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Archive for August, 2010

Although these are now all over the place, I could not let another day go by without linking to the nine-part high-quality series of videos posted to GameTrailers.com on the Guild Wars 2 demo:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Among the promises made by ArenaNet that seem to have come to fruition are: persistence in the open world (that boss fight is not instanced), instanced personal storyline, scaling dynamic events (e.g. the broodmother’s sweeping tail attack), environmental weapons, ambient voice acting, downed mechanics and self-healing not assuring easy-mode, active combat including the ability to fire off attacks even out of range of enemies, and cross-profession combinations.

Promises made that were touched on but have not been seen in full: out-of-combat activities such as the shooting gallery could be seen but not participated in during the demo, and due to ANet’s efforts in keeping the demo experience active at all times, the dynamic events were set to cycle on much faster intervals than in the live game so that we cannot make any conclusions about their persistence within the world. I did, however, over the course of several videos (and I have watched so many by now that I wouldn’t even know where to begin to find the specific link) that certain events were at different stages depending on who was participating and how successful they were.

One more issue has been raised by both Rubi of GuildCast and Crimson Starfire of Word of Shadow, and that is the pop-up notifications of event status and location. My better half and I fall firmly into the camp of wishing that these were not present, and not only expected to, but would prefer to wander through the world happening upon events randomly. I can’t help but suspect, though, that ANet has seen too many people run by events in progress during testing, unable to retrain themselves to leave no stone unturned in lieu of searching out exclamation points. Perhaps I underestimate my fellow gamers and overestimate ArenaNet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. It’s also possible that the notifications only exist for demo purposes, again to keep demo players notified and involved due to reduced playtimes.

Only time will tell and prove me right or wrong. I eagerly await confirmation either way from the ArenaNet staff. Note to ArenaNet staffers: I will settle for toggle-able notifications.

I also feel the need to link to two more videos from the French site Univers-Virtuels showing footage of Beetlun, the Temple of the Ages, and wandering around in Kryta. I include these to show that the demo was not constrained to some 10- or 15-minute segment of the game world with no exploration possible (as some have claimed). Swimming is in (amusingly, it was allowed although a warning popped up politely requesting that the demo tester get out of the water) and it’s evident that some of our familiar spots from Guild Wars 1 have fallen into disrepair in a believable way over the 250-year interim between Guild Wars 1 and 2.

Also? Epic swamp monster.

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Impressions on the initial leaked, very unofficial footage from the dress rehearsal on 8/17/2010:

  • Hmmm. It seems it would be hasty to come to many conclusions based on this. What I can see that doesn’t seem to be affected by dev hax is promising, but it’s difficult to form a real opinion because of the presence of said hax. Will wait until more videos surface to solidify opinion.
  • This has a very action-y feel, which combined with the off-screen cam effect reminds me of DCUO (since I’m not sure I’ve even seen any footage of that game that wasn’t an off-screen cam) and Champions Online. I really liked combat in CO, so I’m not going to complain. It’s no TERA, obviously, but for a “traditional” skill-click MMO it doesn’t seem to “play” like one.
  • Also: People are going to hate ANet for “collect harpy glands.” I mean, ANet already described dynamic events that could be started by talking to an NPC Asura (check) who doesn’t have an exclamation point over his head (check) in which he tells you to go collect things (check), but nobody’s going to care or remember that, just like they don’t remember what Mythic actually said about Public Quests, because – collect harpy glands!
  • Honestly, charr running on all fours has made me want to roll a charr now. I didn’t think it would have such a visceral effect on me, but I adore it.
  • I’m not sure about the Diablo health meter, but the artisanal (is that a word? thanks, Daniel Dociu) UI scores big points with me. I love how everything is sketched in paintbrush strokes. It wasn’t what I expected at all, given the GW1 UI being all smooth edges and Verdana-like fonts.

This morning, after the deluge of more official videos (including the reveal of a Necromancer class, which surprised exactly no-one, though I am sad for mine and Hunter’s sakes that it wasn’t an assassin):

  • Ah, so that’s where the colorful world I was expecting had gone to. Yesterday’s video was all washed out and desaturated due to the cam quality.
  • I’m trying to think of something to compare this world to. It’s lush and I really like it. It’s somewhere along the continuum of Aion and TERA, I think, though with a considerable touch less Asian inspiration. It’s truly like a Western studio took what was great about that style and made it their own. It’s definitely not evoking a sense of “gritty,” though. Again, since lush is my preference over gritty, I’m okay with that. I can imagine some folks will be disappointed, however.
  • Running while casting. Hooray! Again, very action-oriented, it seems. I do really like that.
  • Character colored outlines have got to go. I remember that Aion had this, too, and I hated it then as well. I’m positive it will be toggle-able, since ANet is all about options.
  • Spell effects are somewhere on the continuum of Aion as well. I thought Aion was too flashy, so this is in my comfort range. My better half – low-fantasy fan that he is – still thinks they’re too flashy for his tastes.
  • Divinity’s Reach is enormous, and I have no problem with being able to teleport from one part of the city to another. I ran around Bree quite enough, thank you very much.
  • Note: loading screens while teleporting do not equal instancing.
  • Enterable buildings!
  • Leave it to ArenaNet to make me excited about the possibility of playing a Necro in GW2. I thought that ship had long sailed, but seeing it in gameplay (even without flashy skill videos) has put it back on my radar.
  • Edit: I forgot to add one of my biggest observations – character animations. I am incredibly pleased by how smooth the animations are, as this was my biggest fear going into the con. Other games have been letting me down on the animations front, and GW2 is performing most excellently. I am so happy with them!

