Flameseeker Chronicles: The future of Guild Wars 2 under Mike O’Brien

    
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Flameseeker Chronicles: The future of Guild Wars 2 under Mike O’Brien
The news coming from ArenaNet has been very interesting since the company’s President Mike O’Brien took over as Guild Wars 2 Game Director, so I thought it might be a good time to look at some of his decisions made at the helm of ANet and throw in my two cents. We’ve seen references to the GW2 Manifesto, drastic shifts in dev team focus, and a promise to focus on sustainability and quality, but also sustained player outcries over issues such as legendary weapons being put on hold. One thing that’s certain is that this is a time for decisive action and O’Brien surely needs to do something to make players happy.

It’s undeniable that a significant proportion of GW2 fans — particularly those who have bought into Heart of Thorns —  are feeling more than a little bit frustrated with the on-again-off-again nature of content delivery, and distrust is spreading because of the perceived non-delivery of ANet’s promises. In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll look at the raging debates happening between the new Game Director and the playerbase, and I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on how O’Brien can win us over going forward to resecure a solid basis to build upon with the second expansion.

gw2 Mike O'Brien 1Stepping in at a time of promises and talking delivery

Let me first set the scene for those who haven’t been following along with the update timeline and O’Brien’s words since previous Game Director Colin Johanson left. The first thing that was established was that O’Brien meant to start in his new role with a spirit of open communication: An information-packed Reddit AMA saw many burning questions answered that centred on both the April update and future development plans. Right from the off, expectation management seemed to be a high priority, and O’Brien was sure to step away from promising release dates as far as possible so that content quality wouldn’t further suffer due to stiff timelining.

The most notable inclusion in the AMA for me was a full breakdown of the team’s assignments: It was very reassuring to see how the team was split because it showed the manpower priorities of the studio are coming more in-line with those of the vocal fanbase, with solid teams assigned to each area of importance. I also particularly appreciated the candid, unabashed honesty it must have taken to discuss common dev issues that we think only happen in novice or indie studios because most large companies keep them well under the carpet: There were hints of feature creep clogging true development, timelining issues, burnout, and workflow issues that feel all-too familiar to me from my work on Predestination.

gw2 weapon 1Legendaries on hold

Shortly thereafter, news broke that legendary weapon development would be indefinitely suspended so that the six developers assigned to those items could be redirected to pushing more Living World style content. Many players flooded the forum thread with major complaints regarding the lack of delivery on a feature that was promised as a part of the expansion, resulting in an interesting back and forth in the replies. Annoyed fans highlighted the promises made pre-HoT and asserted that the expansion was not as promised and therefore incomplete; O’Brien made various comments in reply that focused on what the expansion did deliver and also admitted that the decision was a harsh one that he realised would upset players.

From my perspective, I can see the amount of assertive damage control that O’Brien is attempting to bring forth here: Players are rightly frustrated by the broken promise and what that might suggest about ANet’s priorities for the game’s future, but I also see that the content drought is a far more pressing issue for O’Brien to deal with. Content for everyone has been a theme this month, which I think is an excellent play after the raid backlash and Heart of Maguuma. O’Brien namedropped the Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto, and I think that his reference back to a dynamic environment in which there was always something to do is a hopeful starting point for his time holding the Game Director role.

gw2 Mike O'BrienSolidifying the Spring Quarterly Update

The Mo shakeup continued with a similarly assertive forum post about how the next update is looking as it nears completion, addressing some of the major sore points in the community in one post. The other dreaded f-word was mentioned first: Some fractal tier changes and achievement retirement is on the agenda for the end of the month. Scribing costs will reduce significantly too, thanks to a multifaceted attack on overinflated unit pricing and scarcity of core resources in the update. Referring back to a WvW poll on Desert versus Alpine borderlands, O’Brien announced a half-step toward the community’s preferred option of bringing back Alpine that will see changes made to Desert in the update as a sort of live testing ground before the team is totally ready to switch to Alpine after further player feedback.

I was very intrigued by the pace and high level of fan engagement set by O’Brien here: Locking in these features is one thing, but I hope for the sake of more jaded players that the locked down version of the April update lives up to the same standard. I noted throughout his responses to the community that O’Brien emphasised how his words were one thing but that the main reassurance sought by the playerbase would be found in delivery. “Deeds, not words” was my primary school’s motto when I was a lass, and I think that recipe is the best route forward for ANet too. I’m very eagerly anticipating the Spring Quarterly Update, if not for the actual content then for the proof of the pudding that O’Brien has been baking since his taking on the director role.

gw2 charactersOver to you!

As frustrated as I am by the notion that some of the promises players were holding onto won’t be met, I’m still cautiously optimistic about how such a decisive “cut this, save this, emphasise this” mentality could help get ArenaNet out of a rather sticky situation. I’m also encouraged by how warm some of the comments have been in the discussion channels opened up by O’Brien because it shows me that at least some now-retired players are willing to give the game another go should change happen swiftly enough. With enough communication and regular improvement on ArenaNet’s part, I’m confident that GW2 could be stronger than ever before.

