10 years of Guild Wars

 Posted by on April 29, 2015  Guild Wars, MMO Gaming  Comments Off on 10 years of Guild Wars
Apr 292015
 

There aren’t many big online games that can boast a 10 year anniversary. Yesterday Guild Wars passed that milestone. It’s a major milestone and as a veteran player, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to walk down memory lane.

First impressions

I used to think Ranger/Ele was a good idea

I used to think Ranger/Ele was a good idea…

I started playing in September 2005 whilst at university and Guild Wars was the first MMO I ever played. After cutting my teeth in pre-searing and getting used to the small number of real people there, I graduated my ranger and walked into Ascalon City.

To this day I can remember being floored by the sheer number of player characters in that city. There were so many people with their own lives and stories to tell, so many trade and chat messages going past, I felt overwhelmed and awed by how alive this virtual world was. And emotionally drained by the ruined state of the beautiful city that was in pre-searing.

More than anything, I think it is this awe that has steered my fascination with online communities.

Dramas

Every game has its dramas, which I view as somewhat necessary in making an online game engaging. Guild Wars had a few of them over the years, ranging from the Thunderhead Keep monk strike of 2006 (player monks refused to help suicidal wammos through the mission), the cancellation of the Utopia campaign and the Hall of Monuments debacle (it was originally to be character based and players weren’t happy).

These and other hot topics would roll around every couple of weeks and forum would blow up with pitchforks and torches. After a few of these happen and the servers don’t get turned off, you pay less and less attention to the cries of “this game is dying”, roll your eyes and keep going. But heck, sometimes it’s fun to eat popcorn and watch people argue about pixels, and other times there are genuinely interesting debates to be had.

For the most part, ArenaNet did a good job of gathering player feedback where it was needed and channelling it into changes into the game. Utopia was cancelled for good reasons and it looks like some of it may turn up in Heart of Thorns. The Hall of Monuments was changed to be account bound. And the wammos finally learnt that not all monks are superheroes!

People

MYST during the 2008 Dragon Festival

MYST during the 2008 Dragon Festival

The Guild Wars games are full of fantastically kind, supportive and helpful people. I’ve met so many friends, collaborators and acquaintances through playing and participating in community activities that I’ve lost count. Heck, I even met my husband in Kamadan in 2007.

I think one of the main factors that made Guild Wars so good for finding likeminded people was that there were no great rewards (in PvE at least) for being optimal, people weren’t forced together and yet when they did join up, perseverance was rewarded. Doing a mission that takes 40 minutes or more forces you to work through the problems you encounter 30 minutes in rather than bailing. And if you weren’t in the mood for people, the heroes and henchmen were there to get your back. Like Guild Wars 2, the competition between players for resources simply wasn’t there. That puts everyone in a great frame of mind, and increases the likelihood of finding someone fun to play with.

Passion and Inspiration

Getting involved in something like Guild Wars to the extent I did seeps into every part of your life. Over the years I’ve treated the game as an excuse to learn new skills and open doors into new experiences I might not have had.

For example, the skills I’ve learnt as a guild leader since 2006 are now frequently used in my job as a manager. It’s remarkable how transferrable organisational skills, empathy and diplomacy can be. I’ve used inspiration for modifications to open source platforms to solve in game problems to help me learn new programming languages. And with the help of a Guild Wars radio show, I (mostly) overcame my fear of public speaking. Not too shabby for a hobby some still consider a waste of time!

Crazy targets

So the final point I want to hit on is the insane goals I set for myself in games after the major milestones are hit.

I had a couple of goes at the Survivor Title (obtain 1,337,000 xp without incurring a single death) before getting it, and then I could pretty consistently get it. So I thought… why not just keep going and see how high that number can go. The answer is, well, this:

Legendary

I ended up dying somewhere really stupid and kicked myself about it a lot at the time!

The final crazy thing I did in Guild Wars was completely max out storage. This took me about a year to complete. The rubies and sapphires were the worst bit.

Thats a lot of cash

If this post has made you want to jump back into the game, the 10th Anniversary festival is currently underway until May 6th! Hop in and have some fun.

Nov 052013
 

I’ve been a guild leader for over 7 years, and since I started there hasn’t been a great revolution in understanding between members and leaders. You still see the same drama stories, the same challenges and the same lamenting about the troubles that come with leadership.

I firmly believe it doesn’t need to be this way. While there are a great many differences between guilds in different games and even guilds in the same game, largely guild leaders face similar problems. And a major problem is that so many feel the need to attempt to solve those problems in isolation.

Moreover, the role of those of us who have been doing it a long time isn’t exposed to our members.  In the hopes that things can change, I’m going to be writing a daily entry to this blog for a week starting Wednesday about what I’ve done that day for my guild, Mystic Spiral,

So a brief background about my guild for the unfamiliar. Mystic Spiral was founded in May 2006 in Guild Wars 1, because I felt that you didn’t have to rule a guild by a power trip. Rather than being PvE or PvP or even PvX orientated, MYST is a social guild. The overriding thing that brings us all together, and indeed what we recruit for, is outgoing people who want more from a guild than just people to play with, but also people they can form long term bonds with – friends and sometimes more. To make that happen we recruit slowly and have a stable base of around 40 people who are online daily. These days we don’t play Guild Wars 1 much any more, but play Guild Wars 2, DOTA2 and other games. I’m supported by 2 awesome deputy leaders and a handful of others who help when they can.

