Asura Thing? A Guild Wars 2 Preview

By Alec Meer on September 21st, 2011 at 4:02 pm.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve walked into a room with a monitor and a nervously-smiling man at one end and been told I’m about to see the future of MMOs. I smile back politely, and the same old dance begins. Too often, I feel a numbness, a struggle to reconcile professionally wanting to know what’s going on with personally despairing of the idea of giving over dozens of hours of my life to what’s so often a mess of cloned features and over-sold, under-realised promises. My most recent sighting of Guild Wars 2 really did break through that numbness, made me sit up straight and pay full attention. I still don’t know how much of what it’s trying to do will be practicable and effective over long-term play, but seeing it took me back to a time before my awful genre ennui, back to when every time I sat down to see a new MMO my mood was excitement, not cynicism. Here’s why.

First up, there’s the interface. For your average or even superior MMO, the main design focus of a UI appears to be how to present an awful lot of information as unfussily and tidily as possible. For Guild Wars 2, there’s a clear interest in it being attractive as well as efficient. The painterly GW2 concept art we’ve been swooining over for the last half-decade has not been shrugged away and consigned to the hollow fate of a special edition art book, but instead folded into the game proper, all over the place. It’s in the cinematics, it’s in the character selection screen –lushly-painted portraits rather than twitching 3D models – and it’s even in the core of the UI. Painted stripes rather than brutalist boxes hold key information, while a boss monster that’s hurling giant rocks at players has the destinations of those rocks paintbrushed onto the ground rather than depicted as the traditional glowing circle.

Even if much of the information is familiar information, those two, usually at-odds arms of an MMO – the fantastical world and the overtly gamey way in which you interact with it – seem that much more merged and of one mind. Honestly, it looks lovely. I have no doubt for many players it be a game of numbers, but for me, and excitingly, there’s that rich chance it might feel that much more like a world too.

Playing a big part of that is how much the game is geared towards ostensibly solo play, for those who wish to play it that way. We’ve seen attempts at this in the past, perhaps most notably Conan’s short-lived destiny quests in its earliest levels, but it’s always seemed to peter out because the world in general reflect the actions of thousands of players, not yours specifically. GW aims to have some degree of tailored persistence, as well as setting your character up as, well, a character, not a mere avatar.
In character creation, on top of picking race and class you come up with a Biography, based on which options you pick relating to your backstory and background. E.g. “I am proud to be… a Blood Legion soldier.” Or maybe, if you’re more technologically inclined, you’d rather join the Iron Legion. You even pick what kind of parents you had. I couldn’t see an option for ‘pathologically-obsessed rambling fanatic’ in there, so I guess it’s not going to be a perfect fit in that regard, but still.

With the demonstration chap I’m watching picking to play as one of the hulking, bestial Charr, another option for him is which member of his Warband is the most important to him, based on picking which one’s characteristics are most personally appealing. All these choices affect how the introductory cinematics and quests (though apparently you’re not supposed to use the Q word in relation to GW2) play out – who survives and who doesn’t. The promise is that you’ll likely end up having a very different story to someone of the same race and class.

Once you’re out of the opening stretch – which ends, portentously, with “this is my story…” and into the game proper, you’ll be able to visit your Home Instance, a section of the game which exists just for you. You can drag other players in for a visit and to nose curiously at how it differs from their own, but really it’s something only you will spend any time in. You’ll see characters who survived the tutorial missions in there, while an NPC you save later in the game might show up as a Vendor in your home instance.

My immediate concern is about the practicality of generating enough content that players feel they’ve had a tailored or at least apparently meaningful experience throughout. Arenanet folk on hand claim to have “a huge team of writers” and understand that stories are key to ensuring longevity: “your Personal story isn’t something that peters out at level 20 for example.” They also estimate that that there are 60 feature films’ worth of voice-over in the game all-told, so hopefully you’re not going to hear the same 12 lines over and over again. Hundreds of hours of content is the promise – and a great deal of it will be solo-able if you want to.

In terms of that content, as Arenanet have said many times already but which bears reiterating, they’re trying to get away from what we would call quests. To some extent, this going to prove a semantic argument, and one that frankly irritates me a little but I understand that the devs want to strike a difference from other games. Quite clearly the game is full of quests – the difference is in how you acquire them. Instead of some bloke hanging around standing on the spot with a large punctuation mark hanging over his head, you’ll simply be informed that you’ve become involved in a an event when you happen to wander through one in your travels. Obviously you don’t have to take part, but it’s the main way to gain precious, precious stuff.

If it sounds a bit like Warhammer Online’s ill-fated public quests, in a way it is. I think, though, only in foundational concept, not in actual practice. Rather than neat little bubbles of action, they’re something you’ll stumble into regularly and which, crucially, will scale to how many players join – even to the point that some enemies will have new abilities unlocked once a certain number of people are in the fight. So you can tackle most of ‘em solo or in tiny groups, but you won’t resent more players turning up and stealing your kills because the whole damn scrap will become bigger and better-rewarded when they do.

It also doesn’t want to waste your time with meaningless, humiliating nonsense, like killing rats. At level 2, the player I’m watching stumbles into an almighty punch-up with a giant statue possessed by an evil ghost. It really does look great, and high-stakes – partly due to the fact it’s a genuinely threatening enemy, partly because of the painterly rather than overtly electronic UI I talked about earlier, and partly because there’s a lot of emphasis on real-time evasion and reaction rather than hotkeys.

