Guild Wars 2 Dynamic Events: I’m not convinced yet

Dyanic Events supposedly altering the game world

The Guild Wars 2 website was updated with more information about the Dynamic Events.  I took some time to really read the overview because this is one of the biggest selling features that ArenaNet has used in order to hype people up for their game.  I’ve identified a few concerns and talking points within the article that I think warrant questioning or at least further explanation.

Reading through the general concept, I get the immediate impression that this is very similar to Warhammer Online’s Public Questing system.  You come up on an area where something is going on and, instead of getting a wall of text, you live out the quest in what appears to be a dynamic event unfolding.  It was a cool idea on paper back when WAR was in development and it’s a cool idea on paper for GW2.  However, in WAR it played out to be nothing more than a little event that resets where you kill the 10 rats that run at you instead of going out and hunting for them.  Throughout the overview I kept identifying something that would match up almost exactly with WAR’s mechanics:  You have to defend against an attack, rescue people, put out fires, whatever.  It’s all glorified with the imagination, but in reality it’s truly nothing special -at all- … in fact it feels like you’re participating in a reenactment every time.

Bringing people together with scaling content to allow the community to work together instead of working against each other is admirable.  Nice idea on paper again, but just because something sounds cutthroat doesn’t mean it’s bad.  There’s a new trend to spin scenarios of games that have one person coming out ahead as a bad thing because supposedly what everyone wants is for everyone else to be on equal grounds.   Personally, I do not see someone else coming up to my area in the world as a potential threat because he’s going to take my kills.  I see another person coming up, and the action or inaction that they take, as part of what makes the world ‘living and breathing’ as well as my experience a dynamic one.  What makes a RPG community interesting for me is the complex diversity and the stages of progression that each player is on.   So they need to be careful, as all future and current developers do, that they do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Appealing to the explorer with the line that the world is constantly changing is admirable.  That’s what I really want in a MMORPG because that’s the tag line that they were originally sold on: “Ever-evolving and changing worlds”.  However, with what has already sounded like little more than an updated Public Questing system, can this really be true?  Will a player not quickly be able to ‘figure it out’ and have that sense of ‘constantly changing’ ruined?  I’m not great at puzzles and I’m terrible at understanding how things work (as Graev, I suck at Legos) but when it comes to things like MMO’s I have this terrible gift of immediately seeing the entire picture at once.  Having it all figured out is a cursse because the magic is gone.  I can’t help but wonder how fast players will discover how this new event system works and no longer see it as constantly changing.

The current generation’s “traditional” questing is indeed outdated.  Guild Wars 2 has a really neat system on paper but where they’ll fall flat is whether or not they can live up to their own hype.  If the Dynamic Event System does not truly CHANGE the world DYNAMICALLY and PERMANENTLY then it’s going to be a flop.  It will feel cheap, just like WAR, and the player will immediately figure it out.  Once the trick is known, it’s no longer magic.

I’ll be watching this one closely to see if ArenaNet pulls it off.

  • “Once the trick is known, it’s no longer magic.”

    But WoW/LOTRO/etc. have a “trick” too. It’s that instanced dungeons reset when you leave them or on some schedule. Players accept that totally artificial mechanism in exactly the same way they’ll accept GW2’s dynamic events. The only difference is that WoW is instanced and GW2 is (apparently) not.

    If these events are epic enough in scope, it could be much more interesting than Halls of Lightning, run #299388.

  • You’re exactly right. The WoW model relies on constant updates to succeed since they’re so easy to figure out and find the repetition. Players can figure out within a few days of reaching max level exactly how the game plays out. That’s why I quit LOTRO and identified what I felt was a cancer in MMO’s: Running out of stuff to do.

    Where it’s relevant to Guild Wars 2 is where WAR suffered in that the content was great on paper but in practice it was cheap and felt like reenacting a scene every time it reset. It was too easy to figure out. For example, during a PQ in WAR there was a ticker in the upper right saying I the event was at 72/150 Zombies slain — that’s like the opposite of “living and dynamic” in my opinion. If Guild Wars 2 tries to pull the same stunt and hype this system up with all kinds of hyperbole, then it’s going to fall flat at launch. Right now, they sound like WAR in every way shape and form.

