When building an MMO, we had to examine every core piece of accepted content from traditional games in the genre and ask, "How can this be improved?" By looking at the traditional quest system used in basically every MMO ever made, we've come to the conclusion that quests have a lot of areas for improvement. To address these flaws, we've developed our dynamic event system.
Traditional quest systems involve walking up to a character who usually has an exclamation point or question mark hovering over their head and talking to them. From here, you get a massive wall of text hardly anyone reads that describes a horrible or totally mundane thing going on in the world that you need to help with. You run off, complete this task, then return and talk to this character again to receive another wall of text and a reward. Traditional quest systems rely on these blocks of quest text to tell you what is happening in the world; this is just an outdated form of storytelling.
In Guild Wars 2, our event system won't make you read a huge quest description to find out what's going on. You'll experience it by seeing and hearing things in the world. If a dragon is attacking, you won't read three paragraphs telling you about it, you'll see buildings exploding in giant balls of fire, and hear characters in the game world screaming about a dragon attack. You'll hear guards from nearby cities trying to recruit players to go help fight the dragon, and see huge clouds of smoke in the distance, rising from the village under siege.
There is a second fundamental flaw to traditional quest systems: what the quest text tells you is happening in a quest is not actually what is happening in the world.
For example, in a traditional MMO, the character who gives you a quest will tell you ogres are coming to destroy the character's home, and you need to kill them. You then get a quest which says, "Kill 0/10 ogres" and you proceed to kill a bunch of ogres standing around in a field picking daisies. Since every player in the game needs to be able to do this quest, the ogres will never actually threaten the character's home - they will just eternally pick daisies in the field. The ogres aren't actually doing what the quest says they are - the game is lying to you!
At ArenaNet, we believe this is NOT good enough. In Guild Wars 2, if a character tells you ogres are coming to destroy a house, they will really come and smash down the house if you don't stop them!
A Living Breathing World
By building a world where you see and hear the experiences, Guild Wars 2 will evolve the MMORPG genre by making a game world that feels truly alive. The core of this evolution is our event system, which allows the world to dynamically change based on actions and decisions made by the players. A single player decision can cascade across a zone, changing the direction of a chain of events until they dramatically alter the content played by players in a map.
Other developers have tried to tackle this problem, but in Guild Wars 2 we go further. Where other multi-player quest systems were pass or fail - our dynamic events evolve in response to player interaction and the outcomes they achieve. Where previous systems reset and start again and really don't change the world, dynamic events chain and cascade across a zone and leave persistent effects in the game world after the event has ended.
In traditional MMOs, when a quest is completed it has no real effect on the game world. You receive your reward and then move on, looking for the next quest to do. The world appears no better or worse for your actions. In GW2, the outcome of every event will directly affect the game world around you. If an enemy dredge army is marching out of their main base, players will be asked to mobilize with their allies and help destroy the army. If the dredge army is defeated, other events will cascade out from there. Players will be able battle their way inside the dredge base, face off against their commander, rescue captured friendly troops being held in the dredge prisons, and even hold the captured base while fighting waves of dredge, who arrive from deep underground to try and take back their home.
If, on the other hand, players fail to destroy the army, it will establish a fort in friendly player territory. From there, the dredge will send shipments of troops and supplies to the fort from the main base while building up walls, turrets, and siege engines to help defend it. Enemy dredge forces will then begin to move out from their newly established fort to attack friendly player locations in the area, sending snipers out into the hills, sending assault team forces to capture friendly player villages, and trying to smash down friendly fortifications with massive dredge walkers. All of these events continue to cascade out into further chains of events where cause and effect is directly related to the player's actions.
For example, if the players do not mobilize to stop the dredge snipers, they'll begin to shoot down all the villagers and merchants in nearby friendly villages. If they fail to stop the dredge assault teams from capturing a village, players will need to lead a force to help liberate the town and free the villagers. All of this content is derived from a single initial event - the dredge army marching through the map.
These are just some of the thousands of events we've designed in Guild Wars 2, where every action taken by the players will have direct, visible, cause and effect in the game world.
Putting the “mmo” back in “mmorpg”
One of the challenges of a massively multiplayer game is building a game world where hundreds of players are able to interact together and feel a sense of community, not a sense of threat, from other players playing with them. One of the great flaws of content in most traditional MMOs is that players generally cannot actually play together unless they are in a group, and the content types actively encourage them not to interact, or worse, become hostile, when another player is nearby.
