Guild Wars 2: The Last Great Beta Weekend…

And so endeth the last beta test for Guild Wars 2 and more than ever before it has left me somewhat desperate to play the final game when it’s released in August. Out of all the tests over the last few months that was the one where, finally, everything came together, coalesced into a feeling of understanding that allowed me to really, truly, enjoy the game. Well, apart from the frigging jumping puzzles but more of those later. This time around I played (along with everyone else it seemed!) a Sylvari and by gum it was fun!

Character Creation
The character creator was a blast and I easily made a very cool looking guy who managed to avoid the constipated look that plagues the humans.

Who’s a handsome boy, then?
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

And who glows in the dark, eh?
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Why, hello…
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Constipated Human in Guild Wars 2

Personal Story
I deliberately didn’t undertake any of the personal story as I really, really want to save that for launch but I have to say I’m very excited to see a strong Celtic/Arthurian theme to the Sylvari. I’m so going to chase that white stag in August as I’ve been dying to write a tale about just such a quest since the very earliest days of writing about my old backpack.

The Starter Area
Unlike the other races who all start in the ‘real’ world of Tyria, the Sylvari start their adventures fast asleep, tucked up in their Body Snatcher-like seedpods and yet wide awake in their shared pre-birth experience known as The Dream. Still, despite the recumbent nature of their start, the Sylvari’s training area shares one thing in common with everyone else’s – it wastes no time in getting you into the heart of the action and in no time at all I was in a pitched battle with an amazing looking tree dragon! My only regret is not spending longer exploring the ghostly images of information flowing into the Dream and the teachings of Ventari but I shall make sure to rectify that upon launch.
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Dynamic Events
Oh lordy these were fun! Partly it was me being more organised and better used to the mechanics (the mouse and keypad combo just came right back to me, something I was very happy about!) and partly it was down to some tweaking by Arenanet, but the dynamic events flowed so well. They never overwhelmed, they never vanished into the background, they seemed to happen at just the right time and throw in enough variety to keep me entertained throughout. Some were funny, some were serious, some were exciting and all were bloody good fun! I still find the events system the single biggest selling point in this game for me. Exciting, fun stuff just happens wherever I am and that beats endlessly grinding my way through LOTRO any night of the week.

Vistas & Jumping Puzzles
As I’ve said I kept away from the personal story and concentrated instead on enjoying dynamic events and exploring. Aside from the joy of finding the new vistas in the world (I’m addicted to them, it’s official) I also had a pop at the jumping puzzle near the start and boy did it frustrate the bejesus out of me! I don’t so much mind the falling off and repeating sections, but having to repeat the whole damn thing just drove me mad! I can easily see me giving up on the more difficult ones because I just can’t stand wasting two hours on a different kind of grind. Two hours, you ask. Shurley shome mishtake! Nope, just take a look at some of Wooden Spud’s videos where he and Magic Mike show the kind of will power I don’t even have the will power to imagine. Still, for all their frustrations they are a rather cool addition to the world.

Alone in a crowd…
I am beginning to realise just how important being in a guild, or number of guilds I suppose I should say, is going to be when the game launches. I was actually quite lonely in this beta weekend and I longed to go off exploring with a mate or two, especially if we could have tackled the jumping puzzles together as then I think the frustration would not have got to me quite as much. If anyone wants to adopt a casual explorer type and paitently explain how the chuff guild chat works then please think of me 🙂

As an aside I *did* actually join a guild this weekend – someone randomly invited me so I joined and then never heard a damn thing from the dozen or so members for the rest of the beta! I tried typing in /guild but got nothing back. This actually mirrors my one an only experience with a guild in Guild Wars 1 where someone randomly invited me and then went totally silent! Now in LOTRO the Guild/Kin I was in was really cool & full of very chatty, very helpful fun folks but so far I don’t seem to be able to replicate this experience in either of Arenanet’s games. How odd.

