GW2: Will it really lack endgame?

Update July 13, 2012: There’s an interview on Twitch.tv with Eric Flannum and Colin Johanson where they’re talking about endgame in Guild Wars 2. :)

I have seen several people talk about whether Guild Wars 2 has an endgame and whether it needs one. Some articles/discussions are a bit older, others are newer.

Let me toss in my opinion and thoughts as well. First, I should clarify what I mean when I say “endgame”, that is, which definition I am going to use here now. I will ignore the PvP part of “endgame” because the discussions usually do not revolve around the PvP part but they are instead concerned about the PvE part. ArenaNet also treats those two areas differently as structured PvP, for example, does not even let you play with a low level character and you immediately start with your character being max level and having access to everything (traits, gear,…). As I said, PvE is different. Let’s say “endgame” means “doing something differently than what you are doing while levelling up”. If that is the case, then I guess Guild Wars 2 really is lacking “endgame”.

What we have in the PvE area are dungeons (story and explorable mode), events/dynamic events and meta events. All of which can be done at low levels already. Events can be soloable (while scaling up when more players are around) or specifically designed for groups which make them very hard to solo. What Guild Wars 2 does not have is raids, at least not in the “traditional” sense as we know them from World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic. Those raids are typically seen as “endgame”: You level up to max level, and once there, you collect proper equipment, join 9 to 39 other players (numbers are arbitrarily taking from what it took and now takes to raid in World of Warcraft) and head into an instanced area where your group can fight against certain boss monsters. Since those raids take place in instanced areas, only you and your group can fight. It is basically a very structured environment. It is “save” in a way that no random person can join whenever they feel like it. You – or the raid leader, at least – decide who gets to go with you, which classes you take, which equipment level you allow in your group – by not taking those with lower equipment with you – and which skill level those players that you take have. Typically, you are connected through voice-chat and can direct tactics and strategies that way. If this controlled environment is the only thing you want to experience as “endgame”, then Guild Wars 2 will be disappointing for you. It will not have raids. The closest it has is dungeons for a maximum of 5 players.

One complaint about MMOs that I have seen several times is that the game worlds’ importance in MMOs is constantly diminishing. Once players have reached the maximum level, they disappear from the general game world and spend their time idling in the cities instead while waiting for the dungeon finders to put them in dungeon groups or they’re waiting for raids to start where, again, they disappear into instanced areas. The areas outside get abandoned because players are focusing on the “endgame” which means they are either preparing for raids by farming dungeons for better gear or they are participating in raids where, again, they’re often farming gear (some play for the fun of it, of course ^^). In this aspect, Guild Wars 2 does things differently. For one, you can visit the lower level areas because you’re automatically down-leveled when entering them which will probably keep the whole world interesting even at max level. But that’s another topic. The other thing is that while there are dungeons (and structured PvP which is instanced as well) in Guild Wars 2, they are not required for getting the best gear. You either do them because they are fun or you don’t do them. At the same time, with the lack of instanced raids, we can hope that the game world will see a higher population.

Without raids and without the requirement of farming gear, what will players do at max level? Basically, it’s the same that you’re doing while leveling up: Dungeons, events, the personal storyline (until it’s finished, of course), etc. I would assume – this is guessing, after all, as the game is not released yet – that dungeons and events will be the main attraction for people in PvE at max level. In my opinion, events is where the potential for long-term motivation in PvE can be found. And this is where I say that the success all depends on the game’s design and it leads to a few questions that are left (mostly) unanswered so far:

How good will the scaling be? The Wiki says that the “regular” events scale for up to 10 players which would probably mean that a group of 20 players will rush through them easily. The more difficult events, however, scale up to 100 players. Let’s say we’ve got a good organized group (together with whoever else is in the area and joins). How many events will be trivial for organized groups and how easy will it be to find the more difficult encounters?

Will those events have a satisfying complexity? How about the general difficulty (tied in with the “scaling” above)? How about certain strategies? I have always found boss fights with the “tank and spank” strategy to be very boring. It would be equally boring if the fights in Guild Wars 2 were all about trying to stay alive yourself while dealing damage.

