Guild Wars 2 narrative: ‘It’s like working on a television show’

    
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Just ahead of the launch of Guild Wars 2’s next living story episode, GIbiz has a fun interview with multiple members of the current narrative team, which MMO players will recall lost two key members this past summer. For starters, one myth the ArenaNet devs dispel quickly is that the game’s lore – or the lore of its predecessor – is paramount. In fact, as longtime players probably already suspected, the characters matter far more in Game of Thrones-style storytelling (which is probably why the show didn’t suffer all that much in the first season when its sets were far less grand).

Here’s ArenaNet’s Aaron Linde to make the case:

“[I]f you look at something like Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones has a hugely expansive political backdrop. […] It’s a really complicated story, right? But at all times it’s anchored by the characters and their motivations and what they want. When in doubt, we bank on characters. When in doubt, we make sure that the kind of story we’re telling is anchored in really good, character-driven storytelling. […] The lore is hugely expansive, and it’s intimidating. When I came on board at ArenaNet, I was just like, ‘Oh my God, there’s so much.’ But then I realized the lore isn’t central to the storytelling. It’s the scaffolding that enables the storytelling. It’s the material with which we build character stories. It’s supplementary, but it’s not the focus. And that is part of what makes it so accessible. When you dive in, you’re diving into a character-based story. It’s okay if you don’t know what something is or where a location is. It’s fine. You’re going to find a story you can relate to and characters you can relate to.”

“If you didn’t play Guild Wars 1, you can look at the characters,” narrative designer Alex Kain adds. “If you’re intimately familiar with all the details of who the gods are in Guild Wars, there’s stuff for you too, there. Maybe there are characters in the open world who are talking about something that you’re really only able to get the deeper meaning of if you’re familiar with the lore. But if you’re not, it’s still a good conversation and it still builds on the characters and builds on the situation. That’s always the line we’re trying to walk when we’re building out the world.”

There’s quite a bit more to the piece exploring ArenaNet’s process, from how the game’s storytelling is akin to writing for TV to how the studio worked mounts into the game without disrupting its design process. GIbiz’s piece confirms that the game’s pulled in 11 million players over its lifetime, too.

A Star To Guide Us, the fourth episode of the game’s fourth season of living world storytelling, is due to hit tomorrow. Stay tuned for more coverage from MOP tomorrowday!

Source: GIbiz
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silverlock

I hate ArenaNet, locking players out of their account in order to make them have to rebuy the game is just slimy. I’m not going to rebuy a game I all ready own which means my wife wont buy it ether and we just wont ever do business with this shady company again.

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Bruno Brito

Wait, what?

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Arktouros

My biggest issue with GW2 story is that it feels like no one bothers to “common sense” check them. It’s like that scene in Austin Powers when Scott just says, “Why are you feeding them? Why don’t you just kill him?” There’s just so many points in the stories where I’m sitting there yelling at the monitor like I’m watching some bad B grade movie as decisions that get made just don’t make sense. That in turn makes the entire lack of agency in the story even worse because you’re doing things you don’t want to do for reasons that don’t make sense.

The characters are pretty serviceable. Them switching out the rosters (in order to expand on individual characters) leaves some pretty forgotten however.

Line
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Line

I don’t know if constantly using the same NPCs is the best idea for an MMO, but surely character development helps, rather than superficially expanding the world in every direction.
I can’t say I’m particularly enthralled to meet new races that will be forgotten after I’ve done their dailies in WoW; while Jaina’s story is the interesting bit.

What the game needs is a better compendium for the story and lore.
They literally already have it in the story tab, it just needs to be more complete and easy to digest… with some hyperlinks to explain terms and characters.
Always useful to find new lore books to add to your personal instance too, that might be the moment with their third housing attempt…

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psytic

The /wiki works as a command straight out of the game for looking up lore but I guess they could go a step further and create a compendium right in the game itself

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

How successful or popular would a tv show be if it was four half-hours a year with a three month gap between episodes? I can barely remember who most of the characters are without going to the wiki to look them up. I certainly have no idea what their ongoing plotlines might be or what supposed emotional resonance is being played. The current Living Story formula is less like a tv show, more like a series of flash cards about a tv show. With some of the cards missing.

Line
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Line

There’s no way for them to put out an episode every week with the same amount of content, even just cut scenes and story was nowhere near today when they were doing events every two weeks.
You had a bit of voice acting and a 5min instance if you were lucky.

I can barely remember what happened in season 1 because it was all about grinding the latest event, not about the story. Which was dumb as bricks anyway, still no idea what Scarlet wanted to do by mixing up the enemy races.

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Aiun Tanks

Enh. I dunno about their ‘character focus’ bypassing the need for newcomers to bone up on lore. At the end of the day, lore vs characters, if you’re out of the loop you’re still out of the loop. My partner’s a massive GW2 fan, and I thought I’d join her for the Path of Fire expansion, though my own experience of GW2 was as a founder abandoning the game a year after launch.

Fuck there’s a lot I missed out on. I had no idea who these ‘old friend’ characters were or why their return was important or how they related to each other… it was like dropping in on Game of Thrones midway through the fourth season or something.

By this point, the history of those characters and their interactions IS the lore.

I started to try just slowly going back through all the vanilla story content and finally complete my characters’ personal stories, and even then I was finding myself dragged through flashbacks to Logan squabbling with the company of heroes who had apparently unresolved issues from Guild Wars 1 – another game that I beta-tested/preordered then abandoned a year after release.

latorn
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latorn

You hit the nail on the head.

A major issue for new and returning players that hop on board with expansions is that the previous living story season is not bundled with the expansion.

