ArenaNet On Guild Wars 2… As A Platformer

By Nathan Grayson on July 27th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Guild Wars 2 is quite well-liked in our fabulously attractive (have you seen our brand new sexy, sexy hotbar?) corner of the Internet. Richard alone has written 427 trillion words on the subject of ArenaNet’s fantastic-looking fantasy sequel, and he’ll soon be embarking on a hot air balloon journey to see how many times they can wrap around the surface of the Earth. So when I went to a recent Guild Wars 2 showcase in my neck of the woods, I wasn’t too terribly surprised when I got an eye-full of content we’d already covered. So I did what any sensible person would in my situation: grilled game designer Mike Zadorojny about jumping puzzles in a swords ‘n’ sorcery MMORPG.

Let’s start with the basics: For the uninitiated, Guild Wars 2 will – in addition to combat, crafting, PVP, instances, and other more traditional MMO fare – mold a series of rudimentary jumping puzzles around “vistas.” You will, however, not be clambering up a failed Microsoft operating system. Instead, vistas allow players to get a better view of the environment, and – perhaps more crucially – eventually achieve map completion, which yields XP and special items. Hardened veterans who cut their platforming teeth on old-school Mario and kept them sharp by grinding them against I Wanna Be The Guy and fully-sized jousting lances, however, might find these a tad easy. And there’s a good reason for that. Zadorojny explained:

“For vistas, all of them are in very platform-y locations. We try and keep them fairly easy, because for map completion, we don’t want it to be, like, a game of absolute skill where only the best players can do it. Also, we realize that a lot of players can’t do those things due to motion sickness and stuff like that, so we try to make the map completion stuff accessible.”

But that won’t be the be-all, end-all of jumping puzzles in Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet’s quite keen on having its massively multiplayer opus reach new heights in terms of genre fusion, and perilously lofty leaping’s a major part of that.

“A lot of the decisions we’ve made on Guild Wars 2 have been a culmination of us looking at the industry as a whole and deciding we want to see things differently and try new things,” said Zadorojny. “So the vistas are pretty easy by design, but some of the jumping puzzles are insanely ridiculous. There’s definitely challenging content for people who want to try that hardcore platformer. That stuff is in there. It’s just not stuff we’re showing off today.”

But how so? How do you add dizzying feats of high-flying hop ‘n’ boppery to a fantasy MMO without them seeming completely out of place? Zadorojny provided an (admittedly basic) example.

“The treasure chests and the jumping puzzles definitely become more interesting, where we’ll throw interesting mechanics like… the one for the Asura starting area is up in the clouds, up in the sky. So as you’re walking across this thin branch, you’ll see wind going across it. And if you go across as it’s blowing, it’ll knock you off and you’ll fall below.”

There is, however, a fine line to walk here, and ArenaNet’s fully aware that one wrong move could wreck the nice balance of different elements Guild Wars 2 currently has going for it. So, for now, platforming’s a sideshow – not an individually viable means of progression. But we’re talking about a game where crafting can – all on its own – bring you up through the ranks, and there’s already a fair bit of nuance to platforming if you really know what you’re doing. So things, said Zadorojny, are certainly looking up.

“There is no double-jumping, and if we added it at this point, it would kill us,” he laughed. “But, I mean, you can double-tap to dodge and avoid things – like the wind. It’s really about you moving and jumping. There are also swiftness buffs that certain professions can add. You can make yourself run a bit faster to get a bit longer of a jump. And even some professions have abilities that will take them further – like a leap attack and things like that.”

So there’s no double-jumping, wall-running, or craziness like that right now, but Guild Wars 2 has a very open skill system, and ArenaNet’s looking to branch Guild Wars 2 into other genres. You do the math.

“[Adding platforming-specific skills] is not something we’ve talked about, but I don’t think it’s something that’s out of the question if we wanted to do it in the future,” Zadorojny was quick to point out.

For now, though, it’s like any other aspect of a major MMO: watch players, find out what they think, and then react accordingly. If massively multiplayer online platforming really catches on, odds are, you’ll see quite a bit more of it from Guild Wars 2. Ultimately, though, ArenaNet’s not entirely sure what’ll take root and what’ll rot on the vine. And, according to Zadorojny, that’s the fun part.

