Why Guild Wars 2’s living story isn’t hooking me

Ever since I’ve started a relationship with ArenaNet and Guild Wars (and its sequel), I’ve had complicated feelings about these games and how the studio manages them.  In many ways, I’m a huge fan.  The visuals and sound are stunning, the classes enjoyable and sometimes unique, the world engaging, and the in-and-out ease right up my alley.  Guild Wars 2 remains a gaming staple of mine on a near-nightly basis and I’m a long, long way from being bored with it.

Yet there’s that “something else” quality of the games that feels so alien to me.  Like, the team puts in patches and content, but so much of it proves to be less-than-compelling.  ArenaNet puts in content that die-hard fans seem to love, but the rewards or actual meaty content feels rather skimpy for them.  I don’t see the fuss.

While the holidays have been great fun so far, the much-touted “living story” feels absolutely limp and skippable.  And I’ve been struggling with putting into words why exactly that is.

On paper, their idea of a living story is something I do support.  I like a world that’s changing and allows us to interact with that change.  It was great fun when RIFT did it with its world events, and I ate those up.  But the Frost and Flame story arc has proven to be little more than a short story that had a lot of fluffy build-up and an abrupt, unsatisfying climax.

I guess ArenaNet really wanted to make sure that players weren’t being left behind by the story, and I applaud the attempt to roll it out gradually and allow us to go back and see earlier instances.  But it was definitely too slow, with the early stages offering little to do (unless you really liked talking to NPCs for the lore alone).  Then the story suddenly introduced a pair of characters who we’ve never seen before, do not very much, and are over and done with by the next month.  Plus, as has been pointed out, that cat lady’s eyes are way, wayyy to big to be considered anything but a mutant genome in action.

I kept struggling with the “why” of it all.  Why does this matter to the world?  Why should I go out of my way to repair signs and take down sonic periscopes?  When the story is skimpy and the rewards practically non-existent (I guess there are some for the final dungeon), my motivation is lacking.  I show up for either a great story (TSW) or great goodies.  I don’t just do things because they’re there.

I’m really hoping that the next living story steps up its game and delivers.  I would love nothing more than to be engrossed in this sort of content.  But the game isn’t even going halfway to me in making that happen yet.


10 thoughts on “Why Guild Wars 2’s living story isn’t hooking me

  1. 00james May 10, 2013 / 4:33 pm

    Your post showed up in my email with the subject cutoff, it said:

    Why Guild Wars 2′s living story isn’t

    I heartily agree.

  2. bhagpuss May 10, 2013 / 5:18 pm

    The reason’s very simple. When they went with their original plan of one-time, be there or be square, blink and you missed it content with the Karka storyline back in the Autumn it caused an enormous backlash. Now they’ve over-corrected horribly, spooning out a weekend’s worth of content (at best) over three months.

    That’s how it’s going to be. Either people will have to learn to suck up the fact that they’ll miss as much excitement as they get to experience or we’re going to get bland, long-drawn out twaddle. It’s exactly the same thing that Rift went through, where they began with a huge blowout first world event where the climax lasted a few minutes on some servers (an hour or so on the slower ones) and took such a hit for it that ever since they’ve left everything to run until people beg them to turn it off.

    I’d like frequent, very short one-time events that are never repeated. If you get to see one, yay! If not, you can watch YouTube or read it up from the account of someone who did. I’d also like the stories to make sense and not shatter the lore into tiny pieces but hey, you can’t have everything.

  3. buhallin May 10, 2013 / 6:28 pm

    This is the inherent paradox of MMOs.

    Everyone wants to save the princess, and see their actions have real impact on the world. If the princess doesn’t stay saved, they feel the experience is shallow and meaningless. But if the princess stays saved, 99.999% of the players will never get to save the princess. Either way, nobody ever really gets to affect the world.

