[GW2] The Single Point

I think I’ve played Guild Wars 2 long enough to review it with pretty good depth. I don’t feel that is necessary. The blogosphere and real journalist reviews seem to resoundingly agree that for $60 and no subscription fee Guild Wars 2 is a great buy. People unused to Guild Wars 1 festivals are going to be in for a treat this Halloween, which only adds to the value. There are flaws, like any game. Some might be fixed (LFG), and some might not (FOV). Regardless, it is a great MMO. I plan on playing it for a long time.

I think there is a single point to take away from Guild Wars 2 that I hope worms its way in to all future MMOs. Okay, there are actually tons of good things, but for me, this is the one that matters most.

To be blunt and crude, I am going to call this point “F-yeah, let’s do this”.

The so-called effect occurs when I happen upon another player in PvE (not including dungeons, for the sake of this post). Often times we run merrily on our own paths, but the PvE systems are set up to provide action and content. Mostly there is something that needs to be dead, gathered, or conquered lying around. Our gravity shifts with the slightest of degrees towards each other, as if Turing true-positives created a bond between us.

I’ve hammered and hammered non-verbal communication being one of the greatest abilities in an MMO, especially prevalent in Guild Wars 2. It happens a lot with jumping puzzles, finding hidden entrances to caves, roads to skill points, etc. That’s fine, and it occurs in many other multiplayer games too.

It doesn’t get exciting until that moment. That one moment where I know the other player is thinking what I am thinking. That moment where I know we click together. F-yeah, let’s do this.

It’s such a great moment, like a vignette. There’s the scene were we see each other. It’s abrupt as if we hadn’t noticed each other before. Only now are our minds acknowledging one another as more than background noise. It’s followed by that moment of hesitation where all the training from all the other MMOs taught us, conditioned us that the other is an adversary of the worst ilk. This being is competition for my time, a resource far too valuable. Click. But, that’s not it. We are allies, and with our power combined we will mow down the mobs like a pack of wolves descending on sheep.

This moment is exciting, and addicting. It is why exploring low-level zones with low-level loot still gives great moments in gameplay. It is stronger in Orr where players that do click together can start to overrun portions that are semi-challenging to a solo player. It is the PvE analogue of that moment where I gleefully gib a pack of players in PvP. There was a connection, only that moment was centered around my win versus the other’s loss. Instead, this moment is harmonious.

I want this, more than any other thing in Guild Wars 2, to be the yardstick for future MMOs. Can you, developers, have this moment in your game? Or does every hidden rule in the system prevent this? Will players’ eyes glaze over at the ignorable movements of other players? Already some are responding, such as Lord of the Rings Online changing things in small chunks with Riders of Rohan. I hope the momentum continues.

–Ravious

28 thoughts on “[GW2] The Single Point”

  1. this point “F-yeah, let’s do this” is unfortunatly also comming with such an ease in GW2 that the parts where you chat with someone you meet in a remote area, is rarely happend.
    I fear that alot of GW2’s innovation has just removed the reason to talk together. And as such i find oddly enough that the social part of the game is its weakest point atm.

      1. There’s absolutely nothing whatsoever in GW2 to *prevent* you chatting. In any circumstance where two people might have chatted in any other MMO, they can chat here. I find it odd that people suggest that somehow if people were put into a more competitive, confrontational framework they would chat to strangers more freely.

        Swear at them, threaten them and call them names, yes. Chat? I doubt it.

        1. Yeah, outside of guilds, it was awkward at best. That said, I haven’t seen a lack of conversation relative to other games. The fact that the game play itself demands less spoken communication frees people to talk about other things.

          There’s also something to be said for companionable silence. As Tesh said, there’s more to socializing than speaking. My friends and I don’t talk much when we’re out at a club, but we’re definitely socializing. Plenty of other social hobbies that don’t necessarily require a lot of conversation. I personally prefer situations that allow me to be social without non-stop chatter.

      2. Is anyone else reminded of those arguments that texting/Twitter/social networks “ruin our social sphere” because if we’re not communicating by sitting down and talking using our voices, we’re not “really” socialising?

        If we’re not typing out the full “I need to kill that boss for a quest, invite me to party plz?”, because we can convey the same sentiment by moving towards an orange circle on the map that both players can see, then it’s “anti-social game design”.

        Funnily enough, the argument against Twitter/texting/social media is that you can’t see a person’s body language and you lose all the non-verbal communication in favor of dry, impersonal text…

        1. I agree with Jondifool that the game does not feel social to me (yet). Typing out “I need to kill that boss, help?”, and getting an answer, simply feels more social to me than just moving together and doing an objective. The dialogue at least shows that another person has noticed and acknowledged you, and cares enough to type a response.

