Dumping Sand on the Theme Park: Emergence

A few days ago, I wrote about the Trifold Curse, and how that ultimately leads to burnout, both of countless MMOs and the developers who make them. It’s not a good situation, but how can it be avoided when the vast majority of the industry at present is based on building feature-rich theme parks*?

*A sizable portion of players, judging by the number of MMOs made to get their attention, prefer the simpler theme park approach to content over the situations that evolve organically in sandboxes like EVE Online.

Enter what I term emergence:

Emergence is the use of simple, but layered mechanics to create a complex, nuanced, and ultimately unpredictable encounter, while retaining the ability to be comprehended.

Sounds really complex, doesn’t it? Fortunately, elements of this concept already exist in some of the most recent content released for Guild Wars 2, which I will use as a case study for this post.

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The Dangers of Feedback Firestorms

Last week should have been an awesome week with prepurchase starting (and presumably, release getting closer), a metric ton of information about guild halls, and full details of exactly how big the patch that went live today is.

Instead, it turned into a nightmare of botched PR, hate and shaming on ArenaNet’s developers, and a viral level of outcry spreading from reddit to the same group that hosted the initial reveal of guild halls and prepurchase during E3 in less than a week. A literal firestorm of negative feedback.

And based on Monday’s post, the outcry worked. People are calmed down now, and most folks’ “fix list” has been accommodated.

But regardless of its effectiveness, it sets a dangerous, and ultimately unproductive precedent. I am going to show how first firestorms aren’t new to the Guild Wars 2 community, how these firestorms hurt everyone involved, and ways to keep a raging inferno from engulfing the studio.

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A Theme Park MMO’s Bane: The Trifold Curse

NOTE: This was originally released as a single post, but has since been split into three parts and expanded to better communicate my analysis and suggestions.

Theme park MMOs are all about the attractions. Dungeons, raids, open world, even PvP arenas are considered small pieces of the overall park. And just like real life theme parks, the attractions steadily lose their luster as time goes by, the newness fading into a sense of staleness.

Why this is can be traced to three particular elements, which when combined inevitably create staleness for the vast majority of the player base. Below, I trace these elements as they apply to the game Guild Wars 2, but the principles hold for any theme park MMO, even the behemoth World of WarCraft.

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One Step From Death: At Home in War (Part 6)

So far, I’ve looked at the game modes where necromancer is countered, suboptimal, and ultimately marginalized, namely PvP and PvE. But no discussion of necromancers in Guild Wars 2 is complete without looking at the mode where they run the meta: World vs. World.

Continue reading One Step From Death: At Home in War (Part 6)