10 Things ArenaNet has Learned from Guild Wars

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Would you take advice from a warthog? I know I wouldn’t. Put your past behind you? Codswallop! Hakuna Matata? Poppycock! Problem free philosophy? Fat chance! If you don’t learn from your mistakes then you never get anywhere! So, with this in mind, what has Arena Net learned from Guild Wars 1?

I'm guessing no.

They don't allow wild animals to take night classes.

1. Instances are lonely

Koss isn’t much of a talker, and the look in Livia’s eye when she reconnects the bones and sinew of your fallen comrades is no comfort to the weary adventurer. The instanced world is a barren land full of red-named nasties just itching to eat your skin or roast you over a campfire. There is little in the way of emergent interaction – if you venture out into the world unprepared there is no one there to come to your aid.

With Guild Wars 2 ANet has flip flopped on the instanced world and given us a persistent one to play in instead. Now, if you find yourself alone on a road surrounded by angry and lecherous bandits, maybe you can catch the eye of that passing band of Norn Guardians and they will come to your aid!

2. Waiting for a Monk is Boring

We’ve all been there: those long wistful evenings hanging around that one outpost. You sit there, surrounded by charrskin-clad warriors, just aching to see the bald tattooed head of a monk. Another tumbleweed rolls by… weren’t you supposed to be having fun by now? Particularly when we were restricted to prophecies, when the presence of a monk was required on every single mission, putting a group together was a pain in the arse – sure there were henchmen but at some point you had to put your foot down and say Alesia’s woeful healing skills just won’t cut it. So, you sit and wait for a monk. Do be doo… *whistles*…

With Guild Wars 2 ANet have given us the opportunity to be our own monk! We can heal ourselves and heal and revive others. This is the long-awaited and much debated “death” of the holy trinity – no more tanks, heals, DPS. No more waiting for a monk. Want to run 5 rangers? Go ahead! It’s a controversial move, but one (judging from the demo reports) which appears to have paid off.

3. Let us *^&^*%&%$ jump!

Roughly translated (from Elixabeth language) as – “we’d like a Z-axis please”.  Currently, GW1 plays only on the horizontal planes – X and Y. This meant that all gameplay had to take place on an equal plane. It also provided much frustration for Rangers/Paragons when it came to the bridge glitch. All in all, the lack of a Z-axis (i.e. up and down!) restricted ANet in the variety of combat situations in which they could place their players.

Cool girls don't look at explosions. Even underwater.

In Guild Wars 2 ANet have given us a Z-axis! Woo! You can dive into the water and swim directly down; you can fling yourselves off cliffs and up rocky outcrops to your heart’s content. This kinda nicely leads onto number 4:

4. Let us “!£@$£”@$% jump!

Exactly translated (from Elixabeth Language) to – “we’d like to jump, please”. Combat in Guild Wars, particularly in PvE, could get quite samey. Sure you could switch up skills and gear, try a new dungeon or vanquish but if you played long enough eventually you would have experienced it all.  Hit 1, Hit 2, wait for 1 to recharge. Hit 3-4-5. Hit 1. Pick up loot.

Combat in Guild Wars 2 is all about movement, positioning and battlefield awareness. Are you able to move quickly enough to dodge the Ettin’s club? If so, maybe you could roll behind and hit him with a critical attack? Oh noes! He’s winding up for his smash attack (you can tell because he’s rearing back and looking hungry – no more skill activation bars) hit jump, find some higher ground and fill him full of buckshot!

No Guild Wars article is complete without an echo-mending reference.

5. 1319 skills, 10 Professions and Numerous Profession combinations do not a balanced game make!

Mention balance on Guild Wars Guru, go on. Just do it; watch it erupt in a shower of bile, rage and lust for a simpler time before Factions, Nightfall and the dreaded “power creep”. Considering the size of the current Guild Wars live team, they do a sterling job of keeping the whole shop buttoned down, but sooner or later one skill is going to puff up its chest, grab a couple of other skills who have been cheekily catching its eye and march out into the centre of Lion’s Arch and announce “I am overpowered! ABUSE ME!”. Combine these obnoxious skills with the 10 professions, mix that with the baffling number of skills available to a player through a secondary profession and you have (to quote a well hackneyed metaphor) a recipe for disaster.

With the new 5 weapon skills, 5 utility skills and NO secondary professions thing coming with Guild Wars 2, ANet have tried to lessen the burden on their balance team and leave the player with more of a feeling that it won’t be the skills which make the game, but their ability.

6. Grinding SUCKS

Ah, that old chestnut! You’d have thought that some bright spark in some deep, dark developer’s studio somewhere might have gone:

“Hey, I’ve been thinking, now – bear with me, this is going to sound insane; how about — haha, no really listen! How about players have fun for rewards!”

“Oh Steve, you so crazy. Now code that Wind Rider AI before I cancel your pension.”

But ANet decided “No, we shall not cancel our employees’ pensions for suggesting we do away with grind. We shall reward them with extra time off and a 10% salary bonus at Christmas *sly wink to the ANet staff*.” What with dynamic events, a truckload of instanced dungeons and who knows what else there should always be a fun and new way to play the game once GW2 hits our screens.