Aqua Cats?
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3
Now let me ask you what you think is wrong with that picture. Exactly! How the chuff is Archie the Jungle Cat breathing underwater, eh? I hope this gets sorted out soon as it just looks bloody silly.

Final Event – Hunger Royale!
Ahhh, the now-legendary final event of a beta test. I had missed all the others and so took time off work just to be there for the dragon brand attack. Only thing is I got some weird kind of PvP event instead! Boy was I disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the event was a good event but I don’t really like PvP (mainly cos I’m crap and die all the time which is not much fun) so this held zero interest for me. Still, if you like PvP then you would have liked this type of event. Don’t believe me? Let a man made of biscuit tell you about it instead.

Ohhh I don’t know, what more can I say? The combat was fun, the events were fun, the jumping puzzles were (eventually) fun. The entire game is just bloody good fun and I can’t wait to get in it for real. This was the first test where I started and immediately found my feet – I could handle the skills and fights and quests without thinking about them too hard and that was a very welcome development as I had begun to worry that I would never ‘sync up’ to this game and therefore never really enjoy playing it. Consequentially this was also the first test where I left not just enthused by the beta tests but sated with them and wanting the game to be released so I could get on with it without having to stop. Enough foreplay I say, I’m oiled and ready and just want to get down to some serious lurve making, Arenanet.

Ahhh, but…
What? You want me to be picky? Sigh. Ok… Let me see. Jumping puzzles can be frustrating. Lots of people turn a fight into a particle storm. I have no idea how guilds work. And that’s about it I think. Honestly. There is still a lot to do to optimise the graphics and engine but apart from that it runs like a dream even on my old system (triple core CPU with an old nVidia 260GTX card). There just isn’t much I can find wrong with this game – its just great fun 😀

Oooo, look at that!
I’ll leave you with a few choice pictures from my flickr stream and I hope they tempt you to meet me in Tyria in a few short weeks 🙂

The strangest Victoria’s Secret shoot ever…
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Jumping puzzle, anyone?
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

To the bottom of the sea…
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

A hunting we will go…
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Bio-luminescence is oosum!
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Look at that view!
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

One big bird…
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

…and one very strange look in the final event!
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

So damn handsome!
Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Guild Wars 2: Tuesday 28th August it is, then…

Arenanet have gone and done it. Tuesday 28th August will see Guild Wars 2 finally released and I’m sure I join a whole heap of folks in doing a wee chair dance of joy around the office knowing that we are now just two short months away from finally getting into Tyria for keeps. Also I’ll be back from holiday the day before and no doubt so whacked out of my gourd with jet lag that I’ll be able to play at craaaazy times – yeehaw!

In the meantime, I hope to see you in the next (and final!) beta weekend of 20th to 22nd July (23rd for us UK-based GMTers). I’ll be there for a bit of it as always but I’m booking the 23rd off work (well, it is my birthday!) so I will also be able to play in the very last beta closing event which I’m hoping will be rather bloody amazing 😀

Guild Wars 2: You big lovely bugger, you!

Note on the tardiness of this post: I know that the 2nd Beta Weekend Event finished exactly a week ago today and therefore this post is at least 6 days late but I’m afraid work and kids have kept me away from the keyboard. Still, a late Burro is better than no Burro at all and therefore I present to you my unapologetically gushing thoughts on what I think is a rather spiffing game. Without further ado I give you the stuff wot I have written…

I can confirm that my last post stands. Whilst I didn’t get into Guild Wars 2 for hours on end I did manage a couple of hours each evening and I knew within the first 30 minutes (nay, seconds!) that I loved it. I bound left and right strafe to the mouse wheel (mine flexes left and right for sideways scrolling) and put the skills and dodge keys on the key pad and boom! I was away! I could circle strafe enemies, shooting and jumping and dodging as I went! Arenanet had listened to my pleas and added so many more key binding options that my broken heart was mended immediately and I skipped off into Shaemoor with a newly minted Engineer to gleefully blast the daylights out of every centaur I could find 🙂
GW2 Beta Weekends 1 & 2