So that’s level 2 – now we jump onto level 59 and one of the incongruously anime, tiny, bunny-like Asura. Essentially fhe gnomes of GW2, they’re a magical race prone to being used for comic effect. I wish they weren’t in the game, every other visual styling of which I really, really dig. But that’s just me. Fortunately, this little Asura is about to be dropped into a series of epic events.

First up, swimming. Infinite swimming, at least if you want it to be. Each and every GW2 character has their own rebreather, so they won’t drown. They even have special underwater weapons and skills – this Asura gets a trident and a harpoon to play with. You can still dodge underwater, and instead of MMOs’ usual X and Y-axis bound action, here you’re fighting along the Z axis too – up and down and around and deeper and down. There’ll even be underwater Qu… uh, Events. Face it, water’s had a rough deal in MMOs for a long time – it’s either fatal, empty or flat-out annoying. In GW2, it’s a ticket to bonus adventures. Also, there are flamingos.

Then, our floppy-eared subject is off to an Elite event, which involves anything from 10 to 100 players. The scene is a coastline siege by an undead army, who happen to have an also undead dragon among their ranks. The thing bursts out of the sea spectacularly, its ribs showing through its rotting flesh and its maw shedding some sort of pestilence all over the place. It takes up residence on top of a nearby mountain range, occasionally swooping in to spread hell.

Fortunately, you have a bank of laser cannons at your disposal: not so clever now eh, Mr rotting dragon? Unfortunately, the undead are well aware of this. So the defenders need to concentrate on keeping these safe from harm, having the Engineers in their ranks concentrate on repairing them, and on resurrecting the Engineers who get nobbled in the process. On top of that, the dragon keeps summoning giant bone walls from the ground, which block the turrets’ line of sight. It’s spectacular, giant-sized stuff and looks straight out of a full-scale RPG, not just one looping vignette of many in a boggo MMO.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about an MMO – I keep a journalistic interest in what’s going on, but personally speaking nothing’s had me salivating for several years. Guild Wars 2 genuinely looks like it’s from a next-generation of this genre, though. I didn’t actually think that next generation would ever arrive. Obviously, there’s an awful lot still to prove, most of all coherency and longevity, but GW2 is absolutely the online world to watch right now.

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97 Comments »

  1. Kaiji says:

    Anything about Guild Wars 2 = Yum.

    Gamer catnip.

    EDIT: “your Personal story isn’t something that peters out at level 20 for example.” < LOL. Obvious (and fair) dig at the impending disaster that is SW:TOR.

    • Jockie says:

      An obvious dig, if you’re resolutely ignorant of the tonne of beta reports etc leaked from the Star Wars TOR CB anyway. (the personal story is the best/only good thing about the game)

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, I’m one of the first guys to point and laugh at SW:TOR every time it shows its ugly, misshapen, poorly animated face around here, but if anything, that was more of a shot at Age of Conan than anything.

    • Kaiji says:

      I guess it was a dig at both games (AoC & TOR) since your personal story comes to a grinding halt early in both their leveling processes.

    • jezcentral says:

      It’s a dig at AoC.

      Citizens, know your Deadpan Snarks!

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Since the article specifically mentions Conan, I’m going to go with Conan.

  2. aircool says:

    Can’t wait…

    • Chalky says:

      Looking forward to playing it at the Eurogamer expo this weekend! :D

  3. Raniz says:

    My studies are going to take a hard hit the day GW2 is released…

    • diran says:

      “My studies are going to take a hard hit the day year GW2 is released…”

      There, fixed that for you.

  4. Blackcompany says:

    I think Arenanet is on to something here. Speaking from the vantage point of my own interests, I believe there is significant interest in a truly immersive, online persistent game world. A world that evolves and changes based on the actions of those within that world. MMO’s miss this mark – nothing ever changes. You clear the undead from town and they respawn as you watch, ready for the next waves of “Heroes” to come and clear out the same baddies you just slaughtered not five minutes past. This makes you feel as if you wasted your time. It breaks immersion and ruins emotional involvement in the actions of your character.
    .
    It is high time someone caught on to this, and developed an ever-changing, online world that adapts to players. A World where people just stumble across random events, and where people can affect the direction future events take from there. I am looking forward to GW2, and this comes from someone who out and out despises MMO’s as they exist now.

    • Daiv says:

      It’s almost as though they want to design something better, rather than just seeing WoW’s subscriber numbers and bleating “make us that!”

    • bglamb says:

      It’s one thing to make enough content to last a player 100 hours. It’s quite another to make enough content to last 100,000 players 100 hours each.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There’s so much potential in dynamic, simulated worlds (even the relatively simple type that GW2 promises), yet so few attempts to actually use them in games.

      I’m sick of polished, handcrafted “content”, to be consumed by everyone in exactly the same way. I like my games gamey.

  5. Gnoupi says:

    I enjoyed GW 1, so I was already expecting GW2.

    The fact that they decided to take a stab at most annoying things in other MMOs is a great bonus.
    I was deeply worried when they first announced that GW2 wouldn’t be instanced. Because honestly, the usual “take a number to kill this boss” that you find in other MMOs is annoying me. In the end, in other MMOs, you play with other people around, but you hope at same time to be alone, so that they don’t disturb.

    The fact that they try to blend the notion of “group of players” into something seamless is most welcome.

    I can’t wait for GW2, though I have some reserves on their famous “dynamic events”. The example of the centaurs raiding a fort, then a village if no one helps defending, etc. It seems great in theory, but I have doubts it will remain really passionating on the long term.

    • Chufty says:

      This. I was so worried about all the noises ArenaNet were making about GW2 in the early days (what, 4 years ago?). The instancing and low level cap were things that set GW apart from WoW Clone #6.

      However every time I hear something about GW2 I get more and more excited. And I never get excited about MMOs.

