New Zones & Replayability
The biggest way for Arenanet to add new open world content to Guild Wars 2 comes in the form of new and engaging maps, which as of this latest living world season release are accompanied by useful and game changing masteries. This is an excellent tool for putting out a chunk of exciting content that players can explore and enjoy, and makes the world truly feel like it is expanding. The issue, years down the line, is that the new maps are slowly becoming deserted as people finish the related content, making meta events and rewards harder to obtain for anyone still wanting to try it out.
To preface all this- the new maps from living world are certainly not completely empty, and it’s still possible during prime time to find a group on every map. Where the issue lies is that some maps are simply ridiculously more profitable to play solo than others, making going back fairly rare and unnecessary except in particular cases. Bitterfrost Frontier for example, although the meta is almost never completely, retains some activity thanks to constant farming of Winterberries, where a character goes from node to node gathering the valuable berries for both unbound magic and the ability to trade them in for various goods including ascended level trinkets. This is a great feature for keeping people coming back, but the lucrative farm means that gathering the other map resources is almost pointless, as you will get much better results from a berry run. Lake Doric with the centaur farm has also proven to be a good lure for players to come back, but areas like Bloodstone Fen and Ember Bay have little to no reason to return after you have completed the story and achievements of the zone.
New maps do have the unique advantage of being permanent fixtures, and if a new or returning player wants to experience the game they get to move through the world and through the story in the same way players did when they first experienced it. The difference, however, is that without the new release hype, doing anything on the maps outside of the story becomes a challenge that many can’t overcome, especially anyone playing outside of prime time trying to do group events. Besides just generally making it a lot less enjoyable to play, this also means that many achievements are unattainable, stretching as far as some masteries and titles, as well as the unique rewards for completing every achievement in a map. Though not impossible, these challenges on top of anyone with a work schedule or playing in an off hours’ time zone butcher the fun of the zone. So, whilst the map is always there, and always able to be played for the new player, the experience is vastly different, and can either turn players away or leave them missing some of the best parts of the content because no one is there to experience it with, a vital part of any MMO.
Going even further back, maps like Dry Top have become almost completely abandoned, with a handful of dedicated players running events at certain times every few weeks to earn the unique rewards. The addition of reward tracks however means that most players don’t even have to go back for these, and can just repeat the track to get their currencies instead of actually playing the map. The addition of reward tracks stretches even deeper, with players being able to get huge amounts of currency for dungeons, living world maps and more without touching the respective content more than once to unlock the track. Personally, I love the reward tracks, but feel that if rewards are the main incentive to go back to a map then being able to earn it off the map does definitely take players away. What would be fantastic to see is a reason to go back to the maps, like unique skins or weapons coming as rare drops from meta bosses (such as with tequatal and triple trouble) or an improvement to the map dailies system that makes them much more rewarding to motivate players to head back to some of the older content and play together.
So, should new releases keep coming with the ‘play the map and move on’ mentality, or would you also like to see a more inclusive change to some of the maps that encourages players who like the open world to go back to some of the fantastic and beautiful maps that have come out over the years?