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Trying to Make a Living World

David North Posted:
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ArenaNet has strived to make the world of Guild Wars 2 feel alive filling it with lore, changing the world around players, and adding new characters to interact with.  A huge open world should change over time.  Events should cause players to revisit old lands.   An MMO should have story to make it a real RPG.  Many tactics are being used to make Tyria a living, breathing virtual environment.  How are they trying to accomplish this?  Do players feel the world around them evolving?

Lore is perhaps the most important part in making a game feel like it's alive.  Without lore you don't have anything to build on.  The races feel bland, and quests become boring.  Your character is just another face in a lifeless crowd.  Guild Wars 2 has the benefit of being a sequel, expanding on the story and lore created from the first game.  Players experienced this lore when the game launched, but to evolve the world, something has to change.   New dangers need step out of the shadow, and new challenges must be conquered.  It doesn’t matter how much Lore you already have, you always need to add more.  That's where the Living Story comes in, or at least that's idea.

Behold the Scroll of Ancient Lore! It's very heavy!

The Living Story has brought in new characters, and new threats.  Event's such as The Lost Shores and The Secret of Southsun add in some bits and pieces as well.  So far the Lost Shores is the largest event in terms of content.  It added a whole new zone for players to explore, as well as a new enemy type.  But since then the changes to the world of Tyria have been small.  The refugee camps in the Black Citadel and Lion's Arch are prime examples of small visual changes the player can easily see.

It makes sense, not every story arch can involve dragons or creatures of great power.  If you tried to pull that off you would end up having players becoming God like within a month!  They would fear nothing.  It's all about pacing.  You use smaller bits of content to add small changes to the world here and there.  Little change is better than no change.

By adding lore you add more life to the game right?  Well it all depends on how you add it.  Lately ArenaNet has been posting up short stories on their site, all connected to the current event.  It's a real treat to read the interactions between the new characters.  It's a nice way to lead into the next stage of an event.  But this content isn't in the game.  Not every player checks the site regularly, so a portion of players won't really know what's going on making the event seem random.  What good is lore if it can't be easily accessed?

Even fighting dragons over and over again can get boring.

Simple encounters like what we saw in the Flame and Frost events with Rox and Braham could easily tell these little stories.  It also makes the player feel a bit more connected to the story.  We like to feel important after all.   I know something like this would require a lot of work for something that isn’t meant to take place of expansions, but to just keep the game feeling fresh.  Still, these short stories should be present in the game.  They're too good not be!

So far the best addition to the world of Tyria has been the Molten Alliance Facility dungeon.  Dungeons are such a huge part of the MMO experience, that when a new one is added, even if only for a limited time, it really helps push the story.  A new dungeon will be added in the next stage for The Secret of Southsun, letting us explore and fight in a new part of Tyria.  If every story arc ends with a dungeon, it should keep players happy.  I know I will be.

The world of Tyria is changing.  Most of these changes aren't visual, but can be felt in the story-lines. There are still a ton of the world map that players haven't set foot in, which means new lands for events and story arcs to open up.  There are many characters for players to still meet.  The shadows cover much of Tyria, concealing several new dangers that wait for the right time to strike.  The game is still young, and the different development teams bringing us these new bits of content will only get better with time.  Besides, who wants to wait till the release of an expansion to get new content?

Do you feel like Tyria is evolving?  Tell us in the comments below.

David North / David North is a freelance writer for MMORPG.com.  David loves to play and makes games, but now he writes about them!  If you want to creep on him and make fun of his ability to draw, follow him over on twitter @David_the_North

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David North