How Guild Wars 2 Will Fix Problems Plaguing Traditional MMORPGs
The Problems Plaguing Traditional MMORPGs
These are the problems, in no particular order, that are plaguing current MMORPGs. Without fail, they surface time and time again in many new MMOs. Guild Wars 2 confronts the pink elephant in the room and is a sign that at least someone is listening to common player concerns.
The Endless Level Grind
Yes! You've finally reached level 40 after killing 651 possessed Scarecrows. Now what? Oh dear, it looks like you will have to kill yet another 623 Dark-Two-Headed-Anteaters to climb your way up to the plateau that is the next level. Sure, some games will attempt to disguise this grind by giving you beat-around-the-bush type quests, but these quests are nothing more than kill A or retrieve X from monster A quests, inevitably requiring you to kill more monsters.
There are games out there that try to address this problem. Some developers of more recent games realize how much grinding can be a pain in the backside and have developed alternatives or, more accurately put, tweaks to the level grinding issue. One notable example is the game Rift. Through clever game design, Rift developers have concocted a way to alleviate much of the grind that accompanies MMORPGs. If you haven't guessed by now, the game utilizes rifts--portals that send forth waves of monsters which you must defeat.
These rifts are a godsend among the MMO world as it willingly tackles the grinding problem head on. Players looking for an alternative from slaying seemingly harmless Pink Bunnies for hours can join others in defeating rift invasions in the game Rift. As bravely as it tries, however, Rift still becomes a grind. You will eventually get bored of rifts after defeating many waves only for them to relentlessly spawn again and again.
How Guild Wars 2 Will Alleviate the Level Grind
Everyone accepts the known fact that leveling is pretty much required to keep players coming back. Uninspired developers will dish out 'content' at an alarming rate to justify why people should pay those 15 bucks a month (Guild Wars 2 has no such fee). I emphasize the word content because it isn't really content. It's more quests that require more monster slaying which leads to more grinding. Despite level grinds being a necessary evil, many are starting to realize that it is not required to retain a healthy population.
Guild Wars 2 plans to eliminate this problem by making leveling interactive and fun; you no longer have to read short stories for every quest--you ARE the story. To quote Mike O'Brien (big papa of ArenaNet):
"Some games mostly tell story through quest text. But we’ve all clicked so many exclamation points and accepted so many quests in our lives that we’re pretty immune to quest text at this point. GW2 tells story by allowing the player to befriend and adventure with key characters, by presenting him with moral dilemmas that will impact the lives of the people around him, and by having him live through world-changing events and all the key moments of the storyline."
As stated so eloquently by big papa MOB, GW2 will focus mainly on having you play the game (a novel idea!) by being submerged in its world and, as a side effect, progress as the world progresses. The key idea here is that you will be so immersed in the dynamic events on Tyria that you (hopefully) won't even realize you are grinding. Some might argue that Guild Wars 2's innovative dynamic questing is just a pretty mask placed on a, well, ugly face. Objection! While a pretty mask can be removed at any time to reveal the unsightliness, GW2 is beyond that. What it is doing for the industry is that it's setting a new standard. Wise developers of MMOs after GW2 will have no choice but to meet the standards or, better yet, improve upon it. GW2 isn't simply a mask but rather an entire facial transplant for the genre. Okay, so this is getting rather grotesque but hopefully you understand what I'm trying to say.
Guild Wars 2 also plans to eliminate the tediousness of grinding by reinventing the leveling curve. The industry standard now is that you have to invest exponentially more time as you level up. This is especially true at higher levels: What once took you 15 minutes to gain a level now takes you four hours. I refuse to believe that this type of leveling is supposed to take me so long just because I'm at endgame. Doing the same thing I did 30 levels ago but 16 times in duration doesn't equate to a challenge; it equates to a boring grind fest. GW2 acknowledges this problem and plans to solve it by implementing a flat leveling curve. To put it briefly, it will take about the same time to level up from 31 to 32 as it will from 79 to 80. Another solution that goes hand-in-hand with this solution is called a dynamic event, which is a fancy way of saying an interactive quest. The video below gives you a very good feel of what dynamic events will be like.
