Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 30, 2012
 
Guild Wars 2 First Impressions

First things first, the the technical aspects: There is a weird school of thought among blogger thinking that if you like a game you should gloss over its bugs and technical shortcomings. I don't subscribe to that. I like Guild Wars 2, but of all the MMORPGs I have played this year, it is the one with the most things not working as intended. By ArenaNet's own admission most of the social features of Guild Wars 2 are broken at the moment: Guild chat isn't working, joining guild is buggy, the auction house is enable only for 15% of the players, in-game mail isn't working, the forums aren't working, and if you want to play in a group with your friend you risk that group getting disbanded every time you zone because of people landing on different overflow servers. ArenaNet shouldn't be proud of launching a game with more problems than Funcom did. Basically Guild Wars 2 right now is only playable as a single-player game, with interaction with other players mostly limited to strangers that are in the same location as you are.

Fortunately it is a very good single-player game. The graphics are both technically and aesthetically excellent.  The gameplay in which what you are told to do depends on where you are instead of on which NPC you clicked on works great and encourages full exploration of the map. The crafting material deposit and the discovery system are great improvements over crafting systems in previous games (although I'd wish those two would work together). Daily achievements are an improvement over daily quests. And the combat system is responsive and fun. I can see myself playing Guild Wars 2 for quite some time.

Having said that, I nevertheless need to remark that while Guild Wars 2 is an improvement and refinement over the existing way most MMORPGs work these days, it isn't a revolution. Combat is still targeting something, and using a combination of auto-attacks and hotkeys with a cooldown. And while at first it seems refreshing to not have a laundry list of quests to do, at the end of "filling a heart" you might realize that you did exactly the same as if there had been a quest hub at that location: Killed X mobs, and clicked on Y hotspots. Vistas work very similar to SWTOR datacrons. Events work like WAR public quests. Right now it is all new and shiny, and everything works together quite well, but it is all iterations on what was there before, not a radical overthrow of the genre.

That might a good thing in one respect: I managed to figure out how many things work in Guild Wars 2 through my experience of other games. Guild Wars 2 is thin on tutorials and explanations of how stuff works. I ended up watching YouTube videos on how crafting works, on the recommendation of a friend, because the game itself failed to explain anything. I can see how somebody new to the genre might get quite lost in Guild Wars 2, but it is a lot less directive in telling people what to do or explaining how to do things. Veterans probably like that, but new players could use a better tutorial.

Overall I can only recommend Guild Wars 2. Especially the cost to benefit ratio is hard to beat: Guild Wars 2 offers the quality level of a subscription MMORPG without the subscription. I checked out the item store, and at least at the start of the game there is nothing where you feel pushed towards spending real money, where you are hitting a pay wall. The most useful thing I found to spend money on was buying gems and exchanging them for in-game gold, because gold is in short supply if you want to craft. Later you might want to buy bag slots or character slots, but Guild Wars 2 is much less in-your-face pushy with promoting their item shop than most Free2Play MMORPGs. Of course that might change once the revenue from selling boxes dries up.

Comments:
On the topic of overflow servers and grouping: you can click "join in" on the portrait and you'll be teleported to the same overflow as that player. Yesterday it worked flawlessly for me and my friends (EU servers).

But yeah, in the beta weekends those things like mail and guilds worked perfectly so I wonder where this went wrong that it needs so much work to fix the current state of those features.

 
In the first paragraph I agree about the bugs..I also had problems with a friend playing in group and always found ourselfs in different servers. Also I still didn't manage to join my friends guild. although this will be fixed in a week or two.

As for the combat "you still tab target and using hotkeys"..of course. This is the very basic of the combat you target an enemy and use abilities. But the whole combat is very different.

1) It is an action combat, you can use any of your abilities without ever stay still in a position.
2) The philosophy of the combat is not to do a fixed rotation that some people did the maths and found out...is to survive, support and control.
3) Combo abilities with other classes. This is also very new and different. I put down a fire field as an elementalist and ranger next to me have fire arrows instead of normal.

Yes somehow magically you still hit buttons to use skills but that doesn't make it to be the same combat...maybe in future we can give orders and control our character with a microphone and have our hands free to eat pizza and coca cola :)
 
at the end of "filling a heart" you might realize that you did exactly the same as if there had been a quest hub at that location: Killed X mobs, and clicked on Y hotspots.

I'm intensely curious about the implicit here of there being something else? I mean, maybe constructing buildings or structures as an alternate - or a choice of what you kill, instead of it being predecided. Otherwise, what else is there - there's something above and beyond killing ten foozles?
 
