Crafting is a very important part of MMO’s, primarily for economic reasons. I’m no economist, but I do know that with only limited things to spend money on inflation would get ridiculously out of control as the game aged making it impossible for new players to afford a boot nail, let alone a new sword. Crafting gives players something to spend money on (buying materials and crafted goods) and something to make money with (selling materials and crafted goods) thereby redistributing the wealth somewhat. It also provides players with an alternative to killing things or exploring the world if they happen to feel like a quiet night in. Guild Wars 2 is going to feature 8 crafting disciplines, each with a distinct niche.

The disciplines are:

Weaponsmith – Weaponsmiths craft melee weapons, such as swords, axes and hammers.
Huntsman – Huntsmen craft ranged weapons like bows and pistol, as well as torches and warhorns.
Artificer– Artificers craft magical weapons such as staves and sceptres.
Armoursmith – Armoursmiths craft heavy armour pieces.
Leatherworker – Leatherworkers craft medium armour pieces.
Tailor – Tailors craft light armour pieces.
Jewelcrafter – Jewelcrafters craft jewellery, such as rings and necklaces.
Cook – Cooks can prepare food which characters can eat for temporary combat buffs.

Notice anything missing?

Yes? No? Maybe, but you don’t want to guess in case you’re wrong?

There are no gathering disciplines. Anyone can harvest anything regardless of the crafting disciplines you have chosen (you can have two active at once, more on that below), or even if you haven’t chosen any. As of the most recent demo build at G*Star in Korea it appears that gathering will require tools such as pickaxes. This could possibly be a replacement gold sink given that potions were removed from the game some time ago.

Crafting materials can be gained in several ways – buying them off other players via the marketplace, getting them as a mob drop, using a salvaging kit on another item or by going out into the big wide world and finding them yourself. In keeping with ArenaNet’s goal of cooperative, accessible gameplay resource nodes are going to be phased on a player-by-player basis. This means that if four people all spot the same ore vein in a rock that happens to contain 20 units of ore every player will be able to mine 20 units of ore from the rock. As each player takes their ore the rock will phase in appearance for them until all the ore is gone. If another player happens along in a few minutes they’ll also be able to mine 20 units of ore. No more node camping for resources, no need to share.

Crafting itself will be carried out at crafting workstations located around the world in cities and major outposts. Nearby Master Crafter NPC’s are able to teach their particular discipline to a player for a fee. Players are free to change disciplines as often as they wish, as crafting levels and all known recipes are retained and reinstated when switching back to a previously known discipline. The only caveat is an increasing fee to switch disciplines as the skill level for the given discipline increases.

The crafting window itself consists of two tabs, one for Discovery mode and one for Production mode. The Discovery window lists all available ingredients for the workstation the player is interacting with down the left hand side, with the main portion of the window taken up by four staggered ingredient slots. As the player drops an ingredient into a slot the lower portion of the window advises whether an item can be crafted or if any recipes are discoverable by the addition of further ingredients, and if so how many. Ingredients may freely be added and removed until a recipe is discovered at which point the player can click the ‘Craft’ button. Clicking the ‘Reset’ button will clear all ingredients from the grid. To help players out as they try to discover recipes all ingredients incompatible with those already in the work grid are greyed out, while items already placed in the work grid have a white box around them in the ingredients list.

When a new item is crafted for the first time a window will appear over the crafting workstation UI to display the newly discovered item and the ingredients that went into making it. A glowing circle will also briefly appear around the Production tab on the left hand side of the ingredients list. Remaking an already discovered item is as simple as switching to the Production tab and finding the item you’re after. The list is arranged into categories and features a sorting system of some type which we haven’t seen demonstrated yet. Selecting an item will display the item’s name with a list of the ingredients and associated quantities below it. If you happen to lack the required amount of an ingredient for a recipe that ingredient will be highlighted in red. Hovering your mouse pointer over the item’s icon will display a pop-up window with the items name, usage instructions (if it’s a weapon or armour mod), the item’s properties or stats and its vendor sell value.

