Blown away…? Blown off… GW2 Living Story is not.

I suppose it is fitting that last night in a cold river way up in the Shiverpeaks, my character was attacked by a shark, and to get away, I jumped over it. That is what I’ve been feeling is what has happened to this game as a whole…

I’ve been meaning to hold off on my opinion blogs until after finishing my build guides, but its getting harder and harder to hold back my growing frustrations with Guild Wars 2.

In re:
Kill ten Rats – [GW2] 2013 Plans:

“I think most Guild Wars 2 fans are blown away with the updates.”

Blown away is not how I’d describe it…

I see all the signs of a focus on short term shinies and addictive repetition and no signs on larger plot development. They seem to have completely forgotten their own setting’s lore in favor of chasing context-less quick patches that have nothing to do with this setting.

This is all really starting to bug me.

I’ve actually started playing LESS GW2 as a result.

They can’t even be bothered to put the plot, what shabby little of it there is, into the game. Instead, to have any clue about what is going on, you need to watch SOTG interviews, and read websites.

Everything is episodic – 2 week long chunks that wrap up with little to no impact. After all of this, the impact is going to be a choice between Commander Keen and Random Cat: which will have all the impact of deciding which of two possible fractals they will release first (presuming the idea for the other will make its way in at some undetermined point).

Meanwhile Elona, Cantha, and about a million dragons sit idly by seemingly forgotten… while we play with Steampunk air pirates for… I don’t know why…

But it doesn’t matter what it is…

… Just that its got no relation back to the core Guild Wars lore…

Each of these two week updates, on resolving, neatly leaves us largely where we were at the beginning. Its like watching Scooby Doo – we could play these in any order and they would make just as much sense.
– thus episodic.

They are plotless. You just go in there and have a huge list of achievements to check off. 10-30+ press-F-to-win entries that have all the meaning of… what? Why am I gathering random crystals? Why fix signs? Why approach hologram generators? WHY?
– Maybe there is a why, but other than the signs of Flame & Frost, it was never told inworld. And then we have to run a race that is there for… what? Why am I playing Mario Kart? What’s the story connection? And then I have to meet a series of random Skritt hanging out in caves and mountain tops next to kites… why?

Where the heck is my lore here?

I love the lore of Guild Wars, stop making me feel like its a ‘dumb game’ I am hassled into playing…

Oh I guess I missed that interview… I was too busy looking for the story, the lore; IN THE FREAKING GAME!!!

The living story is a severe disappointment to me. I see no story or plot in it. People tell me things like “But Commander Keen, she’s the next major NPC, and we’re going to vote for her and all this and that…” and I go inworld and wonder where all that is.

Then I remember that to understand what the fuzz is going on round here, I need to log out/tab out and read a website and watch a twitch recording of a livestream Q&A interview…


Ok, so maybe I am blown away, as in, blown off of my love of this game like being rudely tossed down a hill.

Whatever happened to the people who made Guild Wars 1? Can we rehire some of them?

This game plays a lot better, but at least that game had internal consistency and story.

This is a setting that is rich with vibrant lore. Just a few things we’re ignoring:

  • The war between the humans and that charr – that seems frozen at a treaty negotiation in the Fields of Ruin.
  • The mystery of the second Pale Tree
  • The White Mantle still being active.
  • The Dwarves, their ruins, and tales of their last days.
  • The Tengu.
  • The dragons, lest we forget what this game was supposed to be about…

But look back to Guild Wars 1 and there is so much more:

and so much more…

Mostly the more. Frankly I never liked the Dragons plotline, so I’m not awaiting it coming back… but at least it IS core lore, and I’d rather it than… unrelated things that seem out of sync with the setting like sky-hippies.

Remember when PandaVille was announced for WoW and people were complaining that there was still so much left in the existing lore… the Titans, The Emerald Dream, the this or that…

Now Guild Wars 2 is like that every 2 weeks…

Context-lacking smack-yo-butt-across-the-stage drop of ‘click F to win’ in bulk… that moves the setting all of nowhere, moves the lore all of nothing, and neatly resolves by the end with a tiny tiny tiny piece to feed into the next part… because they’re all written in isolation so all that team B knows of team A is that ‘Commander Keen is alive at the end and will be ready for a handoff to promote to progress step 3.’

What is the point?

Ok yeah, its a game. Stop caring and just play. But with no lore left, no story and no living in this “living story”, what makes this any different from Pitfall or Pacman?