7. Players are people, not their Skillbars

How many times have you heard this, or some variation: “We can’t go without an obby tank” or “Haha… you can’t do this without a HB Monk!”? An all too common occurrence, unfortunately. With Guild Wars 2 ANet hopes that their new role system will encourage players to consider how their buddies’ own abilities and style can complement their play – not their skills and gear.

So many innocent lives lost.

8. The F2P Model works

We all said they were crazy – you can’t provide decent content for any significant length of time without a guaranteed income! It’s madness!

At which point Colin Johanson busts through the door: “This.IS.GUILDWARS!” he swings his sword at you and you are cleaved in twain.

By golly it has worked, and worked for 6 years (supplemented, admittedly, by microtransactions) and it will continue to work for Guild Wars 2.

9. Talking to the Community is Good

One of the really exciting things about the whole Guild Wars franchise is the real active role which the developers take in the community. The community reps have always been well regarded in game and on forums, and just the presence of one in Kamadan is enough to whip up a frenzy the likes of which haven’t been seen since they opened a Krispy Kreme down the road from my office. The game itself has a flourishing blogging community which is well supported by the kind peeps at ANet. This kind of active relationship between the players and the people in control at least means that you really feel like your voice is being heard.

In the run up to Guild Wars 2 this relationship has only flourished. Several prominent devs are active on Twitter and they even use the GW2 Twitter account to retweet articles from community members. Recently a number of fresh-faced and eager fans were invited to ANet HQ, drugged, bundled into the back of a van, placed in a bath full of ice and had their kidneys sto… I mean, they had a chance to see behind the scenes, to play the game and see how it’s all coming along. It’s clear that ANet have learned the value of the gaming population. They know that they don’t have to just make a great game, they have to cultivate a great community.

10. MMO Gamers want something Different

This is the most important lesson the ANet have learned from Guild Wars. Guild Wars was a solid game, and it employed some bulky MMO archetypes to keep it going – group combat, definable roles and instanced gameplay and based upon these ol’ faithful concepts the game did pretty damn well. However, it is upon the unconventional ideas that Guild Wars really shined: low level caps encouraging skilful play over gear vs gear, the same weapon/armour stats available across the board to help level the playing field, accessible end game content from early on in the story etc. Guild Wars was already revolutionary.

Guild Wars 2 is even more so. With innovations out the hoo-hah, the biggest lesson which ANet has learned in the 7 or so years since people first jumped onto the land of Tyria is that they should never be afraid to be different. And Guild Wars 2 is certainly different. It’s going to be an exciting and scary time to be a games developer, but it’s going to be one hell of a time to be a gamer.

Ok, now imagine my sword is Guild Wars 2 and your undergrunions are the MMO gaming community.

About the author:  Distilled (Will) has been playing Guild Wars for almost 6 years, he works as a clinical researcher in the UK but has aspirations of getting into social research. In his spare time he enjoys forklift truck maintenance, mountain goat riding and spelunking. He writes regularly on Guild Wars and gaming over at VeryDistilled.

Further reading:

  • Ebeth

    I agree with all of your points except for point #9 (with which I only have the most minor of quibbles) – while grind certainly does suck, I never found GW1 to be particularly grindy, except for in terms of titles/achievements. With the level cap as low as it is, except for my first time through Prophecies, I never found myself thinking “hot damn, I wish I were level 20 already! Then I’ll be able to /really/ play!” Titles and the rest — potentially grindy; I very much hope that they’ve been elegantly handled in the sequel.

    • Ebeth

      6! NUMBER 6!

    • I’d assume (as the obvious elements of time based progression) titles and achievements are precisely what Will was referring to.

      The point has more general implications too: The repetitive nature of quests in traditional MMOs may not be what is classically considered ‘grind’, but the move to dynamic events certainly eliminates a lot of tedium. Perhaps the point should simply be titled ‘Traditional MMO content is boring’.

    • distilled

      I have to say, I agree with you! You can play through the whole game without grinding a second and easily get from the Northern Wall to standing over the Lich’s corpse without even repeating content. However, you do hear a lot of complaints about the repetition involved in title acquisition, and I believe ANet have listened to these complaints (whether they are warranted or not).

      (I was a little confused as to why you didn’t agree that ANet had a good relationship with the community!)

    • BigCat72

      I agree with your point, from playing Guild Wars from Beta all the way through I discovered and was spoiled on how non grindy the game was. Once I switched to other MMO’s like WoW and the other strange MMO’s coming out of Korea and Japan, the grind experience really ruined the game for me. Who wants to spend MONTHS grinding to actually play the game? I dont and im happy that the leveling curve is easy enough that all you really need to do is just play and have fun to get to max level.

  • Anonymous

    Great read.

    I think it’s well-said. Anet did say that ultimately, GW2 was born on the ideal that they could bring to life so much that wasn’t possible with GW1 for whatever reason. 

    Just on my experiences alone, I can say they’ve done so much. And it’s hard to compare them, honestly, cause GW1 holds a special place for most of us but at the same time, we are fully aware of its limitations.

