O Guild Wars 2, Where Art Thou?


Guild Wars 2 has become like an old college friend whom you kinda lost touch with, only to meet a few years later, and now you can’t recognize them at all.

Note: This is going to be a heavily opinionated piece. 

So, GW2 dropped the bomb this weekend, announcing some major changes to the game. First, the base game is now F2P, and second, raids are being introduced. Both of these elements effect the atmosphere and community of a game so vastly that GW2 is becoming more and more unrecognizable to me now. If I had any curiosity about HOT, it has quickly been squleched for good.

The Original Vision

The Guild Wars series was founded upon the idea of taking a good look at MMOs and seeing where they make things too annoying and time consuming. Then, once that’s identified, take steps to innovate and fix those troubled spots, making a game that’s accessible and fun, especially for casual players.

In GW2, they addressed this by pushing back against the trinity play. Over and over, they noted that you’d never need to wait on a healer because every class could take care of itself in some way. Did this actually end up to be true? Well, I dunno. But the idea was to save time and get you right into game play.

You have waypoints and warping to rob you blind speed up travel. No mounts needed, but also no vast expanses you had to run across to get back to town. Mail is at your fingertips, anytime. Harvest nodes are shared with everyone. Dynamic events don’t require you to group for credit, all you have to do is show up.

The original vision of Guild Wars 2 touted a living and dynamic world. An open world where players would be happy to see another player because people can’t hurt, only help, progress. A game where gear wasn’t king, but skill was. A game where there was no grind to get to the fun. Devs talked about events that could take weeks to cycle through, and the players making changes that mattered.

The Shadow Behemoth in August 2012. Back when he was awesome.
The Shadow Behemoth in August 2012. Back when he was awesome.

In the beginning, when folks were leveling, the dream was real. Players were everywhere, moving through dynamic events. Assisting each other in goals. Leveling and exploring together. Those first few months of GW2 was a casual player’s fantasy, and it was totally awesome! Sure, some events were broken and not doing what they should have been doing, but there was a feeling about the community (I was deeply involved with it) and the world that was open, free, and enticing.

A player like me, who is shy to PUG, could still help and interact. I could still make a difference. And everything really did feel dynamic.

The champions of the dragons came and went on their own whims. People got excited when the Shatterer or Claw of Jormag pre-events kicked off. That was something to write to the Guild Chat about!

Oh! Oh! The dragons are coming! Let’s do this! 

Those are the things that made us ALL feel epic. 

My first Shatterer battle in August 2012
My first Shatterer battle in August 2012

Losing Sight of the Vision

I used to say that you should give an MMO about two years to really mature into the kind of game it would become. I still think that’s true, and GW2 is no exception. It just seems like GW2 tried and tried to experiment with format and development and it, quite frankly, failed in these experiments. It feels like so many things GW2 started out championing, they’ve gone back on.

No expansions! They’ll only release Living Story episodes, which are just as good as expansions! We see where that got them. *cough* Heart of Thorns *cough*

Gear doesn’t matter! There will never be a grind! *cough* Ascended Armor *cough*

Back in August 2013, when there would NEVER be an expansion, and everyone turned out to beat down Scarlet.
Back in August 2013, when there would NEVER be an expansion, and everyone turned out to beat down Scarlet.

Now, with the announcement of raids, I feel there’s a danger of them completely throwing out the whole concept of large, dynamic open world events. Why work so hard to scale something a whole zone has to cooperate to beat when you can reel it back in for a 10-man instance instead? Much easier to develop (and monetize), I’m sure.

What happened to accessibility? Why do you suddenly feel the need to develop content that is “challenging” and “difficult” instead of “engaging” and “fun”?

No, I’m not going to argue about how a small group of leet players banging their head up against a raid-progression wall is someone’s form of fun. But the point is, that’s not what GW2 was originally supposed to be like! It rooted for accessibility, so that everyone could enjoy the content (with the exception of terrible dungeons).

And what happened to originality? Uh, sure, it’s innovated that you’re trying to squeeze a non-trinity group makeup into a raid environment (To quote Trahearne: This won’t end well.), but raiding is nothing new when it comes to MMOs.

