Monday 30 April 2012

You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will

The transient, here-today and, if I may say so, gone-tomorrow nature of betas blunts the achiever streak that’s a major motivator for me in MMOGs, so I didn’t do an awful lot of adventuring in the Guild Wars 2 beta. The vague impression I formed was pleasurably chaotic, partly by design, partly a result of waves of brand new players squinting in the gleam of new-game shine and shouting “HOW I MINE FOR FISH?” Stumbling out of the introductory quests into the starter zones you talk to a scout, who basically opens your map up, points out a bunch o’ stuff going on, then slaps you on the back and says “off you go!” Following the directions of punctuation-emblazoned questgivers in a more structured MMOG can be like an assault course, where an instructor at each stage orders you to climb the scramble net, kill ten boars, step through tires or whatever, refusing to allow you to progress to the next obstacle until you’ve done it properly. In comparison Guild Wars 2 is an adventure playground where there’s a game of tag going on around the monkey bars, an impromptu round of “capture the fort” centred around a climbing frame, then a heavily distorted version of Greensleeves starts playing as an ice-cream van turns up and everyone runs after it for a 99 (except the van’s driven by an otter, who’s taking it to a carpet factory, and… hang on, this analogy has crashed, ABORT! ABORT!)

I did spend quite a lot of time on the character creation screens, though, wallowing in the luxury of ample time to adjust nose width and brow depth without the nagging feeling you get once a game goes live that you’re in a race with an Evil Society of Name Thieves to get to the “Enter character name:” box, that every second spent considering the precise tint of hair colour is a step closer to the accursed defeat of “Sorry, that name is not available”. Or maybe that’s just me. Character customisation is reasonable; not right up there with APB, but a decent array of options, and ArenaNet at least remembered to do some work on the rest of the game. The Charr seem quite interesting, they get good horn sliders and some fun fur patterns, but I’ve never really got into anthropomorphic characters so spent less time with them than the Humans or Norns.

Syl posted about the generically attrative faces of GW2, and Humans suffer particularly badly. A lot of the faces, especially female faces, go past photoshopped-model-in-glossy-magazine into slightly freakier animated-porcelain-doll territory, they just didn’t look right to me. GW2 is also slightly unusual in that, at least for this beta build, facial details such as scars, wrinkles and make-up are part of a head-package, not elements that can be added or tailored individually; I’m not sure if that’s something they’re planning on changing, but I found it quite tricky to get a Human head I was really happy with. Norns were much better, plenty of character in most of the male faces and a few female options from outside a glossy teen drama, plus the ability to add tattoos to mix things up a bit. Granted the high level female outfits shown during creation were heavy on the cleavage and midriff, and if there was any equivalence then male Norn casters would excel at smuggling budgies, but I think that’s been beaten that to death recently. With a high-heeled boot.

In summary, then: Guild Wars 2 has a character creator, and after that you run around a bit. Join me here at KiaSA after the next beta weekend when I hope to be able to shed some light on the rumours that you can “press buttons” to “use skills”.

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