Tag Archives: Guild Wars 2

A discussion about sexism in Guild Wars 2

Even though really excited about Guild Wars 2 coming out in the near future, I can’t really be silent about the failing it still has on issues of gender and race. So when someone posted an article on reddit pointing out (among others) that, you know, the presentation of women in GW2 leaves something to be desired, I was expecting the usual redditor scumfuckery galore.

Among the usual fanboi/geek sexist responses of “Who cares/I think it’s fine/More Bewbs/Sex Sells” poop however, I did manage to have a more thoughtful discussion with a person I’m familiar with on the issue of sexism in the game. I thought I’d repost the argument here and hear what y’all think of this.

Quotes in yellow are mine (Indented quotes were new comments that were replying to a specific point, I’ve put them like that to avoid re-quoting the same things all the time)

Can we stop equating revealing clothing with slutty? Thanks.

I wouldn’t call it “slutty”, because I hate the word for its woman-hating vagueness, but I would claim that some of the sample armor for women is meant to be titillating. The female mesmer is a striking example. OTOH GW2 fortunately did not make this a rule, so we fortunately have some awesomeness like the female engineer armor.

The problem is not so much that the armor is titillating as such, but rather that this is only the case for female armor.

I don’t think the solution is so much straight equality (because that may not please many people) but to try to please both male and female audiences, and offer both audiences the ability to choose whether they wish to be dressed in revealing or less revealing clothing. The trouble comes when game designers force that choice on either side.

Come on now, those people don’t deserve to be pleased. I really don’t care if bigots are left unsatisfied :-/

Yes, the choice is to allow both sides to be dressed as they want. But that should be done with an eye for equality, not with an eye for pleasing the male gaze.

I think you’re misinterpreting what I mean–take for example TERA. TERA “solves” this problem by objectifying both male and female characters to a staggering degree. This only “solves” the problem by allowing female characters to still be objectified while technically being equal and politically correct.

No. Not even close. While there is some equal opportunity objectification in Tera. It is not even close to an equal scenario. Women are ridiculously objectified in Tera, even for the very low standards of geek culture.

http://gomakemeasandwich.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/tera-followup-no-male-castanics-are-not-as-bad-lots-of-pictures/

But having both be covered up all the time would just be conservative and would be equally objectifying, and it’s not what female players want either. I want my character to show some skin, as do many female players I know–when male players jump out and say, “stop showing so much skin”, they speak for female players and as usual miss the point. Male players need to STOP speaking for female players.

This is not what people are asking. And no, it’s not just male players that are asking for this. In fact most women I know ask for equal representation (not* conservative attires). I’m glad you like to show skin, but understand that not everyone does and that forcing that as the default, for women only, is extremely problematic.

The real solution I think is in trying to please both male and female players, rather than pleasing one or the other. Is it really a big deal if the game starts me out in a skirt when I’m a spellcasting human? No, because I think it would be equally annoying to ME, a female player, if the game started me out in a turtleneck and a Corduroy ankle-length dress with stockings etc etc.

It’s reasonable for a game to make that choice with your very first outfit. They can’t please everyone with the first armor, that’s why they give you different choices as you go. But I myself found it easy to very early on acquire clothing that covered up and looked far more realistic than the starting armor.

This is a false dilemma. The option is not only between the tu-tu and the Corduroy. Female characters might start just fine with a normal attire for an adventuring woman, much like the men are! If you want to dress up like you’re going to beach party later on, you should have the option, but making that the default for women only, is sexist, plain and simple.

I don’t see why realism for women needs to be done as an extra step, rather than, I dunno, the default as it is for males. Yes you can’t please everyone and as I said, in such cases it’s the bigots that should be left unsatisfied.

1. I’m not disagreeing that women are ridiculously objectified in TERA–but TERA was known for having skimpy outfits for both men and women. While they’re not 100% equal (is anything?), it still shows that blindly calling for equality in clothing isn’t the answer.

2. I think you misunderstand. Just because I want the option to have revealing clothing doesn’t mean I want to force my preference on anyone else. You don’t want more revealing clothing forced on players, other players don’t want less revealing clothing forced on them. Neither option is inherently more or less objectifying, it’s the act of forcing that choice throughout the gameplay that objectifies women and denies female players the ability to feel comfortable and represent themselves how THEY, not the male audiences, want to be represented. That’s what I want. Forcing conservative options is just as bad as forcing revealing options. There’s an inherent problem here, an inherent patriarchal bias it betrays, to find it more objectionable to have revealing armor forced on players than non-revealing.

