Jan 25, 2012


We all know that ArenaNet is looking to shake things up with regards to our expectations for MMORPGs.  Most of the discussion has been focused on the system changes that they are making to the game and the differences in these from the current standards people have come to expect from MMOs.
We've heard all about how dynamic events are going to replace the standard quest model.  We know that the classic "Tank / Healer / DPS" trinity is being discarded in favor of flexible professions able to take on multiple roles, all the while being self-sufficient.  On paper, these sound like terrific advancements that should reinvigorate an increasingly stale and formulaic genre.  However, there is a side-effect that hasn't been discussed and which some people may not be prepared to handle: consequences.
It really sank home for me when I read this brief Eric Flannum interview at Guild Wars Insider.
He didn't say anything new, but how he described it made it clear to me that unlike almost everything in every other MMO on the market; in Guild Wars 2, failure is a real option.
In most MMO quests, you're asked to "kill ## of <insert-monster-name>".  But it doesn't matter how long you take, regardless of how urgent the quest-giver sounded.  Come back a month later and things will still be the same.  Even if you kill the requisite number, there will still be swarms of the monster milling about, waiting.  There are no real consequences.
In Guild Wars 2, if you don't kill enough creatures within the time bounds, there will be consequences.  Maybe that vendor you were on your way to see won't be there when you get to his usual spot or maybe your Ranger won't be able to find a juvenile pet to tame because they've been killed by the creatures that you failed to stop.
People are going to have to deal with the consequences of their actions, or in-action.
Similarly, if a player dies, they aren't going to have a dedicated healer to blame.  It's their own responsibility to manage their heal skill and to use it appropriately.  Use it too soon and you won't have it when you need it, but wait too long and you might not get a chance to use it.
And this might just be the biggest change that ArenaNet is making.  Forget what they're doing to the game systems and programming -- the biggest change is going to be taking place on a social engineering level.
Today's kids are used to being chauffeured to "play dates" that their parents set up for them.  They're used to being coddled and encouraged so that their self-esteem isn't compromised.  I've seen too many kids who appear to lack any sense of responsibility.  But, when they die in-game, they're not going to have a tank or a healer to blame it on.  When things aren't "just so" in the game world, they're going to have to admit that maybe they just weren't good enough -- that something in the game world was "their fault".
In a traditional MMO, you could "fail" some escort quests, but all you had to do was wait a minute or two and the person you had to escort would respawn and you could try again.  There were no real, lasting consequences.
In Guild Wars 2, it won't be so simple.  If you fail on an escort that was bringing resources to a siege, then your allies won't be able to build their trebuchets and the battle might turn against them.  You could be indirectly responsible for many player and NPC deaths simply by deciding not to guard a cart.
If ArenaNet plays things right, they'll even be able to force moral dilemmas on players.  Do you go to the event to save a town and preserve a vendor that you were hoping to trade with, or do you go to a different event because your friends are there and they've asked you for help? 
This new reality -- that what you do has an impact and that your failures will have real consequences, may be the biggest change that ArenaNet is bringing to gaming and it may force some people to face some ugly truths: that they may not be as good as they think they are.
Is this going to be in-your-face obvious?  Is this going to cause people to quit en masse in frustration when things don't go their way?  I seriously doubt it.
But does it have potential to put people in situations they may have previously been able to avoid or just never had to deal with?  Will it cause people to actually think about what they're going to do instead of blindly going from one NPC with a ! over her head to the next?  Is the potential there for Guild Wars 2 to teach some life lessons about cause and effect and dealing with the consequences of failure?  I think it just might. 
And will it cause some people to think and reflect and possibly "grow" as a person?  Maybe.
If it does, then that would be the biggest change to the genre by far.


  1. Very insightful and thought provoking.

    I wonder if phasing technology will have a big play here. If they somehow balance phasing for the individual with the game world proper, could that be the linchpin that would tie this innovative idea together?

    Maybe some decisions will affect only 'your world'. Maybe if you fail you may be able to come back later and try again, somewhere down the road. Maybe with the sidekicking feature, you will have a chance to set things right later on if you choose to do so.

    I guess there are so many unknowns. I hope it shifts the mmo paradigm so that developers aren't scared away from this, but improve and perfect this groundwork Anet is laying.

    It's true this will be a big change for many people, and for some, a too big of change. But i believe mmo gamers are ready for a big explosion of new ideas to come onto the scene and shake it up JUST enough to spark new ideas and let developers dust off innovation and let it see the light in the years ahead for this genre.

