Pinpointing where Guild Wars 2 lost me

gw018Yesterday during the poll I put up, Wollydub asked me, “I’d be really interested in a blog or column about why GW2 fell completely out of favor with you. Not even a mention here. I am in the same boat. I can’t put my finger on it to put it into words though like maybe you can.”

Following a post I made a couple of weeks ago about parting ways with Guild Wars 2, I had very little intention of writing about the game unless I returned to it. I don’t want to get into that state where you’re a bit burned out and negative about a game and having nothing upbeat to say at all. I’d rather step away and see if the feeling comes back, allowing for a potential re-entry that rekindles better emotions.

But hey, since Woolly asked and I’m a little starved for post ideas today, why not?

Here’s the weird thing about this topic: I have extraordinarily positive things to say about Guild Wars 2. I can’t deny that I really enjoyed my time playing it, that it has a very casual-friendly approach, that it’s beautiful or has a stellar soundtrack, that the classes and combat drew me in, and that there’s always something to do. After all, I played for almost two years, so there must have been some pull going on. I’m not that much of a masochist.

So where did it lose me? As with many trends in life, it wasn’t one thing but a death from a thousand cuts.

First of all, there’s the spectre of burnout that looms larger the longer one plays an MMO. It doesn’t always happen and doesn’t always stick to a timetable, but I’d easily say that every successive year in a game, the chances of having my interest plummet increases unless the game does something to replenish that interest.

And that’s maybe where Guild Wars 2 failed for me. Even with all of its feature packs and living world updates, so little of that got me personally excited. The story very rarely engaged me, which was always frustrating because I could see that it was extensively written and there was tons of lore, etc. But the characters were largely a snoozefest and as season two went on, it felt like a trudge through setpieces that looked pretty and were as annoying as possible to finish.

That’s another thing: the tougher fights started to get to me. There are fun challenging fights and then there are fights were plants are vomiting red circles everywhere, knocking me down, and rendering melee all but useless. Remember that missions where you were Caithe fighting those centaurs? That took me so dang long with numerous deaths that I started to wonder if I’d ever see the end of the mission. When at least two-thirds of your game is combat, then that combat better hold up. I felt it starting to crumble.

I guess the final straw — again, for now — of my interest is that Heart of Thorns is heading off in a direction that quite frankly bores me. The new class is not a huge draw and I haven’t seen any “must have” elite specialization reveals yet. Guild halls? Wake me up when there’s real personal housing, thanks. Guild housing has never, ever gotten me excited about playing MMOs, especially when it comes instead of individual houses (City of Heroes, Neverwinter).

But seriously, the devs could not have turned me off more when they announced that we were getting even more of the jungle motif (I’ve yet to see bloggers rave about the decision to go with this) and even more platforming and even more grinding. Platforming in Guild Wars 2 is not the game’s strength, but ArenaNet obviously believes in it, because the studio has crammed it in everywhere, increasing it in frequency with the more recent zones.

I guess that’s about it. I don’t care what’s coming next in the story. I’m not enjoying the current design direction of the game. And there’s no “must do” goals that I want to keep pursuing. So I’ll be content to let the game be and see if my interest ever returns. Heaven knows that there are enough other games right now that are yammering for my attention, so I don’t feel a great void from putting this MMO down.

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13 thoughts on “Pinpointing where Guild Wars 2 lost me

  1. Ravious June 30, 2015 / 12:10 pm

    As a follow up, just curious to know how mutable you were with your character’s skills, etc. Like with the centaur fight and tougher fights did you change traits/skills to adjust or just go with what worked?

    I have a feeling that a lot of players got turned off by the latest zones/armies because they required more than just pure frontal DPS. ‘Zerker builds are still viable in say Silverwastes, but the skill bar for not getting snagged and “vomited on” went up a lot.

  2. Aywren June 30, 2015 / 12:11 pm

    This pretty much echoes everything I feel about GW2 right now. I’m not quite sure why they think it’s a great idea to send us into a jungle for the expansion with even more knock down and poison-spitting plants. : /

  3. Crow June 30, 2015 / 12:27 pm

    For a game that billed and presented itself as story-focused experience, the writing was simply atrocious. Then the actual world-gameplay is designed for no-thought zerging. So many hearts filled where I didn’t even know why I was doing stuff. Just kill and/or interact. It is a game that is full of story which is written beyond poorly and gameplay mechanics which further take your attention and focus off the amazing lore-filled world they created.

