Getting down in Guildwars

http://filebox.vt.edu/users/tlauver/Dance.wmv

Wow.

There are that many ways to dance in Guild Wars? Does the rest of the game have that much variety?

So, they programed in all those dance moves right? This is something they actually took time to program for different character classes.

Perhaps I am just a on-line gaming newbie, but is this common in many on-line games?

I remember movie from Star Wars: Galaxies but it seemed to be only characters whos profession was dancing, which made sense.

But now programers are putting it in for every class in games?


Weed Vaporizers

Maybe they should have worked on making it fun instead.
Actually, that’s probably not a fair remark. I haven’t seen it since E3 last year. But I felt at that time there was a lot of wasted potential (dreadfully slow combat, for instance). If it has improved since then, please let me know.

I played the E3 open beta, and then the one they did 6 months or whatever later. I must say that I thought the E3 was pretty but ultimately shallow, while I left the later one far more impressed.

I think the game sits at the nexus of MMOs, Diablo, and the Baldur’s Gate:Dark Alliance type of console RPGs, which isn’t at all a bad place to be. My impression the last time I checked it out, though, was that they desperately needed to make the character development more engaging. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t find any of the cool, rare spells/skills/whatever, but I was really unimpressed by shuffling my hard-earned points into nondescript branches that just numerically tweaked the skills I already had.

One of the things that I love about WoW (and Diablo II) is the very deep talent/skill building portion of the game. It makes me want to play just to see different interactions and synergies, and see how that changes characters. There’s a bit of that in Guild Wars, but it’s not tied to the character per-se from what I’ve seen.

Still, I’m a slut for online multiplayer RPG type things at this point, so I’ll probably pick it up.

Yes, extremely common. The earliest I can remember seeing it was in Anarchy Online, circa 2001, but almost every MMO I’ve beta’d or played since then included a dance emote or five. Devs see it as a way to promote social interaction and provide some amusement, as most players get a kick out of doing stupid dances while idle instead of just standing around. SWG merely took this popular pastime and ran with it, building a whole class around it.

I played in the latest GW event, as well as the E3 one, and I have to say that the game has come a very long way since last summer. GW is designed to get players into GvG action quickly, which is the core of the game. PvE is a means to an end, and is nothing that special.

When I played the E3 event, all I did was a little bit of soloing in a very detailed, but very ugly zone. I started with a level 20 (maximum level) character who already had a bunch of skills. I dove in for 15 minutes, decided that I wasn’t crazy about the gameplay, and logged off. I didn’t get to see any character development, because it had already been done for me with the pre-designed characters. I didn’t know how to effectively use the skills I did have, because I hadn’t played that character up to level 20. I was like someone who had bought a level 60 character in EQ on ebay and had no idea how to really play him. I didn’t group with anyone, and didn’t try any GvG. I was bored. Of course I was bored, I wasn’t playing the game, I had restricted myself to one small, weak, facet of it.

When the stress test came along (November?), I decided to give it another try. Again, the solo gameplay was fairly routine and uninteresting, but we formed a guild and actually tried the GvG instant fighting for the last hour of the event, which was the most entertaining hour I’ve had in a multiplayer game yet. It was immediately obvious that we were playing against a team who also had no experience in GvG, and they spoke French to boot (/waves across the pond). At the start, both teams were playing as though they were still doing the solo PvE part of the game - there was no supportive teamwork at all. As we played, we learned, and our team learned faster and better. By the end, we had the Frenchies running for their lives. We had evolved into a solid team, as opposed to 8 individuals, and the incease in our effectiveness was amazing. Skill won in a MMORPG style game. Inconceivable.