3. (Continuing from above) Yes, as you say, it’s not a choice between lingerie and the turtleneck. But “normal attire” still forces a choice on someone. Starting gear simply can’t please everyone, and frankly I think when the argument comes down to “okay, the game in general offers enough variety to please most of the spectrum, but for the first few levels you have to wear something you don’t like!”, then that argument has frankly lost sight of the point. The game offers plenty of choice once the player spends some money or does some quests. It did not take me long at all to switch from a miniskirt to a more realistic adventure gear. And keeping that in mind, I just don’t see where anyone is coming from when they make a big fuss over what’s maybe an hour of wearing something they don’t like. The game designers spent a lot of time offering choices that range from realistic cover-alls to lingerie-esque clothing. They simply cannot please everyone with the default outfit, someone is going to have a choice forced on them straight out of character creation. The fact that the game offers easily-obtainable, multiple options that can please most people, and that the game allows the player to transmute their armor to look how they want with the stats they want, just makes me scratch my head at people’s reactions.

Plenty of choice is offered for both male and female gamers, at all armor tiers, and all armor types (medium, light, heavy). You can change your armor appearance. It is really not an issue that some people don’t like what they wear for the first hour of the game, imo.

1. This is not “blindly calling for equality in clothing”. I don’t see how having a little bit of skimpy clothing for males somehow makes up for the extreme sexism and objectification in TERA. I don’t see anything you said there actual proves that “asking for equality isn’t an answer”.

“Neither option is inherently more or less objectifying, it’s the act of forcing that choice throughout the gameplay that objectifies women and denies female players the ability to feel comfortable and represent themselves how THEY, not the male audiences, want to be represented. “

No seriously, having tittilating clothing be the default only on women players, or having less options for sensible clothing than males is absolutely more objectifying to females.

You keep insisting that the options for clothing that they gave (or forced at the character examples, and starting clothes, and majority of available outfits) are just to provide an option for women to dress their toons like that, and I don’t know if you’re deliberately ignoring the fact that this was done primarily by male designers for the benefit of a male audience. I’m glad you feel this is empowering, but most feminists I know disagree and this is the primary reason many women avoid male-dominated geek culture.

Forcing conservative options is just as bad as forcing revealing options. There’s an inherent problem here, an inherent patriarchal bias it betrays, to find it more objectionable to have revealing armor forced on players than non-revealing.

You keep mentioning that as if it’s an argument someone is actually making. It’s really annoying. Stop attacking that strawman.

But “normal attire” still forces a choice on someone.

Any attire “forces” itself on someone. What you’re trying to justify is that having a disparity in the starting or default attire for men and women, which conveniently is far more titillating/objectifying for women, is just the same as having the same kind of attire for both and letting both choose to be more or less titillating later on by themselves. This makes no sense!

One option provides equality and treats both genders as equals, while the other treats one gender as being there by default for the enjoyment of a straight male demographic. These options are not equal. The fact that women can later choose more sensible choices (less options of course than males have) does not change how they’re treated by default or how the game expects and/or forces them to dress and behave. As a sexual visual gratification for the male gaze.

You’re going to force a starting attire on male and female toons no matter what you do. All I and other feminists are asking is that the initial choice be equal and not reinforce cultural norms of female objectification that continue marginalizing women and driving them out of this hobby. Specifically I wouldn’t have a problem with, say, the female mesmer, if the male was dressed similarly. Btw, I don’t see you defending this option for all those males that want to start by default titillating to others. I wonder why.

 

My apologies, this one is going to be a bit of a ramble. But I feel this ramble is long overdue, because I think the majority of people are dead wrong when it comes to what exactly is wrong with the game industry’s portrayal of women, and how to fix it.

I don’t know if you’re deliberately ignoring the fact that this was done primarily by male designers for the benefit of a male audience.

This is incorrect, much of Guild Wars 2’s armor was designed by women.

I’m glad you feel this is empowering, but most feminists I know disagree and this is the primary reason many women avoid male-dominated geek culture.

db, I think we owe each other a little better than to downgrade each other’s opinions just because we or people we know disagree. I can say exactly the same thing, but in reverse. But my point is: what I find empowering is having a choice, not having someone else demand that there be less of what I am perfectly happy with because they, a male, find it sexist. That’s all. If your feminist friends feel insulted and denied power just by the fact that sexy clothes exist in games, then quite frankly, they are being threatened by empowered women just as much as empowered men.

Maybe it’s because I actually work in the epicenter of geek culture, but I can’t help but feel like you are letting the vocal majority drown out the content, silent minority.

