GW2: Dead Centaurs

One of the nice things about being in the initial wave of WAR players was seeing all of the PQs played out more or less as intended. Only the newbie zone PQs were heavily zerged, and even then at least you got to see the three phases and see the ‘story’. This all broke down later of course, when the population was all at the level cap and Mythic forgot to include a third faction for RvR, but for the first few months, PQs worked and they worked well.

Long before even DAoC was a twinkle in Mythic’s eye, during the Ultima Online beta the game featured a living eco-system. The idea was that if players killed too many sheep, the local wolves would hunt players instead of said sheep. If the players killed the wolves, the local dragon would lack food and also attack players or venture further. This all famously broke down when players killed everything and complained about the lack of targets. Before release, the system was scrapped and replaced by the now traditional static spawn system. To this day I think the scrapping of the eco-system is one of the genres biggest regrets, but then again MMO history is littered with stories of players grinding the fun out of a game. We suck like that.

It seems Anet never took the above history lesson, as GW2 is repeating UO history now, and will likely repeat WAR’s history in a few months (the PQ part, they got the 3-faction thing already in place).

Currently in the starter and 20ish human zones, both ‘world’ ‘events’ (quest chains limited to just that zone, but I’m sure some GW2 apologist will explain how those quest chains are in fact world events) are in a permanent victory state, with the centaur ‘fight back’ event getting instantly crushed the minute it comes up. Having experienced the starter zone quest chain, I can say that current players are indeed missing out on some pretty neat content. I’m guessing the 20ish zone’s quest chain is also neat, but after two days of seeing “all points held, you win” on my screen, I can’t tell you. Maybe I can revisit and faceroll it once I hit 80…

The difference between UO’s eco-system and GW2’s quest chains is that in UO, how the local area reacted was both unique and interesting (until it totally broke down anyway). That local area was also not a 1-10 or 15-20 zone, but a ‘real’ location in a world you would visit or live in. The impact was unpredictable because the reaction was not scripted (chained or otherwise), but instead a formula that changed based on input factors (players). EVE’s Incursion system is somewhat similar as well, where if the players beat the MOM site, the Incursion ends and another starts in a different part of the world, bringing all of its benefits and penalties with it.

In GW2 the starter zone is content on demand, and once you have seen it, you move on much like any other themepark. Novelty aside, a level 80 would never just find themselves stumbling through a starter zone they had already finished, unlike in UO where 7x GM would hang out in and around Yew for various reasons. Because of this, if the biggest, most impressive piece of content, ‘world’ ‘events’, are unavailable, you miss out. And not only do you miss out, you can’t do a thing about it. In UO players could organize to fix the problem (the birth of anti-PKs, for instance), while in GW2 all you can hope for is the masses move on and letting the quest chain reset itself. I can’t rise up and become the great defender of the centaurs. Instead all I can do is look at the giant centaur-looking spire, filled with friendly NPC guards, and imagine what it must have been like to take down whatever big-bad was ultimately at the end of the chain.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in EVE Online, Guild Wars, MMO design, Rant, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to GW2: Dead Centaurs

  1. TerrapinM says:

    Yes and no. When a high level player comes back to a starting zone they are downleveled. It’s actually a system I really like since I don’t have to worry about progressing at the “right pace”. I will still be stronger due to traits and skill unlocks, but my damage is toned down so I don’t one-shot everything.

    Arena Net could put shared content (new world events, player housing, etc) in the starter zones (or at least lower level zones) that could be shared by all characters. Not sure if that is how they will go, but it does open up some new possibilities.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    I keep saying this and I know it’s boring – I bore myself with it – but there are a lot of people playing these games who really don’t look at things this way. They just putter about without any great intent. Every MMO I’ve played has had plenty of them.

    GW2 is made for that demographic. I’m not sure those people will generally even be aware of the mechanics you’re describing, far less be analyzing them. I think it’s far, far too early to predict how this will play out in the medium, let alone the long term. If I was going to take a wild punt, I’d say that in a few months the people who both play and write about MMOs will have moved on but GW2 will remain well-populated. We just won’t be hearing much about it, the way we didn’t hear much about Guild Wars for years or about many other solid, successful MMOs that serve a different demographic to the one represented on blogs like this one and most of the others that I read.

