The Fear Balloon Cometh: GW2’s Winter Event Detailed

Better not cry/better not pout/I WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN.

A couple weeks ago, Jim brought attention to the fact that holiday cheer in Tyria is often eclipsed by the scariest parade float balloon any world has ever known. And when I say “eclipsed,” I mean it. Guild Wars 2‘s toymaker workshop is quite capable of blotting out the sun. But what purpose does such a titanic sky nightmare actually serve? Well, it belches out toys for children, naturally. And occasionally, those toys come to life in a frenzied bid to commandeer the massive humanoid airship and take over the world. But it sounds like things will be quite pleasant otherwise. Discover what exactly an “arsenal of gaiety” entails after the break.

See? Never before has something ominously loomed with such joyously festive fervor.

As has become tradition, ArenaNet’s also released an elaborate schedule of events for Wintersday’s week-long run. Among other things, it’ll kick off with a new jumping puzzle and a snowball fight. The main event, however, is the toy colossus slowly casting its shadow across all of Tyria, moving to a new location each day and producing new, area-specific events.

December 20th, then, will see it heave its tremendous bulk over Lion’s Arch, at which point the not-exactly-intimidatingly named Toypocalypse will kick off. Here’s the gist of it:

“The toys in Tixx’s workshop have gone haywire! They’re trying to take over the gigantic toymaking machine in the center of the workshop, and if they succeed, Wintersday will be ruined! Defend Tixx’s present-delivering dolyaks and the gigantic toy-making machine from waves of maniacal toys in these challenging and fun events.”

So yeah, on the whole, Wintersday sounds a bit more lightweight than previous Guild Wars 2 events, but I don’t think it’s intended to be quite on that level anyway. Plus, there’s cheer and merriment and the looming threat of the end of the entire world as we know it. And in the game.


  1. Hunchback says:

    320p video?

    We ordered this the other day, 2x, for me and the missus… Right on time for the xmas stuff apparently :)

  2. Laythe_AD says:

    “arsenal of gaiety”. Amazing.

  3. zapt says:

    Just recently picked this up again for a few hours a week after pretty much burning out on the post-release excitement and pouring hours into it.
    Finding it much more relaxing this time round, it’s a magnificent world to trot around on your own and explore, much of the pve zones are very quiet now. (I’m finding). Which I prefer, and I haven’t really found it a hindrance yet.

    • Screwie says:

      Totally. It’s a fantastic world to just wander around in.

      When I only have an hour or so to play at a time, I can still trot around with my max-level character in zones appropriate for their crafting level (which is much further behind) and gather resources for that. All while taking part in events and fighting enemies to match my down-levelled status, so I can grab some XP as well as my PvE Daily reward. I like that I play at my own pace and still achieve something.

  4. Aquarion says:

    May I suggest embedding the version from link to instead? It’s more hi-res, more official release and less “SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MOTHERFLOCKING CHANNEL, PEONS”

  5. Jonfon says:

    I hit 35ish and then gave up on it. I just didn’t seem to have anything interesting left to achieve with regards to new shiny powers and the like.

    Weirdly I’m playing the totally user-unfriendly, obtuse and frequently frustrating Star Trek Online instead, and enjoying it much more.

    It’s frequently a complete mess but at the same time it’s holding my attention more than the much better crafted & polished but rather samey GW2 did. (Weirdly GW2 and STO do have a few similarities in how you can swap powers in and out for your character)

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      I think the issue is kind of it spent so much time in it’s design ticking off all the sorts of things the gaming press love to hear about MMO’s, and to be honest if it had come out a bit later there would have been something emergent in there as well, with a big sign pointing to it saying ‘LOOK AT THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR EMERGENT GAMEPLAY!’ it kind of forgot to be all that interesting or fun.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I had the same experience, getting a couple characters to level 30 and then eventually wandering back to DayZ for my virtual world immersion sessions.

      GW2 trips up in a few areas for me:

      The zone design is just off. I think each zone has too many stories and set pieces, with the result that few stand out as memorable. Further when you walk through the zone it exacerbates the feeling that you’re walking from one activity/ride to the next.

      Oh yeah, since many of the zones reuse terrain, enemies, and props, they feel very samey.

      There are too many mobs given how long fights drag on, and they’re spread too evenly. I feel like there need to be some packs of “popcorn mobs” as in Torchlight to break things up. And as a corollary, there should be bigger negative spaces where you have a chance to just be in the world doing nothing.

      Combat itself is so twitchy that I just shut off my brain and play with my fingers, once I’ve learned the patterns – and personally that is not what I play RPGs for. I’d argue this is a result of several fundamental blunders they made while trying to inject more activity into MMORGP combat: I.e. Removing energy and streamlining sophisticated RPG skill mechanics into simple action brawler tools.

