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.
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.)
Philosophy of Moderation
The comments on most sites are a sewer of hate, because we're moderating with the wrong goals in mind.
Good Robot Dev Blog
An ongoing series where I work on making a 2D action game from scratch.
Do It Again, Stupid
One of the highest-rated games of all time has some of the least interesting gameplay.
Starcraft 2: Rush Analysis
I write a program to simulate different strategies in Starcraft 2, to see how they compare.
The Best of 2016
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2016.