My Screenshots From Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event 1

My (Long) Take On Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event 1

Last Sunday marked the end of the first Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2 (although I still think it should be named PPBWE – Pre-Purchasers Beta Weekend Event). Except for one glaring bug (a NPC was simply flying), the unbalanced scaling of some events and some personal issues with the sidekicking, everything went more smoothly than I thought.

Before I could join the event, I was reading the initial reports from /r/guildwars2 — it started in the middle of my working day, which was also the last day before my vacations, so I couldn’t simply walk off leaving things half-cooked — and what I was reading was “low FPS” and “high latency” complains. One Redditor also posted the cute “another ANet scam” about the beta (I’m serious here, but I won’t name names). But, to my surprise, when I finally logged in, everything was running pretty ok and the latency wasn’t even noticeable — probably because the people from the Guild Wars 1 Reddit Guild decided to pick a different server than the rest of /r/guildwars2.

The Hardware

Before going on, let me say what I used to play the game: An early-2011 MacBook Pro (running Windows in Bootcamp mode).

  • 2.4Ghz Intel Core i5
  • 4Gb 1067MHz DDR3
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M 256MB

It’s not a super-duper hardware, but it did it’s job: I could run almost flawlessly, with a good FPS (I couldn’t check, ’cause it wasn’t being displayed anywhere). I didn’t run FRAPS or DXtory. There was only one point in WvW where my FPS dropped to something you could count with both hands, when we were defending one of our towers against 50+ invaders. Out of that, even larger dynamic events, like the Swamp Behemot and a norn ice shaman (whose name completely eludes me right now) run really fine.

Cutscenes and Story-Telling

Sure you watched every video of the starting video — the “This is my story” intro — of every race, but it’s nothing like seeing the real thing. It is impressive and gives a good connection with your character — specially if you answer their personal questions thinking about you.

The other cutscenes lack this kind of connection, though, and I can’t find a good reason for it. At first I thought it was the borders in the background, but that didn’t seem too bad. Then I thought it was the lack of music, but there was music in the background. The only things I can think of are the fact that the characters don’t seem to be facing each other — the character on the left side seems to be interested in something behind the left shoulder of the character in the right side and the character in the right side seems to be interested in something behind the right shoulder of the character in the left — and maybe the fact that none of them simply stand still, always moving like they need to pee or something.

Or it could be the fact that cutscenes suffer from the fact that the early story doesn’t feel interesting.

The human story, for example: You start as someone trying to save the village of Shaemoor; you fight centaurs with very little knowledge of what you can do; you face wave after wave of those centaurs, only to finally fight a huge earth elemental. And, after that… you help farmers to water their crops.

I think that’s the biggest problem with the story right now, in my opinion: It starts with a high note and then simply drops it to the very bottom of a well and slowly climbs back. The human personal story gets really interesting when you’re around level 12, but at this point a lot has happened already.

The Norn personal story seems to pick speed before that (around level 7) but I can’t comment in the Charr story ’cause I only completed the starting zone tutorial.

So, in this mess, the cutscenes feel out-of-place ’cause you’re not really interested in the whole thing that it’s happening. So instead of pointing where the story is going, they feel like nuisances in the way of something you’d expect gets better in the future.

Loading Screens and Overflows

Yes, there are loading screens. They appear whenever you change zones but doesn’t seem to take too long to load. In a way, they work the same way loading screens worked in Guild Wars 1, except that instead of loading a personal instance of the map, it loads you into a zone with more people. And those maps are huge. You could spend about 3 hours going around, doing dynamic events without ever leaving the zone — I spend those 3 days with basically 2 characters and I basically didn’t leave the first map.

The loading screen also offers some information about your progress in the map: How many portals you unlocked already, how many “points of interest” you found, how many skill points you captured… that kind of stuff. For completionists, it must be a nightmare.

This breakdown of maps — using portals instead of making a very huge map with stitched maps like in WoW — works with ArenaNet idea of “overflow server”. When you try to enter a map, if there are too many people in it, the game will offer you to move to another server or stay in the queue. Staying in the queue works exactly like WoW: You’re put in a list and have to way till someone leaves the map so you can join — which, as I pointed, are huge enough to keep someone busy for at least 3 hours; if you take the option of going to another server, you’ll actually enter the map which belongs to another server while you wait in the queue. In my playtime, I got into overflow servers a lot of times but only saw the message saying that I could return to my own server three times. Once you accept returning to your own server, you’ll be teleported to the nearest unlocked waypoint — which isn’t that good, in my humble opinion. I’d prefer being teleported to the exact location in the other map, but I understand why things work this way (they just reuse the part where you personally select the waypoint).