Once you have selected the item you want to produce, making it is as simple as choosing the quantity you want and clicking ‘Craft’. Crafting multiple copies of an item takes the same amount of time as crafting a single item. There is also a ‘Craft All’ button which will create as many items as the quantity of ingredients allow for (the button tells you how many). As I briefly mentioned earlier, crafting has levels. Experience is gained every time you refine a raw material (such as green wooden planks into a weapon haft or copper and tin ore into a bronze ingot) or create an item.

Some ingredients can even be crafted into multiple items. Green wood planks for example can be crafted into at least three discoverable items – a small green haft, a large green haft and a basel mace haft. Similarly, bronze ingots can make a bronze sword hilt and a bronze harpoon head. As experience is gained in a discipline, higher level recipes are unlocked for discovery. To aid in this progressive discovery higher quality resource nodes (such as iron ore for steel) will be rarer than common nodes (such as copper and tin ore) and won’t be found until further into the game.

In a step away from crafting in many other MMO’s there is no chance a recipe can fail. Every single time you craft something, be it an interim item such as a sword hilt or the whole sword, you will get a usable item that can be crafted with or equipped right away or in a matter of levels. Critical successes do exist, but again they differ from many other MMO’s in that they don’t produce an extra special item but instead reward additional experience or refund some of the ingredients used in making the item.

All items produced by crafting will be on-par stat wise with items from vendors, mob drops and dungeon tokens – the only difference will be item skins. One player may choose to dive into crafting wholeheartedly while another may choose to ignore crafting completely if they have no interest in it. Either way, neither will be at an appreciable advantage or disadvantage gear wise for having chosen to craft or not.

For the TL;DR version you can view the video below, just keep in mind the guy driving it tries repeatedly to add ingredients together which aren’t compatible so it can get a little frustrating to watch after a while. Still, it’s the best demonstration of crafting we have to date and should give you a pretty good idea of what it will be like when the game releases (see disclaimer).

I’m happy to take suggestions for future post topics if there’s something you’re dying to know more about. Also happy to answer any questions you might have about crafting if I can do so.

Disclaimer – everything written above is true to the best of my knowledge when it was written. ArenaNet have an iterative design policy in place so features are always open to adjustment, tweaking, reworking and/or scrapping. Please keep this in mind should something turn out to be different or completely missing once Guild Wars 2 launches.

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Welcome to the second half of my two part run-down on the differences between Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 and the MMO genre at large. Having covered the main contrasts between the original and the sequel in part one I’ll now move on to highlighting how ArenaNet are striving to carve their own niche in the MMO genre. I’ll expand further on several of the features listed below in their own posts but for now a quick overview to whet your whistles.

If You Can Dodge a Fireball In keeping with ArenaNet’s desire to produce a game with visceral, dynamic combat they have included a dodge mechanic. Double-tapping a direction key or pressing the dodge key while moving will cause your character to dodge in that direction. If you’re standing still and hit the dodge button you’ll dodge backwards (or do a neat little backflip if you’re an asura). Projectiles in Guild Wars 2, be they bullets, an axe or a fireball, do not have a homing ability – if you get out of the way, it won’t hit you. The mechanic is fuelled by a dodge bar which depletes each time you dodge and slowly refills over time. Currently it is possible to dodge twice in a row before running out of juice (see disclaimer).

Ding Dong the Trin is Dead The mysterious and long-enshrined tradition of dividing class/profession roles into one of three compartments – tank, healer or DPS – has been given a pretty thorough shaking up by ArenaNet. Three slightly more vague and rather more ‘open house’ compartments exist instead, these being support, control and damage. Each profession in Guild Wars 2 can, to varying extents, fill each of these new roles as needed and on the fly. No more tank enjoying a screen full of ogres toenail for 10 minutes while maintaining aggro via taunts – Guild Wars 2 has no taunting skills and a variety of aggro tables. No more DPS numbly punching through a skill rotation that is so ingrained their keyboard could probably do it for them sans macros. No more wall-eyed healer getting carpel tunnel from staring at the UI, playing ‘click a bar’ and spamming heals – Guild Wars 2 has no ally targeting. While some professions are going to lean a little more towards one soft trinity role than another no profession is going to be ‘required’ for anything. Play what you want, how you want. How cool is that?

