mmo

World building, part 2: This town, is coming like a ghost town…

In my last world building post I talked about, amongst other things, better weather & seasonal effects to make the world seem more alive and changeable. Well in this post I want to move from the macro back down the scale and look at towns, cities and other settlements because it’s not just the world that needs to come alive for me but the place I call home too.

My first ever experience of an online, populated city was Nova Albion in Second Life. I rezzed nearish and wandered on down where I was grabbed by the lure of free Linden Dollars in a camping spot (this was before I realised how damaging camping spots are to online worlds, sucking up computing resources for no benefit to the environment). Once I broke free of the camping chair I began to explore the city and was amazed that such a place could exist – it was a city built by and populated by the players, a deal of who I could see around me! Now it was sometime before I realised that vast majority of players were in one or two locations within the city and the rest of it was a well-tended wasteland so at the time this was a hugely exciting to me.

Nova Albion, Second Life's first city...

Nova Albion, Second Life’s first city…

My next experience was of Bree in LOTRO and I still remember riding through the gates and down the cobbled road from Combe for the first time. It was night and I was following a more experience player in my first few hours of playing and I can still feel the excitement swelling inside me, something akin to the first time after passing my driving test my Dad had me follow him onto the motorway – pure nervous adrenaline as I moved from one world to another, it was amazing.

Bree, so small yet so oddly important...

Bree, so small yet so oddly important…

My most recent experience has been in GW2 where I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Divinity’s Reach (such a bloody beautiful name, too). The levels! the architecture! The housing! The scale! Oh my gods I was blown away! It is still the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in a game but do you know how many times I go there and explore it? Never. I teleport to the bank and teleport back out to the game. I teleport to the Maiden’s Whisper for RP and teleport out again. If I crafted I’d teleport to the crafting station and then out to the game again. The is no reason for me to wander around the city and therefore it could be three or four small rooms and I’d still get the same benefits and that is a crying shame.

Divinity's Reach - full of places you can never reach or explore...

Divinity’s Reach – full of places you can never reach or explore…

Do you know what Nova Albion, Bree & Divinity’s Reach have in common? They are deserts. Wastelands. Ghost towns. People hurry from location to location in an entirely perfunctory manner to get between locations such as bank to auction house or auction house to crafting station in order to complete a necessary task related to the furthering of a step within the game. Taking a helicopter’s eye view of the city over 24 hours you’d see players whizzing back and forth between a small number of locations using the same routes whilst the rest of the city simply lies dormant.

So what to do about this sorry state of affairs, I hear (or at I imagine I hear) you ask?

That’s a good question I have no easy answers to but here’s what I’d like to see in online cities, things I feel would brathe some life into them and make them worth not just visiting again but actually playing in:

  • Player housing throughout. True this was the case in SL and cities there were still deserted but none of these ideas are meant to happen in isolation. I think player housing is important because not only does it give players a reason to be in the city but it also makes them invested in the city. All of the amazing buildings in Divinity’s Reach are unusable with only the occasional one open, but even these are museum displays that can’t be played or interacted with. True there is the home instance of Selma but it’s just that, an instance; a private bubble of the city created for and inhabited by only you – and where is the fun in that? Let players live in the city and make it their own.
  • Events throughout the city all the time. Give the players a reason to be in the city other than crafting, banking or redecorating their house. Player guilds like LOTRO’s Lonley Mountain Band prove that if you put an event on people will come so put events on! Allow players to put events on! For the love of all that is holy, breathe some life into the place and get people dancing! Random small celebrations should happen, Weekly markets with special items, Parades that wind their through the city streets. All night parties right outside your window. Holy days of celebration to the various six Gods. And why not have dungeons in the city? Why not have quests and dynamic events happen there?
  • Let crafters own shops. Let players own a shop that you can visit and where you can buy their goods, whether those have been made or found. True these items could also be sold on the trading post but why not between people? Slap a 15% sales tax on and the gold sink remains. And if the player is out playing then let them hire an NPC to man the shop for them (an even bigger gold sink).
  • Whilst on the subject of NPCs, make them real. Don’t have them standing around waiting to be clicked on but have them wandering the neighbourhood. Have them going in and out of buildings and doing stuff other than waiting. Like exploring a city, listening to NPCs talking is fun the first time but then never again. Hell there is a conversation between two ministers about the Centaur problem going on right now that was going on word for word when I started over a year ago. Why? That conversation hasn’t moved on so it gives the impression neither has the world. NPCs should seem like they really live and work in the city otherwise the city seems like a theme park exhibit.
  • Let the city change at night. Traders should close shop and go home, NPCs should wander off to their families or the pub, parties should start, Seraph patrols increase, curfews enforced, drunken fights break out, arrests made. In short the city should act like a real city and be different at night as it is in the day.

