Games for 2008: Guild Wars 2

By Kieron Gillen on February 5th, 2008 at 7:36 pm.

Bear back? Does that work.

This is a little more tentative than many games we’re talking about in this series. Arenanet have talked about starting to Beta-test thing in late 2008. While that probably won’t be a public, someone will hopefully be playing this before the end of the year. So why, with it that far off, is it worth talking about?

I guess it’s because that, after Guild Wars 2, there’s a chance of everything changing and that nags at me.

Now, I kinda hoped the original Guild Wars would do that, but it ended being just another one of those greasy marks on the wheels of the World of Warcraft juggernaut. Not that it wasn’t successful, of course – scanning the end of year sales charts for the PC in the UK, it was the only actually new game high up, nestling among the sequels, spins-offs and re-imaginings. It sold, from scratch, which is quite the feat.

And, putting aside its many progressive and intelligent elements which I’ve ranted about time and time over, one reason outweighs them all. It’s because it had no monthly payment system. While I’ve never asked Arenanet about it, I suspect they’d admit as much. NCSoft certainly understood, using ONLINE GAMING WITH NO MONTHLY FEES as its tagline, just to make sure the message got across. Obviously, it wouldn’t matter if Guild Wars was shit but… well, Guild War’s the one where you buy the box and play the thing. It’s Simple. That the mainstream of the MMO world continues on the monthly fee route without anyone raising an eyebrow surprises me.

Yeah, not many graphics out yet.

The thing is, trad MMO players response to Guild Wars was one of simple rejection. Yeah, it was fun for what it was, but it wasn’t a real MMO because of a half dozen reasons. The main one was that when you’re on a mission, you’re in your own world with your chums (or opponents, in the case of multiplayer). And, clearly, the presence of other people you’re never going to talk with in the area where you’re killing boars is what makes a game so demanding on the developer that you should pay a monthly fee for the privilege.

Okay – the mask of objectivity slipped for a second there, but… well, let’s say the trad view is right and running a shared, persistent world is just a more expensive endeavor, so justifies the monthly fee. That’s just how it is.

Well, what happens to that view when Guild Wars 2 comes out, with persistent shared adventuring areas and all the ol’ MMO malarkies… and still doesn’t charge a monthly fee? Well, I’d begin to question what those fifteen dollars trickling out every month actually are for.

Charr? Yes, I'll have two sugars.

That’s the big change that Guild Wars 2 could lead to. A change of people’s minds. Making people more actually question the mathematics of a monthly fee – because something would have to be significantly more than Guild Wars 2 to even justify it, yeah? I was slightly incredulous when I interviewed Arenanet about this upon the games’ announcement – “How on Earth can you do it when no-one else can?” was what I was trying to ask without just saying it straight out. Their position was that it’s just what they design for, and have always designed for. Bandwidth getting cheaper as years go by helps, of course, but it’s they’re designing a system to be as efficient as possible. They did it with Guild Wars and, with the passage of the years, they think they can do the same thing with Guild Wars 2.

Which of course begs the question to every single other MMO developer in the world… well, why don’t you do that then?

It’s not quite fair to everyone else, of course. But there’s nothing fair about people’s minds, and the better Guild Wars 2 is, the harder the question becomes.

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40 Comments »

  1. Nick says:

    I actually sort of liked the seperation of combat areas and massed people areas – it prevented the things I hate most about MMOs, camping, kill stealing, ganking and having 700 people called Aaroggorn2 running up to you and standing in your face without saying anything.

    It helped the suspension of disbelief and allowed for the coherent story approach that is missing from every other MMO, it let you be a hero, not just hero number 154672356 who has now slain the evil zardog who will be respawning in a minute or two so hero number 154672357 can be next in line to slay him and save the lands for another minute.

    So I’m rather sad that this approach seems to have been dropped, at least from what I can tell from the interviews.

