Jul 302013
 

The Living Story is meant to be one of the big selling points of Guild Wars 2, in that it presents customers with an ever changing world in substantial regular updates. The idea of treating game updates like a TV show is an intriguing one, but does it actually work?

In my opinion, no, and putting my gripes with the execution aside that are well documented by others, it’s as much to do with how our expectations with TV have changed even over the last few years. In my lifetime (and I’m under 30) TV has gone from something that you see when it’s on, record to watch later or maybe buy the VHS to watch when you like, to something you don’t actually need a TV for. The On Demand format has put end to the days where you needed to wait until the TV channel deigned to release the series on a physical format. These days not having a good way to catchup is just a recipe to be the most pirated tv series in the world.

As things stand, the Living Story is executed like TV scheduling was in the 1990s. If you aren’t in at 8:30pm on Tuesday, sorry you missed the show. Being able to record TV helped with some of the issues (if you could work the VCR) but there’s no such luxury with gaming. And even if the various documented problems with the Living Story are addressed, and the changes outlined a couple of weeks back are introduced, this central issue won’t be resolved.

If you catch episode 5 in a series and like it, chances are you want to go back to episode 1 to see how it began (unless it’s Star Wars. Don’t do it with Star Wars). If the TV station doesn’t have on demand, other services are available. In Guild Wars 2, players who are joining in half way through or take a break have no means to catch up on the story, the main reason for this delivery system. I think that is a real shame, both for the players and for the developers whose work has been relegated to the delete bin.

Things have really changed in TV in the last 2 years, with social media becoming part of that “first watch” experience (TV speak for this is “second screen” if you haven’t heard that banded around yet). This phenomena highlights how much of storytelling is a communal experience, and this is something I strongly think that all storytelling has lost sight of.

For all the technical hardship of the karka invasion in November, it was memorable amongst those who attended because it was communal. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with your friends, making new ones, is meant to be something that MMOs do best and is something I think Guild Wars 2 has lost sight of. It’s hard to feel like everyone has been through a great event when you’re the only player character there. Guild missions are a point of where the game gets it right, especially when you run into another guild doing the exact same thing as you and everyone benefits.

My other problems with the Living Story have already been expressed brilliantly by Sypster so I’ll refrain from retreading that ground here. I’m looking forward to seeing how things evolve and while there’s indications that some elements may be improving, I feel like there’s a massive gap in the plans when it comes to fitting in with the individual schedules of players.

  5 Responses to “Living Story and the TV Format”

  1. You seem to sort of be wanting two different things.
    1- If you aren’t in at 8:30pm on Tuesday, sorry you missed the show. Being able to record TV helped with some of the issues (if you could work the VCR) but there’s no such luxury with gaming.
    2- For all the technical hardship of the karka invasion in November, it was memorable amongst those who attended because it was communal. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with your friends, making new ones, is meant to be something that MMOs do best and is something I think Guild Wars 2 has lost sight of. It’s hard to feel like everyone has been through a great event when you’re the only player character there.

    These two points are almost impossible to reconcile. If the problem is that things are too temporary, then keep them around or make them permanent. However, once that happens, you will have far fewer people doing them, or they will be broken off into instances (like personal story/living story is now anyway). If the problem is that feeling of isolation, that the community is not all participating together, then how do you make them all be there at the same time? Basically, by making them temporary. Otherwise people will go whenever they feel like it, and will be segmented.

    I understand what you are saying. They are really trying to break new ground here, and there are some uncertain waters ahead. I too have been less immersed in the LS than I would prefer, and have written similar thoughts. The problem is pretty complicated though, as I’m sure you can imagine.

  2. I guess I didn’t explain that part all too well. I think there’s scope for large events that have lot of people involved that can be “watched” back at a later time.

    People will always want to go first if they can, because, especially in geek culture, there’s value to being first in line. So if you’re on at the event at the right time(s) (I don’t see why you can’t run an event at different times on different servers now we have guesting), you get to be involved in making history. The event could be repeated depending on story. Once the time has past, players could be offered the ability to watch a cinematic of what happened in game. ArenaNet did this kind of thing with the first few holiday events for Guild Wars 1 where shortly after the event they released a short video of the party. It was a nice way for people to get a taster of the events, and a memento for those who were there. There was something like this with the cinematic book for Lady Majory’s pieces, allowing players to relive those after the fact, but only if they did it at the time. Why not add some mechanic to allow this to happen for players who weren’t involved.

    Obviously some events will be repeated, like Halloween and Wintersday. And Halloween approached that “big event” thing pretty well with events repeating every hour over a weekend.

    I definitely accept there isn’t an easy solution to these complicated problem. Such is the pain of a different approach, but as things stand I’m not sure this is a better solution to providing updates than other, more traditional approaches.

  3. “I definitely accept there isn’t an easy solution to these complicated problem. Such is the pain of a different approach, but as things stand I’m not sure this is a better solution to providing updates than other, more traditional approaches.”

    Yup, completely agreed. It’s gotta be challenging for them as well. I’m loving reading everyone’s feelings on how things are going, and how things can improve, especially from those in the community I respect. I feel that most of us bloggers are handling our criticism in a pretty respectful and thoughtful way. Keep up the great work =D

  4. […] go (especially with the “more permanent content” route). Tasha commented on the part of the living story being like a TV show. Syp wrote about what it feels like not getting to be there for all the content of the living […]

  5. […] Attached to Keyboard — Living Story and the TV Format. “The Living Story is meant to be one of the big selling points of Guild Wars 2, in that it presents customers with an ever changing world in substantial regular updates. The idea of treating game updates like a TV show is an intriguing one, but does it actually work?” […]

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