Cracks in the Patio: Where ANet might trip


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I love my metaphors. Bars and Guilds, Sex and Games etc. Well, here’s another: the Patio.

Ok, picture the scene: A swanky London garden party, the grass is immaculately trimmed to the millimetre. On the patio, erudite people wearing sunglasses in the early evening light drift between waiters carrying canapés and empty wine glasses. As the sun begins to drop below the horizon, a lone waiter steps out from the house through the sliding patio doors carrying a perfectly stacked tray of sparkling champagne, the crowd turns and applauds – the champagne cascades down the tower and the waiter grins with pride. No sooner has he stepped onto the expertly laid stones is the silver tray flying through the air, the grin turns to horror and the guests are showered with fizzy-pop and broken glass. With a screech, the violins from the band punctuate his landing in a pile of shattered flutes and broken pride. The patio stones are hewn to a fine and flat sheen; they are billiard-table flat – every single one. How on earth did he manage to trip?

In a complex system, often, even if every element is perfectly constructed and each works with its own immaculate internal logic it is the joins where you can trip up. You can look at a skill and see that it is built perfectly: not excessively powerful in its effect, a recharge time which is not too long, but not overly short to encourage spamming, a cast time which is proportionate. Great – send it out, this skill is ready! But the skill might be internally balanced, but it is where it rubs up against other skills that the imbalances begin to emerge. The same goes for every game element.

Guild Wars 2 is an extremely complex system. Skills, traits, crafting, armour, weapons, dynamic events, mini-games, dungeons, PvP and countless other elements we probably haven’t heard of yet. Thousands of elements pulling and pushing against each other, each one likely honed and iterated till it reaches the very high standards we have all come to expect from ArenaNet.  It is where these elements interact that there is the potential for unforeseen problems.

So, when we are lithely scurrying over the patio of Guild Wars 2, and our shoe (shined to military-standard sheen) gets trapped between one of the cracks, will we fall? Will the contents of our tray bounce or shatter? Will we pull ourselves up, laugh it off and head to the dance floor?

To the readers: Do you expect bugs in every new game release? Even after such a long testing period, would you be surprised to find glitches? Is imbalance an unavoidable part of MMO gaming?

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 recently been accepted on a PhD place (starting in September, woo!). In his spare time he enjoys kicking ass, chewing bubblegun and restocking his bubblegum when he runs out. He writes regularly on Guild Wars and gaming over at Distilled Willpower. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Distilledwill!