I can see one potential problem with overflow servers: Because they actually belong to another server, you could steal space from people of that server. Imagine this: A lot of people from Server A decide to go to the same map. Because the map doesn’t support that many people, they are relocated to the map on Server B. But now some people in Server B decide to enter the map but need to be “overflowed” ’cause there are a lot of people there already, so their join Server C. The system avoids the queuing problem, but also creates a cascade problem that may be hard to solve.

One weird, funny and/or scary about the loading screens was that you could hear some weird phrases while the map was loading. Phrases such as a happy female “I can outrun a centaur!”, a somewhat surprised male “I feel… stronger” and a creepy male “Hello pretty” could be heard while the progress bar advanced. Sure it’s fun trying to figure out where you heard that before but it also gives the impression that something is going on and you’re missing it because you’re trapped in a loading screen.

Waypoints

As I said, you need to unlock waypoints to be able to use them. To use them, you’re charged a very small fee — except inside the cities, which have about 4 or 5 waypoints and can be used freely.

Waypoints were used against the notion that the game needs mounts — a discussion that even went inside the game, while I was in one overflow server. If those were positioned properly and the number was large enough, there would be no need for mounts. Well, they are not positioned everywhere, near every large dynamic event and their numbers are not monstrous, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong with them.

I noticed that there were waypoints near every single step of your personal story: If you need to find an amulet in an instance around the map, there will be a waypoint pretty close of the instance entrance. But they are not near every large dynamic event and, if you die in one of those, you’ll have some walk to do (some walk, not “quite a walk”). I can see that this was done to not trivialize such events but I do expect that people will complain about the sparseness of waypoints nonetheless.

Dynamic Events, Hearts and Your Personal Story

Quick recap of what are Dynamic Events: They are like quests, except that you don’t need to talk to a NPC to get the quest, they chain into other events like quest-chains but don’t require that you pick the very first quest to join the quest-chain and you’re immediately rewarded upon completion.

Thing is, about dynamic events in this particular beta weekend, they seemed to be over repetitive. For example, while going for a quest in my human personal story, I found a escort mission. So I followed the group doing it, got my reward at the end and went back to following my personal story, which took me back to the start of said escort event. But, in this process, I found out that the same guy was trying to do the same path again. I discussed it with the guild and it seemed to be some “epidemic” process — every event seemed to happen more often than it should. My guess is that ArenaNet pumped the dynamic event occurrences to have mode data to analyze them.

Hearts are a special kind of dynamic events. They are tied to a location or NPC and they give you a “friendly” status with the identity NPC, which will allow you to buy and sell stuff. You could do things like collecting apples, watering the crops or pulling worms out of the fields. One thing I found out is that there are more than one event tied to a heart: In the human zone, I found one NPC requesting to either kill bats or kill spiders. In the second time I was running around — when I was already friendly with them — I went to the same place, but this time the NPC was asking to collect apples for pies. Small flavor, but it means you have more stuff to do than simply go there one time and forget the place exists.

And, on top of that, you have your personal story. The personal story is tied to your race and happens all in instantiated events — so they don’t need a full scaling and you can’t bring your whole guild to help you with something. But the problem I found with the personal story is that it was leveling faster than my character. At some point, the game suggested that I needed to be level 11 to complete the instance, while I was level 10. I went anyway and found it really hard. After that, I was level 11, but the next step suggested level 14. Then I went all the way to the quest point on foot, instead of using waypoints, in the hopes of finding lots of dynamic events to gain some levels and make my life easier. And I didn’t find any.

Downscaling happens all the time (you lose some stats when your level is higher than the location in question) so I can’t really understand why the personal story isn’t considered a single thing: If you want to only do your personal story — and only the personal story — you should still be able to complete it without any worries of being too low level to complete them. If you end up doing some dynamic events in the middle, that would be no problem, as you’d end up being downscaled to the story. Otherwise, you’d end up having to “grind” levels, which is exactly what ArenaNet said they want to avoid.

One thing that it was harder to see and that’s something ArenaNet is pushing is the social part of dynamic events (and hearts, but not so much in the personal story): The fact that you’re not competing against other people. You can see if it you’re paying attention but, again, it requires that you pay attention to realize that.

For example, in one event, I had to remove graffiti in the walls of a city. So I went to one wall were I saw a graffiti and erased it. I moved a bit back to look for another graffiti to erase and saw another player coming along and doing the same animation I did when I was erasing it, but I couldn’t see anything in that wall. It clearly shows that we both saw the same thing in the beginning and that I didn’t had to rush this other person to clear the graffiti before him — we both had access to it. But, again, I was paying attention and I had previous knowledge that things are shared.

