Friday, August 13, 2010

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 looks very nice and even seems to have some interesting ideas about how to change the MMO industry. Unfortunately it also has a lot of properties that I dislike. I collected some quotes of the web page and commented on them.

But what if you don’t want to read flowery language and pick from a lot of dialog? What if you just want to simply kill everything and hand in some heads for a reward? No problem! We understand that not everyone wants to hone their interpersonal skills with NPC banter, but we recognize they don’t want to miss out on all the benefits either. Well, have no fear because the most rewarding NPCs will, as an alternative, also sell their services for some gold if you haven’t developed your personality or earned enough karma. And if you truly don’t want to be bothered reading at all, we make clear the shortest path through a conversation so you can get back to the fighting.

This is a prime example of trying to cater to really everybody. Understandable, but doesn't really work well from experience.

First off, we set the level cap for the game at 80, but we made the time between levels rather short. Instead of taking longer and longer to reach each level, it takes about the same time to go through each level. It’s pretty simple; if we expect you to level up every few hours, then why shouldn’t it be that way all through the game?

80 levels. What a coincidence! And then you will get to cut through them really fast, because: Let's face it, nobody likes leveling or playing MMOs in the first place.

Defeat in Guild Wars 2 is intended to be an experience, not a punishment. Let's face it: dying never feels great, even without a death penalty. As weird as it might sound, we decided to look into what would make dying a more enjoyable and memorable play experience.

Finally a game where it pays to fail. Even Gevlon wasn't that pessimistic about the influence of M&S on MMOs!

Much like in Guild Wars, the skill bar in Guild Wars 2 is limited to a set number of skills. Like a collectible card game, we provide the player with a wide variety of choices and allow them to pick and choose skills to create a build that best suits their particular play style.

Tobold will love this. Let's see how many builds will be played in the end..

The core of this evolution is our event system, which allows the world to dynamically change based on actions and decisions made by the players. A single player decision can cascade across a zone, changing the direction of a chain of events until they dramatically alter the content played by players in a map.
All of these events continue to cascade out into further chains of events where cause and effect is directly related to the player's actions.

I just don't buy this. Sorry. It's too good to be true and I cannot even think of how it might work. Either all players are constantly completely changing the world (ridiculous) or only a few will ever do it.

All players that fully participate in an event are rewarded for doing so; everyone who helps kill a monster or blow up an enemy catapult will get credit for doing so. There is no kill stealing and no quest camping.
If a bunch of players leave the event, it will dynamically scale back down so it can be completed by the people who are still there playing it. This careful balance created by our dynamic scaling system helps ensure you have the best and most rewarding play experience.

So you try to do that quest, but there are those guys who just don't do anything. Unfortunately the quest has scaled ...
Besides: This is about as unimmersive as it gets.

Finding an entrance to a secret cave deep at the bottom of the ocean and removing a glowing orb from the cave could let an evil creature loose from its ancient prison and kick off a chain of events as the creature terrorizes the ocean shipping lanes.

This will become the most crowded cave in history.

It's time for the genre to take the next step, and explore the idea of a truly dynamic, living, breathing persistent world where the player's actions really make a difference, and everything that occurs in the game world has cause and effect. The event system in Guild Wars 2 is going to bring this concept of a dynamic world to life for our players and we cannot wait till you all get a chance to play it with us.

I always thought that the only way to make an MMO feel alive is to allow players to generate content, like e.g. EVE. And I still think that way. Even a hundred developers will not be able to entertain me in this way for more than a few days.

We believe that telling a story begins with creating a deep, realistic world. Player characters should be the focus as much as possible, and be offered choices and decisions that meaningfully impact the world around them.

No no no. A deep, realistic world cannot focus on the player. If it does, it is not deep or realistic anymore. These guys know not what they are talking about!

Every character experiences an interactive, distinct tale. We want you to build a character, not a character sheet.

I always loved character sheets. But maybe this way to build a character works too. We will see.

When the player gains an emotional investment in the personal story, they gain meaningful reasons to step forward and take the battle to the enemy - to defeat the dragons before everything they love is lost. No matter the character's individual background or choices, their city, race, friends, and companions are all threatened by the rise of the Elder Dragons.

You want me to believe that all those cities, friends and companions are threatended by the Elder Dragons (very creative)? So I assume that should I fail or log out for some time, the persistent world is consumed by those dragons. Right ?

Destiny's Edge was once a brave alliance of heroes dedicated to preventing the dragons from destroying the world. They have been torn apart, and old wounds prevent them from unifying. These heroes must be gathered once more, by the player character, for a final assault against the dragon of Orr.

Gather the heroes to defeat the big evil dragon. How much money did you pay the guy who came up with that completely new RPG plot?

Although we publicly beta-tested the original Guild Wars® while it was still in early development, with Guild Wars 2 we will commence beta testing closer to the game's release. Guild Wars 2 is a very large and ambitious game, and Guild Wars players rightfully have very high expectations. We want players to be absolutely blown away by the game the first time they experience it.

