Back 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.