By the Sword in my Hand Skills are handled differently in Guild Wars 2 by virtue of the fact they are attached to your weapons. The skill bar is divided in half – five weapon-based skills on the left and five utility skills on the right. If you equip a warrior with a sword and a shield the first three skills on the left will be sword related and the final two skills will be shield related. To make things even more interesting, weapon skills are also profession specific, so a Guardian wielding a staff will have a different set of skills from a Necromancer wielding a staff. All professions have melee and ranged weapon options and, with the exception of Elementalists who switch elemental attunements rather than weapons, each profession can switch between two alternate weapon sets during combat.

Different Strokes I can see you sitting there, thinking. And you’re right. Every warrior with a greatsword is going to have exactly the same five skills on the left side of their skill bar. The same applies for every ranger with a shortbow, and every dual-dagger wielding necromancer. Unfortunately I can’t explain this topic in-depth at the moment (see disclaimer) because the system is currently being overhauled. As it stood prior to the rework players could equip traits to modify how their skills worked, so one greatsword warrior might tailor his skills with traits that focus more on burst attacks and spiking, while another might have a more pressure oriented build focussed on spreading and maintaining conditions. The five utility skills on the right side of a player’s skill bar will also have a bearing on their play style.

What’s Your Story? During character creation players will be asked a series of questions that serve to customise their personal story. Further choices will arise as the player progresses through the game as well, continuing to branch their storyline. A characters home instance, located in the capital city of their race, will evolve to reflect the choices made by the player. An early example that was illustrated involves having to choose between saving a hospital and saving an orphanage when both catch alight at the same time. What are the chances? The player can only choose one, and their choice will be displayed in their characters home instance – one building remains standing, the other will be destroyed by fire. Various NPC’s will also take up residence within the characters home instance over the course of their personal story if the player performs a service for them, such as saving their life or completing a particular task.

Take a Deep Breath The world of Tyria is going to be a living one, constantly changing. ArenaNet have achieved this by filling the world with Dynamic Events. The events replace quests (except for those associated with a characters personal storyline) and are designed to chain together and branch depending on the outcome. If players complete the required objective, the chain branches in one direction. If they fail, it branches in another. Some events will come full circle within an hour, others may continue to branch and chain their way across the map for months before returning to the beginning. There will even be sleeper events that sit dormant until a player trips the trigger. Players won’t have to see an NPC to join in the fun either, they can just dive right in and the game will track their contribution. Dynamic Event rewards are standard throughout the game as well, consisting of gold, experience and karma. Karma is tradeable to karma vendors for weapons, armour and other goodies.

Event Goes Up, Event Goes Down… Dynamic Events have scaling built into them, to try to ensure the difficulty of the event remains commensurate to the number of players participating. The event system has been engineered to ensure participation is measured as accurately as possible in an attempt to prevent griefing. The difficulty of the events is varied by manipulating the number of mobs, their health and the skills a boss will use. For instance, a boss mob may have a Tail Swipe skill unlocked when the number of players participating goes over a predetermined number. Event scaling goes both ways as well. Some larger elite events can scale to accommodate over 100 players, and many events can scale down to the point where one or two players stand a fair chance of completing the objective.

Be My Robin? To better enable players to group up with friends regardless of their respective levels, and also to ensure the entire game world remains a viable playground for characters of any level, ArenaNet have implemented a sidekicking system. A lower level player accompanying a higher level friend to a higher level area will have their level boosted up to within a few levels of their friend. Comparatively they will be a little weaker, but they can still meaningfully participate in the content without being a mob doormat. Conversely, if a higher level character returns to a lower level area they will be sidekicked down to a few levels above the content. This reverse sidekicking occurs when a higher level player is running solo as well, to ensure higher level characters don’t grief lower level content by one-shotting everything.

