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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.