  6. deadly.by.design says:

    As much as WoW players like to sniff at GW, it’s always been a breath of fresh air. I’ll take it over any other MMO, even if it doesn’t have a seamless world.

  7. pakoito says:

    Why don’t you love asura? look past those anime eyes, they’re alien and disgusting! They sound like gnomic douchebags!

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Also: ROBOSEXY battlesuits.

    • Cryo says:

      Because we are told they are hyperintelligent, but they are written to be morons.

    • Wulf says:

      They’re not alien at all. Not in the least. I sort of wish they were.

      Now some of the asura in Guild Wars 1? Those were alien! They had some very interesting Mesoamerican things going on there that they seem to have forgotten about completely in Guild Wars 2, which is unfortunate. I’m disappointed by that, but I can see why they did it. Their game has to sell, after all.

      Still, they haven’t screwed with the charr for the sake of mass appeal. They’re still odd, and crazy (so crazy). I appreciate that. I’m happy so long as they don’t do anything to the charr, but everything in regards to the charr seems to be set in stone, so that’s all good. Everything’s jake, as it were.

      I will not be playing an asura, though. :P

      @Cryo

      Yeah. Specifically that. It’s one area where they’ve sacrificed the uniqueness of their game for mass appeal. A slightly less better game for a game that will sell better. I can understand the rationality, I can. But I do miss the old asura.

      There was one recent article where the animator sounded more like he was trying to convince himself of the asura design choices more than he was trying to convince me. I think that even they know that it’s a sacrifice they’re making so that their game will sell well.

      But hey, as I said elsewhere, there’s still the charr and the sylvari. They both have a lot going for them.

    • Cryo says:

      Don’t care much about their design, it’s their personalities that piss me off. And to be honest they were arrogant know-it-all little wankers in GW1 already.

    • Cryo says:

      Though now they are much bigger little wankers, true.

    • Wulf says:

      I think it’s more that Vekk was a little wanker. I remember plenty of examples of them not being so bad at all, it was just essentially Vekk that most remember as an example, but he was not typical of the race. He was just a bit of an ass. There were some of them that were actually quite nice, very college professor in their attitude, sure, but they were nothing… nothing like the horrible gits they are in GW2.

      Like I said, it’s like they used Vekk’s attitude as a phenotype and blew it completely out of proportion. It’s for mass appeal, yeah, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.

  8. povu says:

    By Asura by Asura by Asura! It’s Guild Wars 2!

    • Spindrift says:

      I read this comment and subsequently tried to stab it on reflex.

  9. mod the world says:

    I’m surprised. Is this really the one case out of 100 where an MMO lives up to the hype?

    • Kaiji says:

      I’ve never been this excited for a game and I usually approach MMOs with extreme cynicism.

      If it doesn’t live up to my expectations the MMO genre will be officially dead to me.

      Until Titan. :p

  10. Sian says:

    “I wish they weren’t in the game, every other visual styling of which I really, really dig. But that’s just me.”

    No, you aren’t. Why does every fantasy MMO developer think they need some variation of gnomes? The little buggers are always annoying, and always highly illogical when they take up tanking.

    Aside from that, I’m SO looking forward to GW2. Even my gf is going to give it a shot, and she’s notoriously hooked on WoW.

    • Chris D says:

      I’m not sure tanking holds up to scrutiny particularly well whoever’s doing it to be honest, but in a world of magic shields, instant healing and magically enhanced combat abilties I’m not sure why the little guys shouldn’t be a ble to manage as well as anyone else.

    • Sian says:

      Because of the intimidation factor: Why would the big, bad spider go after the little tin-can with a one-handed toothpick for a weapon instead of the squishy, fire-spewing wizard? Taunting won’t get you far, especially with enemies that can’t actually understand a taunt.

      Tiny tanks break my immersion more than most other things. Especially if their racial schtick is “brains over brawns”, as is the case with the Asura.

    • Chris D says:

      Why would you go after the 7ft hulking mass of muscle in wall to wall plate mail instead of the squishy wizard? Especially if you were a giant spider who’s only in search of a quick meal, you’d pick off the weakest and leave the rest alone. Really the whole concept of tanking just doesn’t work when you try to take it outside of a game concept, for one thing it relies on no friendly fire, otherwise that fireball throwing wizard is going to find himself without many friends very quickly.

    • db1331 says:

      When I first started playing WoW, I had a frighteningly racist hatred for gnomes. I look back at it now and I’m almost ashamed of myself. If I was playing Alliance, I would refuse to help any gnomes, either by healing them or helping them kill a mob or enemy. If I was playing Horde, I would go out of my way to kill any gnome I saw. If I was passing through a low-level zone and happened upon a group of Alliance questing together, I would kill the gnomes and give the other races a friendly goodbye as I rode off on my way. I WAS A MONSTER. Before I quit the game though, I learned the error of my ways, and even had a gnome toon of my own.

    • Cryo says:

      There isn’t going to be tanking in GW2, so it’s ok.

    • Wulf says:

      For me it’s less that they’re little, yeah? The height doesn’t bother me at all. It’s that they’re little and relegated to comic relief. But what’s worse is that they’ve become a massive joke in and of themselves.

      Originally they were this aloof race that ploughed the magicks of the gods to learn the ways of the bloodstones, they were aware of this, and they knew they were smart, but they weren’t really so openly obnoxious about it. Vekk was a bit on the lippy side, but he was the exception rather than the rule.