It took WoW 8 years from launch to give up on exploring its core and background lore and just go “hey, dude, kung fu pandas and ninjas, people would buy that right?”

Guild Wars 2 is less than a year old, and its already reached that point… and we actually more background lore than WoW.

This is just sad.

In a MMORPG, Like Bhagpuss, the ‘G’ is the letter I least care about… Give me the RP, and some MMO, and a world.


12 thoughts on “Blown away…? Blown off… GW2 Living Story is not.

  1. I thought the Zephyrites were pretty deep with lore. A decent amount of things were answered or explained.

    But, I mostly agree with your sentiment. There needs to be a bigger overarching story between “vignettes” of Living World updates that is more clear. Combine that with the amount of “game” they’ve been adding, and I think things will be significantly better.

    • I still have no idea who these Zephyrites are or why they showed up. Likewise the Aetherblade. If it was answered somewhere, I missed it completely.

      They just feel like random “drunk conversation between two geeks about steampunk skyships” content fillers.

      • Just a thought. There are Herald NPCs dotted around every city. They provide most of the basics of each LS storyline, and most of the NPCs involved have something to say, filling you in gradually, without any info overload.

        All that on top of the ingame letter you receive with each update.

      • I’ve clicked on those heralds before. And been hit with a wall of text that sometmes has but often lacks any context to any of the activities around me. So I’ve just ignored them of late.

        Clicked a few last night – and they had nothing to do with the steampunk sky people around me.

        Granted yes, they do have relevant lore to the setting now. I’ll give you half the point for that. I’ll agree that there is “something” there…

        But its tell, rather than show.

        First lesson in any writing workshop is that you need to show your audience what is going on, not tell them. That’s even more true in something inter-active. If the lore IS moving forward, show me: make me part of it. Don’t tell me, by having me do meaningless stuff while the lore moves forward in walls of text from NPCs. NPCs who are often not even involved in my actions.

        Kiel and Canach had walls of text too – and the closest they came to show was a “tell” scene at the end of Canach’s dungeon. Otherwise, those two only gave their lore and purpose during ‘downtime moments’ like reading letters from them.

        Compare this with a Story dungeon, or the F&F dungeon – where I learned what was occurring by playing through it and having cut scenes where what just occurred or was just about to occur was discussed. That’s closer to show (and the F&F dungeon was a much better example, as the Story dungeon cutscenes take you out of the action, and are thus closer to tell. The F&F dungeon was their best current example of show).

  2. I think you’re being more than a little harsh. None of the Living Story content is simply resolved in two weeks like an episode of Star Trek. Flame & Frost alone dragged on for about two or three months, and some of its effects carried on over to the Southsun arc. Add to that the fact that it’s all adding permanent lore and content with each update. They’ve introduced factions, killed off characters, altered zone landscapes with new events and jumping puzzles etc.

    It’s no harder to understand the backstory than it was the core campaign itself, either. After all, you had to read the manual or one of the many websites that hosted the story of the 250 years between Guild Wars 1 and Guild Wars 2, right? Is there a difference? Not really, I reckon. I’ve had no problem following any of the Living Story content so far.

    I also don’t think they’ve forgotten the existing lore either (There’s a Zephyrite that tells the story of Glint’s sacrifice to a group of children, for example), but at the same time, they can’t expect players to just trawl through personal story after personal story either. Especially not with Trahearne going special snowflake on you every time. They need to keep players interested, and this ongoing story may just be the best way to maintain interest. And what’s to say they aren’t working on LS content that may, for example, open up the Dominion of Winds? What’s to say that, as well as the four LS teams they now have on board, they don’t have people dedicated to expanding the game proper to deal with the remaining Elder Dragons?

    As for the election Fractals, I’m pretty sure the possibility of the losing Fractal ever seeing the light of day, even after some time after the winner, was completely written off by ANet, on account of adding it serving only to cheapen the current election. Whether they stick to that remains to be seen, though.

  3. While there is some merit to your complaints (and some which is always going to be by personal opinion, but that’s the nature of things), something I find strange about a lot of the commentary around this is the idea that we’re not progressing the story unless we’re slaying dragons. I know video games are often a progression of major boss fights until the world is saved, but I think part of what makes Tyria a living world for me is that we don’t kill Elder Dragon after Elder Dragon in a flawless progression. It’s going to take the Pact months – at least! – to work their way to preparations for taking on another dragon. Part of the living world idea is real time. Everyday life continues between the big things.