Of course, a lot of this goes for *all* the settlements in the world. All of them need real day & night cycles with NPCs that do more than stand around like idiots awaiting an instruction to sit. Players should be free to live in the countryside if city life is not for them. Merchant caravans should allows player-traders to join them. The whole bloody world should feel more interactive and real and alive and a lot less like a game where you can’t play with all of the pieces.

This is exciting as my home instances gets...

This is exciting as my home instances gets…

Life in Tyria: Building a better me…

I’ve been messing about with builds lately. It’s not something I’ve done a lot of in the past, I think I was just getting the hang of it when I stopped playing the game in Dec 12 and so I never really got to go deep into the heart of how it affects gameplay experience.

Well now I know, or least I know a little bit more than back in 2012; it affects it a lot and with the coming changes to how we spec out a character it’s only going to become more flexible and powerful and this seems like the perfect time to start tinkering with it.

But let me back up a bit and explain why I’ve been fooling about under the hood. I play an engineer you see and whilst the ‘Engi’ is a fun class to solo with it really is designed to be a strong support class and therefore many of its’ tool kits are most powerful & (possibly only) useful in group situations. I play 99.9% of the time alone. This makes most of the kits and gadgets the Engi has available useless to me, likewise with the traits that back them up, and I find myself relying heavily on turrets to pull aggro from mobs and then lots of dodging and kiting (and healing!) to stay alive long enough to grind the enemy down to a bloody puddle of zero. Yet when I watch my son play his Warrior, a class that has no gadgets but can use more weapons and has access to stronger armour, he can just attack stuff and it dies right there in front of him! Oh I’m so jealous! Here am I, my fingers tying themselves in knots on my G13, my brain screaming DODGE! ROLL! DROP TURRET! GRENAAAAAAADE! DODGGGGGGE! as I dance and wheel around one on-level veteran with my health bubble bouncing up and down like a nervous bride’s nightie, whilst he runs up to a gang of four slightly higher level mobs and casually punches them so hard their bones turn to dust and they shit out gold coins as an apology for disturbing him!*

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My son’s warrior speaking to Logan Thanckery and planning to casually kill mobs whilst napping.

So I took to the traits panel and began to play about with my build. I’m level 80, have most skills unlocked, have OK armour & weapons (all rares rather than exotics but the difference is small enough to ignore on the macro scale of getting my arse kicked by a vet undead giant and his small army of big ass zombie grubs) and well -chosen runes and sigils throughout – to be honest a re-trait is all I have left to play with.

In the past, when I first learnt about builds, I speced myself out to be a crack shot with the rifle and increase both my crit chance and crit damage and this worked well for me. Then I read about the flame-truck build and followed that (basically making myself tougher with a flamethrower) but whilst this was good for a while it did not scale up well and became less effective the higher I got. By the time I left the game I had settled on a turret-centric built that made my turrets stronger and ‘tossable’ but in coming back into the game now and finally getting to Orr I’ve found this wasn’t really working for me, especially as the turrets are all but one-shotted as soon as I have them out. So I tried a few new builds with the intention of mixing things up and going crazy in the hopes of finding a cool niche for myself but straight away I was stopped as all the wacko options use the tool kits and gadgets that are more support orientated. Still I tried. I kept a solid 30 points in the explosives line (it saddens me to say that pretty much all Engis you talk to can’t justify breaking the tyranny of the top line here) and moved a full 30 into tools to try and gain some kit swapping, hit-blocking abilities and the final 10 giving me tougher turrets. With this I lost a lot of nice stuff from the previous build such as reduced fall damage and faster running speed but, I reasoned, if it meant the enemy went down faster it was a trade off worth making.

