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Edit: Thanks to all the people and websites who shared my article. I wrote it just for me and my friends, and I would never have imagined it would be posted across the web... until ArenaNet tweeted it :) So I am a player just like you (and probably a fan-boy, yes), I am not a beta-tester nor an ArenaNet employee (but the idea is tempting!) and I just wanted to share my opinion with the world, and compare gw2 to some of the games I've played before. With that in mind, please enjoy the reading!

Guild Wars 2 is an upcoming MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Player Game) that has raised a huge interest among the online games community. Despite the big hype generated by this game, I still hear a lot of skeptical people saying "Yeah yeah... it's always the same, every new MMO is supposed to be a revolution, but in the end they all fail".

This is not really true. Some of them will fail or fade after a while, but recent games like Rift or Star Wars: The Old Republic still have a relatively big success. These games added a few new elements to the genre: semi-dynamic events for Rift; spoken dialogs and good story telling for Star Wars.

However, their success is limited, as most players leave the game after a short period of time (generally between 1 and 3 months). Apart from the 10-20% of new and original stuff, the core mechanics stay identical to what has been made for 15 years.

In order to succeed, an online game must either bring new players to the genre, or satisfy experienced ones by proposing original features and fixing old flaws.

So the best way to convince people is with a list of facts. And if you don't have time to read everything, just follow the colors ;-)

1. Quests

Classic MMORPG: an NPC (Non Player Character) with an exclamation mark above the head will give you quests. When you click on it, it tells you "We are attacked, this is the end of the word, blah blah blah" and you have to go kill 10 monsters at the other end of the zone. These monsters are just standing there and do nothing really threatening. In the end you just play the meaningless role of a dumb errand boy, and this is an easy way for designers to increase the lifetime of the game.

Guild Wars 2: the content is delivered in the shape of dynamic events. They are like a mix between Warhammer Online's public quests and the rift events in... Rift. But they are much more varied, and the possibilities are endless. You can just explore the world and you will be notified when an event is close. For example it could be a village attacked by monsters. The difference is that you will actually see the villagers attacked by real monsters, and not just a bunch of monsters standing in a specific place and doing nothing. Events are public, everyone can participate at the same time without the need to create groups. Everybody is rewarded according to their participation, so no mob stealing here. There are different possible tasks to do to contribute to a specific event, and events will dynamically cascade into other related events depending on the outcome. Much better than your basic quest, huh?

2. Combat

Classic MMORPG: most of them are hokey based. That means you have 1, 2, 3, or even 4 bars full of skills, spells, items, potions, and most of them are useless in most situations. This is very confusing, clumsy, and doesn't allow for a very dynamic combat system (players waste time to click on the right skill).

Guild Wars 2: The first Guild Wars game already started to simplify the system by only providing 8 slots in 1 bar for skills. Players had to choose a good combination of 8 skills that worked well together among 1000+ available skills, and that had to be chosen before adventuring in the wild.
Guild Wars 2 approach is better: you have 10 slots in total. The first 5 are determined by the weapons you are actually wearing. For example, for the same class, you have different skills if you wield a sword in right hand and a dagger in left hand, or a long bow with both hands. This makes much more sense and turns weapons into a strategic choice rather than a bunch a stats points. You will be able to smash those 5 keys like in a real action RPG, and some of them trigger combos, or even inter-class combos (arrows shot by a ranger through an elementalist's fire wall will turn into flaming arrows). You also have a dodge key, which can actually be used to dodge attacks if you're fast enough. The other 5 slots are for utility skills determined by your class and race, and you have a moderate amount of choice, but not a thousand. ArenaNet chose quality over quantity. Each class also has heal skills, which brings us to the next topic...

3. No holy trinity

Classic MMORPG: the "holy trinity" is Tank / Healer / DPS. The tank tries to keep all the monsters attacking him/her. The healer is mainly healing the tank, and sometimes the others. The DPS focus on doing the maximum output of damage to the monsters before the healer runs out of mana. This is simple... and boring. Add to that the difficulty of finding a good and dedicated healer or tank, and this results in hours of waiting to do a specific instance.

