Category Archives: Guild Wars

[GW2] Day 1

Disclaimer: This is officially not a hype post. Why? Because GW2 is out now! Lalalaa.

After launching three hours early (and me being in two hours early), GW2 was off to a rocky start yesterday noon when the EU servers suddenly kicked out everybody and went dead for three full hours. That makes me think that cannot have been coincidence – maybe the three hours early start anticipated what was to come? Just kiddin’…

Anyway, the day still ended on a very high note for me after ANet fixed the server hiccups. Many of my own impressions are resonated in Pewter’s current list of thoughts, particularly what she says about not feeling alone but part of a bigger body that is all around you. Games like Journey prove that the feeelings of togetherness an cooperation are not created merely by speech/chat. Since players do not rely that much on chat during questing, they actually start minding each other more directly and proactively; my partner pointed out how for ongoing events, even large groups would stick together tightly, keeping up coordinated formations. I find myself frequently hovering over players killing tougher mobs, just to check for their healthbars (wtb HP display here). And even when the big ass giant in Nageling wreaked havoc on an army of 50 players and I died instantly like a noob, not one but four players came to my aid! This is GW2’s cooperation – day one – for you.

Besides that. I will follow my blogging neighbours’ example in posting a few quick first day tidbits:

  • While skills and tiers are still somewhat obscure to me right now (why do I still need to “waste” so many points on lackluster skills?), I recommend the following three must-get skills to my fellow rookie Elementalists. They will make your life much easier at start:
      • Go straight for the 3rd superior healing skill, Signet of Restoration
      • Signet of Fire is great for its extra passive boost to your crit. I like straightforward skills like that
      • Get Glyph of Elementals; even if your pet only lasts 1 minute, it will save your butt by catching “aggro” frequently and offers a sense of crowd control 

  • GREEN is the new BLUE! That’s right, be careful you don’t dump a green item by mistake, thinking blue is superior – it’s not!
  • Is anyone missing a mount thus far? I admitted before that my initial waypoint worries for GW2 were unfounded – the world is so huge that using teleports to get to more remote locations is not just convenient, but in fact a well-conceived, elemental feature. You will be walking plenty in GW2 as is, but instead of fighting your way back grinding fast-respawning mobs through an endless tunnel you just cleared before (fuuun), the game sends you on your way to go enjoy the next, new challenge. I have a feeling I need to re-visit the topic of shortcuts in MMOs again, sometime soon.
    • If you’re a child of WoW, Rift and Co. do yourself a favor an re-bind some keys, such as ‘R’ for chat-reply (by default backspace) or ‘B’ for bags (by default ‘I’). Once I went through the trouble of adjusting some keys in the interface menu, I felt that my gameplay enjoyment increased drastically. Old habits are hard to break.
    • There is still quite a lot for ANet to fix currently, such as the marketplace stability, WvW, guild functions and overflow….yeah, that is still a concern and I am disappointed that after so many betas, they still can’t seem to let party members enjoy the game together smoothly. Come on already!
    • While I keep repeating how awesome I find the Asura (and there are plenty), my very tall Norn Elementalist is now safely home based on Desolation EU which hosts a large English speaking community. I only just found out today that I can still join my fellow bloggers’ guild on a different server despite that (shows how much I read up on guilds before!) and how awesome is that?

    So much for the first day and I sincerely hope that ANet will be able to solve the current issues swiftly for all you official launch date folks out there! More juicy GW2 impressions from me next week – I have a game to catch! Happy Sunday!

    [GW2] Managing expectations. And see you there!

    While speakers don’t realize it anymore in everyday language, the German word for “disappointed” has a rather intriguing, literal meaning: it’s to be “un-deceived”. If we feel disappointment, it is generally because we were let down on our expectations – our hopes, dreams, illusions maybe. In any case, there was a deception of some kind involved and quite often it’s a self-created one as much as the other way around.

    With GW2 finally at our doorstep and me still shocked that official launch time is set more in favor of EU folks than US (amagad I get to log on to GW2 for breakfast!) for a change, it’s sensible to take a moment and consider personal expectations. I spend a lot of time dissecting and criticizing single features and aspects of MMOs on this blog, so it’s probably hard to believe that I’m also quite the big picture person. I know exactly what I want from GW2 and my personal hopes for this game have already been half fulfilled in the betas. Lucky for me, GW2 offers a lot to explorers and lovers of the shiny!

    Powerful expectations

    For a while now I’ve had the feeling that player expectation towards upcoming titles has increased in significance compared to the olden days. Expectations have a tremendous power over individual perception and reception; more than that, they also have the potential to spread side-effects, for better or worse.

    When The Secret World launched its free 1-month anniversary weekend two weeks ago, I ended up having a look at Funcom’s latest progeny quite unintentionally. I suspected that TSW would not appeal to me personally, for reasons of theme already, but I like a first-hand look at any game especially when there’s nothing to lose. Alas, rather quickly TSW confirmed my misgivings; I would never get even close to a well-rounded and fair overall judgement after such short a playtime, suffice to say though that I can only marvel at Funcom for their chosen business model, considering TSW serves a niche inside a niche and all past AoC baggage. I also didn’t like combat one bit and then there’s the looks of the game….and while you can disagree with me on style, no MMO launched in 2012 and coming with a key, sub and item shop is allowed to look like a Sims game! Complete and utter no-go in my world (I got a new rig for a reason!). If SWTOR got a beating for looking dated, it’s only fair that TSW should get one too!

    That wasn’t the big insight I took from TSW though. Much rather, there was something very interesting going on in terms of player reception in this particular case – a case of a more niche and quite low profile MMO launch. Just to give one example of many similar echoes I’ve come across during the free TSW weekend, here’s an excerpt of a recent twitter conversation with two of my fellow bloggers, Belghast and Heather:

    Tip: read from bottom to top ;)

    What I’m not implying with this is that either of them isn’t genuinely enjoying TSW, by now probably for many reasons. Assuming they are still playing, they most certainly have found enough reasons to retain them. However, these are two examples of what I suspect is quite a substantial group of players who ended up taking to a new MMO they had not followed much at all pre-launch, and who did not only find enjoyment despite that but maybe even because of it? Naturally, expectations (or the lack thereof) will not decide over the longterm choice to stay or leave a game, yet it’s intriguing they would have the power to influence initial impression so heavily. We all know how pivotal a time launch and also individual “entry stage” are for new MMOs.