And “sharing is possible” is maybe the hardest wall Guild Wars 2 will hit. Some people won’t know, beforehand, that things can be shared, that I can jump in the middle of their fight and they won’t lose anything but they will start bitching that their rewards weren’t so good because I jumped to help — which is absolutely untrue.

Also, I’m not sure if it was the fact that we were all pre-purcharsers and, thus, have some knowledge about the game already, but one event really redeemed the whole MMO genre to me: It was a heart event in the Norn lands, on the top of a mountain. The event basically required that you returned rabbit food, which was stored in bags around the place, to a NPC or scare rabbits away. The event was set in a way that once you picked a food bag, you’d move slowly, and some rabbits from hundreds of holes in the area would popup and jump on you, making you drop your bag, and then eat the food. But, if you’re not carrying a bag, you can scare the rabbits approaching someone carrying it, thus helping that person in completing their event — and you increase your progress doing any of those. And why it felt so redeeming? Well, half way through it I noticed that I didn’t need to carry the bags — if someone was carrying one, I could simply tag along and scare the rabbits. And so I did. Sometimes I wasn’t fast enough to scare the rabbits, but I’d manage to salvage the bag and deliver it. It was a win — for me — either way. But then, when I was done and hearts have been won, I decided to stick around and help others — just for the sake of it. I’d tag with someone and follow them around, with my camera looking to the ground, trying to scare the rabbits. If I got a bag, I’d carry it all the way to NPC and then drop in the ground, where the rabbits wouldn’t reach, so someone else could deliver it. Yeah, good-guy-me. But thing is, even before I completed my part of the event, there were other people doing the same! There were people not rushing to bags, trying to pick it before anyone else: Some of us were sitting around waiting for someone to pick a bag to help them deliver and complete their part of event. And not a single freaking word was said — We were doing it because we saw we could help each other instead of competing.

Sure it will be a pain to do that event if you’re alone but at that point, with 7 people around… it was magical.

WvW leveling

When I was stting at level 4, my guild decided to try WvW. The process is quite simple and just requires passing through a tutorial about how to revive friends and finish downed enemies the first time. Already at this point, you’re upscaled to level 80. Everything is nice and dandy, but that only changes your stats, not your gear or your rewards — the rewards at still enough for your level, including gold rewards.

To understand WvW you must know that you can defend keeps without the help of any special mechanics, due the huge amount of health doors and walls have. To break those, you need special things, like hams and catapults, which require a blueprint and supplies. Blueprints are acquired with gold and then built using supplies, and supplies can be gathered by anyone in a captured supply camp. So what a level 4 upscaled to level 80 but still getting rewards for a level 4 can do? Basically, just carry supplies. You don’t make enough gold to buy the blueprints and your gear is not scaled, so you damage and resistance are pretty low.

I understand that those things need to work this way to avoid exploitation: If a low level could earn my gold to help with blueprints or carry more supplies than anyone else, one could join WvW as low level, get lots of gold, never buy a blueprint and go back to PvE and buy everything he/she needs. Or someone in some guild just keeps recreating low levels to carry more supplies/earn more gold just to keep providing the group with “vehicles” to invade bases.

Not only that, but being there as a low level also prevented me form learning my weapon skills. Your weapon skills are earned by what seems to be kill count or percentage of damage done to one thing. But since you’re using low level weapons, you’re doing really low damage and contributing very little in the total destruction. As an example, I found a scepter for my Guardian in the WvW world, so I only had one skill available. Even after getting two bases, going after two boses and capturing a supply depot, I still only unlocked the second skill. Just as comparison, after I returned to the PvE of my level, I unlocked everything, including the off-hand skills, in about 15 minutes.

Sounds, Effects and Combat

Even before this beta weekend, a lot of people were complaining about the pistol sounds being too loud, from the press beta weekend. Well, even after 2 minutes inside the game, I had to lower the effect volume to about half of it. I had the feeling that every effect was too loud.

And it’s not just the aural effects that need to be toned down. I know people were complaining about how huge the visual effects were affecting the screen, but I didn’t realize it would affect my combat.

Let me jump into combat here a bit to help you understand what I mean: Combat is not static, you need to keep an eye on what is going on around you: The mobs will telegraph huge attacks so you can dodge and bad zones will have red outlines in the ground.

Now back to the effects: When you’re doing melee — one thing every profession can do — it makes it really hard to see those telegraphs due the amount of particles flying around the mobs, so you never is really sure when to dodge. And you can’t keep dodging all the time due the limited use of endurance. You don’t even know when to use your “strike back” skill (which some professions have) due its cooldown and, again, the fact that you can’t really see when to use it.

On the other hand, when you’re in ranged combat — again, something every profession can do — all you need to know is “is there a red outline under my feet?” Sure you miss some shots when the mob changes direction — and the farther away, the easier it is to miss — but still, you end up with more survivability. And a dead melee does a lot less damage than a live ranger.