The challenges I’m facing at the moment involve the mix of people we have in the guild and the platforms we operate on. Migrating from Guild Wars 1, highlighted the need for our main channels of communication to be game agnostic as tastes will evolve and no one should be left behind. The forum and Steam group chat are front and centre of that, but making them appealing so that people frequently visit and participate on them is something I’m trying to work on. Likewise, I’m always working to improve the sense of community within the guild, to get people to mingle with people they normally wouldn’t and set boundaries, goals and adversaries. This is harder when there isn’t one shared experience.

On top of my usual duties this week I have to prepare for a guild meeting set for Sunday, with a survey to follow, and prepare a software update for the guild website. Oh and hold down a full time job and get settled into my new home.

I hope you’ll check back regularly this week. See you Wednesday!

Gamescom 2013 Preview

 Posted by on August 19, 2013  Community Gatherings, Conventions, Guild Wars 2, MMO Gaming  Comments Off on Gamescom 2013 Preview
Aug 192013
 

August rolls around again and that means it’s gamescom time!

I love gaming conventions. Not only are they a good way to get your hands on games you’re looking forward to and find new ones to get excited about, but they’re fantastic for dipping your toes in the water with new peripherals you’ve been considering. That’s before you get to the real reason I love the conventions – people. Wonderful people.

Gaming has broken into the mainstream of late but it’s still very hard to have a meaningful conversation about it with people you meet going through life, mostly because of platform divisions. Experiences of the same game differ wildly on different platforms and people play different games because of exclusivity. It ends up being quite difficult to talk to your neighbour who plays games because you don’t actually share that much in common experiences.

Conventions sweep all this away. You get the full spectrum of geeky awesomeness; cosplay to esports, board games to virtual reality and everything in between. gamescom turns Cologne into a gamer’s paradise for a few days (there’s stuff going on in the streets after hours), and 270,000 people flock to that paradise. With that many people, it’s easy to find people who are just as passionate as you are about your gaming niche.

I’m going to be going to gamescom on Wednesday (I’m trade, not press), Thursday and Friday. Thursday is turning out to be the big meet and greet day but if you happen to see me around on any day feel to grab me and say hi, even if I’m waiting in a queue (I changed my twitter avatar so I’m a little more recognisable). Please don’t be surprised if I don’t recognise you without your handle and/or avatar picture, I’m terrible with names and far better with locations. So saying something like “I’m blah from Twitter” is going to jog my memory a lot more.

This year is going to be a bit thinner on the ground for MYSTies than other years, but I’m going over with my husband Somnium and my friend and deputy guild leader Andypanda, who has his reporting hat on for Split Infinity Radio (check out their coverage). We’re going to be meeting up with a few of our German guildies there too, which should lead to fun times. Add to that the parties and it’s going to be a great few days (providing I shake off this cold). I’m also going to be meeting up with a few people from the Guild Wars 2 universe, like Paeroka and Bookahnerk from Nerdy Bookahs, Screenager from Afterlife Gaming and hopefully many others from the Twitterverse and I Can Outtweet A Centaur [TWIT].

And of course there’s the games. I’m looking forward to having a snoop around the MMO market, especially seeing how Elder Scrolls Online is doing, having a look at some of the smaller developers and trying to get freebies from Valve. Also I really hope to get some hands on time with Watchdogs, which is one of the games I’m mostly looking forward to for the rest of the year.

Hope to see some of you in Germany!

Aug 122013
 

As I’m not one to dwell on the negative too long (although partial to revisit it frequently), I’m going to take a cue from the Guild Wars 2 Twitter account and share with you my top tips for Guild Wars 2.

Dodge, interrupt and mitigate

Relying on someone else to heal you is a great way to waste a lot of money on repairs, but most of your means of staying alive is in how you move rather than the skills you have. Relying on your healing skill will only help you til around level 35 and then you’ll be expected to dodge certain attacks. Practice until you get your timing right (the Daily Dodger achievement is good for this) on ranged enemies, and you can get out of circles most of the time.

Your other tools rely in stopping enemies from completing their attacks and from mitigating the damage from them. Interrupts (skills that daze, stun and knockback) are great for this, as are boons like Aegis, Protection, Regeneration and Vigor. Retaliation is useful too. Boons are something many new players overlook but they can make a huge difference to your fights and are one of the reasons why Guardians are loved so much.