    Now, “pleasantly surprised” or “better than expected” aren’t exactly labels new MMOs usually thrive for but I still need to ask myself what is the conclusion of all this? And what does this potentially mean for game developers and publishers? That maybe it’s beneficial to hold back on too much exposure and heavy marketing pre-launch? That a low profile is preferable in some cases? Should developers start and spread their own false or obscure rumors about their game just so it reaches intangible cult status, luring a potentially bigger audience out of sheer curiosity? No really, I’m quite serious!

    If we consider the last few weeks of the GW2 waiting rush, it’s probably safe to say that there is such a thing as too much exposure and for some players I am told, there’s such a thing as detrimental hype – to a point where omni-present talk of the same game becomes so overbearing it may even turn somebody off from buying the game at all. I don’t know how frequently that occurs, and personally I wouldn’t want to attribute a vocal minority of forum trolls that much power over my own game choices, but if a potential customer refrains from buying GW2 because of overbearing hype that can’t be in ANet’s interest. That’s not to say that they have any direct responsibility or means to change anything. It does shed some light on the power of expectations though.

    I will also officially bet on this here blog that GW2 is never going to get the soft and benign player treatment for its no-doubt yet undiscovered flaws and failures, the way more low profile MMOs like TSW usually do. GW2 will be hacked into pieces mercilessly and with every conceivable double standard, simply for having been praised and expected so long and publicly beforehand. No doubt there are already some people lying in wait for that moment of grand punishment…like the resented, vengeful twin waiting for his one-minute monologue. I won’t comment on that but yeah, it does show us another shade of potential effects of expectations…

    Finding one’s own enjoyment

    I mentioned feeling lucky before because GW2 could be an entirely different game, not catering to any of my very personal selling points. There is a beautiful world to explore in the fashion I endorse, there are undeniably wonderful graphics and music, quest and combat mechanics I consider fresh at the very least, plenty of cosmetic items….safe bets all of them. I look forward to enjoy this at my own pace and hopefully with the freedom to group up with any of my friends. Most of the aspects that are currently criticized or eyed with worry don’t interest me that much: I don’t worry about the guild system, dungeon loot, “endgame” or even PvP should it turn out to be lacking. I’m also not one to fret over bugs or imbalances so early – there’s time. Furthermore I consider the current bashing of the community very over the top; WoW was never a good place to go for forums nor general chat. That didn’t mean there weren’t cool people to be found on servers. Community is always also what you are contributing.

    I’m going to play GW2 for my own reasons that may seem trivial to somebody else. Much of that enjoyment will be up to myself too which is what managing expectations is all about. I look forward to meet up with some of my old WoW mates so much it’s silly and for that already I thank GW2, for that long awaited opportunity!

    How long will it all last us? I don’t know and frankly don’t care. GW2 doesn’t have to fascinate me for 5 years straight, I am no longer that gamer. Neither did I ever consider this the big, all-changing MMO revolution but as The Cynical Brit rightfully points out towards the end of his final beta conclusion, “a next evolutionary step”. A very important step at that – one that may impact on much to come. I care for this genre, I care for GW2 to be a solid success which I’m confident it will be. Mid-or longterm? I will probably get bored for lack of things to do and fluctuate more again between several games. So what? Even if I only got the famous 3 months of amagad-shiny-awesome-noob-time out of all this (which I doubt), it will be a hell lot more fun than I’ve had in a long time!

    …With that I am off to the long awaited weekend and my Saturday morning launch. I wish you all the grandest GW2 head-start weekend and that you can enjoy this new MMO simply for what it is, unaffected and untouched by the backlash of other people’s expectations. I’ll see you and all your Asura Engineers on the other side! ^^

    Individualism vs. Collectivism. Or: Glorified MMO misconceptions

    http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Feb-2010/56079-230_Girl_on_a_Swing.jpgIf there is one quality in particular that I believe to be imperative for social relationships and bonds, that is the aspect of free will. Free will may be all that separates partnership from a prison, friendship from tyranny and loving care from obligation. In this life, I choose who I want to be with and for how long, and I don’t want any of my more meaningful relationships to ever be about necessity. “Yes, I do like you, maybe I even love you – but I don’t need you. My life won’t unravel if you leave and I won’t die without you.” I’d like to think that the best relationships I’ve ever established are grounded like this and I look at them as something that makes my life better – makes it a little more than it already is. And that more is very much worth having.

    Of course none of that sounds particularly romantic; as kids we believe in grand gestures of undying love, we dream of losing ourselves in someone else entirely, we need and long to be needed or “completed”. Then we grow up and come to realize, one way or another, that need is no healthy base for relationships and that giving up oneself means to truly be deserted. “I need you” sounds romantic – but that is all it usually is. Way down that fickle road of need wait co-dependence, disrespect, manipulation and maybe even abuse. I want the important relationships in my life to be about free will, not need and not necessity. That is one luxury I am grateful for.

    The same conclusions can be applied to online relationships: a while ago I wrote an article on the invisibility feature in MMOs and why it’s not only wrong but detrimental to community building, to prevent players from going invisible when they choose. Quality interaction and cooperation in MMOs are no different from the real world in that they need to be based on free will. Not on pressure, dictation or necessity. The line between where enforced cooperation ends and genuine friendships blossom, can be a very fine and blurry one – as the great majority of all MMO players have come to experience at some point in their gaming careers. Likewise however, most of us have learned just how quick and absolute long established bonds and even vows of brotherhood and friendship will be forgotten, when guilds end or players leave the game until further notice. And so we ask ourselves how much of it was genuinely committed, friendly motivated interaction and how much was simply a glorified common venture, serving the mutual and temporary purpose of individuals?

    Yet, should we even make such distinctions for MMO relationships? …Human interaction in general?

    Collectivism vs. Individualism

    The simplest definition of collectivism and individualism is that they’re socially, culturally, historically and what not else-ly influenced values, at opposing ends of the spectrum of human collaboration and cooperation. Personally, I disagree with that in so far that both collectivism and individualism actually have an essential thing common: in isolation they’re both equally bad.

    Pure, ideological collectivism comes at the cost of identity; things like personal fulfillment, expression or even free choice are second to the “greater good”. Historical and everyday attempts at collectivism keep failing because in the end the rule of a few privileged people over the rest of the herd seems unavoidable. As long as our species is driven by greed, personal gain and power lust, anyway. So, for simplicities sake let’s say collectivism has its noble ends in theory, but fails horribly at performance.

