Flameseeker Chronicles: Discussing Guild Wars 2 content voids and cadence disruption

Waiting for a Living World release you know is coming eventually is one of the more frustrating parts of playing Guild Wars 2 for the chronically impatient like me, but when you add a delay announcement on top of that, community frustration can quickly accelerate. Cue a minor online panic: Content creators making parody trailers, prominent accounts announcing indefinite breaks, and general fear that we’re headed back to the Heart of Thorns content drought days! I want to slow down for a minute, though, keep my admittedly thin patience intact for a moment longer, and ask if we really need to worry just yet though.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I will dig into what we know about the delay to the next episode’s release and will consider if this is the start of a worrisome pattern or a justified blip on the radar. I’ll also consider why even small delays cause the degree of frustration they do, giving some ideas for how to minimise the impact of cadence shifts in future.

Delay details

The community was alerted to the delay we’ll face for episode 3 at the end of May with a short, no-frills forum update. While ArenaNet’s Mike Zadorojny didn’t go into specifics about why the episode would be delayed, his message did indicate that it would be a brief wait and hinted at no reason for massive concern.

“Our key focus while creating the Living World experience is the quality bar we’ve set for ourselves for each episode. With the amount of gameplay and breadth of content in Living World, we noticed that we had an opportunity to make some adjustments to how we approach developing each episode that will help us hit our quality standards more consistently. This logistical change has had some short-term ‘cost’ in time, but will provide benefits to all Living World episodes moving forward. We’ll be announcing Episode 3 as the date gets closer, and everyone on the team is looking forward to playing this new content with you!”

One widespread notion is that the episode should still drop this month, albeit later than we had initially expected, mainly because of the well-reasoned countdown timer created by popular dataminer that_shaman, though he mentions that this date isn’t as solid as he’d like. ArenaNet has remained publicly tight-lipped on when we’ll see the release, and we have not yet seen a trailer unless you count some witty community-created parodies. ANet has a long history of using the quality over quantity argument when faced with delays or droughts, and the logic is sound on the surface, but I wonder if some more frank communication that includes some ad-hoc compensatory teasers wouldn’t stop us from reaching for the pitchforks so soon.

Why might there be a delay right now?

I want to elaborate a little bit on why it might be a tough time for ArenaNet to stick to the impressive schedule it has maintained recently, just in case some of my reasoning could prove useful for those who are truly worried. Not only has the team had to make up the time it gave over to the last episode after some implementation issues, but I also want to direct your attention to the particular season in the game industry calendar this unfortunate setback found itself falling within.

Conference and convention season is well and truly upon us, and as you read this some members of ArenaNet are still at E3. Even though no announcements are scheduled for the event, a fairly significant amount of resources will have gone into the preparation for this event and others. ArenaNet developers are not immune from having to market their product just because they’re busy programmers: The insight offered into mechanics and latest developments that comes from the development team is second to none.

Aside from the timelining issues I’ve already described, I wonder if perhaps the story is reaching a critical apex this episode that needs to be carefully handled. While the season’s content has been action-filled and entertaining so far, our interactions with the main threats have been rather indirect. An increase in the ante could be on the cards, in my opinion, which in turn means that ArenaNet would be particularly cautious that this episode is seamlessly deployed.

Why does it matter to the community so much?

Keeping delays in perspective as the minor blips they essentially are is much easier to do when the issue is presented clearly, other channels of content feeding aren’t also disrupted, and when a team hasn’t had to fight so hard against fears of a content drought return. You already know my thoughts on datamining and exposure of content before it is good and ready for the public eye (and might well have roasted me for them!). I believe it feeds into our impatience for new things, but I cannot argue with the simple truth that many dataminers’ main intention is to make some sort of noise about upcoming content when ArenaNet keeps schtum.

I really feel for that_shaman right now in particular: He is simultaneously getting flak for his datamine-sleuthing while also listening to so many of us moan about how slow or quiet ArenaNet is and how we are bursting to know something. This just isn’t entirely fair when it is that same lack of communication that drives him to act, and his mining avoids the major spoilers. Enjoy your break and come back swinging, that_shaman, knowing that we all need a recharge from time to time.

My last point is regarding how content has been bundled together recently in large triple-whammies: When this happens, I really enjoy the buzz of having so much newness to enjoy all at once, but it does cause what I’ll dub micro-droughts in PvE content in general if one element manages to hold up the rest. Consider that the same people who enjoy the Living World likely enjoy the other PvE elements just as much or more, and you can see the logic behind strategic content staggering. When a small delay feels much larger because your favourite type of content, which wasn’t included in the last drop, is also delayed due to bundling, the problem becomes larger than needed.

Over to you!

While I’m not waving the drought flag at this point, I found it interesting to discuss why some people find this small wait so frustrating. I’ll be delighted to play the new story and am confident is it worth the wait and will be a better product for it, even if I do think communication around delays could be far better. Offer a little animation, a screenshot… something alongside bad news and you’ll keep us sweeter for longer! Tell us a revised date, even if only ballpark or for the trailer only, and we’ll really appreciate it.

Where do you stand on the news of a small delay to the new episode’s release? How would you smooth over the waiting time, and could ArenaNet do something different in this case? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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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