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Guild Wars 2 - Reinvention of MMORPG's

This blog is about Guild Wars 2. Mostly about praising it in various ways. While I am huge fan of the game I do understand it's not for everyone. This blog is da truth. About author: Author keeps avoiding the banhammer

Author: vee41

Guild Wars 2: Is it over already and other random ramblings

Posted by vee41 Monday September 10 2012 at 6:47AM
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There are few things I wanted to quickly ramble about today. First thing is Guild Wars 2 launch which was not the smoothest, second would be the people who've already hit level 80 and have nothing to do.

So, the launch.

Good game with a bad launch is still a good game. Lets take a look at what ArenaNet have done since day 0:

1. ) Fixed just about every issue that came with the launch

2. ) Added some requested features to the game

And to be honest launch wasn't even what I'd consider bad as I did not have many issues myself but reading commentary around the interwebs made it seem like there were many people that had problems. Those issues are now thing of the past though as ArenaNet rapidly fixed their capacity problems and other things. Somewhere along the way they also managed to sneak in couple of sweet features (hooray for crafting from the bank collection!)

The other thing I mentioned was the people hitting level cap. I wrote an entry about endgame a while ago and it summarizes my thoughts about it pretty well.

All out of coins..

Many people seem to be wondering about what they should do or is there anything to do at level 80?

Short answer: Yes, there are plenty of things to do at level 80. What they are you can easily find out with magic of the google, but there is plenty of goals you can set yourself at level 80.

Get a legendary weapon? That oughta take a while. Gather sweet dungeon set? Another while. Play the tradingpost market and buy fancy stuff from gemstore? You might manage to do it quickly, but for me that will be a while. (this short list is in no way complete representation of content that Guild Wars 2 offers at level cap)

I'll also throw this in: You can get max stat level 80 gear easily, I've read people getting full crafted level 80 exotic set with around 120 hours played. If your game ends when stats stop growing that would be the end of the road for you. But you don't want to stop. The game doesn't have endgame content for me and now I am angry! So I'll go post about it in the MMORPG.com forums (which is ok, people should know about this stuff). Here is a tip for you:

Go play something else. If you feel there is nothing more to do why play the game?

For some reason MMORPG's are a genre that must be played for years and yeeears and yeeeeeears. I never really got that. Yes I understand the need for virtual worlds and virtual lives but I've approached Guild Wars 2 as a game, not as second life. I've been playing since headstart and I'm only level 39. I'll be playing for months, maybe even years.

I haven't enjoyed any game this much in a long time, or any MMO ever for that matter. But when I start feeling like I am not enjoying playing anymore I'll stop. No need to force yourself to play anymore just because it is an MMO, that is the beauty of B2P model.

The game itself offers those things that you can do at level 80, for example get that legendary weapon. That will take a nice chunk of time for anyone. But if any of those activities is not your thing there is no need to force yourself to play. Hopefully you had a good time, got your moneysworth and might return to check out some content updates later on!

Game over man, game over!

Last night I did Ascalonian Catacombs for the first time, that was awesome fun! Difficult and very different from any dungeon I've done before in other games. We managed to 4 man it and I only died a few times which was a pleasant surprise.

It was very rewarding in everyway except ingame loot way which was quite subpar although plentifull. Can't wait to check out other dungeons, perhaps even some explorable modes if I manage to grow some hair on my balls.

Guild Wars 2: ArenaNet is awesome but we are even better! + Review!

Posted by vee41 Thursday September 6 2012 at 3:39AM
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Communities in mainstream MMORPG's or games in general tend to be awfull. I'm pretty sure we can all agree that most communities in internet are pretty aggressive and usually degenerate into pre-school level name calling and arguing with zero respect for other peoples opinions. 

Biggest surprise to me in GW2 has been the community. Never-ever in MMO have I seen so friendly and trash free map chat with people helping each other left and right, lack of trolling and general positive attitude. Disclaimer: this might vary server by server.

I wasn't really expecting GW2 to be any different from any other random internet community so this one really took me by surprise and is actually turning out to be one of the greatest things about the whole game.

Here is a great example about what I am talking about:

The money experiment. A quote follows:

" I started going bigger doing trades with around 40s and every time I sent first they delivered, and sometimes they managed to send to me straight away. I then started experimenting, I sent 30s to random people, messaged them that I accidentally sent it to them and If they could return it. Every single one did. I then sent it back to them telling them It was a test for and they passed so I decided to send them the silver to keep.

But down to statistics I made 35 trades via the mail system. Every single one of those trades went down well. I gave 8 people 30s, and all those people gave the silver back.

Astonishing guys, this is by far, the best community I have ever been in."

There are few big reasons why community is this way:

1) Relaxed nature of PvE game. There really is no stress in anything you do in PvE or no competition so that creates a friendly atmosphere.

2) ArenaNets aggressive moderation.

Now this point 2 is what has been really controversial. With all the bannings and things going around lots of people are naturally annoyed. And that is ok. 

