How to make Guild Wars 2 more “sticky”

stickyBack when Guild Wars 2 was behind closed doors and ArenaNet was only letting little peeks into what this game would be, I remember taking these snippets and letting my imagination romp all around the possibilities of the sequel.  A mini-game in a city was mentioned, and I wondered what it would be like to have an entire world full of such encounters.  The personal neighborhood was teased (but not detailed) and I was excited about the notion of dressing up an entire town.

What I think my mind likes to do during the nebulous, information-scarce pre-launch times is to speculate on all of the ways that an upcoming MMO might stick with me and I with it.  I don’t see it as being naive, but hopeful.  I want games to be good enough so that I’m enjoying them just as much on day 600 as I am on day 1, and a lot of that has to do with how “sticky” the world is.  In other words, how attached and involved I get with the game and its systems.

Today, over two years after Guild Wars 2’s release, I have to say that while I love and admire the game for various reasons, it is not sticky — at least, to me.  While there are no financial barriers to be overcome now that I purchased it nor excessive demands on my time (as most everything can be done in little bite-sized sessions if wished), I can and have floated away from the game without feeling a compulsion from it to return.  I probably will one day.  But I’m not feeling any sense of loss that would go with some other titles I’ve played and left in the past.

So how could Guild Wars 2 conceivably become more sticky for me?  Four key areas come to mind:

1. We need real personal housing, and we need it now.

The instanced neighborhoods are as much of a joke as Trahearne.  Not only did they not change as much as we were led to believe based on the pre-launch talks of the personal story, but they’re pretty much useless.   Oh, you have a candy corn node in there that you can mine once a day.  That right there makes life worth living.

It’s so baffling to me that ArenaNet decided to eschew personal housing and even now, two years later, has yet to move on this.  This is a company that had terrific and useful guild halls in the first game.  Dudes and dudettes, your 2005-era game shouldn’t be eclipsing you here.  Star Wars: The Old Republic shouldn’t have beaten you to the punch on this.  Especially for a studio that does customization in other areas (in particular wardrobe) so well.

Give us homes.  Real homes that we can use, decorate, throw parties in, and make our own.  Give us space in Tyria that is truly ours to design and tailor so that we have the game’s perimission to plant roots.  And, oh yeah, give guilds homes too.

2. Allow players to design and run events.

I’m still not sold on the living story as either engaging content or decent storytelling.  If it was a novel, I would have already tossed it aside in favor for something less bland.  So while my confidence isn’t the highest in ArenaNet’s writers to pull us out of a narrative dive, I would have more hope that there would be one or two players out there who could do better.

Remember those zone events that used to be the big selling point for the game and are now just getting in the way of running to the next heart?  Those were not bad ideas.  I think ArenaNet needs to double-down on “dynamic” events, not by making more and increasing the rotations, but by inviting the community to assist and giving them the tools to do so.  Don’t make it free-for-all, but invite people and guilds to apply to be event creators.  Work with them or give them what they need to make a three- or four-event chain that could tell a fun story across a zone.  Have a dev team review it to make sure it’s in line with the lore of the game or whatever, but then release it with as much honor and fanfare as any other patch.  That could be potentially awesome.

3. Examine to other MMOs to see what fires up the playerbase and then shamelessly copy those ideas.

There are so many good ideas in other MMOs, past and present, that have gotten players really excited and worked well.  Players still yammer on about how much they love the music system in LOTRO — copy that.  Or allow us to have a Mists of Pandaria-style farm.  Or consider allowing us to gain minions (dare I say, heroes?) to help us and go on missions for us.  Or invest in a player-generated mission system.  Or give roleplayers better tools with which to do their thing in the world.  Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have to always be a unique rogue; it can be a shrewd thief instead.

4. Honor guilds with better support and systems.

Guilds are an essential part of the social backbone of any MMO, and yet I feel that they are still not supported as they should be in GW2.  I’m not just talking about a lack of guild halls (althought that’s part), but more robust tools for the officers.  An in-game guild finder.  A guild calendar.  Guild projects that could involve everyone pitching in together instead of grinding out legendaries separately.

