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  1. #1

    Post Guild Wars 2 Endgame: You Actually Get to Eat the Carrot

    This is an article I've written for my website and I thought I'd post it here to see what people think. It's long, I know. If it's too long for you, nobody's forcing you to read it!

    -----

    Summary

    Due to the length of the article, a brief "executive summary" was requested to encapsulate what I'm trying to get across.

    The purpose of the article is to explain how Guild Wars 2's "endgame" differs from the raiding model commonly found in other MMORPGs, and explain why concerns about its longevity or its appeal are largely unfounded. It is not an attack on raiding as such, but I do point out the flaws I see in the raiding model used in other MMOs, and also identify why these flaws exist.

    Also, by "you actually get to eat the carrot" I mean that in Guild Wars 2 rewards are ends in themselves, and are not a means to gaining access to additional content (which in turn offers rewards to access further content, and so on ad infinitum) as in most MMOs.

    Introduction

    Something which has been debated and discussed extensively within the Guild Wars 2 community is the issue of the so-called "endgame". Anyone who has played an MMO will more than likely be familiar with the term, which basically means content which exists for players who have reached the level cap.

    In this article I will discuss the nature of the endgame in existing MMOs, the approximately equivalent features present in Guild Wars 2, and the concerns that have been raised about the radically different approach Guild Wars 2 is taking. I will not be covering PvP features here (I intend to do so separately at some point in the future).

    The Endgame Model of Most Other MMOs (Raids)

    In most MMOs (World of Warcraft being the most obvious example), reaching the level cap is accompanied by a significant shift in both the content available and the rewards offered. Prior to the level cap, quests and 5-man dungeons are the most common PvE activities, rewarding the player with enough XP for a reasonably fast rate of levelling, enough currency for any necessary expenses, and gear appropriate to their current level. Upon reaching the level cap, these activities become obsolete almost immediately: XP is no longer an issue, the currency rewards become either insufficient or unnecessary, and the gear rewards no longer provide improved stats.

    This is where raiding comes in. Raiding is the focus of the PvE endgame in most contemporary MMOs, and it involves challenging, instanced content designed for groups of more than five players, usually in the form of scripted boss fights and requiring a significant amount of preparation and teamwork to be beaten. The in-game rewards come in the form of better gear (replacing XP), and to a lesser extent currency, crafting materials and achievements.

    As I see it, the most crucial difference between raids and all of the preceding content is not the increased difficulty of the content, or the increased number of players required, or the replacement of levels with gear as the primary gauge of progression; it is the introduction of repetition.

    Levelling is like going up a hill. The slope is gentle at first, and then gradually it gets steeper, each step requiring more effort than the last. Still, there's plenty of interesting scenery as you ascend. Raiding is the equivalent of reaching the top of the hill and being put onto a treadmill. Whereas you never need to repeat content while levelling, raiding requires you to repeat the same content many times in order to squeeze out all of the possible rewards from it. Then, in the case of World of Warcraft, when you've finally acquired all the rewards from a particular treadmill, your only option is to get back on the same treadmill with the speed cranked up (heroic mode)—at least until the next tier of treadmills is released.

    Contrary to what you may be thinking, I don't believe raiding is necessarily bad (in and of itself); it can be a lot of fun and often features challenging and entertaining encounters. However, it is commonly accompanied by other elements which makes it repetitive and far from ideal.

    I also don't believe that the existence of raiding is the product of an evil conspiracy to trick people into paying the subscription fee every month. While having a subscription fee does mean that there is an additional incentive for developers to keep players playing for as long as possible, a game's longevity is desirable even without said subscription fee (for example, to encourage the purchase of expansions or because it will reflect positively on the developer's reputation), so the root cause must be found elsewhere.

    I would argue that the raiding model (in its widely used "treadmill + carrot-on-a-stick" form) is primarily and inescapably the result of two key factors. Firstly, developers are unable to produce new, high-quality content fast enough to keep up with the speed at which players complete it. Secondly, characters are constantly increasing in power, which sooner or later renders all but the latest content obsolete. Simply put, new content isn't released fast enough, and existing content rapidly becomes trivial and rewardless.

