Thursday, 6 October 2011

[GW2] Maintaining a Little Perspective

In a recent post over at KTR, Zubon reposted a comment he received from a Guild Wars 2 fan after he bemoaned the state of a number of MMOs. The commenter listed every feature of the upcoming game as if it will solve every single problem he had brought up. Zubon rightly pointed out the short sightedness of doing this before the product has even been released – and highlighted the (I'm sorry to say it) arrogance which seems to have built up around the game. I believe that the point of the post was somewhat lost in the proceeding 30 or so comments, but the point Zubon (and Syncaine) is trying to make is interesting to note.
I think it is important to remember that the game which solves every single problem is an “Ideal Type” – a platonic concept, an unobtainable ideal. Max Weber argued that certain concepts were so perfect that they couldn’t possibly exist in real life and so were only good as a tool for comparison.

For example, take the ideal family. We all know that every family has problems (however little or petty). So, the happily married parents with 2.4 children, a white picket fence and a dog ideal simply doesn’t exist – but you don’t know where your family (with its drug abuse, manic depression and nick-nack hoarding) fits into the picture unless you have that ideal as a concept against which to compare. I think this is a concept that some GW2 fans need to grasp.

The way the game is often spoken about on forum posts and blogs you would think that it had been out for years, had been play-tested to infinity, proven to be completely and utterly flawless and the employees of ArenaNet had been crowned as Supreme Rulers of the Multiverse and given ultimate control over all proceeding and preceding (assuming they also included the solution to time travel in the first expansion pack) peoples.

This is not the case. So, I wonder whether some people might benefit from a bit of perspective.

I’m not asking people not to be excited about the game (that would shooting myself in the foot somewhat), I’m just asking them to bear in mind that until the game hits the shelves, we can’t be sure what it will be like. And until we can be sure, please also bear in mind that if we are going to roll Guild Wars 2 out on a trolley every time any debate about MMOs occurs people are going to get very tired of it very quickly and those people who aren’t as excited about the release of the game as us are going to get rather irritated that we are stifling their conversations by almost touting GW2 as the be all and end all. So, until then, the concept of Guild Wars 2 as the perfect game exists as only an “ideal type”; unobtainable, non-existent and only useful as a tool for comparison. We've got a great community here, but I do think we have to be careful.

Ps. Then again, if the game exists in an unobservable vacuum (unobservable by us, at least) then we could argue that it is a sort of “Schrodinger’s MMO” and, as such, exists in a state of perfection and imperfection simultaneously.


  1. So, I was discussing some of the latest information / videos on GW2 with a close friend of mine (a man I've known for more decades than most current gamers have actually been alive.) and the phone call ended on a weirdly pessimistic / optimistic note;

    ME: "We're just going to have to wait and see how they handle that after the game is released (referring to a potential problem with the "downed state" in PvP the we had been discussing) but, even if it does turn out to be a problem it would be relatively easy to tweak."

    HIM: "Ya, I'm sure they would fix it if there was an uproar about it.  You know though, I really don't care at this point.  Even if ANet only gets half of what they're trying to do spot on right at launch, I'm going to give them time to fix it, because they are shooting for SO MUCH.  It'd be unrealistic for them to get all of it, but even half will be better than anything out there right now."

    At that point I basically agreed with him and the phone call ended.

    The simple fact of the matter is; not everyone has played over a decade of what I call the "old paradigm" MMOGs.  There are always young folks coming into the genre for the first time, and games like RIFT and SW:TOR look awesome if you're viewing them with fresh eyes.  The folks who are the majority of readers of blogs and MMO forums tend to be the more grizzled veterans with the "BTDT" T-shirts, and we're the ones who look at something like GW2 as if it were the first ray of hope we've seen... because to us it is.

    Let the kiddos grab their copy of SWTOR and rave about how great the trinity class mechanics are, and how fantastic the quest system is... cuz it really is for them.  I don't begrudge them the same experience I enjoyed with EQ, Vanguard and WOW.  I also have no interest in joining them because I've already logged my thousands of hours in the quest grind and gear grind machines.