They didn’t. It wasn’t.

Why. Wont. You. Just. Bloody. Well. DIE!?

Why. Wont. You. Just. Bloody. Well. DIE!?

True I discovered a lovely trait where my speed was increased a lot when swapping to grenades, but other than that the Orrian undead remained undead for far longer than I had hoped. It seemed that just like the combo of rifle and grenades, the only traits that help an Engi solo successfully in Tyria are firearms and explosives.

A chat with my guildies helped a little, they convinced me that other weapon options and traits do work, but I think we all agreed they tend to work in group situations so I headed off to the trainer to once again reset and re-build (at a cost of less than 2sp, I can see why Arenanet are about to make this free – it penalises nothing but my time). The upshot is I’ve gone all the way back to something very much like my first build; 30 in explosives, 30 in firearms and a cheeky 10 in inventions to protect me from fall damage. The main difference this time is that my armour, runs and sigils are better chosen to build my strength, toughness & precision rather the healing and condition damage that (I’ve been reliably told) don’t scale well and therefore are wasted. Once more things I shoot at or blow up bursts into flame and dies in a writhing heap at my satisfied (probably dodging, rolling & dancing) feet. Now if only my turrets were better at agroing high level mobs for a decent amount of time I think I’d be pretty happy with my performance. True that my son’s warrior can still punch things into orbit whilst I do the foxtrot with them, but at least I kill them with some style and panache, eh?

Use all the 'nades...

Use all the ‘nades…

* I may be over stating the case for the Warrior. I think they were silver coins and the apology may have been a death gurgle.

Life in Tyria: Big changes are a-coming, starting with traits…

In mid-April Arenanet are releasing their first ever feature only update (I was away for so long I hadn’t realised that they were releasing feature changes along with living story updates) and it’s looking like it’s like it’s going to be huge!

There is a post from Arenanet all about the first changes which are going to overhaul the whole traits system but I really liked the video from Wooden Potatoes which explains in a lot more depth why this is important and how game play might change. I’m looking forward to it but if you are playing GW2, what do you think?

 

Life in Tyria: How roleplaying in GW2 works…

It’s been a week since the Crimson Ashes Guild accepted me in on a trial period and in that time I’ve been on a steeeeep learning curve about what RP in GW2 is and how it works. Here’s what I’ve uncovered so far.

As in SL, live RP is just a matter of typing out loud (/s) and emoting (/e) the words, deeds and thoughts of your character whilst remaining totally in character. any out of character stuff is done via private, group or guild chat (/w, /p & /g respectively*). There is a lot of suspension of disbelief as well as a lot of nothing happening to the characters on screen, with all the action being described in chat rather than ‘acted out’ on screen.

With the monster hunt I took part in on Saturday I had expected it to be a group fight against a real in-game monster but the day before I had the opportunity to ask the leader, Craywin, about how this would work. Bloody good job I did otherwise I’d have gone in all guns blazing and looking like a right nutter! No, instead of fighting a real game monster, the ice brood minotaur was imaginary and operated by Craywin, who was also there as Craywin. It worked like this:

