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Contrasting Viewpoints on GW2′s Endgame

“My loot horde will severely disappoint you.”

Like many of you, I’m excited for the launch of Guild Wars 2. After taking part in numerous MMO rises and falls, however, I’ve become more guarded than I like to be. Couple that with a need to consume as much content as possible and you can see how I might spoil any surprises GW2 has in store for me. So, hard as it was, I put myself into media blackout for at least the last six months. I’ve watched the manifesto and read some things — total blackout is nearly impossible — so I know the Arenanet is aiming high; I have a good idea about big concepts like doing away with the holy trinity and getting rid of raid progression.

I ended that blackout this week. I’m consuming all I can because winter launch is coming. One of the burning questions on my mind, perhaps the most burning question, is — if they’re doing away with endgame progression, what exactly are they planning? With finely honed Google-fu I’ve found some information you probably already know: max level PvP/PvE zone, max level events and dynamic leveling to experience what you might have missed leveling up, organized PvP and world-versus-world. They lack progression, per se, and instead offer cosmetic rewards, skill alterations, and other non-gear based incentives.

I also found two excellent forum posts at MMO Champion (imagine that!) that highlight each school of thought on what ArenaNet are trying to do. They’re so well written, I had to share them.

Guild Wars 2 Endgame: You Actually Get to Eat the Carrot (1)

In Guild Wars 2, new content expands rather than extends the game. Thanks to the side-kicking system, content never becomes obsolete; when you reach the level cap your options are not limited to content specifically made for the endgame, you can still play any of the dynamic events or attempt any of the dungeons you may have initially missed. Furthermore, dynamic events provide constant variation across the entire game world. A zone might be completely different the next time you visit it due to different events being active, events being at different stages, or events having a different number of players participating in them.

An Actual PVE Engame Reality Check (2)

Moving onto the dynamic world content, I struggle again to consider this to be worthy endgame content. It is somewhat like returning to Elwynn Forest and completing the quests you missed. Granted the Dynamic Events will mix things up so that it is different and the world feels more alive than a bunch of NPCs standing around telling you to kill ten boars, collect ten boar spleens, but in effect you are revisiting leveling content. I’m sure that people are going to cry ‘But it isn’t leveling content, it’s all endgame content’ or some such, but really it’s going to feel like it did while you were leveling up, because it is what you were doing while leveling up. And, just like SWTORs story leveling experience, the novelty will wear off. There is a limit to how much ArenaNet will have scripted, and sooner or later you’ll see it all.

But what about the rest of the content that’s actually on level? What‘s the actual motivator?

(Quotes parsed for manageability)

(1) Firstly, there are rewards which expand your abilities. These include weapons, traits, and slot skills (including elite skills). All of these things combined provide a significant amount of depth in terms of character builds which is great news for those who enjoy theorycrafting and experimentation.

Secondly, there are rewards which provide ways of customising the appearance of your character. For example, each dungeon has its own unique armour set, and there also exist rare dyes which can be used to change the colour of specific parts of your armour.

Thirdly, there are rewards which provide a sense of achievement through explicitly tracking your progress and recording your character’s history.

As well as the content described above and its rewards, there is also the crafting system, the two-way auction house, and mini-games.

Tarien’s points begin by questioning how long the current set of dungeons will last players at the level cap, hard modes and alternative configurations aside. The following is more of a direct reply.

(2) Without gear upgrades there is very little incentive to keep clearing dungeons, once you’ve seen it, achieved what can be achieved and gotten whatever cosmetic items you need, what is the point? In other MMOs with gear progression your technique changes as you gear up. Initially you use CC, LoS pulls, and so on. Later you brute force it, and later still you chain pull wildly while the DPS try to balance running with AoEing. You won’t get that in a gearless game, you’ll find the optimal method and that’s it.

Great food for thought.

For my part, I enjoy the traditional raid-game but can’t often take part in it, so changing up the dynamic is appealing to me on a personal level. That said, I have serious concerns about the longevity of a non-progression endgame.

