GW2: Nuked from Orbit

I’m taking a break from Guild Wars 2, perhaps permanently. I’ve had a shift in perspective over the last couple of months. I presume it must be something to do with that fabled mid-life crisis that pops up in movies and elsewhere. The gist of the matter is that my priorities have reshuffled such that I am interested in exclusively playing games which are compelling and exceed my personal entertainment threshold. The mindless zerging and open world freneticism of Tyria are entertaining, to a degree, but they are neither extraordinary nor compelling. I have uninstalled the game on the principle of “out of sight, out of mind.” This is a bit of conceptual simplification which in my personal case allows me to devote more mental energy to my children and to games which give me exactly the experience I want. I also took the nuclear route of deleting all of my characters. All of them. It goes hand-in-hand with divesting myself of my previous online persona which was tied too tightly to a specific game. I’ve since adopted a game-agnostic alias which is the name of a fictional character I came up with fifteen or so years ago for a novel I’ve never written. It’s that old Buddhist mantra in action: “Take what is useful and discard the rest.”

If ArenaNet ever returns to its original design philosophy I may return. It would be with brand new characters using brand new names without any sort of back-story empire mandating their continual grooming and cultivation. I would be perfectly happy to roam the lands as a fresh-faced staff Elementalist if the Marionette were to make a reappearance. Bring Scarlet Briar back from the dead and burn down another city or even an entire zone. Give the plot some fangs. I already know we’re going to kill all the Elder Dragons; why not do it in style? You took my suggestion to heart and did it in the cheesiest way possible. (Bottom of the post, Heart of Thorns main story spoilers.) Your storytelling simply isn’t up to the task. That’s why I’m playing The Secret World and relishing the main plot line. The side stories are quite fascinating as well. It’s a dark, adult horror novel without plot armor. People die, just like I wish they would.

You know, I can ignore story, but I must have compelling gameplay. That’s why I’m playing Smite for my PvP desires as opposed to the pendulum-driven non-balance of GW2’s structured PvP. Smite has an audience of 10 million viewers and players (by comparison, League of Legends has 67 million) and offers cash prizes at its world championships. It isn’t just a marketing strategy, either, as ArenaNet’s eSports ventures are. Balance is therefore of primary concern. I am thriving in an environment in which mechanical mastery is fairly straightforward, passive/active item builds are flexible, and team efforts are paramount. It is a game unto itself rather than a game mode in a larger setting. It is this combination of features that have endeared it to me and motivate me to become better at it.

When it comes to World versus World action, I’m putting my money on Crowfall. Literally. My spouse handed me some of the winnings from her personal vice and told me to spend it on my personal vice. I therefore went straight to the Crowfall website and became a backer. It is a campaign-driven, player-combat-focused environment which promises to provide everything anyone could be looking for in an epic-scale fighting experience: meaningful permanence with a definite end-state, account-level skill progression (crows), character-level customization (vessels) and variable rulesets and arenas from the PvE-centric Eternal Kingdoms to the PvP-centric Dregs in which Scree’s guild Obsidian will be operating. The people who make Crowfall understand that player combat is the engine of the game. The people who make EVE understand that spaceship explosions drive pretty much everything, including the economy. I’m talking about a game that is designed with good fights in mind and is not simply an exercise in “look at the pretty PvE maps we made!”

World versus World in GW2 is nice, mindless fun, but does not provide me with the meaningfulness I am looking for, nor does it seem to understand that not having convenient access to enemy players means fewer player fights and therefore no game mode. Had the Air Keep been designed with player fights in mind, it would not feature gusts of wind that knock you off narrow platforms which makes it harder to fight players. A dynamic, triggered event, for example, could allow attackers to glide over the keep (rented gliders for non-HoT owners) and bomb it while the defenders use a variety of mortars, cannons, and other projectile siege to shoot them down. Had the Earth Keep been designed with player fights in mind, it would not feature earthen wall mazes which make it harder to reach other players and fight them. They would feature, for example, Auric Basin-style suits which would allow players to costume brawl in the style of the Trinity so that players could experience a temporary Tank-Damage-Heal battle as an alternative to having to raid to get their Formally Designated Roles fix.

