Why Temporary? Reusing Season 1 to Enrich Existing Content

ICYMI: I did a post about what WvW could learn from Edge of the Mists. Posted it in the middle of a weekend, so it didn’t get much visibility. (Reddit thread for comments is here if you’d prefer not to comment on WordPress)

Also, if you like my speculative rambling, I laid out an argument for why the Heart of Thorns logo all-but-confirms an expansion in my mind. Read it now so you can laugh at how wrong I am on Saturday. (Reddit thread here)

Take It Back a Year

Let’s go back to the very beginning of 2014. Season 1 was in its final releases, with Lion’s Arch having mere days to exist without a ton of rubble and metal wreckage. Scarlet was reaching her end game, and the players just wanted her to die already so they didn’t have to hear her telling them to do that. Over and over again. Ad infinitum.

And the biggest complaint at the time (and enduring today when applied to Season 1): “too much temporary content.” Season 1 gave us unique encounter after unique encounter, but if you didn’t log on and play your face off during the month those encounters existed, you were SoL. Tyria and Scarlet moved on, leaving at most wreckage in their wake.

Fast forward to June: the Story Journal feature gets announced. Within, it lays out a significantly more permanent approach to the Living World, with a new panel, achievements, replayability, and other features that read like a dream sheet for what people wanted from Season 1. Colin even teased:

Also, because Season 1 of Living World was not built with the Journal in mind, it will not be available in the story Journal on initial launch when Season 2 begins. We do hope to add Season 1 to the Journal in the future.

(Yes, I consider this a tease because it has the trademark “in the future” phrase.)

I’ll be up front: I think merely adding Season 1 to the Story Journal, with the season’s emphasis on large content and repeatable scenarios (for a limited time), would be a complete waste of the potential of all that content.

What I Suggest Instead (aka, TL;DR)

There are several existing avenues for adding content to the game, some of which have been untouched since release or shortly thereafter. Among these are dungeons, guild content, and world boss raids (Tequatl, Triple Trouble).

Most of Living World Season 1 would fit neatly into any of those categories, and with minimal lore wrangling could create permanent content where before there was only temporary.

What to Do with Season 1

Living World Season 1 provided many different sorts of content, from simple “Press F to interact” repairing of signs* to massive map-capping fights that failed far more than they succeeded (ohai Marionette, how we loved you until we saw that one platform totally wiped).

*You volunteered! Congrats, your keyboard works!

It’d be ridiculous to port all of that in any capacity, and besides, some of it really wasn’t that good (aforementioned Cutrate Sign Repair). But there’s a lot of content that could (and should) be picked up, though how should vary among these categories:

  • Story Journal-based Instances (similar to existing Season 2 content)
  • Party-based Dungeon Instances
  • Guild Content
  • Triggerable World Event Raids

But before I get into what could fit where, it begs the question “How, in the lore, could ArenaNet bring back things like Marionette?”

The Lore Justification

The Story Journal can get away with being in the past, but the other pieces of content? Look no further than The Mists. Per ArenaNet’s lore gurus, the Mists encapsulate by means not understood fragments of the past, fixing certain events forever in little “bubbles” separated from the passage of time.

Fractals is a great application of using the Mists to “preserve” content that would otherwise have no reason in the lore to exist. They even did exactly that when adding the cutdown versions of Aetherblade Retreat, Molten Facility, and their associated boss fights.

But extend the idea one touch further, and you could have “Unstable Portals” used as triggering devices for things that would otherwise be open world. Someone with the Guild World Event ability hits one and the Mists warps the local area around to contain the content from the past. Encounter starts, content is played, and everything returns to normal at completion.

There’s more than one way to do triggering, but I’ll get to that later.

What Fits Where

(NOTE: This is going to be a pile of bullet points in chronological order, with short justifications, if not obvious, for why I put what where. Also, I likely missed stuff. Feel free to let me know what I did, and where it should go)

Story Instances

(A side note on this: I’m skipping a lot of the non-combat instances that would likely be a part of a Story Journal implementation of Season 1.)

  1. Rox’s missions, Critical Mission and The Hatchery (from Flame and Frost: The Razing)
  2. Braham’s missions, Help from the Legions, Eirsson, Retake Cragstead (from Flame and Frost: The Razing)
  3. Canach’s Lair, solo version (from Last Stand at Southsun)
  4. The Nightmare Unveiled (from Tower of Nightmares)

Dungeons/Party-based Content

  1. Molten Facility. Yes, I realize there’s a Fractal of it already, but it’s cut to a third of its length to fit the Fractal formula. The original, full dungeon can exist alongside with different rewards. (from Flame and Frost: Retribution)
  2. Canach’s Lair, group version, though I could just as easily see this one as a Boss Fractal due to shortness. (from Last Stand at Southsun)
  3. Aetherblade Retreat. I also realize this exists in Fractals, and was only cut in half compared to Molten Facility, but the entire experience is something I’m a fan of. (from Sky Pirates of Tyria)
  4. Candidate Trials. Perhaps condensing them to just one trial type since the election already happened and there was no real difference between the two types. (from Cutthroat Politics)
  5. Scarlet’s Playhouse. Though originally made as a soloable story instance, I feel it would be better served in a scaled-up fashion requiring a party. (from Clockwork Chaos)
  6. The Tower of Nightmares. Fighting from bottom to top and taking down the Toxic Hybrid. (from The Nightmares Within)

Guild Challenges

  1. The Twisted Marionette. I can see this as both a world event raid and as a guild challenge (with some reduction in scaling). But guild content hasn’t gotten any love in a very long time. (from The Origins of Madness)

Triggerable World Event Raids

(NOTE: I assume that activating the flag just transforms the zone. This isn’t ideal, but it’s easy to implement. I’ve other ideas that should serve better than causing some poor people to get dropkicked by a suddenly enemy-filled area)

  1. Clockwork Chaos Portal Invasions. Imagine this one as a zone-transformer, turning the megaserver it activates on into the original invasion. Likely will need some reward rebalancing, perhaps with the Silverwastes gear reward approach. (from Clockwork Chaos)
  2. Escape from Lion’s Arch. The entire meta-event was a zone-filler. (from Escape from Lion’s Arch)
  3. Battle for Lion’s Arch. A two-stage fight between the Assault Knights and the Prime Light Hologram. (from Battle for Lion’s Arch)

Accessing the New Content

Story Instances

These are the obvious shoe-in for the existing Story Journal. ‘Nuff said.