Think about it, MMORPGs are ALL progression in some form. Leveling is progression and the basis for what we expect these games to be. Nearly every tangible aspect of these games involves progressing your power. While cosmetic upgrades are neat, they offer nothing as substantial as the increased stats which is the very thing which tells us we are progressing.

Conceptually, I love the idea of players raiding because they enjoy the encounters. In a gaming environment where huge percentages of people never finish the games they start, however, why should the transient masses ever come back the second time? Is a new set of statless pauldrons enough to fill out raid spots? My gut says no. Look at other games that launched without item progression. Fallen Earth was widely criticized for having no endgame at all. GW2, for being different in so many other ways, gets a pass since they say it’s on purpose?

The counter-argument is, of course, that without a subscription fee it’s fine for players to leave when they’re done and come back when new content is added. That isn’t healthy for a game that wants an active playerbase at level cap.  It’s true, of course, and F2P means there will be more people at any given time over a sub-game, but eventually claims of “your game is dead” will arise, as is the blame for “not planning for retention.” You might also say that the endgame is about PvP. In that case, should we have ever considered it a competitor to other MMOs where it’s is a feature rather than an alternative?

Where does all this lead; I see a handful of possibilities. Endgame players will leave shortly after they cap out realizing this isn’t the game for them; PvP will become the foremost activity for high-end gameplay; ArenaNet will provide an ability-based or alternative progression scheme to keep raiders satisfied; or raiding will take on a more refined existence, where players actually play for the experience rather than the item. Give me a mix of 2, 3, and 4 and I see a long happy future for GW2. Arrive with “you didn’t want it anyway” and there may be trouble.

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  1. Telwyn

    I expect GW2 to follow the GW1 model of “the slow-burner game”. It will spike users and have a decline after, but GW1 had a very long run even with no major content releases since 2007. With no sub and no limits to content (a la F2P) it is the perfect casual game or 2nd game.

    Players kept playing because of the variety of content levels, catering to casuals, hardcore and the PVP crowd. So long as there are grinds to replace the raiding gear-grind then people will keep playing. Don’t forget that many players ground like crazy just to get a title or some fancy looking armour with no better stats than the easy to get end-game tier…

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Very true. If they incentivize activities enough people will play them for a long time — and if they’re fun to participate in, all the better! I suppose I’m more wondering what’s in store for organized PvE players who enjoy large groups. That personally doesn’t apply to me most of the time, so even if they only provide cursory options and excellent PvP/WvW I will be happy with my money spent. The F2P model is really freeing in this way too because breaks are fine and expected.

  2. lostforever

    This post matches my feeling about GW2 100% :)

    I am super excited about GW2 as well and I have my concerns about the PvE end game as well given that I am not big on PvP.

    Like you, I also enjoy raids and the gear progression that comes with it. However I am in situation that I simply don’t have the time to take part in the raid game. So my hope is that by the time I have consumed all PvE content in GW2, they release a new expansion pack or big update.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Amen! There are benefits to being more casual than we used to be :-)

  3. Ettesiun

    There is two part in the End Game : Content and progression.

    About Content :
    In all games (except player generated one) the content is finished. The question is : (1) is there an healthy amount of content and/or (2) is replaying this content fun ? Arena Net have tried to answer both questions :
    (1) by allowing all content to be available at end-level, they ensure their ressources all went to End-level content. They provide a limited amount of Dungeons. You may also have missed the rare information about Orr. Playing in Orr seems to be a complex and long games necessitating highly organised guilds. For exemple access to the last boss is only provided after a series of conquest and capture through all the game. You need an invasion to access the boss. Without more information on Orr, I think all discussion on EndGame content is a bit pointless. They should have communicated more on this subject.
    (2) They have tried to make replaying the same content fun. First by designing a fun game, with complex mechanism, in the goal that fighting whatever enemy is intersting by itself. By adding random element in all their games (Event are more or less random, Random event are added in the Dungeon) they try to assure that replaying the same thing there will always be a little novelty. They also create very disctinct playground and story for every race for those who love to create alts.
    To summarize : I think (but proof will have to be given when the real game starts) that ArenaNet have maximised the content they can give with their limited ressource, both by giving access to all their content, and maximising replayability value. THey also try (have they succeded ?) to make their game fun enough to play for itself.

