Ah, the Living Story. Fast-paced and exciting. Slow and simplistic. Jam-packed with drama. Tiring and dreadful.
ArenaNet tried something different with its bi-weekly Living Story updates. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. With the current Living Story season just about ready to wrap up, let's take a look back at what went right and what went wrong – and how those might be addressed in the next installment.
1) The two-week cycle
Why it was good
One of the reasons ArenaNet gave for going to a two-week update cycle was that, when they had four-week cycles, player activity tended to be high the first two weeks and drop off considerably in the last two. If the idea was to get bodies in the door and keep them there – a goal of pretty much any MMO – you have to say that this was a success.
Why it was bad
As fast as things went, a lot of people felt “rushed” to complete content in a two-week (or four-week for the first in each dual cycle) period. Missing a few days set you behind, and if it came to the end of a cycle and you didn't have your meta-achievement finished, well, too bad. Bugs were also an issue, leading some to believe that the rapid pace of updates affected ArenaNet's quality control.
I don't think QC is as big an issue as many people make out. Sure, there are bugs, but those happen when any MMO updates. There are more here because there are more updates; it's simple math. Only ArenaNet knows how far they're pushing their employees, and if they think they can handle the pace, good for them.
As for the effects the pace of updates has on players... I tend to agree that the rapidity seems stressful at times, but I also admit to feeling a trifle “bored” in the last few days before an update, after I've done the meta and there's nothing really new to do. Maybe feeling like that for a few days, or even a week, is a #FirstWorldProblem, but you can hardly blame an MMO developer for wanting people to have as little “dead time” as possible.
2) Temporary content
Why it was good
Having limited-time content gave players a sense of urgency and funneled them into specific activities. Knowing that the Twisted Marionette or Zephyr Sanctum or the Molten Facility would only be around for a short time gave you more of an incentive to do it, and do it often, and the special rewards from such content had a “limited time only” feel that made you feel special if you still had it months later.
Why it was bad
Content being temporary meant that if you snoozed, you... uh, losed? Newer players, or players who took a break from the game, never got to experience a large portion of the game's content. And while we can again only speculate as to how thinly the content teams are stretched, spending months creating content with a two- or four-week life cycle seems like an inefficient use of resources.
Remember the Queen's Jubilee and all the mayhem that went on in the Crown Pavilion? Scores of players moving from section to section cutting down everything in their path? Two weeks after that was introduced, Scarlet Briar started doing her “invasions” every hour, and that's where everyone went. The Pavilion became a ghost town. The same could be said of other long-running (by GW2 standards) content like Zephyr Sanctum and the Tower of Nightmares; after the first couple of weeks, they were practically deserted.