Guild Wars: First Impressions

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jun 17, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 93 comments

MMO games have a logic, language, and culture all their own. People talk about using, “AoE to aggro mobs”, and such. While I’ve worked out the basics, you can’t assimilate to something this big in so short a time. I’m still a newbie, and many of these comments apply to MMO’s in general and not just Guild Wars.

I will say this game is exceedingly pretty. The landscape is pretty. The particle effects are pretty. The weather is pretty. The women are pretty. The men are pretty. Especially the men. This game has less testosterone than a romantic comedy with Hugh Grant. Even the beefy warriors have a certain preening, metrosexual look to them. This is what the world would look like if you transported several thousand magazine models and clothing designers into the middle ages. Nobody has the wit to invent a steam engine or a printing press, but they are able to mass produce frilly underwear, boxer shorts, and hair gel for their army. I’ve been seeing screenshots of this game for years, and I had always just assumed it had a modern theme, based on the hair and Victoria’s Secret getups. But no, this is actually another permutation of Ye Olde Swords and Fireballs All Up In Thine Business.

I actually find it hilarious to see this kingdom of people living in this burned out ravaged wasteland of dust and ash, running around with their spotless clothes, fabulous hair, and perfect skin. Obligatory: I guess that’s why they call it fantasy. It certainly makes the game fun to look at.

I don’t have any screenshots ready, but if you’ve never played and you want to know what I’m talking about, Augury has that covered.

Not only are the models expertly made, but they are wonderfully animated. Their body language is varied and appealing, from the fidgeting they do when idle, to their combat animations, to the stunning dances which are unique to each class and gender. Hanging out in town emoting various animations is a very popular activity, particularly among the high-level characters.

The game plays well with Windows, which I’m discovering is an important aspect of a good MMO game. Despite looking incredible, Guild Wars is very easy on my computer, even with the settings maxed out. I can leave it running in the background and still write my posts here and consult the Guild Wars Wiki at need. My computer hardly blinks when I switch windows, as if Guild Wars was nothing more than another Firefox window. This is one of the most well-tuned engines I’ve seen in ages.

My character is just as gregarious as I am, which is to say I’ve been doing a lot of solo fighting. So far I’ve relying on the NPC henchmen in the game. Now, they don’t level up, but they get a “share” of the gold and XP anyway, meaning if you take one you get half XP and if you take all four you get one-fourth XP. None of them is as strong as a true PC, and they’re usually several levels below you, which means they aren’t even remotely pulling their own weight.

This is on top of the fact that they are NPC’s and thus have no concept of aggro management. If I tap one bad guy with a fireball, all three of them will rush forward and start a huge tussle. We’ll end up fighting a half-dozen guys instead of one at a time. Despite over twenty years of evolution, computer RPG’s still don’t have any concept of an “encounter”. Fighting ten orcs at once is worth the same as fighting ten orcs in a row, even though the former is very obviously much, much harder. This is a problem in all computer RPGs, but here the berserker henchmen serve to draw attention to it because of their “catch ’em all” approach to combat.

After a while I really began to resent the share of XP and gold my henchmen were taking. Fighting with them is like running the Boston marathon with John Madden on your back and then being forced to split the prize money with him.

For fun I tried going back to an area of the game where I could solo without the henchmen, but doing that required fighting stuff five levels below me, for which the game was happy to give me zero XP. Fie. A thousand times, fie. The game was arguably harder this way. I’m facing more risk and effort as I would by fighting stuff closer to my level while dragging around a crew of bumbling NPCs, but the game doesn’t see fit to reward that particular style of play. Sigh. Fine. I’ll take the stupid henchmen with me. Goodness knows you wouldn’t want to let players experience the game in a way that deviates from the designer’s narrow vision and intentions.

Same problem, different situation: I tried going back and picking up a quest I’d missed. It required passing through a low-level area. I was level 10 and fighting level 4 Grawls. In a game with a level cap of 20, this is a pretty huge difference. But passing through the Grawls still required managing foes and pulling them properly, because they were still work to put down. When my idiot henchmen attracted too many they got themselves killed, I was forced to run for my life. It was a damn chore wading through them, and the game wasn’t giving me any XP at all. And I was still just getting 25% of the pitiful loot, with the rest being absorbed by my idiot cohorts. I eventually gave up. This is what I was griping about yesterday. Foes which are worthless should at least be easy and fun to nuke.

People mentioned that giving you XP for low level mobs encourages farming. Well, if this is the solution then it sucks and I hate it. If all MMO games are like this then my time as an MMO player is going to be short. At the very least: If a monster is worthless, then the damn thing should leave me alone. Working for no reward is just not acceptable to me.

I suppose the problem here – which is probably unique to Guild Wars – is that there just isn’t that much difference in terms of raw power between the levels. Fighting a monster of my own level might take six combat rounds, and fighting something six levels below me might take four. XP falls off sharply with levels, even though the actual change in raw power isn’t very big. The XP punishment feels unfair and arbitrary.

Some people complained about it, but I really approve of how death is handled in this game. It doesn’t steal away any XP or impose XP debt on you. It also doesn’t send you all the way back to town and then make you fight your way back to your corpse to recover your stuff, which is how some games do it. When you die, you appear in the same area, with a 15% penalty to your health and energy. You can clear this instantly by visiting town or slowly by defeating foes. None of your items are lost and none of your leveling progress is harmed. If you’re on a mission then going back to town isn’t a very attractive option (because you’ll lose your progress so far) but even if you’re forced to give up you still have the XP and loot to show for your troubles. From a game design standpoint I’m not sure there has to be a penalty, but the conventional wisdom says the player has to be punished in some way for death, and I think it makes more sense to weaken the player as opposed to robbing them. (Wasn’t it in Everquest that the game would just filch your best item on death? Something like that? Retarded.) Suffering from low health makes a lot more sense (inasmuch as any system that grants immortality through limitless resurrections makes sense) than taking stuff out of their pockets.

The world map is huge. I’m level eleven, and the level cap is at a diminutive twenty. I’m halfway up the level scale and I’ve visited less than a quarter of the world.

A gripe about the chat:

If you visited Ascalon city you might think the word “guild” was a euphemism for some sort of pyramid scheme. It’s like a 24/7 PBS pledge drive, with dozens of people shouting or whispering to everyone around them to become a member now, just wait ’til you experience the benefits of membership! We’re newbie-friendly! Free stuff! Something about capes! Call now! Operators are standing by! This textual cacophony is in addition to all the infuriating idiots who use open chat to hawk their old junk instead of using the trade channel. This was a problem in Hellgate as well. I really think MMO’s need to provide some sort of automated auctioning service just to keep the populated areas of the game from being flooded with stuff like, “W T S LVL 10 SW +10 ench – 500g o b o”. That sort of gibberish takes its toll on the chat window in a hurry.

As far as I can tell you have to type someone’s name in order to mute them, which is annoying. Some of these names are long and awkward, and if there are twenty of these people hawking guild membership and overpriced items then muting them all can turn into a lot of clerical busywork.

Like I said, I don’t know if this problem is just part of the whole MMO experience or if Guild Wars is missing features common to other MMO’s.

There is no demo. On the other hand, there’s no monthly fee, either. You can just buy the game and play it forever until they unplug the servers. You can download the client for free, which won’t do you any good because as of the time of this posting the PlayNC site is borked. It’s impossible to buy the game right now. (Well, you could go to the store, I guess. But that’s crazy talk.)

 


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93 thoughts on “Guild Wars: First Impressions

  1. JFargo says:

    I have the same gripe about stupid monsters coming to attack you no matter your level, the fact that something many levels below me is still kind of a challenge, and that I get no xp for killing them. It’s annoying.

    But, I’ve learned that the real secret is that you don’t go kill things for xp. The xp, as I’m guessing you’ve found out, is best received from questing. Questing is the real power of the game, and those little annoyances are just there to deter you from finishing your quest, not to provide xp.

    It’s annoying, but I still en joy the game quite a bit.

  2. guy says:

    there really ought to be better AI for compainions or at least some sort of command system to stop them from doing stupid stuff like that. it’s always been a big gripe of mine that the AI in almost every game ever is too stupid to remain close to you in dangerous situations.

    they must be big fans of leroy jenkins.

  3. Ron says:

    Henchmen. Levels. Are your two biggest grips.

    First off. Henchmen. They fixed this with Nightfall. They introduced Heroes. Which are Henchmen that level up with you. That you can be customize with their own skills and equipment. But you need Nightfalls to enable this feature. Which is why the game doesn’t have a monthly fee, they want you to buys the other campains and expanision.

    Levels. Mean nothing in Guildwars. I mean they mean NOTHING. It’s all about the skills and combinations. Soloing is very hard, unless you are very good, at any level in this game. (I am not very good, and cannot do it). Look into Elite Skills.

    Honestly, I hated Guildwars, until Nightfall and now I love it.

  4. Karl says:

    Use the flag controls along the bottom edge of the compass to tell your henchmen where to stand. Yes, all three of them at once (if you play Nightfall and/or Eye of the North you get Heroes which can be flagged individually), and yes, they’re still dumb as hell and will run forward to attack if the enemy gets close, but it makes careful pulling at least possible, if not easy.

    As I said before, I wouldn’t sweat XP from mobs. Level 20 will come easily enough from quests & missions, and beyond that only those aspiring to the title of Survivor care about XP (and those needing to wipe out a big death penalty, occasionally).

  5. khorboth says:

    I’ve played a fair number of MMO’s. My time in Guildwars was short, indeed. I found the combat engine unwieldy and was very frustrated when my character refused to run up or down a slightly-less-than-gentle slope.

    I’m currently playing City of Heroes/Villians. In my experience, this is the best designed MMO despite being saddled with a genre I find bland. So far, none of your complaints about Guildwars would carry over to CoV. Not that there aren’t things to bitch about, but I’ve found them more minor.

  6. Oleyo says:

    I like your proto-concept of the “encounter” and immediately wonder how it might work. I also enjoy the challenge and fun of barely scraping by when I pull too many mobs and take them down with all the skill I can muster, but it isnt an efficient way to level for the most part.

