Thursday, 30 April 2015

Going off half-cocked #GW2

Here's a tweet from a month ago:
In my opinion, this is the big danger of announcing an expansion too early.  You generate an initial interest spike but as it becomes clear you aren't about to deliver that interest will dwindle. I don't think it matters how clever you think your PR is, I just don't think you can sustain interest, especially when it comes to existing players who have nothing to enjoy in the meantime.

As the time between the announcement of Heart of Thorns and its release grows I feel vindicated in my opinion regarding what ArenaNet were doing. I still believe that the China release was all hands on deck until that was put to bed (May 15 2014).  I think the expansion work started up around the Season 2 mid-season break (August 2014), with the intention that assets would become free to work on HoT full time once Season 2 wrapped up. HoT was announced 11 days after the final part of Season 2 released.  That would mean an August 2015 release gives them a year development time.  I think that adds up.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

We now revert to our scheduled programming #GW2

(I wrote this back at the end of March and didn't publish. Not sure why.  I think I was just a bit sick of my own whining. Reading over it now I can see that everything I said is absolutely relevant a month later.)

So, ArenaNet announced an expansion for Guild Wars 2 and then went back to doing their PR exactly the same way. We're being drip fed the same level of information on about the same sort of schedule we're used to.  Just instead of previewing the next feature pack (or whatever they span it as) or Episode it's now parts of the expansion.  The difference is we don't know when the expansion is coming. More than that our educated best guess is based purely on (korean) financials.  Q1 is done, if they were releasing next quarter they would be  announcing now (or VERY soon) in order to boost Q2.

Personally, I can't see release before Q3. Q2 is surely out since the first "closed beta" was just the demo.  Admittedly, the demo on the live servers with real players, but clearly barely scratching the surface of what has been promised. Has anyone heard anything bad about that beta period? I haven't.  By all accounts people were impressed that they could play it so seamlessly.  So, developmental progress seem solid enough.

Assuming the Anet hype-machine continues to function as normal we can expect at least a week of coverage per Specialisation. I mean you could do a day a week but why clump it all together?  That's basically two months of news items on it's own.

When I think about it, though, what haven't they covered? Masteries, Revenant and the new zones have all had a pretty good chunk of coverage.  The new Stronghold map and WvW ditto.  I guess that pretty much does leave Specialisations and Guild Halls.  But part of me wonders if these Specialisations are even final for each class yet.  We know from the Revenant coverage that they built and abandoned at least one spirit.

I think it's safe to say that we're still some way from release but then why have they announced so early, and with such detail, without a release date? To put it in perspective, Warlords of Draenor was announced November 2013 and release November 2014.  The release date was announced just 3 months prior, in August.  I get the impression from Twitter that people think that Heart of Thorns should have been RELEASED already, never mind announcing a release date. I think the lack of release date is an indication of just how far away it is.

The biggest problem that I have is that, now an expansion has been annouced, Anet are no longer obliged to release any new "content" until the expansion. I said before, and repeatedly, that the expansion to me looks no more than Season 3, the PvP and WvW updates and a feature pack all bundled up with a price tag. I don't have a problem with paying, I just would have preferred to have the content delivered under the old model.

So, why did they announce? Back around the announcement I said this:
It's bad news rather than good. Quite simply there is nothing coming between now and release and there was no way they could keep hiding that without admitting they were working on an expansion.  I keep hearing people say that they have been working on this since release but I very much got the impression that the China release was their main focus from launch (watch the first minute) and it's only since then they have started working on the expansion.  Otherwise, well, why isn't it ready?

I just hope this isn't the shape of things to come. Pre-announcment I said that I thought they'd shown that the traditional MMO release model wasn't the only thing that worked but now it looks like they just fallen back to that. Will Season 4 be delivered as a Living Story again?

Oh, and how the hell will they balance a new class and 8 new specialisations across PvE (with new mechanics), PvP (with new mechanics) and WvW (with new mechanics)?

Exclusivity & Entitlement #GW2

I got into a discussion a few weeks ago about reward exclusivity in Guild Wars 2.  I'd like to say it was good natured but it wasn't.  The other party was fairly belligerent and I got quite defensive.  Towards the end of the discussion, amongst other veiled insults, this little comment was tossed in:
What I am questioning is the motive for demanding exclusivity. To my mind, the people on the forums who talk about that come off as entitled children.
OK, so let's unpack that.  It all started when...

I had just over a hundred blade shards in my bank.  I get more every day from my Sprocket Generator.  I was commenting that I was pissed off because I'd never be able to do anything with them because I missed the event itself (yes, I know, read on) while other things that I worked hard to earn through S1 events were now readily available through other means.

Possibly because of prior knowledge that I didn't have, she (I'm assuming a woman because she said husband so I'm going with probability) glossed over the first part. But apparently she has an axe to grind with regard to "entitled children" and began demanding to know why the loss of exclusivity on those items bothered me.

My counter-argument was simply the principle: the loss of exclusivity. What I couldn't seem to get across was that a large part of the value of an exclusive item lies in the exclusivity. Exclusivity is therefore a reward in itself. I mean some of those rewards were so fugly exclusivity was all they had going for them.

But really my "beef" with this is multi-faceted. Having now taken a step back, part of my argument should have been: if I had known I could have got the Sprocket node from a vendor six months later I would never have bothered grinding out the meta for The Origins of Madness. That release was actually the trigger for my second bout of Living Story Season 1 burnout.  I skipped the next three releases entirely because I felt like a hamster on a wheel chasing meaningless rewards.

