Two weeks ago, I mentioned in a column piece about The Secret World that I value informed opinions and the abolition of knee-jerk reactions to new information and opinions. Specifically, I mentioned that if you have a well-thought out review to or opinion on an MMO, and I see it, I am the type who would shake your hand and defend your right to say it, even if I disagreed with your assessment.
This thought came to mind mostly because it'll be interesting to see who goes straight to the comments and who reads the entire piece once I mention my next bit. Today's Devil's Advocate is here to commemorate the release of Guild Wars 2 by saying, quite plainly, that Guild Wars 2 is not the savior of massively multiplayer gaming. Again, notice the name of this column before getting out your pitchforks (Devil’s Advocate).
Hype ex Machina
I've noticed that quite a lot of people are eagerly anticipating Guild Wars 2. Many people praised the game's story, visuals, and gameplay during the beta events. The community managers of ArenaNet and numerous fansites have been working hard to ensure that public visibility of the game borders on the panoptic, as if people are willing prisoners of hype.
In essence, many people are entranced by the hype machine of Guild Wars 2, and are influenced by that hype towards action. Bandied about the web are forward-thinking statements about how GW2 will be the best MMO ever due to its nature as a buy-to-play game, and how the game may very well be the savior of the MMO realms. The strength of conviction in some frantic writings scribbled on forum and blog posts suggests that this is not an opinion, but an undeniable fact, indistinguishable from how one and one make two.
The Basic Concessions
Here are some things we must realize about Guild Wars 2 if we are to continue discussing the game rationally with minimal exaggeration.
Guild Wars 2 is one of the few games on the market that was built specifically to allow for a “buy-to-play with optional cash shop” means of revenue. Other games would probably include the first Guild Wars, as well as Order and Chaos Online on iOS. I'd stretch it as far as Final Fantasy XIV during part of its transition period to A Realm Reborn, but then that didn't have a cash shop.
Guild Wars 2 was not the first to introduce a dynamic event system into an MMORPG. Neither was it the first to introduce three-faction PVP or action combat, though the action combat bit is debatable. What ArenaNet does have in Guild Wars 2 is a combination of these various elements that have made their origins elsewhere and backed it with what appears to be a strong lore component as a result of having a prior game success, and the company hopes it will allow them to maintain a strong base of adopters and paying players.
For the folks who currently are in awe of Guild Wars 2, there appears to be this consensus that the game will thrive and become a blockbuster hit that will rival World of Warcraft. The issue I have with this is that the future is unclear, and is entirely dependent on the actions done in the present.
Paying to Play
One thing that will help propel and maintain Guild Wars 2 as a competitor for awesome game of the year will be whether or not people are still willing to pay for things past the box and some trinkets. After box sales dwindle and the game maintains a steady population, whatever that number may be, one of the main sources of revenue for the game will be the cash shop. If no one purchases from there or if there isn't enough critical mass to maintain healthy profit, the overall viability of GW2 as a monumental success will be lessened.
What does this mean? Guild Wars 2 is still pay-to-play, but only to the amounts you can afford and to the extent you're willing to give. This is nice for those with less disposable income, but it also means that there's no lower limit on what comes into ArenaNet's coffers at month's end. ArenaNet is making a big gamble with a AAA MMO of this particular model, and it's relying on your actions to truly make it a healthy business.
One of the worst issues plaguing the future of Guild Wars 2 (or any game, really) is the zealotry of a fanbase. Depending on who you talk to, you may either think that Guild Wars 2's fanbase is filled with rationally-minded, excited folk... or people who are rowing douchecanoes in lava created by the erupting douche-cano of their douche-ness. To wit, I've encountered two blog posts, one by Azuriel and another by Psynister that offered well-reasoned opinions and criticisms towards Guild Wars 2.
Azuriel's post mentioned three aspects of GW2 that needed shoring up: the fear that Dynamic Events would eventually become stale, that WvW PVP would be less interesting without a concerted server effort, and that the endgame doesn't appear to exist. This post was mentioned on the MMORPG.com forums, and some folks seemed to visit his blog and comment, turning the worthwhile discussion on the blog into trolling chaos.
Psynister's post on the third Beta Weekend seemed to be going rather well, till a commenter named testguy appeared and basically spouted out a bunch of comments, some of them with merit and kept on the post, and others deleted. The comments deleted were basically about how, due to the Psynister's opinion, he was a plague to gaming that deserved no respect and should be banned from GW2.
Whether or not you agree with Azuriel or Psynister isn't the point. The point is giving a well-reasoned dissenting opinion is not permission to harass another person or a subset of individuals who have reasonable complaints about something. By being unrelentingly zealous towards the defense of Guild Wars 2, these commenters will do more to damage the reputation of the game's community, which needs to be a breeding ground for good discussion and insight if Guild Wars 2 is to truly shine as a gem of MMORPG gaming.
The Bottom Line
Guild Wars 2 is not the savior of MMO gaming. In fact, it shouldn't even be remotely close to being seen as the savior of anything at this present time. The game will be officially launched as of this article’s publish, and while people are excited for it, they aren't considering the impact they have on the game's future.
If you want Guild Wars 2 to succeed, you have to be Guild Wars 2's savior. Support the game with your money, with your reasoned criticisms, and with healthy discourse. Do not drag it down into the muck with unrealistic expectations and zealous insults towards naysayers.
I do not want Guild Wars 2 to fail, in much the same way that I mentioned last week that I wouldn't wish failure on any game. Ultimately, however, it's up to individual actions to decide the fate of Tyria. So why don't we go and rescue it?