    On the other hand, maybe it will be the “new WoW” after all. Time, and nothing else, will tell.

    • SynCaine says:

      So if I’m understand you correctly, you believe the uneducated and uncaring ‘masses’ who will not only miss the biggest and best content, but never even know to return to see it because they don’t know about it, is not a design flaw and is perfectly OK because… um, those players are ignorant, and ignorance is bliss?

      Solid design strategy.

      Granted MMO themepark history would strongly suggest the largest group of players in the genre tend to be number-chasing, youtube-watching, BiS-filling players, not the blissfully ignorant, but again, maybe Anet is just hoping GW2 is a nice little niche title.

      • bhagpuss says:

        Nope. I’m saying that over the 12 years I’ve played, most of the people I’ve played alongside like to craft, explore and make many alts. They tend to stay in a particular game for something between 6 months to a couple of years and don’t reach maximum level with any character. I have no idea if that’s the norm, but it’s the norm of the people I tend to meet.

        They also tend to be articulate, intelligent, literate people for whom playing MMOs is a small part of their life and no big deal, yet something they enjoy and persist with. That’s who I think GW2 is most likely to appeal to. Whether it will also appeal to the kind of people who like doing bleeding-edge dungeon content or hardcore raiding I rather doubt.

        Possibly it may appeal to both.

        • Stratagerm says:

          “…craft, explore and make many alts.” Yes, and there were many of us who wanted to play like this and were forced into the BiS rat race nonsense. But if you don’t like raiding or daily quests, most games have nothing for you in the endgame.

  3. Pitrelli says:

    Hmm seems like you are just over analysing things, why not just play the game and enjoy it?

    If you don’t enjoy it then don’t play. simples

    • hevy says:

      Seems legit.

    • Liore says:

      Because that’s generally what MMO bloggers do? They.. analyse games. It’s kind of our schtick. “Just shut up and enjoy it” is not really a great starting point for discussion.

    • SynCaine says:

      How do you want me to play through the centaur ‘world’ ‘event’ and just enjoy it?

      And yes, how dare I question MMO design on a blog that has, day in and day out questioned MMO design for the last five years.

      • Pitrelli says:

        I just think perhaps if you just played it as a game instead of picking holes in it you might enjoy it more

        • SynCaine says:

          So more ‘ignorance is bliss’ advice? Thanks. I’ll try real hard tonight to be a herp-a-derp themeparker instead of someone who can recognize design flaws. Expect a detailed picture-filled post breaking down hairstyles tomorrow!

        • Pitrelli says:

          Or you can just return to your ‘amazing’ sandbox Darkfall….. hows that getting on? or maybe just log on and update your spreadsheets on eve ;)

        • Xyloxan says:

          What’s your problem, Pitrelli? You keep coming back here to read Syncaine’s “over-analyzing” rants. Jealous that you cannot write any interesting “analysis” on your own blog?

        • Anonymous says:

          Haha yeah that’s it….

      • Felly says:

        Syn’s going to approach a themepark style MMO with perhaps the most minute amount of negative bias, never saw that one coming.

        Seriously though, the guy’s entitled to voice his opinions, especially on his own blog. Whilst players who’re enjoying the game may not like it, perhaps pointing out the flaws will cause Anet to improve the game.

        Rant on say I!

    • You keep talking like that and the council will revoke your blogging license. Over-analysis is our specialty.

      Besides which, that statement sounds suspiciously like “turn your brain off please.”

  4. coppertopper says:

    Maybe the whole game shouldnt be judged on what you have seen up to level 20 and the starter zones?

  5. bhagpuss says:

    Taking this on the theorycrafting level and accepting that it is a design problem (which, broadly, I do) how would you propose that an MMO should deal with it? If there are going to be “dynamic events”, which we probably would like there to be, how would these be designed so that they would work as well in a mostly-empty zone two years after launch as they had in a full-to-bursting zone at launch?

    Does it matter that someone coming to a game very late gets a diffferent, less intense experience than someone who was there at the start? Is the intensity of the latter a perk of being the early bird? Is wanting everyone to have an equally engaging experience regardless of how late they join in another aspect of “all must win prizes”? Does everyone deserve to experience the meta-event just because they are there and it exists? Isn’t the meta-event a function of high population, only to be experienced by those who form a part of that population?

