on Sep 4, 2012
Guild Wars 2 continues to impress. Having said, that, there are some really annoying problems with the game that are keeping me from enjoying it to the fullest. I don’t want you to go running off and buy the game, only to have you blame me for not giving you a proper heads-up. Some of these problems are serious, some are minor, some are situational. This is not a comprehensive list, it’s just what I’ve run into.
Fair warning: One of these complaints might not be entirely genuine. It is left as an exercise to the reader to figure out which one.
EDIT: As of this morning, the trading post is working for me. Looks like this one is solved, or very close. That was an abrupt fix after so much dysfuntion, but I’m glad it’s been sorted. Original hand-wringing follows:
The in-game auction house has been broken since launch. First it’s down. Then it’s up, but the search doesn’t work. Then up again for 15% of the population. Then it seems to work, but it eats money without delivering the product.
This wouldn’t be a problem, but they didn’t give players any sort of direct-trade interface. The only way to trade items is to mail them, which is vulnerable to people simply running off without paying / delivering. Basically, there’s no safe way for strangers to trade.
They have designed a game that is balanced around the idea of public trade, and now that it’s launched there isn’t any. All of this is painful if you’re trying to do any kind of crafting, since crafting consumes more materials than you will acquire during the normal course of play. Also, it’s probably strangling the economy, since you’re supposed to be able to sell the rare items you find but can’t use. Bank space is limited, so there’s only so many you can stockpile. This means a lot of valuable magic stuff is just getting dumped on the in-game vendors for basically nothing.
|Note that the in-game store – where you buy goodies from ArenaNet for real money – is working just fine. This includes being able to pay real money that will give you access to a valet who will let you access the trading post while in the field. The BROKEN, useless trading post. Which means you can pay money to have someone deliver you an Out Of Order Message. Awesome. Note that this valet is consumed on use.|
What’s really worrisome is just how little progress we’re seeing. They usually only enable the trading post for 15% of the population for testing purposes. Likely a lot of those randomly-chosen 15% don’t even know it’s available to them. Also, a trade system where a random 15% of the population can trade with each other using a system that might vanish at any moment is not terribly useful, meaning even among the portion of the 15% who know about it, a lot of them won’t waste time with it. We’re talking about a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the population, here. And yet, it’s still painfully slow and unresponsive.
There’s a multiplicative effect that happens in systems like this, where doubling the population will result in more than double the traffic. Conversely, halving the population will reduce the traffic by more than half. What I’m getting at is that during these testing times, the system is probably experiencing less than one-twentieth of the traffic it needs to handle. If it’s slow under these conditions, how is it ever going to handle the full load?
The original Guild Wars didn’t have an auction house, so this is likely ArenaNet’s first attempt at solving this particular problem. My fear is that their design was fundamentally flawed and simply can’t perform at the required scale. It’s possible this isn’t just “launch day troubles”, but a serious engineering problem that might send them back to the drawing board.
This is all conjecture on my part, mind you. Still, over a week of downtime and brokenness leads me to believe this is more than just “launch day problems” or a few bugs.
Reader Steve C (and others) report that the boxed disc is basically worthless, and you will end up downloading the game in its entirety after you install. This can be a problem if you have a slow or metered connection. Also, some people are having trouble getting the download to work at all.
One interesting bit of trivia is that ArenaNet has halted digital sales of the game from their own site until they can ramp up their server capacity to meet demand. I think all online games have some degree of queuing, or connection problems, or issues with people getting in at launch. Usually this results in the company taking your money and saying, “Thanks, come back in a few days and try again.” This may be the first time a company has inflicted deliberate financial loss on themselves in order to avoid this.
The next time some company is holding your money and not delivering on their game, you can point to this: ArenaNet stopped taking money until they were sure they could meet the commitments implied by the transaction.
The game balance is a little off in places. In the Harathi Hinterlands there are two public events going on, both of which involve holding off waves of attacking centaurs. In both cases the attackers are supposed to scale with the number of players.
One event was so weak that the foes basically vanished as they entered the attack range of the players. It was such overkill on the part of the players that I had trouble landing any hits. By the time my fireball reached the guy I was aiming for, he was dead. I was still getting participation XP, but it was kind of boring and there wasn’t any challenge.
I went a bit north and tried the other event. The attacking centaurs outnumbered the players five to one. There were three or four of us, and a huge cluster of centaurs that were very, very hard to damage, even with my big show-stopper attacks. We were wiped in a few seconds. Then as I was face-down in the dirt, panning the camera around to look for other players who might come along and help me up, I saw another wave of centaurs coming across the bridge, as big as the first wave.
Since nobody wants to face hopeless, unrewarding certain doom, everyone sticks to the cakewalk event, which only exacerbates the overcrowding problem.
This isn’t as much of a problem in the early game zones, but the Harathi Hinterlands is a level 30+ zone and I think the balance needs a bit more tuning in those areas.
The game has issues with “overflow” servers. If the server is full, it puts you into a separate but concurrent copy of the world. That’s fine. Champions Online was built around this idea. The problem isn’t the system, it’s the interface.
When you get shoved into an overflow server you get a dumb little “Click Ok” popup that tells you. Then sometime later you’ll get another popup, telling you that a slot has opened on the real server and you can transfer there now. You can then choose to go to the main server, which will put you through a pointless loading screen just so you can find yourself standing in the same spot. (The mobs, players, and resource nodes around you won’t have the same state, obviously.) If you were taking part in an event you’ll lose your progress.
If you refuse this second popup, it will just appear again later. It will keep pestering you every couple of minutes until you agree to go to the main server.
Then when you move to a new zone you get bumped to overflow and the whole process can begin again. Sometimes the slot will open up while you’re still entering the new zone, meaning that when you spawn you’ll have TWO popups in your face, one telling you you’re in overflow and the other telling you you can leave overflow now.
Just.. what? Who designed this? The rest of the game is so sleek. The interface is tidy and unobtrusive. Then then we have this awful system of popups like we’re running Update on Windows 98. Just terrible. There’s no reason for this. If you’re playing solo and you’re not doing PvP, then there is no reason to care which instance of the server you’re on. The only thing bad about the system is that the game won’t shut up about it. I wouldn’t even know this was happening if not for the popups and the needless loading screens due to instance-jumping. Just leave me on the overflow server. I don’t care. Just get out of my face.
The game is much too pretty. It’s completely ridiculous how good-looking this thing is. It’s like, does everything I see need to be a visual feast? Haven’t you guys heard of copy & paste scenery? Does every location need to be a hand-crafted architectural wonder? What’s with the endless diversity of plant life, atmosphere, color tone, and the rich soundscape that lurks beneath every lush vista? Everything is much too open to exploration. In all my hours in the game, I don’t think I’ve ever had to run through a single serpentine canyon rat-maze just to get from A to B. Instead the game forces me to travel over open ground where I’m always seeing the wondrous horizon or set-piece locations.
By making their game vibrant and engaging, ArenaNet has basically ruined me for all other online games. For this I may never forgive them.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.