    Extreme individualism is where things are going in our wealthy, western world; every man for himself, grab as much as you can. There is much room for greed and destructive exploitation, again of the few privileged – only this time it’s sanctified under a credo of freedom and pursuit of one’s own happiness. Meanwhile, the big, sparkly cities of man have become conglomerates of small islands, people living anonymously side by side, often feeling quite alone.
    Individualism is very much a sign of material wealth though – it is a luxury. Human beings tend to stick together and pursue common goals when they’re all equally fucked. You know, when disaster strikes, sharing and compromise suddenly sound like a good idea!

    …Where am I going with this? We need to be critical of social labels and so-called values, on all ends of the spectrum. The ideal society is probably one that can balance both polarities and in MMOs too, a balance must be struck between how social interaction and cooperation are “engineered”. Well, past games have only shown us a glimpse of the beginning!

    WoW & Before: When necessity breeds cooperation

    The glorified days of WoW, and yes I have done it myself, are the days when players could not advance particularly well without grouping up with others – be it strangers or friends. That’s when encounters were hard (unbalanced, restrictive) and soloing was only one, much smaller part of the game than today. It’s also where MMO veterans usually draw their fondest memories from: when quests and encounters were so damn hard that you and your buddies relied on each other’s every move, when punishment was quick on the ball and victory was so much the greater for it. Oh yes, I remember that too….and romanticism has its part therein.

    Back in vanilla WoW, we didn’t just group up because of some notion of social altruism, curiosity or friendliness; at first, we grouped up because we needed each other in rather existential ways. We grouped up in order to survive or to progress faster, to access better loot or more content. There’s a common purpose of many individuals come together and each of them wants something – and that isn’t even a bad thing. What it certainly is not though, is some chapter in a romantic novel on social bonding and making friends for life. In fact, the classic MMO standard is the most incentivized realization of cooperation I can think of:

      • Group up or be punished in any conceivable way
      • Group up because target XY will only become available by doing so
      • Group up with players X and Y because of their role / class
      • Group up or…..be damned

    Lots of “…or ELSE!” going on there! Grouping up is completely engineered by game design, by things like overall content difficulty, pacing or setup requirements. Does that mean I didn’t make friends on the way? I did, but I don’t think that was the game’s achievement. Lasting relationships are optional; they’re what players create and follow at a later stage. Grouping requirements in MMOs do not automatically exceed the purpose of simply killing stuff together. First and foremost grouping up is a self-serving, necessary act. The way most guilds and guild mates go (QED), cooperation is in fact not an awful lot more than that and maybe that’s just something to accept.

    What all the oldschool MMOs (an no, I don’t count in WoW these days, but there is still the strict group setup) did in terms of cooperation, is pragmatic, social engineering at its best. Add to this, that within groups and potentially between groups, there would always be a certain degree of competition: for role spots, for spawns, for loot. Generally lots of “against each other” going on, rather than “together”.

    In many ways enforced grouping like that shares aspects of social collectivism: people cooperate because they’re forced to – because they’re all equally bad off on their own. That’s no glorious and ideal state of social interaction though; it’s primal and primitive – and maybe that’s why many players take so naturally to this classic model at first. Food for thought?

    GW2: Just the next evolutionary step

    Much has been said about GW2’s grouping mechanics lately and if you’ve read my take, you know what I think about both the public events and cooperation in general. I also stated frequently that I find social criticism on features like FFA ressing in GW2 quite ridiculous; whether ressing comes with an EXP reward or not is a tiny, trivial thing compared to the way MMOs traditionally base their entire gameplay on incentivized cooperation.

    So, what does GW2 do differently? I don’t claim it’s the big revolution, but it’s a step in the right direction – away from basic need to more balanced and well-rounded concepts of cooperation maybe. Of course you need to address the issue of engineered cooperation as an MMO developer; either that, or you better create very restricted content and unforgiving requirements (ye, those are popular). If you don’t, if you grant players a certain degree of self-sufficiency, freedom and independence, you gotta think of ways to motivate them not to solo all the time.

    From my personal point of view and based on my beta experiences, I consider GW2’s grouping mechanics more open, free and more positively incentivized; instead of threatening players with what they’ll have less of, the game suggests that there is nothing to lose and often a little extra to gain from joining an ongoing group, helping another player or sharing an event (aka bonus vs. malus system). There is no loot or role competition and without formulaic grouping procedures, interaction happens more naturally and spontaneously. Rather than thinking of your small circle as questing partners, the entire server is your questing partner!

    That is very much also the philosophy ANet have revealed for their multi-guild system. I personally don’t shed a tear over seeing classic appointment gaming go. I like the idea of cooperating effortlessly and without the pressure of agendas. These days, I group up for the purpose of meeting friends and then doing something together, rather than having a target-focused night of grind ahead (or failing to even have that because of teh holy trinity). “Monday is Onyxia, Thursday is Black Wing Lair” – it’s okay when playing together is all about encounters, progression and loot. Raid guilds especially are born out of the necessity to achieve all that; they’re not first and foremost about a wish to be social, although that can be added. That’s fine if it suits your playstyle.

    It is just a little ironic when GW2 gets criticized for its more open, flexible approach when socially speaking, it’s years ahead of the classic MMO formula of necessity-born cooperation and glorified, artificial communities with a lifespan relative to endgame content.

    Individual Collectivism

    I don’t know about you, but I feel that grouping up despite being self-sufficient is a better, more transparent way of doing things. It is certainly a dang lot more enjoyable to me these days, to play without the tiring bonds of obligation in order to progress. I enjoy the random and voluntary encounters in GW2 and that my choice to interact or not is about a potential for ‘more’, rather than the ever-threatening ‘less’. Maybe we could speak of a collective individualism for GW2; a balance between being your own person but also joining up (loosely) for the sake of increased enjoyment and reaching some loftier goals. What’s wrong with giving players a real choice? And why should this choice not also come with some bonuses and rewards, like for everything else in MMOs?

    There’s no doubt in my mind about the improved quality of relationships formed this way, either. No, I do not want to need you, sorry! I’d like to think that as human beings we can reach a higher state of mind than this: that cooperation DOES still happen without existential commitment or the promise of punishment. I don’t expect my online relationships to mirror the real world, but then again – why should we be stuck at this stage? I still have a little more confidence in online communities than that. Shockingly!

