Contemplating the Killing

There are a few reviews floating around at the moment that have taken my eye, i always hate seeing reviews of mmo’s around release as they are often nothing more than attention grabs. There is no way you can make a proper informed opinion of something so vast  and time consuming in such a small time-frame. Now though people have a grasp of the mechanics, their interests and dislikes and mainly whether they like it or not so I’m jumping in now too.. not because I have an informed opinion but just because I have one so beware.

I like Guild Wars 2.. I like it a lot as it does a lot of things right. I love the questing model where I can effectively just roam around at will and do stuff. I hate feeling as contained as I do in the average mmo, questing on rails and such and while the level of an area determines play far more than I would like (still wondering where the  scaling up based on your party is) it is still a very enjoyable model. I love the various classes and how unique they all feel, and how different they play based on a variety of weapons. The world is also quite spectacular with many varied an interesting places to see as well as some purely gigantic and epic set pieces.

There are a few things I really do not like though. Dungeon running is one of the most painful things I can endure. What I first imagined was the kind of organised chaos feel the events have wherein it is a balance between attacking and support. However It is closer to a death march in a sense where you are just throwing bodies at a brick wall, hoping to make a crack… There is no part in these runs that I enjoy.. mindless beating on some AI that may or may not decide to  either one shot or focus you entirely leaving just one option of dying. Everything in these feels beyond control and as such there is no point in it, no sense of achievement. That is the major flaw of GW2, nothing is really that much of an achievement but merely the amount of time spent… Nothing inherently wrong with that but it is rather jarring.

But forget all that because in the end it will in no way dictate how much and how long I will play, all that matters to me is the PvP. Longevity to me is how well the pvp is implemented and how tactile and enjoyable it feels.. so lengthy treatise coming so run for the hills.

Da Combat Feel

Guild Wars has a great concept when it comes to the whole PvP system. It has been designed with the pick up and play attitude in mind and while some of the hardcore may kick and scream about the lack of progression I see this as an amazing thing. It is a way to get more players involved and playing, no artificial gating stopping you or making you frustrated only a skill check upon entry. Not everyone has the time or patience to spend inordinate amounts of time grinding tokens/points/whatever while getting massacred the entire time. It is an outdated system and not having it has made the playing field much larger as well as more diverse. Accessibility is the reason why the big multi-players are so popular.. the cod/ Bf and such or even moba’s like LoL to an extent and it is nice to see this ideal slowly being implemented in mmo’s.

Combat has a nice ease of use to it as well, the smaller more contained UI not only clears up the screen but allows people to get a good grasp of the system relatively quickly. It is also deceiving as the minimalistic style hides a bit of complexity. It’s easy to learn as blindly spamming skills while not optimal will serve you well most of the time. It is very hard to master as it requires having an understanding of the different classes and to critically evaluate a situations and know when and how to use these skills.

The way they have built classes is also absolutely perfect for PvP, not just the limited skills and large diversity but how they have been completely reworked to not include how classes function in a holy trinity. Not having a healing class has had the biggest impact as it is often the defining feature of any fight.. He who has the best heals wins. Here, everyone is responsible for themselves but also for the group, you have to utilise your skills to avoid bad situations but then at the same time you are the  supporter of your team. Most classes have numerous forms support they can add from buffs, distraction or through the use of cc and controlling the enemy. It is a far more nuanced form of team combat with everyone having to be involved and attentive with numerous roles being enacted.

Because the amount of skills are rather more limited per class they have been able to make combat feel very visceral. Each skill has some sort of unique tell to look at for which works great with the dodge mechanic. The effects while being very busy in a large fight help you better understand what’s going on and tie I’m well with the dodging system. Being able to see a big attack winding up or yourself on fire is a great indicator and the effects on the ground let you better understand the use of combos.

Traits can very how well a class performs and can drastically change a style of play. While I wish there was maybe a bit more to it it adds enough options that there are a huge variety in the way people build a class. There is also a variety of armor styles to complement these builds which leads to a lot of diversity in the people you play with and against.

It is a remarkably easy system to get the hang of but then hard to master requiring research, memorisation ,timing, and thought. It is in no way as simplistic as it first looks which is a great thing if it eventually turns into an Esport. It looks tactile and does a good job of easily displaying what’s happening while hiding the true strategy of play. It is an amazing system for PvP and one I am very happy with.