    Plus, while I’d love to see progress in, say, the Ebonhawke truce situation, I’m also aware that changing that up too much at this point would cause them a lot of problems. Think about all the personal story, in fact the entirety of Fields of Ruin, which would be made invalid! I hope they will re-create Fields of Ruin one day to fit a changing truce situation, but I think waiting at least a year before they remove, transform or re-purpose zones from launch is reasonable. Personal story is more complicated; do we claim the instances happen earlier than current in-world time? How do we express that? Do we instead modify story instances to fit current events? What does that mean for the timeline of Zhaitan vs. everything else?

    Essentially, the living world ambition does not always sit well with the core levelling content (which is comparatively static). I don’t know how they’ll solve this. In the meantime, I still consider what’s going on in Tyria as story – just not epic quest fantasy story. Why does it have to be?

    • Well the dragons were just one example for me.

      There is a lot of lore left untapped, and I just rattled off the things on the top of my head. We’ve got almost a decade of lore though – and to me it feels like its being ignored to instead chase after short stories that do little to move the needle and link-back in only the most minor of ways.

      The pace is just lethal to being able to keep up (this is a whole different rant that I had tabled), too much of what is present is presented out of world rather than in, and its disjointed. Not a continuing story, but fragmented pieces of ‘what’ with marginal tie ins – hooks between – rather than a steady continuation.

      I got through all of Prophesies and most of Factions and Nightfall without reading any lore on any website. My extent of external readings was looking up builds, chatting in forums, and seeking advice over wipes.

      Everything I know about the story of GW1 game from playing the game, with some filler after GW2 had launched by watching Wooden Potatoes videos.

      In GW2, most of the living story hasn’t even been in world – its been in short stories about this or that NPC on the website. Playing in game, there is nothing to tell me why I am doing half of what my character is asked to do…

      – That’s sloppy.

      But when its combined with chapters that have only the slimmest of connection to each other, its just bad.

      When all of that has little reference back to the core lore…

      Its a Kung Fu Panda moment…

      They don’t need to focus on the dragons. Personally I have no interest there… though it is a major piece of the middle-old lore (GW1 Eye of the North). But they should be using something, or something more, or something more obvious…

  4. There are several things I think you’re missing in this critique of the game. First, all the ideas you’ve mentioned they’re missing are much too big for 2 week, 1 month, or even 4 month story cycles. In Guild Wars, it took entire separate games to introduce Cantha and Elona. With what we know happened between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, there is no way they should use a two week story arc to reintroduce Cantha, the second pale tree, or any of the other dragons. In fact, I’d be mad if they did because it would be a huge disservice to the grandeur of those story lines. I’m happy they’re keeping the two week stuff to lighter, previously unexplored stories because they’re building the world of GW2. Yes, there’s already a lot of GW lore there, but I think there’s plenty of room for them to grow the world as well as revisit older lore as time goes on. It took ANet a year to come out with Factions after Prophecies with only Sorrow’s Furnace in between. We should be happy we’ve gotten tons of new content, as well as 2 holiday festivals so far in the first year of GW2.

    Second, I missed Flame and Frost because I was mucking about with other games, but when I picked up with the new Southsun content, I had no problem following what was going on with the story from just in-game content. The instanced parts of it, as well as the conversations with NPCs in the world gave me enough information to see what was going on with the story without looking anything up on the web. We have to pay attention to what’s going on in the world with GW2. Stop and listen to the color dialogues between NPCs. Talk to some of them directly. Go through all the instances and cut-scenes each update brings. There’s enough story in there to explain what’s going on. That said, if you’re interested in the MMO and the RP and not the G, then what’s the problem with tabbing out to get information? I’m someone who likes the G: doing things in the game, running around killing things and harvesting, doing jumping puzzles and completing events. RP in text and emotes can get stuffed, I don’t care for it. As for MMO, that’s great in WvW and as a pool for sPvP, but in PvE it’s just me soloing or running around with 1 or 2 friends. But I have no problem spending some time reading about the story elsewhere. It’s all personal preference, but I think for you to say that GW2 is jumping the shark already because your tastes don’t fit the way it’s going is a misplaced sentiment.

    The other part of this is that they are still figuring out how they’re going to build out the Living Story from a technical and storytelling tools standpoint. You can see how they’re testing things out and trying different ways of bringing in story. I’m betting they want to work the kinks out before they try to pull any of the bigger, more important stories into the Living Story framework so they don’t bungle it. I’d rather wait another six months to have them use well oiled tools to build the story of the White Mantle, or continue the peace talks between Charr and Human, than have them rush it out in a way that leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouths.

