Guild Wars 2 dev: MMO subs can hurt fun design

"What if your content-design motivations aren't driven by the need to create mechanics that keep people playing as long as possible?" asks GW2 lead content developer Colin Johanson. The answer for ArenaNet's subscription-free MMO, he says, is to ask "Is it fun?"


"If the success of a subscription-based MMO is measured by the number of people paying a monthly fee, how does that impact game design decisions?" asks Colin Johanson, Guild Wars 2 lead content developer. As ArenaNet's subscription-free MMORPG isn't motivated by "the need to create mechanics that keep people playing as long as possible," he claims, design is led by a simple question: "Is this fun?"

In a blog post, Johanson says that subscription MMOs "run the risk of sacrificing quality to get as much content in as possible to fill that time." This often manifests as grinding for levels and items, repeating daily quests, having to organise huge raids, and generic kill/collect quests.

In Guild Wars 2, though, content is geared around having fun rather than swallowing time. The rarest items merely offer a new look rather than better stats, dungeons can have multiple paths and random events, players don't compete for resources nodes, quest difficulty scales to match the number of players, and heaps of such little touches. "Is this fun?" is a question still asked constantly at this stage of development, he says.

Do read the full post, as it's awfully interesting. Clearly he's talking up his own product but in a world of direfully dreary MMOs, it's nice to hear about good, clean, honest fun.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 20, 2012 10:30 AM

    Alice O'Connor posted a new article, Guild Wars 2 dev: MMO subs can hurt fun design.

    "What if your content-design motivations aren't driven by the need to create mechanics that keep people playing as long as possible?" asks GW2 lead content developer Colin Johanson. The answer for ArenaNet's subscription-free MMO, he says, is to ask "Is it fun?"

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      June 20, 2012 11:11 AM

      How ironic they say "Is this fun? as their benchmark for success. I've played in the first two beta weekends and I hardly found their dynamic content fun. Let's see the first one I did was put Raven eggs back in their nest. I believe I put between 10 -20 eggs back in their nest and also clicked on the status to figure out the riddles. All they did was take away having to go get a quest from a NPC. You still have to kill x number of things in a specific area and if no one else is in that area to help you are likely going to have to do more by yourself. It is like NVIDIA rebranding their older GPU's into a later series. Still the same crap with a new label.

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        June 20, 2012 12:07 PM

        You didn't HAVE to do those eggs to progress anything. And there are multiple ways to get that progress bar for a spot like the ravens going, like killing the gremlin guy burrows instead.

        Im not a fanboy of it but I think you missed seeing a lot in an area that is still teaching you game mechanics.

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        June 20, 2012 12:07 PM

        You must be dead inside. Please kill 10 cows and repeat this quest 40 times.

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          June 20, 2012 1:01 PM

          This pretty much sums it up! Not much has really changed a whole lot since Faerie Tale Adventure, where you could ride a turtle swinging your sword to become super powerful...except now they would nerf that with a patch :)

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        June 20, 2012 7:46 PM

        That wasn't dynamic content. That was the first heart quest. These replace the traditional side quests found in other MMOs.

        The actual dynamic events are generally more fun, but after a while they did all start to feel samey and somewhat grindy to me (considering that you have to grind 2 levels inbetween story missions). I can only imagine it getting worse after release when you're doing this for 80 levels.

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        June 20, 2012 11:19 PM

        The Dynamic Quests are the things like when the bandits try to poison the water reservoir. If you fail, the next stage is killing slimes and bringing the toxins to an alchemist to make a cure. However, if you defeat them, it goes to a stage where you have to kill the bandits to lower their morale until they retreat... but if you fail to do that in the allotted time, they will try to destroy the pipes... after the damage to the pipes stage it goes into protecting the engineers who are fixing the pipes.

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      June 20, 2012 2:20 PM

      I actually think it was a fairly interesting article. A culture more companies should have

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        June 20, 2012 2:21 PM

        the blog i mean sorry :)

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        June 20, 2012 3:00 PM

        Interesting, and something I've mused over as I've considered MMOs. I have to wonder if this is more of a propaganda tool though, like saying "buy our game, it's different than a traditional soulless time sink, we promise!"

        At the end of the day, their goal is the same as every other company's: to keep you in the game so you keep spending money. Just that instead of obligatory monthly fees, they will sell you items in a cash shop, and probably expansions if GW2 follows the same path as GW1. If people are not interested enough in the game to keep playing, they are not making money besides the box cost.

        The PVP or PVE is going to have to be exceptional for anyone to keep playing a game where there is little to no level grind, and then no item grind. Many people grinding for fashion gear sounds dubious to me, lots of people like fashion, but I bet most people don't care, they want stats.

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          June 21, 2012 10:25 AM

          i don't agree with you, take a look at LoL, lots of people spend tons of money just so they can have another champion skill,

          i agree that lot's of people wont the best stats and all, but i think the way Anet is seeing it is:
          1 - for people that like RPG, they have PVE, that is a bit different than all others and there is no need to say that it gets repetitive, it is an mmo after all, if it wasn't repetitive and grindy everyone would be done with it in 2 weeks and would move on...
          2 - for people that love guild vs guild or mass battles, they have WvWvW, that depends on your lvl and your weapons and armos, so you want to be 80 with best weapon... as i bet there will be tons of people that just create a character and go in WvWvW and think that that scale up will help them... no, real lvl 80 will be better!
          3 - competitive pvp, they want to have so sort of real PVP, esport like, and from what i played, i think they are on the right path, i play dota, i play lol, i play smite, i play hon, and i think sPvP in GW2 will be another thing that people play just like the games i mentioned.

          on the + side, they have no monthly feem so everyone (and their mother) from MMO world will buy this game = profit.

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      June 20, 2012 11:59 PM

      The pseudo-F2P model that they're adopting can be just as harmful, though. During the beta weekends the XP curve has been quite low -- you can clear out all the "heart" quest zones and a bunch of dynamic events and still be too low level to progress to the next area. Of course, buying some temporary XP booster buffs at the in-game store can remedy that nicely...

      I dunno, hopefully I'm just being cynical and the slow XP is just a symptom of unfinished beta balancing.

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        June 21, 2012 12:49 AM

        Getting the rest of the skill challenge points in the various areas has a real benefits.

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        June 21, 2012 10:29 AM

        while i agree with you that exp given to you for quests is low, it was a good thing for me, as what i did was, i went to other cities and did all the quests they had, in fact it was great. i was playing a Charr and as i didn't really like their area and quests i just moved to human area and started doing everything there, i was scaled down in lvl, but i still received all the ext, it was great, lvl 20 at the moment...

        also, i can't blame them for pushing people to their shop, they want go get paid too... and if you dont feel like paying extra, you can always grind a bit more... at least we get a choice, still better than mandatory $15 that i can't justify...

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