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New Players Will Have It Rough

David North Posted:
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September is here, which means Guild Wars 2 is going to go through some big changes.  Lately PvP has been the center of attention, with new features announced, and the launch of some exciting tournaments.  However, we saw a huge shift this past week, showing more attention towards making the game more appealing to new players, but will these changes actually work?

While some believe it’s the end game that is the weak spot in Guild Wars 2, I believe it’s actually the very beginning.  One thing the start of the game does right is it pits you up against a real threat.   Rather than just putting you in a sewer with a bunch of rats.  Instead, you’re thrown into battle with centaurs, or even an army of ghosts!  It’s great that it gets the adrenaline pumping right off the bat, but this beginning experience doesn’t actually teach you anything.

Nearly every game I’ve played or worked on takes the first 5 or 10 minutes to teach players how to play the game, showing, and making them apply, all the mechanics.  The changes coming in September are going to start locking things out for new players, such as the ability to rally, or even use waypoints.  To gain access to these abilities, players will now have to reach level milestones.  This is the model used in the Chinese release, and while I don’t remember every milestone, it would seem like new players won’t actually get to play the full Guild Wars 2 till about level 15 or so. 

Imagine not being able to use waypoints. Very scary, I know.

Look, I’m happy that ArenaNet is aware that the beginning experience needed some work.  I’m also happy that they are at least doing something about it.  What I’m not happy with is that they missed a huge opportunity.  The first 5 minutes of gameplay in Guild Wars 2 puts players in an instance, only inhabited by other fresh characters.  But like I said before, you get to fight some cool enemies, but you don’t actually learn anything.  This should be the place where they teach new players.

With some tweaking, this beginner's zone could actually be used as a way to teach players all the core mechanics of gameplay.  Make players dodge, rally fallen foes, and even deal with the downed state themselves.  This zone could have been a very unique, and fun way, to teach players how to play.  Instead, players will have to wait several levels to learn the same amount of information. It reminds me of those silly facebook games Zynga made. I'm betting this new system still won’t teach players how to properly dodge attacks.

Dodging is such a huge part of combat, yet the game does nothing to teach them about it.

I’m just really confused by this route ArenaNet has taken.  They’ve always done things in an interesting way that moves game design forward, but this seems to be taking several steps back.  While some things like the downed state can be “overwhelming” for a new player, it’s only because they haven’t experienced it yet.  Why didn’t they experience it?   Because it was never taught at the beginning of the game!  The point is, the game should teach players first, then release them into the open world.  Things will still be just as confusing, and possibly more difficult, for new players with this revamp of the current system.   

What do you think of these new level milestones being implemented into the game?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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David North