ArenaNet was extremely clear on what kind of game they thought was awesome and that they wanted to make. They said death penalties weren't fun, that people should get to the best gear quickly, that players should get rewarded playing whichever part of the game suits them.
A year later, they've reversed all of that. It looks a great deal like they decided they couldn't stick to their guns, and caved to what they thought the players were saying shortly after launch.
Yet in that Collaborative Development thread, there are posters saying that ArenaNet should not listen to people complaining about Ascended Gear and pushing people into certain parts of the game to get rewards, because they are the developers and should stick to their guns.
It's kinda mindboggling. Which is it? Was the original vision the game ArenaNet wants to make and they caved to financial pressure? Or did they have a massive epiphany that they wanted to make a completely different game, and need to resist caving to "forum whining" to restore the original vision?
Which all comes down to something that is (unfortunately only occasionally) being repeated on the forums recently. What is the current vision for this game? We have roadmaps about things that will be implemented in the near to farther future, but no sense of what ArenaNet's core principles are anymore.
Unfortunately, the Collaborative Development thread got derailed for quite a while on how to poll the players for info. Which is bizarre, really. There's a ton of feedback for the developers. The problem is that they aren't adequately communicating back. In order to feel like we are being heard, we don't need more venues to share our thoughts with ArenaNet. We need ArenaNet completing the other half of the conversation and saying, "We've specifically heard concern A, B, and C, as well as suggestion X, Y, and Z. We want to address each of those concerns. Here is specifically why X won't work, we have an idea of how to make Y happen, and would like to alter Z to Z.5 to really make it address concern C in a way that is fair for the entire player base and viable for us as a company that needs to make a profit for our investors."
I honestly think that GW2 was the unfortunate game that was closest to release when NCSoft needed a new game to pull them out of some financial issues. If you look at their financial statements from right before GW2 was release, you will see that they were close to going from black to red and their stock was tanking.
I think we all know that GW2 wasn't ready for release when it was released. Everything was hastily put together - and it showed.
Knowing that the payment model for GW2 was going to be the same as GW1, NCSoft needed to make sure that they could profit from micro-transactions. Hence, we see Kristin Cox get involved. Also, we see Nexon become a large shareholder of NCSoft stock - a company that is based on micro-transactions.
So, what does this have to do with the direction of ANet? Well, I think that GW2, much like GW1, was always going to be a niche game. It wasn't made to cater to hardcore MMO players. It was designed to take some of the best parts of GW1 and merge them with a persistent world where, in my opinion, Dynamic Events were supposed to play a major role in the game. And they did, at least in the beginning.
However, if we accept that NCSoft has already targeted GW2 as a profit center, then we may assume that NCSoft also had to protect that profit center from any issues that might arise. One of those issues could clearly be the fact that GW2 wasn't designed to be like a traditional MMO. Was that something that NCSoft felt safe with? Who knows? But, it is certainly safer to design an MMO that feels more like an MMO than like a niche game.
So, and I know this is all just a theory on my part, but I think that in order to make sure they could profit the most, NCSoft directed ANet to make the game more like a normal MMO. This is why we see the change in philosophy. Not because the players wanted it, or ANet wanted it, but because it was the safest way for NCSoft to protect its investment.
I'm sure I'm gonna get crucified with sarcastic and snide comment for this post...