          In GW2, I might join in an event or do some other activity, but it is too brief and feels inconsequential. We just instantly separate when the encounter is over. It still feels like everyone is just doing their own thing: multiplayer solitaire, like most MMOs. For events with lots of players, I dont know if others have even noticed me. Other players often feel like they could be replaced by bots– in fact I sometimes can’t tell initially whether a character I see fighting is a bot or a player.

          That said, I haven’t played a lot of GW2 yet. I could see how joining someone to do a jump puzzle or vista together could feel more social, IF you stick together for a while.

    1. I’ve actually found more in-say RP, more people “making the world their own,” people shouting battle-cries and congratulating others on a battle well-fought (total strangers, mind you!) in this game than in any of the other seven MMOs I’ve played.

      If you call for help in /say, don’t be surprised if you get a response – it might be someone typing out “ok” or it might be someone just blazing up to your rescue. Personally, I think the latter “communicates” more thoroughly :)

      It’s always great to be lying there downed and have some stranger come up and not only rez you, but admonish you “get up, the fight’s not over!”

  2. I’m having a blast and moments like that are the main reason why. My favorite thing to do is when I see a group of 3 or 4 people heading in a direction, I just follow along. Who cares where they are going? This game has been so liberating to me.

    I have a bad habit of attacking veteran mobs without realizing it and getting wiped out when running around by myself. This happened last night and as I usually do when laying there dead, I look around to see if there are any other players nearby and then I wait if that is the case. Last night 2 folks came over and rezzed me after finishing off the vet that I had almost beaten. From there we became a trio. We ventured further in the cave and found the vista, the skill point and the points of interest all together. We even ended up part of a bigger group that fought a champion level mob.

    It was great. No official “group” was formed, we just started helping each other.

    1. You weren’t on a Charr female in Melchor’s Leap, were you? >.> My gaming partner and I encountered this exact scenario last night!

  3. A really small, trivial example:

    Immediately I logged in tonight I began harvesting in Frostgorge. I’d done an Ancient Sapling and two Orichalcums and I was heading to the Rich Mithril node which has spawned somewhat inconveniently next to the favorite stalking ground of a Veteran Ice Wolf.

    Usually I set my pet on the wolf, quickly mine the node and run off, whistling for the pet to follow, if he’s still alive. This time as I approached the node I saw another player right at it, with the Veteran wolf and several other wolves tearing into him.

    In other MMOs the cynical but natural response would be “good – let the wolves kill that guy so he doesn’t get the node, and with a bit of luck he’ll have softened them up enough for me to kill them and grab it”. In GW2 the automatic response was “hold on pal, I’m coming!”, set my pet on the Veteran and let loose every AE I can find. Combos, conditions and a pile of dead wolves follow.

    We then both mine the node and go on our merry way. It’s a totally trivial, commonplace encounter but what matters is it’s a completely normative, commonplace trivial encounter. Jumping in to help is just what we do here and yes, it feels better that way.

    1. This right here is why I love Guild Wars 2 so much (and Rift as well, to a lesser extent). GW2 has fundamentally changed the way we behave for the better, and I can never go back.

  4. Great post. I love the non-verbal communication.

    Last night, after such a happening our only exchange occurred at the end – after about 10 minutes of near deaths with a champion and several veteran ettins.

    Self: “Well that was a f-ing marathon”
    Other: “Yeah”

    Everyone has different gaming preferences at different times but, right at this moment, this is what I want.

  5. Another gameplay mechanism you did not discuss that provides the same feel is the ability for everyone to revive. When you die dont immediately map to a waypoint, take a look around. If there are players anywhere near it is extremely likely someone will come over and revive you.

    A quick “ty” in chat to your saviour gives a little warm fuzzy appreciation. If you happen to be going in the same direction you often end up with some more ad-hoc teamwork and memorable battles.

  6. Those moments have come for me multiple times since I have been playing.

    It’s very clear that you are “in this together” when the players near by stop and look around to see if you’re keeping up in the jumping puzzle or before heading to the next batch mobs.

    I have seen many players do that for me and I do that for others all the time.

    I have also seen players come down from a Vista or Puzzle and do it again so others can follow the path. No speaking but the communication is clear.

    Sometimes we do end up speaking but a lot of times the silent camaraderie is enough.

  7. Yes, those are great moments, and they happen all the time.

    Just this morning it happened to me with this warrior. I happened to be killing Ogres in this village that was taken over, and the warrior arrives with an NPC who is about to start an event to start back the village.