Don’t get me started on raids. Instanced content in a game which is supposed to be about a free-form, at-your-leisure experience in which you meet strangers and cooperate with them to great effect. “Fix your parse” is not something I ever want to hear in map chat. Hells to the noes. My personal theory is that there is an egomaniac behind the scenes calling the shots and compromising the overall direction projected by the exquisite, organic maps and epic music and all the other lovely things created by the beautiful and talented people who work at ArenaNet, many of whom I admire greatly. It seems NCSoft’s studio babies past and present have a problem with egomania and squandered potential. Hardly endemic to that particular publisher, but I digress.

These concerns are secondary, however. Perhaps even tertiary. It’s a personal decision, one that was not made lightly. I no longer care to spend my time on games that don’t satisfy my personal enjoyment criteria. Perhaps when my children are grown I’ll have thirty MMO icons littering my desktop once again. Right now, my time is precious and I won’t spend a second of it on checklists or preparatory work or grinding as primary activities.

Which means, of course, that I’m heading straight back to Egypt in The Secret World.

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8 thoughts on “GW2: Nuked from Orbit

  1. I think your break down of going to other games for different aspects of what GW2 offers is a really interesting perspective on the game; one I mostly find myself agreeing with. GW2 offers a lot of varying game modes with little to no barriers encountered when hopping between them, but it just does them all so much worse than more dedicated titles. Its story is garbage (even when not being compared to TSW, which I consider the industry leader in that department), its PvE is generally mindless, WvW is basically dead, and MMOs as eSports are an unbalanced joke.

    My personally journey isn’t that far from yours. I went to SWTOR for a bit of story (that won’t last long) as well as single player titles like Life is Strange (which you also played), starting playing Heroes of the Storm for PvP, and am super amped up on Crowfall for my sandbox and larger scale PvP whims. I used to be a one-game person, and I guess I’m still a one-MMO person, but I guess it’s not so bad to branch out.

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    1. At this point in my life, branching out to dedicated titles is giving me what I want. I’m sure that at some point in the future going back to the One True Game which does everything really well might be the path I take – that is, if such a game exists.

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  2. In many aspects you remind me on another posting at another blog just a few days ago:

    https://whyigame.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/one-step-forward-two-steps-backward/

    Just like i wrote there, i would also point it out here: GW2 as a game is allright, as long as you don’t take it serious. I fully agree that the storywriting is weak. I fully agree that the whole new direction of raids is contraproductive and, just like in almost any game where the endgame is dungeons or raids, pushes the community towards toxicity. (*)

    Any why you didn’t mention it explicitely, i even dare to say that GW2s combat system is inferior to TSW. Mechanically both are actually very similar, but while many people consider TSW to be “clunky”, it is superior from a technical point of view. My premium example for that is the dodge mechanic.

    In TSW you get a simple white marking for a groupd effect, which has a clearly recognizeabe animation to tell you when it hits, so you can dodge out of it. In GW2 you have colorful markings, but no timing information. Next to that, in TSW your actual position during the dodge matters, if you roll but are stil in range when the effect impacts, you get hit. As GW2 lacks the positional precision of TSW (their engine can’t determine your position with enough precision any more when you are rolling) they cover it up with the “invulnerable while rolling” mechanic.

    Despite all of this, i have to say that GW2 manages to skillfully cover up a lot of its shortcomings (also including combat animations of mediocre quality and some broken ones) by using many particle effects, making it a visually pleasing game and making combat feel fun.