      In Guild Wars 2 they’ve taken Vekk and used him as a phenotype for the entire race. Then they’ve flanderised that up to ridiculous degrees, exaggerating the bit of attitude he did have to the point where it’s completely obnoxiious. They now believe that they’re gods too, and they exist in a completely stagnant culture where they never work together, and where most of their inventions are garbage except for the few that work. They giggle, they skip, and they foist overdone intellectual superiority upon anyone who’ll listen. The end result is like a mix between the taru-taru from Final Fantasy XI (whom also had the obnoxious factor going for them) and the gnomes from World of Warcraft.

      It’s just very overdone. They flanderised them. They turned the comic relief and intellectual superiority dials up to 11. In Guild Wars 1 the asura were a really neat race, and some of them were actually wise, and even diplomatic/compassionate. But here we just see Vekk, as an entire race, with his worst qualities blown out of proportion, and crossbred with WoW gnomes.

      Yeah, I know why they did it. Mass appeal. The majority love flanderised, overdone things. But me? I’m less of a fan. I prefer the original, more subtle, more clever asura.

      What they have become are the typical ‘little people,’ whom are in everything ever. They’re not the unique ‘people whom are small but not stereotypically typical’ race that they once were.

    • Zogtee says:

      You know they aren’t real, right?

      Jesus.

    • RF says:

      @Zogtee: Didn’t you know? Gamers can’t tell fantasy from reality.

    • Chris D says:

      Where is this assumption that they’re being relegated to comic relief coming from? Sure, the animation style is more cartoony but that’s hardly the same thing as their role in the world.

    • Tams80 says:

      @ Wulf

      I understand you don’t like the new Asura, but isn’t GW2 supposed to be hundreds of years after GW? Perhaps the desired effect was to have the Asura start to think they were gods due to harsh times (as isn’t the world supposed to have basically started to go tits up?). It would make some sense that a race with extreme intelligence would be tempted to exaggerate and abuse it if pressured.

      /nerdy rant

  11. Faceless says:

    Having previously ridiculed those who said their hype is running thin and that ArenaNet is taking too long, I now find myself in a similar situation. I am highly interested in the game, but it’s taking its sweet time, and ArenaNet staff is borderline abrasive about their ‘when it’s ready’ approach.

    It’s been four months since the last profession reveal, too, and with only that, social features and minuscule PvP details left to unveil, I think I’ll just eventually forget about it. Which is probably a good thing, because being excited for it is extremely painful.

    • Dominic White says:

      ” ArenaNet staff is borderline abrasive about their ‘when it’s ready’ approach.”

      Well, the alternative is Final Fantasy 14, the only commercial MMO in history to be so hideously rushed to market that it actually went BACK into beta after launch. They still aren’t charging a subscription for it yet.

      It’s an absurdly huge game and they want to have semi-branching singleplayer story-arcs for five races and eight classes in addition to all the persistent public stuff. I’m happy to wait.

    • Kaiji says:

      I’m getting sick of the wait too but at least it’ll be worth it in the end.

      Bioware are dragging their heels with SW:TOR and based on my experience in beta it would have received a lukewarm reception if it had released three years ago.

      I’d rather look forward to GW2 and end up happy than be excited about TOR and end up angry.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      That’s how I feel about it. I got carried away by the hype at the beginning, then got less and less interested as I learned that it would be ages until release and now I am happily and ignorantly awaiting the release – somewhen. I’ll try to breathe this game in like a fresh breeze of air, taking it slowly, not getting drawn into the urge of rushing through the content.

      Plus, I still got a nice guild from the first game that is planning to stay together in GW2, so I still got enough buddies around if I need decent folk to help me out with anything.

    • Faceless says:

      @Dominic White

      I perfectly understand all of that, and was using the same argument(s) against those who said they can’t wait.

      By abrasive, I mean– As an example, a website mentioned that in a South Korean event in the relatively near future, ‘Beta West’ will start. That ignited heated debates, and all an ArenaNet employee said, was, “We are standing by our closed beta by end of year plans”. That’s a response that’s neither here nor there.

      As impatient as I am becoming, I don’t want the game rushed, no. The game is looking really good at the moment, but I’d rather it were great.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There was never the slightest hint that the game would be released before 2012.

      It’s not like it’s been delayed. Why complain?

      That’s a response that’s neither here nor there.

      Sounds like a “no comment” on a rumor. Abrasive? Really?

    • Chalky says:

      @Faceless

      Beta will be happening before the end of the year. The Korean press release from NCSoft said beta is starting in November.

      I think a response of “What is there to deny?” is entirely appropriate when if you think about it, the press release does nothing but state the obvious. If beta is happening this year, it’s probably starting in November. If it hasn’t started then, you’re going to be running out of year to have it in!!

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      “There was never the slightest hint that the game would be released before 2012.”

      The Q4 2009 shareholders notes further supported this when the CEO stated that “the current development target was the end of 2010 but, Guild Wars 2 likely won’t be released until 2011.” (source, via wikipedia)

  12. ain says:

    The whole personal story idea is flawed in that it doesn’t affect the game world at all. The game just plays different videos and sounds depending on which buttons you press. In a good MMORPG you will write your story by interacting with the game world and the players inhabiting it.

    • Sian says:

      Actually, failing or winning these events changes the area around them. There might be more enemies, stuff like that. That’s what I got from the Gamescom coverage, anyway. So yes, the world is affected by the actions of the players.

    • Dominic White says:

      The problem with the whole ‘Player actions shape the world’ approach is that it ends up rather real-worldish in its structure, where the top 1% of players make the decisions that affect the other 99%. Those top players might be having the time of their lives, but everyone else might as well not be involved at all.

