Category Archives: Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 Revisited: Defying Classic Conventions

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So I’m super-enjoying my gentle return to the beautiful, yet (of course) corrupted and war-ravaged lands of Guild Wars 2. Some things I’ve noticed by virtue of a “beginner’s mind” are:

Tons of tones in character creation. I’ve puzzled in recent months why Elder Scrolls, Rift, and Pillars of Eternity don’t give you more choices. What’s wrong with smoky purple thighs?

Auto-level matching in an area. It’s so nice get matched up to the content. Less worry about this meta-issue.

Auction House. I gave up on auctions in Elder Scrolls at the end, and was just vendoring everything. The GW2 trading post is a web app spliced into the game UI, and there are so many bids that you can sell everything almost instantly, plus get all proceeds in one lump instead of opening twenty mail items. It’s almost overly easy, but still a relief.

Megaserver And Maps. I was worried a few years ago that megaserver architecture would ruin immersion, but the benefits of the many outweigh the friendship of the few. The dynamic GW2 maps are also brilliant and surely the envy of other MMOs.

Community. I’ve been really impressed by the GW2 forums and community, especially when the game should be in low ebb before an expansion launch.

A Game World Unplugged

I seem to be going down the same old road of disconnection from the Guild Wars “world”, though. The main design goal of GW2 is to throw MMO design conventions on their head, that is–to kill the traditional quest hub and move all quests out into the roads, ruins, and hills, increasing the world immersion, ironically.

Some of these random quests are fabulous, like using a cow-launcher to get to an overlook, or failing to save a traveling caravan from a bandit attack, leading to a new dynamic quest to strike back and retrieve the stolen goods from those bandits.

The exploration in Guild Wars 2 is also a joy, and I’ve spent oodles of hours working on map completion.

The primate mind works on the principle of dominance, which is why this principle has been golden in art and design for thousands of years. This principle works for all art, novels, and the zones and NPC quest givers in World of Warcraft. I haven’t found a Goldshire in Guild Wars 2 yet, nor a Gandalf.

In Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci used his sfumato technique to render a beautiful backdrop of hills, woods, and bridges. I wonder how many people care about that landscape.

Would six million people visit the Mona Lisa each year if we removed the Mona Lisa completely, leaving only a beautiful, intriguing landscape, ripe for the plundering? No. You get the picture.

The result is lots of well-made and voiced NPCs, but they are still generic (to this kitty).

After completing quests from these NPCs, you’ll also get personal letters and notes from them via the mail. The notes are brilliantly written, and the writers have done their jobs well. The problem is that after you get twenty mails, they all start to look the same, and you know you’ll never see these pixels again. There is no point in remembering those names.

So it’s the principle of dominance. The human brain (or at least this kitty’s) needs a few solid lifelines to focus on. I remembered that I originally quit Guild Wars 2 because I’d completed the level 30 story quests. I was grinding at level 35, and my next story quest was level 40.

I just lost the lifeline at that point. What happens if you tell your ten-year-old kid he can’t read another chapter of his favorite book until ten weeks from now. He’s going to go read another book, and that’s exactly what happened with me.

This time I plan to keep going. Removing the Mona Lisa from the picture is better than removing the Mona Lisa’s nose and flashing notices in the middle of my screen letting me know the feature is now on sale in the game store.

Plus, I love my guardian’s quirky swooping Owl Attack. Hoo hoo.


F2Pocalypse 2013

So let me get this straight. In the news in the last few days:

LotRO added a patch with Hobbit Presents, a new gambling-style lockbox that they spam daily at players. Why bother with giving lockboxes a chance to drop from a monster? Just shovel them at players and try to rake in the cash. And LotRO added a literal in-game store shopping mall in Bree.

SWTOR’s new patch supposedly adds nothing but store items.

And Rift today announced that it’s going Free To Play. But it will be fair with no tricks or traps–they promise. Bill Fisher says the stigma of F2P is going away, but if it is, then why do they have to make that promise in the first place?

This is probably the main reason that Hartsman left Trion. It’s because the man is a god of integrity, like I always said. He’s really cute too. Can I say that without being reverse-sexist? I’m not sure, but I did. This is the way of the kitty.

So. I said I’d never blog about LotRO again, but since I quit the game, I feel like I can make an exception to say that I hope it dies in a fire. I hope they pull the license. I hope it shuts down ASAP so I never have to hear about it again.

My elves have diminished, abandoning the world to the greed of men. And women, in this case.

I made my goodbye post. I updated my LotRO Interface page to say that I will no longer be supporting those 14k downloads. I’m leaving my LotRO boxing guide up on my blog. It’s top post today, I think from some press it got in the forums.

Boxing is kind of a rebellious activity. It’s also a way for players to get as much from F2P as possible without paying. It’s okay with me.

