Comments of the Week: Guild Wars 2 in Summary

Responding to my gloom about MMO designs that make “Massively Multiplayer” mean “solo or be griefed (more),” Axiom comments:

You might want to check out Guild Wars 2, which is nearing the end of development and is slated for Closed Beta in November or December.

The game was designed from the ground up to eliminate a lot of the ways that typical MMOs fail to encourage cooperation and rather foster anti-social behavior.

Some of the ways they have addressed this are:

1. No mob tapping or kill stealing. Everyone, grouped or not, who does a minimal percent of damage to a mob (5% to 10%) gets full XP and their own individual loot, both at the same level as if they had defeated the mob alone.

2. Rather than traditional quests, the PVE content is mostly in the form of Dynamic Event chains that branch and cascade through out each game zone. Events scale up with more players, offering more challenge and reward. At the completion of the event, in addition to mob xp and loot, everyone gains a reward based on their level of participation vs. predetermined thresholds, adjusted for the number of participants. The rewards are issued whether players succeed or fail the event and you aren’t competing with others for a finite number of reward slots.

3. The game does away with the “holy trinity” of class roles; tank, dps, heals. It also allows any class to fulfill any role situationally, with some skill swapping mid combat. There are no dedicated healers. Group combat requires players who are good at playing various roles that their class allows and adapting continually to the ongoing situation of an encounter or series of encounters.

No more waiting for a particular group build to tackle content. People can successfully group together, no matter what combination of classes they represent, with player ability and cooperation being much more important than class. This removes some of the barriers to grouping that other games create.

4. The game has an advanced side-kick system. Characters are always automatically scaled down in level for content that is a lower level than they are. This makes it easier for friends of different levels to group meaningfully for content of any level. It also prevents higher level characters from going to lower level areas to trivialize content for lower level players there. There is also an active side-kick up system when grouped with a higher level friend to take on higher level content. Once again, serious barriers to cooperative play are negated.

5. There are no targeted heals or buffs. They are proximity or area of effect based and effect other players, grouped or not. This allows active cooperation for world content with out the need for active grouping.

6. There are no factions in Guild Wars 2. All players on the same server, regardless of race, are friendlies. There is a massive, persistent world based PVP game, called World vs. World vs. World. This is where three game servers are pitted against each other for a two-week war that takes place in a large, four zone region that contains villages, mines, forts, towers and other resources that can be captured and held, along with dynamic events and other shared goals beyond racking up raw kill counts.

The winning server earns a server wide reward at the end of the two-week war and then new groupings of three servers are assigned, with the goal of grouping servers of similar prowess against each other. This builds a server-wide community with a common goal, while also eliminating situations where players on the same server are in an adversarial relationship with each other.

Everyone is auto side-kicked to level 80, though they still have their own gear and skill unlocks. A true level 80 would have a gear and skill selection advantage over a true level 30, but a skilled level 30 would still have a chance. This helps to level the playing field and greatly decrease opportunities for griefing.

7. There are 5-man dungeons in the game, rather than raids. Though some world events scale up to handle 10 to 100 characters, providing a PVE outlet for mass combat, organized group raids don’t exist in the game. Successful completion of these dungeons requires smart game play and cooperation, rather than a particular mix of classes. A good group of any class mix can be successful, making group formation easier and more inclusive.

Mob xp and loot work the same way as they do out in the world, full xp and loot for all. Completion of the boss encounter awards all players a token which can be traded for gear of their choice, rather than random drops of epic boss gear that place players in competition with each other and often leave some participants with out any boss level reward.

8. All classes have self heals. All classes can rez other players (and even some npcs) without limit. Players aren’t forced to chose a class based on a need for a healer or someone who can rez. This also takes pressure of people who prefer a support role in MMOs, as no one individual can be blamed for failure of a group because they were perceived to have failed at some niche role.

9. There is no real death penalty in the game. No debuffs or XP loss. Upon death, players can teleport to a nearby way point (which are liberally scattered across each zone) or wait for another character to rez them. This minimizes the negative aspects of group wipes, as well as griefing opportunities in World vs. World.

These are the main design features that have specifically been implemented to address MMO game design flaws that in other games tend to discourage cooperation or encourage griefing.

If the game is successful, hopefully other future games will learn from GW2′s innovative game design, duplicating these features or coming up with their own solutions to the many community and cooperative play issues that result from standard MMO design.

