Dynamic content in Rift and Guild Wars 2: A Look at similarities and differences
Hey everyone, one of the big features of Guild Wars 2 are the dynamic events. There are over 1500 unique dynamic events available in GW2 at launch and you will encounter a fair bit of them as you level up in the various zones. When the word dynamic comes to mind, one cannot help but remember another MMO that was launched last year – Rift. Rift was the MMO that really brought the idea of a dynamic world to the MMO market. At any one time, there are legions of monsters invading peaceful outposts all over the world and adventurers must band together to push back the invading forces. The purpose of this article is to give both Rift players and potential GW2 player an idea of the similarities and differences of dynamic content between the two games.
What is dynamic content?
Dynamic content, in its very basic MMO form, means that you can’t just AFK anywhere you want. A peaceful town you just AFK’ed in could be invaded by a horde of monsters any minute and get your character killed. The world is always changing. In most traditional MMOs, you have static content, quest hubs always look the same with same NPCs standing in the same spots 24/7. Nothing gets changed unless there is a specific patch that added or removed some stuff. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the real world where you experience extreme dynamic content. You can go to a place, make some changes to it and it will never be the same for the next person that visit the place. Obviously, in MMOs you simply can’t reach the dynamic extreme of the real life world because it is just too complex. To make the virtual world feel like a living and breathing world, dynamic content was introduced as a middle of the road solution.
In a MMO that focuses on dynamic content, the places that players visit are never really the same to a certain extent. Player actions have consequences that can affect their surroundings. Failure to defeat an horde of invading monsters, for example, could mean that the nearby town gets occupied and all the NPCs/merchants disappear. The town may also get a makeover from the monster invasion – buildings crumble and the sky turns dark. To allow all players access to the same content, these dynamic content do reset over time either by player actions or a timer.
Rift’s Dynamic Content
One of the things that a lot of people who never played Rift assume is that Rift’s dynamic content is all about rifts. Rifts are involved but they are by no means the only part of dynamic content. In addition to the rifts that populate the landscape, there are also invasions, and colossal zone events.
Rifts, not surprisingly, are the core of Rift’s dynamic content. Rifts are basically portals in the sky that opens up to release monsters. A characteristic of Rifts is that they have multiple stages – defeating one wave of monsters within the allocated time will allow you to proceed to the next stage where another wave of enemies spawn. The stages are increasingly difficult and usually culminate to a boss fight in the final stage. There is an inherent scaling present in these rifts as progressing to later stages of the rift will require you to kill x amount of mobs under a certain amount of time. Soloers tend to not reach these stages unless they are doing it other people.
Rifts are the way Rift has introduced dynamic content to their otherwise static gameworld. The location of the rifts are predictable and the stages a player must face to close it are also predictable. However, what is dynamic about these rifts is that they can open up anytime. You could be questing nearby and suddenly an unopened rift (tear) opens up and then you are given a choice to either close the rift and get some rewards or keep on questing.
Open rifts, if not closed by players, will continuously release monsters that invade nearby towns/outposts/quest hubs. If they are unhindered, they will kill off the nearby NPCs and establish their footholds. In some aspect, one player’s choice of not closing the nearby rift has a consequence on other players that are also in the same area. To re-gain access to these NPCs, players must kill off these monsters and this will allow the NPCs to respawn.
Colossal Zone Events
Colossal zone events is an invasion that basically affects the entire zone – a bunch of rifts open up, major towns/quest hubs get invaded, and players must band together to stop invasion. These zone events have multiple stages that send you all over the zone: the first few stages usually have you close X number of rifts and the final stage usually have a colossal boss that takes groups of people to defeat. Some of these events (especially those on Ember Isle, released with patch 1.6) are truly epic in nature and the entire event may take an hr or so to complete. While the majority of the stages require you to kill monsters, some stages do have a bit more variety such as allowing you to man catapults to shoot at a flying dragon or transform you to a golem so you can go around and stomp nearby mobs.