    P.S. This post is a contribution to Stubborn’s ongoing examination of a greater topic.

    Happy Birthday to Meee!

    Guild Wars 2 cometh and I am so prepared, Illidan would be proud! After a Friday night shift in the company of euphoric buddies (particular thanks go to my friend Dave for doing most of the work and research!), the new PC is up and running – as in running any game on maximum details smoothly I can possibly attempt to play on Steam. If you’re currently looking to benchmark a gaming rig I recommend DayZ though, no game (maybe with the exception of BF3 which I don’t possess) is a better indicator of what your PC can handle right now. Needless to say, DayZ looks amazing for me, much to the envy of a significant other! Everything onscreen down to my Windows system fonts, is so damn sharp that my eyes need actual adjusting….Is this the real world??

    Real or not, this is also where I give thanks again to everyone who left their comments and recommendations on what components to get last week and those contacting me via email. To sum up briefly for you what I got in the end, and maybe also as pointers for anyone else currently looking to upgrade to a solid gaming rig on an average budget:

    (click image to enlarge)

    You might think I slightly exceeded my price limit there (which I did), but the list includes a new 2TB hard disk and Win7 64 which I had not considered earlier. I chose the GTX-570 over the GTX-560ti for reasons of very similar price. I went with a different brand as no other were on stock, it’s absolutely fine and looks impressive.

    One piece in particular I couldn’t be happier about is the much debated SSD: this is quite possibly the most amazing upgrade ever and for 150 bucks extra worth getting if you’re in any way similar to myself – somebody who frequently uses the same few, big applications. It is paradise to see your Windows or Photoshop launch within mere seconds (no kidding) and games like Skyrim or any MMO with significant loading times and a tendency to crash every now and then. An SSD is such a huge improvement in terms of overall enjoyment and quality time, there’s no going back for me ever! Add the nice side-effect that I will now frequently shut down my PC, instead of keeping it running while having dinner or a shower…all systems are back running so fast it’s silly.

    I R really happy now – why, oh why can you not let me test GW2 already, ArenaNet??

    Year Two

    Over the PC building zeal and GW2 euphoria, I actually almost forgot that this blog here is turning two years old as of today. That’s right, 730 days and a second cupcake! Such nice timing it is, with me gifting myself and the world of MMOs being so considerate, too!

    Alas, I have not much else to say, I am not a big birthday person. When I think back to my last bloggaversary, I feel that everything I said there still stands and I still very much endorse the same topics (and people). I’m glad I’ve found this place for myself and my writing, and I’m particularly glad that I’ve stuck with the blog for this long no matter how busy the times. I don’t believe in grand quitting gestures and hasty goodbyes, I believe in comebacks and life being about ups and downs rather than stability. Our blogs are patient and they will always be there when we return (that is if our providers don’t quit on us in the meantime). To me that is a strangely comforting thought.

    I look forward to some high times ahead now, with GW2 coming and whatever the MMO and RPG future holds for us all. I will be there and I count on you joining me, all of you whose voices I’ve come to know better over the past two years and who make blogging such an enjoyable and rewarding venture to me, as much as those visiting for the very first time. All winds of change aside, I am still feeling optimistic about this wonderful genre and grateful to live in times such as this; times of truly big and beautiful games, vast worlds with many stories yet to be told and epic memories to be had in the company of friends. From here MMO Gypsy is resuming MMO business as usual and with very much the same promise as last year – that absolutely nothing will change on this blog. A merry /toast to all of you! ~Syl

    Wanted: Your help to build my new PC rig!

    I was going to wait, but yeah….maybe not! With the Guild Wars 2 headstart only 2.5 weeks away and me seriously under-equipped in the tech department, I decided it’s time to upgrade what has has been a faithful yet ancient rig for gaming standards. I don’t have unlimited funds at my disposal, but I’ll be damned if I play my most anticipated MMO since WoW on a 5 year old PC that lags during crowded events and WvW on lowbie settings!

    This is where I’m going to need some help though and what better place to ask than the blogosphere, where people are more or less playing the same games as myself? I started the other night by inquiring about suitable graphic cards on twitter, to run GW2 smoothly on max settings; if I am to replace my entire rig (which I must) however, I need more advice from the seasoned PC builders out there! I’d like a solid, good quality setup with matching components to preferably last me 2 years before the next upgrade. Find below what I’m looking for first and foremost, including current budget limitations and please feel free to comment and share some much appreciated advice (I really am quite the hardware noob!) –

    The budget
    I don’t intend to spend more than ~1200 Swiss francs, which currently equals 1238 USD. So, for simplicity’s sake let’s say the total of all required components may range up to 1200$ maximum. I would spend more ideally but that’s what I have to make do with for now. Money unpleasantness out of the way, let’s talk components. Here’s what I need:

      • New graphics card
      • CPU
      • Mainboard
      • RAM
      • Power supply (I assume)

    I’ve had a look at Nvidia GeForce 680 and while that looks very sweet, it would cost me almost three times what the GTX-560Ti is currently going for. I hear the latter is a very popular choice among PC gamers and several folks on twitter recommended it for GW2 purposes to me already. I can get my hands on the GTX-560Ti for a mere 250$ where I am (as opposed to 620$ for the GTX-680).

    So, I am thinking this is the way to go, only this is where I get confused (bear with me…): which products do I combine for the best performance? And what brands are we talking about? I’ve seen Asus and Nvidia manufacturing these cards as well as CPU, RAM etc. People keep telling me it can vary greatly what you choose to combine here (*SCARED*)?? My preferred local hardware provider currently only lists Asus components, but naturally I’d be willing to order someplace else if it’s of essential difference. ..IS IT?

    As for all other components in general to go with the GeForce, I have not the faintest clue yet. I will happily take on board any recommendations or experiences you folks can pass along. Of course I’ve also checked the system specs published by ANet, but I know at least as much about building rigs that it takes a little more in-depth knowledge to create a solid setup. Oh, and time is of the essence of course – the sooner I got my shopping list together, the better!

    Thanks everybody who can lend a hand with this and for leaving specific responses (with brand/model specs or nr. ideally) a rookie such as myself cannot misunderstand! Much /love in advance and /halp!! ^^

    Recap: 50 reasons to be excited about GW2 – still?

