I thought I’d kick off my posts about Guild Wars 2 with a look into the Living Story mechanic. It all stems back to the noble aim of the GW2 development team to create a living world, pretty much the holy grail for an MMO. Essentially, as GW2 is a free to play game the aim was to create a world that was constantly evolving so that although you paid one up front price for the game, you didn’t play it and ‘complete’ it and then never play it again very much as you would with an average console game.
They key to GW2’s living world is that if I was to stop playing today and then play again in a month, it would feel different and I’d have missed lots of exciting content. That encourages you to keep playing, when otherwise the game would become stale. Although, they’re careful to make sure its not content that would exclude a player who returns after a break.
The original Guild Wars was pretty famous for its seasonal events. They really pushed to boat out on what that game could cope with at certain times of the year, especially Halloween, Christmas and Canthan (a Chinese inspired region in the original GW) New Year. These festivals changed the loot that enemies would drop in the outside world, added new stories and characters and also fabulously decorated the major cities around the game world. They were events that made you want to log in and play and get involved, and were always well received. This is probably where a lot of the inspiration for the Living Story of GW2 came from.
With Guild Wars 2 the team started off with one of their staples, Halloween and the story of the Shadow of Mad King Thorn. What really stuck with me about this event was the total transformation in Lions Arch (the central city, and only multi-cultural city, in GW2) which went far beyond what was achieved in the original GW. The music was wonderful as well and is something that GW2 pulls off consistently, it is in a league of its own musically and always delivered a special tune or two for a festival (although this has changed more recently – more on that later on!).
One thing crept in with the Mad King though, and that was how confusing it could be to follow. I remember this event was the first time I referred to the amazingly helpful Dulfy.net (http://dulfy.net/category/gw2) for help on how to complete the event achievements. The achievements were what the whole event was based around, and in particular I referred to Dulfy for was Master Carver.
The Master Carver achievement was awarded for successfully carving 150 pumpkins placed randomly throughout the world. The achievement description only read ‘carve 150 pumpkins’ leaving me with no idea where pumpkins would be found, if I would need to buy special tools to carve them or if I could carve the same pumpkin a second time after an hour, and so on.
I also remember the jumping puzzle. If anyone was around for the Halloween event and tried this jumping puzzle you will already know what I mean, an incredibly difficult jumping puzzle with a unremitting time limit in the form of a rising sea of green that drowned you; one foot wrong on the way or one moments hesitation and you died a very green death. To see quite how crazy this puzzle was watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w0NZAJVnQE. The puzzle was a killer, and presented a real challenge that you could throw yourself at and feel really proud for completing … if you were a human or asura character. I’ll probably cover this more in future posts, but if you are a Norn or Charr, they are such large characters compared to humans that you can’t navigate the puzzle as it was designed with humans as the base model. For anybody not playing as a human the jumping puzzle just represented a big frustration and shone a very uncompromising light on all the neglected problems with the non-human races of GW2. Sadly, although the festival was brilliant and memorable in many positive ways, I also remember it for the lack of clarity and tedious achievements that required farming of mundane things with little challenge. This was something of a sign of things to come.
The next event after Halloween was the Lost Shores. This story was meant to introduce a new high-level area, Southsun, to the plays by a one time story event in Lions Arch where giant crab like creatures invaded. This happened at the same time across all the servers, and whilst a nice idea, the servers inevitably buckled under the strain of all that intense data at once. The picture below sums up the whole event pretty well. Although its a picture you can almost feel the lag in it. You’ll also spot the veteran that everybody is attacking, which I never hit for anything for that 0. Although the invasion event hinged on killing these giant egg laying bosses, they seemed to scale incredibly badly and become indestructible, making the event last for much longer than intended and causing even more strain on the servers. All of this happened on the first ever free trial weekend, where anybody could invite a friend to play for free, equally massive and unpredictable lag when huge new numbers logged in to the game for the first time. That’s all I remember of the Lost Shores Living Story, the story was lost behind an abysmal starting event in Lion’s Arch for me.
All in all the beginnings of the Living Story had shown promise, especially given the pedigree of the original GW to produce consistently high quality festivals, but somehow it was getting seriously lost on the implementation. The next GW2 Living Story, for Christmas 2012, marked something of a change from the car crash of the beginning, but I will explain more soon in another blog post. Hopefully all of this recent history helps to explain how the Living Story has got to its current stage, which I will hopefully look in to in a another blog post soon!
Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com