    About Progression :
    GW2 have not a lot of progression. Cosmetic gear, title, will only be sufficient for completionist. But they will not feature power progression. They have tried to make the game fun and intersting without it, but for those that need this to enjoy themselves, I think that effectively this game will be lackluster after the first months. But all games that are not RPG show that you can play a game for a certain amount of time without power progression.
    To summarize : if GW2 will provide progression for completionist, it will not appeal to Power progession gamers. This game is not for everyone !

    PvP is a different beast altogether. Content and progression are of a different nature.If the game is well done, it can be played during years without much “developer content” as the real content is other players. Game power progression is also not very interesting (give unfair fight) but the real progression is also player progression : skill. Here again for a good game, the skill progression is not limited and can take years. To take an exemple choose your favorite Multiplayer game : TeamFortress2, CounterStrike, Starcraft, StreetFighter, Bomberman, Worms, etc…

  4. Chris "Syeric" Coke

    Thank you for elaborating on this so much! I haven’t played the game yet, so I don’t know how well they made every fight and activity ‘fun.’ Did they succeed? If so, I applaud them.

    Regarding Orr, I have heard about this! It definitely seems interesting in an open world pve-competitive pvp way. I personally find that really intriguing but there is too little out there to say whether it shoehorns pve’ers into pvp or vice versa. That will make a big difference in who the zone appeals to. At the moment it seems more weighted to PvP but maybe that’s incorrect.

    Your points on progression are pretty much right-on with what I’ve read. At the moment, it seems to me that the game will be one of if not the best option for players who can’t or don’t want to raid. I guess the big question we’ll see answered soon is whether those players are the majority of just a very vocal minority. That out there, the game has enough steam behind it, enough repayable content, and enough casual/PvP/non-subscription players that the game will have a long and successful run.

  5. Ettesiun

    I have always think (without proof unfortunately) that the vast majority of player are casual one, that do not read MMO blogs, that does not raid, does use mumble or TeamSpeak, etc… I believe that those asking for raids are the vocal minority. But without any data on it, I cannot claim anything ! ;-)

    From my undertanding, Orr will only be PvE, but will be a lot harder and time demanding. I have not played WoW, but it seems that the whole “cross the sea, established outpost, take temple and statues, fight your way to the big boss” look like a Raid, no ? Raaah, only some days before the first one can say for sure (and some month for me to experience it ;-) )

    About fun, during the BWE, I was a bit bored after 6 hours of continuous playing. Comparing to my habitual 2 hours session it is quite long ! Also I was playing continuoulsy the same zone (Norn starting zone) to avoid spoiler fo the real game. In fact I have player something like 30 hours in the same first zone (creating multiple character). So yes at the end I was a bit bored of this zone ! For those who asks : no I have not seen everything or every event.

    For me, yes this is a very good game. One of the most appealing thing for me are the different activites you can do : PvE, Personnal story, PvP, WvW (very very fun !), Crafting, exploration – i love Vistas-, Jumping Puzzle (= platform game), and i have to try minigames, Dungeons, Orr.

  6. Imakulata

    I disagree with your opinion that players will not do something unless it provides them with power upgrade and I’m not talking about fun here. In my experience, fame, whether real or made up, is a great motivator. From a token saying you did something not everyone had done to a place on top of a ladder, I find this is what motivates quite a lot of players – especially in PvP but GW2 endgame is mostly PvP too. And it seems they have been betting on this even if they don’t say it loud.

    1. Chris

      This is very true but how does one acquire fame in a progressionless endgame? That may well work in PvP but how do you see them applying that principal to other areas of the game?

      I wonder whether or not this is something MMOs even *want* to aim for outside of PvP. To be notorious for something other than world/server firsting, doesn’t content necessarily have to be inaccessible to the majority lest the fame become meaningless?

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