    Many times friends of mine will ask me about GW1 and just knowing their gaming tastes, I’ve had to say “It’s a great game, but I don’t think it’s your style.” Luckily most of these people are all about trying GW2, so it’s all good.

    The title system is (and has always been) my #1 gripe with the original. There’s no elegant way to do most, and I feel joke titles like drunkard or lucky / unlucky should have never been part of GWAMM.  It’s not a test of skill, it’s a test of patience with doing menial bullshit tasks.


  • Are you kidding me? I cannot get Koss to shut the eff up for more than 2 minutes! LOL…. Awesome article! Makes me wanna log in right now… matter of fact…………

  • Nox

    I would add Character customization via traits and more interesting gear.

    • Although they are just exciting elements to the new game, I feel that they have come from new thinking linked to the “vision” that ANet have had for GW2 – as opposed to coming from lessons learned from GW1.

  • ArcherAvatar

    A very entertaining read…

    Personally, #2 and #7 were the ones that struck the deepest chord with me.  After participating quite heavily in MMOs such EQ, Vanguard, and WOW over about a decade or so there were two elements of their gameplay that rubbed me the wrong way the most; waiting for the “right” class to show up (due to the “trinity class system” present in all 3) and the 100% certain knowledge that no matter how well I knew my class, or how good my strategy and tactics were, the only things that really mattered in determining success or failure in combat were my gear, and my level… both which could be enhanced via the simple passage of *time spent in game* without any real regard to player skill.  The only skill required was the ability to tolerate significant amounts of mind-numbing, soul-crushing, grindy grindness.  If you had that going for you then getting the best equipment (and therefore the most powerful characters) was guaranteed… eventually…

    At the time (without any “real” alternative being presented) I made due, and found ways to express my knowledge and skill level despite the pretty daunting obstacles, and for the most part I enjoyed my experiences in all 3 of the above mentioned power-creep, gear-inflation, grindfests.  That was before I was presented with a clear alternative… currently, I simply can’t bring myself to play any of those titles, or indeed, any other of the “old style” MMOs that are available right now.  I am content to wait for what I actually *want* to play – GW2.

    I find it interesting (just as a point of observation, not a judgement) that of all the points made in Distilled’s very enjoyable article, #7 was among the briefest… and yet, I believe, in the fullness of time, it will be proven to be one of the most influential in distinguishing GW2 from other MMOs on offer.
    Skill > Gear… oh, yes please!
    and from the bottom of my heart – Thank-You!

    • I think you’re probably right Archer, it will turn out to be one of the most significant differences in GW2 – and thats probably why I couldn’t pad it out with my innane wafflings, unlike the other points!

  • Anonymous

    A few of them, I don’t agree on. Namely, the first one. I don’t find instances lonely at all – I love them. They are a big part of what drew me into GW1 (that and the whole free thing). The fact that GW2 won’t be instanced is one of the biggest things that makes me wary about it. Yes, dynamic events and event scaling and so on are cool and all…but when it comes down to it, I’m not a particularly social gamer and I prefer to be able to go out and do stuff on my own and not have to worry about anyone else. And yes, I know, “Why are you playing an MMO then?”, I’ve heard it a dozen times over. Because GW1 really isn’t a full MMO, and GW2 interests me greatly; all else about it looks great. Just that part doesn’t appeal to me at all.

    I’m also going to disagree on the grind bit, because in GW1, grind was all optional. And I must be the only person who doesn’t care about not being able to jump 😛 It just simply doesn’t matter at all to me.

    • Draxynnic

      To be honest, one thing that has worried me about GW2 is that they’re making gear a more important part of the game – something that’s normally associated with grind. Now, being able to pick up tokens and trade them in is certainly better than gambling for drops, but given armour now has at least six pieces, I do wonder how many dungeon repeats getting the whole set will involve – the average dungeon only has 4 modes, after all, and if the exploration modes turn out to be as hard as they’ve been made out, I could see players doing the story mode enough times for it to be grind to do it.

  • Guest

    B2P (Buy to Play), not F2P.  World of difference.

    • It is B2P, thats true. But I wouldn’t say there is a world of difference.
      The only difference (in a possible 6 year gaming history) is the handover of £30 or whatever right at the start. That transaction then leads onto 6 whole years of F2Pness. So, comparatively, how much of the gameplay/fun/time is B2P, and how much is F2P?

      • Anonymous

        There are a ton of debates over the nuances when it comes to what to call each gaming payment style. For a long time B2P was considered F2P cause true-form F2P (stuff like LoL) was actually quite rare. You either paid for a game and played or payed a sub. Few games were actually free.

        Now that so many payment models are changing the lines are blurred. You have many games with 100% free content, but you have to pay to unlock more of it (Eternal Trial on WoW, EQII-X). Or you can earn additional bonus’s through playing through  keeping the game 100% free or pay to get ahead (LoL), etc. 

        Eventually things will become more clearly defined and it will no longer be correct to say a game like GW2 is F2P but rather B2P..
        For now, though, both are accepted. 

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