GW2: The pond with the fountain in the middle

Good post from Ravious over at KTR about zone/world events in GW2, and what some of the possible scenarios might be. He in particular talks about failure scenarios; what might really happen should the players not be successful during a phase or battle. I would questions things a bit further, and ask how much impact success or failure really has on the world, versus how much it matters on an individual basis.

Consider the impact of an ‘event’ like a siege in Darkfall, which itself is a fairly common and repeatable event. If the defenders are successful, they retain their player city for days/weeks/months/years (depending on when they finally lose it), and that impact is felt by every member of that guild, along with anyone who visits the city, be it for a raid or for trading.

Furthermore, if you siege and kick out an active PvE guild from a city with great fire elemental farming nearby, the effect could be felt server-wide as the price of fire elemental drops increases, while the price of whatever that PvE guild farms next drops.

In short, one event can trigger world-wide ripples, big and small, to not only players directly involved with the event, but also to those who were not. The total number of players affected is a very important factor when considering the impact of an event.

On an individual level, losing or winning said sieged is important, but it’s not as personally game-changing as, say, getting the best-in-slot weapon from an event. Once you have that BiS, you not only stop chasing other weapons, but that event itself is now ‘done’ from your perspective. You have also gained a significant amount of permanent (until the next gear reset) power, which you can leverage to progress through tougher content or dominate others in PvP. If that item/ability/whatever is ‘required’ to progress, said event must also be available to everyone; otherwise you create a massive content bottleneck.

There is no doubt that the events in GW2 won’t have the permanence of something like a city siege. If an NPC dragon was satisfied once it successfully beat the first group of players to fight it, everyone else would feel cheated from missing that content, and from a content delivery perspective, that would be a huge waste. So the dragon has to come back, and the players can repeat the battle over and over. At some point, the zone/world is going to be in exactly the same state as it was before. If that loop is hours long, the impact of the event is pretty minimal, and the buy-in to fight back would be low. This is exactly the effect Rift events had; they at most impacted the zone for an hour or so, and whether the mobs were defeated or ignored, the zone returned to normal.

This also makes any kind of ‘failure state’ not matter nearly as much. If the impact is Rift-level, where failure leads to a quest NPC not being available for a few minutes, no one is really going to go out of their way to fight back if they don’t need that NPC or any of the rewards associated with pushing the event back. MMO players don’t care about the feelings of NPCs, and so we won’t go on a heroic quest to save a village just to give those NPC farmers a safe home (while we would if said farmers were players farming stuff that we actually need – see EVE conflicts over high-value mining areas). We do it because said NPC farmers give us epics, and once we have those epics, we let them burn. And by design, those farmers NEED to burn so that the next solo-hero can come along and ‘save’ them to collect his epics. Actually making saving a village have impact would create more problems than benefits in a traditional PvE MMO.

While I believe the events in GW2 will be longer and more complex than what Rift offers, I don’t see a scenario where they matter more. GW2 has levels, so when you out-level content, you automatically stop caring. GW2 also has permanent items, so when you out-gear content, you stop caring. GW2 has ‘zones’, once you are done with an area, you are done. It does not matter how many branches defending a village has, or how long that chain might last; if the highest mob/reward is level 20 for that branch, someone at level 25 or with better gear than the best reward is not going to care if centaurs overrun a village or not; it simply has no impact on them.

Now it’s entirely possible that GW2 players are not looking for real impact. If the expectation is simply to go on a themepark ride with the option to make the rail go left rather than right around a pond, GW2 might very well deliver exactly that. It might even have a fountain in the middle of the pond to make you go ‘ooh, pretty’. For me that falls far short of the kind of impact I’m looking for from an event, but I believe the left/right choice is all the ‘impact’ the average MMO player today expects or wants.

The ‘real’ solution is to make the world an actual world rather than a collection of zones, but that gets you down the path to a virtual world and niche-MMO territory, and that’s not something AAA studios or the average player are signing up for these days.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Darkfall Online, Guild Wars, MMO design, Rift. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to GW2: The pond with the fountain in the middle

  1. Randomessa says:

    With level-scaling and sidekicking (both up and down) confirmed features in GW2, is it really fair or accurate to characterize it the same way as MMOs where one truly does “outlevel” zones? It seems you’re missing a detail or two here and drawing a flawed conclusion as a result.

    Also, dynamic events don’t reward static gear that lose value over time, but rather karma/gold/exp, so ther is no level 20 gear reward that a level 25 doesn’t want to be arsed to acquire.

    • SynCaine says:

      Scaling means you can go back to help a buddy out, but once you have experienced a lvl 20 zone, are you really just going to randomly go back and downscale to see the event play out again? I guess if the event is so awesome (and the content you have at-level is not) you might, but otherwise?

      Same for the rewards; unless one event is giving out more rewards than another, why would you downscale instead of doing at-level content?

      Basically, outside of helping a friend, WHY would I go back?

      • Randomessa says:

        You realize I can’t answer this for you because I sense our reasons for playing are so divergent that I simply can’t relate to your question?

