GW2 Appreciation Day. Or: The seven months Recap

It’s been seven months to this day since Guild Wars 2 launched somewhat rocky in August 2012, and ever since players have argued just how much genre evolution has in fact taken place with this title. How much has GW2 truly pushed MMO design forward? Over half a year later there is more meat to such analysis.

I will never forget the heated discussions preceding this launch or some of the emotions flying high in the blogosphere. Hardly ever do unreleased games invoke such passionate argument between nay- and yay-fronts. Arenanet’s bold statements and promises for GW2 managed to provoke even the most level-headed genre veterans. So, you are talking of better days?- Well, you better prove it! Any developer can wax lyrical over their unreleased product of course. Yet, here and there this recent twitter observation rang true: “Pessimism is the natural state of the MMO gamer.” We like to complain a lot – but oh, beware of promising us improvement! If it sounds too good to be true that’s probably because it isn’t.

Or was it? Scary is taking the opportunity today to muse on the state of GW2 and what he is thankful for to ANet. Personally, I concur that there is much that GW2 has done for me and that I believe will shape MMOs to come. Seven months later, it is still part of my weekly MMO diet. There are also things however that did not turn out as well as I had hoped. So, while this is by all means an appreciation topic, I will cover all bases in a short recap.

Getting the bad out of the way

I think it’s safe to say that WvW did not deliver on my personal Alterac Valley dreams. Others have already analyzed in great detail all that went wrong in ANet’s three-faction PvP conflict model, preventing it from becoming a source of constant, passionate strife and server pride. As much as I wanted to engage in WvW, even after joining a PvP guild and seeing my server hit #1 on the EU ladder, my flame for this part of the game was sadly never kindled.

I have recently commented on why I feel let down by the subtle change from GW2’s open world no-grind (or at least missing item-centricity) premise, to what has become an endless grind for gear, tokens and daily achievements. ANet feeling pressured to re-introduce these features in lieu of non-existent endgame is probably my biggest GW2 qualm right now, closely followed by their lack of preparing an ingame grouping tool or at least global channel. While player initiatives such as gw2lfg are laudable, I am still at utter disbelief over this.

Other than that, the biggest surprise would be the miss-happen (under-)usage of the item store and inane approach to cosmetic gear (town clothes /eyeroll). If there’s a thing I expected this MMO to do well, it would’ve been cosmetics. But browsing the shop seven months later, one could think ANet do not actually want our money, much to their loss.

Leaving a mark on the MMO map

In spite of few serious short-comings, I consider GW2 a smashing success – and over 2 million box sales are not what I’m referring to. There is no doubt in my mind that GW2 did achieve some of the most important innovations and changes that it originally set out to do. This will and already has had impact on games yet to come.

So, in the spirit of appreciation day, here’s what I thank ANet for:

  • For proving once and for all, despite all doubt and suspicion, that MMOs can feature classic combat without role restrictions and holy trinity. I always believed in this particular feature and wasn’t let down.
  • For introducing a score of varied outdoor events and revolutionizing the fetch&delivery grind of mainstream MMOs.
  • For featuring an active MMO combat with exciting weapon combinations that feel different for every class.
  • For breaking up level progression and keeping to a flat leveling curve.
  • For de-cluttering the MMO UI and keeping a small health bar.
  • For a high level of gear customization in terms of armor dyes.
  • For curvy Norn ladies with proper booty and some of the most consistent, achieved race design in Charr, Asura and Sylvari.
  • For massive outdoor dragon encounters (even if they could be more difficult)
  • And last but far from least: the most stunning, beautiful, inspiring and shamelessly magical MMO world and aesthetic up to date – on land as much as under water. If that wasn’t enough, you also got Jeremy Soule to seal the deal and irrevocably hook you to the wonder that is Tyria.

 

I’ve seen some discussions of late on why graphics don’t matter and how we should return to pixels because that made for better games; I couldn’t disagree more. Graphics are not what makes or breaks an MMO – but give me a great game with GW2’s graphics and vividness on top and I remain your faithful customer forever more. Accomplished design and sound effects are the delicious sugar on every MMO cake.

Which of the above accomplishments do I suspect to have the greatest impact? No doubt we’ll see increased grouping freedom in future MMOs. Roles will likely return in both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online, but never again to the extent and inflexibility of past trinity-based AAA-titles.
More active combat is already here; we can see it in Tera and all bigger releases of 2013 feature it in one shape or form. I wouldn’t credit GW2 for this trend too much but its arrival has marked a new era of less formulaic MMO combat. That said, one can still improve on the zerg.