  • We met up in game and were from then on in totally IC with all OOC chat behind the scenes.
  • We walked to the location Craywin had in mind for the encounter (along the way taking part in any dynamic events that naturally happen but doing so totally IC).
  • Once at the location Craywin OOCed us to start the encounter. From then on in he was being both player and DM and he emoted the beast’s movements and actions in chat.
  • A marker was used to show the rough position of the beast (in this case a banner) so we could better work out a reply.
  • After each batch of emotes describing the beast’s actions, we could emote our actions and talk/shout out loud to each other IC.
  • The length of each ‘turn’ was not set but quickly found a natural pace.Essentially not too much action and no players saying “I hit it dead in the eye and it dies!”, the DM decides those kinds of things both to keep the experience fair & fun for all but also building to an exciting conclusion.
  • Dice rolls weren’t enforced, it’s up to the players if they want to use them to add an element of chance to the action otherwise it’s much more about a shared trust that all parties work together on a shared narrative.
  • It took about 4 turns to kill the beast which took us 40 mins or so.
  • Afterwards we RPed about the aftermath, healed the wounded, etc, Again, most of this was done with out loud IC chat & /e emotes but there was also some use of positional emotes such as /kneel for bending to a fallen player and /sleep to be that player.

All in all it was both not what I was expecting and exactly what I should have expected. It was great fun. It was back to my teen yaers playing MERP on the kitchen table. It was collaborative story telling. It was roleplaying and it was good. It’s a long time since I’ve been this excited about a game, probably since writing Steal Head if I’m honest and that’s because I get to create the story once more. Hell it’s even made me think about SL again, something I never thought could happen!

*GW2 commands are listed here with the emotes here and a guide from the emotes programmer here.

Roleplaying in Guild Wars 2: Meeting the Family…

I was hoping to have written up a follow up to my ‘Humble Beginnings’ post by now but alas, I need to sleep in between work and playing GW2 😀

When I last left off I’d met some of the Crimson Ashes Guild in the Maiden’s Whisper and had been invited to an IC meeting with the rest of the Guild at the same place the next day. I only just made it after tearing down the motorway from work, but make it I did and I walked Jurak up into the pub – right past all the Guildies who were watching my with what I can only imagine was bemused pity as I strode on by. Luckily the same player who had met me both the previous night and in the Lomar’s pass camp was on hand to save the day (and my blushes).

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Victoria introduced me to the group, including who I think is the boss, Craywin (although they may have no overall leader, it’s hard to tell) and we all chatted in character for a while. In the end they agreed to give Jurak (and me, lest I forget) a trial period. Jurak was invited him on a beast hunt deep into Svanir held territory whilst I was told that whilst attendance was casual they do expect active participation a couple of times a week, which seems both fair and manageable to me. They came across like a nice, friendly bunch. I’ve not been in many guilds in my gaming life (this is number three) but I’ve always been lucky to pick friendly ones. My only complaint in the past has been the last of a cohesive narrative for the group to exist, something to hang the whole suspension of disbelief on. Yes it’s nice to chat in the guild channel about the game and the wider real world and that is invaluable, but it can’t (for me at least) be all there is. I think that in Crimson Ashes I’ve found something really special – a group with which to grow and share stories.

World building, part 1: Being British, it’s all about the weather…

I had planned this post to be part of a much larger post directed at my dissatisfaction with GW2 and other MMOs but as I drafted and redrafted it in my head it kept changing, its focus shifting and realigning, until I just decided to open a New Post box and see what happened.

World Building part 1. I had no idea that was going to pop out of my fingertips when I started but now I think it’s perfect because the lack of immersion that leads to my feeling of disconnection & dissatisfaction with GW2 is not unique to that game and, in some respects, not the fault of that or any game. So here is my first post in a new series about what I want, desperately in many cases, to see in a game world. They are in no real order – my thinking isn’t always that joined up – but I’m sure common themes will pop up here and there. So, where to start. Well, seeing as I’m British, why not with the weather…

Give me more weather: I want a world where the only choices are not sun or rain (with snow at Xmas), I want weather that goes beyond the binary and into the realms of patterns and even seasons and I want them all to have an impact on the world. Let the rain pool up and cause flooding. Give me hail that damages buildings, lightning storms that start forest fires, heat waves that result in a terrible droughts and mass-herd deaths Give me meteor impacts and plagues of killer locusts! I want ship-sinking typhoons and village-erasing twisters! And what is so wrong with a good old fashioned earthquake? GIVE ME MORE THAN SUN AND RAIN! *pant pant pant*… Actually, earthquakes aren’t weather are they? But they do lead me on to my next point quite nicely.