This is what I have mostly done when I played Guild Wars 2. I paid attention to myself and my needs, tried to stay alive and deal damage and if I used a combo it was by accident and usually not planned. ;) Then again, no matter how we look at it, we are all still new to the game and have not played PvE in the high level areas. I would guess that most of us have seen what combos are but at least in my case, I have not yet memorized every detail about it and until I have, I will not be able to use combos efficiently. But I certainly do hope – and expect to a certain extent – combos to be very helpful and maybe even required in some cases in order to be successful during events. This is one aspect where we can see professions interacting with each other. We do not have healers or tanks anymore and while I think this is a great change, it also means that we should see having to interact in other parts of combat or else we would just be lots of solo players all doing our own thing while seeing the boss’s hitpoints go lower and lower. And that would be boring. I want support and combos to be required and timing to be essential because that will be part of the challenge. That, and, of course, interesting boss mechanics that require us to do more than trying to stay alive while damaging the boss (like the Shadow Behemoth where you need to destroy portals that appear).

For me, the big question is: How do the events work at max level? How complex will the fights be in general and how much strategy will they require? It probably won’t be easy to find that balance between being too boring and being too difficult, especially as every player in the region will be able to join the fights and we will not always have that controlled environment where everybody listens to the raid leader and does exactly what they are told to do. If strategy is required and if they find this balance, then I am sure we are in for a treat and I, personally, will not miss those old raids at all. For me, interesting endgame in Guild Wars 2 is not “doing what we have not done at lower levels” but it is “being challenged in group-type settings”.

All things considered, I would answer my question with: “Yes, it does have endgame, but it is different from the endgame we know from games like World of Warcraft”. If you ask whether the endgame will be good in general and, also important, good enough to keep us interested in the game for a longer time, then I would say that it probably still is a bit too early to answer that one. We have not seen those areas yet to properly judge this aspect of the game and either praise or doom Guild Wars 2’s endgame. Soon, however, we will be.

16 responses to “GW2: Will it really lack endgame?

  1. I would bet on meta type events in addition to new events that occurred through periodic updates similar to the way it was done in GW1 i.e. Winds of Change. In addition, the devs have stated they will go through and seed events through out the world. A big part of end-game could very well be finding, announcing and completing those event. Now, I’m quite happy to not have a traditional style end-game like raiding. I enjoyed leveling in WoW. Getting new gear, talent points, spells/attacks and journeying through stories. When I reached level 80 I said, “Now what do I do?” Answer, “You run heroic dungeons and raid!” At first it was pretty fun…until I had to run everything again, and again, and again and AHHHHH!!! GROUND HOG DAY!!!! I’m looking forward to an enjoyable journey and not a quick arrival to a destination.

    • Oh right. I didn’t even think so far that they’ll be able to add new events relatively quickly and maybe even stealth-add them to surprise us.

      I’ve done raids once a week (where we did SSC, Gruul, Magtheridon, Tempest Keep). When I added a second day for another raid (to do Karazhan with another character), I already got burned out and it added to the reasons why I quit the game.

      I just like being able to spontaneously do things when I feel like it, so the event system sounds a lot better for me. I’ve done lots of public quests in Warhammer Online with my Black Orc (tank character). I’d like to have that feeling again in GW2 where I’m roaming the world, find an event and a group of people doing it, join them and we’re just roaming the world together for a while with people joining and leaving as they need to.

  2. I am one of those in the “the journey is where the fun is” crowd. :)

    Altough in my case it is because I just don’t like to do the same thing over and over and over again. This can make raising alts hard at times. With Guild Wars 2 I don’t see that being much of a problem due to the way events are handled. Since the results are more than simply “either you succeeded or you failed” this can make it interesting to go and do them again. One time the event may succeed and it might be just that. Another time it may fail, triggering a new event that I haven’t seem before. Plus since it is so easy to just join and do stuff in those events there is no reason to avoid them. Quite the contrary. During the betas I found myself joining pretty much any event I could just because there might not be enough people already there and I thought I would try giving a hand.

