Guild Wars 2 BWE Roundtable Impressions
Following the first GW2 beta weekend event, we decided to utilize a slightly different format for our impressions than the norm. Rather than simply offer up a singular perspective, Ten Ton Hammer staff members got together for a brief roundtable discussion.
Barlow, resident news editor on GuildWars2Hub.com, served as our moderator, and posed a number of questions about our overall beta experiences. It was an excellent discussion overall, and offers MMO gamers a much deeper and more interesting take on a beta weekend impressions piece than a single author could hope to provide.
But donÂt take our word for it -- continue reading our Guild Wars 2 BWE Roundtable Impressions below!
Barlow: A lot of people have been claiming that Guild Wars 2 will be a Âgame changerÂ for the MMO industry. Based on your BWE experiences, do you feel this will be the case?
Jeff ÂEthecÂ Woleslagle: Insofar as we can tell anything from the first 20 levels; weÂve seen a couple of MMOs come out in the past that have had an awesome 20 or 25 levels, and have ended up being duds after the fact. As I say that IÂm thinking back to the fact that they have showed us higher level content at events and stuff.
ItÂs definitely a game changer. I donÂt really see any way around that. The production values of the game are just off the charts. It ran well on my desktop which is pretty powerful, and I ran it on my laptop which is not so powerful Â it ran well on both. Just across the board I think itÂs got huge potential.
Lewis "Lewis B" Burnell: I think for me it is, but I think itÂs only as much of a game changer as the community and the buyers are willing to actually buy into the changes theyÂre implementing. Something as small as the ability to revive everyone has clearly, at some stage, been lost in translation.
I think ArenaNet has very much been trying to push through to its player base what you can and canÂt do, and what they recon you should do. That was really evident to me in this phase rather than the last when people were really willing to work together, cooperate, and actually embrace something new. I encountered almost no resistance to any of the changes.
A couple of things surprised me this weekend, such as peopleÂs comments that the first couple of levels were incredibly spammy; that you chewed through your skill combinations and rinsed, repeated. I thought that was quite ironic considering that in the rest of the genre, thatÂs actually considerably worse.
But going back to the original question of is it a game changer, I think thatÂs a question based on what theyÂve implemented, the production values, the polish, and the fact that the game has got so much content in it for launch is a bit of a benchmark for the industry as well.
Reuben "Sardu" Waters: IÂve been babbling out my thoughts on the topic for a really long time now, so IÂll be a bit brief here.
In general, I sort of see The Old Republic as capping the end of an era. It neatly bookends what began with EverQuest, through WoWÂs dominant period, and ends with The Old Republic in the sense of the traditional MMO featuring auto-attack combat, and the gameplay building blocks people have begun to associate with the genre.
While the original Guild Wars did try to do something completely different, it didnÂt really stick to the degree I think Guild Wars 2 is going to. I think Guild Wars 2 is going to lead us into that next era for the industry, and itÂs going to be the game that a lot of other developers start really looking at for inspiration.
IÂve already seen that to a limited extent at PAX East this year. ThereÂs an in-development game I played called RaiderZ that has already lifted entire systems directly out of GW2, and I expect weÂre going to start seeing a lot more of that moving forward.
So in that sense I definitely think GW2 is going to be a game changer in terms of not only the way future games are developed, but also the public perception of whatÂs considered a standard MMO concept or mechanic.
Karen ÂShayalynÂ Hertzberg: I have to agree with the rest of you--weÂre seeing things done in Guild Wars 2 that we havenÂt seen done in other MMOs to date.
That said, weÂve noticed comments on Ten Ton Hammer and other sites from gamers saying that Guild Wars 2 is over-hyped. For instance, I hear lots of people saying, ÂArenaNet claims that combat isnÂt the same old tab-to-target, whack-a-mole sort of combat weÂre used to, but it totally is!Â Or theyÂll claim that questing is actually more linear than ArenaNet lets on.
So, there are people out there who, if they want to find reasons to hate on the game, probably will find them. But on the whole, I think weÂre only hearing that sort of dissent from people who have had no hands-on experience with the game. And really, for all but the most hardcore haters, I feel like all it would take was one beta weekend with Guild Wars 2 to dispel those notions.
Barlow: If you had to pick just one, what would you say was the biggest highlight of your beta weekend experience, or the thing that left the strongest positive impression on you overall?
Ethec: I think doing the exploration puzzle which Sardu introduced me to. It had nothing to do with gameplay and we failed horribly; nor did we get any rewards from it for about an hourÂs worth of just banging my head against the wall. But it was a fun jumping puzzle that I want to definitely go back to maybe in future beta events.
If you go back to BartleÂs Taxonomy, explorers were always viewed as the smallest slice of the gamer pie. Guild Wars 2 caters very heavily to people who are willing to strike out and not just follow the linear content path through a game. While that might annoy some people, I found it pretty refreshing.
