Guild wars 2 – The Launch: Smooth sailing or choppy seas?

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Originally published on TheGameJar.com Aug. 31st 2012

Launching a brand new Massively Multi-player Online game is a notoriously tricky thing to do. Many games have had rough launches in the past, regardless of how well-regarded the developer is. The sheer brute force of hundreds of thousands of players all hammering on game servers, all at the same time will often make a mockery of the best laid plans. Nobody really expected then that the Guild Wars 2 launch would be flawless, but after three relatively smooth running beta tests, would some logging in congestion be the only issue?

Even though the official launch date was the 28th, all pre-purchasers had the option to begin questing three days early from the 25th, thanks to ArenaNet’s head start event. Judging by the numbers they released recently, a lot of people chose to start early. Not only did they reveal that they’d sold over one million copies by launch, but that the tally of concurrent users (the number of players on-line at the same time) had already hit a peak of four hundred thousand! I’ll just say that again to put the rest of this article into some kind of context. Four hundred thousand players. All trying to log in to the game, create characters, fight monsters, all at the same time. No small wonder then that things that appeared to be working fine in the beta no longer worked come launch. The Guild Wars 2 twitter feed soon lit up with tweets say roughly the same thing every time; “We’re aware of the issue and we’re working on it right now. Please bear with us.” I really do feel sorry for the community reps at times like this, because as a general rule us gamers aren’t a patient bunch, we want things fixed straight away and we don’t mind telling you so! Thankfully, despite having to reply to the odd angry tweet, they kept us updated via social media sites, and the bugs started to slowly get squashed.

Not everything is fixed though, and there are a few things still blotting the game’s copybook. Concern No.1 is that there’s some account hacking going on. I can’t work out the exact cause of this one, mainly it seems to be gamers falling for phishing emails, but Guild Wars 2 has launched with… let’s be generous and say “less stringent” security checks in place. Other games have authenticator key fobs to combat hacking, and Guild wars 1 required you to enter a character name to beef up security. GW2 has neither of these things. I want to stress, this appears to be a tiny number of players falling foul of phishing attempts, but the lack of authenticators has been noted before now. Concern No.2 is less worrying from a security point of view, but in a way has a bigger impact on the game; the Trading Post isn’t working. So I can’t sell my loot? Not a big deal surely, until you realise that no one can sell anything to any other player. This has had a huge impact on crafters wishing to sell their excess materials, and buy somebody else’s. When the Trading Post does make a brief appearance, prices are through the roof. Crafting is supposed to be a viable profession, right now a major part of it is missing. Concern No.3 is the general buggy state of Guilds. I haven’t experienced this first hand, but my guild leader has told me of at least two problems preventing reliable recruiting and building of upgrades. Personally it hasn’t impacted my game-play at all really, but I can’t help thinking that a game called Guild Wars probably should have a fully working guild system.

What isn’t in doubt however is the games overall quality. Having played all three beta weekend events, I had a fair idea of how the game worked, but come launch a few things have really sunk in. The first thing that hit me is the sheer beauty of the world. Exploring the environment is an absolute joy, around almost every corner is a stunning vista. Castles loom on the horizon, tempting you to come closer. Caves dare you to explore them, pools of water hint at hidden tunnels beneath the surface. I spent almost two whole days just wondering around and not once did I worry about doing quests or leveling up. Exploring the world leads me on to my second realisation; the whole world really is a viable place to quest. Thanks to the level scaling system guild wars 2 has, going to a much lower level area is still a rewarding experience, the game drops your effective level to one more appropriate for zone, and as a result you still gain XP and the monsters are still challenging. The last thing to sneak up on me was the achievements. Somehow, in my mind at least, achievements are something Xbox games do, never in a million years did I think I’d be utterly hooked by a little progress bar in an MMO.