    This trend culminates at endgame where you are restricted—relative to the game as a whole—to a very small amount of content in the form of raids. To counteract the above issues, raiding features three main devices which artificially extend the lifespan of this limited amount of content: Repetition, low drop rates, and increasing difficulty. Repetition provides an endless reel of content to play through, drop rates dictate roughly how many times the content needs to be repeated in order to be "completed", and increasing difficulty serves to further slow down progression (often leading to a point for many players where they can no longer progress at all due to a lack of time, skill, knowledge or experience). Some MMOs (including WoW) add yet another progression slowing device in the form of raid lockouts, which limit the amount of times you're able to repeat a particular raid within a given period of time (in WoW's case, once per week).

    So, while the raid model used by World of Warcraft (amongst others) for its endgame generally does a good job of keeping players entertained—or at least occupied—long enough to keep playing until new content is released, it has severe drawbacks which cannot be remedied due to core decisions that were made early in the game's development.

    Guild Wars 2's Model

    ArenaNet describe Guild Wars 2 as not having an "endgame" as such (or as being "entirely endgame"; effectively the same thing). The game has also been built with an anti-grind philosophy in mind from the very beginning—like the original Guild Wars—which ArenaNet hope will eliminate many of the issues present within existing MMOs, including those described above. Notably, in relation to the above discussion, Guild Wars 2 does not feature raids.

    When it comes to the concerns surrounding Guild Wars 2's endgame, or lack thereof, there are a few that have been widely raised, and they can be broken down into two broad categories; concerns about the lifespan of the content, and concerns about the nature of the content.

    Concerns About the Content's Lifespan

    In terms of the content's lifespan, players are worried that the perceived void left by a lack of raids will not be adequately filled, causing players to be entertained for a shorter amount of time than they would have been if raids were present. Whether this particular concern is valid or not ultimately depends on what motivates you to play.

    Most MMOs make use of the following infinite loop, which could be considered the "engine" of the endgame: Gear increases your character's power which allows you to defeat more powerful enemies which drop gear which increases your character's power which allows you to defeat more powerful enemies… and so on. It is reasonable to assume that for most players, one part of the loop serves the motivating aspect, whereas the other serves as the means to it.

    This infinite loop does not exist in Guild Wars 2, and if the motivating aspect for you is the constant increase in your character's power then you will be disappointed. I would however ask you to question why it's important; after all, the increase in power doesn't significantly impact your experience as newly added encounters are designed to be a match for you, no matter how large the numbers on your character sheet might be. In fact, if character power is kept constant, it makes it easier for developers to create content with a finely-tuned level of difficulty.

    On the other hand, if it's the facing of the encounters which serves as the motivator for you, then you likely have nothing to be worried about. In Guild Wars 2, new content expands rather than extends the game. Thanks to the side-kicking system, content never becomes obsolete; when you reach the level cap your options are not limited to content specifically made for the endgame, you can still play any of the dynamic events or attempt any of the dungeons you may have initially missed. Furthermore, dynamic events provide constant variation across the entire game world. A zone might be completely different the next time you visit it due to different events being active, events being at different stages, or events having a different number of players participating in them.

    Now, while your character may not endlessly increase in power, that isn't to say that the content offers no in-game rewards whatsoever once you reach the level cap.

    Firstly, there are rewards which expand your abilities. These include weapons, which determine five of the skills you have access to at any given moment, traits, which alter your skills or attributes in some way (these are being reworked as I write this, so we don't know exactly how they will be acquired), and slot skills (including elite skills), which fill your remaining five skill slots (acquired by earning skill points, at least at the time of writing). All of these things combined provide a significant amount of depth in terms of character builds which is great news for those who enjoy theorycrafting and experimentation.

    Secondly, there are rewards which provide ways of customising the appearance of your character. For example, each dungeon has its own unique armour set, and there also exist rare dyes which can be used to change the colour of specific parts of your armour. It's not unreasonable to assume that Guild Wars 2 will also feature other kinds of collectibles and treasure to give people more of a reason to explore the world and/or trade with other players; the original Guild Wars had mini-pets for example.

    Thirdly, there are rewards which provide a sense of achievement through explicitly tracking your progress and recording your character's history. Achievements, titles and statistics are now a common feature of MMOs, and these are all present in Guild Wars 2.

    As well as the content described above and its rewards, there is also the crafting system, the two-way auction house, and mini-games. There isn't a great deal of information on these features, but suffice it to say they will provide compelling additions to the core gameplay.

    Concerns About the Content's Nature

    In terms of the the nature of the content, players are unsure whether Guild Wars 2 will cater to certain types of players, in particular to hardcore raiders due to an apparent lack of anything that has similar characteristics to raids (i.e. challenging, instanced encounters designed for premade groups of more than five players).