Lewis B: I think for me it would have to be World v. World.
I donÂt think thereÂs been a developer since Dark Age of Camelot that has really attempted to take on something of such scale and manage to pull it off. And not just pull it off in terms of gameplay, and systems, and how you go about capturing keeps and using siege weapons and such. Warhammer Online has obviously attempted and failed miserably, Aion has had a crack at it, along with various others.
But itÂs the actual optimization of how theyÂve gone about it. It runs so amazingly well, and with so many people on screen across multiple maps. I think for me that would definitely be a highlight because itÂs a difficult feat in itself, even at the very early stage of the open beta process. It can only get better with optimization.
It summed it up nicely this weekend when people said that they would have handed over 50 pounds plus 10 a month just for World v. World, never mind including the rest of the content such as structured PvP, PvE exploration, personal story, and that sort of stuff. So just with that alone, theyÂre onto a winner.
Sardu: For me, interestingly enough, it was mostly about taking on more of an observational role this time since IÂve played the game extensively prior to this point.
It was interesting watching the general public get into the game for the first time, and witnessing those moments of realization when people discovered Â and people have brought this up in comments already Â that moment of realization that theyÂre not competing against one another for things in-game. By playing in the same area theyÂre actually helping each other.
Watching people organically form groups, whether or not they ever clicked on the other players and formally invited them to a group, they would just begin following each other across the map and completing content together. I canÂt think of another MMO IÂve played in years where players would just naturally start playing socially to that same degree. And it all happened in a very short amount of time.
A lot of times, with grander concepts like that in MMOs, people donÂt latch onto them right away. It takes a little while for them to sink in. But that seemed to happen very quickly and organically over the weekend.
I keep going back to this, but probably the most obvious and blatant examples of that was at the end of the event when they had the Great Critter Hunt. It was a great experience watching a massive army form and sweep across the map just because they had a shared goal. There was nothing saying you have to do this event together, or stick together to participate; that just happened organically.
So it really came down to those moments of witnessing people quickly adopting the fact that this is a very social game. Yeah, you can still solo all you want, but you actually have a lot more fun the more players there are in the area.
Lewis B: I think itÂs that willingness to adopt that new mindset, where change is quite nerve wracking at times; people resist change and donÂt particularly like it. But itÂs very clear that itÂs actually being embraced and this weekend was definitely a reflection of that.
Ethec: We did see that kind of emergent social gameplay happen in Rift, and Warhammer Online obviously introduced the concept of public quests.
But this is a much more refined version of it where there are events kicking off around the map, not just in one place but fairly constantly based on how many people are in the area. ItÂs not something where you have to run halfway across the map to get in on the action. So I really enjoyed that aspect as well.
Shayalyn: I think people go into Guild Wars 2 with different agendas. Some are all about the PvP or the World v World, for instance. I didnÂt try either of them this weekend, because I found myself totally engrossed with the questing, the dynamic events, and the personal story aspect of the game.
I had to attend a wedding this weekend--rudely torn away from Guild Wars 2 by true love; how unfair!--but I spent a lot of the rest of my time playing and I think the biggest take-away I had was I have only just begun exploring this game. ThereÂs so much to do that itÂs almost overwhelming. So, as much fun as IÂve already had, I know thereÂs so much more waiting. And I think that bodes well for the types of gamers who go into a new game with a lot of excitement, then find themselves bored after a month or two. ThereÂs a lot to do in this game--tons of options, which should promote longevity.
Barlow: So far we've been talking about the positive impressions we walked away from the first BWE with, but were there any negatives to your beta experience that you feel are equally worthy of pointing out or addressing?
Lewis B: I had a number of people this weekend directly ask me for help, knowing that IÂve played it before. They said they found the game incredibly confusing, and these are people that have played MMOGs for years.
One of the main things they found frightening, or intimidating, or confusing, was the scale and the sheer volume of content. I think it froze many people, as if to say whoa, this is beta and I donÂt even know where to begin.
Ethec: I would have been incredibly confused had Reuben not been my humble sidekick and shown me around the map.
I think the game does a pretty terrible job in its current state of introducing you to all it has to offer. Like I would have never gone off to the Mists or explored that tab under the Hero panel had not Reuben pointed it out to me, and thatÂs the gateway to a huge chunk of the game.
Lewis: ItÂs a little strange because the tooltips seemed oddly sporadic.
Like when I was playing the necromancer this weekend, I must have played it for about five hours, and then the Death Shroud tooltips suddenly sprung to life and said hello, this is me, hereÂs what I do. I found that really odd considering that IÂd used it about 10 times.