Despite all the teething troubles, Guild Wars 2 is still worth the price of purchase. ArenaNet have been very active in communicating with the fans regarding technical issues, and as frustrating as it is to have trouble logging on, or having no trading market, we players do at least know they are working round the clock to fix things. As I said at the start, launching a brand new MMO is a tricky thing. The game isn’t running perfectly right now, but that doesn’t change how good it is. Suffering a few snags early on is worth it to play the game in my opinion, so do yourself a favour and go buy it!

Guild wars 2 – Super Adventure Box!

If you want to know why I play Guild Wars 2, this video just about sums it up. Added to the game for the month of April only, the Super Adventure Box is a prime example of the kind of free content ArenaNet has been adding to the game since launch.

No, it’s not an April Fools, it’s really in the game, and it’s awesome.

Guild Wars 2 Video: Wintersday Trailer

Guild wars next seasonal event is almost upon us, and Arenanet have released a trailer to go with it. Personally, after the troubles I experienced with the Lost Shores event, I’ll wait and see before I get too excited.

The video is good though.

Guild Wars 2 – the #LostShores event. #GW2

Criticising something you love is hard. On the one hand there’s the chance that you forgive things that shouldn’t be forgiven, and on the other that you over compensate for your bias by being too critical of minor mistakes. It’s for those reasons then, that I find summing up the Guild Wars 2 Lost Shores event tricky. If I forgive all that was wrong with it, then overall it was an enjoyable experience, but I can’t shake the feeling that maybe there’s a little too much that needs forgiving with this event.

Phase One on Friday night saw us fend off an attack in Lions Arch by the mysterious Karka, and then go on two separate scavenger hunts to discover where they had come from, and how best to defeat them. The first part, the fighting part, was crippled by lag. I personally disconnected at least four times, and in between that I watched a virtually static screen as the GW2 servers struggled to keep up with the entire server population being present in the same tiny corner of Lions Arch. Thankfully the fighting part only lasted for thirty minutes or so, and we could move on to the scavenger hunts. Only not. Because I and many others soon discovered that certain NPC’s were bugged and blocking any further progress. What made things worse was that both the hunts were time sensitive, the NPC’s involved would only be available during phase one, and then disappear for phase two. ArenaNet it seemed was sympathetic to players concerns, as they patched the event to extend the first scavenger hunt into phase two.

Phase Two on Saturday Night started off with the discovery that Anet’s fix wasn’t so marvellous after all, as the second scavenger hunt – which was also bugged for many, wasn’t also extended into phase two. In fairness to them, they never said it would be, but it still left a slightly bitter taste in the mouth for those who missed out. The main event of phase two though was dubbed “retake Lions Arch”, and involved fighting off another lag blighted Karka attack before moving on to Southsun Cove and taking the attack to them on their home turf. Once on the island, the lag died down to a manageable level, and following the event chain around the new map was a fairly enjoyable experience. With a foothold established, that part of the event seemed to come to an end. I say seemed, because I and many others in local chat appeared to be unable to work out whether the nights adventures had indeed finished. Maybe I missed something big, but phase two felt like it ended with a limp fizzle rather than a definite bang.

Almost undressed but still hard as nails

 Phase Three on Sunday night was the grand finale. The one time event would conclude with a daring attack on the Karka’s hive to defeat them once and for all! The first battle, as with the other two phases, was defeating the mighty lag monster. Several deaths and missing waypoints later, the lag died down. It never really went away, but it did get to the point where you could survive. The fight was long and hard. Battling our way in and out of the hive to plant explosives was tough, but nothing compared to taking down the ancient Karka. That part of the battle involved fighting the boss across most of the island, eventually manoeuvring it back down into the hive for the final showdown. That process had more interest that just wailing on the boss, we were uncovering hot springs to fire boulders, triggering rock slides, and making pockets of gas explode. All of these things made for an interesting method of luring the boss to it’s doom. Once inside the hive, there was a short final battle and the boss was down. Two and half hours worth of fighting concluded with chest containing rare and exotic loot, and the satisfied feeling of completing something epic.

Yes, dead again. Could someone help us up, please?