    We both immediately ‘got it’ and teamed up to complete the event. We focused on the same enemies and I (elementalist) made lots of combo fields for him to take advantage of. We even, gasp, chatted. Did we “need” to in order to overcome the challenge? No, but it was fun.

    I really related to Bhagpuss about helping (and being helped by) other players. In WoW if I see someone going for an ore node or quest thing with mobs around, I hang back and wait until the mobs are swarming him so I can swoop in and take it myself. I know that’s a nasty thing to do, but it’s a competitive world out there. In GW2 I constantly go out of my way to help others and it’s great.

  8. I’ve seen other players travel long distances relative to my position just to resurrect me. The experience they would get for doing this is minimal. This is what I love about GW2. More than anything cooperation and good behavior are encouraged and an integral part of the game design.

  9. Indeed. I had one of those moments just recently on my norn thief. A Champion Icebrood group event had just spawned on the end of an escort DE, and the only other guy around was an engineer.

    Champions being champions, I’m used to running the hell away and giving them a wide berth when alone. The engineer started attacking, and well, I couldn’t just leave him there by his lonesome. Didn’t dare get close, so started sniping with dual pistols, doing slow bleeds and applying vulnerability, and he did a fantastic job of controlling the champion.

    The only times he got overwhelmed was when an additional mob wandered by, that would be my signal to rush up, do thiefy dagger things and massacre the normal mob, immediately rallying him from the downed state.

    End result: Two of us killed the champion. Epic.

  10. You can get less love as a lvl 80 in low level zones due to the tagging mechanics in events (or random veterans). I’ve had occasional passive aggressive comments in chat while clearing up the low level zones.

    It says everything that even this, the closest I’ve seen to grief, was mild, passive and almost apologetic in it’s tone. Not to mention a valid frustration. I just wanted to hug them and give them shinies.

    In any case I have never seen such widespread camaraderie in a game. GW2 is my new favourite thing. Feel the Love.

  11. No matter what else can be said about GW2, the absolute best thing it does is take great strides to cut through nerds’ natural antisocial tendencies and encourage people to do things together. Sure, it might not get past preschool levels of “playing next to each other,” but it’s still a vital step toward making MMOs social again.

  12. This experience is why I play, and why I have loved playing, and why I still occasionally push away from my computer and marvel at the fun I am having.

  13. This is actually one of the things that turns me away from GW2 every time I try to again. I try to like the game, and in many aspects I do. The changing tactics with different weapons is very engaging, for instance. But this effect you’re describing is not a community being built. It’s a community being avoided. It’s someone knowing that they can rely short-term on the help of someone else without ever having to do more than be there.

    When that knowledge is there, then there is never any reason to move beyond that. There’s no reason to actually have a real community where you have friends, and know the people and become invested in their welfare inside (and sometimes outside) the game. It’s the difference between holding the door open for a complete stranger and inviting a friend over for a meal. One is courtesy, and there’s nothing wrong with courtesy, but it never moves further than that. The other is engaging another person, and that is how communities are really built.

    In the past, it took years and a major atrophy of the population before things degraded to a state like this. Now it’s there at launch and being lauded. This may be a major reason why so many MMO-related forums have so many posts lamenting the loss of community.

    1. To turn that around for a bit: but the people who *enjoy* socialising, and building a community, and playing with their friends, can still *do* that. If someone is taking the time to chat with you and be friendly, wouldn’t you rather they did it because they genuinely want to be your friend, and not because they feel obligated to build a social circle in order to not be hamstringed in the game?

      Unless of course you’ve found that once the need to talk to you and be nice to you to make use of your expertise vanishes, nobody wants to talk to you anymore, in which case I may have some bad news.

    2. This is the sentiment I don’t understand.

      (1) You are comparing MMOs where players mostly ignore in the open world, with a tacked on community with (2) an MMO where players interact a lot more in the open world, with a tacked on community.

      I am not seeing a difference in community, and I don’t believe for a second that the scant few pieces of communication in the former do create better community than the latter.

  14. I’ve found that the chat can happen, but it’s generally *after* an ad-hoc group has just done something shiny. There just isn’t time *during* the encounter because you need your hands on the movement/skill keys and your mind on what you’re doing, not on thinking up something to say while standing still and autoattacking. Perhaps it would be different if we had universal voice communication where you could speak without disrupting your actions.

    I know I feel pumped when I happen to be around a bunch of strangers and we just somehow really click in getting to that guarded skill point, taking down that champion and his posse, etc. At which point we may trade compliments on the teamwork and the difficulty of the challenge. Wave to each other and say “thanks for the adventure” before going our separate ways. Does it really have to be about forging lifelong friendships out of every chance encounter?

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