Just about every MMO has raids. But not every game allowed me to take part in defending Lion’s Arch against an invasion. Or working with a whole zone to take down a huge army and then a boss. Even though I don’t think much of the story elements of the Living World, I can’t deny the experiences were some of the most memorable I’ve had… because they were large-scale, free-form, and inclusive.

Heck, I was able take my level 15 character to the battle in Lion’s Arch, be upscaled to level 80, and still have a good time with the event, getting some loot and levels to boot! They’ve taken that part of the game away from us now that the Living Story requires level 80 characters and mostly takes place in tiny, constrictive instances.

Sorry, but no raid is ever going to come close to being as epic as this. Look at all those PEOPLE on the bridge back there!
Sorry, but no raid is ever going to come close to being as epic as this. Look at all those PEOPLE on the bridge back there!

What happened to dynamic? When the megaserver change hit, all the large dynamic events were also shoved on specific timers. There’s no more mystery and excitement for when Jormag or Tequatl show up. You now just come to meet him at the exact same time every night. Really?

I guess raids were just the next logical steps to all this. And it makes me disappointed. It’s like GW2 is moving backwards instead of innovating forwards. I really do feel they’ve failed to hold on to the vision that made GW2 something different from the rest… and now they’re trying to spin raids into something new and exciting.


My first thought is how the heck is this even going to work? I remember the pain that was dungeons in GW2. With no real healer class, and every class meant to take care of itself, it was such a bad experience for me that I almost wrote off MMO dungeons for good. Thank you to FFXIV for redeeming them for me.

I can only imagine the pain of raiding in GW2 with this “amazing” active battle, “mechanics,” and no trinity. I remember the long, tedious boss fights in dungeons which often led to being in the downed state almost constantly. If any of your party members tried to rez you, the boss would automatically focus fire on that person, and then there would be two down. After they forced you to pretty much wipe the party to rez again (no rezzing at the waypoint when other party members are in battle), I quit dungeons.

Back in the days you could actually do dungeon content at the level you unlocked it.
Back in the days you could actually do dungeon content at the level you unlocked it.

The sad thing was, they gated story behind those dungeons. And though they said they’d do something to make the story modes a bit easier, they never did. Still, till this day, if you actually try to do a AC at level 30, when it actually opens to you, you’ll be lucky to find a party that won’t auto-kick you for not being 80. :/

That leads me to the biggest concern about adding raids to GW2: the inevitable raider mentality.

Raiding Mentality and Community

GW2 was originally a beautiful experience because it was built to be inclusive. If anyone thinks that raiding in GW2 is going to be inclusive, I have a plot of land in Lion’s Arch to sell you where you can build your personal home. Personal homes are being released in HoT, right? Right? 

The raid announcement stressed again and again this content would be difficult. Challenging. And rewards will be legendary.

To me, this just keeps saying Leet! Leet! Leet!

And the moment the word raid is murmured, the community starts to divide between those with Ascended gear and Legendary weapons (all which aren’t supposed to matter) and the scrubs who have not.

Take this post for example, aptly titled “Hardcore” folks dont want “casuals” pugging.


Hardly even got the announcement out and already “hardcore” people are ragging on the “casuals”… who GW2 was originally made to appeal to! What’s it gonna be like when raids are actually in?

Update: The devs have confirmed in this MO interview that they agree with the above “hardcore” mentality.

I asked about a group-finder system for raids — whether there is one in HoT or will be in the future. And he explicitly said no — there will not be one at the launch of HoT, and there are no plans to ever put one in. He emphasized that this was intended to be coordinated endgame content, not something a PUG can tackle.

This attitude has pretty much decided things for me. I haven’t been playing GW2 much beyond logging in daily for the rewards and using the free tomes to level characters to 80. I’ll probably keep doing this just because I’m a completest and I’d like to get those few remaining characters I rolled 3 years ago to 80. Go figure.

Fare thee well, GW2. Call me when you're a game that I'd enjoy playing again.
Fare thee well, GW2. Call me when you’re a game that I’d enjoy playing again.


  1. I have not played GW2 in a long time, though I am sad to see the direction it is going in =( I used to get on just to run around and have fun, as it was basically that, you logged on did some things and just had fun.

    To be honest this does not surprise me though, many games are going in surprising (many times wrong IMO) directions. Sadly to say many people leave due to it and never play many of their favourite games due to that.