“What was interesting was that, at the first couple beta weekend events we held, it was really hard to get across all the content that’s in the game for traditional MMO players. So some players had really hard times adapting to the new active combat and things like that. Just because, up until very recently, every MMO has kind of fit a similar mold. Now it’s becoming a bit easier [to get people adjusted]. People have been able to get their hands on the game and things like that.”

“But we really wanted to try new things and see if they’d stick. We’re thinking of this as less an MMO and more like an online multiplayer game that just so happens to have a living world that allows players to spend as much or as little time as they want in it. We want to innovate. We want to see what players will adapt to.”

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62 Comments »

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  1. Luke says:

    I thought some of them were already too difficult just because of lag.

    • Struckd says:

      that is an issue, especially in the “darkroom” in the jumping puzzle dungeon in WvW, its absolutely fantastic, but some aspects cant be done with lag, unless your willing to try over and over and get your timing right.

      Anet have really out done themselves with the jumping puzzles though, the one under WvW especially, took me hours to do…cause its a pvp jumping puzzle dungeon, so while trying to get to the top treasure your using the environment (traps, releasing of animals/mobs, throwing boulders) as well as your own skills to kill and stop the progression of enemy forces…

      however there is always a silent truce when it comes to the dark room…

      • nearly says:

        platformers are probably my least favorite genre, but I wandered around in that darkroom section for 3 hours one night, long after eveyone else had given up and moved on. I probably would have made it through if it hadn’t been broken that weekend. if it turns out that it wasn’t broken and it was intended to literally be pitch blank, I’m probably not going back.

        • Oksisane says:

          Definitely a bug, I completed it with a torch during the previous BWE, and the dark room was in the list of known bugs posted on the forums

    • gou says:

      They are very fiddly in places, things that look too high to get on work sometimes, and gaps that look easy are impossible, you just won’t know until you try, but the consequence is sometimes death, there was a lava lined cave in the sylvari starting zone that had asura tech all over it, there were button activated temporary platforms that you had to speed jump round before they dumped you in the lava. By the time I got it done my armour was almost entirely obliterated.
      The chest at the end was nice and when I went back the second day to catch it’s respawn I only fell once when the follow-camera went into a wall and made all the platforms invisible.
      Foreknowledge is a big help and trial and error is not a fun “skill”

      All of these jumping puzzles greatly improved if you could zoom to first person like guild wars 1, just trying to look up from the ground fills your screen with the back of your character obscuring whatever you are trying to see.

  2. Dominic White says:

    I think it says a lot when GW2’s secret bonus areas are larger and more involved than full levels in a lot of other games. Also, I seem to be in the minority here, but I kinda like that they’re ball-bustingly hard.

    • jealouspirate says:

      I am quite terrible at platformers in general, but I do like the fact that they are in GW2 because they provide some variety and a nice change of pace from combat. I’m a big supporter of having lots of different non-combat activities available in MMOs.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I don’t think designed difficulty is bad, but many of these puzzles seem to be hard because of lag, or due to the graphics not always being very clear about how large your character is and what you can/can’t stand on.

      Honestly, GW2 movement looks great, but feels a bit janky, what with the transitions between rest and motion and changes of direction. I felt like the jumping puzzles I did were mostly pretty fair, but I can definitely see most of my friends getting frustrated with them for technical reasons.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        What “Transitions”? There are no “Transitions.” People complained about the lack of “transitions,” and ArenaNet explicitly stated that they removed them intentionally and will not ever add them, or anything like them, back into the game.

        When you press a movement key, you move. Instantly. Immediately. Without any hesitation. You go from 0 to full speed in exactly the time it takes for your computer to register that you’ve pressed a key.

  3. Premium User Badge

    TwoDaemon says:

    I enjoyed some of the simple vista ones without finding them in any way challenging, but the only hard one I wandered across was the one near the Sylvari starting area. It was pretty good fun, with some Skyrim-mountain-climbing-esque moments of attempting to jump off barely-visible twists of geometry. A friend I was playing with found it quite annoying, whilst I enjoyed it a lot. Sadly he wouldn’t let me hang around and keep trying, so I never got to reach the far end and find out what was over there.

