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Friday, September 14, 2012

[GW2] Blowing Blizz out of the water

I have played WoW since a few days after its release and in that time I got used to hearing "Soon"tm from the CM's with regards to features that to me felt like they could be fixed in a matter of minutes. Blizzard is extremely reluctant to make changes outside of a patch unless the issue is substantially game-breaking. I recall PvPers eagerly awaiting a patch that might balance their class (or nerf another) and sitting through months to wait for something to be fixed. The typical expectation a player learned was that any fix beyond changing a number (and sometimes even that) would be a few months down the line.
WoW is by no measure an example of a perfect program (it does have good points, like its net-code, but that's a discussion for another day). Long ago in Karazhan my guild developed the meme of "Badges in Kara" as the cause for any breaking. This was mainly due to the fact that Blizzard would make what appeared to be minor changes in one aspect of the game, which inevitably resulted in something else in the game breaking. Players randomly falling through the world? Because of badges in Kara. Quest not working anymore? Because of badges in Kara. They were likely completely independent of each other and broke for other reasons, but it was always strange that a fix for A, often lead to a break at B.

So now here I am playing Guild Wars 2 and people lately have been asking for various fixes and quality of life improvements. Two that spring to mind are the ability to craft from your bank and the ability to preview items off the trading post. Both these features would have required a major patch for Blizzard to ad to WoW (actually the latter was a major patch feature when it released). GW2 has already had the first patched in, and the second one is already on its way.

I feel like Blizzard's history of "soon" is going to come back to haunt it, now that ArenaNet is busy polishing and improving their game on a daily basis. Every other day or so a new minor patch is coming out to fix bugged quests, add minor features, balance the economy...all things that (in my experience) would have taken Blizzard months to accomplish....and likely would have come with another feature breaking.

Diablo 3 required patches that took weeks to put out, their launch was marked by two days of people having spotty access to the game. GW2? First day of a head start was a little rocky, but since then most everyone (that I am aware of), or at least a majority of the population, was able to play without incident.

This experience has made me go back and ask myself, "Why did I put up with this?" Why did we put up with waiting months for a game to work properly, or a class to function as it was supposed to? Has ArenaNet just raised the bar for post-launch support? It will take a few months to see, because while they have hit the ground running, the marathon is where this kind of race will be decided.


  1. Because, of course, a 10 year old architecture is just the same as a 1 year old architecture.

    Blizzard has problems, WoW is old and creaky, the CM team is unbearably arrogant, and it certainly isn't very good for an Agile update process. One thing it does have, however, is a combat system that doesn't work as a sedative. If GW2 wasn't as relentlessly casual as it is I might find it good enough to cancel the WoW subscription. The game certainly looks better.

    I've tried other MMOs but they've all fallen apart. This one had hope but it never becomes more complex than it is at level 7 and that's just not good for more than a few spot sessions now and again.

    1. I think you have a valid point about the architecture, which I omitted. I like to think WoW is mainly held together by duct-tape and elbow grease and moving to a new engine would be a huge cost on Blizzard's end.

      That said, Blizzard also has a mentality of withholding changes until a large patch. I have only seen Blizz hotfix things that are flat out broken or "literally" ruining the game. Other balance changes tend to wait long term. Anet so far seems to be making quick changes.

      I find I disagree though, I find WoW's combat more "sedative" than GW2's (though it certainly isn't perfect either). What about it feels casual to you?

    2. The combat is wholly non-reactive. There is no change of anything unpredictable occurring and that gets very boring. Yes, they have far superior movement to WoW but are not nearly as good as TSW. Unless I'm in the middle of a zerg I don't need to bother moving, my active and passive healing overpowers the mob damage.

      Look at it this way, GW2 combat is playing with gated cooldowns. Key 1 is spam, key 2 is x seconds, key 3 is y seconds, etc. Yes, you can swap weapons but there is a cooldown on that ability as well. Nothing will proc anything else. There are combinations - that are entirely predictable and should be staged.

      By level 7 or so I'd unlocked most of the weapons, examined the skills, and realized that this was it, combat was never going to change. I'm already getting bored with it and I'm not into my 40s, seeing this as anything other than a casual romp is difficult. I am enjoying the exploration, always do in an MMO, but that is terminal - eventually there is nothing left. What do to then? Just more flat combat.

      And on WoW patches, that is down to the antique architecture. Any change for them is likely a traumatic experience so you try to bundle things and only push when necessary. I've worked on those sort of systems and they are painful, I spent more than one weekend rebuilding the web servers because someone decided "it's just a little change".