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Be creative? Don’t try to out-WoW WoW? Cater to your niche? Don’t over-hype your product (some would say, don’t hype it at all)?

Nah, I’m starting to fear the lesson is, never try.

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There’s a bit of a meme going around the MMO blogosphere, forums, and news site comment sections about the Dynamic Events ArenaNet has described as a new mechanic they have implemented for Guild Wars 2 (go on, read the link about Dynamic Events up there. Don’t just mouse over it, or open it in a new tab to read later, or skim it. Please – just read it. Yes, now. Yes, the whole thing. I’ll wait. Okay, back? Good). The meme goes something like this:

  •  Dynamic Events are just glorified Public Quests
  •  Mythic said exactly the same things about their Public Quests that ArenaNet is saying about Dynamic Events
  •  And we all know how that turned out, amirite?

I will attempt to address the point that Mythic overhyped their Public Quests, which then under-performed, and therefore there is no reason to take ArenaNet at their word about any of the things they describe about their Dynamic Events. The rest will follow from there.

In my search for evidence, I read the following interview with Jeff Hickman by Massively, dated May 30, 2008 – right before a press demo and nearly four months prior to release:

Massively goes to WAR: Jeff Hickman’s view of Warhammer Online

In it, he describes Public Quests as follows:

“Some of them are bigger and cooler than others, some are smaller and more intimate, but they’re all really interesting. The whole concept of ‘I walk into the area and it’s a mini-raid’ is great. You’re having fun, it doesn’t require coordination. As you gather more people it becomes easier to do, you can do some if it alone, and if you have a bunch of people you can just overrrun it. Even that’s not bad, though, because you get that feeling that you’ve just destroyed your enemies. And then it resets and you can do it over again.”

Hickman also declares that they are “revolutionary in the industry” for the hype angle, and that there are “over 300” in the world.

Note that in his description, he reveals that

  • You can’t do all of a PQ alone
  • It is possible to overrun it
  • It resets and you can do it again

Having taken part in several Public Quests, I have difficulty singling any part of this out as dishonest except for the subjective bits; of course it is spun to sound positive in every respect (really? It’s “not bad” when you overrun the quest with massive numbers and trivialize the whole thing?), but even the much-maligned “reset” feature is admitted to openly. In fact, most of the problems players had with Public Quests is noted right there in the interview: since they cannot be completed solo, most PQs were left abandoned once the population in areas (and, later, the entire game) began to thin.

So, maybe Jeff was finally being “more” honest about Public Quests because he was about to demo the game and couldn’t get by on pure hype. What was Mythic saying about the game before people in the press had a chance to play it? How about back in January, 2007?

EA Mythic Event: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

“Everyone in the zone automatically has the same quest! The group objectives are up on the screen, and it keeps track as you do your part (or not – you don’t have to help!). After the public quest finishes, you can go over to the “leader” of the area, and he’ll reward you for helping out. A couple of minutes later, the public quest starts over again.

“You can do the same one over and over to build your reputation with the leader, or you can follow them as you go up in levels and get new, cooler stuff – stuff that’s tailored to you and your class.”

I’m not seeing anything misrepresented about Public Quests here. Further, this is not what ArenaNet has said about Dynamic Events. Certainly, the descriptions of Dynamic Events are loftier and more expansive and even address the concerns about repeatability and population issues, but the hyperbole, such as it exists, is not the same between Mythic and ArenaNet.

Here’s an article from April 2007:

Massively Online Gamer’s Warhammer Exclusive

Saying the same things: kill 300 orcs, kill 25 mauraders. Paul Barnett says that Public Quests pass his “genius test.”

See, if the argument here is that Public Quests were not as cool as they sounded, then well played. However, they worked pretty much exactly as they were presented, so any additional hype really existed in the eyes of the beholders. For what it’s worth, I adored Public Quests when the conditions were right. In the first month or two of Warhammer’s existence, my better half and I would roam the land calling for open groups to do PQs with; we would join groups mid-event, throw heals around, tank for people, and every time a PQ ended, we’d check to see who had maxed out their influence and throw out grats. Most of the time, everyone would stick with the group until everyone had maxed out their influence, and then would come the question: “want to go to next chapter?” Usually the answer was yes.

For myself and my better half playing as a stubborn closed duo, this was revolutionary. For us, having never raided in another MMO, being able to take down a seven-headed hydra with thirty other people by level 5 was revolutionary. I have rarely seen it argued that Public Quests were a bad idea; rather a good idea that suffered from poor implementation and lack of failsafes against the things players inevitably do (like abandon open areas in order to chain-queue scenarios because the XP gain was faster).

Of course, then we played City of Heroes/Villains and found that zombie invasions were very similar to Public Quests. Whoops, Mythic, you got caught out there!

My point here is that I am seeing it thrown around that Dynamic Events are like Public Quests as though that is some sort of terrible thing. Public Quests are not terrible and they were not a terrible idea. I applaud any game that takes the idea started in City of Heroes/Villains, iterated in Warhammer Online and copied in Champions Online/Star Trek Online, and tries to improve on it as ArenaNet is now attempting to take to the next level with Guild Wars 2. From the looks of it, Mythic did not even mischaracterize Public Quests in their descriptions of their impact, duration, or contents, so to dismiss ArenaNet’s extremely detailed blogs and interviews about the way Dynamic Events  will work (trust me, most of your questions are answered there) as dishonest on the face of it seems more than a tad overly cynical.

Frankly, if Dynamic Events turn out to be as true to ArenaNet’s words as Public Quests were to Mythic’s, then it will have been Mission Accomplished, no more, no less.

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