      What they’re doing here is more akin to blending traditional singleplayer RPG gameplay with an MMO framework, which can work pretty well, even in an offline-only format. Ridiculously well-recieved Wii RPG Xenoblade (just look it up on Metacritic) is effectively a singleplayer MMO. Huge zones, hundreds of sidequests, exploration and loot, but with none of the bullshit you have to put up with in online games.

      The design of GW2 reads a lot like Xenoblade in a great many ways.

    • ain says:

      Sian:
      The same can be said for public quests in Rift or even WAR. That didn’t make them feel any more immersive past the first couple of times you interacted with them.

      Dominic:
      Your first paragraph is complete conjecture. What makes you think just because a player is not among the top 1% players of an MMORPG he can’t be enjoying it?

    • Sian says:

      “The same can be said for public quests in Rift or even WAR. That didn’t make them feel any more immersive past the first couple of times you interacted with them.”

      I don’t know about Rift, as the game never really interested me, but in WAR, nothing changed whether you failed the public quests or won them. So I’m really not sure where you’re coming from here.

      Here’s an excerpt of an interview about the dynamic events system:
      “In the Guild Wars 2 dynamic event system, an event will kick off in the world and players will see things in their environment – like smoke from a burning caravan – and hear NPCs shouting about what is happening. You’ll never have to read a big chunk of quest text to find out what’s going on; you’ll actively see and hear about it. Based on what happens in that event, the world will change and the event will chain out into other events that cascade across the map, creating a truly dynamic and ever-changing world.”

      You can find the rest of the interview here:
      http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/473/feature/4235/page/1

      Of course the “ever-changing” part is probably exaggerated, but I imagine there being a lot of branches a region can go down depending on whether events are failed or won.

    • Dominic White says:

      @ain – I never said that the other 99% of players wouldn’t be having fun, but they wouldn’t be involved in the story at all, either. It would be that thing that always happened in the background to other people.

    • ain says:

      Dominic: What makes you say that? I honestly don’t know any game where this has occured. Take EVE as an example. There’s always at least one huge war going between the biggest alliances shaking up the world drastically. There’s also quite a large number of smaller corps constantly claiming ownership of or fighting over territory and resources. There’s literally no way not to be affected by your environment and its story.

    • Josh W says:

      Players can produce that kind of fractal detailing fairly easily in PVP games; if two players fall out about something or find that they are competing in the same area, then although they might be supplying the same corp in a larger battle, they still have a way of judging their lower level mutual conflict.

      Basically all you need to set that up is cooperative or teamplay mechanics that don’t take up all your time layered along with lots of reasons to fight and ways to measure who is winning. So you can cooperate with someone even as you fight them. To make it fun you probably need a fairly complex set of interlocked resources and other game variables to manipulate that tie to simple measures of who is currently in the lead.

      For PvE, you need to intentionally layer the various different feedback loops, so that people can still have problems and resolve them on a small scale, while having larger problems appear that need more powerful players. My impression is that guildwars does this with fronts of action, where the line of main conflict decides what kinds of smaller encounters are happening on either side of it. More experienced players will then try to push the front back, while less experienced and levelled players deal with those they miss in the more normal areas of the game. That might well work, but it’s only two layers. You could have quests/events about npc attitude or temporary breakouts of larger changes even away from the main front. By setting these higher and lower than what was the lowest level you now have four layers etc etc.

  13. Koozer says:

    Oh god he said the Asura are the comical gnome race. Man the barricades, I think I hear a Wulf!

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t blame him.

      I just don’t like the direction that ArenaNet has taken the asura in. At one point that were the aloof magical people. Now they’re the comic relief gnomes that everyone takes the piss out of. It’s a bit of a disappointment to me since they were one of my favourite races, but I’ll live. (They were miles better in Guild Wars 1 though, I’ll say that.)

      I can see why they did it — mass appeal — and I can understand it, but I don’t personally have to approve on an artistic level. And I don’t. But he’s not wrong in saying that. The asura have ended up being sort of an unoriginal mix between the taru-taru from Final Fantasy XI and the gnomes from World of Warcraft. They’re nothing more and nothing less, currently. It was hearing them use insults like “Skritt-kisser”, and all the jovial giggling, and the awkward movements that did them in for me.

      Still, there are a lot of other races that I am excited about. (Both playable and not.)

      The charr. They’re massively original, there’s really nothing else out there that’s quite like them. I’ve tried to make correlations but nothing really fits. In a videogame, this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that, so I’m delighted. I absolutely love their technology as well, they have cars, and airships, and giant laser cannons. I’m amused and pleased by this. Then there are the sylvari, they’re looking great post redesign, and I just like the general attitude and presentation of their race.

      The rest aren’t too bad, either. Just boring. The norns are just big, shapeshifting humans with a different culture. I’ve long accepted that and it’s silly to say otherwise, really. They’re a bit boring, but I like that they have this celtic hero thing going for them. The humans have this Renaissance setting, which I like, but playing as a human is still… I don’t know, meh. Done it in so many games that I prefer to opt for something more unique and exotic.

      So I’ll just be sticking with the charr and the sylvari. Both of whom I like. I might pick up a human and a norn along the way, too. Just for the humour value with the norn, especially. I could do a lot with irony regarding the norn. But the asura I’m just not touching. I can already hear the ‘KAWAII DESU DESU’ now. They were better than that but they’re now mainstream appeal.

      Still, I have the charr, I have the sylvari, and I’m giving enough to let people have what they want with the other races. P It’s just not my taste.

    • lunarplasma says:

      Complete and utter disbelief is my reaction to the KAWAII DESU DESU thing regarding the Asura. Have you ever heard one of them talk? They’re the most snide, cynical, and obnoxious creatures in the whole of Tyria. There’s nothing cute about how they look down on everyone and put them down!