Looking back, I enjoyed the phase three, and I’m glad I took the time to log in. The Fractals of the Mists dungeon also added with this event is epically good, and we have a whole new island to play on, but the whole weekend still felt poorly executed. Having given all players three friend trial codes for the weekend, Anet obviously intended this event to be a showcase for potential newcomers to the game. What sort of impression will those new players have after laggy dynamic events and bugged scavenger hunts? I don’t like criticising ArenaNet, but this weekend I think they deserve it. I consider myself one of those level headed players that doesn’t rage on the forums, but even so Anet are running out of chances with me. There’s only so many times can Anet can get away with apologising for making similar kind of mistakes. I play other games too, and if Anet doesn’t improve their communication with customers, if they don’t learn from their mistakes, GW2 will go from being the game that I play, to just a game that I play.

The Ancient Karka just won’t die.

Guild Wars 2: Halloween Teaser Trailer

Blogging this because it’s cool :-p I’ll be playing this, on Piken Square server, can’t wait to see what ANet have in store for us.

The Game Jar Files: Guild Wars 2 – The game of the year that you probably won’t play

Originally published on thegamejar.com July 6th 2012

PC gamers and Console gamers. In many ways they’re like Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, longing to be together, doomed to forever be apart. The problem was of course that Romeo was console gamer, and Juliet was a PC gamer. It’s the age old tale, boy meets girl, girl doesn’t like boy’s joystick, girl leaves boy for more sophisticated gaming. You see like all console gamers, Romeo liked his gaming quick and dirty with very little commitment, he had no time for the long term demands that many MMO-playing PC elitists enjoyed, and as such he paid little attention to the whole PC scene. Juliet wanted a gamer who could satisfy her demands, play the same game for whole weekends without rushing to the climax, and not trade her in for the latest release a week later. Thus society dictated that the two could not be together, and poor old Romeo was left hanging around underneath Juliet’s balcony, wishing he could be up their with her, playing awesome PC games and putting his hands on her mouse and keyboard. Juliet on the other hand was content to count off the days till August 28th, the day that massively multi-player online games would change forever. I tell you this tale as an introduction to my explanation as why you’ve probably never heard of Guild Wars 2, or why it’s going to be game of the year. But before all that, a little potted history.

Twelve years ago  in 200o a small video game company called ArenaNet was founded by Mike O’Brien Patrick Wyatt and Jeff Strain, three former Blizzard Entertainment developers who had previously worked on titles such as Diablo II and Starcraft. Formed with the goal of  “creating a state-of-the-art interactive game network, and developing premier multiplayer, online games”  they released Guild Wars Prophecies in April 2005. The game would be described a “competitive online role-playing game” with the description based upon Guild Wars unusual blend of a greater emphasis on Player versus Player (PvP) combat and (often instanced) Player versus Environment (PvE) questing and exploration. The way the game played wasn’t the only thing that set it apart from the usual genre tropes either, it’s payment model departed from norm by eschewing a monthly subscription fee in favour of just charging the initial purchase price of the game, then followed by charging for future content. Two campaigns were released, first, Factions in 2006 and then Nightfall in 2007, both of which expanded the number of missions and professions available. By 2007 releasing subsequent campaigns was deemed too restrictive creativity wise and Guild Wars first proper expansion, Eye of the North was released. A second expansion was planned but it soon became clear that Utopia (the second expansions name) wouldn’t allow ArenaNet to do the things they wanted. It was scrapped in favour of developing a whole new game.