    I imagine a system where each mob you “aggro” after the first will grant a 10% bonus to its XP reward, then if you felt like it you could deliberately drag a big tussle for the extra XP, or at least be rewarded when your bonehead NPC or buddy accidentally does the same.

    Hate to keep mentioning WoW, but I like the game mechanics discussion, so… I like how WoW gradually reduces the “aggro-radius” of mobs that are below you in level. Thus you dont have the annoyance of fending off waves of trash when you just want to run accross an area that is far below you.

    You literally have to step on a very low level mob to get it to attack you, so you wont be bothered that they grant no XP, since you can glide past with no more that a sneer at the insignificant bio-mass.

  7. Everquest death, currently, is you lose 6% of the total of the previous level. You can get resurrected for 96% (commonly) by a cleric, or 100% if their once a day full rez is up. You can also use a veteran reward (You’ve been playing for X years) to rez yourself once every .. 3? 4? days.

    LOTRO death (and I think you’d like LOTRO much more than GW) .. you’re punted to the nearest gravestone. (You don’t die in LOTRO lore, you just run out of morale and run away. Frodo didn’t die after all ;) Your items take some damage and your HPs and Power are lessened for 10 minutes. May seem a bit harsh, but it prevents leap frogging. You CAN be rezzed by a party member or summoned back once you retreat to the gravestone if you have the relevant class(es) in your fellowship.

    WoW death .. as far as I can remember the only punishment is item damage. I remember finishing more than one quest by running as far as I could before dying, running back to my corpse, respawning, running as far as I could .. until the quest was fufilled. A little trivial, but then, so was most of WoW.

    ..I’m of the opinion death should be a deterent, should not be able to be used to finish quests and should be avoided as much as possible. Maybe not to the extreme of EQ2 where your party (used to?) take exp debt for every party member’s death.. but still.

    I don’t like PvP, which is why I never tried GW. But most free MMO’s (or buy and play for free) tend to be spam and idiot filled in my experience.

  8. Changling bob says:

    The first thing I was taught in Guild Wars was to turn of general chat in towns. As I recall, its one of the options when you click the speech bubble at the bottom left, but I could be wrong. All the spamming gone in an instant!

  9. Spider Dave says:

    How difficult it is to solo is one of my bigest gripes with MMORPGS, apart from the grind. There comes a point in my time playing MMOs when the WOW factor (that’s not a pun) wears off, and I get bored of running around hacking up wolves for XP. Occasionally, I will level up and upgrade to fighting bears or something, but it’s apparent these are not games meant for someone to play alone.

    If I’m really a hero of the realm, I shouldn’t need other heroes of the realm to help me pull my own weight.

  10. Viktor says:

    GIVE US MORE CONTROL OVER NPCS!!! That happens in every game that has non-player companions. They use buffs in the last roud of combat, AoEs against individuals, and heals when you have powers based off of your health. Not to mention the “Charge through the minefield at a huge mass of enemies my main could have just sniped if they would LET ME DO IT!” tactics so many seem to love.
    /rant.
    Sorry, but that’s not a Guild Wars complaint, it’s the reason I still play Pen&Paper RPs.

  11. Oleyo says:

    That LOTR “death” sounds interesting. Do they actually play it out like a non-death, e.g. your character actually runs away from the beastie? Sounds neat in a story-telling kind of sense and is no less abstract to me than dying al lthe time.

    I will need to check this game out I think.

  12. MSchmahl says:

    A command system would be great. It seems that if you have henchmen, and you are forced to use them, you should have some control over them. Even something simple like “F1=Stay behind me”, “F2=Attack whatever it is I am attacking”, “F3=Run Away!!” would be workable.

    I liked Baldur’s Gate and BG2 because of the ability to write my own scripts for the AIs. Actually, I never finished BG2 because my obsession with script-writing took over my desire to actually play the game. I wonder if Guildwars would be better if you could literally program your henchmen.

    Re: the zero-XP thing, I agree that if you are so powerful that you “deserve” nothing for beating up some weak monsters, those monsters should be extremely unwilling to engage you. A level-1 kobold (or whatever it is) should actively run away from level-9000 PCs. In fact, that alone might be a solution to farming even without the XP-decay.

  13. Blackbird71 says:

    A few notes from someone who played GW for a couple of years:

    Fisrt, Guild Wars is not an MMO, the creators have stated this a number of times. It’s an online multiplayer game, but you only ever play with small groups, as all areas are instanced, which kind of kills the “massively” part of it. The only place you have contact with a large number of players is in towns, which serve as more of a player matching service than any kind of play. You might think this is nitpicking, but it’s an important distinction as it affects several details in how the game operates vs. standard MMOs.

    On henchmen, yes they are idiots. You can however use the flag system to keep them reasonably under control. Yes, losing a chunk of the loot to them is a pain, but it is necessary so as not to give an advantage to one who plays with henchmen over one who groups with other players. If those who played in live groups got less loot than the henchers, there would never be a reason to group.

    They have improved on this with the Nightfall expansion, which I recommend as a definite must for anyone serious about the game (Factions is very optional). In this expansion, they added “Heroes,” which are NPCs that do level up and gain experience. You can give them equipment, choose their skills, set their general reactions, give specific commands, etc. The one problem is that even though you have to equip them, they still “take” a portion of the loot. However, they have been a great improvement over the henchmen and are a boon to the solo player.

    Yes, chat is annoying. All I can say is ignore it, there’s hardly anything useful that goes on there. My major gripe about the game is that having no monthly fee, it attracts a huge number of adolescents and kids who tend to drag down the overall maturity level of the community. My advice? Use fansites such as guildwarsguru.com to find a good mature guild and you can pretty much ignore the rest of the players. Speaking of which, as I recall, you can either left or right click on the player’s name in chat to send them a whisper or add them to your ignore list. It’s been a while, so I could be wrong on that one, but give it a try.

    Don’t let the low level cap be an issue. Any GW vet will tell you that the game begins at 20. Everything up until that is essentially learning. There is so much more to do at 20 than below it, and XP is only important as it lets you get more skills. Even so, you will soon find yourself with more XP than you will know what to do with.

    One thing that I think you will appreciate Shamus is the prevalance of the storyline and your role within it. MMOs by their nature are generally unable to have any kind of epic plot with each player as a central figure. One major product of not being an MMO is GW’s ability to wrap an involved storyline around your character, regardless of how many other people play the game and do the same quests. You are the focus of the story, you are the one who changes the world, everyone else just happens to be there.

    Anyway, I hope that helps your perspective on the game. I got many hours of enjoyment out of it for almost two years straight, and every once in a while I return for a bit of fun. As online games go, it’s pretty good, and “free” is a nice subscription price.

    I have to add that you really haven’t experienced this game until you join in some of the holiday events. You definetely have to catch the arrival fo the Mad King at Halloween, and the Wintersday festival at New Year’s. ArenaNet goes all out in putting together these community events, and they are a lot of fun. Hope to see you in the snowball arenas this December!

  14. Karl says:

    Oh yeah, even if you don’t keep up GW in general, you totally have to drop in over the winter holidays and check out the snowball arena, it’s great fun :)

  15. Poet says:

    Shamus, in regards to hating removing the ability to farm lower levels for exp and phat l00ts, may I suggest you look at it from a slightly different viewpoint?
    Imagine yourself as a newb, level 1 walking around with a sword and some cheap lego (or leather, or whatever) armor. You wander into a forest, ready to get your groove on and kill some creatures who’s stats make them look like townsfolk in fantasy movies. These things exist only for you to kill them.
    You arrive in the forest, and there’s a few level 5 people hanging out. This doesn’t seem so bad, except they’re farming. And because they’re level 5, they’re farming at a rate faster than you can deal with combat normally. In the time it takes you to finish a single battle, they’ve plowed through three or four creatures. In less than ten minutes, the forest is empty of life except for you (still level 1 because there’s nothing else to kill), and a bunch of level 5 jackasses who would rather hang out in the kiddy pool, even though they are comparatively Olympic class swimmers.

  16. Dev Null says:

    But most free MMO's (or buy and play for free) tend to be spam and idiot filled in my experience.

    Don’t kid yourself mate; the ones you pay for get pretty ugly too. I’m getting me a t-shirt with “/ignore” on it.

  17. Gary says:

    Shamus, I totally understand about the henchmen. They are morons, but sometimes necessary morons. You can sort-of control them with the green flag under the map in the upper right, giving them a rally point far from foes. You can also use them to distract foes while you try to run to the next area or town. Running from place to place, dodging enemies is something I enjoy doing in Guild Wars. It is a shame they take xp and gold but like has been said befor, that is only to make soloing and group combat more even.

    I agree that it is a bit annoying about the xp cap on weak creatures. But once you are level 20 it doesn’t really matter, you’ll be fighting lots of stuff and be free to go wherever you like. :)

  18. João says:

    I’ve played WoW, City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa, EVE and I’m now playing Age of Conan. Age of Conan is in many ways still polishing up: getting rid of a few bugs and balancing the classes. The latter is way more annoying than the former… balancing is tricky even with no PVP. The way death is handled in AoC? simple: return to the nearest “spawn” point (specific points in the map where you can rez) or another spawn point you’ve discovered at your choice, plus you get a penalty of -2 to defense and attack power (my attack power is at something like 80 or so and I’m level 25, so no biggie). This penalty is cumulative, but only lasts 30 minutes or until you go back to the place you died at and click the gravestone marking your toon’s passing. And that’s it.

    One thing I’m enjoying about AoC is the combat mechanics… instead of clicking “attack” as in WoW and most others, you have to constantly decide which of three directions to attack your foe from (left, right, up/middle), as their defense shifts (this is shown by three “brackets” that stack left, right or up of the mob). Also most of your special attacks require you to perform a combo, shown on screen and which can be a single attack or a sequence of attacks (it’s always the same combo for each attack, it’s only there to help you). For example, for me to execute an attack that will damage the foe’s armor, I have to select that combo, then attack right then attack up/middle and my foe will get a 50% penalty to their defense rating (if I hit…). This keeps combat more interesting for me.