You’re saying that women have less sensible options than men, but that’s only true by a small margin–the armor itself is by and large equal. Women actually wear armor that covers their bodies and can be called armor–while leather and clothing ‘armor’ are in a large number of the cases, equal between the genders, unless you’re a real stickler: here are some great examples:

1 2 34 5 6

The differences we are talking about are just not that big. The majority of armor in Guild Wars 2 is like that–reasonable, not lingerie, and only venturing into lingerie-for-women territory when you get to scholar armors. And even then, it’s not the vast majority of armors. The ONLY real big difference is in starting human caster armor. The starting heavy and medium armors for women are not remotely objectionable.

I’m sorry, but calling this lingerie while armor like this  gets the same amount of outrage is not helping the problem. (Not that I think you actually did call it lingerie–don’t think you do–but someone along the line did and jesus christ this has become a long, convoluted thread! Why do we always do this to ourselves, db? lol!)

How exactly are we to expect that game designers will bother to provide more varied options for men AND women when the most progressive AAA MMO title out there gets just as much flak as TERA? Really, why should they bother when they are still getting raged at just as much? ArenaNet is leaps and bounds ahead of their competition and they deserve some credit for providing a lot of variety.

The only point at which they don’t provide you with variety is the very, very beginning of your character’s life. And it is only for one small portion of the characters (female, human, caster) to whom they don’t provide reasonable, non-sexy clothing. All of the other female races and classes start out perfectly fine. It is honestly a very silly thing to get up in arms about.

I’m not saying that revealing armor SHOULD be forced on players to start off. Of course the developers should strive to start off all characters in neutral, reasonable armor that will offend as few people as possible. But when the developers have made a very big effort to provide so many non-revealing or equal clothing options, it’s such a very small point to get angry over. And frankly I can’t take it seriously.

Here’s my problem–revealing =/= objectification. People love to jump on the women’s studies and feminism bandwagon without really thinking this over. Female clothing designers produce revealing clothing because it’ is sexy, and many of us like how it looks. The female designers of the armor for ArenaNet were not thinking,

Being sexy is not an objectification thing. Women want to feel sexy, many of us want our characters to look sexy. Because WE want it, not because it was forced on us. Sexy clothing is not inherently or by default an act of sexism–and suggesting it is not a method of objectification. When Guild Wars 2 starts me off with TERA armor, then I’ll see your point. Starting characters off in lingerie is certainly objectifying. But a skirt? Really?

Wanting skin to be shown is not just for men!

What you’re trying to justify is that having a disparity in the starting or default attire for men and women, which conveniently is far more titillating/objectifying for women, is just the same as having the same kind of attire for both and letting both choose to be more or less titillating later on by themselves. This makes no sense!

I’m not trying to be argumentative but I think the sentence got lost grammatically somewhere along the way. I am seriously confused :S

P.S. I’m not defending that option for males because I don’t SEE any men actually wanting to wear revealing armor. Most men don’t, while many women do want to play characters who wear revealing armor.

 

Unfortunately you still continue missing my point and attacking strawmen. ):

  • I am not saying that GW2 is as bad as TERA, hell I think GW2 has made very good progress in this issue but it still has a long way to go. There is nothing wrong about pointing out the failings of GW2, even if they’re not as ridiculous as TERA. I, and the OP, are not angry at GW2 and its developers. Hell, I’m still planning to play the fuck out of it. Not every criticism comes from anger for crying out loud and there’s nothing wrong with making criticism about improving the game in gender equality.

This is why I don’t understand why you keep bringing TERA up. I did not say that TERA is better, or even as bad. TERA is attorocious and the rampart sexism is the primary reason I never even bothered to look at the game. GW2 is much better, but it’s not perfect, and while you may be able to ignore some things, me and others can’t, and I’ve already lost people who I’d like to play with, such as my wife, who took one look at trailer I showed them, saw the Barbarian Bimbo, rolled their eyes and dismissed it…

  • I am not saying that there should be less revealing armor in the game. I am not trying to take away your options to dress sexy, or revealing or whatnot. I want equality!

You insist on acting as if the choice to dress some female characters more revealing, and make them universally more appealing (without option to avoid this, such as in the face) is like a standalone example of catering to players like you. As if we do not currently live in a patriarchical society with rampart objectification of the female body. As if the geek culture is not unbelievable sexist and catering to the male gaze at every chance it gets. As if we’re living in an age of egalitarianism and I’m being a prude. This is frustrating to hear coming from someone who knows better!