  • It’s a Catch 22. If players can see the pattern they will dismiss it as you say, but if they CAN’T see the pattern they will get frustrated fast and complain that it isn’t fair. MMO players have a long-established history of reacting extremely negatively to any mechanism that remains opaque.

    I think the GW2 sounds pretty good, IF they can pull it off. I’m not bothered about seeing the pattern. I have an imagination for dealing with that. What does concern me is whether they fall into the trap most MMO designers have fallen into in the past.

    Many game mechanics work just fine in beta and when the game launches, when there is always a critical mass of players of the appropriate level. A few months after launch, however, the bubble has floated up and the mechanics just don’t function as they should.

    I worry that six months after launch, those centaurs will ALWAYS take the village because there will never be enough players in that lower level area to stop them. The dynamic world may still function, but it will be a world in which bad things always come true.

  • Not sure many people here played Tabula Rasa, but this is something they did quite well. Instead of mobs just “appearing” out of thin air, they would come down in ships. It seemed much more “real”. Occasionally they would attack outposts. If you did not have enough people to fight them back, they would take the output over and you would lost access to all the vendors. Once you had enough people you could attack and take it back. It was the one thing I really liked about the game.

    I am a big fan of the original GW and I have to admit I am really starting to get excited about GW2…maybe too much. Like everyone here, I was burned by Warhammer, so I am trying to temper my expectations now. However, it is a losing battle.

  • Honestly, the only reason GW2 has been really exciting me is because if any developer out there could possibly pull this off, it’s probably ArenaNet. Arguably, GW was the most innovative thing in the business since… well, ever really. Plus the company in general seems to have the common sense that Ncwest, Mythic, Galanet, and most mmo developers lack. They also communicate really really well, as evidenced by the website.

  • I absolutely agree GW2 is attempting the same thing WAR did and faces the same challenges. I remember playing WAR a few months after release, not able to find a soul to help on a PQ in a distant zone, and working through a level by grinding the same phase 1 over and over again because phase 2 was too difficult. Their PQ system degraded into grinding lowbie mobs under low population conditions. If this happens to GW2, it is doomed. Scaling had better work. As for feeling artificial…as I said, encounter resets seems no more or less artificial to me than dungeons resetting every Tuesday. And knowing how many mobs are left to kill…well, we already do that in every MMO. Even if there’s no counter, by the third run of an instance, everyone knows exactly how many pulls there are between each boss.

    As a side thought, I wonder what their sharding model is. I imagine it’ll be districted, like GW1, which makes me wonder…if steal an artifact in district 12 and make the dragon angry, is the dragon angry only in district 12? Or everywhere?

  • Didn’t ArenaNet say they’re not doing the whole districting/sharding thing this time and that it would be an open world?

  • They did say it would be an open world, and I hope they stick to it.

    I will say that I don’t agree with you. It doesn’t matter HOW they hide the mechanics, players will figure it out and then slam it. Video game players, and especially MMO players, are angry and vindictive and they will slam a company for the smallest thing.

    Take Jedi in Star Wars Galaxies. They made it complicated and near impossible to attain. At first it seemed random, but eventually people figured it out, as they always will, and PLAYERS ruined it. Not the developers (not until NGE at least). Players suddenly abandoned the world in droves to grind jedi, and they TRIED to fix it, though they failed miserably.

    So I don’t think they need to do there best to hide it and rely on that, since it wont be long before it’s discovered. Instead it should be open and obvious, but balanced, fun and dynamic.

    What do I mean by that? Instead of like WAR where you have to kill 125 Zombies, and you need at LEAST six people (for example) to finish, have it scale by the number of people in the zone. If 40 people are there, maybe it needs 6 people to do it. If five are there, maybe it only needs two.