    1. ArenaNet wont be using phasing or sharding out in the world.

      Everything will be real time. They only way to go back and try to redo something you failed at in a Dynamic Event is to succeed in the next Dynamic Event in order to push it back along the positive track.

      Most of your story will take place in your home instance, but even here, the decisions you make will be permanent. There wont be any redo there unless you decide to remake your same character (and even then things can change slightly).

      Regardless, I am right there with you. I hope Anet sets a new standard and a new trend for other MMO game companies to follow. Imagine what some of your favorite MMO's could have been like if they would have had Anets formula back then! ;)

    2. Yeah, sounds good. since the content scales, driving it back, if you mess it up, shouldn't be a problem then. I'll look at it as just a challenge. and by failing and having to drive it back through its stages, you basically get to see more content that you wouldn't get to if you succeeded the first time. Hmm, losing could be fun! That's new. :)

  2. I like your article. It points out the quality of Guild Wars 2 that I look forward to the most. The concept of consequence will really help with the immersion in the Guild Wars universe and make us care about our character(s).

    Also I'm looking forward to a harder MMO that will require skills to play. I've noticed that many gamers lately are complaining about the difficulty levels of games. Dragon Age and Skyrim have mods made by player to further increase difficulty because it's too easy. Personally, I think I'm much less likely to get bored of a game if it's challenging and forces me to rise to the challenge.

  3. Oh my gosh, this is brilliant. Thing is, even though this points out that a few extra players could make the difference, events are scaled up or down in difficulty depending on the number of players. So you don't need to think too deeply about whether or not to participate in an event-- additional players will always be welcome to help an event, but probably not necessary. Very cool points, though.

  4. I love the idea of consequences... be they rewards for success or hardship for failure. Life is full of lessons and often the most valuable lessons are learned after failure. Imagine your embarrassment if the consequence of "Leeroying" and dying repeatedly was that NPC's would point and laugh as you strode through your home instance :) Alternately, imagine the pride you'd feel if your deaths were few and your XP high, when those same NPC's cheered and shouted your name.

  5. Well, this is going to be very interesting. Heaven help you if your phone or doorbell rings while your escorting or guarding something ey? LOL. Of course there have been other games I have played where I am with my guild mates and we are right in the middle of killing something or some sort of quest and this happens, but you could go back later and do it again if need be. Gonna need to have a sense of humor and some patience I think for this type of game play. Because there ARE going to be unforseen things that crop up that will take you AFK :) Works for me though!

    1. I think the key will be to realise that it won't be just you playing. I mean, currently, in escort quests, you either play alone, or you play together because you need X number of players or you get stomped. Other players that wander by have nothing to do with you.

      In GW2, if you're escorting a caravan and someone sees you, they will, in all probability, stop and help, because it's in their interest too. Maybe they need the NPC trader at the village it's going to, so they're going to join you. If you then get called away, it's okay. You lose out on the reward, but the content will scale to the number of players, so the group won't be penalised.

      Only in instances such as dungeons will your contribution be life or death for the party, and that's the same in any other MMO instance.

      It's nice, actually, because the game doesn't revolve around "You, the hero". You are A Hero, one of a number of people working to help the world, but it doesn't all fall apart if you get called away.

  6. I really like your article, Personally, I thought that those who was going aggro and doesn't even want to give the game a chance were acting a bit pouty face at the fact that there will be no more trinity. I really didn't see why they would because for me personally I thought you'd have more restriction WITH it. This article made me see their side a little, however my gutt feeling is saying that this won't sink the game because I feel like all the hardcore gamers would want a game like this because they can be everything they want but I could be wrong too. I'm just really hoping this will force players to be more humble and nice because a lot of popular games I played ended up being not fun for me at all because of players that were rude and derogatory towards newlings, even after the fact that they were new as well and some were more worse than others when starting out. Plus it's a game for crap sake =.=.

  7. Please fix: ".. force morale dilemmas..." It's moral, not morale.

    1. Thanks -- fixed. Over 5000 hits on the story and you're the first that noticed and mentioned it. Gratz! ;)

  8. I noticed it, but, alas, I am not the grammar police. :p

  9. I really hope A-Net puts enough challenge into events that "losing" one is a common outcome, especially so we get to see all of the events that occur when an event on the chain is lost. And in any great fable, the heroes have setbacks.