Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Exploring in Guild Wars - part 1

I'm new to the world of Guild Wars. I've never played Guild Wars 1 (I had my hands full playing Lord of the Rings Online at the time) and I know next to nothing about the lore. I'm just enjoying the game and let new things come on my path.

And that seems to be the perfect approach to this game. So far, I've got the impression that a lot of Guild Wars is about exploration.

Would Hiking Simulator 2012 have been a better name?

Okay, I do get the name Guild Wars. In gaming, war sells (and peace doesn't) and for the rest the name is obviously directed at the PvP or WvW part of the game, which I haven't been able to try out yet. However, other than that, the gaming experience seems to strongly revolve around exploration and cooperative gameplay as opposed to competitive gameplay. So I would argue Guild Wars' gaming experience is actually more peaceful than war-like in this regard.

Mechanics stimulating cooperative gameplay:
1) no tagging mobs: whether you started the fight or not doesn't matter; everyone who attacks a mobs gets credit for the kill. It doesn't even matter if you're grouped or not. 
2) no loot rolling: everyone gets their own loot from missions they have participated in. Unusable loot can be transformed into useful crafting materials at the spot. 
3) crafting nodes do not disappear after using: so instead of having to find secluded places where nobody else looks for them, you can look for nodes on the way without having to spurt to reach it faster than someone else. Naturally, you cannot use a node twice (unless it's a rich node). The nodes do respawn in other places after a while in order for an area not to be depleted for your character forever.

Let's chop down this tree - together!

These seemingly simple and small differences have caused Conrad and I to deploy a totally different playstyle compared to usual, though. It is super much fun to just run around, gathering materials together and, oh, complete some missions too on the way because there happened to be some mobs standing in the way. All of this results in a fluid, immersive playstyle with an amazing feeling of realism.

Mission: pick up a flask of bees to drive away harpy invaders

Ravanel uses Bee Nuke. It is super effective!

Cooperative gameplay and community building

I would argue that the focus on cooperative gameplay affects the community in a positive way. One of the first things that Conrad and I noticed was how friendly the world chat was. It strongly reminded me of Lord of the Rings Online before it went free-to-play.

I'm sure this can be partly explained by the buy-to-play (as opposed to free-to-play) model, meaning that the younger teenagers won't have access to it (sorry teenagers, I'm old and boring like that and I lose precious brain cells from reading infantile jokes in general chat).

I think the cooperative gameplay may help as well, though. Simply lacking the means to grief people for your own gain (e.g. by stealing loot, quickly gathering a node or quest item while someone is fighting the mobs guarding it, tagging a mob someone else needs etc) means there are no incentives to rant and call names. This, combined with a mature community as a base, creates a friendly community.

Conrad (to the right) couldn't get rid of the rabbit he was carrying after he had already finished that quest in another way. He didn't mind, though, as it gave him a speed buff.

Or less social?

However, one could also argue that it creates a less social community, because a lot of actions that force players to interact with each other (such as distributing loot or looking for and grouping up with other players to finish a quest) are not present. Maybe I have been interacting with other players less than I would have otherwise. There's a lovely system of speech bubbles appearing above character's avatars when typing in /say, but when exploring I rarely see people use it, apart from thanking kind souls for reviving people (and sometimes not even then). Then again, I don't think this is any different in other MMOs.

I think that the actions forcing players to interact with each other I spoke of earlier are often felt as nuisances or sources of stress for players, though. Hooking up with complete strangers is something most are hesitant about, hence the negative connotation of the word "pug" and the tendency to group up with friends or guildies. So far my exploration experience may have been a solitary one (or well, a duo experience in my case), but it's been a good one.

What do you think?

This time I talked a lot about exploration, the social and the cooperative nature of Guild Wars. There's much more to exploration than what I've been able to cover here, though. Since this is supposed to be a blog post, and not a whole book, I'll post the rest of my impressions next week in part 2. Stay tuned!


  1. I am a big introvert. That means my social interactions are pretty much restricted to my guild and then any custom channel for more specific interests (read: decoration). I also avoid pugs like the plague and if I see someone else camping for a mob for a quest I will usually just go do something else and come back later to see if there is no one else waiting for it.

    With that said, for me the Guild Wars 2 method for me felt *more* social and natural. If I saw someone wacking on a mob I wanted to kill too, I didn't have to go looking for another mob that was free of any pesky adventurers to kill. I could just jump in and help the person to kill the mob. If I saw someone dead on the way, I didn't have to be of a specific class to help them get back up. I could just click on them and give them a "hand" to get back up to the fight. If I had some buff-like abilities I could just use it and anybody who was a player or a friendly NPC would get buffed by it.

    All this gave me warm fuzzy feelings and made me feel more like I was helping out my fellow players in my own tiny, quiet ways. It is also a long winded way to say that to me socialization isn't so much about talking but feeling like you are party of something bigger where everyone benefits from it.

    1. I love how you worded that in the end. And I'm totally with you on this one: even though there are objectively speaking less mechanics stimulating social gameplay, it does indeed feel like I'm playing more socially. For instance, I love how defeated players show up on the world map, so you can go find them and revive them if you're in the neighbourhood. Although I always feel a bit sad when I speed towards someone to revive them and they return to a waypoint before I'm within reach!

  2. Nice post on Guild Wars. There's much to like in the game, and you certainly hit upon many of its charms.

  3. Wow! Rav is back with a vengeance! 2015 is off to such a start for you! Congrats! The *new* site looks fantastic!

    I've been busy at Medici University, a virtual university with a 6.5 hectare VR campus for Spring semester 2015. Classes (well, we don't call them "classes" anymore... the provost expelled all the "students" and fired all the "faculty" and invited everybody back as equal "learners". And then she declared no more "classes", that they will be called "parties" from now on. So instead of "Schedule of Classes" we have a "Schedule of Parties" etc.) run thru 30 June.

