Con­flicted feel­ings for GuildWars2.

Are­naNet’s MMO is calm­ing within; troubled with­out.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Phil Sav­age

the solo story boss fights de­volve into frus­tra­tion

It was while writ­ing the PC Gamer Top 100 that I re­mem­bered: “Oh yeah, Guild Wars 2!”

I’ve been off-again, on-again with Are­naNet’s MMO for years, and haven’t re­turned since the re­lease of last year’s ex­pan­sion, Path of

Fire. Since then, three episodes of the new chap­ter of its on­go­ing ‘Liv­ing World’ story have been re­leased, adding new zones, new sto­ry­lines and a new mount: the Roller Beetle.

The day be­fore I re­turn, though, Are­naNet an­nounced it had fired two of its de­vel­op­ers, with pres­i­dent Mike O’Brien cit­ing, in a state­ment on the game’s fo­rums, “at­tacks on the com­mu­nity” as the rea­son. The real­ity is less clear cut.

Nar­ra­tive de­signer Jes­sica Price re­sponded neg­a­tively to a Guild Wars 2 part­nered streamer who tweeted at her with sug­ges­tions for how to im­prove the game. Price later told Ko­taku, “I was so tired of hav­ing ran­dom peo­ple ex­plain my job to me in com­pany spa­ces where I had to just smile and nod that it was like, ‘No. Not here. Not in my space.’” Writer Peter Fries, who tweeted in his col­league’s de­fence, was also fired.

This is a very ba­sic retelling of an event with far more at its root; one that has be­come the lat­est bat­tle­ground in an in­tractable and de­press­ing cul­ture war. For my part, I don’t think Are­naNet should have fired Price or Fries. It feels like a dan­ger­ous over­re­ac­tion – one that ig­nores a lot of con­text about the ev­ery­day ha­rass­ment faced by women in the games in­dus­try on­line.

When I log into Lion’s Arch

– Guild Wars 2’ s main city – the day af­ter the fir­ings, I’m ex­pect­ing it to be a ma­jor topic of con­ver­sa­tion. But no. Map chat is, as is of­ten the case, mostly silent. I head into the first of the three new zones added across the last three chap­ters. Here things are more ac­tive, but only be­cause a meta event is about to start and peo­ple want to know if there’s any­one with a Com­man­der tag to help lead the map.

I join in. These map-wide meta events are one of my favourite things about Guild Wars 2. It’s all the fun of co­op­er­at­ing with peo­ple, but with none of the so­cial anx­i­ety of hav­ing to dis­ap­point them be­cause you don’t yet know how it works. Each of the new maps has its own meta events – of­ten trig­ger­ing at set in­ter­vals ev­ery hour or two – but the as­sault on Palawadan in the Do­main of Is­tan proves to be the most en­joy­able of the bunch.

Ev­ery cou­ple of hours, play­ers can fight their way in to an oth­er­wise in­ac­ces­si­ble area of the map. The re­sult­ing fight is lengthy and filled with lots of hard-hit­ting bosses with some in­ter­est­ing quirks. For­tu­nately, the re­wards are good enough that the event is usu­ally well pop­u­lated – some­thing other, older maps can strug­gle with.

The plot thick­ens

The Liv­ing World’s story of­ten suf­fers with the power of its pro­tag­o­nist – they’ve killed mul­ti­ple dragons and even a god – so it can be hard to raise the stakes suf­fi­ciently. But un­dead sea­son an­tag­o­nist Palawa Joko at least proves an en­ter­tain­ing, scenery-chew­ing foil. The Liv­ing World’s story is a mostly en­joy­able se­ries of quests, with plenty of va­ri­ety in its mis­sion de­sign, but one prone to dif­fi­culty spikes. Per­haps it’s my fault for play­ing one of the game’s squishi­est char­ac­ters, but the solo story boss fights de­volve into frus­tra­tion. Maybe it’s just me, but respawn­ing my way to vic­tory doesn’t seem very heroic.

Still, my time with Guild Wars 2 is largely en­joy­able – some bull­shit story en­coun­ters aside. But then I leave the game and its help­ful, friendly play­ers, and re­turn to the threads full of vitriol to­wards Jes­sica Price on the sub­red­dit and in the fo­rums. I no­tice the Twit­ter ar­gu­ments be­tween de­vel­op­ers de­fend­ing their right to speak freely on so­cial me­dia, and those who think they should be a 24/7 cus­tomer ser­vice re­source – al­ways po­lite, re­spon­sive and avail­able. One of the things I used to value about Guild Wars 2 was how un­com­pli­cated my re­la­tion­ship with it was. I’m not sure that’s the case any more.

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