Bans incoming

I have no problem with ArenaNet banning people for various reasons: racial slurs, insults, botting or exploiting as they are all degrading experience of other players and deserve no mercy. People can yell "freedom of speech!" and "use language filter!" all they want but fact is they are part of community and have to obey the rules of that community. ArenaNet sets those rules. If you act like an ass you'll get thrown out, just like you'd get out of restaurant or bar if you don't respect their rules.

Another argument could be "I've paid for the game and ArenaNet took it away from me by banning me!". Tough luck, you didn't play by the rules.This isn't a singleplayer game where it is only you, your actions ingame can affect other people too. ArenaNet are responsible for delivering a pleasant experience to it's customers and that is why these rules are in there. Even if you pay for the game it doesn't give you permission to make it less enjoyable for rest of us.

The most thinline are exploits as there were quite a few people that were offended when they received a ban on exploiting too cheap karma item, buying bunch of them and forging them as endgame items. This was absolutely necessary as it destroys the economy and people that received bans were the ones that clearly exploited it and took over 50 items. They can't deny they did not know what they were doing and that it wasn't against the rules they had complied when playing the game.

What most people don't seem to understand is that ArenaNet has every right to decide who they want to form their community with. With their actions they've sent a strong message to everyone about what kind of people they want to be part of that community. There are not many MMO developers that are this aggressive to protect their product, but luckily ArenaNet is. I applaud them for that.

Oh the irony of this picture.

And last, my indepth review of GW2:

So far I've played about 45 hours and I am level 32. The game is just a killer for anyone that plays casually like me and still looks for that MMO fix. I've already had way more fun than my moneys worth.

Guild Wars 2: Why dynamic events are different.

Posted by vee41 Wednesday August 29 2012 at 1:41AM
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I wrote this post as there are many people that claim that dynamic events are basically the same having the traditional ! and ? questing that we see in pretty much every other MMO out there.  I guess this is by large part due earlier zones having less and much simpler DE's than what ArenaNet has actually done with them later on in the game. From certain angles that might be somewhat correct, as in they are a form of questing. But there are couple of key differences that give them a whole unique FEEL which also defines Guild Wars 2 throughout the game.

Thanks to arstechica for the image!

Here is an example of short DE I went through last night. My 20'ish charr ranger approaches a village next to a lake and as I get close enough, I see that there is an event going on. Seems like these merfolks are capturing village people and they need to be defended. There are already few players fighting them back and protecting villagers, I arrive about halfway through the event. The UI gives me 2 pieces of info: The amount of attacking merfolk and amount of not captured / total villagers. There are 5/8 villagers remaining and about half of the merfolk. So I join the fight and start smacking things around, trying to protect the villagers whenever possible. The fight was pretty tough, but we end up 'winning' with 3/8 villagers remaining. Notice the ' - marks around winning, as this is where dynamic events get interesting.

While we did complete the event and win it, there is a new event that pops up right away: rescue 5 villagers from merfolk lair. So bunch of us defenders jump into the lake and start swimming towards their base. While approaching we see few of the 5 villagers imprisoned in the merfolk lair which is ofcourse this awesome underwater construction of wood and mud. One awesome underwater fight later we save those villagers and they return to the village, proceeding to do whatever they were doing.

Thanks to MMORPG.com for the image!

That whole thing was awesome, fun, challenging and interesting event with clear story and purpose behind it (merfolk are evil and they eat villagers.. or perhaps some player dived in their base and killed a bunch, angering them. Who knows. DE's have various ways to trigger them). No walls of quest text or anything, just pure action, reaction and story that forms around it.

Now lets visualize this same thing in ! and ? questing.

Thanks to gamasutra for the image!

My troll hunter arrives to a village next to a lake. There is a guy with yellow ! above his head. I click him and skip the wall of text. There is new quest indicator in my map and I head to the beach where bunch of merfolk are staticly sitting around. I kill them untill my counter hits 10/10, I return and click a guy with ? who gives me another quest. I go to the underwater area that quest indicates, kill few merfolk and click on these villagers to free them. 5/5, so I return to quest giver to get my reward, while I can already see the villagers I just 'rescued' respawning behind me.

It's a nobrainer to me which system is more interesting and offers far more possibilities. The DE I described was quite a simple one with only 2 phases as far as I know. There of course might be more as I had to logoff right after the event and there could have been phases that led to that conclusion. The kicker is: IF we had managed to protect the villagers so that none would have been captured, the next phase would not have happened! There might have been different phase or the whole event might have ended there but outcome would be different.

The basic mechanics are the same in both styles, of course they are. You kill, you protect, you interact, you follow. The basic MMO stuff. But DE's give all this a purpose and meaning. Two guys on same area few hours apart could have radically different questing experiences depending on what is happening and how events are progressing. Instead of reading about the story you actually get to experience it happening and have a chance to change it!