    It's precisely BECAUSE of those hours of gameplay that I am a "zealot" for GW2 sight unseen.  As my friend put it, if they even get half of what I'm hearing about into the game at launch it will be so different, and so much better than what I have played before that I will be thrilled beyond description.

    For those young folks who have only played trinity based games for a couple of months, or at most a couple of years, and you think the grizzled old vets are going on and on about GW2 too much... just wait... you'll get there eventually.

    The simple facts are; GW2 is different.  Its so different that it seem like quite a few folks have difficulty just wrapping their heads around it.  Anyone who has ever suffered "burn out" in a trinity based game will pounce on GW2 like it was a life preserver with no land in sight.

  2. a little copy/paste from someone who recently became a fan read up on the game:

    I'm looking forward to this game cos it brings people together. The
    creators pay much attention of the social aspect of the game. You don't
    argue in this game on things you used to in other games. We all know
    these behaviours we come across on the net:
    - We all know these
    conceptions: "kill steal", "ninja loot" etc. There are no such things in
    this game. Just look the reward and the event system!
    There will be no more people who tells you what should you play and how
    cos the holy trinity is over. No more you should play healer, or tank,
    or dps or you are a noob. Everybody will be self sufficient.
    No more elitists who drop you from the squad cos you are noob and don't
    know the quest. You can join any group any time and leave whenever you
    want without penalty. The events will scale to the number of the players
    present. Nicer people will be happy for you even if you are noob cos
    the event you joined will be more epic.
    - No more annoying
    spammers shouting in towns: want to sell, want to buy, looking for
    group or advertise goldfarming homepages, etc. There will be a very
    special auction house where you can post what you need and what you want
    to sell. You don't have to ask parties to join just go and follow them!
    If they don't like you or you don't like them just stop following them
    and look for nicer people without arguing! If I stumble upon a player
    who is irritating I do this: ignore-squelch-report 1 or 2 sec. Problem
    solved. In this game it is really this simple cos the options to find
    nicer people to play with is enourmous. No party limit, no holy trinity,
    self sufficient characters, scaling events.
    There are so
    many situations wich are completly cleared out from this game where you
    have the chance to argue or quarrel with other players.

    well, he's not wrong here.

  3. just read the offending post, those are facts. i think someone's just mad.

  4. I think you've all misunderstood the purpose of this post. In no way am I saying that GW2 will not acheive everything it has set out to do, I'm not saying people shouldn't have faith that ANet can deliver on what they say the game will be.

    What I AM saying is that if the only thing we are going to do when a debate around MMOs crops up is wheel out GW2 on a trolley as an example of the messiah then the debate cannot go anywhere. It's stubborn and it stifles conversation.

    In fact, what you've done, reality, is do exactly what my post is trying to address. You're exactly right, GW2 probably will be all those things, and I hope it is! But why on earth are you telling me?! I, like most MMO fans, know all of the tenets of ANets coming masterpiece, I don't need them listing out in front of me.

  5. I think it's less religious-style fervor and more an observation that a lot of people really do not know about Guild Wars 2's existence or what it purports to do (the number of people who assume it will be GW1 reskinned, or is a Korean grinder due to the NCSoft banner, or think it's an FTP of the Asian style, etc. is high if you visit MMO forums). These ambush, wall-of-text posts read more to me as an attempt to inform rather than convert.

    Though I hold my tongue more often than not, it's difficult to keep silent when you see people complaining about (or defending as necessary to the genre) features that GW2 is making an attempt to rectify or remove. Will GW2 be as successful at addressing the issues as we hope it will? Of course, we have no way to know until real people have plunked down real money and tried their darnedest to break the game.

    But I don't think that's a reason to let people persist in their confidence that such a game doesn't exist or cannot be made, even if all we learn from GW2 is that change is bad (and at the risk of sounding like a fangirl, I feel the chances of this happening are very slim, if only due to the demonstrated adaptability of ArenaNet).



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