The Postman Always Coo’s Twice There you are out in the middle of nowhere, boldly going where no player has gone before. Of all a sudden, carrier pigeon. The mail system in Guild Wars 2 has wings, so no mapping to a major hub or city is required to send or receive your messages. It’s almost a “blink and you’ll miss it” animation, but a carrier pigeon actually does swoop down to your character when you receive mail. Given my penchant for emptying the bags of one character by posting everything to another (I’m a hoarder!) it’s a feature that could come in quite handy, aside from being generally more convenient than having physically visit a mailbox.

That pretty much wraps up the major points. As I mentioned in the introduction, I’ll be expanding on several of the above features in future blog posts of this series an attempt to do them the justice they deserve.

Disclaimer – everything written above is true to the best of my knowledge when it was written. ArenaNet have an iterative design policy in place so features are always open to adjustment, tweaking, reworking and/or scrapping. Please keep this in mind should something turn out to be different or completely missing once Guild Wars 2 launches.

It occurred to me shortly after my last post that I may have gotten a step ahead of myself in this series. With only one post completed so far, I think that’s a pretty neat trick.

Before continuing the series further, I believe it’s important to lay down some groundwork and explain just how Guild Wars 2 differs from Guild Wars and also address what ArenaNet are doing to set Guild Wars 2 apart from the rest of the genre. There’s a bit to explain, so I’ll break it into two posts.

I’ll start at the beginning (generally accepted as a very good place to start) by highlighting the major differences between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. These points won’t be entirely exclusive to the subject of post one either, as some features that differ between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 will also differ between the latter and other MMO’s.

All By Myself… If you want to get pedantic about it, Guild Wars isn’t an MMORPG, it’s a CORPG (Competitive/Cooperative Online Role Playing Game). The only persistent parts of the world where you will mingle with other players are cities, towns and outposts. Aside from those places the entire world is instanced. Every time you step through a portal with your party (which can consist of you and 3-7 AI controlled heroes and/or other actual real people) you get your very own copy of the map to play on. While Guild Wars 2 will have some minor instancing the vast majority of the game will be a persistent open world environment. The instancing in Guild Wars 2 is limited to your personal story (you can bring friends with you) and dungeons (maximum party size of five).

We Don’t Need Another Hero First introduced in the Nightfall expansion of Guild Wars, heroes are NPC’s that you can add to your party in place of a human player. Heroes differ from henchmen in that you can customise their skills, attributes and equipment. Micromanagement extends to controlling the usage of their skills, their default behaviour and their location. Henchmen are also NPC’s used to pad out party numbers but their skills, attributes, equipment, behaviour and location are completely AI controlled. Given the aptness of henchmen and other players for getting one killed at inconvenient moments, heroes became very popular and Guild Wars turned into a largely solo-able game.

For a time early in development, Guild Wars 2 was going to include companions, AI controlled NPC’s with similar customisation options to heroes. As development of the game continued companions were deemed to be unnecessary and counter-productive to the open world experience and they were removed from the game.

It’s Classified Guild Wars doesn’t have any form of auction house or marketplace. If you want to trade with other players you need to go and stand in a trade-oriented city (the major one being Spamadan Kamadan) and spam the Trade chat channel with your wares. As there is also no mail system the only way to complete a trade with another player is to meet up with them and open a manual trade window.

Guild Wars 2 will feature a fully functioning marketplace with the ability to not only list items for sale but to also post ‘wanted’ notices, seeking a particular item or items at a certain price. All transactions will be taken care of automatically once entered into, with the purchased goods being sent to the buyer and the proceeds being sent to the seller. To keep a healthy game-wide economy the marketplace will not exist on a per server basis but will be global, spanning the entire game. Pricing trends will also be displayed for items.

