GW2 was the best MMO of the last decade at release. To thrive with existing customers, the games strengths had to be built on. To broaden the appeal, the game needed an optional system to provide more direction for those having trouble adapting to a non-linear, exploration based title.
Living Story was a huge misstep that led to the abandonment of Dynamic Event content and the game world that needed to evolve for the game’s core concept to thrive.
To address the difficulties that some new players used to less choice, more guidance and a shallower mastery curve were having, ANet started down the path of dumbing down the game, rather than building in better guidance to teach the game to those players. When initial efforts to dumb down the game failed to have much positive impact, rather than getting the message and putting in the much needed guidance, they produced the NPE.
NPE has not only dumbed the game down even further, but it actually makes the game more confusing and more frustrating. I finished completion of Queensdale this weekend with a fresh character and if that had been my experience with the game back in 2012, I would have called the game out as being pure trash.
There is no more guidance on how to experience the game or enjoy the zone than previously. Fun, unique elements of the starting zone experience have been removed entirely. Gating the display of POIs, Vistas and Skill Point Challenges on the map removes important clues and the inability to access SP Challenges until level 14 becomes extremely frustrating.
Personal Story was actually a decent mechanism for introducing players who chose to follow it to the flow of the zone, but now that isn’t unlocked until level 10 and following it is now even less obvious a choice for a new player.
The pace of weapon skill unlocks was tedious at launch, but the pacing adjustments last year had pretty much corrected that. Even as a returning player, unlocking weapon skills would have provided a welcome sense of achievement and reintroduction to each weapon skill in an intuitive manner. The NPE system is obnoxious and, once again, actually counterproductive from a “helping newbs learn the game” perspective.
Pushing back skill unlocks and traits makes for a boring, frustrating start to the game. The game starts to get more challenging post level 20, but now, rather than having several levels of gradually increasing challenge to learn your skills and the dodge mechanics, plus the role that traits play, players need to learn these things just as encounters start to really require them.
The “level rewards” are transparently bogus and even most newbs will realize that the first 20-30 levels provides them with almost no actual character progression. What they may not realize is that the game never used to be that way and this system was implemented because ANet apparently thinks that the problem attracting new players was that new players were too stupid to grasp the game, to the point that a better tutorial would have been pointless.
It’s an utter mess that’s just near impossible to deny no matter how devoted a fan one might be.