Sunday, August 26, 2012

Warring guilds day and night

One of the oldest signs I've known that a game has that "just a little more" factor is when I see the sun starting to come up while I'm still playing it.

I know ! And it's 2 months past longest day (and therefore earliest morning) of the year too !

One of the most hotly anticipated games for the last few years opened its doors properly yesterday. It's Guild Wars 2 and it's been promising to revolutionise Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) gameplay. MMOs in the past have fallen into a well established cycle where the world is effectively static. But ... it's not just static, it's bound to what the player triggers and at the same time, completely ignores what the player triggers.

I didn't explain that too well did I ? World of Warcraft is the one that made MMOs popular. It wasn't the first MMO but it was the first that made MMOs popular and easy to play. That's not to say it was easy in the early days, the farming required made it pretty damn hard. It's easy now, sure but in vanilla days, group quest meant you needed help. In current WoW (and SWTOR), group quest means either waiting a few levels or using special tactics, a special build, a hunter or death knight.

But - there's a lot of flaws in the way it does things. I got bored of the WoW model mostly because of the lack of challenge in the current game but it seemed like the massive amount of content in there was just about getting you to the endgame faster. And the endgame sucks bigtime. What makes the WoW model worse is that all that content is great. But it's wasted in the rush to get to endgame, which is just going through the same select few locations in repetition ad nauseum.

Aside - the only MMO that doesn't suffer this model is Eve, which is completely player driven outside of Empire. And the game is well balanced enough that the player-political map constantly changes with the shifting alliances. I just find it mind numblingly tedious.

Guild Wars 2 feels a little different there. For a start, the mechanics are much simplified. You have much less skills to play with as standard ... But those are supplemented by utility skills that you can select. I have a healing turret and a gun turret for my Asura Engineer.

Where's this sun up test come in ?

Well - after giving up on Guild Wars 2 early yesterday because of massive problems with the login servers (which might be back today), I went off and gave full attention to Twenty20 Finals day. (Yorkshire came a close second - all 3 were good games). After that, I go back in at about 10pm. I level up through a fairly amusing (not the best but pretty good) early storyline and reach level 11. Upon which I'm getting tired and thinking I should go to bed (at about 1.30am).

But not before checking out the much vaunted World vs World vs World player vs player mode. This sees players from multiple servers coming together to fight it out over a single map. The maps are huge ... and full of control points, strongholds and castles for players to fight over. It's suitably epic.

WoW players may know of Alterac Valley (dunno how much that's done now since it went effectively PvE only). Alterac Valley is a North-South contest with effectively just one lane to fight in. WvWvW is massive. It's easily the scale of a WoW zone and might actually be bigger.

Yep - it caught me for a little while and that's with me fighting effectively on my own instead of being on voice comms with a guild. I was still on there at 5am ...


Yep. Guild Wars 2 definitely passes the Sun Up addictiveness test in a way that WoW kinda did before it went easy.

But what it doesn't pass is the availability test. A common happening with all MMO releases is that their Day 0 log in demand far exceeds the capacity available. Some MMOs deal with this by staggering their release (WoW did). GW2 was attempting to evaluate this through stress testing. That didn't succeed in anticipating demand.

It's a great game - but wait for the demand issues to sort themselves out. By the way - I'm on Aurora Glade as an Asura Engineer called Finlay Iceangel. I'm planning to use the Iceangel tag as a surname for the characters there, so at some point there will hopefully be a melee Bashara/Bashran Iceangel join the engineer.

Can't close without a mention of a pioneer who passed away yesterday. It happened before I was born but I'm feeling a need to watch again the HBO series From The Earth To The Moon to relive again some of those early space faring days. May they come back some time soon. Farewell Neil Armstrong !

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