    Ah, also in Conan, if you’re 6 levels higher than the mobs they won’t attack you, and they’ll still be worth 1 XP (at least so far, don’t know if this keeps when the gap is bigger, like 40 levels difference). AoC levels go up to 80 for now, so you DO notice diferences in fighting mobs after levelling just once or twice.

    Another thing you’d probably enjoy: the first 20 or so levels of AoC you spend in a pirate harbor city that has what is essencially a single-player mode that varies according to your archetype (fighter, rogue, mage, priest): you can go to the tavern and talk to a few NPCs and choose to “play at night” to “pursue your destiny”, which is in effect a single-player campaign: no other players are around. Going to the same NPCs at the tavern and choosing to “play with others like me” will get you back to daytime and the multiplayer quests. also in this area all the quest givers, all the NPC’s have voices and these are quite good in my opinion. Once you leave this area the quest givers become mute, and you only get text and gestures from them, but even the gestures are apropriate: sometimes they will point in the correct direction when they give you a quest, or shrug, cry, etc. overall, the game is very well produced.

    It IS a bit heavy, graphics wise, but if I remember correctly it alt-tabs gracefully. You can also play it in a window instead of full-screen (as with WoW, which was quite good like that).

    ok, enough drooling about AoC, back to your regularly scheduled twenty-sided action :-D

    Drop me a line if you play AoC in Ymir server: my barbarian’s name is Culcander.

  19. Eric C says:

    Thanks for the in-depth impressions. I was considering having a go at Guild Wars, but since it doesn’t sound very solo-friendly, I think I can safely pass on it now.

  20. ngthagg says:

    I’ll be interested to see what your opinion of the death penalty is later on in the game. If you’re level 11 right now, the difficulty should be stepping up a bit. Fighting the Charr north of the wall requires careful planning. It’s like fighting the Grawl, except they’re a lot closer to your own level.

    Here’s an example from some playing I did just now. I’m trying to complete a quest which requires me to kill a named monster. It’s one of only two quests I have in my current town, and the other one requires me to go even further into the zone.

    It took me 17 minutes to fight my way to the particular monster. I probably could have done it in 15 if I hadn’t been sloppy near the beginning. This named monster is particularly tough, mostly due to his minions which like to knock my entire party over. I get wiped out pretty quickly. Now I’m faced with two choices: I can try again, at -15% health. That’s the equivalent of being 2 levels behind in hp. (And I don’t want to do the calculations, but I suspect the mana penalty will slow down my skill use enough to offset the other benefits of leveling.) Perhaps if I had focused on taking down the guys minions, I might be able to win a war of attrition this way. My other option is to reset to town, look at tweaking my skills a bit, spend 15 minutes to get to the boss, and have another go.

    The second option usually means I’m quitting. The only way I’ll do something over again immediately is if there is some reward waiting. I’ll do it for missions, for example, because I’m interested in advancing the story. But for 1000 xp? No thanks.

    The first option works okay along with the attrition strategy I mentioned, but it results in you relying heavily on your henchmen to do the work for you. Whether or not this is appealing depends on the player, but it does mean that the game is playing itself, rather than you.

    I’m really glad that you reviewed HGL and now GW. Since I’ve played both, it’s been a good chance for me to analyze why I enjoy the games I do. For example, I have a really good grasp on why I play as much WoW as I do: I never end a session angry or frustrated with the game.

    When faced with the options above in GW, that’s usually the result. When faced with the quirks and bugs of HGL, that’s usually the result. But with WoW, it’s essentially aggravation free.

  21. Zukhramm says:

    Typing the names? Here comes a tip!

    Click the name in the chat, and you’ll be moved to the whisper window, there you can copy the name.

    Flagging your henchmen (flag is under the mini map), can help you with stopping them from interfering, and pressing ctrl+shift+space will send them in without you. Useful.

    As for soloing and developers forcing a certain playstyle on you. Why can’t I melee through the game anywhere are simple as I can shoot in most FPSes? The developers are forcing me to shoot. Of course, varity is allways nice, but most developers design ONE game.

  22. Alexis says:

    GW has turn-based combat? Srsly?

    JRPGs have encounters, but the bright line between is kinda annoying.

    How would you feel if you were told you got normal XP for playing with 3 henchmen, but double if you only used 1 and FOUR TIMES as much if you soloed?
    If the penalty didn’t exist, soloing with henchman would be better XP than grouping with real people, which while it can be great fun, has ‘startup costs’. Like meeting non-jerks. Soloing has to be less efficient than grouping, or no one would ever group.

    Turn off general chat, trade chat and all other forms of public chat. Now. Think of the children, who you would otherwise consume after the ceaseless blabber drives you insane, your bloated corpse buried by your wailing wife decaying into the dark earth only to rise as a scaly monstrosity of seeping wounds, hair gel and nightmare.

    Turn public chat off. Really. The true purpose of guilds is to offer a channel to eavesdrop and idly chat upon, without becoming some kind of nu-wave old god.

    And now wowfanboi170942 will sing its praises… feel free to skip.

    WoW is easy to solo. There’s a certain reward for being able to deal with groups, in that sometimes it’s inescapable and other times you have to tread very carefully to avoid it.

    Pulling more than one group is usually a dumb thing to do, therefore not to be rewarded. Besides, the only reason to pull multiple mobs is to AOE them, so you’d already be earning XP faster – additional incentives would unfairly advantage AOE classes.

    As commented above, low-level mobs will try their very best not to see you. They stop giving XP when they’re around -15% of your level, so about 10 levels at L70. Grey (0 XP) mobs are truly trivial, in the vast majority of cases.

    Personally I get something of a kick out of ogres covering their eyes, shouting “LALALA! I CAN’T SEE YOU!” until you slap them in the face.

  23. Zukhramm says:

    “Thanks for the in-depth impressions. I was considering having a go at Guild Wars, but since it doesn't sound very solo-friendly, I think I can safely pass on it now.”

    That depends on what you consider solo-friendly. You can play alone, but not solo. You’ll allways have to have a full group.

    I did have a problem with henchmen levels in Prophecies, not in Factions or Nightfall though.

    And XP is no problem with henchmen as all leveling XP comes from missions and quests, really.

    And I usually don’t bother with most quests either, just the main ones and some others, then the missions.

  24. ngthagg says:

    A couple of other things:

    Guild Wars is called an MMO, not because it is actually massively multiplayer, but because it plays like other MMOs. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have another term for the genre, since the massive part isn’t essential.

    WoW death can be handled in two ways: you can run back to your corpse and come back to life, or you can rez at a spirit healer away from where you died.

    The first option costs you a bit of time (depending on how far you have to run to your corpse), and a bit of money because your equipment gets dinged a bit. If you do it enough, I suppose you could be forced to head back to town because you have inoperable equipment, but it would take a lot of dying.

    The second option imposes resurrection sickness (big penalties to health, mana, and stats), which basically make you unable to do any combat for 10 minutes. It also rings up a huge bill for repair costs. This is the option you use if you just want to get back to an inn and quit.

  25. Brian says:

    Aaah, it’s good to know that when it comes to NPC henchmen, my Mastermind’s still on top.

    I absolutely love City of Villain’s handling of NPC pets: there are Controller/Dominator Pets, which are powerful but mindless elemental creatures that attack everything within reach, and there are Mastermind Henchmen, fun little minions flavored to your theme (ninjas, zombies, robots, etc.) which you can directly give orders to.

    Sure, there are only three States (aggressive, defensive, and passive) and three Commands (attack my target, follow me, go to location), but I’ve found that I’ve never had to tell them anything else. Bind one key to Aggressive Go To for your melee pets, one key to Aggressive Attack My Target for your ranged pets, and one key to Defensive Follow Me for everyone, and you’re good to go!

    Heck, with Masterminds you *want* your henchmen to aggro enemies: you barely have any attacks or defenses by yourself! Like any comic book puppetmaster, you’ve got better things to do than fight your own battles- like, say, buffing and healing your teammates. Besides, your henchmen are really quite powerful as a team, and each “flavor” of minion has its own fun gimmick (ninjas stun and trip enemies, robots fire lasers that knock opponents back, mercenaries have the good sense to bring along a medic, etc.).

    Or, heck, if you really want to get in the fray just set all of your pets to Defensive Follow; they’ll take a portion of the damage you take as long as they’re close, essentially turning them into bodyguards. Congrats, you’ve just septupled your health bar!

  26. Zukhramm says:

    I still call Guild Wars an MMO, even though it’s all instanced, things such as prices are still affect by the whole playerbase.

    And something else I’d like to add is that the game is quite boring when alone, even only with two players and henchmen it’s a lot more fun. At least that’s the way it is for me. But it seems from the earlier post that you didn’t really want to play with people yet?

  27. Ron says:

    I have played Masterminds in CoV and used Heroes in GW. I would have to say GW gives you more control over NPCs.

  28. bargamer says:

    It’s true: Henchmen are pretty retarded. Heroes are indeed better. Intelligent Guildmates are the best. And zero XP really doesn’t hurt me that much, I pretty much did all kinds of quests, and leveled up with ease. Factions is said to be the easiest to level up in, given how large the encounters are. ^^;

  29. I came from Everquest, and the loss of experience when you die was a huge thing. It is – or was – a fairly common thing for people to be unable to get past certain levels because they just kept dying. Of course, leveling up purely by grinding mobs didn’t help. There was a certain amount of learning curve forced on players due to this that lacks in World of Warcraft, my current game.

    In WoW, the death penalty is just loss of durability to ones items. Its convenient, I don’t have to worry about dying so often, it gets costly, but with dailies I have gold coming out of my ears.

