Posted Wed, Oct 16, 2013 by Sardu
Blood and Madness marks the first repeating seasonal event for Guild Wars 2. Be amazed as Sardu babbles about his experiences during the original event, and high hopes for its triumphant return.
Shortly after the massively hyped launch of Guild Wars 2 last year, the folks at ArenaNet unleashed the game’s first major seasonal event. Shadow of the Mad King somehow managed to both delight and upset players in equal measure, with the end of the spectrum you fell on being largely dependent upon your overall level of engagement.
Like many other players, I had been hoarding every Black Lion Chest and Key I could stuff into my account storage, especially once it became public knowledge that they had a chance of granting you a rare item skin during the Mad King event. I can’t recall the exact number of chests I had collected by the time the event had kicked off, but it was definitely in the hundreds. And, like many others, I fell prey to the desire to snag one of the rare item skins for my necromancer which led to picking up a nutty amount of gems to purchase additional keys once my initial supply ran out.
While I never did manage to pick up one of the rare skins that I’d have wanted to personally use, those I did collect bankrolled the purchase price of a full set of tier 3 cultural armor, so I still considered it a win overall. However, many players weren’t too keen on the abysmal drop rates from the chests, and that was just one of many points of contention that the first Mad King event helped ignite.
The Mad King’s Labyrinth certainly proved to be a somewhat popular diversion, but also proved to be largely unplayable on the PC I was running at the time. I’m still not certain whether it was due to a failing GPU or a bad client patch, but the moment I stepped into the labyrinth the ground and walls refused to render properly. That first day I updated drivers, and fiddled with graphical settings before ultimately giving up due to the headache-inducing nature of the graphical errors I was experiencing.
Thinking I’d have better luck with the Clock Tower, I made my initial attempts the following day. I was one of those poor souls that never did complete the damn thing, but it wasn’t necessarily due to the sheer complexity of the jumping puzzle. No, the trouble was that I kept getting placed into groups with charr and norn characters that made it difficult at best to see where the heck I was supposed to be jumping.
Had the Clock Tower been a personal instance rather than grouped, I’m fairly confident I’d have completed it once I learned the general pattern like any other jumping puzzle in the game. I ultimately gave up in frustration though, as you had to either lead the pack to have a clear view of your next jump, or constantly fall off due to having a furry charr butt in your face the entire time.
Based on the above, you’d probably assume I had a pretty wretched run through the first major seasonal event for GW2. Yet, the overall sprit of the event and engagement level of the community still managed to leave me feeling surprisingly upbeat by the time the Mad King made his final appearance in Lion’s Arch.
The engagement level proved to be the key here. In most MMOs I’ve played over the years, people tend to consume the fresh seasonal content like hungry badgers within the first couple of days. If you come even a few days late to the party, the critical mass has already moved on, so the seasonal activities are largely left abandoned. So instead of feeling as though you’re logging into a kick-ass virtual Halloween party, it’s just another series of check boxes to run down as you work your way through the achievement lists or claim whatever themed prizes the events have to offer.
Things were somehow different in Shadow of the Mad King. There was a layer of true social engagement thanks in no small part to activities such as the scavenger hunt. Xerin, who was one of my writers on our Guild Wars 2 site at the time, had put together a basic walkthrough of the entire thing, so I went in knowing where I needed to go for each stage. While that might have helped trivialize the content for me, instead I used that knowledge to help guide other players I’d come across who weren’t sure how to proceed.
In fact, I spent the better part of two days assisting other players with that aspect of the event alone. Not so much to rack up illusionary Good Samaritan points, though I must admit that I’m one of those wacky MMO gamers who genuinely enjoys helping other players, and even mourns the loss of core social gameplay such as buffing non-grouped players.
No, the thing was that it gave me a proper diversion from some of the less enjoyable aspects of the event, and helped turn what might have been a real bummer of a virtual Halloween into one that was somewhat memorable. I made a lot of new in-game friends and certainly didn’t complain about the massive influx of gold I gained via the chest rewards. In fact, my necro is still sporting their cultural armor set today.
The Mad King makes his return this week in the first true iteration on an in-game event for Guild Wars 2 with Blood and Madness. Most of the original activities will become available again which is good news for players who either missed them last year, only started playing recently, or have a personal vendetta against the dastardly Clock Tower. I’m also pleased to see the Labyrinth and Lunatic Inquisition are back, and hopefully this time around it won’t make my eyes bleed due to rendering issues (I'm gaming on a new PC since last year's ill-fated attempts).
Along with some of the other major seasonal MMO events kicking off this week, I’ll be diving into Blood and Madness with much gusto over the coming days. For what it’s worth, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and ArenaNet has traditionally done an excellent job of capturing the spirit of Halloween to a much higher degree than many of its peers.
It will be interesting to see how Guild Wars 2 – a game that has made a major push towards a Living Story in favor of a static game world – handles the concept of repeating seasonal content in a more general sense. The storyline has certainly evolved, yet still remains twice-removed from the overarching living story elements. But at the end of the day, anything that helps keep an MMO feeling vital and sparks that desire to log in and play at a base level outside of any social groups or sense of obligation to a subscription fee is golden in my books.