    The deciding point is just what you want to get out of it. In my library GW2 is the “popcorn-game”. And just like regular popcorn, your epectations matter. If you want venison and wine sauce, all the popcorn won’t help you, but there are still times when popcorn is what you actually want and prefer. That’s why i also keep this game in my library, playing it casually, not paying attention to it’s endgame and absolutely not caring for the metagame, as either of those would break the enjoyment.

    That all being said, i have to compliment you on this paragraph:
    “These concerns are secondary, however. Perhaps even tertiary. It’s a personal decision, one that was not made lightly. I no longer care to spend my time on games that don’t satisfy my personal enjoyment criteria. Perhaps when my children are grown I’ll have thirty MMO icons littering my desktop once again. Right now, my time is precious and I won’t spend a second of it on checklists or preparatory work or grinding as primary activities.”

    While i consider a lot of the criticism you stated on the game to be fixable by playing it with the right mindset and expectation, this paragraph tells me that you made your decission for a good reason and it is a wise one. Thus i can only can gratulate you on your course, wish you all the best and hope you can stick to it.

    (*): Sidenote: the only exception to that I am aware of is The Secret World. I have no real explanation why I can care for the endgame, dungeons and raid included, in that game without experiencing the hostility this kind of gameplay is connected to in any other MMO I tried it in. My theories center about the smaller niché community and thus a different mindset, the fact that most of those dungeons can be done by less than a full group and thus it’s no big deal if a few members don’t operate at maximum and the fact that random loot does not matter that much and usually is disassembled for crafting materials, the relevant rewards is currency which everybody gets, so there’s no loot envy.

    But these all are just guesses and theory, I can’t tell if any of them is the reason for my more positive experience in this game, and if yes, which one it would be.

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    1. The Secret World has no levels or classes and 10 quality levels of gear (albeit with decimal points at QL10) which blunts the potential for elitist toxicity. Furthermore, many people – including myself – play it for the story rather than as a means of acquiring power by incrementing numbers. I don’t take the game seriously at all. I hardly think about it when I’m not playing it. The difference between GW2 and TSW is that TSW is compelling whereas GW2 is nothing special.

      The formally designated roles of the trinity and the incredibly obvious attack tells in TSW do indeed make it much, much easier for me to interpret what is going on and therefore react to it. In comparison to a broad swath of MMOs, TSW’s combat is mechanically simple. The Beaumont fight, for example, was trivial once I switched to a sustain build. Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, employs what appears to me to be a large amount of visual obfuscation and complexity which I never really came to terms with. I’d end up using a ranged weapon unless I had memorized an encounter to the Nth degree. I’m much more likely to remain interested in a game activity which allows me to be JIT (just-in-time) reactive as opposed to relying heavily on rote memory and living in constant fear of seemingly arbitrary one-shot mechanics.

      I’m not interested in popcorn games, I’ve decided. I’d rather play with my kids or watch a movie. I tried for two years to put myself in the right mindset for GW2 and it just isn’t my thing. Live and learn.

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      1. “The difference between GW2 and TSW is that TSW is compelling whereas GW2 is nothing special.” I really like both those games but TSW held my attention for a couple of months whereas GW2 has held it for three and a half years. TSW does narrative and story better than almost any video game I have ever played but the thing is that still only brings it to the comparable level of a middling genre novel or a fairly averageTV show. The things it does best I can find done better in more accessible formats with ease.

        GW2 on the other hand provides a wealth of activities that aren’t so easy to replicate in other media, especially as I near my 60s. The last time I ran around in a gang, fighting and throwing things at another gang, was when I was about nine years old. And we didn’t get to use magic or fight dragons. That’s the experience I find I can’t get elsewhere and don’t soon tire of. It has been since I first logged into EQ at the tail end of last century. It’s the MMOs that let me feel like I’m ten years old just starting the summer holidays that stick. Luckily there are plenty of them.

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      2. And again I guess it’s down to “tastes differ”. Both games have their right of existence, my position was pasted above, no need to repeat it. 🙂

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