    As for the player mentality… there always will be people like that. I’ve seem them in my WoW days, have been raiding with a few of them too. Not because I wanted too, but what can you do, right? Honestly though many of them are like that due to complexes IRL.

    Still we’ll see where they go, maybe they will see the light someday and go in the direction that will give most if not all players the most fun they can have =)

    1. Well, the devs are now matching the “no PUG” player mentality based on interviews and updates last night. So it’s all the more reason for me to put this on the shelf.

      This is an absolute turn-around of the original philosophy that made me love the game. I’ve sensed it’s decline over the past few years, though, so I’m ready to go on to games I do enjoy.

    1. I speak so strongly because this was a game I once really loved and was heavily invested in. When I say I hardly recognize what it’s become, it’s not an exaggeration.

  2. I agree with this so much! It’s striking how many completely unrelated directions GW2 has gone in these last years. It feels very hyperactive. I guess there’s a good chance the raids will flop hard and there will be a new new vision in January or so…

    No-trinity action-MMO raids do exist already, in Marvel Heroes. In that game, they’re pretty fun. A few mechanics, a boss with lots of HP, and a team full of copies of the Hulk and Ms. Marvel. What’s not to like? But GW2’s raiding announcement has WildStar syndrome. Why design a game to frustrate and exclude 99%+ of players? Do developers really not understand that there are virtually no people who actually play content that’s harder than “sorta hard”? I just don’t get it.

    For my money GW2’s trend in open-world zones is worse than the hardcore hardcore I feel you bro so epic hardcore raid garbage. Replacing the often charming, leisurely, multi-purpose, alive zones from launch with highly repetitive one-goal grindboxes just makes me sad.

    1. Interesting that Marvel Heroes can pull off a non-trinity raid. I’m sure it can be done, but it has to be designed very carefully. My experiences with instanced dungeons, and even Living Story instances, in GW2 leads me to feel that raids will be far more frustrating than they need to be.

      I totally feel the WildStar vibe on this, too.

  3. Wow, this is such a fascinatingly deep and rich topic, I think I’m gonna HAVE to put in my own two cents…though this also seems like it’s been talked to death.

    It sucks when a game you love adjusts away from is current vision so sharply. It would be good to know more about how raids and its gear rewards actually work, because all of the supposition is damn worrying. :c

    1. It seems the devs are agreeing with the “hardcore” mentality that their new raids are not meant to be completed by PUGs. All I can say is… this breaks my heart, because just a few years ago, you’d never hear the Anet devs say such a thing. They used to champion casual players and find ways to design things that all folks could take part in.

      It’s very sad.

  4. I’ve found myself very much on the fence with Heart of Thorns and you bring up an excellent point with how dungeons and even fractals have played so far. They’re an absolute mess and more often than not when I attempted these with my friends we would fail. Finding ourselves perpetually in a downed state despite our best efforts to avoid it.

    I imagine that won’t change with raids but I crave a challenge or at least an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. The big meta events and world bosses in GW2 are impressive in their scale, but it often feels like that I am not making a discernible contribution to the effort. I’m just one speck in a sea of AoEs. Instanced raid content gives me more of an opportunity to figure out where I stand. Sure, raiding mentality certainly be a nasty side of a video game community but if you insulate yourself with a good group of friends, you can avoid that.

    I regret not being present for all those Living Story events but I lost interest because they started out very lackluster and I didn’t have a large group of friends to keep me invested in the game world. I don’t know really know if that will change with Heart of Thorns but I want to at least try it out with my friends and heck, once I buy it…I can come back whenever

    1. I hope that you do enjoy the raids in GW2 if you attempt them. I don’t ever wish anyone a bad time in any game. I understand why you’d like a more instanced and smaller group play.

      I’m also not against raids in a game, IF they’re done right! FFXIV is an example of a game that knows how to develop raid content in a way that casual groups and hardcore groups each can enjoy their own thing.

      It’s very obvious that GW2 is not doing this, and that is what I object to. The problem is, GW2 is a game that originally touted how user friendly and inclusive it would be, and now, a few years down the line, they’re turning it right around and going down the path of leet and hardcore exclusion.

