Flameseeker Chronicles: Dynomatic

Guild Wars 2 concept art: Centaurs from hell
After the first mostly-open beta weekend event, reaction to the dynamic event system of Guild Wars 2 is mixed. Some people see it as the revolution of gameplay that was promised, others think it's a refreshing and solid system, and others feel that it falls short. All of those are fair, although it mightn't be hard to guess that I don't share all of those opinions.

Some people expecting the dynamic event system to be the trumpet that would herald the arrival of the salvation of the MMO world were rather let down. There've been a couple of bits of confusion about the nature and scope of dynamic events, so let's look into them.

If you're not sure what the heck a dynamic event is or how it's different from a heart and where it fits in with character progression, I'd suggest you go ahead and do some background reading so that we're all sure we're talking about the same things. If you want to see this actually play out, you can dive through the neck-deep sewage of YouTube searches, or you can check out this awesome video that user CaraEmm created; it follows a Norn area dynamic event. I found this video courtesy of a post by Ravious -- like Ravious, I'd done content in and around the same area as this video was filmed in but totally missed the story that the video follows.

Are we all on the same page now? Excellent, then. Let's step right along.

But I did this already!

A lot of feedback about the system sounded something like Why did I see the exact same event when I ran through later? One argument I've seen made is that while traditional quests are static, at least they only happen once. Unless you're going out of your way in helping a friend get through content, each character is likely to see a given dire peril only one time.

The difference is that the cyclical nature of most dynamic events gives an explanation for why you'd see content twice. You'll see the centaurs assaulting a village again and again because they really want that village and because attacking is in the nature they've been given. Centaur tribes will elect new chieftans once you've killed the old ones, so that's pretty understandable too.

Granted, the timer is pretty short for a lot of events, especially in the earlier zones, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the game's got to have enough content for people, and there's only so much time the devs can spend on creating new events (unless you want to wait another three years -- any takers?).

Happily, a solution to this is already in the making. In a recent interview with PC Gamer, Colin Johanson discussed the future of dynamic events:
You run around Queensdale, the human starter area, and maybe the Brood Mother shows up every X minutes.We're going to put another event that can happen there, and then slow down how often the Brood Mother happens. Not only are there new events happening, but everything you've seen before starts happening less often. The world gets larger and larger. Three years from now, if someone makes a brand new character in the game, a place that has 100 events in it might have 300 by then.
Guild Wars 2
Now, sure, the number of events in an area tripling every three years doesn't necessarily make a difference for you in the small handful of hours you spend within a zone. It does, however, make a heck of a lot of difference in terms of replayability. Not only can you expect different experiences with each character as you run through, but you can also look forward to bringing a character back to a previously visited area (thanks, especially, to the joys of level adjustment) and finding yourself in a substantively different experience. Ideally, the game will grow richer and more varied with age.

Remember back when I was introducing CaraEmm's dynamic event video, and I said that I'd totally overlooked some story bits? I'm not really the rush-through type of girl, at least not when it comes to my first steps in Guild Wars 2. I have definitely been opting to savor the heck out of every moment and vista, as opposed to racing around in an attempt to sample a bit of everything. So the fact that there's stuff I missed in an area that I spent a lot of time in is pretty cool.

This is possible for a couple of reasons. The first and least significant is that there are different triggers to different events. Some are player-driven, some are on a timer, and some are magic! -- that is to say, some probably come about in response to player action and world conditions, but they're not as straightforward as "every 25 minutes, the centaurs will push forward to the next camp because they so yearn for the glorious destruction of their rivals."

The more useful reason you might not see content (or might see the same content many times) is that most events chain. So if players are always performing the same actions, they'll always see the same few results. If the centaurs are never allowed to take over a village but are repeatedly pushed back, how can you blame them for not setting up a little circus ring on the side of the contested road?

Where is the consequence?

Another complaint is that most dynamic events lacked the feeling of real substance -- players never had a need to fear failure. Sure, you can die, but that tends to lack real sting in PvE. The one time I found my world really affected by a dynamic event was when the centaurs had overrun a trading post and I had to push them out of it before I could speak to an NPC there to keep my personal story moving along.

This looks like it'll become less of a problem as players progress through space. For example (have you noticed a centaur trend?): The centaurs in Queensdale are pretty minor ruffians. They don't do much scary; they take over the occasional outpost, but that's not a huge concern. Tribes in the nearby Kessex Foothills, however, are much beefier baddies. You have to think twice about entering their strongholds, and when they lay siege to a place, they really go all out. The attack on Fort Salma in Kessex Hills is a huge operation with multiple targets and tons going on. So it makes sense that as you move through the game and farther away from the capital cities where each race theoretically does the best job of maintaining order, the threats to your well-being will increasingly up the ante.

There've been pretty direct hints by ArenaNet staff that players won't always get off as lightly for failing events as they do in the content we've experienced so far. Hopefully that means the desire players have for "real consequence" is actualized in the future.

And other stuff

So there was a stress test yesterday! Were people's server-side experiences improved? What did you do with your tiny handful of hours back in the world of Tyria? The Guild Wars 2 Facebook page recently hit a follower milestone, and the team rewarded loyal fans with some truly delicious artwork. I'd suggest you check it out.

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.