ArenaNet tested a series of updates in the early days of Guild Wars 2 that foreshadowed the current live service frenzy. The first season of the ‘Living World,’ as it was dubbed, included a series of episodes that temporarily altered existing maps to serve the present narrative. The major city core of Lion’s Arch was converted into a battlezone that players had to struggle to rescue in the season finale, with the city subsequently being fully rebuilt following its devastation.
However, it turned out that players didn’t enjoy having only two weeks to see each chapter of the continuing story—a lesson in the drawbacks of FOMO that many game-as-a-service creators are grappling with today. The framework of the Living World was altered for future seasons such that each episode was a permanent addition, generally taking place in a whole new area.
So, while new players may relive virtually all of Guild Wars 2’s story, season one is buried in time, accessible only through NPCs dedicated to explaining what happened, as well as specific Fractals and, more recently, Visions of the Past missions. However, ArenaNet is bringing back one of the finest encounters from that inaugural season next week: the Twisted Marionette, seven years after its premiere and subsequent short departure.
The Twisted Marionette, which debuted in 2014 as part of The Origins of Madness, was likely the pattern for Guild Wars 2’s design for the next seven years. While the game always included World Bosses—huge confrontations that pushed a whole map’s population to work together to knock down some big bastard—the Marionette demanded an added level of collaboration, since the server was organized into distinct lanes to fulfill goals in parallel. This design concept would be further developed in Guild Wars 2’s first expansion, which was nearly exclusively centered on map-wide meta events, and it has remained a feature of even the most current releases.
When it first came out, I dubbed the Twisted Marionette one of ArenaNet’s greatest encounters, and I’m curious to see how it stands up now. I expect it to feel quite different today because so much of Guild Wars 2’s infrastructure has been rebuilt. Maps were connected to the server you were on at the moment, giving the encounter a feeling of community and companionship. It took a few tries for our server to get the hang of it, but there was rising excitement as we moved closer to the finish line.
Guild Wars 2 has essentially abandoned the notion of servers—they’re now mostly utilized for World vs. World multiplayer, and even that may alter shortly. Furthermore, the specializations included with the game’s two expansions have increased player power, making many meta events feel more automatic than they did previously.
ArenaNet is also prepping players for the impending End of Dragons expansion with a series of retrospective releases that encourage players to relive past Living World episodes. Every week, new accomplishments direct players to previous maps, with tremendous prizes available for finishing all of them. For some, the possibility to get a guaranteed precursor for one of End of Dragons’ new legendary weapons is the highlight of the overarching meta-achievement. Personally, I’m more interested in the possibility to win a 32-slot inventory bag.
ArenaNet, in general, is at an intriguing place right now. Earlier this month, a studio update promised more open communication with the studio, as well as the return of key members to the production team, including former game director Colin Johanson. Along with that statement, the company stated that they were working on a DirectX 11 upgrade, which would be available in an opt-in beta later this year and will hopefully improve the game’s poor multithreaded CPU performance.