Charred but Not Burnt

“We saw, early on, that when people came in and played the game like they played other MMOs, it was harder for them to enjoy the game or get into the game as fast. But once they broke down those barriers of ‘this isn’t that other game, this is something new’ then they started to have more fun.’” – Mike Zadoronjny, content designer for Arenanet

MMOs seem to come and go with the speed of a roomful of hyperactive five year olds with attention deficit disorders. Star Wars The Old  Republic (SWTOR) was barely out the door when players started to move on and Bioware/Mythic began hinting at free-to-play (F2P).  Hindsight being what it is, many a player cried “I told you so” when it was announced that SWTOR was definitely going F2P.  When Guild Wars 2 (GW2) came out on the heels of  The Secret World (TSW) it seemed Funcom’s new game was little more than way stop on the way to GW2. Still, even though Blizzards Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft (WoW) releases in a few short days I am wondering if history will fail repeat itself.  After all, while Blizzard has the task not only bringing in, but attempting to keep players, all Arenanet has to do is sell boxes.  The periodic announcements of how many subscribers WoW has compared to historical highs will only go down over time.  On the other hand, the number of copies Arenanet has sold can only go up -2 million and counting as of this writing.

Funcom’s mistake was, perhaps, giving players what they wanted.  While this is the definition of good marketing,  the reality of the situation seems to be that what players wanted isn’t what made for than a niche game.  Arenanet seems to have succeeded with Guild Wars 2 by providing us with the embodiment of the Monty Python tag line…

…something completely different.

If there is an area where Guild Wars 2 falls short (and not by far) it is, as Mike Zadorojny acknowledges in the quote above, in breaking down the barriers built up by players expectations.  Those players who may have come to Guild Wars 2 expecting tank, dps and healing classes will find their search a difficult if not impossible one.  Players who come from games where developers lead players through the game by the nose by way of a quest log will find that the concept of a quest log is completely absent from the game.  However, all this hasn’t stopped the occasional player from looking for these game mechanics all the same.

On the other hand, players who come looking for a game that rewards exploring, dynamic content that actually works, and a game that is just fun to play will find it in abundance.

I came to the game expecting to find separate starting areas that funneled players into the same zones.  Just about every MMO that isn’t specifically designed as a sandbox game (such as Eve Online) has done this.  It creates a highway that players must continuously travel between new zones and the additional  five levels each expansion tacks on to an MMO.  What I found, however, are a vast array of areas that don’t require me to take any  specific route.  The thought of having to traverse specific routes (like Outland and Northrend in WoW) are alone enough to send me running away from expansions of established games like the  Mysts of Pandaria

Charred but not burnt

One of my own expectations was broken once I began playing the  Charr.  I will admit that the idea of “running on all fours” turned me off at first – then I gave it a chance.  When Guild Wars 2 begins, we find that the Charr have taken back the land that the humans stole from them.  It was like the Aztecs kicking Hernan Cortes’ butt all the way back to Spain and yelling at the ships as they disappear over the horizon “…AND STAY OUT!” .  The Charr bring to mind images of small roadside animals in the modern world who so often become “roadkill” finally yelling “I’ve had enough!” as they arm themselves with mortars and tanks.

I will admit it, being a fan of goblins in WoW I originally created an Asura.  The Asura can be genuinely funny at times.  But like a gag name for a character, the humor can sometimes prove a bit irritating – and in the end that seems to be part of the point of the Asura race.  Asura engineers are the type who will sit around debating theories.  Not so Charr engineers.  Charr engineers seem to be the type who will yell “MAKE IT OUT OF STEEL AND IRON, MAKE IT BIG AND BLOW THINGS UP WITH IT!”  Perhaps the reason I feel such a kindred spirit with the Charr is that they all seem like furry Klingons.

The most ironic of all the above is that originally I had no intention of playing Guild Wars 2. I played the original Guild Wars for about an hour and didn’t like it; the box still sits on a shelf gathering dust.  I ignored almost all of the pre-release hype.  Then my sister bought me the collector’s edition. Not just the basic game, the collector’s edition. This means, of course, I was obligated to try the game.

I am glad I did.

By the end of the first play session I was fascinated with the difference between what Arenanet delivered and what I expected.  Once I explored those differences Arenanet won me over – I guess that makes me a convert, and you know how devote they can be!

See you online,

Julie Whitefeather

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