The latest episode of Points of Interest, while not offering up any new information for veteran players, made me take a moment and appreciate a lot of the things that make Guild Wars 2 a special game that I often take for granted. For me, it comes down to two main things: you don’t have to be a dick to other people, and you're not penalised for playing something else.
Keep it to yourself
Allow me to break down that first point. As highlighted in the livestream, gathering nodes are individual and not a contest, everyone involved in killing an enemy gets credit, and no–one is competing for loot drops. Having that aspect of “I can do my own thing without having to screw anyone over” goes a long way to developing a friendly in–game community. This is amplified by the ‘emergent gameplay’ created by dynamic group events, and the megaserver technology that underpins everything, attempting to put you in the same place as friends and guildmates, which worked brilliantly when Dry Top was introduced.
So, playing other games. I must admit that I haven’t played Guild Wars regularly for a few weeks now. I had a blast playing the first half of this living world season and eagerly await the next half, but the second feature pack didn't contain anything that particularly appealed to me. Thing is, that’s totally cool. No problem. These days, all that ArenaNet actually require of me is to login at least once every couple of weeks (once the living story is up and running again), and even then that’s just to save myself some gems. None of the time–gated content (laurels, ascended materials) are so crucial that I can’t afford to skip a day (or thirty). The lack of the traditional gear treadmill is another thing that we probably take for granted two years in, but means that I don't have palpitations thinking about falling behind the curve if I happen to miss content.
Call me a filthy casual, but this absolutely suits the way that I play games now. I’ve had my fair share of 6 hour raid nights, coerced by increasingly frustrated leaders on voice comms trying to get tired players to stick around for just one more try on progression night, but having a family put paid to that (I'm not complaining!). Not only that, but I have a stack of other games piling up that I never get around to playing when I’m in full–blown GW2 mode. Lately, I’ve been hitting up Battle.net (Sayana#1207, add me) for Hearthstone and the new Diablo 3 expansion, Reaper of Souls, not to mention Kickstarted games Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director’s Cut and Wasteland 2. Guild Wars 2 lets me get away with a little digital infidelity without heavily penalising me, and that works for me, and very much keeps me coming back in the end.
The most discussed facet of the second feature pack is definitely the new player experience. Conversation has been wide–ranging, and vitriolic. It turned out that much of the initial criticism was based on unintentional changes, which were fixed quickly. From where I’m sitting, I would say that there are aspects of the NPE that I like, and some that I’m not so fond of, but I can understand the rationale behind the decisions. I spent some time at EGX London this week and saw a lot of completely new players working through the first few levels of hastily created characters, and the staggered introduction to game mechanics definitely seemed… kinder, than being thrown straight in. Time will tell what further tweaks are made to the system, but that isn’t really what I wanted to focus on.
It should go without saying, but here it is: the developers aren’t trying to piss you off. For the most part, they’re gamers too. They want to make cool shit for all of us. This reasoning, and a background in software development, leads me to conclude that if something that I deem to be an obviously good thing isn’t in the game already, like markers in Dry Top to show you which coins you already collected, it’s either in the works, or is technically harder than it sounds.
Design by committee doesn’t work. Feedback is roundly a useful thing for our community to engage in, but try to make it well–formed, constructive, and based on your personal experience of the game as opposed to hearsay. If you’re angry about changes or features that you feel are missing, try to get to the core of what your point is, and communicate that. In the long run, it’s going to be a lot more effective than shit–slinging.