Tag Archives: arenanet

All Aboard

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that this week is the E3 Expo in Los Angeles (probably video gaming’s biggest convention in terms of developer participation and announcements). Appropriate then, that I’m starting the week off talking about hype…begin Hype Week!

The greatest hype train of all...

This past weekend was a long one for me; we had a significant software update to the system for which I share responsibility; upgrades of this nature typically involve long hours as we try to get a lot of things done during a very short windows that our users have agreed is an acceptable downtime. The last two days were no exception. After putting in nearly a normal work week (for us 37.5 hour-a-week “drones”) over two days, I’m tired but sufficiently pleased at what we got done. Higher education might not be the most exciting or “forward thinking” in terms of technology, but you really can’t complain about the schedule – one weekend a year is well worth it. Mission accomplished.

What this weekend did allow me to do is catch up on some reading. The silver lining to doing major BI system upgrades is that most of the steps entail a nice chunk of work followed by a lengthy downtime as the systems crunch through their processes. So I caught up on some GW2 reading.

Basically, I stopped paying much attention to Guild Wars 2 after they announced the Ranger. By that time I was sufficiently sold that the game was going to be well worth the investment; ArenaNet could have stopped there and already guaranteed my pre-order for the Collector’s Edition. Plus, I’ve had a really averse reaction to The Hype recently and, honestly, I don’t follow the MMOs or games I’m most looking forward to anymore. At least, not through official channels. Basically, if I want to know about TOR I read MMOGamerChick and if I want to know about Guild Wars 2 I read Kill Ten Rats (I actually read many others, but I find their thoughts and opinions have really meshed with mine in the past).

With all that “downtime” staring me in the face in 20 to 30 minute chunks, and no energy to muster for other projects, I figured I would bite the bullet, dive in, and really catch up on the GW2 information I’d intentionally tried to ignore.

Now I’m excited.

I blame the reveal of the Engineer. I managed to hold out through Norn Week and even through the reveal of The Thief. But the Engineer broke me. Not that I’m interested so much in the class as much as that the Engineer is such a divergence from what I expected. The first hard evidence of exactly how much the world of Tyria has changed since the first game. And it’s the most striking evidence (in my mind) of how much the developers have changed, and are hoping to change, about the way we play.

Some quick thoughts:

  • It’s not about solo or group play, it’s just about playing. Between the already-stated flat leveling curve (can it really be called a curve?) and the obvious self-sufficient nature of all the classes, it’s clear that ArenaNet has kept the solo player in mind. However, from what I’ve seen so far the classes complement each other so well that seeing what’s possible when working together is reason enough to group up. If the “dynamic content” can truly scale up and down, effectively and seamlessly, so as to always keep things challenging then ArenaNet has something truly game changing.Most times I log in to an MMO, I’ve already determined what my focus will be for that session – solo questing, group content, crafting, reputation, etc. It takes the adventure out of it a little bit. Why can’t I just log in and “see what happens”? RIFT does this somewhat, and GW2 seems to be going that route too.
  • The combat looks terrific. I always liked the combat in Guild Wars because it was a lot more fast-paced and strategic than many of its brethren. When you can only bring 8 skills into play at once, combat becomes more about position, prioritizing targets, and superior strategy. Combat just seems a lot more active; hopefully Guild Wars 2 (and the crop of action-oriented MMOs that are approaching) have brought an end to the era of toe-to-toe, ‘mano-a-monster’ fighting that’s really just about clicking the right button out of 40 or more, at the right time. Add to this the skill-swapping that occurs with changing weapons and players can still adapt on the fly.
  • This looks like the game I wanted Guild Wars to be. There have always been things about Guild Wars that I’ve absolutely loved – in particular, the lore, the class system, and especially the visuals. But the game could never really hook me like other MMOs and I’ve always ended up playing in small chunks of time (I’ve never even finished Nightfall or even purchased Eye of the North. Mostly it’s because of the highly instanced nature of the game. While instancing the adventure areas makes possible some of what Guild Wars does best, it’s hard to complain. But being separated from the population at large just kept it from clicking. Guild Wars 2 is looking like it has the best of both – everything I loved about the original with a more open world that still allows ArenaNet to create the experiences they want.

As you can tell, ArenaNet has me. I was excited for Guild Wars 2 and there was never any doubt about playing it. But now I am well and truly slavering at the bit to get my hands on this game. *sigh*

Drooling, While Stabbing My Ears Out

AHHHHH! The pain...

ArenaNet posted new information for Guild Wars 2 today; it covers the third class revealed so far – the Ranger.

Looks like I’ll be wanting to play a Ranger in Guild Wars 2 even more than I like playing them now in the original. My main avatar in Guild Wars is a Ranger/Elementalist (though I’ve thought about switching up the secondary once that becomes available). “Main” is a bit misleading here, as I abandoned all of what I started when I first purchased Guild Wars so many years ago.

I have to say, the Ranger looks even more enticing after watching the videos. They didn’t need to convince me, but check out the video for Serpent Strike. The picture below just doesn’t do it justice.

