[GW2] Some things are better with other people: personal stories and social exploring


Is it a picture postcard? Nope, it’s a GW2 vista

I feel that I am settling into a comfortable groove with Guild Wars 2. My Mesmer dude is now level 60 and I think this may be the first MMO I’ve played where I don’t feel any pressure at all to reach max level. I’ve played games where I got bored of the game before that point, but not sure I cared so little about what level my character was as this one.

This is because of the way levelling content and endgame are set out in GW2; they can all involve the same types of activity (economy, crafting, wandering/gathering/PvE, instances, WvW, sPvP, alts) and you can easily play with your friends via the down levelling feature, so levels themselves don’t seem so important.

And the comfortable groove I am settling into is a slow paced one in which I’m as likely to spend my time shuttling between trading post and crafting station as wandering the wilds of PvE or (occasionally) PvP. The trick to making money by trading is mostly just to look for frequently traded items where there is a large enough spread between buy and sell orders that you will be able to turn a profit once you have accounted for trading post fees. The general idea is to avoid selling or buying for the price offered unless you are in a rush, are happy with your profit/price, or there’s not much difference between the sell and buy prices. So every time you sell, undercut by a copper or so. Every time you buy, overbid by a copper or so (if you want your order to be filled more quickly). Or more than a copper if you prefer.

I’ve been trading bags and runes. There are no secrets about both of these being good tradegoods – people always want them in multiple amounts. Although it is worth trading cautiously for a few days so that you can watch the price fluctuations and get a feel for them, given that there aren’t (as far as I know) any auction house addons.

But I do find that my stamina for long PvE sessions is waning unless I have friends or guildies online with whom to chat. Maybe I am too social a being, but I don’t find GW2 really grabs me for long immersive play sessions unless I am following a story quest. On the other hand, it’s great for shorter play sessions. What is more surprising (to me) is that although the game is still pretty new, and buzzing, there are practically whole zones which can still be very quiet. I’m not sure if that is a good thing in a game that only really comes to life when there are lots of people around. Braving the Elementalist has noticed the same thing and notes that it also means levelling is slower in those less populated zones.

Certainly although I have enjoyed exploring the snowy peaks of “whatever zone it is pictured above” on my own, it’s nowhere near as exciting as racing around Bloodtide Coast with Arb, or chattering frantically to guildies while being drawn into huge dynamic events in Harathi with tens of other players running around. Parts of GW2 do feel massive, the trading post for example. But others really don’t. It is a puzzle.

Speaking of puzzles, I tried one of the jumping puzzles in Metrica and got about halfway through before deciding to go and do something else after several attempts. I don’t really understand why people hate them, it’s good that MMOs have content for different types of player. Maybe I will go back sometime for another go.

I have also been working through my character’s personal questline. I have a really good tolerance for offbeat storytelling, so although I don’t disagree with some of the criticisms, I still have liked these quest segments quite a lot and they definitely add to my personal enjoyment of the game. Moreover, it feels that  the mechanics of the story quests were designed to fit the story – so maybe Claw Island isn’t well tuned and can feel like a bit of a mess, but it still told a poignant and exciting story for me. I love that Arenanet tried to do this, even in the places where it doesn’t quite work. It makes the story segments way more memorable. I even quite like Trahearne.

My own character is a bit of a void in comparison, and that’s one thing I really miss from SWTOR. The sense that my character had a personality. Actually, after level 10 I miss a sense of my character’s culture as well, and since he’s human that’s fairly basic.


Trahearne is standing behind me in this shot, which is why it looks weird

Last time I touched on GW2, I wondered what people made of the WvW. Well, there are major issues.

kiantremayne is very positive about WvW, aside from the queues.

Not sure what Anet can do to alleviate this easily – just raising the pop caps, even if the servers could take it, would make maps more crowded and zergy – but if WvW remains this popular they’d better start working on something. I don’t begrudge others their fun but let me have some too, damn it!

Syncaine links to feedback from his guild on WvW on the official bboards, which talks about some of the issues they are facing in more detail.

All borderlands are copies of each other?? You guys did a great job in the variety and look of all the pve zones, then when it came to your main draw, the feature most people have been clamoring about for years you simply cut and paste the same zone. We all assumed in beta these were placeholder zones and on release the WvW zones would be three unique areas which is how it obviously should be. If someone is looking for uniformity and repetition they have SPVP. The fix for this would be to actually design 4 unique zones which would play out differently.

