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How Guild Wars 2 keeps players engaged without giving in to the MMORPG grind

"We really tried to distance ourselves from MMOs for a long time, because so much of it is — you get in, and you’re just on this treadmill."
“I don’t think you can be focused on frequency and quality at the same level. One of those two has to give. If frequency is too important to you, you’re going to end up making trade-offs in quality to hit frequency.”

- Mike O’Brien on the evolution of Guild Wars 2’s Living World events

Ahead of the release of its second expansion, Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, game director and studio president Mike O’Brien sat down with Polygon to trace Guild Wars 2 back to its roots and explore how ArenaNet has kept players entertained for five years despite only releasing one expansion.

He explains that ArenaNet wanted to avoid falling back on some of the features commonly found in most games in the genre. For the game's developers, this meant that they had to find ways to keep people logging in through methods other than just raising a level cap or endlessly introducing more powerful gear.

“We really tried to distance ourselves from MMOs for a long time, because so much of it is — you get in, and you’re just on this treadmill. You know the developer is going to just keep adding new runway in front of you,” said O’Brien. “You’re never really gonna get to the end.”

Instead, ArenaNet opted to introduce what it calls the Living World. Starting in 2013, the team would regularly push updates and events to the game that only stuck around for a week at a time. At first, these events started out as short, quick-fire offerings but the latest season eventually evolved into more robust and content-focused updates.

O’Brien says that this decision to shift away from rapid updates came from the realization that frequency and quality are often at odds with each other. For the third season of Living World, the team opted to release episodes every few months but include a new open-world zone with each and players responded favorably to that decision.

“Ultimately, I wanted us to take a step back and commit that anything we were going to do, we were going to do at high quality,” 

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