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Temporary Content: A Good Or A Bad Thing?

June 19, 2013 - 3:31pm -- Lewis B

It's a prominent topic and one which has been raised heavily over recent days in my own guild; whether or not the temporary content we are seeing in Guild Wars 2 is actually a good or a a bad thing. There was also the wider discussion as to whether what is being delivered can actually be considered 'content.'

Without question, though inevitably subjective, temporary additions to Guild Wars 2 are content. While much of it might follow the same vein (light this, bash that, talk to X) it still provides something more to do for the players of the game. The fact that it's temporary is where the lines blur as many of my close friends and guild members were arguing that this isn't "content" akin to what most MMOG players are used to: i.e new land mass, greater quest chains or entire dungeon and boss additions, but is instead micro-content intended as a quick fix. 

I'll stress that said friends and guild members are a grumpy bunch, but they are also MMOG-hardened. We've played a multitude of games together over many years. They know the genre and they know good content. While none of them saw Dragon Bash as below standard (most of them are thoroughly enjoying the second week) they and certainly I still can't help but wonder whether the resources spent designing and implementing such temporary content, specifically that such as Secret of Southsun, is worth while. 

Much of this ties back to my editorial yesterday focusing on the Quality of Life Improvements many professions crave. If content such as Secret of Southsun hadn't't been delivered, would we have cared?  If that colossal effort had instead been focused on professions and only professions, would the player base have been happier? I think so. 

With that in mind I'm keen to hear your thoughts on temporary content. Is it a good or a bad thing? Could resources be better spent elsewhere and should such resources be funneled into professions or better yet, expansion packs that add permanancy to the game world?

Greibach (not verified)
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Ehhhhh. There are several layers to this. The main one though is that game development isn't as simple as X people working on element A or B, where X can be divided any way you want. People have certain jobs and things they are good at. Balancing and bug fixing are incredibly different from creating art assets and cut scenes. The same people are almost assuredly not working on both things. Therefore, it's not just as simple as "stop doing living content so that you can do balance and bug fixes." That said, I think they should get more people on the bug fixing/balancing side, because it is rolling out very slowly, they just aren't mutually exclusive, or even detrimental to one another per se.

The other issue is of permanent vs temporary content. On this end, I would prefer more permanent content, but I don't have an issue with temporary content as a concept. Most of all, I want some (semi) permanent after-effects for some of these temporary story lines. When you go back to the two zones from F&F, you'd never know anything happened there. While I don't mind the content only being there awhile, how much cooler would it be to go back to a zone after a couple months break and see something you never saw there before? Like a Molten Alliance base that spawns a few DEs once in awhile. Some storms occasionally forming. You might see it and think "I wonder what happened here. Maybe I should check out the next living story stuff to see events unfold."  We've already seen this somewhat from the Lion's Arch statue being exploded by Mad King Thorn, and staying broken for several months, or the island of Southsun staying around with some changes. 

capnbishop
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Looking back to GW1, it took Anet 12 months between the release of Prophies and Factions, then 6 months between Factions and Nightfall.  These weren't merely expansions, but full blown standalone campaigns.  Anet had built up enough momentum that they would have been able to continue to push out a new campaign every 6 months if the business model had been favorable (the user base didn't like this system).  If there's one thing that tells us then it's this: Anet rocks at developing content.

I don't have any details about how Anet goes about developing their games, but it seems to me that they've developed an engine for which it is very easy to rapidly create new content, and a workflow to take advantage of it.  I question whether or not all the temporary content really has that big of an impact on their development resources.  I suspect that they already are working on large permanent content (such as expansions) to be released at a later day, and so far we've only been experiencing appetizers.

I also question whether or not the developers working on the temporary content could really contribute much elsewhere at this point.  Anet had clearly intended to have this rapid release temporary content model well beforehand.  That suggests that this machine was put into motion before the game was ever released.  This system is already in motion, and trying to change course will probably cause more delays than simply leaving it be.  I don't believe that it would be as simple as reallocating the content developers to work on other tasks such as fixing bugs or tweaking professions.  "Resources" in the real world don't work like they do in games.  Unlike WvW "supplies", real world resources are specialized.  It would take time to bring the content developers up to speed to work on bug fixes, and that transition would eat up time of the people already working on those things.  In the time it would take to get things back up to speed again we would probably see far more progress than if they had continued on as they were to begin with.

In the end, I don't think that the temporary content comes at much cost for Anet, because they simply rock at creating it.  Even if those "resources" were reallocated, I just don't think it would be that simple. By the end of it, changing Anet's process in this matter would sacrifice the joy of temporary content without any immediate benefit, and the long term benefit would probably not outweigh the cost.

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It's not quite as cut and dried as all of that.  Sure, people have different specialties, but the majority of profession problems are tweaks in numbers.  It doesn't take an army to do that.  Simply having a large force of devs playtest skills and professions and provide feedback on the level of the playerbase while 4-5 others implement solutions would be vastly better than what we have now.  Too often we get the narrow opinions of just those 4-5 people who change things to how they think we should play rather than how we would like to play.

On the nature of bug fixing: people are not so drastically narrow as you guys seem to think.  Those people out developing content spend much of their time troubleshooting said content, it's just one of those rules of life.  Putting them towards helping troubleshoot  the jumble of events, dialogues, loot tables, etc, could - once again - only be a good thing.

PurebladeProductions (not verified)
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If the Secret of Southsun was not delivered, I would have cared. If that were the case I wouldn't have gotten the precursor that I subsequently sold to get rich! :P
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Given that so many players had rushed to level 80 through dungeon and dragon grinding, it was inevitable that Arenanet would seek to keep player interest by feeding the insatiable hunger for new content. Going the temporary route, in fortnightly installments had the potential to be a boon for both the players and the developer, especially if it could be done with a relatively small team while more visionary work was done by others. Where the reality failed to meet the potential was when the content created fell into an abyss of "over promise, under deliver."

