Sunday, 25 March 2012

[GW2] Expectations of Observations

One of my absolute favourite features of Guild Wars has always been the observer feature. Allowing you to look in on the top Guild v Guild and Heroes' Ascent matches (and hero battles, when it still existed :(), it was a great way to pick up tips for those just starting PvP, and, of course, it was a great way to wile away the many lonely hours of a student trying to avoid that final essay ("I can't finish my dissertation now, the Monthly GvG final is on!")

We haven't really had any word of what format the feature might take, if it even makes it into the new game (word seems a bit blurry on the subject - they want it in there, but it might not be in at release). Eric Flannum, in an interview with GW2Guru a while back, said:

Eric Flannum: It’s definitely a goal of ours to make PvP in Guild Wars 2 as spectator friendly as possible. We haven’t worked out all the details yet but you should see something comparable to observer mode at some point in Guild Wars 2.

"Some point" suggests not straight away, but I think we can probably speculate that it will make its way in eventually (after all, without the ability to spectate I can't imagine the game would be very "spectator friendly").
Anyway! There are some obvious improvements upon the basic GW observer mode which I'm sure ANet will consider. In the original game, you pretty much had the basic package - follow the action, chat with other observers and that's about it. I understand that the limitations of Guild Wars' observer mode was probably mainly due to capacity and practicality - they had more important things to worry about. But if they are interested in making Guild Wars 2 a viable e-sport, then having a top-notch fantastico observer mode would be a great place to start.

The main big improvement would be the ability to rewind, pause, fast forward etc.

The issue with this would be that either you would have to remove the "social" element of it, as it would be very irritating to have some guy pausing the game at the pivotal moment to go and take a wizz. Alternatively, you could assign some kind of "group leader" who had control over these options for the stream. Or you could have a system where when you start fiddling with the playback options the video becomes "your stream" and breaks off from the action, leaving you free to freeze-frame and slo-mo to your hearts delight, and you can choose to rejoin the "group stream" once you've stopped fannying about with the fast forward button.

Add in some extra social options, a list of fellow observers, some kind of notification system for big games, maybe even a player-by-player rating system (ie, "Fuzzy Balls fought really well today, I'll give him a thumbs up! Grognak the Grawl was a complete donkey, his team carried him the entire fight - thumbs down for him!") and we'd have a pretty solid way for me to further avoid work once I start my PhD!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

[GW2] Another 2c - Gem Trading

Here's my two cents. I've read all I can on the subject, absorbed all the knowledge, so here it is:

I 100% understand the effort made by ArenaNet to combat Real Money Trading. By accepting that the only way to combat it would be to reverse the trend and bring the system "in house" ArenaNet have made RMT pretty much defunct - this is only a good thing, and trying as many options as possible to combat this blight on the MMO system is great.

I get that the "system takes gold trading out of the hands of real-money trading (RMT) companies and puts it directly in the hands of players." Great! Brillo! Fill your boots! (bu...)

I also accept it isn't going to "mess with the economy". Every economy will eventually find balance - that is supply and demand. Being able to buy gems won't make real-life rich people gods, and real-life poor people minnows. The system will eventually find its own entropy. (If you're getting my tone already, you can tell there is a "but" coming... wait for it!)

I also do not think this is Buy 2 Win. As has been stated quite explicitly: there are no items in the game which are drastically better than the ones available to the average player at each level. So, you couldn't pop into the game at level 10 with your 1000 gems bought with £100 and sell them all to buy the Sundering Lightsabre of the Elders and pwn-face for ever-more. It simply isn't possible - no matter how many gems you buy. (The "but" is almost here!)

As Mike O'Brien has said:
“… it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time.”
That's true - the advantage isn't unfair, I think that is clear. But it is an advantage.

I believe that being able to take my £10 and buy an armour set which I haven't played the game for is wrong. Regardless of whether the player receiving the gems I've bought has earned the money to buy them from me, even if that armour is an equivalent level to that which I could have achieved by playing the game - I haven't played the game to get it - and as fair and as balanced as the system is, getting the equivalent content for less effort is an advantage. Getting the armour in-game takes skill, time and effort - inputting my credit card details doesn't.

I have absolutely no doubts that the system will work. It will be balanced and fair, it won't crash the economy or destroy the game. But that doesn't make it right.

Another but: I'm not some stoic who won't listen to reason. If I've drastically misunderstood the system then let me know. The fact is I will probably use the gem store anyway, because I am a massive hypocrite.

Monday, 19 March 2012

[GW2] Character Diversity - 10% them, 90% you

Character creation is split up into 3 primary areas.

Firstly, there are the things you can’t change –the constants. I.e.: Charr are always going to have large sharp teeth. Some charr might have smaller teeth than others, but they will always be pretty fang-y. There are tonnes of examples: asura will always be small, norn will always be big, humans will always have 2 legs, 2 arms etc etc etc. This is the base upon which you build your character – fiddle with the sliders all you like – you can’t change them.

Second, we have the in-game character creation and progression: made up of the vanilla character creation tool and the subsequent levelling and advancement methods (traits, weapons, armour, skills and story). This is the first instance of you being able to step into the creation process. Although you’re limited to the options provided by ArenaNet – the sheer number of design choices, sliders, skin/hair colours, dyes, weapons, traits, racial and profession skills and story choices means that it is highly unlikely you will bump into your doppelganger.

ArenaNet have really shined here – they’ve given the community the tools to pretty much build whatever character they like and to give them a background which is compelling and impactful upon the storyline. 10% of character creation will happen here, and that’s where a lot of players will stop – they will be happy to play the game through and enjoy every moment of it.

The final section is where the other 90% comes in – this is the magical fairy dust section. ArenaNet have given us the tools to build a brilliant avatar, give them a compelling backstory and have provided a beautiful world for them to run around in. Thats the 10%.

