Friday, 3 August 2012

A Solution to the Heart Event Problem

Through playing the beta events and listening to the feedback (especially through a recent video posted by WoodenPotatoes) it had come to my attention that there was a general problem with the Heart Event system in Guild Wars 2. I will start here by explaining the problem at hand along with several solution ideas I have read/heard filtering around the community before giving a suggestion myself.
The Problem

From the start of development ArenaNet have been innovating wherever they felt it was needed. They have changed almost everything which has become the "norm" over the years in massively multiplayer online games, they really have built Guild Wars 2 from the ground up making changes to the systems they had in place within the original Guild Wars while making an entire new experience. While developing these changes; they designed an entire new method of delivering content to players, this was the birth of dynamic events. Dynamic events are Guild Wars 2's form of quests, they are what give the whole in-game world a completely different feel from every other MMO that has been developed in the past. The world feels alive, you feel as though you have an affect on the world around you and the people that are in it. The 'quests' or 'events' come to you when you walk into an area where one is happening, you can see a town/village getting invaded by the world's inhabitants; you don't need an NPC stood in a location with an exclamation mark over his head followed by a wall of text.

These events happen as you explore the world, they will happen if you are there, or if you're not. It gives a feeling of urgency to the events when they happen and fail if you don't help! This generally gives the game world a completely new experience and it basically means that you need to use the world and the people in it to gain experience and level up. You need to engage in the world around you, hear what the characters are saying and help them when they need it, follow the events and just get lost in the beauty of the world.
"...there was a problem, players appeared to have no direction, they weren't sure what they had to do and felt a lack of aims or goals within the game."
This is where the problem comes. When testing the game with these dynamic events there was a problem, players appeared to have no direction, they weren't sure what they had to do and felt a lack of aims or goals within the game. Players who have played a great deal of any current MMO may have found it difficult at that point to know what they had to do to progress. ArenaNet had a solution to this problem however, give the players somewhere to go. This is when the Heart Events were added to the world; these are a more static from of questing alot closer to the quests we have seen in other MMO's, they are basically events which only happen in a certain area. Players had more of an aim and began to head for the heart events before being swept off into the world of dynamic events.

The adding of heart events fixed the problem that ArenaNet were having with players feeling as though there was a lack of aims in the game. What ArenaNet didn't predict however was the opposing side. Players now has an obvious and direct group of aims, this didn't appear much of an issue at first but it soon became obvious that players were playing the game in a way that shadowed over one of the main elements of the game; dynamic events. Players who have played alot of hours on other MMO's as well as other Role Playing Games (RPGs) were using the heart events (and other game elements) as a "check list". They would look at the zone they were in on the map and aim for unfilled hearts, points of interest, skill challenges and the newly added vistas. Once all of those elements in the zone were complete they would move onto the next area of the map to find themselves not high enough level to survive in the new area. Players like this would then generally check for alternatives such as moving to another starter zone which was effectively giving them a new check list to work through.
The Solution

WoodenPotatoes described a possible solution to the problem within one of his Great Guild Wars 2 Countdown (Day 29) videos recently. His idea was; when a player has completed a zone in terms of the heart events, points of interest, vistas and skill point challenges, they would unlock a list. This list would detail each of the dynamic events in the zone and roughly where they were, it would also tell the player whether they had completed the events or not. This would give players the reason to stay in an a zone once all of the basic tasks were complete. I thought that this was a generally good idea, however I did feel that there were some problems with this solution. First of all; where would this list be in the UI (User Interface)? I can see this fitting into the achievements window/panel somewhere but this would be too hidden from the user to make the desired affect and slapping it anywhere else in the UI would create too much clutter. Another problem is that it would almost be working in favour of those players who are playing in this way by giving them another list to get working on once they had effectively finished a list for a zone.

I propose another solution that will fix the issue at hand and fit nicely into the current UI without creating any more clutter. There are still a few reasons why my solution isn't a complete 'fix' but it's better than the current heart event system in the game. So, at the moment we have a map mode where you are able to see hearts scattered around the map. Once they are complete; they appear as 'filled' hearts. What I propose is this; instead of having specific "heart events", all of the events within a certain radius of the heart icon count towards the heart. Each dynamic event (along with the current heart event) all add to the heart's completion and visually fill the heart. So, when you click on the heart icon on the map, a red circle (like those we have see to identify event areas) could identify the area where the events will help fill the heart.
"The dynamic events will get the focus they deserve..."
This way, check list type players will soon realise that using the world to guide you around the map (along with points of interest and vistas) will get you more experience and will be more enjoyable. The dynamic events will get the focus they deserve and hardcore players could come back and fill every heart possibly for an achievement or reward. The problems I have identified with this solution (and almost every other possible solution) is that dynamic events are enjoyable because you don't know when and where they are going to happen. Showing players that there is an event in a particular area almost takes away the fun of not knowing when or where they are going to happen. Another potential idea is that the hearts could be completely greyed out before completing the heart event, and you could see the level the heart was filled once the heart event was complete. This would be a good reason to leave the specific heart events in the game while showing players the most enjoyable way to play Guild Wars 2 PvE!