Why is the land always the same? OK, here in the UK I’m lucky enough to live in a stable & prosperous place and the land hardly every changes. Except it does. all the time. Fields that have been there since my dad was a kid are being turned into housing estates, new railways are wiping villages off the map and cities are eating up towns all the time. The land changes, except in MMOs where, like the seasons and the weather, it’s always the same. A path through the hills and out to the coast that is never blocked by a flood or a landslide is just the same as a corridor in a FPS. I want people (both players and non-players) and the weather (see above) and seasons (below) to change the landscape. Don’t tell me it’s a living world when most of it is pickled in aspic!

And whilst I’m on the topic of seasons, can we please add some? I know that to see a Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter cycle roll past means you are a year older and it is clear that your character is not, but if I can suspend my disbelief that the Simpsons have been the same age for 25 years I can do the same in a game, trust me. The fact you include a day/night cycle indicates there is a passage of time and my head has yet to explode from the fact day after day cycles round and yet nothing seems to change. Put seasons in, make them run in the same way as your day & night time frame (roughly 4 to 6 times faster than normal) and the world will see to be fresh and living instead of some weird West World theme park stuck on one setting forever. And ever. And ever.

I’ll take a break there but in my next post I want to move on to the people in these worlds and the lives they often don’t but really should live. And some stuff about night time as well. Oh god, the night time in games sucks.

One last point before I hit publish and end my lunch break, please don’t imagine I’m having a pop at GW2 or LOTRO or Second Life. I’m simply putting forward my wishlist and no one game is more guilt than another of failing to live up to my vastly inflated sense of expectations. There are probably some very good technical reasons why some of the things I want can’t be done, but that doesn’t stop me wanting them. I have a similar problem with Miranda Kerr and Karlie Kloss.

Another sunny day... how dull.

Another sunny day… how dull.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the camp…

As I’ve mentioned I’ve restarted my Guild Wars 2 game playing and although I’m enjoying it I’m still left with that weird, empty feeling afterwards. There are several reasons for this, not all of which I can adequately express despite several hours in the last few days of quite serious introspection. What it boils down to seems to be a feeling of disconnection from the game brought about by an unsatisfactory social play model and the inability of the game to tailor an experience for me to lose myself in. I feel it is only fair to say this is not unique to GW2 for me but so far all MMOs such as LOTRO, Star Trek and even Second Life have shared this exact same issue. I plan to write more on this but I’m still trying to organise my thoughts and feelings into a coherent body that I can lay out for inspection but before I do I just wanted to share with you an experience from last night that made my soul sing with the sweet possibility of a solution.

I logged into GW2 and rezzed where I had left off, in Lion’s Arch in the second phase of the invasion storyline. It’s fun but unless you are with a zerg you are screwed. The previous night I reached near the end and fought the Prime Hologram that is somewhere just before the final fight with Scarlet Briar but we (the zerg) fluffed it and poof! I was back on Terra Firma with no more clue of how I got there than I did of how I got into the hologram fight or what the bloody hell I was doing for 99% of it. I was, it’s fair to say, despondent. My time is limited and to find myself so close to the end, whether by accident or design, and then plopped right back at the start felt like a total waste of my evening. Worse, it made me want to give up on the content because I could see no hope of ever getting to the end of it again. I left Lion’s Arch and headed for the old refugee camps to see if I could trade in the guff I had uncovered from the city (in itself another sticky point as I was unable to get an achievement in time due to being a solo player and now I’m stuck with a permanent 80% record despite my best efforts – argh!) only to find the bloody vendors have now gone!