Ranger's Skill: Serpent Strike

That green trail? Pure Awesomeness.

Man, that skill is just cool looking, especially followed up with that knife-throwing trick. And the rest of the videos are just as good.  Just about the only thing ArenaNet could do to make me want to play Guild Wars 2 even more is introduce a class that actually, fully uses stealth (like Burglars in LotRO or Rogues in WoW). And the only thing they could do to make me want to play Guild Wars 2 even less is to have those voice-overs as a part of the game. Seriously? If those are in the game, I need a way to mute myself. (Note to ArenaNet: These videos are already Pure Internet Joyfullness™ in video format. They stand on their own, you don’t need “witty banter”.)

I never played the Assassin class in Factions (mostly never found the time to play through Prophesies so I would feel “okay” about starting a new character in Factions – I know, I’m weird like that…). So I don’t know if stealth is an option for me now. If it becomes a class in GW2, I’m going to…well, I don’t honestly know what I’m going to do. I better figure out how to get paid for playing these games!

There’s a lot of great information about the class in the reveal, and a really nice summary and discussion over at Massively; there’s not much more I could say that isn’t already pointed out there.

I will say this: I’m beginning to agree with Syp that Guild Wars 2 could be the game that completely dominates the next round of MMOs.

Why Can’t Fun Be Tense?

Overall, I’ve been pretty excited about all of the news that has been releasing thus far on Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet has a well-deserved reputation for taking mechanics considered “standard” and turning them on their head – in a very good way.

I’m even pretty pleased with the recent article about Healing (sorry, Support!) and Death in the game. As a player with limited time, taking some of the “punishment” out of death, and rethinking the holy trinity of Tank/Healer/DPS, can only be good. Greater flexibility in character classes and skills, a little more self-reliance within each class, and some streamlining of grouping and questing means that I spend more of my limited gaming time having fun. Not “preparing to have fun” as the article puts it; waiting for the right combination can be a hassle.

This is one thing that’s never made sense to me: when building the “holy trinity”, why is there only one class that can fill such a critical role? Granted, in LotRO there is more than one class that can heal, but out of nine total classes, only one is a true healer. WoW has one class (maybe two) out of ten. The Old Republic presumably has two out of eight (or sixteen). The list goes on. For a role that is so critical, you’d think developers would create more options.

I loved the “last stand” mechanic of Borderlands (and the Left 4 Dead games); when you’re reduced to near-death, the game gives you a few moments to rally. In Borderlands, if you can defeat any enemy within that half-minute-or-so, you’re restored to working health and can continue fighting. In Left 4 Dead, it’s up to your teammates to help you out, but you can still fire your pistols when downed, contributing something to the fight. Guild Wars 2 will apparently take a similar approach, and I’m all for this. A dynamic scale of effectiveness, as in decreased ability when one’s health/morale approaches zero, is a great idea. I can definitely see how it will add a new layer to combat. Rubi Bayer puts it perfectly in her article on Massively: “If you’ve got an enemy at 10% HP, why is he still fighting and casting at full strength?”.

However, Mr. Peter’s (or maybe I should say the game’s) attitude towards death doesn’t sit quite right with me. One particular statement really stuck with me (emphasis added): “Death penalties make death in-game a more tense experience. It just isn’t fun. We want to get you back into the action (fun) as quickly as possible.” The association seems to be that Tension = Not Fun.

While I’m all for maximizing fun, it seems like ArenaNet has missed the point here. At the least, I think they’ve taken their philosophy of “no mechanic is sacred” a bit too far. A death penalty isn’t just a way for the developers to slap a “Suck” sticker on our foreheads. It’s a part of the Risk-Reward game lends meaning to our actions, and pretty much sits at the core of all gaming. Sure, combat is fun (it better be for how much time we spend fighting!), but being in combat for the sake of combat is just shallow. The possibility of failure, even when the penalty is relatively mild, lends some depth and challenge to combat. And yes, some tension. Why can’t fun be tense? Why is tension anathema to enjoyment? I think many fans of horror movies would have something to say here.

It’s not a huge thing. Considering that we’ve yet to learn all there is to Guild Wars 2, it could be a very small thing. But it’s indiciative of ArenaNet’s thinking. And it’s the first thing I’ve learned about Guild Wars 2 that’s given me a moment of pause, and doubt.

Interference Prevails

Luckily it’s been a slow day or two (at least, as far as MMO news for those games about which I care), so the interference thrown at me by the Real World has been less than bothersome. Aside from the normal bother, that is.

There’s this. And, of course, this. As a current player, I always like the LotRO Welcome Back Weeks/Weekends. I make it a point to get in on an alt or two to make the most of the bonus experience, and the savings at the Stablemasters. Hauling back and forth between the Lone Lands and North-Downs can get expensive, and I’ve never liked grinding through one of those in one swoop; by the time you get through one, the other has lost a lot of its value. And as both are somewhat blah visually, I like to get the most out of them while I spend my time there. Thing is, Turbine seems to be throwing quite a few of these “Welcome Back” events recently, and that makes me a little nervous.

