One of the biggest mistakes a lot of MMO developers make is funneling too many resources into immediate expansion development once the base game ships. This isnt necessarily bad in and of itself, but it can be for the health of the game if that expansion only factors upward growth at the level cap or endgame, rather than broadening the scope of the content that already exists.
This outward expansion can take a lot of different forms, but can make a big difference when it comes to keeping larger swaths of a game world vital rather than becoming barren wastelands once the critical mass of players have taken their first steps on a perceived endgame treadmill.
As weve seen in the months since its launch late last summer, many of the content updates for Guild Wars 2 have been built with these things in mind. In an intimate discussion with select members of the MMO press, this was a central topic of discussion for ArenaNets Jon Peters and Jonathan Sharp this weekend during PAX East 2013.
Before I proceed it should be noted that Im not really a fan of group Q&A sessions. Any press present will have their own agendas so their questions may or may not coincide with the information the developers are attempting to convey. Or in some cases, you can even get lumped in with people who may not be familiar with even the most basic gameplay elements, so constantly derail any deeper discussion in an attempt to get a grasp on the core subject matter.
I only mention these things because I wanted to be up front about the fact that much of what follows is based on more open, loose discussions on a number of more general topics rather than being derived from a more direct, topical analysis. Still, Jon and Jonathan did an awesome job of addressing everything they were able to, even in the midst of the conversations needle spinning wildly from one question to the next.
Supporting the Live Game in Guild Wars 2
The ongoing support for the live game in Guild Wars 2 has been a major focus for ArenaNet since launch. As the team has discussed in an ongoing series of blog posts, theyve split the live team into a number of different smaller teams, with each one working on different areas concurrently.
Weve already seen some great examples of this with things like the seasonal events, new structured PvP maps, the addition of Fractals and ascended gear, and the more recent extended support at the guild level. Each of these things have brought interesting new activities and gameplay into GW2, and all without feeling like the usual MMO cookie cutter update > update > expansion cycle.
As a brief aside here, I hope that somewhere out there, a young MMO gaming couple has children running around playing update, update, expansion as a new twist on duck, duck, goose.
In a roundabout way the discussion this weekend during PAX East did factor in the concept of Guild Wars 2 expansion, only in this case its more of that meaningful outward expansion I mentioned earlier rather than a nifty level-cap-increasing-with-one-thousand-new-quests-and-a-new-playable-race boxed variety.
As Jon Peters noted, A lot of what were doing now is about the living, open world. When we added these guild missions the plan was, oh, lets add them as instances. But we decided no more instanced stuff; were focused a lot on making stuff thats out in the open world where players are interacting with each other.
Its worth mentioning that there are definitely people at ArenaNet that are working on things that could eventually turn into an expansion, even though the primary focus for the live team is on adding interesting new content out into the existing open world. For now its not likely that will include things on the scale of a new profession or a whole new continent, but as Jonathan Sharp pointed out, those types of things arent necessarily out of the question either.
Again, the point thats being reinforced is that notion of keeping the existing world vital rather than rushing headlong into something altogether new at the cost of abandoning the game thats already there. I think Jon Peters said it best when he noted that the world itself needs to be the endgame; not so much that there isnt an endgame at all, but that Guild Wars 2 is simply a different game. That means supporting every zone in the game, not simply tacking things on at level capped areas and calling it a day.
Another area briefly discussed are the new additions for World vs. World to help interject some more interesting gameplay in that portion of the game. As Jon Peters pointed out, theyve been attempting to create some meaningful evolution to that system rather than drop in a massive overhaul all at once. But part of that has to account for the scope of the overall WvW system, so building out meaningful updates tends to take a lot of lead time.
That said, Jon did mention that Pretty much every month from now on theres going to start being new stuff added to World v. World, and even the progression system is going to grow pretty rapidly.
While I was itching to dig a lot deeper than that, as these group Q&A sessions go the topic can change more rapidly than the status of an outpost during a dynamic event. As luck would have it though, Lewis over on GW2Hub will have a lot of info to share on WvW and the next major content update soon, so youll want to keep your eyes on that site for his focused coverage in those areas.
In the meantime, it was great to check in with our friends at ArenaNet. While the format wasnt necessarily ideal, I still appreciate that Jon Peters and Jonathan Sharp took some time out of their busy schedules to sit down and chat about the ongoing support for the live game in GW2.
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