  2. ran93r says:

    I enjoyed the hell out of Guild Wars and went as far as keeping up with all the expansions, it did feel very much like a weak single player game in many places though but I grouped when I felt like it. Call me a follower of fashion but I welcome our new Guild Wars true MMO style overlords. If they can deliver everything promised thus far, the game is heading in a direction I approve of. Sure we will have to deal with Lolgolas in the open countryside but that’s what ignore features are for, that and the sorely needed range of emotes for expressing your desire that those griefing you might be involved in some fire related accident that may or may not cost them dearly.

    I think group missions will still operate in much the same way but the overall world will be open for fun and frolics and call me an idiot but I don’t see that as a bad thing.

  3. derFeef says:

    It will suck me in like the first one did… A shame that I had no time to finish one of the chapters :(

  4. Joonas says:

    I always wanted to get into the original Guild Wars, will be very intrigued about this new one. And good points there – the old “it costs monies to have persistence and GMs” stance has always been taken for granted.

  5. Ray says:

    I’m really looking forward to this game. GW1 was one of the best games I have ever played – although the single player is lacking, and paled in comparison to that of WoW, the PvP is incredible – it has lots of depth, particularly for PvP in an MMO. The grind to be able to be competetive is miniscule compared to most other MMOs as well – though the grind to unlock enough skills to be able to play a variety of builds is hard if you only PvP, but most people play through the PvE first and so have enough unlocked to play at least one class well.

    There are quite a few problems with the PvP though. Initially the grind was pretty horrible, but that’s mostly fixed now. The main issue is due to the game’s buisness model – in order to keep making money, Arenanet had to release several new GW games. The skills in these games, particularly Nightfall, were pretty overpowered and effectively ruined the metagame. Most people view the ‘golden age’ of GW PvP to be just before Factions, the second game, was released: balance was great, and the competetion was intense, particularly with the large tournaments Arenanet hosteed.

    Hopefully Arenanet will have learned from their mistakes, and GW2 should be an incredible game. Maybe the PvE will be reasonably good too.

  6. Zell says:

    I know people who are drawn to Guild Wars because they really dislike the idea of a monthly fee. But I don’t know any heavy MMO players for whom the monthly fee is really an issue. The game/money ratio is still vastly superior to anything you get out of a box.

    If you’re going to spend 50 hours a month in Azeroth, that’s what you should worry about. How ridiculously must a person undervalue their time if what they agonize over is the fee?

  7. Ixis says:

    I played GW1, and like a lot of MMORPG gamers didn’t like it. However it was for good and logical reasons.

    1.) The storyline was easily forgettable, and despite it being more solo-centric was hardly engaging or interesting at all. I might be one hero in a million when I play WoW, but the storyline there is more fun and interesting than what was offered me in GW.

    2.) Character creation was terribly lacking. Now, it’s pretty much a grab bag nowadays wether or not you can really customize your character or not, but the lack of customization is always a negative factor.

    3.) The quests and adventuring was awkward, unintuitive, and non-user friendly. Doing a simple task would sometimes send you in a confusing run around trying to figure out where to go or who to talk to.

    4.) The zones were horrible. You didn’t just have one central hub/town, but several all on different servers. And of course you didn’t just have a group of central hub/servers, but groups of zones for different time periods (are you in town XYZ-gamma before or after the town gets sacked?) This makes it nearly impossible to find some friends and go out to stab things, which is the redeeming and most alluring factor of MMORPGs. If I can’t easily find my friend who also owns a copy, meet up with him/her, and then go beat up badguys together why not just buy Zelda instead?

    5.) Non-friendly starter zones. I’ve played MMORPGs for years. I played Everquest, WoW, LotRO, FFXI, RFO, Everquest 2, RO, Lineage, Lineage 2, and a million forgettable free asian MMORPGs and GW starting zone was unrelentingly annoying and difficult. I played a caster, which are notorious for being harder to play, but goddamnit trying to do the starting quests and figure out how to get my undead minions to do what the quest was telling me to do was an exercise in futility. And I’ve played high-end content with mages/warlocks/necromancers in several MMORPGs. GW is the first game that seemed set upon to make sure I didn’t have fun, and choose to ask me to preform difficult tasks it seemed to respond to whenever the hell it felt like it.