    • Tams80 says:

      But my house is only made of straw!

    • Wulf says:

      Nothing cute about how they look? NOTHING CUTE ABOUT HOW THEY LOOK?!?

      FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF.

      Okay, let’s cut the bull right here, and right now, with a video.

      http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/09/17/guild-wars-2-asura-interview-part-1-rata-sum-the-floating-city/

      They’re self-contradictory. They have obnoxious, intellectually superior lines, yes. But then they go giggling, prancing, tittering, flailing their arms, and skipping around. Nothing cute? Watch the video. WATCH THE VIDEO. In fact, look at the still USED FOR IT. Just look at it!

      If you don’t see my problem after that video, then you’re hallucinating.

      Straw my arse.

      I really wish people wouldn’t talk out of their arses. Check your sources before you argue.

      Don’t… DO NOT… confuse these with the Guild Wars 1 asura. Okay? Video. There. Watch. Then reply if you still have the urge.

    • lunarplasma says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but I still don’t see the cuteness there.

    • Ian says:

      “The charr. They’re massively original, there’s really nothing else out there that’s quite like them.”

      That’s not really true, is it? Not to say they’re not pretty spiffy, but I don’t look at them at any point and go “Crikey! So unique!” I think “That’s a fairly nifty humanimal thing they’ve designed there.”

    • Yojimaru says:

      @Wulf

      You need to seriously relax. Look at this video of Asura customization, you are able to create some very ugly Asura, and the character creation isn’t even completely finished yet, so there will be even more options come release. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqWcn2Ua6lg

      As for their “cutesy” animations. There was really nothing that Anet could do other than that. Because the Asura are so small, and because they have to be able to perform just as well as the other races, their animations are of course going to look outrageous; Anet embraced this. The Asura really haven’t changed that much other than getting some color to their eyes and skin (which customization can fix). They’re still the same arrogant little ankle biters, unshakably convinced of their own superiority. Vekk was actually rather tame by Asura standards, now his father Gadd however… he was a real piece of work.

  14. sakmidrai says:

    Give me this and Firefall and I’m okay for the next 2/3 years.

  15. BrightCandle says:

    I was interested in GW2 until I saw the underwater fight scene. While it looked somewhat different to WoW’s toe to toe button mashing it wasn’t exactly thrilling or novel.

    I just don’t see how this game does anything to change the landscape at all, not from the game video playthroughs I have watched. The hype is one thing but the actual game looks like something I have already played.

    • Kaiji says:

      You need to go more indepth on what you’ve seen/read of the combat so far.

      If you’ve only watched one underwater fight scene and based your conclusion on that, I’m not surprised you don’t think it’ll be much different than any other MMO.

  16. Bensam123 says:

    “…but seeing it took me back to a time before my awful genre ennui, back to when every time I sat down to see a new MMO my mood was excitement, not cynicism. Here’s why.”

    I think a lot of people have felt your pain. I often wondered if maybe I was just getting old and turning into the old bitter and jaded fellow that yells about kids getting off his lawn, but really it’s completely about stagnation in the industry.

    I, too, haven’t looked forward to games in a long time due to constantly being let down by over-marketed and hyped up games just trying to snag a quick $60 from your wallet before realizing what a steaming pile of shit you bought. I really hope GW2 changes these expectations… I really hope there are still people in the game industry that strive for more then just stealing numbers from someone else’s game…

  17. Chauvigny says:

    Infinite flamingos?

  18. Ian says:

    I’ve possibly missed/ misread/ misunderstood something so correction is welcome, but does:

    “but you won’t resent more players turning up and stealing your kills because the whole damn scrap will become bigger and better-rewarded when they do. ”

    not potentially lead to similar issues as when nobody was playing WAR? Not that you’ll not be able to complete stuff but that if you turn up a while after release and most people are still getting toward the level cap then you’re going to be going through the early game with worse gear/loot/whatever than people who played at the start (and joined in with lots of other levelling people) did?

    • Sian says:

      They could always alter the loot tables later on, when the lower level zones aren’t as alive anymore. In WAR, you simply couldn’t complete certain events anymore and didn’t get ANY loot from them.

    • BloatedGuppy says:

      Quality of leveling gear is sort of irrelevant to anything, though, unless it’s so bad it’s keeping you from leveling entirely. The problem in WAR was without sufficient population you could hardly finish ANY PQ’s at all, and none if you were solo, thus closing off a significant portion of the game’s PvE content.

    • Dominic White says:

      From what I’ve seen of playable gameplay so far, most dynamic event-quests award loot as a small secondary bonus, but primarily award you Karma, which is a secondary currency you can exchange for special sets of reward gear in each region, so no worries about getting stiffed – worst case scenario (And only theoretical) is that you might have do play a little longer to get the shiny stuff.

    • Ian says:

      Ta for the responses guys. :)

      You’d expect they would tweak stuff. Regarding levelling loot, as long as it’s functional the only reason people would care beyond it being slightly “better” would be if it’s shiny. Gamers sure do like their shinies and even if it was something they’d dispose of in two levels time it IS the sort of they folks would get cranky about.

    • Nice Save says:

      The thing that worries me with the whole ‘difficulty scaling by number of characters that happen by’ thing is this:

      1. You’re fighting a monster on your own and you have it down to half health.
      2. Another player comes along and the monster suddenly jumps to 2-player strength.
      3 The other player waits until you die, finishes off the monster, and walks away with the enhanced loot, leaving you nothing but a respawn penalty.