  • The PQ system of WAR was a good first attempt. But it was in the end too static. Each PQ had sort of a sweet spot of ideal number of people. Too many people and it was just a repetitive grind for the loot box. Too few, and it was impossible. Also the PQs always just reset with rarely any change on the world.

    So improving the concept is fairly simple. At the completion of the PQ something changes in the world. Well simple on paper. It will depend on how fluid the world is to dynamic modification.

    One thing about Kill Stealing. It is only an issue if a player can be shut out of rewards for their own actions by another player. Currently the rewards of killing a MOB is XP and loot. Sometimes credit for a quest. If a player gets some loot and XP for a partial kill then kill stealing will not be a big deal.

    Being skeptical of the press releases is fine. And I have the same questions you do.

  • I think something more developers need to implement is RANDOM (x). Instead of being a set number of mobs to kill it would be random so never the same amount. I also wish they would have random stats when you first create a character. I hate how every class stats with the same stats in most games. Why not have a random roll that you can roll as much as you like until you get what you want. This would add a little bit of diversity and your character would always have that difference. You can go a step further and let people allocate to stats when they level up or something instead of a set number going to each stat.

    I just miss being able to customize my characters innate stats. I think this is a huge part of making a character feel like your character. Of course you could have a respec and maybe a quest or something to get more respecs in case you mess up.

  • My understanding, from reading this and other articles, is that the scaling will mean you can do all the events solo. They’re definitely going after the casual solo questing crowd, for better or worse. Also I think they’re pretty clear that everything is designed to by cyclical – so it’s not that you’re going to fundamentally change the world, more that you can expect during any given play-through the various scripts, sliders and progress bars that underlay the system will be at different values than they were on your last trip through.

    I agree that they’re running the risk of seriously over promising, as every developer feels the need to these days, but I’m also confident they’ll come up with a fun system. I think it’s worth considering that Guildwars was never a game that tried to keep people busy with content for 8 months, to keep the subs rolling in – I have a hunch that GW2 will have a similar scale and scope, meaning a focus on alts, lots of structured endgame PvP, farming, and sort of casual crafting/character dress up at end game. What this means is no need to fill months and months of grinding with ‘content’ like WAR tried to do. This is the one mitigating factor that I think gives them a shot at making this work.

    I doubt it’s going to be the living world that you want, Keen, but I’m starting to get the impression that they actually kinda know what they’re doing on this one… I’m still expecting the worst, however, since Arena Net has a long history of snatching horrible defeat from the jaws of a wonderful idea.

  • The keyword that caught my attention was “cascades”, and it is this that suggests to me that this won’t be a simple cloning of WAR’s PQs. So … once the event plays out in one place, and depending on the outcome, surrounding areas are affected. This is so much better than one simple event that runs on a timer or resets, and if they are clever they would set up multiple storylines.

    For example, the bandits could be attacking two different villages and if the North village falls the boss goes there, enlists a necromancer, and raises a bunch of nasty zombies. If however the South village falls then a tenuous alliance with the local dryads is broken, and friendly dwarves now move into the hilly forest looking to open up mines (and they too will have to deal with the bandits). Kill out the south bandits and you’ve now got industrious dwarves nearby, not tree hugging hippy dryads. If both villages fall, and some other thing [does|doesn’t] happen, then the North & South bandits [do|don’t] team up.

    The butterfly effect and all that.

    So .. if you want to join the dwarves in exploring the South catacombs, not only do you have to let the bandits invade the South village, you also need to help the dwarves be prosperous enough in [some other place] to finance this expansion, while also weakening the forest denizens such they rely on an alliance with the south village. And you’ve got to pull the strings elsewhere which starts the knockon effect that causes the bandits to become ambitious enough.

    All the meantime, other players are going about their business and confounding the delicate balance [eg. by helping the forest dryads become strong and independent, thus no alliance etc etc]

    One can but dream.

  • @Garumoo
    Your idea is great and I wish it’s become real. But realistically speaking this is way too good to be true. Let’s see.-

    For this whole butterfly effect “cascade” event to work, you have to create a very big and branching chain of events. That’s a lot of content for just one starting event.