    Guild Wars 2 is coming. Only, not nearly soon enough! We’ll be counting down the days of this blasted August and never did we wish more for summer to already be over, so we can lean deep into our chairs all snuggled up in pillows and blankets (with pizza), completely not feeling guilty for letting the sunny evenings pass, somewhere out there while we are immersed, hopefully, in Tyria. And I remember what I said about Vorfreude, but….scratch that, I wanna play GW2 already!!!

    Headstart FTW!

    I actually feel with the non-believers too; those of you out there who still don’t feel it, who can’t join in the hype or at least the shared excitement and anticipation. There’s a GW2 blogstorm at our doorsteps and it sucks to feel somehow left out, to not feel part of the “movement” whatever that even is. That feeling will pass, but then I’ll say in all honesty that I don’t know what other MMO I’d likely play any time soon, after GW2….what is there, anyway? There’s no knowing that now, but one thing is for certain: we want GW2 to succeed. We need GW2 to succeed….!

    Anyway, what better moment in time to review our initial sentiments about this MMO? Three public beta weekends later and one month to go, I am asking myself the same question – what is it that excites me about this upcoming title? And now that I know better, did things change in any particular way?

    50 reasons to be excited about GW2 – or not?

    For direct comparison, I will go with the list of 50 reasons I presented this April 2012 with no first-hand gameplay experience whatsoever. I expect to see few changes but not to get ahead of myself, let’s rather examine each point once more. Formatting goes as follows: things I didn’t actually experience or notice much, things I enjoyed / loved, things that disappointed or bothered me.

    1. The side-kicking feature
    2. Flat leveling curve
    3. Lots of dyes!
    4. Personal character story and personality
    5. Extensive character customization
    6. No holy trinity
    7. No potions
    8. Small UI / minimal actionbar
    9. The downed state
    10. Dynamic/scaling events and quests
    11. Massive WvWvW battles
    12. PvP from level 1
    13. Gear equalization for group PvP
    14. The home instance / player housing
    15. Linked home cities
    16. Mini-games (bar brawls! snow balls!)
    17. Audio dialogue
    18. Flat highlvl gear progression
    19. Cosmetic items
    20. The Mesmer, the Engineer and pretty much all classes
    21. Large scale maps
    22. No flying mounts
    23. Original soundtrack by Jeremy Soule
    24. Beautiful 2D background artworks
    25. The Norn, Asura and Charr
    26. Underwater combat
    27. The weapon/-skill system
    28. Cross-profession combos
    29. Small HP bar
    30. More area spells and effects
    31. Dedicated self-utility / self-healing
    32. 5man content all the way
    33. No raids
    34. Individual trait lines
    35. Inclusive crafting system
    36. Multi-guild system
    37. Adventure modes for dungeons
    38. Outdoor bosses
    39. Easy server switching
    40. Transmutation stone for gear
    41. No abilities directly target allies
    42. Active combat; dodge, block
    43. Interactive environment
    44. Mostly universal attributes system
    45. Most abilities and skills usable while moving
    46. No language/coop barrier between factions
    47. Over-flow server while in queue
    48. Public FFA events and quests with scaling loot
    49. More frequent day/night-cycle (non-realtime)
    50. Guild halls announced for later

    The first thing I notice after reviewing is that there are plenty of aspects of GW2 I haven’t even brushed yet: I didn’t PvP or experience an actual WvW in progress, mostly due to technical hiccups. I didn’t look into crafting. I haven’t run dungeons in any mode. I didn’t follow my personal story much or transmute my gear. I didn’t play any mini-games, join a guild or experience the home instance feature. So from that point of view, I feel there’s plenty to do and see in GW2, for a long while to come. That doesn’t yet include the time I will spend purely exploring or questing!

    What I enjoyed the most and felt most confirmed in, is the overall feel of the game: the atmosphere, the large scale world, the music and art, and of course the classes and races which I find, for the most part (humans), very accomplished and fun to play. I love the design of GW2 and being me that is a core argument. I need to be able to explore a world that feels alive and looks brilliant, with a character I can relate to. I’m also happy about the questing and events, more active combat and automated cooperation. That said, I have yet to experience group combat and there are definitely concerns that need looking into, such as the balance between melee and ranged combat, overall controls or traits viability. These are longterm concerns to work on though, just as content longevity or depth are.

    Few things I admit didn’t blow me away in retrospective: while my waypoint worries proved to be needless, I do not care at all for the repair system or the downed state. Frankly, I find the downed state boring or annoyingly superfluous. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but it added nothing to my gameplay experience, certainly no thrill because half of the time I couldn’t actually contribute much to preventing my death. Oh well. 

    I whined about the overflow servers before although to be fair that was partly fixed. Another thing that left me wanting after the beta were cross-profession combos. I believe I spotted two that I initiated myself, but they were hard to keep track of and even harder to actively coordinate. That said, my final verdict here must wait until I actually run 5mans.

    …I could nag about a few more details, instead I will leave it at that. In general my attitude and expectations for GW2 haven’t changed and they’re certainly very the positive still. And so I wonder about other players out there – did the beta weekends disappoint you in any particular way or are you more excited to play this upcoming AAA+ MMO than ever?

    [GW2] Sylvari: Not so new, not that bad

    I haven’t made a secret of my disinterest in GW2’s Sylvari on this blog and it seems overall I am in good company. I never liked the nightelves much in WoW either – the ethereal and detached thing they got going on, praying to Elune and generally living in pink forests. It’s not even that I dislike elves or any variation thereof per default; there are some awesome, badass elves and drows in fantasy literature, from complex and grim fighters to more merry and flamboyant characters. Much rather, it’s an issue of how elves are represented in many MMOs as these peace-loving, self-indulgent hippies who care more about their flower garden than the rest of the world. That is a general concern for all so-called friendly and pacifist MMO races: how am I supposed to choose any of them for a competent errr….fighter? Like it or not, you’re killing stuff in MMOs and lots of it. You are also quite meddlesome.