ArenaNet have also decided to take the marketplace one step further – right out of the game in fact. A web-based interface and also a smart phone application will allow browsing of the marketplace as well as bidding on items, and cancelling your own auctions and offers.

Clean and Green Guild Wars has an energy mechanic, whereby activating skills costs energy and if you don’t have enough energy you need to wait until it regenerates. Professions vary as to their starting amount and also the amount they can reach (warriors have a much lower energy pool than elementalists for example). Guild Wars 2 had an energy mechanic for a while, including energy potions as an additional resource (Guild Wars didn’t have potions, if you ran out it was tough noogies). This feature has since been removed in favour of a dodge mechanic (to be further explained in part 2). No energy means no energy potions, which effectively removes a gold sink from the game. A replacement system is in the works but no announcement has been made by ArenaNet at this time.

Not the Face! Guild Wars was primarily designed as a PvP game and the addition of several PvE expansions over time, adding professions and skills to the game (resulting in a total of over 1300 skills), plus the ability of players to choose a secondary profession for their character caused massive balancing issues between PvE and PvP. ArenaNet have attempted to address this by designating some skills as PvE only and by splitting other skills into PvE and PvP versions. The massive skill bloat (of which only a fraction are viable for use in good builds) and a large number of PvP formats caused accessibility issues to PvP with quite a steep and unforgiving learning curve for newer players. All PvP in Guild Wars is instanced and varies from 4v4 up to 18v18.

Guild Wars 2 has two primary PvP modes – Structured PvP and World PvP. Both Structured PvP and World PvP will include destructible environments, allowing new paths to be opened up through the maps, or existing ones to be closed off. Structured PvP also breaks down further into two flavours, Tournament and Hot Join. Both types of Structured PvP see players boosted to level 80 (maximum level), granted full access to all the skills for their profession, maximum level armour and maximum level weapons. Tournament play is strictly 5v5 while Hot Join can vary between 1v1 up to 10v10.

World PvP (or WvWvW) will consist of three servers going head to head in two-week long battles against each other. Once the two weeks is up the winning server will receive bonuses (improved drop rates, faster health regen, etc), and servers will be re-paired based on their game-wide rankings to begin another two-week battle. World PvP differs slightly from Structured PvP in that while all players will again be boosted to level 80, your skills, armour and weapons stay as-is. The World PvP map will be a triangular arrangement, with each server having a home map that adjoins a central and initially neutral map.

Players will battle to take, defend and capture various objectives such as mines, villages, fortresses, castles and mercenary camps. World PvP is being designed to ensure accessibility to as many players as possible. Larger groups can assault castles and fortresses, mid-sized groups can protect resource sites such as mines and escort the goods to their castles and small “hit squads” can specialise in harassing enemy players and disrupting their supply chains. World PvP is not balanced numbers-wise and is expected to host hundreds, if not thousands, of players all participating at the same time.

That pretty much sums up the major differences between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. If I’ve missed anything, misrepresented anything or just plain stuffed something up please let me know and I’ll fix it.

Disclaimer – everything written above is true to the best of my knowledge when it was written. ArenaNet have an iterative design policy in place so features are always open to adjustment, tweaking, reworking and/or scrapping. Please keep this in mind should something turn out to be different or completely missing once Guild Wars 2 launches.

There are only so many different armour sets that can reasonably be created for a game, even one as expansive as an MMO. Sooner or later you’re going to run into someone wearing the exact same armour as you, piece for piece. While this can be very embarrassing to all involved (“But I told you I was wearing my Chestplate of Herculean Strength today! Now I have to go and change and these greaves just don’t work as well with my other chestplate…”) there is a way to help players feel that little bit more unique – let them dye their armour.

I’m going to say right off the bat that ArenaNet don’t do anything half-assed. The dye system in Guild Wars consists of eleven colours (twelve if you count pink, which is only available during the annual Pink Day in LA cancer fundraiser). You can mix up to four dyes together to get different blends and each armour piece or weapon has one dyeable channel.