      I don’t foresee the majority of players enjoying their challenging group content. Despite my several level 80s and years spent in the game, someone like me would probably be snubbed by raiders to even try one. I mean, no ascended armor, nothing close to a legendary weapon… I’m such a scrub and I have no place in GW2’s new “end game.”

      I get the message. It just never used to be like this… and this was not what the game advertised itself to be at launch. I have a feeling they’re going to need to learn a WildStar lesson. Hardcore does not mean epic.

      I feel like they have closed the door on me, so I guess I’m going to close my door on them.

    2. I agree on the large events: when you’re in the middle of such a swarm of players, the best you can do is throw down some AoE, along with everyone else. And even then, nobody would notice if you were AFK.

      I’d like to go even one step further and say that the dynamic event system was broken from the start, and I don’t mean bugs. Yes, it worked beautifully when large groups of people were progressing through a zone. However, as a European on an American server, I often found myself alone in a zone; when that certain mass of players is lacking, events don’t move forward and it’s the same things over, and over, and over again. Suddenly, it was nothing but a standard repeatable quest, except that it shoved itself in your face after you’d already done it a dozen times.

      As for the hardcore mentality (I prefer that term over raiders, which may well be casuals), I think it’s already well established in the game. It’s most obvious expression is in the train of players that cycle through the events like it’s some kind of machine that they have to keep running. And if you (accidentally) activate an event before the train arrives, be prepared for a shower of insults from players who feel that you’ve just robbed them of their precious loot. I think it’s these players that Anet is trying to build raids for.

      1. Ah, yes. The Champion trains. People who aren’t playing the content as it was designed to be played and yell at anyone who tries to. This was a sad development… but also didn’t appear until way after launch. There’s always going to be someone who tries to farm the content and dictate how everyone else should play.

        However, for what it’s worth, I loved the large group content. Call it zerg. Call it whatever. It was large, epic and exciting to me. I didn’t care if I couldn’t see my numbers over the mass of people… it was just being a part of that mass that mattered.

        I guess we won’t be getting any more events of that scope, so the zerg-haters won.

        1. Well, unless I missed some sort of announcement from the ANet folks I don’t think they’re removing large scale events from the game. There will still be Living Story elements present in the expansion and I hope the climax of each one will be a huge event for everyone to participate in.

          They shouldn’t remove the zergs anyways, instead just offer more content besides zerg events which is what they seem to be doing with raids and adventures. All I want are just more options to keep the game fresh.

          I understand your frustration and disappointment on the matter of principle as raiding creates a much more hostile environment in game. Change isn’t easy but sometimes necessary to keep moving forward. I’ve been reminded several times during Blaugust that different playstyles can coexist in game, so I’ll repeat that mantra here.

        2. IMHO, we haven’t really seen a true large scale event tied to the Living Story since Season 1. Season 2’s story was all contained within the instances – which I understand had to be done for re-playablity. I just miss the events like Scarlet’s invasions, attack on Lion’s Arch, Karka event, Marionette, Tower of Madness… etc.

          I guess they tried to shove all the group content into the chaotic events in the Silverwastes, but there was too much going on all the time there, and they were quite punishing. It wasn’t fun, and I didn’t stay there long. It wasn’t the same.

          I acknowledge there are different play styles, but I know I’m not the only one to feel like GW2 is turning around and doing the exact opposite of their original vision. I can’t do anything but accept there’s nothing I can do to change it. But I can move on, which I will.

  5. While reading the “Designing Challenging Content” blog post from ArenaNet I had to double check if I, by any chance, was reading a Wildstar blog.

    They are really trying to copy the “success” of Wildstar?

    1. Thanks for reminding me about that post. I had it open in a browser window yesterday, but too much going on to give it a proper read.

      From the raid announcement itself, though, I also get a sense of this WildStar mentality. I don’t get it because… yeah. We see how far that got WildStar.

      I used to say “I trust Anet to do it right,” and there was a time that I really felt that when I said that. Maybe they’ll pull it off. Who knows. I need to go read that article to get a better sense of it.

  6. I loved those earlier experience and just that sense of freedom. Now it just feels way to curated with it’s timed world events, dailies and achievement focus

    I still wonder what made them abandon that vision so quickly though.

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