      Argh. Sorry to rant. There’s a part of me that feels like I should like the game more, and I have friends who play which adds to the pressure. The result is that I do a lot of brooding as to why I don’t actually enjoy it while trying to convince myself to give it another chance (for the 5th time).

      • aliksy says:

        I don’t think we played the same game.

        Most trash mob fights are over pretty quick, maybe 5-10 seconds. Not long enough for slow skills to fully recharge, anyway.

        Not sure what you mean by re-use terrain. Areas are typically similar but not identical to their neighbors. Orr kind of sucked, though.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          Good question about terrain, I was unclear. Obviously every RPG reuses terrain and enemies. But I remember old Vanilla WoW, and for all its issues most every zone felt unique and had a clear theme and story tied into it.

          The Barrens is “orange game hunting with oases”, while running under the wall into Ashenvale put you in bright purple-green land of raging furbolgs and demonic infestation. There were different sorts of trees and wildlife that were divvied up to different zones in sensible ways, and often zones had specially colored tilesets that gave the entire area its own atmosphere and personality.

          Maybe I’m just missing some of the details in GW2 (or haven’t gotten far enough in yet), but it feels to me like there are few unique combinations, and little if any custom color/tile work. That said, each zone usually has a unique “map event chain”, but in my experience it usually isn’t integrated into the zone-wide story and atmosphere very tightly.

          I’m hard pressed to really define a strong theme for any of GW2’s zones, because they’re all jumbles of a bunch of the same stuff, rather than concise combinations of a few iconic assets.

          I will give GW2 credit for having a huge amount of bespoke set dressing, however. I never feel like I’ve entered a copy-pasted town, ruin, or cave system, which is a great achievement.

          As to the combat, I tend to play a lot of support-oriented characters, so that might explain the “fights last too long” complaint. Maybe it’s not absolute length, but just the fact that all fights have similar pacing that bothers me? You’re probably right, this might just be me whining.

          • Phantoon says:

            “the zones in vanilla wow had clear themes”
            I guess if you count Barrens being the worst place ever as a “theme”, sure. And Azshara and Blasted Lands being completely ignored save for people wanting to do the only quests related to it or kill the boss out there, that’s a theme too.
            I think you’re being apologist when no one was attacking your stuff.

          • malkav11 says:

            While WoW’s zones are definitely quite distinct from one another, they also mostly don’t feel like any sort of coherent world (except maybe in Pandaria, which I haven’t explored terribly deeply yet). I’m honestly not sure which I prefer between WoW’s style and GW2’s style, but I think worldbuilding has been done better in other MMOs – the Secret World, say, or, earlier, Anarchy Online. Or in some respects Everquest II, which feels pretty cohesive and cogent as a setting even if it also feels remarkably generic and I can’t bring myself to care particularly about its characters and narratives. (This isn’t to say GW2 is anything other than spectacular, artwise.)

            Also, FWIW, weapon and skill choices will vary your experience a lot no matter what class you play in GW2. You should be able to structure some sort of effective killing setup in most (maybe all) classes, and even if you enjoy playing support (which I can understand), you probably aren’t going to get much mileage out of doing it solo.

          • socrate says:

            phantoon you sound so much like a fanboy haha…and not in a good way you make GW2 look bad if anything

            anyway barren and blasted and az all had story related to them unless you were completely blind and didint read anything even in cata they reinforced and advanced barren story very well and i really got into that zone in vanilla pvp made it even more living but i really didin’t get into az that much,blasted land was always awesome because of the story told there and the stuff that happened before in Warcraft there,maybe you never played warcraft or followed the story but imo WoW vanilla made sure to have alots of key moment in there like the blood from the crown in lordaeron that was still there in WoW and the ghost walking around the place with see invis…really nice and thats just a really few minor thing.

            i guess you need to know alots of the backstory and get interested at first…Guild wars 2 to me also feel extremely poor in storyline and didin’t really keep me interested very long add to this that the story tend to branch out in just 1 place at mid 20 and lvl 30….it just turn out very boring for alt and the story is kind of really uninspired to me..its really not why i played the game at all.