Dungeons/Party Instances

These should be accessible in their original locations, with perhaps an alternate way of displaying their entrances (steal the Edge of the Mists portals, for example).

Triggerable World Event Raids

These are the complicated ones, for obvious reasons: they literally span an entire zone. There’s several ways to do it, though.

Quick and Dirty: Transform the Zone

Similar to how Tequatl and Triple Trouble spawn now, the event just starts, taking over the zone in the process. This immediately runs into trouble when you consider that Escape from and Battle for Lion’s Arch happened in a city…that’s a heaping wreck now still*. Not ideal, but requires the least development effort.

*And you thought the US government wasted funds getting nothing done.

Ideal: Guild-generated Instances

When a guild member with mission control activates one of these events, they are ported to a dynamically generated instance specifically meant for that mission. Anyone in the zone the instance is attached to can either taxi in, or click the world event icon to be ported there as well.

Abuse (defined as people not interested in succeeding wasting space in the instance) can be avoided by either locking porting in to being a member of the guild (or in a party with such a member), or requiring the triggering individual to taxi people in bit by bit. The latter isn’t perfectly convenient, but it’s not without precedent (it’s the way Triple Trouble and some Tequatl runs are done at present, as well as Dry Top and Silverwastes).

This would require new development logic for instances on demand, instead of simply triggering an event start message to the server like the existing world event locations. It would also need controls (like only one event per guild at a time) to prevent players spamming a bunch of server overhead into existence.

However, it neatly sidesteps the problem of people who don’t want to participate being stuck participating anyway. And the whole unstable time loop problem (Schrodinger’s LA: both destroyed and not destroyed simultaneously).

The Middle Ground: World Boss Schedule

Rather than allowing instances or event triggers on demand, at a specified time in the schedule portals activate in the appropriate area (perhaps randomizing which zone gets a Clockwork Chaos, and sticking the portal in LA for ease of access).

Anyone who enters those portals joins an instance of the content, filling up as per overflow. For organization help, the portals could open 10-15 minutes early of actual event start, allowing people time to taxi and situate themselves.

This is easier than creating guild-generated instances, but harder than just transforming the zone. Also sidesteps participation and time loop problems, though it doesn’t have any controls for abuse.

Advantages of Adding LS1 Content

  • First and foremost, all that development effort doesn’t go to waste as permanently unavailable temporary content.
  • Instant spike in available content for people to play and enjoy, including a potential doubling in raids of various difficulty that people can attempt (Escape from LA doesn’t require anywhere near the body-count as Triple Trouble).
  • Add a lore-consistent way to reintroduce materials that cannot be acquired at present (e.g., Azurite Orbs, Blade Shards at a rate not pathetic, Zealot’s recipes).
  • Creates a mechanism to experiment with new reward acquisition methods. Maybe Clockwork Chaos was overtuned on release, but what if it had its own Silverwastes-esque chest rewards instead?
  • Provides additional publicity because Season 1 content is available as a “Mists-based” addition. People just joining the game get to appreciate the good stuff from Season 1.
  • Removes the burden of trying to cut down content to fit the Story Journal. One possible (and inadvisable) scenario for adding Season 1 to the Story Journal would be to scale down all of the world events to be solo instance-able. With the content put in place elsewhere, the potential letdown of doing that (or not even implementing the content at all) goes away.

Difficulties

  • Implementing even just the story instances into the Journal likely requires a fair amount of code work so that the episodes encapsulate properly and everything transitions right. Not to mention rewards.
  • Dungeons can potentially be readded whole cloth, but tuning their rewards to be consistent with ongoing availability is likely a concern.
  • Most of the world event raid difficulties were mentioned above, but I’ll reiterate how rewards will likely need a serious looking at. All three of the mentioned raid types were the best farm in the game when they existed, so they need some toning down on the non-unique loot.
  • Maybe the unavailable stats combos and the various ways to acquire them were nerfed for a reason: ArenaNet doesn’t like them but doesn’t want to outright delete them. This might be an economic block on readding those particular materials.
  • If all original rewards are readded with the content, there might be some market flux as increasingly-rare skins and recipes get a spike of supply. Considering the ultra-rare status on release, this would be to me a market readjustment, not a crash.

Conclusion

Living World Season 1 currently exists in a netherworld of awesome content that isn’t available anymore. For all of its faults, it represents countless hours of developer time and effort. Not having it around is a shame.

The good news is that because it’s already created content, it takes less work to implement into the game in a slightly different form. It represents a great opportunity to add new content for pieces of the game that haven’t gotten anything recently, especially as Season 2 drew to a close.

The only potential bad side is rebalancing content that was blatantly out of line with the rest of the game when it was newly available. It’s a challenge that I think with some creative stealing from other parts of the game could be overcome, rendering “old” content that feels new and integrates well with the existing world.

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