The dye system in Guild Wars 2 is going to weigh in at somewhere around 400 colours. Yes, four hundred. And every colour is going to be handcrafted. Taking on a task like that might be considered an indicator of insanity, or perhaps just extreme dedication to and passion for one’s job. Perhaps the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

To summarise the linked article above:

You can’t mix dyes in Guild Wars 2. There are going to be over 400 choices and if you can’t find the exact shade of blue you’re after I’d be tempted to speculate that your inability to find the exact shade of blue you’re after should be the least of your worries.

Kristen Perry is a material girl. Kristen is the crazy lady a Character Artist at ArenaNet who will be making sure that, when dyed, metal looks like metal, cloth looks like cloth, leather looks like leather and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri look like small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. No matter the material you apply a colour to, it will still look the way it’s supposed to.

Dyes are account-bound. Good news everyone! No need for infinite storage space or market power-trading to support your armour renovation habit, dyes don’t exist as in-game items like vials. Instead, each race will start with their own themed colour palette, and additional palettes will be unlocked as you progress through the game. Each palette you unlock will also be account wide, not character specific, so your alts can look spiffy right away. Re-dyeing your armour will be as simple as opening a window (turn your sound down) and painting your town clothes red. For the truly fashion conscious it is also highly likely that colour packs will be available as microtransaction purchases.

Colours, colours everywhere… Overwhelming (in a good way) would be a fair description of the number of colours available once you have every palette unlocked. Thankfully the colours will be sortable by hue (colour, basically), temperature (warm, cool, neutral) and material (metallic, cloth, leather). Players can also create a Favourites list so you don’t have to go looking for that shade of blue every time you want to use it.

So many channels your pay-tv will get jealous. Ok, so maybe not but still a great feature. Armour and weapons in Guild Wars had one dyeable channel. While weapons won’t be dyeable in Guild Wars 2 (at this stage, see disclaimer), armour pieces will have one to four dyeable channels dependant on the size of the piece. So even if you do suffer the pinnacle of social embarrassment and show up to a dungeon wearing the exact same armour as the rest of your group there’s a good chance your dye jobs will be different.

Game, Set, and Match! What does a developer do when the usual breakdown of armour pieces just doesn’t cut it? They fuse several pieces into a set, and add an extra dye channel. This creates a single armour item (which may span several armour slots) such as pants, vest, shirt and trench coat with a dye channel for each distinct part.

You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss, a dye is just a dye… Getting a new piece of armour is always exciting, but then you have to dye it to match the rest of your gear. As stated in the blog post, all new armour drops will be neutrally coloured to prevent clashes with your existing armour until you get a chance to whip out your favourite colours. That’s a good idea, and it has since been improved upon (see disclaimer). Now when you equip a new armour piece, the game will carry over the colour scheme you had from the armour piece you are replacing and apply it to the new piece automatically. How cool is that?

Well, that’s the dye system for Guild Wars 2. I can already see myself spending many hours playing a very geeky, grown-up version of Barbie while I tinker with my characters colour schemes. If I’ve missed anything or you have any dye specific questions please let me know and I’ll be sure to set things right (:

Disclaimer – everything written above is true to the best of my knowledge when it was written. ArenaNet have an iterative design policy in place so features are always open to adjustment, tweaking, reworking and/or scrapping. Please keep this in mind should something turn out to be different or completely missing once Guild Wars 2 launches.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Posted: September 30, 2011 in The Evidence at Hand

I’ve been merrily spruiking Guild Wars 2 to…well… anyone who will listen really for a few years now. Quite a number of my gaming friends are definitely going to check it out and the sole other gamer in my team at work is also rather interested.

