TODO - there are more notes to add
I really thought Guild Wars had it all when I learned of it. I went out and found all of the resources i could, and noted all the specs and rumours and whatnot. I ended up becoming a beta tester for it and everything.
Sadly, during gameplay I was very severely disappointed and walked away. I went back to try it a second time and what I considered to be very serious and obvious issues were not and apparently would not be addressed. This topic only remains for amusement's sake, as a testament to my ability to waste huge amounts of time for nothing.
- Note that I am bound by a beta tester's NDA, so I cannot discuss the various things which went on during my time as a tester.
Followed by Guild Wars 2
2004-03-23 or earlier
- I stopped playing this game shortly after the public alpha/beta testing at e3. I never did play the official release.
First Introduction ∞
This article was a work in progress and was quite good up until the e3 public alpha. No information since the e3 public alpha or actual release has been integrated because I no longer care about the game.
Actual inside information from alpha testing will not be divulged, as I'm under an NDA.
"What kind of game is Guild Wars?" ∞
Guild Wars is a competitive online role-playing game. Players can engage in cooperative group combat, in single player adventures, or in large head-to-head guild battles. Guild Wars is a mission-based game set in a stunning 3D fantasy world that offers full, integrated support for guilds. Because the team that is developing Guild Wars has had experience creating successful online game series such as Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo, the members are familiar with the complex issues surrounding online games, and are creating a game that's both easy to learn and compelling to play long term, and yet doesn't require players to spend hundreds of hours slogging through the preparation just to get to the fun bits.
Simply put, Guild Wars appears to address all of my basic issues. Pause for a moment, dear reader, and consider what this means. I'm extraordinarily picky. This means this game is fucking good if it can please me. I haven't seen it yet, but I intend to get my paws on it as soon as I've got some brainspace to review it my-style. From the reviews I've read, I've compiled a list of notes and will try to keep it updated as more knowledge is shared.
Followup: Yep, I'm picky, and some basic stuff wasn't done and so I bailed. I gave it two chances, which is rare for me.. but the gameplay became too cumbersome for me to bother with.
At a glance ∞
sources need to be checked here.
This game, and its host network, were created by a few people who splintered away from their home-companies. This unto itself should tell you a lot about their conviction. In particular, the main few came away from projects such as Blizzard's Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo and also Battle.net. These skills have been well-refined over the last few years, culminating into a number of intriguing projects, one of which is Guild Wars.
The author's first impression on this game is that it appears to a hack 'n' slash type of game akin to, say, the famed Diablo -- played entirely online.
The first barrier many people face is "can I even play it?". Well, speaking as a person who has always been a few years behind the times as far as technology goes, this issue appears to have been well-addressed.
This is a known issue for many developers, and there has always been a careful balance to consider when creating a game. Guild Wars has been designed from day one to be playable on average computers. I still have a friend who gleefully reminisces playing Starcraft on his pentium 133. I expect Guild Wars to thrill many people in much the same way.
I've heard such specs as Pentium III and GeForce 4. I've also heard that toning down the graphics would allow video cards as or more 'oldschool' than a GeForce 2 to run the game well. This means that many people with older computers can drool over this game without worrying about needing to upgrade to play it. [A recent report by an alpha tester indicates that a GeForce3 is a bare minimum. I would think that this may change as things enter into beta testing.]
Additionally, expansion packs are sworn to hold true to the same ethos as the original game itself. Expansion packs won't require more of your computer than the parent game.
Playing online is a harrowing experience for dialup users, and NCSoft recognized this. They claim that dialup users will be plenty-fine with playing the game online. This has yet to be seen, of course, but it's a good start for the developers to be frank about their wishes to make the game available to the dialup-using market.
Users blessed with a faster connection should also find this optimization to be of interest for two reasons. Firstly, not all highspeed users have a stellar ping time. This latency is an issue for all users and not just dialup users. If optimization has considered something like ping time, then it can be expected that gameplay itself will be much-improved as compared to some other online games.