    In all honesty, I prefer EQ’s death penalty. If a person can’t hack it at level 40 to get past that level, if they can’t learn how to protect themselves and operate in a group, they don’t deserve to be level 70. In WoW getting to 70 is so easy that it can be done without every having worked in a group or properly learned how to use ones abilities. Earning the experience is as easy as turning in quests, and the quests can easily be done when the character is over leveled for it. No loss to experience upon death means they can just keep at it until they finish it (the term zerging comes to mind), rather than learning how to do it properly.

    So the big thing in WoW is the mass number of lvl 70 noobs who don’t know how to play their class, don’t know how to operate in a group, and make a bad name for all the rest of us that play a similar class. (yes I’m a hunter, not a huntard)

    As much as games should be fun and easy, there should be restrictions that keep people working with others of their own skill level. If they can’t get beyond that, I don’t want to have to deal with them.

  30. Ryan Speck says:

    I had a certain contempt for MMO’s and tried a few trials back in the day for a laugh until I came across Dark Age Of Camelot. That one actually kept me interested and entertained for about 2 years.

    As for most good games, once you outpace a mob, it shouldn’t aggro to you. There’s rare exceptions, but it’s generally not in the best interest of anyone if running through a bunch of low-level crap ends up with you pulling a train of crap.

    Of course, there’s also the beloved neutral mobs that don’t aggro even when you’re killing their friends… Usually wildlife as opposed to sentients, but you can farm all day with less danger.

    From my own experience, DAoC handled summoned creatures better than your minions. I could in fact, with one of my characters, summon a bear or lynx, send them out to attack something, click a button at just the right time, and have it turn and run back to me, pulling just the one mob without aggroing anything else and then we could double-team it easily.

  31. Heather says:

    Just checking in. All is well, hanging out, very sleepy–another good reason for me not to drive today. I guess the electric finally came back on. Not actually responding to the article–though I read it, because there is already way too much responding going on.;P Love you. Praying things are going well with you and the kids.

  32. Kylroy says:

    Okay, gripes I noticed in your review:

    Can’t solo without idiot henchmen. Worthless opponents still difficult. Need auction system to cut down on selling chat.

    World of Warcraft has all three of these covered. (There’s still idiot trade chat, but I imagine it’d be worse without the Auction House.) Not that you’d necessarily enjoy WoW more, but there’d at least be OTHER problems hampering your enjoyment.

  33. Tichfield says:

    I’ll chime in with the others who have mentioned City of Heroes/City of Villains. That MMO has a lot of flaws, but it also does a lot of things right:

    1. Levels: low-level enemies won’t bother you, and may in fact *run away* from you when they see you. If you want to hop through a much higher-level area, you can become a temporary ‘sidekick’ to a higher-level player, boosting your level to one below theirs as long as you’re within 200 yards or so of them. If for whatever reason you WANT low-levels to be a threat to you, there are several ways of temporarily reducing your effective level on purpose.

    2. Travel: In Guild Wars, you walk. In CoX, superspeed, teleportation, flight and Hulk-style superleaping are all options. Pretty much at will.

    3. Death: In meta-game terms, you don’t die – you’re teleported to a hospital shortly before death. It’s assumed you registered or were registered with the health authority shortly after character creation. The only ‘penalty’ is ‘xp debt’ – you’ll earn xp at half the normal level until it’s paid off, but this is minimal: it usually takes a few minutes of normal play, at most. Some people (not many, granted) actually get themselves in debt on PURPOSE, because you still earn currency from defeated foes at the same rate, and so you can be wealthier at a given level than you would otherwise be, by staying in debt. Also, you get neat titles you can display below your character name (‘Undying’, ‘Unwavering’, etc.) by paying off enough debt. All characters eventually have access to an optional ‘resurrect other’ power, and many have optional self-resurrection powers, which are usually on a four-minute timer.

    4. Pets: Someone else covered it. Dumb pets for people who have plenty of crowd control, fine-tuned pets for classes all about pets. Not that pets are as crucial as in Guild Wars. The looking-for-group system is fantastic, and finding a group you want to play a few missions with is EASY. Also, EVERY player is over-powered. They’re superheroes/supervillains, after all. You’re more than a match for multiple opponents your level, typically wiping the floor with them. Certain classes (‘archetypes’) can wade into a room full of extra-tough badies and barely take a scratch, provided they pay attention. Soloing is therefore very viable. Missions scale to the number of people in the group and have adjustable difficulty, so players who want a challenge typically group with others for maximum carnage.

  34. Foes which are worthless should at least be easy and fun to nuke.

    Or should ignore you. Which is what they do in many games.

    In WoW your aggro radius depends on the level differential. An interesting concept.

  35. DocTwisted says:

    I’m a bit surprised you didn’t mention my biggest gripe when I was new player: the map (and mini-map) is tough to read, and navigating can become a chore in missions if they’re not giving you the helpful green arrow.

    Henchmen are morons. The flag command can help a little at times, but I find it rather slow and clunky. Heroes are better because you can customize them, but you need NightFall to get them. What skills you have (and how you use them in battle) really is more important than what level you are… also the quality of your equipment plays a role. When’s the last time you upgraded your armor? Are you using expert salvage kits to grab the special “runes” and other enhancements for your equipment?

  36. Spam Vader says:

    Guild Wars, in my mind, is made to encourage group playing. The henchmen are there to replace the people that you might have joined up with if you had gotten over yourself and joined a group(Some of my best stories and experiences come from unplanned groups). Of course it doesn’t work too well for soloing. And that’s one of the reasons that I picked it up: I don’t really want to solo, this is a multiplayer game, for crying out loud!

  37. ThaneofFife says:

    I’ve got to give the plug to WoW again here–death only yields item damage if you go retrieve your corpse. If you don’t want to do that, you take a 75% debuff for up to ten minutes (less if you’re below level 20). In practice, this isn’t onerous at all.

    As far as trade goes, there’s an auction house where you can items for up to 48hrs–weekends can make you a lot of gold. There’s a trade channel as well, where people usually try to get specially-made items, enchants (item enhancements that can’t be sold on the auction house), or bulk items at a discount (the discount is because the auction house charges a refundable listing fee and a 5% cut of the sale price).

    In general it all works pretty well, except when the middle-schoolers get on and start being stupid, which only happens occasionally on my server.

    If anyone wants to visit, I’m on Nordrassil/Alliance–Kalkin and Archindar are my mains

  38. Factoid says:

    Shamus…Any chance of getting a run-down on the basic premise of the game before you dig into the specifics of how it sucks and where it could be better (you know…the good stuff we come here to read)? I get that it’s a fantasy MMO with pretty avatars and doesn’t have a monthly fee…but I haven’t quite gathered what exactly the hook is or what makes this MMO any different than “World of Warhammer Quest Online”

    I sense there’s a catch here that puts a twist on the standard MMO concept, but don’t care to ever actually play the game to find out.

  39. Pembroke says:

    Wow, you were really selling me on the game (those screenshots are beautiful!) until you mentioned the experience troubles. It reminds me of FFXI–you couldn’t kill anything worthwhile by yourself, and even then the things you had to kill were considered weak for your level (something called “A little bit challenging” would kick your ass). I hated that idea–forced grouping is not at all my idea of fun.

    So… Thanks, but I’ll stick to World of Warcraft. Mobs that are green or gray to you (little to no exp) ignore you unless you run right through them. Also, it scales well–a gray mob will be a piece of cake for any solo character.

  40. Nicholas says:

    Many others have mentioned it, but I’d like to chime in on the side of WoW at this juncture – I don’t think your gripes about GW apply to WoW as far as I can see.

    @ leopardeternal:
    Yes, there are lvl 70s running around who still have to learn how to group properly, but I find that far preferable to a system where we couldn’t level easily soloable. Besides, that’s what guilds are for in WoW – getting you to run instances with the proven non-idiots.

    For the Horde,
    Nick

  41. Zukhramm says:

    Well, I don’t see the problem in not being able to solo, as you can still play alone. (Except for henchmen stupidity and their level, and the level is solved once you reach 20)

  42. Ferrous Buller says:

    If you really want to see a MMORPG with characters in fancy dress, check out Sword of the New World (aka Granado Espada). I can’t recommend actually playing it, but I love the ridiculous outfits. :-)

  43. Taellosse says:

    I have to agree with you about the zero XP for lower-level enemies, especially in Guild Wars. I can understand the concern about high-level farmers in true MMOs, but there’s NO reason for it in Guild Wars–you NEVER play with other PCs unless they’re in your own group–all the combat areas are instances, so there’s no competition for enemies at all. It’s one of the reasons why I lost interest in the game not too long after it came out. The other being that I need a bit more depth in my gaming than what amounted to a super-pretty Diablo-clone, which, when you take out any social aspects of an MMO (and I don’t generally game socially), is all any of them are.

  44. Blackbird71 says:

    Another point I should have made before is that in GW:

    Quests/Missions = XP
    Monsters = Loot

    Yes, you get XP for kills, but if you’re grinding monsters to level then you’re doing it wrong. The game is about the quests, you should always have one or two that you are working towards, if not more. The XP from quests and missions will get you much further in your pursuit of levels than killing the same mobs over and over ever will.

    @Poet
    Except that analogy doesn’t work in GW since all areas are instanced, there won’t be anyone else taking your kills.

    @Joà£o
    So what you’re saying is that the AoC combat system is a glorified Street Fighter? I’m glad you enjoy it, but that’s a bit un-RPG for my tastes.

    @Eric C
    Don’t kid yourself. I played GW almsot exclusively solo. I was in a guild, mainly for information and learning. I had a couple of RL friends I’d occasionally meet up with. But by and large, I spent my time soloing through the game, and having a great time at it. If you’re really concerned, get Nightfall first, it’s not an “expansion” in the typical sense, it’s a standalone campaign, and it introduced the best improvements to solo play (Heroes, etc.).

    @ngthagg
    The term is MORPG. As you said yourself, drop the “massive.”

  45. DaveMc says:

    I have to chime in with the others who have expressed a love of City of Heroes/Villains. I enjoy the heck out of that game. But I just love superheroes, so I’m probably biased. Everything Tichfield (#33) says is perfectly true, however.