  4. jef May 10, 2013 / 8:07 pm

    It’s not really a paradox of MMOs so much as it is a paradox of quest-based MMOs that ask the player to believe the lie of being the hero. Players affect sandboxes and virtual worlds on an hourly basis. They don’t save the princess all the time because that’s a particular narrative trope that will always be better suited for single-player offline games.

  5. Machination May 11, 2013 / 12:47 pm

    Paradox indeed. But conceptually, it can be solved in a pen-and-paper setting. Think about if each player had a DM just for them. All the DMs would have a shared map and can communicate with each other on how to make interesting things happen without ruining each-other’s stories as well. Boom! Unlimited High-quality stories where you can actually influence the world, with friends or even solo.

    Now just to find a way to scale it, and you have the perfect MMO.

  6. JD May 12, 2013 / 7:10 pm

    I lost interests in GW2 about the third month. After taking one character to 80 and a couple more to 40s I figured out they was going to mess it all up.. Graphics are great at that time it was becoming more bots and when Anet figured out they was not going to make the profit they wanted thats when sweeping changes took over the game.They dropped the price on the game and made things more of a grind. And then several accounts was being sold on craigslist. The last time I logged in there it was about 3pm EST the map are I was in had maybe 20 people playing. Not many players at all especially if you wanted to do the special events. The dynamics in the game is not and probably will never work !00% correct. For some people they love it but myself the game will sit in cyberspace and wont get no attention…

  7. João Carlos May 13, 2013 / 10:17 am


    Strange, Tarnished Coast server appear be a lot full for me. The starter zones have a lot of players since they changed the rewards for the world boss chests: Fire Elemental, Maw, that giant worm and the Shadow Behemoth. I know that at least one server have problems at peak USA time because it is the unofficial australian server, the peak happens other time. And after the free weekend last april I am sure we have a big influsx of new players. Not sure about the game price going lower, it only happens when Anet temporally lower the prices. Certainly is not happening at Amazon.com, where the price for the nornal game edition is $59.99 and where it is the number one downloaded RP game (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/videogames/2445224011/ref=sr_bs_1).

    Anyway, I think these stories that GW2 servers are empty are fun, mostly because they come mostly from players that are not playing the game and get out after the first month or from players that never playerd the game. They are certainly not coming from who is playing the game now.

    Well, this May 14th a new living story will start. Let me make a little spoiler: the Consortium was the evil behind the Molten Alliance…

  8. JD May 13, 2013 / 10:16 pm

    Well when I purchased my copy of GW2 it was around 70 bucks and after they made changes in the econ drop rates the prices on GW2 went down. And also during that time changes on forums also made many waves also.. The game was plagued with issues due to a release date that was way to early which frustrated many players.Tasks and and skill challenges was not working and players wasted countless hours wondering what they was doing wrong, and it was not them LOL. I logged in Emery bay today and it is 10pm there is 4 people on this map that I have seen so far and even asked in chat.. Tumbleweeds are blowing thru here it is so dead.. Doing any of the big ticket item events is not happening on this server and on this map. This is the same map I was on at 3 pm the last time I logged into this game. Emery Bay at one time was a very busy server but now it seems to have died.. Best of luck with the new storyline..

  9. Brian 'Psychochild' Green May 15, 2013 / 2:56 am

    My problem with the “Living Story” was that the pacing was abysmal. The first few months just had so little going on. The little bit of new content dragged on and it just didn’t seem terribly important. Then at the end, BAM! everything happening at once! New quests, new NPC, storylines, stuff happening all around! Then DOUBLE-BAM! New dungeon for 12 days only. Hurry up and run it a lot to try get the new drops.

    Didn’t help on my end that I was out of town for business travel for 3 weeks, missing most of the ending. Tried to catch up on the achievements on the last Saturday. Didn’t remember which “lost and found” items I needed to find, so I was hoping the final achievement would “count” for the meta-achievement and the gauntlet rewards. Nope, so I lost out. Just not terribly satisfying, and it comes at a time when my interest in GW2 is absolutely waning.

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