I was surprised that the borderlands were direct copies too. I still think the WvW is fun as an activity, particularly for players like me who make it more of a sideline, but it did and does have the potential to be better than it is now. And particularly if people want to play and can’t, that’s something that needs to be sorted out. I don’t know how though.

We are also starting to see some more thoughtful reviews of GW2, after a month in. My main conclusion is that I enjoy the game a lot, and the gameworld itself is beautiful and critters are wonderfully animated. I think I will keep coming back for a long time, in between other  games I am playing, and that it’s a great base for Arenanet to add to in future. In particular I hope they do something with the home zones, and I would be happy to see more personal storyline stuff.

There’s a lot of potential here and I think people who like it and stick with it won’t be disappointed. I’m looking forwards to rampaging around with Arb and my guildies some more, although Pandaland is likely to be a preoccupation in the next few weeks.

[GW2] Keeps, Auctions, Boulders, and reasons to WvW


GW2 vistas are a gift to bloggers looking for pretty screenshots. (This is from Kessex Hills although pretty much everywhere so far seems to have centaurs.)

Bree sums up many of my thoughts about GW2 in a brilliant post which ponders whether the game will prove ‘sticky.’ (Or at least, will it be stickier for her guild than Cataclysm or SWTOR?) I have been playing the game a fair bit and I do enjoy it, I just don’t think I love GW2. It’s not you, GW2, it’s me. I loved WoW and I loved SWTOR and I loved LOTRO but there’s some emotional connection with GW2 that isn’t really there for me. At least not yet. Maybe it’s that although the human lands are expansive, well designed and fun to explore, by the time you enter your third zone of pretty rolling plains with towns under siege by centaurs, they all start to meld into each other. Maybe it’s the wide use of travel portals that make even the connected parts of the world feel a bit disconnected. Maybe I just don’t care enough about my character or the story of their people if there is one beyond fighting off centaurs. I think there is, I just don’t get what it is yet.

The game is undoubtedly fun to play, although I’m not finding combat to be a particular high point, but – ironically in a game where heart quests are literally part of the landscape – for me it lacks heart.

There have definitely been some high points while exploring; the dynamic events do a great job of drawing players together, and some of the heart quests are just unique. I loved the one where you get turned into a pig and hunt for truffles. I’ve spent longer trying to figure out how to get up /that/ mountain or into /that/ underground area in this game than I have for a long time in MMOs. Allowing everyone to harvest every node is another great way to encourage players to explore and putz around with the scenery, and I admire the skill of the designers even while I enjoy clambering around rocks or dodging ghosts to try to find a tomb. It means that moment to moment goals are much more interesting than ‘Next I will complete quest X’.

Me and my Mesmer

I am finding my mesmer (level 38 at the moment) intriguing. I like having lots of clones out, it makes me feel as though I have friends. It is also disconcerting in events with lots of players when I look round and think ‘Hey that guy looks just like my character! Oh wait, it’s my clone.” The basic idea is that you can spawn some clones (which are wimpy) or phantasms (which are better) that may do different things in combat and decide whether to leave them out as mobile DoTs or send them all off to converge on your target and explode. It’s different.

I also like that my dude can dual wield swords and do a bit of damage in melee, it feels stylish and effective. I also feel fairly useful in PvP and am sure the clones are annoying as heck to opponents. They are like very low maintenance temporary pets and if they die you just summon some more.

Other than that, I’m not very excited by GW2 combat so far. It’s fun to be able to get your own combos off or see combos flying around while you are in groups, but even with weapon switching it can feel a bit plodding.

The human storyline was good fun but now I’m a member of the Vigil and … I’m not as interested in the post-30 storyline, maybe because it’s in a different zone and again I’m not entirely sure where it is supposed to be compared with the rest of the world.


I am also deeply impressed by the attention to detail in some of the critter/ animal animations in this game and have spent far too much time just watching them wander around, stretch, attack each other, and so on. The models are also gorgeous. This picture shows three falcons attacking a rat, which was part of a heart quest. Look at the detail on the feathers,  and how they are posed to strike out with their talons. (I am a bird watcher so I appreciate this kind of thing Smile ).