Now, before I go any further let me explain some of my thinking as I approached this beta event. As I’ve discussed in the comments of my recent posts with Brian from MMO Asylum, I don’t want to eat up the game before its actual release. I heard about some of Freelnacer’s Team Legacy guys getting to level 60 and the thought of that horrifies me (although, to be fair to these guys, it sounds like they did this in in World vs World so they won’t have been gobbling up content like the hungry hungry caterpillar). For me, a PvEer who loves a strong story, a little roleplay and lot of lore I knew that the more I did in the beta, the less I’d have to do in the final game and this seemed like a bad trade just to feed the gaming addiction that gnaws inside us all for a few hours. So even before the beta servers had opened I had decided that I would restrict my play in the following ways: keep to the human starter area, don’t tackle more than two steps of the personal story, don’t explore too far from Queensdale & don’t try and complete any areas. This may sound pretty limiting but in truth I knew I would only have a couple of hours to play during each of the beta nights and so this plan still left plenty to do, especially when you consider I was going to have to practice a lot of combat to make sure I could actually fight & play!

Now, given that I deliberately restricted my experiences to the small areas I had already seen in the last beta & stress teat, what did I actually think of the improvements made by Arenanet? Well, let me tell you… *cue wavey dissolve*…

First off I had zero problems logging in and staying in. No queues, no 502s no overflows, nothing. I just clicked the icon, logged in and was playing in well under two minutes. In fact I’d say that start to play was 60-90 seconds and I never hung or saw an overflow server once.

Next there was the graphics and FPS – the Arenanet team were now using 2 of my 3 cores (the GFX optimisation is still a way off so the game uses the main processor for all the work right now) and you could really tell. In the balanced settings my frame rate was perfect and only dipped in a huge WvW battle I wandered into (and got my arse kicked in).

Then there was the key bindings. I think I’ve made my views clear on this, but major props to Arenanet for listening to us and helping us with more options. Within mere seconds of logging in I was circle strafing in Shaemoor and after a few minutes setting keys I was saving the town far more effectively than I managed in the last BWE. Take that Centaur scum!

After that the list of things I liked began to blend into a unified feeling of fun. I explored a little more of Divinity’s Reach (which is still the most amazing single location I have ever seen in any game – I can’t wait to see Lion’s Arch!), I tackled a couple of steps of my personal story and had a hoot in the bar brawl with Big Nosed Ted and his gang. I also took part in some of the more evenly paced dynamic events and found that I am still deeply in love with this system. Seriously, dynamic events are so bloody amazing I don’t know why every other MMO isn’t working on retro-fitting them right now. Maybe they are, but if they’re not they bloody well should be.

Of course there were a few things I didn’t like so much, but in the main they were few and far between. For a start internal combat is still bloody hard. The top and bottom of it is that GW2 combat is meant to be fluid and you are supposed to be constantly moving but when you try that inside the camera clips and swings and zooms to match the room’s tight geometry in such a way that after a couple of seconds I have no idea where I am, who I am fighting and even if I am facing or hitting them! Given how well the external combat went for me, this was very frustrating and I really hope that either Arenanet do something about it. That or I don’t have to face much fighting inside once the game is launched because right now, well it’s horrible.

Even large external fights such as WvW zergs or dynamic event ganks have their problems as I still have no idea what the blithering buggeration is going on. I often can’t see who I have targeted and the whole thing seems to be a chaotic free-for-all set to the soundtrack of a meteor strike inside a hurricane falling off a cliff into scrap metal yard. I have no idea how they could make this better though as it just seems to be the way of things and when all said and done it’s still bloody good fun 🙂

But with those small quibbles aside this was a weekend where a little playing time managed to equal huge amounts of fun & enjoyment. Nothing in the game seemed to want me to grind my time away on pointless crap, instead everything was either story or fun driven and for that fact alone I’m sure that I will be coming back to Guild Wars 2 for years after its release.

