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One of the aspects of Guild Wars 2 that doesn’t get talked about or explored much during demos much is the personal story. ArenaNet makes sure to mention the Personal Story in their demo presentations, and the 10-step character creation touches on aspects that will affect the settings of the personal story, but for most people coming in with interest in GW2, it doesn’t seem immediately apparent that the Personal Story is indeed intended to be a drawing point for fans of putting the RPG back in MMORPG.

In this demo version from 2010, the character driver demonstrates some features of the personal story, then leaves off (3:25 through 4:50):

Is this because ArenaNet doesn’t want to get into story spoilers (one of the reasons they have given for not going in-depth into their story mode dungeons), or is it that this work is incomplete? Or perhaps some combination of the two? Wartower.de managed to get farther into the personal story during the 2010 demo, as illustrated in the oft-linked Ranger demo footage (25:51 through 29:10):

This year, Wartower has again managed to snag HD footage of a personal story, this time the charr (…all 28 minutes of it):

TalkTyria has a few items from the Norn personal story as well:

A few things we can see from this latest demo footage:

  • Personal story action items (my new corporate-speak term for “quests”) take place in the persistent world as well as within instances. You may well receive a task in an instance that requires you to travel through the persistent world to complete.
  • It’s possible to receive personal story action items via mail. It’s nice to know that a fantasy game like GW2 isn’t afraid to use what has worked so well in games like City of Heroes/Villains and Star Trek Online. I’ll note that LOTRO has also delivered quests via mail, IIRC, though I’m not sure how often this happens outside of seasonal festivals.
  • You’ll pass by numerous dynamic events and map hearts on your way between personal story action items, which might be why more people haven’t filmed more cutscenes – those dynamic events and overworld tasks are addictive. I will withhold judgement as to whether this will make me feel as though I need to “level up” between personal story instances or if hanging around in the persistent world will feel more organic than in other MMOs where I am told to return when I have “grown stronger” in order to proceed with a story arc.
  • There are plenty of characters we’ll be interacting with, NPCs we’ll love to hate, and our stalwart companion, chosen from character creation, will apparently be by our side for much of the goings-on.
  • Interesting that when the charr character is defeated within an instance, he is not thrown out (which is what happens if your party is defeated in a Guild Wars 1 mission): he can choose to leave, or try again from a waypoint within the instance.
  • Voicework and animations are obviously not yet complete, unless there is a charr voice option called Microsoft Text to Speech (if there were, I would absolutely pick it for one character).

One thing we haven’t seen yet in the personal story is where we will be able to make secondary choices, such as the oft-quoted hospital versus orphanage decision. What will that sort of choice look like? A dialog box such as the one that pops up when you are about to enter an instance? Will it be in the form of choosing which character to talk to given two NPCs who run up to you demanding attention? I would love to be able to get far enough into a demo personal story, any personal story, to see some sort of decision-making required.

Now that I’ve seen more of the personal story in action, it has come farther to the forefront in my mind, nearer to dynamic events, as to what has me excited about Guild Wars 2. We’re only getting glimpses of immediate conflicts for the races in these opening cutscenes and events, hints of underlying mysteries, and I am really looking forward to seeing where the story goes from there. Oh, the broodmothers and ghosts of Ascalon will be exciting to battle as well, but as ArenaNet says, this is my story, and I hope that I have enough time in the demos this weekend to begin to explore it.

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I have started and stopped this post in progress several times already, and it has evolved from a “2010 in Review” post to the slimmed down version I offer today, a day late. Seems my first resolution for 2011 is to keep things simple.

Other resolutions I have on offer:

  • No more long-term subscriptions. I have now made two poor gambles in long-term subs in the hopes that I could get around my distaste for monthly payments, but it is now obvious to me that long-term consistent gameplay is not really where I’m at. Even in the event that a game captures my interest, I would do better to bite the bullet and subscribe only as needed than to go all-in for a year (or the game’s lifetime).
  • Accept that Fantasy is “the” genre for me. DC Universe Online was fun, and Star Trek Online has its moments, but the moment I glimpsed my Bahmi Chloromancer in robes, fighting chained spirits, or my Dwarf cleric in her chainmail, I felt at home. This will save me a lot of trouble when it comes to Star Wars: The Old Republic.
  • No more arguing on the internet about alleged vs. known facts about upcoming games. However, I do expect to have to make a post in around a year’s time about ArenaNet’s actual claims about Dynamic Events, akin to my post about Mythic’s Public Quests. I’m collecting my sources and I’m checking them twice.

I’m also encouraged about other gaming options that are coming to fruition in 2011. There will be not one, but two D&D-inspired multiplayer games, as well as a multiplayer Lord of the Rings RPG, and I could not be more excited to see if these scratch any of the itches I have previously been unable to get anywhere but in MMOs. I am also extremely excited to play, of all things, a single player game in The Sims Medieval. For some reason, The Sims don’t ping as a single-player game in my mind, with all the resultant problems of feeling lonely and caged in not raising their ugly heads.

That most of these are expected out in spring of 2011 means I will have to ration my time between them and Rift (there arises that dastardly subscription opposition again), but I hope they will help me get over the tricky hype road to SW:TOR and beyond. And, of course, if Guild Wars 2 should see a 2011 release, any and all bets for gaming outside of GW2 are off.

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