you cant really give a full review for guild wars 2, just because its massive size and scope means only the most dedicated players have explored all it in breadth and depth. but at the same time after spending hours with the game you can still gather a general impression of the game to your tastes and begin to really critique the work as a whole.
for the short judgement of the game ill quote one of my favorite game reviewers, xoxak:
so half this game is ugly and confusing. the other half is by the books and boring. i love the ugly and confusing part.
and the long analysis is below the fold
I see dead MMOs.
In your dreams?
[shakes head no]
While you’re awake?
Dead MMOs like, The Matrix Online? APB?
Collecting subscription fees like regular MMOs. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.
How often do you see them?
All the time. They’re everywhere.
with the advent of guild wars 2 i feel its time enough to give my thoughts on guild wars 1. while ive talked about some of the joys of the game in prior posts, i feel its important to point out its flaws as well.
the original motivator for comparing zelda games to mmos was the fact that i found so many of the ‘dungeon’ instances in mmos to be so painfully boring, and why i found dungeons in zelda so much more interesting. i got a little sidetracked by comparing narrative elements last time, but today i want to keep it all mechanics.
twilight princess’s dungeons feel freshest before you have too many hearts and too many tools to play around with. its a common problem with zelda games, where once too many tools are in the bag some either become useless or are obsolete. a similar problem exists in mmos that hand out abilities too freely, but thats beside the point. focusing on those early dungeons you get to see where the true dungeon design comes off.
later zelda dungeons tend to become a series of ‘aha’ puzzles and fights of minor annoyance. earlier zelda dungeons though, each fight could potentially remove half your hearts, and since the designers can’t dead-end you by making you have to search around for a tool, they have to find ways to make the exploration interesting and non-obvious. zelda manages to do this well, and personally i think its one of the series’ greatest strengths and a testament to its design.
compartively lets define the mmo-dungeon experience: a mostly linear tour of monsters and bosses, where the game usually assumes the player has a tank and a healer, and there are no surprises because the players have to repeat these dungeons repeatedly for rewards.
clearly zelda-dungeons have an advantage on that last bit: there is no advantage, nor any reason, to repeat a zelda-dungeon. there are backtracking bits that reward players with extra things for using new tools in old areas, but nothing quite as drastic as doing the same mmo-dungeon twice. still, part of the thrill of exploring a zelda-dungeons is that it is new territory to be mastered, there is a sense of unknown lurking behind every door, around every corner, and inside every chest. i think mmo dungeons could develop a lot by having some kind of randomized room and encounter template to pull from. maybe not every mmo-dungeon an mmo offers should be built this way, but having the option to engage in such an encounter would clear up the boring linearity and lack of surprise that plague the mmo-dungeon.
the second idea mmo-dungeons could steal from zelda-dungeons is the idea that it should be necessary to find and use tools to continue the dungeon. execution of this has proven tricky, as the ‘oculus’ and ‘grim batol’ dungeons in world of warcraft have shown. personally i think this is a problem that the tools given dont really empower the players, but instead give the player a new challenge to overcome. the tools given for ‘the black morass’ or ‘end time’ instances actually do empower the player in an interesting and useful way, and neither of those instances have draw quite the same ire.
…and this post is already too long for its own good. theres some good ideas to explore more in this post, but to delve deeper into them would be going too far from this mmo vs zelda exploration.
i finished twilight princess a few months ago and gave myself some time to think about it. im going to try to keep this as a comparative analysis of zeldas mechanics and the standard gameplay of an mmo. for my first post id like to discuss story elements.
narrative elements of twilight princess tend to focus on using characters and character interactions to tell the backstory. minor characters see a lot of re-use and contain dialogue outside of dungeons and quests.
despite wanting to create a living world with large amounts of history, most of the mmorpg plot is conveyed only in quest text or minor gameplay events that are not repeatable. npc dialogue only weakly reacts to players accomplishments. even in a “story focused” game like swtor, you cant even talk to random townspeople to learn about the game world, which is abundant in twilight princess.