Rather than iterating on small, additions to the game that challenged specific play styles for short periods of time, the developers have opted to attempt isolated, sensational additions aimed at funneling the greatest number of players possible into treadmills. This has resulted in diminishing returns with each new release, in terms of masterful game design. Yet, the feature lists for each release has grown since the first Living Story content entered the game. Proof of this can be won simply by comparing the Molten Facility dungeon (which required player groups to adapt to challenging new game elements) to either of the two "playable" solo instances in the Dragon Bash content (which would happily complete themselves and reward players for simply getting out the way and waiting to be rewarded). [I know those instances played themselves because i watched them do it while my guildmates were complaining about being killed and failing. I got the rewards before my guildmates, simply because I did nothing.]

Whether the apparent sprawl of fortnightly content is a good thing or not, in my judgment, ultimately rests on something we don't know: is this content being released as a diversion while majorly cool, permanent stuff is taking months to evolve or is this the best we can expect from Arenanet?

To those who say that "Anet is a great company that always developed great content", I would remind them that Cantha created as many problems as it fixed and that even the great and might Anet admitted that Nightfall fell short of their original ambitions [read the wiki]. Since none of us work for Arenanet, we can only speculate. I hope that there are strong, creative teams working on permanent content while the two live teams crank out temporary bits to keep impatient children distracted. I hope the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and that both get together for a thorough, loving wash from time to time.

Still, what my gut tells me is that the accountants who insist artists create new microtransaction content every week are more in control of what gets included in the game than any visionary designer who wants to make a fun and engaging game is. My gut tells me that the same people who designed Southsun Coast are still designing new content that has just as many problems because of a lack of design vision and perspective. My gut tells me the lead designer is fine with ignoring the idea of "it's ready when it's ready."

If my gut is wrong, there might be a reduction in content that takes control away from players, like cutscenes posing as playable instances. But, if I'm right, I see a lot more quaggan themed BLT items over the next six months, with no major, permanent content in sight. That would be a very bad thing.

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I found myself agree and dissagreeing with bits and pieces of most of the above.  It all actually goes back to the very beginning, when GWEN was released and Anet first started telling us about GW2.  One of the things they said way back when was that they knew they had the ability to grind out content of a full expansion in about 6 months.  The problem was that realing content that quickly would not give most people the opportunity to play it all before they were getting more thrown at them.  Here we see Anet finding a solution to this by providing small monthly storylines, like the beginings of tv where they had to crank out new content in a new media, trying to entertain and challenge all at the same time, while still learning the rules of their trade.........I do believe that there are people working on extended, long term expansions, but at the same time I'm sure they have seen the game loosing players who have been loosing interest.  Thus they decided to try doing this monthly content feed of seriel productions to keep our attention and maybee even lull people back to the game.  I don't know of any games having tried this in the past, and so finding the magic mix of just how to work the content is going to take some time.  The Molten Alliance suffered, imho, from far too little to do in far too long a span of time.  Now I believe they may have rushed it the other direction.  Next month they may tone the speed down a bit.  We can only hope.............As to why not just go full out and issue a massive expansion, well....it has already been said.  There is far too much work still needed to fix the first content.  Untill they get a better handle on what is going on now, it would be foolish to just plow ahead with a full expansion that would inherit, and perhaps even complicate, the problems that already exist.  The living story gives PvE content something to do while they work on overal mechanics, such as the upcoming major changes for the Necromancer class, as well the recent changes focused mostly on WvW and PvP.......Mostly it seems to me they are using this as a way to stall, to give something to help hold our interest while they work on fixing what is driving us away.  Oh, and they also want to sell those gems so they give us eye candy to buy.  Can't blame them for that.  It is, after all, a business.  Only thing I blame them for is being too good at making eye candy that I just can't say no to :)...........As to the Dragon Bash, I think people are thinking of this in the wrong sense.  I don't see the Dragon Bash as Story Line.  I see it as a new in game holiday.  All the other holidays are grouped around each other in lake fall and early winter with nothing for the spring and summer.  Well, this new holiday of the Dragon Bash (not to be confused with the Dragon Festival) falls very conveniently into that time slot.  I would expect to see it again next year.  The realy story content will launch off of the festival as they go into the Aetherblades.  Let us see what lessons they have learned from the Dragon Bash, shall we?

Galen

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Temporary content would not be so frustrating if the permanent content was more 'sticky'.

But at present we now have seen 4 temporary dungeons: SAB, Molten Furnace, Canach, and Sky Pirates.

The second and fourth showed us that they can do really engaging dungeons. The third has shown us that they can do really neat boss mechanics, but also that 'something' is keeping them from having well fleshed out story depth to the way they present it. The first I only went in maybe twice for about 10 minutes total, from lack of time: but everything I read tells me it showed they know how to use layout and puzzles in dynamic ways.

- The summation of that though is that in a game less than a year old, the permanent content is stale and lacking in dynamic challenge by contrast.

The frustration is that when these temp dungeons go away, we are back to the dungeons that have boss mechanics which we can too easily ignore, stories that are in skippable side-scenes and not present in the actual content, and NPC allies that are... only useful for gaining reviving daily credit...

 

The frustration of temp content is therefore that we keep seeing hints of how good the game actually can be, and then having it taken away... But mixed in with some... not exactly shining story writing...

IF the permanent content could be redone a bit, the temp content would be less of a frustration.

The game should be the focus of the game, and the holiday / temp stuff something to go and see and then return to the game...

I still love much of the game, but I can see the flaws. They bother me, they are toxic to others. And the temp stuff shows us, when they do it right, that the potential is there for better.

 

 

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