Selling, Buying, Gathering and Crafting

Every one have all the three gathering abilities: grab herbs, wood and ores. But you can only have 2 crafting diciplines at one point — and switching doesn’t lose any progress you made.

But the thing is: Why would you, for example, cut down wood, when you’re only interested in cooking and armorsmithing? Well, to sell it, duh! But more than that, you don’t need to simply carry all this all the time: The Trading Post (Guild Wars 2 auction house) is available everywhere. Low in bag space? Press “O”, bring the Trading Post interface, select the things you don’t need sell them. Someone was looking for those materials? Sell them straight away and then just go to the trading post official later and grab your earned gold.

To be able to gather materials, you need special gear: For plants, you need a sickle; for wood, an axe; and, for ore, a pickaxe. Those items can be bought in most Merchants and have a use count. There are different qualities of such objects, which I think are required for different types of nodes — which could explain why I kept getting “ruined ore” when trying to mine a silver vein.

Also, crafting. It uses a system similar to the alchemy system in Skyrim. Unfortunately, at least in some low levels, some diciplines are really not interesting. Weaponsmith? Well, there is this thing called “Greatsword blade” and a “Greatsword hilt”… I mean, there is no way to wonder that you need to combine those two to make a greatsword. It probably gets better at higher levels. I went up to level 80 with my cooking and found funny things like mixing potatoes with a bag of salt makes french fries. Or water, flour and yeast makes bread and bread and red meat makes hamburger. It’s a pain till you find things that combine and are up to your level (more than once I found that mixing onions with anything would require cooking level 100 or higher) but those little gems when you finally combine up to four things and you make something new are really interesting and rewarding.

All the stations required to make anything are available in several places — including some outposts in the middle of nowhere — and are clearly indicated by icons in the world map and the minimap. Also, special vendors, like merchants, armorsmiths and weaponsmiths are also indicated with dots in maps, each one with a different color, so you know if you’re going to find a vendor with possibly better gear in the outpost nearby or you should go somewhere else.

Exploration

The game gives emphasis in exploration: You need to explore to find some dynamic events, you can go around finding nodes to level your disciplines… You know the drill.

But thing is, sometimes exploring can be damn fun! At some point, I was just going around when I saw some large broken pipe and decided to check if I could fit in there. And guess what: I could and there it was actually a path to an outpost. This kind of thing happens everywhere: You are strolling around when something stands out and gives you some direction on something that may be interesting in the future.

Not only that, but if you have some knowledge of the game, something you saw before, you can probably find some event happening by just going around. As an example, while I was strolling nearby Divinity’s Reach, the human capital, I saw a pumping station, indicated with an “interest point” in the map. Nothing was going on that the time. But later, when I was going after a mission in my personal story, one of the guards at Divinity’s Reach entrance said “Blergh, this water tastes awful!” It suddenly hit me that there was something wrong with the pumping station — and the fact that I heard in one of the interviews that bandits could poison the water surely helped with that — and there I went. And yup, dynamic event happening.

So even when you’re just walking around, you can get hints of dynamic events happening by simply walking into some NPC.

Gem Store

The gem store was available in this test and you could take as many pictures are you wanted. Also, you could request 2000 gems, something I didn’t do ’cause I didn’t felt necessary at this point. One thing worried me, though:

At first, I thought gems were like normal items and, to sell them, you’d have to go to the Trading Post and then fight for gold with everyone else that wanted to sell them. But there is a special place to trade them for gold (and gold for gem) and it seems it works like the material traders in Guild Wars 1: If everyone is selling some stuff, the price goes down; if people are buying, the price goes up. And I felt that you really can buy a gazillion gems in the first day and make a bajillion gold straight away.

I can see that it can work on the other way: Even if the price of gems is really low and not worth whatever ArenaNet is asking for them and nobody is buying, you can still trade your gold and get gems to transfer your character or buy bags or whatever. It is a trade off, I understand why it’s there, but it still worries me a little.

Conclusion

After those two days, in which I didn’t even get near level 30 or did a dungeon, I had the general feeling is that, at least for the zones I played, all it needed was a little tweaking: tweak the spawn rate of dynamic events, tweak the damage mobs do, tweak the rewards from WvW, tweak the personal story level, tweak the number of dynamic events in some zones; tweak the location of some dynamic events… Everything else felt solid enough to production level. Surely, those tweaks are necessary because those are the difference between “this game is fun” and “OMG, that thing I’m not playing is totally OP”.

Also, the starting zone of Sylvari and Asura is not available, so we can’t say that those events are balanced. And no idea on how things go after level 30. We know that ArenaNet doesn’t want to show everything — it isn’t a demo, it’s beta — but the quality level shown so far it’s pretty good. And the game is pretty interesting.

