Friday, November 30, 2012

Clock Tower Praise

I made a particularly talked-about level for the game Guild Wars 2.  I was on a team within the company that is responsible for making special holiday content.  Halloween was our first holiday, and our first time updating the game in a major way since we launched a couple of months ago.  So I really wanted to make a splash.  Previously, I championed the addition of jumping challenges in Guild Wars 2 during development, and eventually got enough traction that all the maps in the game were required to have one or two of these different-than-normal-GW2-play areas.  So I thought it would be nice to make a new jumping challenge for Halloween.  The main character in our game world for Halloween (he's been around since the first Guild Wars) is Mad King Thorn.  A crazy, supernatural guy with a flaming pumpkin head.  Now, I had been asked by many players during our beta process to make harder and harder jumping challenges.  So I thought this was the perfect chance to do so, since I'm working with the theme of madness, fear, stress, etc.  I came up with the idea of climbing a clock tower on spinning detritus while a deadly cloud of poison rises beneath you.    Initially I intended it to be one player at a time, but I found out later that we had to have groups do it at the same time for technical reasons.  This introduced some very... interesting challenges.  While players don't collide with each other, they also can't see through each other.  So smaller guys were blocked by the larger ones.  And since there was intense time pressure this created a dynamic that some people loved, and a lot more hated.  

Anyway, I have never had any substantial feedback from a player community on something that I've done in a game.  So, this being the first time, I thought I should commemorate it by putting up the feedback that I liked the most.  I received far, far more feedback than these highlights.  I'd say the ratio was one unsatisfied (and usually angry) for every nine very satisfied posts.  These are collected from a variety of forums, private messages, and in-game chat.


From PMs on GW2 Forum:

Lwd.1264:

I can say it was most fun content in GW2 ( and that’s from person who don’t like jumping stuff in games;) ). It was something like: whoever creator of this puzzle is – I want to shake his hand. So , thank youDescription: https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/include/images/smilies/smile.png

I just want to say that I find that the Tower has been one of the most fun aspects of the game, and I really hope to see it again or see another project like it in the future.

Playing through these two was the most fun I had in any MMO ever. I would love to see more of your work.

This is my first MMORPG. Guys like you and the great stuff you all make over there at your company have really shown me how great this genre can be.


Honestly, this was my favorite thing of the Halloween Event.

I just wanted to say that the clocktower was the greatest fun I’ve had in gaming in many years.

Hello Mr Foreman,
I am a huge fan of the clock tower jumping puzzle that you made, even though I wanted to punch my screen a few times while doing it, It will be one of my favourite and most memorable things I did in guildwars2, our guild of 400 all loved your creation.
It was very exciting and adrenalin indusive and when I finished it after 40mins of failure, I felt an amazing and very satisfying sense of accomplishment that I feel is missing from many other games

The clocktower was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had with GW2! After finally reaching the top, I returned to it dozens of times just for fun.
Thank you for putting it in the game. You made the Halloween Event a success for me.



LOVED THE CLOCK TOWER JP! Most fun I’ve had in GW2. I hope more JPs like it are coming soon. =)

you did an outstanding job creating that puzzle! It was one of the most enjoyable experiences in the game for me yet!

I was able to complete the clocktower after 2 hours of attempts. It was a great fun and still is, I really don’t want to let it go (so I’m just doing it over and over like a maniac, knowing that it’ll be gone till the next Halloween

I am not particularly good at jumping puzzles and lord knows the Tower was hard on me. I think I finally made it on about my 137th try after 4-5 hours of going.
I want you to know that none of the groups that I did those hours with on Tainted Coast had anything but fun. While we waited for the reset, people joked and laughed and talked about where and why they fell. People talked about how they tripped on my asura or blamed the fatties (in a joking way). I swear I went back and did the puzzle again just to get back into that social environment. Each time I pretended I had never made it to the top so I could cheer on the other supposed fellow sufferers.
Not every part of every game has to be as simple as checking off a box on a list or else the games become about as fun as checking off a box on a list.
I’ve posted on other forums that yours was the single best event I have done in any MMO since EQ2’s Unrest dungeon when it first came out. In all my time playing WoW i never had that much fun or that much of a challenge.
Please keep up the good work.