But I persevered with those meta-achievements because, at the time, it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity to get those rewards.  And, at the time, I think it was.  I think Anet only backtracked later when people complained about the transitory nature of their content. In a way I guess I feel duped because I really didn't want to miss out and regret it.  Admittedly, I happily avoided doing some of S1 because the meta rewards didn't interest me at all.

My other problem with past rewards being available via a vendor was that I couldn't get the one thing I wanted when everyone else could get the things I'd got.  Turns out (again, see below) I was wrong but the fact remains that some rewards from Season 1 are still exclusive.

Take Mini First Mate Horrik from Sky Pirates of Tyria, the cause of my 1st S1 burnout.  I hated that release. The difficulty of the Aetherblade Hideout was almost unparalleled in the game at that time. People generally "cheat" to get through that fight in Fractals now. So, I never got mini Horrik but, damn, I'd use him proudly if I had.  But if I could just go buy it from a vendor it becomes just a Mini. Just as all the other Season 1 skins have become just a "cosmetic item".  The fact is I benefited from the removal of this exclusivity in that I picked up a Slickpack skin through the last Festival of the Four winds, so I can hardly complain but the principle still bothers me.

As for entitlement...well. Another guild mate piped up and said that people that missed the event should be able to get those cosmetic rewards too.  Why should they be "unnecessarily penalised"? My "opponent" readily agreed.  Well, if THAT isn't entitlement I dunno.

Personally, I can't understand the logic that having a reward for an in-game activity that is unobtainable elsewhere (hence exclusive) is somehow elitist and exclusionary, especially when those items are almost purely cosmetic.  The truth is, when you talk about exclusivity you have entitlement on both sides of the argument and which side of the argument you stand on is never going to be static.

Having read through this post you might be confused about where I stand myself. I guess that just emphasises the complexity of the feeling on the topic. I simply think it should be all or nothing.  Either make them all once-in-a-lifetimes or have them all appear on a vendor after a fixed period. Personally, I favoured the former but exclusivity for limited period is a nice compromise if it's understood that way from the start.

As it turns out

My frustration that formed the proverbial snowball was totally unwarranted.  You can still make the spinal back piece, you just buy the 4 blueprint scraps off the TP and away you go.  I was delighted to hear this because I felt I'd missed out.  I turns out I wasn't the only one, "spinal blade is the only item in [the] game I hate not getting," piped up someone else. I also found out that if you buy the watchwork mining pick you can get even more sprockets to convert into Blades.  That someone else was unaware you could even get the Sprocket Generator with laurels now. So, ultimately, the whole conversation was incredibly productive.

During the discussion most people piped up about how much they dislike the Spinal Blades back.  The truth is, I don't even really like them myself.  I only used the Slickpack skin for a few weeks in the end...but it's the principle, right?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


In my last post I described some people whose opinions I respect as being part of the "community".

I just want to clarify the quotes. I don't understand what "community" means in the MMO sphere. It's not my term. I suspect it is borrowed from some PR asshat who thought you could placate the masses by making them think that they were more than just a semi-random confluence of individuals, with a broad shared interest, each trying to shout the loudest.

The problem is: I believe that in most online communities there is a silent majority*.  And by virtue of their silence the persona of the community is shaped without them and only represents their views by chance**.

And since I am, in the main, part of that silent majority, when I hear developers say "we have such a great community," I think "don't patronise me you disingenuous prick***."

With that in the open, please don't take it as an insult if I describe you as being part of it.

* for evidence, just look at election turnouts in non-dictatorial democracies
** and when I say chance, I mean it in the fullest sense of statistical probability
*** again probability says the developer is male

Why the #GW2 Stronghold beta can go suck a fat one

Today is the open beta for the new Stronghold mode in Guild Wars 2. A lot of people are excited.  I'm not one of them.

Let's be clear, I'm a black hat "thinker", I look at the negatives. Here, in my eyes, the negatives eclipse the positives in such a colossal fashion I can't even see light at the end of the tunnel.

In short, balance. Several prominent members of the "community" have spoken out recently, explaining the problems with PvP in GW2 and the problems they anticipate in Heart of Thorns.

Lewis Burnell said this:
Tough Love Critic has actually written another piece since, talking about how the expansion will shake up GW2 fundamentally. One quote stands out:
From a game meta and structure viewpoint, it’s going to be complete chaos. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun chaos (it most certainly will be)
No, it won't be. I think there is some sort of assumption that MMO players all enjoy this type of change. We don't.  And the degree of change outlined so well in TLC's article, makes me wonder what proportion of players will just give up on GW2 while it meanders through the pre-expansion content vacuum and won't come back.

I just can't get my head round the scale of the balance problem.  As it stands, ArenaNet have decided to combine the following into a single update:
  • a new class
  • 8 (9 if revenant gets one) specialisations
  • a new sPvP mode (not a map)
  • a new WvW map
Where do you even start balancing that? Maybe the fact is you don't.  You just push it out and say "hey, we're aware there are some issues" and watch as the community pans for gold in the torrent from your sewer. I mean, is PvP in Guild Wars 2 even balanced now?

Although today brings "beta" testing, the fact is you'll still be "testing" these changes way after money has changed hands. If not, then release is even further out than I myself have predicted.  And that's even worse.

So, no, I won't play your beta. I won't log in. I won't allow my contribution to the metrics to reassure your stakeholders.