A Decade of Guild Wars

Guild Wars is 10 years old!

It amazingly still has a small, active population. I’ve heard that because of the server architecture the cost to maintain Guild Wars is minimal, and the population that has made their home in the game should have no fear of foreseeable shutdown. Guild Wars 1 is going to be around for a while, especially since I still see people going back and buying the game for a mostly single-player experience.

I know I played in early beta events, but my first strong memory was the Collector’s Edition snafu. It appeared that there were manufacturing or shipping problems with the Collector’s Editions, and while I had the headstart period, if I recall correctly, my account would shut down after that. So I did the logical thing and bought a normal edition, being a poor grad student, and then later bought my Collector’s Edition to layer on top of that. My favorite memory is here, when I wrote about Guild Wars ending development.

I still have that Collector’s Edition, as well as the two other Collector’s Edition for Factions and Nightfall. I still look at them fondly from time to time.  Continue reading A Decade of Guild Wars

Shifting Priorities

I have written previously about storyline paths differing between development and live teams in MMOs. I find myself looking at recent Guild Wars 2 updates and wondering whether there was a change in development teams or the same team deciding to shift directions. One could easily look at the first year of GW2 and say, “Wow, we made that way too zergy. Let’s dial that back.” But recent content has been not just dialed back but punishing of zergs, which means either they wanted a hard break with the past or someone different took over the reins of design.

On the one hand, some content encourages zergs, other content discourages it. Yes, not everything calls for the same strategy; that’s good design. On the other hand, almost everything did, for the better part of a year, call for the same strategy, so current players feel punished for doing what they’ve been taught to do, and it is not as if a huge wave of players loving non-zerg content will sweep into GW2 because a few updates were not pure zerg. You need to upset the apple cart atop your current playerbase for a long time and hope they stick around while you right it and turn it in a new direction. On the gripping hand, as I said of “punishing,” quite a bit of content did not encourage zergs so much as require on the order of 100 people to have a reasonable chance of success. The content being rebelled against still requires dozens of people but now requires you to herd those cats in multiple groups before the tools to manage that have come into existence. To say nothing of the switch from the original “show up and do what you want” approach of GW2, where content requiring synchronized dancing was hidden in a few instances.

Also, the boss blitz is just bad.

You have certainly seen that changeover in design philosophy, usually coupled with a changeover in design teams. The original GW1 was very different from the final game after the expansions. City of Heroes under Statesman was very different from City of Heroes under Positron, and I am not sure who was helming the switch to Incarnate content around the time I stopped playing. “Trammel” and “NGE” are famous design shifts that veteran MMO players will still debate in some forums given half a chance. A Tale in the Desert saw quite a few design shifts under the same management, but Teppy was always an experimenter; I have no idea where the game is headed under its new management.

Ingress has had a shift in emphasis over time from a geocaching-like game that focused on walking to rewarding car-based play. If you can’t see why that transition could be rocky, remember that my job was analyzing traffic deaths when I started blogging.

: Zubon

Wow, we don’t even have a post category/tag for Ultima Online. Then again, we don’t bring it up enough for me to want to create it.

[GW] Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Guild Wars is going on automated life support. Any thoughts on advancing the story on the Nameless Lich, Evennia’s disappearance, or Beyond Elona are now officially quashed. It would be nice if any of these are answered, but given ArenaNet’s penchant for keeping things unanswered most of it will likely go in their internal wiki version of Warehouse 13 (which is ironically being taken off life support).

My fondest memory is still in the early day when my old international guild beat the Hall of Monuments. This was the first and only time I ever went there and won. It was amazing enough that we beat it given the tough competition and our middling synergy, but I received a Celestial Sigil. The other thing I really remember was the War in Kryta. It might have been a dead cat bounce in community activity, but it was a lot of fun. The community was really alive with that content.

In some ways its hard to believe that Guild Wars is being eternally paused. What is the life of an MMO? It’s hard to say within the hopeful view of World of Warcraft and EVE Online reigning. Lord of the Rings Online seems to feel more and more like the elves of the Third Age looking to the West, but it is still alive and kicking out content. Are we almost through a significant portion of the life of Guild Wars 2? Bits of news like Guild Wars 1 seem to bring out a time for reflection.

