Expandinating Zones

February 8, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | 2 Comments
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The one thing we can count on 100% going forward in Guild Wars 2 is new zones, whether in an expansion or not. There’s nothing like an expansion to hit players in the feels, but as I’ve said I’m not sure we’ll get one.

Forgetting that for a second, where would new zones be, what would be in them and how many? Hold on to your hats as I regale you with some incredibly mundane and obvious conclusions!

Setting

I think Arenanet probably want to have all their zones connected to their already existing world, which would probably rule out Cantha. It would mean a lot of undersea zones just to get to Cantha and underwater is not popular with the playerbase.

But aside from that is something I commented on in the blog not too long ago. The Desert. There are precious few traditional desert settings in Guild Wars 2. It’s almost as if it were being avoided on purpose. I think the lore changes that made the Maguuma Jungle of the original Guild Wars into the Maguuma Wastes is a clue to that. I think they set aside these areas in case they decided not to go to the Crystal Desert when they finally started working on an expansion. A second desert, in a different area is a nice backup if you have already decided on a desert setting.

The new maps we’ve been introduced to can be looked at as evidence. Southsun Cove, the Labrythine Cliffs, and the upcoming Edge of the Mists all have rocky, arid, desert-like settings. I have no doubt Arenanet won’t shy away from creating more familiar zones that are arctic, tropical, or other settings, but a true desert isn’t a place we’ve explored in Tyria yet.

Desert would also provide a vast change in visuals and atmosphere, a palette cleanser. We have 6 icy mountain zones, 6 jungle zones, 6 in ascalon, 4 in kryta. Arenanet has been pretty uniform about the number of zones per climate it uses. Arenanet can build 5 or 6 desert zones, red rock canyons, savannah grasslands, rolling sand dunes without it starting to feel samey.

So whether its west through the Maguuma Wastes or south to the Crystal Desert, it’s going to be desert. And of course in either direction, we’ll focus on a specific dragon.

If we’re going to the Crystal Desert there is Kralkatorrik. The Dragonbrand is an excellent fantasy concept when you think about it, very audacious, and visually stunning at times. It’s used in parts of 3 zones (one of which, Iron Marches, is probably the most empty zone in the game) so I would say it’s actually got a lot of room to be fleshed out and expanded upon. Perhaps we could even expect to see an entire zone dominated by the Dragonbrand.

If we go west, Mordremoth. A dragon we know little about. A perfect opportunity for Arenanet to push their hype train.

But then not all new zones would be in the desert. I think we could easily see various zones around the map, the pact advancing into new territories dominated by any of the dragons. I don’t think new content would ignore Jormag, Primordus, etc. So I think we can count on more variations on climate/regions that we’ve already seen.

Content

Arenanet has said off-handedly at one point or another that they’re pretty much done with hearts. High level open world PvE content is stuff like Orr, which is all event based. I think we have to use zones like Cursed Shore, Malchor’s Leap, Straits of Devestation, Southsun Cove and Hirathi Hinterlands to judge what new zones would be like, along with various aspects of the living story.

For instance the rolling battlefields of Straits and Hirathi, the beachhead situations in Malchors and Cursed. Zones very much designed around events that lead into one another more than in lower levels. Events in Guild Wars 2 often act like a chain, but I would be so happy to see them act more like a tree, branching off. I’m not sure there are many other ways to progress the mechanic of event chains in this game.

Also, I think world bosses will often be more fully integrated in to the zone as a whole, hopefully with rewards designed to be integral and important like obsidian shards from Balthazar. I would think there would have to be a need to go there and interact in these zones beyond the reward of a couple of rares. CoE and CoF both have event chains you have to do to access the dungeon, could world bosses play into a new dungeon?

I think Arenanet needs to push what their events can do in an expansion. So world bosses and other events would have to be something aside from a pure dps race. The changes made to the Grenth event, the new Great Jungle Wurm event, Tequatl, Karka queen, they’re using some pretty distinct mechanics. I’m sure there will be plenty of defense, escort, and attack events but I think we all need to see a lot more diversity at this point. I don’t think events will be as hard as Tequatl but I think we’ll definitely see something that requires more than auto-attack.

Hopefully these zones would utilize the karma system more fully, with more unique rewards in each zone. For me, the orrian jewelry boxes in Orr were a missed opportunity. They should have only been available from outposts that you had to attack, maintain, and defend.

But is that enough? Can Arenanet rest on what they’re already doing?

