[GW2] Demo Thoughts

This was it. I was at the opening of the NCSoft Meet and Greet party at PAX East 2011, and I would be playing Guild Wars 2 for the first time ever. After this there would be no going back. I was almost unsure how to tackle the demo. Some players were going to go in like data miners and suck as much marrow from the demo’s bones as they could. Others would try and explore to the farthest reaches the demo would allow. Others would just play, perhaps not realizing how deep the rabbit hole went. Should I go in as a journalist, as a fan, as a player? Should I watch the cinematics I had already seen? Should I carefully choose my character’s set up? I had no idea as I clicked the “start demo” button.

I began in the starting norn area, deciding ahead of time to play a norn guardian. A lot can be learned on how a class plays initially, and I wanted to see how the developers were going to portray one of the more complex classes at the start. The two choices I remember making during character creation was that my character would be ferocious (instead of charming or dignified), and that my guardian had definitely blacked out at the last norn moot. That seemed to get my norn as far away as I could from a pious, paladin-esque guardian. I named him “Ravious Will Guard” and journeyed into the mountains.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to experience, but I set off with my first personal story piece immediately. The tutorial area was super quick. Almost too quick. The first story piece asked me to collect three animal trophies so I could participate in the Great Hunt to kill the ice wurm, Issormir. Coming off of Rift, which had a dozen kill ten rats style quests, I had to kill three very easy enemies and a very easy boss before I really even understood my skills. I noticed this watching the human starting area too; the pacing is very fast. I am not sure whether it is supposed to be a safe sandbox, an interactive cinematic, or an actual tutorial area. Maybe all three? To be fair, the time limit pressure imposed by the demo clock definitely forced a quick pace on its own.

In the persistent world, I headed haphazardly toward an area the scout system pointed me to: the Raven Shrine. There was an ongoing event to basically please Raven by helping find raven eggs, killing off skelk harassing the ravens, and answering riddles at the raven shrine. It was a very relaxing event. After a moment of playing around, I decided to talk to the NPC standing at the shrine. He would explain the shrine and event, but then there was a curious red option. As my character was ferocious, I could basically tell the guy that raven’s riddles were stupid. I laughed out loud as this was nearly the first NPC text I had read during actual play. I did tell him the riddles were stupid.

I reset the demo and headed in to the high level area playing as a thief (and later a necromancer). The skill bar was instantly overwhelming, but the layout helped a lot. The most basic attacks went from left to right on the skill bar, and my heal skill was right next to my globe-shaped health bar. If I had leveled from one to the near thirties, I am sure I would have had no problem, and by the end of the demo I was definitely getting in to a rhythm. When Guild Wars 2 developer, Jon Peters, helped me run through the demo again as a necromancer, it was apparent that a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

It’s really hard to know what to share and take away from the demo. It’s like being able to smell a 12-course Michelin-rated dinner. The thing I can share is that combat is fluid, extremely fluid. The way the skills felt. The way the AI responded. The way the character moved. It felt right. It was more balanced than Vindictus’s frenetic pace, but it felt more real than Dungeons and Dragons Online pseudo-action. It was also apparent that each profession had their own rhythm. The guardian was going to be in the center of the action, while the thief was going to dance around the edges. The necromancer felt like an utility guy, just like he should.

The demo makes me even more excited for the upcoming beta, and Jon Peters told me that they were looking forward to beta just as much as the fans were. They want to see people playing and experiencing the game. The time has to be right, though, so that all sides can benefit. At least two more PAX East posts will be on their way this week!

–Ravious

21 thoughts on “[GW2] Demo Thoughts”

  1. 1) E3 for everyone?

    2) Did you get to drill into attributes etc?

    3) Did you get to try any crafting?

    1. 1) Sounds unlikely. I have the feeling they are just not ready for an extended demo. I think they are getting close with professions and zone content.

      2) Yes, that is coming in another post.

      3) No, but I did discuss crafting a plenty.

      I have at least two more posts coming. This post was originally entitled Demo Thoughts and Dev Asides, but it became way too long.

  2. Great write-up Ravious! The thing I wanted to hear was

    “The thing I can share is that combat is fluid, extremely fluid. The way the skills felt. The way the AI responded. The way the character moved. It felt right.”

    This is the most important thing in my opinion. It’s what the original Guild Wars got right and that no MMO I’ve played since has been able to do. I was worried that Guild Wars 2, being persistent and more MMO-like would lose it’s fluidity, but from the sounds of things, it hasn’t. Really looking forward to this game.