This is why DE's are great and I cannot understand why anyone would argue they are not any different from your run-of-the-mill questing. Like many things in Guild Wars 2, on mechanical level they are fairly basic. But things tend to go far deeper than that, this is where Guild Wars 2's reinvention of the genre lays.

EDIT: Why this blog doesn't really touch WAR's public events or RIFT's invasions is because neither of those is really your main way of progressing through the game or telling stories. Both also have mechanical problems that cause them to be less glorious than they could be, they are not as dynamic or persistant as Guild Wars 2's vision of events. DE's are evolution of these, you could say they are PQ's done right.

Both RIFT and WAR still have the standard questing described in the main article as their mainstay.

Guild Wars 2: My launch experience, future, general ramblings.

Posted by vee41 Monday August 27 2012 at 2:08AM
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As many of us are propably aware, Guild Wars 2 launched last saturday with it's 3 day headstart. Huge amount of people (just judging by most reliable source ever, XFire) stormed the server and traffic caused lots of things go haywire. Mail system, trading post, Hall of Monuments, login issues; there were lots of problems that is for sure!

I was there at the launch as well and ran into this stuff. For me there was 10 minute period I was unable to login and lack of trading post has been annoying. There have also been some laggy moments, though only in PvE. In PvP everything responded smoothly even in huge battles with close to hundred people around.

And none of those problems really mattered to me. I am having so much fun that I can absolutely forgive them for having problems as ArenaNet has shown in the past that they can work this kind of things out. In week or two when these problems are only a memory and everything works as it did during beta people will find other things to complain about. There will always be someone not satisfied with the product and that is fine. The game is absolutely not everyones cup of tea as it is rather radically different to your average MMORPG.

Will Guild Wars 2 have this many players 6 months from now? Propably not. Or might have. Why does it matter? Due the amazing server architechture ArenaNet have GW2 is less prone to large variations in population. They have overflow servers, guesting and server transfers for those times when there are less or more people playing and players can still find an enjoyable experience. Also their servers seem to hold huge number of players, someone calculated that just by the amount of servers and prepurchases servers need to hold around 20k people each.

The point if, game doesn't even need to become a second job. It can easily be enjoyable in small doses and there is stuff to do for manymany months. Obviously if you burn through content trying to achieve something (.. something?) there will propably be a point where you will need to start repeating things. But that is your choice, I intend to enjoy this game for forseeable future.

Guild Wars 2: The new players Guide. Or how I failed.

Posted by vee41 Thursday May 31 2012 at 5:47AM
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Ahoy, next Guild Wars 2 beta weekend is incoming! And with it there will be some new players that have not previously played the game. Which a good thing!

My intention in this entry is to show why and how Guild Wars 2 is different to previous games you might or might not have played. In the process I highlight some things that might be usefull for a player that is trying Guild Wars 2 for the first time, propably even to someone that played the game already. This isn't really a traditional guide, it's more of an display of where I failed when first playing the game and how you might be able to get some more enjoyment out of your game.

If you've been reading anything I've written in the past you might have noticed that I've been dead bored of MMO's for few years now and pretty much abandoned the whole genre. That was untill first Guild Wars 2 beta weekend. I had prepurchased the game after watching some videos and being mildly excited to play the game after what I had seen.

So the first beta weekend rolls around, servers open(atleast 30 minutes early in europe, something to look out for again) and I login for the first time. My first impression after logging in was how polished things looked; no placeholders or anything and visual style where they used lots of beautiful concept art was something I quickly grew fond of. Character creation was your usual MMO hooblah, and it wasn't after I had taken more than a few steps with my Charr warrior before I started realizing that this game actually is different.

This is one thing where ArenaNet needs to improve their game in; make people used to your run-of-the-mill MMO games realize this is not one of them.

There are some tutorial popups but in my opinion not enough to really highlight the important changes in the game. The impact of dynamic events, combat, travelling and billion little improvements can be easily missed if you don't even know to look for them. For example inventory management has been polished to a level that it had things that I did not even realize to look for. They would have made my life a lot easier but there was no indication they existed so I missed them completely.

Two of the core changes are questing and combat. These are the things we do most in MMO's by far and untill now not many games have even tried to make any big changes to existing concepts. I'll try to summarize:

Questing: It does not really exist. Really. It doesn't. You can say that Dynamic Events are just branching public quests, but the mechanic which they are delivered with makes things very diffrerent. MMO gamers intuition makes most of us behave like in any other MMO but Guild Wars 2's world works best when you play it like an adventurer; wandering from one place to another, perhaps even without any clear goal.  

Combat: My first impression was: simple, easy, button mashy with flashy animations. Here is the kicker:  It is not all about stats, it's more about reactions and positioning. After level 4 or so difficulty starts ramping up and threat of dying even to regular mobs becomes real. You have to:

- Learn to use your dodge properly, it's a skill almost like any other in your skillbar.