    Also, occasionally you’d be wandering through the area beneath and someone would drop out of the sky suddenly and go splat, which was fun.

    • 0positivo says:

      that’s a shame. After Morgan’s Spire there is a secret area that not only is incredibly cool, but includes also some incredibly tough fights as well (with environmentals popping in to make the day harder, like enemies on high up platforms and plants that burst out an area of poison), in addition to a miniboss guarding a chest, and yet another jumping puzzle after that

      Sadly, I died about here, so I have no idea where that second platformy area leads to

      • apocraphyn says:

        Seriously? I was wondering what those Nightmare Court blokes were guarding, up there. (Though I see Vorphalack below has created a larger account of what can be found there).

        Really enjoyed that jumping puzzle, though. Similarly to TwoDaemon, I was with a friend who eventually rage quit after I managed to get up there on my fifth try. What was rather amusing was that some random person in chat was saying “Oh, don’t bother – there’s nothing up there”. They were very wrong.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        There’s no jumping puzzle after that. There’s a way up, but it ends rather abruptly with a completely impassable area.

        There’s also another way into that Nightmare Court area, you don’t have to complete the Spire unless you want a Spider.

  4. Yargh says:

    I quite enjoyed hunting for the various vistas in last weekend’s beta session.

    Of course, once you unlock Blink as a Mesmer some of the challenge goes away…

    Watching a sentient vegetable engineer run around with a flamethrower was fun too.

  5. Vorphalack says:

    The jump puzzle in the Sylvari zone was pretty good. I went looking for it on my Ranger after hearing a rumor about tamable spiders at the top, and after about 5-10 mins of falling I got my spider (Webby) and a bonus loot chest. Great I thought…..then I found the next jump which hadn’t been mentioned. After getting passed 2 nightmare court guards and a mortar plant I ended up at the top of a hidden nightmare valley, working my way down the side jumping between mushrooms while being shelled by plants. At the bottom I had my first death to a wandering patrol of plant-wolves combined with another pair of guards.

    Second attempt, I met another guy on the way down and teamed up to clear the valley. We got past the patrols, veteran mobs and poison nova plants and gained a better bonus loot chest. Unfortunately we stuck around too long and got overwhelmed by re-spawns.

    Third attempt I went in on my own to see if there was anything past the 2nd chest. I stuck to avoiding the mobs and sunck around the side, which lead me to a second mushroom stairway. After fighting my way up past more mortar plants I fell to my death thanks to a double tap dodge. Always turn that off when platforming.

    Fourth attempt got me passed that point to some ridiculously difficult jumps that had me on the edge of my seat, but this time I got through and found the final ledge which contained a boss. Completion satisfaction achieved.

    Overall I think I spent about 90 minutes in on that puzzle. Unlike the platforming puzzles in another MMO that came out recently (SWtOR), I don’t feel like these are in any way mandatory, and offer a much more fair and varied challenge. Jumping itself feels pretty responsive so it wasn’t really frustrating either. Hope to see more and better versions later on in the game.

    • tetracycloide says:

      How difficult are we talking here? Can you make a point of comparison to some other title(s)?

      • Vorphalack says:

        In terms of jumping, the most difficult bit was at the beginning, which is fine as falling off the initial climb wasn’t fatal and there was nothing to fight. Most of the difficulty came from a couple of tight angle jumps, at least one point where the path wasn’t immediately obvious, and the screen deliberately shaking as you advanced. You could die by falling before the first chest, but once you were up that high the jumps were easy if you took your time. The hardest jumps inside the hidden valley had a sort of safety net. I’m not sure if this was done by design or chance, but whenever I missed those jumps I landed on a ledge further down in the same section. Not having to repeat those sections was a big bonus. As I said earlier, jumping is much more responsive than SWtOR, so timing isn’t hard. There is also a hidden gate in the valley that can only be opened from the inside, so if you are in a group and someone dies you can let them in and skip the first half.