  3. As a blogger myself, I have frequently given thought to how I would spend my allotted demo time if I ever got it. There is a responsibility to the fans to acquire information about the unknown but there is also the drive as a fan to play and experience what you want.

    I personally would have played a lot of ele and necro rather than the new stuff. This would allow me to provide info and do what I want as well. With the guardian and thief playable, almost everyone is going to play them and report back (which they did considering the glut of info on these professions).

    Being at PAX I could see myself being selfish and playing the demo however I want. Sitting at home, however, I find myself a little upset that so many people got to play the demo and so many holes remain in the wiki pages. Perhaps I’m jealous that I didn’t get to play the demo in general and hopeful that ANet will make a special trip to my hometown or send me an email with the demo attached. Here’s hoping for an early beta, though sadly, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to gain access to that either. /pout

    1. The thing I realized, thankfully before PAX East, was that things were still changing, and it was not a good use of my time to data mine when that data might not even make it to live. Plus, I felt that it was going to be much more worthwhile to fans and myself to talk with the devs.

      1. Yea, but you couldn’t dish the really good dirt even if it made it through the haze of alcohol! :)

  4. I enjoyed this post, because it was less speculative and more retrospective. You would do well with more of these types of articles.

  5. Great read. Can’t wait to see the other posts.

    Hopefully the devs can put the finishing touches and tweaks in so the beta comes soon. I hear it is coming into alpha soon possibly? I’m not really sure though.

    From the videos I could tell the combat seemed very smooth and you have confirmed my beliefs. Hopefully they are nearing beta and even closer to release. A fall release seems inevitable but we shall see. With the recent flood of info and releases the game seems closer then most think. All hopes of course :P

    Can’t wait to see what you have next :D

  6. Fall release? I wasn’t expecting to see GW2 until 2012.

    Sounds good, although I will have to feel the combat to know if I can cope with it or not. I can never tell much from watchign someone else play, even if I’m in the room with them, let alone watchign video. DDO was very easy, though, so if it’s along those lines it should be fine.

    Are there any classes/roles that can stand still most of the time in combat? I can’t really envisage archers or spellcasters rolling and tumbling hither and yon through every fight.

    1. I’m not sure that is the point. Keep in mind that his thoughts initially were, “… ravens riddles are stupid!” BEFORE he initiated the dialogue. To have found that very sentiment as a dialogue choice was either an extreme coincidence or a testament to how much thought these guys are putting into character archtypes.

  7. Super-duper-extra-pooper-Jelly, Ravious.

    I don’t blame you for playing the game through as any player would, I think you should always been a gamer first and a blogger second (if you approach a game with “how am I going to write a blog post about this” dancing around your brain, when you do come to writing it up it will seem forced).

    @Bhagpuss: from what I understand it depends on what weapon you’re using. A Ranger (or Thief) using a Shortbow will be able to dance about, rolling and dodging, a Ranger (or Warrior) with a Longbow will be more static and turret like.

    As for the other weapons, I don’t think any of them actually halt movement. Although, I can imagine greatswords slow you down a touch.

  8. Honestly from watching all the demo gameplay videos, I’m really not all that impressed with the combat.
    Sure there nothing wrong with it per say, but to me I feel like they’ve only done half a job.

    All the improvements and tools the combat has to offer is on the player side of things, dodging and aiming, moving around a lot, etc. (which is all very good)
    But when it comes to the AI….. there’s nothing there.
    It’s the same old predictable ‘bee-lining’ to attack and die, and frankly, I’ve seen much, much better.

    What’s the point of being able to move around fluidly, dodge and aim attacks if the AI doesn’t do or demand anything new from you?

  9. So I’ve seen many many videos on GW2 and the gameplay of GW2. I don’t have the time to see if anyone else has asked this, but there is still a lot of unanswered information. First and foremost, WHERE ARE THE TENGU? and why are they not a playable race (that is assuming there isn’t new races in possible expansions) the tengu have had a huge role in guests and lore alike. there is even a bunch of tengu enemies throughout the Krytan area in GW1. Not to mention not a single video being showing a tengu as an enemy in GW2. Furthermore, did all the warthogs die? nothing mentioned that they are an available pet. Finally, will there be titles? a survivor title? I have many questions that may not be answered without playing GW2/talking to the devs, but if you had heard anything on those topics that would be great.

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