    • randomessa says:

      @Nice Save

      For one thing, if you die, anyone can res you, and it would in fact be in the newcomer’s best interest to do so to get you back into the fight lest the encounter and rewards scale back down.

      Second, if you were fighting the mob, you get credit, period, even if you die or don’t get the killing blow or whatever. Full loot for everyone participating, always and forever.

    • Dominic White says:

      @Nice Save – The difficulty scaling doesn’t happen based on the number of players involved. It’s based on the amount of damage done by players, so if a guy comes in, takes one shot and sits in the corner waiting for his reward, he’ll probably get a pittance for being around, but it won’t raise the difficulty any. If a high-level player comes in and starts wrecking everything, that’ll cause a bit of a difficulty spike though.

  19. Jimbo says:

    So… Zombiegon or Dragombie?

    • Dominic White says:

      I believe the official term is, and always will be, Dracolich – assuming it has a legion of undead minions. Which it does.

    • Wulf says:

      Definitely dracolich. Dracoliches are cool.

  20. Arcturan Megadonkey says:

    Is Wulf feeling ok? Someone should check on him. 46 comments so far and not a peep.

    • Wulf says:

      Geez. I have a life, you know. I can’t be skipping through the comments 24/7. In fact, compared to many, the time I spend on RPS is nominal.

      Anyway. Yes. Guild Wars 2 is looking amazing. But there’s absolutely nothing new here, I knew all of this already. So I really have nothing to add! This is all old hat to me, since I follow all the news, but to RPSites there might be some new stuff here.

      Not sure what I’m supposed to say that I haven’t said, really. Viva la GW2? Looking forward to playing a Charr Engineer, and a Charr Mesmer (just to be weird). Looking forward to these things very, very muchly so. Also looking forward to the November closed beta. I doubt I’ll get in, but I can hope, can’t I?

      I’m just not sure what I need to say at this point. I feel that most of it has already been said!

  21. WrongThinker says:

    I agree completely about the Asura. It’s not that I dislike their design in isolation, but they are out of place: a ridiculous cartoon race in an otherwise authentic-feeling fantasy world.

    I’m very excited for GW2, but will do nearly everything I can to ignore these little buggers.

    • Wulf says:

      Oh, it’s not that so much. They could have made them plausible. It’s just that they gave Jeff Grubb too much freedom and he’s gone to town with making them gnomes, and that’s unfortunate. They really are taru-gnomes now. It’s sad.

      See, originally they used magicks for things, they had this magic-based religion going on called the eternal alchemy, it was a science religion, where they ploughed the depths of the magicks provided by the gods, even working the gods into their religion, making them some part of some super theo-equation. I’ll say what I said before: They were aloof, and sometimes they had the airs of a college or university professor about hem, but they were never goofy and obnoxious. Vekk was slightly obnoxious, but the goofiness just wasn’t there.

      Now they’ve flanderised the hell out of them, beyond reason, and it’s spilled over into the other aspects. Instead of a thaumaturgic dimensional rift funneler, they have an ASURA MEGA LASER (capitalised, yes), and instead of having their near-computer stuff look like they were built using magic, they have straight up holoscreens with icons and scrolling text. Half of it looks like it was stolen almost pixel for pixel from Phantasy Star, and that upsets me because up until the asura the game had a unique visual aesthetic, but the asura ruin that. That’s why I’m going to be avoiding them and content involving them.

      Phantasy Star has a unique visual aesthetic too, it can be quite, quite beautiful, there is no doubt about it. But ArenaNet stealing that for their game? That’s pulling a Blizzard. I won’t lie about that. It’s a dick move, plain and simple. They’re doing it to appeal to people who like holo screens, MEGA LAZORS, and techgnomes. But in the process they’ve completely and utterly destroyed the asura, their visual authenticity, and their lore.

      The ‘ASURA DEATH LAZOR’ was really the first point of worry for me, my first “Oh no.”

      See, everything else they’ve considered. Had they given it a more magic-based name, and made it look more mystical in nature, then I wouldn’t have batted an eye. That’s fine. That’s asura stuff. But physically they actually made it look like a Sci-Fi laser. It really does. It looks like something out of an anime. It’s big, it has moving mechanical parts, it has coils (tesla coil-ish) and it’s just Sci-Fi. It’s not Science-Fantasy any more, it’s Sci-Fi.

      This is purely to do with the visual design. Nothing else.

      I’m a visual person, I always have been, and secretly I do art. I have a good eye for aesthetics, and the problem here is that the asura stuff is ugly, all of it, including the asura. It’s all very, very ugly. The charr automobiles are fine, they work on internal combustion and clockpunk stuffs, this is very visible from them, you can actually see that they’re not high-tech supercars, you can see that they have fire-based engines, and they fit the theme of the charr. The charr being at around somewhere between World War I & II levels of tech.

      Moreover, the charr have a factory city. They have the means with which to produce these things en masse. You see them working, you see the charr labouring, you see them metalworking, you see them putting stuff together, and you see the end result. It all makes for a very cohesive visual end result. But you get none of this with the asura.

      That’s what bothers me. I like things to be internally consistent. I want to know how the asura are doing this, but so far no explanation has been brought forward as to where the factory was that constructed the ASURA MEGA LAZOR, whom the labourers were, how they obtained the materials, where they got their scientific knowledge of tesla coils from, where they got the word ‘laser’ from.

      It’s ugly.

      Thematically it just doesn’t fit. It’s ugly. It’s juvenile, and just plain ugly.