        Most of the challenge in that particular puzzle came from the mobs inside the valley, which is really what sets it apart from other MMOs with platforming. It sort of felt like an open world dungeon, and while you can clear it solo you will need to play smart and pull carefully. Getting two veterans or two patrols on you is pretty much fatal, and complicated by the plant traps. The boss is similar, solo-able if you are patient, clear adds properly and dodge smart. Takes a while to drop it though and it hits like a truck if you screw up.

  6. Kitsunin says:

    I do very much like that idea that it’s more of an MMO than an MMORPG (Note the difference, people!)
    I very much hope they do more like the end of beta hunger royale event, more self-contained games within the game. I could imagine some very cool ideas for more game-y games within Guild Wars. Areas and games that would go in the world with their own sets of rules, like scavenger hunts, hide-and-seek type things, and even a more well developed version of the hunger royale. It would be neat to be able to bet, or something like that, on such things.

  7. Obc says:

    me and a friend found a cave in caldedon forest that we weren’t supposed to. a jumping puzzle for a chest lead to this cave if one still moved one even after aquiring the chest.

    the vista puzzels are the easy one, there are a lot of “hidden” or well not so apparent jumping puzzels. besides the one mentioned above there is another in caledon forest behind a waterfall that is very uncompromising (the platforms disappeat quite fast and a lot of good coordination and speed is needed).

    we also found a cave in the human starter zone where one could walk through it and jump some places here and there and think one finished whats there. but there is a lot more to find. a lot more corners and hidden chests to discover if one can dicipher the jumping path to these chests and hidden monsters.

    i hope the jumping puzzles in the higher level zones are even more advanced.

    the jumping is nice and gives a nice break to mashing mobs. it also teaches one that not buttonmashing but movement is key to the game.

    these puzzles are also great for when there is a downtime in the zone. that brings me a major problem with the game. the only real problem i have: the event system.

    though the event system is major fun and keeps me moving all over the place and i can engage in badass activites (like killing a undeadicemage and his minions during an icestorm in the norn starter zone) they have a large cooldown on em.

    i wanted to see the human boss event but it never happend. i visited the zone every 20 min for 5 hours and the event still didn’t start. i could also be unlucky and come when the event just finished. i didn’t find a way to kickstart such boss events by doing some minievents by a large group of player. i hope the major boss events in the later zones with the dragon don’t have a large cooldown.

    i can’t decide which event to choose but have to hope that the ones i want will be up when i log in.

  8. Shooop says:

    This is probably why I enjoyed the beta of this game more than any other MMO RPG. It didn’t feel like just another barely a game, “click the enemy then click on a picture of an attack until it dies.”

  9. Jannakar says:

    I hate jumping puzzles in LOTRO – there is a few quests which requires a moderate amount of platformy dexterity and they’re immensely annoying for duration. I think it’s down to the imprecision of the engine and rubbish bounding boxes/collision detection therein

    Get it right or take it out completely.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I like the idea, but the camera and movement in GW2 aren’t really cut out for jumping puzzles. Don’t get me wrong, I completed all of the ones I could find, but when compared to the Acrobatic checkpoint races in DCUO, they feel unpolished, with distances being hard to judge and collision detection being rather fuzzy.

    Those Acrobat checkpoint races are my favourite thing in DCUO; it’s just a shame they didn’t implement leaderboards for them. Insane to add checkpoint races without leaderboards in a multiplayer game.

  11. Icewreath says:

    Loved the puzzles in GW2, it’s great that you can just be running around, see an ore deposit on your minimap, go looking for it, and stumble upon a jumping puzzle. It adds a lot of value to exploration. This same jumping puzzle in the Norn area gave me quite a vibe of various “Escape from X” maps from warcraft 3. Also the Vista’s are cool, not too challenging to get to but it’s good they are there.

    • nearly says:

      agreed for the most part, though one of the vistas in the asura capital made me want to murder somebody

  12. Shantara says:

    Had lots of fun with jumping puzzles during last beta weekend. The only thing that would make them even more interesting is controller support…

  13. aliksy says:

    I don’t really like jumping puzzles, but I’m glad they’re adding new things to the genre.