I was, as you can imagine, more than a little hacked off. What is the point in playing if I can’t take part in any but the most trivial of content? Why carry on at all if all I can ever hope to be is a dull foot soldier lobbing in grenades from the side-lines and never getting to the end of the battle? What, I wondered, was the point of playing the game at all?

It was at this point I noticed some players walking. In MMOs this is unheard of except for role-players. I stopped dead, realising I’d just run directly into one of them and our bodies were now clipped together. If this was an RPer then this is just the sort of thoughtless action that would piss them off and I quickly disengaged and backed off. Sure enough the group, which all sported the same guild tag, began to talk to each other. Out loud. Without using LOLZ. Jesus! they *were* RPers! I set my guy to walking speed, found a seat by the camp fire and sat right down to watch.

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The story began to unfold in front of me, each player using a mixture of IC & OOC chat to drive the tale on. After a while I began to join in and rather than getting a private message to butt out they actually let me join in. It was all very tentative, me wondering if I was going to fut my size nines in it and they no doubt wondering if I was about to take the piss or do something to ruin their carefully nurtured sense of immersion. Neither party was, I think I’m justified in saying, disappointed in the behaviour of the other – I tried my best to fit in and not be a cock whilst they certainly didn’t come over as elitist jerks and they were very welcoming. In fact so much so that I ended up asking if I could join their guild. I have no idea what came over me but I just decided that nothing ventured nothing gained – the logical outcome of me not asking would be the removal of the game from my machine in a few weeks so I asked. And they said yes! Well, a qualified yes. I will have to have an interview with them to see if I fit in, but that’s fair enough. If we both like each other then maybe this is the start of a new renaissance* on my gaming. Maybe, after all I have tried this before in SL but never found an RP community I really liked. Maybe in Tyria I will. I’m willing to try if they are 🙂

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More soldiers like this, please…

Whilst I’d still like to see more old NPCs in Tyria, you can’t fault Arenanet’s eye for a beautiful lady 😀

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A Week In Tyria…

It’s been just under a week since I got back from Canada & jumped into Tyria (and just over a week since I missed the early access launch – dammit!) and I am taking a night off to put my thoughts about it in order.

First off I can confirm that as expected I am not in the same grip of mania I was in this time last year with LOTRO. I can also confirm that I’m very, very happy about this. My fall for LOTRO was too fast and too deep as I was on the rebound after ending a long term relationship with Second Life. I could see nothing other than shiny new and ignored all the bad bits until I burnt out on the endless grind Turbine seem to feel is necessary in a game. Now my transition from LOTRO to GW2 has been more carefully spaced, less of a rebound and more of an evolution. I’m addicted to the game, but in a deeper, richer, more controlled way. But enough about me, you came here to read about the game, didn’t you? Righto then, let’s start at the beginning…

Pre-Launch & Launch.
As I’ve said before, my holiday meant I missed the three-day headstart my pre-purchase afforded me but, honestly, I wasn’t bothered. When I got home on the morning of the 28th I didn’t rush off to patch the client or anything, nope I just waited until later that day before I got around to it. I created a Human Engineer (Jurak Gearwright – friend me) and despite a client crash that wiped him before completing the creation process I was able to get right in and start blasting Centaurs in Shaemoor on my second attempt. It was nice to see that the betas meant my key bindings were ready to go from the outset and the whole experience was smooth like butter. True that for a while I came up against what I had feared from the betas, namely the feeling that I was simply retreading old ground, but once out of Shaemoor and deeper than two chapters into my personal story I passed the limits of my previous experiences and everything felt exciting & new 🙂

My System & The Beauty of Tyria
Let’s not beat about the bush, my nearly three-year old computer with its AMD 3-core CPU & creaky nVidia GTX260 is not up to the demands of GW2. And yet, even with that old rig and the outdated drivers I have (the GFX card won’t take the latest ones) the damn game still managed to look 3 times better than LOTRO & 10 times better than SL. Still, there have been odd glitches and crashes that I’m fairly sure have been down to my old card so I’m splashed out and ordered a new gaming rig just so I can see the glorious beauty of Tyria with all the settings maxed out and it should be here any day now – expect some stunning looking screenshots 😀 (this is it, by the way, a freaking 4GHz i7 for gawd’s sake! Hell, I’m even going to overclock the bugger!)

