The Maddening Clock Tower

October 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Posted in Festival, Guild Wars 2, Jumping Puzzle, mmorpg, PvE | 15 Comments
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That lightning has to be a Back to the Future reference right?

There are a lot of negative vibes going around in regards to the Mad King’s Clock Tower in Guild Wars 2. It’s the Halloween themed jumping puzzle you can find after talking to an NPC inside the Mad King’s Realm. It’s got an achievement and rewards a pair of exotic boots for your armour class.

There are a lot of complaints.

– The time limit.
– The cinematic plays too often.
– Unclear edges.
– Camera movement.
– Difficulty.
– Length of time to make a successful run.
– Other players obscure view.
– Other players can troll you with various skills.

I’m sure there are other problems, but that’s the bulk of it. Zubon even goes on to say that it is “a new contender for the worst piece of content ever put into a game” which I have a hard time agreeing with. Frustration leads to hyperbole I guess.

My own experience does happen to find most of the above problems to be realistic however. The first portion of the puzzle, up until around that first jump down to a cube is entirely too difficult for all the stated reasons. My camera jumped in and out, I tripped up all too often on impossible to see bumps and edges. I couldn’t see myself due to all the other players, don’t even get me started on norn and charr. And it took me far too long to do a festival activity. Over two hours, maybe longer, doing the exact same thing over and over. That seems to be strange theme Arenanet has going on this festival. Pumpkin Carving anyone? Crafting Halloween themed weapons? Festivals should not be a grind.

But my only real problems with the puzzle are other players obscuring my view, and the miasmic goo rising too quickly during the first half of the puzzle. Remove these two obstacles and the puzzle would become much less of a giant pain in the ass. I can’t tell you how many times I missed a jump because someone was in my way. I counted the number of times I died on the exact same spot, that little jump down to the cube. 19 times.

Here’s the thing. I get the impression the designer wanted it to be difficult. That’s a good thing in my opinion, I like a good challenge. I don’t even have a problem with designing something so that only a certain elite few can complete it. And hey if you’re going to pour a lot of company resources into content it should provide hours of play time, not minutes of farm.

My problem is if something is a piece of festival content it should be for everyone. That’s why you make it available in low level areas, with low level mobs, where everyone can go. That’s why you make it accessible from the big hubs that everyone can get to.

You don’t design festival content that some people will never be able to finish.

It’s a long way up in more ways than one.

That said I’d like to take a moment to discuss some of the finer points of the puzzle. Visually and thematically it is fantastic. The opening cinematic, the voice-over work, the little rhyme at the beginning are all great atmospheric set pieces. The effects as well are well done, the hands grabbing up at you, the goo rising up, the lightning at the end, I even like the spinning. Plenty of cool jumps and misleading paths as well.

I also like the second half of the puzzle much better than the first. Maybe because there are far fewer people, but there is definitely a better pace being set once you make it past that one big drop. It’s less of a mad dash. The reward is pretty good too. An exotic pair of level 80 Mad King’s Slippers. Best piece of loot I’ve gotten in Guild Wars 2 yet.

And yeah the end is pretty great, the jump in and the satisfaction of knowing. Not knowing that you’ve completed a difficult challenge, but knowing that you won’t ever have to do this again. There is a big difference there, and I hope the designer learns that difference.

On a final note, at least go in and check it out, it is worth the look.

Yes, I did it a second time on my alt, but I chose to do that. I didn’t have to.


  1. Being a gamer leads to hyperbole. I’m just really sick of people whining about computer games in general. In fact my present self would happily smack my past self for griping about frustrations with WoW. What really kills me is people who want the timer removed. Timers are the bane of my existence, but it’s the frickin’ mad king’s frickin’ clock tower, not . I also think the first part is the easiest. I mean, it’s the only part I’ve actually done. Human and asura alike falter where the cube is concerned.

    • Oh yeah, one of my favorite whines on the forum “This puzzle just made me lose interest in the game AGAIN.” And yet they’re still there and bothering to speak. If their interest hinges on one piece of seasonal content, the difficulty of said content should be the last of their concerns anyway. These are the same people who wonder why their feedback isn’t taken seriously.

      • Patently ridiculous. I don’t understand how one thing that you don’t have to do makes you lose interest in an entire game. MMOs are about the breadth of things you can do with people and those guys single out one thing they don’t like and quit like little brats.

    • Yeah I can identify with not wanting to hear the whiney complaints of gamers anymore. Always the same juvenile crap.