Be careful with your pride here..

Nope. Like the original Guild Wars, there will be no subscription fee for Guild Wars 2. You just buy the game and play it online without paying a monthly fee.

So you put it right into my face that you don't care about player rentention? Understood.

While Guild Wars 2 adds a persistent-world experience, it retains the unique characteristics of the original game, including strong narrative, extensive instanced gameplay, anti-grind design philosophy, and strong support for competitive play.

Anti-grind philosophy .. I always liked grinding, call me strange. Was a good activity for Friday night when you came home late.
Strong narrative .. The one with the heroes you need to gather to defeat the big dragon?
Extensive instanced gameplay .. Yeah, right .. add that to the persistent world.

Also, to allow players the freedom to play together even if their friends are at a much higher (or lower) level, we are planning to implement a strong sidekick system, similar to that used in City of Heroes™.
We're applying this same philosophy to competitive play. Players will be able to engage in organized, balanced PvP (similar to GvG in the original Guild Wars) without first leveling up characters, finding equipment, and unlocking skills. While inside the organized PvP area, all characters will be the same power level and will have access to the same equipment.

So, you first introduce very strong character progression and then remove it again, because it is too strong! Very convincing. Now, the world may be persistent, but my character is not !

We want to make underwater exploration easy and exciting for players and eliminate some of the traditional limitations (i.e., drowning) to aquatic travel found in many games. The underwater zones open up exciting new possibilities and greatly expand the explorable areas in Guild Wars 2.

I know it is the new hype, but I really don't think walking around under water is immersive or credible or even interesting. Ever tried to dip underwater for more than a few minutes and walk around? If I played an aquatic race, ok. But I am not!


  1. Nice write-up; I think you lay out pretty well where you and ArenaNet part ways on game philosophy, and no harm done.

    I do feel it's a bit of a mischaracterization to say that GW2 is aiming to please everyone on all fronts, since it's clear that it *won't* please people who do like to grind, people who like death penalties, people who like sandbox environments, etc. I do wish that ArenaNet would stop saying things like "nobody likes to grind" and such - obviously some people do! (I also feel that you mischaracterize the desires and mindsets of people who dislike those things, but it's your blog and your prerogative.)

    What I am grateful for is that for once (rather, the first time since Guild Wars 1) someone is making a game *I* want to play.

    I don't know how familiar you are with the first Guild Wars, but leveling was never the point or the goal of that game either, so the arbitrary number of 80 with an even time to level is not because leveling is a boring experience to be rushed through. It's controversial even among GW fans whether ANet should have done away with levels entirely instead of slapping the number on (perhaps to stave off the criticisms against the first game that the level cap was so "low" - when that was the point: you reached level cap 1/4 or 1/3 into the game and had so much left to learn that level cap meant nothing).

    In fact, much of what ANet is moving forward with with GW2 is a carryover from GW1 with renewed focus; a "bigger, better, more special" personal story, anti-grind philosophy, non-aggro combat mechanics, focus on protective enchanting/buffing rather than reactive healing (prot monks are always preferred and the first line of defense over healing monks, and even now it's possible to do content with only a prot monk in the party), the levels that don't matter, no subscription model.... and these mechanics worked well in GW1.

    Again, I know I'm not your audience or the audience for the kinds of mechanics you enjoy, but as someone who has tried more than a few subscription games in my time, the game I return to is Guild Wars, so I don't know that your non-retention comment holds. While it is entirely true that not having a sub means that players can come and go as they like, people who prefer that model use that as a reason to continually *return* to the game, rather than use it as an out to *leave* it, if that makes sense. It means that GW is always on my radar, because returning to it is effortless and costs me nothing. I find time and time again that when I weigh the fun I have in GW for free against the fun I have in subscription games, subscription games lose out on my time and investment again and again.

    But again, different audiences and different goals :)! What remains to be seen, and I am eager to see, is whether there are more of *you* than there are of *me* in the MMO world, and therefore what the population of GW2 will actually be like, provided it doesn't crash and burn under the weight of its promises.

    I do hope you enjoy yourself for a couple of months in GW2 until you tire of the content, and I assure you, I hope that folks like you and Keen get the game you're pining for as well.

  2. Thanks for that very long comment :)

    Interestingly, you will not find out whether there are more 'like you' or 'like me', because we will both buy GW2.

    Does GW2 puplish an equivalent to subscriber numbers ?

  3. I apologize for the length of my reply; I felt your post deserved more than a passing comment for the research and thought put into it, but I definitely do get wordy!

    You're right, there are no subscription numbers for GW due to there not being subscriptions, so in that sense only box sales "count"; however it's still pretty easy to tell whether the population is healthy or you're walking around a ghost town, so retention will be... noticeable. I expect a more accurate count reflected in the SW:TOR retention numbers since the draw from that game is somewhat similar to GW2 (franchise aside).