BenFreakinFranklin:
Clock tower is the
 best thing in the game so far.


RendXaw:
clock tower has to be one of the best things in GW2 right now

NumeroDeux:
That bastard. It drives me nuts and yet I cannot stop. I also want more for some reason.

pixeldev[JQ]:
Awesome job, keep up the good work.

ObfuscatedGames:
His inbox must be FULL of death threats by now.

Mrlagged:
I want to shake that mans hand. Then punch him in the gut

endac:
I should send him a nice fruit basket. Awesome event!

endeleanx:
I loved every part of the Clocktower. Most fun I've had in GW2 for ages.

Mortons_Spork:
The complete polar opposite reactions from people who ran clock tower is so telling of what a large portion of modern day video game culture has become.
I think anyone who genuinely enjoyed the challenge of it probably grew up on ruthlessly unforgiving platform games or just straight up hard ass games. At least I felt a bit nostalgic about it.
Likewise anyone who were raging or complaining it was too hard seems to be the type that first thing they do on any single player game is go to options and put it on the easiest difficulty possible.
I hope Anet continues to implement this old school video game feel by providing truly hard content in all aspects of the game and not just cater to make everything "accessible".
TLDR; Anet needs more stuff like this. Has nothing to do with being 'hardcore' or 'casual' either, its about challenges and overcoming them.

er0gami:
twisted asshole :P

orikalin:
I salute this man for making something epic looking, fun, and challenging. While rage inducing, I had A TON of fun doing that puzzle.

phreeckBodhan:
I just beat the clocktower for the first time about an hour ago (then 6 more times following shortly after)
I raged so hard until I figured it out. Once you beat it once you'll want to do it over and over. Especially since you get a ton of bags every time.
It's so frustrating until you beat it. You get a real sense of accomplishment when you do.

KingHavana:
I could not do it. I will never be able to. I still think it's a great puzzle and I am glad the game has it.

TSLlol:
PRAISE YOUR GENIUSNESS JOSHUA FOREMAN! Best Jumping Puzzle yet!!!

wewantchillywilly:
I loved the clock tower. I was rarely frustrated, because almost every mistake and slip-up felt like my own. It took me several tries before I realized that the chest-high obstacle near the beginning could be easily avoided if I leapt from the small rise preceding it instead of running and jumping over it or going around the side (effective, but risky). After that, I spent three hours learning all of the little nuances, perfecting my jumps and getting the timing down.
By the time I got to the end, my heart was racing and my hands were literally shaking from all the adrenaline. After three hours of falling, slipping off gears, and running face first into the asses of countless Charr and Norn, I was finally standing in front of the clock tower. I hurled myself through the opening and, after a brief loading screen, found myself looking out of a giant broken window. That's when it hit me. I FUCKING DID IT. I immediately jumped to my feet, flailed my arms around, and screamed like a madman, scaring the crap out of everyone on Ventrilo.
Hands down, that was the one of the most amazing experiences I've had in Guild Wars 2 and it totally made up for the fact that I recently opened over 5000 pToT bags and got nothing worthwhile out of them. I was ready to take an extended break from this game and go back to BF3 before I tried to beat the clock tower (my first jump puzzle ever). I wish there were more events in Guild Wars 2 that rewarded players for skill instead of luck, but now that I know there are so many other jumping puzzles out there, I have a reason to keep playing (I'm about to try Coddler's Cove, because I
Quaggans). You have officially converted me into a JP enthusiast and I can't wait to see what you have in store for Christmas.

