I’ve been revisiting Guild Wars lately (btw, the Zaishen quests seemed to reactivate things somewhat, so kudos there). If you’ve been reading these pages for a while, you know GW has a special place in my heart. No, I’m not married to it, it’s not even my girlfriend or a crush or anything like that. But it’s been a good friend, and we had a lot of fun together over the years.
Nobody’s perfect, though. However, just as in real life, you glance over other people’s imperfections just to maintain your sanity and play well with others. The problem with GW-as-a-friend is, to put it quite simply, it’s a very bossy friend. It’s a good friend, no doubt about it, fun to be with, special and entertaining. But there’s no escaping its rails; most of the time you do things the way GW wants you to do them, and may God help you.
With GW2 around the corner (ha!) maybe there’s still time for Arena.Net to take a look at the new friend they’re building up, and maybe make it a little bit more accomodating. The dynamics, I think, definitely need to change and players need to be given more freedoms.
Freedom of Movement: This is a given, and from what I’ve gleaned in previews and interviews, something a.net is tasking itself to improve. We have to think that it will be 2032 when GW2 comes out (I kid, I kid) and we really can’t have an ultra-instanced world which, to top it off, is exceedingly bound by geometry and invisible walls. Players need to be free to jump, run or walk, drop off any height at their own peril, swim and so on. The world needs to change as well. Tyria in GW is a wonderful, amazing setting… that feels much less than it could be thanks to being completely shattered by instancing. It could be so much more, and feel more cohesive. I’m extremely glad this is being taken care of for GW2, but until we can see it, the warning remains.
Freedom of Appearance: Players can’t be so severely bound by their class even down to their very looks. This needs to change. If an Assassin wants to spend the money and get herself some lighter and prettier Elementalist armor to chill at her Guild Hall and not look ‘business’ all the time, then that’s her own problem and her own money. Introduce penalties for wearing ‘heavier’ armor, if you wish, but do not take the option out altogether. This is a large immersion breaker that is usually overlooked.
Freedom of Allegiance: I’m pretty sure chaining Guild membership to accounts instead of characters was a move that originally had something to do with PvP and to prevent spying of some sort (just as in “other games” if you roll in a PvP server you can’t have characters spread between factions). But come on now, we must admit that nowadays this is totally silly and if CCP manages to exist just fine with characters being able to sleaze their way into an enemy corp, taking it over and having a bake sale with their assets… I think a.net can survive a few players having separate characters in separate guilds. This is almost a no-brainer.
Freedom of Choice in Equipment: I fully realize I might get some flak for this, but I’ll say it anyway – “Normalizing” all the weapons and equippables just so they all have the same stats and only differences in some bonuses is silly. It’s silly because it’s a false choice; it suggests a choice when in reality there isn’t much of one. I’m sure this was also done to keep PvP being “about skill”, but FotM builds, silly tactics and other maladies override this anyway. This is also another large immersion breaker that is often passed over; the fact that all weapons of its own class inflict the same damage, and there might be 300 scythes available at the high end, but they’re all about the same. Sure, one might say “Ah, but customization, inscribables, blah, blah…” which is true up to a point. The point of finding a green weapon that for some obscure reason can’t be customized or inscribed or blah-blah’ed, so your options are to use it as is, or try to sell it. Even if it’s not a game that revolves around gear and items, itemization needs to be critically reviewed for GW2.
Freedom from Trade: Notice I said “from” and not “of”. We already have Freedom of Trade in GW. Limited, but freedom nonetheless. What I mean by Freedom “from” Trade is that players need a way to avoid spending (x) hours standing like an idiot in one place hitting the lacking trade interface until some buyer is miraculously found. Other games manage to avoid this just fine by creating a place tended by NPCs in which players can drop off the items they wish to sell and, for a modest fee, those items get added into a list that other players can browse and purchase from. Other games managed to do this almost a decade ago. This is yet another no brainer. Don’t wanna call it “Auction House”? Fine, call it something else. Whatever you want. But this also needs to be revised. Of course, leave the trade interface and mechanics existing as it is, in parallel, just so we don’t drive away all the scammers, but players need to be free from this madness and need to be given a way to offload their items easily other than to trash them at a vendor.
Freedom of Speech: Yes, I completely understand that I’m reaching by calling this “Freedom of Speech”, but I couldn’t think of any other way to say – Fix the chat system. Zone-wide, character voice channels are a bad idea. A channel for emotes is unnecessary. Introduce a “/say” with limited range so what I say is not heard by “|x|Mongo The Magnificent|x| [cOcK]” a game mile away at the other end of the zone.
That’s about it. I have no doubt that if a.net manages to improve at least somewhat in these points, GW2 will be a fantastic game that will give any other game a serious run for their money, if not surpass them altogether. But on the other hand, if these points are not improved we run the serious risk of ending up with another GW in a prettier disguise; which is not bad at all, but would it be enough in 2385 AD when it comes out?