    Add to that the fact that, without good reason, changes to the world caused by these cascade events SHOULD NOT be reversed back (otherwise it will be a larger-scale PQ, which I’d say it’s still cheap). As a result, you are looking at a very big and branching chain of events with only one route being used, depending on players. Any other possible outcomes will be discarded because the events never repeat itself.

    See the problem yet? Not only does the development team have to create a lot of content for just one simple world-changing event, the players who somehow don’t get to participate in said event will miss it forever. Don’t you think it’s such a waste?

    Hmmm, at this point I feel like other games already have this kind of thing. They’re called “World Event” and they happen only once. Needless to say, they’re very very rare. For good reason, too.

    So in my opinion, Anet is doing what they do best and overhyping their game, again.

  • @everyone bashing the WAR PQ system. I think you’re confused. Its a PUBLIC QUEST, its not called “EPIC EVENT OF RANDOMNESS THAT WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF MMOS FOREVERS”

    Its a mechanic that was implemented for people who wanted the mmo feel of group grinding or other pve mechanics that involved more that one person. It worked and its still working just fine, its not “broken” or “failed”.

    I think keen said it was sort of lack luster because it had a counter that showed you’re progress and that took away from the nostalgia of trying to change the pace of the world, u mean a quest tracker like all the solo quests have? Why WOULDNT they have one for the PUBLIC QUEST? Its just a quest u can do with more people for some extra loot, nothing more nothing less, I dont get why everyone is picking it apart.

    Also someone said something about the diffuculty of PQs in WAR and about not having enough people…are u fin kidding me dude? They are set up in difficulty as “easy” “normal” “hard” they TELL YOU how many people u need to complete each PQ, there is no “sweet spot” if u do a lvl 27 hard PQ when your level 20 and u have 1 other lvl 20 person with you…your going to fail. Its that simple.

    If GW2 is using a similar setup in their own game its because they saw how well it worked in WAR and they want to use it as well. I like that a lot and i hope they can improve upon it. If they thought it was a fail mechanic in WAR they wouldn’t be implementing content like this.

  • Who cares about the PVE in the game. I can’t wait for the GW2 PvP! This is the only game I am waiting for.

  • I agree, the WAR PQ system was an interesting idea, but horribly implemented. The PQ system actually ended up being worse than questing.

    I mean when I’m out questing, I kill 20 mobs over here, then 20 mobs over there, and so on, but in WAR I would just find the easiest PQ and grind that over and over and over.

    At least with questing I would get to see see the zone and take in the ambiance.

    My ideal PQ would be a one time event, or maybe yearly event. Something along the lines of a major city coming under siege, all flights in being shot down, its surrounded by high level elites, and continues on for a week or so.

    A siege that comes out of nowhere and lasts long enough for everyone to experience it and take part. But not too long, so it doesn’t over stay its welcome.

    Then when the enemy General/High Voodoo Dragon, whatever, is killed, anyone who did a quest that contributed to the freedom of the city gets some gear out of the City Armory.

    Or, if there is a lack of effort to free the city, it becomes a Raid encounter, and after so many successful raids a new PQ would become available that would have the good guys laying siege to free the city.

    That is what dynamic means to me. When I log in and read this:

    Ultionis has logged on.
    Ultionis: Mornin boys and girls.
    Guild Dude: Ulty! Guess what! We got Riverrun back last night!!!!!!
    Ultionis: Whaaaa! I haven’t seen that place in years, wait. I’m pretty sure I still have a deed to a house on South St there 🙂
    Ultionis: I gonna have to fix the old place up, buy some furnishings maybe put a vendor out front,,, oh, wait. I just spent all my gold on a horse, not cool…./cry

  • It seems you are complaining about a feature that is repeatable and easily figured out possibly. but if you are leveling thru, do it once and go on, no need to keep doing it. I mean in WoW when You had to kill 10 of x, did you want to stay there and get it again even if you could?

    It appears you want a sandbox game and not a theme park game. Therefore try Darkfall and you can see how the game is created by the players.