The game is not trying to be empowering to you. The game is reinforcing the common tropes of female objectification rampart within normal, and especially geek culture! It’s fine and all that you find ways to be empowered by this expression of patriarchy, but don’t dismiss the criticism of those who aren’t. I’m not asking you to lose your options to express yourself, but myself and many other women I know of, feel it’s degrading that the default or only type of female adventurer of some class is protrayed in a style that is impractical, whimsical and caring more about appearance than function. The reason why male characters are not shown this way, is not because males don’t cater for it, it’s because it’s not a cultural expectation that a male would act this way and thus if they did make a male mesmer look like the female mesmer, there was going to be an outrage from all the males who were offended. It’s only ok to offend people as long as they not straight white cis males…

  • I am not saying that all revealing/sexy clothing is objectifying. I don’t understand why you keep insisting on this. I am saying that a disparity in clothing and appearance for males and females, that is in line with the greater patriarchal culture we live in, shows that the game attempted to please the male gaze, and not to provide for players like you. I am pointing out that you are not the target of those decisions except incidentally. And I am saying that you should not be happy with the general state of affairs merely because you are catered to, even when significant number of other women feel excluded because of how male-oriented games such as GW2 are. (And again, yes GW2 is more friendly to women. But it’s not there yet)
  • I am not making a big deal out of this. I am making a big deal out of how much this very small criticism is blown out of proportion by people who think GW2 can do no wrong, because it’s taken some steps in the right direction. It’s OK to say that things can be improved. We’re NOT saying it’s as bad as TERA whenever we ask for more inclusivity for women (and LGBTs, and PoCs, and and and).

 

Bah, I think I’m losing track of who said what. I’ll just say this: I disagree that ArenaNet is the group of sexist hounds you seem to think they are. The game doesn’t need to empower me or anyone else, it doesn’t need to try. I and other women shouldn’t be looking to commercial developers to empower us in the first place.

I completely disagree with your assessment of the development team for Guild Wars 2 as working solely for the male gaze. As I said, there’s a great deal of women on the team–the design of female Charr (and the story behind their design) says a lot about the development team. As I said, I think our disagreement at its core comes down to just the starting equipment for one small segment of the possible characters in the game, and I just don’t think that’s evidence of rampant sexism when the rest of the game provides so much more in both the starting and later levels.

 

I disagree that ArenaNet is the group of sexist hounds you seem to think they are.

I don’t think that exactly. Most males and females are raised sexist (Patriarchal expectations etc etc) and it takes significant work to overcome. I’m sexist on some issues as well (and I’m working on it). “Sexism” is not an ultimate denouncement. It just means that we, as humans, need to work on our shit. As I said before, I think ArenaNet is doing a lot of good things in that regard, but they still need work.

The game doesn’t need to empower me or anyone else, it doesn’t need to try. I and other women shouldn’t be looking to commercial developers to empower us in the first place.

I never said that either. I and I believe the OP, is not asking for direct empowerment (altough tools to allow women to achieve it wouldn’t be bad either), but merely to not be objectified/marginalized.

I completely disagree with your assessment of the development team for Guild Wars 2 as working solely for the male gaze. As I said, there’s a great deal of women on the team–the design of female Charr (and the story behind their design) says a lot about the development team.

While the female Charr are awesome, this does not change the fact about how Humanoid women are protrayed. Women can be just as bad at reinforcing sexism btw. The fact there are women designers who might have designed the human women is not proof that they can’t be sexist.

As I said, I think our disagreement at its core comes down to just the starting equipment for one small segment of the possible characters in the game,

Not exactly. I have issues with

  • The lack of options for creating humanoid females that do not look like Bimbos or Dolls.
  • The disparity between clothing between males and females. Occasionally the female clothes are designed to appease the male gaze, rather than be functional for their role (i.e. armor with midriff/cleavage showing etc), while the same is not true for the male version.
  • The general protrayal of women NPCs in the world, such as the aforementioned Barbarian Bimbo in the Norn storyline.
  • The disparity in number between Female and Male NPCs and their roles in the world.
  • The almost complete absence of People of Colour NPCs.

While ArenaNet has done a lot of things right (I totally dig a lot of badass female clothing options, and the fact that not every outfit shows “tits & ass” and the female Charr are great) they can still do better. They’re still sexist, but they’re merely less sexist than most.