But the tutorial theyÂve implemented in the Mists, I think they could do with transferring that to the starter areas in the form that itÂs in, obviously done in each starter areaÂs setting. With the charr, for example, as much as I love the initial starting area, it doesnÂt teach you half as much as what the Mists tutorial does. I think maybe in that respect they should maybe use whatÂs there and somehow transfer it over.
Sardu: WhatÂs interesting to me is that IÂve seen the short intros for each of the races called tutorials on a number of occasions, yet there arenÂt really any tutorial elements involved.
In fact, over time IÂve seen them scaled back so theyÂre more focused now and donÂt necessarily involve you needing to do as many things to complete them. So theyÂre very brief now, whereas before youÂd have to do things like interacting with the residents in the human area to send them to the safety of the inn, but thatÂs now totally optional.
So especially for humans, the intro mainly seems to ferry you directly into the larger event at the end, and doesnÂt do much to introduce you to game mechanics, or serve as a tutorial in any way. DonÂt get me wrong, GW2 does a good job of introducing you to core combat mechanics over time, such as which are introduced to you at a very natural pace. But when it comes to awareness of huge parts of the game like World v. World, it feels like itÂs currently up to the player to discover that those things even exist, and how you travel to them.
Ethec: I almost wonder if thatÂs intentional. Like if they donÂt want people wandering directly into PvP without having been introduced by a bunch of friends.
Lewis B: There have been some people complaining that the combat is too simple and button-mashy, but on the flipside you have people instantly hitting H, teleport to the Mists and complaining that itÂs too complicated and that there are too many skills.
But ArenaNetÂs system of going through and unlocking each weapon skill is all designed to gently expose you to those concepts and those skills. So I think now they just need to step up the tooltips, step up the hand holding for those that actually want it, and give those that donÂt the ability to just turn it off.
Shayalyn: Overall, IÂd have to agree with everyone else that the lack of tooltips or a comprehensive tutorial to introduce players to some of the non-standard game play mechanics was one of the biggest issues for me. Things were a little less intuitive than I would have liked, especially considering how complex and deep GW2 can be.
I made my way in the game without much trouble, but there was always this sense that I was missing something, and this feeling like, ÂIÂm going to have to go research this somewhere so I understand it better.Â
Lewis B: Technically you shouldnÂt ever have to reach to an outside source to obtain knowledge about the game.
I think GW1Âs internal wiki was very much a help, and IÂve heard that theyÂre wanting to implement something similar. But I think they just need to make more use of tooltips, and have it obvious so that when you first arrive and thereÂs a charr dead in front of you, the game physically stops you or has a bit of a story mode that says look, you can revive, or hereÂs how to dodge. Even just a training arena would be nice, to actually convey what you can and canÂt do.
Ethec: Guild Wars, the original game, attracted a huge following and I wouldnÂt have considered it a mainstream game. And for the longest time around the time that it launched we couldnÂt even get ArenaNet to talk to us because they were adamant that it wasnÂt an MMO.
But Guild Wars 2 clearly is an MMO, and it has definite mainstream appeal. And with that, they should try to support the mainstream. In beta theyÂve had a lot of people that have come in from Guild Wars that understand the basic mechanics, but now ArenaNet needs to realize that theyÂve got the makings of a great mainstream success here, and just need to support that community a little better.
Sardu: I have noticed between the closed weekend events and the first open one, they have been implementing a lot more of those on-screen prompts that appear to help introduce you to new things at lower levels. So theyÂve definitely taken some big steps in the right direction, but just need to continue on with that.
So maybe some additional prompts or tooltips to inform you of things like hey, if you hold down Alt you can see the nameplates of NPCs and players, or control shows you enemies without having to target them. Things like that will be super intuitive for players of the original Guild Wars, but not so much for people new to the franchise. In fact, at one point over the weekend I had hopped in our Vent server and made sure to point that out for people and discovered that none of them had naturally figured those things out on their own, three days into the beta.
But the on-screen prompts they are using for things like unlocking skill slots or traits are very obvious without ever being obnoxious. They also do a great job of teaching you something core to the game, so I would just love to see more of them added for some of the items weÂve mentioned here. So maybe nothing special happens right at hitting level 4, but thatÂs when an alert could tell you a little bit about the dodge mechanic. Or maybe at level 6 youÂre given a small prompt to optionally head to the city and learn more about crafting and gathering.
The groundwork for that kind of stuff is already there, and could even be a more elegant solution than adding in a full-blown tutorial which would potentially flood players with too much info, too quickly.
Barlow: Of the professions you had a chance to play this weekend, were there any clear favorites?
Ethec: I rolled a charr necromancer because I thought that would be the profession I had no interest in playing at launch, but it was a blast. All the different weapon styles, all the different utilities; it was a very fun profession to play.