    I look forward towards innovation and yes this is sounds similar to WARs PQ system. But WAR didn’t fail me with their PQ, they failed me with their movement animations. The only races I could stand to even look at were goblins & Orcs so I only played the 1 month.

    If a game doesn’t have the entire package I’m not in it, this alone won’t be a deal breaker for me, let them try something and maybe there is an angle we don’t know about. But repeatable content scenarios are much better then rising over the hill and seeing 20 creatures standing still or doing little patrols over and over thats for sure. making an “entire world” surprising with events is hard to do I imagine.

  • @Ultionis,

    The problem with your “ideal PQ”, is what if you miss it? Seriously, when GMs run events, they are awesome…if you are a part of them. If you miss it due to time, work, you die in game and have to run back, they suck @SS. Only because everyone brags about how “cool” it was or some item was handed out. Rare events are pretty neat but they have to be often enough to partake or they are just plain old suck craptastic. Seriously, most people play a game to not be a peasant farmer. Can you imagine an MMO where you have to be a serf and level up from 1-20 which takes 6 months before you can start your level as a knight.

    So today you log in, oops, didn’t water the castle carrots, you lose half a level. $%^@, then you see some other players ride in on their horses with a wagon which has a Dragons head in it. they have been playing a year already and you only 1 month. Back to working on your week picking skills to one day you can do what others are doing. That is what rare server events are like. I don’t mean seasonal events that last a week or more like in WoW, those are ok as people have time to enjoy them.

    You should also try darkfall, then you can capture those cities you mention and you make the game.

  • I tell ya I did LOVE the PQ in WAR that pitted the factions against each other. The places where you had to cross paths with the enemy and decide to kill the enemy for kill the enemies NPCs were the best moments in WAR for me.

    And it doesn’t have to be open world either. Throw that concept in a Blizz battleground or any other instanced fight is good with me!

  • I wonder how the dynamic events will work with sharding… if they are going with a non-instanced (open) world, they’ll have to have shards because there’s no way they can fit the whole world on one server. So what happens if people do things differently on one server from another? Can we end up with radically different servers? (I think that would be pretty cool if it were true.)

  • The PQ idea is very novel. It just did not survive its first test with an active player base. That isn’t to say it was a failure, just not fully understood since it had not been done before.

    Questing in MMOs (and RPGs) is still evolving. So I don’t fault the WAR for the PQ. I have not been back in a while, but I would be curious to see how the newer content PQs stack up now that they have some idea how players play them. Most quests result in no change to the world itself. PQs just make that more apparent since some tend to be constantly re-occuring events.

    As for the ripple effect, the trick is to not make it too predictable. I would love to see a fully adaptable and mutable world design. PQs would just be one part of the many ways that players can affect change in the world itself.

  • @Cacheelma thanks!

    I disagree though with some of your points – the trick is to stop thinking of the cascade as a “chain” of events, but instead think of it as a mesh or network, which each node having multiple possible states, with multiple triggering effects.

    I do agree that these state changes shouldn’t be reversed, in the sense that the changes shouldn’t be “reset” in some arbitrary manner.

    A simple state-machine of a dozen nodes could produce hundreds of combinations of zone environments, especially if you make it a cross-matrix of locations and factions (eg. the Stoneheart Dwarves could, under the right conditions, start digging into South Forest … or under different conditions you could find them hard at work at Great Northen Peak … or possibly under very different conditions and sequence of events have instead decided to retire to the coast, sip Mai Tais, and enrol in the World Professional Morris Dancing Leagues and relax with wind surfing).

    With a state-machine model there could be cycles and loops, ebbs and flows, echoes and recurrence. Last month the valley is awash with bandits and dwarves duking it out, one side loses but the victors are weakened .. a patient necromancer steps in and puts all those mass graves to evil use and raises a small army which he then flings against a nearby Abbey. The abbot has only just returned from a crusade, and is in a mighty ticked off mood and (with player’s help) squashes the necro like a bug. The original villages return from whence they had fled, and form an alliance with the current friendly denizens of the forest (ie. the ragtag remnants of the dwarven outpost, not the dryads et al).