    One thing, though: COH/COV is not for the ungregarious! The game is, I find, *much* more fun when you form teams, and you gain XP significantly faster that way, as well. There are many classes that are virtually incapable of playing solo, because they specialize in damage but are too weak to take a hit, or specialize in buffing/healing, etc. There are a couple of solo-friendly classes, but the rest pretty much demand teaming.

    After years of hearing about the near-universal ass-hattery of the online population, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the COH population. Maybe pretending to be superheroes makes people less likely to act like jerks? I also play on the European servers (it’s a short but strangely uninteresting story), so maybe that makes a difference. Still, I hardly ever have to boot annoying 13-year-olds off my team.

  46. Murphy says:

    LOTRO death (and I think you'd like LOTRO much more than GW) .. you're punted to the nearest gravestone. (You don't die in LOTRO lore, you just run out of morale and run away. Frodo didn't die after all ;) Your items take some damage and your HPs and Power are lessened for 10 minutes. May seem a bit harsh, but it prevents leap frogging. You CAN be rezzed by a party member or summoned back once you retreat to the gravestone if you have the relevant class(es) in your fellowship.

    The death penalty is even less painful than that. It gives you a dread debuff (the game keeps track of how your character is feeling on a hope/dread axis, and the more you feel one way the better your health/healing/damage/etc is. Running around the Shire, you’re actually better at killing things than in the middle of the Barrowdowns, because your HP is morale and you aren’t as nervous running around when you can hear hobbits whistling).

    So you get this dread debuff. So, if you’re in a place that gives you hope, you don’t even notice it, and if you’re partying with a bard, they have a number of ways to remove dread as well. Which leaves you only with item damage.

  47. Kristin says:

    I love Guild Wars, but is has MAJOR issues. Henchmen, particularly Stefan and Little Thom, are Too Stupid To Live.

    I like the pretty men though…

  48. Sarah says:

    I don’t know much about guild wars, but in WoW, if an enemy is more than a few levels below you, they stop attacking quite so much. You get a good margin between, and you literally have to step on their face and inform them of an unsavory opinion you may have about their mother before they’ll get stupid enough to chase you around.

  49. Ron says:

    @Blackbird71

    Thank you. You explained it perfectly.

    And really. The only reason to join a Guild is for the chat fuction while in a instance. That would be my biggest grip about GW. Is the lack of creating Chat Groups to stay in touch with friends and getting help from other players.

    I can’t wait to see what GW2 will bring. The game is getting close to end of life. I think of review of this game with out the Nightfall and GW:EN would be lacking.

  50. Pederson says:

    GW’s XP penalty doesn’t work very well to prevent farming, anyway, because the people who are out there farming that you wish to discourage are bots farming gold, not experience. The only thing it really accomplishes is to make it difficult to achieve the Legendary Defender of Ascalon or Survivor titles.

    Woo.

    Heroes are indeed a major improvement over henchmen, but you can only cart around three of them, so you’ll be filling the rest of your party up with henchies or random players. (Personal experience: random players will be necessary in exactly one mission across all four chapters. Take the henchmen: they’re stupid, but at least they’re consistent and can be planned around.)

    I also played RFO for a while around the start of the year. RFO has an automated auction house *and* a trade channel, and the main chat channels were still usually full of spam. (Also, don’t play RFO. It’s a total grindfest, with farming and other BS, and the added advantage that you will get regularly ganked by players from opposing factions.)

    On the whole, I really *like* Guild Wars, but it’s been quite a while since I played, having completed the storylines for all four chapters. The end-game content isn’t bad, but I don’t find it especially compelling, all the same.

  51. Factoid says:

    I think I’m starting to understand the premise of guild wars a little.

    Am I right in saying it’s not really an “MMO” but really more of an RPG that has a story/plot and you’re sort of playing through it as an instance on a server with the ability to connect with other players rather than just playing solo on your own PC?

    If that’s true is there a genuine beginning and end to the game, unlike most MMOs which might have some content, but are really more about the social aspects, PVP, grinding, loot collecting, etc…

    That sounds more appealing, but at the same time I’m forced to ask why I need to connect to a server to play a single-player game?

  52. Trevor says:

    Not relevant to your post, but look at this!

    http://blog.wired.com/geekdad/2008/06/what-version-of.html

    2000 year old Roman d20!

  53. Noumenon says:

    I get that it's a fantasy MMO with pretty avatars and doesn't have a monthly fee…but I haven't quite gathered what exactly the hook is or what makes this MMO any different than “World of Warhammer Quest Online”

    I read the whole review under the impression this was an expansion for WoW. I was confused by all the talk about level 20.

  54. Derek K says:

    CoH massively rewards light RP. Being a bit silly, and in character, even if it’s simply something like “Have at you, foul villians!” makes the game far more entertaining, and gets you put on friends lists quick.

    And Masterminds are in fact the ultimate pet class. You can bind a key to each group, one to each minion, one to each stance, and one to each command. People have entire bind files to set control, with 30 or so combinations. So yeah, it’s a bit more than GW has. ;) Telling your two mid level mercs to move behind the big guy and fire, sending the big guy in to the middle, and ordering the two peons to guard you while the medic heals the middle rank and you debuff the foes is pretty involved….

    And Grande Espana (sp?) is, indeed, the absolute best costumes ever. I made one of every class and gender, to see all the outfits. Man, they were freakin’ awesome.

  55. Kennet says:

    Factoid: You are right up to a point but Guild Wars is not a single player game. It is a multiplayer RPG with a story, that is also about the social aspects, loot collecting, grinding and PVP ;)

    I don’t think henchmen were originally designed to allow players to play alone. I think they were designed to fill out that single spot that you couldn’t find a real player to fill, nothing more. It wasnt until later that they realized that a lot of people liked to play alone and they tried to make it easier/better/more fun by adding Heroes and NPC controls.

  56. @ Nick

    I played EQ as a necromancer, maybe I’ve got a bias, but soloing has never been a problem for me. I’ve only ever grouped for the social aspect of things. EQ’s system that was admittedly much harder for the soloer helped enforce community by getting people to work together, something I’ve felt WoW really lacks.

    Don’t get me wrong, WoW is a much preferable game. I’ve got some disappointments and I miss things from EQ, but I’m happy where I am now.

  57. khorboth says:

    @DaveMc: I have to disagree about CoX being unfriendly to solo play. I’ve played most archetypes into the mid thirtys and don’t see that slowing down. Sure, there are some builds that only work solo, but they’re very easy to avoid if you try. In fact, the only archetype where I’ve run into a brick wall with leveling is the scrapper.

    If we’re lucky, when Shamus is done with GuildWars, he’ll make a post where we can all argue about which game he should play next. Then all the pumping up of various games will amount to something.

  58. Handy Guild Wars Tip O’ The Day:

    When in a town or communal area, hold down your Alt key to see all of the NPCs in that area. Find the one you want and then double-click on their name. Your character will automatically path to that NPC. And he won’t even get stuck on anything.

    Neat, huh?

  59. Jeffrey says:

    Actually, demos exist… sort of. In the retail versions, there are little promo booklets that have 14(?)-day access codes that you can share with other people. I believe you could even use them yourself to try out campaigns you may not own. I think the booklet even had similar demo codes for other NCSoft games (market targeting at its finest).

    Demos for the general public I’m not so sure of. In any case, I don’t think Guild Wars was meant to be a game you married really, since the campaigns definitely begin and end. Even “high-end” gear are just prettier versions of standarized max equipment. Maybe Guild Wars is the MMO mistress of the online world…

  60. lplimac says:

    I currently play both CoH/CoV and LotR: Online. As was touched on with CoX being in a team is where it’s at. I’ve been playing with the same group of friends for over two years in two optimized teams (one a villain group based on buffs, one a Hero group based on control and speed for those that play) and it is much fun.

    I’m in a medium sized Kinship (an in game guild) in LotR which is great for support but you can play most of the game solo. If a creature is gray (about -6 levels) to you it ignores you unless you attack (or you’re in certain instances). No XP, but you don’t have to fight but they still count towards deeds (a way in game to boost stats). You do need a team (called Fellowships for some reason ;) ) for some of the quests, including important story line quests, but you don’t have to follow the story if you don’t want.
    When defeated in LotR you fall to the ground and can’t do anything (except loot rolls and chat) but will still get experience/reputation. You can be restored in combat or once the combat is over by any one of three classes so unless your Fellow is wiped out you don’t have to retreat much. If raised by a player only hit is to equipment, if you retreat you get the dread described above.
    I’ve noticed that a lot of the players are older farts like me experienced MMO players and don’t mind helping new players… well the newbies that listen anyway. :D
    I have trial accounts available for both games for the cost of a (large) download if anyones interested

  61. Aelyn says:

    Man… Every time I hear people complain about the current generation of MMO’s I just chuckle. In EQ, the accepted strategy for breaking into Plane of Fear was to run your entire guild in. Everyone would run to the wall and pray that a rezzer successfully got camped out before a mob slaughtered them. A monk would feign death, and if it all worked you spent the next hour rezzing everyone so you could raid the zone with your guild.

    If it didn’t work you sent a tell to a bigger, more powerful guild and prayed they had the time to come dig you out of that hole. If that didn’t work? Well, it had to eventually. All your stuff was on your corpse and if you didn’t get your corpse it was all gone. Poof.

    Those were the days… Talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, EQ had it in spades.

  62. Jeff says:

    Curse you Shamus, now you’ve made me go out and buy Nightfall. Impulse buy.

    I haven’t actually opened it up, but one of the access keys it gives is a trial for Nightfall for those who have the original already – ie you, currently. If I can send you a message privately I’ll toss it over.

    I never knew Nightfall only has a trial for Prophacy (original) and Factions either, I always thought you could access the main game from the expansions. Hrumph.

  63. Cineris says:

    The key to playing with Henchmen/Heroes is understanding how to control them. I don’t think there’s a tutorial on this in Prophecies, but there is in Nightfall. The main thing is, use the flag to control where your Henchmen/Heroes gather, and understand that when you select an enemy and attack it, it also issues an invisible “attack” order to the henchmen.

