Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guild War 2 and The " Living" Story

For those that have been paying attention to GW2, lately they have been doing some rather interesting Bonus events to try and keep people interested in the game. Armed with my newly acquired anniversary bonus and interest in what the Arena's offered, I decided it was time to finally reach level 80 and hopefully reach the end of the "Living Story".

I feel like I'm really really close to the end now, but there's a problem....

I'm getting really bored!

The beginnings of GW2 I thought were pretty damn awesome! a young dashing hunter that is obsessed with the color green was fighting worms by day, letting his meanings bite anything that moved by night, and facing green magical lake witches for the grand loot!, but below all of that there was a sub plot.

The player trying to find out what happened to his family.

My charismatic hero flirted his way through oblivion trying to help anyone he could as long as they were in somehow able to lead him in the right direction! and eventually the mystery is finally resolved with a broken down house full of crazy spiders with one lone grave sitting in the back. Up until that moment I thought GW2 was doing a really good job and not just rolling through the paces, but ultimately that scene proved unequivocally that GW2 had headed in the wrong direction.

I know a lot of people here and dev wise may not have had to go through loss or grief so I'll say this from experience.

It really fucking sucks

Its a moment where every single emotion both happy and sad can be inextricably weaved together at such an extent where you can actually be sick of yourself. Its a raw, brutal feeling that can change everything about yourself, who you are, what you believe in, and how others ultimately can see you as.

Again, it really fucking sucks

So for moments like this, it might be cool to have the player visit the grave, do a little prayer, then walk away, but there's far too much lost opportunity for further development. We never once hear the heroes thoughts on the matter, is he upset? is he angry? does he want revenge? I remember hearing all kinds of fancy speeches from the hero later on when others asked how the adventure went, but they ultimately left no impact for what would be a huge moment in the heroes life. There was no impact, no solace, no coming to grips with the situation, and unfortunately for GW2 it highlights a very serious issue with MMO's in general.

The Blank Slate Dilemma

MMO's by their nature are forced to be a blank slate. Everyone is playing for a different reason. Some like to raid, some do it for the events, some people like it for the Solo aspect while others are in it for the vast exploration of a realm completely different from their normal lives. It isn't an area where by conventional means you can set up a proper living story and as a result the story line missions in GW2 run the gambit between SRPG thoughts and blank slate approaches.

I can think of a few different means as to fix the situation but even those aren't perfect. Recently, I've been working on Stasis Concerto, this one is going to a visual novel meets puzzle game and while going through the script that had been written so far, I noticed a trend where it looked like other characters may somehow be living vicariously through other people, and since this game isn't about cake baking ( yet) or about A.I.'s I'm just going to assume this is an issue we will need to avoid.

The obvious answer was for those characters to say more about who they are, whether we were hearing the thoughts in their head as they continued through the game or hear their observations or thoughts on what they were seeing. Ultimately, the answered I submitted for fixing the issue was to create areas of opportunity inside the game.

Here's the funny part, I'm the puzzle designer, not the writer so ultimately this isn't my responsibility ( they * were* nice enough to take the suggestions) but I still wanted to make sure the possibility of opportunity existed within the game. So to " force" my opportunity I started making puzzles that reflected a little bit of each character in the game ( or as many as I could). What kind of instrument did they play? what were their thoughts on the room? how would they respond to the room? This twelve tone subject is awesome! is that an alchemy circle? who would notice it???

Just because I was the puzzle designer didn't mean I couldn't create an atmosphere where the room itself and the people in it weren't any less important then solving the puzzle and while GW2 is different, the philosophy of creating opportunity for further incite is something I think they understand.

They made a world right? I'm only at about 23% completion on it but even I can tell they tried to add as much thought into it as possible so they clearly must understand the concept of opportunity. Maybe they only understand opportunity if its on a larger scale? perhaps personal moments in the story like when someone dies, dead parents are found, or someone is lamenting the death of a Norn isn't something they understand how to fully enrapture?

I just don't get...

I don't understand why the hero didn't hit the ground full of delight, sadness, and malice after finding an answer to something he has been wondering about his entire life. I don't get why later in the game people whom the hero somehow know are randomly killed off two missions after initially meeting them, then have the very next mission be a sort of send off back in their hometown. It's like they saw moments where they could have *great* opportunity. A moment where snow is falling, the warriors friends and family mourning a loss while screaming her name to the heavens while sadness is visibly seen on the heroes face.

Instead, we have boring speeches in the middle of  a courtyard instance, not even one of those fancy still life cut-scenes.

I'm so close to the end, yet so very bored with what I'm seeing.

There's just too much lost opportunity.

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