Guild Wars 2–Introduction
I’ll try not to overdo it with the Guild Wars 2 posts, but I am obliged to post some things about my beta experience.
I started with a human hunter. I am a hunter aficionado, and although it’s “against the rules of beta” to roll a favored character, I had a hunter in Guild Wars, so I went with what I (kind of) knew.
I’m a bit torn with this game. I have to say, I love it to death already, but there are some issues, and not all of them can be attributed to “beta”. If we’re talking “classic beta”, then we should be experiencing bugs and reporting them. If we’re talking “modern beta”, then this is a PR period. Instead, we seem to be somewhere in between. Yes, there were bugs, like the unresponsive skill point challenge vendor in one town who refused to get his lazy ass off the ground. But anyone familiar with the beta experience will know about the overflow mechanic, and it’s issues. Overflow is fantastic, but the issues that people have with it are not bugs; they are either design decisions, or design oversights. We’re talking features here, and to me, bringing system shortcomings to the developer’s attention is not the purpose of the beta. Maybe we’re in “post-modern beta”, where the furniture is still being re-arranged on the day we move in. As an industry outsider, I don’t know. I suspect that NCSoft got more then enough feedback that they’ll take care of it to our satisfaction, because they rest of the game is a weathervane pointing in the right direction.
Another real question I have is how the game is viewed by the players. I’m not going to wave my arms and proclaim the Second Coming. It’s a video game. It’s well done, and people like it. But it is…different enough. I have spoken with a few people, and have played with a few, and the majority of them are MMO vets. This is not a cookie-cutter game, yet I have seen other sources where people are asking for more familiar systems that they have gotten used to in other games. Accessibility is great, but I feel that many MMO players are going to be scratching their heads at “what do I do now?” or “how does this work?” or, if we’re really unlucky, “why doesn’t this work like it does in Game X?”
Guild Wars 2 is trying to be just a little bit beyond what we see in most MMOs, which is minor tweaks to standard systems. There is the art style, which is very watercolor-esque for both the landscape and even the UI. You don’t have to visit a trainer to get skills; you unlock them in sequence by using existing skills, and combat abilities are weapons based. You will unlock them all in a very short time. There is no quest journal aside from your personal story, everything is public-quest, and no one is holding your hand, pointing the next area for you to visit. Your goal is to step foot outside the city, and just do it. People will freak out over this. When you step back, it’s not a huge departure from base MMO mechanics, but it has enough difference that after years and years of 20 hot-bars with customizable skill selections, a “golden path” of quests designed to move us from area to area, and reliance upon skill vendors and even server queues, Guild Wars 2 is just different enough to make it different enough.
Now comes the question: will it be “different enough” to satisfy those who have complained up one side of the Internet and down the other that we need something different? Or will the differences be just a bit too different for them to grasp without exasperation, forcing them to throw in the towel because they have to re-learn significant chunks of their MMO knowledge?