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Guild Wars 2: Bring An End To Living World - Permanently

January 27, 2014 - 2:32pm -- Lewis B
Living World

During a recent conversation with Colin Johanson (informal I might add) we found ourselves on the topic of 2014 and what it holds for Guild Wars 2. The question arose as to what I thought the year would hold for the game and what was the greatest risk to the product. In all honesty, it’s something I hadn’t really thought about, primarily because the MMOG’s arising in 2014 are distinctly different to Guild Wars 2 and certainly when it comes to The Elder Scrolls Online, ArenaNet have absolutely nothing to worry about.

With the exception of WildStar, my greatest fear for Guild Wars 2 over the next 12 months is the Living World model and the deployment of it. It’s unquestionable that the Living World model has demonstrated ArenaNet’s ability to deliver content at break-neck speeds to which no other developer has rivalled and yet I also think it’s unquestionable that the majority of the Living World content has been poorly received or is a replica of what came before it.

This cycle of bi-weekly content (although sometimes a little longer) that sees the release of a new temporary fixture, a series of new meta-achievements followed by a themed gem store item is getting incredibly old, incredibly quickly. The primary reason why is the fact that while the enemy or location you encounter is different - all loosely held together with the haphazard storyline - the fundamentals of what you’re undertaking remain exactly the same.

The highlights of the Living World model have admittedly still borrowed heavily from this formula but where they excelled was allowing yourself to be immersed in other activities or to forget entirely about achievement chasing or bloody Scarlet. The single greatest addition to Guild Wars 2 since its launch was the Bazaar of the Four Winds. Not only was it visually stunning, but it brought with it a whole host of excellent mini games, wonderful level design and a location that felt just “right”. I’m still wounded by the fact it’s temporary and look forward to it making its return, but I’m confident if ArenaNet were to ask any player as to their favourite Living World content, it would undoubtedly be this one.

My original hope for Living World content was for ArenaNet to implement something (anything) in the game world that would be permanent, original and which provided enough to do to justify the development time. There wasn’t ever a need to absolutely-categorically link this new content to an on going story, though that would, inevitably, be a bonus. Most importantly of all, I never envisaged that the Living World process would result in content so quickly, if anything I was expecting Living World updates once a quarter (to justify their size) while the rest of the time in between was for polish and updates for other areas of the game. I really couldn’t have been more wrong and I think that it’s a shame we’re trundling down the path we’re currently treading.

If we’re to truly analyze Living World, we need to weigh up the good and the bad:

Pros

  • New “content” every few weeks.
  • New achievements for players to complete
  • New cosmetic items for players to obtain
  • Allows for players to experience a continued story arc
  • New locations for players to explore and participate in
  • Great PR

Cons

 

  • Huge resource drain on ArenaNet for content that can often be completed in several hours (and sometimes significantly less)
  • Diverts attention away from other areas of the game that need TLC
  • Places players under pressure to complete the temporary content for fear of missing out
  • Alienates new players as a daunting experience (too much to do)
  • Temporary content makes any Living World disposable
  • Repetition of content design 

Admittedly both of the above lists could be longer on both sides but I feel in terms of raw pros and cons nit from a player and journalist perspective, I’m not sure it makes pleasant reading. My greatest concern with Living World is the fact that it provides false progression. It’s a temporary plaster to the insatiable behaviour of the playerbase in an effort to keep them satiated, without ever truly adding longevity.

I don’t for a second believe that this Living World model is sustainable because not only is it so resource intensive but because of the competition on the horizon. When that fall-off eventually happens (and it will) what will be left for players to sink their teeth into? sPvP is skeletal in its implementation with balance all over the place, WvW maps are too small and encourage zerging (still), dungeons awful, while every person I know who has asked for GvG is still waiting.

Frustratingly and having once asked Mike Ferguson why ArenaNet place so much pressure on themselves to deliver Living World when the player base isn’t specifically asking for it or seeking it, I never actually received a straight answer. I’m not entirely convinced ArenaNet know why they’re doing it, though their coffers bulging from the Gem Store is probably the best incentive.

Coming back to the original question of “what I thought the year would hold for the game” I’d have to simply say - more Living World. I think that’s a real shame, as Guild Wars 2 could truly offer so much more than what we’re currently playing. My fear however is the fact that ArenaNet don't begin to work past this short-sighted development, there'll be nothing with longevity left when players grow even more tired of this content conveyer belt. 

Umungus (not verified)
Umungus's picture

My thoughts since the beginning of Living World.

Trey Snow (not verified)
Umungus's picture

I personally think GW2 would be a better MMO if they stopped with the 2-week pace and instead, put out something far more substantial to chew on that lasted much longer and took longer to do.

The event "Flame and Frost" was honestly the last great content update that was on GW2 in my honest opinion. I spent many, many hours playing through the content and just getting lost in the story as it evolved. Since then however, the 2-week content march is just.. well, boring and totally forgettable.