Guild Wars 2: First Impressions

So, this past weekend was the first pre-order beta and after playing until the wee hours of the day, I think it’s only appropriate that I make a post about it and bore you all with my personal impressions 🙂

So, first things first: The game is everything it advertised and that is saying a lot. Most of the time, a heavily expected game just doesn’t match its hype to any extent, but Guild Wars 2 (GW2 from now on) matches it easily. I will not declare it a complete success just yet, because I’ve only seen the first 10 levels of content or so (with three different race/class combinations) and it could very well still pull an “Age of Conan” and quickly lose steam after level 25 or so, and turn into a grindfest to cover it up.

However, there’s a few things that work in GW2’s favour in this regard, and it has to do with some of the fundamental designs of the game. I’ll go through that in the next sections. For now, I  want to talk about the hyped things I knew about and how they turned out.

(I won’t go into details on some of the things I’ll talk about, as you’ll find multiple sources explaining them in far more depth than I could. I will provide links when possible though.)

Dynamic Events

This is one of the things I was the most excited about, and after playing a considerable amount of time with them, I must say that I love them. The idea that you find things to do in the world as you explore is almost alien to all other MMORPGs out there at the moment. After playing Star Gars: The Old Republic beta a few months ago, where it would almost cynically bundle all quest givers for your particular level in a “hub” (i.e. a small safe area with merchants and so on) which you’d have to finish before moving on, this was a serious breath of fresh air. I honestly do not like the hub approach as it feels just so forced.

With dynamic events, I could just go exploring in the generic area of an appropriate level and I would find exciting things to do. And we’re talking about exciting, not silly “kill 10 rats” quests. For example, one of the last ones I played, which I found randomly when I went harvesting (i.e. I was just exploring, looking for crafting materials, and bumped into this dynamic event). It went like this:

I discovered a small outpost in the wild, which was being attacked by some things called “crawlers” I believe. I started defending the area with another player and after losing ground at the start, a few others came around and we managed to drive them off. Soon after that, everyone left to go do their own things, and I was hanging around a bit selling some junk and buying some other stuff. Once I was done, every other player that had helped me was gone. I was alone.

I noticed a quest giver (Note: There are a few “quest givers” around, but they are not as you’d expect. They are also fairly rare) so  I decided to talk to him. He was a scholar who wanted to research some relic or something (was 3am, wasn’t paying too much attention). I accepted the quest and we started an escort mission. I needed to get him to a location for him to study something and protect him from dangers. The dangers were some Ice Wyrms popping up from the frozen lake we walked upon, and some still rampaging crawlers.

Once I accepted the quest, a Dynamic Event started about it. Which means anyone approaching my area would notice it, and get a marker on their map. I started escorting alone, but soon, another player joined and (this is fairly stunning in it’s brilliant simplicity), started helping out. Think of this for a moment: In any other MMORPG this would be fairly impossible. Either you’d have to start the quest while in a party already, or you’d have to specifically invite another player to help, by sharing the quest, which would take a lot of communicating effort and…well it’s a mess which is why it’s not done that much.

So I was escorting this dude, killing out wyrms and crawlers and by the time we reached the end, there were 3 of us. The event finishes, I get some small reward. Now another event starts. We need to destroy the corrupted relic he found there. As we start doing it, we start getting swarmed by Wyrms, as well as a few solo enemies defending it. Some of us are attacking the relic, some are defending them and so on, all is well. And then a swarm of defending raiders run outside a nearby cave and start kicking out asses. We fall back and desperately try to hold them off. Then a group of like 5 new players descents from a hill to help out. Quickly the battle turns and we drive them back. Soon, the relic is destroyed and the event finishes. Soon another event starts. A hostile shaman approaches to recreate the corruption, so we have to prevent him. Now the event really bumps up the difficulty. By now there were like 10-15 of us and I think there was a a partial wipe by all the enemies swarming in. I respawn and run back to the battle, by now there’s some portals with summoned enemies opened (another event) which is what caused us to lose the previous battle. So we all concentrate on destroying those first. We finish this event and run to the relic location to stop the Shaman. There is now something like 20 players and the Shaman event has become a Boss Fight. Special AoE attacks falling from the sky, enemies spawning in and a “bullet-sponge” shaman that needed the combined might of 20 players to bring down. In the end, we manage to get him down and the event is also finished. The area is now calm.

This, for me was an amazing experience. From a single-player escort quest, it became a 5 player destruction quest, then a 10 player survival quest, then 15 player destruction raid and finally a 25 player boss fight. By this time, it was like 4am, but at no point could I extricate myself from it, because I couldn’t just abandon the other players. And take note that this wasn’t just people fighting. There were some dropping down support AoEs, some running around reviving people, some trying to tank the enemies and so on. The naturally emerging teamwork was glorious! And at the end, everyone got rewarded, depending on how much they participated. I got the most reward because I was there from the very first escort mission (so basically I got a reward for each finished event in the “chain”) while others got only the rewards for each event they participated in.

