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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

This .. is ... unbelievable: GW2 Event Depth Is Stunning

Posted by Meleagar Tuesday June 19 2012 at 8:21PM
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One of my guildies (hat tip to Kote) posted a video on our forum that blew me away.  Here's the youtube video.  I wrote a prior piece here about slowing down and savoring GW2; I had no idea at the time just how deep that savory content was.

I played a Norn during the past two BWE's, and I enjoyed this particular area immensely and involved myself in the events played out in the above video 5-7 times. I thought I had a pretty good handle on what was going on in that sequence of events, but after watching this video I realized I hadn't seen anything.

I hadn't seen anything because I have been trained by countless MMOG hours to expect developers to put in minimal effort on anything less than end-game content. Who follows an NPC after they talk to them and it appears their conversaion is over and the "quest" or "event' is done?  Who watches NPC kids play and see where they go and what they do?  Who follows and talks to NPCs for several minutes and listens in on their conversations?  Who expects anything - ANYTHING - to happen as a result other than the NPC to just say X in response to your Y and then do Z and then reset?

I actually spent  2-3 hours walking around in Lion's Arch and other places just listening to conversations and interacting.  I didn't take the time then to follow NPCs much (outside of checking out their gear), but after watching this video I realized: as much as I enjoyed my "walkabout", I see now that had I followed up on those conversations and instances where NPC's began talking to me and telling me about things, who knows what would have happened?

This level of multi-faceted detail and storytelling in this part of the game is nothing short of amazing. It never even occurred to me that a developer might put in such fantastic, loving detail and texture and story, from several different perspectives, that could all be explored and found out, in what in other games is nothing but a throw-away area everyone rushes through to get to max level, with npc's that do nothing but stand in one place or do one thing over and over.

Yes, I have played WoW and AoC and have played to enjoy what powergamers would call "scrub" content - just normal areas of normal zones with essentially static NPCs. Of course, those areas were bare of any real depth, variety, and interest, but I made do.  This video, however, shows me that ANET has hidden a king's feast in those areas other developers just throw together on their way to raid zones.  Sure, you can rush through and miss it. You can take your time and still miss  most of it.  ANET challenges us to purposefully look deeper for the treasures it has embedded throughout the whole game, available for everyone and anyone who makes the effort.

I only thought what I was doing before was "savoring".  My 13-year diet (since EQ came out) of empty, wasteland scraps has been revealed for what it was and replaced by a cornucopia of delights just waiting to be uncovered in GW2. With this kind of stuff to find, who cares about leveling?

Who ever thought a development team would take the time and effort to put this in a part of the game most players just rush through and would never notice?


Why You (Powergamers) Don't Understand The GW2 "Hype"

Posted by Meleagar Saturday June 16 2012 at 6:19AM
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Have you ever been on a raid against a really massive, cool, breathtaking and fearsome boss mob in an MMOG, where dozens of players gather and fight for their lives, figuring out how to work together to take down the creature? 

Have you ever been involved in a series of quests, one building on another, setting of sequential events, each more harder than the last, involving several other players as the sequence heads towards  a huge ending and reward?

Have you ever looted, or gotten the final loot from, such massive, multiplayer, raid-quality, dungeonesque events?

You have? 

Yes, you have.  In fact, you've done it so much that you find it a boring grind? That's really all you've done for the past several years in MMOGs - rush through the lower content, get to max level, and go on an endless series of events similar to those described above?  And so, you say, GW2 doesn't offer anything new, just that same kind of stuff in its Dynamic Events, and worse, doesn't really even give you exclusive, superior rewards for winning them?

Well, let me tell you something from an entirely different perspective: I can count the number of raids and elite group excursions I've been on in 13 years of MMOGing on two fingers. Yep, I've been to one raid and one semi-elite group outing. Didn't see anything spectacular. After 2 hours of gathering and 2 of fighting NPC's that looked like regular NPCs, it was over.  Dungeons? I've been on a handful of dungeon or area crawls.  Nothing spectacular or special. In no case did I ever get to loot any chests at the end.

No, pretty much all of my time in 13 years of playing 3D MMOG's since Everquest came out has been spent in that part of the game all of the powergamers rush through to get to the cool part - the end game.  You see, I'm a casual player. I can't commit huge amounts of time to any game, much less huge amounts of time at a sitting.  That means no "events' for me. No big, cool bosses.  No elite content. 

Being a casual player means finding other ways to enjoy games that are specifically designed to be maximally enjoyable only by those willing to play the game like it was a full time job.   Since I was never going to experience the big, ultra-cool bosses or the really interesting chain events reserved for elite groups engaged in hours-long dungeon crawls, I contented myself with enjoying "the rest of the game". All the best content and gear by a wide margin in every MMOG I've played so far was reserved for a certain playstyle, and that was not my playstyle.

That uber content was designed for your playstyle.  So to you, you see, encountering that shadow behemoth in the swamp in GW2 BWE was ... ho hum.  Eh, so what, right? Nothing new here. You've seen that kind of epic content for years now, so much so that it even bores you.  Been there, done that, what's all the hubbub? 