Keep moving, rebind your keyboard shortcuts and stop clicking

You will swear at first and thank me later. WASD is evil, especially in a game like Guild Wars 2. Not that I’m knocking the keys themselves, but rather the actions bound to them by default. Every second you are stood still is a second you are making an enemy’s life easier and all that A and D do is hold you still while you turn. So do yourself a favour, rebind the strafe actions (Q and E) to A and D and enjoy not having to repair as much. This also has the added benefit of freeing up keys around where your left hand resides and one of my protips for any game is to not click your skills. Ever.

kitten

It takes a bit of shuffling to do but it’s totally possible to never click a skill again. By leaving 1-5 as weapon skills, using the reclaimed q and e for skill 6 and 7, and then making use of r, f and v to fill out the keyboard, you’ve got all the skills you need without moving your left hand much. Of course rebinding F means you need to find a new home for the “do everything” button, which I’ve found as G. And that’s meant moving all those dialog screens (guild, hero, friends, scoreboard etc) to the numberpad keys where they can be used when I’m not facing down someone who wants me dead. If that’s left you a bit bamboozled, here’s my keyboard layout in more detail. Use this as a base to work out what works for you rather than adopting it blindly, keyboards and hands vary wildly!

Be under no illusion that changing is hard and this takes a while to set up. But I can say I’m a better player for making this changes and I’m pretty sure you will be too.

Be curious…

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

…about what’s around the corner and about people. Guild Wars 2 is definitely a game for explorers and curious folks, who will be well rewarded for having a “what’s up there?” mentality. Racing to the finish will not help. In fact, you’ll be able to do more things by exploring.

Take Screenshots and Look Up

This kinda ties in with being curious. Tyria is beautiful and getting a bit of height can give wonderful screenshots. To get your character out of the picture, try using the /sleep emote. Likewise the skies and ceilings in Tyria are amazing. Look up frequently.

Get involved

The community for Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 is (mostly) wonderful. People are friendly, creative and encouraging to be around, with a varied background of talents and hobbies. If you’ve ever wanted to try writing, there’s a plethora of bloggers around to help you get started and improve your writing style. Likewise for artists and musicians. Programmers get the full support of the API community too. All in all, if you’ve wanted to make something in your spare time, this is a great subject matter for finding like-minded people to help you.

For those who like talking face to face, there are lots of opportunities at gaming conventions to talk to other fans. One of which is next week at gamescom!

Infinite_Light

This is Infinite Light. It’s a named exotic, not a legendary.

You don’t need a legendary

No really, you don’t. Legendary weapons are nice if you like their look but don’t feel you need one to be cool. There are loads of named exotics out there that look awesome and are just as hard to get. Several are much easier. Same goes with armor; unless you’re a fractals regular, you don’t need Ascended gear and shouldn’t feel like you need it to be a good player. Guild Wars 2 is about your skill, not how awesome your torch is (though that’s important too!).

Join a guild that does missions

Guild puzzles and guild rushes are great content that shouldn’t be ignored because they involve finding a guild. Both require cooperation between players and can even be fun if you fail. If you’re not up to the challenge of finding a big enough guild to do this, consider finding a public run on your server. The official forums and Reddit can be good for this.

 

Those are my top tips for getting the most out of Guild Wars 2. What are yours?

Jul 302013
 

The Living Story is meant to be one of the big selling points of Guild Wars 2, in that it presents customers with an ever changing world in substantial regular updates. The idea of treating game updates like a TV show is an intriguing one, but does it actually work?

In my opinion, no, and putting my gripes with the execution aside that are well documented by others, it’s as much to do with how our expectations with TV have changed even over the last few years. In my lifetime (and I’m under 30) TV has gone from something that you see when it’s on, record to watch later or maybe buy the VHS to watch when you like, to something you don’t actually need a TV for. The On Demand format has put end to the days where you needed to wait until the TV channel deigned to release the series on a physical format. These days not having a good way to catchup is just a recipe to be the most pirated tv series in the world.

As things stand, the Living Story is executed like TV scheduling was in the 1990s. If you aren’t in at 8:30pm on Tuesday, sorry you missed the show. Being able to record TV helped with some of the issues (if you could work the VCR) but there’s no such luxury with gaming. And even if the various documented problems with the Living Story are addressed, and the changes outlined a couple of weeks back are introduced, this central issue won’t be resolved.

If you catch episode 5 in a series and like it, chances are you want to go back to episode 1 to see how it began (unless it’s Star Wars. Don’t do it with Star Wars). If the TV station doesn’t have on demand, other services are available. In Guild Wars 2, players who are joining in half way through or take a break have no means to catch up on the story, the main reason for this delivery system. I think that is a real shame, both for the players and for the developers whose work has been relegated to the delete bin.

Things have really changed in TV in the last 2 years, with social media becoming part of that “first watch” experience (TV speak for this is “second screen” if you haven’t heard that banded around yet). This phenomena highlights how much of storytelling is a communal experience, and this is something I strongly think that all storytelling has lost sight of.

For all the technical hardship of the karka invasion in November, it was memorable amongst those who attended because it was communal. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with your friends, making new ones, is meant to be something that MMOs do best and is something I think Guild Wars 2 has lost sight of. It’s hard to feel like everyone has been through a great event when you’re the only player character there. Guild missions are a point of where the game gets it right, especially when you run into another guild doing the exact same thing as you and everyone benefits.

My other problems with the Living Story have already been expressed brilliantly by Sypster so I’ll refrain from retreading that ground here. I’m looking forward to seeing how things evolve and while there’s indications that some elements may be improving, I feel like there’s a massive gap in the plans when it comes to fitting in with the individual schedules of players.