    The answer to this is quite straightforward, and requires these players to define what specific qualities they need in the game in order for them to enjoy it. Dynamic events and explorable mode dungeons will both fulfil certain combinations of the qualities offered by raids, but not all of them.

    For example, if raiding appeals to you because of the large number of players involved, or because of the "epic" feel of fighting massive bosses, then dynamic events are exactly what you want. Conversely, if raiding appeals to you because of the challenge—the difficulty of the encounters and the requirements of preparation and teamwork—then explorable mode dungeons will provide you with these things.

    If however you absolutely must have all of these characteristics within a single type of content, then Guild Wars 2 most likely will not be for you, at least in this respect.

    Conclusion

    Hopefully this article has helped to ease some of the concerns people have about the endgame in Guild Wars 2. When ArenaNet says "the entire game is endgame", they are more than justified in doing so, and hopefully I've demonstrated why. It is a complicated subject, and a lot of it comes down to our own perceptions and how we are motivated.

    Whereas other MMOs use the "treadmill/carrot" raid model, which requires repetition of content and continuously increases your character's power, thus rendering content obsolete as you out-level or out-gear it, Guild Wars 2 takes a completely different approach. There are still plenty of challenges, plenty of things to explore, plenty of rewards, and plenty of other things to do, but the game does not revolve around endlessly increasing numbers as its primary mode of "progression".

    In Guild Wars 2 you actually get to eat the carrot.

    - Darkademic (Guild Leader [DkR] Dark Reavers GW2 Guild)
    Last edited by Darkademic; 2012-02-10 at 12:40 AM.

  2. #2
    I think you need to liven this up a bit, it's too much pseudo-academical for a gaming article, and frankly speaking frontloaded with your own subjective opinion, which runs contradictory to your academic angle

    So change the language, shorten it and make the first 10-15 seconds worth reading (most readers decide in 10-15 seconds if they can be bothered to read/watch/look at something).

    Hope it helps you.


    Edit: This was posted as a review of the original article which no longer exists
    Last edited by Hellgaunt; 2012-02-16 at 11:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Deleted
    Great post... great post!

    It was long, but worth it, I agree on most part and I like how you made it not to personal, while having it personal at the same time somehow
    To bad it's so long, but the length is needed so... Nothing you can do there.

    Good job

    P.S I'm a guy of science and academics... So I'm used to long posts / being non personal and enjoy thoose posts... So that might have to do with why I really enjoyed this post :P

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    I think you need to liven this up a bit, it's too much pseudo-academical for a gaming article, and frankly speaking frontloaded with your own subjective opinion, which runs contradictory to your academic angle

    So change the language, shorten it and make the first 10-15 seconds worth reading (most readers decide in 10-15 seconds if they can be bothered to read/watch/look at something).

    Hope it helps you.
    You may be right, and it's probably because I don't often write gaming articles, I write philosophy and politics articles - so it's kind of my style.

    Could you be more specific about which parts you think are subjective?

    I appreciate the feedback.

  5. #5
    Deleted
    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    <SNIP> .
    Agreed, it's way to long and way to hard to read for people who don't want to spend to much time in here.

  6. #6
    The Patient Octan's Avatar
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    Great post, I can relate to most of what you put in the article.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by roflatorlunde View Post
    Agreed, it's way to long and way to hard to read for people who don't want to spend to much time in here.
    Yea it's probably too long for a forum, but it's intended as an article or an essay primarily, so I'm fine with that.

    Very glad you liked it anyway, I appreciate the comments, and yea I'm an academic kind of guy too... hence the name!

  8. #8
    Every time you write "believe" you are being subjective

    Also: "[...]raiding is the product of an evil conspiracy to trick people into paying the subscription fee every month." This is so very one-dimensional and one-sided that my heart crinches

    Academical writing is always multi-dimensional and, at its simplest, two-dimensional: "On one side, on the other hand...". It's technique of writing in which you argue with yourself with the reader as the informed spectator

    Also this:"[...]Firstly, developers are unable to [...] new content isn't released fast enough, and existing content rapidly becomes trivial and rewardless." This is a postulate that you don't back up by facts or example. You also didn't define what defines content as 'completed'? How many players need to go through said content to complete it?