There is scaling based on the number of players present in the zone. Initially, the frequencies of zone events was dependent on the number of players in the zone. A lot of players took advantage of this by gathering in specific zones and force these zone events to pop. Later patches seemed to have made this more random as to introduce more variety into the zone events selection. Regardless, the bosses of these zone events scale their HP/damage with the number of players. Their HP pool was drastically increased in response to players’ complaints that the bosses die too quickly.
Rewards and end-game consequences
A major feature of Rift is other players do not negatively impact your rewards. There is no shared loot table for those public rifts/invasions/zone events and everyone who contributed gets rewarded based on their contribution. If you want to get healed/buffed, you still need to join public groups. Public group is Rift’s solution to curbing the competition between players while doing dynamic content. Joining a public group is fairly simple and you can simply target someone and click a button to be part of their group. That being said, there are still some issues with tagging mobs by members of different public groups which can affect some minor things such as xp gain.
Participating in these zone wide invasions, rifts etc will reward you with currencies that you can spend on vendors to buy better gear. End-game content required players to farm rifts, zone events etc in order to obtain the currencies (inscribed sourcestones) needed to purchase some end-game items (planar essences).
Overall impression of the dynamic content in Rift
Rift is one of the MMOs that really brought the concept of dynamic content into the mainstream MMO market. In some ways, it set a benchmark for other MMOs to match and surpass for dynamic content. Rift still has quite abit of traditional MMO element (i.e. quests and raids) and some of its dynamic content is quite repetitive (once you played in a zone long enough, you get to see all the zone events and all the rifts are basically the same, just scaled up in difficulty).
Guild Wars 2’s Dynamic Content
In some ways, I feel GW2 took Rift’s model, shook off all the traditional MMO elements, and polished it up. If you have played Rift, seeing towns/outposts getting invaded is nothing new but you may not realized how immersive the dynamic content can be.
Tasks (also known as hearts)
GW2 remove questing from its game but not completely. Instead of roaming from quest hubs to quest hub picking up dozens of quests, you roam from one task to another. Tasks is sort of quests in disguise but it is also different. Basically, you will see an empty heart icon on the map. If you hover over it, it will tell the level of the task.
Once you arrive in that area, you will get a text on the right side of your screen that says Help Farmer Diah for example. Under it, it tells you you can do a variety of things- in this case for this particular task you can watering corn, stomp wurm mounds, feeding cattle, and defending the fields. Note that unlike traditional quests, you do not need to speak to the NPC (Farmer Diah) in this case to start the task. You just go to the area and the task is on your screen automatically. Speaking to the NPC will give you some lore and background information to complete the picture.
Doing anything in that list above will give you credit. Eventually that progress bar will fill to full and the empty heart becomes a filled heart. You will get some coins in the mail but more importantly it opens up the merchant (it is the person with filled symbol) that allows you to purchase items with event currencies.
Dynamic events in its simple form
While doing tasks, you get occasionally see an event pop up to the right side of your screen. For this particular task I was doing (Help Farmer Diah), an event poped up that asked me to kill a giant wurm tearing up Jeb’s field.
If you look at your mini-map, you will see that it is conveniently located right next to the task area (the orange circle tells you the area of the dynamic event).
By helping to kill the giant wurm, I get reward with some coins, experience, and the event currency (purple triangle icon).
Remember earlier I was telling you that completing the task opened up the merchant? That particular merchant sells stuff you can purchase with the event currencies you just earned.
What GW2 did here is they cleverly integrated dynamic events with the tasks. You are off doing your task and an event nearby pops up; you complete it, get rewarded with currencies and then spend that currency on the merchant you just unlocked via completing the task. There is no roaming around the zone hunting for dynamic events, it just happens and integrate itself seemlessly into the normal activities. In Rift terms, it is like you are off doing some quest and a rift spawns nearby; you complete it and when you turn in your quest, you unlock the merchant that allows you to purchase rewards with the rift currencies.