By far the biggest influence of GW2 lies in ANet’s revamped questing and dynamic event model (and yeah, I still call’em dynamic). Probably the most dramatic shift for me personally, GW2 has set a standard that future, western MMOs simply cannot afford to overlook. I can forgive fedex questing in LOTRO – never again though will I settle for a new MMO setting me on an uninspired kill-ten-rats routine. Thank you Arenanet for showing us what can be done!

I’m sure much more could be said for other aspects of GW2, such as crafting or the much debated personal storyline. I leave it to others to judge such matters as I lack the required focus and expertise. I realize too, this didn’t turn out to be such a short recap after all. I trust my readers will forgive me. The short version is that GW2 is the best thing coming my way since World of Warcraft and while being far from perfect, it hasn’t let me down on my biggest hopes and wishes. And for that I raise my hat to Arenanet.

With that, I am off to continue the Living Story. Enjoy your time in Tyria!

28 comments

  1. “For proving once and for all, despite all doubt and suspicion, that MMOs can feature classic combat without role restrictions and holy trinity. I always believed in this particular feature and wasn’t let down.”

    I am not convinced about this. I have not enjoyed the dungeons of GW2 without the holy trinity nor I found them well designed…if the answer to holy trinity is the corpse run and chicken jumping then I prefer the first one. Maybe one day someone will design a dungeon with interesting boss mechanics without the holy trinity, but ANet have not succeed here imo.

    “For introducing a score of varied outdoor events and revolutionizing the fetch&delivery grind of mainstream MMOs”

    I disagree again :) The game had/have major grinds. Collecting over a million karma for a set of gear or run a dungeon around 80 times for the dungeon set gear is big grinds. And because you had to collect so much karma, players tried to find an efficient way to do this and instead of exploring the map to find new events they camped specific events in end-game and Idon’t blame them..1+ million karma is way too much. Just to be clear, I don’t mind grinds, I like them and especially when they are not behind dailies and various lockouts. But did GW2 eliminate the grinds?no it didn’t

    “For breaking up level progression and keeping to a flat leveling curve.”

    no big deal…really. If I need 80 hours to leveling to 80 do I care if each level need 1 hour or not?all it matters is the total hours to level, at least for me :)

    “For de-cluttering the MMO UI and keeping a small health bar”
    In other games where you can use mods, you can easily do the same and much more…you can also hide completely the health bar and only make it appear on various % and still be very small too. I cannot see evolution here

    “For a high level of gear customization in terms of armor dyes”

    only dyes..the armor models were very very few..for a game without gear progression that depend on character customization, the models were very very few..there were about 6 crafting models while leveling (drops had same armor model as crafts) and few more on max level. Also the process to change the look of your armor was discouraging. I always thought to save the stones to use them later and in max level it was more difficult to find them or to buy them. Compare this with the Lotro Wardrobe and lotro is far superior.

    “And last but far from least: the most stunning, beautiful, inspiring and shamelessly magical MMO world”

    the second most stunning, beautiful, inspiring and shamelessly magical MMO world :) For me, Lotro has the most beautiful and immersive world by far. But GW2 comes second and very close. The feeling I have when I play lotro is by far more immersive than any other game. Your soul find peace and you really feel the magic :).GW2 world is very beatiful but doesn’t give me the feelings of lotro world. All other games simple fail hard to this part.

    I will agree to the rest :) Characters in GW2 is by far the most beautiful characters in MMOs(yes they are better than Tera too..).

    For me what all other MMOs should learn and take from GW2 is the “no tag” system where everyone share every kill and the personal gathering nodes. These 2 were really new experience for me that I found it very hard when I tried to play other MMOs to get used too. When I logged back to other MMOs for long time I was hitting other mobs that people also fight and it took me several minutes to understand that my quest log does not update lol

    1. I agree on the shared nodes.

      The point about the holy trinity is that ANet delivered that promise. whether you fully like the zergy gameplay or not is another question. but they didn’t “lie” about having no dedicated tank or healer in the game which for a very long time was being questioned and doubted as if it cannot ever be done. personally, I like some of the dungeon fights; some are better than others though. there’s room to improve surely, but it is a valid way of designing combat – to me. :)

      I don’t see how your point about ‘what some players did’ is any counter-argument to what I wrote about the quests.. collecting millions of karma for gear or turning things into a grind for yourself is your own choice. I never ‘once’ grinded during my questing in GW2, all I did was exploring. the events and quests are absolutely varied and awesome compared to older MMOs (lotro yikes) – but if you do nothing less but camp the same event at lvl 80, that’s your own fault, sorry. the game cannot force you to make use of its variety! ;)

      And yes, I posted myself not along ago that LOTRO is the most immersive and atmospheric MMO for me too. but that’s not the same for me as being the most beautifully designed or aesthetically pleasing game. two pair of shoes for me. to compare GW2 to LOTRO on a purely visual level would be unfair, as LOTRO has no chance to win that comparison. that said, both are beautiful, just in different ways.