    Lets say, for example, that you see a group of 4 Grawl, two warriors, a ranger, and some kind of shaman. The highest priority target here is the shaman, so you want to have your henchmen target their shaman first and take him out so he can’t heal the others. But lets say you’ve also got a powerful anti-melee debuff that you want to put on the enemy fighters so that they hurt themselves throughout the fight (ex. Empathy, Spiteful Spirit). If you cast your spell on the enemy warriors, your henchmen will run up and attack the enemy warriors. The right thing to do is to cast at the enemy warriors, then immediately select (tab) the enemy shaman and press spacebar (issues the order to attack). Your henchmen should go after the enemy shaman instead of getting caught up with the enemy’s meatshields.

    The henchmen really aren’t that bad once you get to know them. Sure, they’ll never be too smart about aggro, but then neither are people at times. In battle, they’re quite effective. The only disadvantage to the henchmen is their skill selection is often subpar compared to a player – Which is where Heroes come in.

  64. Ron says:

    Shamus,

    Take Jeff on the offer. It will change the way you are playing the game dramatically..

    And Jeff, report back on your experince with Nightfall.

  65. Joshua says:

    “That LOTR “death” sounds interesting. Do they actually play it out like a non-death, e.g. your character actually runs away from the beastie? Sounds neat in a story-telling kind of sense and is no less abstract to me than dying al lthe time.

    I will need to check this game out I think.”

    No, your character just slumps to the ground, “defeated”. You can be revived by someone using a successful morale effect like a Minstrel’s special song, or a Captain’s inspiring shout. However, this whole concept does get a bit silly when you are “defeated” by falling off a cliff or something. I’d *love* to see how a minstrel can get you to walk off falling 500 feet.

    And yes, grey creatures don’t just have a reduced aggro radius, they will full out ignore you unless you are in an instance(ergo, you *want* to be there engaging them and aren’t just passing through) or actively attack them or a nearby buddy.

    As far as Guild Wars, the 100% instances sound neat, but I found in practice that the idea tends to discourage logical grouping. In other MMOs or similar games I’ve played, 95% of the people I’ve grouped with(other than ones I already knew) were people I encountered adventuring in the same areas I was. In Guild Wars, you can only group up in the safe “town” areas, which is a bit more forced.

  66. Cineris says:

    Addendum to my previous post, which may be more relevant to the stage of the game you’re in.

    If the henchmen are being too aggressive, another “invisible” order is issued to henchmen when you mouse-click to move (I am not totally sure if this happens when you use WASD to move, but I suspect not). So if you run up to an enemy, fireball him, and then turn around and mouse-click in the other direction to begin running away — Your henchmen should too.

    Of course, using the flag is better for this situation anyway, but it’s kind of important to know that mouse-click movement may* cause your henchmen to lose focus on who they were attacking in a fight.

    *They seem more likely to back off if they are on the outskirts of the aggro radius than if they’re up in hand to hand. Also, if you’re hit while running away you do take increased damage, so sometimes trying to strategically back off is a better option.

  67. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    I’ve played my share of MMOs in my time. I tend to be more social than combative, and I loathe PvP.

    In UO, the original MMO, the penalty for death is that your corpse drops to the ground with EVERYTHING you were carrying, and anybody at all is free to come by and take what they like. (This has changed somewhat over the years; now you can have certain items tagged as “nodrop” for a large fee, or is it a veteran reward? I honestly don’t remember, it’s been so long).

    Naturally, this lead to there being the greatest possibly reason for PvP: to kill someone, and take his stuff. In UO, you absoloutely need a guild if you’re going to survive in Felucca. Also, you can be attacked literally anywhere. Granted some places are safer than others (if you get attacked in a city and any NPCs see it, they will call the Guards, who will insta-kill your assailant. Even if you get shanked while alone, you can type “guards” yourself (or more likely hit your guards macro) and insta-shank your assailant. So in a town, all you have to worry about is being killed in one hit while no NPCs are around. Or members of opposing guilds.)

    EQ, I didn’t play long enough to really give a good commentary about.

    DDO… Eh. It wasn’t really D&D, in my opinion. And whoever designed it deserves to wind up bankrupt and crying.

    As for the one I liked most, Star Wars Galaxies. If you’re of the mind to do so, you can play an Entertainer (hint: nearly naked Twi’lek is a prerequisite – JK), and auto-macro-grind your way to level 99 in the space of going to sleep and waking up (Pray you don’t have an internet interruption. :P) You’ll be shit in a fight, of course, compared to a Jedi Knight or a soldier, but if you find a friendly guild (or clan or whatever they’re called, I forgot) that won’t matter, you can go into the thick with your homies all the same. If nothing else, you add comic relief, and if you have a good weapon, you can still add minor but potentially-deciding shots to a firefight. With good armor (yes, you can wear good armor, too) your survivability’s not all that bad, you can take some hits before death. And lower-level enemies you can still mow down, so you can still be a hero of the rebellion (or of the Empire) if you want to be.

    The good part about SWG is that it does not restrict who you can be and be a pilot. In space, all classes are equal, my level 99 Entertainer, assuming the same starfighter (I went ‘undercover’ in the Empire to do most of one mission and get access to the Eta-2 Actis,) and equipment for same, is fully the equal of a level-99 Jedi Master or Sith Lord.

    Not that there’s not stuff to complain about in SWG. The graphics are woefully dated and desperately need an upgrade. The interface can at times frustrate you, but not nearly as much as the limits on items within your house will (and if you’re like me, you can easily devote a month or two to decorating your home with all the neat stuff you can find or buy or quest for). As an entertainer, until you become a starfighter jock, your primary means of income is dancing or playing music in the cantina in Mos Eisley (and ONLY Mos Eisley – it’s like the only cantina anyone ANYWHERE ever visits) to apply “build-a-buffs” to the fighting classes of characters. Unfortunately, there’s so many Ents that you can’t command a price at all – you’re left entirely at the whims of the assholes deciding to /tip you or not. Even mentioning in chat that the only way Ents make money is from donations from fighting classes like you is a good way to get your current ‘flock’ to split to another Ent.

    Of them all, Shamus, I think you might like SWG the most. I only quit because I was having such crippling internet problems (couldn’t stay connected for more than 20 minutes at a time) that I just got frustrated. I was also depressed after having been absoloutely pwned by someone with more money than God and more patience than Job, who’d made a ship that was ridiculously tricked out to the point he literally took on five rebel Starfighter Aces (including myself) and won.

  68. DaveMc says:

    @khorboth wrote: “I have to disagree about CoX being unfriendly to solo play. I've played most archetypes into the mid thirtys and don't see that slowing down. Sure, there are some builds that only work solo, but they're very easy to avoid if you try.”

    True, I guess it can be done if you’re good enough at it. I just always feel like I’m swimming upstream when playing solo: it’s possible, but it doesn’t feel like the natural way to play the game. (Also, I had a pure healer whose only chance of apprehending villains was if they felt so guilty after crushing her skull that they turned themselves in to the authorities.)

    To try to make this more generally interesting: How are other people’s favourite games when it comes to soloing? I know that one of the big factors that’s always cited in WoW’s success is how solo-friendly it is — how does it pull that off? When people talk about it, I hear them describing the same kinds of specialists I recognize from City of Heroes: healers, buffers, tanks, AoE attackers, and so forth. But somehow, each of those can always function perfectly well on their own rather than being one element in a party? Discuss.

  69. Tuck says:

    I can’t remember if this works without heroes from Nightfall, but Ctrl+Space should set the target for your henchmen and heroes. So you can order them to kill the priority target. The lack of hints for key combinations and things like that was irritating.

    The most important thing though is to get your skills working right! Which skills you have equipped is the real factor that determines how well you do at any level really. It’s quite possible for a level 20 with the wrong skills to die to level 5/6s.

    You’ll also find that some enemies are really very nasty to your particular class while others aren’t that dangerous. The way classes are balanced against each other (mesmer > warrior > ranger > mesmer sort of thing, though it really depends on skills) is very important.

    And yes…the reason henchmen are so bad is because it’s a multiplayer game! Even in Nightfall there are some missions which are incredibly difficult without other players. :P

  70. Jabor says:

    Skipped over a lot of the comments, so apologies if this has already been pointed out, but running areas with henchmen is significantly different to running them with other players – while henchmen are weaker in individual power-level terms than players should be, if used correctly the group can still be just as strong.

    When running with henchmen, you don’t want to be fighting alongside them. That’s diminishing their advantages and emphasizing their disadvantages compared to players. What you want to be doing is *leading* them. Make liberal use of the “focus on my target” feature. Tell them to take down the important targets first, and whenever that dies, have them focus on the next target. Get your henchmen to do the work, while you play support.

    Alternatively, take a note of the fact that this is an MMO, and grab some other players.

  71. Jeffrey says:

    Has truly no one mentioned target calling in detail?

    Tutorial time!

    Ctrl+<almost anything> will declare your action to the rest of the party. Clicking your health or energy declares its current and maximum values. (If a monk, declare your low energy-ness to the party leader as necessary.) Clicking your experience bar declares your progress percentage to the next level/skill point. Ctrl+# will declare your usage of a skill. Ctrl+npc will declare that you are talking to the NPC. This is mostly to let humans know what/how you are doing.

    But notably, Ctrl+space and Ctrl+T are the most important declarations. These call your selected target for attack. (Use T if you are playing a squishy class. You would be calling without actually attacking and drawing initial aggro, i.e. enemy focus. Hench will immediately rush the enemy.)

    Heroes and hench alike are very good at obeying the calls; better than most random players I would say. Target calls remain until the target is killed or switched. You personally can attack a target other than the called target without dropping the call, useful if you need to pressure two foes at once (enemy has two healers perhaps).

    This can even be helpful in human parties. Pressing T will automatically target the called target. In these cases, no more than two people should be calling, usually one. This is probably more helpful when there is a disparity in skill level between players–more experienced players know which targets are best eliminated first–but is useful even against homogenous foes merely to focus the party’s fire to score a kill quickly.