I feel like an expansion would probably have plenty of new features, some twist on what they’re already doing to draw people in. All the things people ask for reliably like housing, polymock, guild halls, etc. Dare I suggest mounts before being kicked in the teeth by mount haters? No but seriously I’d love mounts. You know you want money Arenanet. You like the money. Smell that mount money. Smell it!

Numbers

Few games release expansions that have as many zones as the original launch. I mean the only example I can think of is… oh. Right. Guild Wars. Har har.

Even so I don’t think an expansion would approach what Guild Wars did.

Obviously we’d probably get new zones for a new race, a city to tell their personal story, give that race flavour, history, and a background. Would there be new leveling zones? A new race would need new leveling zones to keep people entertained (you don’t introduce a new race and then force people into old and busted zones) but the bulk of the original Guild Wars was focused on max level characters. Perhaps as few as 4 zones could be added to level a new race, while the rest would be targeted at max level characters.

How many max level zones? That’s impossible to say considering the down leveling mechanic. Straits of Devestation isn’t even technically a max level zone. Then there’s the whole question of increasing the level cap which I’m not going to get into, this whole area is a big question mark.

However, I think there would have to be zones that focus on and feature any new terrain, settings, wildlife, foliage, etc, so we can make a few guesses at how many zones.

– Classic sand/rocks desert. I’ll be bold and say 6 new desert type zones of various climate and level range. There are a myriad number of different desert landscapes on Earth, I have no doubt Arenanet could make them look as diverse as they have their jungle areas. Arenanet really likes that half dozen number.
– Ice and snow. Do we completely ignore the other dragons in an expansion? Probably not. judging by a lot of the art used in edge of the mists I’d expect a fair amount of kodan, maybe even an entire zone dedicated to them. Frankly the whole Frostreach area tends to make me rethink kodan as a stronger contender for a new race than I had before. They’re still behind tengu though.
– The number of Krytan zones messes with my OCD. I could understand another one being added. At least one that advances against the centaurs, or perhaps that would take place in a more snowy Modiniir climate. We don’t fight high level centaurs anywhere, you can fight undead from level 5 to 80, but not centaurs or a few other enemy types. Honestly hope I’m wrong about this one. I hate those flea bags.
– Tengu. The tengu need at least one zone tailored and inspired by their race and lore. I’d imagine a lot of inspiration from Cantha in architecture, some kind of vertical aerie would be great to see for their city. Ultimately it would probably be a jungle zone as well. The Overgrowth areas of EOTM could be seen as pointing to the tengu possibly. Lots of overgrowth on those dominion walls in Caledon/Kessex.
– That said, there are a few models in the overgrowth areas of EOTM that remind me of things found in the west of the orignial Guild Wars. In any case I would guess there would be one jungle zone aside from tengu.
– Underwater. I know I said a lot of people don’t like underwater, but I do, and maybe this is just wishful thinking but one entire zone of underwater would be pretty cool.
– Dragonbrand.* It’s used in 3 previous zones but if we’re going after Kralkatorrik then I would have to expect an entirely warped and crystallized zone.
– Mordremoth inspired.* I expect since Zhaitan had 3 zones of unique undead ruins, and Kralkatorrik has the brand, each dragon will most likely have some kind of unique landscape to corrupt.

*One or the other or maybe both? Who can say.

Overall, and obviously I’m just guessing, I’d say 10 to 14 new zones, with an emphasis on desert, but plenty of other climates too. I know Arenanet can generate content really fast, but if you think about it, Southsun must’ve taken at least a couple months and at launch there was really very little to it, and there still isn’t much to do there, about 10 events total. I don’t expect Arenanet to be able to pump out as many zones as the original Guild Wars mostly because most Guild Wars 2 zones have way more content in them. I think I’ve kept my expectations reasonable, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they surpass my hopes.

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2 Comments

  1. I think there will be an expansion. I would bet they are already pretty far along. The tone changed sometime around last autumn from “over our dead bodies” to “well, if we have to”. I think NCSoft have already told them they have to.

    We might get the odd additional map prior to an expansion. ANet are gung ho for the Living Story model and adding expansion-like content via that route would be a classic act of teenage rebellion. I wouldn’t expect more than one permanent map per year that way, though.

    Whichever way we get new land I agree it will be desert. Can’t come soon enough.

    • I hope you’re right, expansions are great, and I don’t want to see a long string of cool features to buy in the gem store that eventually add up to more than I would buy an expansion for.


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