    Combos I think will also keep things fresh. I don’t have any idea how powerful/useful they will be either. I guess we’ll only get a good feeling for them when we start to run dungeons. Since it is a much more controlled environment it should be easier to see the results. Then once we get a good hang of which combos are available to us, what are they effects, etc. we might find ourselves just naturally trying to do it with whatever is going on during the events.

    To me, this makes everything a lot more engaging and requiring strategy than any “endgame” in any other game might have.

  3. You’re on to something here. If they can integrate “endgame” like activities within the world, it would provide an overall boon for the game as a whole. Like Rakuno stated, “he journey is where the fun is.” My current MMO of choice of the moment is SW:TOR and the game really shines when leveling from 1-50. It’s not perfect but you get exactly what BioWare was preaching and with the addition of the GF tool, I can find a group for the world quests, FPs, and OPs.

    SWTOR’s Patch 1.3 really showed me what I want in a MMO, accessibility. I want to be able to experience what the game has to offer at any given time. I want the tools to be able to get into the action as soon as possible. In Guild Wars 2’s case, a lot of content is baked into the world and all I have to do is go and find it. There is dynamic events, dungeons, skill point challanges, point of interests, and more. Sure, from some of the more epic scenarios, things have to be setup just right but if they can offer a variety of content and make accessible I could see my myself playing for a long time.

  4. Pingback: [Diablo 3, GW2] Does Diablo 3 need an endgame? « Welcome to Spinksville!

  5. Hmmm… defining “endgame” as some sort of change in content or style of gameplay. Under that definition I would say GW2 does not have an endgame. It doesn’t need one…

    The “usual” routine of racing to level cap and beginning the un-ending gear grind will simply have no payoff in GW2. First, there is no gear grind. Second, getting to level cap “at break neck speed” will probably take no more than a couple of weeks at the very most – less for anyone of a higher skill level.

    Let me interject a couple of observations here from first-hand experience with the BWEs;

    I’ve created 7 characters thus far, each of a different profession (omitting only ranger – choosing to wait for pet AI improvements before tackling that one) and I’ve played those 7 characters through the exact same areas of the game. All 7 have “completed” the Queensdale map (level 1-15 human starting area.) I say completed in quotes because they have each received the map completion achievement (although there were many variations and nuances to each character’s run through the map, and there still remain features/content in that map area I have not yet experienced.)

    Originally, I decided to do this to avoid “spoiling” every area included in the BWEs but, I quickly realized how silly that was. Another motivation (and the reason why I continued to play through that map) was to see how each different profession compared and contrasted with the others, and keeping the content as consistent as possible facilitated that.

    Rather than becoming completely bored with the Queensdale map, I’ve instead grown quite fond of it, and extremely intrigued with the potential of the rest of the game’s vast areas as a result of how I experienced this one.

    No two runs through the map were exactly alike. Sometimes it was only subtle nuances that changed, and other times there were enormous differences with completely different content being experienced. The further out from the “ground zero” waypoint on the map I went, the greater the degree of variation I experienced with each character.

    In addition, I learned that the style of combat in general (and the style/aesthetic of certain professions that suited me in particular) was just really fun for me in a way that is somewhat similar to what I experienced with certain other games in the past like Borderlands for example. The gameplay itself is fun. I can repeat the same “content” or areas multiple times in part because i’m enjoying the gameplay regardless of what area I’m in, or how many times I’ve seen the content.

    I’ve played Queensdale at it’s “intended” character level, and I’ve also come back to it with much higher level characters (mid to high 30s necro that is fully “unlocked” in terms of utility/elite skills) and I’ve learned that as fun as it was going through while leveling up, I had even more fun on return trips AND discovered content I had missed on previous runs through the map.