Unlike the rifts, GW2’s dynamic events are not predictable. When you encounter a rift, you know it is going to be say 5-6 stages with a boss at the end. Different flavored rifts (i.e. fire, water) provides a different variety of mobs but you go through the same process of killing X amount of mobs under a certain amount of time to spawn the next rift stage etc. You don’t always get the same dynamic event near an area, you may encounter different ones everytime you visit. As mentioned earlier, there will be 1500 unique dynamic events at launch so you will see quite a bit of a variety every zone.
Another interesting bit about these dynamic events is that they are related to area/task you are doing and don’t always involve combat. For example, one task might have you assist farmer Eda to drive off bats and spiders from the orchard. Once you enter the orchard, you may encounter a dynamic event that asks you to collect apples for Eda’s famous apple pies.
Rift players may be familiar with a zone event that involves you escorting a bunch of caravans from one of the zone to the town center. You will be happy to know that such escort dynamic events are plenty in GW2 as well. During the escort, you will encounter plenty of scripted ambushes to keep you on your toes.
Dynamic events – the more complex version
Many MMO players will do these dynamic events as part of their usual activities and not pay a second thought to it. I admit I was also part of that group. What I didn’t realize at the time is how these events are linked together and you can really see it if you stick around after one event and spend your time observing the NPCs.
A lot of dynamic events are linked together form part of a chain. You succeed one event, NPCs will do certain activities that will trigger the next event in the success branch of chain. If you fail one event, NPCs will do another set of activities that trigger the next event on the fail branch of the chain. This is really where GW2 differs from Rift’s dynamic content. In Rift, if you fail an event, towns get invaded and NPCs get slaughtered. You sit around waiting for the event to reset or other players to band together and retake the town so you can keep questing. There are consequence for failing and in some ways you are being punished for it. GW2 basically spin this around and opens another door. You failed an event? You still get rewarded (abit less than if you succeed) and you just opened up a bunch of events that can occur if you failed it. This really introduces re-playability, consequence of actions, and variety into the dynamic content sphere.
Grouping is not required for these events at all and the player competition is minimized although not eliminated. In terms of killing mobs, both you and other players will get credit if you two attack the same mob. The competition arises on objectives that asks you to collect things. Since only a limited number of these objects (i.e. apples) spawn for you to collect, you might have a hard time dong some events in a crowded area.
Higher level players will be scaled down in lower level areas. This eliminates the problem of higher level players farming lower level events you see sometimes in Rift. What’s more, this allows higher level players to enjoy the content they might have missed while leveling up and really introduces re-playability into the game areas.
Meta Events: Meta events are a collection of dynamic events that link together than span over a large area of the zone map to tell you a story. They usually ends in a [GROUP EVENT]. In some ways, you can think of these meta events as the colossal zone invasions in Rift. You can tell when you encounter a meta-event because you will see this brown box at the top of the dynamic events you encounter.
Immersion and triggering dynamic events: While a a lot of the dynamic events trigger on their own, some dynamic events are triggered by talking to NPCs. If you encounter NPCs with this icon above their head, you will know that talking with them will trigger a dynamic event.
This creates an interesting scenario because the game rewards you for exploring and following NPCs around once an event is finished. NPCs simply don’t disappear once an event is finished, they continue on with their normal activities, carry on conversations with other NPCs and sometimes allow players to trigger the next dynamic event in the chain by talking to them.
I will leave you with a quote from Colin Joanson, one of the game devs for GW2, he summarize the immersion of dynamics events in GW2 quite well.
Also a bonus tip, after any dynamic event (or event chain) it’s always a good idea to follow the key NPC’s or investigate the area after the event has been completed. If you don’t run off, you’ll often times find they build new buildings, setup stores, build defenses, kick off new events (after some dialogue), repair broken things, build siege weapons, change the weather, have new spawns appear/change, and more as a result of dynamic events concluding.
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