        I’d go back just to see something different, since I have no expectation that I’d be in any one area long enough to see every chain of every dynamic event or have explored every nook and cranny. Maybe there are acievements for killing x creature in x area, and they spawn in certain events (centaurs aren’t everywhere in the world), etc.

        But ultimately, you are asking why you should go back, and I am asking why I WOULDN’T, given I am not missing out on either content or rewards for doing so.

        • Rammstein says:

          If there really is absolutely no difference between doing at-level content and doing a downscaled dynamic event, then why have levels at all?

        • SynCaine says:

          I guess my ‘why’ was more general, not specifically aimed at you. If the average player has limited reasons to revisit an area, the early/mid zones will become ghost towns like in WoW/Rift, and that does not play well with dynamic content (even if it does scale).

          Again, maybe the way it all works together that won’t be a issue, and lots of people zip around the level range to play in all the zones, even when they are capped. But if not, long term I don’t see how this plays out differently than Rift.

        • Randomessa says:

          @Rammstein, there is not “no” difference, but that is a good question that other fans of GW2 have asked. It does seem as though the levels are, as with GW1, more of a bone thrown than having much actual significance along the lines of other titles.

          @Syn, it would, I suppose, depend on the goals of the player; I don’t sense that GW2 is the game for the person who chases ever-increasing power in the most efficient manner possible. If that turns out to be the vast majority of people picking up the game, then I do agree the earlier zones might just end up ghost towns after all, as you would want to do explorable dungeons or pvp and nix the story or exploration or crafting or minigames or, or, etc.

          Or the game itself will be a modest failure, if the majority of gamers, period, are like this (which it serves my interests to disbelieve). And not just MMO gamers, but the single-player audience GW2 is courting as well. In which case, carry on!

        • SynCaine says:

          GW2 is aiming at the mass market. The mass market is the solo-hero market. Either it ‘fails’ and gets core MMO players. Or it ‘succeeds’ and gets millions of solo-heroes who dance on the mailbox at cap.

          Hope for failure I guess?

  2. Jonathan says:

    It looks to me like GW2 is trying to find an interesting midpoint between the pure themepark of WoW (which might as well be a single player game, or a “PvE” singleplayer with a multiplayer “lobby” like Starcraft 2) and a pure sandbox like Darkfall. Events that matter to those people there and that come there over the next day or two, but nothing world changing. Gameplay that is directly impacted by the other people in your area, but no long term consequences. Level scaling and event scaling to allow long term players and new players to work together and impact each other, but still have high level areas that you have to level to partake in. Might make an interesting mix if they can pull it off – something for folks that feel overly railroaded by WoW and RIFT but don’t want the commitment and full-on consequences of Darkfall or A Tale in the Desert.

    • SynCaine says:

      Well put, and honestly if they do strike the right balance, it will be great fun.

    • Quelldrogo says:

      Agreed, this would be amazing. Putting together a proper fleet op in EVE is anywhere from 4-5 hours, and weekend sov battles can go for over 48 hours, with billions of ISK at stake.

      As a working stiff with various committments in meatspace, it’s a time crushing hobby. If GW2 can strike a balance with sov zones and battlegrounds that feature both PvE and PvP gameplay, then I’m sold.

      If any ArenaNet devs are reading this, the most important thing you can do is to balance themepark and sandbox. Be creative. Be interesting. My friends and I really want something different from an MMO. Please deliver.

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  4. bhagpuss says:

    One of the medium-term problems Rift has encountered was entirely predictable. If you fill an MMO with quests people will tend to get annoyed when they are prevented from doing them. Equally predictably, over time the consequences of failing events and invasions have been ameliorated.

    GW2 looks to have a considerably more subtle and layered approach to this, but in the end the same thing may occur. The way that GW2 events are set to scale to the number of players in the area should help a lot, but what happens if a group of 20+ players fails and leaves an area in a failure state appropriate to that number? Does it then become unavailable for twos and threes of new players to use as they drift in because the towns have been overrun by forces appropriate to the score of players who lost and left?

    I would anticipate a LOT of post-launch tweaking and balancing, because Live players do not behave like beta players and established populations do not behave like launch populations.

    Doesn’t stop me looking forward more to GW2 than any MMO since Vanguard, though. Even if it’s a mess it’s going to be a glorious one.

    • coppertopper says:

      I know the higher level chars de-level for lower level zone events. So I imagine even if 20 players started the event and so the mob numbers grew to accomodate, they are still level appropriate for the zone and can be picked off in pulls of 1-2’s to allow for smaller groups of players ‘cleaning up’ so to speak. Rift works this way currently from what I remember.

    • distilleÐ says:

      The content scales dynamically, so if lvl20s complete an event and then leave the proceeding event will scale to the lvl/numbers of players who are there and participating.

  5. Wyrmrider says:

    Questions about low-level areas:

    1) Is there anything left to do there?
    Obviously yes, you’ll see different event chains in different places. Even when you’ve pretty much seen it all (will that ever happen if they stealth-patch new events in?), you at least have the option to repeat it on the same character (which can’t be said for most quests).