    And also this: "[...]but the game does not revolve around endlessly increasing numbers to give the illusion of progression." Another postulate, I could as easily argue that you go through real progress raiding in RIFT, SWTOR, WoW, etc., by defining progress as incremental steps in character power and player learning. That is not illusionary progress, that's very real progress


    Edit: This was also posted as a review comment.
    Last edited by Hellgaunt; 2012-02-16 at 11:04 PM. Reason: Adding layout to make it readable

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    Every time you write "believe" you are being subjective
    Sort of. I am stating an opinion, however opinions can be based on objective facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    Also: "[...]raiding is the product of an evil conspiracy to trick people into paying the subscription fee every month." This is so very one-dimensional and one-sided that my heart crinches
    I hope you don't think I wrote that raiding IS the product of an evil conspiracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    Academical writing is always multi-dimensional and, at its simplest, two-dimensional: "One one side, on the other hand...". It's technique of writing in which you argue with yourself with the reader as the informed spectator
    I may have written it in an academic style, but I'm perfectly fine with it being regarded as an opinion piece.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    Also this:"[...]Firstly, developers are unable to [...] new content isn't released fast enough, and existing content rapidly becomes trivial and rewardless." This is a postulate that you don't back up by facts or example. You also didn't define what defines content as 'completed'? How many players need to go through said content to complete it?
    Well I could give examples I suppose, but I don't want it to sound like an attack on World of Warcraft (that being my primary point of reference for "existing MMOs").

    Completion is dependent on the what the player is trying to achieve, which is why I put it in quotes. I would assume that for most raiders it means either getting all the gear you need to progress, or getting all the gear available from the raid period. Would you not agree with that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    And also this: "[...]but the game does not revolve around endlessly increasing numbers to give the illusion of progression." Another postulate, I could as easily argue that you go through real progress raiding in RIFT, SWTOR, WoW, etc., by defining progress as incremental steps in character power and player learning. That is not illusionary progress, that's very real progress
    Alright I agree with you there, I should use "sense" rather than "illusion".

  10. #10
    I feel like this game won't be keeping me entertaining at endgame because I don't like doing same content even with different difficulties which is why wow is boring for me. I'll give it a try tho!

  11. #11
    Nice read. I would say though it is worth specifying the context of endgame you are contrasting. You use World of Warcraft's endgame scheme as a contra, and that's fine, but don't present endgame schemes previous or currently outside of that.

    What I mean to say, is this reads heavily as a WoW's Endgame vs. GW2 endgame article rather than a examination of "endgame" conceptually.

    So it reads mostly as a pitch.

    [I enjoyed the read, however. Keep it up because this is v. much worth reading/talking about.]

  12. #12
    @Kuntantee: That's why they have 1500+ handcoded dynamic events to keep you busy. Will probably never be able to see all content, and then there's the WvWvW zone as well...

    @Darkacademic you wrote: "Could you be more specific about which parts you think are subjective?" - I obliged. No point in taking this further. However, I would suggest you make a sort of disclaimer - even if you don't use the word disclaimer. Whatever is all up to you. I do not feel the desire to enter into a discussion on the merits of Railed MMOs compared to sandbox type of MMOs, or the mix of those (which is GW2 - I am having a hard case classifying GW2, and to be honest, I don't want to).

    Use my critique if you want or keep to your own style. My post is hypothetic to underline the task of showing you your subjectivism, not necessarily a display of my own point of views.

    One last thing though: "I hope you don't think I wrote that raiding IS the product of an evil conspiracy" - no I don't, you said so in your original piece... are you accusing me of giving you criticism without having read what you wrote? What is one-dimensional is constructing an argument in which you imply a view of raiding and subscription fee being evil and a trick.

    An MMO is a product, a tradeable good, and one way or the other Anet and Blizzard both need to make money to stay in business. Which business model you prefer (micro-transactions) or sub-fee is in the eye of the beholder, until some very constructive and multi-dimensional research is being provided - there are ups and downs to both I would say
    Last edited by Hellgaunt; 2012-02-06 at 11:03 PM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Fencers View Post
    Nice read. I would say though it is worth specifying the context of endgame you are contrasting. You use World of Warcraft's endgame scheme as a contra, and that's fine, but don't present endgame schemes previous or currently outside of that.

    What I mean to say, is this reads heavily as a WoW's Endgame vs. GW2 endgame article rather than a examination of "endgame" conceptually.

    So it reads mostly as a pitch.