    So, already from that point of view the Sylvari aren’t very appealing. As an aside, I didn’t particularly like their starting area either – it is pink and lush Teldrassil all over, just with a lot more shine.
    What I will say in their defense though, after having played one for maybe 30 minutes this past beta weekend, is that ANet achieved a little more than just copying the MMO elf archetype. For one thing, there is the whole plant people concept; Sylvari ARE plants (sorta) which creates all kinds of interesting implications that have been discussed elsewhere. And although I wonder why they still need to hide all their “sensitive parts” in the character creation, the race design and customization achieves to transmit a genuinely unique and alien feel for this race. Their hair is straw, leaves or gnarly twigs, the shape of their limbs and body texture consequently fulfill the botanic premise.

    What sets them apart from your staple elves too is that they aren’t ancient but in fact the youngest of all Tyrian races (I believe 25 years old). This “freshness” is even reflected in their looks, the way they move or stand still and their facial expression; it’s as if they beheld everything around them for the very first time. The Sylvari are noobs.

    Alas, none of that will entice me to play one, but I feel ANet deserves that much: they’ve put some thought into their last race (which got completely re-designed very late into development) and the thematic coherence in design. Not that the plant people idea was actually so new either – in fact I’d bet my little finger that there was at least one lead designer among ANet’s “Sylvari camp” who happens to have enjoyed a very old RPG by Capcom!

    Enter Spar – The plant creature

    Once upon a time there was a very classic JRPG on Super NES called Breath of Fire. I remember this with fond nostalgia because its sequel, Breath of Fire 2 was the very first RPG I ever bought with my own money and played through. That was endless painful hours of grinding levels, excruciating random encounters and praying for a save-point….and oh, did I love it! It was also a time when I didn’t have English classes yet in school and so I ended up playing the game with a dictionary in my lap. Yes, here in Europe we actually often had to deal with imports (or else stare at ugly PAL bars on our TV screens). Breath of Fire 2 opened the world of RPGs to me – the rest is history.

    It so happens that one of the most awesome characters you can recruit for your party in BoF2 is Spar, the plant creature. You meet him (/her) the first time at a traveling circus where he is actually up for display. Later on, he sends you on a quest to wake the Wise Tree (figures) from an unending nightmare, which is when you recruit him. Spar is generally indifferent and devoid of emotions. He has grown from a sapling and looks forward to becoming a tree himself one day. He’s a weak fighter, his best abilities revolving around support and use of environment; his Nature spell will actually grow a flower bed or sprout cactuses depending on where you are. Then, there are his shamanistic alter egos: the onion sprout, the leafy drake…..and a girl wearing a mushroom cap.

    ….Sound familiar enough? Well, Spar also looks like this:

    http://media.giantbomb.com/uploads/1/18585/958874-bof2_spar_super.jpg

    If this is not the direct Sylvari inspiration, I don’t know what is (I c wut u did thar, ANet)!

    [GW2] Tired of Trinity Whining. Or: As if!

    So, the third and final GW2 beta weekend has ended and we could all be talking about how wonderfully achieved a race the Asura are, how Metrica Province or Rata Sum rock as zones or alternatively, how the Sylvari despite many initial misgivings, succeed at being a little more than just another translation of elf. I know – I was shocked too.

    ….Or we could do none of that. Instead, we could go on and whine about the missing roles and damned trinity in Guild Wars 2. Yeah we could keep bringing that up, again and again and again, like an obnoxious guest asking for burgers in an Italian restaurant. Some days I honestly feel with game designers and it’s not like I haven’t been an ardent critic of MMOs myself over the years. Three public betas past, I keep reading the same ignorant moping and fallacies by a vocal crowd of circus clowns on ANet’s official forums. The fact that many of them are drawing comparisons to WoW of all games, makes the whole thing all the more amusing, complete eyeroll that it is otherwise!

    So, just for shits and giggles and because I feel like whining about whiners today, let’s have a look at some of the most missing-the-point, lalala-pink-pokémon-glasses and I-just-like-to-complain-about-something arguments! Here’s what the broken pro-trinity record has to say about GW2’s gameplay, roughly summarized:

    a) No holy trinity means there is no cooperation anymore! *GASP*
    b) No holy trinity means people do not coordinate / communicate in groups!
    c) No holy trinity means zerg-mode and needing no strategy!
    d) No holy trinity means there can’t be difficult combat!

    pic

    There’s variations of the above, but it’s what whiners basically claim while glorifying WoW and prophesying the doom of GW2…already. Of course the holy trinity in itself has no direct bearing on any of the criticized points, however to realize that one needs to have a hard look at WoW – which is what I will do since people insist on bringing it up as role model. Note too, the big majority of whiny commenters refer to overall combat/cooperation in GW2, meaning questing and the FFA dynamic events. Precious few can currently claim group play experience beyond that or more in-depth knowledge about coordination in dungeons (especially exploration mode) or organized PvP. Here’s my reply to the popular arguments, since “wait and see?” didn’t really go far these previous betas –

    As IF!

    First off, as IF people communicated or cooperated much during questing in WoW! Where have you been the past 8 years? You can’t be referring to the WoW I have played. Some well-known, honest facts:

    • 95% of all WoW players either solo quests or take their friends/guildies along. You don’t need any type of “strategy” to beat quests together, joining up is more about the social factor. There aren’t even many elite outdoor quests anymore or bosses that would require a group to beat. People don’t need to communicate and there’s nothing to coordinate when everyone already knows what their role is. Oh, and people don’t coordinate, let alone communicate in most LFG 5man runs either – but then you knew that already.
    • If “actively creating the party”, which usually comes down to clicking an invite button and waiting for the other side to accept it, equals good communication among strangers…well, you’re an easy one to satisfy!
    • You can progress with ease in WoW pushing the same 3-4 buttons, just in case anyone feels like bringing this up against GW2. Not that the “amount of buttons” is a great or very telling argument for or against anything, really…
    • If “zerging” equals “rushing into combat without the need for communication or coordination”, then zerging is what’s constantly being done in WoW, during questing and even 5man runs. Just because tanks tank, healers heal and DPS deal damage, doesn’t mean people are actively cooperating (or need wait on the tank for example) – rather, I would call it playing side by side, each role knowing their motions. There are synergies and there’s timing, both exist in GW2 as well. The holy trinity sees to that; it creates a basic order so players won’t have to think about assigning jobs or tactics much (outside raids) themselves. That’s hardly active cooperation or communication though – it’s a script! In fact the opposite, a free and versatile setup, requires strangers to coordinate and talk more if at all!