I’ve almost condemned Neverwinter also. I’m still on the fence. I was reading the 1500+ post F2P-complaint thread in the forums until the mods closed it down and ejected it with no explanation. I heard about the Orwellian world chat spam whenever someone wins the lottery. I heard about the high prices for basic things. The double-diamond earning weekends or whatever.

To be fair, I don’t just assume the whiners are right. Neverwinter might be the most smokin’ deal going in an MMO right now. Once you wade through all of the currency exchange rates and calculate out a monthly estimate of what you mind need–it might well be fair. (A degree in accounting or a genius IQ is useful for playing a F2P game.)

F2P is just not a game I want to play. I want immersion, not a meta shopping experience where I buy things for my characters like they are barbie dolls. F2P is a symptom of the sickness that is pervasive in American culture.

So the kitty is now left with WoW, Guild Wars 2, Skyrim, and Dragon Age 2. Guild Wars 2 is double-dipping, but it’s non-obtrusive. I haven’t really needed the store yet. The store will move forward, though. The corruption might be inevitable.

On a positive note, I’m working on a fun new comic strip titled “The Forsaken Inn Of Unplayable Races”. It’s a place where races go when they aren’t wanted in an MMO. It’s cute. I’ll have it posted soon. A new strip is needed in the yonder sidebar to replace the one about SWTOR.

More Reading:

TAGN on Rift F2P

Guild Wars 2 Writing And Immersion: Superb

I’ve played Guild Wars 2 for one week now, and I continue to be impressed every day. I’ve played my usual, same-old MMO for so long that I’d forgotten how real fun felt.

Today I went on a guided history tour in the human capital city (Divinity’s Reach.) I took the opportunity to get my “walk” hotkey set up and learned some things about Kryta political history.

I also realized that the Asian looks in the character creator are explained by Cantha, which was a GW1 expansion after I quit playing it. Kryta is a melting pot situation.

I really, really like the character naming setup in GW2. You’re allowed multiple names with spaces. So if “Robert” is taken, you can try “Sir Robert” or “Robert Ross” or “Sir Robert Of Beartown”. This scheme is a boon for roleplaying.

Maybe you want to be a monk, so you’ll want “Brother Robert” or something. The hard part is trying to determine whether the honorific “Sir” is even appropriate, or if it’s supposed to be “Ser”, or if you should be a “Chief Engineer” or “Mistress” depending on your race, or just skip the whole thing because it’s too pretentious and isn’t you.

I’m so impressed by the game writing. GW2 delivers a starting story that is personal, and reasons to defend that beseiged city, explained in a way that is believable. You get a feeling that things are at stake, at risk.

Other games I’ve posted about lately (i.e. Secret World and Neverwinter) failed to provide you with a friend in the game, a “Smiling Jack”, someone to make you feel welcome and give you a connection. Some of the GW2 races start you right off with selecting a friend or sibling that will play a part in your story.

Human characters also select a deity. Unlike Neverwinter, which (iirc from beta, it may be different or changed) only describes the deities and lets you pick one, the GW2 writing makes it personal through the writing.

For example: “Melandru … can be found in every harvest and every flower. She smiles upon those, like me, who have an affinity for animals. I am a follower of Melandru.” Personal. This works.

I’m not far into the personal story plots, but so far with two races, I’ve noticed a classic pattern of writing good fiction, as described and recommended by Jack Bickham et. al.:

  • Hero has a goal.
  • Hero fails to achieve goal, suffering a setback.
  • Hero has to come up with another plan.
  • Another setback; the stakes get higher and higher.

My new character, Shar Katzdottir, is a half-Norn, a bastard daughter of a Norn fortune-teller who spread her stockinged cards during hard times for a wealthy Elonian. Shar killed another client who made her mother disappear. She fled the city and lived in the Kryta wild for a time, learning intuitively the ways of her Norn heritage and communing with the cats as a Ranger.

When Shar dared return to the city out of loneliness, she lived on the streets until she befriended Quinn, who gave her a bed to sleep in. “This is her story” as the GW2 writing says. This is good writing with a brilliant economy of style. I’m looking forward to more.

In other news:

In other news, the CCP Eve Fanfest was last week, and they revealed some World of Darkness things. WoD News is the best source of info. Politics. Backstabbing. Fashion, and some sort of follower crafting system maybe like TOR. You’re a vampire queen. You don’t want to darn stockings or do embroidery.

The names Edward and Bella were also announced to be banned. CCP has a modest team of 70 people on WoD now, and the release won’t be before 2015. This makes fang-banging kitties a little sad. For perspective, Blizzard’s new MMO, the “Titan” project, has 150 people on it now, per rumors.

We are expected to hear more about Blizzard’s Titan this year, which is slated to test in 2014, and possibly release. The best current situation sum-up I’ve seen is over at Titan Focus.