This is the definitely the best way to do quest in MMORPGs. It just works so well and naturally. It really puts the MMO back into the RPG.

Renown Hearts

These worked similarly to dynamic events with two main differences: The progress for each heart is specific to your character and there’s many ways to fill the completion bar. This means that any player there can do the quest on their own pace and at their own preference. Most of them allow you to complete them without any combat. In fact, there are many that don’t involve any combat at all. Unfortunately it means that there’s not a lot of cooperation, even though many of them have ways to complete that involve helping others but it’s a minor points because the main purpose of Renown Hears from what I understood is different.

They are there to serve as beacons to focus players in a specific area (each heart is marked for its level, and players can easily participate in areas that are up to 1-2 levels higher than them with some skill) so what happens is that player will travel towards the heart (if they don’t like aimless exploring that is) and in the way find various dynamic events to take part. Then, the renown heart will hold them interested in the area for a bit,  long enough for various dynamic events to start, which puts you into an event chain, thereby hooking you. Fairly brilliant.

I also loved that many of them are a nice break from combat. Some of them are their own mini games, like the one where I had to find and bring bunny food to a guy, while dodging leaping bunnies all the way. Other players could help by scaring the bunnies away from others players. Another one I had to play snowball fights with kids or fight off enraged guards who turned into bears! Another was turning into a snow leopard and hunting giant chickens and bunnies in the bushes. Yet another was answering riddles! I loved the fact that if you wanted a break from combat, you got it quite often and if you didn’t like the mini games, there was almost something else to do in the area, or a way to complete it via combat.

Sidekicking

What happens when you want to play with your friends but realize that their character is 5 levels ahead of you? Either both of you make an alt and promise not to play them without the other, or you suck it up and quickly grind your way to their level, losing a lot of the story in the meantime, so that you can play the same content.

I started playing GW2 with a friend at some point, where we both made the same character, so that we can start in the same area. At some point I was having a break and he was trying a different class. Then I came back and he went into a break so I started trying our a new character class myself. When he came back, neither of us wanted to really play the characters we started together, but rather our current ones. But there was a problem. He was level 9 and I was level 4.

Hah, I’m joking, there was no problem whatsoever. All he needed to do was grab a portal to my own area and then we could continue question together seamlessly, as he was automatically adjusted downwards in level, so that he was always just 1 level above the current area’s recommendation. This means that the enemies were a bit easier for them, but nowhere near a walk in the park.

This works brilliantly because the game is not based on quests, but rather dynamic events. So there’s no way you’ll have done a particular quest and not able to do it again. You can always take part in dynamic events happening around you, which means that you will always be able to play with your friends. We played the last day with those 2 characters. The level different was a complete non-issue. How cool is that?

Combat

Combat in the world of GW2 is visceral and skill-based. You have your first 5 skills that you quickly get by simply using a weapon of choice and then as you level up, you slowly grab your race and class skills which where the real customization happen.

Initially, I thought that the dodge ability would be a gimmick, something that you use once or twice for not much effect. But now that I’ve played some other characters I realize that there’s a lot of other skills that allow you to perform extra blocks and evasions, and they’re all skill/timing based. When I used my engineer with shield and pistol, I had a block & stun skill, that I had to press at just the right time. With my Sword&Dagger wielding ranger, I had 3 different evasion skills to call upon. This means that for the lightly armored ranger it became imperative to learn when and how to dodge my enemies, because even same-level enemies hit hard. Melee with more than 2 enemies was always a very risky proposition and most often than not, I couldn’t handle it.

Unfortunately, the way the combat works now, coupled with the low skill of most players, means that melee combat is avoided by most, even though it has more damage potential (it hits faster/harder and it seems that all attacks his everyone in front of you). Basically if you went into the melee pile or toe-to-toe with a boss, you almost always fell on the grown in no time flat. The boss can wipe you with one hit, and the bundled mobs just focus fire you. With 1-3 players in an event, it’s still manageable, but when there’s 20 players and all the mobs are granted double the highest player level in order to last, then it’s a nightmare. As such, AoE skills and Ranged attacks rule the day. Even warriors play with guns and bows.

I think the main reason for this is three-fold. One, as I said is the low skill of most people playing currently, which made combat seem much more difficult, since you cannot dodge well (especially with the crazy lag we had).