- Move. Don't stand still, you can evade attacks just by not being there when the arrow is flying towards you. Dodge does this mroe efficiently, but you can evade almost any projectile just by moving sideways. This applies to both melee and ranged, never stand still. Also those red circles indicate bad AOE. Don't stand inside.

- Time your skills. When you use your skills makes a huge difference in how you perform in combat. Generally most of your steady damage will come from autoattack, other skills will give you versatility (highly class and weapon dependant).

- Switch weapons! At level .. 7(?) you gain ability to switch weapons in combat. Use it, as it will make you that much more versatile and able to react more situations. The little button left of 1 is the default key.

- It's not wrong to go down. Downed mechanic can be really odd at first. But you will be downed, and that does not mean you are dead! It is just a part of a fight; in many events I found myself going down once or twice always getting back up. It's not a shame or loss to go down, it's part of the game. Then again I am quite crap, so you propably won't even go down. Bastard.

Don't forget to dodge kids!

After I had figured that questing and combat were quite a different beast in Guild Wars 2 I started thinking how they actually affect the way I play the game and what parts of my playstyle are actually habits from other MMO's I've played before.

I digested my thoughts to a few bullet points that hopefully make your Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend - The Sequel experience a smoother one:

1) Read some basic instructions of the game before playing! Unless ArenaNet has done some improvements on the tutorials, Guild Wars 2 does quite poor job of showing you the things that makes it different. Here is a good read, going through everything from interface to important mechanics. Even players who have played before might pick something usefull up, I most certainly did!

2) Don't rush! There is really no reason to 'grind levels' or rush through the world. Take your time and enjoy, this game IS about the journey; the destination doesn't even exist.

3) Explore! Doing the usual events that are around the well travelled areas can be really fun. Lots of people, lots of enemies, all good fun. But! I found all the coolest and most memorable things in the game while just taking a jog in the bushes; perhaps it was an epic beast with elusive loot, perhaps it was an dynamic event that had had a nice piece of story that triggered my interest to investigate the thing further. Perhaps it was an city under attack and I rode in just in time to save the day (for the record that never happened,  we got beat up so bad..). Don't just follow the roads between cities and central locations, dive in to the woods!

4) Dynamic Events Understand that dynamic events are not the little hearts you see in the map. YouTube holds great amount of information and examples if you want to dive deeper into their mechanics.

5) Lore. Yeah, that is one of the things I've been doing recently. Reading about Guild Wars 2 lore and things that happened in the world. I can already think for a few occasions in the first BWE that I've read later on about, where the things I've read add some real depth to the events ingame and explain the underlying reasons for why this is happening. If you are into that kind of stuff it will add a whole new depth into your play experience as there are lots of little events and chracters in the game that you can enjoy a lot more if you know the lore behind them. Everything in the game seems to happen for a reason and is nicely tied in to the general lore of the world.

To close out, I'll say this: I've written quite a lots about Guild Wars 2 already in this blog and haven't even touched any PvP aspects. It just goes to show how much depth this game holds. Or how much crap my head holds..

Anyways!

I hope you'll enjoy the game much has I do, there is certainly a huge amount of interest for it and I firmly believe it does things that shake up the stagnant MMO genre as a whole. See you June 8th in Tyria!

Guild Wars 2: Keep on Truckin' on The Wheels of Progression

Posted by vee41 Thursday May 24 2012 at 7:03AM
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Big thank you to ennymith for his comment in my last entry that inspired this post!

What unifies video games in general? How you could put World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Super Mario or which ever game you want in same bucket? One thing is progression. You gain gear and levels in WoW, CoD you gain new weapons and learn to play the game better and in Super Mario you progress in the world, heading onwards on your quest to save the princess.

All games have some form of progression (prove me wrong!), but in MMO's progression tends to be focus of things. I guess it comes from the ancient PnP RPG rulesets that most MMO's still rely on; where almost every time your performance is related to your statistics. More strength, more damage and more damage, better I am.

Also the nature of MMO's where you are in world full of other players tends to bring out the competive spirit in some of us, we just have to be better than the guy next to us. Be it because we must beat him in PvP, take his spot in the raid group or just to look down at him, we must be better!

The wheels of progressions keep on rollin'

Like I pointed out earlier there are few ways of progression and this is the case with MMO's aswell. Here are few of the most common types I came up with:

Power progressionThe most common one in MMO's, you gain power by gathering levels, stats or whatever advantage you are given.

Skill progression: This is the 'FPS progression', learning the game and honing your skills. You learn to do right things just by playing the game and generally get better results as time progresses. You learn to adapt to situations and react them in most efficient manner.

Cosmetic progression: You gain new things that do not affect your performance or increase your power. Be it minipets, fancier pants or a new hat they generally make you look cooler and are desired as tokens of progression. Others can easily see that those fancy pants you are wearing took a small lifetime to get and thus you gain recognition.