I’d say that the character customization is far more complex in GW than WoW or Diablo, mostly because each character can have two classes, which means two sets of skills to choose from. Each class has three skill lines, so in essence, each character can draw from 6 different skill lines in order to customize themself. You won’t have the points to be the best in all 6 lines, so choices have to be made as to which 3 you really want to be good at. If I remember how to do combinations properly, that gives you 20 combinations of skill sets for each two class combination. There are 6 base classes, and each player can have a main and subclass, which gives 30 possible permutations. This leads to 30*20 = 600 possible combinations of skill lines and main/sub class choices. Each of those 600 styles will play differently, making, in essence, 600 possible classes to choose from. Within each of those 600 classes, you get to choose which 8 skills to use in each fight. At level 20, you’ll probably have something like 20 skills from which to pick those 8, which adds another 126,000 combinations for each of the 600 classes. Is 75 million different choices of skills enough customization?

I know, you’re thinking sure, the numbers say 75 million combinations, but how different is a build that only changes one skill out? Well, when you only have 8 skills available for a fight, each skill you choose has a significant impact on your style of play. Replace a healing spell with one that removes debuffs, and your play will change tremendously. Same goes for swapping a corpse explosion spell for one that summons zombies instead. The possibilities seriously boggle the mind and while there will be plenty of flavors of the week, I really doubt that a set of 10, 20, or even 100 ‘best’ skill combinations will ever be found.

No game has come close to having this much customization, and the nice thing is that none of them will be unstoppable. There are a lot of ways to play the game, and a lot of mechanisms in place that have fairly hard counters. You won’t know which ones are needed until an actual fight, so how do you go about designing a team? You can choose a general purpose team, that should be able to counter most of the styles of play that are thrown against it, but it obviously won’t be able to use all of those counters against every team, meaning that some skill slots will be wasted holding skills that won’t be used in every fight. You can go with a streamlined build, but if your opponent has enough of the right type of counters, then you’re really out of luck. On the other hand, if they don’t have those counters, then you win going away. Lots of things to consider, all of which makes the game so much more interesting than the single player PvE experience showed me.

Here are a few examples of team builds from the Prima Tournament Survival Guide that came with the pre-order:

Basic Team: A good basic, well-rounded team looks something like this: two primary healers, one support healer, four damage dealers (including one target caller), and one controller. For primary healers, Monk Primary is a good option. Focus points into healing attributes (skill lines). The support healer should focus on giving energy to the primary healers and backup healing as needed. The damage dealers can take the form of offensive tanks, elementalists, or necromancers; the goal is to ensure that when you focus fire on one target you’ll be doing a lot of damage. The controller’s job is to slow the target that is being called and/or to reduce the healing power of enemy healers; damage-over-time mesmer and water elementalists make great controllers.

Healing ball: The healing ball team consists of two or three primary/support healers and four or five long range damage dealers. The strategy here is to keep everyone alive with area of effect spells, while the ranged damage dealers (Rangers, Elementalists) attack the enemy, preferably from a distance. This group is vulnerable to enemy area of effect spells. Elementalists and Rangers do a lot of damage here, and the necro/monk’s ability to absorb energy from dying enemies can help the healers’ energy levels maxed. It’s a good idea to station one team member outside the healing ball standing ready with silence-suring spells.

Symbiosis: For the symbiosis build, you want four or five monk/warriors and three or four rangers. The goal here is to take advantage of the environmental enchantment symbiosis (which increases everyone’s health 50 points for every active enchantment), then load up on monk enchantments and charge into battle with doubel the health of your opponents. With all the firepower and healing at your disposal, this build should outlast most opponents.

Knockdown rangers:
This build consists of a fairly even mix of rangers and elementalists. The primary goal is to load up on rangers damage-dealing skills and elementalist knockdown spells, such asMeter and Meteor Storm. Work to pin down the target with knockdown spells and then unleash the arrows and ranger attack spells.

Fire Mages: Elementalist/Monks make up the bulk of this build. Load them up with point-blank area-of-effect spells like Inferno and Lava Font. The goal of this group is to surround the enemy and blast them, casting heal party and heal area to keep each other alive. This build can be deadly against any group that clumps up.

Death Nova: Fill this build with Necro/Monks and load them up with spells that summon undead minions. The goal is for some allies to kill themselves while others animate and then resurrect them with spells like Vengeance. Repeat this strategy until you have a large undead army, then cast Death nova on your allies as they run into battle. Use Touch Death spells so allies die nearthe enemy, hitting them with Death Nova before reanimating again.

