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The Mechanic's Workshop: Monthly Events of Past and Future

January 3, 2013 - 11:58pm -- innuendo

Events of Months Past

In the short history of Guild Wars 2 we have all been part of three monthly events: Shadow of the Mad King (Halloween), Lost Shores, and Wintersday. I would say with few exceptions they have all been fantastic additions to the game. Nearly all of the content has been temporary, with the exception of a new world map in Southsun Cove and some sprinkling of jumping puzzles and mini dungeons (which are great).

There’s been a great deal of evolution in these projects. In some of my talks with ArenaNet it is clear that the same team is not working on each event. The team that did Halloween is (at least partially) different than the team that did Lost Shores. Halloween was honestly fantastic. It had not glaring weakness and the one time content was purely for fun (yay in world cutscenes). The one time pvp content was interesting, if shallow, and despite some frustrations with the clocktower I absolutely loved that content to death (being a huge platformer in my spare time).

Being frank, the worst of the three events was the Lost Shores. I’m not sure if the lack of a holiday to theme the event around hurt the creation process, but it was very clear the Lost Shores event was half baked. The surrounding content and scavenger hunt was plagued with weird design (events that took 1 second to clear, bringing up issues of mob tagging). The finale was a complete cluster of player frustration with poor event design. I think we can all conclude that good event design is harder than good quest design. The real issue here was there were big rewards at stake for being there, and being there was a pain. We can all hope they don’t return to this model in the future.

Wintersday has been the first time I think some of their past lessons have set in for the live team. Everything has been leisurely paced with plenty of time at the end of the event to redo any and all of the content. This event has drug on a bit with no real reason for Tixx to still be there, but I’m glad he is. The Holidays are notoriously hard for people to get to their computer, and making sure everyone of the game’s players have time to get to all the event was a great design choice, and one I personally appreciated with my own travel plans.

Event Banner

Where to go From Here

The rumors are building on the horizon that the next few monthly events are going to be huge content updates. ArenaNet let spill today in a forum post  that the next update is a tiny one that is meant to prime players for the two big updates coming in the February and March. Sadly no details emerged about what the theme or focus of these events would be.

I think their are a few things I wish the previous 3 events had more of, and something I hope we can focus on going forward with the new content patches.

1.) More Permanent Content

As much as I’ve loved all the temporary activities that came with the holidays, I really want to see more content that is added to stay. Some of the PvP minigames ArenaNet has teased us with would be fantastic activities for the capital cities to mirror Keg Brawl (underrated feature of the year). I would love to see the rest of the capital cities get this treatment, as well as ArenaNet continue layering in new events and new reasons to visit old areas.

Luckily it seems like this is exactly what they want to focus on, and I hope this can solve some of the “ghost zone” issues currently plaguing the 20-60 level range maps. As long as they ensure the reward is enticing to level 80 players I think they can pull it off. If they do like they’ve done before and scale the rewards to much you’ll see players continue to avoid the content, no matter how fun.

2.) More Big Stories

I’ll admit that the end to the personal story was really a let down for me. And it had nothing to do with the fight or the mechanics or any of it. (spoilers) You team up with the most legendary heroes of Tyria, you kill what is essentially a deity level dragon, and nothing happens at all. I mean it. Literally nothing but a few instanced NPC’s change the way they talk to you. I understand they can’t change the continuity of the world for other players, but it is such a huge let down that the stories that arch across the whole map end up having so little impact when you complete them.

If I had one request for the live team its to improve the home instance, improve the map permanence of events, and really start to evolve Tyria (okay that's 3). For example, if Tequatal is up in a zone, it should impact the entire zone. Not just a DE chain in the corner of the map, the whole zone should be full of side events and activities. Shoot, make it bleed over into adjacent zones to bring players together. These events should be more grand in the scope, and more steady in their build up. My highlights for Dynamic Events are the ones that take me across the whole zone only to find a new event waiting when I arrive at the previous event’s destination. The more content like that the better.

3.) More Focus on Systems

This might seem like a weird request, but honestly there is already a ton of content in the game, and I just spent the two previous points talking about it. But it’s worth pointing out that a lot of the game doesn’t need more content, it needs more systems to support it. What I mean by systems is any mechanic or tool that doesn’t nescessarily add content to the game, but something that improves or makes better existing content. A great example of a recent addition that fits this idea is Breakout Events. They added a new mechanic to WvW that improve the game appreciably. 