  14. ain says:

    For me this game doesn’t have any of the charme that Guild Wars had.

    The skill system is so simplistic that it feels more like a DotA variant than an RPG.

    The combat itself is not engaging because it’s basically the same as in GW except they stripped all the interactive parts (enchantments, hexes, interrupts) and replaced them with cooldown-based gimmicks.

    Jumping puzzles don’t affect my enjoyment of the game at all.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve played Guild Wars too much, but I can’t appreciate any of GW2s features at all.

    • Malk_Content says:

      I’m not sure simplistic is the right term for the skill system. GW1 had alot of bloat, which they have tried to remove by making their be less skills. The array of things you can do with skills is huge, especially considering the combo system. Intuitive yes, simplistic not so much. As for being like a DoTA variant rather than an RPG that is a bit bullshit as well. At a minimum the skills you can have access to at any given time is 14 (Engineer who for some reason has taken non of the skills that give you extra skills) and at most around 30 (Engineer who has laden himself with kits.)

      The combat still contains those things you mentioned, they just come in different forms. If by the time you reach level 15 you haven’t learned to dodge, counter and interrupt (oh my gosh they exist!) enemy attacks you will die alot. In PvP they are absolutely essential.

      Jumping puzzles I can take or leave, I know I like them but a few of my friends are “meh” about them. Best part though, they are entirely optional content. Just like most other things in the game.

  15. motherpuncher says:

    I had no idea GW 2 had jumping puzzles, what a good idea. I remember hours of jumping around Iron Forge in WoW. Back when clipping was pretty easy you could find ways to climb to the top of IF, and then start summoning friends there.

    • nearly says:

      I was always fond of getting up on the balconies in the Undercity and throwing snowballs at folks

  16. Vinraith says:

    I don’t understand why anyone would want platforming segments in an RPG.

    • Greggh says:

      What if you are Role-playing an italian plumber, named, let’s say, Vincenzo. And Vincenzo pretty much enjoys jumping over pipes and dashing over gaps on the floor. Wouldn’t you say you are actually platforming in an RPG?

    • Malk_Content says:

      As entirely optional sets of content, why would people who don’t like it care?

      • Vinraith says:

        Because most RPG enthusiasts are also completionists. The options here are:

        1) Miss out on some rewards.

        2) Do something dismal and that has no place in a game like this.

        Both of those options suck.

        • DrGonzo says:

          I loved em, a really nice combo of exploring and fighting. It’s not particularly hard, completely optional and very rewarding.

          Stop talking for everyone like you always do Vinraith. I am an RPG fan, I am not a completionist and I like these puzzles. So shut up.

        • jealouspirate says:

          “2) Do something dismal and that has no place in a game like this. ”

          That’s a rather unnecessarily bleak outlook, isn’t it? I think there are a lot of gamers out there who do not think of jumping puzzles as “dismal”, and there is truly no reason why they have “no place” in a game like GW2.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Oh wow, so just because some people feel the need to do everything, you shouldn’t include anything that those people might not like, even if others might, because they are incapable of just saying ‘You know, I don’t feel like doing that, I am not interested in that type of gameplay’?
          This is particularly ridiculous as it doesn’t effect your completion rating, or give you anything you can’t get somewhere else. Frankly, maybe it actually should. It sounds like it doesn’t for the exact reason you’re complaining, so screw your being one of those people that gets catered to and still whines about it.

          • nearly says:

            I 100% completed Batman: Arkham Asylum because I liked the game and wanted to do everything in it, but have no intention of doing the same with Arkham City because I didn’t like the game as much. there’s no point to being a completionist if you don’t like or enjoy everything in the game.

            also, while it’s arguable what RPG fans do or don’t like, it seems like a fundamentally flawed argument when said RPG is an MMORPG. you’re not supposed to complete it.

        • Malk_Content says:

          3) The rewards are non unique so you can bloody well do without them.

        • Arglebargle says:

          Really dislike jumping puzzle, platformerish thumbtwiddling. If it’s not Psychonauts-good, I’m not interested. Just hope these things are well identified, so I can ignore them.

