Guild Wars 2: Is SAB messin’ with your immersion?

by manylaughs on April 12, 2013


[Spoiler alert: This article contains a minor spoiler about the ending of the Guild Wars 2 storyline.]


Super Adventure Box

Does an homage to 8 and 16-bit platform games belong in your MMO?

As something of an April Fools’ prank ArenaNet introduced a low-tech platform game, Super Adventure Box (SAB), in Guild Wars 2 (GW2). Well, it’s an April Fools’ prank that will be part of GW2 for the entire month of April. SAB is a mini-game within GW2 and except for the most minor pretext – using an Asura gate to access it – has no connection with the GW2 world created by ArenaNet.


We’re not in Tyria, anymore, Toto.

Judging by the forums, a lot of people love SAB. There’s even a movement to make it a permanent addition to the game. However, there is also a strong contingent that believes ArenaNet went too far, messing with their idea of what GW2 is about. You might say it’s all fun and it’s just a game and people who don’t like it should just get over it, but think of it another way – Sure it’s a game, but it’s fiction, too.

For all its fun, Super Adventure Box doesn’t really fit into the fictional world of Tyria. Maybe ArenaNet is going in a new direction, something sillier and light-hearted, but that’s a break from the storyline they’ve established.

Guild Wars 2’s storyline is grim


Killing the dragon, Zhaitan

ArenaNet went to great lengths to tell a story with GW2 and it’s a pretty grim story. The dragon Zhaitan and his undead hordes threaten and almost succeed in taking over the world. You and your friends manage to kill Zhaitan, of course, but not without significant casualties on your side. Even some of your NPC friends die, sacrificing themselves to save others. And even in the end, it’s not all roses: The dragon is dead, but the fight continues.

That story sets a tone for GW2, a tone that makes it hard for some players to accept the light-hearted, silliness of Super Adventure Box.

Video games and MMOs are more than just games

Ultimately, video games and MMOs are more than just games – they’re stories, just like movies and books. Any good story and a lot of bad ones easily draw you in, immersing you, making you a part of their fantasy world.  You imagine yourself as the main character, creating in your mind the world where the story takes place.

And video games do more than just tell stories. Movies, TV and books require little more from you than sitting on your butt. A game requires you to interact with the story, to move it along. That interaction draws a lot of people even deeper into the game’s story.

Gaming is an art form

It’s not unusual, though, for artists (Yes, the team at ArenaNet is comprised of artists. Gaming is officially an art form. Accept it. Get over it.) to challenge their audience at times, pushing the world they’ve created in a direction that makes some of their fans uncomfortable or even angry (Don’t mess with my immersion, dude.).

Did you like it when Buffy the Vampire Slayer broke into song? How ’bout when Xena did it? Did you prefer Worf constantly struggling with his human upbringing on The Next Generation or was the Worf of Deep Space Nine more your idea of what a Klingon should be? Do aliens belong in an Indiana Jones movie? And let’s not even get started on Jar Jar.

What happens when you alienate part of your fanbase?

You get the idea. It depends on how deeply invested you are in the world and it depends on whether you like the new idea. Somehow you reconcile the artist’s new idea with your vision of the fantasy world. Whether it’s a Klingon getting in touch with his feelings or a vampire slayer breaking into song or a silly, 8-bit, platform game in your not-so-light-hearted MMO, you either accept it or you reject it or…

In some cases, you land somewhere in the middle. You’re not happy with the change, but you don’t really want to give up on the fantasy, either. You keep watching or playing, but, you know what? You’re not as invested as you use to be, are you?

If you reject it or land in the middle, you’ll be looking for a new fantasy world.

And that’s the problem. No one is going to keep playing Guild Wars 2 because of SAB. It’s not going to gain them any new players, either. Really. If you want to play a platform game, there are plenty of better ones you can play. Ultimately, all SAB does is cost ArenaNet players. Maybe not a lot, but when Neverwinter and The Elder Scrolls Online come around, those players who prefer consistency in their MMOs will probably leave.

The moral is, don’t mess with your players’ immersion.





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