    I think not paying a monthly fee would be a good thing, but I also know it costs money to keep servers up and bug free. Not to mention create new content. It isn’t just the costs of bandwidth, but the paycheck for the guys and gals who ban johnny Link/Aragorn/Sephiroth from being a general dick.

    Not to mention monthly fees pretty much guarantee a large portion of annoying gamers (high school kids and younger) won’t be playing the game because they don’t have credit cards. A few will get their parents to pay for it, but I’d rather be with older idiots and a few annoying kids than an army of idiots and annoying kids.

    Plus, $15 isn’t that big a fee. You’d be paying the same for any other kind of monthly subscription service.

  8. RichPowers says:

    I want to love MMORPGs, really I do. But they all bore me to tears.

    GW, out of the half dozen I’ve tried, is the best of the bunch for several reasons. No monthly fee is a plus for cheapasses like myself, but it’s also easy to pick up and play.

    PvP, which I only briefly dabbled in, felt more like a team based FPS than your usual “point, click, you’re an idiot who can’t handle combat yourself so the game does it for you” RPG.

    PvE was totally possible with random groups (unlike many instances in WoW), though the levels were way too linear and lacked any substantive challenge or strategic thinking. Too often battles boiled down to raw damage output over interesting combos or strategies.

    GW gets more stuff right than it gets wrong. I hope in GW2 the community isn’t split between PvE/PvP to the point of hating one another. All MMORPGs are like to certain extent, but in GW, where PvE and PvP are very much separated, the animosity was much higher.

    Basically, what I hate most about MMORPGs is the number crunching, combo matching, quest for uber builds. That shit just bores me to death. At least in most FPSs/RTSs I can instantly and intuitively know what a given weapon does and what its logical weaknesses are; no memorizing “for x seconds, causes y damage, to z1 through z3 damage areas.” Can’t someone make a fun RPG without that stuff?

    /end rant

  9. Dinger says:

    I’m sorry. I see that screenshot and I have to wonder, “If she went to the trouble to get that tattoo, why did she cover part of it up?”
    … I’m just saying. Does the actual game feature smaller pasties?

  10. matte_k says:

    @ comment above- Very true! Once again, fantasy female armour (or lack of it) comes to the fore. Don’t these people ever get cold? And it’s not very defensive, being semi-naked, is it? It’d be nice, for once, to see developers not make scantily clad women to sell the game, do something a bit more practical. People go on about why girls don’t play more games, but faced with stereotypes in games like that it’s not surpising. Anyone remember the cover to “Game Over” on the C64? Or “Barbarian 2″? :)

  11. Leeks! says:

    Does that concept art gal look anything like Cate Blanchett to anyone else?

  12. malkav11 says:

    I’m actually rather depressed by Guild Wars 2. I really like a lot of the things in GW1 that they seem to be jettisoning for the sequel, and would have liked them to simply continue releasing those planned semi-annual standalone campaigns with maybe the odd high-level addon like Eye of the North.

    @Ixis: many of those complaints were eventually addressed, albeit sometimes only in later campaigns. (Although I can’t remember some of them being an issue even at launch, personally.)

  13. Nick says:

    @matte_k: She is a norn, they live in the frozen lands (cliche yes) and don’t wear many clothes because they are too rough and hardy. The men wear even less.

    (edit)

    Oh and they can turn into big fuck off anthro-bears, so they’d only rip anyway.

  14. Mike says:

    ‘Does that concept art gal look anything like Cate Blanchett to anyone else?’

    Exactly what I was gonna say!

  15. Dinger says:

    @Nick: so they’re kinda like Furries with Frostbite? And how do those things stick on? Are they like the passive cooling system on my CPU, with some elaborate hard-snapping click action? When they transform into huge bears, do those disks go flying? Can you then see the rest of the tattoo?

    She looks more like Tida Swinton to me.