Lateral progression: Lateral progression is where you gain new skills and goodies but they do not necassarily give you direct advantage over others. EVE skill system is good example of this: someone who played 4 years only has more options to do things than someone that has played 1 year. He does not necassarily do things better, just has more options.

 
Usually in context of MMO's you get mix of all four of these and they define how the games progression arc pans out. That progression arc also largely molds how game plays in the end, the spirit of the game if you will. 

Lets analyze our dear World of Warcraft as is customary in this blog. WoW has mentality 'more is better' and has crammed each of these four progression types in the game in not so subtle manner. There are loads of ways to progress and things to achieve! Achievements! Pets! Gear! Levels! Skills! Dungeons! But is more actually better? From consumer point of view the more content there is more value I get for my money, right? 

Wrong. Even if the WoW content is top notch it doesn't interest me as there is heavy emphasis on power progression. There is no shortage of power that you can obtain by playing the game, they pretty much make the game all about the power as game really doesn't have that much skill progression. That easily translates to time=win, competively speaking. Competiviness is the key here as I want to be able to compete in MMO enviroment but don't want it to become race of time spent in the game.

I'll say Guild Wars 2 went for better direction. Guild Wars 2 does also pretty much all of these different progressions but balances them differently. The greatest decision of them all: the amount of possible power progression is low! After you reach level 80 and buy your gear you have pretty much all the power in the world. Rest of the game is either lateral, cosmetic or skill progression. Fortunately Guild Wars 2 has invested heavily in all three to compensate for lack of power progression. They have 'grindy' dungeons as well but these offer only cosmetic progression. Skill points offer lateral progression, giving you more options but not making you stronger compared to everyone else. The combat has more reactive elements so one could argue that there is higher ceiling for skill progression than in your average MMO.

The power of Grayskull is mineeeh!

Power progression has long been industry standard in MMO's, this is another aspect of MMO's that Guild Wars 2 revolutionizes. Yes I know it is not the first game to do it but hopefully the first mainstream one to do it succesfully. As power progression has been industry standard it is another thing that many find odd in Guild Wars 2 as they expect more power as main way to develop their character.

Overall it feels to me like Guild Wars 2 makes things less focused on whole progression treadmill replacing it with fun instead. Making things we do most in MMO's (combat! quests!) fun, who would have thought of that..

Guild Wars 2: Just your casual revolution

Posted by vee41 Wednesday May 16 2012 at 3:16AM
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This blog post ties somewhat to my first post about absence of endgame. And this might also be bit on the long side so stick with me here. Onwards!

Topic of this blog post uses the word revolution. That word was inspiration to this post and I often run into it when people talk about Guild Wars 2, usually arguing this and that. Here is what my brainjellies produced on the topic in textform (and few images aswell!)

So last monday evening I was playing Guild Wars 2 again. I wasn't that excited, after all it was just a short stint and due nature of stress test I'd propably be bound to run into performance problems. So I thought I'd just jump on to my thief for hour or two and fool around in PvE.

Before I go in detail into what I experienced during those few hours, here is a little flashback that will be relevant later in this post.

Back in the good ole' days I used to be real Serious MMO gamer, mostly in WoW and UO. Raids and stuff, organized PVP, you know the drill. Got bored, wasn't my thing anymore, quit. You could say I became casual MMO player; not really wanting to participate in top end guilds and everything related to that, rather looking to have fun in other ways than having to dedicate atleast few hours every day to playing a game.

Casual gaming is usually seen as sort of curse word in MMO's. "Oh you are casual player, you can't join this guild as we only take like, Serious Players here." And that is fine with me. I don't wanna ruin anyone elses fun. But that also means most of the Serious Content is out of my reach and that makes me feel inferior. No one likes that, except the ones feeling superior, The Serious Bunch. This is where the revolution in Guild Wars 2 starts. Lets say the 'Re' part is here.

Fast forward back to last mondays stress test. Here is quick summary of my experience during those 3 or so hours I played.

I logged in to to my level 6 thief in queensdale and was casually pondering where to invest my skill points. Suddenly I noticed that this damn guard tower I was sitting at was under attack! To arms!  Bunch of centaurs appeared and started smacking people around! "Silly horsies" I thought and leaped in middle of the action. There were few of us defending the tower and NPC's also valiantly chipped in. It was nothing short of an epic showdown that lasted for around 5 action packed minutes, people went down and got brought up constantly. And in the end we got just steamrolled. Flat. I watched from my corpse camera as centaurs brought down the guard tower and almost cheerfully ran around the battlefield splattered with (mostly) our noble human blood.

My thief, running. Propably towards even more heroic activities!