Da structured

I am in love with the gearing system of structured PvP, it is everything I could have hoped for and more. During my times in Rift I was always hated the gearing sooo much, even though I was always near the fore with gear acquisition I saw the negatives greatly outweighed any positives and hurt my enjoyment. I used to sit and wonder about what  sort of system I would like and Guild Wars has pretty much perfected it. I used think that maybe it could work like CoD and co.  where you are just given a basic set and unlock other options through play but this is far better. It has done away with any sort of artificial grind or “progression” that may inhibit people and just thrown us the lot, and there is a lot to see. It has a great selection available and options that compliment a variety of playstyles depending on what you like and what roles your trying to fulfill. It points it all in the players hands and has finally made skill and even theory crafting to be the more important part of combat rather then gear differences. It is accessible but still requires dedication to get to the top.

So far I am enjoying the maps available as they have a rich look and simple layout with a lot of interesting touches. There are choke points, large open areas, differing levels, and multiple paths around the maps leading to quite a few different strategic styles of play depending on the map. They look and feel great.

The map mechanics also add a varied approach to the maps bring about different styles of play as well as strategies. Neither of them are to powerful (except for those bloody sharks) but add something to an otherwise very simplistic game mode. They don’t change or even inhibit the usual playstyle teams and individuals have (except for those bloody sharks) but rather enhance what is already there. They also make each of the maps feel unique in a way, conquest is very similar but I look forward to each map for its own special feel (except those bloody sharks).

Many have claimed that solely focusing on conquest as the only map time is a mistake as there were many different modes available for everyone to use. I think though that conquest while not perfect is a great beginning For GW2, it is a very easy to understand type that can also have a little complexity to play making it a good start for Esport aspirations. I also enjoy how it never really devolves into turtling or other questionable tactics, ever match has a flow to it and definable goals. I would maybe like different modes in the future but for now I am not to worried.

The lobby system is a nicer touch as well, as it once again gives the player more options. I don’t think anyone liked the system before where you really have no control over it, and then having those queue times on top was just a pain. It is very similar in  way to many of the other systems inherent in other genres… and they are popular for a reason. The one thing I am really disappointed about is how little thought has gone into the system, it is very minimal in terms of options which is a far cry from the initial Guild Wars. There are no sorting options available to give you more information on where you want to go. I also wish it was far easier to see where my friends and guildies were in these matches, some sort of icon indicating the map and even who is in there.. sure you can form a party for this but that is rather cumbersome.

The Corrupt Dropbear over at Guildmag did a great piece on the inherent issues of the system and when Esports are an important goal they are oversights that need to be fixed. Adding on to their ideas and arguments I would also like the added option of being able to bet against the other team. How awesome would it be to wager another team or long time rival for considerable sums of gold or even gems.. it would definitely add a bit of extra adrenaline into the mix.

The biggest issue I find right now is that hot Join feels very unstructured in a way, more then playing with a bunch of randoms really accounts for. When they are full it just feels as though there is way to many people for how small the maps are and as such it often just devolves into a round robin match of zerging. The intricacies of play are just not present, it is not that it is devoid of strategy but it has its own form which seems far more simplistic. As such it is not a very good primer for tournies and since they plays far differently in terms of roles and strategy required they are not a good practice field either. At the moment they are some weird limbo land mode that serves not much purpose, they don’t help the hardcore as they are too unstructured and the casuals may be put off as well since it degenerates into mindless slaughter. To me the cap for these need to be lowered to allow for some proper matches, I would also like to see some sort of ranking system for the join now wherein it tries to match you with equally ranked people… No one but sadists wants to stomp newbie pugs.

WvW

It is an amazing system With some great long term appeal, I love it a lot and have never experienced a PvP environment this huge. There are a variety of roles, playstyles, and strategies available that make every play time unique. I have logged an exorbitant amount of time in it so far and it will keep me entertained for a long time to come. It must have been a huge undertaking completing these maps, castles and the start of a great system but it is exactly that right now, just a start.

The Siege system is amazing and has created some very memorable fights. The different keeps all have their own particular strategies for offense and defense and the variety of siege all play into this with particular counters. Then we have the effects of supply working into the situation and it brings a lit of depth. I have no complaints with this basic system as the fundamentals are nearly perfect, the balance may still be a little off but it will get there.

