Archive for September, 2012

From a Distant Perch, or Guild Wars 2

September 2, 2012 Comments off

It is tempting to do one of those cheeky ‘so, I hear there some new game out, or something’ lines, but I think it would come across as somewhat in the way of sour grapes, given how recently my MMO of choice was forced to confront its inadequate commercial success. So, best simply to acknowledge that Guild Wars 2 is out, and everyone’s playing it.

Most of the people who play GW2 seem to enjoy it, so far. The gameplay videos and screenshots confirm that it is quite lovely. It does a good job of disguising its questing to come across more like an interactive world, and its events, when they work right, offer a good illusion of a dynamic world, as well. I don’t think a good themepark MMO needs to be self-effacing about its nature, but offering quests in some kind of ‘realistic’ way is always good for immersion. SW:TOR took the step of full voice, animation and interactivity, TSW came close with great voice acting and decent animations (if no character participation) in its cutscenes. If the next big thing is dispensing with the quest acceptance ritual entirely, that can only be for the best.

GW2 seems to have cleared the ‘massive post-hype disappointment’ hurdle gracefully, which is no mean feat. Although I have no intention of playing it in the near future, I have no particular desire to see it stumble. However, there are a couple of reasons why I am taking its blissful honeymoon period with a grain of salt.

First, the no-subscription model is a thumb on the scale when putting it up against any comparable title. In the subtle competition between GW2 and TSW that seems to flare up on occasion, I am a mild TSW partisan because of the latter’s ambitious stab at storytelling and overall respect for the player’s intelligence. However, it is impossible to argue against GW2 on purely economic grounds. It is part of human nature to react more enthusiastically to comparable quality content for a lower price.

Second, I think it is generally a bad idea to make PvP the endgame of a game with a lot of PvE appeal during levelling. I expect many of the explorers, crafters, vanity-item-chasers and Asura-lovers will slowly fall away as the game’s atmosphere shifts to emphasise interserver competition and community sours, eventually becoming toxic. While the game’s event system, from the reports I read, is doing quite well while saturated with players, a drop in the PvE population, even buffered by the level scaling system, may lead to a vicious downward spiral with regard to the accessibility of the events, which may chase off even more PvEers.

Unfashionably, I’m going to keep my pontificating about a game I do not actually play to a minimum. I am pretty confident, though, that the chimera of GW2, while undeniably innovative, is not the next best way to capture the heart of the themepark customer. At its worst, a beautifully-crafted game with genuine PvE potential may well end up a glorified League of Legends. Which would be a rotten shame.

Categories: Other MMOs