Guild Wars 2 Character Creation: How far is too far?

We’ve come a long way in video game RPG character customization, thanks to technology’s relentless pursuit to take over the world.
Once upon a time your character was a completely pre-set compilation of pixels. Eventually you got fully rendered characters, albeit set in stone in regards to looks and gender.

Now, you have a whole slew of creative freedoms that perhaps nobody dreamt possible even five years ago.

Guild Wars 2 is set to have a similar character creation process as AIONs. In and old interview from Guild Wars 2 Guru, Eric Flanmum had the following to say about it:

GW2Guru: Can you tell us anything about character creation options? What tools will we have available to personalize our character?

Eric Flannum –Lead Game Designer: We’re still finalizing details on character creation but you can expect to see a ton of physical options such as body type, height, and advanced facial customization. In addition to these physical options you will be able to customize your characters background and personality by filling out a biography. One of our designers, Ree Soesbee will be talking in more depth about the character biography in an upcoming post on our website.

Whether or not GW2’s system will be as detailed as Aion’s remains to be seen.  I’m still very excited at the prospect of being able to personalize my character to fine-detail. In Guild Wars Classic, we had very limited options other than height that was scale-able. I’m hoping we get to mess with facial features and body features as much as we can though I wouldn’t be opposed to some limits.

Aion’s character creation is probably one of the best known out there, and arguably the best thing about the game.
You’re given a standard starting point from body types, hair styles, and faces. After that, you can use their crazy bar system to nip-tuck your character to absolute perfection (or perhaps, imperfection) as desired.  You can easily spend hours upon hours fine-tuning your character to be exactly how you want him or her to be.

The downside is its’ easy to go overboard and create some really funky looking people, and I remember reading a lot of complaints about it. At first I couldn’t really fathom what the deal was but once you encounter some of these “unique” characters in-game, I can see why for some it might make the experience a little jarring.

Anti-lurk QnA:
Do you think Guild Wars and future MMO/RPGs should allow for this level of customization? How far can creative freedom go before it starts to infringe on immersion? Do you think having limits to character creation, even with this level of tweaking options, is justified or counter-intuitive?

Here are some examples of how far the creation can go!

For more, check out this thread over at MMOsite.

Nerd Rage: Trolling Guild Wars Co-Op

Gonna change it up a bit in light of a hellish 3 weeks at work. Silly post ahead.

As a disclaimer, I’m not a vicious or mean person. However, I can’t resist screwing with idiots in games, especially Guild Wars because you can talk to the opposing team. Sometimes they are just really asking for it.

Now, in GW you can switch sides in co-op, which I do depending on what faction I want. I feel no loyalty to either side and because it’s so easy to choose whichever one you want, I find it hilarious when players take their allegiance seriously.

So here I’m doing some Fort Aspenwood as Kurzick, and we’re winning when someone from the opposing team (Ashes of Nature) starts bitching about how imbalanced the game is in favor of Kurzick.
I try to humor him by asking exactly how (because it’s not true at all) and he goes on a rampage.

I make a sarcastic comment (Guild Wars is Serious Fucking Business) which Ashes thought I was seriously saying. I reply with “Anybody who says that seriously is at tool” in regards to my statement.
Then he jumps down my throat about how full of hatred I am  when, clearly, he was the one flipping a shit.

And apparently I’m an arrogant asshole because I didn’t feel like explaining to him what “Kettle calling the pot black” meant. Something tells me he probably wouldn’t know what “Hypocrite” meant either.

After the game I couldn’t resist egging him on (I’m Drea Velaso in the screens):


So after all that -he- ignored -me- which to this day is a point of hilarity beyond reason.

Are F2P MMOs the new standard?

Rift is typical fantasy, but really beautiful.

If I learned anything from the recent trip to PAX, it’s that the world of MMORPG’s is ever expanding. Perhaps exploding is a better word? I must have played at least five different games: GW2, Rift, DnD Online, LOTR, Terra…and that’s just the start. The thing that shocked me most, though, was that most of these games come with a subscription fee.