Traditional MMO quest systems will send multiple players off to kill a boss. One player kills the boss and gets the loot. The rest of the players have to stand around and wait their turn for the boss to re-spawn so they can kill it and get credit for it. You don't want other players around you because they're stealing your kills and slowing your rate of achievement. MMOs are supposed to be about hundreds, if not thousands of players, playing together in a community, not putting them in the same world and then pushing them apart!
The event system in Guild Wars 2 is designed to specifically address this problem. All players that fully participate in an event are rewarded for doing so; everyone who helps kill a monster or blow up an enemy catapult will get credit for doing so. There is no kill stealing and no quest camping. Everyone works together towards the common goal of the event and everyone is rewarded for doing so. To help ensure there is always enough for everyone to do, our events dynamically scale, so the more players who show up and participate in the event, the more enemies show up to fight them. If a bunch of players leave the event, it will dynamically scale back down so it can be completed by the people who are still there playing it. This careful balance created by our dynamic scaling system helps ensure you have the best and most rewarding play experience.
Events are designed to help bring the community together and to give everyone a shared sense of responsibility and camaraderie in the game world. Even if you're not grouped up with someone, you'll only be rewarded for having more players come help you with an event! In Guild Wars 2, when you see another player you'll actually be excited to see them, where in traditional MMOs you generally think, "Oh great, here comes a guy to steal my kills." Through our internal game testing so far, it's been remarkable to see how well this idea has functioned in practice. Our entire studio has experienced countless moments where we've been drawn together to parts of a map to do events and felt a strong bond with other players; a truly dynamically created sense of community born out of the event system.
Benefits to re-play and exploring
There are two very common types of MMO players that generally are not specifically catered to by traditional games in the genre. One is the explorer who wants to explore every nook and cranny of the game world. The other, even more common, wants to make alternate characters and play through the game as many different ways with as many different characters as possible (aka the altoholic). In Guild Wars 2, we're using our event system to help cater to these kinds of players in ways no one has ever attempted before.
For the explorer, much of the joy comes from discovering new things. In a traditional MMO, the explorer gets to explore a vast world, but after they have explored it once, there is nothing left for the explorer to do, because the game world does not change. The game becomes stale, and much of the joy is lost when the explorer has run out of things to discover. Our dynamic event system in Guild Wars 2 ensures this sense of joy from discovery is never lost in the game world! Every time you enter any map in the game, completely different events and situations could be occurring to discover in a new and different way. A village that was previously filled with friendly norn could, on a return trip, have been taken over by evil Sons of Svanir who are now using it as a base of operations and have put up their own architecture in place of the norn's. This dynamically changing world will create the ultimate sense of discovery for the explorer.
As an added bonus, we've also hidden hundreds of events all over the world that require interaction with the game world. This helps give an extra sense of reward and discovery for those who seek to explore the entire world. Finding an entrance to a secret cave deep at the bottom of the ocean and removing a glowing orb from the cave could let an evil creature loose from its ancient prison and kick off a chain of events as the creature terrorizes the ocean shipping lanes. Reading the spells written on an ancient wizard's spell book in a ruined castle at the top of the highest mountain peak could open a portal to another world and trigger a chain of events as creatures from that world come through the portal. GW2 is all about being a game for every type of gamer, and we're specifically using the event system to make this possible.
Because the world is constantly changing through our event system, we've created a living, breathing environment that is especially rewarding for altoholics. The event system will help ensure that every new character you create has a truly unique experience when playing through the game world, making playing new characters more fun and rewarding than in traditional MMOs.
MMOs have become extremely popular, but the genre has done little to evolve over the past decade. Generally MMO players explore an unchanging, persistent game world, leveling up by performing quests which do not change the world in any way once completed. It's time for the genre to take the next step, and explore the idea of a truly dynamic, living, breathing persistent world where the player's actions really make a difference, and everything that occurs in the game world has cause and effect. The event system in Guild Wars 2 is going to bring this concept of a dynamic world to life for our players and we cannot wait till you all get a chance to play it with us. You won't be disappointed.
While this article covers how the event system will fix many of the core flaws with quests in traditional MMOs, it does not address some of the other flaw in the genre, like a lack of character development and overall sense of personal story. ReeSoesbee, one of our world designers on Guild Wars 2, will be following this article with her own look into the personal story system we're developing to solve these fundamental problems. If our dynamic event system is putting the "MMO" back in "MMORPG," then Ree's article will show you how our personal story system is putting the "RPG" back in the "MMORPG." You won't want to miss it!