Since the release of their second novel, “Edge of Destiny,” ArenaNet has been very tightly lipped about what the third, and last, installment of their series will appertain to. Many of us have to wonder at this point on what this final novel’s plot is going to be about, as it could be about anything. Will it have to do with the sylvari first born and what they did when first setting foot upon Tyria? What if it’s about the rising of Orr, which resulted in the flooding of the Tyrian coastline and the sinking of the old Krytan capital of Lion’s Arch? How about a romance novel about two young asuran teens who meet at an academy for more than obviously highly gifted asura? Heck if it is any of those three things, how the novel will go about telling the story of these events is still an important question.
If you’re looking for innovation and creativity in the MMO genre, you’re obviously in the right place: Guild Wars 2 is rewriting the rulebook on MMO design, tossing aside conventions, and generally pushing the genre out of an unpleasant rut. Whether it’s dynamic events, the ‘extended experience’, or ditching the holy trinity, things are finally moving forward.
All of that is certainly to be celebrated, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise: ArenaNet have a legacy of finding their own path in game development. Often overlooked, but most significantly, this includes their approach to business models.
Back in 2005 it was largely accepted that top shelf MMOs came hand in hand with subscription fees – a suitable trade-off for services rendered by the developer. They have servers to maintain, staff to pay, patches to work on… right? We’d grown accustomed to it, happy to drip-feed money into these studios, whilst fervently hoping to be valued enough that they would heed our desires. Fortunately, with the release of Guild Wars, ArenaNet would successfully challenge that ideology and fend off the developing monoculture.
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!
Does this shock you yet? Or are you simply rolling your eyes and saying- here we go again. The real life irony is the woman I was married to, her maiden name was Noernberg. One would think that would remind me of her, but hardly. It is merely an interesting bit of trivia…
At any rate, I want a norn girlfriend.
Throughout my research I have actually come to embrace the norn, to the point where I am seriously thinking the norn character I end up making may well be my main. This will be a grand departure for me, since I ALWAYS play the “human” in MMORPGs. The norn are close enough, however, that they count as human to me, if not larger than life. Now one thing that is noticeable in ArenaNet’s canon of Guild Wars 2, is the dearth of information about the norn origins. I am certain ArenaNet will fill in the blanks when the time comes… But where as a race did they evolve from? Are they, as some speculate, descended from the Kodan (giant polar bears), or a mutation of human over the years, adapting the strongest of their genomes to survive in their hardy climate? Were they magically created like the Sylvari? Thus far little is known about how they came into being, only that their civilization has been around for a while, and they are a very proud folk whose tales are about as epic as their daily lives aspire to be.
So why WOULD I want a norn girlfriend anyway? Well, perhaps this sampling of what I have learned about the race might clue you in as to why I have taken a liking to them. Thirteen seems like a good number, since there are 13 cycles of the moon (often tied to women). Here we go then, 13 reasons why I want a norn girlfriend:
Talk Tyria recently got a unique opportunity to interview one of Keg Brawl’s rising stars: Jegg “Legs” Edgarson. Few can match the ferocity this norn shows on the ice. We caught up with him after the Leopard’s Spots thrilling 5 kegs to 4 victory over Pour Haus.
Talk Tyria: Legs! What a fantastic game!
Legs: Keg Brawl is not a game. Keg Brawl is life! Every norn knows that!
TT: Well, at any rate you were very ferocious out on the ice today.
Legs: Snow Leopard gives me speed.
TT: Tell us what happened in the final moments when you led your team to victory.
Legs: Grunn and Algar ran interference for me while I ran zag pattern. Taggart broke past our defense and I cracked him over the head with the keg.
Legs: He went down like raven in a stiff wind!
TT: What happened next?
Legs: I tossed the keg to Volf and broke the ice with a heavy stomp. The defenders went under and I dove over the hole. Volf tossed the keg back and I poured ale to trip up the last defender. With a clear shot to the brewer, I ran the keg in to break the tie.
TT: What a play! I hear your team is leading the tournament. Only two more Brawls to go for the cup.
Legs: That’s right. Bear’s Paws next week and then the winner of Keg for All and Quote the Raven.
TT: What do you think of Leopard’s Spot’s chances?
Legs: We’re going to take the cup. The real question is how many kegs can we get?
TT: In the games ahead or in the celebration after?
Legs: I told you, Keg Brawl is life! Leopard’s Spots will have more kegs than any other team, on the ice and around the fire. You can quote me on that!
TT: Truly spoken. Switching gears, what do you think about the special visitor at tonight’s game?
Legs: Special visitor? I didn’t notice. I was too busy winning.
TT: Why, no other than Rubi from Guildcast, of course! She came to get firsthand experience with Keg Brawl.
Legs: Yes, I remember seeing her now. She was here before the match talking to the brewer. He let her toss the keg around a bit. I’m not sure she’ll make a good keg brawler, but she has definitely brought attention to the sport.
TT: What makes you say that? Does she toss a keg like a woman?
Legs: No. That’s not it. Norn women are some of the most fierce keg brawlers. I have the scars to prove it!
TT: I can imagine! One final question: What advice can you offer our readers who might want to try out Keg Brawl?
Legs: Keg Brawl is a norn sport. We invented it. It’s rigorous, fast paced, and played on the ice. Anyone can play the sport, but you have to be tough. Kegs are heavy and your opponents are mean. You don’t see too many asura playing the sport for a reason. To play keg brawl, you must have the heart of a norn.