Guild Wars 2: Good news from the front lines of Tyria!

As my regular reader will know the current Gulls Wars 2 beta weekend event has worried me somewhat as I have been unable to play effectively in previous events thanks to a mixture of the new dodge mechanic and my lack of skill with mouse & keyboard.

Well I’m happy to announce that the changes to both my hardware and the game’s key binding options has meant I can actually play more! Not well I’ll grant you, but that is down to my crappy skills rather than any fault of the game itself 😀

So thank you Arenanet for listening – you’ve made me one happy bunny this weekend 🙂

Guild Wars 2: A few short hours to go…

By the time I get home tonight the second beta weekend should be live and I will at last find out if I’ve wasted a butt-full of money or if I can actually play the damn thing.

I’m hoping for the later 😉

Guild Wars 2: The signs look good for the next beta…

It’s been a few weeks since the stress test for GW2 broke my heart and in that time it seems I haven’t been the only one busy – indeed Arenanet seem to have done a bang up job of listening to user feedback (a revolutionary concept, I know!) and, as their blog post shows, implemented a crap ton of improvements to the game.

Lots of the improvements sound good (the clearer hit visuals, for example) but you’ll be unsurprised to hear that what has poked my python so much is the key binding changes! I first noticed this on the PCGamer 2 hour long (!) stream, which I in turn found out about from the always excellent Tales of Tyria, but it seems that not only have Arenanet listened to the player requests for modifier keys to be implemented (i.e. shift+ or ctrl+, etc.) but it seems they have also listened to me personally (honest!) and allowed two key bindings per action! This means I can not only have a greater ranger of keys in use, but I can bind simple actions such as movement to obvious keys such as the arrows so my wee lad can join in as well, something he has done with both LOTRO & GW1 but sadly couldn’t in GW2.

Now if only my shoulder gets better by Friday (I’m currently in a smidge of pain and tranqed up on Tramadol) *and* my new mouse & keypad layout works then I may just be one bloody happy bunny by Monday! Beyond that I just need to make sure I don’t burn out exploring the same areas again and again *or* eat into too much content thereby ruining the final game, something I know Brian from Contains Moderate Peril & MMOAsylum is also concerned about.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be a fun weekend 🙂

Guild Wars 2: My Pre-Beta Worries…

So the date of the next beta weekend has been announced and between 8pm GMT Friday 8th June and sometime on Monday 11th I’ll be able to once more explore Tyria. Let the streets ring with the w00ts! of the interwebz. Let there be joy unbound across the land. Let… well, let me explain why instead of elation, joy and excitement I feel nothing a deep-rooted sense of worry.

As I pondered my strange reaction last night I listed off my reasons:

  1. Will I actually be able to play using the expensive & untested set up I now have? I have tried it a little with LOTRO but that just led to another problem – oh the set up worked, more or less it’s just that…
  2. I seem to have totally lost the spark that playing an MMO once gave me. Even logging into LOTRO sets off a deep feeling of irritation and boredom. I recognise this from my last days in Second Life and I don’t like it. What if, even given all of GW2’s wonderful innovations & differences, I just don’t like playing MMOs any more?
  3. And let’s not forget the elephant in the room that is my shoulder. About 10 years ago I partially tore my right supraspinatus and now find that any prolonged activity with my right hand (keep your current imaginings clean, you mucky buggers) results in the worst headaches I’ve ever experienced. I’ve moved my work mouse to my left hand and this reduced the headache attacks by 90% overnight but I can’t seem to manage to do the same with my gaming mouse – my left hand lacks the fine control that 42 years of muscle memory has granted to my right. The end result is, if I can’t find a set up that both works *and* reduces the strain on my shoulder I might have to give games up altogether.

