My Thoughts on Guild Wars 2

It’s been a few weeks now, and I thought it was high time I wrote something down on the internet about Guild Wars 2.

I got the Collector’s Edition, pre-purchased waaaay back in April. I participated in BWE1, 2 and 3. I was involved in some (but not all) of the stress tests just prior to the game. That was mainly due to my work schedule, but partly due to wanting to play the “real” game and not the test version. (I’m a bit impatient.)

All Messed Up

I stayed up late on the 24th to get in as soon as the servers opened up. It was like Black Friday shopping… an insane rush of people crashing everything, then complaining about service. Two of the character names I had wanted were already unavailable. No big deal, I must’ve been too slow, so I picked alternates. I played through the first mission of my storyline on my main character and then I went to bed to let the furor calm a little.I woke to find the servers down or broken. Throughout the next days of headstart there were problems one after the other. I listened to people both in person and on twitter and reddit that were VERY animated about not getting what they’d paid for, or about how ArenaNet was handling things. This continued past launch.

There are other articles and threads about what “went wrong” with the launch. There were login errors, world transfer errors, stolen accounts, the trading post was up and down, the in-game mail didn’t always work, the party mechanic would be broken half the time, guilds broke, overflow servers were packed, accounts were being banned… the list goes on.

But Wait, A Wild Community Response Team Appears

Now, I may be biased. After all, my dream job is to be a writer at ArenaNet, so feel free to take everything I say with a dash of salt and lime.Throughout this “crisis” the ArenaNet response team was on twitter, and eventually also on reddit. REAL PEOPLE talking to the fans, one on one, acting as our voice to the developers and their voice to us. I can’t imagine how insane the studio must have been that entire weekend before release. There were posts on twitter from employees talking about sleeping at the studio and pulling double shifts.

For the first few days, I’m sure all the overloaded ArenaNet team could tweet was “we’re working on it” but the fans were out for blood. As things calmed over the next few days, specific status reports were posted and error guides were created. Some of the fan base helped provide work-around solutions that they had found. But every time something else went wrong, the rabid fans attacked.When the bans for “inappropriate behavior” started, the retaliation was too much. ArenaNet took to reddit. With the blessing of the fans, they explained publically the reasons for each one that was brought to them in this “forum of openness”. Hilarity and mocking of fellow players ensued as people began to realize that the bans were justified. The same happened when the exploit bans occurred a few days later. It’s amazing how something becomes clear when it’s brought to public light.

Even now, ArenaNet releases a kind of “State of the Union” mostly everyday, summarizing the major problems and solutions. Name me any other large brand studio that will take the time to appease their fans in that way.

My Money’s Worth

All through this, I watched from the sidelines. I had the same errors as the majority of the world, but I was not foaming at the mouth. I’ll tell you why…I paid $150 for the Collector’s Edition of the game. $150. That’s like a really good night out for two with dinner, movie, and drinking til the sun comes up. What are you left with after a night like that? A hangover. But dammit we still fork out the money every once in a while, don’t we?

I paid $150 for a game that, during the times I could get in, was the most amazing MMO experience I’ve ever had. The world of Tyria is astounding. The NPCs are alive and have character. The humor in the game, the beauty, the breathtaking detail… that’s something I will be able to experience for the next decade or more, whenever I want.I’ll tell you how amazing it was to play… the complaints stopped when the fan was immersed in the game. It was like everything was washed away in the wonder of playing, and only when something interrupted that playing would the fan remember to complain about it. Complaints fueled by NOT being able to play. That’s how good the game is.

Playing Guild Wars 2

So what makes this the best MMO ever created? It’s alive. Playing this game is like walking into another world. For the first time, the other players in a city seem like nameless faces and the NPCs bring it to life. It’s usually the other way around in games. After all, there are real people behind the other players, right? That’s how alive this game feels.

Another sign that the game is amazing in every inch of creation is that I don’t usually bother to warp to places. I walk there. The journey between cities is finally meaningful. It’s full of beauty and detail, and LIFE. It’s worth walking through Tyria just for that.Saying that, you might think I don’t like the other players. That is definitely not true. One of the things I liked most about playing the original Guild Wars is that the community was very friendly and helpful. It was debated whether that would carry over into a “proper” MMO, but it has. I have come across so many players that are helpful, polite, and eager to play. I’ve never played a game that has such a positive community. I feel safe letting my kids play this game.

I really can’t imagine how much thought and effort went into creating a world of dynamic events like this one. Things feel important in the game. The promises of the “tease team” at ArenaNet that we’ve all listened to over the last 5 years are fulfilled. There’s a bit of repetition after a while if you don’t move around, but hey, sometimes the place is just too pretty to rush through. Besides, you get experience every time those pesky centaurs attack, even if they never win.And the combat… I swear I play with my eyes bugged out looking at everything going on. It’s amazing and natural and… well… alive. It MAKES SENSE. Things SHOULD be on fire if they pass through flame. And groups should be able to work together to take something down. I don’t even have to worry about the specifics, I just do what makes sense.

So What Now?

This game IS the future of MMOs. This is the living game. I truly hope that ArenaNet continues to take the world of Tyria onward into the future. I hope they build more, they tweak more, and that they continue to do exactly what they’re already doing. They’ve accomplished something amazing. I’m so jealous.

I’d drop a mic, but that’s not enough. Slow clap building up into a roar isn’t going to do either… I guess I’ll just meet you in the game.Well done, ArenaNet.