Beaten, angry, even a little bit sad, I swore revenge and packed my various body parts to nearest waypoint and started wandering aimlessly. I took maybe 50 steps and I ran into a mountainside which had a REALLY fascinating cave kind of thing going on, surely I couldn't resist taking a peek inside? There were few puny wolves guarding the entrance, I promptly dispatched them regardless of my definitive lack of skill with sword/dagger combination. Or lets just say definitive lack of skill alltogether.  Inside there was an big-bad wolf with few not-so-big-bad-but-still-pretty-bad wolves guarding... a chest. A chest! Any fantasy RPG players eyes grow to match the size of  football (european, not that american pineapple) when they see a chest! And I ain't talking just your ordinary everyday chest where you keep all the stuff you never need, this thing was BIG, atleast the size of the wolf! I don't even care what is inside, I must loot it!

I made a cunning plan which focused on some stabbing, more on looting whatever treasure the chest held inside and engaged the bunch of wolves. I managed to kill two out of three, but biggest and baddest of bunch took few bites too many of my thief. After a short run from respawn point back to the Chest Cave, I made even more cunning plan to take the Big wolf down, this time mano-a-mano and more stabbing included in the plan. What followed was an epic confrontation between two of the greatest forces in MMO gaming: a level 6 thief with less than stellar grasp of playing the game and generic level 7 Big Bad Wolf, that just happened to be in wrong place at the wrong time. No one comes between RPG gamers and their chests! And while the chest technically wasn't MINE, I felt like I had some generic pride of adventurers to uphold, what is a wolf gonna do with an chest anyway?

I guess no one is surprised to hear that I got smacked down again though this time almost taking the Big Wolf down with me. Again, beaten I took my gnawled remains to a respawn point and ran to a nearby town to repair my armor and lick my wounds. Now wait, what is this? Bunch of NPC's have gathered and are heading out to repair that outpost that I heroically allowed centaurs to conquer earlier? And they need protection of Tyrias Noble Heroes?! I'll be sure to call them, but while we are waiting for some real heroes to arrive count me in! Screw the Chest Cave! This is real chance to restore my damaged pride, which the whole chest episode did pummel some more though, but I swore to return for my chest later. Some people might notice a pattern forming here which indeed followed me through pretty much the whole session..

So I tagged in with bunch of other players and with these NPC's we set off to the guard tower that centaurs razed earlier. What followed was.. E-P-I-C.

Absolutely unrelated picture of epic dragon.

Catch my point? This was supposed to be quick summary of 3 hours of play. That was propably the first 15 minutes of the session and it included more excitement from my part than probably necassary, but it was too fun! I felt like a kid in a candy store! And not normal kind of kid, kind of kid that has foam coming from his mouth and sort of crazy look in his eyes. It was also something I haven't experienced in longlong time with any game. Pure fun, presented in so organic manner that you cannot even compare it to most RPG, let alone MMO systems.

Now lets come back to this blog post. We have a revolution going on here and so far it is missing 'volution'-part.

I've pretty much made transition as casual MMO player. Work, relationship, hobbies and other things dictate my life, not my guilds raid schedule. I haven't actually been playing any MMO's since Aion as no MMO can really offer me that experience where I can:

a) Define my own schedules and still enjoy the game to full extent

b) Have meaningfull sense of progression in short play sessions

c) Have fun and be challenged

These are the three things that define casual gaming to me. I don't want an watered down experience that offers me no challenge or sense of progression during my short play session, I want that after that 2 or 3 hour session I can stand up and say "Hey, I accomplished something and had fun doing it!"

When I thought of it, my mondays stress test experience was pretty much like an casual session, the way I'd be playing the game most of the time. All of the three things I listed above were present, and I mean present! Game is challenging even at the lower levels; I died a lot. During those 3 hours I went from level 6 thief that did not know which end of the sword I thould stick monsters with to a level 9 thief that still couldn't figure which end of the sword is the pointy one.

I got my gear, achievements, the usual stuff. And I saw so many different things and little adventures like ones described above. I had meaningfull sense of progression. You can bet I had fun.  Whether it is due my (lack of)skill or not, I was challenged. And best of all there is absolutely no feeling of being forced to do anything. I don't need to run this or that dungeon to get good gear, none of that. I can login whenever I want and I am not left behind competetively PvP or PvE wise, because in PvE there really is nothing I can't do with casual effort. Sure, Serious Gamers might know fancy stuff like which end of the sword they should stick things with and so forth, but we are on even playing field looking from purely statistical viewpoint. I am not locked out of any content due my irregular playing times! Hoorray, I am not inferior!

Now finally after all the gibberish here is my actual meat of the post, what makes this all a revolution? It seems to me that lot of people expect Guild Wars 2 to be a revolution, which it is. What some people fail to see however that it is not revolution on mechanical level, it is revolution on fundemental level.

And don't understand me wrong, the mechanical aspects fo Guild Wars 2 are top notch, representation and production values are really high. There are also real original and innovative mechanics there, propably nothing I'd call revolutionary, but innovative atleast. And most of these small mechanical innovations are there to drive the fundemental change of the MMO formula.

Almost all mainstream MMO's that have come out in last decade have followed pretty much the same fundementals that drive the whole genre onwards: progression and endgame, keep subscribers doing stuff. The basic idea is that more time you spend playing, more levels, skills and gear you have giving you access to more content. So what you focus in these games is getting more gear and more levels, progressing.

