Missing the Guild Wars 2 that was, not is

While I never talk about it, every evening I do log into Guild Wars 2. This is part of a quick rotation of games that I currently play or might play again that I do in order to grab daily rewards. Plus, logging in to GW2 unlocks the living world chapters when they come. So it’s kind of hedging on a possible gaming future.

Yet I’m just not sure that I want to play Guild Wars 2… maybe ever again. I wish that was not the case. The core game? I love the core game. I think ArenaNet was at the top of its game with the release of Guild Wars 2 and the way it crafted a world that was fun to explore and engage with public events. In a different universe, I could see development skewing more to feeding us casual-friendly players — particularly with the addition of proper housing.

That’s not the way Guild Wars 2 went. Instead, we got grindy masteries and fractals and — I still don’t know why — raids. Mounts seemed cool, but the game seemed like it drifted far away from what I used to know and love about it.

The other week, ArenaNet actually broke its silence to talk with its fans about the content coming for the game. Obviously, after last year’s studio gutting, Guild Wars 2 isn’t on fire as it once was. Even so, I’d hoped to see something really encouraging from what the remaining team had been up to. Instead… more fractals. More raids. More of stuff that isn’t that appealing and doesn’t call out to me to come back.

It would be much easier to hate on a game and denounce it once and for all. But I think MMO gamers know that special agony of loving a game as it used to be, not as it is at the present. Sometimes change is not for the better at all.

But hey, who knows. Maybe I’ll give GW2 some more time off and revisit it then and enjoy what I can. Maybe I’ll get through all of the living world stuff and expansions I have yet to do. And maybe, just maybe, Guild Wars 3 will emerge one day. For now, however, I’ll log in, grab my goodie bag, and log off without feeling a second of compulsion to actually play.

7 thoughts on “Missing the Guild Wars 2 that was, not is

  1. bhagpuss February 21, 2020 / 9:32 am

    I only log in to do dailies. Not done much more for years now. Path of Fire ruined the game for me in much the same way Heart of Thorns, which I loved, ruined it for others. That said, the game both you and I liked best, the core game they launched with going on eight years ago, died long before any expansion.

    The reason for the change of direction – or, I should say, changes, since Anet have flip-flopped many times over what sort of game they’re trying to offer us – is simple: money. The original game design had two problems: firstly, it was genuinely progressionless. You could do everything in the game using whatever gear you happened to find or that you bought from NPCs. Once you had that, which took most people a bare few weeks, you were basically done. Secondly, it was genuinely directionless. There were levels but the world scaled so they meant nothing. There were no quests other than your personal story. There was no endgame that anyone could recognize (it was originally intended that PvE players would cross over to WvW for the end game but most never did).

    Consequently, a lot of people left quite quickly either because they felt they’d “beaten” the game or because they had no idea where the game was. People were perpetually asking for guidance in chat in the first few months, looking for quest hubs and questlines that just didn’t exist. Those who stayed had no need to spend any money on anything. The game was so well-designed to be self-perpetuating there was nothing they needed.

    The following six and a half years have seen an endless stream of ways to address these problems as they affected revenue: to give players something to aspire to, some direction and above all something to spend their money on. Raids are just the latest iteration of the process that’s seen GW2 turn from a genuine mold-breaker into just another theme park clone.

  2. Moongy February 21, 2020 / 1:45 pm

    I’m not sure what to say other than stating that your point of view is very skewed. GW2 already has open world and story content released on steady cadence (every two months now). Instanced content is much more sparse, competitive modes didn’t receive much since Desert Borderlands and Stronghold flops. Active players of those modes wanted to see at least something to look forward to, pretending like bringing some good news for them is Arena.net constantly catering to wrong playerbase is really obnoxious.

  3. Jeromai February 22, 2020 / 2:51 am

    The problem with ArenaNet from the beginning was too much iteration and a lack of clear vision, post the perceived failure of Season 1 – which was great in theory and didn’t quite deliver as hoped for, due to poor storytelling and teams just somehow unable to produce content quickly enough for the pace it demanded (be it something wrong with how GW2 was built or designed engine-wise or lack of inter-team communication or poor company governance or whatever.)

    The core game attracted players who were interested in the open world and dynamic events, willing to buy into the idea of a cohesive, inclusive, accepting, cooperative community, with competition purposefully built into consensual level playing field zones of PvP and WvW against other servers. It lost the traditional MMO players who were used to quests and gear progression and all manner of WoW typical gameplay.

