Flameseeker Chronicles: Is it time for Guild Wars 3?

    
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Earlier this month, ArenaNet announced that President Mike O’Brien, former game director on both the original Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, was leaving the company. Love him or hate him, he was in part responsible for launching one of my favorite MMO franchises, and for that I’m thankful. Amidst the fallout from his departure, we confirmed earlier rumors that he and a handful of developers had been prototyping a possible Guild Wars 3, which failed to receive approval from ArenaNet’s parent company NCsoft.

Was ditching plans for Guild Wars 3 the right call? Has Guild Wars 2 nearly outlived its usefulness, or does it still have life left in it? That’s what I’d like to explore in this week’s Flameseeker Chronicles.

When considering a new course for any MMO, I think the first thing we should do is look at what has been successful for other, similar MMOs. There are lots of MMOs that have survived quite nicely without a sequel for far longer than Guild Wars 2: World of Warcraft, EverQuest II, and Ultima Online, just to name a few.

The difference between Guild Wars 2 and these other games is that the studios that run them all have other active games. In fact, there aren’t a whole lot of other studios with a game older than Guild Wars 2 that don’t run more than just their main MMORPG. Most studios have multiple online games – or at least they try to.

Adding successful new games to ArenaNet’s repertoire would likely only strengthen its brand, as long as it can put out something that is of good quality and is well received while not neglecting the game that it made its name with (which is no small task). But this could be as much an argument for a whole new franchise as it is for Guild Wars 3.

A new game is also a chance for a studio to overhaul classes and combat balance. Balancing an MMO is a difficult job, especially one with nine professions with two elite specs each. Not only do devs have to think about what’s best for the game, but they have to navigate a minefield of existing builds and playstyles and how their actions may affect players who use them. Sure, you can do massive balance overhauls on a live game — ArenaNet has done them before — but starting every character over from level one resets player expectations and allows the developers space to rebuild everything from the ground up.

Another advantage of creating a new game is a large infusion of cash. I’m no expert in the financial and accounting side of MMOs, but it seems to me, from observing the genre over the years, that it’s a lot easier for studios to secure a large amount of funding from investors and publishers for a brand-new game than for an addition to an existing one.

If ArenaNet wanted to, for example, add Quaggans as a playable race in Guild Wars 2, it would require new animations, voice acting, armor redesigns, and personal story. As excited as many players would be for this addition, all of this would be very expensive, and ArenaNet might have a hard time convincing NCsoft that this was the best use of its time and money, even if it was a part of a new expansion or cash shop purchase. But if playable Quaggans were a bullet point for Guild Wars 3, where creating brand-new animations, voice acting, armor, and story are a given, it would be a much easier sell.

Of course, this is in large part due to the fact that it’s easier to get new players excited about a new title than for an expansion. The promise of a whole new game makes people who were turned off by the old one, or who prefer to get into a game on the ground level rather than jumping in midway through its lifecycle, to sit up and take notice. More players equals more sales, which justifies more investment.

That said, as much as a new game can bring in more money and generate more hype, it can also backfire. With greater financial investment comes greater financial risk if the project fails or has to be scrapped and rebooted. Similarly, a game that is poorly received by players and critics can put a damper on entire studios, sometimes indefinitely. For instance, I still run into the attitude that The Elder Scrolls Online is a bad game, despite the fact that it has improved drastically and fixed most of players’ initial complaints in the years since launch (MassivelyOP gave it Most Improved MMORPG of 2016, and it took MMO of the year in 2017). I know people who refused to play Fallout 76 simply because of their bad early experience with ESO and felt validated in this opinion when Fallout 76 also tanked at launch. I’m not going to say that they will definitely turn up their nose at The Elder Scrolls IV, but it certainly doesn’t secure their confidence in Bethesda’s future.

If you want my personal opinion — and I’m going to assume you do, since you clicked on an opinion piece with my name attached to it — I don’t think Guild Wars 2 is ready for retirement just yet. Honestly, if ArenaNet just kept cranking out Guild Wars 2 expansions ad infinitum, I would probably keep showing up with money in hand. It wouldn’t even have to keep adding game-changing masteries like Heart of Thorns’ gliders and Path of Fire’s mounts. New elite specs and a big new chunk of content to play them in — both story content and repeatable content like fractals, strike missions, and raids — is all I ask.

A sequel isn’t going to fix systemic problems with the studio. ArenaNet’s communication with its playerbase has been spotty at best. PvP balance is sorely neglected, and those players have been asking for something new to do for far too long, with the only answer being incremental variations on existing play, like Swiss-style tournaments. Worst of all, the developers within the studio have felt mistreated, between the mass layoffs at the beginning of this year and firings that many feel were the direct result of Reddit controversy. Until ArenaNet can demonstrate that it is addressing these problems in the game it has, I don’t think that it should begin work on a new one.

I’m not saying that Guild Wars 2 will live on forever. At some point, there will either be a successor or the franchise will die. I just don’t think we need said sequel yet. I think Guild Wars 2, if it can fix the systemic problems mentioned above, can continue to thrive for many more years. The graphics, while perhaps not state-of-the-art, still look absolutely gorgeous. There is still plenty of space on the map of Tyria left to explore, and other continents besides. The story is, in my opinion, far from tapped out, especially if we move on from dragon hunting. I’ve got all kinds of ideas for new elite specs, and if I can dream them up, surely the creative people at ArenaNet can imagine even more. At this point, there’s no need to gamble on a sequel that might do better and might not.

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!