          I guess it’s okay for those that like that sort of thing, but I imagine some of the OCD completionists are indeed going to be squeeling.

          • Dominic White says:

            The thing with GW2 is that outside of personal story quests (which you always have a clear checkpoint to), EVERYTHING is optional. Don’t like the things available to do at the given time? Go to another zone and come back later, and you might find completely different events going on.

            The game is pretty good about letting you play your own way.

            The platforming stuff is all in hidden areas and off the beaten path. None required for progression.

          • Arglebargle says:

            That’s good to hear. I like ANet for some specific and general reasons, and hope the game is a hit – with a bullet!

        • RvLeshrac says:

          1) Whatever

          2) If you do this, I could not possibly give less of a shit about your opinion of the content that you’re bitching about. There’s a massive difference between producing Main Content that you find distasteful and Side Content that you don’t like.

    • Yargh says:

      For the reward to be made more meaningful there needs to be some form of effort involved in getting there. The platforming/puzzle element is a reasonable enough method of providing that challenge.

      It is also refreshing to see something that isn’t a battle, fetch-quest or fake moral choice as the challenge.

    • Barman1942 says:

      Because they’re fun.

  17. Betamax says:

    Sounds similar to SWTOR’s datacrons which are an aspect of that game which I really enjoyed. Sure some of the puzzles are frustrating, and sometimes that’s because the game isn’t designed to be a platformer and it shows, but on the whole I found they added much needed variety to this style of MMO. Wish TOR had more of it, and glad to see GW2 is chock full of it.

  18. Kits says:

    I had a lot of fun with the asura jumping puzzle. It really is brilliant.
    Boggles my mind how there are so many people swearing and shouting that it’s the worst thing in the world and the developers should go die in a fire. It’s not compulsory for you to do it, and it adds so much more to the game.

  19. mbr says:

    Don’t put stuff in your game that it was never meant to do.

    • Vinraith says:

      Challenging platforming + server lag = hilarity.

      • clownst0pper says:

        Never had any server lag and I’ve been playing since September 2011…

        • Arglebargle says:

          …and from this one experiance, we can extrapolate the world….

          • Vorphalack says:

            I had server lag, but never when doing jumping puzzles. Therefore we can conclude that jumping puzzles keep server lag away.

          • Arglebargle says:

            Eureka!!

      • nearly says:

        challenging gameplay of any variety + server lag = hilarity

      • RvLeshrac says:

        In GW2, latency has nothing whatsoever to do with character movement. You may have issues with packetloss, but those should be rare. If they aren’t rare and other people aren’t experiencing them, that has nothing to do with the game or ArenaNet.

    • Malk_Content says:

      These jumping puzzles aren’t something new in the game, they’ve been around since people first got their hands on it. These smaller more casual platforming bits littered around the world are new, but aren’t really challenging at all and just a little reward for jumping all of things that people do in any game with jumping in anyway. Admittedly lag can sometimes cause you to die, just as lag will sometimes cause you to die in a combat area.

    • Herkimer says:

      Except that ANet seem to have designed the game with some jumping puzzles in mind, so it was pretty clearly “meant” to do them?

    • Shooop says:

      Why shouldn’t this belong in it? Just about anything can fit into a game if it’s implemented well.
      .
      Years ago we’d say the same thing about war games and modern day settings or deep, mature narrative in an RPG that’s not afraid to touch on some very controversial subjects.

  20. ObsidianTK says:

    Assuming Richard has actually written 427 trillion words, the average length of a word in English is 5 letters, and a 5 letter word is about an inch long, as a single line, Richard has written 427 trillion inches of text (6.739 billion miles). Divided by the circumference of the Earth (24,901 miles), this means Richard will have to travel around the world in his hot air balloon 270,632 times.

    Even if Richard was traveling in the Pacific Flyer, which recorded a record horizontal travel speed of 245 miles per hour in ideal conditions, he would spend approximately 3,140 years circling the planet with his words.

    The more you know!

  21. Cryo says:

    I thought those puzzles were really fun, even if they were very frustrating at times. But then this frustration is also a part of the fun I guess.