Just before Christmas four years ago I sent my wife a message saying, “alright… go ahead and get me Guild Wars 2 for Christmas, babe!”. It was a bit of a lark, but I had read about the game when it was in beta and watched some videos of it since and I really liked the open-ended world and several other important things that most people would likely find mundane. And then for the next 3 years I barely played it at all lol… As much as I really liked many of its game play systems and how I admired the visual and audio beauty of it all, I found it very difficult to “get into” and I ended up doing other things instead. I didn’t get a character passed level 30 until sometime in 2015…
When the Wintersday festival started in 2015 I logged in to see what it was all about and I discovered there were a few fun dailies activities to do. Playing with them got me back in touch with the game play systems that I feel are excellent refinements on the MMO model. Coming from a person who loved all versions of Star Wars Galaxies, that’s high praise in itself, but I’m also a person who has been designing and testing game play systems for many years, so for me to see systems in Guild Wars 2 as improvements to the MMO genre as a whole is significant. And for me, these improvements are truly the heart and soul of why I bother playing the game.
What are these systems exactly? In no particular order they are,
- 250 Unit storage for crafting materials
- Being able to put materials into said storage from anywhere
- A unified auction house to buy and sell items
- Being able to buy and sell items from anywhere
- Being able to pickup an auction item from anywhere using a consumable NPC item
- A system of daily activities that rewarded a wide variety of play styles
- Every map is always useful, because not only does your character’s level get adjusted to match the zone, the loot and XP you earn often matches your real level
- Almost everything one can do generates XP, so you can level doing what you actually enjoy doing
- Quests and events are open and shared with all people who are around
- Enemy NPCs and creatures are shared with everyone and will grant loot to anyone who damages them, thus encouraging players to help each other
- There are a multitude of dynamic events on the maps, with story and voice acting elements. Some are event chains, but each portion grants a reward so you’re not forced to do the whole thing if you don’t have time
- Loot is picked up in an area around you by pressing F
- Resource nodes are unique per account, so other people’s activity (particularly cheating bots…) doesn’t negatively impact one’s ability to collect resources
- There are many different resource nodes on the maps, making it fun to just wander and explore between them
- The crafting system automatically pulls from your inventory, bank, and material storage
- The crafting system shows you all the components and quantities you need for every item in the crafting interface
- The crafting system has a discovery aspect that allows you to learn new recipes
- The Mystic Forge is a nice refinement of the Chu Gon Dar Cube from Star Wars Galaxies
- There aren’t any skill trainers and leveling is automatic
- The weapon and armor upgrade system (sigils/runes) is simple and effective
- The player stats are well laid out, make a lot of sense, and translate well into the game mechanics and the gear
- Physically dodging to avoid damage
- Not requiring “tab targeting” to shoot enemies
- Nearby players share area of effect bonuses even without being in a group
- Underwater combat and exploration is well done and enjoyable
- The balance of voice acting and reading is very well done
- There are lots of ambient creatures and NPCs wandering around doing things, which really brings the world to life
- The skills and UI layout is mostly consistent through all the classes and variations are as consistent as possible with the general theme, effectively avoiding the need to relearn the UI and controls when playing new classes
- One can open the map and travel to any waypoint in the world instantly
- XP gained after reaching max level is converted into items that can be useful to all of your characters, including the max level chacacter
- Max level open world content is in addition to existing content, rather than replacing it (unlike WoW where new content is higher level, making the older content useless)
As mundane and unlikely as it may seem to non-mmo players, the above are 99.999% of the reasons why I purchased Guild Wars 2 in the first place. However, when you take a step back and compare that list to Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft (two MMOs that I have spent thousands of hours playing), it’s easy to see how that it’s actually a massive amount of “quality of life” improvements which positively impact almost every moment of game play! Hard to ignore or downplay.
So, that’s why it makes me so utterly dumbfounded and so thoroughly annoyed when ArenaNet (the folks who make Guild Wars 2) decides to remove some of the awesome things that I listed above. Unfortunately this has happened time and again over the years, especially in relation to the daily activities. And as I just discovered today, “upgrading” your account to their Heart of Thorns expansion FORCES yet another completely stupid, totally unnecessary removal of daily content!
Yup, despite the reality that with my play style I literally have no use at all for 100% of the new maps in Heart of Thorns and somewhere near 90% of the rest of the content, I decided a day or two before Christmas, again on a lark, to buy the Heart of Thorns expansion. Why would I do that when for the last year since it was released I knew I wouldn’t use much of it? Well, you see it went on sale at BestBuy in Canada, pushing the farsical and greedy $70 CND to a more reasonable $40 CND, and in the holiday spirit I was feeling generous, wishing to show some support for ArenaNet (given how Guild Wars 2 doesn’t require a subscription and I used to be happy to pay an MMO subscription). So, I bought their expansion, doing my small part to boost their sales figures for holiday season.
Boy did that blow up in my face!
The one thing that I actually like doing (and I think I have Blizzard and their Isle of Quel’Danas to thank…) is the daily PvE activities in Tyria. These dailies are a small list of “things you can normally do”, such as completing events and viewing vistas, that will grant you some useful extra rewards each and 2 gold for completing four of them. Literally the only reason I bother playing the game is to do these dailies and most of my income is from that 2 gold a day. I don’t raid, I don’t do dungeons, I don’t PvP, and hate (and can’t even do most) jumping puzzles, I have no interest in gliding (it’s fine in Aion, but it makes no sense in GW2…), and I play Guild Wars 2 to relax, meaning I don’t even much care for event chains (I just finished the personal story for the first time the other day and I actually quite hated nearly all of the combat parts of it – maybe that’s why it took me 4 years to do it…). I like wandering around gathering and doing events in the “normal maps”, just as they were when the game was sold to me in 2012, and there is plenty of that to do with good rewards.
Guess what, I just discovered that by “upgrading” my account to Heart of Thorns, all of the dailies that take place in the 28 normal maps of Tyria that I use have been replaced by Heart of Thorns dailies that take place in the 7 HoT maps that I will never use!
Jesus fucking Christ, AreaNet… Fuck you!
This is the kind of plain stupidity that drives customers away. Why in the world would you ever remove content from a paying customer when there is every likelihood that the content you remove is why they are your customer? Because you’re a God damned idiot, that’s why.
I’m sure as hell not going to go to a handful of maps that I won’t enjoy (and that have been widely panned in forums and the gaming media for being completely the opposite of what many people like about Guild Wars 2…) to earn that 2 gold a day. Most likely, I will go back to not playing the game at all…
I knew I should have just bought $10 worth of Gems as a donation… Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be nice.
Ps. ArenaNet, it really pissed me off when I discovered that I was forced to do some stupid story thing on a new map just to open the “Masteries” system content for the normal Tyria maps. Seriously, someone had his head so far up his ass when he designed this expansion that he lost sight of all reason and logic, on top of clearly ignoring so much of what made Guild Wars 2 a fun and unique game in the first place…
Update: ArenaNet customer service agreed to remove the Heart of Thorns expansion from my account, so I could get back to doing things in the game that I enjoy. I am now the proud owner of a $40 DVD case with some pictures on it, as BestBuy does not accept returns on software that has been opened (fair enough, no hard feelings there). Perhaps one day ArenaNet will resolve the issue and I will ask them to add the xpac back onto my account.