      1. About the holy trinity again…yes they ve done what they promised. How they done it is what concerns me…I don’t think is something evolutionary. Every game can just remove tank/heal and add corpse run possible and also give all people in-combat res. They removed just in the shake of removing it, not because they had something brilliant to place instead.

        I liked GW2 and still like it. Is one of my favorites games. I just don’t think that it is evolotionary and that it will drive the MMOs forward.And no I didn’t camped specific event too, I refused to do it even if I knew it was the most efficient. But that doesn’t change the fact that 1+ million karma/80 dungeon runs is not a grind. Except if you just play to smell the flowers of the world and hear the waterfalls. Which again I say I don’t mind grinds but gw2 have grinds.

        Now as far as questing, I felt hearts was exactly the same. Just there wasn’t a questionmark above the npc and instead of talk to him you just walk next to him and automaticaly your quest log get updated. You still need to do “quests” just the way the game deliver the quests is different. Of course you can say that you can only level through events and don’t touch a single heart, as in any other MMO you can level through dungeons or battlegrounds instead of quests.

        GW2 is an amazing game, is in the TOP MMO games. But in my opinion is not evolutionary, except the “no tag” and the personal node. This is what GW2 makes me miss from other games.

      2. I think it’s very hard to come up with something as controlled or ‘elegant’ as the holy trinity, but any system without tank aggro mechanics is bound to be more chaotic. GW2 combat can definitely improve; personally, I don’t think they are making use of classic CC mechanics the way they should. I expected harder encounters with tactical CC application, not as many dodge&pewpew fests.

        Here’s why I think the heart quests rock: not only do you have the auto-acquisition, almost every heart offers you different ways of filling it. usually there are 3 ways of fulfilling quests and it’s really up to you – throw snowballs at kids, gather meat or kill bears. to me that is an improvement towards playstyle variety (which by the way will also be tackled in Wildstar’s quests).

        And there are features in GW2 and LOTRO both that I love so much – if only I could combine them to one game! :)

  2. While I don’t agree with John on every point (I could not get into LOTRO at all, and TSW’s environment, like GW2’s, is highly immersive. OK hardly any), I do agree that it may be some of the more subtle things about GW2 that may lead the genre forward. “No-Tag” is a huge leap that seems like a no-brainer in retrospect). Interestingly, it also turned the Auction House into a buyer’s market in almost every category, something the “Day-Traders” have frothed at the mouth over, but that I think is wonderful.

    1. …AH players also seem to greatly enjoy the option of buy orders in GW2, so I guess that’s one more plus about that.
      I agree shared nodes is great, although there have been games already doing this, including individual loot from fights. but GW2 definitely established it for a wider audience and made it a must-feature hence forward.

    2. well about lotro I understand is very subjective. Different people can immersed in different worlds. There is no clear winner here :) I don’t know what makes lotro world better for me..maybe the music?maybe I am affected by the movies..but sure GW2 world is amazing too.. http://i.imgur.com/uPZ5FQa.jpg a screenshot I got in kessex hills with my warrior :)

      1. very nice post there m8 and very true :) exactly like you said it “The Sound of Magic”. I wish to combine them too if I could :) I would like the character models and combat of GW2 along with the world and story of lotro. I would also prefer lotro leveling type with old school quests and deeds than hearts and dynamic events hehe.

  3. GW2 has managed the seemingly impossible trick of both exceeding expectations and falling short of them. My ridiculous number of hours played and the plain fact that for the last seven months it’s been a struggle to persuade myself to play any other MMO even briefly testifies to how well GW2 is working for me, and yet so very many of the decisions made since launch are ones I don’t approve of at all.

    The best part is the world, of course, and I completely agree with you that graphics DO matter. Gameplay may be important but I play these games to travel to other worlds and while my imagination can do some of the heavy lifting, the more that’s done for me the more relaxed and enjoyable the trip.

