Make your Google background awesome

googlewarrior

Anyone checked out Google yet today? They’ve gone all bing on us, with eye-bleedingly bright backgrounds.

But it is possible to swap in something altogether better, like the Guild Wars 2 Warrior wallpaper shown above.

googlechange

This is a screenshot of the google homepage, showing the ‘”change background image” option on the lower left of the page.

If you select this you will be given the choice to pick your google background from a selection of pre-approved images, or you can pick something that is on your computer (as long as it is at least 800×600 in size).

Once you have done that, the background will switch over, and the tag on the bottom left will change to show, “remove background image” for whenever you get sick of it.

Or until Google gets sick of messing around with backgrounds and goes back to plain white.

Yes but what about the Guild Wars 2 Warrior?

The GW2 team has been releasing pockets of information lately and this week’s info concerned the warrior class. I don’t have a huge amount to say about either the game or the class yet. Except that the warrior will make every plate wearing, weapon swinging, warrior at heart happy.

Abilities that change depending on what weapon you are carrying, battle shouts, plate armour, shields, everything is in there.

Guild Wars has always had a good reputation for artwork, and the GW2 art certainly doesn’t disappoint. Check out the other backgrounds if you don’t like the warrior one (this one is a female warrior in plate btw, she has a waist.)

SWTOR, GW2: A game trailer is not a film trailer

You know that you have seen a really good piece of game hype when your reaction is not, “Ooo, pretty,” “I want to see more of that,” “great music, I’ll be humming that all night,” or even “I wonder how they’ll balance that?” but instead, “I want to PLAY that!”

It’s a very visceral reaction. It can be illogical. It can be unexpected. But to me that’s how a game trailer should be different from any other kind of trailer. Sure, interest me in the world, the background, the story, and the mechanics. But if I don’t end up thinking, “Yeah! I want to play that!” then it hasn’t hit the spot.

Bioware released a new trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic last week to show off some of the combat moves in the game. I think it’s a fascinating trailer to watch because the graphics are not exceptional. There’s nothing unexpected in there and no real indication of how the game will play. Very likely it’ll be a minor adaptation of current MMO mechanics. You’ll press buttons and use cooldowns. Even the fights they they showed were fairly predictable: jedi with a lightsaber, some cool acrobatics, dual wielding, a cool bit with a big gun, someone casting lightning bolts like the emperor in return of the jedi, some flashy tech gadgets and yet … when that trailer came to an end I thought “Hell yeah! That looked fun! I want to play that.”

The current MMO player is exactly who they are trying to attract with this trailer. They’re showing that their game will offer your favourite current combat type. You like dual wielding? How about dual wielding lightsabers? You like ranged? How about a massive gun? Whatever you like right now do not fret because the SWTOR team thought of YOU.

The only curious exception so far is the lack of any pet class. I wonder if a more active use of NPC sidekicks will just mean that everyone effectively has pets.

The Guild Wars Manifesto

We are still mid-election rush over here, so it’s certainly the right season for a manifesto. Arena.net have opened the floodgates on the Guild Wars 2 information with a new blog and a new design manifesto.

This is another document that is aimed at current MMO players. Read it with the thought, “like your current MMO but better” in the back of your mind and you will get the full hype effect.

Main points:

  • It’s an enormous, persistent, living, social world
  • You fill out a biography at character creation time that defines your background and your place within the world.
  • GW2 tells story by allowing the player < to >adventure with key characters, by presenting him with moral dilemmas <…> and by having him live through world-changing events
  • With GW2 <…> you can just naturally play with all the people around you
  • When someone kills a monster, not just that player’s party but everyone who was seriously involved in the fight gets 100% of the XP and loot for the kill.
  • worlds can compete against each other, through the mists that separate them, for scarce resources that benefit an entire world. ((I think this means some kind of server vs server competition))
  • So much of traditional MMO combat is rote and repetitive. <…> we’ve put a huge focus on strengthening our combat, giving the player limitless choices, and providing the thrill and joy of being in combat.

The combat discussion isn’t easy to sum up in bullet points. One of the great strengths of Guild Wars is the combat system. Each character has a large selection of abilities, but must select only 8 before leaving town and going out to adventure. You can freely change which 8 you want any time you are in a town. So players are encouraged to adapt their skills towards each encounter. There is a lot of choice. And this is something arena.net plans to build on for GW2.