At the very worse, if one is very highspeed, then these improvements will help ensure that one's teammates aren't always ending up as dead weight for one's own gameplay experience.
The game itself is expected to cost the same as its peers. However, many players have come to accept the idea of paying a monthly fee to play their game online. Guild Wars has no monthly fee for North America. You read that right.. none. Why is that? Well because NCSoft's business model doesn't require it. Money from later expansion packs is expected to cover server upkeep costs. Expansion packs aren't required to continue to play the game either.
Not much more to be said, but we'll have to keep an eye out on how good these supposed expansion packs will be. I myself wouldn't mind paying for something tangible both in terms of a product and a reward. The guys at NCSoft were pretty clear about expansions not leaving other players in the dust, but it will be intriguing to be able to build and rebuild a character with a greater choice of options as more expansions become available. Some of the ideas behind gameplay seem to be almost ccg (collectable card game) in their philosophy. My curiosity is piqued as to how things will pan out.
The general idea driving Guild Wars' no-fee concept is that many games require a recurring cost for play -- both in an investment of time and a monthly fee. Guild Wars is made to appeal to a broader audience and it is thought that free online gaming will promote more sales and a player population explosion.
The games and expansions will be reasonably priced, and there will not be inline advertising.
Why is it free for North America and plans for the rest of the world have not yet been announced? Well, every country is a bit different, so NCSoft will be building a similarly attractive business model tuned to their international gamers. Additional information on this is expected to be released before the games become available in each international market.
No credit card, just buy the game and hop online to play.
Those of us who have played the occasional online game will know the annoyance of game patches. For various reasons, changes will have to happen to one's game installation occasionally, and these changes have to be downloaded and applied. This isn't usually a frequent thing, but sometimes this means downloading a very large file. Highspeed users get annoyed, but dialup users in particular will shudder in disgust at the idea of being forced to download tens of megs before they can start playing.
To resolve this, program changes are streamed to the user while they play. This streaming is transparent to gameplay. There is no notification or slowdown or user interaction. The very worst that could happen is that if something signifiant has changed, the user would have to log out and log back in to continue right where they left off from.
Game changes are not just something for the user, but for the game itself. Some games experience downtime based on gameworld changes or merely server hiccups. The engine running the gameworld has been designed to allow changes to occur without interrupting users at all.
World changes can be plugged in live to promote rapid-release. Players can be assured that they are always using the most current edition of the world. Some updates will be play-tested on a separate sandbox to verify them, and these changes will quickly be merged into the living world instead of waiting weeks or months for a new patch to be released.
Some users grit their teeth in frustration at having different servers to log into to meet with different groups of friends. Some games go so far as to force a user into a certain server. These worries have been addressed by Arena.net with a transparent system connecting all servers everywhere to host one worldwide game.
Let's face it. Gaming has been around for a long while. Online gaming has also been around for a long time. The real oldschool gamers of us will be able to cite problems with games which have really painfully lingered for a regrettably lengthy period. Newer gamers regularly meet with frustrations, some of which are generally accepted as being 'as unavoidable as spam'.
Well this isn't the case, not with Guild Wars. Many problems are well-known, and game developers really aren't stupid. No seriously, they aren't. Ok fine.. if you don't believe me, then pay real close attention to this game. If the patch model hasn't made you perk up with the thought of how easily problems can be fixed after release, the list of already-addressed issues sure will.
Let's begin with the obvious stuff, shall we. A game is a piece of entertainment. The idea is to plunk down, play a little and then get up and get on with your life. Some games, and there's a lot of them actually, basically force a user to play and play and play to get anywhere and do anything. Some games are so bad that they escalate this situation until players literally run through the same scene over and over again to level up or get equipment or whatever. This is called treadmill gaming.
Treadmill gaming is bad. It's dirty. This is especially obvious when the difference between new or moderate gamers and treadmill gamers becomes so obvious as to create a rift in gameplay. You end up with players who simply cannot participate because they can't sell their sou.. I mean play day and night. There are cases when any normal human can't play the game without being immediately overshadowed and belittled.