Guild Wars 2: each class is unique, and no class has a dedicated role or obligation. So no tank, no healer and no DPS. Each class is also versatile. Of course, you can play more support, more damage, or more defense. But players are NOT supposed to be static, take damage and hope for a nearby healer to save their ass. Everybody has to heal themselves and dodge out of the way of enemies attacks. Moreover, many skills are GTAoE (ground targeted area of effect), which means you place them on the ground. You will see red circles for things that will harm you, and white circles for spells casted by your allies or yourself. Don't stand in the red circles! Avoid enemies' attacks with the dodge key! It's like a real time chess game, or maybe like a deadly basketball match :)

4. PvP

Classic MMORPG: PvP (Player versus Player) is a sensitive topic. There are 2 main categories of players: the competitive ones, and the casual ones. Mixing the two generally results in a lot of drama. Casual players want to enjoy PvE in peace and get owned by "unkillable" hardcore players. On the other hand, competitive players struggle to find a fair fight. The enemy is either too weak or too strong, mainly because of the level difference and unbalanced equipment.

Guild Wars 2: ArenaNet's answer is simple, but yet very effective. In the "main" world, it's all about PvE (Player versus Environment). All races are allies and all players are cooperating together to fight monsters and other NPCs. The PvP system is seperated and it works much like FPS (First Person Shooters) matches. You see a list of servers on different "maps", and you select the one you wishes to join. Once you're in, everybody is maxed to level 80, has access to the same equipment and the same amount of skill points. Winning is then all about tactics (it's objective based), knowledge of your class and reactivity. Moreover, you gain experience and equipment while participating in PvP. In short, people are not forced to take part in PvE or in PvP and can enjoy both of these aspects separately and fairly. For those who want to mix PvP and PvE, and also experience larger scale PvP, just scroll down to the next part :)

5. World vs World

Classic MMORPG: a few games propose relatively large scale PvP. Dark Age of Camelot was the most successful in my opinion, mainly because of its 3 faction system, which ensured a good balance overall. Warhammer Online did something interesting with objectives and fortress captures, but the game was definitely not ready to be released at the time. Large scale RvR (Realm vs Realm) based on objectives and territory control is my favorite feature in MMORPGs. Unfortunately, none of them has fully met my expectations.

In Guild Wars 2, it is called World vs World vs World. Why? Players from 3 different servers battle in 4 huge zones filled with resource camps, keeps, and castles. The goal is to capture/defend these building in order to accumulate points over 2 weeks. The winners will earn various bonuses for all players on their server (even for those who don't participate in WvWvW). Strategy is very important here, as you can for example attack enemy resource caravans, and thus prevent other players from building new siege weapons or repairing their gates. PvE is also present in these zones, and there is always something different to do, may you be wandering alone or with a full guild raid on your heels.

6. No subscription

Classic MMORPG: we have 2 main models: subscription based, and free to play. To play the former, you generally pay the price of the game, and then around 12 € per month. The latter can be downloaded and played for free, and an in-game shop will encourage you to pay real money to be stronger than other players, access the best features, or avoid grinding. In most cases, free to play games will be a lot costlier for enthusiast players.

Guild wars 2 has no subscription fees, you buy the game and then you can play for free forever. The game will have a cash shop, but it will be only for aesthetic items (costumes and the like) and will not threaten the balance of the game. In short, it will cost you less money to play Guild wars 2 than most MMORPGs. The game will make a profit on regular expansions (it was every 6 months for Guild Wars), selling fashion items in the shop, and selling millions of copies of the game ;)

7. Quality

Quality differs a lot between games, so I will not compare. All I can say is... look at the videos, listen to the music (Jeremy Soule), and judge by yourself. This game is a piece of art, graphics are stylized and often look like a painting.

8. Story, ambiance, scale

Classic MMORPG: one of the worst aspects in this genre is the story. Even if the quest texts are good, nobody knows because nobody reads them. People just follow the quest objective "kill 10 rats, bring their tails to this guy on the other side of the continent, then come back to me". No matter how hard the writers try, this system doesn't feel epic nor engaging. A big improvement has been made by Bioware on Star Wars: The Old Republic, where all the quests are cut-scenes with real interesting stories and tons of recorded dialogs. So now you have a good reason to do quests, but in the end you still talk to A, kill 10 X, bring 5 Y, then talk to B. This only feels half epic.

