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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

GW2: A New MMORPG Social Contract

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday May 16 2012 at 11:13AM
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After some debate in the forums, I've found a better way to frame what I consider to be the revolutionary quality of GW2, and why a lot of players just aren't seeing or feeling it.

ANET's game philosophy with GW2 started with conceptualizing a new social contract between players, and then from that fundamental premise constructed - either from scratch, or by using new and old MMOG functions and structures - a game that would fit and promote that new social contract.

This, IMO, is what is truly revolutionary; ANET''s design concept was first about finding a way to change how players felt about, and around, other players, and also how the game affected the players. You can tell this by seeing how everything in the game, from the ground up, is organized.  They wanted to create a new, more upbeat, helpful, tolerant, equitable and fun social contract that was fully endorsed and motivated by game mechanics. ANET didn't want to foster any significant sense of elitism, exclusivity, ostracization, or reward playstyles that were essentially based on dividing the player base into castes.

I've never seen another MMOG developer do this; start with kind of social contract they wanted to exist in their game (both between players, and between the player base and the developers) and build a game from the ground up based on that concept. No, this doesn't mean every aspect of GW2 is new, or revolutionary, or inventive in and of itself; much of what ANET uses in GW2 are fairly standard fantasy tropes and MMOG conventions, which would leave many walking away wondering what the heck everyone else was so impressed about.

What the big deal is (or at least one of the big deals), is that many of us have yearned for a game that promoted a different social contract, one not based, essentially, on envy, distrust, high-efficiency min-maxing and which celebrated countless hours spent ATK grinding repetitive content.

And that's the real, unique feat that ANET has apparently (through BWE, anyway) pulled off; they really have created a game that establishes and promotes an entirely different social contract, one that is, IMO, far healthier and more positive than most others. It celebrates working together, it doesn't force it.  It rewards the helpful and explorers.  It has made every other player on your server your ally.  It fully supports the individuality of character builds and styles. It doesn't prod you to go where you do not like to go, or to do what you do not want to do. It embraces fun and doesn't  uniquely reward anyone treating the game like a 2nd job. It doesn't make you feel like you're wasting time or putting others at risk.  You are always rewarded appropriately for your contributions.  You do not have to choose between loot/resource nodes and not being a jerk.

Do other developers even consider what effect their game mechanics have on players, or what kind of player interaction they are promoting? It makes me wonder.

Job well done, ANET!

 

 

GW2: Lack Of End-Game Gear-Grind Raiding = Massive Untapped Market

Posted by Meleagar Thursday May 3 2012 at 9:35AM
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I don't think anyone, really, has a clue what kind of untapped market exists for what, IMO, is the first true, 3D AAA MMORPG. 

I say that because all prior games in the "MMORPG" market were not primarily "role-playing" games; they were gear-and-level grinding, end-game elitist group and raid games. We've never seen a major MMO (except perhaps UO, which wasn't 3D) that was first and fundamentally structured to serve role-playing.

I'm not talking about role-players that necessarily talk in-character, or who are writing long stories about themselves, but rather players that just want to carve out a semi-unique niche in style of play and character build and overall personality, and have available to them all of the same kind of content and reward available to anyone else.  Players who just want the game mechanics and design to embrace them and reward them, not essentially beat them and ridicule them like a red-headed step-troll.

No, role-playing is not the same as "class min-maxing for the purpose of endgame gear-grind raiding".  For over a decade now, the term "role" has been bastardized by developers into  (via game structure and mechanics) meaning nothing more than a mechanistic function. Role-playing, in its original sense, meant structuring your avatar and acting like a fictional character. It was about personality first, not stats and build. Sure, you could build a non-conformist character in WoW, but why? Nobody there was really role-playing (outside of the few desperate to find a game that actually supported such a thing); they just wanted you to serve the function they wanted you to. You were a cog that either made the gear-grinding machine work better, or worse. Shut the hell up with your play-acting, fool!  Get in line with the proper  build or be laughed at and ostracized!