    • I’m interested in being immersed in a world. So tabbing out to find out what is going on around me in that world is my worst option.

      As for the example I provided being too big for these updates, I AGREE.

      Its one reason I think these updates are short-sighted and the worst way to support the game. I thought they were a cool idea when announced, but when I learned they planned them INSTEAD of larger patches, I was horrified. In this short and quick format, you cannot move things forward because you don’t have the space for substantial lore events like a new dragon, a new continent, or even a full-sized new zone (the skyship comes close though – but its stretched the limit for a lot of people on what can be burned through in 2-weeks/4-weeks while also having a real life job… To do so can easily lead a lot of people to feeling burned out and ‘on a task to do homework’ rather than able to sit back and enjoy).

      As for jumping the shark – I say that because the content they are putting in now has such poor relation back to the setting lore, if any. And often violates it – such as the Flame Legion and Dredge alliance. Two groups with opposing philosophies that logically could not work together.

      And now, they’re on to sky pirates and steampunk – with humans who are happy go lucky peaceniks… after we have been told humanity is a race on the decline from centuries of brutal warfare that has adopted a siege mentality.

      Its a jump the shark moment to throw in such off-the-wall humans as if ‘nothing was ever wrong.’ It feels like having the Star Trek Enterprise show up in the middle of watching Game of Thrones.
      – Maybe not that severe, but in that direction.

  5. YAY!!! I love a good rant

    Storytelling has never been guild wars 2 strong point unfortunately. In the personal story there are so many issues with storytelling and the general flow but at least it was consistent throughout. They have decent ideas but they are so disconnected from the core of Guild Wars to be effectively meaningless. I wouldn’t say it is like watching an episode of Scooby Doo, it at least has an ongoing theme as well as a certain familiar structure. It would be more like tuning in to watch an episode of Scooby Doo and getting the Simpsons family popping out of the van and having a zany adventure instead.

    I’m one of those players who never really reads up on the lore, it interests me to an extent but I’m not going to go out of my way to read it but I actually know enough of the basic setting in Guild Wars 2 to understand the dungeons, fractals, dynamic events and such. I enjoy how the world with’s its diverse themes, interest groups and conflict and just how cohesive it feels.. this just feels, like you said “They just feel like random drunk conversation between two geeks”

    I love the lore here, in it imaginative and deep but maybe that is the problem now. Given the time-frame for these updates and the how the teams are relatively isolated from each other they don’t have the time to make it more connected to the world and other updates.

    From your average player who doesn’t bother reading alternative sights for cues about these updates the content I’m playing has no motive or overarching themes behind it and no point beyond checking off an achievement point. The content is no longer engaging in the way it should be because of it. There is only so much random kill and collect quests you can do without a reason before you give up.

    • The time frame of the updates is definitely harming the ability to develop and even use the lore.

      While each team gets 4 months, and then releases a month of content – the nature of 4 teams working like this all simultaneously has caused them to have the episodic nature I see – where there is not enough tie between elements.

      A striking example right now is the Charr candidate in the elections. Evon Gnashblade. We are told, “now that you have been working with these two for some time…” but we haven’t. We barely know Evon. He was introduced in the sky-hippy chapter right before. He’s been sitting in Lion’s Arch ALL THIS TIME since beta weekends, but as an NPC with barely any dialog. So he’s a stranger in the same sense as the guy you might see in line ahead of you at Starbucks every morning…

      – I almost feel as if this team though a prior team was going to use him more…

      He is just the one top of my head example. This kind of weak tie in between chapters is endemic of the format.

      Its a format that makes it hard to work with lore as everything comes in such small quickly developed packets, each of which has to be able to mostly stand on its own. Lore is the kind of thing that isn’t meant to stand on its own…

  6. WoW totally skipped the entire plot arc of The Emerald Dream (they tossed it into a book you get to buy if you want to know how all those in-game plot threads building up to it turned out). To me, that’s an unpardonable sin for a MMORPG, and GW2 is guilty of it on a smaller scale because important backstory and context for Living Story chapters are posted in short-story form on their official blog; you will not get that information by actually PLAYING the content. It’s a failure of storytelling that gets presented as some kind of genius ‘mulitmedia story presentation’ when it’s really just them failing to do the job right within their game.

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