Guild Wars 2: as you already know, the events will be much more dynamic and entertaining than the classic quest system. On top of that, ArenaNet created a personal story for each race that looks like the class quests in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but which is also more dynamic. When you create your Guild Wars 2 character, you answer several questions that will define the background of your character. Based on that and the race you chose, you will take part in a personal story that will stretch from level 1 to 80. This story will often take place in places or buildings that are instances tailored specially for you. This means your choices will affect some of this instanced environment and the characters in it. Much like SWTOR, the dialogs are presented in the form of cut-scenes with audio dialogs.
Another important element is the scale, scope and ambiance of the game. Have you seen the size of those capital cities? And these huge zones? NPC everywhere will talk together, so you can just overhear many conversations and have a good laugh. Moreover, you can go anywhere in the world, as all factions are allied. Yes, you can even enjoy low level content that you missed without other players hating you, as explained in...

9. Content scaling

Classic MMORPG: so what generally happens when you are a level 35 Human and you want to explore the Elves starting zone? Well you don't. You sure can explore, but if you kill any monster, you will just one-shot them because of the level difference. Moreover, other players will hate you because you're stealing their mobs. If you are level 35, you have to stick to the level 30-40 zones, or just do boring exploration.

Guild Wars 2: content scaling is the solution. Whenever a player has a level higher than the maximum level for a zone, it will be scaled down to match the monsters' difficulty. This means you can explore and have fun in all starting zones. You can come back, do stuff you forgot in the first place, or deal with bosses you didn't have a chance to kill.

10. Crafting, mini-games, and the rest

OK, I'm fed up comparing :) I'd like to add a few interesting elements. Crafting will be like in your usual MMO, but with a few twists. Everybody will be able to gather all types of resources without having to learn a specific skill. You will be able to choose 2 crafting skills. Crafting works a bit like alchemy in Skyrim: you randomly combine different elements and will eventually discover recipes.
Unique mini-games will also take place in each capital city, and will be different from one city to another. I have seen so many appealing features in the different videos that I'm sure I've forgot many of them. Please don't hesitate to comment and add/correct anything.

11. See for yourself!

I recently created a video montage with scenes from official Guild Wars 2 videos and music from the symphonic metal band Epica. The two go very well together, so please watch it and enjoy the beauty!

And if you would like to see real gameplay footage from the recent press beta test, please check the 25 videos made by the Yogscast, they are really good.


Mar. 17th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
This game is what I have been waiting for in so many ways. That being said, there is a least one debatable point in your list. I am not bringing this up to hate on you, ArenaNet or Guild Wars 2, but to raise awareness about something that could prevent this game from being truly great.

The cash shop will not only be for aesthetic items. ArenaNets semi-official stance on this:
"Yes, micro-transactions will exist. Be assured goods and items bought for cash in GW2 do not offer any advantage over those available in the game through the investment of time."
(Source: http://mmofallout.com/2012/02/15/guild-wars-2-opens-door-for-non-cosmetic-cash-shop/)

At first glance this sounds reasonable, but when you thinks about it this wording would not be against selling gold or any other ingame currency for real cash. The bonuses they announced for the Digital Deluxe and CE versions of the game already contain items that give Glory and Influence. The step from this to offering those same items in the cash shop is a small one.

Influence points are the currency that buys guild bonuses, and guild bonuses affect WvW. It is debatable if this does in fact threaten the balance, but to me this is a matter of principle. Buying power in a PvP environment is always unacceptable.

If you share my concerns please talk about. Let ArenaNet know that this is something that has the potential to scare away lots of potential customers.

I really hope I am completely wrong on this whole issue.
Mar. 17th, 2012 10:40 am (UTC)
Re: Kelrix
there is a high chance of it being there in the cash shop BUT there also is the chance this is just a 1 time thing.
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Kelrix
Thanks for sharing your concerns. I have played (and worked for) free to play MMOs and I know the cash shop can sometimes completely unbalance or even kill the game. As said above, most pre-purchase bonuses seem to be one-time or temporary items, so I don't fear about unbalance at this stage.
I understand that ArenaNet will want to push the cash shop to their advantage to make the most possible money out of it, but as long as it's with aesthetic or not combat-related items, I'm fine.
Given the success the game will certainly receive, and also the apparently perfect balance they're trying to achieve for PvP, I don't think they will want to destroy their efforts with overpowering items in the cash shop.
As always, wait and see... :)

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