The eastern-style of free-to-play MMO-RPG’s making it’s way over to the other hemisphere has been a hot topic for a while now, but the ball really got rolling when Tom Chilton of Blizzard fame suggested that subscription-based cash-cow World of Warcraft may one day follow suit and EverQuest II announced a watered-down F2P version of itself.

Needless to say, online gamers all over America and then some flipped their collective shit at the “news”, freaking out and wrongly declaring “FREE-WOW WORLD, DREAMS HAVE BEEN REALIZED” malarkey.

Unsurprisingly they ignored the fact that he also declared this wasn’t going to happen “anytime soon”, if at all, which likely means Blizz is waiting for their next big hit to take the place of WoW. Let’s face it, guys: Blizzard will most likely be the ones to make the much-fabled WoW-Killer.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened sooner rather than later. For the first time since WoW started, subscriptions have declined. They continue to do so, and that’s with nothing out there right now that’s even much competition. People are, as many have said said, simply getting bored with it. This is following an overall trend in subscription MMO’s losing players, with the exception of seven-year-old Eve Online who have boasted more players than ever.

Subscription MMO's dying slowly from lack of HOTs.

The reasons is pretty clear: there are tons of free to play MMO’s out there of notable quality, and others that are dropping their subscriptions in favor of micro-transaction supported markets. This is a very Asian concept and is common in flashy Korean and Japanese based online games. It’s worked well in the far-east, but never quite picked up in the west until now. These days there are many options where players can get their hack and slash fix without paying 10-25 dollars a month for it. People are willing to settle for something a little less in terms of content if it means it’s free, and who can blame them with the economy being what it is? But free doesn’t have to mean a shitty game, either.

Guild Wars was one of the first western MMO fantasy games of quality to dedicate themselves to  a free-to-play environment from the start, supported by new content every six months and small upgrades like storage and character slots.  Once they switched gears to their new game,  additional content ceased and they added vanity micro-transactions like make-overs and costumes to continue financial income. Determined to stay true to their original gaming model, ArenaNET has promised that the sequel would be just as free to play as the original and offer nothing less than groundbreaking graphics and gameplay. Ambitious, yes, perhaps a little risky. But brilliant, none-the-less, and very necessary a move to shake the long-stangant idea of what an MMORPG needs to be.

Most people will pay for one game only, rarely two, which puts all subscription games at ends with each other. Theoretically, a game is more likely to have a larger or more dedicated player base if it’s free to play than not, because they’re not competing for a spot on the “please pay for me” ballot. A F2P game is more likely to have people return to it after absences and warrants much less feelings of forced play-time and resentment (“Oh, I have to play to make it worth the money I put down…”). Someone who has their main sub-based MMO likely has their guilty side-dish F2P games as well (GW, TFII, and Starcraft would be mine :D).

One huge fear gamers have about F2P supported by Micro-Sale games is that they feel selling vanity services eventually leads to selling items that give them clear game-play advantages over others. People seem to have this huge vendetta against the idea of “paying for content” because this is immediately what they assume is the case. Every time WoW puts another vanity item in the online store, you get droves of threads crying out blasphemy and wondering when they will cross over to the dark-side of selling gear and levels. But there is a deep irony hidden in these caverns.

Everquest II’s  “extended” model is another, albiet misunderstood, marketing tool that takes advantage of the popularity of F2P mmos. The part many gamers initially found hard to swallow is that it’s basically a glorified eternal trial-version. You’ll eventually cap-out on stuff to do unless you pay, and that part is where the “optional” content comes in and this is what the gaming community is hemmraging about. But the very people who scoffed at the idea of EQII:E’s model are the same ones blowing 25 bucks on ponies and ponytails. And lets consider this: how would one define WoW-style expansions ? Oh yeah. Paying for additional “optional” content, except that it’s not. WoW expansions are literally optional, but far from it in context. We all know this.

So then, what difference is there between buying the expansions every two years for WoW or paying 10 dollars in EQII:E for a new level cap and gear tiers? Absolutely nothing.

If WoW’s recent, though sometimes questionable, dabbling in micro-transactions on top of subscription fees and Guild Wars’ F2P model supported by micro-sales are any indication, we see clearly people -are- willing to pay extra for vanity items. Pets, mounts, costumes, and make-overs. Transfers, bonus missions, storage, and sex-changes. If you offer a good game to base something on, players won’t mind investing a little extra into it, especially if that game is free-to-play to begin with and they feel compelled to support something they enjoy.