Your Character's Actions Have No Impact on the World
Ever felt like you were just another character running around in a world where there are thousands of other players also running around doing, quintessentially, nothing? This is another problem plaguing traditional MMORPGs. You don't feel like you've made any impact on the poor farmer whose field was just raided by Venomous Spidermonkeys much less on the world in which your character lives. Your actions never lead to a chained reaction. It stops when you hit that Accept button in your quest completion dialogue box.
What about that epic boss that you just took almost half an hour to defeat? Well, it looks like he'll be respawning in about nine minutes. I've even had the misfortune of a duplicate boss respawning three feet away from the one I was currently fighting. Yes, my character met quite a grisly death, and it killed the immersion for me.
How Guild Wars 2 Will Allow You to Make an Impact
It's understandable why developers must keep content stagnant. How would new players be able to complete the same quests that old players have already completed if the quests have changed? I'm sure many developers have rattled their brains trying to figure out this problem so I'm not going to pretend like I know the solution...because I don't. But the Guild Wars 2 team is definitely on to something.
One particular example that comes to mind is an event detailed by the Guild Wars 2 development team. This event suggests you save a village from being pillaged by violent Centaurs. The option is completely up to you, though. You may choose to not save the village or you can band together with nearby players and help defend the village. If you choose to ignore the plea for help, then the village might just fall to the hands of the Centaurs. If it does, then available NPCs in that village will die and you won't have access to useful things like vendors and bars. If you decide to spare the village from the Centaurs' stampede, then the village is intact and you get rewards for your service. The event also cascades into more chains so your actions can potentially have very far reaching ramifications. These events will make it feel as if your character is important, and that he's not just another bedraggled oaf with a club beating senselessly on swift-footed Tigerbunnies.
Predefined Character Roles and How it Stifles Gameplay
Your entire party has prepared for this fight for weeks now. You have every role whose presence is required: a tank, a healer and two damage dealers. You are the healer. The battle begins after you cast a flurry of precious buffs to preserve your teammates. These buffs don't last forever so you certainly have to keep recasting them throughout the fight. No problem, you think to yourself, and the battle commences as your warrior shouts a taunt at the nearest mob. As expected, four more mobs charge your way. Your stomach churns as you suddenly realize that something is wrong. Terribly wrong. You forgot to equip your anti-aggro spell onto your skillbar. This spell is vitally important as it will ensure that no monsters will attack you, the most precious party member. Your fears turn into reality as the boss in the background makes a beeline for you and kills you with one quick flash of its scythe. You are dead. One after the other, your party members drop.
Consider another scenario: You just got a really interesting quest that you would like to complete right away. There's one thing you must do first, however. You have to gather a party in order to complete this quest, and that party must consist of diversified roles. You wait and wait and wait but that one priest that you need never shows up. You disband the party and log off dissatisfied.
This may not have happened to you personally, but I can assure you that situations similar to these happen all the time. That's why we have so many hilarious videos on YouTube pertaining to things like the first scenario (Leeroy Jenkins and the Onyxia Wipe come to mind). Strict class roles like these lead players to play in a very linear fashion, and also create unnecessary stress.
How Guild Wars 2 Will Affect Gameplay by Eliminating Predefined Character Roles
Every character now has a resurrection skill. Yes, every single class can now resurrect players. You won't have to rely on a healer to fulfill that role in Guild Wars 2. Your warrior friend can help you back on your feet if he's readily available. Every class can also heal itself. Every class also has its own damage mitigation skills. The doing away with predetermined class roles allows players to perform at their best instead worrying if the warrior has enough energy to taunt or the priest has enough energy to heal. This will encourage creativity amongst party formation and hopefully place an equal party value on every class, not just one or two.
Players will also have a chance to fight for survival once they are in a downed state. Your set of survival skills will depend on which class you take. For instance, a warrior might throw rocks at the enemy to hopefully deliver a killing blow. From any perspective, diversified roles are a much needed change in the genre.
Though some may say that other games have already attempted such innovations, I believe that no other game has gone about it with as much conviction and enthusiasm as Guild Wars 2. After playing Guild Wars for many years on and off, I can safely say that ANet is a good company, and they do deliver on their promises.
If I want you to take anything away from this article, I want you to take this message: Do not settle. An unacknowledged reason why many new MMORPGs fail to break the mold is in large part due to the players. They do not want more. They are happy with the status quo. We should have high expectations for these future titles, and we should support games that give an honest effort at innovation. That, in my opinion, will be the future of gaming.