End Game Content
This time around I’m discussing something that I was a huge fan of when I played World of Warcraft: end-game content and raiding. It’s something a lot of people work towards to, while a lot of other people dismiss. Another breaking point in an MMO, it seems the discussion is taking epic proportions with Guild Wars 2.
What is end-game content anyway? The most common answer is “instanced dungeons you experience at maximum level, that requires some degree of equipment quality and proper team composition”. There are many other definitions or complements to this definition (such as Faction, Achivement and Profession grinding, among others), but I feel this is what most people think of when they hear/read end-game content, so I’ll discard those alternatives in this discussion (I’m also excluding PvP for now, that’s worthy of a whole post).
How has this been achieved in other games? Let’s take a look at WoW. When you get to maximum level you’re objective stops being leveling up and is now (among other things) getting better equipment for your character. Most common route is to do 5-man dungeons so you can get a decent minimum level in order to advance to harder 5-mans or start raiding. It was like this in 2006 and I would bet it hasn’t changed significantly since then.
Now, lets look at Guild Wars 2 and see what can we expect from it. I wasn’t able to find any Official post or article or news bit about this (although I’m 99% sure I did see it somewhere, sometime…), but I’ve read it from a lot of sources and it seems to be the general acceptance: there are no raids in Guild Wars 2.
This is that sentence that has generated so many heated arguments around the Interwebs. Now, I didn’t say there is no “end-game content” I just said there are no “raids“, as in there are no dungeons designed for 10-40 players size groups, which, to my knowledge, aren’t even possible to form. Even so, this has put a lot of people off, people that are used to the WoW system. For a long while people will be comparing, as they have been, any MMORPG title to WoW. But Guild Wars 2 isn’t like any other MMORPG. And yes, Guild Wars 2 will have a lot of end-game content. First there’s the 5-player dungeons, each with 4+ different paths and events, making it 4 different dungeons to be honest. Then there’s the giant boss encounters throughout the game. And this is where ArenaNet’s Sidekick system will make a stand regarding end-game: since you get sidekicked down to match the recommended level range for the zone you’re in, any boss encounter made for lower level zones (like the Shadow Behemoth in Queensdale, The Shatterer from GamesCom 2010 or Tequatl the Sunless in a more recent event) will still be hard and fun for you. This is maybe a weird concept to grasp: end-game content at early- and mid-game.
But having raid encounters anyway wouldn’t hurt right? I have to say it’s something I think I will miss as well. Raids feel epic and that’s something really important in fantasy games, MMO or not. Fighting giant evil monsters alongside 30 or 40 other players is cool, there’s no escaping that. But there’s another thing that I feel makes raids (as we know them at least) not viable in Guild Wars 2 , and that is the removal of the “holy trinity”. Not having the “normal” damage soakers (Tanks) coupled with the healing bots completely turns raiding upside down. I’m not saying it’s not possible, hell I’m sure ArenaNet could make it work, but it breaks a design orientation that ArenaNet follows (read below). Would I love to see it in Guild Wars 2? Yeah definitely. Can I live without it? Sure I can.
I think the bottom line is understanding how ArenaNet is building this game. It will not be another WoW clone, doing the same things with different names and characters, it’s going to be a whole different game, I dare saying a whole different genre. This is a game focused on the social side of MMORPG, on enjoying a fun multiplayer game with your friends. Eric Flannum said in an interview some time ago that levels in Guild Wars 2 are more progress markers than power markers. It might be hard getting used to this idea if you just started following this game, but in time I’m sure you will stop comparing GW2 to WoW (or most other MMO’s really) and realize it’s like comparing apples to cars. To quote Eric Flannum, “we don’t want people to feel like the game only starts when you reach max level“. That is why we get to fight the Shadow Behemoth at level 15 out in an open area. That idea summarizes this post very well I believe.