I appreciate O’Brien’s stated focus on delivering rather than promising content, but I hope he doesn’t forget that there’s a large variety of people out there to please. Although he may find it difficult to see how players might feel shortchanged by HoT, those players who feel cheated wouldn’t be arguing so passionately without cause. The direction that HoT has taken has largely appealed to my personal playstyle, and I’ve been enjoying the expansion immensely, but I may be a lucky minority. I ache inside for those who once loved GW2 as much as I do and who now feel let down by it, but it’s definitely not too late to redeem the game in their eyes with swift and decisive action. Keep it up and don’t let them down, Mo!

What do you think? If you could ask Mike O’Brien for one thing to be included in the update, what would it be? How fair do you think the playerbase has been? If you’re not playing right now, will a good update be enough to get you back? Let me know in the comments.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.

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Pinacolada
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Pinacolada

disUserNameTake You’re like that person who says a guy stabbed in the chest is alright
because he is still breathing and talking, he is bleeding to death but
it’s OK, he’s still alive! Fanbois, the cancer that kills from within.

Tina Lauro
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Tina Lauro

disUserNameTake  This comes back to your in-game versus online point below, which is very valid. I don’t see anywhere near the same level of griping in-game as I do online, but there are people who do complain about raids. Not usually because of the content itself, I sho9uld add, but rather because of the content they perceive as being neglected in favour of raiding.

Elikal Ialborcales
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Elikal Ialborcales

The entire concept not to have traditional expansion packs with huge new content for everyone was a HUGE mistake. One may wonder if GW2 can actually recover from it. I do not say GW2 is dying, but it surely is in difficult waters.
People just like that serial new big chuck’o’stuff that expansions bring. Everquest 1+2 and WOW live from that rhythm for many years. And that new map in Heart of Thorn… sorry it really is a mess. You simply can’t do much alone, you always have to wait for the internal day night cycle asf. It is railroading at it’s worst.

RandyCoffman
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RandyCoffman

Gw2 is dying. I have ran a big guild for years played a lot but almost quit in the last month. I got tire of recruiting new players teaching them dungeons fractals and they quit. Wvw and the new maps are all zergfest I never had a interest in zergs. I know of very few players that have been around 3+ years. While season 1 living story was good Season 2 was so so. What we had was 3 years for a expansion that lets be honest suxs. I know Anet will defend this poor excuse for a expansion but they don’t get what the players want. You never create a expansion for what you want you create it for the players. The girl that was so into the Slyria I guess had a big hand in the expansion. The Slyria were only above the charr as least liked races I really wand to grind 5 mil xp for a skill that works in 2 maps who is the genius thought that up. I really love the nerfing the dungeon money and no new dungeons. I really love that fractals is boring as hell. At least the old system you had 4 random Fractals now everyone wants the quickest easiest one for the cash and its as boring as you get. I really love that there were no new fractal maps. Oh we can’t produce new legendary skins, but wait I can have new skins in cash shop every week. Lot of us left for Black Desert. Wait Black Desert cranked out 2 huge map updates in 1 year. Would I go back play gw2 a lot? I doubt it Gw2 has to learn its a job you have deadlines you have to have content you have to produce. You have to quit saying we have things coming we aren’t going to tell you but you going to love it.  They made a ton off the game sales and the gem store has been real nice to them Hey hire more than 2 people stand behind your product 
So what did Anet accomplish with this expansion? They pissed off the dungeon runners poll showed that was 70+% of players. I have a friend complained the other day all the dungeon runners are bad now because the good ones left. Fractals I got all the achievements yeah its where the cash is but after grinding same fracts every night for 4 months i’m done. I have a lvl 42 guild hall no one goes there big huge place nothing to do in it. So many failures So few good points the gliding is good but only in the new maps. I know you can glide in the old but no updrafts so it just isn’t that useful. Maybe Gw3 will be better lol

Kenny_
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Kenny_

disUserNameTake While I don’t agree with you that ZERO people complained about it, I do agree with you that there were very few complaints about raiding.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

“raid backlash”

I’m sorry, but what raid backlash?  In game, I have seen exactly zero people complain about raiding.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

High quality, unique content updates every 4-6 weeks is the antithesis of boring.  People enjoy different things in life and gaming.  Have you not figured this out yet?

Superbrak
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Superbrak

breetoplay I cant give MO credit as a Game Director for SAB’s release when I feel it was coming out irregardless. He inherited it from Colin. One successful event where the legwork was largely done by your predecessor doesn’t exactly sway me one way or the other.
Like I said below, show me a CONSISTENT pattern of successful releases
under your direction and I’ll give you all the credit (and gem
purchases) in the world Mr. O’Brien.

I’ll credit “Game Director” O’Brien with the uptick in blunt, no
nonsense communication and the cancel… er… reallocation of resources
away from legendaries. (I cant help but think Colin would have had
those poor souls slaving on that code for years until they were done…
he wasn’t about to have a repeat of the “precursor crafting promise”
fiasco) …but that’s about it.

At the same time, the only thing I can blame “President” O’Brien for is maybe being too hands off and overestimating the success of Colin’s methods directing GW2… letting Colin run the ship how he wanted as long as the ship stayed mostly on course/made enough money.

Juniterio
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Juniterio

schmidtcapela Juniterio 

> if you think players should be awarded respect for their in-game accomplishments, then I have no respect for you.

Nice, I don’t mind. You’re destroying gaming.

Superbrak
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Superbrak

disUserNameTake dragonwhimsy Quincha Wow… those are the rosiest glasses I’ve ever seen.