Guild Wars 2 Interview and Editorials

We're less than a week away from the release of the highly anticipated Guild Wars 2, which promises to offer quite a different experience from most of the MMOs available on the market right now, so it's not particularly surprisingly that more coverage on the title has been surfacing as of lately.

First, PC Gamer has an interview with lore and continuity designer Ree Soesbee, on story, lore and player choices:
You guys take a pretty definite line they're a hero, they're going to have this particular moral alignment. It's (how are you going to achieve this heroic thing) rather than (are you an asshole). Is that degree of extra freedom superfluous in other games?

No it depends on the kind of game you're playing. We've said from the beginning that Guild Wars 2 is a game about heroes. If you're playing a game about villains there should totally be choices to be a villain. What we wanted to do was tell a story that ends hopefully in the defeat of the dragons, and the choices of bad guy who would do that fall into anti-hero. So that was as far as we were willing to go.

We let our world be the sandbox. You can go into the world and choose not to help the villagers and let the centaurs just destroy the village. You can do a lot more of that in the external world. We give you 50% diversity in the story. If you want want 100%, the other fifty is going to be out in the world because we have to keep to a story and a direction.

In terms of the way people behave, in Guild Wars 2 there's no codified way of saying (I let this mugging happen plus two asshole points.) Do you find that you just don't need to do that?

We get a little of that because some of the conversations have choices where you can choose to be ferocious and you literally get asshole points and the next guy might be scared of you. But I would rather have a game that says (we're going to give you 50% of the options that you would have in real life, and we're going to make those 50% of the options make a difference) than have a game that says (I'm going to give you 100% options, but it's really not going to matter that much because the story has to be this way.) I feel like we have said up front that this is the line, instead of pretending that there's a larger line that we didn't live up to.

Is it the case then that the more people you hold people to that 50%, the more they can express themselves?

The more we can remind them of what they picked. We let human player characters pick their social class and we're trying to put in options where they'll treat you differently or you'll get a different result depending on what your social class is. You said (I like a guy that's a member of the gentry) and so we're treating you like a member of the gentry. So you like your guy, because you picked it: that's your investment in that character.

Meanwhile, the folks at GameSpy express their doubts on the title, which I suppose is just fair considering how much we've heard about Guild Wars 2 sparking an MMO revolution:
3. Will the Lack of a Trinity Actually Work?

The "trinity" of tanks, healers, and damage dealers (or "DPS" to the in-crowd) has been a staple of the MMORPG genre from the beginning, especially as regards PvE combat. Tanks soak up the damage and keep the enemy's attention, healers heal the tanks and occasionally the DPS, and the DPS bring the pain. It's a comfortable system, but it's also limiting since you're stuck with a certain set of gear and you're comparatively powerless once a key member of the trinity dies.

Ditching it, as Guild Wars 2 does, thus sounds good, but I find myself wondering how well it works in practice. When I visited ArenaNet a couple of months ago, I had a chance to sit down with some of the developers and play through the Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon that most players will get to encounter at level 30. The dungeon itself was a memorable experience, full of surprise experiences that demonstrated that Guild Wars 2's dynamic events even extend to the dungeons on occasion. The problem is that we were dying. A lot. We were all having fun, sure, but I realized I was with a group of people who'd played this game almost every single day for years now, and yet we could barely make it to the first boss without suffering several wipes. Eventually I (playing an Engineer at the time) just started healing everyone as best as I could, thus settling back into something resembling the traditional trinity setup.

If that's what Guild Wars 2's dungeons look like with the people who made them playing, then I tremble to imagine what dungeon runs will be like with the usual ragtag group of random players -- especially if they're not communicating. With the traditional trinity, two of three good players in a group of five can often carry the bad apples in a game like Rift; in its absence, dungeon runs become chaotic, random affairs that I'm sure will erupt into name-calling, group-ditching, and all the other infamous downsides to MMO gaming once Guild Wars 2 gains momentum. And since that's the only real structured activity for PvE players to participate in aside from world bosses, ArenaNet might lose a lot of players who want something to do besides the PvP options. (I find them entertaining, but not everyone will.) And in my experience, that's going to be a very high number indeed.

Speaking of which, we conclude with a piece from PC Games N that explains the 8 reasons the MMO is allegedly going to be the best in the genre for this year:
2. Fair and Social:

PvP in an MMO is an odd thing. On the one hand you've got player skill, the ability to put themselves in the right place and the right time, and know exactly what to do and how to do it, to secure the win. On the other, you've got their items, their levels, their skill build and their stats.

It would be easy to say that those stats give an unfair advantage, and ruin the balance of a fight because if you do X damage and your opponent does Y, the amount that's higher is going to win out. The only thing is a lot of that is all part of the skill of the game; putting together a build that's more competent than your opponent should be a factor in who wins the fight.

Putting a tonne of time, time that your opponent might not have, into grinding for PvP gear, however, should not. Just because one player works long hours and can't spend all day grinding doesn't mean they should be disadvantaged for PvP. Which is why it's such a pleasant surprise that Guild Wars 2 normalises everyone in PvP so that you're not only all the same effective level (80), but your gear is also artificially bumped up to make you competitive.

These factors will still play a hefty role, but now at least you don't have to blame your defeat on a level disparity, or the fact that you haven't had time to get the Boartusk Helmet of the Fungus People that gives you 20% more damage. This isn't just for WvWvW, either, but also the more instanced PvP.

In fact, it's not just for PvP at all.

The other problem with MMOs is that people have different schedules. Not only do some people have more time than others, but they also play at different times. So even though you start the game with a friend, you're going to end up being a different level to them fairly quickly. Which, in most MMOs, mean that you're not going to be able to play with them nearly as much.

Head back to a lower level area in Guild Wars 2 and your level drops down appropriately to the area. You still do a bit more damage, but the mobs are still a challenge, and more importantly the quests give you loot that is appropriate to your level. ArenaNet have effectively made an MMO with a horizontal level curve. Which is a little insane, and a little brilliant.

There's even sidekicking so that you can bring a lower level player up into a high level area, and they can still have fun. There's no barrier for entry, anywhere in this game. That's brilliant.