Thursday, March 8, 2012

Make It So: GW2 Design Manifesto Part 2

Choices, choices, choices.  Wait, what?  This is a blog about MMO's, and there's no such thing as choices and consequences in MMO's.  You run over, click the random NPC, accept a quest without reading what he/she (or it) wants you to do and then follow the map queues to complete the quest.  

Optional quest to help save a burning village?  Why would I want to do that when it will be burning for the next, oh I don't know, FOREVER?  

If it's one thing that has plagued MMO's since day one, it is the lack of a dynamic and changing world.  I understand there are technical limitations,  as you have hundreds of players doing the same thing. If one person completes the quest to save the burning village, then no one else can?  Or what about that critical choice to have the soup or the salad?

Choice and consequence have been severely lacking in MMO's over the last decade.    Join us after the break to see how ArenaNet is addressing this problem.

Mike O'Brien really gets things rolling right from the start, in the second section of the GW2 Design Manifesto.

          Shouldn't great MMORPGs be great RPGs too?
It sometimes feels like our industry has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  When you play an RPG, you want to experience a compelling and memorable storyline.  You want your choices to matter.  You want your actions to leave their mark on the world.  Let's start demanding those things of MMOs too. The original Guild Wars was known for the level of storytelling it brought to online RPGs, so with GW2 we obviously wanted to take it to the next level. In GW you experience the story of the world, but the story in GW2 is the personal story of your character as well. You fill out a biography at character creation time that defines your background and your place within the world, and that starts you on your path. Then the choices you make will take the story in different directions. Each time you play through the game, you can experience a different storyline.
Wait...I have choices?  Is this still an MMO? And what is this nonsense about having a different storyline each time I play through the game?  Read on, young padawan...
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 the world-changing events and all the key moments of the storyline.
 I don't know about you, but I welcome the ''no quest text'' approach with open arms.  Quest text is annoying, time consuming, and frankly, an outdated way of delivering story and objectives.  I have leveled several alts in WoW, and questing in the world has become a time where you zone out following a leveling guide, trying to blast your way to 85 as quickly as possible.  I'm sure that is fun for some, but not for me.
In addition to great storyline and important player choices, another hallmark of great RPGs is that they create a world that feels real and alive. Let’s say a village is being terrorized by bandits. You don’t want to find out about that because there’s a villager standing there motionless with an exclamation mark over his head who says when you click on him, “Help, we’re being terrorized by bandits.” You want to find out like you would in GW2: because the bandits are attacking, chasing villagers through the streets, slaying them and setting their houses on fire. You can stand up for the villagers, or you can watch their village burn to the ground and then deal with the consequences. We’ve worked hard to create a living, dynamic world for you, where there’s always something new to do.
When I first read that, my brain kind of went numb for a moment...numb with overwhelming joy.  I'm pretty sure I remember myself standing up at my desk and shouting ''YES!'', and maybe shedding a tear, or eight.  So the burning village will actually burn down if I don't do something?  I better stop typing and go do something!  Don't feel like saving the burning village from the bandits?  Ok, but come back later and the bandits will have set up a stronghold and will most likely be trying to advance and take out another village.

This section of the Manifesto truly illustrates what I absolutely LOVE about ArenaNet.  They ask such simple questions, and answer them strongly with logical ideals.  This company knows what they want to accomplish, and are taking their sweet time to make sure it happens.  When I talk about GW2, this is the kind of stuff I bring up.  I have said, since reading the Manifesto, that if ArenaNet can pull off everything that they say they want to do, this will forever change the way MMO's are made and played.  I welcome the change, as the majority of MMO's coming out today are WoW clones at their core.  The MMO industry needs someone to come along and slap the complacency out of it.

Thank you ArenaNet, thank you.

Our goal with Make it So is to educate those new to Guild Wars 2, with a basic timeline of major news announcements.  And to turn you into ArenaNet fanboys.

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