TT: Thank you Legs. And good luck to you in the tournament.
Legs: Norn do not need luck, we are norn!
About the author: Belzan enjoys playing and writing about Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 in his free time, when he’s not working on his dissertation and trying to make a living in the field of psychology. His articles range from humor to analysis to observation and he enjoys writing fan fiction about his longtime character Belzan. He also writes a character blog entitled Blog of the Vagabond.
If I could pick one thing from Prophecies that I felt was the epitome of what made that first campaign so memorable for me, it was the openness of it all. Even for a game that had no persistence, there’s always been -so much- to explore and discover. In fact, as recently as earlier this year, as I began to make more headway into getting my Hall of Monuments filled, I was discovering outposts and missions in Tyria I had no idea even existed.
This was both problematic and awesome; you could easily skip much of the content right to the end, either accidentally like in my case, or on purpose in… well, many cases. But for those with explorer’s hearts, this was a dream come true. Vast, beautiful landscapes and hidden treasures abound at every turn and every region. The lovely Dorothy at A Tyrian Odyssey has a blog which she’s been running for years dedicated to just that.
Being run through Prophecies, however, for those who’d rather get to the point, was a serious problem that ArenaNet decided to alleviate by forcing progression. In Factions, for instance, you cannot move on to many areas until you have completed the appropriate missions first. They’re literally gated off, and you’re stuck on a small island until you get through them. This was expanded in Nightfall where you required certain title ranks to move on.
This provided a lot of frustration for many who felt that the open world of the original campaign was more than just a great feature; it was definitive of what Guild Wars was about.
Luckily for us, the changing game in Guild Wars 2 has brought back that openness. While we’re sure to be somewhat restricted by level, I was told that in most cases roads between cities, towns, and other major hubs are clear of mobs, and if you’ve got the heart to do it, you can set off on exploring right away. Where you’ll fall short, however, is treading off the path, which is where you’re obviously likely to find the best stuff.
After our preview of Winds of Change during the Community Open House, the rest of the day was pretty much dedicated to freely play and explore Guild Wars 2 as we pleased. The immediate desire to report skills, numbers, and the like had to be quelled, but once it did, myself and NeoNugget let the curiosity take over. We stopped questing and started exploring.
Admittedly, I was determined to get to Lion’s Arch, although we were told it was cut off. I’m a pretty proud wall-jumper, though, and I was pretty confident I’d get there.
Alas, to no avail. From invisible walls to, literally, a giant circle-slash upon instance portals, it was obvious they were serious about keeping us out.
BUT, what we did find were some other pretty lovely spots out and about the area. It was hard not getting distracted by dynamic events quite literally in your face (if you’re a do-gooder by nature, you’re gonna run into this problem a lot!). But when I managed to pull myself away from NPCs begging for my charity, I was able to stop and enjoy the absolutely stunning landscapes.
I risk sounding cliché but I have to say it; the world just looks so damn Guild Wars. Everything about its artistry seems a nod to its predecessor; from the soft glow, the rich textures, and distinctive palettes of colors, you know where you are. This is Tyria, there is no mistaking it.
The noteworthy location was found by none other than Neo himself. Hidden behind that cave of spiders and sorrow was a beautifully placed series of waterfalls and trees, a striking contrast to the path that leads you there.
What this means for people like Dorothy, myself, Neo, and all the explorers out there is that the freedom of the wild is back. The world is our playground and there no shortage of secrets to uncover, relics of times past to discover, and fascinating scenes to set our sights upon.
As originally appeared on GuildMag.com.
About the author: Izari’s one of those obsessive fan types who’s been playing Guild Wars since the first beta weekend in 2004. She’s been blogging about video games for almost six years and is thrilled to have fellow fans to write for and with about the game. She can be found on twitter and really likes coconuts.
One of the things that hasn’t really gotten much attention, in the flurry of excitement about the recent Fan Day, is the building itself that ArenaNet now inhabits, which is both beautiful and superbly functional.
By way of explanation, I should mention: I spend most of my time surrounded by architecture and industrial design folk, which means that my ears are constantly full of mantras about the importance of ‘form following function’ and other specious-sounding slogans about the importance of intentional design. After a while, one begins to notice that type of thing, especially when it’s being done so very right. As a result, I was very impressed indeed by the (quite nearly literal) nuts and bolts of ArenaNet HQ and how it has been set up.
The company makes much of their open and collaborative design method, which is quite visibly upheld in the layout of the office – a good portion of the content design, tool design, and story teams are in one long room – not crammed or cramped, certainly, and with evident structure and purpose, but very obviously accessible to one another all the same. If at any point rearrangements need to be made, however, their two floors of the building have been excellently thought out to accommodate any resettling or shuffling which the rooms might go through: with superbly mobile desks, mutable wall-sections, independently reprogrammable ceiling lights (which, might I add, seem to dynamically adjust based on the amount of natural light available – which I was just tickled pink to discover, as it would be such a shame to waste those huge windows and that impressive view they have), and sectional-style air-conditioning, they are truly set up to make switching up teams or locations as hassle-free as possible. This thorough preparedness extends to their internal server room and the newly furbished sound recording space, the design of both of which we got to learn about in great detail.