And here’s something that would stick me to the game more — a way to chat with my guild outside of the game through an official app.  It’s 2014, people.  We have the technology and know-how.  Even if I’m not in the game or currently playing it, having constant contact with my guild would increase the chances of me returning.

Absentee Report: Guild Wars 2 and LOTRO

beorningI always wonder and occasionally fret if Bio Break readers keep track of what I’m playing — and what I *was* playing and am currently not, especially if that’s seen as an indictment of those games.  It’s a silly worry, especially since the reality is that I return to old favorite MMOs all of the time.

But in case any of you were wondering why I’ve stopped talking about Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, I’ll be up-front about it: I’m not playing them at the moment.

Guild Wars 2 is a spectacularly fine game that isn’t that “sticky” for me.  I like it when I play it, but the living world story (even in season 2) is not very compelling at all.  I haven’t played it since the September feature patch dropped, and can’t even speak much to how that impacted the game.

I don’t feel as though there’s much more in terms of gear to get without serious grinding (kids, just say NO to legendaries) and I’ve done the world exploration bit and then some.  Right now the game’s between major releases anyway, so I’m not even being tempted by the “every two weeks unless we say otherwise” cadence.  I’ll log in to collect the living world updates when they happen, but right now I’m letting my interest in the game go fallow so that it might revitalize in the future instead of burning me out on it entirely.

Lord of the Rings Online is an MMO I should play and one that I’ll undoubtedly return to — and perhaps soon.  Gondor is a generally excellent questing area, and I hear that they opened up the Dead Marshes with the recent 14.2 patch.  But right now I’m at the limit of 3 to 4 concurrent MMOs, and I am fine with taking a break from LOTRO for them.

I am pretty interested in seeing how the new Beorning class will affect the game; heck, I might even roll one.  Probably the one thing I miss the most is my awesome kinship, which will make a future re-entry that much easier.

Never enough time.  Never enough time.  I wish that I could freeze all of these games and their communities in their current state so that I could rotate through them without the passage of time pressing in.

Guild Wars 2: Intermission (let’s all go to the lobby)

Yesterday Guild Wars 2 came out with its fourth episode of season two of the living story (ugh, there has to be a quicker way of typing that), but also made a couple of announcements.  The first is that after two months and four episodes, the living world was being put on hold as we count down to a September feature pack.  I guess the “every two week release cadence” has a big asterisk with fine print below saying, “only when we want it to and it sounds good on press releases.”

Ooh, feature pack?  Yeah, but for those of us that are strictly into the PvE side of the game, it doesn’t look like there’s much to get excited about.  The feature pack and the other announcement about some esports tournament all are about WvW and competitive PvP.  That’s fine — not every update has to be for me.  Doesn’t mean that I’m too thrilled.  You mention “esports” and my eyes develop a very thick glaze normally reserved for Krispy Kreme donuts.

So that means that the fourth episode will be the current episode for the next month or two.  For me, I’m cool with it.  I haven’t done most of the achievements with the previous three episodes anyway and have a lot of the game world map yet to do on my Necro.

I logged in last night fully intending to do the first mission in season four, which had something to do with court intrigue because Guild Wars 2 really knows how to push my buttons.  What is this, Sophia the First?  But then my guild mentioned that they were doing some dungeon runs, so I figured why not.  I haven’t done any dungeons with my Necro and was interested in seeing how she fared.

They went pretty well, actually.  The staff is great for doing DPS and conditions at range, and having death shroud available was a decent “oh crap” button in case I started going down too fast.  Kind of like having a second health bar in reserve.  Kind of?  Exactly like that.

I can’t believe that Guild Wars 2 is going to be two years old this month.  It really wasn’t that long ago that I was getting my first glimpse and hands-on with it at PAX.

Guild Wars 2: 5,000 points of awesome

battleThis past weekend I was in Las Vegas with my wife, who was there to attend a business conference.  I?  I was there to be a slacker.  I’m very good at slacking.  Actually, I mostly sat around in a (very nice) hotel room and enjoyed a couple of days of as near peace and quiet as I’ve gotten in my little kid-filled world.  I know that sounds pathetic, but just a couple days to write and game and read was the vacation I wanted.