    GW2 is exceeding my expectations in this regard; it’s content is indefatigably repeatable for me, in part, because of how much fun the gameplay itself is. It doesn’t hurt that there is level of depth to the detail of areas like Queensdale that defies description – so I won’t even try to…

    The other thing I’ve learned from getting a character to roughly level 40 (halfway to level cap in just a couple of BWEs… see what I mean about “racing to level cap” being not only unnecessary but, also pointless?) is that the challenge level and difficulty of the game increases as you advance, and so does the “social” aspect of the game as a result. What I mean by that last part is that I found “soloing” in the early stages of the game to be incredibly easy. I understand that many other folks didn’t experience it that way but, I didn’t have as much difficulty adjusting to the higher mobility demands of the combat (perhaps because I’ve played games with more active style, fast-paced combat like Borderlands) and for me the early content was a breeze to solo.

    That changes significantly as you reach higher character levels and move into more challenging areas. Once you reach level 30 and begin introducing dungeons into the mix of content available the challenge level of the game goes up significantly, however, don’t mistake that to mean the only challenging content is in dungeons. The “open world” areas of the explorable maps like Gendarran Fields also increase in difficulty, it’s just not as profound of a jump up as the dungeons.

    Teamwork becomes increasingly more important as you move into higher level areas, and there is a corresponding increase both the depth of complexity of the mob’s abilities, as well as an increase in the frequency of much, much tougher mobs like Veterans and Champions. You are expected to mult-task more, and deal with a greater number of threats simultaneously, and the presence of other folks to help with that is invaluable. While anyone being present will help, I found that actually forming groups was extremely beneficial for this higher content.

    Coordination and synergy of efforts, while nice in the earlier maps, becomes essential later on, and I only see this increasing as we advance even further into the game.

    A simple example;
    While playing my elementalist (very fun profession btw) in Kessex Hills (level 15-25 area) I grouped up with a warrior and an engineer. After taking a moment to get those folks on the same page with me, we began using the combo system to great effect. I would place down fire combo fields, and we would each target them with combo finisher blast skills – resulting in numerous stacks of the Might boon for each of us (usually 12 to 15 stacks each time) and we would then proceed to SMASH FACE on the local mobs (ettins in this particular case.)

    Did we need to be making use of this sort of combo to have success in the area? Well… no, not strictly speaking (although it was incredibly fun.) The mobs in this lower level area were still fairly easy imo but, it did make for an entertaining experience and served an additional prupose of getting each of us use to synergizing our efforts – which will pay dividends in later areas.

    Judging from what I personally experienced with my necro in the AC30 dungeon, and what I’ve seen of other folks’ experience by watching youtube videos, I can state with absolute confidence that planning and coordination of efforts there is not merely helpful, but essential to having a “good” experience.

    Although I was in PUG groups only (I’ve made several runs through the dungeon) I was able to get my groups communicating with each other and planning their weapon and utility skill choices for a greater degree of synergy with each other. One group in particular comprised of a necro (me), guardian, ranger, thief, and elementalist (*waves* hi guys!) worked together so well it felt like we had known each other for years. The guardian and I were able to support each other in “front line” roles and play extremely aggressive styles, while the thief, ranger and elem provided a heavy onslaught of ranged fire but WE WERE ALL throwing down combo fields and taking advantage of those with finishers of every description (blast, whirl, projectile, and leaps.)

    When you get folks excited about working together like that group managed it just takes the whole experience up to another level. This was not a case of “just trying to solo and keep myself alive while playing in the presence of other players.” We were using true teamwork and many names were taken, and many doors were metaphorically kicked down.

    I learned after the fact that each of us were veterans of many past MMO and online co-op style games, and were used to trying to combine our efforts with those of other players (even if we were newbies to the GW2 experience) and I suspect that most other “veteran” players will be able to experience similar success once they become familiar with the differences in GW2’s combat, and are comfortable with the tactical mobility required.