Like many, I realized that in virtually all AAA MMORPGs, the developers not only didn't see players as anything more than potential end-game cogs, that's how the entire game was structured. Sure, you could go in and do something else, but as soon as the gee-whiz graphics wore off, you realized every single thing in the game was designed and structured in conformance with "cog" mentality, and that the whole community was made up of  either happy cogs, or those trying to enjoy the game in spite of its obvious structure and mentality that disappoved of alternate playstyles.

How many potential long-term players did this mentality drive out of the genre, seeking solace instead in games they could play alone or together with friends and role-play to their heart's content, without being assaulted every second by an overwhelming sense that they (since the weren't proper cogs) simply didn't matter?  How many expansions can one put up with that catered to gear-grinding raiders before they took to heart the message that they just weren't welcome? 

IMO, GW2 is the first 3D AAA MMORPG, period, because it has structured the entire game to not only embrace, but to reward all kinds of role-players fully and completely. Role-play to your heart's content. No need to pursue leveling - the whole game is the end-game! No need to gear-grind - top gear will come to you,and it's not a gear-centric game anyway!  There is no elitist raiding system that excludes your build or playstyle - jump into raid-style world events as you find them, contribute to them as you see fit as per your character, and get the reward you deserve.

This is the first AAA MMOG where individuality of character and playstyle is fully embraced and rewarded.  I don't think even ANET realizes what kind of untapped market exists for this kind of game, if they (or word of mouth) can just get the word out and explain what GW2 really is.

 

Post GW2 BWE: Realizing I'm Not Really An MMOG Soloer

Posted by Meleagar Tuesday May 1 2012 at 10:25AM
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Playing GW2 made me realize that it isn't grouping, per se, that I dislike in online games; it's really just how grouping as a mechanic has been implemented in most MMOGs, and how that mechanic affects my capacity to enjoy playing with others.  It's not that I actually disliked being around other people - I really enjoyed running around buffing and healing them. What I disliked was being forced by game mechanics to be formally responsible for the success or failure of an entire group, depending upon my character choices, gear and playstyle.

In most MMOS, and in all that I've played, there is a class system that is pretty much defined, and there is a min-max efficiency scale that is pretty much set in stone; you're either good at doing what the game mechanic requires of you, or you are not good at it. If you're not good at it (meaning, ability, character traits/talents, gear), then your group will fail more often, which leads to warranted ostracization. From groups.

Frankly, for  a combination of reasons, I've never been that good at doing anything in particular in these kinds of games.  Primarily, I'm just not interested enough in that aspect of any game to become a professional at any particular role. Secondarily, I just don't have the attention and manual dexterity/twitch skill to be really good at anything in particular when it comes to game mechanics. Also, I don't care to talk/type much, and can't do that and play at the same time anyway. 

So, I don't want to burden others with my lack of game knowledge, my penchant for /afking or having to leave entirely, and absence of role professionalism, or my incapacity to do two things at one time, which means I solo a lot.

In GW2, though, unless I am going into the specific team dungeons, informal groups are the meat and potatoes of the game.  I don't have to formally group up with anyone to do up to raid-style encounters.  I am not held personally responsible for fulfilling any particular role, nor am I judged by any criteria, really, other than staying alive, reviving others, and the metal of my reward at the end.  I cannot be ostracized by those that think I should, as an elementalist, switch to fire instead of using water attunement, or think I should use a rifle instead of a sword as a warrior.

As Unlight said in a thread in the GW2 Beta Event forum here: "...the game has managed to do something that no other game has yet achieved -- it made me happy to see other players."

GW2 has made me realize I'm not reallly a soloer; I've just always chosen to mostly solo because of the consequences of the standard MMOG grouping dynamic and how classes and content were structurally intertwined. What I thought I wanted was a more soloable game; what I really wanted was to be able to enjoy being around other players as I played the game my way, which I didn't really think was possible. The standard MMO dynamic is, to be able to participate and enjoy grouping, you had to conform your playstyle to the standard; in GW2, you don't have to. You don't even have to talk to others, or read anything they write in the chatbox.

So, I guess I'm not really fundamentally a soloer, after all. Maybe I'll have to change the title of this blog. I do like to group, I just don't like being formally responsible for the success of the group, nor do I want to have to force my playstyle into a min-max mold.