The Guild Wars 2
beta weekend event was a real eye-opener. I consider myself sort of a
"noob" in terms of MMO experience - for the past few years, my attention
has been fairly strictly focused on a very small handful of games. I'm
surely not alone in this. A lot of players come from a long, narrow
history of one or two games, and experiencing something new, like GW2's dynamic
questing, can throw some of us for a loop.
Running up and talking to a NPC to receive a quest is how RPGs have
worked since the days of DOS. In the olden tymes, when we rode our
dinosaurs to school, three miles uphill through the snow both ways, and
the 486 with a 4mb VGA card was a top-end gaming rig, we would use text to
communicate to the pixelated denizens of our gaming worlds, and they would
tell us to go kill ten rats, goblin, skeletons or whatever other 0-level
mob was pestering the helpless citizens of the noob area. The mouse
revolutionized RPGs by allowing players to point and click on these NPCs
to extract our rat-killing quests without worrying about spelling errors
or the like. Click-for-quest-bestowal has been the industry standard for
nearly 20 years and continues to be our predominant quest delivery system.
Guild Wars 2 goes outside the box for their Player-versus-Environment
questing system, keeping in-step with the rest of the games gonzo
weirdness. You no longer need even to click on NPCs to receive quests -
simply walk near them, and the quest is automatically bestowed. Walk past
an event taking place in your area and you are given that quest. Hang
around an area long enough and something is likely to just sort of pop up,
welcoming you to take part or continue on your merry way.
It's a much more "organic" way of picking up quests, but long-time gamers
may find it rather unnatural. There are no people with exclamation points
or flaming rings over their heads. You don't go to town to load up on
quests, or to turn your current batch in for rewards - mostly. There are
different rules for different types of quests.
The personal story occasionally requires click-to-talk interactions with
NPCs, which initiate fully-voiced cut scenes. However, a lot of these cut
scenes are initiated by proximity rather than clicking - move close to
your target and the dialogue starts up on its own. Personal stories do
require the player to return to a quest-giver to receive a reward.
The personal story cut
This part of the game will be the most familiar to the uninitiated. It's
the closest thing to "normal" questing that can be found in any other
game. But it plays only a small part of GW2's PvE. The majority of the PvE
game comes from reputation quests and dynamic events on the landscape. The
personal story feels more significant than these it has a deeper meaning
and uses fully-voiced cut scenes, after all but most PvEers will spend
a lot more time doing the other stuff.
alt="GW2 Dynamic Questing for Noobs: Reputation NPC" />Reputation
Reputation quests have marked NPCs - they are indicated on the map and on
the landscape with a heart icon - but the player usually doesn't need to
talk to the reputation NPC in order to get the reputation quests. Walking
near one of these guys gives the player a selection of tasks to work on.
Occasionally, the reputation guy will have more specific tasks or
instructions for example, the charr guy standing by the cow pasture will
give the player timed quests to capture bugs and feed them to the cows, and
the player must return to the quest giver for each timed run. But this is
the exception rather than the rule.
Usually, approaching a reputation quest-giver generates a list of tasks for
that area kill some local pests, interact with nearby objects in a
particular way, help local citizens, et cetera. Typically, the player can do
all of these tasks in equal proportions or just do the ones he wants to do.
Completing a set amount of these tasks earns the favor of that NPC and fills
in the heart icon, turning the NPC into a specialty vendor.
This reputation system bears no real relation to the faction systems in
games like the Lord of the Rings Online. Reputation in LotRO is earned
through hours and hours of questing, deeding, farming and other kinds of
grinding. If one were to compare it to anything in LotRO, it would be like a
quest completion deed - do enough quests in an area to earn a reward. It can
be completed with more or less casual participation. Players with a
completionist streak can also find every point of interest on each map for
XP and loot, similar to LotRO's exploration and lore deeds. These systems
will be somewhat familiar to new players, though perhaps in an unexpected
Map completion reward
Dynamic events are your "landscape" quests. Walk into an area, wait around a
bit and eventually you will encounter one of these. There are different types
of dynamic events. Some are fairly simple - encounter a tough monster and get
a quest to kill it. Some are more complex and involve following a long chain
of related events. For example, the player might encounter an event to kill a
handful of local pests for an NPC in a settlement. This action provokes a
retaliation where swarms of the mobs attack the settlement. After beating back
the attack, the NPC decides to stage a direct assault on the creatures' lair -
the player (and anyone else in the area) must escort him to the lair and kill
stuff along the way. This assault culminates in a boss fight that requires
many participating players to defeat...
... or sometimes it involves dressing up as a cow and demonstrating a number
of "techniques" to cows.
The open group system is somewhat related to dynamic questing. It is likewise
rather disconcerting to the uninitiated who are accustomed to the idea of
forming parties. The first time someone hits the mob you have targeted before
you can land an attack, and you realize that other person didn`t just ninja
your klil, is a magic moment.
Dynamic events and the open grouping system are a large part of the appeal of
GW2s PvE game. They make the questing feel more organic and immersive, and
theoretically it means the player spends more time engaging in actual
gameplay. The less time the player spends messing around in towns or quest
hubs gathering missions, the more time he has to complete missions and engage
in PvE content. There are, however, a couple of relatively minor downsides.
Finding a dynamic event requires being in the right place at the right time.
Occasionally, this can make for a lot of waiting around in areas where these
events happen. Some events have very tight time cycles they begin again
almost as soon as they end but some have longer periods of downtime between.
In the case of chained events, this wait can be even longer, particularly if
the player wants to get in on the chain from the start.
Because these events loop over and over, players spending a lot of time in an
area may end up repeating the same events many times. For example, my warrior
was doing his personal story quests in the snowy, mountainous region in the
north of the Norn lands. The quests started in Hoelbrak and required traveling
through a narrow pass to the destination region. After reaching the
destination and completing the task there, I had to go back to Hoelbrak, again
through the narrow pass, to turn it in and pick up the next part. I made this
round trip four or five times, and every time I had to contend with a dynamic
event in the pass bandits blocking the path and setting up an ambush.
Theres not a way around this blockade. I had to go through it. Eight or so
Sure, I could have teleported around using waypoints to bypass this obstacle,
but thats another issue in any previous game Ive played, quick-travel
skills generally have long cooldowns, and they are subsequently never my first
line of transportation. A waypoint system with no cooldowns or material
requirements takes some getting used to.
Anyway, thats beside the point. The same recurring event thing happens
anywhere players linger in or return to often, and while the system may
improve the players sense of immersion overall, this repetition may be a
turn-off for some players. It`s not really any worse than dealing with fast
respawn rates in other games, but occasionally those fast respawns can be just
I call BS on that respawning
blockade. And in GW2, there's an app for that.
In general, though, the system works very well. Its fluid and natural and
does exactly what it sets out to do. Despite the minor hiccups, players
generally do spend more time engaging in the content rather than reading walls
of text, and this makes the game more immersive. The open nature off the
questing and grouping systems makes the bizarre hodgepodge of a setting more
accessible to the inexperienced and uninitiated.
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