My adventures in Guild Wars 2 were both lucrative and exciting.  What happened?

5,000 points of awesome

Whilst poking around Dry Top in search of lost coins and buried chests, I hit my 5,000th achievement point.  That’s probably a good 10K less than most dedicated GW2 players have, but for me it was something I’ve been anticipating for a while.  The reward chests for achievement milestones are a great alternative reward system and make collecting achievements more meaningful, as a side meta game.  Anyway, 5K points, and the screen exploded in rewardy goodness.

I was so happy that I didn’t even think to grab a screenshot; it was a little like opening up Christmas presents.  Among the goodies, I got a new staff skin, boosters, a level 20 experience scroll, and a makeover kit.  All of these will be useful for a future character, I’m sure.  I also got 400 gems, woohoo, so I’ll be hanging onto those for a rainy day.

Dragon’s Reach, part 1 thoughts

I did have time to wrap up the third episode of season two, which continues the growing threat of JungleDragon (of which we’re just seeing lots and lots of vines and other plant-related critters).  Unlike the first two episodes, this one has a lot more open-world activities, including many group and solo events.  That was a pleasant change, as I like doing activities alongside others, although depending on who was around the events could be confusing, drawn out, or insanely easy.

Story-wise, I’m not being as drawn into the proceedings as I suspect many lore-addled fans will be.  Another dragon?  OK, fine, but stop putting words in my character’s mouth that makes her sound all awed and worried about things.  Another day, another dragon.  It’s like how Buffy and the Scoobies started seeing any apocalyptic threat as fairly routine.

The third episode is all about hopping around the world trying to assemble faction leaders for a Pale Tree summit.  Because I guess I can’t send those magic carrier pigeons to them, the group splits up to approach leaders and I end up doing a lot of tasks to convince them that, oh hey, they should get off their butts and attend a business meeting to save the world.

Probably the most interesting thing that happened was seeing Destiny’s Edge interact with Destiny’s Edge 2: Rox Out.  Braham and mommy go have breakfast, d’aww.  I have to say that I’m not really comfortable with the group seeing me as their leader, because why am I the leader again?  I strongly suspect it’s because ArenaNet has to have the NPCs call me SOMEthing, and “boss” is better than “hey you.”  I noticed that in the personal storyline too, as you’d get title upgrades while the entire world tried to dance around actually saying your given name.

The Quest for the Backpack

Now that episode 3 is done, I can turn my attention to figuring out what to do with these four items that the quests gave me.  Apparently they turn into a nifty backpack that can be grown over time, but only after (of course) going through a trademark ArenaNet crafting grind.

All I can say is, thank goodness we have Dulfy, because the game sure isn’t trying to tell you what steps you need for complex things like this.  How did people even figure this out to begin with?  Maybe there were instructions that I overlooked, or else people just crowdsourced the solution.

Anyway, since I have a week or so until the next update, I’ll be puttering around Dry Top doing events for geodes and working on assembling this.  Since I’m not a crafter, I thought I should go ahead and use my gold hoard to shortcut some of these steps, because why have gold if you’re not willing to spend it on things you want?

Well that was a spectacularly bad idea, because the mats for some of these steps on the trading post are insanely expensive — I got about halfway through the chain and realized that finishing it would cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 gold.  The only alternative would be to become a level 400 crafter in several different professions, and that is not a viable option for my playstyle.  So I guess I’ll be stuck with this halfmade backpack until the prices lower on the TP.

Guild Wars 2: Life and death after 80

necroAs I mentioned yesterday, I dug my Necromancer out of long-term storage this weekend and quickly got her to 80 (my third 80, in fact).  It’s been a joyous reunion; I’ve had a great time playing her once again, especially after feeling a little blah with my Engineer and Ranger.