The second reason is that because of all the newbies, all the starting areas were swamped. Which meant that any event had something like 20-30 people going at it, which not only is a clusterfuck by definition, not only does it boost the mobs so much that they’re mini-bosses into themselves, but it grinds most computers to a snail’s pace due to performance hit and lag. At a big battle around a lake,with something like 30-40 people fighting, I was having 14 FPS with the PC I built less than a year ago.

I don’t know if there’s any plans to address this, but I think one way to somehow about this is to make new enemies spread out a bit more. Right now they’re all pretty much in the same pile, which makes AoE effect and ranged attacks the best way to fight them. If the enemies instead spread out so that each attacks only one player if possible and gives preference to players that are not close to allies (i.e. so as to avoid creating a pile, by the enemies charging a group of players standing together) while ranged attackers focused on those not engaged in melee, then it would achieve the following:

1. Nobody would be safe. You couldn’t just stand on the back and fire arrows and AoEs into the clusterfuck. You would be sniped by archers or charged by melee enemies.

2. AoE wouldn’t be that effective, as there would be less of a mob in one spot. It would make achieving results with an AoE more about positioning yourself and hitting charging enemies or clusters or archers, rather than a mindless “fire into the clusterfuck” action.

3. Melee would not be suicidal. Since you’d be fighting 1 or two at most, you’d be able to actually utilize your evades and blocks and wouldn’t die in 3 seconds.

Hmm, I should probably suggest this somewhere (But where? The forums?)

On a sidenote: This is just my impressions for PvE, especially on large scale dynamic events. I’m guessing that combat in a PvP scenario would be something entirely different, as players would definitely focus fire players and go after the squishy ones first.

Story

The story is the one thing that didn’t really grab me. Although some of the quests in the story are interesting – such as transforming into a minotaur to trick some raiders, or masquerading into a bandit and then infiltrating their camp just to steal information – the story itself was very forgettable. I could somehow follow the story of my Norn huntress because it was a simple “find out what the hell is going on with the minotaurs” thing, but I’ve completely forgotten what I was fighting for with my Human engineer or Charr guardian.

There’s also a small issue in that while being able to play the co-op is nice, not giving the co-op player anything to do except combat in a storyline mission is not optimal. In non-combat quests, the accompanying player was just bored. It would be nice if the players could coordinate their strengths a bit, so that during the infiltration attempt I mentioned before, one player charms a bandit, while the other pickpockets another, even if the main player wasn’t a thief.

Other than that, the storyline quests were OK. Perhaps they get better later but for now I can’t say they really drew me.

And finally, I’d like to quickly mention some thing that bothered me.

Racism/Sexism

I’m afraid the ArenaNet dropped the ball on this one. Not that I had particularly high hopes about it.

There’s practically no people of colour that I saw in the game. Almost all the humans and Norn are the whitest of whites. Almost no dark-skinned people, no people with asian features, almost nothing. Maybe 1 in 20 NPCs you saw would be a PoC. Even on character creation you’d be hard pressed to make a character that had facial features that were distinctively non-caucasian. Well, at least (when I was paying attention) 1 in the 8 classes in the selection was dark-skinned.

And then there’s the presentation of women. The good news is that female armour from what I saw does not egregiously increase the skin-showing percentage, so most of the time, you can be a woman who dresses seriously for battle. The bad news is that of all the starting archetypes for women were wearing ridiculous shit. The Norn Mesmer was the most absurd, showing off as much a skin as if she was going to a sexy gala, and not in the midst of battle. All the others followed similar motifs, showing boob windows, thighs and midriffs whenever possible. The only exception was the Norn-Engineer who was wearing a bad-ass leather trench coat. Pity she doesn’t start with it 🙂

There’s other issues here that bothered me. Such as the fact that all the character you can create, range from wispy to well-trained young adults. You cannot seemingly be old or frail. You also cannot be overweight. I don’t understand why MMORPGs don’t provide these options which would really improve the look of the game as you’d see a variety of characters as PCs and NPCs, and not the (for all intents and purposes) identical body type running around.

On the bright side, the Charr females are awesome. Since the Devs didn’t feel the need to cater to the Male Gaze on the Charr, their women look bad-ass from the get go. Easily on par with the males.