    Somewhere along the way people panicked at the reception of these ideas among those who felt the game as designed wasn’t for them, and we wound up with Ascended gear chase goals, a 100-fractal ladder, megaservers killing individual server community in the name of allowing all players to feel a nameless zerg around them. The game became skewed towards achiever progression with brute force tactics (more people the merrier, stack in corners and cleave in dungeons.)

    Now the gathering achievers criticized the unsubtle tactics and demanded more complexity and group coordination to solve for, chances to actually fail. Tequatl, Triple Trouble, Dry Top, Silverwastes, etc. Inclusion as a concept was already taking some shaky hits at this point; the idea of naturally banding together community converting to large group/guild communities who were more inclined to cooperate at higher levels of coordination.

    Heart of Thorns came in, and -somebody- thought throwing in raids into the mix was a good idea. There were some groups of people already bitterly complaining about trying to herd cats in map metas and guild communities, so why not provide an alternate kind of gameplay for people who liked closed instances?

    Little did they know or think that they would bring in Wildstar levels of side-taking, hardcore vs casual with the semantical term. Inclusion became more of an afterthought, ‘toxicity’ the new phrase to fling around like a weapon. The game now separated the can-dos from the can-nots, The former more willing to bend around the new game boundaries and requirements, the latter quite unwilling or unable (for perfectly good reasons, I’m sure). WvWers and PvPers meanwhile were wondering ‘what the hell’ with all this focus on PvE.

    ArenaNet successfully splintered their gameplaying community into a bunch of sharded subsets, and ironically, none of these subsets are that well monetized via their gem store design. Casuals with the fashion desire were wondering what parts of the game they had left to play; the hardcore were earning gold to convert to gems out the wazoo without even trying hard – why feed actual money into the equation? WvWers lost population as the majority of PvE players diverted attention to raids – why spend money to get quick gold if there’s no one to play with?

    By this point, you can see the panic evident in Path of Fire’s super sharp u-turn to cater to the droves of casuals who just couldn’t deal with the various stuff found in Heart of Thorns and had left earlier. Except by now the noisiest members of the community were those who enjoyed being at the top of a super high pyramid and looking down at the hoi polloi below. Eff inclusion. Competition uber alles, equals fun. That’s… not exactly the most encouraging or welcoming atmosphere for casuals to want to join. They can still enjoy the game by choosing to ignore the irritants, of course. Meanwhile, those perceived as irritants are themselves irritated up the wall by the sheer audacity of other players who choose to ignore them, getting louder and more intolerant as a result.

    And so, here we are. A multiplicity of different gameplay preferrers, stuck in a single MMO, all trying to get a little more attention for what they like best, while the company behind the MMO has cycled through a ton of knowledge and talent and now has to figure out where they go from here.

    Me, I’ve more or less accepted that what I came for on arrival – a MMO intentionally designed for a social, inclusive community where seeing another player was always a delight… well, it’s dead, Jim.

    I still do a bit of short term and recurring mini-community stuff (aka static raid) as stopgap gameplay, but there is no more long term desire to progress or do well because the overall community just isn’t fun anymore.

  4. Telwyn February 22, 2020 / 4:29 am

    It’s been so very long since I missed playing Guild Wars 2 sadly. I occasionally log in to unlock content, as you, on the off chance; but I’ve no real hopes of a long-term return to the game.

    Personally I miss World of Warcraft circa Mists of Pandaria, when crafting felt useful and we didn’t have mission tables and (for the most part) overpowered artifact gear that every alt ‘must have’ via the grind. Classic doesn’t do it for me, I just don’t find it that interesting to replay such old content. Ironically the new leveling system in Shadowlands may give me, for the first time in ages, the chance to play through Pandaria or any more recent expansion without out-levelling it in the first zone…

  5. Tyler F.M. Edwards February 22, 2020 / 8:59 pm

    I remember a few years ago I did a post much like this on my blog, and I got this incredibly nasty comment from some elitist to the effect that the game was better off without casual scum like me (paraphrasing — I’m actually cleaning up the language a fair bit). Normally I delete obvious troll comments, but I left that one up to me because it seemed totally emblematic of the kind of attitude the game was now geared towards, and nothing since has really dissuaded me from that view.

  6. Ettesiun February 24, 2020 / 4:05 am

    I am also disappointed as I still love the original game but was not able to go further than the first region in both extension : there are so much fight ( dragging for a loong time)and so few life.
    But even in the original game the end map were not very fun. Too much fight, barren environmemt make playing those maps a bore.
    The starting map ( up to lol 40) are jewels partly because they feel like a real world worth fighting for.

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