Progress You Can See
Minimum requirements to run Guild Wars 2 have been posted. Now these requirements are still in question, and could change. Some people are worried that they will, and they will have to buy some very pricey upgrades, thus meaning they won’t be able to afford the game. I’m a fan of the first game, and remember first playing it on a PC that was nowhere near being called a gaming machine. The game still ran, and ArenaNet did such a good job of things that even under lower graphic settings, it still looked better than other online games at the time.
I spoke with a few of the developers during previous beta events, and it seemed like optimization was near the top of their list of “things to do”. They are trying to make the game run properly on a number of different machines. This can be a tough task, but it involves allowing the graphics to be switched to a large variety of different settings, and also modeling both characters and environments to look amazing, yet easy to render at the same time. Trust me, this is harder than it sounds. On a model, if you need to take out a few polygons, you better have an amazing texture in place to keep the model looking great. And that’s just a part of the battle! The programmers have to do their part as well. What do the programmers do exactly? I’m not actually sure, I’m just a concept artist. I just paint pretty pictures. The point is that there’s a lot of work that goes into making the game work on a variety of different PCs, and ArenaNet is doing it. During the previous events, I took notes to compare how the game ran to measure ArenNets progress. Here’s what I came up with.
WvW always sounded like an amazing play experience, but I also feared that it would be a lag-fest. During the first event it sure was. Even running around when other players weren’t nearby was laggy. The second event there was a huge improvement. The lag only occurred during larger fights. Heavy use of AOE skills being cast all at once also made my frame rate take a huge nose dive. I could tell what was going on and was still able to play, while in the previous build the game would have just crashed. If I joined a small group attacking supply depots, I could clearly see what was going on with about 20 other players on the screen, plus some enemy NPCs. It was during these fights that the lag was barely noticeable. In a month’s time ArenaNet made WvW a much smoother experience, but I’m hoping to see more.
WvW is a given for causing lag, but how did the rest of the game run? Well, while playing with a large number of players in a dynamic event, the frame rate did take a small drop. It was just enough to be noticeable. While running around in the open world, this was pretty common. For a while things would be running smooth, and then 30 players pop up on your screen and you fight with them for a while under a slightly slower frame rate. In fact, during the first event my notes show that it use to only take 10 players on my screen in open world to make things slow down. That’s a pretty big improvement. The same goes for the large cities. Hoelbrak is now the only city I experienced any real lag in.
The slower frame rate didn’t make the game unplayable. But I think we can all agree that it can be a bit annoying. I did some experimenting with the graphics settings, and just by turning some things down my frame rate was back to normal. The graphic settings really let you choose which parts of the game you want to look their best, and which ones you don’t mind just looking OK. For those with low end PCs, the graphic menu has an auto adjust button that automatically adjusts all settings to a setup that best fits your computer’s capabilities. I remember using this feature back when Guild Wars first came out and it worked wonders until I was able to upgrade. Some say lower graphics settings are for noobs (those people are idiots). But I have to say that even on lower settings the game still looks pretty darn amazing.
My current rig beats the snot out of the minimum requirements they have listed on the Guild Wars 2 pre-order site, and during the last beta event I was able to experience a good bit of the game on the highest settings. During WvW, and some of the larger Dynamic events, I brought some settings down and got things going smooth again. I think ArenaNet has done a swell job making a game this huge run so well. A lot of the developers I spoke with said it was their goal to make sure that Guild Wars 2 would run on as many machines as possible, while still having amazing graphics. I think they are on the right path. I’ll take more notes on their progress this weekend. I should also make sure they didn’t make the explorable dungeon mode harder.