So it’s not with loud yeehaws that I find myself approaching the next GW2 Beta weekend, but rather with a sense of apprehension. I better make sure I have some Tramadol in.

Guild Wars 2 – how you broke my heart last night…

Last night Arenanet opened their doors for a few hours to run a stress test on their servers before the next beta weekend. Given how things melted last time I can’t blame them, after all they want their betas to run smoothly because if people can’t get in, nothing is getting tested except patience. So it was with a joyous heart that I worked through yesterday knowing that after the kids were in bed I would get a few hours back in Tyria and what plans I had. Exploring Divinty’s reach was to be the order of the day, but not until I had remapped my keys once more to use my latest purchase, a Razer Naga.

Oh the joy of having so many buttons on a mouse! Surely this would mean I would at last be able to fight effectively, surely this would allow me to do more than dash around stabbing wildly at skills with all the finesse of a drunken idiot.

No. It would appear not. If anything it was worse.

Partly the mouse is to blame – it is too small to use comfortably and many of the thumb buttons are impossible to reach without shifting your grip on the mouse itself.

Partly I am to blame – I am obviously not co-ordinated enough to use so many keys and buttons.

Partly Guild Wars 2 is too blame – their key mapping options may well be extensive but they are far from flexible. To use the mouse effectively I need – NEED –  to be able to bind actions to mouse buttons 1 to 3. Hell, being able to *unbind* from 1 to 3 would be a start!

You see, mouse buttons 1 and 2 (the left & right clickers for simpler folk like me) move the camera around and your character forward so to use them in a battle renders my thumb buttons not only hard to use, but dangerous as the added pressure shifts either my camera view or my character (or, more often then not, both). Imagine trying to have a fight when your guy insists on running forward like a loon and the camera swings about as if someone is playing swingball with it. Hell, 90% the time I never see what I’m fighting except for half-glimpses as the camera shoots past it! I had my arse handed to me in every frigging scrap I went into – in fact I can only put the reason I lasted any time at all in fights down to the bizarre movements I made as I must have confused the hell out of the other players!

Now I don’t know if changing my mouse buttons 1-3 would help much but until they allow me to try I won’t know. In the end I had to go back to using my keyboard alone, this time with yet another experimental key map that made my hands ache within five minutes. I’m back to using my right hand on the number pad to move and dodge whilst using my left hand to space-bar-jump and use the skills, which I moved down to A S D F G Z X C V B. The whole set up feels as natural as chewing lego and as comfortable as putting my hands through a mangle.

After my umpteenth death during which I had no idea what bloody skills were mapped to what bastard letter, and cramp finally made my right shoulder burn as if it were on fire, I gave up. I quit trying World v World and gave up exploring in PvE. I switched it all off and went to watch telly instead and felt my heart break because it looks like I won’t be able to ever really enjoy this game, not when all I’m thinking about is how quickly I’ll die in any given fight and how bloody uncomfortable I am whilst playing it.

Please Arenanet, please let us map actions to ALL mouse buttons. And please give us the option to map an action to more than one key or button.

If you have made it this far down this post dear reader, and you have experience of playing Guild Wars 2 or other MMOs, please could you leave me a comment that explains how you map your keys and buttons and how you fight because if I don’t get better soon, I won’t even bother downloading the final version and I don’t want another Call of Duty experience, I really don’t…

#GW2: A Great Beta Review Podcast

Over on Tales of Tyria, Bridger & his merry war band of co-presenters have released a great podcast talking about their experiences in last weekend’s beta event. It’s fair to say they enjoyed it, but managed to cover a hell of a lot more ground than I did such as PvP, WvW, trading & guilds. Anyhoo, take a listen here:

#GW2: A Great Beta Review Podcast

Over on Contains Moderate Peril Roger & Brian have released a great podcast talking about their experiences in last weekend’s beta event. It’s fair to say they enjoyed it, but like me are still reserving judgement until the final game is released and has been running for while. Anyhoo, take a listen here: