Category Archives: guild wars 2

One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening

Path of Fire, the new Guild Wars 2 expansion, is enjoyable enough so far, but it hasn’t really got its hooks into me. Mounts are fun, a new way of getting around; each class has a new elite spec, but unlocking it involves grinding a goodly number of Hero Points so it’ll take me a while longer at my current, rather slow, rate of exploration. Most immediately there’s more story, but as outlined previously that’s not really a plus point. I hardly paid attention to the story of the first expansion, or any of the Living World since; something something dragon something another dragon something something god of war something dragon (possibly the second dragon or maybe a new one) seems to be about the gist of it. I almost came a cropper during one conversation as the game asked me to make a decision about which faction a Mayor (or General) (or costermonger, I dunno, I wasn’t listening when he introduced himself) should support. At that point my character should really have said: “Look, I’m going to be completely honest here: I have no idea who you are. I have no idea why I’m here. I don’t even know where ‘here’ is, there was probably a briefing or a letter or something but I don’t really care. I expect you think I’m fully au fait with the current situation as the previous stage of the quest involved running around the map and talking to a load of people, but I’ll let you into a little secret: they’re all so dreadfully tedious I started playing Candy Crush as soon as any of them started expositing. I should probably go back to that office (or warehouse) (or ice rink, I dunno, I wasn’t listening) and apologise for not immediately leaping to the defence of whoever it was I was talking to when they were ambushed, but I was doing rather well on level 764 at the time. Now, if you’d be so good as to assume I’ve selected whatever option offers the best rewards, why don’t you pop a green asterisk on the map, I’ll run along there and attack anything with a red name or click on anything clickable, I’m not fussy, then I get stacks of XP and loot and stuff and everyone’s happy, OK?”

Inexplicably that wasn’t an option, though, so I just clicked the middle one, trusting that the fundamental nature of the game meant it would make approximately bog-all difference in the grand scheme of things, and toddled off towards the nearest green asterisk to click on a thing…

Oh death, where is thy sting?

I had been having some trouble, I can admit that much; I wouldn’t say that my dungeon run in Dungeons & Dragons Online was a nightmare, but I had been struggling through somewhat, with each fight having to be a careful pull and kite in order to maximise my time spent actually playing the game, rather than sitting around licking my wounds.

It’s all part of my holding pattern while I wait for Guild Wars 2 to arrive: I dabble solo in this game and that, not really finding the enthusiasm to play any single game with the traditional idolatrous fervour of the MMO addict. We’re on the taxiway with Air ArenaNet now, and the air of anticipation means that I can’t concentrate on anything – sometimes snapping alert as though from a daze, whereupon I find myself staring blankly at a half-finished inflight magazine which I don’t remember opening, let alone reading. Soon the engines of anticipation will build to full power, the excitement and tension palpable, the thrumming power of that passion, held in check, causing the cabin of the community to vibrate. The allotted take-off window arrives, and with the flip of a switch… release. A roar of exultation follows, our craft swiftly gathering momentum in its eager urgency, then with a swell and a sigh we launch, soaring onward to the peregrine climes of Tyria.

In the meantime, I really am an irascible git with respect to my gaming patience, to the point that I’m actually spending most of my time reading.

Nevertheless, I did, at some point, find myself struggling through a dungeon in DDO. It so happened that I reached a point where I could no longer progress without aid: a lever needed to be operated while another person would run through a series of gates. Having come quite far, I decided to purchase a hireling and complete my otherwise solo sortie with a little help. Being a melee sort, I decided to grab a cleric hireling, and that’s when I was reminded by just how much healing changes the game.

Just like that, my character became an irrepressible and immortal being. Where before I was tentative and circumspect, I was now transformed into a hooligan – there are those who would think themselves hooligans, but they would be compelled to stare agape at my antics and call out ‘Steady on there old chap, have a care!’. I was suddenly pulling whole groups of skeletons, pulling additional groups of skeletons, pulling the sisters of those groups of skeletons. It was carnage, at the end of which I would stand panting in the midst of a bone pile that would make Razorfen Downs blush, and my health bar would still be reading ‘Don’t know what all the fuss is about’. That was just for starters, then… then I got blasé. It’s all a bit of a blur, but I do know that by the end of it I was running back and forth naked through a series of traps, dragging a train of skeletons behind me, while I sang U Can’t Touch This. I do remember riding a clay golem. And trying to goose a fire elemental with a stick of dynamite. If we stopped to rest but briefly, I would imagine I was calmly sitting in the camp fire, stirring the embers with my feet and watching my health bar drop and rise, drop and rise.

I’m curious to see how Guild Wars 2’s healing works — whether support classes and group healing will become the essential crutch that they are in other MMOs, or if ArenaNet will find a way to balance encounters such that they are required only in the direst of situations. That’s what I hope for, not for a removal of healing altogether, but a return to it being a tactical decision, an occasional counter to an enemy’s pressed attack, rather than a vital constant where defeat is ensured if it ever goes away. GW2 certainly seems to have less emphasis on healing, and the downed mechanic makes death less of a certainty once that health bar has dropped to zero.

It’s somewhat sad that abundant healing enables our characters to achieve so much, yet restricts them so much the more if it is then ever absent. With GW2 I’m hoping to find a freer form of gameplay, although never so free as yee-hawing naked on a bucking golem through the impotent defensive lines of the minions of darkness, I grant you.

Take Courage! Whatever you decide to do, it will probably be the wrong thing.


I like the original on the left because I based her on Isabela from Dragon Age 2.

I like the one on the right because I think she looks more like a classic Norn, such as Jora[1]

But which one should I play as my Chesney Hawkes? My ‘not going to re-roll, sticking to my guns, this is it, final answer, no alts until I hit the level cap’?

There’s only one way to find out!


[1] I still need to tweak the mouth somewhat, so it doesn’t look as though her greatest enemy was not Jormag but an industrial class collagen injection machine.

[2] Or have a vote. Or roll a dice. Or see which one turns up first in my dreams wearing a wetsuit full of jelly—I’ve said too much.

I never worry about action, but only about inaction.

Oftentimes my thoughts are a sparkling variegated cloud of fractured conceptions and convictions, a myriad array of crystal-shard fish which attempt to coalesce around a central conclusion, but continually billow and implode as sharks of uncertainty dash with writhen voracity through their midst. Contemplating the whole is to draw a conclusion from the ideas reflected in a mirror ball of madness, yet picking out one thought is to isolate it from the rest, where its now-muted rainbow facets are more easily considered, but also more readily exposed to the gape-mawed predations of incertitude.

This certainly describes my state of mind when contemplating action combat in MMOs, specifically when contrasting the forms of combat found in Dungeons & Dragons Online, Tera and Guild Wars 2. I think I like Tera’s version best, then GW2’s, and finally DDO’s, but when I try to formulate a reason why, I end up chasing a conclusion around my head as a kitten chases a spot of reflected light, where each attempt to grasp it is more frantic and furious than the previous one, until at last I am so confused and demented by my fruitless efforts that I inadvertently attack myself and burst, in carpet-tearing panic, from my place on the floor. And later, Mrs Melmoth has to coax me out from behind the sofa with a scrap of cooked chicken.

It seems to me that what we mean by action combat in MMOs can be pared down into a few constituent forms: targeting, movement and reaction. Sometimes these forms overlap: movement out of an area of danger is often combined with the reaction of responding to an enemy’s telegraphed attack – the archetypal dodge mechanic. My kitten-like flailings around the topic were no closer to reaching illumination, as all three games provide similar combat mechanisms. There’s also the fact that I feel I don’t have enough experience with Guild Wars 2’s combat to compare it fully to Tera or DDO, because I’ve yet to try PvP or dungeon instances in GW2, in which I expect movement and reaction will be required to a much higher standard than in the early levels of the game.

I do think DDO –although still fabulously refreshing compared to traditional rock ’em sock ’em MMOs– loses out somewhat to the other two. It was the first of the three, of course, and thus has the disadvantage of time and technology having moved on, but I think its biggest constraint was that it had to marry action combat with the traditional dice-based system of D&D – more a shotgun wedding than a marriage of common interests.

Thus I’m still not sure why I prefer one style of action combat over another, what with them sharing similar core mechanisms. Perhaps, in the end, it’s ‘the whole package’ which sets one system apart – that it has become more than the sum of its parts in some ineffable way. Still, I’ll take comfort from the fact that I know one thing for certain: I really enjoy action combat in MMOs. I should probably try to experience other fine specimens; I’ve never bothered to play Vindictus, to my shame. Maybe with greater experience will come greater understanding, or maybe it will just be adding more fish to the shoal of my confusion; either way, I’m rather excited to see how this area of the MMO genre develops in the future, because, for me at least, it feels like a step along a new and exciting path.

Fie sir, Fie sir.

Leopard, leopard, dazzling white
In these dungeons scant of light,
What designer’s hand or eye
Could frame thy hopeless comedy?

In those distant deeps you fought
A thousand deaths, my heals for nought.
Who struck from thee all circumspection,
And stuck me with thy resurrection?

And what humour and what wit
Would make a minion such a sh…ambles?
And when thy heart again does beat,
Why bounce straight off to thy defeat?

What programmer? What tool chain?
In what AI was thy brain?
What the devil? What the hell?
Dare thee pull that group as well?

Will thy maker ashamed confess
This parody of newb DPS?
Did He smirk His work to see?
Did He who made the Charr make thee?

Leopard, leopard, dazzling white
In these dungeons scant of light,
What designer’s hand or eye
Could frame thy hopeless comedy?

With considerable apologies to Mr Blake

I’ve quite enjoyed playing as a Ranger in Guild Wars 2, but I do wonder if the person responsible for developing the various aspects of the pets (especially the impossibly fragile snow leopard) was a healer in an MMO, and harbours a deep-seated grudge against DPS classes.


And now to take another centimetre off the bottom of the human Mesmer’s starter dress; I’ve been doing it once a week for five years, and still nobody seems to have noticed.”

He wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat.

Meanwhile in Guild Wars 2…

M’colleague found some cosmetic items in the Guild Wars 2 store, and seeing as we each had some gems in our wallets, we decided to try them out for style. You can’t deny that Charr look rather splendid in shades – m’colleague on the right hand side doing a fine impersonation of Ozzy Osbourne, I think you’ll agree.

But it was the hats that really topped the bill; I think I’m looking quite pimp, there on the left. Alas, they share the same cosmetic slot as the shades, and indeed can only be equipped in cosmetic outfit mode, which means that you can’t charge into combat while wearing a top hat as you can in at least one other game; well you could, but you wouldn’t have any armour or weapons available to you, so it would probably be a short, if fabulous looking, death.

Every man of ambition has to fight his century with its own weapons.

With the instigation of a stress test for Guild Wars 2 this past Monday, I was able to log-in and refresh my memory with regard to some of the game’s systems. As such it gave me a nice opportunity to compare and contrast some of the ideas realised within that game with those found in TERA, which I’m currently playing.

My first impression is that in the classroom of MMOs, TERA is that kid who was brilliant at one subject; in all else that kid was at best average, but in one subject they grew whiskers and a shock of white hair and positively shone, in the eyes of their peers becoming a cross between a Super Saiyan and Albert Einstein. TERA is really rather good at action combat. Guild Wars 2, however, seems like the kid who was never brilliant, but was pretty good at absolutely everything, irritatingly popular, and likely to become head pupil of the school upon reaching the sixth form.

Do feel free to carry the analogy wildly off on your own tangents. For example, I picture EVE to be the gruff kid who sits at the back of the class jeering at everyone else and occasionally flicking the ears of World of Warcraft, who used to be the popular rich kid until everyone finally tired of him always turning up with more complicated and expensive versions of other kids’ toys, which he’d invariably break by the end of the first day.

One difference between TERA and GW2 which I find Quite Interesting, but others may find somewhat more prosaic, is the role of weapons within the game. For TERA, each class has a single weapon set available to it. The Warrior dual wields swords, but the representation of these swords is one icon; the Lancer’s shield and lance are also represented by a single entity. Therefore there are no cross-class loot issues when it comes to weapons in TERA – every class has its own weapon set, and every set is self-contained, even if it is comprised of more than one functional item. I really like the system; it’s a simple and elegant way to eliminate the issue of dual wielding classes having to keep multiple weapons/shields/handbags upgraded in order to remain viable, compared to their single-weapon counterparts.

Speaking of maintaining multiple weapons brings up one of my minor concerns for Guild Wars 2: good grief if there aren’t a lot of weapons to maintain in that game, at least for certain classes. Take the Warrior in GW2, for example, who can wield a prodigious variety of weapons. The fact that certain skills –and thus certain styles of play– are intrinsically linked to a weapon type means that, in theory, the Warrior will need to keep two swords, two axes, two maces, a warhorn, a shield, a greatsword, a hammer, a longbow and a rifle all upgraded in order to be able to fulfill each and every play style. Now, perhaps this is not the intention, and a player will be encouraged to focus on one or two themes, but it certainly seems a little overwhelming to think that a Warrior might want (but hopefully not need) to maintain an up-to-date version of all these various items.

Until my knowledge of the game has matured, it’s hard to know how this will resolve itself – weapon level could be irrelevant when compared to the power of the skills which the weapon enables, for example. Suffice it to say that I remain as yet unconvinced where this linkage between skill system and weapon requirement is concerned, but I keep an open mind as always. However, I think that thematically it’s a fabulous idea, where each weapon offers its own distinct flavour of combat, rather than just a mechanical flip of a damage type stat.

And in our contemplation of damage-type-weapon-swapping shenanigans, let us bow our heads and take a moment to reflect upon the current king of weapon stockpiling: Dungeons & Dragons Online. For no DDO session can be complete without the party emptying out their backpacks into the middle of the dungeon floor, rummaging through the subsequent pile of weapons as though they were Lego, and trying to find the exact right piece to fit their current build requirements.

“Dang. If anyone finds a dark blue four-er, can they let me have it?”

“Is that a two-by-two four-er, or a four-by-one? And do you need it in piercing, bludgeoning, slashing, adamantine, byeshk, cold iron, crystal, mithral or alchemical silver?”