There are many games that will doubtlessly continue to charge monthly, especially those based on franchises like Final Fanatsy or Starwars. But we could definiately see a huge shift towards the end of free to play MMO’s supported by optional content and this is something that I think everybody should be excited for, not fearful of.

Now to encourage all you lurkers to comment, I have some questions for the masses: Do you think F2P will eventually eclipse sub-based mmo’s? Why or why-not?

PAX Recap: More Guild Wars Madness!

Well Saturday morning I met up with Malibu of G.W.E.N and went to ArenaNet’s Dynamic Event panel which was chuck-full of crazy amounts of information. We were given a great surprise when Eric Flannum said we’d be designing a dynamic event chain that would eventually be implemented into the game.

Eric, Jeff, and Colin!

The first chunk of the panel was a brief rundown on Dynamic events. It was a lot of stuff we already knew, but the most interesting part was that they gave us a map with a dynamic event quest list, which I unfortunately didn’t get a good image of. We learned a few tidbits of gameplay and new info on races. Dynamic events are made to be successes: there’s no incentive to failing one. Furthermore, they are meant to promote teamwork. All other players are allies, not enemies, when in the persistent PvE world. They also discourage completionism in the events system: there’s no reason to go back and purposely fail an event.
The tengu are back! Ogres are beast-masters who usually have pets. The quaggan are a new, passive race that get bullied by the krait, who are vicious and slave-driving. Not all races are black and white; some will be allies or enemies depending on the situation. Others are always bad and others, always good. We learn that the Norn and Slyvari have a lot of interaction, as well, and the Norn like to mess with them by tricking them into doing weird things: “Go kick the hive over there!” “Ok!”

Maps = <3

After the run-down, Eric starts with explaining how we’d create our event: first he gives us three locations, explains the terrain, races, and major hubs in the area. The group chooses Timberline Falls, a 50-60 zone, as the setting and the conflict between the Quaggan and Krait as a basis.
We cover a lot of ideas over the panel with Eric and Jeff Grubb explaining how and why they will work and won’t work. Some were silly (MEGASHARK > INSERT WALRUS), epic (Underwater Super Weapon), and downright wonky (Tricking the Slyvari into raiding the krait towers?). I started zoning out by the end, but we eventually got a solid basis that involved training the quaggan to fight and commissioning a super weapon. After the event chain is complete, the Vigil will likely step in to recruit and continue training the quaggan.

Right after the panel, which ran over by 20 minutes or so, we met up with a handful of people from Guild Wars 2 Guru. Sadly, JR, Neo, and a few others had bailed right after (jerks!) and we didn’t get a chance to say hi! Due to time and trivia contests, we split instead of going to lunch.

I met up with Jess and we ran around playing games, grabbing shirts, hitting up the LAN, sneaking in lunch, and relaxing at the hotel before heading out to the ArenaNet fan party at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Martin never smiles in pictures.

The party was such an awesome experience. We got to mix and mingle with a slew of ArenaNet employees, from familiar faces to completely new ones. Malibu and I made the rounds taking pictures and introducing ourselves to whoever we didn’t know. Eventually, Jess and I got into a lengthy chat with Stephen Hwang, a level designer who was extremely awesome to talk to. We ran down a whole bunch of topics, starting out with introducing GuildMag (he hadn’t heard of us!), what it’s like working with A-Net, and the general reception of GW2 from old fans and new. It was really awesome hearing about the game from another designer. Likewise, he explained how seeing the game from the view of the fans puts things in perspective. We all know what it’s like when you stare at your own piece of work for so long, it’s difficult to see it objectively.

I think the most important information I got out of that conversation, though, was just the amount of passion about working on this game that Anet has. We always hear these guys say how much they are gamers like us and are doing this because they love it. But to hear it in person, and not him directly saying it but just the way he talked about being a part of this team, it’s really humbling. It’s easy to see why this game is shaping up to be as awesome as it has lately when the minds behind it believe so much in what they’re doing.

