelly:

        “Tell us a little about the living world from the DEVELOPER’s side”

        The answer, you say it is pure PR, was:

        “We had decided around launch we wanted to set ourselves a bigger challenge. WE’RE ALL MMO PLAYERS, and we really wanted to take the term “living world” and actually make it happen.”

        That is a nerd answer. Not a PR. A PR will never answer a question directed to the DEVELOPER’s side so directly, because a PR NEVER say a complete lie (that can bring some legal problems): they say “yes” and “no” at same time.

        When you admit Chris Whiteside is a nerd, there is a problem with that guy being pure PR: nerds have low social skills… that make them bad liars.

  2. They should keep their promise of adding more events to all the zones, so that they repeat less often and have more variety. That, to me, is the best part of the game and the the one that I enjoyed the most, but like Bhagpuss said, once you’ve seen them cycle enough times it stops being fun to roam around doing them.

    The temporary/instanced stuff is not ‘living’. The story team seems to have a hard time grasping how to present their full story within the game, as well (going by the short stories they like posting on the blog that flesh out character and plot stuff that, in my opinion, should be shown ingame). It’s true that since release GW2’s development just feels random and hard to grasp the goal of. There’s so much good about the game, it’s frustrating to see it meandering around like this for months.

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