Because of my casual playstyle, I've never been a professional at any holy-trinity based profession.  I don't know enough about the harder areas of the game, or about how to play my class, to play my part to the satisfaction of other players who spend far more time in the game.  Since I don't really care about min-maxing for the sake of standardized gear and talent builds, there's really not much point in my trying to group up with others who are going to tackle group-oriented content that requires such min-maxing and knowledge of particular areas and mobs for success.  Because I'm a casual player, I'd rather not put everyone else at risk if I have to go AFK to tend to family business that pops up every 15 minutes or so.

And that's why you, the powergamers, don't get the hype and think the innovation of GW2 is oversold and overblown; you don't even comprehend that there are literally millions of casual players that did not, and could not, play MMOG's for the end content or for ubergear, or even for 5-man elite group content.  We rarely if ever went on raids, saw any epic bosses or areas, and certainly never looted any chests at the end of an epic battle.  We were very often not even involved in groups - not because they disliked other people, but just because we didn't want to put others at risk.  We also didn't want to hear the comments about our less than professional gameplay, our build "mistakes",  or our scrub gear.

Content like the swamp shadow behemoth meta event in GW2 is nothing to players like you; you've done that kind of thing every night for years.  To us .. well, I could do that over and over for months and not get tired of it.  You know .... like you did when you were gear grinding the same uber conent in WoW every night for months. Except I won't be grinding, I'll just be catching up on years of  the missed fun of fighting that big, cool creature and getting an equal share of the reward at the end, not "nothing" as demanded by my scrub status as determined by some uberguild gatekeeper of DKPs.

To us,  the millions of casuals that have role-played and explored and settled for enjoying the non-uber, non-spectactular scrub content, or made a career out of finding nich crafting goods to sell to those who just didn't have the time between raids to whip the potions or food up themselves ... to us, this is an amazing, earth-shattering revolution in game design, not just because we get to regularly participate in content previously reserved only for the powergaming elite, but we get access to the same quality of rewards for participating.  We don't have to beg some player for this or that.  And we can do so from the very first level.

In GW2, we're not scrubs regulated to scrub content eating the scraps of powergamers and the developers who focus on them. So sure, to you powergamers, GW2 doesn't look appealing, innovative, or even playable after a couple of months outside of PvP.   That's because you've been participating in elite group and raid content for years. You don't even realize what an amazing revelation it is for so many of us that never got more than an occasional, rare taste of any of that for the past 13 years or so. 

That's why you don't understand what the hype is about; GW2 doesn't offer you - the powergamers - anything new; in fact, it offers you much less than you have in most other MMOGs.  The innovation is that GW2 offers millions of casual players the epic and group content they've missed out on for the past 13 years and has generated game mechanics that disallow their exclusion from such events if they are not min-maxed and knowledgable to the satisfaction of de facto content gatekeepers.  Even in WvWvW, they cannot be excluded from squads and being a part of massive, organized, raid-quality events. That's the real glory of Dynamic Events, public questing, and WvWvW squads, and why the importance, innovation and appeal of it is lost on players like you.

GW2 takes the "end game" content that used to be reserved for powergamers or semi-powergamers and spreads it out over, through and into all the "scrub" content we casuals have had to content ourselves with as we spend years (yes, years, not weeks) leveling characters because, you see, our goal was never to level a character to the top, but rather just to enjoy a cool MMOG in between real life issues and responsibilities.

And that's what GW2 offers, in spades, like very few (if any) other MMOG has ever done before. It gives casual players the real opportunity to experience end game and elite content every time they log in for an hour or two or three, and get an equal share of the rewards at the end. It's nothing new to you; to me, it's the most exciting, innovative thing in MMOGs since EQ first came out.


GW2: Slowing It Down & Savoring the World

Posted by Meleagar Monday June 11 2012 at 9:40AM
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I'm about as casual a player as you can get.  Even this Beta Weekend, I probably only played about 5-6 hours total. In that time I played one character, and leveled from 11 to 12. Most of the time I spent walking (yes, walking, not running) around in my city clothes in Hoelbrak, Lion's Arch and Divinity's Reach. I felt no sense of urgency or "hurry up" to my gameplay.  In fact, I didn't even feel like I was playing a game. I felt like I was walking around in a new world, getting used to it, enjoying it. Listening to conversations, watching people (NPC's) do their thing, etc.

The world that Anet has created is truly a marvel.  Every other MMOG I've played always felt "dead" when I was off by myself wandering around.  This world doesn't feel that way - NPCs are always talking, bartering, playing, going somewhere, doing something; in cites, on roads, on the beaches, by the rivers.  And the detail is just astounding - so much to see and hear!  Everywhere, in every nook and cranny.  I found myself following or hanging around NPCs just to check out their clothes and gear.  They've got such cool, detailed stuff!

When the guild I'm in got together for a family picture, I don't know how long we just goofed off together in Divinity's Reach.  That was probably the most fun I've had in a game in a long time - no pressure, no "hurry up", no min-max rules, no gear grind.  Just goofing off and having fun. How refreshing.

As I sauntered through the various towns and nearby areas in my slick sunglasses, I must have heard a dozen NPC conversations that were obviously openings to events or exp gaining activities. I would walk over and start up a conversation and get the general instructions/info, but I didn't follow up on any of it this time. I just wanted to see what walking around would feel like and what it had to offer.

GW2's Tyria is a world that has a lot to offer for those that will take the time to savor it. As for me, when the game goes live I'm taking my time - I'm not even going to think about leveling. I'm just going to enter the world and do stuff that I find interesting and enjoyable, and stop and smell the roses along the way.