There is more on the combat system and skills, if you are curious to delve more deeply into the design.

Again, reading through the documents leaves me keen to actually play the game myself and try it out. I wonder if I am some kind of easy sell with these things … and I’m staying tuned to the GW2 blog to hear more about their plans.

If this talk of Guild Wars mechanics has intrigued you, Steam is having a sale on GW at the moment. You could either get the whole trilogy and start from the beginning, or do what was recommended to me and just grab Nightfall.

Another day, another wallpaper

Yesterday saw two upcoming MMO teams with announcements about classes and races, complete with trailers and fun stuff to download like wallpaper for your PC.

Guild Wars 2 presented a video showing their races. This is fantastically atmospheric stuff with great voice acting (Dragon Age players may recognise Oghren, and fans of The Guild will recognise Felicia Day), and the stunning art direction we’ve come to associate with Guild Wars.

There’s a website also, which is where you can check out what a female Charr looks like and download wallpapers for each race. It certainly did the job of making them all look fun to play, I think I’m torn between the Charr and the viking shapeshifter dudes. I can’t decide also whether people who come from the frozen north should be wearing more clothes — I remember seeing girls walking around in mini-skirts in Newcastle in Midwinter when I lived there, so maybe they just get acclimatised.

The Star Wars team ‘announced’ the Jedi Consular (well, announced in the sense of making official what everyone already knew), a class that looks to be taking silly hats to a new height.

They also offer a wide selection of wallpapers on their site — a couple for each announced class and some pretty landscapes from different planets as well. Although their style is not as high art as Guild Wars, the Star Wars team make up for it with some amazing flash animations of the different classes in action on their class pages – the Jedi Knight is a particular favourite.

So, game themed wallpapers, do you like them or hate them? I am one of the people who rushes to download these things when I find them, and I love having cool game related art on my PC.

But despite the artier Guild Wars pictures, it’s the smuggler who sits in pride of place on my wallpaper at the moment. I admit this is mostly because I find it easier to locate my icons on a dark background.

What we might be playing after WoW

Larisa posts about the heart and soul of branding and the kind of work the WoW guys are doing to keep an old brand alive  (I never actually thought marketing people cared about anything but now I’m going to feel bad about every time I’ve passed up an aging brand in favour of something new).

I did momentarily feel a pang of sympathy, but I do struggle to see WoW as any kind of underdog in any sense at all. But for all that, I think future studies will centre on the amazing job that Blizzard have done to keep the game new and fresh and appealing. There are so many things to love about Wrath and despite the bum notes (like the whole of patch 3.2) Blizzard do know how to make fun games.

Sadly, my sympathetic side lasted all of about 5 minutes … which was the time it took me to go check out the Guild Wars 2 trailer. SHINY. Armoured bears and giant robots? Sign me up please. And again I stab Blizzard’s  poor marketing peons in the heart  with my shallow, fickle and feckless consumerist ways. (Sorry, Larisa.) If you weren’t excited yet, Ravious@Kill Ten Rats discusses some of the ways in which the Guild Wars 2 team plan to change questing and make it a more dynamic and involving experience. I do wonder why they’re so obsessed with using ships as bridges though, Isembard Kingdom Brunel might have had a word or two to say about that.

Here’s a more expansive Eurogamer article about the game and what lies in store for players.

And if that wasn’t enough, I then spotted the Final Fantasy XIV trailer. FFXIVcore.com snagged an interview with Square Enix at Gamescom this week to talk to them some more about their plans. Nothing really revolutionary here (other than running on a PS3) but they’re clear on their target market. It’s to be a PvE game, subscription based, with plenty of content for both casual and hardcore players that builds on what they learned with FFXI.

So that’s at least two games coming down the pipeline that might appeal to people who enjoy WoW at the moment. The Everquest team have also been dropping hints that they are working on a next generation version of Everquest, plus of course there’s whatever secret MMO project Blizzard are working on.

I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so upbeat about what the future holds for MMOs. And this is discounting all the free to play games in production, and the non-fantasy games, and the FPS or fighter type MMOs.

As far as other games go, Hudson has a collection of  gameplay trailers and videos debuted at Gamescom this week and it reads like a list of ‘Games Spinks might want to play’ so I’m hyped. (and not a single WW2 shooter among them.) How about you?