For those not familiar with the series, Guild Wars is an online Role Playing Game that provides two main forms of play; the co-operative Player Vs Environment instanced story areas and the competitive Player Vs Player aspect which itself had several modes in which to fight other against other teams. Selling over 7 million copies, as well as hosting three expansion packs, Guild Wars managed to carve its way into the online gaming world, which was a great achievement for an unknown development team.
And now ArenaNet are ready to make even bigger waves on the gaming scene with Guild Wars 2. With more playable races and even more classes, including the recently revealed Engineer, along with its unique art style which is inspired by water colour paintings, ArenaNet aim to make a product that can stand up to the behemoths of the MMO realm. Dealspwn were lucky enough to be invited to a press session being headed by Global Brand Manager Christopher Lye to see the latest progress from the upcoming title.
Lye began by stating that ArenaNet had admitted there were some issues in the original Guild Wars, specifically with the use of instancing and a lack of large persistent spaces. It’s an issue that caused a divide in opinion as to whether the game was in fact an MMO at all, although the developers have always chosen to designate it as a CORPG instead. Thankfully ArenaNet have rectified this with Guild Wars 2 and Lye emphasised during the press session that it would definitely be a fully featured MMO built on a “fully persistent MMO engine.”
Of course, GW2 is entering a genre that is already filled with many fantasy-based offerings and ArenaNet has recognised the issue. As such, their aim is to bring a different approach with their title, and Lye discussed how they have tried to achieve this. The main way they hope to stand out is by retaining the main selling point for its predecessor; making it a subscription-free title. This means that after purchasing the game players will access to the entire experience and not need to spend any more of their money (with the exception of the expansion packs which will undoubtedly come later down the line.)
Content delivery was the next topic, and how to break away from the way quest structure is presented to players. The idea was to avoid the traditional form of walls of text from a quest giver, running off to do the task and then running back to the quest giver, as Lye said it was “kind of backwards in a fully realised online world. This led to Lye talking about the Dynamic Event system, stating that instead of reading about attacks by various evil things, you will be alerted to the fact of a dynamic event and actually see them happening as you explore the world. These will be explained by brief voiceovers, but NPCs will shout out for help to alert you to where help is needed.
These Dynamic Events are “designed to be social” as they attempt to steer away from the usual problems of several players trying to complete the same quest at once and often end up competing over what needs doing. As such, the events ensure everyone gets an equal reward, both in XP and in loot, and even means that players do not need to group up to complete the task; just show up and fight together towards a common goal. Depending on how the players do will affect how the world reacts, and ultimately what sort of quests the players will receive. For example, if the players did not repel a centaur attack on a village there might be quest to help rebuild it, but if they managed to defend it successfully it could provide a quest to root out the problem once and for all.
Lye moved the talk onto GW2’s Dynamic Combat system, explaining that MMO combat generally gets a bad rep for being too grindy and boring, mainly because people would prefer to watch the action on screen instead of their toolbar. As such, the aim is to return the fun to combat controls by rewarding the player for playing attention to their surroundings during a fight. This would be properly demonstrated later in the press session.
The topic then moved onto the concept of personal story, which allows for “meaningful, permanent changes” for the player character based on their choices, all the while being in a world filled with hundreds of people. This is done by using instanced areas which allow for these changes to be made visually for the player.
We were then presented with a demonstration of the newly announced customisation options for the character creation. While players will be able to create their own look very quickly from a number of premade templates that are provided, but for those looking to fine tune their avatar to their exact liking there are a number of new option available. This includes the ability to alter the size and shape of the eyes, nose, mouth & chin. While it isn’t as robust as some editors in the genre, I looks like there will be enough options to keep players happen.
Another customisation feature that was announced was the return of the dye system. In the first Guild Wars players were able to edit the colour of their armour using purchasable dyes. However, Guild Wars 2 is allowing players to customise the colour of their wardrobe before they even enter the game, allowing the ability to mix up to three colours together should it be desired. Whatever the player chooses isn’t just for the initial outfit, as the decisions will carry over to the next set of armour as well. Lye mentioned that players could change their colours at any time by using the options, and that other colours would be available later on in the game, but he couldn’t comment on how they would be attainable.
At this point it was time to see some in-game action, and so we were treated to the newly revealed Charr starting area. Players from Guild Wars will remember the Charr as the main foes from the game, but Guild Wars 2 will see them mover over to the playable side of things. The demo showed the creation of the Charr Engineer, showing the choice in fur patterns and colours, and ended up making a snow leopard-esque avatar with intimidating horns with mental plates on them. Next up was the character biography, which is the start of the player’s personal story. This happens by choosing which legion they are in, and (specifically for the Charr characters) deciding which member of their warband they are the closest to, each of the options have a different outcome for the player. These options are reflected in the opening cinematic, which was a nice touch.
The in-game demo started around the former human city of Ascalon, where the Charr are under attack by the spirits of those that were killed by Charr invasion several years earlier. As combat began we were shown the skill bar at the bottom of the UI. Only skills relevant to the weapon in use are shown, with more becoming available as you use said weapons. As the Charr unloaded his blunderbuss into the enemy, a greyed out skill at the bottom eventually unlocked and allowed more ways to unleash the pain. This led to an interaction with an NPC, giving a quest to the player through a phased animation that removed us from the action, showing both characters on the screen facing each other giving a voiceover conversation of the situation at hand.
When we returned to the action we got to see the dodge feature, which allows players to be immune to attack while it is being used, although players only have a limited amount of evasion which is highlighted in a bar on the UI. As the missions progressed, the objectives were updated on the fly instead of having to run back to the quest giver, the aim of which is to give the player a much smoother and more natural questing experience.
We were then reminded of one of the key features to GW2 that sets it apart from its peers; the escape from the MMO holy trinity of set roles (damage, tanks and healers for those that don’t know.) ArenaNet have decided to not have a dedicated healer, but to allow the ability for all classes to provide some form of healing (although some classes are better at it than others.) Lye explained that this was done so that players can go and choose exactly what they want without fear of being forced into a specific role. We also got to see the downed state, similar to that of Borderlands. When defeated the player falls onto their back and gains a bleed-out timer. There are two ways to get back up; have another player revive you, or kill an enemy to ‘rally’ yourself back into action. The features worked in a very fluid way when they were demonstrated to us.
The demo then reached an dark crypt where the first major enemy of the game appeared, the ghost of Duke Baradin. Because of the dynamic event system the encounter scales depending on how many players are present, so if there had been more than the demo player there, more ghost minions would have spawned at the start of the encounter. It quickly moved into a different phase where the boss possessed a huge statue, began to attack us. Lye pointed out that this wasn’t even 10 minutes into the game and the Charr newbie was already facing a boss that required tactics and awareness of the environment from of artillery-like attacks. The combat itself seemed engaging, not too complicated yet visually impressive, a mix which can be hard to realise but ArenaNet have managed it. That brought us to the end of the Charr starter area demo, but not the end of the of the press session.
Be sure to check out part 2 of our Guild Wars 2 preview later this afternoon, where we look at dynamic events in the open world, underwater combat, and the PvP features!