Tix~!

Stephen was nice enough to give me a better run-down on the other employees people might not hear about as often but are just as important to the success of the company. He also introduced us to a few of them who walked by, and I tried my hand at convincing everybody to go to Pax-East (rumor has it they are!) and learned they will be having a small presence at New York Comic-Con next month, which I’ll try to go to.

All-in-all…it was a great experience. The connection Anet has with their fans is undeniably a huge reason they are doing and will continue to do well in the future. Dorkishly enough, I am really proud to be a part of this community.

Check out Jess’s recap on the weekend and Guild Wars at Paladin-Bias, Kaae’s thoughts on Way Too Serious, and the GW2G Pax10 Megathread for more!

The full album is here, and a few of my favs down below:
[simpleviewer gallery_id=”1″]

PAX Day 1

Alright, so the day is finally winding down here in WA. Day one was pretty nuts!

On the Guild Wars front, there was a lot going on. The lines to test out the game were nuts: I was standing for almost 2 hours before I decided I had to go.

On the bright side, I got to watch both presentations by Martin and got a pretty in-depth look at the combat systems. Seeing the UI in action up-close, too, made me feel a lot more comfortable with the way it’s going so far. Screenshots definitely don’t do the game justice.

I got to meet a lot of awesome Arena-Net people, too! Martin, Regina, Emily, and Habib (??), a programmer who’s probably not as well-known but still awesome. Everybody was really cool to talk to. I saw Izzy, Kristen, and Joe but didn’t get a chance to say hi.

I’ll be hitting up the Dynamic Events panel tomorrow morning and the party at night, so it’ll be a whole lotta Arenanet goodness.

I got to play a few other games, too, and got a lot of free T-shirts. We plan on getting a few more tomorrow. A few WoW loot cards, LoL codes, tons of betas and trial codes, trading cards…yeah. Lots of loot.

More pics and info tomorrow!

-Izzie

A few pictures for you guys:

Pax Prime 2010 Preview

As a lot of you know, I’ll be heading to PAX-Prime this week over in Seattle. I’m ridiculously excited about going, and mostly because I get to try out the Guild Wars 2 demo! Jess and I will be heading over representing GuildMag and our podcast. It’s going to be both  thrilling and crazy busy.

We’ll be heading in Thursday night and plan on hitting up the Triwizard Tournament drinking tournament with some PAX buddies from over here on the east coast. If the Pokemon pub-crawl at Pax-East is any indication of what I’m in for…well. Lets just hope I manage to get up the next morning!

Friday, first plan of business is heading over to Arenanet’s booth to snag a ticket for their Dynamic Events panel and introduce myself to the crew there. Depending on lines I’ll try to get a demo session in, too. At some point I need to figure out when I’ll be hanging with Barbie from the GW-EN network, too!

Sometime after the panel Saturday, there’s gonna be a Guildwars2guru community meet up, which I’m looking forward to beyond all reason and then a lounge party that night with the crew from GuildCast that I’ll be hitting up around 8:30-9pm.

What are the panels I’m hoping to hit after?

Friday:
12:00 PM: Myth of the Girl Gamer
12:30 PM : Raud Warning Live Podcast (if the Girl Gamer panel is full, which is likely!)
2:30 PM: The Community Manager Challenge
4:00 PM: Mega 64
6:00 PM: The Various Roads to Becoming a Community Manager

Saturday:
10:00 AM:  Guild Wars 2: Designing Dynamic Events
12:00 PM: World of Farmcraft
4:30 PM: Women Own: A Conversation with Researchers, Professionals, and Gamers
6:30 PM: So You Want to Land a Marketing Job in the Game Industry?

Sunday:
3:00 PM: Ask a Games Journalist: Veteran Editors Answer Any and All Questions

I’m gonna try to check out community manager and girl gamer panels as a priority. During my down times I’ll probably be hitting up Team Fortress 2 in the open LAN room with buddies and collecting swag from around the expo center.

Keep an eye out for me on Twitter: I’ll be posting twitpics and updates on lines, events, and my general location. I may also be trying to update the blog with pictures and small updates, but no promises!

Hope to see you guys there!