Ice Warriors: This build consists of a large number of Warrior/Mesmers. Use the Absorb Frost Mantra followed by Greater COnflagration to turn all physical damage into fire damage. Next use Blizzard to turn all Fire damage into Ice damage. This way all your warriors get a huge reduction in damage from frost, allowing them to focus on dealing large amounts of damage in melee combat.

As you can see, it’s not just about designing one character, it’s about designing a team of 8 characters that will all work together. Customization and team design should give this game very long legs, and you know that the expansions (every 6 months or so, which is how they plan to make up for not having a monthly fee) will add more classes and skill lines.

In the last event, just this last weekend, I played three characters from level 1 to level 8ish each. The solo PvE experience was as good as any MMORPG I’ve played, and it showed why the world that you enter at level 20 is so ugly. The newbie world is breathtakingly gorgeous, just as the post-apocalypse world is breathtakingly ugly. Learning skills and how to use them as you level is crucial, and the levels come fast (I got three characters to 8 in about 20 hours of play). I didn’t have any guildmates playing in this event, so I wasn’t able to do any GvG, but the solo PvE was good enough to keep me playing for 20 hours this time, as opposed to the 15 minutes I played during E3.

Here are some screenies I took while in newbieland(we might overload the server, 75MB limit per hour)

https://webspace.utexas.edu/fardaljp/www/Screenshots/gw002.JPG

https://webspace.utexas.edu/fardaljp/www/Screenshots/gw004.JPG

https://webspace.utexas.edu/fardaljp/www/Screenshots/gw007.JPG

https://webspace.utexas.edu/fardaljp/www/Screenshots/gw008.JPG

Before you write the game off, definitely join a guild and give the GvG a try. The game is named Guild Wars after all ;)

Wow. I’m so disappointed. That video was awesome except for the Necromancers, my class, who just… headbang :/.

Hey thanks for the impressions. The game was always gorgeous, IMO. I didn’t like the inviso-walls and really hated the fact that the third dimension was completely illusory (e.g you couldn’t jump), but I could get past that.

The bigger issue to me, and I’d like to know if you think this has changed, was that the pace of the combat was plodding. Back at that time, I made a long post on another forum wherein I made many positive comments and suggestions, but criticized the overall gameplay experience. here’s an excerpt:

“In fact, pretty much everything in this game is too slow. Sigh Folks, I’m sorry to say this, but as beautiful etc. as it is, this just isn’t FUN. It’s got everything else but fun. Spell animations I’ve used are too slow, it takes too long to kill things, even when my level is much higher than theirs. It’s great that characters of different level can play together, but there’s no sense of power here whatsoever. The whole overall experience can be best likened to some poor chick’s coif in the before shot of a Pantene commercial: dull, boring, and lifeless. There’s no intensity, no sense of urgency, (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) not enough twitch factor.”

And another post from the same thread:

[i]"It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know how to best use my skills, everything still feels static. A big battle is raging and I’m casually tapping a key for my next attack. Let me repeat: there’s no urgency or intensity in the gameplay (and no you’re right, I didn’t do PvP).

You, the other testers, and the devs need to take a step back, because you’re too close to the process.

Sometimes it is easy to overlook the bad, especially when there is a lot of good to focus on. I saw the same word repeatedly in reference to the E3 trial on the Gone Gold forums: “boring”.

Again, I think GW could be amazing, it has so much going for it, but right now, it doesn’t have that addictive quality of gameplay that I think it should…that “just one more mission” feel (or in Diablo’s case “one more waypoint”).

Without that, GW will be a good game in all likelihood, but it won’t be a great one, and it won’t be the genre-buster that I’ve seen the potential for all along, and THAT, my friend, would be a tremendous waste."[/i]

Now Gaile Gray (Arena Net Community Relations) took exception to the fact that I compared GW combat unfavorably to City of Heroes. She contended that the game was still in alpha, but I was concerned that there were some fundamental design problems that weren’t simply a matter of polishing this or that.