A small problem with the party system and overflow servers

One thing that really annoyed us when there were two of us playing, was on how the overflow got in the way of us playing together. You see, the overflow server is where you get put to play the game, when your own server’s world instance is full. This isn’t an issue at all normally, but the fact that you and a friend might join the main instance and one of you gets put in the overflow and the other doesn’t is a bit annoying. Because you can’t see each other anymore and you can’t even join the same instances like that. The only solution we found was for one to teleport out and in again, and hope we end up in the same instance of the main world.

The lag. Oh my gawds the lag!

The start of the pre-order beta weekend was a disaster. For the first 3 hours that I tried to connect on Friday, it was impossible. When I did manage it, it had so much lag that it was almost unplayable. On Saturday things were better and I was happily playing until 8pm or so, at which point the USA woke up and started trying to login, which promptly brought down the authentication servers and kicked me off. I only managed to reconnect at 1am or so. Sunday had no problems, so that’s good.

What Frames per second

The game was not using my graphics card at all. At least according to the info I’ve found, this is deliberate, and the game is CPU-bound. Fortunately I won’t get situations with 12 FPS again in the released version.

Crafting / Junk Collection

While crafting is not anything particularly annoying by itself. It is made so by the fact that to craft you need to bring your shit from the bank, drag them to the crafting bench and then go back to the bank to store them. And if you forget one, do this again. With the Charr, fortunately the bank was close, but with the humans and Norn, it involved a teleport. This was just annoying.

There’s some good ideas, like the fact that you can “teleport” crafting material to the bank when you find them in the world, thus saving you some inventory space. Unfortunately you can’t do this for all material, so you end up carrying a lot of teeth, bones and blood with you. Not a particularly big deal. What more annoyed me is all the junk you gather from the game and how they clutter your inventory. They are not a big deal by themselves and I don’t mind them taking a bit of inventory space, but I would really prefer if they had a secondary inventory called “junk” and they put all that stuff there, just so that I don’t have to shift through them every time I wanted to look at what useful stuff I’m carrying. They also need a “Sell all junk” button on merchants.

Content

This is more of a concern than a complaint. Given how common dynamic events were in the world, I am concerned on if they’ll manage to keep up this level of content for 80 whole levels, plus dungeons and renown hearts and whatnot. This is a lot of content to fill and I am afraid that there just won’t be enough time and ideas. I wouldn’t want to start the game and quickly discover that after level 25-30, there’s something like 1 dynamic event per level.

the good news is that because of the level adjustment that happens when one goes to a lowe level, there’ll always be “end-game-content” to do, in the form of all the renown hearts and dynamic events you haven’t done in the rest of the world. In this case, the “questing” system that GW2 by itself saves the day, as you are not locked out of content just because you’re exceeded its level requirements. I am not sure if the rewards for it scale as well, but I think I read somewhere that they do.

Epilogue

Whew, that was a larger post than I expected

I will say that after playing this first beta, I’m just as much, if not more excited for the game than I was. In the next pre-order beta I think I’ll concentrate more of PvP scenarios, particularly on WvWvW just to see how they play, and also to avoid spoiling all the single player experience for when the game comes out.

In the end, I truly think GW2 has some amazingly good innovations that will certainly change the way MMORPGs are made in the future. Yes, It is that good.

 

Why I'm excited about Guild Wars 2

After my first impressions on SW:TOR the other day, I thought I’d mention why Guild Wars 2 has made me not only take notice but get genuinely excited about, since WoW in 2005. Specifically I thought I’d post about this since I found two excellent videos on the things  I found awesome to have in an MMORPG.

First: Dynamic Events

The video also doesn’t mention that each dynamic event is composed of a cluster of different quests, each of which actually progresses towards completing that event. So you could be defending a smithy from a kobold assault, and you could be either fighting the kobolds, or repairing damage inflicted on the smithy, or gathering required minerals to fuel it, or manning a catapult and so on. This allowed each player to help towards the dynamic event objective, by finding an activity they prefer, or even swap activity in the middle, if the one they do is boring.

If this sounds promising, Check out this detailed look by the game designers.

Second: The Death of the Holy Trinity

Now this is something I’m really eager to see in action. I always found the way that a game locked you into a role and then made some roles boring but necessary to be completely anti-fun. I love the idea that I may be playing a tanky wizard and then instantly switch to a DPS skill set if I lose aggro, while whoever gets targeted can tank up if needed. Hell, just the idea that I can play a tanky wizard makes me happy. I always try to play tanky combat wizards.

There are certainly quite a few other reasons that add to that, but these two concepts  above are the primary changes to standard MMORPG gameplay that add a degree of innovation I believe will make the game significantly different enough to keep me interested.

Anyone else planning to play it?