Blink and you’ll miss it – this screenshot shows my server actually taking a keep in WvW !!

There are plenty of reasons to try out WvW:

  • It’s fun (subjective)
  • Just about everything you do (that helps your side) will count as a dynamic event if you’re trying to tick some off for daily or monthly achievements, including defence.
  • There are plenty of objectives, including some that are soloable as well as group or zerg type activities. Obviously this depends on how much resistance you receive from the other teams.
  • Plenty of opportunity for xp. Lots of nodes to mine.
  • Supply lines are important. If you like your PvP a bit more tactical, you will probably enjoy this aspect of the game.
  • You can drive a ballista. Or other siege engines.
  • Free teleport to capital cities. Given that travel is a gold sink in GW2, the free port is handy if you need to get back to a trading post or want to do some crafting. Obviously this won’t be very appealing if your server has long PvP queues but its great if they don’t.

I’ve had fun pitching into PvP when I’m bored with centaurs. The realm v realm/ team style play does encourage players from your side to work together, although they may not always do it effectively. I don’t really get where the mists are supposed to exactly be geographically but given that this is server vs server PvP, it’s probably best not to worry about it.

It’s the economy, stupid

I have seen discussion this week about the GW2 economy: Azuriel thinks it is broken, Ravious thinks it is hugely successful. I see large volumes of trade occurring (the front page of the trading tab shows you some numbers) so trade is happening and we’ll call that a win for the moment. The main trade items are low level raw materials and unidentified dyes – cloth is evidently in low supply compared to other craft materials. There are clear gold sinks in the game via repairs and travel costs as well as pricey cosmetic gear that can be bought with gold at high levels.

While there are reasons to craft in the game — for xp, for fun, to eventually be able to make your own legendary gear, etc. – selling crafted gear to other players isn’t likely to be one of them. There may be crafts where a smart crafter can find a niche in the market, but you will be competing with all the other players across all servers in your region. (The trading post may also be cross-region, I’m not sure.) There is a lot more to be said on crafting and economies in MMOs but GW2 doesn’t look as though it will be a particularly rewarding game for crafting fans. I think I preferred the GW1 approach where you just handed your raw materials to an NPC and got crafted gear back, making crafting into its own /thing/ hasn’t really added a lot. Still, its early days yet.

It will also be interesting to watch the exchange rate of gold to gems (and vice versa) to get a feel for how many people are buying gems to convert into gold. Logically, Anet probably want to have plenty of gold sinks to encourage this but without making the game overtly pay to win or demotivating other players.

I suspect that while Azuriel may be right in principle with his arguments, any view that discounts that the vast majority of players do not read blogs or want to put much thought into playing the economy is unrealistic. It won’t matter to the GW2 economy if a minority of players can make loads of gold from it with some work, there will be many more who can’t be arsed.

Boulders and the single instance runner


We ran a story mode instance yesterday for the first time, huzzah!

I like this screenshot as it shows all the boulders we had been hurling at a boss stacked up in a corner after the boss died. Boulders are good! They knock mobs over. Use the boulders.

I am currently ambivalent about the PvE group content based on this experience. Although it was a story mode instance, only one of the players actually got the story cut scenes, the rewards weren’t really worth the effort, the bosses tactics were fine for an introductory instance, and our tactics tended to involve lots of boulders and death zergs (this is when people keep dying and running back into the fight until the boss dies). I don’t think this was particularly down to our poor play, some of the traps the bosses put down seemed to do a load of upfront damage which didn’t allow for much time to get out of the danger zone.

I enjoyed the actual exploring and trash fights more than the boss fights, and it’s always fun to hang out with the guys and kill things in a group. It would have been nicer to have gotten some rewards from our first instance that we didn’t all sell. I kept the yellow hood (quest reward) for the looks.

Also, for all Anet have attempted to remove the tank/heal/dps trinity in this game, I do hear a lot of people in general chat asking for plate classes to join their instance PUGs.

First seven thoughts on: GW2 beta


This weekend was the first time I’ve had a chance to play the Guild Wars 2 beta. This is still a beta, which means that things can change before launch (and afterwards, obviously), so I’m not going to sweat the details in favour of sharing some broad stroke impressions.