  16. Nick says:

    No, I imagine they are there because frontal nudity isn’t something they want to show in the concept art or game.

    *dons hat of joke slaying*

  17. FaceOmeter says:

    @leeks: I thought that!

    GW1 was/is amazing, though it suffered for me in the story/immersion department, which was at best voluntary and at worst not there. ALSO, I KILL THAT BLOODY DESERT MISSION, YOU KNOW THE ONE I MEAN

    But this was more than made up for by myriad other features. I’ll certainly be taking a look at GW2 when it arrives, especially if (as is rumoured) you’ll be able to transfer characters across…

    One thing though, Arenanet, if you’re reading – if you want WoW to copy your no-fees thing, you should copy their auction house thing. Pleeeeaaassseeeeee

  18. Butler` says:

    Yeah I’ve got to agree with a point above, if you add up the couple of hundred quid for the boxed versions subs and devide that by the sheer number of hours played by even the most average WoW player, it suddenly becomes clear.

    With the hardcore having 300plus days played (7200 hours), well you get the picture…

    Having said that, I’d be surprised if this now dying pricing model is still around in anything but a minority of future MMOs.

  19. Rook says:

    I really liked the first GuildWars. I think a lot of people who say the missions are boring or the story wasn’t that great didn’t go on to play Nightfall where they massively improved the quality of the story, the voice acting, the cut scenes and the missions themselves. The single player element got a massive boost from the introduction of heroes as well. Eye of the North was similarly very good in those departments.

    I hope what they do instead of a monthly fee is develop bonus content and sell that at a reasonable price. Currently you can buy some “historical” missions and completing each one gets you a spiffy looking gold weapon of your choice. At £5.99/€9.99 it’s a price that’s easy to pay every other month, or just to skip if you’re not really that interested. Rather than having to worry about a monthly fee and whether I’m actually going to play for more than 2 hours this month or not.

  20. Strelok says:

    GW has (or more correctly _had_, the expansions screwed the balance) the best online team oriented PvP in any game to date.
    Too bad that the focus on persistent world and other shits in GW2 will most likely lead to neglecting the competitive PvP in favor of the PvE. Hard to blame arenanet though, obviously the hordes of hey!-this-is-wow-without-fees users are paying their salaries.

  21. Nick says:

    Nah, by the sounds of it the PvP will be better balanced due to the skills not being tied to their PvE versions, so one balance doesn’t kill the other sides skill.

    It’s still pretty good actually, although the guy they have doing the balances is.. um.. well, he is a nice guy but he really seems to drop the ball a lot.

  22. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Shouldn’t your own well-known Guild Wars critic Jim Rossignol comment on this? What he had to say about Guild Wars in his eurogamer review:

    ” I hate how the characters are such floaty stick-people, and I never really feel connected to what is going on, either in the questing or in the fighting. Movement annoys me and even the trading seems clunky and artificial. It bugs me that I have to learn to make such complex builds to avoid being mocked in PvP, and the skills never seem unique enough or intuitive enough for me to learn by using them: I have to read all the little descriptions. Guild Wars combat always feels weightless and fiddly and has never really made me lust for more. For all the clever instancing and excellent script-writing, it simply lacks drama on the level of the physicality for the characters. It’s soft focus fantasy that never really connects – that’s my problem with Guild Wars.”

    He’s completely wrong, of course. For me, Guild Wars is the most beautiful and innovative game of the last few years.

  23. Heartless_ says:

    Guild Wars lost me in the movement and invisible walls. I loved the game to death, but after a few months, the horrid movement mechanics and annoying invisible walls preventing me from investigating the beautiful backdrops ended my fun.

    Oh and healing was so out of whack early on that it made Guild vs Guild fighting a battle of “kill the Monk”.

  24. cullnean says:

    i know people dont like wow but it has a better sense of place than GW, a soul if you will.

  25. Jim Rossignol says:

    WoW’s world is easily the best of any MMO so far. I think if someone could combine Blizzard’s sense of place with something that was less level-bound they’d win the MMO war for good.

