Saturday, 3 December 2011

Why You Should Care About Guild Wars 2

As a disclaimer before I start: This is a more technical article that deals not so much with story or graphics, but with game design and mechanics. If you've been following Guild Wars 2 for some time, you won't really find anything new here, but maybe you'll want to show your friends who aren't normally into MMOs.

I know there have been a lot of “Why Guild Wars 2 Matters” articles already. They all talk about how Guild Wars 2 is changing the rules of the MMO, throwing the tired old stuff out the window, making the genre feel fresh again. That's cool and all, but mechanical innovation is not the not the most important reason to play Guild Wars 2. It's the design philosophy as a whole.

Guild Wars 2 may well be the first MMORPG where YOU, the player, actually matter.

In a standard MMO, you don't matter. Everyone is the prophesied hero destined to save the world. Everyone does the same quests. No one has any measurable effect on the world. MMORPGs seem to have forgotten the meaning of “RPG” — roleplaying game, where you make choices that have an effect on the world and story. Guild Wars 2 hopes to change that.

You'll have a personal story that's different from everyone else's. During character creation, not only do you customize your character's appearance, you customize their history and personality. Who your character is will determine how NPCs interact with you. However, your character's personality is not locked in — how your character is perceived by others changes based on your choices and actions throughout the game. You'll meet and interact with different people depending on who you choose to ally yourself with. After your first story-based run through of a dungeon, you'll be able to return to find a changed area that reflects your actions, with a new branching story with multiple possible routes or outcomes.

You get a home instance, a special instanced area in your home city (one of five, based on race) that's customized just for you. Your achievements and connections will add and change your home instance, reflecting your character's development and accomplishments. You'll be able to take friends into your home instance to show off your personal choices and collections.

Your character will probably never look the same as someone else's due to the extreme levels of gear customization. There are dozens of paint palettes (like earth tones, jewel tones, etc) with hundreds of hand-picked colours to choose from. Each piece of armour will have two, three, or four paintable areas, so even if you have the same pieces as someone else, dyed the same main colour, it's likely your trim and detailing will be different. Plus, a special consumable item called the transmutation stone will allow you to combine the stats of one item with the appearance of another. You'll never have to choose between the gear that plays well or the gear that looks well, because you'll be able to just smash them together into gear that's both awesome looking and powerful. You won't see max-level players all looking identical because this season's armour is the best armour; they'll combine those stats with whatever armour they think looks best.

You'll be able to play the character you want. There are well over 1,000 skills to mix and match, with a trait system that allows you to further customize your play style. Every class has some degree of versatility — your first five skills are dependent on your equipped weapon, so you'll be able to change roles mid-combat simply by swapping your bow for a sword. Some classes are even more flexible, like the Elementalist who can change not only weapon but elemental attunement, or the Engineer who can swap between entire skill kits that alter his battlefield role. And even better, you'll be able to tinker with your skill loadout, gear, and traits anytime you're not in combat. No need to pay an NPC to redistribute points, or wait until you get back to town — you can swap all that stuff mid-adventure.

You'll be able to play with who you want. Guilds won't be exclusive — you can join as many guilds as you want. So you can have a guild for your small group of real-life friends, and a guild for hardcore endgame content, a guild for roleplaying, and a guild for PvP. You'll be able to freely talk and team up with whoever you want. The sidekick system will allow a casual player to team up with his hardcore friend and not have to worry about being outshadowed. And of course, no dedicated class roles means you can play with whoever you want without needing to wait around for a tank or healer.

Now, realistically, of course everyone will still be experiencing the same overall plot. Every character will probably still be the hero who saves the world. But that experience will be different for everyone, and even for different characters run by the same player. Plus, when you're going up against that giant dragon, it's not just you, the prophesied hero, against the forces of evil. Big battles will work a bit like MMO raids, with dozens of players involved... but instead of spending hours building a party and laying out the plan, you'll see dozens of players organically joining in as they arrive and throwing together combos on the fly. Guild Wars 2 tries to make you want to group up, by making it easy and rewarding to do so. You don't have to be in a formal party to gain buffs or combos -- you just have to stand close enough to someone. Everyone gets all the loot for an encounter -- there's no "one drop, roll to see who gets it". Everyone gets a drop, and everyone gets gold and karma rewards.

So basically, Guild Wars 2 is the MMORPG that remembers what RPG means. Your choices will matter. Not only that, you'll also have unprecedented freedom to tinker with your play style and have total control at all times over who you play with and how your character looks and acts. Guild Wars 2 may be the first MMO that will make each character feel unique.

If you'd like more information on Guild Wars 2, check out the ArenaNet development blog and the official Guild Wars 2 website.

© 2011 ArenaNet, Inc. All rights reserved. NCsoft, the interlocking NC logo, ArenaNet,, Guild Wars, Guild Wars Factions, Factions, Guild Wars Nightfall, Nightfall, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, Guild Wars Eye of the North, Eye of the North, Guild Wars 2, and all associated logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, great article man! Thanks for writing it! I thought this game looked interesting from the little bit I've seen, but now I'm pretty darn excited. Sounds like exactly what I want in an MMO.