The 90% is what we make of it – it’s role-playing the bandit on the roads between The Grove and Rata Sum, it’s sitting slumped in the corner of a Hoelbrek tavern singing salty sea shanties and hurling abuse at passing hylek, or it is simply being in the world and meeting other people. Ultimately, character creation doesn’t stop once we’ve made the avatar, neither does it stop once we’ve reached max level or defeated all the dungeons, these are just tools and shells which we place around our own personality. The true character diversity in Guild Wars 2 will not come from the character creation options or the game progression, but from the people who play it.

This post is part of the GuildMag Blog Carnival: Character Diversity

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

[GW2] pre purchased advantage

Posting this because I think the wording is interesting.

"Players who pre-purchase and receive 3-day Headstart Access will have an advantage over players who pre-order and receive 1-day Headstart Access."

Considering all the rhetoric we've had about not "buying an advantage", this wording seems a little poorly thought out. I mean I know it's true, but still!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

[GW2] I'll Buy it but I won't Like it!

Well... that was a bit of a bolt from the blue, wasn’t it? Here we all are, minding our own business when: BLAM - Collector’s Edition information.

Probably one of the remaining “Big 3” when it comes to Guild Wars 2 information (the others being beta date and release date). Of course, there is a lot to get into: physical content, digital content, beta access, early access, and the ever present question of whether it comes with a naked picture of Martin Kerstein? But it is no surprise that the little piece of information which is producing the most amount of controversy is the price.

Now, I’ve tried in the past to stay out of the hubbub which emerges when a tasty nugget such as this hits. It can all get a bit heated, people say things they regret, people say things in response to those things that they regret and so on and so forth. But for once, I might have to throw my voice into the baying crowd.

I will happily pay the price tag for a collector’s edition of a game which I’ve been coveting for so long, and actually, I believe the current EU price tag to be just about on the far reaches of reasonable (to an extent that I wouldn’t ordinarily complain about it if not for the other issue). My issue isn’t in the price itself, but in the vast difference between the US and EU prices: $149.99 for US and £129.99 (just over $200) in the UK. Why the big difference? Even taking into account differing taxation systems, possible shipping costs etc, $50 difference is a pretty epic amount.

I’ve seen a lot of comments such as “that’s just the way it is” and “every game company does this” and I get that. This is nothing new, I’m sure. It just feels a little unfair. I really really don’t want to point the finger at ANet in this argument, because I’m sure the process is far more complicated than the exec sitting in a room and throwing a dart at a board covered in numbers and charging us that. But considering that one of the biggest markets for Guild Wars has always been players in Europe (we all know how well-loved the game, company and franchise is on the continent) this considerable difference in price feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth.

I get why those in the know are saying “that’s the way it is – due to different taxation, tariffs and other financial and exchange rate malarkey” I really do. And the truth is; I’ll buy the damned thing anyway. This is just a little reminder that for all the community-lead, friendly and almost hippy-like vibes which we sometimes get from ANet – they’re a business, and are, as such, subject to the same rules.

What I’m trying to say in this post ISN’T “ANet should change the prices to match!” Neither is it “I’m not going to pay that price!” It’s more “Alright, fine, I’ll buy it... BUT I’LL BE GRUMPY ABOUT IT!”

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

[GW2] IG or OOG? Your Extended Experience

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll probably be vaguely aware that I used to be heavily involved in the Alternative Reality Gaming community. If you haven’t been reading for that long you might have at least noticed some odd comments made by certain readers which seem a little out of place. A while back a user called “A Pound of Flesh” commented:

Which might seem somewhat threatening until I tell you that he is a character played by a writer over at "I'll See You in Hell". He plays a serial killer who, after he stalks a young woman, begins to find himself the target of his own demon – the Slenderman. As a reader/player you follow him through his torment and interact with him through the blog and other mediums.

Now, I’ve chided ARG writers in the past for posting “In Game” on my blog (ie, posting in-character) – I’ve always considered this space to be very much OOG (out of game) meaning that as far as the characters in the game are concerned: this site doesn’t exist, and anything I say on here should not be used in their story. The game world and the world in which my blog (and the unforum) exists are two totally separate universes.

I was thinking about this kind of intrusion in terms of the upcoming Guild Wars 2 Extended project which ANet are working on. At the moment all we know is that it likely extends to a downloadable app.

But what if they took it a bit further? What if you could be contacted by text by an in game character (in the guise of some kind of telepathic link) would you be cool with that? Or would you see it as the game imposing itself onto a world where it wasn’t welcome? You could get a telepathic message from Queen Jennah imploring you to meet her at Ebonhawke to discuss battle plans. Your progression through a quest could require you to find a RFID code somewhere in the real world, scan it with your mobile and somehow send it to the game?

Some companies have used ARG elements in the advertising and promotion of games (notably Ubisoft for Assassin's Creed and Valve for Portal). Geocaching, RFID tags, flash mobs, community forums, blogs, YouTube, facebook, twitter, web-based radio, email, SMS, augmented reality, apps, GPS, online or real world character role-play – all of these are valuable tools to the ARG community, and there is no reason why the video game industry couldn’t start to use them regularly. One of the advantages which GW2 already has is a vibrant and interactive community, and these kinds of puzzles lend themselves to groups which can work well together remotely.

ANet have already experimented with ARG techniques – the “OBEY/DISMANTLE” campaign is an example of this, as is/was the Scribe (for those who remember back that far!); they are both examples of the game world bleeding out into the real world. I can’t imagine ANet introducing stories which are dependent on mechanics like these to progress, but in terms of side-quests and interesting festival events; I would relish the chance to put my exploration-head on in the real world.
I think it would be an interesting experiment - where do you want the game to end, and your world to start?


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