  26. beasty says:

    ‘WoW’s world is easily the best of any MMO so far. I think if someone could combine Blizzard’s sense of place with something that was less level-bound they’d win the MMO war for good.’

    Shame that the horrid players destroy the game, oh and the fact that items replace player skill

  27. Roy says:

    $15/month although a small amount for many, turns out to be an expensive economic factor over the lifetime of many players. There is no game, and I repeat this, no game worth $180/year, unless there are new 40+hour extensions added at a rate of 1 every 4 months or so. never will happen so for my bank account and future income please give me MMO’s free of monthly fees! And for those that want to argue the ‘pittance’ of 15$/month I suggest you learn something about the value of money over time and streams of income!

  28. Guild wars player says:

    are you crazy! just because guild wars doesn’t have a monthly fee doesn’t mean that it’s not good. why are you fucking complaining about not having a monthly fee. if you want to complain about not paying $15/mo (like you already don’t on those other shity games.) “cough” WoW “cough”, go shoot yourself.

  29. llsektorll says:

    Lets see I have gvged top 50 for most of 06. Got my tiger in HA. So I can say I’m pretty experienced in PvP.

    Why WoW sells more than GW?
    1- WoW is the same cookie cutter mmorpg that has been spit out for decades. Different races, classes, and sub classes, all with usual array of a few dozen skills.
    2- System requiement is so low you can run it on a mid-range computer from 1998.
    3- All the hype from Warcraft 3 (which I found to be one of the dumbest RTS)… it felt like I was playing a isometric RPG.

    4- GW has huge amounts of pve content. So much so that it may be overwhelming with worlds multiple times larger than Azaroth.

    5- PvE is different. The style takes a bit getting use to but you soon realize that it works great and you don’t have to worry about unexpected interruptions. The fact that it wasn’t like EQ or L2 that preceeded it made it hard from mmorpg fans to grasp.

    6- GWs interface was so smooth, simple and unique that many just couldn’t figure it out. Nothing that time doesn’t solve.

    7- PvP which is the core of GW was totally overlooked by many players. Organized pvp like heroes accent and GvG is the most fun many players ever had in gaming! The sheer uniqueness of the games skills and the fact that everything had a counter made the thinkers of the game go to work to find the next super-powerful build only to get it shut down by a counter. This also created a wall that was so high and thick that normal pvers would be very intimidated and wouldn’t be allowed to succeed without tremendous struggling first.

    I have high hopes for GW2 if it keeps the level of pvp complexity with their rich graphics then I’m sure it will outsell everything.

  30. Super GW Fan says:

    GW 2 will be amazing i will admit i play wow right now because guild wars just runs out of content but thats what guild wars 2 will be about the fact is people wow may have more content for people who play alot like me but guild wars is just more fun so guild wars 2 more content and a bunch of fun cant wait guild wars 2 will be the death of wow in my heart

  31. Tulrin says:

    GW1 is not the only online rpg I play. Unfortunately I have been addicted to a couple but find I return to GW frequently so I like the fact I am not penalized by my time away by having to pay fees to keep the account active.

    There are those who make the comment that the storyline is not that great… but then go on about a game like WoW. The fact that there are no elves, fairies, orcs or goblins in GW was refreshing to me. The concepts were original and the villians much more unique than the cookie-cutter mmorpgs like WoW. It was no typical fantasy game in that there was some orginality in breaking with the Tolkien model. Perhaps your bias is clouding your judgement?

    …and yes WoW is cookie-cutter, even though it is enjoyable.

    The fact you are limited to a certain path was annoying and I am glad to see that is going away in 2 however I actually like the instances. The one thing I sometimes find annoying about mmorpgs is the other people. It is nice to get away from them occasionally and to take your time to really explore a zone. A long uninterrupted hunt was possible and you did not have to worry about kill-stealers or some annoying, socially disfunctional moron spamming on broadcast. I am not sure if that will be possible in 2.