Posting links on Facebook and Google + to articles on gaming websites, ArenaNet’s blog and the Guild Wars 2 website seems a little impersonal though. I’m certainly not a foaming-at-the-mouth fangirl for Guild Wars 2, but I am very positive about almost everything that has been revealed to date. My only real concerns are latency and the ranger pets. Latency because I’m Australian (the tyranny of distance!) and ranger pets because they are currently not very good. ArenaNet even admitted as much, which in and of itself is quite remarkable.

In order to provide a more personal touch to the various facets that make up the hecatohedron of awesome that is Guild Wars 2 I am going to start writing a series of posts that each focus on everything currently known about one particular feature.

The first post will be about the dye system. I’m happy to take requests / suggestions if there’s a particular feature anyone is curious about.

Hopefully when I’m done with the series (though will I ever be?) the gaming world will be a little more knowledgable about Guild Wars 2 and why it’s just what the MMO industry needs.

Now, to exhibit one!

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Posted: September 27, 2011 in Off Cuts

Marketing is a double-edged sword. Too much information too soon and you risk burning the audience out. Not enough information and they’ll likely get bored and move on to something else. Gamescom 2010 heralded the opening of the floodgates information-wise for Guild Wars 2 with the world premiere of the playable demo and the reveal of the necromancer profession.

The year since has seen ArenaNet release dozens of blog posts, many featuring in-game screenshots, sound-bytes and videos, covering various aspects of the Guild Wars 2 universe including quite a few behind-the-scenes insights. To date all but one of the eight professions have been revealed, crafting has been explained, several NPC races have been introduced (complete with background lore), underwater combat was unveiled, dungeon information (including video) has been published and one structured PvP map has been showcased and was available to play at the largest fixtures during the 2011 convention season. The behind-the-scenes blog posts in particular have provided a rarely seen insight into the creation of an MMO, and each one clearly demonstrates the passion and dedication of the staff involved.

In the four years following ArenaNet’s announcement that they were abandoning further expansions on Guild Wars in favour of a sequel they have firmly stuck to their design and development principles. No information is released about a feature until it is in the game and working. Even then it is fair game to be tweaked, overhauled or scrapped as testing and feedback dictates.

Such an iterative design process demands time and patience, from publisher, developer and fan alike. The marketing approach ArenaNet have decided to take with Guild Wars 2 is very much in keeping with the game itself – innovative and brave. Not a single fancy CGI trailer to be seen: all the released videos have consisted of concept artwork and actual footage captured from the game engine itself.

While this approach is much more open than that of most AAA developers, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to such a strategy. Fan burnout and backlash against features are the two primary disadvantages in my opinion, with the largest advantage being an unprecedented level of contact and intimacy with fans.

First, the down side. Fan burnout is always a big risk. I’ve been closely following the developement of Guild Wars 2 for a bit over two years now. I’ve had a few periods of disillusionment, mostly after the excitement of an information glut wears off. The bones have been picked over for the umpteenth time and there’s just nothing new to be gleaned. ArenaNet have done a pretty good job of pacing their information releases but given that all the gaming conventions occur around the same time a huge info spike is somewhat unavoidable.

Another major issue is the prejudging of features and professions based on limited information. Transmutation stones (point #3) caused an almost mind-boggling outcry, though this did abate somewhat once more information was provided. The revelation that energy potions were going to be in-game also triggered quite a strong reaction (potions don’t exist in Guild Wars). Here, however, the nature of iterative development came into play and potions have since been removed.

Each profession reveal garnered the usual overpowered/underpowered debates and arguments, plus the inevitable attempts to shoehorn each into one of the traditional MMO holy trinity roles of tank/healer/DPS. Such comparisons are unavoidable as people attempt to quantify and understand how each profession is going to fit into the game, particularly when Guild Wars 2 is throwing the MMO rulebook out the window and have largely invalidated such comparisons.

Now, on to the advantages.

First and foremost, slowly releasing information and relying primarily on word of mouth to spread it is going to build a core group of very knowledgable fans. Dozens of forums, blogs and fan sites of all shapes, sizes, colours, flavours and languages exist for Guild Wars 2. Some are more generalised, others are specifically focussed on one particular aspect of the game. A thriving wiki is already well underway, information having been pieced together from demo videos and convention attendees armed with notepads.