The Secret, Whirled.

Guild Wars 2 has reached 500,000 Facebook fans, and some of them are real too! As such they’ve released some new artwork for their fans to enjoy; you can view the original work and leave a comment here.


Just as an exercise for the reader though, I’ve included a copy of the artwork within this post. Take a ruler, and mark yourself a trajectory by following the line of Eir’s aim along her arm.

Yes indeed, what ArenaNet have actually done here is to stealthily encode a reveal for the new Ranger Elite skill in Guild Wars 2: Dragon Nutshot.

Oh, I’m definitely playing a Ranger now.

P.S. Upon considering the above, I began to question what exactly is going on between the dragon’s legs. Is that a cosmos, or is he (just pleased to see us – Ed.) evacuating himself of chromatically distorted dragon pee after having been hit by an arrow? There definitely seems to be some sort of explosion of dark tendrils going on in the nether regions there. Further supporting evidence for my theory, if ever there was.

And the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents.

As I mentioned in the comments to a previous post, Guild Wars 2 seems to be a hybrid of questing and exploration, and as m’colleague so splendidly analogised yesterday, Guild Wars 2 seems to fit the bill of being a playground MMO, and this has me rather enthused. The theme park MMOs provide entertainment in a very regimented fashion, with players following the park’s set paths in order to join the queues for rides, where they receive a short infusion of thrill and verve. The sandbox MMO sits at the other end of the scale, providing no direction at all; much like the artist presented with a block of marble, the player in a sandbox MMO generally has to be able to visualise form within the blankness of the medium, and then act upon the medium to realise that form. As it is that many people are not artists, so it is that many players are not amenable to sandbox MMOs, often feeling lost, overwhelmed and daunted.

The playground MMO strives to strike a balance between the two extremes, and this was clearly what the public quests of Warhammer Online and the rifts of Rift were aiming to provide. Guild Wars 2 takes the idea a step further, however, in that each area of the playground has multiple ways in which you can play the game, as Hunter highlighted in a recent post. So, to take the analogy and stretch it somewhat into the realms of sexist stereotypes – the boys run around the climbing frame ‘fort’ shooting each other with pretend guns, while the girls can play field nurses to that same game. Or in MMO terms, the Killers and the Socialisers can inhabit the same area and not necessarily get in each other’s way. Meanwhile, the Explorers can wander around discovering all the various parts of the playground (including that hole in the fence behind the bike sheds), and the Achievers can try to involve themselves in as many games as possible, flitting from one to the other without interfering with the game that is being played at the time.

For the player who wants directed questing, there is the main player story and the scouts who will highlight the Events and Hearts in the area. For the player who just wants to do their own thing, it is quite possible to simply wander around the land and see what one stumbles upon. Guild Wars 2 provides a nice balance between sandbox and theme park. Is it the pinnacle of the playground design? I haven’t played enough of the game to be able to tell. It’s possible that this could be the World of Warcraft of playground MMOs; where WoW took the slightly rough and ready theme park crystal, expertly cut and polished it, until the thing shined and sparkled with multifaceted diamond elegance; time will tell if Guild Wars 2 has managed this with the playground model.

What gives me pause for thought is the apparent lack of support for the fundamental MMO social unit – the adventuring party. Most stark was the difficulty of grouping when the overflow servers were in operation, as though no real thought had been given to the traditional MMO social group. More though, there seemed little incentive to group when undertaking an Event or Heart in Guild Wars 2: players simply went about the objective individually, as a group. Perhaps this is by design, where the open world PvE of the game has taken Rift’s ingenious dynamic grouping mechanic to its ultimate conclusion, such that the people in the playground no longer have to restrict themselves to small select groups of friends, and can instead play together freely with as many or as few people as desired. PvP and dungeon instances are where strict groups will form, but in the open world, new players are simply able to join any game in progress without upsetting the balance of play, and are rewarded according to their contribution to the game. It’s not a new idea, we know of MMOs which have already tried to achieve this with varying levels of success, but ArenaNet seem to have designed their open world PvE game entirely around this concept, rather than trying to crowbar it into the gaps between the more inflexible traditions of the theme park.

So this is what interests me most about Guild Wars 2 at the moment: whether ArenaNet have managed to take the concept of the playground MMO –the attractive hybrid of theme park and sandbox– and made it a reality. If so, it may be the case, looking back some time from now, that we find they indeed didn’t provide the huge step change in game mechanics that some players were expecting, but instead made a huge step change in the entire philosophy of design for this style of MMO. Their manifesto claimed as much, and although I’ve yet to see the conclusive evidence which makes me believe, certainly there are hints that this could be the case. And I do want to believe.

There’s definitely some polishing to be done, but it’s possible that a diamond is hidden here, as yet obscured from view by the raw remnants of the crafter’s careful cuts.