Work on the sequel began in 2007  with a formal announcement in the March of that year. Fans had to wait two years before they got their first look at the new game, and in August 2009 ArenaNet showed off Guild Wars 2 for the first time. From that moment on anticipation has been building with each new reveal, and in my humble opinion Guild Wars 2 will be a revolution in mmo gaming. Playing it requires a new mind set, one that demands you forget all about the overly familiar routines we’ve fallen into by playing the many, many mmo’s that follow the World of Warcraft blueprint. Fighting monsters by standing still and spamming the same skills over and over is gone. Combat in GW2 allows you to use your skills on the move, combine that with a new dodge move and fighting NPC’s (Non Player Characters) requires some thought.  The so called “holy trinity” of Tank (the player tasked with taking all the damage for the group), Healer (the player tasked with healing the group), and DPS (Damage Per Second – the player tasked with dealing damage) is gone. Every class has it’s own self healing skill, and running dungeons doesn’t involve waiting around for the right classes turn up, any group of professions can band together and get to work. Gear grind via raiding is gone. The very best gear statistic wise is crafted by players not dropped by monsters, so there’s no need to grind away doing something you hate, just for the coolest armour. The list of mmo conventions made obsolete by Guild Wars 2 is a long one, and it’s something most MMO gamers have been clamouring for for a long while now. Just speak to any Guild Wars 2 fan (including myself) and they’ll tell you that they are ready to experience something new. We’ve done the “kill ten rats” quest hundreds of times over, and we’re tired of finding that the game completely changes at level cap, switching to a treadmill of re-doing the same high level content over and over. Guild Wars 2 Does none of those things.

So why am I getting a PC MMO all up in your Game Jar? Well partly because I’m a fan of the game and love talking about it, but mostly because I don’t want you to miss out on playing the best game of the year when it’s released in a few months time. I simply don’t have the time to cover everything that’s great about the game, so hopefully I’ve whetted your appetite with my enthusiasm. Any gamer that enjoys a well crafted role playing game owes it to themselves to try this game, so visit the official site and check out the stunning concept art, watch the videos on the various races and classes, if they don’t pique your interest, nothing will. Guild Wars 2 really is a revolution within it’s genre and gamers as a whole should be paying it more attention, because very probably in the near future the term “WoW clone” will be gone, replaced by a new standard, the Guild Wars 2 way. So trust me on this, forget about the next Call of Duty and the next Halo, you’ve played those games before. You know how they work, and you know they won’t offer any thing new. Take a chance and play something that lasts a little longer, dip your toe into PC gaming with Guild Wars 2. I promise you won’t regret it.

 

GW 2 Screenshot: The Claws of Jormag DE

Just a quick post this one, mainly just to share this screen shot from Guild Wars 2, taken yesterday. This was the Claws of Jormag dynamic event, and it was rock hard! It’s also one of the reasons why I love this game so much, dynamic events.

GW2: Race Confusion

Guild wars 2 is nearly here am I’m so confused. From the very first beta weekend I’ve been convinced that I’m rolling a Charr at launch. Unfortunately during BWE 3 I made the mistake of rolling an Asura, and now I can’t make my mind up. Most likely I still go Charr Engineer, but I don’t think it’ll be too long before I’ve added an Asura, too. I Fraps’d a quick little video last night of my Asura Engineer dancing, and it sums up why I love the race so much, they’re just so frickin cool.

 

Endgame! Legendary Weapons!

It’s been a bit quiet here for a couple of weeks or so, but I do have a good excuse! In addition to this blog, I’m now writing for The Game Jar site and it’s taken me a little time to adjust to doing both things. I think I’ve gotten my head around it now, so normal service will resume. Hopefully.

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Guild Wars 2! It’s been literally one whole post since I talked about this game, so it’s high time I wrote about it again. Or more precisely, it’s high time I posted another video. This time we have a vid from ArenaNet’s Twitch TV stream containing all sorts of lovely details on end game content, and some very cool sounding legendary weapons. Suhweeet!

Guild Wars 2 endgame talk

 

Guild Wars 2 – Launch date announced!

I know the internet is blowing up already with this news but I had to post something. I’ve taken part in both beta weekend events and one stress test, and without a doubt, Guild Wars 2 is hands down the best MMO I’ve ever played and finally it has a release date – August 28th 2012, with one final BWE July 20th – 22nd. So, watch the video announcement and get excited.

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