    Things are back to how they were.


    Will the bandits once again thrive in their distant fort, and start this ruckus all over again? Maybe. Will some dark horror instead slouch out of a deep crevice in the forest, awakened by the incessant tap-tap-tapping of mining picks? Maybe the dwarves are able to contain this threat, but the bandits now choose to strike there instead of the village, and be victorious over the beleaguered dwarven outpost .. only to then in turn be revulsed by the deep horror. Now, the forest sleeps, deserted, and the dryads return … they are familiar with the ancient horror and the necessary lullaby to croon to it back to its noisome slumber.

    Things are now, really, back to how they were.

    Except the Abbey is more powerful now. And are we really sure all is well at the Abbey .. the Abbot is looking awfully pale, and no one did manage to find the necros body after the great battle, and jsut what was that mysterious ritual he cast right there at the end? … (cue ominous music)

    It’s important to note that none of those settings (happy villages with neighboring dryads, bandits in rule, necromancer rampant, yada yada) are the One True Default setting, awaiting meddling adventurers to trigger some event chain. Rather, they are all legitimate realities, each legitimately alternates of each other.

  • MMO’s are getting old and stale, thats why people are constantly jumping between them and trying out “the next big thing” A vision to change questing is a vision to change the whole way in which you play an MMO, if its successful its going to be fantastic.

    Lets face it, WoW is fucking old and so are all its clones.

  • WAR’s PQ system was actually quite fun and could have been a big advance on WOW type solo quests – if only you could actually get to do one in the circumstances for which it was designed. It’s true that PQs were cyclical and didn’t have a lasting effect on the world, but that wasn’t really the problem – which was, simply, that there were so rarely the right amount of people available at the right time to complete any PQ in a satisfactory manner. If Guild Wars 2 was just able to solve this single problem then, even without the promises of persistent effects on a dynamic game world, they could make events far more interesting than WoW quests… So the key question is whether they can make event scaling work in a satisfactory manner … or not.

  • @ #13: Quote: “…the players who somehow don’t get to participate in said event will miss it forever.”

    I’m getting really tired of this expectation that *all* players must be able to participate in any and all events and content. In a truly dynamic world (e.g. Real Life), stuff happens, some people miss it, but other stuff will happen and people will be able to participate in that! That’s how stories get created: unique events happen to people, and to them alone. People love stories…

    So, if a MMO can provide players with more dynamic, potentially unique events and content, the players will be creating their own stories, and they will be telling each other these stories, like “Really? When I was over there, this is what happened!”

    Instead, what we’ve got with MMOs right now: Everybody and their pony is doing the exact same stuff, so there’s no point to telling anyone about it. I mean, when was the last time you got together with your friends and was like, “Oh you killed ten rats too? Woot!”

    At any rate, fully dynamic content ain’t gonna happen over-night, as much as we might want it too. It’s got to start with things like WAR’s PQ system or GW2’s “dynamic” events, however mediocre those implementations may be.

  • To be honest, I want the dynamic event to reset. If it does not, then what happen when the dynamic event is completed and new players who started the game 2 months later, will not get to experience it.

  • Missing an event will definitely be a waste. So an event in which spents hours to create is only participated by a few hundred people of the million players who wanted to be part of it. If you think about it 1500 event is not enough for million of players as majority will most likely miss out of those events

  • I totally agree with you. These “dynamic events” are no different from any other quest out there, imo.

    After using explosives to clear out a Skritt cave in the game I felt overjoyed as I had vanquished the menace for good, or so I thought. An hour later I ran back to the same area only to see that all my work as well as my companions was for naught. The same Skritt were there and their cave intact. There is no “evolving world” that is based around a single player’s action. To even think so was ridiculous, but that just goes to show you can’t believe everything the devs say.

    All expectations I’ve drawn were from what was said in their interviews, videos, and other things found on their website and from what I’ve experienced, the game is not what the devs made it out to be.