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WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

GW2 is already dead to me. The performance issues, lame Living World story, and overemphasis on cash shop investment vs. in-game achievements killed it. I would try a GW3, no questions asked, because I did enjoy GW2 before its issues became so apparent. But I won’t spend another dime on 2.

kjempff
Reader
kjempff

Being just a gamer, I am in the nice position to ignore all fincial reasoning and other strategic thoughts.
With that in mind, the answer is the same as eq3, wow2, and so on…. Is it going to be different or more of the same, have they learned yet? (And I don’t mean learned how to optimize game systems for maximum shop sales) – Are they ready for the brand new retro for the growing number of players who are tiered of being manipulated and given sub par gaming experiences.

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Lars Rönnbäck

I do not want GW3, I want a spiritual successor to GW1.

Reader
Anton Mochalin

I would like them to make Guild Wars 3 a mobile game. Even though I consider GW2’s combat one of the main things that keep me playing and it would be impossible to reproduce that depth of combat in a mobile game I still think the main things keeping the existing playerbase playing GW2 are mostly elsewhere – they are accessibility for casuals, the exploration aspect, the horizontal progression and well-produced story content. And it’s easy to see how these aspects can be brought to a mobile game and find a huge (and not much catered to currently) audience. And I would also be extremely interested what ANet with its creativity and experience does with combat and other mechanics in a mobile game. Many people are really interested in a truly solid mobile MMORPG experience and ANet has one of the best chances among game dev companies to provide just that.

WrathOfMogg
Reader
WrathOfMogg

Why do you think a company with absolutely zero mobile experience is the right company to develop a brand-new mobile MMO?

scarygrin
Reader
scarygrin

I would like to see a hero system that was promised and scrapped before GW2 came out. GW 1 and a half but before 2. I’ve always had the feeling it would’ve been too similar to SWTOR which was out first. I have my doubts but I can hope it eventually is a possibility.

Reader
Denice J. Cook

Is there even enough left of ArenaNet post-layoffs to make another game? It doesn’t seem it.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Yeah, there is. More people are working on GW2 right now than before the layoffs.

Reader
Raimo Kangasniemi

Considering that they did not get approval for the moneymen for GW3, the question from the studio’s point of view should be how and to which extend they can improve GW2 and whether more games in the franchise – or a totally new IP – could get approval instead.

Yet in the end is not about the game(s), but what NCSoft wants to do with the studio.

Reader
Ald

Things GW2 got right: world exploration and armor dye system

Things GW2 got wrong: anything and everything group related

I prefer to group and do group content in my MMORPG’s and i couldn’t stand doing that in GW2. Cross class combos and group buffs are not a replacement for a solid expanded trinity system.

Reader
Anton Mochalin

And I am so happy GW2 doesn’t have anything similar to trinity system. I group for instanced content when I feel like it. I solo the open world when I feel like it. I kill world bosses with others without joining a party when I feel like it. I have a choice. I like having a choice.

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styopa

1) go back to the formula of GW1 with tons of classes that need to be mixed and matched. Archeage did it and bungled the business side. It could be cool.

2) understand that concept art is no substitute for an entire game.
2a) understand that aggressive and flashy marketing is no substitute for an actual game
2b) don’t ever, ever hire whoever did this https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=Noh81HcovYY …I can’t even, to this day….

3) take the marvelous world and IP, write the WHOLE STORY YOU WANT TO COVER, beginning to end, and then decide which parts of it you’re going to cover in your initial release. Don’t try to do everything at once. But have the story figured out so you’re not retconning, rewriting, kludging in crap later.

4) make all your levels of progression meaningful.

5) the trinity is a thing, get over or understand the consequences of coming up with a new paradigm.

Reader
Jeremiah Wagner

EXACTLY! I would also add , get rid of all these portal points and stupid crap that removes all sense of adventure.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

This is the last GW post that ever needs to be posted, read, or hyped until GW3 actually comes out.

Reader
TherecDaMage .

Love it!

Reader
Bruno Brito

5) the trinity is a thing, get over or understand the consequences of coming up with a new paradigm.

They need instead of fleeing the trinity, allowing every class to fulfill every role in the trinity by certain builds, and place Support as a role.

Reader
Etharion Ethie

Regarding point number 4) make all your levels of progression meaningful.

Who does this in the existing MMORPG space, out of morbid curiosity? I can think of no games personally that have a static leveling system in which people aren’t rushing to the level cap because everything before then exists as little more than a means of sinking time into the game until you can do relevant content again. Whew that was a long sentence!

In any case, just curious if anyone has one or more names that fulfill that point!

Reader
styopa

I think it’s a fair point, and (to me) of course nobody really does it perfectly.

The reason I raised it was because GW2 was particularly egregious. I leveled all my GW2 toons within the first year or two of launch (so I don’t know if they’ve since fixed it), but at that time you’d a) fully leveled your expertise in all the weapons available to your class (so there was nothing new to come there) and b) by level 30 you had all the meaningful best choices in terms of skill points so literally there wasn’t a trace of character advancement for FIFTY LEVELS thereafter.
Lacking any sort of integrated ‘build & gear manager’, there was likewise little incentive for all but the most engaged players to develop laterally for flexibility in different circumstances.

Reader
EmberStar

Wow. That trailer… What the hek did I just watch?! It does support my hypothesis that marketing and advertising teams do large amounts of hardcore drugs though.

Veldara
Reader
Veldara

I’m not all that enthused about a GW3 primarily because with the way the GW2 is monetized right now with the Gem Store being so prominent of a face in the game, I can only imagine how much worse it would be with NCSoft now having more say in the game.