            Now for these event the halloween one wasnt that great compared to so many great one from WoW and the dungeon was a pain to do without a LFG system in place…you end up with alots of time searching for a group at some point and like LFG it doesnt mean you will be able to do it and that you will have a good group…but unlike LFG it take forever to join one in the end…and the event itself was quite boring…hope this one is ALOTS better…im at the point that im about to just stop playing and just log in from time to time to check out whats new since WvsWvsW is all that is keeping me and in the end only end up being a back and forth boring thing that keep repeating itself in a not fun way and depend highly on server pop more then anything else which mean ranking is pretty much flawed.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            I thank everyone for their replies, good points on all sides. I wasn’t trying to start a kerfuffle here, just wanted to contrast the two techniques and methodologies in world design and see if we could have a little discussion about their pros and cons.

            In short:

            I think GW2’s world is represented in a much more naturalistic way, which fits their overall aesthetic. Unfortunately like realistic graphics, I think it can get a bit busy and lose focus in places.

            On the other hand WoW represents its world like a cartoon represents a character, with big, simple details and exaggerated proportions – it’s not realistic, but it can be easier to connect with and remember, which is probably why I still have such strong impressions of it – despite the fact that I sort of hate WoW nowadays.

            Ah well, again, interesting reading. Thanks!

  6. f1x says:

    If this new jumping puzzle is anything like the clockwork tower… <3

    • Phantoon says:

      YES! I am very excited. I enjoyed the clocktower immensely.

  7. Antsy says:

    I’d like to go back for a look this Christmas but Planetside 2 has me by the balls.

  8. Vinraith says:

    Ah, nostalgia. Wintersday brought me back to GW1 so many times, and would usually either start or end a several month playing jag. Playing through the events with friends actually got to be something of a holiday tradition, absurd as that is. I miss it, I must say, and hope the new GW2 crowd has some of the same experiences in the new game (even if it’s not my cup of tea).

  9. aliksy says:

    Was a great game that I quit over the vertical grind/”progression”. Fuck ascended items. Fuck gear checks. Fuck content gating via gear. If they threw that out and spent more time making interesting, world-shaping events I’d go right back to being a gw2 zealot.

    • Zelos says:

      Was a great game that I quit over the complete lack of progression, vertical or horizontal.. Fuck skills being attached to weapons. Fuck PvE that required no skill whatsoever. Fuck using the same skills from level 30. If they threw that out and spent more time creating interesting skills and skill combinations, I’d go right back to being a GW2 zealot.

      • Brun says:

        This. GW2 wanted to be a “progressionless” game, but its architecture wasn’t really built around that concept. It would have been better had it embraced SOME kind of progression more fully.

      • Vizari says:

        That made me sad. Having all the wanted skills from level 30 with ease.

        One of the best parts about GW1 was the immense amounts of skills and the hunting for them.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        Agreed with vehemence. The more I played GW2 the more firmly I concluded that they fucked up when abandoning GW1’s skill system.

        It had its problems, but boy did it sink its hooks in when you started to unlock skills or learn new combinations that worked in ways you didn’t even know were possible. The soulless trickle of gear (while leveling or at 80) and utility skill unlocking of GW2 is a miserable substitute.

      • aliksy says:

        Would’ve been cool if they had added more skills instead of items, assuming they didn’t mandate grinding to get the new stuff. I guess they didn’t want to recreate a big complicated system that would scare off players.

        I think it’s good to get all your tools “with ease” – This crazy idea that you need to “earn” stuff is toxic and needs to die. Prestige armor, titles, stuff that has no mechanical effect is fine to “earn”, but stuff that matters should be available to all.

        • Brun says:

          I think it’s good to get all your tools “with ease” – This crazy idea that you need to “earn” stuff is toxic and needs to die.

          Disagree with that statement, but I think his point was that the ease with which you obtain pretty much everything you need, ever, means there’s very little to work toward at a relatively early point in the game (~level 30 or 40). Which means there’s little reason to keep playing the game.

          Mechanically GW2 wasn’t really built to keep people engaged without some form of progression. WvW should have been the answer to that, but:

          A) Not everyone is into that.
          B) Its implementation was rather lackluster.

          The proper way to do it would have been to make it more emergent a la EVE (as that then provides a reason to keep playing), but doing so would essentially turn the game into a faction- or guild-based PvP game, and thus it would be fundamentally different than the current product.

          • aliksy says:

            ” Which means there’s little reason to keep playing the game.” – I think this is where we disagree. I kept playing after 30 (and 80) because I enjoyed the game. I enjoyed the combat, I enjoyed exploring, I enjoyed doing events. I think games should be fun to play, and using stuff you “work towards” as a carrot encourages lazy design.

            There are plenty of games that don’t have ‘progression’ that get played for hours and hours.

            I think they could make a game that was less focused on acquiring stuff and more on doing stuff. I personally had a lot of fun in WvW taking over towers and keeps, but there’s not really anything like that in PvE. The events to take over temples in Orr come close, but they tend to be kind of zerg-y, quick, repetitive, and they don’t change all that much when you succeed.