    [I enjoyed the read, however. Keep it up because this is v. much worth reading/talking about.]
    Yea, understandable. In fact that was probably the most difficult part of writing it. I wanted it to be a comparison to endgames of MMOs in general so that it didn't seem like an all-out attack on WoW, but at the same time I have the most experience with WoW's endgame compared to other MMOs I've played.

    Glad you liked it overall though.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    @Darkacademic you wrote: "Could you be more specific about which parts you think are subjective?" - I obliged. No point in taking this further. However, I would suggest you make a sort of disclaimer - even if you don't use the word disclaimer. Whatever is all up to you. I do not feel the desire to enter into a discussion on the merits of Railed MMOs compared to sandbox type of MMOs, or the mix of those (which is GW2 - I am having a hard case classifying GW2, and to be honest, I don't want to).

    Use my critique if you want or keep to your own style. My post is hypothetic to underline the task of showing you your subjectivism, not necessarily a display of my own point of views.
    Alright, I appreciate the feedback, it's really just a case of whether I can find the time to make the necessary modifications - I should've been working today but instead I wrote this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hellgaunt View Post
    One last thing though: "I hope you don't think I wrote that raiding IS the product of an evil conspiracy" - no I don't, you said so in your original piece... are you accusing me of giving you criticism without having read what you wrote?
    Nah just because you cut off the "I don't believe...", and you seemed to be implying I was taking a very biased view, when I was actually just saying I don't agree with people who suggest raiding is an evil corporate conspiracy to keep you coughing up money.

  15. #15
    Deleted
    Good read and I mostly agree. However at some point players will reach the point in which they have seen (pretty much) all of the content, even in GW2, and the cycle begins as they level a new character or rerun dungeons. The nature of GW2's content should mean it last longer than traditional leveling/end game MMOs, the question is whether it will be enough to give Anet time to create the next expansion and, after that's been released and the basic game has been well and truly set through it's paces, will that expansion give them enough time for the next one? I really hope so, will be interesting to see.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Swoopeh View Post
    Good read and I mostly agree. However at some point players will reach the point in which they have seen (pretty much) all of the content, even in GW2, and the cycle begins as they level a new character or rerun dungeons. The nature of GW2's content should mean it last longer than traditional leveling/end game MMOs, the question is whether it will be enough to give Anet time to create the next expansion and, after that's been released and the basic game has been well and truly set through it's paces, will that expansion give them enough time for the next one? I really hope so, will be interesting to see.
    Yeah true, I should maybe add that in somewhere, i.e. that I'm not suggesting ArenaNet have come up with a way of delivering infinite content.

    What I was trying to say is that endgame is distributed across the whole game instead of being focused on a tiny amount of content - which means there'll be far less (if any) repetition. Of course, it still depends on ArenaNet coming up with new content in a sufficiently short amount of time.

  17. #17
    I am Murloc! Mif's Avatar
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    Last edited by Mif; 2012-02-17 at 02:34 AM.

  18. #18
    Deleted
    Very good read enjoyed it

    Though one thing that really bothered me being an engineer (and mathematician) :P ... Your use of "statistically" giving reference to boss/player stats, stats and statistics are two compeletely different things.

    "statistically superior enemies" - is someone like Steve Hawkins, his knowledge of mathematics and statistics makes him a worthy opponent in Maths club

    Sorry it was awkward for me to read it that way and bothered me a bit, though i understand your point. Not that it really matters, most ppl probs didn't even realise and i'm terrible at teh english language myself

  19. #19
    Stood in the Fire Roar-Powah's Avatar
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    Well in my opinion GW2's content / end game is more appealing to then standard MMO's out at the moment. Even if you put GW2 down for a month or two you can still come back to it and no be behind in gear etc.

    Anet is making a MMO that is very different in a lot of ways to everything else and i think this will work. A lot of people are bored with WoW ( I know i am ) and people are sick of grinding levels / rep / etc etc.

    As for Anet releasing content in a short amount of time, i think they will be able to do it. Anet have an MMO all ready under their belt and know how often they need to release content to keep people happy.

    Edit: As for the OP i couldn't agree more with him/her. spot on imo

  20. #20
    Deleted
    Quote Originally Posted by Darkademic View Post
    {snip}

    ... i.e. that I'm not suggesting ArenaNet have come up with a way of delivering infinite content.

    {snip}
    they are pretty clsoe though can't wait to see the DE system in play!!!

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