This was a problem back when people were confused hopping into HoT without access to season 2, and was once again a problem with PoF and season 3.

My friends that took breaks in between expansions were so lost, and it just felt like a cash grab to have to buy the living story season from the gem store in order to understand the expansion that was just purchased. (Disclaimer: I know Anets content delivery is very generous for active playes, but it isn’t friendly at all to new players or those who hop on expansions).

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Siphaed

The problem with “games as live service” is that they are a live service. But I honestly don’t see that as a problem.

The year 2000 had a lot of parties. Some people missed out, some went. That’s a memory and event that will never happen again. Some stayed home and missed it. But that is the essence of LIVE and life.

The most memorable parts of an expansion for a game is the opening patch that has some sort of live event. That’s kind of what players of MMOs expect and love. They’re throwbacks to old GM events that were never repeated before. Those that want a static, non-changing story that is the same in year 1 as 10 years later should stick to single player RPGs that are designed that way.

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Robert Mann

That’s a huge symptom of the way they approached this. I’m of the opinion that you can have time driven story… but when you make that one of your big selling points with a continual plot, people who haven’t been there need a way to catch up, or they will feel lost. The lack of ability to go see the story to this point, when you supposedly played a role in it, is just backwards.

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ghostlight

I hear you man. I recall a few years ago not yet really understanding how the Living Story worked……Season Three began and I did the first instalment without having yet started Heart of Thorns. The first episode was a wake, and as it happened a serious spoiler for me. So yeah, kind of backwards and awkward.

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Droniac

You’re right that you’d still need to get familiar with these characters, but the developer also has a point. They do establish a baseline with a cast of core characters, which makes it easier to follow along with new releases than the usual completely new cast approach most MMOs take. You meet many of the same characters in every new episode/expansion, giving you at least something familiar even if all the rest of the story is alien and difficult to follow.

His was a statement made in comparison to WoW’s troubles with weaving its way through an ever more complicated narrative. I doubt he intended it as a genuine recommendation to just jump into season 4 as a total newbie.

Also:

Guild Wars 2 takes place 250 years after Guild Wars 1, so Logan’s team wasn’t around. Actually, one of the first people you meet in Guild Wars 1 is Logan’s great-great-great-grandmother.

The story of Logan’s team (Destiny’s Edge) is told through the story-mode dungeons. These dungeons are easy and take about 15-30 minutes each with a random 5-man LFG party. Those characters remain relevant even in current story.

Season 1 is not playable. So as a newcomer you will not get much of an introduction to any of the current core characters other than Destiny’s Edge beyond the 2 minute “season 1” cutscene that’s available in-game.

Supposedly today’s episode should contain something like a recap of the story so far. Hopefully it’ll be enough to serve as a decent point to jump into the current story, which the game desperately needs.

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psytic

They could go for more of a self contained story type of feel like ESO. In that game I can jump into thieves guild then move to Orsinum etc. and it’s all self contained story you dont feel like your missing out on 6 years of lore. The issue then I suppose would be is the story grand enough and do we care enough. Living story 1 I remember not giving a rat’s ass about the molten alliance it didnt feel like the story had enough weight or scope.

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Greaterdivinity

Pretty good interview, read it earlier and it makes sense with how I’ve experienced the stories so far.

I just wanna know more about that upgradable armor still, because that’s potentially attractive as I’m working on more gear sets for my main and alts…though I guess I’ll have to get my alts through PoF story to get to this so that means skipping HoT which…I can’t say I’m particularly saddened by (even if I’m finally working on achieves bringing my ranger through it).

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McGuffn

We’ve had upgradeable armor before, both literally with the legendaries, and that changed from plainer to more detailed versions in PoF.

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Greaterdivinity

Welp, never even had a precursor drop and just unlocked legendary crafting and am working on the collections so that’s all stuff I’ve never experienced.

What PoF armor are you talking about, out of curiosity? I don’t recall seeing any in collections etc. but it’s totally possible that I’ve missed it as I’ve been bouncing all over the game slowly working on a million random little catch-up projects.

Line
Reader
Line

You can upgrade the https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Elonian_armor that you get from the story into https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Spearmarshal%27s_armor with recipes sold by heart vendors.

I expect something more similar to the luminescent armor set though, especially since they show some light effects on upgraded armor pieces in the trailer.

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Bruno Brito

It’s like to work on a TV show? Why, do you plot twist every time your ratings drop while you slowly realize people wanna watch netflix now and you’re still shoving soap operas up their behind?

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McGuffn

Amazon Prime has commercials now. Wanted to watch something while preparing dinner yesterday and instead what came up was some promo for a football Amazon original series. And it didn’t include an option to skip forward to the program.

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Bruno Brito

Wow, that sounds awful.

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Brother Maynard

Yeah, it’s ridiculous. You pay for a streaming service and Amazon in its greed still shows you commercials. Unbelievable. One of the reasons my Prime subscription comes to an end in a few days…

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Siphaed

The problem is that Amazon’s “commercials” are adverts for their shows already included in the Prime membership. And like…Netflix doesn’t have that. Instead Netflix has their home panel pop up a new show’s trailer and/or the episodes on the first day of release and that is it. Add it to your list or have it similar to your other shows, but if not it floats back to obscurity.

Take for example Jack Ryan. How many adverts was there for that. It was okay, but not great. In fact, it was kind of a fizzle compared to say ABC’s Designated Survivor show or The Sum of All Fears movie.

And although Netflix has a lot of junk to sift through, it had quite a bit of gems too. They’ve far exceeded my personal expectations in original anime series/movies, quality series additions, and just general entertainment. Amazon….not so much.