            Also they kind of dropped the ball on the home instance thing. Pretty sure there’s a sizable chunk of players who would shell out cash to customize their home, or to be able to host things in their homes. Ditto for guild halls.

            Kind of drifting into ‘general criticisms of gw2’ now, though.

          • Brun says:

            There are plenty of games that don’t have ‘progression’ that get played for hours and hours.

            And those derive their core gameplay from emergent-esque elements like PvP. GW2 does not, and as you say the PvE element doesn’t have an equivalent of WvW. If you aren’t into WvW, or don’t like its implementation, GW2 doesn’t have much in the way of gameplay after you hit 80.

          • aliksy says:

            “And those derive their core gameplay from emergent-esque elements like PvP.”
            I was thinking more of single player games. I put hours and hours into, say, Fallout or Quake or Crawl or whatever because those games were fun to play. You don’t need PvP.

            GW2’s regular PvE content wasn’t exactly challenging though, and if you’re not into exploring it might feel a bit pointless to check out other areas. I was having fun, though. There were some interesting little stories hidden away in the world you might not see if you just rushed to 80 and stayed in the max-level areas.

            Also I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finishing a game and playing something else. If you’ve exhausted GW2’s content… take a break, come back later.

          • Brun says:

            Single player games can be emergent (just look at Skyrim), but it’s harder to do emergent PvE in MMOs without things feeling scripted, which is why I highlighted PvP.

            Exploration will only carry you so far, and GW2’s mechanics can make exploration a pain in the ass – having to hoof it everywhere on foot was *very* time-consuming and boring, and the level scaling meant that you had to constantly fight your way through enemies to get anywhere interesting.

          • aliksy says:

            I kind of liked the level scaling, because I don’t like when max-level people trivialize early content. Level scaling could make playing any area of the game viable, no matter your level, but it wasn’t really implemented well. I was able to one-hit critters ~60 levels below me, and trivialize most everything else.

            I wonder if they could do more complex maps like you’d find in PvP/WvW, with capture points and mini-events, but for PvE. Like a big castle filled with NPC enemies, and let players take it over. And then defend it once it’s captured. Like the temple of lyssa, but bigger and less annoying.

            But I’m kind of just speculating at this point. I was having fun with the game, but it’s fairly evident other people weren’t. And I think that’s fine, since you won’t ever make a game that pleases all types of players.

        • Apocalypse says:

          On the level scaling I have to say: It works rather well. People often forget that gear progression is not totally linear in GW2.

          Rear scales as well, but if you compare a level 5 char to a level 80 char chances are still good that the level 80 wears exotics with triple attributes while that level 5 char wears on my item slots simply nothing and there are for this level no exotics nor rare items in the game.

          If you gear up your little twink you can run into similar “problems” of killing mobs that have to same level with a single skill. What that twink will lack is traits and utility skill points.

          • Shooop says:

            That is exactly why level scaling doesn’t do a thing. The equipment, attribute bonuses and traits a high level character has gives them a very tangible edge over anything else lower than their level.

            The only thing it successful does is make it aggravatingly hard for anyone trying to explore areas on their own by dragging them down sometimes even lower than the enemies’ levels.

            Nobody plays this game as a MMO anymore. Ask for help on the official forums and they’ll tell you “L2P”.

        • Phantoon says:

          I thought fractals were pretty great, myself. I’ve done them on freshly minted 80s with nothing more than green gear and gotten by just by using my skills well.

          Also, it’s interesting that people that dislike this game because of “grind” all played the original, and don’t like some of the changes. All the same changes, that is.

      • Shooop says:

        It’s a shame really. They’ve made such a great world and filled it with such great characters but no one but the most brain-dead drooling idiots actually likes the gameplay which is the typical MMO crap of “press the portrait of the attack at the bottom of the screen over and over again and if you fail, it’s because you needed more people next to you doing the same thing.”

        Can we all be rid of MMOs forever yet? I really want to see this game world in a game that’s actually enjoyable.

        • Phantoon says:

          As a brain-dead drooling idiot: Kindly go fuck yourself with a lathe.

          • Shooop says:

            Sorry but I make it habit not to do what any brain-dead drooling idiot tells me to. It’s one reason why I never played WoW or voted for John McCain.

            Snark-guns unloaded, is that really the reason you play the game? For the combat “mechanics” and not anything else?

  10. Muzman says:

    It’s The War on Christmas Gone Mad! /mail

  11. Dominic White says:

    Edit: Wrong thread. Bugger!