    Glad to see how busy you've been Rav. Guess the laptop, and other things, are working well! Hope we can meetup in some world sometime!

    1. Van! So good to hear from you. I've been thinking about you, telling myself I should respond to your new year's e-mail. Of course I always thought about that when I was travelling by tram or something and then I forgot about it when I got home. -_-

      The Medici University sounds like a cool project. The Medici seem to be surprisingly ahead of their time: sounds like they listened to the recent student protests here in Amsterdam. ;)

      How's iRez faring at the moment? Are people still hanging out there now and then? Enough to do that cursed field trip? I think you've proven that the LotRO introduction is waaay too long despite your perseverance - we wouldn't be able to visit any of the other places, so that would be boring. SWTOR would still be cool, though, especially now they've added houses, *cough*, I mean strongholds, so we could hang out in my village on Tatooine (although it of course can't beat the originality of your lighthouse).

      *dreams on*

      Things have been going up for a while here, so I hope it'll stay like that for a bit longer. We should totally meetup again. ^^

    2. iRez itself has sort of wrapped up. Everything is still there, but the other authors have moved off and my incessant desire to create too many websites has me blogging elsewhere. My personal blog is here now:

      VBCO however, is still going strong. So YES, field trips are good. We'd just be posting on a different website. I've been ridiculously focused on Medici University lately.

      One of our MU "learners," Veyot, has opened MU Travel, a travel & tour agency. Perhaps she could help facilitate a field trip. We usually find a handful of peeps who'd like to go visiting.

      I don't imagine you're eager to spend too much time in SL, but if you ever do get the urge to stack prims, import mesh objects, or hang out with VR hipsters, we'll definitely find a studio space for you at MU. We have the land till 30 June.

      Yes! The UvA protests are pretty interesting! I think the educational systems of the developed world are full of cracks. But they also serve so many large needs. I'm not sure there is much institutional need to update from 19th century educational models to 21st. And then there's a world of free or near free MOOCs and other opportunities. Lots of different forces. It seems like everyone's sizing things up ATM. I don't see big change too eminent. Although perhaps UvA type protests will bring more change sooner.

      I do feel like education 10 or 20 years from now will be pretty different. IDK quite how we get there or which of the many inconsequential cracks in the dike wind up widening enough to be the start of change. Interesting times!

    3. It's a shame about iRez - I really liked the concept and how it brought people together. I can imagine it being something that needs a lot of energy, though, and many contributors also have their own blogs to take care of. looks beautiful, though!

      You know, I had no idea I was 'burned out' by SWTOR, but when I started playing Guild Wars I became so enthusiastic about it that I realized I did have the need for something new. Traveling a bit between worlds is usually a good thing (geesh, it sounds like I'm having some sort of midlife crisis now :P), so maybe it's not a bad idea at all to visit SL again, if I still know the way.

      I wonder where the educational system is heading, too. Towards more influence by large cooperations, I think, if the politicians get what they are aiming for. That's a part of which I thought those students had a point. It worries me how the American model is presented as the way forward, while the problems of that system are trivialized. But you're right, times are interesting and we'll see what happens.

  4. Hiking gets less annoying as characters level - most classes have speed boost skills.

    Once a character can get to the PvP lobby or WvW - level 20? - they can get to all cities for free (PvP lobby -> Gate to Lion's Arch -> Gate to racial city, similar process for WvW) which makes traveling much easier until all the major waypoints are unlocked.

    Socially, I think GW2 is miles ahead of other MMOs. Cooperative gameplay means that socializing isn't a PvP activity. Between 5 guilds, map chat, /say and whispers there are lots of tools for players to interact if they want, and because socializing isn't so fraught I think more people take advantage of the tools to actually interact.

    I also don't think social interaction has actually decreased in modern MMOs. Think about life - mostly we ignore the people we pass on the street and spend time talking with friends or family. In game, most people don't talk to people they pass in zones, but do spend lots of time in guild or party chat. The complaints about 'decreased socializing' I've seen are mostly based on people in the zone not talking - but that's kind of like complaining that people on a busy street aren't stopping to chat with random strangers.

    1. P.S. I hope you post your reactions to the Sylvari areas at some point, especially Caledon Forest. The northern corner of Caledon Forest feels very much like Fangorn to me (dark, drippy, quiet, full of potentially violent tree beings), and it would be fun to see another LOTR fan's take on it. :)

    2. Don't worry, the hiking has its charm. It was more of a joke, because it's a rare occurrence of an MMO not having mounts these days. That said, I do pick all the passive speed boost skill points and weapons so I can get everywhere as fast is I can.

      I do really appreciate the fresh approach the Guild Wars developers used to look at gameplay. Where other MMOs have simply copied social mechanics that players have come to expect, it is very clear that they tried to design gameplay so it's fluid here. As you said, leaving some things out can apparently make space for other social interactions. There is a lower threshold to just call out in map chat that there's an event ongoing, because there's no obligation to take the initiative by making a group an organizing things: everyone can decide for themselves whether to go there or not without needing to group up. I certainly have the feeling that more (group) events actually happen because of that.

      What you say about greeting people you pass on the street is very interesting. Would the server size, amount of players and megaservers have any influence on how inclined we feel to talk to people we pass in zones? As in, does the chance you may meet someone again and hence form a meaningful social relationship influence how much we talk to strangers in games, like it does in offline life (e.g. villages vs big cities)?

      I didn't think of Fangorn yet while running through Caladon Forest, but it is an interesting observation. That area does have an atmosphere of danger surrounding it. I do have a post about the Sylvari worlds planned, so thanks for the tip and for sharing your thoughts. :)


You can insert links, images and videos to your comment using these tricks.