However even as much as some like it the playerbase has really become quite polarised at the moment regarding what exactly is wrong with WvW. The official forums and Guru are literally a battleground of ideas right now and conflicting issues that may or not be resolved. As much as I love the system at the moment even I can admit that there definitely needs to be a few changes to keep a healthy and happy population.

Maps

During the beginning the maps felt so large that you felt like you could get lost in them.. running across the expanse without seeing anyone was rather humbling but all that has changed now. There are a lot more entering the mix now that the PvE “end game” has been reached, when there is a hundred or so people in each server duking it out the world feels a lot smaller. It feels at times like the major zergs can maneuver around quickly enough that any sort of guerrilla actions are rather pointless… Attacking camps or even a tower while maybe buying some time is never enough to offer any sort of strategic value. Taking a few minutes to wipe you out or capturing everything back is not that hard. It just feels like more space is needed to allow for a further meta to evolve.

Also I don’t understand why all the borderlands maps are exactly the same, it would have been nice to have more map diversity and it may even have spawned different strategies..wouldn’t it have been amazing for each server to have their own unique map, but that’s probably too far. It makes very little sense in a way since there is a rather sizable group enjoying this content, and when you see the variety of PvE zones available it seems as though pvp is once again less important then everything else.

Night Capping

This is the biggest issue right now according to the forums that even got its own special dev sticky. It is indeed part of large scale 24/7 that will always play a big part, it encourages building server communities outside of one area, and working together as a whole. It’s actually rather amazing in a way that we can have such a diverse server group that is also encouraged to communicate and cooperate, its breaking boundaries in a way. But those that aren’t blessed with a population outside of NA are a little annoyed at how big a part it plays and I can see there point in a way although I just don’t agree with their attitude or suggestions.

The main point is that any hard work they put in is effectively pointless as it will all likely be gone following their departure. Siege and tower/keep upgrades denote a serious investment of time but more importantly gold. We all know by know that gold can be rather hard to come buy and buying a few rams here and there for assaults or ballistas and arrow carts for defence really start to add up… And then you have big purchases like golems being worth over 1g and many upgrades reaching that level as well. No one wants to feel like their work is for nothing, worst though is making people feel like they wasted it. They way I see it though is that a serious change is needed towards the WvW currency system… Gold really shouldn’t be playing such a big part in it, there needs to be a second currency model that is obtained as part of the WvW events system that hands out this currency… Maybe even to use alongside gold purchasing that way your pvp hardships aren’t effecting the PvE world as much but if your a Scrooge Mcduck you can help out too.

Zerging

As usual open world PvP has devolved into zerging but I have no issues with the practice. In these environments people naturally gravitate towards larger groups for that feeling of protection and you can’t argue with the fact that zergs are a needed factor at times. What I see complaints about though is servers being able to field numbers far greater than the other which can be rather demoralizing. The issue I see though is that often times people are far too spread out between the maps, a group here, a small zerg there but when the opposing server has more numbers everywhere it means getting smashed. It makes sense then to at least try and pool these players together to form a larger group to contend, because of the player map caps it is better to fight properly on one then to spread out and lose on all. In that regards I think a recommended map based on population would help, still allow the choice but just give more information.

I also believe the rewards for events are way off when in a group, taking a supply camp with a zerg of 30 against a handful and getting a full reward is just retarded. I think the rewards should reflect the work that has gone into it, being based on amount of attackers and defenders present and maybe even on the map. That way those holding off against the many are rewarded for there heroics, and zergs are not. It may help to break up the map a little but also allow for strategic decisions and quick zerg strikes.

Server Folding

No I’m not talking about a group effort to put away laundry but how when losing is inevitable people seem to just give up. By people I mean the unwashed pug masses but even I know they make or break a map, organised groups can only comprise of so much and we need these guys to fill in the gaps.

It is rather hard right now as logging on during this ET week you can see the score, you can see a map full of green, and then you hop in to have a small handful fighting against a full zerg. Deep down it feels like a big middle finger to you, if you have done a lot of pvp you keep calm and carry on regardless but the pug masses are more influenced by these things

This is the one area that definitely gas a few mechanics that transpire against us and there are a few factors that need looking at. Firstly while I love fighting for orbs the accumulative bonus on these is just nuts and is a hard fight to come back from. It is a big bonus overall and one that if your winning by that much you really don’t need anyway. There was a great post on the forums which discussed this as well as a few other defined WvW issues, they also made some great suggestions which could do with some support.

