[GW2] Timing is everything. And a good thing too.

Much has been said about the dynamic shnynamic events in GW2, to a point where I have indefinitely banned the term to the same corner as “hardcore” and “casual” for MMO debates. There’s been quite some praise of course, yet as usual the whining has been the loudest on the message boards I frequent. Personally I think most of the negative critics are missing the point here completely, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

It’s true: the nature of dynamic events in MMOs is that you can be too late or too early, just being “on time” making for the perfect gameplay experience. It’s true too that it feels somewhat disconnected storywise to blunder into an ongoing event without much context. Alas, that’s an issue MMO players have to cope with – unless you prefer not having these types of more random mass-events at all, or only get phased variations thereof. Phasing wouldn’t work the same way for many reasons. Phasing really isn’t an answer to most common MMO questing/adventuring issues, to be honest.

More importantly though, I love that I can be either too early, too late or just on time for events in GW2 – the fact that stuff is happening out there whether I am a part of it or not. The fact that the world doesn’t only spring to life as I push the button since I am so horribly important. Strange things are afoot in Tyria. The world feels alive and yes, “dynamic” because of it. Even if I miss an event or only observe other players running it from afar, I enjoy that. I can try revisit that place later or join anyway and investigate. And when I actually do arrive on time and things start to magically unfold around me….well, there’s absolutely nothing that compares to that feeling in MMOs!

A year ago I read a splendid Skyrim review that captured precisely what makes that world feel so wonderfully open and alive. Unfortunately I cannot for the life of me remember the site. Anyhow, a game journalist talked about his most epic gameplay moment there, when he experienced the perfect dragon encounter somewhere on the road, after pursuing a wild horse that had raced off in terror. There were all kinds of hints like that one, foreboding the incoming dragon attack, NPCs running his way screaming just as the first huge shadow fell over his party and the dragon’s metallic shriek rang through the valley. Skyrim’s magic lies in moment such as this: when everything clicks and it feels as if the world was truly alive all around you, and you are just an erring traveler chancing on whatever lies around the next bend of the road. It’s a magical thing if videogames put us into that removed, immersed state of mind for a moment. It’s a rare and beautiful thing – a memorable thing. It’s the perfect simulation. Real life doesn’t happen according to your agenda all the time, either.

That sensation can never come a dime a dozen though and it shouldn’t. I don’t want to be on time for all the dynamic events in GW2. I want to be early and too late, so that when I am on time at last the scenery will take my breath away. Syp calls experiences like that “just an awesome moment“. To me they lie at the heart of the MMO experience. It’s why we need more randomness in games, more opportunities to be failed or missed, so that we may succeed and when we do, succeed with flying colors. If the minstrel tells us stories before a burning camp fire at night, they will recall most memorable moments and wondrous, rare encounters. And those are worth waiting for and certainly worth having.

And then, suddenly…

6 comments

  1. I just wish they wouldn’t call them “dynamic”. Just call them what they are, timed or triggered events. If the same thing happens every time it’s not dynamic.

    Aside from that GW2 does a better job then most games, but only because there’s more of them, so they don’t feel as fake. It would be nice if these events had multiple paths with different outcomes.

    1. Personally I don’t know where ANet ever promised that they invented the kind of quests that are “different every time”. Is that what dynamic means? is it scaling?is it simply quests happening randomly with or without trigger? …many many ways how players interpreted the term.

      I like the event and as you said, GW2 does them better than others. as long as there’s no MMO out there with perfectly scaling, random mass event that also feature AI mobs and whatnot – I will stick to GW2. ;)

  2. The whole point of dynamic events is that they are things happening in what looks like a living, breathing world that goes on without you. Having every event start exactly on time for the player (if that were even possible – in an open world multiplayer game, start on time for WHICH player?) would be the antithesis of that – it would make the world nothing but a backdrop for the player’s story, and would make everything revolve around that player’s actions. That’s fine for a single player RPG but I always thought the whole point of a game being massively multiplayer is that all those players have a shared world.

    Phasing is nothing but a tool for making what was an open, multiplayer world conform to the result of each player’s actions in their own view – and it does it at the expense of making the world less open, less multiplayer. It’s a great tool for storytelling if used sparingly but too much of it separates each player into their own personal bubble universe.

    Anyway, for me one of the BEST things about dynamic events is walking over a hill to find some battle already in progress, or dashing across the map at the request of some NPC who ran up to me and hoping to make it there in time to help beat off the centaur attack. That’s what heroes do. They arrive in the nick of time.

    1. No disagreement there whatsoever :) I love that feeling to, of rushing towards an event in progress hoping to be of some help.

      they could’ve done better on the scaling, but I suspect it’s very difficult to create a mechanic that adjusts so seamlessly nonstop during fights where more and more people keep joining over a short period of time. that’s why the events where there’s bosses and veteran packs are more enjoyable to me than those with normal mobs dying quicker than I can target them. of course this changes when you’re in a more empty spot.

  3. I am of two minds on the subject. I do like feeling that my choices and actions within a game have some meaning, some impact on its world. However I also came to expect for such things to only really happen in single player games. In MMORPGs that is just impractical except in the most hardcore sandboxes which are not my cup of tea.

    That said, I do think Guild Wars 2 found some sort of middle ground for it. The best examples I can think of those would be in the Harathi Hinterlands and Orr. Both have a ton of linked dynamic events that affect the places you can hang out in the map. With Harathi Hinterlands it is all about defeating centaurs, taking over their camps and making sure they don’t take it back. That can make it easier to get some points of interest, waypoints, having nearby vendors to sell your trash, etc. While Orr is more like Harathi Hinterlands bumped to 11. Not only you get those benefits but losing one of those camps will make the waypoint contested which make dying a much more painful prospect as you will end up in a waypoint way too far in the back. Then you have to go trekking all over the map again, making your way through a ton of undeads just to go back to the point you were exploring.

    So, yes, even if I know my contribution to those fights won’t be permanent, that the enemies will eventually come back to take it over again, it is still nice to help out in those fights. Not only for my own convenience but also for the convenience of anybody that will come just right after me.

    And yes, it is also awesome to just see a battle in progression, being able to just jump right into it and see how much I can help. Specially if it seems that the battle isn’t going well. :)

    I also like that dynamic events in Guild Wars 2 even if it ends up in failure there is often a follow up to kind of trying to make up for what happened. Heck, even when we succeed there will be times where there will be a follow-up event which is kind of a nice way for them to say “Good job! Now we can tackle harder stuff!”. :)

    1. I think we do not need to content ourselves with impact only ever existing in offline/single-player games. like you said, GW2 makes some good attempts – but they could be much better even. I think MMOs need to lose the idea that everything is always available and repeatable for everybody. much of the generic feeling comes from everything that players do happening over and over, respawning, resetting….why? why not make some events more unique? what if somebody misses them – so what? you could add small content patches for this on a fortnightly base, like I suggested a while ago in an article on expansions. give players a real sense of story progression, unique experiences and impact. let them change things permanently! and ofc add stuff in the mix such as zone domination (with meaningful consequences!!), physical housing, player shops etc. and more opportunities for player created content.

      p.s. I really like too that you can fail events in GW2!

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