    One of the things that most excited me about GW2 before launch was the flat level curve. I don’t think they really achieved it but they came closer than anyone else and I love it. Leveling has rarely if ever been more entertaining.

    I like the Trinity, personally. The GW2 “all for one, one for all” rough and tumble is fun but it’s never going to match the sheer elegance of dedicated healing, tanking and crowd control. (I don’t consider “DPS” to be a role, merely a by-product). I’m all for flexibility and allowing all classes to take a shot at each role in the Trinity, but I do want the roles to be there.

    1. That is so true; I am often baffled at how badly some things are still implemented in GW2 while it’s such a stunning game at the same time. it’s bizarre at times. the big events are the best example, such as the lost shores. so close and yet so far, lol.

      The flat leveling curve would probably have worked better if they didn’t also keep to set level zones. I don’t know, to me that always felt like a contradiction.
      the trinity sure is elegant. when tactics work out to perfection, players get a sense of achievement and satisfaction. you don’t have that so much in GW2 (to be fair you also have less blaming). I think ANet didn’t nearly make use of CC mechanics the way they should have though. why are so many encounters a zerg? why are there in fact no proper, more lasting CC abilities? there is nothing along the lines of WoW’s or LOTRO’s CC in GW2 and that makes no sense to me(?) status ailments too could be improved on.

  4. As a player with more than 5 years spent playing most I must say GW2 totally blew my mind. In my experience, no mmo ever met the player’s expectations. You said it, mmo player base is pessimistic, and I’d add choosy.
    To me, the most important thing is the feeling of playing a game really made with the player in mind. You start the game, choose your character and start playing. No intro screen, not even a menu screen. Brilliant. Encouraging players to go out and explore, discover stuff, have fun, play however you want. You really need to make a big effort to not to like it.
    Now I see living story with big optimism. It’s still in early stages, but you can see good things happening. It’s also great to see high and low lvl players blending (thanks, once again to another groundbreaking leveling system) at diessa plateau and wayfarer foothills.
    So maybe I should say that I hate Anet because now other mmo seem to me like lighting a fire with sticks when I could be using a lighter.

    1. Haha well, it’s a good thing to find a game that is so fulfilling. sooner or later it will cool off, so enjoy it while it lasts! :)

  5. I’m curious as to what precisely you felt you didn’t get from WvW. Sometimes, I think it’s a guild mismatch or server community issue. From the perspective of my current matchup, there has been plenty of “constant, passionate strife and server pride” running rampant on everybody’s parts.

    I’m so there with you on no holy trinity, flat leveling curve and gorgeously magical world. And designed player cooperation, I might add.

    1. I love the res-anyone feature on GW2 so much. it was debated loads pre-launch and has proven to be such an awesome addition in terms of social interaction.

      About WvW: I still feel the maps are too small. at first they felt huge but once players started to learn their way around and hold their strategic points, you realize how hard it becomes to lead effective counter attacks with a smaller group. I’ve seen so many WvW go stale-mate once the ‘cards were dealt’. overall I found the objectives for small skirmishes to be unsatisfactory. I believe the proximity also lends itself to player zergs just steamrolling back and forth between bases looking for action. of course you find this kind of behavior in most MMO pvp to some extent.

      then there’s server-pride which I’ve seen little to nothing of. I think easy server migration is a huge issue in an MMO that wants to have passionate RvR. my own server was flooded for a while when it was doing well – the moment we hit #1 the ‘best’ pvp guild (RUIN) decided to move on, demoralizing the community.
      oh and the queues…sigh. that was a big factor for me also. once I did get in, if the game kicked me out for some reason, I was again back in a long queue. that really kills your enthusiasm after a while :/
      there are some more points – this was actually quite a good summary of WvW for me: https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/pvp/wuvwuv/One-Vets-Feedback-On-WvW

      (some of that is dated now but I haven’t engaged in WvW for many weeks now myself)

      1. I might be biased, coming from a server that was once spawn-camped by RUIN when they had the numbers, but I believe it wasn’t a guild that was committed to any sort of community building. NA servers breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that guild had gone to EU for a while.

        Good to hear your thoughts on it regardless. I’m still convinced there are ways to enjoy oneself and make positive steps towards the PPT meta, even with smaller numbers facing an overwhelming zerg, but it requires organization and reframed perspectives, and possibly good leaders as well. I’d blog about it, but can’t quite figure out where to begin.

