Exhibit 2, part 2 – ArenaNet vs Competators

Posted: October 30, 2011 in The Evidence at Hand

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.

  1. GW2 Fan says:

    I was under the impression, and maybe things have changed or I was wrong to begin with, that the skills were not only based on the type of weapon, but also on different varieties of a type of weapon. Like if you had three different staffs, you would have three different combinations of skills. This sort of functionality is also implied by the token/item reskinning feature they want to offer. You buy a reskinning token for cash, choose the item with a skin you want, choose another item of the same type with the skills (weapon) or stats (armor) you want. There would be no purpose in reskinning a staff to another staff if there weren’t unique abilities to be gained from it (just keep using the staff skin you wanted and you’re done).

  2. unraveled says:

    At this stage, and I doubt it will change prior to launch, every weapon of the same type has exactly the same skills attached to it. Weapons can be customised to behave slightly differently, such as a sword hilt that poisons the target on a critical hit. Traits have an effect on how skills behave as well.

    Weapons also have inherent stats attached and these will increase throughout the game as you obtain higher level weapons. The reskinning feature you mentioned, Transmutation Stones, will allow the skin from a lower level item to be transferred to a higher level item with better stats.

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