[GW2] This thing you never saw is similar to this other thing you never saw

Guild Wars 2 ran a press beta weekend last week, where press is defined as a mix of fansites and paid press. We’re seeing posts about people’s first reactions now, which are (unsurprisingly, since a large proportion of the players were from fansites) very positive.

Initial impressions from betas of long awaited games are often highly positive. People are so happy the game exists at all that they focus on the strengths of the game rather than the weaknesses, and beta players are generally more upbeat and co-operative than players in live games. Sad but true.

In this case, a lot of the interest is in the GW2 world vs world PvP setup. I find this intriguing because I like the idea of fighting other servers. And also because I have played DaoC in the past and remember what the frontier zones were like. Think huge expansive zones with objectives to hold but where you could also set up ambushes, get eaten by monsters, or go gank unsuspecting players from the other faction (note: there’s a limit to how unsuspecting they would be since no one ever HAD to go into the frontier zones.)

I see some of this enthusiasm from Keen, who is clearly imagining the GW2 WvW as being like those frontiers. (Note: what he really wants, clearly, is DaoC frontiers again.)

ArenaNet is giving me everything I want in PvP.  I don’t even care about their PvE game anymore.

Syncaine is imagining huge PvP-oriented guilds might take over some of the servers and use these mechanics to fight each other when they’re bored of playing EVE (or whichever other game they’re in).

I have no idea if any of those things will happen but clearly it has sparked gamer’s imaginations, and encouraged them to start comparing the GW2 setup with games they have played in the past. In Keen’s case that’s the DaoC frontier zones and in Syncaine’s it’s the 0.0 space in EVE. I’ve also seen people compare with the WAR open PvP zones, but they’re less enthusiastic. This is because DaoC and EVE had better PvP setups than WAR so the players who have seen this kind of open zone with objectives work really well in the past are likely to be more positive about it in the future. I just emphasise this to show how our experiences in the past with games affect how we feel about seeing features repeated in future games.

What I’m mostly relieved about is that apparently RP servers will be in the same clusters which means it’ll be possible to not have to PvP against the big old school PvP guilds who want to take over entire servers if you don’t want to.

My feel for GW2 from the demo I played last year is that it’s still a very themepark type of game, albeit with a heavy emphasis on dynamic events and an unusual class setup. So the best thing to expect would be another evolution on themepark MMO design, rather than something completely different.

Here is some more feedback from the weekend:

Ravious, who has been tooting the horn for Arenanet since forever, loved the game and offers to answer people’s questions in comments.

Massively has a couple of beta impressions.

Mike Fahey at Kotaku describes how he spent an hour trying to fall into a hole and die. I’m sure we’ve all been there (or am I the only one who always tries to jump off high things and die in new games?) It’s a good roundup.

For me, while I’m still keen to go play with snow leopard cubs with Arb, I cannot get excited about WvW because I’ve been there before, done that before. On the other hand, the class and group design sounds like a lot of fun. It sounds as though they have some interesting plans for guilds, also.

Another thing to note is that several players have commented on how large the world is, but no one has said anything about mounts.

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Gaming News: What’s hot at E3, APB and the embargo of doom, WAR drops producer, Microsoft still has no sense of humour shock

Mourn with me now for the ongoing death-by-boredom of English football, coming to a TV near you on Wednesday night.

And in other news, another E3 industry convention has come and gone. So what did 2010 have to show? I’ve covered much of the MMO news here with a special SWTOR post here.

The two biggest stories of the convention, to my mind, are hardware related.

  • Sony and Nintendo are betting that we’d all like to see our gaming in 3D – the PS3 will get a compatibility patch for 3DTVs and Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld (no glasses required) will offer a 3D experience. In fact, if I had to pick one single news story from E3, it would be that everyone who tried the new 3DS said – in shock – it just works. And it will also apparently be able to show films in 3D.
  • Sony and Microsoft also showed off their respective motion controller technology. The Sony Move looks like a stick with a ball on the end, and Microsoft’s Kinect (the renamed Natal technology) doesn’t require the player to hold a physical controller at all, it picks up your actions as you move around. But somehow, despite giving a new XBOX to everyone at their presentation, Microsoft doesn’t seem to have captured the journalists’ attention.