swtor does have an advantage that it has a ‘branching’ style narrative, in that the player has some agency over how the plot unfolds, but i think this is somewhat overblown. swtor excels at hiding the effects of players agency: differences are only found at the conclusion of an event, where cascading consequences are all removed from the players view and interaction. for all intents and purposes, swtor has a linear plot.
world of warcraft has been getting somewhat better about involving lore characters into the gameplay to tell a story. however some lore characters tend to get completely ignored between chapters, as if they had no interest in the events unfolding. theres a very real sense that after you finish an npcs quests, their interest in the world at large becomes a ‘not my problem, maybe you should handle it’. in twilight princess, even the hero team that meets in telmas bar makes a cameo apperance at the final dungeon. in warcraft you only see the very most important lore characters showing up in expansion ending raids, which is really the equivalent of zelda and midna tagging along to fight ganon.
on the whole there are elements where mmos have a stronger storytelling powers than zelda, but thats not to say mmos cant benefit from zeldas world-building and character building techniques. more recently it feels like the trend in storytelling has been about creating spectacle and trying to one-up eachother on how impressive they can create a mini-narrative, rather than working on creating simple and fundamental world building elements.
blizzard has deemed fit to start doing their cataclysm post mortem, so ive decided to post my own. ive been avoiding doing this for a while because i still feel like my emotions cloud my opinion on the matter. ive also been avoiding it because wow bashing is too easy to do and id like to hold myself to a higher standard than that when posting on this tumblr.
my wow experience began shortly before the burning crusade arrived and ended shortly after cataclysm. ive played tanks, healers and dps. i liked wow. but after cataclysm i have serious doubts about wows design staff, and no longer wish to return.
the first chips in my experience were the instance difficulties. they were too difficult. i dont mean this in the sense that they were hard and i hate hard games. guild wars has plenty of hard encounters that i relish. problem came from the fact that what i wanted to do and what the designers intended players to do clashed. way back during wotlk the designers had read their official forum a ton and found many players decrying the lack of difficulty present in wotlk. their response was to turn it up a ton so people would stop insulting them as making ‘ezmode content for casuals’.
the first consequence is that the heroics were hard. like really hard. if you were not overgeared, and noone particularly was before patch 4.1, the dungeons success hinged on you knowing your role well. the problem was that wow doesnt teach you how to play your role. for a normal game populated by nerds, this isnt a problem because nerds will find a way to make stuff work. but wow isnt a game for nerds, its the most popular mmo on the planet. youve got people who are expecting a good time and dont care if theyre bad lining up to head into a heroic, particularly after a long expansion where they were not punished for their bad playstyle. suddenly lfd is no longer an asset but a liability. now you no longer have tanks wanting to queue, because the odds of a high repair bill are incredibly high, and suddenly queue times are through the roof.
this would be fine on its own though without the second consequence. cataclysm had no intrdocutory raid. after launching tbc with karazhan, and wotlk with naxxramas, blizzard decided that those were both too easy for their new “Wow, Dungeons are Hard!” future. the only way to reliably get gear was to have everyone be decked out in heroic ilvl, and even then it was ideal to be above that ilvl in gear. the only way to get to this ilvl is through sheer grinding of heroics and gold to buy up everything you can and hope for the best. maybe.
as a consequence this basically killed gearing up alts and pug raiding. two things i really enjoyed about wotlk era wow but couldnt enjoy in cata wow. even the raiding, which i was able to break into just a little bit, wasnt fun. because even after you got past the first bosses, the next bosses were harder. so you had to hit more grinding.
its not that i didnt mind the hard heroics. or the hard raid bosses. or repeating content. what mattered more was that what i really wanted to do, raiding with my friends, was impossible without doing a bunch of side grinding first. every week i was telling myself: maybe after i finish this grind, this game will finally start getting fun again. maybe after i do a bunch more heroics i dont like ill finally get the gear i need so i can finally stop worrying and enjoy the game. maybe next week my friends will have grinded up enough too so that i dont have to be so stressed out every time we enter an instance together.
no. wait. this is bullshit.
why am i paying $15 a month to do virtual chores so i can get the privelege for internet dragons? who do these designers think they are to suddenly kill pug raiding overnight and shrug? and most importantly where is the unsubscribe button?
and thats the short version of why i dont play world of warcraft anymore.