  2. I don’t think “being a gamer” leads to hyperbole, any more than being a human being. 😉 As Hunter said, frustration leads to extreme reactions here and there – and in this case a lot of the criticism on the event has been just. I’d never go as far as dismiss the entire game over something like this personally, I am happy to skip small things I don’t enjoy in MMOs.
    at the same time however, the clocktower is simply poor design in several areas, the timer not actually being one of them (but in combination it makes matters worse). the most important question is whether special holiday events should be tricky and unstable challenges like this that only appeal to a certain demographic – or whether it wouldn’t have been nicer to have the event appeal to most players and let them have something out of it. to ME that is a fair point of critique, and not whining. 😉

    Hunter’s review is fairly balanced on this, so I agree pretty much. I also agree with Zubon’s assessment over at KTR though as I am able to see through the hyperbole.

    • The number of problems really do compound to make the puzzle harder than I think even the designer intended it to be, and he wanted it to be hard.

    • Really?

      I think non-gamers would look at gamers’ complaints and roll their eyes, at best. I guess that’s what I’m getting at. I see the same level of rage over gaming content as others experience in their hunt for a job or making next month’s rent. I think it sucks that I spent two hours in Arah without a single token to show for it due to the first person to enter logging out for bed in the middle of what was otherwise likely going to be a successful final fight, but I’m not about to carry on like somebody stole my first born child.I raged less when the local hospital screwed up, caused me a second ER trip for a sick child and charged me for their mistake.

      I would tell them I think tokens need to be divided between bosses according to difficulty, but my feedback would be lost in a sea of vague generalizations, threats and personal attacks. I also doubt that people would be any less frustrated if it was a year-round puzzle.

      The challenge befits the theme. I struggled, and laughed at my failure. Over a dozen times, I didn’t stop laughing. I don’t think it’ a puzzle I will be able to do whether I have 5 days or 500. It’s not standing in my way of doing anything else, and I’m cool with that.

      Their only failure was taking for granted trollish behavior. Profession skills need to be disabled. Otherwise, it’s suitably chaotic and silly, and people need to lighten up.

  3. A quote from the wiki: “Joshua Foreman built this map, and he speculated that “maybe 5% of people would make it to the top.”
    I hate jumping puzzles already, in fact a lot of vistas get me breaking stuff; so I haven’t even bothered looking at this one…

    • It’s definitely already a piece of content that only appeals to certain people, making it only achievable by a further smaller number is a bad idea in my opinion.

      • It would have been nice if they’ve added two versions, like an additional, easier story mode of the puzzle.

    • Wise decision Melski – I would say that unless you LOVE the current jumping puzzles, and think that the only thing wrong with the vistas is that they’re all much too easy, don’t even bother zoning in to the Mad King’s tower.

  4. I have a guild mate that made to top. Not sure how many times he tryed it. When I hear you do’nt need the clocktower for complete the Emssary of Mad King title, I just quit the idea of try that jumping puzzle.
    I really do’nt like jump puzzles, but I know that there are jump puzzle fanatics. My guess; that clocktower was made for that fanatics. I think thye are having a lot of fun.

    • I’m sure some people did have a lot of fun but for everyone who had trouble they probably only felt frustration.

  5. I had two quick attempts and then left. None of the jumping puzzles in GW2 have given me any pleasure or entertainment at all – they’ve all been irritation at the ropey controls, irritation at the inaccurate collision detection, irritation at the poor camera behaviour, and irritation at the immersion-destroying unrealism they shoehorn in their to make a jumping puzzle.

    It was clear that the clock tower took all of the above, and then doubled it, so I left and went back to WvW, where the fresh week had brought a much closer matchup for my server and some absolutely fantastic action was going down.

  6. This was a good idea that is a total fail in execution. As you say, the presentation is excellent. But the timing and (for me) getting caught on stuff unable to jump, thus killed by the goo, is just dumb for a holiday event. Add norn and/or charr to the mix and it can’t be done. I finally gave up when all I could see, literally, were the backs of the hoard of norn right BEHIND me! The crappy auto-zoom of the camera which makes getting near a wall instant death doesn’t help, and is another reason I try and avoid cramped places and most jumping puzzles. Hey ArenaNet, it isn’t fun having the camera wildly zoom in and out like crazy when you even think about getting near anything, even something like a fence. And no, there is currently no way to stop that from happening even with manual adjusting the camera zoom for each area, something you can’t do in a timed event, BTW.
    Otherwise I’m enjoying the rest of the event very much, so it is a shame to have something like this that leaves such a bad taste in most people’s virtual mouths, as it were. And even more of a shame that if done right it would have been a great little game. And almost everyone I’ve talked with has come away from the event (which they otherwise liked so far) mainly upset at this puzzle, which taints their overall view of the whole event.

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