        Queue-wise, I’ll just bet Tier 1 queues are insane. I hover in Tier 2 for a reason and still get queues on reset and prime time, which can get frustrating indeed.

  6. I’ll agree that GW2 is a gorgeous game, easily the best visuals on the market at the moment. It’s not close to the most immersive (and I think the ridiculous ease of travel is a large part of the problem) but for scenery and character models they win hands-down. I can’t say that I’ve found the rest of it to be close to the same quality.

    Open tagging is good in theory but it leaves me very unconcerned about much of anything. Just run up and toss on some damage. No need to plan or learn the odd hunting spots, join the zerg and complete things quickly. It’s good for a casual romp but it doesn’t excite. That’s not a negative in many cases but it is a difference and it requires a mindset that can be elusive if you want something higher energy. I am certain this works better for people who are more social than me but it just seems…simple from where I sit.

    I don’t understand why everyone talks about GW2 undoing the traditional questing structure. Before work this AM I did the next heart on my baby Ranger. Run into an area and kill evil little Asura, undo their devices, and kill their bots. Only difference from any other quest was that I didn’t have to ask to it before starting and I’ll never receive an item reward for completion.

    Dynamic events are not close to dynamic. They are static with a pseudo-random start timer. Not really a positive or a negative, they do add a bit of color to the landscape but no more than the rifts in RIFT.

    The removal of the trinity is more complicated. If you like death zerging and kiting (no and yes for me) it works well. I wish they had taken the next step and removed not only the trinity but the Big Internet Dragon. Then they could have considered other scenario options that would emphasize character and player skill over zerg tactics.

    The biggest problems they have now are technical. Culling on every mega boss. So much lag (running a system that hits 80 FPS in Divinity’s Reach on max settings) that I’ve just trained myself to hit the correct button on a rhythm during the boss encounters because I’ll get no system cues. It is painful running a condition-based character in the zerg. Why they decided on a boss-anchored rather than character-anchored bleed stack is beyond my comprehension.

    Overall, it’s an ok game and certainly worth the price. However, even with my guild focused on it, I don’t think I’d be there if they had a monthly fee.

    1. @RimeCat,

      Well, must be a reason why FFXIV A Realm Reborn have dynamic quest. And if what I read about WildStar is true, it will have them too.

      So, everyone start to copy dynamic quest…

      1. So? Everyone copied the exclamation mark quests. That didn’t make them any different than the old EQ1 “find the quest giver and for the love of god use the correct mouse button!” model. It just made finding the quests easier. And you didn’t have to worry about getting ganked when you asked for the quest.

        All you are saying is that GW2 made it easier to take traditional quests in that you don’t actually have to run all the way over to the NPC. Ok, sure, whatever. That others are copying that model is not a surprise, MMO design seems to be a race towards the most convenience you can fit into the game.

        It still does not change the fact that the actual progress of the quest – the player experience in completing the heart – is no different than it is on a WoW, RIFT, LotRO, or SW:ToR kill quest.

      2. Actually, I think when you said “dynamic quest” you meant what I’ve been calling “dynamic events”. You may well have the correct terminology.

        Still much the same comments. It does add something, but that something was done first in RIFT. GW2 added some additional variety but they are not dynamic. There are, as there must be, set success and failure conditions. If you like the model it works well, if you don’t it’s an annoyance. I’m basically on the like side but I still object to calling them dynamic. They occur at somewhat variable times and follow a set script. I see no dynamic functionality at all.

    2. @RimeCat
      “Only difference from any other quest was that I didn’t have to ask to it before starting and I’ll never receive an item reward for completion.”

      Yet, that’s not true. I explained in my second reply to John further up, why I think the hearts in GW2 are awesome in terms of playstyle variety also. some players don’t make use of this as much as others, but it’s there. there’s a WORLD of difference between a linear fedex quest in WoW/LOTRO and a heart in GW2.
      and then you have factors like the more cooperative and open aspect to quests (shared nodes and loot etc.) which aren’t ‘new’ but add to it.

      and culling was recently removed from the game, no?

      1. Culling was ended in PvP. I watch players pop in and out each night running bosses on my Necro.

        I’ll grant you the point a few of the hearts. The one you site did have different choices but in writing I was thinking of the one I had done a few hours ago, which seems to be more common, and was basically a choice to kill Asura, kill bots, or destroy devices. It felt no different than a kill quest in any other game.

      2. Wow, please read the above for the content and not the grammar or usage. Site instead of cite, dropped words, yeach. Obviously not something I should do while on a teleconference.

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