Queensdale & Levelling
As I mentioned above, I had done some of the Human starter zone before in the first & second beta weekends, but this did not stop me enjoying a third trip through the beautiful region of Queensdale. I have found the levelling process really well paced, so much so that I was just over 15.5 when I left for the Kessex Hills, a the next area and a 15-25 area – how’s that for being right on the money? It’s worth noting that in GW2 the levelling structure is designed to feel very secondary to everything else and it really does. Yes there have been folks who reached the level cap of 80 in a day or so (I’m not sure how long, but it was really quick) but it is, as far as gameplay goes, meaningless. You see in LOTRO if you were at level 65 and you went back to the Barrow Downs outside Bree then you could simply one-shot any critter there and nothing is a challange to you whatsoever. In GW2 a level 80 revisiting Queensdale is levelled down to between level 1 and 15 again and suddenly everything in that zone is a threat to them. This means you never become a boring God-like character but rather you are always wonderfully, excitingly mortal and your level is just a number affecting stats. My plan is to never out-level content, at least not with Jurak, as I want to experience the whole of the PvE game just the way it was designed.

The Personal Story – Beware! Here Be Spoilers!
Ahhh, the personal story. In the betas I stopped this around two chapters in and boy am I glad I did because then one of the two central pillars of the game has been preserved for me (the other pillar being, for me at least, dynamic events). Still, I have to say that I’ve found some of the aspects of the story to be a little jarring and a tad disappointing for me (I’m a narrative junkie above and before everything else). For instance, in my story as a street-rat who lost his sister to Centaurs, I spent a lot of the early levels getting my friend Quinn out of trouble and foiling Two-Blade Pete’s plans to poison the city’s water supply but when I brought the news of Pete’s plot to Logan Thackery I was presented with a choice: stop the bandits poisoning the water or leave to save Quinn. What? Me, a man on his own, stopping the who bandit group when, correct me if I’m wrong, Logan is in charge of the local police force? Of course I’m going to save Quinn – the bloody Seraph can stop the bandits, surely. Apparently not! I seriously hope the writers don’t butcher them the way Turbine turned the Rangers of Middle Earth into clowns and half-wits just to crowbar the player into events. Look, my ego is not so fragile that I need to destroy all narrative credibility just to feel important so please don’t ask me to make daft choices just so I can feel all study – just write me into a damn good story 🙂

Exploring & Those Beautiful Dynamic Quests
Ahhh, exploring… how I love to explore in games, to wander off the beaten track and find exciting, beautiful places. SL was great for this because you never knew what you’d find except you knew the people in the game had made it themselves and therefore they could be pug ugly at times. LOTRO was a different kettle of fish because even though the the whole (sort of) of a very beautifully realised Middle Earth was there for you to explore, assuming you were a high enough level, there was never anything to do once you got wherever it was you were going. Oh there might be something there, a beautiful ruin or an interesting cave, but there was nothing happening there. In the end all exploring in LOTRO boiled down to was postcard collecting.

Now in Guild Wars 2 exploring is pure fun because no matter where you go (assuming, as in LOTRO, you of are high enough level) there is always something happening! Dynamic events unfold in the world around you and you can jump right into them as you explore! So many times I’ve set off for location A and ended up no where near because I’ve been pulled in by an event chain that just started as I ran past!

In Summary…
Quite simply Guild Wars 2 is the best game I’ve played. Well, mostly. Anyway, buy it & play it.

P.S.
I’m on Piken Square – drop me a line in game (all Tyrian mail is picked up and delivered by pigeons… really.)

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

Hunngggnnn…
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.

And…
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