    Easily the worst use of amazing lore I’ve ever seen.

  4. bhagpuss June 30, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    I find it amazing that you struggled with the GW2 Living Story fights when you are able to storm through what I would consider to be much (MUCH) harder instanced fights in The Secret World. By comparison I can’t think of one single fight in the whole of GW2 that’s as unforgiving or attritional as any of half a dozen TSW set pieces I’ve tried and failed over and over before either lucking out or giving up. And I’m just talking about the original TSW solo and open world content too, not any of the supposedly much harder Tokyo stuff or anything in a dungeon.

    I’m not defending the many annoying and long-winded instanced LS fights but the hardest of them was merely irritating, never the actual Game Over, You Lose screen that might as well have flashed up for me so many times in TSW.

  5. Sylow June 30, 2015 / 1:02 pm

    Really? I find TSWs combat vastly superior (and much more manageable) than GW2.

    My main reason for that is that TSW actually shows me what’s happening. Just compare: The enemy is doing an attack you should dodge out of. In TSW you consistently get the markings on the ground, along with a visible timer when the effect impacts. In GW2 in contrast you sometimes get “something” on the ground, often without indication if it already is there or will impact in half a second or you still have 3 seconds to dodge out. Some of them have a huge impact and you need to dodge right away, others are harmless and if you dodge out of them, you waste your endurance and can’t dodge any more when the actually harming effect comes in.

    To make things worse, there’s not only ground effects but also animations. Sometimes the enemy just does one or another “random” animation, and their size often does not relate to their effect. The big guy swings his 3 meters long sword. The attack can be trivial, it can be a devastating melee attack killing you if you don’t dodge away, but it also can be a long range attack, as the sword for this one attack has 10 times its length reach.

    Unfortunately you can’t just dodge everything, as you will run out of stamina. And if the huge swing is not the deadly attack, then blinking with his left eye the next second actually activates the death ray, killing you.

    For every single bigger enemy in GW2, you have to death-learn new animations till you know what to dodge out of. In contrast to that, ground targeted effects in TSW are less frequent but always meaningful, so doding out of them always is worth it.

    Things are a little less “solid” with interruptable abilities. There are a few which you should not waste your interrupts upon, but they are in dungeons and don’t really bother you in solo play. (And in dungeons, there’s different doctrines on which things to interrupt and which to work around. Fights can be very different, depending on which abilities the tank decides to interrupt. )

    So all in all, i find the pure combat mechanics of TSW to be much more fair than GW2. The “mean” part of TSW rather is in the skill wheel and the limited information the game provides to the “average” player. The new game experience update made things a bit better, but still is far from perfect. So indeed, people still can and often do gimp themselves and then struggle with combat. But if people use an adequate build for the zone (the 60 AP builds from TSWDB can take you through most of the game) and use gear on the level which drops and missions from previous areas gave them, everything but a few group and nightmare difficulty missions can be done solo.

  6. Ocho June 30, 2015 / 1:20 pm

    True. Some of those GW2 fights are just maddening. To the comparison everyone is making to TSW, TSW’s fights are tricky, but they are definitely surmountable. Changing up a build, adding a second tank piece, etc. All it takes is changing up your approach. GW2, the amount you can change varies much less, and so a hard fight sometimes just boils down to throwing yourself at the baddie to whittle down a % or 2, before you die and have to do it again. That is not a well designed fight. As a squishy elementalist, that ended up being especially pronounced during some encounters. And then outside of the instanced encounters, every other fight is straight-up trivial, World bosses taking mere seconds as zerging takes 0 effort. Most of those fights I’d be lucky to get a single hit in. So it’s either zerg snore fests, or maddeningly difficult instanced fights. Any in between generally came out in the zones when an event would only have 2 or 3 people joining in… but who goes there when the snore fests are the most rewarding content.

  7. Warsyde June 30, 2015 / 1:23 pm

    I still play GW2 off an on (currently on with the revamp to the original story that will allow me to finally finish the main storyline solo), and there are a lot of things I like about it (I actually quite like the new trait system). The things that bother me the most are combat and power progression though. I can’t help but feel that in comparison to the enemies, your power actually peaks around the level 40-50 range. From that point on, enemies either keep up or outpace your power level, making it feel like your character isn’t really improving in a vertical fashion, merely branching out into more abilities.

