Flameseeker Chronicles: We don't need no stinkin' endgame

What's at the end of the road?
We talked a lot about the concepts of endgame and raiding on last week's Guildcast, but since not everyone has had time to watch it (and because the subject is still knocking around in my head), I want to address it a little more in this week's Flameseeker Chronicles.

There are so many assumptions and so much speculation and so much talk about the concept as a whole and how it applies to Guild Wars 2, so let's dive on in.

This is such a tricky subject because for the most part, we flat don't know. The Guild Wars 2 community -- including me -- has a knack for picking and analyzing and poring over every single syllable spouted by a dev, applying all sorts of interpretations that it may or may not deserve, and cementing it our collective head as a near-certainty. It can be the smallest of things, too. I was thinking this over a few weeks ago after chatting with John Stumme and Eric Flannum about PvE and PvP in Guild Wars 2. The finished piece clocked in at just under 1,400 words, but in the end, only four of those words mattered to a significant portion of Guild Wars 2 fans: "in the coming months."

Eric mentioned that more PvP information would be revealed in the coming months, and much of the community pounced on that, fixating and speculating and mourning the implications until Martin Kerstein dropped by to tell everyone to please calm down. Don't get me wrong -- it's not a bad thing in and of itself. Heck, my heart sank a bit at the thought of an unknown number of months before I can finally get my hands on this thing, but the point is that we simply do not know, so we speculate.

And because of that, we attach enormous significance to every little thing. Probably too much significance to 90% of it, so for these purposes, I'm going to point only to Jon Peters' quote: "Endgame is such a dirty word. We want our game to be the endgame. We don't like the idea of a game that changes when you hit max level."

I love this so much, and it's exactly why I shy away from defending Guild Wars 2 for not having endgame and from telling people who need the endgame or the raid, "Well, it sort of has those things. There is this and this and this, and they're kind of like raiding. It's kind of like endgame." It feels wishy-washy, like I'm trying to stuff Guild Wars 2 into a box that it doesn't really fit in, like I don't think the game is good enough on its own merits.

That's the core of the entire thing to me: We can nitpick and poke and analyze every syllable even remotely related to endgame or raiding, and we can try to find mechanics that make it fit the status quo, but that misses the point. ArenaNet is doing something outside the status quo. If you want traditional level and gear grind, the traditional race to level cap, the traditional instanced raid scenarios, there are so many games that have that already, and that's good. Lots of people want that. But this isn't more of the same; it's something a little new and a little different. Like I said before, you could probably stuff GW2 into the grind/endgame/raid box if you really wanted to, picking out quotes and saying, "But they didn't rule it out!"

/sigh  No seriously, it's all right that it's like this.
But why do you want to? Why is it important to make this new thing fit the old mold? To me, the point of what Jon Peters is saying is this: "You are paying us for Guild Wars 2. We're not going to make you slog through a bunch of junk to get to what you paid for. We're giving you your money's worth up front." No endgame/no raiding is perceived by a lot of people as "nothing left to do once you reach level cap." It's understandable because we've been taught to think that way by a lot of developers over the years. Once you get to the end, that's where the really good stuff is, so hurry!

There might be something epic at the end; we don't know. The development team might go nuts at some point in the future and decide to bring Bubbles out of the shadows as a 250-man instanced raid. We don't know. We can speculate until the cows come home, but (say it with me) we don't know. Until then, let's just appreciate what Jon said. ArenaNet doesn't want to give us a game that completely and fundamentally changes once you reach endgame. If the team did that, it would mean that once you reach endgame, either you do not have the game you paid for in the first place or you do not have the game you paid for until you reach endgame. I don't know about you, but neither of those options is appealing to me. I'll take the entertainment I paid for right out of the gate, thank you!

Here is the other Very Important Point. People are seriously passionate about the games they love, launched or not. They want the horse they bet on to cross the finish line first, to be the winner, the champion. Why do you think the phrase "WoW-killer" is so darn pervasive? Why do you think so many people howl with rage that their preferred game will rule and claim constantly that they will lol so hard when insert-game-title-here fails? Everyone wants to be on the side of right, to quote the ever-wise Justin Olivetti.

I'll quote the ever-verbose me: This isn't The Highlander. We are allowed to have more than one game, and Guild Wars 2 is not going to be for everyone. No, stop that, put down that pitchfork; it's a simple truth. We are beyond overdue for something new and different, but traditional gear grind, level cap race, and raiding scenarios still exist for a reason: There's a market for them. Playstyles vary from person to person, and you can't dictate what defines fun in an MMO for another person.

There are people who love the large-scale instanced raiding scenario, people who absolutely cannot go to bed until they've hit the level cap and gotten geared up for endgame play. Guild Wars 2 is probably not going to be their game unless they decide they want to try something different and find out they like it. And that's all right. It's allowed. No single form of entertainment works for every single person out there. It's why we have so many forms.

What I'm saying is that we don't need to be so defensive and anxious to insist that Guild Wars 2 does have these traditional elements. For one thing, unless it's a solid fact that we know for sure -- like level cap 80 or five playable races -- it's a bit presumptuous unless you happen to be a developer and know for sure what Guild Wars 2 will and will not have at launch. For another, it's an exercise in frustration because the people you are arguing with have their minds made up as firmly as you do. The only thing you can really say is "Here's what we know so far. It's not like what you're used to, but I think it looks amazing. Just give it a try for yourself at the first opportunity."

Whatever Guild Wars 2 will or will not be at launch is very likely already set in stone. While I think it's going to have a wider appeal than anything that's come along for a good long while, it might not have certain traditional elements that we've already seen dozens of times. And that's all right. As a fan group, we should put our focus on how many great new things it does have instead of frustrating ourselves by trying so hard to insist that it has every single element under the sun.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out for certain firsthand.

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 occasional stories of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at rubi@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.