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Guild Wars 2: possibly my dream MMO?

September 5, 2011

Well, my earlier treatise about the ideal MMO may have had some high demands, but I think Guild Wars 2 will be the closest thing to realizing that “dream MMO”. I had mentally shelved Guild Wars 2, after having had my fill of Guild Wars 1, and waiting forever to hear /anything/ about GW2.

I don’t know what encouraged me to google GW2 again, but I did, and I came up with some mind-blowing videos.

This video on GameSpot talks about the custumizable armor, including dyes that you unlock. Awesome. There are a few other cool concepts covered in that video.

This video shows other features:

– Oblivion-level character customization. Silders for just about anything you would want to adjust. LOTS of patterns and skin options.

– Instances just for the individual player, as well as personality choices made by the player that impact later events.

– Open-world random events, called “dynamic events”, that scale to the number of players involved (YES!). Basically “Public Quests”, “Rifts”, or whatever you want to call them, but they actually scale with the number of players involved. The scaling ALONE makes GW2 better than Rift. Moreover, it appears that there will be a lot more of these dynamic events, and several can overlap in an area. Boss fights in open world areas also scale to the number of players. Wooo! Update: Apparently there will NOT be “exclamation mark above the NPC’s head” quests in GW2; all leveling will be through “dynamic events”. NICE! I’m so sick of FedEx and Fetch quests. Then again, I wonder how the game will guide players to the next area once they are ready…

– Action oriented gameplay!!!!!!!! (I can’t put enough exclamation marks on this point) It’s almost as if they read my freakin’ mind. The lack of action in the original was my biggest complaint with Guild Wars 1, and in the sequel, they are changing over to an action oriented system. It not only looks great, but you can also /dodge/ incoming attacks (by hitting a dodge button, not as some lamo passive avoidance stat). Incredible. There are also finishers in combat. HAH. I really, really didn’t think any game other than Conan would have finishers.

Another video, this time tournament-level PvP. This video really shows off the action, and shows WoW-esque PvP mixed with almost FPS style gameplay. Awesome.

Here’s Arena.net’s MMO Manifesto. They want to make a game that isn’t just another WoW clone, they want to get rid of grind. It looks like they are sick of the same shit I’m sick of. They also want players to be /excited/ to see other players in open world, rather than to see them as competition for experience or loot. According to the Wiki FAQ, participating in any battle whatsoever will yield full experience and loot. That is to say, you never have incentive to go it alone. In fact, if you do the math, group play is highly incentivized.

Based on the screenshots that I’ve seen, there will be a simple UI for finding multiplayer matches, just like those that you see in FPS games. It’ll show the map, the number of players (current/total), and let you join a game in session. They also seem to be working on interesting PvP maps with different game modes. According to that link, there is PvP autobalance too. THANK GOD. Basically, it’s FPS gameplay structure in a fantasy setting. Characters are set in an even PvP playing field: set at max level with equal gear. zomfg. I have been dreaming of this feature for /years/. If this ends up being real on release, I’ll stick with GW2 and balanced gameplay, and all you postage-stamp collector freaks that enjoy having an unfair advantage over other players can keep playing WoW. Please, stay in WoW. Bitching about not getting to 2-shot noobs needs to stay in Barrens chat. Persistence should NEVER overcome skill in a video game, and gear (i.e. rewards for persistence) should NEVER overcome ability.

While I’ve gotten my hopes up about MMOs in the past, I think this one might actually have the momentum, design, and style to sit next to WoW as king of the genre. If nothing else, the FPS-styled action combat, the unique gameplay model, and the one-time buy-in price (if they stick to that, fingers crossed) will put this game right there with WoW.

I got distracted while writing this post and tried playing some Guild Wars 1 (I just reinstalled it a few days ago). Still not to my tastes – again it’s the action that is lacking, especially in PvE. The population is a lot lower too, which kind of surprises me. It makes me wonder if there aren’t other free MMOs out there gobbling up the GW1 population.

I went through my laundry list of desires from an MMO, and it looks like GW2 will get the most important ones, but probably won’t get all of the less critical ones.

Update: I did a bit more reading today (9/7/2011) and I’ve found a few more noteworth things to comment on.

– First of all, they are getting rid of dual classes. Huh. Well… I have mixed feelings about that. It makes distinguishing a character’s role in a group by visual queues much easier. In GW1, you really never knew what you were playing against (at a glance anyway). So, now you will likely be able to tell at a glance what class someone is, based on their armor and weapon. But I’m really going to miss the PvE versatility of having dual class.

– No healers. Again something that I have very mixed feelings about. Warhammer Online was /supposed/ to not have healers, but there was outcry and sure enough: healers were in the game at release. Granted, Warhammer put in mechanics that forces /two/ of the three healer types to engage in combat to maximize their healing potential, but there was still PLENTY of stand-off healing. Anyway – I don’t know how well this will (or won’t?) work. If nothing else, yes, I believe it will force players to engage in a more active role. Also, I predict that there won’t be as many Mexican standoffs (as healers allow players to turtle).

– UPDATE – With that said, I just realized that it means no more holy trinity! According to the Wiki FAQ there won’t be any required class combinations in order to enjoy content. THANK GOD.