    Having 20k+ hit points at level 80 and getting taken out by a couple of lucky hits from random world mobs (not bosses) is just stupid. Stuff is flying so fast it’s hard to see what the heck is going on, and either you or the enemy is going to die fast. The best way to survive seems to simply not be where the enemy is, so my cloth wearing Mesmer that attacks from range and distracts with illusions and phantasms is actually much more survivable than my heavy armor wearing Guardian who has to stand next to everything and get pummeled. If I build my Guardian for survival, his dps drops so low he can’t kill anything before it kills him anyway – it just makes the fights longer.

    I find it very frustrating and discouraging, and so play the game in short bursts before moving on to other things. I’d love to explore more of the maps, but since you can’t move 10 feet on most high level maps without fighting a mob or two it quickly becomes tiresome.

  8. Syp June 30, 2015 / 3:19 pm

    Bhagpuss — I think a lot has to do with the visuals of the telegraphs. Guild Wars 2’s red circles work on a limited basis, but once there starts getting to be a lot of good and bad ones down, the whole battlefield devolves into a mess that’s hard to decifer. TSW’s fights are much tougher on the whole, but at least I can always tell what’s going on.

  9. Jeromai July 1, 2015 / 2:13 am

    I suspect many players who do not play GW2 on a regular basis end up with a learning curve in combat that is unfamiliar, where their prior knowledge from more standard MMOs does not apply.

    Stun breaks, for example, will instantly animation cancel knockdowns, and stability would counteract knockbacks, but unless said player actually reads his skill tooltip, he would not be able to immediately name the skill(s) that would help or realize he can situationally switch into it, thus becoming frustrated with getting flung away every time he approached. Neither concept is something standard MMOs use, imo, unless one is a tank and used to receiving aggro and figuring out active ways to avoid/mitigate damage.

    It would also be interesting to see the frequency at which an unfamiliar player to GW2 stands still in combat, absorbing hits that more regular players would sidestep subconsciously or attempt to flank.

    Standard MMOs tend to rely on passive stats to give players a leg up. Hence in TSW, if you have decent gear and a good build, you do not need action combat reflexes or situational combat awareness to be victorious in a fight. Spin this around to GW2, and the “skill” stress focuses more on in-the-moment prediction/reaction, adaptation if defeated (by switching skills, traits, tactics) and proper timing, completely different things than a regular MMO player would expect or realize.

    As a result, the player performs at a worse level than they think they are at, and can be correspondingly turned off/away. (It’s not limited to GW2, it’s any unfamiliar game, you should see how I play Dota 2, I know I’m missing a billion things veterans are more aware of, or just know subconsciously.)

  10. Sylow July 1, 2015 / 12:19 pm

    @Jeromai:
    I think you very much underestimate the players here. You example of stability might be different in name than the equivalent in TSW (the passives “Contortionist” and the ability “Sleight of Hand”), but i am well aware what my “Hold your Ground” does in GW2.

    Also, we are aware of the differences between “stand and deliver” and agile combat, and in my eyes TSW is even more heavy on that. Proper player movement in TSW forces the enemies to use movement animations which prevents attack animations and thus prevents damage. A skillful user of proper movement techniques can reduce the damage taken by a little over 30% in TSW, and according to developer feedback, this is intended behaviour.

    So by pure mechanics, the two games in theory are not that far apart and while it’s true that superior gear and a build can help you get further without actual player skill, this crutch will fail at the higher end. Without skill you won’t get the gear from nightmare dungeons and without that stuff you will be limited to gear appropriate to the content.

    I have played and still do play both games, and i still stand to my point of view, that they suffer at different places on providing information.

    GW2 actually does well enough providing information for your setup, even more now after the last rework. You don’t have the “here is a pile of skills, pick” start, but get them in order. You can’t freely mix-and match traits and traitlines any more, but get 3 lines, where you can pick 3 out of 9 traits, while the other 3 are fixed.

    So yes, you of course still can take traitlines without synergies and you can slot skills not supported by your chosen traits, but all in all, the complexity is rather low by now. Even my girl, who usually doesn’t care much for optimisation and before the patch had a wild assemblage of skills and traits on her necromancer, now uses a build which might not be optimal, but definitely is useful.