I hadn’t spent any money on her prior to 80, knowing that I’d be doing a huge shopping trip when that happened, so this event heralded a huge jump for her in stats, build, and prestige.  Here’s what I went with:

Build

After a lot of experimentation, I’ve found that I like both the staff and dagger/dagger with my Necro.  I frequently switch between them depending on the situation.  D/D is great at quickly dispatching a single foe, but the staff is far superior for groups and ranged attacks.  So without consulting any online guides, I chose traits that I felt lined up with that playstyle.

For skills, I have two pets — blood fiend and flesh golem — to both satisfy my craving for pets and provide good healing and additional DPS.  The other pets feel very “eh” to me, so the remaining three skills are a signet for movement speed and two AoE wells.  Wells are great in any fight and go oh-so-swimmingly with staff AoE marks.

For traits, I’m 2 curse (for more/better bleeds), 6 death (all minion-related, including summoning little jagged horrors when I kill something), and 6 blood (a mixture of health siphoning and well buffs).  Those traits work just fine no matter which weapon I’m wielding, at least from where I’m sitting.

Gear

I probably spent about 45 gold altogether on new armor, accessories, and upgrades, not to mention about 90 laurels for three ascended pieces.  There have been finer points of gear upgrades that have passed on by me, so this time around I actually read up on the different types of upgrades and figured out a good set for me.

My new exotic armor set is completely Norgu, which features the three stats I wanted the most: power, precision, and condition damage.  In addition, I slapped on a rather cheap set of six Superior Runes of the Dead to throw on some toughness and added condition damage.

I had a nice exotic staff (Imryldyeen) waiting in my bank that I looted a long time ago, and I’m thrilled to actually get to use it.  For my two sigils, I went Malice (longer conditions) and Water (for, why not, a little aoe healing — keep my minions up!).  I purchased a set of power/vitality/condition damage daggers, going for a little bit more health since I’d be up close and personal using them.  The two daggers got a bleed bonus and a quickness buff, both chance on critical, which I find procs quite often.

Probably the most expensive thing I purchased was a rare aquabreather at around 7 gold.  I did save a little bit of money by using a back piece that I’ve had sitting around in my bank since one of the earlier season 1 episodes.

The cool thing is that I not only am really happy with my stats now, but the look of the Norgu set quickly grew on me.  I didn’t swap out any of the visuals, not even those bandaged eyes, but did fiddle around with the dyes some.  It’s a blend of black and midnight purple for the background with white piping.

I still have around 75 gold, so I might go shopping at the human cultural armor to see if there’s anything worth picking up, but for the most part I’m good to go.  I’ve jumped her right into season 2 in an attempt to catch up, but she still has several maps to complete along with a good chunk of her personal story.  Hopefully all of this will be much easier with a fleshed-out build and up-geared character.

The Weekend Gaming Report with “Sippycup” Syp

gondorI didn’t get as much time as anticipated to game this weekend, but I made the best of what I did get — and actually came out feeling pretty great about how things ended up.  So what was Syp playing?

The Wolf Among Us

I wrapped up the final episode of this generally excellent Fables adventure game and have been chewing over my feelings on it.  Like all of Telltale’s efforts lately, there was precious little in the way of puzzles, but I think that the final episode did deliver a lot in the way of choice and consequence, both from the episode itself and from the previous four as well.  I got what I considered to be a pretty compassionate ending with most of the townsfolk happy with me, so that’s a win for poor Bigby.  I felt pretty uncomfortable how the game brought up my past decisions in a (sometimes) negative light, because this game has been about how unfair the situation and position that both Bigby and the residents of Fabletown are in, and hey, I’ve been trying my best.

One major disappointment was the lack of a deductive scene.  In the first (and maybe second) episodes, Telltale tried to stretch itself by including scenes where you had to investigate the environment and people to put together the truth of what had happened.  That was actually pretty cool, since you could mess up and overlook stuff, but the devs obviously gave up on that.  This omission was really felt at the end of the game, when the characters simply told you the answer to the mystery instead of letting you solve it.

But in terms of world-building and characterization, TWAU hit it out of the park.  The Fables universe is great for adventure games and I sincerely hope we see another one, especially following the twist ending.