Sure there are solutions to this problem, like purchasing characters on eBay. Uh.. ya, that's a solution. Not. There are, however, a couple of /realistic/ solutions NCSoft has adopted for this issue.
First is the creation of an overmap which will allow the player to travel instantly to where they want to get. There is no real need to force a player to jog through the same long valley again and again and kill the same lameo monsters just so they can get from one town to another. If a player wants to meet up with friends, they should be able to do so without jumping through time-wasting hoops, even if it means sacrificing "realism". We're talking gameplay not realism. It's a game people.. a game!
Second is the idea that players ought to be separated more by skill and not by time. Sure, effort is everything, but treadmilling through the same garbage day after day really isn't a show of ability. The solution found in Guild Wars is quite interesting. What they did was to create a character structure which depends on characters building abilities which are gathered from succesfully completing quests. Abilities are available to any player, but additional abilities are awarded to skilled players who win quests. This means that a new character can hang out with a mature character and still be useful .. but less flexible.
So gameplay has been made more universally accessible by allowing new players to hang out with the rest of everyone, instead of being shunned as 'new and therefore useless'.
Furthermore, solo players have not been left out. It is known that different players will have different gaming habits, which may change depending on the time of day or available friends. There will be always be different missions available for the different styles of play, so nomatter what the mood of a player they can go and have some fun.
Gameplay is improved by allowing players to find and interact with oneanother more easily with the aforementioned instant-transportation concept. Less "preparation for play" and more "just hop in and play".
Forums are built into the game, so that a player does not have to remove themselves from the experience of the game to participate in a discussion. This feature was designed with guilds in mind, to facilitate easier and centralized discussion instead of forcing guild participants to make arrangements to host a forum on their website. There will be member-only forums so that guild members can chat privately amongst themselves.
A friends list will be implemented, but it is as yet unknown what sorts of features will be available with it.
Communication is not fully known. It is known that there will be guild-specific "channels" for communication.
There is an auto-follow feature which will let you set a target ally and follow them around while they continue to move. This makes life a whole lot easier for tagging along.
There will be full keyboard control -- not just keyboard movement with mouselook as with many first-person shooters -- but complete character control via the keyboard.
The World ∞
The world itself is meant to be pervasive. It is meant to be all-encompassing and basically endless.
First, the game world changes. There is in-game weather which can influence gameplay. A person sinks a little in swamps, can skate across frozen water, can hide better in deeper shadows, etc.
Second, the campaign environment itself has two facets. The first is that one's campaign setting while one is in it is changable. As we say in mech games, the terrain is destructible. It is presumed that objects can be moved or destroyed while one plays in that campaign. The other facet is that the changes which a player makes in their campaign does not influence another player playing in the same campaign with a different group.
It sounds complicated, but the basic idea is that you can walk around nuking everything but once your done everything is reset. Also, while you're walking around nuking everything another player can choose to enter the same scenario but within their own little pocket-dimension, where you and your destructive influences have not touched.
So, two players can approach the same scenario and play in different dimensions which don't interact. Several parties can begin separate quest-sessions simultaneously. This means that people can all go and have fun by themselves without worrying about others hopping in and ruining their hard work by stealing the treasure or their 'kills', or that different groups can choose to form exclusive campaign groups at the same time.
There are persistent and non-persistent elements in the game. Persistent elements are towns and outposts. Quests are non-persistent because they are created and destroyed as each session of players begin and later finish play.
A player can choose to re-enter the same campaign a second time without waiting for it to be 'reset'.
There are in-game cinematics, as with the completion of a quest.
Once you've been somewhere, it's unlocked on your map and you can transport there without a hassle.
Boys will be boys, but there are mechanics in the game which one can take advantage of in order to help alleviate annoyances.
First is that a player has the choice to enter into a campaign environment which is permanently player-versus-player or allied or teamed. These settings are not set mid-play but before a quest even begins. This means that a player can be assured of consistent gameplay without fear of 'backstabbing' in the traditional sense.