Systems like this to improve the experience of players, especially in PvP and WvW would be worth real money (even though ArenaNet says all of these events will be free). Increased Guild focus in ways that tie into all the other content, and provide alternate long term progression to groups of players. PvP systems and supports for public QP leader boards. All of these things would add immense value to the game without requiring a single piece of story to be written.

Wrapping it all Up

I think the failures of some of the events past can be tied directly to the deadlines ArenaNet has made for themselves trying to hit monthly updates of this size. If you’re an MMO gamer you’ve seen time and again Development teams promise crazy release schedules and time and time again they fail to meet the goals they set. Developing an MMO is hard, time consuming work, and there are many unforeseen issues that drain development time (like the culling issue in WvW). As the game matures and the live team gets more events under their belt I think we can all look forward to more refined content launches.

What type of content or systems are you hoping for in the next 3 months? And if you have any ideas for future Mechanic’s Workshop I would love to hear it! 

BrownFang Harbinger
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I would happily forego all content additions for 6 months if it meant that we'd get a robust party search system with strong matchmaking for both PvE and PvP. Having a flavor of the month simply for the sake of novelty while neglecting the mechanics and systems of the game just doesn't tickle my tangle.

innuendo
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I really think I agree with you. There is so much in this game I haven't seen yet, and I play more than an average player. I just need better tools to play with people. Increasing the social aspect of this game would do more to add "content" and lifespan to the game than nearly any piece of content.

chaosgyro
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Amen! As a guy whose friends quit during the first month, and in a solo guild (for the vault :P ), Tyria can be a damn lonely place.  Any sort of systems to encourage players to meet up together and explore the stuff that's already in the game is golden; not that I would scoff at anything else they wanted to add while they were at it.

Definitely looking forward to 2013!   (and if anyone knows a good guild on Ehmry Bay, could you point me in their direction?)

Sir Cusfreak
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I agree. And like the posters above me, I have to say the social aspect of the game needs more love than anything content-related. We have things to play - now let us play them *with our friends*.

I played GW1 for years. I loved it. They did a lot of things right. But now for GW2 they sure have dropped a lot of what made GW1 a great game.

I understand the difference in persistence and instancing and all the changes that had to go along with that, but these don't fall into that category.

Where's alliance chat? There is no good reason to omit a feature like that. Our guild was part of an alliance of guilds for years, and I speak from very real experience when I say allowing individual players multiple guilds is *not* a good replacement for Alliance chat. Please give it back.

I would give up 6 months of updates for having the guesting feature they told us we would have. I get it, something's wrong, they've completely stopped talking about, mentioning it, and they seem to hope that if they just wait wait long enough, we will forget they ever said it...but I'm not going to. And it's not a "you SAID!!!" issue for me - it's a "we really need this to happen" issue. I have friends on EU servers that I want to play with. In GW1, we could load up, be instantly anywhere we wanted to be, with who we wanted to play with, and go. It was a big plus that we do not have right now. Remember that drop-down box in GW1 that let us select which overflow we wanted to be in, where we always picked Russia when we wanted to sync Vizunah Square? Yeah, that would be great in LA right now.  

But yes, I know, if they were going to do this, it would be done already, and I have to assume they ran into something they can't overcome...but I would love nothing more than to hear that Mike O'Brien walked into the office, called in every single employee down to the janitor, and said "nothing more comes out of this studio until guesting works. Nothing. Not a single frame. If your job here doesn't contribute to guesting we'll call you when the coders and network guys are done. Until then, we're closed." Yes, that would be fantastic, and if you don't agree then you're just wrong :)

Speaking of being able to load in and just be anywhere we want to be, why do they make us bother with HotM when they could just make LA's waypoints free and save us the trouble? We can get to LA for free - just go ahead and let us zone directly there. It's silly not to.

So: add guesting, take the GW2LFG app and implement that directly into the game, add Alliance chat and Guild Halls, and you've made Tyria a better place in ways that any new maps just can't, no matter what. 

Oh...and TP preview - but that's a story for a different day :)