[GW2] Some things are better with other people: personal stories and social exploring


Is it a picture postcard? Nope, it’s a GW2 vista

I feel that I am settling into a comfortable groove with Guild Wars 2. My Mesmer dude is now level 60 and I think this may be the first MMO I’ve played where I don’t feel any pressure at all to reach max level. I’ve played games where I got bored of the game before that point, but not sure I cared so little about what level my character was as this one.

This is because of the way levelling content and endgame are set out in GW2; they can all involve the same types of activity (economy, crafting, wandering/gathering/PvE, instances, WvW, sPvP, alts) and you can easily play with your friends via the down levelling feature, so levels themselves don’t seem so important.

And the comfortable groove I am settling into is a slow paced one in which I’m as likely to spend my time shuttling between trading post and crafting station as wandering the wilds of PvE or (occasionally) PvP. The trick to making money by trading is mostly just to look for frequently traded items where there is a large enough spread between buy and sell orders that you will be able to turn a profit once you have accounted for trading post fees. The general idea is to avoid selling or buying for the price offered unless you are in a rush, are happy with your profit/price, or there’s not much difference between the sell and buy prices. So every time you sell, undercut by a copper or so. Every time you buy, overbid by a copper or so (if you want your order to be filled more quickly). Or more than a copper if you prefer.

I’ve been trading bags and runes. There are no secrets about both of these being good tradegoods – people always want them in multiple amounts. Although it is worth trading cautiously for a few days so that you can watch the price fluctuations and get a feel for them, given that there aren’t (as far as I know) any auction house addons.

But I do find that my stamina for long PvE sessions is waning unless I have friends or guildies online with whom to chat. Maybe I am too social a being, but I don’t find GW2 really grabs me for long immersive play sessions unless I am following a story quest. On the other hand, it’s great for shorter play sessions. What is more surprising (to me) is that although the game is still pretty new, and buzzing, there are practically whole zones which can still be very quiet. I’m not sure if that is a good thing in a game that only really comes to life when there are lots of people around. Braving the Elementalist has noticed the same thing and notes that it also means levelling is slower in those less populated zones.

Certainly although I have enjoyed exploring the snowy peaks of “whatever zone it is pictured above” on my own, it’s nowhere near as exciting as racing around Bloodtide Coast with Arb, or chattering frantically to guildies while being drawn into huge dynamic events in Harathi with tens of other players running around. Parts of GW2 do feel massive, the trading post for example. But others really don’t. It is a puzzle.

Speaking of puzzles, I tried one of the jumping puzzles in Metrica and got about halfway through before deciding to go and do something else after several attempts. I don’t really understand why people hate them, it’s good that MMOs have content for different types of player. Maybe I will go back sometime for another go.

I have also been working through my character’s personal questline. I have a really good tolerance for offbeat storytelling, so although I don’t disagree with some of the criticisms, I still have liked these quest segments quite a lot and they definitely add to my personal enjoyment of the game. Moreover, it feels that  the mechanics of the story quests were designed to fit the story – so maybe Claw Island isn’t well tuned and can feel like a bit of a mess, but it still told a poignant and exciting story for me. I love that Arenanet tried to do this, even in the places where it doesn’t quite work. It makes the story segments way more memorable. I even quite like Trahearne.

My own character is a bit of a void in comparison, and that’s one thing I really miss from SWTOR. The sense that my character had a personality. Actually, after level 10 I miss a sense of my character’s culture as well, and since he’s human that’s fairly basic.


Trahearne is standing behind me in this shot, which is why it looks weird

Last time I touched on GW2, I wondered what people made of the WvW. Well, there are major issues.

kiantremayne is very positive about WvW, aside from the queues.

Not sure what Anet can do to alleviate this easily – just raising the pop caps, even if the servers could take it, would make maps more crowded and zergy – but if WvW remains this popular they’d better start working on something. I don’t begrudge others their fun but let me have some too, damn it!

Syncaine links to feedback from his guild on WvW on the official bboards, which talks about some of the issues they are facing in more detail.