    It was not necessary to reach level cap, or perform a gear grind to participate in this content, and I want to emphasize; this is merely the beginning of the difficulty curve imo. The content of the game has a degree of re-playability that is rare in games AND once you get past the “newbie” areas you quickly encounter a ramp up in difficulty that is quite satisfying for those who are looking for it. I’ve heard many folks ask questions like; “If I’m not getting better equipment than what’s the point of continuing to play?”
    Um… ‘cuz it’s fun?
    By the time most folks reach level cap and have the full potential of their character unlocked there could still be upwards of 80% of the game’s content left for them to explore still. GW2 is truly VAST, and ALL OF IT is playable once you reach level cap – including the starter areas you may have skipped.
    In addition, I believe it will redefine the concept “Easy to learn – difficult to master.” There are a ridiculous number of folks on forums talking about “I did EVERYTHING in this map and…” and bullshit. Those folks are so comically myopic the only proper response is laughter.

    Well… if you’ve made it this far through this long, boring comment then you really are concerned with this question of “endgame” in GW2 (and I probably owe you an apology too – sorry.) Let me leave you with a paraphrase of a quote from Christopher Lloyd’s character Dr. Emmet “Doc” Brown from the movie Back To The Future;

    “Endgame? Where we’re going you don’t need… endgame…”

    • Back to the Future… too long since I’ve last seen those films (even though I bought the DVDs a few years ago).

      But back to GW2 now: My charr is a measly level 13. ;) You can tell that I’ve spent more time strolling through the cities taking pictures instead of fighting outside. But that’s also why I worded everything carefully because from personal experience, I can’t talk about the combat and the strategies required. All I do know is that when we were in Brighton and played through the dungeon, I had just slapped together a warrior that seemed to be able to take a few hits (higher hitpoints and the shield and… I don’t remember. Some traits that seemed to fit), so I could mess up and not die instantly. ;) But we didn’t talk about strategy at all. And the dungeon was easy. Then again, that’s what ArenaNet has said: The storymode dungeons are supposed to be easy. ;)

      One thing I loved about Warhammer Online was that it offered everything I wanted from level 1 on. Well, I usually hit a few mobs to get to level 2, get another skill and THEN I had everything I needed and jumped right into the PvP/RvR action. And that game actually rewarded reaching max level. But you already had the option of doing every piece of content (quests, instanced PvP, open world PvP) from level 1. So with Guild Wars 2, I love that they’re doing it in a similar way and I can have everything right away as that’s exactly what is needed if you want to explore the world. I will not one-hit every mob in sight once it’s 5 levels below me.

      I did get bored with the norn starter area, by the way. There are some (heart) events that I liked and then there are some that I didn’t like much. I tried to force myself to stay there because I didn’t want to spoil the other regions much like you didn’t want to. In the end, I decided it’s silly to stay in an area I don’t like because even during beta events, it’s supposed to be fun! ;) And I felt that over there, I had a much harder time finding something to do… especially when it came to fighting mobs in order to get my skills unlocked. I should take my asura over there to see if it’s really the case and give feedback. But maybe I’ve just been extremely unlucky in finding events. ;)

      Playing because it’s fun and not because you want to earn yet another reward. Ha, that’s an idea! ;) I guess we’ve just been trained and conditioned to hunt carrots.

      And now I really can’t wait for the game to launch. I want to go and see the higher areas! I definitely won’t have a chance to get there in the next BWE, though, because there are two cities waiting to be explored by me! ^^

      • http://www.twitch.tv/guildwars2/b/324689481

        Eric Flannum and Colin Johanson speaking about GW2 “endgame” (video was posted on July 12th 2012… skip to 4:43 timemark for the beginning of the conversation about what we can expect after reaching level 80.)

        Two things; legendary weapons sound awesome
        and EVENT WEBS?!? Just when I thought this game couldn’t possibly get even more incredible!