So, tell me. Do you think the core gameplay has changed since then? Have they upped the intensity and made GW into the game it has the potential to be?

I haven’t played many MMORPG’s or RPGs for that matter so I don’t have a lot to compare with, but I must say that it did get pretty intense. When me and my friends were venturing off into unchartered territory there was always a sense of wonder and dread. When we would eventually run up against foes much stronger then ourselves it was hardly boring.

I haven’t even started on GvG yet. It’s all about strategy, what you can do to shut down opponent healers and preventing yours from being killed. How you can help your teams score points. If you are all just running around trying to kill someone your team will lose. They can be a lower level group, but if they are playing as a team you’ll probably lose

Another thing that I like about it is that as you probably know, there is no level after 20. So it’s not about what team has the guy that lives in his parents basement and plays 24/7, it’s about what team has picked out the skills and once again knows how to work as a team.

I’ve really enjoyed the beta events and can’t wait for the release. Do you guys know when it’s getting shipped?

4/26, I think.

As far as solo PvE goes, the pacing isn’t bad. It’s a little slow, but better than I felt it was at E3. In guild vs. guild, combat is fast and furious. Just consider having 4 or 5 other players all targetting you and your team trying to do whatever they can to keep you alive and/or disrupt the attacks against you. 8 vs 8 is definitely intense, and that’s what the game is designed around, having fun 8v8 fights of players vs players.

The PvE is acceptable solo, much more fun in a group, but still doesn’t capture the pace and danger of guild vs guild.

I was hoping March, but that means that there will be another beta event, if not two so I’m happy.

As for the dancing movie, it was quite well done and amused me.

Guess I’ll have to give it another look then. I’d really like to see the game do well. I had high hopes for it, which is why I was so vociferous in making my displeasure known. Good to know that things have improved. Guess Gaile was right.

One of the things about Guild Wars that is something I think we (as the developers) have to help people get past is the fact that the combat can seem very slow paced with certain character builds and especially with builds that aren’t making use of the skills and how they are designed to interact. But the beauty of the Guild Wars skill system is such that you can make a character that is designed to deal massive amounts of damage in a very short period of time.

For those who have played Magic the Gathering it’s a little like using two decks of randomly chosen cards against each other, fights like that can take a long time without much cool going on, but when you get two well built decks facing off things can go quickly. For example A Sword Warrior/Mesmer combination can put so much health degeneration on an enemyat even low levels that they fall within a few seconds.

Now the challenge we face as devs is letting players in on this… most people will look at the skill system and think of it in terms of most MMO’s they are familiar with where a single character class is designed to feel balanced and play well using all of the skills that they acquire over their levels… in Guild Wars there are about 450 skills divided over 6 classes, and each character can only bring 8 skills maximum with them into any particular combat, so with that in mind bringing skills that interact well with each other and with those of your group is the most important part of Guild Wars.

Here’s a question for anyone who’s played recently and/or is making the game: the last time I played, I really enjoyed it, but it was shit-hard to get any new gear, especially armor. Any different?

I’m not sure what you mean by “shit-hard” you can only get new armor by utilizing the crafters (which is probably the way it was the last time you played). Some of the items required for the armor can be semi-rare right now… one of the things we’ll be doing in these last few months before release is to distribute the PvE drops a lot better. The intention is not that armor feel “shit-hard” to get though if that helps.

I’m not sure what you mean by “shit-hard” you can only get new armor by utilizing the crafters (which is probably the way it was the last time you played). Some of the items required for the armor can be semi-rare right now… one of the things we’ll be doing in these last few months before release is to distribute the PvE drops a lot better. The intention is not that armor feel “shit-hard” to get though if that helps.[/quote]

That’s what I meant; the items needed to craft armor were just really, really hard. The last time I played was a few months ago, at what I think was the last preview event open to people who hadn’t yet preordered, and I put in a decent amount of time, but I was still unable to craft even a new set of gloves. It was pretty frustrating. Glad to see that’s not the goal :).