The return of the Zephyrites and relaunch of the Crown Pavilion was a masterstroke! The Festival of the Four Winds updates that Robin covered last week was a fantastic return for Guild Wars 2. The initial reveal generated a ton of interest from players old enough to remember it, garnered a lot of goodwill among the player base, and brought back some of our favourite activities. After roughly 4 years of absence, it was incredible to get back into the Aspect Arena and call on the elements to assist me. With the return of this festival, it reminded me of a few things that only existed in Tyria for a fleeting moment. Who knows, maybe we will see them again. Maybe, for some, there is a good reason to let them fade into memory and we won’t ever see their like again.
The Twisted Marionette
Truly one of the Living World’s greatest achievements was the Twisted Marionette. Located in False River Valley, you can still find the remnants of this battle. The scarps of this gargantuan clockwork monstrosity are still strewn around the Marionette's Landing and are one of a many scars Scarlet left on the land. The Twisted Marionette was, we thought, the ultimate mix of Scarlett’s madness, Ceara’s genius, and the combined resources of her assorted minions. We were wrong! Scarlet’s mechanoid was a test bed and a trap, yet this blasphemous distortion of the Watchknights could not be allowed to stand.
Rather than produce an instance, like so many other MMOs, the marionette descended upon the open world challenged an entire map to take it on, immediately dividing the surrounding area into five lanes. If you got lucky and found a full map, around 20 – 30 players could camp in every lane, pushing back the waves of encroaching attackers. A variety of roles were available. You could burn down incoming enemies, grab a hammer and build some barricades, or jump into a Golem and provide suppressing fire while you waited for the next escalation of this scenario.
Not content with simply pouring damage on Tyria’s heroes, the Twisted Marionette rotated each lane into a second phase. Each lane needed to take this opportunity to break the massive chains that held Scarlet’s invention in place. These were well guarded and absolutely needed to be broken to bring this giant down, meaning that each lane’s individual performance was critical.
The Marionette introduced and refined several mechanics that were recycled to great effect in future releases. Most obvious of these are open world events like the Mordrem Vinewrath event and even the Tangled Depths meta in Heart of Thorns. What made the Twisted Marionette so exceptional was the immediate change in player behaviour that this world boss brought about. By rewarding failure, it encouraged the general populace to fight in a positive manner and learn from their own mistakes. It created a sense of scale and encouraged players to actively coordinate, meaning that only well-organized maps ended up beating the Marionette. If you want an idea what you missed out on, skip out on downing Tequila and go have a look for Triple Trouble on Bloodied Coast, and take a friend. You might need cannon fodder.
A Return to Southsun?
Not long after Guild Wars 2 launched, the team at ArenaNet made their first stab at creating a truly living world. For many of you that didn’t live through it, the Kara might be nothing more than a nonsense crustation that now clutters the Southsun coastline. Their introduction was far more significant. The Lost Shores event was the first major timed event that hit Tyria, and it certainly made waves. The Lost Shores special event marked the arrival of the Karka and on their designated date, an army of these deep-sea dwellers attacked Lions Arch. After lading in Lion’s Arch, the Karka were swept up and dispatched by swathes of players, split across a host of servers. This was back when home servers were significant and I was lucky enough to land in my home, Piken Square. Thankfully we also managed to push back the Karka, but only as far as Southsun itself.
The first major landmass to be added to Tyria would hold the finale for this event, and it was both tragic and epic in equal measure. Players pursuing the Lost Shores meta event followed the Lionguard to Southsun Cove and began trying to wrest control of the island back from the new threat. Initial pushes into the beach were easy enough. We chewed through small Karka and legions of players pushed into the enemy. We progressed past the young Karka towards the giant hive that still towers over Southsun. If you manage a quick trip over to the delightful resort, you might even see the carcass of the queen if you are lucky.
This is where things got difficult, however, and while the mechanics of the final fight were not revolutionary, it was the first time we had all fought on such a scale in the world map. The Ancient Karka world boss that made up the finale of this event was a onetime spawn and easily the most difficult event I’d encountered by that point. Flanked by other assailants, the huge Karka rolled over waves of players, hatchlings exploded everywhere, and the lag threatened to destroy us. We were an unorganized, green mess at the time. While it would not bother raiders now, back then it was something to behold. The scale of the event was unprecedented in Guild Wars 2 at this time. It took something around an hour to whittle the HP of these monsters down to zero, and that was if you managed to stay connected. This test of ArenaNet’s server tech didn’t go smoothly for everyone and plenty of people gave up due to severe lag and connectivity issues. I, however, managed to stick it out and the found multiple precursors in my inventory for my efforts.
Lost shores weren’t about the loot. It was not about the content or how bad we all were at play. Lost Shores was a statement of intent. It brought the community out in force and I’d love to see ArenaNet drop more of these timed events into the world. While Tyria moves on when I’m not around, it would be great to see how we handle another special event like this, with so many more years of design experience under ArenaNet’s belt.
The Council Election #TeamGnashblade
Fake news, Facebook campaigns, and empty promises. Who knows how Tyria’s first election would play out now. Back in 2013, an assassination opened up a spot on the Captain’s Council and Cutthroat Politics ensued. For weeks Tyrians were forced asked to choose who would fill the newly vacant seat via an in-game election. Captain Ellen Kiel and Captain Evon Gnashblade were the two requisite politicians who were ready to let their words do the fighting, mostly. Each candidate came with their own promises to temp voters and a particular fractal that would follow their election to the Captain’s Council.
During Cutthroat Politics, players were able to engage in a host of temporary activities to earn badges, which they could wear, and earn favour for their particular candidate. It also coincided with the introduction of the Zephyr’s Aspect Arena, a piece of content that returned with the recent Festival of the Four Winds.
In the End, Captain Ellen Kiel was elected by the population by a slim margin and Gnashblade supporters were left bitterly disappointed. Guild Wars 2 saw reduced waypoint costs, a Thermonva Reactor fractal, and some serious debate as a result. We didn’t see the same divisions that the Slyvanas storyline brought to WoW, it was interesting to see quite how swept up the population got. It has been over 5 years since Cutthroat Politics exploded into Tyria and surely it is time for a re-run? I’ll be honest, I still keep an “I Like Evon” button stored away in my bank for the next time.
A Little Lore
Something else that you might have missed from years gone by is ArenaNet’s habit of dropping a bit more lore about the game on their front page. While you’ll find lots of ideas and ambient information floating around the outskirts of interesting locations, the website used to be full of this too. Ok, it isn’t the sort of thing that strictly exists in game but its the sort of enhancement that you might have missed, had you not seen it the first time around. Unlike the other memories of old, you can still appreciate this one.
Short stories arrived on the Guild Wars 2 news feed before the release of several big updates, including the aforementioned Cutthroat Politics. They gave us a little insight into the history of major characters that the game wasn’t able to provide. Even better, they were easy to read offline. When I wasn't running the Aspect Arena, I was able to find out how Gnashblade made it to the head the Black Lion Trading Co and what exactly turned Ceara into Scarlet! I’ve included links to some of the work that landed between July and December 2013. Mostly the work of Angel McCoy, Scott McGough, and John Ryan, these are definitely worth a read.
While I could absolutely go on and on maybe you should instead. While I can pine for my memories, would you really want to see how we fare against modern open world Southsun? Is it time to bring back the Hunger Royale? What content would you love to see back, or what is best consigned to the Mists?