37 days. That’s how many days have passed since the Guild Wars 2 servers opened. Feel like longer? To me it does.
September is always a demanding month because of working commitments that this year had a bizarre smooshing of the two halves of my existence while Gangnam Style was played repeatedly on a nearby stand at a trade show in Amsterdam. Add to that the requirements of trying to rebuild a guild that hasn’t played together properly in 4 years, and a subsequent real life meetup and something had to give. It was my writing and I’m putting that right now.
The first few days of Guild Wars 2 wasn’t exactly smooth. I missed out on the name I wanted despite being up at 4am to try and grab it. I had to settle for Lady Tasha but managed to grab the rest. Mystic Spiral [MYST] quickly got founded along with a secondary guild Mystic Pirates [YARR], and we were away. Except we weren’t. The problems with guilds meant many of us lived in a silent lonely existence for a while with brief glimpses of other people. This has obviously improved over time but that initial period was very hard to achieve anything.
Since then, despite nearly a clear 2 weeks out of the game, I’ve managed to get my mesmer to level 80. She’s experienced less than 40% of the world (5 areas 100%) and hasn’t finished her personal story or any craft which to me is excellent. There are many more adventures ahead than there are behind. I’ve found the mesmer profession to be a great choice for my playstyle. There’s enough damage in there to feel useful, while there’s plenty of conditional options for making a real difference to the success of the group. I haven’t felt useless in PvP or WvW either. Generally my character is equipped with a staff and sword and pistol but frequently switch to a focus for a speed boost. Oh and Feedback is an amazing skill that will probably be nerfed now it’s been mentioned.
My overall experience with Guild Wars 2 has been undeniably mixed. I am still very much in love with Tyria and the grandness of its landscapes and adventures, but I have found that the appreciation of the environment and the thrill of exploring lasts around 30-45 minutes before I find myself slipping into an achiever’s mindset again, moving from heart to vista to point of interest. Likewise I love that combat requires thought, but lament that sometimes I am just too mentally tired to be bothered to exert that effort (something I haven’t found in other MMOs). And while I’ve enjoyed the moments where I’ve been able to save a stranger from defeat I feel like I’ve connected with very few people I’m playing alongside.
That may all sound a bit contradictory but hopefully some of you will have had similar experiences. I can’t point many of those frustrations at the game itself – the first two are certainly no one else’s fault than mine. The final point may be due to the game, the limited time I’ve had over the last month or that people are still focussed on building their characters rather than creating experiences with each other. The remaining frustrations I have are common ones related to dodgy patches leading to bugged content that many other people find equally infuriating.
I am really mixed about how I feel regarding communication in Guild Wars 2. There’s a fantastic quote by Joss Whedon about the masterpiece that is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” (see footnote*):
When people stop talking, they start communicating. Language can interfere with communication because language limits. As soon as you say something, you’ve eliminated every other possibility of what you might be talking about. We also use language to separate ourselves from other people.
While it feels odd to have a load of people in an area with you, it isn’t like you don’t communicate with others in your immediate surroundings. People still say thank you. The game doesn’t exactly lend itself to being able to fight and type.
Something that never ceases to amaze me is the detail that goes into corners of the game that few people will see. Something that really touched me over the weekend was a lodge owned by a sylvari who has adopted orphans of a number of races because she can’t have children, juxtaposed with another one nearby inhabited by a norn and his sister who’s desperate for a baby and is settling for someone only referred to as her mate. Tyria knows how to tug on the heartstrings and make you think in the most unlikely of places.
Now the demands of the offline world have stopped impeding on the online one, I’ll have more time to slow down and make an effort to connect with people again. After finishing my personal story, I’ll be looking to round off my basic level 80 armor and then alt around to my heart’s content helping people. I’ve already forayed briefly into WvW and PvP and intend to do more of both. My main aim is to get that sense of community back into the game.
*In this episode, the entire town of Sunnydale lose their voices while grinning bald Victorian-doctor-esque go around cutting out people’s hearts while they’re still conscious and unable to scream for help. There’s a sequence in the episode which shows how the residents are dealing with their mutism – some read the Bible in a group on the street, others turn to alcohol while others try to turn a quick buck by selling small whiteboards and markers. While I’m biased as Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one of my favourite TV series, I really recommend watching this one if you can.