Zubon of Kill Ten Rats had a recent post berating the new world boss schedule for Guild Wars 2. I agree with the post 100%, the game has strayed a long way from the promise of a “living world” that 2012 held. Over-organisation or scheduling of group content is never a good thing in my book. I’m certainly one to mention, on occasion, that my time for any specific game is limited. Should I not be happy then that ArenaNet organises the playerbase to do open group content on a set schedule so that everyone can make time for world boss kills, and thereby ensure you get your fair stab at some shiny loot?
Somehow this very didactic form of gaming irks me – it makes the game needy in a bad way – “there’s a world boss at 8pm, you should log on”. I’ve written more than once that I’m not a happy raider, it’s one reason why Pandaria-era WoW grates on me, Blizzard seem rather obsessed with funneling all players into the raiding meat-grinder. Raiding can be a casual thing in WoW these days, but if you want to actually play with people you know it is still a more organised activity than simply hitting the ‘queue’ button.
Neverwinter is a great, casual MMO – there is plenty to do in shortish chunks of time. But the game does also promote the “scheduled fun” angle quite heavily. The bonus events happening every hour (link to a web-based schedule) give you optimal times to do dungeons, skirmishes, foundry quests, daily zones etc. I can usually ignore this, but even my casual guild isn’t immune to the pull of bonus loot. So if I want to actually run a dungeon delve I should really log on, or be online for the dungeon delve bonus event times. That annoys me as I don’t want to plan my free time around a games developer’s adhoc timetable.
There’s a silver lining to this type of system I guess. I’ve been in a few international MMO guilds (i.e. transatlantic) over the last few years, in different games, and it’s often a rather random affair whether there’s enough people online interested in doing some group content. At least with a publicised event schedule like that in Neverwinter or the linked boss calendar for GW2 people are encouraged to log on at the same time. I wonder where does the balance between “scheduled fun” and being able to follow your whims lie in these games? You might answer “find your own fun, ignore the schedule!”, but then if most people you play with are busy following the schedule then it isn’t always so easy to ignore…