Guild Wars 2: When Animals Attack!

In both April’s beta event and the recent stress test I noticed something happening in the game world that made me stop and gawp in wonder. Something so simple yet so revolutionary that the only other time I have heard of something similar happening was way back in legendary days of Second Life’s pre-alpha existence. Something I have wanted to see ever since I joined my first persistent online world in 2006.

I saw animals attacking each other.

gw021

Now lest you think me no better than a bloody-thirsty virtual bear-baiter, let me qualify my last statement – I haven’t wanted to see animals fighting per se, rather I’ve often found myself looking at the lack of wildlife in Second life, and the dumb sword-fodder of LOTRO and thinking “There has to be more to in-game fauna than this…”

You see, in Second Life the only wildlife you ever see are the scripted creations belonging to (and made by) the users – there simply are no animals, no birds, no fish, no insects even that intrinsically exist in that world and that void leaves me with a saddening sense of sterility. Now LOTRO is different – LOTRO has wildlife in abundance, but once you’d got over the fact that some animals attack you whilst others run from you (unless you are an elf, of course) you began to notice something very, very odd indeed… a deer that would flee from your approach would stand quite happily next to a huge, slavering wolf! Hell, more than that, the ruddy great wolf that would nosily chew your legs off if you crossed its invisible aggression threshold appears to be quite happy ignoring the tasty deer stood a mere two feet away munching on lovely grass! How can this be right? Let me answer that for you, it isn’t. It isn’t right and annoys me because it seems so… well, lazy.

Which is why when I came across a wild boar fighting a ruddy great spider in the Guild Wars 2 beta I assumed it was part of a scripted dynamic event I’d stumbled on. But it wasn’t. A little later on I saw a giant wasp fighting another spider and a huge timber wolf brazenly wander up to a pack of moose and determinedly attack and kill them. In fact the more I wandered, the more animals I found in the middle of a rumble – they are wild already, wild and ready to start a fight with their own shadow it seems!

You see Arenanet have managed to do something I’ve never thought I’d see anyone pull off. They have created a world populated with animals that wander and think and fight each other and in my book that is a rather bloody wonderful addition to an already wonderful world. Now, shall we run a book on a fight between a timber wolf and a giant spider?

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14 comments

  1. its so true and always annoyed me too, also when you see things like bats flying around during the daytime…

    hmm I think this might inspire a new comic if I can find the time 😉

  2. I will of course defend SL by saying that *nothing* is “intrinsically in the world”; we have to make everything ourselves. That’s sort of the idea. 🙂

    In WoW there is a little bit of this animal stuff, but only a little; it sort of feels like someone started working on it but wandered off to something else. In particular, some predators will attack and kill some “critters” (where a “critter” is basically an atmospheric animal that has very few health points and I think so attacks at all). So a wolf in Elwyn Forestwill run over and kill a rabbit with one swipe, and then run back to the place it was pathing when it noticed it. But that’s about it. It feels like a little bolt of realism when you first see it, but then when nothing much else like it happens, it starts to seem rather sad. 🙂

    (There are a few places in WoW where two or more species of animal are in constant combat, pretty much as part of the plot. But except for the critter-killing, it doesn’t seem to happen ambiently, although it seems like they do have the technology if they wanted to…)

    1. Hi Dale – I take your point on nothing being in the world, but I rather disagree. There are all manner of flora in the world – I just think they should also put fauna in there too. The fact there are Linden Trees has never stopped folks making their own and I doubt the addition of birds, fish & fee wandering mammals would kill the scripted critter business either. There is wind, day & night cycles & realistic skies all devoted to making the basic world feel more alive – it just needs some Linden Critters to complete the illusion 🙂

      1. Well, there are even trees only where someone put one. It would be neat, though, if one of the easy / standard things that you could rez a litle flock or birds or a squirrel or whatever! Of course there are lots of cheap and/or free ones available if you like them…

        1. But more often than not, the Lindens are the ones putting them there, the trees I mean. Birds, fish and critters should be there too, but my fear would be the AI, prim animation restrictions & scripting lag which have always (to me at least) left even the best animal available for top L$ a poor relation to the creatures you meet in an MMO.

          1. Yeah, agreement with all but the first sentence. 🙂 (That is, I don’t think that most of the trees in the world were put there by Lindens; they build really a very small part of the world.)

            I hope the new pathfinding/NPC additions to the platform will help with background critters, too; we’ll see!

        1. Things have probably moved on in the year I have been away – I imagine mesh will make them look wonderful. I remember too many animals where if you edit-clicked them you could see all the lines where the legs and wings, etc. would go when animated and it just made for very jerky movement that broke all immersion.

  3. Tyria feels like a living… breathing… world…
    There are so many little details which individually are pretty cool, but taken together as a whole the effect is incredibly immersive. Opinions vary of course, and not everyone who plays MMOs is as interested in this sort of minutia, but for those folks who care to look for them, these incredible details are there waiting to be experienced.

    Regardless of whether or not you see this sort of thing as a player (or register it consciously) it still impacts on your playing experience favorably, and the overall effect makes the world FEEL alive. I can only go on my own personal experience of it in the BWE and stress test, but I’ve been playing MMOs for over a decade, and I’ve never seen this done better than in GW2.

    1. In the end it’s all an illusion, but I’m the sort who is willing to hand myself over body & soul so I really appreciate all these little touches that increase my sense of immersion. I can only imagine what else I’ll find once the game launches 😀

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