I basically missed this beta weekend in Guild Wars 2. It was unavoidable due to real-life circumstances that basically made sure a gaming rig was not available. I read as much as I could. I still enjoyed watching Twitter, Reddit, and hearing tales of play here and there. On Saturday night I lucked out with a single hour of play. Instead of worrying about the server quagmire and guilds issue from last Beta Weekend Event, I just decided to jump in and play. It was an experiment.
In real life, many of us have only a few minutes to play. Work, kids, dishes, wife, dogs, gods, parties, school, and Steam sales all limit free time. Some gamers have chunks of hours scattered through the week to play their favorite MMO. Gamers like Ethic and I (and countless others) have an hour here and there. How would Guild Wars 2 play when I had to jump in, see what I could do, and jump out?
Thankfully ArenaNet let us keep our characters so I could do exactly that without creating a new character. I jumped on my norn mesmer sitting in the north half of Wayfarer Foothills, the norn starting zone. I had to redo my utility skills really quickly, but had enough skill points to get two pretty decent PvE utilities Mantra of Pain (DPS) and Decoy (de-aggro). Then I had to decide what to do.
In conventional MMOs usually this re-entry period is a wash at under half-an-hour as I have to figure out which quests I am in the middle of in my packed quest log. It gets even worse when as a returning non-expert I am trying to decide which quests might have the quickest turnaround. When I have only a sparse hour, I still want to progress somehow. I realize I could go farm a nearby mob for the duration of my gameplay session, but that does not feel like fulfilling advancement. I would say completing a quest is the bare minimum.
In Guild Wars 2, I popped up the map. I had a story quest, where I had completely forgotten the story. I had three renown hearts to go in the Wayfarer Foothills zone, and I had a few waypoints and points-of-interest locked. My options were immediately apparent. I could advance the story, progress the zone, or simply explore. Any one of those felt like it could be a fulfilling advancement.
I decided first to complete a new heart. I had last logged at Crossroads Haven, and I could help build renown by fighting Sons of Svanir and “other dangers” around the haven. In hindsight I probably should have gone to talk to the renown NPC for a 10-second refresher on where I should be. Instead I just went for it. This was unfortunate because I kept wandering north, which was outside the renown zone. There were plenty of northward Svanirites and other baddies, but the Haven Lionguard apparently didn’t care. Eventually I forced myself west of the Haven to start killing renown-bearing mobs. I also made sure to gather the abundance of wood on the west side to fill my daily achievements really quickly. With a concentrated effort, and a few mini-group skirmishes on some veteran mobs, I would say I was done in about 15 minutes.
The activity around this level 13 area was still decent even though I was well behind the zerg. Player action seemed to coalesce at bigger mobs or, of course, events. I saw one escort event where a charr merchant was traveling near Jormag territory and needed help getting to the fort to set up shop. By the time I arrived there were a good handful of other players already helping the charr out. I noticed, as we walked by Jormag territory, that the Wayfarer Foothills meta-event to assault Svanir’s Dome was also ongoing as apparently one tower had been claimed by the free peoples, while the west tower still needed help. We completed the event, and most of us dispersed to the winds. I saw a few run towards Svanir’s Dome, some warped away, and most went into the fort to merch junk and repair.
Afterwards, I decided to finish the first arc of the personal story, which was across the map. A quick waypoint warp, and I was standing at the gates of the instance. I remembered pretty quickly that I had the aid of the minotaur spirit, and we were going to rampage some Sons of Svanir who had been feeding minotaurs to a dragonspawn. Again, if I had taken 10 seconds to look at My Story tab in “H”ero, I would’ve remembered a lot more of the story. I was 3 levels over the story instance, but the boss fight was pretty tough. I burned the dragonspawn down, but then had a challenging time with the Son of Svanir boss. Thankfully my allied NPCs and phantasms took aggro when I was downed.
Overall, I had a lot of fun. Yes, I would have preferred to have had many more adventures this beta weekend, but I felt accomplished for the small amount of time I was able to play. ArenaNet’s systems in Guild Wars 2 made the most of my time. Waypoints got me where I wanted. Map hints gave me achievements to follow or places to explore, and the sidekicking system made sure I was challenged regardless of where I wandered. The only untested portion I would like to have tried was to see how quickly I could meet up with friends. Like I said, all the previous server snafu-age placed a time barrier in my way I would save for later.
I like games that value my time. The more quickly I can jump in, play, and jump out, the more likely I am to remain a customer or continue playing. Even something as silly as load time or a 30-second slideshow of all the publishers and technologies used to make the game can ruin a quick experience. I am glad that it appears ArenaNet does value MMO players’ time. If it is even possible, I am looking forward to launch even more.