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Can Guild Wars 2’s Living Story Keep Pace?

Colin Johanson recently game an interview to US Gamer in which he talked about the all-important Living Story of Guild Wars 2. It’d a particularly interesting interview, and topic of discussion in general, for someone in my position; I was a rabid GW2 fan pre-launch, played the piss out of the game at launch, and then gradually drifted away, only to be drawn back into the game with the second half of Dragon Bash (the one with the sky-pirates) and Cutthroat Politics. The Living story has been fantastic in these last two cycles, but can it keep pace, and can it keep the players engaged?

ON of the biggest issues with the Living Story now is the fact that it is, more or less a T.V. show. Every story is very one note, there’s not incredible depth, and nothing goes to deep, and it all makes gw2 gold: players may miss a living story update and ArenaNet doesn’t want them to feel left out or lost. However, in making the stories easy to jump into and accessible, ArenaNet is also making them rather flimsy and forgettable.

Cutthroat Politics is the first Living Story that has, in my opinion, not felt flimsy. There characters are still a little one-dimensional, though there may be some incredibly rich and hidden under-tones (as detailed by Loremaster Wooden Potatoes), but the stakes are so high its hard not to feel invested: We’ll be deciding the future of the world of Tyria. When asked about this issue, Colin had a rather uplifting response:

We continue. I ask Colin if the Living Story will propel the central narrative behind Tyria’s struggles or if it is a vehicle for side stories and crustaceans with inappropriately shaped faces. Short answer: Yes.

“The living world updates that we did in the first half of this year definitely fall under the category of side story arcs kinda.” Johanson remarks. “However, I can say that the story that’s playing out right now is a part of much larger story, and it’s something that will become clear as the year progresses.”

He reassures me that there is a master plan in effect, that things are happening behind the proverbial curtain. That said, Johanson seems aware that it might seem otherwise to players. “Some of the bigger pieces of feedback that we’ve heard from our players is that the things that happen in the living world are very compartmentalized. They feel like they happen to a very specific part of the world, they feel like they’re transient, that they occur and go away again and that’s something we’re working on.”

Tying the Personal Story and the Living Story together is a brilliant idea, but there is one issue: Scale. Tyria is a huge world, and for the most part we’ve been confined to slices of it with the Living Story. The Personal Story had a fantastic flow, bringing you from your home, to Lion’s Arch, to the shores of Orr itself, and even if parts of it didn’t work (Yes, I’m talking about Traehearne), the sense of pacing and scale was spot on: you were part of a grand offensive that stretched throughout Tyria.

Using the Living story to pick this up is an excellent idea, but I worry that it won’t be able to maintain a smooth sense of progression, in a narrative sense. Johanson seems to have his compass pointing in the right direction:

“Are we going to do those additional maps and new regions and expand our stories so you can go to those, and see more dragons? The answer is ‘Absolutely, yes’. It’s just a matter of ‘Will those make sense, timeline-wise, with the other projects we’re also building?’”

Serial stories can work: Look at The Walking DeadGame of Thrones, or any number of other great T.V. Shows; The stories are gripping, the characters are interesting, and you wait with baited breath  for the next new episode. Guild Wars 2 needs to endevour to be more like Game of Thrones, and less like The Simpsons; less about cool one-offs and distractions, and more about long, building stories.

Sure, there will be bad episodes, and we won’t know them till we’ve played them, but if the GW2 team can commit to a narrative and find its feet, I think they can create a very devoted fan-base, willing to turn in every two weeks for the next episode.

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