This is basically why KTR may effectively become a GW2 fansite sometime next year. Of course, we have all heard the prophecies of the MMO Messiah before, which leads us to SynCaine’s response to one of several comments in a lucid discussion thread:

Watch your whore mouth! GW2 has solved all MMO problems, EVER, and suggesting otherwise is blasphemy.

: Zubon

36 thoughts on “Comments of the Week: Guild Wars 2 in Summary”

  1. Ah, the GW2 hype machine is a force to be reckoned with. Every MMO claims it will solve the problems plaguing MMOs, but when they release, they’re only derivatives, causing their own problems.

    I worry GW2 has gone too far to try to sterilize the game experience, simply because it’s trying to do too much at the same time. A handful of hardcores and interested souls will try it out, and then it will wink out like the rest of the recent crop have.

    Its only saving grace is the F2P model with a boxed copy. GW2 will mimic GW1 after a handful of months: lots of copies sold, but lots of empty zones.

    1. I think you’re kinda missing the point. Guild Wars (and by extension Guild Wars 2) would NOT be Guild Wars if it had any other business model.

      Game companies exist to make money. No problem with that. But how the game company plans to make money definitely colors how they build/design the game. Sub games have to keep you playing to keep you paying which leads to things like gear treadmills and psychologists being on staff. Free to play games need to make you open your wallet repeatedly so they design the game so that there is a strong market for bonus exp potions etc.

      The business model for GW allows the game developers to just make the game how they want to make it. If GW had a sub fee it’d just be random fantasy MMO #759 with an odd skill bar.

      We’ve seen this time and time again that the business model affects the gameplay and design.

      1. So what you’re saying is that GW developers have to design a game so you play it only infrequently and abandon it early so they can downsize the servers they provide for free?

        1. Wow, you ARE a cynical bastard, aren’t you? You do realize that if so few people played, there wouldn’t be a reason for all the current content updates to Guild Wars? They’d shut down the game if it became a burden on their bottom line, and since that HASN’T HAPPENED, it would imply that Guild Wars is still turning a profit somehow, wouldn’t?

            1. According to that chart GW sold $1,881,820 USD worth of product in the 2nd quarter of 2011 alone. That’s the equivalent of 120k subscribers paying $15/mo for an entire year. I’d call that pretty respectable for an 8yr old game!

            2. Lineage 1 makes up 40%. That came out in 97. :)

              (GW1 makes them money, yes, but it’s not up there with even ‘niche’ MMOs that have 200k+ subs. The way some people talk about it, they make it sound like the game is printing money thanks to its business model. I’m not saying it would definitely make more money as a sub MMO, but 120k+ ‘subs’ is not exactly setting the bar that high either)

            3. They’re making enough that NCSoft has given them a near blank check to take their time devloping the sequel, and NCSoft is the company that doesn’t blink at shutting down under-performing games, so I guess that’s more than good enough for them in this case.

          1. It was a sarcastic comment to Msenge’s post. The point is, GW’s model does not have any magical properties that make the games better than games with sub or item shop models. Money matter no matter which payment model the company decides to implement but it doesn’t mean they can’t produce a good game (or bad money-drainer) with any of them.

            1. It’s worth remembering that GW2 *has* an item shop, you just have to pay for the game as well, unlike the standard no-cover model. We’ll need a new term for the “buy the box, then bleed out your wallet in the item shop” model if it takes off.

            2. There is a shop for World of Warcraft too: 1. Exclusive Mounts 2. Character Transfer 3. Name Change 4. Faction change 5. Mobile AH/etc. services 6. RealID Dungeon grouping. That is “buy the box, buy each expansion, dole out $15 every month to get one raid per six months and bleed out your wallet in the shop” model.

            3. When Blizzard starts charging 5 bucks every time you want to use the new transmogrification system you’ll have a reasonable comparison.

            4. You clearly don’t know GW to have comparison. Play a lil bit GW read about GW2 “shop” then write.

  2. I hope that the “War of the Worlds” won’t negatively affect me playing with players from other servers.

    “Server pride”, “Server community” are nice words but I hope the server architecture isn’t a step backward compared to just switching instances and being able play together easily.

    Point 3 will cause people trouble. But not so much as Guild Wars 1 did when you tried to apply the classic trinity to the game just like in “any other MMO”. DIKU stuff has become synonymous with “MMORPG” for quite some time by now, unfortunately.

    Always being more or less grouped and facing more than just a little opposition are nothing gamers are used to nowadays in MMOs.

    A different system – oh noes! Unlike what some people believe Guild Wars is still alive and kicking and played after years without major content updates and updates that were more aimed at the existing population than dragging in new players.

