Back when the Contains Moderate Peril podcast was a thing, Roger and Brian used to wax nostalgic about how MMO’s seemed to capture a point in your life, a snapshot if you will, where everything just came together perfectly. Time passes, situations change, and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever experience that “first time” MMO feeling again, though we may spend years trying.
I think this is very true. It’s why we continue to return to MMO’s we’ve long abandoned when that feeling of nostalgia grips us to the point that it’s too strong to ignore. Think of all the things that have to align perfectly in order for us to find that “perfect” MMO. Servers must be busy enough to fill out group content, but not so busy that you’re waiting around for re-spawns. Story, graphics, combat must all be engaging enough to keep our interest but not so complex as to be overwhelming in the early levels. Possibly most important, you must find the right group of people to form some kind of persistent group, such as a guild or kinship. Perhaps not all of these things are of equal importance to everyone, but no matter your preferences, many of these aspects have to be present in order for a player to be “hooked in” for the amount of time required to fully absorb a complete MMO. It’s kind of baffling, in a way, to consider all of the things that have to be aligned at the exact time that you happen to be logging into a specific game. It’s all about timing.
Such is the dance I’ve had with Guild Wars 2 since it launched in 2012. I was heavy into LOTRO at the time, but got caught up in all of the pre-launch hype. On paper, Guild Wars 2 sounded like the perfect MMO. Downleveling, the promise of cross-server play, beautiful artwork, action-style combat, and to top it off, a buy to play business model that did away with the need for a monthly commitment. You all know how I hate that monthly commitment. The truth is, I was actually excited about this game, and wanted to experience another MMO that provided the same feeling I got from playing LOTRO. However, upon launch I found that it was a completely different experience. The human character movement was strange to me. My skill bar felt anemic. I picked up a new weapon, and suddenly my skills were all different. Grouping felt haphazard, spontaneous, unplanned and…unfriendly. I didn’t know anybody else playing the game, so I didn’t have a persistent group to play with, to learn the game with, and to lean on when I had dumb questions but didn’t feel like throwing them into world chat. The feeling was simply not what I expected. So, I stopped logging in.
One great thing about buy to play is that you can come back to a game whenever you feel like it. My 2nd foray into Guild Wars 2 was a year or so after the first. I decided that maybe the ranger just wasn’t an interesting enough class for me, or perhaps the human story that I’d picked was simply boring. So, I created a Sylvari elementalist and gave it another shot. There are some things that I like about the elementalist from a combat perspective, but the Sylvari starter area did not appeal to me at all. It is beautiful from an artistic perspective, but the multiple levels gave me fits. In case you’re not familiar, the Sylvari are plant people, and their starter area is in some kind of big tree. So, there’s several levels that you can climb/descend in order to accomplish things and speak to people. I’d always head in the direction that the map told me to go, only to realize that it was on a level above or below me. Finally, I did progress beyond the starter area, but my familiarity with hub-based questing left me feeling a bit confused about what I was actually supposed to be doing in this game. I didn’t feel like I had time to just wander around hoping an event would pop up at some point. After logging in one day and realizing that I just didn’t have the desire to do anything, I logged out and went back to LOTRO again.
This time I really thought I was finished with Guild Wars 2 for good. I’d given it two chances on two different classes with two different races at two different times in my life, and came away with the same feeling both times. I never regretted spending the $60 during launch week, because any support I can throw behind buy-to-play, I’m happy to give. But I just didn’t think I’d ever really get into this game. I even bad-mouthed it a couple of times as not being very fun, (probably even on this blog!) but some of that was due to the incredible pre-launch hype over-inflating my expectations of the game.
Fast forward to late 2014. I’ve been playing LOTRO almost four years now, and the desire to log into that game every night has long passed. My kinship has all but vanished, and after 100 levels I’m starting to have the feeling that there’s nothing new that Turbine can show me. The story is still good, the environment is interesting, but the delivery feels a bit stale. Thank goodness for the Beorning, because that new class has at least provided enough spark for me to continue to log in once or twice a week. Central Gondor remains unfinished, Pelagrir unsaved, mostly out of apathy. I feel a bit of an obligation to continue playing at cap due to my participation in LOTRO Players News, but deep down inside I know that’s not a good reason to play. If I push it too hard, I’ll end up burning out completely and then nobody wins. I’m in the need for something new, something fresh, something…different.
There it sits, defined as a “non-steam game” in my library. The long ago purchased, and long since forsaken, Guild Wars 2. It’s not all that random of a meeting, mind you. Cithryth from the Players Alliance (and Guild Wars Players) has been subliminally attacking me for several weeks over social media with GW2 cosmetics videos, and several of my LPN counterparts have recently joined, or re-joined, the game. Not least of which, Guardians of the Galaxy has recently given me a new found respect for tiny little intelligent creatures wielding firearms. All of these things have aligned with my desire to see something new, to learn something new, to have a *different* experience than what I’ve had in LOTRO. And guess what? I’m loving it. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve done a complete one-eighty on my opinion of Guild Wars 2, and it’s all because this is a different time, and I’m looking for something different, not a repeat of the same experience I’ve had before. I even bought a copy for my wife (on sale, of course..) so that we can learn the game together.
Third time a charm? Hardly. I think it all goes back to the right time and place. It’s interesting how your individual situation can make such a big difference in your experience of a game. Timing is everything.