One of my prime hopes for Guild Wars 2 was that it would have people re-evaluate things, possibly on a large scale, that it would have people looking at stuff that occurs that we take for granted as part of the system. That it would shake things up and prove that things set in stone don't need to be set in stone.
I'm familiar with the concept of a paradigm shift from a scientific viewpoint. Eventually something comes along, a new theorem that no one cares to accept, and then the evidence starts piling up in support of it and slowly you get more and more supporters. It really pisses people off, and everyone hates the change, but at the end of the day everyone still has a better understanding of the inner-workings of the Universe than they did prior.
And I really think that we need to do some deconstructionalist analysm of MMORPGs in general, there are many things that we accept as set in stone that clearly... well, aren't. The accepted paradigm of the MMORPG has a linear flow to it, and one that many developers have been afraid to break. It's something that's been so ingrained via both classic conditioning (pavlovian responses) and oeprant (consequential) conditioning that people believe it has to go that way.
What those who play a singleplayer or co-op game expect is vastly different to what those who play an MMORPG accept. And I think that the MMORPG has fallen into an unhealthy, stagnant rut. So what do we accept?
You pay a subscription.
You can't buy anything of worth in the game with real money.
You have to make time investments (called 'work' by some) in order to acquire resource units.
These time investements are massive and favour those without real life responsibilities or connections.
Excessive time investments cause MMORPG players to consider the genre 'hardcore' because of that.
Those who invest time ('work') control the economic flow.
Those with the best gear get into the best raids.
Those who make large time investments are entitled to exclusive content that no one else is.
Further content should take greater time investments and not be completed quickly.
In order to substantiate these time investments, a 'carrot' is needed.
this 'carrot' is exclusive gear, which is then used for further exclusive content.
That's when the raiding treadmill occurs.
This is a fascinating concept. Not only because I can't really understand the appeal, but because of the divide it creates. First of all, I want to cover not understanding the appeal. The lack of appeal in my case is that I can't understand why you'd want to waste your life for a constant chain of 'carrots.' There was one Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw video that summed this up eloquently.
It went something like this:
"So why are you raiding?"
"To get better gear."
"Which gives you?"
"Why do you need those?"
"The boss has bigger numbers."
"What do you get from the boss?"
"And what do you do with that?"
"Kill the next boss, duh!"
The problem is is that not everyone is able to make these ridiculous time investments. You have people with children, a family, a job, social obligations, and so on. The sort of people who're considered 'casuals.' Now, the usual MMORPG talks about these people in derogatory ways, often considering them not 'leet' or not 'hardcore' enough. Because having a job and a child isn't 'hardcore.' So they sneer at such people and demand that the game be made more for them, creating more time investments.
But where did this begin?
It all started off with subscriptions. In order to justify a subscription, you have to pad out content. This means that instead of a ten minute mission in Mass Effect 3, you're doing a five hour questing slog. Really, it shouldn't be that long, but it is. So you get to the quest vendor and they offer you these 'carrots,' these rewards. The idea here is that more weak-willed people get hooked on the idea of somehow, somehow being better than other people. In some small way... better.
It takes advantage of them.
So via conditioning and peer pressure, the average MMORPG gamer then continues to spend their life playing the game, without even realising the harm it might be doing to them. What they get out of this is the feeling of controlling the economy, of being able to separate themselves into haves and have-nots, in order to sneer down at those who don't have the same level of access to the game that they do. That's what it's all about. That shiny mount, that exclusive raid, that high-end armour? It's all to be better than someone else. One-upmanship, plain and simple. It's not a difficult concept.
However, things are changing now. And that has those people terrified, because they can't handle change. What this means is that there's no grind, there's no gruelling slog. This in turn means that there's no carrot. That means that they have no way to be better than other people. This is something I've discussed before - Guild Wars 2 enforces player equality. It's an egalitarian game. Everyone gets the same chance at the game, through different methods of content.
At the power plateau, it won't matter if you've put eight hours into the game or eight thousand, you're all equal.
This is a terrifying concept to those who've ruled with time investments. Because for the longest time MMORPGs have been whispering delicately into their ears that their way is the only way. Subscribe to our game, we'll let you be better than other people. But the market is changing. More and more developers are realising that these people who want time investments to rule the economy are a vast minority (vocal, but still a vast minority).
There are casual players out there just waiting for the MMORPGs that are designed for them to play. And those are on the way. One of the first is Guild Wars 2.
And like I said, it's working.
What Guild Wars 2 is doing is shaking things up, it's altering perceptions. It's saying that what was set in stone was an illusion, and that things can be completely different. Those who helped set those rules in stone are going to rail against that. Of course they are. No more exclusive content for them. Yes, that's going to suck for them. Because the reason they play an MMORPG, even in PvE, is just to be better than someone.
But there are games out there for them. Games which encourage competitive PvE, games which encourage people being arseholes to each other, and games which encourage player inequality. And they'll always have those games. But they're worried that one day... they're going to run out of games and they'll have to play our games, the games of casual players. And yeah, that scares them.
I mean, look at WoW.
WoW, from the ground up, conditions you to want to be better than someone. It puts in various ways to force you to compete. You can easily accidentally flag yourself as PvP, resource nodes are instanced globally rather than per player, which makes people fight over them, and the whole thing is one massive sociopathic circlejerk. It's just people being horribly indecent to each other. But again, the old MMORPG player, the time investor, they're comfortable with that.
In Guild Wars 2 they'll actually have to socialise with people, they'll have to be nice, they won't be in complete control, they'll be equal. This turns everything they know on its head. And that's why we've had so many threads about this. It's old MMORPG players damn near having a brain aneurysm at all of the rules they thought they knew being turned upon their heads.
No longer lords and ladies. Just peons. Like the rest of us.
They have to come back down to the real world.
But what we're getting instead now is that they're seeing the other side of the equation. Just because there's equality, they're blowing it out of proportion and saying that money ivnestors will be on top. That's obviously not the case, but that's the fear that they have, because they're having these crazy slippery slope theories. You know? Oh no, we've lost our regal status, soon our slaves will be our masters, and we'll be the slaves!
That's not going to happen, but they're seeing things from the side of the have-nots and the results?
The results are frankly hilarious.
If I were a vindictive person, I'd pester ArenaNet to actually include an $80 monocle in the game, just so that I could buy it, wear it, and flaunt it at the time investors. But I'm not a vindictive person. Like I've said before, my approach to the game will be to find the most sensible, utilitarian armour I can and stick with that. I don't really give a shit about being the prettiest pony on the block.
But if you understand the paradigm shift, here, if you understand how the patterns are changing, then you understand why every one of these new threads exists. It's forcing people to question all that was supposedly set in stone about GW2. And like I said, that says to me... GW2 works. I am pleased.