But the biggest problem with this beta weekend is the fact that it was just a weekend. That is, surely, a huge error that I hope ArenaNet fixes soon.

Elo is NOT (exactly) the Answer

Twice in the last days I had to hear people claiming that the Glory-matchmaking is bad and ArenaNet should use Elo (or, as some people used, “ELO”, which is wrong).

Anyway, I truly believe those people are so wrong it’s silly. It’s like someone claimed “Elo is the best” and they simply accepted it, without ever questioning why or how.

Before going deep into the issue, let me put some detail here:

First, what the fuss is all about. In one interview, Jonathan Sharp described that, when you join a hot-join PvP, it will try to match your cumulative Glory to try to find people around your expertise level.

Second, this is used for hot-join PvP, not competition.

Third, ArenaNet reckons that, although they want to make Guild Wars 2 an e-sport, it requires a good spectator mode, which the initial game won’t have.

Also, you have to keep in mind that, although whatever every Elo lover says, it’s not a measurement of skill. It measures if you beat someone with higher rating, just that. To keep that in perspective, if Moron 1 fights Moron 2 and wins, he gets more Elo; if, in the nest fight, Moron 2 wins, he then jumps over Moron 1. But both are still morons.

Another think to keep in mind is that Glory is earned by doing whatever you need to do to win a game. If you capture a point, you gain Glory; if you kill an enemy, you gain Glory. You can still lose a battle, but if you hold a point and kill some enemies, you still end with your Glory. Obviously, if you do shit and kill just one enemy, but your team wins, you will earn very little Glory.

(Not saying that the Glory system is perfect: If I’m a Guardian and I keep two or three enemies busy while my team captures the other bases, I may end up the game with very little Glory, even if I basically took 2-3 enemies out of the game.)

For a game that you may play with complete strangers, it seems like a very good way to keep you playing with people around the same skill level you have.

If ArenaNet went with an Elo rating for that, how would that work? Would they compare your Elo with everyone in the opposite team Elo? What if there is this guy in the upper limit for the matchmaking who just sits in the opposite side of the map controlling (very skillfully) a point, while you do the same in your corner? Can you really say who of you are more skilled? Let’s not lie here, you can’t, as you two never faced each other.

Then, for that, you’ll end up comparing your team skill against the other team skill. But you’re hot-joining and, even if you personal skills are similar, your skill as a team is not. That’s why there is an “Elo hell” in League of Legends: It measures the skill of a team of complete strangers, which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t. And the solution for that to hot-join/group up with people you know, people you already have some synergy and, thus, have a combined skill — which is exactly what ArenaNet doesn’t want: segregation (well, it’s you and your friends, but you get the idea).

So, let me be clear here: The Cumulative Glory matchmaking is a good system — not perfect, but good. If they went with an Elo system, they would have to check every single combat you had with everyone and check those encounters instead of the whole fight — as that would measure the group skill, not the personal skill.

And don’t forget: Yes, ArenaNet wants to make this an e-sport, but that would require a good spectator mode. So it doesn’t make sense going into all loops and hoops to get a “perfect” matchmaking system right now, as part of the whole is missing. Maybe the in the future they can come with the perfect single-player, individual matchmaking system, but this is not the time to go straight into it.

(Besides, I also imagine they want some play to go through while they check if there isn’t any exploits in the game, like a Prolly — a protection paladin wearing healing gear in PvP, which was utterly overpowered by getting spell power based on stamina or, in other words, by getting power by increasing survivability — which they couldn’t foresee in their test.)

A Plea Against Mods/Addons in Guild Wars 2

Today, again, someone asked if Guild Wars 2 will have addons. Honestly, I wish there isn’t.

I’ll take my history with WoW addons as a base for my argument, so there may be disagreements about it if you pick different sets of addons.

There are addons that help improve the game HUD. Honestly, I prefer the cleaner, current HUD: The skill cooldowns are very visible, the health bar is a huge indicator and there is no need to check mana. The only thing that needs improvement are the mesmer mantras, as there is very little difference between an uncharged mantra and a charged one.

And there were the addons to manage mail. This was due the fact that all auction house results went through mail: You sold something, you’d get the money through mail; you lost a bid, you’d get the money back through mail; an auction expired, you’d get the item back… through mail! Guild Wars 2 actually do that all through your bank: You sell, you get outbidded, you win a bid, you get your expired auctions all back to your bank. And, if you really need the gold/item straight away, you can teleport to the city and then back (or use one of the mobile banks).

And there were the addons to improve chat. Honestly, their functionalities were slowly merged back to the official chat — and that’s a good thing. Surely, Guild Wars 1 could use a good addon to help improve some colors, but one can live with the way things work right now.

