Over the last 10-15 years players have seen little evolution in MMORPGs. Classes, combat, and quest systems generally are extremely similar even across the usual sub-genres; fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. Due to most releases up to this point reusing the same foundations with slightly different graphics the experience playing them is nearly identical across the board. This is partially why every game is called a “WoW clone” even though World of Warcraft was an Everquest clone which was a DIKU mud clone and so on. Guild Wars 2 seems to be trying to break the mold in many ways, most notably the dynamic event system at the heart of their game.
Dynamic events are not something new that ArenaNet has come up with. One of the earliest iterations of dynamic events was found in eq2. Mini events such as the “Lost Merchant” would spawn taking a few waves of trash, a boss, followed by the merchant selling you useless junk which players quickly ignored. The most recent and a larger scale dynamic system can be found in Rift. Rift showcases their system with the invasions and rifts found throughout the game except again you have little reason to do them and they have no impact on the world around you. If a quest hub gets taken over wait a few minutes and the large group of planar mobs poof, giving you back your hub.
In Guild Wars 2 the system will actually change the world.
Originally posted by Eric Flannun (Source)
… In a typical kill X quest I would walk up to the commander of the fortress and he’d have an exclamation mark over his head. I’d click on him and he would present me with text describing how evil and foul the undead in the swamp are and how if they are not dealt with they will overrun his fortress. I accept this task and head to the swamp. It is likely that I now have “Kill 10 zombies” as a quest objective. I enter the swamp, see zombies and start killing them. After killing 10 I decide to head back to the fortress and turn in my quest. If I hadn’t done the quest what would have happened? Would the zombies have attacked? Are they still going to attack? I killed 10 of them but there are still more of them out there, doesn’t that matter? This is the experience provided by the typical kill X quest.
In Guild Wars 2, let’s take the same set up and apply it to a dynamic event. As I approach the fortress the commander runs up to me and says out loud for everyone in the area to hear that there are zombies in the local swamp, they are building up to attack his fort and someone had better do something. I head to the swamp and notice that the usual wildlife is gone, having been slain by the zombie horde (you actually get to see this happen as the event starts) when I enter the event radius I have the objective of “Cull the Zombie Horde” followed by a percentage indicating how much of the horde remains and a timer. I start killing zombies as the timer counts down. If I and any other adventurers in the area can cull the horde down to 0% before time expires then the remaining zombies will flee and disaster has been averted. I’ll automatically receive a reward, the fortress remains safe and the original wildlife will return to the swamp. If I fail to cull the horde and the timer reaches zero then the zombies will all shamble out of the swamp and attack the fortress. I have failed the event but now a new event presents itself where I can defend the fortress from the horde. If the fortress is overrun it will remain occupied by zombies until cleared, a valuable travel point will be lost, merchants and other NPC’s will be unavailable. My act of killing the zombies actually protected the fortress with the consequence of possibly losing the fortress when I failed the event…
This is exciting news which will bring much needed immersion to the MMO genre. While other studios have been scared to impact a gamers experience in a negative way, AernaNet is embracing it. Is having to save a town from the evil zombies before you can use the merchants all that negative? The idea of having an actual impact on the world around you is something that most gamers have been looking for. Gamers want to be apart of a growing, living, and evolving game world. This is a fairly big promise to the community looking to play the game. The good news is that you can see the dynamic system in videos from last years conventions. This is not something they are hoping makes it into the game before launch. It’s already there waiting for players to get pulled into the world.
A problem with the event system is that it seem to be static content that has static triggers. When listening to developers talking about the system that is how it has been presented. Are there events that are not not geographically tied? Will leveling an alt of the same race be a different experience than it was with the first character? Is true dynamic content actually viable? With over 1500 events in game the answer to these questions hopefully is ‘yes’.