ArenaNet also have a strong social networking presence, with an active Facebook page and a twitter account. I’ve even tweeted ArenaNet staff members a few times over random and minor matters (some not even game related) and was stoked to receive a reply in a couple of instances. Several staff members, in addition to the three community managers, also frequently post on Guild Wars 2 Guru to clarify misunderstandings and even sometimes provide answers from specific staff members if an important question arises.

While I am unfortunately not in a position to attend any of the conventions (I’m Australian and flying halfway around the world isn’t within my budgetary reach as this time) many of the reports I have read from those lucky enough to attend have highly praised how helpful, approachable and friendly the ArenaNet staff are, despite convention stress, jet lag and general exhaustion. That is exactly the type of marketing which will have an immeasurable positive impact.

Starting slow with marketing as ArenaNet have done is smart on a number of levels. ArenaNet don’t have the same kind of money to throw at advertising as the likes of Blizzard and EA/BioWare do. Letting their established core of fans do the initial legwork is far cheaper and, in my opinion, arguably more effective. It’s worked too, the word is getting out. Established and well-known video bloggers, such as TotalBiscuit, and large gaming review sites like IGN and Gamespot have started running regular articles on Guild Wars 2.

ArenaNet haven’t announced a release date so far, yet I am content in the knowledge that each days passing brings me one day closer to playing Guild Wars 2. And eventually, there will only be one more day.

With my first step into Tyria the journey will truly begin.

All the World’s a Stage

Posted: September 22, 2011 in Off Cuts

I’ve never considered role-playing in a computer game before. Ever.

Two things have significantly swayed me in the past eight or so months though. First and foremost – Guild Wars 2. As the amount of information being revealed has slowly swelled from a trickle to a torrent my imagination has grown with it. Even though only a relatively small part of Tyria has thus far been revealed through the various demos I already feel drawn into the fabric of this lovingly created universe. I care about the overarching storyline, the different races and the world as a whole.

The other factor that has fired my imagination has been the Mass Effect series. Almost chalk and cheese when compared to Guild Wars 2 I know, a sci-fi RPG / third person shooter and a fantasy MMORPG, but bear with me.

What really drew me into the Mass Effect series was the role-playing element. I played my first femshep as me from a moral standpoint, so she ended up about 75% paragon, 25% renegade. I found the storyline and the ability to choose different dialogue options and actions to be incredibly immersive.

Finishing the first game was a major milestone for me – it was the first (single player) game I have ever played all the way through to the credits. Considering how many games I own and how long I have been gaming that is both a very embarrassing admission and a testament to how great the game is.

Upon finishing Mass Effect I promptly imported my existing femshep into Mass Effect 2 and played that right through to the credits as well. For the sake of nostalgia I’m going to make the third game I play all the way through Mass Effect 3. I pre-ordered the collectors edition a few weeks ago.

While a little different from the paragon/renegade system in the Mass Effect series, the personality system of Guild Wars 2 will add immeasurably to the role-playing experience for me. It will even allow for a change of personality over time, depending upon the responses you choose when interacting with NPC’s. Tired of being a persuasive charmer? Choose a certain path of responses over time and you can eventually wrap up a conversation by punching the other party in the face.

I don’t yet know to what extent I’ll role-play in Guild Wars 2, or on how many characters. I have eight characters planned already, one for each profession. I also have an extensive back story written up for one of them, but he isn’t going to be my main.

Being able to join multiple guilds with one character is certainly going to open up a lot of possibilities and flexibility. If I do choose to role-play a certain character I can have him in my main guild to play with my mates, but also with a role-playing guild for the times I want to immerse myself a little more in the world.

The depth and quality of the Guild Wars universe lore weaves a rich tapestry against which to let my imagination run free.

The men and women of Tyria are ready, and we shall be more than mere players.