    In contrast, TSW indeed still smacks the player with a wall of abilities. “Pick 14 out of 525” still is overwhelming and much more than you can expect the casual player to care for. After all, we wants to play the game, instead of pondering synergies and effect chains. Up to the patch with the new game experience, there were plenty of new players who never understood the advantage of having two weapons. Even now, you can find many “let’s play” videos on youtube, where people tried the game after the patch and still have limited understanding of the build and consumer mechanic and absolutely no grasp of passive and synergies.

    So for the new and casual player, GW2 is much more accessible. In strong contrast to that, as already mentioned above, TSW is very good in providing all essential information in combat. GW2 obfuscates a lot of this information behind meaningless ground effects and unique animations, which you have death-learn again and again, for every new encounter.

    So for the casual gamer, GW2 clearly is the better choice. Easy enough to start, you can get very far without investing any brainpower and plenty of the challenges can be outzerged. For the advanced player, who’s also doing the more challenging content, the system of TSW is superior, though. The brainpower for a proper build and adjusting a build according to the situation is available and in use. But unlike in GW2, you actually get all the information you need, instead of frustrating death-learning (there are no “this animation does this” videos around, as far as i know, so you have to learn them by your own deaths) again and again.

  11. Sylow July 1, 2015 / 12:19 pm

    Correction, it of course is “Stand your ground”. Which i always find ironic that i use that ability to allow me to move again. 🙂

  12. Jeromai July 1, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    @Sylow So how then, would you account for more people (including Syp and Ocho) finding that they can get their heads around TSW a lot easier than GW2?

    I’m not calling anyone casual or advanced in play in general. I am simply stating familiarity with a specific game’s nuances has an impact on performance.

    eg. Many of you state that you have to learn GW2’s animations through dying, conversely, I’m sure Ravious, Bhagpuss and myself can learn them on the fly without that initial death, because we’re already used to identifying various mobs by type and have some inbuilt expectations of what a particular mob type is liable to do.

    In contrast, take my noob self playing Dota 2, I can’t identify half of the skill animations flying out of a player character, I am liable to have to death-learn them a few times through completely botching up my positioning and getting that feedback that I screwed up the hard way. It’s simply unfamiliarity.

    “A skillful user of proper movement techniques can reduce the damage taken by nearly 100% in GW2” to turn your statement around a little. Does that mean a GW2 player needs to be more skillful than a TSW player?

    Imo, one game is not more superior than another. However, TSW does cleave to standard MMO conventions (vertically progressing stats on gear, tank/dps/healer trinity) a little more than GW2, which I suspect, is why players of more standard MMOs find it easier to get their heads around.

  13. Sylow July 2, 2015 / 12:06 pm

    On how those people get around more easily in TSW than in GW2: In either case we’re speaking of a frequent gamer here. Somebody who learned to read tooltips, see synergies and create builds.

    GW2s big advantage of accessability doesn’t apply so much to them, their gaming routine and experience helps them over the big mistake TSW has.

    On the point of ability, you interpret it as “the TSW player is more skilled”, which in no way was what i intended to say with that. I am well aware that an experienced player in GW2 can avoid most of the damage, too. At the same time you prove my point. You say that you have learned the mechanics and animations for many enemy types and thus now can avoid damage. While you do not openly state it, i dare to assume that you like any other higher-tier player in GW2 did this learning by dying many times.

    Your example of Dota games is quite true, but you only see it for them, as those are what you are not familiar with. A player coming from a Dota to Gw2 will have the very same experience, while when coming to TSW, he will experience more clear and consistent info in combat. (Under the condition that he’ll first invest the work required to learn about the core mechanics. )

    My point really boils down to this:
    – The less frequent gamer has a very hard time getting into TSW. It’s introduction lately was changed from abysmal to bad and is very unlikely to be noticeably improved to “acceptable” in the forseeable future.
    – Once this painful hurdle has been taken (either by being an experienced gamer or by putting a lot of effort into it), the player can experience combat with consistent and easily readable mechanics.
    – The less frequent gamer can easily get into GW2 and have fun there.
    – Unless being gods gift to gaming, any player encountering any non-trivial part of GW2s content will have to do a lot of dying to learn the mechanics of fights and enemies.

    Or even shorter:
    – TSW wallops the new player but provides a smoother game for those who spent the effort to get over it.
    – GW2 provides a perfectly enjoyable entry and gameplay as long as you avoid harder content, but getting into the harder content is a frustrating and thus disappointing experience.

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