Monday, 27 March 2017

Why play an MMO at all if you can't group up?

Once upon a time, many years ago, a friend told me that I needed to try a game. I was on 28kbps dial-up that knocked me offline every two hours, I was also disabled by a chronic illness, but that turned out to be beside the point. The game was the original Guild Wars and I danced into it with my eyes full of wonder. Like a child on Christmas morning. I rolled a ranger and thought up the most fantasy name for her I could come up with. Eshenda was born, and we went through the game in blocks of two hours, sometimes managing to group up, but more often than not using the 'Henchmen' that were in every outpost, that allowed me to go at my own pace through the game, away from the culture of "Hurry, rush, fast" that was appearing in every group. 

I played when I was fit enough through all of the expansions and gradually both my internet connection and my ability to play the game improved. The more difficult parts of the game became more accessible for me as 'heroes' were added to the game, giving me the ability to create a balanced group and do even hard mode content - and I did. I finished the entire game in hard mode, cleared every zone on the map in hard mode, bit by bit. Chunk by chunk. Leaving my character in an instance while I slept for 12 hours, threw up, took meds and generally was unable to do anything, and there she'd be with the patient heroes, waiting for me when I got back. There also would be my guildies, on the chat bar, offering me virtual coffee and hugs. Guild Wars 2 had been out for at least two years when I finally got my GWAMM title for maxing thirty achievements in the original game. 
A female looking game character dressed in pink armour stands with the title panel beneath their feet. It gives their name and guild affiliation and the title, "God Walking Amongst Mere Mortals".
 I went into GW2 with the same sense of wonder, walking into an autumn morning in Ascalon that looked like a polished version of pre-searing paradise, the original starter area in the original game. The personal story was fun to play, and I could get through it solo. The dungeons were dodgy. I tried, trust me I did. I put up with speed runs for long enough so that my reborn Eshenda could craft her first legendary - and she did, after much frustration.
The way the game is set up means that I will never outgear areas, I can't go back to lower levels and complete them as a higher level and geared character, because I get set at the appropriate level for the content throughout the game. It is how I got round certain obstacles in every other game I've played. So I started inching my way into group content, dungeons were first. Every group I joined had the same issue - I was supposed to already know the content and I was supposed to go fast. Skip whole sections of the instance and keep up or be kicked. Over and over and over again. My disability means that I can either be fast, or accurate. Never both. Jumping puzzles at speed or with a time limit are impossible. I tried to learn through watching videos, but I can't retain the information that way, I learn this stuff by doing it. I tried to ask people to slow down. Can't we kill these mobs instead of me constantly needing to be revived because I don't know the trick to skipping and you're not stopping to explain? No. Apparently not. Can I please get a gentle run through? "WHY YOU WANT EASY MODE YOU NOOB!" And other abuse, lots of it. And actually, I don't want run through or my hand held. I want to play it, at my own pace, when I'm fit to. It's my entertainment, my challenge to myself. 

I accepted then that certain content in GW2 was beyond my limits. The majority of the dungeons, the Fractals, the Mad King's Tower. the raids. But I could still do my characters personal story and the Living World content. I may never manage to get the items I need from Fractals for any of the second generation legendary weapons, but I can map areas, and fight world bosses. I'll never be at the new max level - because I'm unable to get all of the mastery points. But I can... die horribly and fail to a stupid mechanic in the latest Living World storyline. 

I think this is the end of my Guild Wars story. Every aspect of the game is now gated to group play only. Where the original game gave me the ability to choose by offering henchmen and heroes and keep the social aspect of an MMO, making it one of the most disability friendly games ever, two has thrown all of that in the trash. I can't even post this on official channels because of the storm of abuse I'll get for wanting an 'EZ' mode. Trust me; playing with heroes was not easy mode. A good group is easy mode. I don't want hundreds of offers of a run through this content either; the whole point is that it shouldn't be necessary. It never was in the original game. I don't want to be helped through the difficult bit, and then still not be able to access the next one, and the next one, and the next one because the developers are not thinking in terms of the original goals of the original game any more. Once upon a time they said we could play any way we wanted. Now it's their way or the highway. Why play an MMO at all if I can't group up? For the social aspect. I shall miss it. It was important to me.

Eshenda out.