Short summary: Fun was had but I can’t say I felt hooked until I tried WvW with Arb. WvW is really good fun and looks to me like the heart of this game. PvE is fine also but the parts I saw weren’t as compelling. Mechanically, the game is quite fussy, bordering on complexity just for the sake of it. This probably depends a lot on which profession/class you pick. Not so much ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ as ‘easy to learn enough to play the thing and not realise you haven’t grasped your class’s core mechanics.’  While the game can be quite slow and peaceful if you are in a quiet zone or quiet time, if you are in a zone filled with players you may end up with sensory overload from stuff going on all over the place all of the time. The ‘heart’ style of PvE questing where you get some choices about how to make the local questgiver happy was pretty cool and I liked it a lot.

Oh, and I really liked the vistas (will explain below.) I cannot imagine how genuinely new players would stick with the game long enough to learn it though, and even experienced gamers may find things confusing.

Classes I tried were elementalist, warrior, and mesmer. Up to about level 8 on the highest. I will probably go with an Elementalist main, but I did like the Mesmer a lot even if I totally failed to pick up on the skill chains. I didn’t try any crafting.

Anyhow, here are some points:

1. The game world is large and bright, and interesting to explore.

Some zones do feel much more open than others, the Norn starting area is spacious for example. Asuras felt more boxed in. But Arenanet are comfortable with building huge structures for players to explore; the castle in the screenshot at the top for example. They’ve encouraged some exploration via exploring achievements (you get told how much of the zone you have discovered) and vistas, which are points marked with little floating maps that reward the player with a pretty, soaring, cut scene of the surrounding area if you can get to the vista point. Some have minor jumping puzzles associated with them.

We found them fun.

2. Tutorials are hit and miss. Skillbars get replaced a lot with no warning.

Some of the in game tutorials were great. The introduction to the mists (WvW) for example, was really well done. I did wonder why the guy was emphasising the need to carry supplies around, but we figured that one out fairly swiftly after actually getting into some keep take/defense action. The professions though don’t get much explanation at all. Best you can do is mouse over all your available icons, read the tooltips, and give it your best shot.

The game also loves to completely replace your skillbar icons when you pick up some usable item or get into a downed state (near death), typically without giving you any time at all to check what your new skill icons actually do before you have to use them. Cue random button hitting and hoping for the best. If you find this confusing, it is because it is confusing.

I now realise from comments on KTR that the reason I thought some of my abilities had flickering icons was because there was some kind of chain mechanism going on (where you hit the same skill button more than once and the skill that fires off changes). I have no idea how you were supposed to really figure that one out.

I don’t mind complexity as long as I’m not expected to grasp it all instantly, but it’s a good idea for devs to at least throw players a bone or two when it comes to figuring things out. Even if it’s just a link to a player-driven wiki.

3. Dynamic events are fun. Underwater is fun.


This is a bunch of Asura fighting a huge shark underwater – still not entirely sure how you can cast fireballs underwater but hey, magic!

One of the nice things about dynamic events is that you can just roll up and join in, no need to be part of a group or have a gear check, if you’re in the area then you’re in. After the event finishes, then medals are awarded for participation (ie. gold, silver, bronze) and you’ll get some xp, karma points (used to buy stuff from merchants) and in game cash. Since the xp is great compared to most of the other things you’d be doing, it’s pretty much always worth joining in. Also some of the dynamic quests have several stages and fun little stories.

I’m not entirely sure about how much they change the world (until the next time), because like most people, I probably wasn’t sticking around long afterwards unless I was already questing in the area.

Being underwater is similar to flying in that you have 3 dimensions in which to move. I enjoyed it a lot, albeit not really sure how badly I wanted to learn yet another tray of abilities.

4. Weapon switching is an interesting mechanic, but ultimately I preferred GW1 skill design

So, depending a bit on which profession you pick, you will have 5 skills that are determined by the weapon/offhand you are using, and 5 slots that are filled by skills earned using skill points, which are a bit more flexible. (It probably gets more complex than this at higher levels but bear with me, I only saw a few hours of beta.)

On an elementalist, for each weapon you can also unlock four different elemental attunements (ie. 4 whole bars of skills). This feels like a lot of skills to remember. Plus you have to unlock them by killing mobs/players while using that weapon. I had thought that needing to train up weapon skills had gone out of fashion but clearly that’s not the case here. The elementalist is a particular edge case because it’s crazy flexible and has a massive amount of abilities available at any time. I can’t actually think how other professions are balanced against it.