The content is just a grindy mess that provides very little in the way of meaningful content to enjoy and since it only lasts for a little while, if you're bogged down with work or college you may as well not even bother starting any of it.

TL.DR: More 'big' content, less of this annoying, forgettable, grindy heap of meaningless dribble. 

Daniel C (not verified)
Umungus's picture

I agree with this article completely.  I have abandoned GW2 specifically because of Living Story. I don't mind occasional one-time events, but a never-ending stream of them is obnoxious and stressful. 

I don't log in anymore. There's no point. I'm almost ready to uninstall the game completely, but I know that if I do that, I probably won't ever return (once I leave a game, I seldom look back).  So I keep hoping for  some encouraging news. 

I just wish that  they would either prove that the majority of their players really love Living Story (in which case, I can just move on) or admit that they made a mistake and change course. Unfortunately, ANet seems to be the kind of company that seldom admits mistakes and almost NEVER changes direction once they've committed to a course of action.

What a shame. Ah well, plenty of other games out there.

 

Will (not verified)
Umungus's picture

Gotta say, Lewis, I agree with a lot of your article. I agree that the speed of the updates creates more problems than it solves. Having said that I enjoyed most of the updates in general, I just don't think we need them every two weeks - I'd be happy to get twice the content monthly instead and if that could ease the pressure a little and allow some staff to work on quality of life and balance changes then all the better.

If the two week schedule was ANet's attempt to wave their development pee-pee about and say "look at how fast we can make new content!" then great, we get it. But now its time to slow it down, review and learn from mistakes. I've got no problem with continuing the Living Story - I'd love if, after defeating Scarlet, we the story (and world) continues to evolve and change on the back of this particular arc, just give each update some time to mature for crying out loud. 

S. B. (not verified)
Umungus's picture

Biggest problem with living world? They've easily put out enough new content (quests, dialog, locations, models with animation, full events), more than enough to make an entire new zone on the map. But most of it is gone forever.

 

Put that same time and effort into expanding the map, adding new dungeons, new classes, new races, and all players get that content forever, instead of the players that log on during the event just getting it for a month and then it vanishes like a fart in the wind with little more than a weapon skin and an achievement.

 

I stopped playing half a year ago because of close to zero real growth, and basically nothing they've developed since thing can bring me back, because nothing they've developed since then is still in the 'effing game (well, 90% of it).

A Charr (not verified)
Umungus's picture
I agree, 2 weeks is way too fast. The term "conveyor belt" fits the feeling perfectly. The problem now is, once youve leveled all the 80s you care to, done story, map completion, dungeons, what is there to do? If there was no living story, people at that point would just leave the game anyway, or just play alot less. Sure, there is WvW for those that enjoy it, but that can only hold your attention for so long before it, too gets old. I still play pretty much every day because Im still working on alts. Once Im finished with my alts, I dont see myself playing as much. Ill do ascended weapon crafting but probably wont do armor because its just too much.
Sylvari 1 (not verified)
Umungus's picture

My thoughts exactly.   It's a shame really.  They can't put the content out without bugs and since it is temporary, there is really no point in worrying about most bugs.  

Ettesiun (not verified)
Umungus's picture

There was great update !

- Bazaard of the wind

- queen's jubilee

- Tequatl for those who like these

- Scarlett attack through the world

Those update were really fun to play, and would have been boring if kept too long  - see scarlet attack through the world. I love the excitment of the bi-weekly release, even if, in fact, it is often a monthly update release in two times ! Let the achievement perdure two months, and year, it *is* fun !

JM (not verified)
Umungus's picture

Pre-launch, they talked about the aspects of their game they would do different, such as the Dynamic events, the WvW, the combat, the Personal story and such.
- When The Lost Shores hit I thought they were going to improve on their aspects and give us these One Time events as a bonus, but no.

The Lost Shores had some issues, yeah, but I got two precursors and some other stuff from it. Notice also how a lot of things happened during just that weekend.
- Two weeks we spend grinding these achievements and wait for Scarlet's plot to unravel itself.

There is a distinct difference since the months after launch and now, and I'm not sure that particular aspect is improving.
- I'm optimistic about 2014 and I look forward to it, but I'm not as much into GW2 as I would have liked. I'm a fan of the franchise, I played the first game. I WANT GW2 to immerse me so much, but I'm stretching my faith in ANet to almost a breaking point here.

Worst case scenario, though, is that I pick up some other MMO and check in with GW2 to see if they've made some major or substantial additions to the game further down the road. I'm hoping for that. GW2 is a game that could be so much more, or so I feel at least.

Barfolemew (not verified)
Umungus's picture

I see no problem with the living world... first off it is not totally original, it is a tested formula from games such as COX which was profitable until NCSoft prematurely closed it down after eight years. Second of all, what makes you think they can not put out meatier updates at the same time? As a matter of fact I know that Arenanet is working on a large project as they are putting out the Living world, can you not imagine other things might be going on?

It's working, my server is overloaded, they are making fortunes off the gem store, the sky is not falling, Gw2 life will go on.

 

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