It’s been seven months to this day since Guild Wars 2 launched somewhat rocky in August 2012, and ever since players have argued just how much genre evolution has in fact taken place with this title. How much has GW2 truly pushed MMO design forward? Over half a year later there is more meat to such analysis.
I will never forget the heated discussions preceding this launch or some of the emotions flying high in the blogosphere. Hardly ever do unreleased games invoke such passionate argument between nay- and yay-fronts. Arenanet’s bold statements and promises for GW2 managed to provoke even the most level-headed genre veterans. So, you are talking of better days?- Well, you better prove it! Any developer can wax lyrical over their unreleased product of course. Yet, here and there this recent twitter observation rang true: “Pessimism is the natural state of the MMO gamer.” We like to complain a lot – but oh, beware of promising us improvement! If it sounds too good to be true that’s probably because it isn’t.
Or was it? Scary is taking the opportunity today to muse on the state of GW2 and what he is thankful for to ANet. Personally, I concur that there is much that GW2 has done for me and that I believe will shape MMOs to come. Seven months later, it is still part of my weekly MMO diet. There are also things however that did not turn out as well as I had hoped. So, while this is by all means an appreciation topic, I will cover all bases in a short recap.
Getting the bad out of the way
I think it’s safe to say that WvW did not deliver on my personal Alterac Valley dreams. Others have already analyzed in great detail all that went wrong in ANet’s three-faction PvP conflict model, preventing it from becoming a source of constant, passionate strife and server pride. As much as I wanted to engage in WvW, even after joining a PvP guild and seeing my server hit #1 on the EU ladder, my flame for this part of the game was sadly never kindled.
I have recently commented on why I feel let down by the subtle change from GW2’s open world no-grind (or at least missing item-centricity) premise, to what has become an endless grind for gear, tokens and daily achievements. ANet feeling pressured to re-introduce these features in lieu of non-existent endgame is probably my biggest GW2 qualm right now, closely followed by their lack of preparing an ingame grouping tool or at least global channel. While player initiatives such as gw2lfg are laudable, I am still at utter disbelief over this.
Other than that, the biggest surprise would be the miss-happen (under-)usage of the item store and inane approach to cosmetic gear (town clothes /eyeroll). If there’s a thing I expected this MMO to do well, it would’ve been cosmetics. But browsing the shop seven months later, one could think ANet do not actually want our money, much to their loss.
Leaving a mark on the MMO map
In spite of few serious short-comings, I consider GW2 a smashing success – and over 2 million box sales are not what I’m referring to. There is no doubt in my mind that GW2 did achieve some of the most important innovations and changes that it originally set out to do. This will and already has had impact on games yet to come.
So, in the spirit of appreciation day, here’s what I thank ANet for:
- For proving once and for all, despite all doubt and suspicion, that MMOs can feature classic combat without role restrictions and holy trinity. I always believed in this particular feature and wasn’t let down.
- For introducing a score of varied outdoor events and revolutionizing the fetch&delivery grind of mainstream MMOs.
- For featuring an active MMO combat with exciting weapon combinations that feel different for every class.
- For breaking up level progression and keeping to a flat leveling curve.
- For de-cluttering the MMO UI and keeping a small health bar.
- For a high level of gear customization in terms of armor dyes.
- For curvy Norn ladies with proper booty and some of the most consistent, achieved race design in Charr, Asura and Sylvari.
- For massive outdoor dragon encounters (even if they could be more difficult)
- And last but far from least: the most stunning, beautiful, inspiring and shamelessly magical MMO world and aesthetic up to date – on land as much as under water. If that wasn’t enough, you also got Jeremy Soule to seal the deal and irrevocably hook you to the wonder that is Tyria.
I’ve seen some discussions of late on why graphics don’t matter and how we should return to pixels because that made for better games; I couldn’t disagree more. Graphics are not what makes or breaks an MMO – but give me a great game with GW2’s graphics and vividness on top and I remain your faithful customer forever more. Accomplished design and sound effects are the delicious sugar on every MMO cake.
Which of the above accomplishments do I suspect to have the greatest impact? No doubt we’ll see increased grouping freedom in future MMOs. Roles will likely return in both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online, but never again to the extent and inflexibility of past trinity-based AAA-titles.
More active combat is already here; we can see it in Tera and all bigger releases of 2013 feature it in one shape or form. I wouldn’t credit GW2 for this trend too much but its arrival has marked a new era of less formulaic MMO combat. That said, one can still improve on the zerg.
By far the biggest influence of GW2 lies in ANet’s revamped questing and dynamic event model (and yeah, I still call’em dynamic). Probably the most dramatic shift for me personally, GW2 has set a standard that future, western MMOs simply cannot afford to overlook. I can forgive fedex questing in LOTRO – never again though will I settle for a new MMO setting me on an uninspired kill-ten-rats routine. Thank you Arenanet for showing us what can be done!
I’m sure much more could be said for other aspects of GW2, such as crafting or the much debated personal storyline. I leave it to others to judge such matters as I lack the required focus and expertise. I realize too, this didn’t turn out to be such a short recap after all. I trust my readers will forgive me. The short version is that GW2 is the best thing coming my way since World of Warcraft and while being far from perfect, it hasn’t let me down on my biggest hopes and wishes. And for that I raise my hat to Arenanet.
With that, I am off to continue the Living Story. Enjoy your time in Tyria!