Since Guild Wars 2 launched, we've seen a considerable amount of content added. ArenaNet's Living World model and its approach to delivering fortnightly content is truly an industry first and provided us with some beautifully designed locations and events. From the Lost Shores to Super Adventure Box and the most recent, Tower of Nightmares, there's a real variety in what is presented on a fortnightly basis. My greatest concern however is the longevity behind these updates and their true value to the player base.
For the most part, all the recent updates have followed a similar formulae: a specific event coupled with a set of achievements, an obligatory weapon and armour set and a miniature or two, with the odd back piece or meta reward thrown in for good measure. During the first few forays into the Living World, I was actually looking forward to chasing such carrots. After all, these rewards are timed, often unique due to the update and kept me busy just long enough for the next Living World update to arrive.
As it stands now though, I'm not actually sure why I did the chasing. The drudgery of obtaining ascended items has seen me shelve all but one of my characters. Focusing entirely on her, I've managed to obtain everything I could ever need: 2 legendary weapons, a full set of Tier 3 cultural armour, the most expensive underwater weapons, full ascended items and a full set of bags. Having already obtained World Completion and with absolutely no interest in chasing achievements, I'm left wondering what it is I'm expected to do after completing this temporary content.
You might have seen that we have a “stickied” node that goes live during every update. During the first few hours my colleague Lee and I busily play through the content, at no particular pace, to write up our findings. Of the recent Living World updates, I've pretty much finished everything they have to offer within a couple of hours. The Tower, as magnificent as it was visually, was simply a vertical variant on the Queens Gauntlet, albeit with a barrier to stop lone player progression.
The culmination (almost) of the story was enjoyable, if a little fragmented, with special mention having to go to the artistic cutscene when you reach Scarlet - the real highlight. My concern in all of this though isn't necessarily the Living World content – I've discussed many times how I feel this is a hugely flawed model – but what to do during the “downtime” between updates.
With no meat on the bones of the core game, players such as myself are left struggling to find something of interest that doesn't involve hard repetition or protracted play, just to support the buy to play model. The way I see it, there are 3 core aspects to Guild Wars 2:
- World versus World
- PvE (and Living World)
- Structured PvP
The first is currently burdened with huge queues (sometimes well in excess of half an hour on Gandara) and a requirement to not only have a bulging guild if you've chosen a profession that can't stealth, but a style of play - as enforced by the dynamics of the profession structure Guild Wars 2 dictates - that involves “balling up” to make maximum use of combo-fields. Unfortunately for me, as a ranger, not only am I not wanted (though that's a wider issue) but its a style of play I just find odd. Watching 30 of my guild huddle together as if 'Winter is Coming' just doesn't sit well with me, especially when none of the top guilds actually partake in sieges (we just roam) and when Bloodlust is so heavily neglected. The Edge of the Mists should make a welcome addition for the likes of me, who unfortunately chose a ostracized profession and who prefers to roam as a small group.
In the mean time, that leaves sPvP as the next best alternative. While I love the PsvP in Guild Wars 2 and I curse at the amount of missed potential, it seems neglected of affection from ArenaNet which is no doubt due to the resources being drained to prop up the Living World model. We have seen some changes and improvements; single queue, spectating, new maps and balance improvements, but there are still gaping holes in the fundamentals of the game mode. When I look f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s in PvE but look nothing but a dogs dinner in PvP, despite amassing thousands of hours in the game, it doesn't serve to be an inviting option to have to rank up to “Dragon” just to obtain Cultural armour. Instead, my progression feels backwards and is in direct contrast to what Guild Wars 1 offered: those who worked hard in PvE could take their “look” to PvP but those who wanted to dive in had to use what came with the mode.
I still struggle to understand why this wasn’t adopted and instead, I'm now working my way through the ranks at a snails pace because Glory is earned pitifully slowly and rewards for gaining ranks are near none existent. Having once added up the amount of time I'd need to spend to replicate my PvE appearance, it begs the question as to why its taken this long for ArenaNet to acknowledge that the speed at which ranks are gained is not only crippling but once again protracts a process unnecessarily, for no justified reason.
In a round-about way, this brings me back to the Living World and how it is a priority I feel ArenaNet have gotten wrong. While it might be fantastic from a PR perspective to state you're releasing content every two weeks and while the updates we've received look and play well, where is the time being spent on the core game for those of us seeking depth? Were ArenaNet to slow Living World down and instead allocate development to quickly improving World versus World and PvP rewards and features, we would no doubt retain significantly more players. It might be less profitable for them in the short term, as fewer purchases of the latest 'shinies' are made, but the long term health of the game would be secured.
Instead, what we are now left with are droves of people burnt out by the speed in which Living World content is arriving but without the desire to play what the rest of the game has to offer because there are so many flaws and holes. With the likes of Elder Scrolls Online, WildStar, Everquest Next and a multitude of others arriving in 2014, surely now is the time to ensure those players that you have want to stay for something more than just a few achievement points and gem-store items.