Lord of the Rings Online

I really need to devote more time to Update 14, but what I did get to play has actually been pretty enjoyable.  Perhaps it’s my previous sabbatical that helped to rekindle my interest, but I’m settling back into my old shoes and taking a walk around Gondor.

I’ve been messing around with builds on my captain, trying to find a nice hybrid that pumps out as much damage as possible while giving me enough survivability with healing.  Sort of a red/blue deal.  I didn’t realize that we had another LI trait reset and was going around like a derp without any points spent, wondering why I was having a bit of a hard time taking down a frenzied deer.  Stupid deer, always in the way between me and world domination!

Gondor as a land is a definite change from Rohan.  It feels more old school Europe than Rohan’s Viking vibe, which isn’t terrible but… I’m probably never going to be a fan of gaudy decor and our second major Man country in a row.

Guild Wars 2

I finished up Entanglement on my Ranger (spoilers: Scarlet was really Trahearne all along!).  Gameplay-wise it was adequate — nothing particularly exciting nor challenging for my character, but functional.  Story-wise, it was definitely more interesting than the first episode, particularly toward the end.

I then switched over to my long-dormant Necromancer and brought her from 77 to 80 in a night.  Spending laurels on ascended gear and equipping her with a full set of exotics and superior sigils was something I’ve been looking forward to doing for quite some time, so it’s cool that I’ve reactivated her.  She has a LOT of the map and her personal story left to do, but I think that I’ll try to get her through the first two S2 episodes before going back to doing anything else.

WildStar

My big goal for the weekend was to hit level 25 and get my hoverboard, which I finally, finally did.  Whitevale is a lovely zone to quest in, and my Medic’s new build is rocking nicely.  I’m trying to do each and every challenge as I find them unless it’s functionally undoable (as in not enough mobs to make it possible).

I got a good laugh at all of the spy shenanigans that occupied one of the early quest lines, especially being knocked out to be taken to a secret base and scouting around for snowmen.

One of the things that WildStar does really well and yet has gotten little praise that I’ve seen is how it’s created all of these alien races and made them quite memorable and distinct.  The Freebots (who just wanna be free, man), the Lopps, and the Protostar clones are my fave, but just about all of them have great personalities and make up for a wacky scifi cast.

Guild Wars 2: Taimi fan club

taimiI’m taking my Ranger through Dry Top before Tuesday’s next drop and confirming what I felt the first time I went through season 2, episode 1 here — this is by far more engaging content than much of what’s come before in Guild Wars 2’s living world.  As some have noted, it’s very reminiscent of Guild Wars 1’s mission structure, a blend of open world adventures and instanced vingettes.

I like how this content is layered depending on one’s level of interest.  For me, it’s nice to just go through the story (~1-2 hours) and be content waiting for the next episode to drop.  But there are options to do more champion fights and rerunning episodes to tackle achievements, which, hey, I guess is better than nothing if you’re only playing Guild Wars 2.

Out of the NPC troupe that you’re tagging along with even though they never once refer to you by name (I feel like such a… seventh wheel?), Taimi is becoming a fast favorite in my book.  It’s not just that she personifies a child with a serious disease — which is pretty unique in the annals of video game lore — but that she’s such a driven, smart character that won’t accept being left behind.  I mean, *I* want a battle golem to ride around in, that’s pretty awesome.  And her little snarky asides (“Braham, did she just call us fat?” had me laughing) have endeared her to me.

Maybe I only know very surface details compared to Guild Wars 2 players who have doctorates in extensive knowledge of the game world the way some are wont to have, but Taimi’s just fascinating to me.  Braham and Rox obviously have taken on the roles of surrogate mom and dad for her, which is all levels of amusing as a parent myself.

I’ll admit to being a little worried when we all left Taimi with the Scarlett artifacts, because a little part of me wonders if whatever drove that weird Sylvari insane might come out to infect the Asura.  Of course, that would be a major driving force to going on more adventures to help her out, but I don’t think anyone wants to see Taimi hurt more than she already is.