Catching up on some reading, I came across this post by SynCaine. I agree with it wholeheartedly, both as a fan of the Warhammer universe (though I’ve always been partial to the Warhammer 40k setting), and a former player of WAR. I’ve always felt it was a shame that I payed for WAR, because if I’d started now, I’d have saved myself the money. I never took a single character past what is now included in the Endless Trial.

There were several reasons I never stuck with the game, but a lot of them come back to the same disappointments SynCaine expresses. The feeling I get playing WAR just doesn’t match up to the lore of the world I’ve grown up reading and playing; it’s too much like WoW, and not enough like it’s source material. Also, when I was playing, the Tier 1 areas were mostly empty. I imagine this issue has been somewhat alleviated by the Endless Trial, but the damage was done (for me, at least).

There are some great things about WAR, no doubt. Public quests. Item customization and cosmetic items. The IP itself is world-renowned. The implementation, however, is lacking. There’s too much between me and the fun.

ArenaNet Blog

Now with more manifesto!

ArenaNet opened up their blog today with a strong statement:

“Our games aren’t about preparing to have fun, or about grinding for a future fun reward. Our games are designed to be fun from moment to moment.”

That pretty much sums it up, and, for me, it’s the most important point being made. The entire post is a great read, and if you’re a fan of Guild Wars, or looking forward to GW2, I definitely recommend it. Also, Bio Break has a good summary of the major points; check it out.

A few things jumped out at me as I read through it. First and foremost, it really seems like ArenaNet has embraced the idea of streamlining the gaming “process”. The biggest to me was “encouraging” socialization without forcing it into a specific mechanic. From the description, it sounds like the process of formalized grouping has taken a back seat, and the game will automatically recognize a player’s contribution to a situation, and reward them appropriately. At the very least it seems like it will mitigate the competition for grinding mobs. At best, it will enhance the experience by actively rewarding players who come to each other’s rescue. It’s a great idea, and I’m going to love seeing how it plays out.  They’ve borrowed a few ideas from their colleagues, such as public quests, a personal story, and more dynamic combat, but seem to, again, be defining their game on their own terms. Considering that the original Guild Wars is a uncontested success, this only means good things for fans of the game and the genre.

They’re also adding in some of the traditional RPG elements I really miss in the original game. Or so they say. Either way, it’s looking really good. As if I wasn’t excited enough, now I’m practically frothing at the mouth to try this game.

Hanging Out in Tyria

Shocking!Guild Wars is amongst my favorite games for a number or reasons. First, it’s just so pretty. ArenaNet has some of the most talented and creative artists, programmers, and modelers in the industry. I’d play the game just to do the sightseeing even if it weren’t as fun as it is. Second, very low barrier to entry – no monthly fee and it’s structured in such a way that you can jump in and out during a lunch break and feel like you got somewhere.

About six months ago, I started to hear things about Guild Wars 2, and started to see the smattering of news that was being released. My interest in the original was renewed, I got it installed quickly, and even purchased the Factions expansion (last I had played, they were leading up to the release of Factions). Because I’m such a sucker for story, and with the indication that Guild Wars 2 actually builds on the story of the original games, I set myself the goal of working through as much of the original content as possible. I have no doubts that I will pick up the sequel, and with limited playing time, I’m unsure if I’ll ever get back to the first games.

When I stopped playing last, I had gotten a Ranger/Monk as far as Bergen Hot Springs. I left him there. I didn’t have a good feel for the game, and as I didn’t remember much of the story, I just decided to start at the beginning. So far, Drannos has gotten to Yak’s Bend. A few observations so far:

  • What’s going on with everyone standing around? Perhaps I’ve never noticed this in other games, but it seems like this phenomena is unique to Guild Wars. The City of Ascalon is packed with people just standing, doing apparently nothing. I’m more accustomed to a higher level of activity; people I encounter in-game are usually doing something, and even in the common areas (Bree, 21st Hall, etc.) where groups gather, it’s usually for a reason. Ascalon is a field of zombies. What am I missing? Guild chat? A title for time spent logged in? What?
  • I love that ArenaNet gives you all the information on the game (or nearly as good as), but has you rely on your skills and your strategy to actually get through the content. Within weeks or months of most MMOs, there are fansites and online databases of every facet of the game; this doesn’t work well for, say, quest design that intends the player to explore or puzzle out what needs to be done. They can just go to a wiki and look up the answer.
  • While I know that instancing is a huge part of the game’s overall design, I find myself (once again) a little annoyed at how this translates into gameplay. Generall, ArenaNet is pretty good about not making the player run back and forth to the same area over and over for a quest chain. But it still happens, and having to clear an area time and time again when all I really needed to do was pop back into town and run out again, can get tiresome.

Finally, I’m experiencing a serious spike in the difficulty curve once out of Ascalon. I ran most of Ascalon with one or maybe two other NPCs. Now I’m hard pressed to get places with a full group of seven (including my pet). Perhaps I’m doing something wrong? I know the game is centered very much around builds and I’ve never been great at figuring out good combinations – anyone have any suggestions?