Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: “Backpacks are the New Hats” (No, They’re Just Carrots)




I think I need to clarify something that’s being misunderstood. This isn’t a post saying “I want free things without working for them.” I honestly have moved on from GW2 for the most part, and don’t expect or want anything out of the game.

Rather, this is an observation about how the intention behind “free” cosmetics has changed between GW1 and GW2.

I don’t mean to belabor the topic I wrote about yesterday, where I discussed the direction GW2 has taken with their gem shop cosmetics, especially festival items in particular. However, I got a comment that made me think up an addition to that article. While I did reply to that comment, I wanted to discuss this a bit more here.

I don’t mean to sound rude, but this comment made me think how well GW2 has trained the players to jump through hoops for “free” cosmetics, and not question it. The way I see it, there’s a huge difference between the intention behind the cosmetic hat gifts in GW1 and the cosmetic back items you have to work grind for in GW2.

Claudius commented:

Backpacks are the new hats. You can get a free ram backpack this festival. Last Wintersday you got a free outfit. I am not sure that your anger is justified 🙂

Firstly, I will note that I am not angry. In fact, I’m pretty much apathetic about the path GW2 is going down because I’ve seen the evolution, I don’t like it, and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

I’m more disappointed. Because I knew Guild Wars when it was a different sort of game. Now it’s a monetized and over-hyped shadow of the spirit that used to drive the series, and it doesn’t have to be.

No, these back items are not “the new hats.” I’ll tell you why.

It’s All About Intentions

gwf-dragonfestival_1600Let me explain how it worked in GW1, since it seems some folks may not have experienced it to understand the difference. The devs created a festival event, usually tied to a RL holiday. There was a lead-up event, sometimes with optional quests and ways of earning special treats throughout. On the last day of the event, was a grand finale that lasted anywhere from 15 mins to half an hour and repeated throughout one day.

If you attended the grand finale (which was usually fun within itself), you’d earn a bunch of free treats for interacting in the right way. For example, playing the Mad King Says and getting the responses correct would give you trick or treat bags. Then, at the end, a free hat appeared in your inventory. Even if you screwed up every Mad King Says, you still got the hat.

It was a gift, something given freely, simply for you being there. It was a way to celebrate that holiday, a way to remember that you attended that in-game event. It was part of the whole festival that everyone got, and something people looked forward to getting. Something people collected and loved to wear in towns, especially during random dance circles.

Good times.

Of Carrots and Sticks

Where GW1 festival items were a gift, GW2 festival items are a carrot on a stick that prods you to grind the content or log in every day. There’s a big difference.

The patch notes for the current Ram event says:

Play in the revamped Dragon Ball Arena, try to get your Lucky Great Ram Lantern backpack, and join us in welcoming the Year of the Ram.

The key word is “try.” You don’t have to try to get a gift. A gift is freely given.

I looked up what it takes to get a basic backpack, and the wiki notes:

Lucky Ram Lantern is a back item, rarely rewarded from Lucky Envelopes.

Researching the Lucky Envelopes, these come from finishing achievements and playing the Dragon Ball arena. So, you get a chance at the backpack (the wiki notes it’s “rarely rewarded”) from envelopes you only get by jumping through achievement hoops and grinding the arena.

Basically it’s a carrot on a stick to nudge people to run the content in order to get the prize. For those who are tired of this carrot thing, apparently the back item is also purchasable on the trade post.

Mawdry's crazy shopping list
Mawdry’s crazy shopping list

This isn’t quite as bad as the hoops you had to jump through to earn the free back items in the past. Mawdry is one that comes to mind. I knew things were getting way out of hand when I saw the grocery list required to craft that thing.

The one exception I can think of was the very first cosmetic back item they introduced, the Mad King’s Memories book. You earned that by undertaking a series of story quests and a scavenger hunt that was pretty fun. Sadly, they’ve removed these quests and the reward from current Halloween events.

Regardless if you’re beating on an endless number of dragon pinatas, collecting samples around Karka-infested South Sun Cove, running Sanctum Sprint a million times, collecting a gazillion blade shards, or grinding through story achievements, the outcome is the same.

The back item is there to provide incentive to run the kind of content the devs want you to run. It’s there to keep you logging in, even if the content is repetitive.

It’s a carrot, not a gift.

The cost may still be free, but intention is completely different. That’s my beef with it.

PS – I wasn’t involved in Wintersday much last year, but Dulfy doesn’t show any free outfit obtained from the event.