Guild Wars 2: First Impressions

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So I was looking for a new game, and Guild Wars 2 won the showdown by virtue of going on sale (again) for $40, plus offering a free trial key, which I picked up from Curse on Thursday.

A few keys might still be available. I don’t know. I thought about giving a heads-up on my blog, but the download was super-impressively fast, and then I was in the game playing.

GW2 is an amazing and beautiful game. It kind of reminds me of Aion but dialed up to 12. It’s a single purchase to play with no subscription fee, which did gave it an edge over SWTOR or Mists of Pandaria, other possibilities.

Guild Wars 2 also offers Spanish, which is another perk for me. This is enabled by a mix of voice and text that is very effective. When the mechanics of the story delivery are invisible, you’ve got it right. The Sylvari (the GW2 plant-based rendition of pointy-ears) turned out to be pretty cool.

Sylvari is the race for me, and I think Thief is the class. I’m still depressed over quitting my L65 Burglar in the other MMO I play, because the Burglar just doesn’t stack up to my Lore-Master for various reasons. Well, the GW2 Thief can swap daggers for dual-wield pistols in a heartbeat, so that’s an issue solved.

I’ve looked at countless videos and articles about this game, and lots of good things have been said. I don’t want to go crazy on all of the good things. I could write a long essay. For example, Angry Joe’s fun video review on this is memorable. He rates the game a 10/10 with a “badass seal of approval”, a game that belongs in your “liberry”.

The dynamic (public) quests and cooperative gameplay really are a big deal for MMO innovation, and a lot of fun. I’ve been revived a number of times by other players, and it’s a warm fuzzy for sure. On the other hand, I know that GW2 has issues with dungeons due to no holy trinity, and lack of a trinity means lack of group roles, so how deep can the cooperation hole go?

Also, what happened when I tried to /thank cooperative people for giving a poor thief a hand? Um. Nothing. Nada. In fact, the list of GW2 emotes is a little short at the moment.

Another trivial thing that shocked me was no lipstick. Ten minutes into creating my first character, I was alt-tabbing and searching Google in disbelief. Surely, I thought, there is a hidden color picker somewhere. Nope. Dolce & Gabbana have left the building.

So the only flaw of my character is her lips, which are an off-body color. Still eminently kissable. No need to panic.

Supposedly one of the GW2 writers is disappointed that a great majority of players are choosing Human, so players are widely missing the great stories he wrote for the other races. Well, it seems obvious that if the races are ugly, less people are going to play them.

Exhibit a: those poor Trolls in WoW, ever vying with Dwarf and Gnome for least played race in the game. I’ve tried a half dozen times to make a female Troll, but it’s never, ever going to happen. It’s going to be the same with the female Asura in GW2.

There is no good-looking female hair for Asura, while there are many more and better hair options for human and Sylvari women. Asura and Charr women also have NO breasts. Who wants to be a member of a race with no breasts? Maybe Asura are actually amphibians of some kind, but Charr are surely mammals, aren’t they?

This is admittedly kitty logic and not rocket scientist logic, but still valid.

Asura could have been properly cute, but instead they look like walking salamanders. And I don’t mean D&D salamanders, which are more attractive. Maybe they were going for a Harry Potter house-elf look. I don’t know.

So, the kitty conclusion is: here GW2, take my money, thanks for the free trial key. I love you. This is the game I want to play right now. The word on Neverwinter is two more classes in the works. I’ll be waiting on those instead of showing up at launch next week. That’s fine.

Syp (or maybe we are back to Justin Olivetti again per the current byline) interviewed Andy Valesquez this last week and did get an interesting explanation on why so few classes at launch in Neverwinter:

“We figured that if the classes we released were really good, people would stick around to see what comes later, as opposed to if we put out a bunch of classes that are whatever, then nobody will care when we say that class 10 is coming next month.”

Here’s hoping that works for them.

Best Of: MMO Youtube

Tonight I sat down for a few hours and watched Youtube videos of Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online at E3. Here are the two that were most interesting and informative. I hadn’t seen these yet. I liked seeing the armor and relic displays from Elder Scrolls in the first video. The second video is a well-made GW2 review that was just posted today. This video echoes my own skepticism about whether such a simple skill bar can be interesting and not “spammy”. The Elder Scrolls bar is supposedly even more simple.

I also saw a good video that went over the Guild Wars 2 cash shop. It looked like a basic prototype of the LotRO store. You can buy bank space, character slots, +10% damage and -%10 damage, +100% XP, and lots of cosmetics and fun items like fireworks and polymorph potions. Why haven’t I played the GW2 beta? I’m not pre-ordering for access. I applied twice but wasn’t invited, and I haven’t gotten a key any other way. So far I’ve seen mostly positive things. Hope you enjoy the videos.