That said, IÂm going to reserve my judgment until the next beta weekend when I have a chance to play more of the other professions.
Lewis B: No, in terms of I didnÂt have a favorite, because I felt there were issues with all of them. I set out to originally play the ranger in GW2, and the pet was less than perfect. So I moved to engineer and love it over every other phase besides this one, because of the randomness of the elixirs caused me so much misery in PvP.
So the only alternative option this weekend was to try and spend some time on the Mesmer, which I did actually really enjoy. But IÂm still pining for the ranger, so I would probably say the ranger would still be my favorite because itÂs absolutely awesome in World vs. World even if your pet is alive or dead.
Sardu: I had absolutely no interest in playing the necro, and didnÂt play one all weekendÂ
Sardu: Getting the obvious out of the way, yeah, the necro is still the best profession in the game, hands down.
But overall, one of the things I like about the professions in a broader sense is that they all somewhat shatter the mold of their own archetype. Like my favorite thing on the necro is to play aggressively in melee, even though youÂd automatically associate them with being ranged casters. Or the ranger I love playing with sword and greatsword, even though youÂd naturally associate them with using a bow.
Thief is another profession thatÂs insanely powerful once you break the archetype and play them as ranged. While youÂd probably think of them in a melee DPS role like an assassin or rogue, they felt more powerful when you put them into the opposite role to what you might assume the would fulfill.
But I guess if there was a clear standout in terms of the profession that caught my attention more than I expected it to, I would say itÂs the mesmer. I played it a bit previously, but I honestly didnÂt expect that I was going to take to it this time as much as I did.
Shayalyn: I tried the mesmer and enjoyed it, but I had a pretty instant affinity for the ranger. And itÂs funny that you should mention how you liked the sword ranger, Reuben.
I remember reading your article on Guild Wars 2 Hub about the profession and thinking, ÂThatÂs the one! You had me at sword rangerÂ .Â But when it got right down to it, I found that I liked the long bow as a weapon first and foremost, and then the great sword. I mean, IÂm still figuring out what I like, but those were the things I gravitated to first.
I think that demonstrates how Guild Wars 2 really is what you make of it--you can play it your way, and there are so many different ways to go.
Barlow: What are you most looking forward to heading into the next beta weekend? This can be anything from gameplay elements you hope to see improved or fixed, to parts of the game you're really looking to experience the next time around that you didn't in the first weekend, or anything in between.
Ethec: IÂm going to go off of what you just said there and just say IÂm looking forward to being able to actually meet up on the same server with everyone, and with ease.
There was a lot of login server downtime over the weekend where we just spent literally hours clicking the connect button, logging in, and getting rejected by the servers. It got better as the weekend went on. I donÂt know how much ArenaNet had to do with that vs. obviously there was a huge rush into the game on Friday, and by Sunday people were either playing or might have wandered off a bit.
So IÂm just looking for more sever stability, and more time with the game.
Lewis B: I think for me itÂs probably returning back to the ranger. Jon Peters has made a post recently on the official forums saying that theyÂre still working on the pets and they want them to be where we want them to be, and thereÂs been some really good feedback on that.
IÂve been hearing rumors that thereÂs an internal build thatÂs ahead of what weÂve been playing, so IÂm hoping that we see the changes in the upcoming beta.
Sardu: For me, itÂs a bit of an offbeat thing, and something I discovered very late into the weekend.
Since LionÂs Arch had been opened up to players for the first time, I spent some time on one of my characters roaming around the city, unlocking all the waypoints and points of interest. Along the way I discovered that, at the very highest point above the water thereÂs an awesome diving board with a pair of Diving Goggles sitting next to it.
You can put those on, and when you dive off the board you gain a pair of new skills that let you do little flips and stuff before hitting the water. So IÂm probably most looking forward to going back and messing around with that as much as possible. While simple, it represents one of my favorite things about the game in general; that payoff for taking the time to explore, even if itÂs not monetary or XP rewards, there are still really cool things to find all over the place.
Lewis B: They should have NPCs there at the bottom that give you points and scorecards based on how spectacular your dive was...
Shayalyn: I hope the login server issues are corrected, just like everyone else.
Beyond that, IÂm excited to try some more exploration. I didnÂt get a chance to do any of the puzzle type activities, and itÂll be fun to give that a whirl. IÂm patient, though. IÂd like to keep the game as fresh as possible for launch, so IÂm probably going to be more prone to just wandering around discovering things and figuring out what makes Guild Wars 2 tick than anything else. And IÂll probably experiment with other professions, too. I was surprised by how much I liked the Mesmer, so I have to wonder what else is out there that I just havenÂt discovered yet.
Barlow: And that's a wrap folks! Thanks to our participants, to ArenaNet for making such an amazing MMO for us to ponder, and especially to our readers for following along!