    2) Is there anything CHALLENGING left to do there?
    Probably yes, because your level will be adjusted down through the sidekicking system. As for “out-gearing” the content… if GW2’s perspective on gear is similar to GW1, I don’t think that will be a problem either.

    3) Is there anything REWARDING to do there?
    This depends entirely on the reward structure. We know it’s going to be based more on points than on drops; who says points have to scale with zone level, as opposed to player level? If ArenaNet wants to incentivize returning to low-level zones, they can easily do it.

    It’s possible you’ll be completely right, of course. :)

    But I think it’s also possible to arrange these systems so that players never feel they’re “above” a zone. Think of leveling simply as a mechanism to expand your travel area; you’ll probably be a little more excited about the most recently unlocked area, but anywhere you can do the events it’s worth your while to do them. That’s pure speculation but I do think it’s in keeping with the Guild Wars philosophy of progression through ever-expanding options, rather than power creep.

  6. Anon says:

    It’s an interesting problem to be sure.

    I kind of imagine a “Counter point” system, where you have two groups of NPC’s constantly opposing one another, with a Global AI tilting the scales back and forth over a period of time.

    For example;

    The zone starts in a “neutral” state, where both AI forces are locked in an evenly matched struggle. Over time, if the players fail to assist the “Heroes”, the “monster” faction slowly beats them back, taking over more of the zone.

    This process continues until eventually, the “Hero” faction is pushed to the brink. At this point, the Global AI steps in, perhaps spawning “Champions” for the Hero faction and begin to push the zone back to a “neutral” state again.

    This entire process might play out over the course of a week, with the hero faction eventually fighting back to the neutral state.

    In this way, the zone resets itself in a fairly organic manner, allowing for dynamic events at various points to speed up the process in favour of the “hero” faction.

    This process could be dynamically tweeked, based on the amount of character activity currently in the zone. If there are no players, the event chain may reset to neutral at a faster rate. With more players in the zone, the AI assistance lessens and waits for the players to get involved.

    In this way the game is constantly striving to achieve “balance” between the two factions, waiting on the players to make the tipping point occur, while being less jarring than performing a hard reset, and just resetting the entire event state.

  7. bodaster says:

    Based on what I have read about this game, I’ve got the impression that some of those issues mentioned in your blogpost should not be a problem. As far as I understand it from the news, the event chains in a single zone will be always long enough to stay interesting, and it will be always getting back to an earlier point in a natural way. Also, it was specifically stated somewhere, there are certain states, which will remain there indefinitely unless someone comes and start changing things. More interesting, there will be one-off triggers as well (one example was that someone finds a hidden magical item, which opens a gate, from where new monsters coming), which might change the entire zone “for good”. Of course, it depends on arenanet how well they take their own idea and run away with it.

    So if you get there with another character, you most probably will find a completely different state, which you might or might not find interesting. It is confirmed that if you come back with stronger character, you will be downgraded to the zone level. So: technically you will be able to come back to any zone. Knowing GW1 and also GW2 plans, I do not think gear could be a reason to do this.

    So why to come back? The bottom line in this for me is if the story of the event/zone is interesting enoughor not to come back. Will I care about what happens in that zone or not? Will I care about the people in there, or I just let them burn. Maybe I will, for sake of curiosity.

    And of course there will be the completionist type of people who will come back to finish the chains, and fill those little hearts on the map.

  8. Wingpie says:

    This post sums up nicely what games need to remain interesting. Interaction with other players is core to that.

    It would be nice to see complex PVE / AI systems with encounters from a number of variables to create seemingly new and/or different experiences every time (that is in every area of the game, every enemy, every dungeon, every profession, that is to say something that would make every server completely different from the last based on a huge number of variables. A system that is created and is henceforth can run in a sense without in-game updates or features). But I don’t think we will see that in the next generation of games, maybe the one after when all are sick of the standard themepark style.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    To respond to earlier speculations, I believe that the system will vary from area to area. Sometimes, the event system may convince players to come back to take certain events. For example, the farmed elementals ARE the ones beseiging the town, inciting players to participate in the event. The ideas of AI champions are interesting as well. If the town is crucial to the storyline or economy, the AI champions may step in and save it for the players. Keep in mind that Arenanet is going to keep an eye on how their game works, and will tweak as needed.

  11. Bruce Lee says:

    Interesting debate… good read. The idea is that scaling & rewards will drive the outcomes relative to the immediate population not ones after or before, also the nature and variance of human personal charactoristics are variable enough to perhaps curb the “ghost town” effect, not everyone is going to be a hero & “save the town” not everyone who shares a particular moral inclination(as some classes & factions like “Nightmare court” of the Sylvari may lead) will be at a certain location at the same time. Basically the dynamics of random human behaviour & diverse char/racial storylines(which rift failed to include) can vary the dynamic events themelves… hopefully XD

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