Characters are allowed to vary widely thanks to different kinds of equipment shaping their look.
When entering into a campaign, a player builds a set of skills which their character will have access to.
- Levels ramp off quickly, and the focus is on skill selection
- Dual professions
Players are given all the information they need to make an informed choice before making permanent decisions about their character. This helps avoid making 'gimped' characters who are useless after a poor decision.
At character creation, a player just sets their name and appearance and enters the game. They are not asked to choose a race or profession right away and are instead given the opportunity to try any number of them before making a choice. Thereafter, a player can choose specializations and skills and even a second profession.
Presently, level 50 is the cap and is achievable faster than in many other games.
Skills themselves are not improved, but a player has access to branch out and learn additional skills as they continue in the game. This means that a new player will have access to skills of the same power as an elder player, but will be restricted to only a starting few. This helps bridge the gap between newbies and older players and still provides a measure of improvement for a player to work towards.
Gold and experience are used to acquire skills.
They are expecting to have around 300 skills once the game ships.
get to pick 8 when you go on a mission
a character can buy any skill available to them as long as they have the gold and experience, regardless of their level.
- Party-size is restricted per-campaign.
AIs that target weak players, or otherwise switch to deal with a specific player.
- mob tactics
- Monsters use skills
- time-limited campaigns
Capture the Flag or King of the Hill-type competitive missions will be available.
People meet at an outpost, which acts as a gateway into the mission. Here, they can form parties or just hang out.
A campaign may be subtly or overtly changed, as with seasons or other world-events.
Missions have a general overview, but the specifics can be different each time.
It is said, but has not yet been demonstrated, that Guild Wars will provide a mechanism for teams to enter into a wide-scale tournament competition where players will be automatically matched with similar teams.
Guild membership is optional. Teams are optional and one can join one just for a mission and carry on with life as one pleases. Soloing has been considered and missions will be made appropriate just for solo-play.
Guilds will have their own membership and leadership structures, forum moderation.
Expansions are optional, and are expected to be released very 6-9 months. The types of content expected to be released in any given expansion is not yet known.
Expansions give missions. Those who don't have the expansion cannot partake in those expansion-specific missions. Users who do not have the expansion pack can still see and interact with skills from an expansion, but they cannot themselves learn it.
Guild Wars Overview, Notes ∞
Notes need to be further-populated.
- Refund points, which are earned over time from questing, remove 1 level from an Attribute and refund you the Bonus Points you spent to get it.
- Discuss 'units of regeneration'.
- The HUD / User interface is still being finalized. This is why screenshots don't include such stuff.
- There will be a working economy
- Instant messenger system for inside and outside the game.
- The game window is live-resizeable, letting you do other stuff while you play..
- They will have a dedicated exploits-hunting team.
- Arenanet was created for Guild Wars
- there are no penalties for dying -- no item or experience loss. Rather than focusing on penalties for dying they have focused on rewards for mission completion.
- Emotes do exist
- No crafting right now. It's possible that such a thing may be released in an expansion. No rumours either way right now.
There are server clusters on every continent, meant to keep the game responsive to everyone.
four slots for equipment changes..
(Then) Outstanding Issues ∞
- So if I am dual-classed and a new expansion comes out which has a new class in it.. am I screwed?
- Campaigns user whitelisting
- Hotkey definition
If I dual to another profession and a new one comes out in a later expansion, am I screwed?
- Customizable social/chat shortcuts - emotes exist, but can players create emotes?
- If players could shake hands, hug, high-5, pat someone on the back etc etc.. that would be awesome
- Will there be class-specific equipment?
- Will there be player equipment customization? I've heard about colour changes and such, but what about permanent stuff. Since crafting isn't around, maybe there won't be so much.
- Will there be equipment which modify abilities?
Will there be equipment 'sets'?
- Will there be skill paths, where some earlier skills will need to be purchased to get other skills later?
- What kind of range can be expected on spells, esp. versus missile weapons..
- How are skills maintained?
- How does the player specify which skills maintain and which do not?
How are maintained skills cancelled?