Jon Shute blogs at VanHemlock about the various new hardware on offer, and concludes that neither of the two motion controllers seem to be aimed at the hardcore gamer.

The big three E3 presentations

Each of the big console manufacturers traditionally gives a big presentation at E3. The aim is to build up some excitement about their hardware, future plans, and what’s in store for their customers over the next year.

This year, I think Nintendo did the best job of capturing people’s imaginations. The 3DS wowed everyone who tried it. Their software lineup includes new outings for a lot of old favourite franchises (well, if you are a nintendo head anyway) including Zelda, Goldeneye, Kirby, Metroid, and Donkey Kong (yes really). There’s a strong lineup of software on offer for both of their consoles and as an avowed DS fan, I can’t wait to get my hand on a 3DS. I also look forwards to more DS RPGs and puzzlers. All very crowd pleasing stuff.

What Nintendo do extremely well is put the message across that their portfolio offers something for everyone. I’d be surprised if anyone saw that presentation and didn’t find at least one game or genre that caught their interest.

By comparison, Microsoft just can’t seem to get it right. Even when they have technology as potentially exciting as the Kinect, they somehow … miss the mark. Instead of a coherent ‘we offer something for everyone’ message, they just give the impression that they’re incoherent and confused. On the one hand, they’re chasing the 18-30 male gamer with a slew of shooters and a deal with ESPN to show premium sports on Xbox live. To hammer the point home, EA introduced a new Xbox loyalty program called ‘the Gun Club’ – I guess they won’t be including any family type games with that then.  … And then there’s Kinect with some dancing games which M/soft is trying to portray as the Xbox’s great white hope. It does not compute.

Then there’s Sony who are trying to sell people on the future of 3DTV – a rather expensive future given the current recession for sure. Their presentation leaned heavily on third party games, but what a great lineup. Sorcery – a magical combat game based on using the Move controller – sounds amazing, exactly what you’d want of a Harry Potter knockoff.

They also put one over on Microsoft by actually announcing prices for the Move. And also, whilst confirming that the PSN (online aspect of the PS3) will remain free, they plan to offer a premium service which will include extra downloadable content. I think we’ll need to see what’s on offer before people decide whether to go for this or not. The other big news from the Sony presentation is that Portal 2 will be available for the PS3, along with steamworks.

Some of the other games that caught my attention at E3 were Tron, Bulletstorm, Portal 2, the obligatory SWTOR and a whole slew of games for the DS.

No reviews for APB until a week after release?

All Points Bulletin, the GTA-alike PvP based MMO is rumbling towards release at the moment. And the developers decided that now would be a good time to demand that reviewers not release any reviews until a week after the release date. RPS state in this link that response to the beta has not been positive – I’m not so sure. Plenty of rpg.net players seemed to like it well enough.

In reponse to press complaints, Realtime Worlds produced another press release and moved the embargo forwards.

Whilst I understand that MMOs take time to review, the answer is glaringly obvious and is just to read impressions from several different sources – blogs, bboards, professional sites. A MASSIVE multiplayer game needs to be seen from a massive number of views, and most casual blogs also treat foolish press embargoes with the disdain that they deserve. Trying to get a blogger to not tell their mates what they think of their latest purchase is a fool’s game.

Drescher leaves WAR

I had hoped that WAR might be settling on an even keel but in news this week, Josh Drescher (the producer) got the boot. I wish him luck in future – I still do have a soft spot for that game, but it cannot be a good sign.

No more red ring of death

I cringe for Microsoft, I really do. There will not be a red ring of death (the nickname for the indication that hardware has failed) on future XBOXs because …. they’ve removed the red LED.

That’s a classic marketing solution to an engineering problem, by the way.