Guild Wars 2 revolutionizes this concept by killing the whole idea of endgame and making progression a secondary thing. You still advance via levels, skills and gear but they really are not your focus while playing because in the end you will reach that cap and be side by side with everyone. There is no competition between players PvE wise which lots of games mechanics display really well. Also time you take from level 1 to 80 is considerably less than you'd encounter in most other games, even casual player doesn't have to spend a year to reach that final level.

Guild Wars 2 makes the world around you the focus of all actions player takes and leveling just sort of happens as a sidedish. This opens it up for us players to look the game as not progressing from level 4 to 10, but rather travelling between all these well represented small stories that happen dynamically around you all the time. Didn't a slogan somewhere say "This is my story."?

Yes it did.

I never really thought it this way, but that slogan might mean more than your personal story.

While other MMO's have focused on finding that mechanical revolution like Aion ("Look! We put pwetty wings on everyone!"), Age of Conan ("Look! We made combat different!") or Warhammer Online ("Look! We made... a mess?") and failed to reach mainstream popularity, Guild Wars 2 makes it main change a fundemental one. They made people play together and did not make the community progress driven by allowing people with more time spent on the game access exclusive content. They also understand that losing can be fun, you can and must present players with challenges from the moment he logs in.

Guild Wars 2 is revolution for casual play. Mechanics are polished enough for anyone to enjoy. Fundementals of the game support those times when you can squeeze hour there or two here in to the game and you can still enjoy the games content to full extent! You won't feel inferior.

A revolution much needed by many, as MMO audience that started forming a decade ago has matured. And partly due this, ArenaNet employees might be flying around in golden helicopters soon. Just a thought. 

Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World : Oh ArenaNet, what have you done to me!

Posted by vee41 Saturday May 12 2012 at 4:55AM
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I played The Secret World last night for the first time and thought it might be fun to compare these two betas. My approach to both betas was quite different: I knew lots of GW2 mechanics beforehand but had not spoiled any of the content to myself. My expectations were high, really high. I wasn't let down, instead  my expectations were exceeded on many areas.

I was not really expecting much of TSW, afterall it is a FunCom game (for reason to my low expectations see Conan, Age Of) and I had not done much research of the game beforehand. So I was mildly interested when a beta key appeared and thought I'd give it a go. And while I did not expect too much, I was sort of sad to find out that my low expectations were met.

So come friday evening I poured some whiskey and cola, logged in. Whole character creation was nice and I created this Cho (from 'The Mentalist') sort of guy with long matrix style trenchcoat. He was ex-military guy, tough as they come. You know the type, silent (I never actually said anything in any of the cutscenes which played nicely to my character!), stern, kind of a guy that you can trust but don't really know lot about. After creating my character there were about... 30 minutes worth of cutscenes, in between there were short 'Press W to walk forward' tutorials.

The Dent

Jayson "Dent" Denton. Stern, but fair. I really liked original Deus Ex.

I liked the cutscenes a lot, they were well done and really had good sense of style. I felt the world was interesting! But this whole tutorial stuff was... meh. Anyone playing this game will have played atleast some games before where you press the damn W to walk! This complaint applies to both GW2 and TSW: Developers should focus less on people that do not know how to walk forwards in your run-of-the-mill MMORPG. What they should focus on is on features that are different to your average MMO. While GW2 did pinpoint some of these features there were lots of things that I just read around the web and went 'Oh thats nice and convenient! Wonder why game did not tell me about that?' I imagine same goes for TSW, there are lots of cool things I do not know about.

Hell, if developers did tutorials based on what is different and unique in their game we could judge amount of innovation based on length of the tutorial! :)

Moving back to TSW. So after these cutscenes and tutorials I finally got to area where I got to choose my first weapon from bunch of different ones and test them on some demons hanging on the walls. It was a nice feature, again oozing with style and fitting will in the game world. After that I got to my first mission area and this is where the game started feeling boring.

Dem cutscenes.

Dem cutscenes. Really liked them.

Combat was not a challenge and ugliness of animations really showed itself. None of my neat katana attacks really felt like anything else than another skill with different numbers attached to a bad animation. There was no OOOMPF!-factor at all in attacks.

Quests, while done a tad differently, felt like nothing special. Wasn't long untill I started to feel bored (I even had whiskey to entertain me!) and logged out.

I blame GW2. It is kind of measuring stick I have to compare every MMO against as the amount of fun I had after pressing the 'Login' - button is second to none. And that should be main feature of any mainstream game anyway. It absolutely has it's flaws, but the fun is there so you can look past all that.

Here is a quote that kind of summarizes what TSWs world was lacking in my opinion:

"You don’t even need Dynamic Events to watch the world change. I was out in Queensdale, south of the dam (near the orchard) when I spotted this scene; http://i.imgur.com/yyOaY.jpg Note the woman cowering behind the tree, her picnic rudely interrupted by Yogi there. There were no breadcrumbs or shouts for help that lead me here, I simply stumbled upon it.