    But hey, I’ll give you that – due to the lack of pre-defined roles, the combat in GW2 feels more chaotic, certainly is for quests and events. But errr…so what? Already I cooperate more in GW2 than I ever did in WoW: thanks to the FFA, auto-join events I have joined and helped out more strangers than I ever did while questing in WoW. I’ve had a chat with a few who shared a quest spot with me and several whom I rezzed or rezzed me in return (fat chance on that in WoW). I don’t claim any of this was particularly coordinated or difficult (maybe the events aren’t supposed to be particularly difficult, anyone?), but at least it’s a change from the usual silent, solo routine I used to have in WoW. Plus, where more people group up there’s always an unpredictable element. It’s a little cynical to criticize auto-join grouping or lack of roles when the opposite did nothing at all to improve matters in the past. As for kill stealing, mob camping and loot rolling – needless to say I haven’t missed them one second! That’s when having less communication is actually a good thing (/ninja /doom /ragequit).

    The real strategic and demanding encounters aren’t out there in quests or trivial group content – not in WoW and not in GW2. Quests and events are simply not very hard right now and things like cooperation and coordination live and grow under duress. I would claim that GW2 requires teamwork and strategy where it matters, just like WoW does too; in harder/heroic dungeon modes and in big scale raids or PvP/WvW. If you think it’s all a zerg there you are mistaken. You need strategy and communication to bring the trophy home, to win against opposing teams or survive tough encounters. Teamwork is very much alive even if it works differently in GW2. Plus, the game adds other tactical components, such as the whole dodge/positioning mechanics and making use of the environment. I’ve beat several tougher challenges myself only because of active movement and tactical positioning which is rather great considering I play a caster in GW2 (typical feet-of-stone classes in other MMOs).

    Getting facts and questions straight

    Now, this post is no attempt to discourage any well-founded critique in favor of the holy trinity (ya rly); in fact, there are a few very interesting questions one could ask about GW2 in this context. For example how different group mechanics will truly be in a well-organized party, during a difficult run that requires a lot of communication. Once players assign roles/tasks in order to succeed and hence end up specializing, would we have to admit to a “soft trinity” in GW2? And where are the differences then to let’s say WoW or Rift? I can see a few but it’s definitely a valid overall question. So would be the question about how well control mechanics are realized in the game and if they make for enough encounter variety, in lieu of things like classic threat and mitigation mechanics.

    Then, there’s simply those players who love to tank or heal and I certainly empathize with that – after all I used to love to heal myself! If you miss the holy trinity on that note, I have neither reproach nor consolation to offer because GW2 is a different game. And just like the F2P vs. subscription horse can be kicked to death, what it really comes down to here is preferences and target audience.

    If you were however, like the individuals I addressed further up, to move the holy trinity on a pedestal for all the wrong, uninformed reasons, drawing faulty comparisons and even faultier conclusions about GW’s and MMO combat in general, then you have me for a very impatient and frankly ill-tempered commenter these days. I am really sick and tired of half-assed, destructive discourse that is so easy to refute it’s an intellectual insult. My biggest, returning gripe is mixing up role restrictions with things like encounter difficulty or pacing. Or in other words: if role restrictions are the one thing that makes your fights “hard” (likely because you already can’t find the right group composition…/sarcasm) that is sad news indeed!

    The holy trinity creates no more or less demanding encounters than a non-trinity model would; all it does is enable patterns and offer mechanics to utilize in (boss-)encounters. And it tells players what their role is right away (hence the often referred to “crutch”). You can like that or not, that’s your prerogative – but the trinity does absolutely not just magically create better, active cooperation, coordination or communication…or alternatively other random words that start with “C”. And where one player sees ordered combat thanks to the trinity, I see boring same-ish strategies and synchronized swimming! Preferences – pros and cons, ya feel me?

    To close, and so I can return to more pleasant topics tomorrow (with pictures!), let’s say it once more with feeling: The holy trinity does not a cooperation make. The holy trinity does not a communication make. The holy trinity does not a coordination make. The holy trinity does not an encounter’s difficulty make. If ever in doubt – go play World of Warcraft. Thanks!

    To BWE or not to BWE

    Much to my personal surprise, Anet announced the release of the last two Guild Wars 2 races for this upcoming and final beta weekend of July 20th. Yeah that was last Monday, I am somewhat behind on commenting – that said, the new job is exciting and things will go back to a more relaxed schedule once I got the hang out of all my new tasks. Did I mention there are free cookies here?

    So…Asura and Sylvari. I guess it makes sense for this third beta weekend, fans were clamoring to see them and you want things to end on a high note and give players a reason to log on once more. Truthfully, I was toying with the idea of skipping this beta – like Zubon I feel rather satiated of GW2 testing and eager to play the real deal with a character I am likely to keep. How much is too much beta playing? I am careful not to burn myself out on the starting areas and spoil too much before end of August. I was very relieved to hear there won’t be any more BWEs after this one, although I am all for polish and releasing when things are truly ready.

    I guess now I do have a reason to log on this weekend after all, even if just to take a peek….I don’t expect to ever warm towards the Sylvari (is there anyone who intends to play one??) but I will definitely check out that Asura CC for myself and see how different they truly feel to your staple MMO shorties. And until then? Well, Paeroka has some suggestions on what to do until this BWE. Or you could always start planning for launch, as some particularly dedicated individuals do, get your guild forums ready, plan your spec and rosters, pick a server….or scratch all that and play The Secret World instead. I think I would, after all!

    All the ways that WoW changed me

    In a recent conversation on what types of reward GW2 may offer players at max level and whether it will be enough to satisfy more reward-driven players, it dawned on me how much I’ve changed my outlook or rather my expectations towards certain aspects of MMOs – since WoW. Now, overall I certainly haven’t changed my mind, I still love the genre for the same reasons: a vast world, beautiful fantasy settings, secrets to explore, character development and real people to meet on the way. Yet there are aspects I’ve fundamentally changed my opinion on or rather my wishes in; maybe I should say that they’ve been satisfied to a point where I no longer appreciate them. And WoW has certainly much to do with it.