Rephlexie[KA]:
Whenever I have to call a vendor's customer service hotline and get someone on the other end that has turned a normally dreadful experience into something memorable, I ask to be sent to their manager's voicemail so I can leave a message entailing my positive experience.
So, allow me to do that here:
Hello ArenaNet team manager, my name is Rephlexie, my account number is Rephlexie.9081. I just wanted to take a moment and describe my experience regarding your employee Joshua Foreman. Joshua's work with the clocktower puzzle has cured all ill-feelings I have had regarding MMOs. Which was no easy feat. It is people like Mr. Foreman that make me continue to use GuildWars 2 as my primary source of entertainment.
Give him a pat on the back for his hard work.
Have a nice day.

Abisco:
I find the puzzle was probably the funnest experience in guild wars 2 I have had, and that is saying A LOT. I loved it to death, and just wanted to thank you for pushing the boundaries of what the game could and should be.

HadouKen722Cain: Overall the Mad King's Clocktower was so far my favorite part of Guild Wars 2 and it was the most fun I have had in any MMO.


Oh, and here's an article about the map and my interaction with fans from Kill Ten Rats:
[GW2] On the Sleeve, On the Mad King’s Tower
Posted on November 1, 2012 by Ravious
I had a blast for Halloween in Guild Wars 2! It was one of the best holiday events I can remember. I sadly did not get to participate in the new meta-events in Kessex Hills, Queensdale, and Gendarran Fields, but I made sure to try every other new thing at least once. One whole night was dedicated to the Mad King’s Tower, which was the most  controversial addition to the Shadow of the Mad King.
The lead designer for the Mad King’s Tower, Josh Foreman, has taken the brunt of feedback head on. This amazes me. Not only is ArenaNet’s policy to let their employees have a voice, but Josh is stepping directly in to the line of fire. I believe that this humanizes the relationship between player and game. It reinforces Guild Wars 2 as a service for a community.
For example, I think the biggest problem we had at Kill Ten Rats was that the combination of the puzzle with the grouping mechanics was akin to ice cream and oil. Josh, on his personal blog, came out and agreed that a soloable instance without a wait time would’ve been “no-brainers”, but technological limits were stopping the player’s route of least resistance. He reinforces this on the official forums. Josh goes on to say:
From the ground up, we designed our game mechanics to encourage cooperation and altruism in the community, and this JP’s mechanics broke that design aesthetic. It was an accident, but I still accept responsibility for it.
Another big issue, I think, was that players did not seem to understand that the Mad King’s Tower was optional to the main achievement for Halloween. There was still an achievement for completing it, but the title did not rely on the jumping puzzle’s completion. Here’s how Josh designed it for more casual players:
When I made this map I was HOPING that people who aren’t into jumping would do exactly this. They’d see a fun Halloween looking environment, maybe get to the first chest and snag a goodie, then be on their merry way. I see now it was a mistake to make the hardest jumping challenge in the game part of an in-your-face update like a holiday event.
Josh goes on to also discuss his method of testing jumping puzzles (as the biggest norn), and on his blog mentions that Wintersday is going to more “chill” (pun included). Come next Halloween, Josh is also on board for taking the Mad King’s Tower down, literally.
I think Josh appears to know how to take this in stride. Reddit’s top comment is he shouldn’t even apologize. Josh’s other jumping puzzles are some of the most heralded portions of stunning game design on an MMO not really intended to be a platformer. (For more of Josh’s works, also check out his deviantART gallery.)  It seems he has incorporated that knowledge in his responses to the feedback.
I am glad that ArenaNet allows its developers to push forward in game design. It is a risk not to play it safe. We wouldn’t have Guild Wars 2 if that was not a key part of their studio’s philosophy. Unfortunately, some things simply won’t work as well as they seem to on paper. ArenaNet, and Josh, seem to appreciate, respond, and iterate on feedback quite well in that regard. I am also glad that ArenaNet gives their designers voice. Josh handled the feedback with humility and aplomb, and responded in kind. Hopefully by this weekend, we’ll all be missing the pain and joy caused by the Mad King’s Tower, lost in the Mists for another year.
–Ravious