I really enjoy the healing / support role, but perhaps the benefits will make it worthwhile. Plus, this definitely forces Arena-net to rethink the T/H/DDD WoW formula that I said needs to be abolished. I wonder what they will come up with…

– Rogues CAN stealth. It boggles my mind whenever I see a Rogue class in a game without any kind of stealth. I’ve always enjoyed playing stealthies. UNFORTUNATELY, I won’t be playing a stealth /healer/ in GW2, because healing won’t exist, and because there won’t be dual classes.

– Good GOD, it looks like sidekicking will be in. I’ve got to say, this is my favorite feature of the Crypitic MMOs. Sidekicking will work both ways – lowbies will be able to group with high level players, and visa versa. AND, as per my Dream MMO post earlier, players entering a PvP area will ALL have their levels equalized. HAH. So much for ganking. This will keep griefers in WoW and away from GW2, I’m sure, since  they won’t be able to get their jollies by ganking lowbies in Stranglethorn Vale. This video shows Arena’s philosophy on the issue, which is EXACTLY how I feel about the issue: I should be able to game with my friends, period. Level gaps should NOT hold us back from having fun. Apparently, the players also scale to the level of the instance they will be going into, and gear scales to the level of the player – so as per my earlier Dream MMO post, players have every bit of incentive to go back to “old” instances, and they will always be challenging (even though to a lesser degree once you’ve out-leveled it). No more plowing through lowbie instances or “getting a run through” an instance.

Honestly though, the reason that I’m so excited about this feature is because it will allow me to group with my RL friends (Jack, Josh, you better plan on playing GW2!), and any friends that I make in the game.

– Instant transfer between servers! NICE! This is also part of the problem with most MMOs that don’t let friends play together. Bliz expects people to pay $25 for a server transfer. Rift offers free server transfers, which is great, but still no Sidekick system. Free server transfers and sidekicking = win.

– PvP variety? Well, there is WvWvW, which I still don’t fully understand but it sounds like a mix of open-world PvP and something like old-school Alterac Valley, where players can do group activites, solo activities, or raid / swarm activities to help win the battle. The video I linked earlier (this one) also includes a segment of the lead content designer talking about this. I REALLY, really miss Vanilla Alterac Valley, apparently so do others. WvWvW seems to be a good replacement for gool ol’ AV.

Otherwise variety will mostly have to be in the form of the different 5v5 and 10v10 maps, which are apparently the two game-sizes. That’s not bad for sizing. At first I was hoping for more players on each side, but now that I think about it, as long as the map designs are suited for those numbers, it’ll work out great. My favorite “PvP FPS” games usually allow teams of up to 10 anywa – and they are fun because the map size ensures that you are always in the action. And when you have TOO many players on the field at the same time, you have one of two major problems: either lopsided battles in one location because of an imbalance in the number of players at one place, or great distances to run between spawn and combat. That is exactly what happened in the Battlefield series – and it sucked. It was even worse in a fantasy setting, such as modern AV, where combat between 20v20 became a nasty slog, often resulting in a stalemate.

Anyway, we’ll see what kind of play variety there is when the game comes out.

– NO MONTHLY FEE. Yay. This is a big plus for someone that plays his MMOs on and off. This means I will surely end up coming back to the game repeatedly over time, even if it’s not as zomfg-great as promised. The only problem with this is that games that don’t require a credit card to play tend to have a significantly lower average player age – i.e. more kiddos. While WoW has NO shortage of children, tweens, and teens playing, the overall atmosphere of WoW was, in my experience, more mature than Guild Wars … believe it or not. I should add that this was true with ALL games that I played that didn’t require a credit card. Of course, the response I hear to this all the time is: “find a good guild”. Heh. I don’t really dig guilds anymore. Always way more drama than they are worth. I have very bad luck with guilds, it seems. Every guild I’ve joined dissolved due to drama and/or item greed between other members; or the guild was so inactive that it wasn’t worth being in.

– No henchmen? Interesting. When GW2 was first announced, they said that each player would have a unique “hero henchman” that was upgradable and usable when other players weren’t available. I have mixed feelings about the removal of henchmen. Being able to hire NPCs as group mates made GW1 FAR too easy to solo. When you incentivize solo play you take players out of the pool of available multiplayer candidates, going against the whole point of playing a multiplayer game. Yet, it was cool to have a Tamagotchi-style pet that you could develop. <shrug> Ultimately, I would much rather take the boost to multiplayer than to have a Tamagachi.

– Crafting: I haven’t brought this up yet, because I really don’t give a crap. I don’t remember the last time I took up crafting in a game and enjoyed it. EQ2 came close to being worthwhile because it provided a kinda fun minigame that actually impacts the quality of what you produce, but it was still tedious to manage all of the crafting ingredients. Otherwise, I couldn’t care less about the collect and “click to combine” style crafting. The only thing that caught my eye is that crafting will NOT be its own viable playstyle – players MUST adventure in order to gather crafting ingredients. YAY. Again, they are providing players incentive to play multiplayer.

My only SERIOUS gripe about GW2 at the moment is that it won’t likely be available for a very, very long time.

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