And then there was… Recount. Oh yeah, the loved bane of that game. Sure, everyone says “I want to improve my rotation” but really, what 99% of everyone who use it, use it only to have some satisfaction with their own e-peen. I load it because it doesn’t check the situation: Your DPS was low? Did it check that you had to move out of reach ’cause the tank didn’t move the boss to the proper place? Does Recount show that? Does you HPS was low? Does your Recount shows that your team was organized enough to stay out of fire and use their damage reducing abilities? Does Recount show that?

There are too many variables for Recount to be useful. There are too many situation for Recount to give a good answer for anything. And now you have a game with no defined roles. You could be “tanking” at some point and then go healing. And how would an addon manage all that?

Anecdote time (you guys know I love those, right?): Late in the middle part of Wrath of the Lich King (in the Trial of the Crusader), I decided to roll another alt — if my memory doesn’t fail, that’s when I decided to roll my shaman in the alliance, to see “Battle for Undercity” from the other side. Being a tank, I had almost instant queue. At some point, I joined a group for Halls of Lightning. After the Volkhan, the healer posted the Recount stats, showing that I was second in DPS. Before any of the two DPS could say anything, I replied “I saw that” (I was constantly the second DPS since the very start of the run, but those two DPSes were not far and the top DPS was waaay ahead of me) “but I really don’t care.” My motives? I did want the heirloom, but if I could help some guy who just rolled another alt or was trying to gear up his first character, even better. So the healer didn’t want to prove his e-peen, he was trying to shorten other people’s e-peen — which is way more douchy.

And this kind of attitude needs to die. Not only a Recount-like addon would be a stupid thing in Guild Wars 2, it would have the power to undermine the community by giving assholes tools to piss on everyone else.

So you have most functionatlities merged in the game already and some addons that doesn’t deserve to be in the game. There is no reason, at this point, to have an addon/mod system.

PS: Sorry about the double-post: I actually wanted to save as draft and pressed the “publish” button half-way through the text. Freaking out, I deleted the first and added a new post instead — which was just as stupid as pressing the wrong button.

Commanders or Sargents?

ArenaNet’s latest post talks about squads and commanders in WvW. I think I have a small problem with the discussed implementation. And the whole thing goes around the fact that the squad chat is uni-directional: From commander to squad.

I understand the rationale behind it: Since the squad is open to anyone who wants to invite themselves, it prevents some annoying guy joining the group just to spam “Leeeeeroy Jeeeeenkiiinns” over and over again, preventing the squad on doing their real job — winning the battle.

On the other hand, this cuts helpful communication. For example, if me, as a commander, want to check how our supplies lines are while the larger part of the group holds the line defending or attacking a post, I’d ask if someone could do that. Or, even better, ask someone to return to base and get more supplies so the squad can finish building the trebuchet to destroy the door of an enemy base. In any case, I’d be too busy checking the current situation to pick someone specific and tell them to do so (and, by my own personality, I’d hate saying what someone should do instead of having fun in the game). If I, the commander, ask to someone could do that, I’d probably receive a couple of whisper, which then I’d have to manage personally one by one, taking away my focus from the battle.

And then there is the other way around: I’m a member of a squad of some commander. I want to warn him that a group of enemies is about to flank us from the left. I’d whisper him telling him about it, he would have to read it and then re-tell that to the group. Surely, when every single step is done, he enemy group would be over us already, without time for those in the left side to be ready. Even worst, it would require me to find who the commander is to whisper him (as you can join someone’s squad by simply selecting anyone in it).

Someone on Reddit mentioned that my vision was about a larger group and that the squad version was aimed for smaller groups, one where the commander issues direct orders like “let’s take that supply camp” or “let’s build a trebuchet”. In that case, you’re not really a commander — someone who oversees the battlefield and organizes the troops; you’re a sergeant, someone who leads a platoon to a single task (well, obviously, without the higher command doing the job of organizing the troops on the battlefield).

Yeah, my problem with the way ArenaNet organizes WvW is a single word.

Of Sizes, Hit-boxes and Somersaults

Again, from Reddit, someone pointing that Asuras had an advantage on WvW due their size, like gnomes in World of Warcraft.

There are two points on this: A technical point and a psychological point.

First, the technical (’cause it’s the easiest one): What we are talking here is called “hit-box”. That’s the box around your character that, when a projectile/swing crosses it, the game identifies as a hit — and also the opposite: if it goes outside this box, it’s a miss. Game developers do this to reduce the calculations, so they don’t need to check all the corners and different pieces that make your character: It hits the box around the character, then they will take damage. Pure and simple.