It is an action combat, you can use any of your abilities without ever stay still in a position.

No different than WoW melee classes. And there is no point in moving as ranged in GW2 unless you need to kite, so the ability to move and cast is useful maybe 1 cast in 5 (PvP notwithstanding).

The philosophy of the combat is not to do a fixed rotation that some people did the maths and found out...is to survive, support and control.

It is press 2, press 3, press 4 when enemy has moved in, press 5 if you aggro'd more than one mob. Repeat if necessary.

I have done the above on the Engineer for the last 15 levels, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future considering all other buttons are (situational) cooldowns.

Combo abilities with other classes. This is also very new and different. I put down a fire field as an elementalist and ranger next to me have fire arrows instead of normal.

Which will be great in... "endgame" dungeons? Even when ArenaNet finally gets around to actually introducing combos in a coherent manner in-game, their intentional use will be the exclusive domain of organized groups.

I would not even call PvE combat an "evolution" - it is merely a side-grade. Improved in many ways, and equally deficient in others.
 
On combat - you don't have to be targeting anything, although it helps for ranged classes - it's much more about position and direction. I rarely tab target, instead I think about which way my character is facing.

On hearts - well, there were hearts involving throwing snowballs, actual bartering - are those still hotspots?
 
Perhaps not a bug but animals dropping armor & weapons just seems wrong. Also one of the main quest missions I did. One of the mobs dropped a better version of the mission reward...
Definitely a bug, everytime I exit the main human city it boots me from the game.

The world events are an interesting diversion but no one works together as such. At least in rift it auto-grouped people....
 
I think you're over-egging the bugs a bit. Guild chat has worked perfectly for out guild from day one of headstart. for example. Guild invites and representing were flaky but are much improved now. In-game mail, again, was unreliable and still isn't perfect but it works a lot better now than it did at the weekend. As with all bugs, if you get them they are very important, if you don't they are irrelevant. I haven't run into many.

The overflow server problems seem to be largely related to people not knowing about the "click portrait" option that Felsir explains. That in itself is part of the "no tutorial" policy that you rightly suggest is good for veterans but not so good for new entrants to the genre.

All of this will be as chaff in the wind in a month or two, long forgotten in a game that many will play not just for months but years.
 
Guild chat has worked 100% of the time for me, but I have heard there is a setting in the guild panel that might affect some people who have created multiple characters. Guild chat works for the vast majority of people though.

I do agree with some of the combat/targeting issues, I end up targeting friendlies or the wrong enemy target quite often in combat and I'd like to figure out a way to avoid that.
 
As of yesterday "join in" feature only works 30% of the time. It is also bugged. Many time the option is not listed
 
As of yesterday "join in" feature only works 30% of the time. It is also bugged. Many time the option is not listed

 
I think you're over-egging the bugs a bit.

So you think ArenaNet posting a list of things that don't work on Reddit were just trying to trash talk their own game and the features they declare are missing are in fact working perfectly?
 
Tobold, there were worse launchs. For example, WoW launch. Take note no one is being queued for enter the game or the zone, and there are a lot of people playing it at same time. So, you are over-egging the bugs...

My only real concern is the Trade Broker, that is broke since the pre-launch. It worked fine at teh beta weekends, but at 25th it take a break to coffeee and not returned.

My guess is that to have 400 k people playing the game at same time have a relation with these issues. The TB is cross servers.

But there is the good side too. GW2 was the top game with have more players online than any other MMO this weekend. More players online than WoW had, believe it or not.

And from what I saw yesterday night (29th) at Charr starter zone (that zone was full with players, and charr is not the more popular race) a lot more players bought the game after 28th than pre-purchased it. IMHO, we will have other weekend with more players online at GW2 than at WoW.

So, it is very good news. WoW is not more the top game. If GW2 mantain that players, WoW evil reign of terror will finally end!
 
I'd like some of the stuff that you are smoking. I doubt Guild Wars 2 will sell as many copies as MoP, and even if they did WoW would still be more profitable. The day where game producers don't consider WoW as the reference any more is still many years in the future.
 
I think they are doing a fantastic job fixing the bugs and if all goes well they should have the smoothest launch we've seen from an mmo in years of this size.

We could play most of the time and as long as we're all leveling these issues are not as big of a deal as they could be.

They are also explaining every move they make so we don't panic.

I predict 3 million sales by end of the year. Not wow or diablo numbers, but a good starting point for the expansion to guild wars 2.
 
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