Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Many Pieces Make a Whole Picture

Do you listen to music by hearing the first 10 seconds and then fast forwarding to the last 10 seconds?

When you have time to sit down and watch your favorite movie do you enjoy the first part of the intro and then fast forward x8 to the credits?

Most likely not.

Now these may seem like strange questions with obvious answers but there are a number of players who play GW2 in this manner. Now, this isn’t wrong but what usually follows along with this play style is players expressing concern or complaining even about the lack of story as they speed through Ascalon. As I talked about this in a previous post and as illustrated by Emmanuel on his video site, players need to approach playing GW2’s like you would listening to a great song or watching your favorite movie.

To illustrate this I’ll share a few experiences my friend and I had last night while playing in Ashford Plains.

We started wandering around Duke Baradin’s Estate, just exploring to see what would happen next. We came across a number of events, we especially loved the harpy attack and the following fried chicken jokes as I ran around with my Charr engineer, flamethrower in hand. As we wentaround  Ashford Forum we came across a downed female charr. We revived her and then she explains that a catapult knocked her out. Reviving her kicks off an event where separatists, humans against the charr/human peace treaty, set up a road block with catapults and armed guards defending it. We engage, fight, win. Go our team!  Also, notice it took action on our part to start the event.  We could have just left her there and nothing would have happened.

At first view this looks isolated and singular. "Oh, we found a NPC which gave us a quest: check, done, yawn." But instead, look at it as a piece of a much larger puzzle. What is a separatist and why are they doing this? Why is this happening here? Part of the answers will come from talking with the scouts who explains those areas of the map. Other parts come from NPCs and events that occur as players move farther away from the more protected parts of Charr territory – the area closest to the Black Citadel. As players delve more into the world ANet starts revealing stories one piece at a time as players experience them. For example, after the road block, we talked to the scout. She points out, among other things, a small shipyard area that is having problems with separatists. Hmmmm.

We all live in a drab metallic submarine...
A submarine! These charr are building a full-on steampunked SUBMARINE! Okay, the ship ward is quite awesome already. We show up to a group of separatists attacking the sub trying to sabotage it. I don’t know what happens if you prevent it because we didn’t. Boom! Big hole in the side (which was cool since we could see the gears on the inside whirling around).  Now the sub needs to be fixed so off we go scrounging for parts littered across the lake bed. We turn in the parts and after enough the sub engineer dives down to fix it. Guess who shows up? Separatists and they are not happy we are trying to undue their explosive handy work. We defend the repair worker and drive back the separatists, who flee to an alcove on the other side of the lake and a charr follows them. I go over a talk to her and she tells me the separatist camp is in that area. I see one NPC setting traps or something.

Model # WHL-34
What happens next? I don't know. We both had to get to sleep so we stopped playing but I want to know what happens in that camp. Will there be more information about the separatists?  Why do they hate the treaty? Is Minister Caudecus behind them?  I'm pretty sure I will have to play through the whole area, I only have a few pieces of the story right now but I look forward to discovering the whole picture.

We just chillin

Hopefully I was able to illustrate how GW2 is more about showing players the story than just letting them read it in a log of text.  This was just a local story; imagine the ones using the whole world as its setting.  My friends and I have greatly enjoyed just following dynamic events just to see where they go and how they connect to other aspects of the world.  Take a curious moment and I think you'll enjoy it also.

See you in Tyria!


  1. Good post! I've lost some of the whole picture by the methods in which I complete zones (fast and furious) but your method certainly sounds more enjoyable. :)

    Just wanted to add that having just started a second character of a different race it expands the story being experienced by my main dude too! Very clever how they tie things together.

    1. TY for the compliment. I've also noticed as I've played other toons that stories interweave like the Floating Grizwhirl for example, it appears in both Asuran and Human stories. In the human story it can be used for nefarious means, for the Asuran its an Inquest Snaff competition invention and we all know Inquest inventions are always safe and used to help maybe not.

  2. *puts on armchair designer glasses*

    I think the problem of people rushing through things is because in more traditional MMOs there is a only a handful of quests explaining the story of what is going on and then there is the raid that finishes that "story arch". Except that the quests that tell the story is mixed among a bunch of "Kill X rats" quests or "Deliver this piece of paper to the guy 5 steps from me". So it can be very easy to just ignore them, together with all the others and just go for the raid which will explain everything that seem important anyway. At least that is the impression I got from Everquest 2. I never raided there. I only got to know there was some actual story at all because some raiders would comment from it from time to time. In WoW I had a similar feeling of "no story, just a bunch of random quests with a big bad guy at the end". But that was back in the days of the Burning Crusade. I didn't raid there either.

    With Guild Wars 2 there isn't a quest per se, telling what is going on. Although, as you pointed out, we can talk to scouts, or even the heart NPCs before completing them, to know what is going on in the area. There is also a lot more environmental storytelling, again as you pointed out. Starting with more local problems each race is facing (charrs with separatists, ghosts and flame legion, humans with bandits and centaurs, etc.) then as characters move on they start to see more of the world, see what kind of problems the other races have to deal with and eventually get to see the handwork of the dragons first hand, to eventually getting deep into the territory of one of them.

    It is also interesting how the personal story also reflects that. Beginning with personal problems (the ones we chose at character creation), getting some recognition from the signature NPCs then getting appointed to deal with more worldly matters to eventually dealing with the dragons directly.

    The dungeons in story mode also have their own story although I didn't do all of them yet so I don't know what direction it will go. Haven't started the explorable mode yet.

    All in all, it is a different form of storytelling, a little more subtle but I prefer this style. For me, it is easier to look for it as well as see how things are linked together. While in more traditional MMOs, you have to sift through the mass of quests for any hint of what is going on and it is easier to feel like older content is completely disconnected from newer ones.

    Those are all my opinions though. @_@

    1. I like how you described the transtion from local issues to the ultimate world issue affecting everyone, namely dragons. It's as if the character's horizon and understanding is broadning and growing. I hadn't thought about it in that way before, then again, I haven't seen much since I'm still plunking around lower level areas soaking up all I can. :)

    2. Be the sponge. *Enjoys being the sponge* There is something about taking your sweet sweet time with an area that makes you really feel a part of the world. I could swear that after a time, the dredge just refused to fight my Engineer last night. Just said ok we give and ignored me as I continued to pillage and plunder.

  3. This was an interesting read and I completely agree. There are a lot of people who don't stop to smell the flowers in the world around them. Well, actually that leads to the point: These people are treating what they play as games and not as a world to submerge themselves in. Yes, there's nothing wrong with that, but it does create problems when they start complaining about content: I think you pointed it out pretty perfectly.

    That being said, I notice I'm on your blogroll! Would you mind if I linked your blog under my affiliates blogroll as well? I think you're site is pretty cool and holds a lot of valuable information and opinions.

    1. I love Project Tyria! I'm a screen shot fanatic so the idea of contrasting GW1 Tyria and GW2 Tyria is pure enjoyment for me. I still visit to see the updates and to help me orient myself sometimes. :)

      Also, thank you for the compliment and I would be honored if you linked my blog in your blogroll!