In this aspect, ArenaNet said that all races hit-boxes are standardized. This means that a Charr will have the same hit-box as an Asura. This means that, when playing with your Charr, you may notice that some projectiles will cross your character and you’ll take no damage; on the other hand, when playing with your Asura, a projectile may pass close to you, you may see it not hitting you but you’ll still get damage (surely, I’m assuming that Charr model is a bit larger than the default hit-box and the Asura model is smaller than the hit-box).

So, in the technical side, you don’t need to worry about sizes when creating a character: Picking one doesn’t mean you’ll be harder or easier to be hit.

Then we have the psychological point, using the gnome example: Gnomes and Asuras are smaller than the other races and people may not see them as a threat — or even ignore them due their size. As an ex-WoW player, I must say that gnomes were my first target, because I thought they would keep doing that annoying noises all the time, so I didn’t agree with the guy original point, but one can see where he was going.

In this point, I’d agree with him, if it wasn’t for the Asura habit of jump, somersaulting and doing all those flourish movements. Those get attention and make the Asura visible to other characters. Thus, if you think it would be easier to go unnoticed as an Asura, you have to keep in mind that when you’re attacking and moving, you make yourself pretty visible.

(And in the gnome example, everything you do makes you a damn squeaking toy and some has to stop that squeaking machine!)

So pick whatever race you want. You won’t have any disadvantages or advantages compared to everyone else.

When Breaking NDAs Actually Helps

(This is a very harsh look at ArenaNet. Also, there a wild abuse of the word “and” and italics. Beware.)

I was about to post the leaked items in the Guild Wars 2 Gem Shop, even compiling a list with all the items, costs and descriptions available (but alas, a lot of people beat me to it), but then I read Rubi opinion about leaks in general and started having second thoughts.

I understand her position, but I can’t really agree with her in this situation.

Two days ago we had the post from Mike O’Brien about the Gem/Cash Shop, but there was a really big missing piece in the puzzle: What can you actually get with those gems?

The result was quite clear in /r/guildars2 (and apparently in Guild Wars 2 Guru Forums, but I just read one thread): Rage. Pure and simple. People claiming it would ruin the game; people coming with the “Pay2Win” argument; people bringing that change in the wiki about the shop; people missing the big picture… In a way, sadly, O’Brien post was damaging ArenaNet image due the lack of information. You could see that by the community reaction. I could even say that you could almost touch it.

And then, this morning, the leaked images of items in the Gem Shop appeared. And, again, you could see how /r/guildwars2 changed. Again, you could almost touch it. Everybody was (and still is) backing up ArenaNet and the Gem Shop!

Thing is, what you could get with real life money was the main part of what O’Brien post had to say. And it didn’t. And that lead to wild speculation. And speculation in itself is bad, but you can’t simply hope the it would go away without giving information. The leak stopped speculation and it restored people’s view of the company. The leak was, ultimately, good.

And now the part that will make ArenaNet refuse my credit card: Rubi post shows a severe lack of view of her own job (even if it is her personal account and doesn’t reflect ArenaNet and probably not her own professional views). She’s part of the community team. She, and the whole community team, should see that the community was up to arms against the company and itself. While people (like me) tried to show that there was nothing to worry[1], there were a lot more coming with claims that were damaging the game and the company and we had nothing to stop this. The guy who leaked the images did better community support than the community team. Trying to ignore what was going on and think “They will forget it once is launched” doesn’t help. At all.

I know, I know. I’m being hard on all of them because of a personal opinion of a single member. I had my fair share of “bad timed opinion” already and I know that happens. But there is a time that you have to see that, shake it off, apologize and laugh at it — the same way they laughed and made us laugh when the Mesmer was leaked as last profession (oh Ministrel, you so funny!) Make Colin, with his large smile, post an article about the rationale of the current items and some wacky, not-there-anymore items that didn’t make to the final shop. Say “Oh you guys. Next time, we’ll need a better safe to keep this things out of your reach ;)”. Or “Guys, that was our next post! You made baby Colin cry!”. Make fun of the leak. Embrace the leak.

In any case, I’m not posting the list. I didn’t save the file I used to compile and order the list and the draft is already deleted. But damn, Rubi opinion disgusts me. It could be fine in other instances, but not this time.

[1] Oh yeah, I’m claiming I’m white-knighting ArenaNet. Go make fun of me. It doesn’t mean I’m not waiting for GW2 with reserved optimism and I’m ready to see it, sadly, crash and burn — even if I don’t believe hat such thing will happen.

PS: I just checked the GW2Guru Forums, specifically the thread with the leaked images, and, compared with the thread discussing the announcement of the crash shop, it’s a damn civilized conversation.