    (To the non-caller, pressing T by itself will automatically target the called target.)

  72. Jeff says:

    Ick, I just saw the fine print (after firing the key at Shamus), the trial key can’t be applied to an existing account. Bogus.

  73. Uninverted says:

    This is buried really badly, but someone has to say “Repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a game, I should really just relax'” (Twang optional).

  74. Veylon says:

    There ought to be an Auction House or something to quell all those would-be merchants trying to WTB or WTS whatnot. Something like E-Bay. You put up your Eternal Blade of Gnome Management (+2/+3), a minimum acceptable, and a time limit and let Capitalism do it’s thing. If you want that weapon, you should be able to put up an offer. There could be a whole wanted pages. Just seems a whole lot more efficient than standing around yelling all the time.

  75. Cybron says:

    FFXI has an auction house as well as an automated ‘shop’ function for each player. All you do is put items from your inventory into a list and name a price. I think WoW has an Auction House too, but I’m not sure.

    I generally find MMOs intolerable because the designers always try to FORCE you to group (at least in the ones I’ve played). Grouping’s fine and all, but I frequently want to go and solo. However, when I try, the game suddenly kicks me in the nuts. For me, the inability to solo far outweighs whatever attractive qualities such games have.

  76. ngthagg says:

    DaveMC: I haven’t played every class in WoW, and I certainly haven’t leveled every class to 70, but here is why I like soloing so far:

    Lots of quests, and lots of places to do quests. If I ever find a particular quest is to challenging to do solo (or I don’t know the trick to do it properly), I drop it and never look back. I descibed above a situation in GW where I had only two quests in my quest log, which really restricted my playing options. With WoW I usually have a half dozen quests for the particular area I’m playing in, and there’s usually another area of the game designed for players of my level with quests waiting.

    Every class I’ve played so far has what I call “panic skills”. If things are going badly, I hit a panic skill and take off. This saves me a lot of deaths, which limits downtime.

    thottbot. WoW is mod friendly. Thottbot is a mod that records things like enemy kills, npc locations, item drops, etc. It saves me a ton of time wandering around. And the comments are good as well. I can usually find suggestions as to how to solo difficult content when I need it. I also use wowwiki.com, but it’s more for tactics and builds and less for specific quest advice.

    The Auction House lets me take advantage of one of the highlights of MMO play, a huge market to sell loot to, without actually having to talk to people. Likewise for buying loot, although I do that a lot less. (Veylon: WoW’s Auction house has the features you describe, but because the AH requires a deposit and takes a cut of the profits, people still do the WTB and WTS in trade chat.)

    The crafting system is dependent (mostly) on gathering raw materials, and that in turn is suited best for individual play. In multiplayer you either compete for raw materials, or are slowed down waiting for people to collect stuff. I find the pace of collecting fits nicely with the pace of my solo play.

    And finally, WoW has pretty minimal penalties for dying. It happens more often when soloing, but it’s a speed bump rather than a brake on playing, so it’s easy to shrug off and keep going.

  77. DKellis says:

    1) A note on player defeat in CoH/V: you get XP debt as described in Tichfield’s (#33) post, with the addition that after a certain (short, I think a couple of minutes) period of time, if you haven’t been revived yet, you stop receiving XP (from enemies the team defeats) until you are.

    This is because there are a few powers in the game which are very good buffs or attacks, but are based on needing a dead teammate to work with. For example, Vengeance works on the idea that the team is so incensed at their teammate falling that everyone still standing gets a substantial heal and buff to pretty much everything. Players being how we are, this means that it is possible to cart around a dead teammate and use his body for more or less a perma-buff, which unbalances plenty of encounters.

    I suspect that this is one of the cases of the devs not wanting players to stray from the Correct Path.

    2) Soloing in CoH/V: I’ve managed to solo six characters to the level cap of 50, over four archetypes (ie character classes), and by this I mean completely solo, no teaming for XP. (Side note: the game in CoH/V does not begin at 50. In fact, there’s not a lot to do at 50, although recently this has started to change.) The thing about soloability is that it really depends on how you build your character, which may not be intuitive from the power descriptions. Built one way, and the character becomes a soloing juggernaut; built another way, and they’re helpless without a team.

    Certain archetypes are more suitable in general for soloing than others, usually as a direct result of survivability. Actual damage dealt matters mostly depending on how patient one is.

    And there’s yet another factor to consider for soloability, in that there are certain high-ranking enemies in the game which are very difficult for the average solo player to take on. (In WoW terms, think “Elite”.) These tend to be the leaders of the villainous organizations (or heroic ones, for those playing CoV), and they start appearing in droves in the late 30s, and throughout the 40s. It is possible, even probable, that you’ll breeze through most of the mission, laying low all opposition in your wake, and then slam into a brick wall of a single super-tough enemy that your AoE damage is inefficient against. The devs have already kinda-sorta toned down the challenge of these Archvillains specifically for soloers, but often it isn’t enough. The solution for this is usually “get a team”.

    That, more than anything, determines ultimate soloability. All my characters were chosen and built with that exact problem in mind, focusing on high single-target damage and survivability against single tough opponents.

    Therefore, I cannot say that “all archetypes in CoH/V are soloable”. Yes, all of them can be built to handle the normal challenges of the game while solo, and handle them very well. But it’s generally the edge cases that cause the issues, and while the game will tell you straight out that you’ll “probably” need a team for the mission, if you can’t handle the problematic critter solo, it becomes a choice of either getting a team (admittedly, usually just one other player to help is enough), or grinding on mooks.

    If anyone’s wondering, the best soloers for these cases are Masterminds (CoV) and single-target Scrappers (CoH). Illusion Controllers in specific are also awesome in the Elite Boss battles, but they’re really, really slow to get up there.

    3) Enjoying CoH/V solo: Possibly one of the main reasons why I’m still playing the game even when I much prefer soloing is because CoH/V has a “global chat” system, which is kind of like in-game IRC which spans across servers. That way, I can talk to friends in the game, while still being able to do my own thing.

  78. Fizban says:

    In Guild Wars, while there isn’t an auction house, you can get better prices on the “trade goods”. Runes, materials, rare materials, dyes, and “rare scrolls” (scrolls that give you extra xp or let you go to the underworld, for example) can all be bought and sold from their respective traders. You won’t find some traders in some towns, but the main hub of the continent you’re on should have all of them. The prices change depending on how many people are buying and selling: blue dye can cost 300 gold while black is always 8-9000. As was mentioned earlier, you can hold down Alt to highlight all the NPC’s nearby (usually all of them in the town, some towns are big enough you’ll miss a few), so you can just click on the name and auto-walk there.

    I agree with most of the positive comments here, Guild Wars is definitely more of a multiplayer online RPG than a massive pile of people. The towns are more like player finding chat rooms (and get equivalent spam), that happpen to have NPC’s and character models running around.

    As for gameplay: I’ve played most of it by myself with henchies, occasionally calling up a more experienced friend if I needed help. I don’t even use any target calling or flagging, though if I did so properly I’m pretty sure it’d solve most of my problems. The game really doesn’t start till level 20. I haven’t finished Factions (the only one I own), but half of the missions I’ve got were after level 20. Skill set and armor are much more important than level: you should try and have the best armor you can get to, whatever’s available in the town you’re at, and when you hit 20 you should be in a town where you can get armor with the highest stats. However, more important than that are elite skills. You can only have one elite skill equipped at a time, and you can only learn them by using a Signet of Capture after killing a boss that has one from your class. They are much more powerful than normal skills, and usually define your build, without one you’re going to have a lot less fun, cause you won’t be able to do squat (at least in my experience: I’ve only played Elementalist, and elite skills are the only thing that let me get ahead in a fight, otherwise I’m just running to stay in place)

    Well, that was longer than I expected, hope someone’s still around to read it :p

  79. Zukhramm says:

    Something I hate more than forced grouping, is forced knowing.

    Shamus mentions the Guild Wars wiki, ngthagg mentions thottbot. Using guide is the norm as opposed to the exception (which is usually the case for me when playing single player games). Sure, I can refrain from readin that, and instead seem like an idiot to the rest of the world.

    That’s really one of my biggest problems with MMORPGs, they take away the exploration and discovery that is in other types of games.

  80. João says:

    @Blackbird71: no, not street-fighter style. It’s not a fast and furious key mashing. At most you press a key every second… And it’s not harder than timing spells together (or habilities) in WoW.

    I’m looking for a good video on YouTube that shows the combat system, but the net is slow at work today… :-) I’ll post it here when I find one.

  81. João says:

    @Blackbird71: here is a good one, although they show 5 possible attack directions and there are only 3 for now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAzH5gmlJF4&feature=related

    Please note that not all combos can be done with all weapons… my character has dual-wield, but some combos are for dual-handed weapons only and some for dual-wield only, for example.

    Also spells have no combos if I remember correctly, only melee.

    mmm am I the only one here playing Age of Conan? :-D

  82. ngthagg says:

    Zukhramm: Yeah, MMO’s aren’t really suited for exploration. Designers are forced to put a lot of content-less space into the game to avoid overcrowding. That’s one of the advantages of an instanced game like GW, although I don’t know that GW really takes advantage of it.

  83. Zukhramm says:

    That was not really my point, I was talking about how, doing something with a guide is the standard, instead of trying for yourself first. Every quest, boss or enemy, just look it up, and if you don’t, you’ll do a lot worse than anyone else. The only ones getting the joy of figuring something out are the ones who do it first of absolutley everyone.

  84. hotsauce says:

    I’m no MMO player, so I might be wrong, but it seems to me that your issues stem primarily from the fact that you’re playing a multi-player game by yourself.

  85. Cybron says:

    I have to agree with Zukhramm. I’m one of those players that stays as far away from GameFAQs and its ilk as possible, but in MMOs, you don’t really have a choice. There’s no discovering things for yourself; you have to know everything or look like an idiot.