All borderlands are copies of each other?? You guys did a great job in the variety and look of all the pve zones, then when it came to your main draw, the feature most people have been clamoring about for years you simply cut and paste the same zone. We all assumed in beta these were placeholder zones and on release the WvW zones would be three unique areas which is how it obviously should be. If someone is looking for uniformity and repetition they have SPVP. The fix for this would be to actually design 4 unique zones which would play out differently.

I was surprised that the borderlands were direct copies too. I still think the WvW is fun as an activity, particularly for players like me who make it more of a sideline, but it did and does have the potential to be better than it is now. And particularly if people want to play and can’t, that’s something that needs to be sorted out. I don’t know how though.

We are also starting to see some more thoughtful reviews of GW2, after a month in. My main conclusion is that I enjoy the game a lot, and the gameworld itself is beautiful and critters are wonderfully animated. I think I will keep coming back for a long time, in between other  games I am playing, and that it’s a great base for Arenanet to add to in future. In particular I hope they do something with the home zones, and I would be happy to see more personal storyline stuff.

There’s a lot of potential here and I think people who like it and stick with it won’t be disappointed. I’m looking forwards to rampaging around with Arb and my guildies some more, although Pandaland is likely to be a preoccupation in the next few weeks.

Dynamic Events: A funny thing happened on the way to the quest giver…

One upon a long time ago, I was one of the storytelling staff on a MUSH (think of this as an online roleplaying game). And we used to come up with weird and wacky ideas for cool plots to introduce to help players get involved with each other and with the overall story.

One of my fellow storytellers had a brilliant idea. What if there was a strange magical disease that people could catch?! It might give them nightmares or some other minor but eminently roleplayable symptom, and eventually symptoms would get worse and people would have to get together and find a cure.

“Awesome!” we said, “Let’s do it!”. (We used to talk in exclamation marks a lot.) And although some people loved that plot, the majority hated it. Why? Because it got in the way of whatever else they’d had planned in the game ; probably cybering or some epic romance plot.

Blizzard received the same reaction with their zombie invasion event before Wrath launched. A lot of players loved it, but a vocal subset hated it because it got in the way of their questing. Sure, they learned from the experience and the Cataclysm pre-quests weren’t as intrusive … but they weren’t anywhere near as cool either.

When dynamic events attack!

Here’s an interesting issue with dynamic events and static players: the people who are keenest to pre-organise their gaming sessions in advance can get very screwed around by dynamic events.

For example, imagine trying to organise regular raids if your raiders keep being distracted by dynamic events. “Sorry, mum says I have to miss Blackwing Descent because an awesome dynamic event ate my homework!”

So there is a dilemma for designers – if the dynamic events are awesome then players will want to do them, which means that players will eventually be reluctant to organise events in case an awesome dynamic event occurs at the same time. But if they’re not awesome then players will quickly get bored and disillusioned and ignore them. On the surface, you’d think that awesome dynamic events would be a good thing. Even for the players who like pre-organised fun, they’d just get a choice of which event to go to when they logged in for the night. Games are all about choices, so having more choices is good, right? Right! Unless you were one of the organisers of the player-run event (e.g. the regular raid or RP night) which gets abandoned in favour of the dynamic one.

If you look at things this way, dynamic events are in direct competition with static ones and with player organised events when it comes to attracting players. And the designers have the ability to skew these numbers by dropping loot and in-game rewards into the instances and dynamic events, which players generally can’t do for player-run events.

Maybe dynamic games need more dynamic players?

So are player-run events increasingly doomed as dynamic events look to be offering more and more options to bored players? It’s always been a struggle to get people to turn up for regular events even when there is some loot potentially on offer (eg. raids).

Maybe so. Or maybe players will adapt. Instead of having a fixed goal for the evening, maybe events will be more flexible. “Thursday night regular adventure evenings!” Where organisers are ready to shelve their backup plans should something more interesting turn up.

This pretty much modelled our Pirates nights where we just sailed around and did stuff depending on what showed up. But people who like their regular, predictable events may find that they get more than they bargained for.

Also, a gratuitous link for Thor fangirls/boys – does Thor look better with his shirt on or without it?