Lately I’ve been spending a lot of my time in Guild Wars 2 running through the Drizzlewood Coast meta event (be sure to check out our impressions of No Quarter and the Drizzlewood Coast map if you haven’t already!). It’s a lot of fun, and the rewards are pretty good. I’m especially fond of the new Stormcaller weapon set, and a couple of my Charr are already rocking those.
It’s all well and good to be doing the latest, greatest content just weeks after it went live, but most long-time MMO players know the eerie feeling of visiting a zone from the previous expansion to find that the towns and quest hubs that were once bustling with activity are now ghost towns populated only by the NPCs who are rooted in place there. It would be understandable if one might imagine that something similar would eventually happen to Drizzlewood Coast, that the map will eventually fade into obscurity and its meta will only be completed when a big guild got together to run it.
ArenaNet keeps Guild Wars 2’s meta maps relevant, and for this week’s Flameseeker Chronicles I’d like to talk about the ways it does so.
No level cap increases
I think the first and foremost reason why content like this stays relevant is ArenaNet’s decision to never increase the level cap. If the level cap increased with the advent of Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire, any gear dropped by events in Dry Top would be laughably obsolete by now, useful only for cosmetics. Yet because most the game is designed to stay at level 80, none of that content is trivialized by powercreep, and players keep coming back for more.
Let’s be honest, unless you’re one of those weirdos who get a kick out of being Uncle Owen in an MMO (hi, Bree), gathering crafting materials is usually pretty boring. I doubt that “virtual deforestation” has ever been the headlining feature that lured a new player into an MMO. Games like Guild Wars 2 also put themselves in the awkward position of having some materials, like cloth and leather, come primarily from salvaged gear, so materials used in mid level crafting actually end up being much rarer than those from endgame gear. ArenaNet’s solution to this was to introduce meta events that reward some of these less common materials. The result is that the economy gets a fresh infusion of materials for crafters, and players running the events get a decent stream of cash. It’s a win-win.
The reward for some meta events, like Dry Top, is a specialized crafting material that is primarily available from only that specific event. Quartz crystals can only be mined in Dry Top, and getting the favor of the Zephyrites to tier 4 before the Sandstorm to open the gate to the Skritt Queen is the best way to get those crystals. Since charged quartz crystals keep getting used for things (as recently as the aforementioned Stormcaller weapon set), and they are shamelessly timegated (which is problematic, but that’s a discussion for a different time), the Dry Top meta continues to be popular, even six years later.
Similarly, map currencies keep Living World maps hopping, especially given the overwhelmingly large number of each needed to unlock the Skyscale mount.
For many players, achievements are their own reward. I think some of my friends have an actual Pavlovian response to that Xbox “achievement unlocked” ding, just as MMO players have the same response to their game of choice’s level up sound. There’s nothing wrong with that — whatever part of the game is fun for you, go for it — but for some of us, we need a better carrot dangled in front of us to get us to chase those achievements. Generally, for me, that comes in the form of cool cosmetics or gear with specific stats that I want. Meta maps do a great job of providing both to me.
For instance, I recently went back to Living World Season 4’s Dragonfall map to finish up the achievements there for the Mist Shard armor. I wanted both the skins and the diviner’s stats for my alacrity renegade. It took some time, and I had to ask the map for help on a few bosses (help that I got on my first try), but eventually I got the set, and never once felt like I was the only player on the map.
Genuinely fun gameplay
Last, and most importantly, is that these meta events are genuinely fun. If this wasn’t true, it would just be work. I really love how maps like Dragon’s Stand and Drizzlewood Coast have players spread out, taking objectives across the map, then pushes them together for an epic final assault. They are so much more enjoyable than plain world bosses, where everyone just stands around waiting for the event to start, then spams a lot of skills until the big bad dies. Sure, the end boss is pretty much the same as a world boss, but the stakes feel higher, because a whole map’s worth of people have put a chunk of time and effort into completing this event. Nobody wants to push through all three lanes of Dragon’s Stand and then fail to kill the Mouth of Mordremoth.
Not everything stays as relevant as meta maps
In the relatively small amount of time I’ve spent in WvW, I have encountered two different types of players: Those who played because they just love WvW more than anything else in the game, and those who are working on legendaries. Both groups are grumpy. The latter because most of them are PvE players who would rather not be playing PvP, but have to because they want the Gift of Battle, and the former because they feel like they’ve been left behind by ArenaNet in terms of rewards. I wish that I could say that sPvP and WvW have continued to be as relevant as meta maps, but it simply isn’t true. Fixing PvP rewards could be a whole post on its own, and I’m not sure I’m even the person to write it, since I’m not a PvP person at all, but I think it’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed.
And this isn’t even just a PvP problem. I feel the same way about fractals, and even more so about dungeons. Apart from grinding out a few cosmetics that have been in the game since launch, there isn’t any reason to do dungeons anymore. There are many activities that will net you faster gold than running either dungeons or fractals. I get it, ArenaNet has moved on to raids and strike missions, but a lot of players still enjoy this kind of small group activity, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be made more rewarding.
I love the meta maps that have graced the face of Tyria thus far, and, while they would quickly become tiresome if every Living World update included one, I’m really pleased with the way that ArenaNet has been careful to future-proof the ones we have. ArenaNet hasn’t always been perfect with this kind of thing, but personally, I anticipate joining you all on Drizzlewood Coast and other meta maps for years to come.