        • Legendary weapons. No no no NO! That sounds like grind. A horrible grind. Waaah…wait, we’re not talking Lotro here, are we? *cough*

          Bookahnerk was listening to it for a while and gave me a few keywords here and there while I was already in bed trying to sleep (it’s ok, though, I wanted to hear them! ^^). I’m ill at the moment, so I went to bed early. But what he told me sounded good… if only I could remember what it was. ^^ But it’s so great they uploded it for everybody to hear now. :)

          • João Carlos

            Paeroca,

            Lengendary weapons are cosmetic, they have the same stats than exotic weapons. It is just for people that want to have a bow that thows rainbows and things like that, but the stats are the same than an exotic shortbow.

            So, grind it who wants them, no one gain a stat advantage to have a legendary weapon. However, I know a lot of people that will grind them, just for the “cool” factor.

            IMHO, the real end game will be WvW pvp (players with level 80 gear will be important there) and pve at Orr… because that web events will need people conquering and mantaining the temples from the armies of undead and champions that Zhaitan will send against players. And sometimes the players will win, but sometimes Zhaitan will win, and all zone will be at a state of constant flux…

            If we look how GW2 mechanics works, Orr possibly will be like the WvW pvp, bring everyone that is there for conquer or mantain the temples (zerg) and protect the supplies lines (small groups), maybe build up ballistae and golems, but fighting against Zhaitan’s mobs.

            Think Orr as being a permanent non-instanced raid zone… but where you don’t need structure a raid.

          • Yeah, I was joking about the legendary weapons. ;) I’m really glad that they’re not giving us better and better items when we’re at level cap and choosing or working towards specific cosmetics is a great alternative. It’s worked in Guild Wars 1 already, so why shouldn’t it work now, after all. :)

            I am also still curious how good the downscaling will be. If it’s done well enough, we can revisit the low level zones and the whole world won’t just die out with everybody only in those areas where they can farm their über-gear.

          • João Carlos

            The downscalling was working fine at last two BW. I am sure that the players that will hunt the epic weapons will use downscale a lot, just for go to lower level zones and gain the skill points there. They will need 100 skill points for craft that weapons.

          • I’ve experienced downscaling with a level 30 character and it was fine. But do we know the exact mechanism of downscaling? That is, how armor is downscaled mostly.

            The Wiki says “They retain access to all of their skills and equipment so the area is easier because of this, but should still be challenging to play.” – so I wonder how effective the downscaling will be and how easy it will be for a level 80 character in a level 10 area, for example. I guess we’ll have to wait – or get more information on the caps etc. For example, if a level 10 character can only wear an item with a maximum of +2 to one attribute (I’m using random numbers here! ^^) because no better item exists for level 10. Will the level 80 character’s item then be downscaled to only give +2 in the level 10 area or will it still be much higher… like +5 for example? I haven’t found any information on how exactly it works, so that’s what I’m wondering about.

            I’m not really “worried” about it, though. Just curios. :)

        • I have finally listened to it and can now comment on it. ;) One thing that made me fall in love with Guild Wars 1 was that I could open the wiki, look at all the armor for warrior and just choose an outfit I want for my character. No being forced to wear something because it has better stats. It was heaven when switching from WoW. ;) And I did collect a few more armors because I could never decide which one I like best. I’ve done the same in Lotro. So having that concept again – including weapons even (which Lotro doesn’t feature) – is great!

  6. Honestly, I like the direction GW2 is going. Keeping it old school and leaving out instances/dungeons. Ultima Online, Lineage 1, and Ragnarok Online were great MMOs with open world content (especially UO), they were the reasons why I prefer to play MMOs over traditional games on consoles back then.

    And then comes alone WoW and it’s instances, and now everyone seems to associate MMOs needing them all the time. Uh no thanks, I don’t need a rehash of the the other MMOs that failed using the same structure over and over with minor to no tweaks (RIFT comes to mind).

    Keep on doing what you’re doing ArenaNet. It’s hard to find negative things about GW2 and will still be great regardless.

    • +1 to that comment. :)

      Although Guild Wars 2 does have instanced personal story quests, instanced dungeons and instanced PvP. But it’s part of the game and not the focus of the game. Taking everything together, they’re still trying to put the focus back in the open world, I think, and that’s a good direction because the “massively” doesn’t work in an instance. ;)

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