    GW is strikingly beautiful and the artwork is great. There is a real feeling of atmosphere in the game but at the same time even a less than powerful computer can run the game easily. There is no extra geometry taking up valuable processor time and very few wasteful partical effects.

    The community was weak though, I think it is in part due to the fact that people did not have to pay so there was a high proportion of idiotic people who gave no thought to being as annoying as possible. I don’t think having a more persistant world is going to improve that aspect.

    All-in-all GW is a great game, the pvp is fun and there is a ton of pve content if you really want to multitude of side quests available. If pvp is your thing you did not have to even play pve at all and their new model allows you to buy a pvp only version. Skill unlocks are also available if you are willing to shell out the extra $15.

    From what I understand they are going to continue that revenue model which means you can only buy what you want. Personally I am looking forward to playing GW2 but I still enjoy playing GW1.

  32. Bobbybuba says:

    i liked the fact that you got your own lil private world for when you go killing/questing, it makes life 100% easier and provides more for you to kill instead of having 100+ people in the same area farming/grinding etc. the private worlds is what made Guild Wars different and thats what mad eit good.

  33. Chuck Norris says:

    i think that GW should just totally copy WoW but make no monthly fee lol :]

  34. Azazel says:

    But, but, but… you can’t jump in Guild Wars!

  35. KingChainsaw13 says:

    I’ve played Guildwars since it came out 4 years ago, and I’ve always been drawn back to it. I’ve left multiple times for other games (including WoW) but Guildwars has always had a place in my heart. I do believe that the true purpose of Guildwars has been lost since the first game, but many new aspects have been added that have made the game great. I do agree that not being able to jump or dodge is a problem that should be fixed, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. When talking about skills, Guildwars is so much better than WoW, or any other game I’ve seen. It requires almost TOO much skill to create a build that can beat everyone else, there is always a counter…and if there isn’t, Arenanet always comes in and nerfs it right when every noob out there learns how to use it. It helps protect the economy of the game.

    Hands down Guildwars is much better in the graphics department. The terrain is incredibly detailed (provided you have a decent graphics card), but I found the scenery a bit lacking at some points (pre searing for example) all of those extra empty spaces and barren grass covered mountains turned me off. Although it is amazing to go into the mountains and just look out over the rest of the area, the view is quite nice.

    I haven;t dabbled much in PvP, mainly because of the hardcore gamers who love to call everyone who doesn’t have the perfect build a “fatt ass fucking noob” and shun them… I’ve heard great things about it though, and I do love AB.

    All in all I think Guildwars is an amazing game, and I think if Guildwars 2 sticks to some of the basic principles of the first game, it will do very well…and hopefully outsell and destroy WoW…that game has gone on long enough, and it needs to be put down IMO.

  36. reptil09 says:

    Just a few things….

    For one thing how can people ever compare Guild Wars which actually HAS a story to WoW… I play WoW currently while waiting on GW2 and the only real story it has is lore which is never really much discussed in the game, there is no clear story line the only thing there really is, is a gear progression. GW you actually need some skill and thought to play, WoW its all about going and getting the next piece of gear that will make your toon slightly better so you can go get the next piece.

    I do have to say that with the limited new content released by Anet now that they are spending all of their time on GW2 makes the game incredibly repetitive after a while, but its no different with WoW, once you’ve done an instance you’ve done it, no matter what new toon you make to bring in its still the same and it will always be the same.

    All that said I’m really looking forward to GW2 especially the WvW in the mysts, I like pvp i just hate it when everyone is so up tight and prickish when they get somebody that isn’t perfect at using their build. On the flip side PvE is always nice too and that’s what i’ll be playing for mainly.

  37. wateveriam says:

    c’mon guild wars! your own world kind of system was fantastic yes there was problems from early on but soon found and repaired. if you are going to put on monthly fees and take away everything guild wars was then wont u just be another mmo? seriously i think its going to be hard for one person to then see what makes guild was 2 was it should have been rather than just taking a great game and turning it in to any mmo of our time.