Flameseeker Chronicles: Setting up for success

Guild Wars 2
Community Team Lead Martin Kerstein updated the ArenaNet blog a few days ago with some information about his team's plans for the Guild Wars 2 community. The two big bits of news were that there will be official forums (to the evident skepticism of the Guild Wars 2 Guru mods) and there will not be a typical fan site program. The most interesting bit, to me, is this:
"Our goal is to use a scalable, inclusive ecosystem instead of a rigid fan site program that doesn't scale well and excludes large parts of the fan base."
What I'm hoping this means is that the team members are opening themselves up to a lot more flexibility in which fan sites they support. This is great if it means that small blogs and niche communities can be more easily promoted; we already see this happening, as the Guild Wars 2 twitter feed is usually full of retweets pointing out various fan creations and posts. The flip side of this is equally true. In his article, Kerstein talks about wanting to promote a mature and helpful community, so hopefully the lack of a rigid structure in fan site support means the team members don't feel pressured to include and support toxic communities just because they've hit standardized milestones.

I have high hopes for this scalable community engagement style, and I hope to see it pay off for a lot of smaller fan sites and projects. If the folks at ArenaNet want to demand more of the quality of their community, more power to 'em.

Speaking of scalable, we spent a lot of time looking at the structure of dynamic events last week. The flexible scaling of events is one of the best-implemented parts of this system. It strikes an odd (but necessary) balance in that it can respond to players and still allow them to fail, and more importantly, allow them to fail without necessarily making them feel like they've been cheated. Tie this together with some of the ways that that ArenaNet has set up the system to make success easier and reward even failure and you've got a very welcoming and engaging system.

You'll find an event in the Charr starter area that requires players to fend off waves of Flame Legion and defend tools or machine parts. Maybe you come running in from one side, and just as you engage some mobs, a baddy on the other end of the wrecking yard picks up the last tool or two (they've already stolen the rest with no players around to oppose them). By the time you finish up the guys you originally started fighting, it's too late: The last tool has been stolen, and the Flame Legion are basically home free.

I'd hope that nobody would really consider this an unfair ending, especially given some of the benefits of the dynamic event system. Because you did participate in the event, you'll get a reward (in the form of coin, XP, and karma), even though it'll probably be only a bronze-level reward because of the very small portion of the event that you actually contributed to. Moreover, if you're feeling almightily sore at those Flame Legion jerks for making off with the tools and you're looking for a heroic way to vent your spleen, all you have to do is wait around a few moments. Chances are the proprietor of the wrecking yard isn't gonna be feeling any more kindly-like toward the Flame Legion than you are, and he may just propose that you head out and find their nearby hideout to either steal some tools back or just deliver some sweet, sweet punishment.

Guild Wars 2
Let's say you do decided to go track down the Flame Legion in their cave to mete out some justice. Maybe in your righteous over eagerness, you rush in and find yourself with a passel of extra aggro and go down in a blaze of futile glory. This probably doesn't mean event failure for you unless there's a timer on that event and it takes you too long to run back from where you respawned.

Wipes in and of themselves don't typically mean failure. I've never seen an entire group of folks wipe when fighting the Shadow Behemoth, but if they did, I don't imagine that he'd wait for a few minutes and then magically disappear. I would guess he'll just menace the swamp until some heroes come along to push him back to the shadows. To that end, the Queensdale event that requires you to drive a harpy flock away from the dam isn't on a timer. The harpies don't actually wreak havoc on the dam (despite Foreman Flannum's laments), so the event is offensive rather than defensive. However, that situation is different in other events. If you're supposed to be protecting hay bales and all of them get lit on fire as you're running back from a rez, you'll fail that event (but again, you'll still be rewarded for participation).

From what I've seen, it's a great deal simpler to conceivably fail events that are defensive in nature, rather than offensive. If you just need to invade a camp or kill a boss (say, in an offensive event), there's not much of a sense of urgency to get it done or else. That is much less true of defensive events, which typically center around protecting objectives for a certain length of time or against a certain number of waves of foes.

I do have one caveat regarding the failure of defensive events. During the beta weekend, I was pleased to note that one of the soul-crushing elements of escort tasks has been removed, at least from the escort-type events that I experienced. That element was that of event failure upon subject death. I had to escort a caravan to Claypool, and along the way, an unlucky aggro spawn led to the NPCs' being overhwhelmed; my fellow players and I survived, but the caravan and its escort were killed. I was just getting nicely bitter about the wasted time when I noticed that I had the option to revive all the NPCs and continue along my way. Since we don't have a taunt mechanic to make sure that NPCs aren't the target of enemy aggro, I'm hoping that this mechanic is held out throughout the game.

As I hope you'll notice, the various structures that dynamic events can take make it difficult to make sweeping statements. Perhaps the most I can say with absolute certainty is that as a player, I never felt that if I failed an event, it was because the game was stacked against me. While I still wanted to be a hero and reacted to the lore behind event failure (the game has taught me to hate the Tamini and feel very badly if they take over a camp that I'm trying to defend), the participation-based (not outcome-based) rewards and structure of events left me feeling well-repaid for my efforts in-game. I'd say that "failure doesn't suck," but that's untrue. Failure doesn't make me rage against the mechanics of the game or make me feel punished for playing solo or in a less-than-totally-perfect group. It makes me want to get revenge. It makes victory all the sweeter.

Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at elisabeth@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.