    I’ve never been a particularly reward-driven player, or rather I would say I’ve never cared so much for items. Items and reward are not the same thing although they usually coincide, especially in MMOs as item-centric as WoW. I play for challenge, for that feeling of accomplishment first and I play for the team; shinies are nice in addition but they lose all value if there are no requirements and restrictions. That’s when I feel “rewarded”, when I overcame an obstacle with others – these are the things we take with us. I would argue that there are actually a lot more players playing for the reward of challenge than realize it – but then, I guess it’s a valid point that if GW2 offered nothing for all the collectors and achievers, that would hurt its popularity. Item drops are of course not the only way to satisfy in this department: I expect them to come up with special dyes, lots of cosmetic items and things like titles or rare pets. If that creates enough opportunities to “show off” in the game I can’t tell, but whoever expects to collect tier/pvp sets and weapons in abundance will get disappointed in GW2.

    Personally I couldn’t care less. Whatever value I might ever have put in rare gear or upgrades has been completely and utterly smashed by WoW. To say that I got tired and sick of loot wouldn’t do matters justice. Mind, I still like cosmetics and GW2 offers plenty of that plus the great dye system; but whether I own anything special, expensive or best-in-slot is the least concern in my mind. I loved how my bags hardly ever filled up last beta (and yes…I know about that ‘deposit collectible’ feature….now), give me less loot ArenaNet!

    So, that’s my number one for the list of “things that WoW changed for me”. Of course there’s more –

    1) Item / gear rewards; 
    See reasons explained above.

    2) Raids and endgame; 
    Raiding was a big motivator for me to play WoW. I did little else in vanilla and never stopped raiding until Cataclysm. WoW was obviously very focused on its raiding endgame by design, but I simply loved the big scale raids, coordinating so many people, the teamwork, the whole guild effort involved.

    The present: These days I loathe the idea of raiding – the whole organisation, the downtimes due to numbers, the headache that is recruitment. I want a close-knit team of a few good men ready to roll in a few minutes. I want content to be accessible for a small group of quality rather than a big ass raid.

    3) Roles and healing;
    There’s never been a more passionate priest or healing coordinator than myself in WoW. That is the one thing I can say with confidence. I’ve played my holy priest through 6 years of WoW and countless raids that I coordinated. I loved being a healer, being needed support, having that sort of responsibility.

    The present: I haven’t played a healer, not even a support class ever since WoW – not in Rift or any other game I dabbled at since. I love my aggressive pyromancer in GW2 and if anyone’s ever going to ask me to join their group just for healing rains, they can drop dead! Oh sweet, sweet mob-centric gameplay, oh sweet not carrying anybody! As for the holy trinity in general, I doubt I need to repeat here how great I think it’s missing in GW2. I prefer to be recruited for playing well rather than for being a role. So far I’ve seen zero indication that GW2 enforces any type of stricter group or spec setup. People have been asking a lot of things in general chat this beta but they haven’t asked for tanks and healers. Healing, control and ressing is everybody’s job or nobody’s.

    4) Specs;
    I’ve spent unimaginable amounts of time writing guides on raid specs, reading up on stats and talent builds during my time as a raider and coordinator. There wasn’t much freedom there for me; the WoW endgame raid scene was big on things like cookie cutters, optimization and meters.

    The present in frank: I don’t give a shit what spec is best and I choose my traits as I go. In fact, I love experimenting and I’ll play whatever is the most FUN and efficient to ME. I won’t ever respec again for anyone but myself.

    5) Mounts;
    I always liked the idea of a mount, that loyal companion carrying me through the world. I’m fairly traditional in that I prefer horses plain and simple (alternatively a ferocious tiger is okay too), stuff like giant turtles, spiders and erm….green polar bears with shades just seems weird. When WoW introduced flying mounts I was in heaven……at first.

    The present: I don’t miss a ground mount in GW2 and I certainly never want to play a classic MMO again with flying mounts. I’ve missed being on foot in WoW, that sense of distance and all the chance encounters. And yes, I could’ve walked through Azeroth and yes occasionally I used a waypoint in GW2 – still, grouping and raiding as much as I did in WoW, getting everyone to wait for me wasn’t an option. It’s also simply a different feeling if the game leaves you no option but to be on foot. As for flying mounts, they were so fast and so convenient, one must wonder what the whole zone design and all the mobs below were designed for. To be rushed through once while leveling and never return?

    These are mainly the things I came up with when thinking about all the ways WoW changed my preferences. One can certainly argue that some of the change is due to the effect of time; I’ve been there done that for a very long time, I moved on to wanting different. And while that may play a part, I still don’t think it’s the main factor but rather the way how these aspects were designed and realized in WoW: I might not feel so sick of loot today if WoW hadn’t pledged itself to putting every candy-store out there out of business. I might be less tired of big raids if….literally everything in terms of grouping, recruitment and social control hadn’t gone down the drain ever since WotLK and LFG. I might still enjoy healing had there not been such a rigid focus on roles that left healers with nothing much to do but staring at healthbars and getting most of the blame by lolkids. I might still be interested in what an ideal spec is if I wasn’t so full of spite for anything resembling a cookie-cutter. And I might still find joy in mounts had not every player in WoW run around with one million gazillion mounts to choose from that would all run, fly, crawl, hover and whatever else at five-hundred percent LUDICROUS SPEED (or however much it is by now).

    Yes…..I actually might!

    Time for some questions!

    It would be most intriguing to hear how other longterm ex-WoW players think about the effects WoW had on them (or alternatively another MMO you’ve played a lot), how it might have changed their outlook or wishes for MMOs to come. So, what about you?

    Do you think WoW has changed you as a player? In what ways?
    Do you think extreme experiences (burnout) have to do with it or is it just boreout / want for new?
    How much of the ‘blame’ would you attribute to game design, how much to your personal playstyle choices?
    Have your expectations towards a new game changed due to WoW or another MMO you’ve played?
    Do you wish for different things in GW2 than you used to wish for?

    I realize in retrospective that this could be an excellent meta-topic to share and debate among a wider circle of bloggers, to examine all the dis-/similarities and get a more universal look at the impact WoW has had on the current MMO player base. Ever since the WoW era, many have moved on to blogging about different games but WoW is still a common denominator among us. Well, maybe someone else will take up these questions sometime.

    [UPDATE: Since there’s already been few reactions by other bloggers asking to write their own take on this topic (which is awesome), I will definitely make a follow-up post with a list of all responses in a couple of days. Let me know in the comments / on twitter if you’re writing your own post (if you haven’t already), I’d loathe to miss somebody. Thanks – I look forward to some great posts and/or comments!]