    Guild Wars 2 – even without the “trinity” – seems to be all about catering to JOE DUMB, MMO DPS-VETERAN. So that he can “get it”.

    There are scores of people who simply didn’t get Guild Wars, did NOT understand the system or the appeal at all. Suggesting to add “extra levels” and “better item progression” to improve it. Who were looking for “level appropriate dungeons” and “zones”. And how great jumping and riding pink elephants is.

    Besides of giving me one /FACEPALM moment after another that’s the audience Guild Wars 2 is trying to win as well.

    I also often wondered how many bloggers can write about interesting MMO concepts of the future only to fall for the next generic DIKU style single player online ! -> ! -> ! -> ! questchain MMO with raids and pvp tacked on top.

    So yeah, more power to GW2 KTR, wouldn’t mind that. Don’t need another “Daily DIKU patch report”: new tier of ugly armors added to WoW 11!1! But soon those will rather marvel about SWTOR.

  3. It’s not like those issues are rocket science. Most of them are just obvious if you try to prevent griefing. But if you look at WoW, a lot of griefing is not there because it can’t be prevented. The game was actively designed to encourage griefing.

    – A lot of things flag you for PvP even on PvE servers.
    – Some of these things are needed for meta achievements, like desecrating bonfires.
    – … or visiting enemy capitals.
    – The “you can’t loot chests while in combat” rule encourages griefing as bystanders can loot “your” chest.
    – … same with mining nodes.
    – A lot of daily quests are designed around griefing like the “way to few mobs for kill quests” or the “collect sparse items in crowded areas” (netherdrake eggs).
    – The loot is often designed in a way to encourage conflict and drama. e.g. the only epic caster weapon from heroics in WotLK was a healer staff, which was BiS for other casters too.
    – The skettis escort quest is also a very good example of a quest that encourages griefing.

    WoW actively adds events that support griefing to the game. Blizzard must think that this is for the better of the game.

    Oh, and your comment email notification function seams to be broken. :-(

    1. Really I think that Blizzard/Vivendi realized that they could rest on their laurels back in about 2005 and that a decade-old gameplay (and graphics) model would earn them at least as much money as updating them would.

      It worked for them up until this year and, honestly, it’s still serving them pretty well. Even though WoW is (supposedly) losing subscribers, it’s still a license for Blizzard/Vivendi to print money since expansions have been few and far between, patches have been lackluster and sporadic, and gameplay is barely updated from its 2004 release.

  4. “The winning server earns a server wide reward at the end of the two-week war and then new groupings of three servers are assigned, with the goal of grouping servers of similar prowess against each other.”

    This is the only thing that stuck out to me as problematic, everything else sounds lovely. Think about it. Over the course of time, the servers with really terrible players would all be grouped together. Going up against awful players, they may actually never learn to better their ways.

    1. All it takes is one guy to pull a band together and piss everybody else off by owning the WvWvW for a week and then magic will happen.

  5. Now, port the thing to Ipad/Iphone, and we’re good…

    Giggle for Syncaine.

  6. I like to think of myself as a big GW2 fanatic, but I do sometimes worry that our lot get a bit overexcited about the coming game – to the point of zealoutry. When you stop being critical and start accepting all info as gospel, that’s when you lose all perspective on a game.

    People have to remember that it doesn’t contribute anything to the community to respond to every critique of the MMO industry with “Yeah, but GW2”.

    1. It contributes in so far as it shows there’s a demand for a game with these design choices.

      If there was another MMO that incorporates these cooperative mechanics, one without the sword&sorcery theme, I’d be all over it.

      Even if GW2 as an individual product should fail, its design ideas hopefully aren’t ignored by MMO developers.

      1. What if those design ideas horribly fail? I would hope they are ignored going forward…

        That’s the crux of my argument; a ton of games have looked perfect on paper, played amazing in beta, and then 3 months after release the subset of MMO players that ruin every MMO figure out that if you do XYZ in GW2, you can insta-gib players/NPCs/crash-the-server, and since everyone wants god-mode, everyone follows suit. Now everyone is wall-kicking mobs, trading keeps, stealing instance IDs, building alpha-AoE teams, chaining CC, zerging/ignoring rifts, (insert your MMO example), etc.

        Oh, and when you go to fix XYZ, you just broke/removed the thing that made GW2 neat to begin with. Oops.

        MMOs are hard. It’s why most ‘fail’ to do more than the standard ‘grind xp/items/shiny’.

