Staying Ahead of the Curve

Over the past several months I’ve had computer issues, job issues, etc, and these almost always end up hitting just before a major content update.  This has gotten me thinking about a problem that has always plagued me: staying ahead of the content curve.  Specifically I’m referring to being able to complete all the available content I want to do before new content is added, and it’s an eternal pain in my side that has haunted me as long as I’ve played MMOs.

See, MMOs are essentially a living thing if done right.  Except for dying games, or some games pretty much on life support like Vanguard: SOH was until recently, the developers tend to release new content or updates for players to do.  Whether it be a new dungeon, new zones, or more quests, the point is to give more things to the players so they don’t get too bored and leave (a real problem for most subscription games).

Probably the biggest challenge here is that different types of players churn through content at different rates.  Some players can go through the tasks extremely quickly whereas others take years, and this reflects a wide range of variables such as time available, skill level, or just how much time they spend “smelling the roses” (ahem).  This means developers must strike a balance point on the amount of content to give enough to do, stereotypically between “casual” and “hardcore” players.  I refer to myself as more “time limited”, but that usually puts me in the “casual” camp.

I’ve always been behind the content curve, always playing catch-up.  It’s hard not to feel left out, which is a problem in what is supposed to be a social game.  Continue reading

The Nature of Dynamic Events – ArenaNet’s Hat Trick

As stated in my previous post, Dynamic Events are the primary form of content in Guild Wars 2.  I say this with almost total certainty, in fact.  Primary content in an MMO should become more plentiful as you become higher level, because you are more capable and expect more.  As we learned recently, there are no renown areas in Orr (the majority of the high level zones in GW2 are in Orr), yet there are twice as many Dynamic Events in these high level areas.  In addition, there are far more Dynamic Events than other types of content (over 1500 events as of a year ago and still growing).

What are Dynamic Events though, and why move to this?  This type of content fascinates me, not only with the flexibility of the content, but also how events seem to take benefits of previous forms and remove the problems with those forms of content.  Everyone has probably played a game where there were some aspects they really liked, but it also had problems that really soured the experience.

There’s a pretty awesome video of a panel ArenaNet did in 2010 at GDC Europe where they describe the whole Dynamic Event system, how they came to this setup, and things they learned early on.  Give it a look, it’s really enlightening into the whole process even if one or two aspects may not have made it to current iterations.  Of particular value (to me, at least) is their descriptions of the first two eras of MMO content (starting at 1:05, or the Hunting and Questing sections), and their benefits and problems. Continue reading

Dynamic Events and the Subtle Training of Questing

Ever since the BWEs started, there’s been plenty of discussion about the game and how everything works out for the players.  Between the new combat system, overflow servers, new event system, fast travel, personal story, etc there’s a lot of things that can possibly go wrong.  One thing definitely comes up a lot though, and that’s the fact that it’s possible to 100% complete an area yet still not be leveled up enough to move on to the next area.

On the world map there are five items that are tracked: waypoints, points of interest, skill challenges, renown areas (hearts), and the new vistas.  There are a limited number of these on each map and they are all one-time completions.  This makes these items very good for completion tracking, so it makes sense they would do this.  However, there’s a problem that has been rearing it’s ugly head for a while now, and it has to do with the interaction between these completion goals and how dynamic events work. Continue reading