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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More Online Games Need to be Like Guild Wars











I really miss Guild Wars. It was a fine game that, at the time, handled the MMORPG scene in a unique and interesting way. While other mainstream MMOs featured persistent environments with large-scale level grinding, Guild Wars used instanced zones with mission-based gameplay. Guild Wars proved to be a highly rewarding experience that didn't require the same kind of commitment as other MMOs, and blended single-player gameplay with massively-multiplayer gameplay.

I also really miss the feeling of playing an MMO, of being involved with a large community of players experiencing the same content and working together to accomplish common goals. But I don't have the time to commit to grinding hours a day for months at a time just to keep up with the in-game community. Which is why more online games need to be like Guild Wars. So I'm going to take some time to examine what Guild Wars did well and why it'd be nice for more games to be like it. More after the jump.

One of the major things that GW got right was the lack of a grinding component. The level cap was set at 20, and that could be easily obtained within, say, 20 hours of gameplay, roughly 20% of the way through the entire campaign. Among many other advantages, the biggest one is that players don't have to dedicate serious portions of their lives just trying to keep up with the community, because everyone is on an even playing field.

This also contributes heavily when it comes to PVP, because it means that players' skill and teamwork determines the victory, not whomever's spent more time grinding to higher levels. PVP ends up generally well-balanced, and feels compelling because the way to get better is to play more of it, learning as you go, unlike other games where the main way to get better to spend more time leveling-up and buying better equipment. 

Another nice feature of GW is that the gameplay was primarily mission-based. You went across the map from town to town completing missions with different objectives. The objectives ranged from finding certain items, to killing certain bosses, to solving puzzles, to surviving in certain environments, etc, but they were varied and engaging. They followed a main story with recurring characters which made you feel a part of a greater story, and gave you a sense of progression in the game. It made it feel like there was a definite beginning and end to the experience.

Character creation, class selection.
The class system also allowed for some fun dynamics. Six classes existed, and each character could pick two of them, one as a primary and one as a secondary class. This allowed you to pick interesting combinations that allowed for vastly different playstyles. You could also freely redistribute your skill points at any time (as long as you were in town) to try out different builds and to experiment with unique combos. Then, even if you've already played through the whole game, you can still find a lot of enjoyment out of rolling a new character with different classes, in order to experience the game from a whole new perspective.

Each class had hundreds of skills to choose from (so one character would have skillsets of two classes), but you could only use 8 at any given time, which you had to assign before going into a mission or an instanced zone. This further added to the vast number of possible combinations available, which makes each player feel like their class and playstyle is unique. This is distinct from most other MMOs where each class tends to have a single way to play, or one way that's universally superior to any other. 

Players can also enjoy GW by themselves, thanks to the henchmen system. The henchmen are NPCs that can join the player's party instead of another player. This allows individuals to play through most of the game relying on the henchmen, or for small groups to fill up a spare slot if they can't find another player. Supposing two friends just want to play a mission without dealing with other players, they can recruit henchmen to the party. It's a great feature that allows individual players to be more independent of the social aspect of the game when they don't want to mess with it.

A party exploring.
Most of GW is very accessible to casual players who don't have a lot of time to spend gaming, but there's also a "hardcore" side for players who become heavily invested in the community and want to strive for extra challenges and trophies. There are a bunch of extremely rare, expensive armors and weapons you can acquire (that only affect the cosmetics) to show off your in-game accomplishments, as well as "titles" that reflect your other accomplishments. GW was host to one of my greatest gaming achievements of all time: successfully getting from Beacon's Perch to Droknar's Forge. What a champ.

Anyway, the point is that Guild Wars was a brilliant game. It was an excellent balance between casual and hardcore, massively-multiplayer and single-player, PVE and PVP. It didn't feel like an MMO, even though it had many of the benefits of being an MMO. Perhaps best of all, it didn't require any subscription fees to play. I haven't really been searching, but I haven't heard of any other games that manage to strike this balance, which makes me even more nostalgic for Guild Wars.

I guess that means I'm just stuck waiting for Guild Wars 2, unless anyone has any suggestions for similar games. 

6 comments:

  1. I fear Guild Wars 2 won't be has good has the first... The events are intersting but seems way to chaotic so I'm not sure that they will convey the same sense of diversity. Played the beta a bit and each event felt like kill everything in sight and lacked the strategy and the diversity of the first game.. The combat while more actionny seems to require less though has everything is on cooldowns so its more a matter of spamming whats available than thinking...

    Anyways it will still be miles better than others MMOs and I will probably get it some weeks after launch... (which is in like 4 days)

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  2. Well, GW2 isn't that much fun for many people who tended to love GW1. I'm just hoping some developer somewhere picks up where GW1 left off...

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  3. the strategy and the diversity of the first game.. The combat while more actionny seems to require less though has everything is on cooldowns so look ittop online strategy games.
    real time strategy game.

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