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.
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.
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*
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.
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.
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.