It is definitely interesting, particularly in the early game when you still have a lot of skills to unlock. I suspect later on things settle down and get less confusing as you get used to what is available.

But still, the weapons felt like a hindrance rather than cool themed sets of abilities. So I might have one cool ability to leap into combat and zap people and another that lets me leap backwards and leave a trail of fire … but they’re on different weapons and different elemental attunements so I can’t easily use one followed by the other. This is where I was missing GW1 and its more flexible skill set design.

GW2 (like GW1) is a bit fussy with its buffs and debuffs. There is a fairly complex game around applying and removing various buffs, conditions, and other variously named categories of buff/debuff. There are also combos in the game, which I know because the game told me I completed one during one dynamic event. Since it did not tell me anything more than this, I have no idea how that happened or how to repeat it. It is something to do with how abilities of different professions interact, presumably it’ll a) all be documented on websites somewhere and b) we’ll have more time to figure it out while playing with friends anyway.

5. If you hate miniskirts, avoid the Norn casters.


This was the point where I decided my elementalist would not be a Norn. I don’t care how soon I am able to pick up a longer skirt so I don’t have to see her knickers when she runs, IT ISN’T SOON ENOUGH.

Asura costumes are fine though. The characters generally looked good, and I was sad about the knickers thing because I liked the Norn hairstyles (even though long hair clips horribly). Anet give some good long hairstyles for male characters also. I was also amused that I could create a human male mesmer who looked a bit like Littlefinger.

6. World vs World PvP is really good fun. We were reminded a lot of DaoC (which is good)

In our brief 2hr stint in WvW, Arb and I had a lot of fun. The zones are large, the keeps and castles are large also. There are siege engines. You can tote supplies around and help build siege engines or mend damaged walls/doors (and in fact you probably should.) It can all seem quite complex at first but if in doubt, you can just follow someone who looks as though they know what they are doing, or look for current battles marked on the map. People were quite good about yelling useful instructions (like ‘go to keep X everyone’) on the general chat.

The WvW zones have some vistas and skill challenges, which work the same as PvE zones. I’m not sure if they have dynamic events other than player driven ones.


This is us with a zerg attacking a keep door (I think we are Team Blue in this zone). You can see fire being flung from the trebuchet behind us. The green door is where Team Green (ie. the team who held the keep currently) could slip inside, which is a similar mechanic to WAR and DaoC. The gate’s healthbar is shown in red, when the health is zero the gate breaks open. You can also attack sections of the walls. Defenders can stand on the ramparts and shoot at attackers, stand behind the gate and repair it with supplies, or use their own siege engines.

Basically, if you are involved a keep siege you WILL want a ranged attack otherwise you will be very bored. I think every profession has at least one ranged weapon


Defenders have access to burning oil which they can throw on people attacking the gate also. I probably shouldn’t have been walking so close to the burning oil with a lit torch.


Trebuchets have a pretty long range. I marked the treb with a red circle here, and you can see its been set up well out of reach of the defenders (unless they have a treb of their own) but can still attack the ramparts.

In our game, we ended up with a three way fight inside the big castle – there are three teams involved in every WvW zone, coded red, blue, and green, and players will also have a name label showing which their home server is. It was a bit mad and the lag with a lot of people involved was quite significant.

Arb said immediately, “Lets go upstairs, you always have to go upstairs in keeps. There is probably a keep lord.” And she was absolutely correct. To take a keep, your team kills the keep lord who is an NPC.

7. The Auction House has buy as well as sell orders.

You can buy or sell on the AH from anywhere in the world, but have to actually be in a trading post to pick up things you have bought. This all seemed to work very well. It is possible to set up buy orders, and when someone sells an item, they will see if anyone has buy orders out on it. If so, and you sell for that price, it sells instantly.

I would imagine the buy orders are generally lowball so you’ll probably make more by selling at a higher price and being patient. But this was beta so who cares, really?

I liked the functionality of it. By comparison, the mail is weaker. You can’t mail your own alts, so if you want to give them spare items, you will have to leave those things in your vault (which is shared between alts on that account/server). You can however, send and receive mail from anywhere.