Wintersday, Guild Wars 2′s 2014 Update Schedule, And What It All Means

Originally posted on Gamebreaker January 18th, 2014.

After the many changes to this year’s Halloween event, I was a little anxious about what Wintersday would be like. Happily Wintersday arrived and it was nearly exactly the same as last year.

The Wintersday jumping puzzle received a similar makeover to the one Clocktower received. It’s now considered a PvP area, though players have no skills and cannot attack each other. However, unlike the new Clocktower, players were not transformed into wisps during the puzzle. Probably, the best change was the ability to pick which path you started from, whereas last year it was random and there was no way to change paths. Allowing us to pick a path was helpful because it allowed players to focus on learning one path which aids the jumping challenged among us.

Another positive change is, at the point where all three paths converged there is a fire to rest and regain health. Additionally players can talk to Tixx here and he’ll offer three options for finishing the puzzle. The first option is to take a gift he gives you and open it there and forgo the bonus gift at the end of the puzzle. The second option is to take the gift and deliver it to the children at the end for a greater reward. Lastly, players can forgo the extra gift completely and instead have a checkpoint at Tixx set-up so if the player falls before reaching the end they wouldn’t have to go all the way back to the beginning. As anyone who has watched the Wednesday night Gamebreaker Nation streams knows, I am jumping challenged and as such I found the option of having the checkpoint a huge help.

The only real downside to this year’s version of the puzzle was not being able to do it with friends. It never fails to amaze me when MMOs put in awesome content that players can’t tackle with friends if they choose too. At least last year players could group up to enter together. We wouldn’t always start at the same spot but when a player fell they would be able to see their friend going on and that was at least something. This year getting into the same one with a friend was a sad matter of RNG. I don’t think content should necessarily require grouping to complete, but the option to group up to do things shouldn’t be taken away.

The Bell Choir and Toypocalypse were essentially unchanged this year. One thing I wish Arenanet had added to Bell a Choir was some sort of reward for obtaining the highest score in an entire game of the Bell Choir. Players are rewarded for doing well by getting presents at the end of each round if they manage to not kill themselves, but aside from that there’s no real incentive to do well. Over the last few days some fought hotly for the top spot. It would be nice to have some recognition for that.

buildingDespite the good things about most events in Wintersday being the same there is a downside. We’ve now had the Wintersday patch for over a month, and I have recently realized this pause in the content patches has taught me something new about how I play MMOs; I really need the short content cycles to maintain my attention.

When Arenanet first announced they were entering into a 2 week content cycle I was a bit nervous. On the one hand my main issue with many MMOs has always been doing the same content for far too long. I have never been the sort of person who really enjoyed doing the same content over and over even if there was something cool and shiny in it for me. I want to see new things, maybe do them a few times, and then move on pretty quickly. On the other hand I do have limited amount of time I can play games each day so I was concerned with not being able to fully explore each patch and falling behind in terms of amount of content I had done.

Arenanet quickly fell into a pattern of each month the first patch was pretty big and would continue on after the second patch of the month hit which I enjoyed immensely. This pattern allows even people with sort of limited playtime to have a lot of opportunities to finish all the content added for that month. This cycle kept up the feeling of needing to get things done, but never made it feel really overwhelming.

Now I understand the stopping of the updates over the holidays, and I understand that they are trying to make sure each update is as polished as possible. However, I must confess that when they announced a bit of a break from the two week patch cycle I immediately felt less of an urge to play and was distracted by other games…so much so that I randomly realized last week I needed to get cracking to finish the meta achievements. Knowing I always had another patch right around the bend managed to help keep me focused.

This concerns me a bit because Colin Johanson recently indicated these breaks might be more common place this year than they were last year. In an interview with EuroGamer he said, “When [Living World Season One] ends [on 4th March], we’re going to take a break for a little bit and then we’re going to do one really big feature patch that is more akin to what people see from some of our [MMO] competitors, where they bundle a lot of features together into a really big patch every now and then.” While I am definitely looking forward to this large “features only” patch I am concerned about how long the break will be and how stagnant Guild Wars 2 might feel during it.

Let’s just say they’ll take a month break after the March 4th patch. That means the features patch won’t come until April 1st. I wonder if that means no there will be no new Super Adventure Box? Also if these four patches are just story content and the WvW changes are going to be part of the features patch that would mean the earliest we’d see Season 2 of WvW starting would be May 2nd. That’s a huge lag for people who mostly want to do WvW and for the people who mostly just play Living Story content… well we’d be looking at a potential two months of doing whatever the finale of Scarlet’s storyline is.

As itchy as I am for new content after just one month… a two month lull seems almost unbearable to me. It’s amazing how just a few months of constant content updates can really change a person’s perspective.

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