I think the rewards for being outnumbered are way off as well as they in no way will ever help you make a comeback.. you mean well and all so thank for all these great PvE buffs when I want to do PvP. I think it would make far more sense to adjust the gold sinks when this is the case. Free gear repair because your going to be dying a lot anyway and if people come to abuse this they may even stay for some PvP. Cheaper and faster upgrades in camps, towers, and keeps would help as well since it may help them be a bit more defensible. Chucking a few WvW tokens at them now and then may help too,

Also have a look out the outmanned system recognition because it is a little off sometimes. Many times I have been clearly outnumbered and not getting recognition and other times friends and allies have it but it is missing on me for some reason.

Player Rendering

It still surprises me at times how well GW2 performs under the huge pressure of large scale siege combat. With so many effects flying around that at times make it look like some sort of firework show it is hard to believe I’m not seeing some sort of slideshow. Even my lappy powered by the heat of a thousand suns which badly needs a service or space in a garbage dump performs admirable on some adequate settings.

Arenanet have designed there game in such a way that it performs well in large scale combat but that performance comes at a hefty price. At the moment Guild Wars will only ever render a certain number of characters nearby, and I’m guessing it is the ones closest at the time of some server information but in WvW there can often times be a lot more then Anet accounted for. There was a reply on the forums a little while ago to this issue but it makes me feel no better about it, they should have obviously known that the small size of maps combined with 3 large sized forces would have resulted in some heavy server loads… Definitely not a system that was ready.

Not be able to see the enemies true numbers or even the enemy at all is a serious issue. It is even being abused in certain ways with groups staying really close then fanning out so they rendering takes longer and then we have people using Mesmer portals to move whole groups with reports then of it taking around a minute to render. It needs a lot of work that will not be an easy or quick fix. In the mean time I would at least like to know where an enemy is, forget the whole body for now and at least give me a name tag… Maybe even a red circle to shoot for.

*Edit* and another reply the other day

Da Appeal

It is an interesting premise the whole 3-monther ideal wherein the casual masses will usually only play the newest and greatest for three months or less. It seems to be the maximum amount of time before people exhaust the content available and then start floating around in game or just leave.

Guild Wars is a rather funny thing though as I can’t really determine if it will be the same as the principles for a 3 monther only partly apply. The part that makes it a little bit different is the whole no sub deal, you would think such a small amount would make next to no difference but it determines play in a way, everyone wants value for money and if your not playing enough to validate that cost then you cancel.. and once cancelled there is very little pull to head back into it later on. Guild wars doesn’t have that issue as you can essentially pick up and play at any sort of interval without fear of being left behind in some imagined gear race. But as usual the problem is us and we exhaust the content like some sort of ravenous dingo leaving us with very little reason to stay other than we like it.

Now back to the question, will many including myself still be playing after that 3 month date.. Most definitely as it has a great appeal to it with the pick up and play feel, and the numbers will rise and fall depending on new content. Also depending on how well the developers address certain issues I could see that date getting to at least 6 months.

Will people still be playing as much… not a chance as interest will waxe and wane based on other games and I actually think that is a lot healthier as no one game should be played. One game would never be able to fill all my gaming wants and I think a diversity of games, playstyles, and experiences is what helps us grow as gamers.

I am the type of person that plays one game extensively when it is first released, playing until I’m so over the concept that I need other games but some even after that pique my interest from time to time, inviting one to come and see and old world. Guild Wars 2 will be like that, it will be around as a tempting morsel to indulge in when bored, wanting to meet with friends, or just want that style of awesome keep sieging or gearless pvp.. Kind of like going to grandmas house in a sense, you wish you could visit more often but there is so much going on. When you do go you always have a nice time.. and there’s cookies.. who can argue with cookies.

Sometimes I wish Guild Wars would have focused on the PvP side of things and WvW in particular a little more as this is where there long term retention is going to come from. They have a fantastic base system that even with the flaws will keep people entertained for a long time to come but it just needs a bit more something to make it special. It could have been a great game and one to keep people (at least us more hardcore PvP’ers) entertained for much longer then the usual 3 months or less, for years maybe. But instead its just a good game with some moderately well implemented systems, it’s still better than the tacked on gear grind shit of every other mmo so I’ll be staying around regardless… At least until I can fly around an Orca in Planetside 2.

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