Excellent Trait Clarification from TeamLegacy

As some of you may remember, I had a small aneurism trying to figure out were to focus when choosing traits. Well, TeamLegacy posted one article on how the traits differ between professions, which pretty much gives (at least, to me) a good light on understanding them.

For the sake of completeness, I’m posting their findings here, although you can read all their conclusions on the link above:

Let me get into into:

The broke down each trait attribute into 5 different types: Support, Conditions, Offense, Defense and Profession specific.

The first thing you’ll notice (which is damn obvious and maybe I should phrase it as “the first thing I noticed) is that every profession have trait attributes for everything equally. This means you don’t have a more offensive profession or a more supportive profession.

Second, and the interesting point, is that this helps you pick trait attributes based on your gameplay. For example, if you want a more offensive (red) Guardian, you will have to pick traits in the first and third lines, giving you, at the same time, more support and defense. On the other hand, if you want to improve your warrior special skills, you’ll also get more offense.

They also have some more in-depth look at the way professions differ by comparing their trait lines, which is pretty good analysis and I’ll again suggest to read their post.

For me, that was a big clarification.

The lack of “big picture” view on Guild Wars 2 Microtransactions

Today, Mike O’Brien made a post about microtransactions on Guild Wars 2. Most of the things he mentioned I could already see when I was checking game screenshots a few months ago, but anyway, they will be selling a special token called “gem”. Gems work a bit like “Atari Tokens” in Star Trek Online (and, obviously, other Atari games): They are a currency for services, like extended storage, reskins an such. But they also work a bit like PLEX in EVE Online (which was the part I didn’t thought before): You can actually put gems in the Marketplace and get gold back (or farm gold and buy gems back).

This means that, after playing for a long time, taking a rest and then coming back and seeing all your friends in a different server, you can use your in-game gold to buy gems and (probably, I’m going into wild speculation here), buy your world transfer (again, wild speculation but one can see this working, right?).

But it seems at lot of people are losing track of the big picture view. The first sign were the Reddit comments. I mean, there isn’t anything absurd in that — at least for me, since that’s my turf — but some people started claiming “Pay2Win” again. And then someone mentioned the Guild Wars 2 Guru forums. And, again, a lot of stupid things like “Pay2Win”.

So, first, people claimed XP gain potions (although there is no mention anywhere such thing will be available). “That’s a Pay2Win, as you’ll level faster”. Then what? You level faster, you skipped a lot of content, you joined the WvWvW and went face to face, as a level 50, against a level 30. But there is a lot more playing here: Skills. And you can’t buy skills, you need to complete the challenges scattered across the world, which you probably skipped a few since you were cruising the game with your extra XP gain. But that level 30, which completed all the skill challenges and have a lot more game experience (like, real experience, not XP experience) is going to be a lot more prepared for combat than you. And you’ll lose.

Second, people claimed you can buy gear. Again, not really true. You can buy crafted gear or buy the materials to level your crafting skills and make it yourself, but most vendors will require “karma”, the token you get for completing dynamic events and you’ll have none. Well, you got the slightly looking boring gear that are fit for your level, big deal. It will be bumped to level 80 gear in WvWvW and you’ll get a standardized gear when doing battlegrounds. Big deal.

And the good looking gear is nowhere available to you. I have an eye in the Ghastly weapons but guess what: It requires Ascalon Cataboms tokens, which you can only get from completing the dungeon! So even if you buy 2 billion gems and sell all them and get fucking rich, you still won’t be able to get one of those.

Third, and most absurd, in the GW2Guru forums, people claimed you could get a lot of gold and buy hundreds of golem plans and trebuchets plans and all the other siege weapons and then give to everyone and easy win. Except you can’t build anything without supplies, which still require you to go there and capture a base before being able to build anything. And it takes time to buy. And can be destroyed before it gets completed. And the plans are not even that expensive to start.

And, most importantly, people are simply forgetting that things lose value the more they are available. When Ectos in Guild Wars were rare, you would need 100 platinum to buy a single ecto. Most player-to-player transactions would deal with “ectos” instead of “k” (platinum) ’cause they were easier to carry. Today, when everyone managed to understand their class and how to farm ectors, you can buy ectos for less than 10k. When the “breast cancer awareness week” showed up and ArenaNet introduced the Pink Dye, you could easily sell it for 20k to the dye vendor. Today, it’s around 600g (gold, not platinum), because everybody got it. If Guild Wars 2 see a huge influx of gems in the market, its price will surely drop to the point where it won’t be worth anymore. And it will fall (if it gets to the worthless point, I pretty much doubt) ’cause, as Hunters Insight reminded, all the marketplaces are linked. So it doesn’t matter if you’re the only guy in your server with money to buy gems, people buying gems in other servers will make the price of your gems go down.

Big picture, people: Do not lose track of it.