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.