The question I want to ask is, are collections being used too abundantly in lieu of engaging, immersive content?
If collections are to be used as a primary reward structure, they should occur naturally and with interesting world interaction, akin to Dynamic Events, rather than exist as a checklist of trophies that encourages the player to complete content as fast as possible. Collections should be varied and guided by in-game exchanges with the player character and game world, rather than exchanges between the player and interfaces.
The introduction of collections was a welcome addition to the game, and worked wonderfully as an organizational tool to help players track achievements and better navigate UI components. Now, collections are beginning to bleed into other, deeper game environments where they disrupt immersion and promote rushing through content.
I think one of the primary gripes with the collection system is how it contributes to a sort of division between playing the game and being rewarded for it. To me, MMO is synonymous with immersive, adventurous, engaging, fantastic, epic, escapism, etc. To accomplish this atmosphere there has to be a sense of urgency and connection to the game world’s challenges – the characters’ troubles, the lore, the artifacts and items, the natural world, etc. Dynamic events do a good job telling the story of a map, and have been very effective in keeping the PC a key component in the world. Let’s take a look at DE structure and process:
- The player is participating in the region
- Interaction with NPCs provoke some kind of reaction in the world
- Player Character learns of regional challenges facing NPC population
- PC learns how to use his/her skillset to contribute
- PC engages in regional challenges
- PC contributes to outcome, and is rewarded for going through above process
The most important aspect to note, is that this entire process happens in the game world with minimal GUI interference (event progress/description bar on right side of screen).
Now, if I were to think of a proper antithesis to Dynamic Events, I’d probably come up with something along the lines of Collections:
- Player opens Collections GUI
- Player reads what must be done to achieve
- Player character engages in seemingly random interactions with game world with no real story or substance
- Player reads next item on list; repeat
Note the difference?
Dynamic events allow interaction between the game’s characters, whereas collections force interaction between the player and interface, with minimal engagement on behalf of the player character.
Some may say it isn’t fair to compare the two content archetypes, considering one isn’t aiming to replace the other, and they exist simultaneously, with some interaction. However, I bring up Dynamic Events specifically in comparison to Collections because they are now the two main rewards structures used for completing any kind of game content.
Since trying to finish my precursor and fractal collection, I’ve frequently been using /wiki, a notepad, and just about constantly opening my collections tab to view progress. Huge distraction from what’s going on around me. It’s reminiscent of my days in another MMO that I quit because eventually the game was practically a text-based adventure with all the necessary interfaces. Although GW2 is no where near the extent of that game, I believe going down the path of putting the game’s content into forms of collections has the potential to completely transform GW2’s world into a mad rush to the next checkpoint, collecting items only to fill a checklist, leaving content without substance.
Close-Up: Specialization Collections
Specialization collections are good examples of almost perfect conditions for a collection to be fun and engaging, and offer meta-level rewards while achieving the final product:
- Thematically appropriate collections
- Taking PC around the jungle to experience content from all maps (machined weapons, map completion)
- Incorporating events from vanilla maps that were also thematically appropriate to profession
- Asking player to chase items that could be used rather than just vended
- Providing rewards within the collection components, rather than a single reward at the end
- Asking players to accomplish tasks that benefit their overall progress, rather than isolating the progress to the reward itself
What could have been done better?
- Text-based lore regarding how/why elite specs came about
- Explanations as to why some collection components are important to the profession (ex: why is necromancer interested in a Smokescale claw?)
- Incorporating reasons why certain levels of masteries were important for the collection (further promoting interaction with NPCs and game world)
From the threads I’ve read, it seems as though collections will be much more positively received if there is just a little bit of lore or explanation behind them. Players want a reason to be doing the things they are doing.
When Collections Work, they Work Well
Realistically, we can’t expect the development team to replace or implement every collection as world event. It may even be argued that collections exist for this reason: to add more content easily and without affecting too much of the existing game world. And that’s not bad! When collections make sense, they are incredible! Let’s take an example of a collection that was implemented perfectly, and why:
This collection tasks players with collecting every skin from every dungeon.
Why is it good?
- It’s content that was implemented with dungeon lore already in place
- The rewards are useful items that players will continue using after the collection is finished
- Achievements aren’t haphazard, and occur naturally during regular play
- Encourages players to try content that they may not be familiar with
- Considering PvP reward tracks, there are multiple ways to achieve goals
- The collection is an end result of the content, rather than containing the content within itself
The next question is obvious:
Using the Dungeoneer collection as a model of a hypothetically successful collection, and the Elite Spec Collection as a model to exemplify encompassing vast amounts of content in a collection, how can we model future collections to feel as rewarding and engaging?
Some ideas of mine:
- Use of NPCs to guide actions requested in the GUI
- Implement collections that heavily encourage participation in regional events
- Create collections around successful content, and offer better incentives for content that is less frequented
- Keep rewards useful, and stay away from rewarding vendor trash to make the collections less tedious
- Offer variety in content for collection completion
- Give the PC a reason to be interested in what they are doing
Hopefully something in this wall o f text is useful. All this said, I think ANet has made huge strides in the expansion, from in-game rewards (rather then gem store exclusives to replayability for dynamic events. As always, there is room for improvement, and this is my two cents. I’d love to hear thoughts of players who are experiencing the collection system for the first time, and your ideas on improving the immersion factor for the collection content.
Thanks for reading!