Yes, there is an endgame. Yes, there is progression at level 80. Popular opinion says otherwise, but popular opinion also elevated Justin Bieber to celebrity status and Shades of Grey to bestseller. Dismissing popular opinion as mindless drivel is not only justifiable — it’s pretty much the only way to approach everything these days. The endgame exists. One could say that he or she doesn’t personally find it entertaining, but to claim it doesn’t is just objectively wrong.
The problem, for some, seems not to be a lack of character progression—as mystic weapons and legendary weapons are clearly character progression— but that the content itself does not progress. One does not have access to only a single raid that must be repeated until certain rewards are earned and can move on to the next raid. And the dungeons that are available are all available at once.
But these dungeons are not linear dungeons. And when they branch, there is no way to backtrack and complete all branches in a single run. Between story mode and the multiple explorable mode paths, five dungeons ends up being about 20 unique bits of content, each a very different experience than the others even though there are only five starting points.
I cannot begin to count the number of ways I prefer this method. I can pick any of these endgame activities at any time — I’m not stuck repeating the same one indefinitely. And I do mean indefinitely. In the traditional tiered raid structure, I might need to run that first raid only once before I randomly get the item I need to survive the next raid, but I also might need to run it 57 times. There’s absolutely no way to gauge how long it will take before one can move on.
I hate that. Hate. Despise it with every fiber of my being. It’s blatant Skinnerian conditioning. The pigeon will peck the lever the most if rewarded inconsistently. Not every peck, not every 5 pecks, but just sometimes. The pigeon keeps pecking hoping that this peck will be the time.
Unfortunately, most people are pigeons. They call this “endgame progression” — I call it being a sucker. Hand over your $15 a month while we hide our content in a Skinner box to make you keep handing over $15 a month. Some found this fun. I pitied their fun.
Some complain that there are not tons of marginally-better-than-the-last-one items as rewards in these dungeons. Once again, that complaint is a selling point for me. I don’t want massive itemization — it’s just another way of forcing players into the Skinner box.
Are you beginning to understand that I find hidden behavioral manipulations terrible? I hope so.
Because that’s what I like about the Guild Wars 2 endgame. It doesn’t pretend. It is not attempting to insult my intelligence by claiming to have a lot of content to work towards after hitting max level. It’s saying, “Here is what we have, you can do almost any of it at almost any time, and there’s a lot of variety. If you enjoy it, do it all, and repeat the parts you enjoy. As you complete each part we’ll reward you by showing you clear progression towards a goal. We will not take these goals and hide them behind Skinnerian conditioning, forcing you to press that lever indefinitely. We will tell you exactly when that lever press will give a reward.”
And that’s damn refreshing. Well, that is, it’s refreshing if you see the Skinner box for what it is — a con. It’s not refreshing if you’ve allowed yourself to be convinced that endgame must be a single piece of content repeated indefinitely in hopes of a reward that leads only to repeating another piece of content indefinitely. If you’re willing to do that without knowing when the end will be, why in the world would you be upset that you can do any content in any order and know exactly when the end will be?
Conditioning. This popular dismissal is yet another example of people stuck in ruts, unable to see the walls that create the rut, insisting that the rut is the entirety of the world.