        1. You’re right Syncaine, MMOs are hard – developers have to factor in people to a much greater degree than in single-player games, and people are a notorioiusly difficlt and unpredictable factor. Especially when even a small group of clever people set themselves to break your game; odds are someone will manage it, because you can’t predict everything that collective intelligence might hit on.

          However, I’ll give you my usual statement on GW2: if ArenaNet succeed in even half of what they’re attempting, they will have done something great for the genre. They’re trying to break free of assumptions and try something that works differently, with different goals. I’m sure that not everything will work flawlessly (some might even be unexpectedly badly flawed), but it’s fantastic to see the ambition at work.

          1. You’re right, if ANet succeed it will be great. But my original point was that if GW2 is wheeled out every single time any MMO debate crops up then it will get a little tiresome.

            I think it would be a shame if KTR became a dedicated GW2 fanblog. I really appreciate being able to come here and read about a range of subjects. Perhaps we could have a subsection for those KTR staff (you know who you are!) who want to post about GW2?

  7. The list of features I discussed is not exhaustive of the innovation the developers of Guild Wars 2 hope to bring to the genre, but they were all relevant to the original blog post I replied to.

    Time will only tell how much and how well Arenanet delivers, but it’s encouraging to see a group of developers who understands some of the major problems facing standardized MMORPG design and are willing to take the risk of doing something very different from the status quo.

    Anyone who likes how the game looks on paper should be hoping that they are successful in executing the design in reality. These are the types of innovations the genre needs and even if the new recipe falls short of perfection, at least some success will provide the incentive and inspiration for other developers to break free from the bonds of mediocrity that have been plaguing the genre.

  8. Bleh. A game where people can grief you just by showing up (and thus raising the difficulty level of an event), where you can’t level up to complete content that is otherwise too difficult, and which has open-world raid bosses (such as that undead dragon they keep showing in the demos and saying you need a large, organized group to take down – a raid is a raid, even if it’s not confined to its own instance) definitely isn’t for me.

    1. It takes a wise person to look at this and think “this is not what I’m interested in” rather than “this game is stupid in every respect and anyone who plays it is an ignorant loser.”

      That might seem like an exaggeration but, well, this is the internet :P

    2. The game measures activity, not presence… merely standing in the vicinity will not have an affect on the difficulty of the encounter… you have to participate to be factored in. The polling the game performs to determine whether or not someone is participating is repeated with great frequency during the course of an encounter.

      There’s nothing wrong with saying a game isn’t for you… but, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re basing that on inaccurate information.

    3. As ArcherAvatar stated, the game polls activity of participants, not their presence. The point is to ensure that you never have a reason to not want other people to show up and participate in the content you are tackling.

      You aren’t going to get side-kicked down two levels just because you have slightly out leveled content. When you get side kicked down, it will usually be to a level slightly higher than the content. Also, better gear and more skills unlocked will always give you an added edge vs. lower level content (though the stats of higher level equipment will be somewhat scaled down). A level 60 scaling down for level 30 will always have an advantage vs. a true level 30 doing the same content. They just want to ensure that when you get side kicked down, you don’t have a level of power that trivializes the content for you and for others.

      The system is tuned to expand the amount of content you can enjoy, while greatly decreasing any opportunity for higher levels to cause grief by showing up and ruining the content for everyone else.

      Those large world bosses scale for a number of players from ten to one hundred. There will be some strategy involved, but it’s not going to require pre-organized groups.

      These boss events are not on a schedule. The Undead Dragon was decoupled from it’s Dynamic Event Chain and placed on a timer for the convention demo, but that is not how it works in the game.

  9. In all honesty, I would rather see a company like ArenaNET try and do something different and be moderately successful than a company like Bioware deviate very minimally from the same tired formula Blizzard uses with WoW.

    *SW:ToR is being prepped for mediocrity and relying on brand names to pull in subs. I predict a lot of sitting in X capital city for this game. From what I have experienced the PvE encounters have little to no difficulty and the PvP is the same as any other hot key MMO, it’s basically a mash up of WoW and a console SW game (and I would not be surprised to learn that there is a huge market for this).

    GW2 is trying something new and that’s the appeal. That’s what is getting a lot of players interested. Of course everything won’t work flawlessly, no MMO ever starts out without its fair share of issues, but with enough tweaking hopefully the game will be up and running and viable for a long term stay.

    *Note: I use SW:ToR as an example because it’s the one of the few up coming MMOs that I have seriously looked into.

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