    Moving to specifics, we know that Warhammer PQs are very poorly designed in terms of scaling. They just don’t work with a severely reduced population. Is it reasonable to extrapolate from that piece of poor design that later iterations will scale as poorly? Have we yet seen GW2 events operating in a consistently low-population environment? Do we know for certain that they will scale very poorly in such a case? Can we surmise that a player experiencing a smaller event under low population conditions will perforce have a lesser experience? might not that experience, by dint of its intimacy perhaps, be as intense, as memorable, as immersive? Will bigger always mean better?

    I’m very much with you on the original UO eco-system I also think they bottled it on that one. I would love to see virtual worlds designed with functional ecosystems that react to player activity. I’d much prefer it to the ind of “dynamic events” we are getting now, but if it was easy, or even hard but manageable to design these systems in a way that players both found consistently entertaining and couldn’t break, don’t you think we’d have them? Isn’t the reason we don’t have them that no-one has worked out a way to do them yet?

    In other words, are we asking for the moon on a stick? Or are we using that stick righteously to beat the lazy arses who always take the easy option when they could do so much better?

    • SynCaine says:

      The events and the players themselves need to scale better.

      For the events, the centaur’s power needs to build up until they can fight back, even if that means they become 5+ levels above the zone and become ‘impossible’. Who wins here is a non-factor, while the content cycling is, so just let it cycle. Once the masses have moved on, the scaling would not need to spike that high, but it should be able to. (And ambitious guilds could do interesting things with such a scaling system).

      For character scaling, they just need to do a better job of setting the power level. Right now it’s simply too high, even when you just down-scale a single level, the content feels significantly easier.

      As for WAR PQs later on vs GW2 later on, I don’t believe GW2 will have as much issue with that, in part thanks to player scaling. Still, I failed one event last night because I was the only one doing it, so maybe not.

      UO’s eco-system was, in large part, a technical hurdle at the time. The database was limited in terms of how many factors it could handle. That’s no longer the case today. Why has no one tried it? Well why do MMO devs keep making the same mistakes that EVE solved 10 years ago? People are dumb, and MMOs are hard. Anyone can throw together a themepark with kill X content, while the pool of people capable of creating something like UO/EVE is very, very limited. Look how many have tried and utterly failed.

      • Stratagerm says:

        Really like the power spiking idea. Since maxed characters are downleveled, it shouldn’t be too hard for the game to build up enough power in low-level zones to roll the players, no matter how coordinated they are.

        The battles just prior to the game spiking high enough to win would be awesome. The players would win, but they would be hard pressed to do so.

  6. Rebecca G says:

    With regards to the living eco-system…system…, you may be interested (at least mechanically) in Wakfu. Through careful use of fluff, they were able to design a system where the environment did react to players, and you could theoretically over-grind to the point where you run out of mobs. But players with other end-game goals could either spend all their time creating new mobs, or attempting to find a balance between creating and killing.

  7. professer says:

    (the PQ part, they got the 3-faction thing already in place)

    not to be a dick or anything, but isn’t it just 3 teams for the WvWvW zones? Not exactly three factions.

    I could be wrong though, I don’t play the game.

    • professer says:

      *add quotation marks around the parenthesis

    • SynCaine says:

      Three teams are not as good as three factions, yea, good catch and an important distinction. But themeparks… baby steps… zzz.

      • professer says:

        Heh. Yeah. At least GW2 is the first AAA one to take a ‘baby step’ forwards.

        I’ll come check back in 2015 and see if there’s anything worth playing. (I don’t think there will be anything, as far as non-indie games go.)

  8. Bernard says:

    “If there are going to be “dynamic events”, which we probably would like there to be, how would these be designed so that they would work as well in a mostly-empty zone two years after launch as they had in a full-to-bursting zone at launch?”

    I think the key question is why old zones need to be deserted at all.

    GW2 features downscaling but has few reasons to downscale once you have 100% exploration/skills/hearts, other than helping out a friend.

  9. theJexster says:

    THat UO system, speechless. That system needs to be put into an MMO asap. I love the concept. Players cross a line, and an NPC mauls them.

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