I’d love to hear some more stories people remember about their time in Guild Wars.


Static Gameplay

I have continued to poke at Anti-Idle, and I have run into the same problem that others have cited about Guild Wars 2: there is a large dead zone between “have all your toys” and the cap. In Anti-Idle, that is actually thousands of levels, but it’s an idle game, so those can mostly happen while you’re AFK.

Once you reach the point where all the fights feel the same, you have completed the meaningful content. You beat the game. You’re done and can quit now. Also, when “RPG elements” has come to mean “character advancement,” it stops feeling like your character is advancing when you are just adding new numbers to old abilities. Again, game over, you won.

The sense I get from GW2 is that we are seeing the history of its development. (Entirely made up story follows.) Long before they abandoned the idea of horizontal progression, the original idea was like GW1: low cap, almost everything at the cap. Let’s give the characters all their skills by level 20. Hmm, people really like progression. Okay, we’ll match the industry leader and have 80 levels. Let’s push the elite skills back so we don’t have a 60-level dead zone. You saw a bit of that “needs more progression” when slot skills went from “all available immediately” to “buy 5 in this tier to unlock the next.” There must have been months of meetings trying to decide how to give players more toys over time without breaking the model of having one skill bar. There are some bonuses to unlock via talents, and your gear starts giving you more (not just bigger) stats, and … well, that plateau is kind of essential in the original notion of horizontal progression. Let’s hope they solve it before the coming level cap increase(s) and new tier(s) of gear.

GW1 had hundreds of elite skills you could capture, along with secondary classes, so you could pick your one bar of skills from literally thousands of skills. Part of horizontal progression is having the option to progress, more options not just ones with bigger numbers.

: Zubon

Work in Progress

More than other games, MMO experiences have a time stamp because the game itself changes and our experiences with the “same” piece of content might be radically different.

This is especially true in the early days. Yesterday’s dungeon discussion had some sharply divided experiences, and those could be caused by class, gear, strategy, or the dungeon’s having been updated a half-dozen times in a month. I finally tried WoW so I could see how the zones looked before the Cataclysm revamp only to find that the veterans’ experiences were radically different due to other changes that had accumulated over the years. My trip through Guild Wars: Prophecies included heroes, lots of elite skills, and PvE skills, which changed everything even if none of the Prophecies content had changed.

As a LotRO player, I recall approaches to Moria boss fights that went from “standard practice” to “exploits we patched away.” Sometimes you need the good bugs to get past the bad bugs. Some grognards talk about how hard X was during their day, and some of them did Y while it was easier, broken, bugged, etc.

The population shift is also a big change over time. The original wave of Warhammer Online players experienced public events 1.0 as intended, but as early as a month later many zones were ghost towns and you never saw the last event phases. In September 2012, players bemoaned that the Guild Wars 2 economy was broken because scraps of jute were very expensive. Come September 2014, players may bemoan that the Guild Wars 2 economy is broken because craps of jute were almost worthless. It seems to be a rare event for a game to maintain a steady population spread rather than having huge clumps at the top and bottom levels.

“Trammel” and “NGE” are extreme cases you need not mention. Everyone knows to distinguish between before and after those chasms.

: Zubon

[GW2] Reigning Expectations

Do not seek perfection in a changing world.” –Buddha

Guild Wars 2 is coming. I think it will be a great game. I also know that it is not just a game; it is a service. Like a good MMO service the actual game part will be a living, growing document. Events found unworkable or unfun might get cut or replaced. Mechanics might get tweaked or wholly reworked. Zones might get added or changed. The only sure thing is impermanence.

Hunter’s Insight already wrote about the so-called imperfections found in Guild Wars 2. A big one is the lack of free guesting between worlds. It will come “in time”, but it is a disappointment that the uninhibited feeling found in the original Guild Wars will be tampered a bit by servers. He also mentions mini-games and a bit more, and I want to add a “spectator mode” to the list. Again, it’s hard to regress. Continue reading [GW2] Reigning Expectations

[GW] 32 Flavors

I came to the farewell event from the opposite position of Ravious. I am not a veteran player. I started in December and played hard under the then-common expectation of an early spring release date for GW2. I have not played much since April after trying almost everything, burning out a bit, losing the monkey, and trying GW2, at which point there was little Exploring left and any Achieving felt a bit like cleaning something before throwing it away. I have memories, but they are not old enough to be nostalgia. I have no birthday presents.