      It’s a disappointment versus the rest of the game, really. Everything else fits, everything else makes sense visually, everything else has an internally consistent explanation, everything else slots in. You can see how everything else works. But the asura… meh. Like I said, if it was more mystical and rough around the edges, then fine. But frankly? That ASURA MEGA LAZOR wouldn’t look out of place in Gears of War. It stands out as something that doesn’t fit. You can even see electrical circuitry on it. (And the lore says that the asura have no clue how things of the sort work, it’s not their field.)

      I just feel that with the asura, they sacrificed too much of what makes their game special in order to go for mass appeal. So I’ll be ignoring them too. They’re now substandard. They’re by far and wide the most unoriginal race. And we’ll be driven crazy by people following us around yelling ‘KAWAII!!!’.

    • Chris D says:

      Wulf, why is it so important to you that no-one can be as technologically advanced as your beloved Charr?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      The answer is in the question. :)

    • Kaiji says:

      They don’t look like cartoons to me. They look like aliens.

      When all the other races look like humans, human plants, and humanoid lions with horns, I think a completely non-Earth-related race is almost essential.

      What a lot of people just don’t seem able to fathom is that different races are meant to suit different types of people, and the fact that you may not prefer one or more of them is simply evidence of this fact, not a reason for them to not be in the game.

  22. DrSlek says:

    My order of racial preference goes Charr, Human, Norn, Asuran, Sylvari.

    Really excited for this game.

    • JackShandy says:

      My personal preference list goes Sylvari, Charr, Asura, Norn, Human.

      I guess now we fight? That’s how opinions work, right?

  23. Dominic White says:

    Lovely aesthetics aside, the game design stuff is what I’m really excited about for GW2. Anyone who has seen the PvP show-matches they had at their last couple convention showings knows what I mean when I say that doesn’t look like standard MMO combat. It’s still hotkeys and cooldowns, technically, but it moves like a faster, more arcadey DOTA. Perhaps something akin to Bloodline Champions? It’s common-sense combat – you don’t need to target someone and auto-chase them to swing a sword. You can just swing the damn thing and if there’s someone (or multiple someones) in front of you, they’ll take damage.

    Combat seems geared towards WSAD + full mouselook, too. There’s no ‘targeting’ as in traditional MMOs. You don’t lock onto someone and hound them until they stealth or escape. It’s more actiony than that, which is nice.

    Oh, and the devs do seem to have thought of everything – a few people were worried about the dynamic events being ruined when the inevitable max-level player comes back to the newbie zone and starts one-shotting everything. Well, that can’t happen – apparently each zone has a level cap, and if you go back to an earlier area, you’re effectively scaled down to match it. You’ll still be tougher than most players there, but you won’t be a tiny god. Likewise, players can sidekick up (ala City of Heroes) to their higher-level buddies and take on stuff that would otherwise flatten them.

    It’s an MMO where co-op play is the status quo, not what you do after standing around shouting ‘LFG’ for an hour. That’s what I’m looking forward to – being able to just barrel into a huge battle-in-progress, reviving downed allies and nuking monsters without partying up with anyone or organizing anything in advance.

    • JackShandy says:

      Absolutely. It’s the fluidity that interests me the most about this – the idea that I can just wander around the place, see a bunch of people slashing at something and hop in to join them.

  24. MrMud says:

    As much as I am looking forward to GW2, your wrong on the interface.
    MMO interfaces need to be able to contain as much information as possible.
    In fact the more meters of different kind you can push into one screen the better it is.

    • Askeladd says:

      Yeah, thats exactly how I immerge myself into a game, really. If I have the options for that – fine, but that shouldn’t be needed in the first place.

      Anyway, we SHALL see.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      That annoys me as well. I understand the philosophy of keeping it simple, but I don’t agree with it. Having only a few options at the start is OK, since you’re still learning, but being that limited later on makes me sad. :(

  25. j3w3l says:

    For a game that has emphasised and focused on the story aspect, with the beautiful backdrops and art style the facial animations are really lackluster. i cant help but see it every time too.. especially with the char ones they’re all soo bland and lack any emotion

  26. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Brutalism is not a pejorative!

    (also, you’re starting to overuse it, also incorrectly, also… argh! *stomps off pedantically*)

  27. Wraggles says:

    @Wulf

    Not sure I agree, having played GWs1 to death, there are way more Asura than just Vekk who are somewhat sorta pricks, and they were always comic relief.

    Blimm- Thinking up all sorts of destructive methods of revenge
    Lumpys – Comic relief (along with the other councilors): “What a terrible miscarriage of justice! If I’d been running that trial, it would have been one of the best miscarriages of justice of all time. OF ALL TIME!”
    Zinn – is as arrogant as they come
    Vixx – Who is happy to see everyone paid off to banish Zinn because it rids him of a competitor
    Gadd – Who is basically Vekk 2.0
    Oola: Who mistreats Blimm in a manner of abusive ways
    Not to mention all the Polymock Smacktalk.

    Considering everything I’ve witnessed about Asura in GWs2, I’m really not convinced they’re overmuch different, just more prolific, so their personalities are probably going to be a bit more prominent. I mean in GWs1 we have a total of like 6-7 Asura that give us a decent window into their personality, the rest are all statues who sell me things and give me quests.

    As a side note, I LOVE the way the animators tackled the issue of asuran size. The jumping run, the off-balance method of holding oversized weaponry, the jumping attack animations all gel extremely well.

  28. dellphukof says:

    As far as I know yes. I believe the asura have a racial ability that summons one and there are other types in wvwvw that can be made using supplies.

    If the thing you saw in the video is what I am thinking it is…. maybe you could link the video?

    e: with the asura skill to summon one, anyone can hop in the thing not just the asura that summoned it.giay tay