I decided to get rid of Mr. Bear, just to see what would happen: http://i.imgur.com/0izgX.jpg The woman stood up, walked out from behind the tree, and resumed her picnic. There wasn’t any dialogue or reward, but I was simply amazed that one of the developers took the time to put this little loving detail in. I only wish she said something. When I returned to this location on another character (at night) she was gone."

This was quote from nick "Retro" @ http://www.killtenrats.com/2012/05/11/gw2-the-long-game/

The whole TSW world felt like static scenery; everywhere I went there were zombies in neat pack of 3's eating corpses. Always pack of three hunching over a body. While it was visually pleasing, apart from animations it felt so damn static. Oh, and there was no sense of MMORPG. It felt like I could have been playing singleplayer game. Again, something Guild Wars 2 did differently and did well: Brought back sense of Massive, Multiplayer and Online to MMORPG genre. It has been lacking in most modern titles with ovedone instancing and game mechanics that separate players and make them play these games like they are singleplayer.

'em bastids guna get it now!

So my verdict for TSW is 43/100, 3 stars out of 7, a melon with bronze star or however you wish to digest your 'meh, didnt catch me'-opinion. There are some features that I really like but in post-Guild Wars 2 BWE world they don't really cut it. I will have to play some more today though, as there were some really interesting bits and I am sure the game will absolutely find it's audience. Also, innovation! It definatively is not your average MMORPG, not theme or mechanics wise which is always something I love to see. On to the disclaimers..

"Butbutbut the two games are so different, you can't compare apples and orange!" I absolutely can. Both taste different and I can like one more than the other.

"Butbutbut you can't judge an MMO game after 3 hours of play! Right..?" I absolutely can. Call it first impressions or whatever, but there is an opinion I have about the game. If it is usefull to 'judge' game after 3 hours and come here and write a blog entry about it, that is whole another discussion. I write this because I find writing about it fun.

"Butbutbut this wasn't a comparison between GW2 and TSW at all, you just bashed The Secret World!" Yeeeah, that I pretty much did. :)

On other news: I do not find myself awfully excited about Guild Wars 2 stress test coming this monday. I'd love to play the full game, but having one evening of play feels like waving a bag of heroin infront of drug addict and letting him just smell it a little bit. So so cruel..

Guild Wars 2 PvE: End of the Endgame

Posted by vee41 Monday May 7 2012 at 8:56AM
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Recent Guild Wars 2 beta weekend allowed masses of people to enter ArenaNet's much anticipated MMO for the first time and I was of course there in the front row. I played and saw quite a lot during the weekend and I try to squeeze my experiences into few blog posts.

Biggest change in the whole game is the PvE experience. Whether it is evolution of existing concepts or something revolutionary, I do not really care. It is just plain fun and fresh approach to MMO gaming and actually makes the usually rather dull leveling process enjoyable!

Leveling process is kind of a bad word to use with GW2, as it makes it sound like you are going through bunch of levels to get to the end which is arguably the case with most traditional MMO's. Take WoW for example: you go through the game to get to the levelcap so you can do all the fun stuff. Everything you did before reaching that levelcap is pretty much an effort to reach that cap and get to the endgame things. People usually treat these as two different phases: Leveling and endgame. While casual players tend to enjoy the leveling phase there is definatively emphasis towards all the fun and interesting stuff happening in the endgame phase. Endgame is also where the most meaningfull progress in the game happens.

In my opinion Guild Wars 2 kills the whole concept of endgame. The main content of the game is available throughout the whole leveling process and while you do gain access to more content through more levels there is nothing gigantic waiting you at the level 80 which is the level cap of Guild Wars 2. No massive gear treadmill, no level 80 only PvP, nothing. 

The lack of endgame changes the whole concept of playing the game: no longer is your aim to hit that magical level cap and get to the fun stuff, all the fun stuff is already available to you when you press the login button and create your first character!

This causes few things:  

1) Playing the game requires change of mindset from players who are used to the leveling/endgame divide. If you approach this game with mindset of getting to the endgame quickly you'll be disappointed to find out that there really is not any.

2) It focuses you to the game world instead of focusing you on to your character. Instead of putting all your effort on getting that Big Sword Of Endgame, your focus is keeping zones unconquered, villages safe and all the nasty things that happen around the world in check. When did gaining new gear and items even become the main focus of RPG's, when sole purpose of gaining that gear seems to be enabler for gaining even more gear?

In GW2 gear enables you to do things in the world rather than gain new gear. So the focus becomes "What can I hit this sword with to become famous hero" instead of "What can I hit this sword with so my I can replace it with bigger sword"

To me this whole concept is so refreshing; a whole new approach in main stream MMO's and it's execution makes it just a joy to experience in action.

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