I said “almost everything,” and the Reverie showed me some things I had missed or scarcely noticed. Large areas are (or became) optional; you can complete the game and get 30/50 without visiting every zone and certainly without seeing all the sights. Of the 32 locations to visit, I had not been to 8, including one of the most important, Ventari’s sanctuary. I did not realize that was even in the game, rather than an idea developed between games. The tour does one thing dramatically right: it starts with the Searing crystal and ends at Ventari’s sanctuary. The former starts the storyline, the latter is the birthplace of GW2’s new race. When you meet Ventari, he still has another century of life ahead of him, and the first Sylvari will not be born for a century after that. This is a transition point between games that could only be strengthened by then ending on a reference to slumbering elder dragons.

As gameplay, it’s a guided sightseeing tour with nothing new. It is rather pleasant, if you are in the right mood. The only weakness is a fondness for picking the most inconvenient point in an area as a point of interest. Apparently the best landmarks in the game were, whenever possible, placed at least two zones from the nearest outpost and at the far end of that zone. In this, you can see how game design varied between the four parts of the game. Prophecies is the worst for putting the sites at the end of a long run filled with troublesome foes. Factions is the quickest, some just a short walk from the zone door. Nightfall falls in between and feels less thematic, with the lands beyond the portal a neglected afterthought. Eye of the North is a mix of instant gratification and dangerous journeys, with two points needing no combat, two that synergize, and one under a dungeon boss.

In terms of rewards, completing all four awards a Tormented weapon, which is a much quicker HoM point than completing an Armbrace of Truth. I did not have that one, and I ran Domain of Anguish several times. You also get eight plat. While I was there, I cleaned up several quests and vanquished several zones. That required dungeon, by the way, has 19 hidden treasures that can yield rare materials, so bring the Light of Deldrimor and work on your other HoM points.

: Zubon

[GW] A Farewell Tour

Here I am waiting with supplies and IV for the launch of Guild Wars 2, and the Guild Wars Live Team comes out of nowhere with an amazing new festival for the original Guild Wars. The Wayfarer’s Reverie only lasts until August 30th, by which time Guild Wars 2 will have been launched. There are four quests associated with the event that send players back through key locations throughout the campaigns and expansion.

This was an excellent time for this event the weekend before Guild Wars 2 launch because the event is so geared towards a comforting goodbye. The quests are darn simple. Just follow the green glob commanding players to head to out of the way, but notable locations. Players that have been around for a few years will return to places they might not have touched for a long time.

I’ve been doing my own reflections along the way. I remember when I wanted to explore the Flame Temple Corridor long before the advent of heroes. The mass of level 8 charr were overbearing. I just wanted to retrieve some dead girl’s ashes. There are plenty of other memories both of frustration and joy. I am finding that I am enjoying remembering all of them for a big grand goodbye. Continue reading [GW] A Farewell Tour

[GW2] Echoes of the Past, Part 3

Fanfic Warning: This is last of three vignettes I wrote about my main character in the original Guild Wars. Here is part one and part two.

“I, Alana, sworn to Dwayna, do hereby attest that this is a good and true account of Ephan Oroborz, brother to the people of Kryta. Father. Husband. And, loved by our village. His body now returned to the land. His soul to the Mists.”

Ephan stood at the edge of his small farm looking out at the marsh. The boundaries of his farm were really not an issue since everybody else in the nearby village thought the man was a fool for staking a claim in the Black Curtain. The Black Curtain was a place where the fog was said to be able to coalesce in to horrible creatures and maddened souls crackled with wispy, blue energy that would electrocute any person brave or dumb enough to enter the swamp. Ephan wondered why the villagers always dismissed the majestic Temple of Ages when talking about the Black Curtain. Some of the power of the five gods still remained at the holy place. Young brother Theophilus seemed to traverse the wetlands easily enough when the small encampment at the Temple needed more supplies. Continue reading [GW2] Echoes of the Past, Part 3