Thursday, February 16, 2023

Guild Wars 2 Moving To Expansions

Guild Wars 2 is a game I haven't played in years. The first expansion, Heart of Thorns, just did not appeal to me. The game returned to my attention because of a change in its content release practices.

In a news article Monday, Game Director Josh "Grouch" Davis announced the change. He stated that Living World seasons have required almost the entire GW2 development team. The disadvantages were that trying to develop an expansion was difficult and many areas of the game went undersupported. 

At this point, the solution sounds familiar.

In the next phase of Guild Wars 2‘s development, we’re taking a more balanced approach that will allow us to provide more support for popular game modes, make frequent quality-of-life improvements to core gameplay systems like professions, deliver new features, and expand the world of Tyria with satisfying, immersive story updates.

What It Means for You

Our future expansions for Guild Wars 2 will be the backbone of this new approach. Rather than launching an expansion every two to four years with a season of Living World in between, we’ll be releasing smaller expansions more frequently at a slightly reduced price and adding additional content for those expansions through quarterly updates, meaning that the next big release is only ever a few months away.

The first release in an expansion cycle is the launch point for a new story arc, bringing with it two new open-world maps, two Strike Missions, new gameplay and combat features, new Masteries, and new rewards. In the following quarterly updates, we’ll add another open-world map, additional story chapters, challenge modes for the Strike Missions, a new fractal dungeon and challenge mode, new rewards, and additions to the new systems introduced in that expansion. Once that expansion’s story is complete, the next expansion will be just around the corner.

The change seems a lot like the system used in Final Fantasy XIV, with an expansion approximately every 2 years with five main post-expansion patches providing continuations of the story, new dungeons, trials, and other content, plus updates to systems. The big difference is that in FFXIV, the expansion's story usually concludes in the X.3 patch and the final two patches lead up to the next expansion's story.

ArenaNet, who went from September 2017 to February 2022 between GW2's third and fourth expansions, isn't the only studio moving to a faster expansion release cycle. CCP launched Uprising last year, EVE Online's first expansion in 4 years. The Icelandic game studio is returning to its old release cycle, with plans to launch expansions in the second and fourth quarters in 2023.

Even Blizzard jumped onto the bandwagon, at least in promising to deliver content on a reliable schedule. At the end of December, WoW Executive Producer Holly Longdale introduced a roadmap for the Dragonflight expansion covering all of 2023.

Usually games are marked as leaders when the big guys start to copy features from the game. Guild Wars 2 caught my eye recently when its flying mount system was copied by Blizzard and turned into a major selling point for Dragonflight. Another leader is now Square Enix, particularly Creative Business Unit 3, as companies begin to copy its development cycle.

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