  86. kmc says:

    @DaveMC: Well, I play LotRO and WoW (not at the same time; I switch back and forth). My main on LotRO is a hunter, which is a great class for soloing, imo. Not every class is easy to solo, and it’s too bad that a new player can’t get a good idea of that from the game itself. You can read the forums, but a. that’s not in-game and should be optional, and b. who wants to weed through all those posts? You’re always getting a biased opinion, and few people take the time to write out a reasonable argument.
    Generally, though, Turbine seems to recognize the importance of having the option to solo your way through the game, which is why they introduced Forochel. Technically, it’s possible to do the whole thing yourself. They’ve even made minstrels more powerful now, so it’s a little harder but I can solo if I decide. Some classes take a little more practice, like loremasters, and there’s always the trade-off between risky versus slow leveling. I can kill things quickly on my hunter but I have to watch my health, and a guardian can take on more stuff but takes a little longer to finish a fight. I haven’t tried champions, so I have no input on that.
    Downside of LotRO: after level 10 (if you’re quick) or 15 (if you milk the beginning area like I do; I’m a completist), everybody’s in the same places. Higher towards the end, you’re able to branch out again because there are a few places around your level. It’s still nothing like WoW for an expansive land, but, of course, they’ve got a long way to go before they’re done.
    My preferred style of gameplay, however, is grouped with one other person. I like being in fellowships, and group combat such as instances is probably my favorite part of an MMO, but mostly, a player is by him- or herself. Like I said, I’m a hunter and my boyfriend is a guardian (yes, it’s very sweet), and pretty much we only play together. It’s nice because you get some company, XP evens out or goes a little faster because you split XP on monsters but kill things and finish quests faster, there’s less risk involved, and you can always find one or two other people to join you for a quest here or there. Also, I’m in a small, age-restricted kinship, so we often go out together in fellowships. For me, MMOs are social. That’s my bias, which may not match Shamus’s, but if you want to go out completely on your own, it’s totally within your grasp.
    BTW, I like the “demoralization” system as well. I have “died my way” across places numerous times in WoW, including in a successful attempt to enter Hyjal before Burning Crusade opened, and I wouldn’t mind if LotRO employed that, but I’ll agree that returning to a spawn point makes a little more sense. If you’re trying something risky, like taking on big groups deep inside enemy territory, there should be a greater consequence. In game dynamics, though, often this just means that your party disbands and gives up for the day, which is too bad. *ahem DOL DINEN*

  87. Stranger says:

    I dunno, exploration in Guild Wars can be fun. You can find some interesting sights if you look for them. Like the Lion’s Arch lighthouse, or the surviving cave system from Pre-Searing Lakeside County where it’s clear survivors stay . . . or the Wizard’s Tower of Kessex Peak.

    Warning: Some of these MAY include fighting for a closer look.

    And I agree with the point XP from fighting monsters is not where you should be getting the lion’s share; the quests and missions which also advance the storyline are designed to keep you paced in level. Sure, you can grind XP in areas, I did it all the time while filling out my maps (Grandmaster Cartography, yes) or hunting for elite skills. But the edge is largely given to those who learn how to predict enemy AI movements and actions and pre-act accordingly :)

  88. Paramnesia says:

    I suspect everyone loves to hate those henchmen, and too often I wished I could smite them myself. Pre Nightfall and the handy flagging system, though, I ran the missions with idiotic henchmen only on my first character. It was a challenge I set myself as I tried to catch up with some friends, and consequently I learned how to use the AI’s Leroy Jenkins intelligence pretty well. As others have mentioned, Heroes are much better as you can customize them and their actions to a much greater degree. True, you must equip them, I never had difficulty with this; drops covered it well.

    Unless you want to get into Guild battles, I find that now all I need are a few friends to poke when I want to run a mission. A full party of real people is of course better, but typically it’s me and two or three others and our heroes, and we do pretty well.

    “Don't let the low level cap be an issue. […] There is so much more to do at 20 than below it, and XP is only important as it lets you get more skills. Even so, you will soon find yourself with more XP than you will know what to do with.”

    I agree. XP isn’t really an issue though you still do “level up” after 20 and accumulate skill points. The shuffling of skills to adapt to your mob or party members, working on the various titles (How many have gotten the drunkard title?), trying to get the materials for that snazzy new though not necessarily better armor, etc.

    As far as the Wiki is concerned, I didn’t use it until I got to the more difficult missions, but even then sometimes I find a way that works better for me. Before that my friends and I relied on trial and error or the knowledge of other players who’d run the missions before. The only problem with the latter is that some people don’t tolerate it too well, expecting people to have wiki’ed it. I don’t find it necessary for the quests, though I have looked at it for builds, but I also experiment with my own combinations. I admit though, as I got into the game more I started to use it more and more for general poking around.

    “I have to add that you really haven't experienced this game until you join in some of the holiday events.”

    For a game you only pay for once, the support is impressive, and they try to vary it some each year. It’s more than I felt NCSoft’s L2 did for its players.

  89. Jeff says:

    I appear stuck in a state of indecision over what Primary/Secondary class I should play. Hm.

  90. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    @Jeff: The only REAL choice is your primary class. Back in the days where there was just “Guild Wars” and they hadn’t renamed the original Prophecies yet, the choice was a bit more permanent though still ultimately meaningless in the end.

    Why do I say that? Because you can change your secondary profession. I’m too lazy to scroll up but I’m recalling you have Nightfall? Essentially your choice of a secondary profession is only fixed for however long it takes you to leave Istan, hit the mainland, and do the very first quest involving the Command Center in the Sunspear Sanctuary.

    Factions and Nightfall introduced a Profession Changer NPC that lets you pay 500 gold to change your secondary profession to any of the options you didn’t pick. This is a one time fee, as once you’ve been something you can switch your secondary profession via the skill screen, much like how you can change the secondary profession of your heroes. (Prophecies had the same thing, only it involved quests that would switch your class for free, though it only covers the core professions (so you’ll still have to pay if you want to be a different expansion secondary.))

    @Shamus: The early stages of Guild Wars are very much one big extended tutorial, albeit with some interesting landscapes and whatnot to explore. As others have pointed out, focusing on repeatedly killing the rather weak baddies populating those zones is a tiresome and inefficient method for leveling up, quests and missions offer much better rewards. Besides, all the stuff you’d pick up in those zones is crap anyways, fit only to be sold to the AI merchants.

    All those “Dur, look at me not using the trade channel!” morons in the Local chat are there selling items from much farther along, hoping to bilk the newbies. I’m not 100% certain off the top of my head, but the /report command (used for informing ANet of player infractions) might have an entry for spamming local with trade messages, and if so feel free to use it! But yes, I’d turn off local chat: I’ve had it off pretty much nonstop for the almost 3 years I’ve played, turning it back on only when an interesting message catches my eye (as you can still see people talking if you are looking in their direction while they say things) or when there’s an event going on (which has led to some rather entertaining conversations).

    My in-game name is the same as what I’m posting this under (my page on Guildwiki: http://guildwars.wikia.com/wiki/User:Gildan_Bladeborn) and I would have no objections if you felt like adding me to your friends list. I’d also be happy to pass a guild invitation along, and/or useful items (Giving things away is fun!).

  91. Alexis says:

    @Zukhramm: Most WoW players don’t really use wowhead/thottbot until 70. Yeah, you’ll be slow compared to a powerleveller, but the first time through that’s not the point right? Everyone I know played through WoW at least once without a guide or *extensive* database consultation.

    OTOH… the database is available. That means when quests are poorly signposted, or you need some rare crafting material or whathaveyou, the OPTION is there to just find out instead of traipsing round for hours. I love exploration as much as the next guy/girl, but it gets old after about 10mins of mindless searching. Considering the size of most MMOs relative to most single-player games, not making a database of some kind available makes a large amount of flailing very likely.

    The greater point is that WoW recognises and embraces the desire of players to have accurate information to base their decisions on. You don’t have to look, it’s been repeatedly proved it’s possible to hit 70 without the faintest idea how anything works. When you do want to know, it welcomes you into a wonderful and challenging world, and you realise this is a game you will not quickly tire of.

    There will always be jerks who try to make themselves feel smart by mocking those who know less than them. Unfortunately you will find those in any hobby. Fortunately, there are also plenty of helpful people who are happy to gently guide you out of noobdom. Just, for the love of God, do what you’re advised. Ask why, by all means, or ask for a learning break, but don’t quietly ignore those trying to help. OR HULK CRUSH!

  92. Thom says:

    I’ve read your post about the zero XP thing, and I completely agree with you. I’m currently playing The Lord of the Rings Online, which has this issue covered in a nice way imho. You’ll even get a bit of XP for killing creatures 8 or 9 levels below your own level, and the loot stays the same as when you were the same level as the mob. But then again… the loot increases with the level of the mob, so when it comes to efficiency (both for XP and loot), you’d best kill mobs of your own level or up to 3 or 4 levels above or below.
    You will be able to kill levels 1 or 2 levels higher than yourself, but it’ll take quite a bit of skill if you want to survive. As soon as you’re 9 levels higher than the mob you’re going to kill, you’ll be pretty much able to kill it with a single blow, maybe two… :)

  93. wererogue says:

    “Goodness knows you wouldn't want to let players experience the game in a way that deviates from the designer's narrow vision and intentions.”

    Surely the flipside of that is: “Oh god, imagine a scenario where the designer didn’t anticipate the way *you* wanted to play the game!” Maybe the game isn’t for you, but saying “the game doesn’t accommodate for things it wasn’t designed for” seems like tautology.

    I like guild wars best of the MMOs I’ve played so far – which isn’t saying a lot. I also think that the whole concept is flawed, partly because I don’t like playing with the people who inhabit the servers, and for a whole bunch of gameplay-related reasons. But I like guild wars ok, because levels and XP aren’t so important, and I can concentrate on playing the game and diversifying my character, rather than hacking down “mob” after “mob” for the next “ding”. I also like the fact that when I wander off with my party, the rest of the player base goes away and leaves me alone.

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