Flameseeker Chronicles: Expectations vs. reality

Welcome to another edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, and happy Thanksgiving several days late! I had an enjoyable weekend visiting family, eating way too much, and shopping (also way too much). In between that I managed to hop into Guild Wars and farm some pumpkin pie and hard apple cider.

Earlier last week I also spent two and a half hours playing through Hearts of the North on Massively's Livestream channel, showing the content to several hundred readers. That was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, because it's not the easiest content in the world, and there's nothing quite so much fun as having to restart over and over in front of a huge crowd. In the end I had a great time, and it was a good illustration that this isn't throwaway content that you can skate through.

My thoughts on the content as well as some Guildcast discussion got me looking at the interaction between ArenaNet and the Guild Wars community, something I've been doing a lot in the absence of major Guild Wars 2 news. Follow along after the jump to see where my focus has been lately -- and as always, share your thoughts at the end!

Massively Overpowered [MVOP]

Before we get into the heavy stuff, I want to take some time to address what MVOP has been up to lately. Massively's Guild Wars guild has been extremely active lately, with a nearly full roster of active players. Most of the members have alts that are working on different areas of the game, but as a group we're working through the content in release order on Thursday nights. This week is an exciting one -- the Thursday night group will finish Prophecies and move into Factions!

Even if you can't join us, be sure to check out the event live on Massively's Livestream channel -- one group will be Livestreaming our play session, and it will be added to our on-demand channel later for you to check out any time.

Great Expectations

OK, on to this week's topic! As I discussed last week, I was on the fence about parts of Hearts of the North. On one hand, I was delighted to have new costumes, new free content, and a continuation of the War in Kryta storyline. I was even more excited at the way the new content taught us to play Guild Wars 2-style. At this point, this is the closest we're going to get to Guild Wars 2 play, and I jumped in feet-first, happy to get to experience this.

Nothing is perfect, though. I felt that there were (and still are) flaws in this new addition. As always, I was impressed to see the ANet team working hard and quickly to fix things, but I remained a bit disappointed to see many of the flaws there in the first place. You see, ArenaNet has taught me to expect a blinding level of polish to content, and part of the reason I am such a huge fan is that the development team -- in my eyes -- stands head and shoulders above so many others in the area of quality.

Even the most rabid of fangirls needs to rein it in and be somewhat objective at times, though. I heard from from one fan who informed me that what I said last week was insulting, and I simply could not disagree more. Blind devotion with a complete disregard for constructive criticism and no thought processes behind it is more of an insult than anything, because there is always room for improvement. Stating otherwise is simply silly.

I want to do nothing but sing the praises of Guild Wars and every little thing about it. Doing so is fun. But it's also fairly irresponsible. If I lack any sort of objectivity -- especially when there are new MMOs constantly showing up to compete for our attention -- people are going to hear me talk about this fantastic, flawless game and check it out on that recommendation. They're going to find flaws. They're going to be irritated and disappointed because they came in on a biased recommendation and very possibly put the game down and walk away.

This doesn't only hold true for me -- this holds true for every hardcore fan. We have a responsibility to be objective, even more so now when the hype for Guild Wars is so huge. So many new people are becoming interested in this game that we don't want to give false advertising, so to speak. You have more credibility when you explain that Guild Wars has a few bumps in the road (just like any game) but that there are a million things that make it wonderful and reduce the bumps to practically nothing. Objectivity lends credibility.

There's another advantage to this objectivity: constructive criticism. ArenaNet listens to its fans. The community team is out there constantly in the forums and in game, listening and responding. If fans are saying, "It's all wonderful, thank you so much, we love it," it's nice to hear -- but useless. Fan feedback is important. I'm not talking about angry ranting and demanding because ANet isn't giving you everything you want right this instant. I'm referring to clear and coherent discussion of what you feel is lacking and how you would like to (realistically) see it improved.

This is where expectations vs. reality come into play. In many cases, the situation simply is what it is (as much as I hate that phrase, it's true). The ArenaNet team knows what it's doing and in many cases has a very firm plan to follow, but we know that the developers are also open to feedback response. You can ask for Gwen to reject Keiran's proposal all you want, for example, but it probably is not going to happen. On the other hand, you can point out gamebreaking or otherwise very irritating bugs and reasonably expect the team to consider it.

Matching your expectations to reality and possibility takes a combination of common sense and personal preference. I think most of the community is hopeful that our GW2 news drought is coming to an end, so this is a good time to sit back and take a look at our expectations of the Guild Wars universe (both current and future). Constructive, honest, and realistic feedback is what will make the game ours, one that we love even more.

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at rubi@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.