First my daughter started playing. She calls her character Rufflebutt the Barbarian. She posted screenshots to Google+.
Then my wife, Lobi, started playing, and telling me how much fun she was having. I was still busy playing Torchlight II solo and with friends.
Finally Dusty Monk posted about his Mesmer. Given the choices of classes in GW2, it was inevitably the right one for Toldain to be, even though it doesn’t actually let you, you know, mez anything. (Of course I was going to play Toldain, don’t be silly!)
So I sighed, and popped off to the store for the game. Actually, I kept playing Torchlight II until I at least finished the main story arc. Then I popped off to the store.
Installed from the DVD’s, and then – hurry up and wait for all the updates. That took basically all night and then some. Sigh. I’m hearing Carly Simon, and thinking of ketchup:
Of course, when I start the first character I create is my beloved, 3000 year-old-redhead. However, there are no “elves” in this game. Sylvari is kind of the corresponding thing to elves, but they are really more of a wood-elf thing. They have the potential longevity to front Toldain’s 3000 years, too.
But the hair! I don’t want leaves for hair, I want fabulousness! I can have red leaves, but that just didn’t cut it for me in the end.
So I created Toldain as a human, a noble human. Except that secretly, he’s still an elf who slipped through an interdimensional rift and wound up in Tyria. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I’m somewhat like Wilhelm in that I always try for the same look, at least in the first character. He says, of GW2:
I always just try to make me, and this time around the “me” seemed a bit more effeminate than I would like to imagine myself, in an anime hero, pretty boy, male model sort of way.
Of course, when it comes to Toldain, being a pretty boy is a good thing. And my hair did come out looking very fabulous.
Actually, it’s pretty much the exact hairstyle, color, and facial shape that Toldain had in EQ2. I am very pleased. The ears aren’t pointy, though. Sadly, it’s very hard to get much of a closeup, at least out in the field. I’ll try to get a better one.
Let’s go over a few of my likes and dislikes about the game:
Events and Frictionless Cooperation
This is by far my favorite aspect of the game. Something’s happening in the world, and you can just jump in and do something about it. Other people will be doing it, too.
Bandits are trying to poison the water reservoir. Can you stop them? If not, then the reservoir is poisoned and you have to try and collect poison globules and bring them to a brainiac, so he can make an antidote. It’s a chance for redemption. I don’t know what happens if this fails, or if it can fail.
But I like the dynamic aspect of it. I like that there is frictionless co-operation. In fact, most of the game is built around the idea of “frictionless cooperation”. If I do buffs, they affect allies that are close to me, they don’t have to be grouped with me. Experience, karma, and loot are applied to everyone, there’s no need to group, nor is there any sense of kill-stealing. Yes, this would allow power-leveling, except that the game automatically reduces your level to the maximum level of any area. Leveled-down characters do seem to be slightly more powerful than true-level characters, but what the heck.
This is frictionless mentoring. You can just wander into a noob zone and help people, and their’s shared risk. This is what I’ve been wanting from an MMO ever since EQ2 got this so, so wrong.
Only One Hotbar
You have only one hotbar. Half of the 10 slots (well, really there are 14, with F1-4 adding more) are predetermined by your choice of weapon. The other half are chosen from two pools, which you unlock over time with points garnered from mini-challenges within the game.
The thing I like the most about this is that it presents the possibility of strategy being important. It’s easy to switch weapons when you aren’t in a fight, but not so easy when you’re in one. Slot skills can’t be switched at all, and you can only switch from one weapon set to one other set, and there’s a cooldown on switching back.
At first, the approach among players seems to be “which of the possibilities do I like the best” and they will pick a combination and stick with it. Psychochild complained that
with his engineer he seemed to stick to one thing. However, there’s a huge potential space here, and one that I’m having enormous fun learning and thinking about.
Persistent Buy and Sell Orders
EQ2 had a “persistent sell order” model. Player merchants would offer things for sale at a set price and other players could buy them or not. EVE Online added the persistent buy order, where you put up money and an offer price, and players with stuff to sell could just dump them down.
Of course, a persistent buy order doesn’t work if there’s no friction to selling, and it’s not clear whether there is much friction to selling. ArenaNet has made it incredibly easy to sell stuff on the Trading Post, and harder to buy. Selling can be done anywhere, and you can empty your bags in the field.
There must be some limit to how many sell orders you have, right? Otherwise there’s a spam issue. I haven’t seen it, though.
I prefer this kind of selling to auction selling, especially the sort of auction that charges you even if what you auctioned didn’t sell. That’s sort of necessary because of spam. But it has a chilling effect on sellers, which means that often in mature games with auctions (LOTRO) there would be categories of items that just didn’t exist. It wasn’t worth the risk/effort/friction to bother to sell low-tier ore, etc. This will not be an issue in GW2, I think.
The Trading Post is not very good for economic game play. There is almost no opportunity for arbitrage, because it’s so easy to sell. Prices are driven way down. This is good for buyers and not for sellers. But I think that’s probably what they wanted. Economic gameplay is secondary to killing stuff. This isn’t EVE Online.
The game is beautiful. I upgraded my system to play it, getting a quad-core AMD chip, a lot more memory, and a SSD. I kept my fairly recent gfx card, though. However, I ended up having a cooling problem. The computer had this bad habit of just overheating and shutting off at awkward moments.
Dialing down the gfx features didn’t seem to help. So then I found that it was on free-run framerate. So dialing down the gfx features probably meant that each frame rendered faster, giving me a higher framerate and thus making my cpu overheat even faster! Sigh.
However, I went out and bought a liquid cooling system and installed it. Now the thing runs fabulously, in much higher res and art settings. I will have new screenies soon, I think this is at reduced settings:
Exploration, Viewpoints, and Jumping Puzzles
I have Achiever habits, but I’m really an Explorer and Socializer at heart. Each area has lots of places to find. In the lower left of the screenshot above is a vertical streak of light with some sort of flag or parchment on it. If you look closely, you will see my 3000-year-old self standing next to it. This is a viewpoint. You get some experience for finding them, as well as a breathtaking view of the gorgeous graphics.
(By the way, since this whole MMO thing started it’s either got a lot easier to hire more artists, or a lot easier for an artist to drop a buttload of architecture into a game. Probably both.)
Sometimes it isn’t all that easy to figure out how to get to these spots. Sometimes it involves combat, sometimes it involves jumping places. Sometimes there’s both. I got a viewpoint last night in Kessex Hills that required a blind jump off a cliff. I was rewarded with a little exp and a breathtaking view of a waterfall. Which like the in-the-moment rube I am, I completely forgot to screenshot.
It doesn’t matter. I love this. I got all 50 stars in Mario64, after all. I haven’t done a true “jumping puzzle” yet, I look forward to it.
All of your toons must be on the same server. I imagine this made more sense when you could arrange to do an instance or otherwise hang out or do battle with people on another server. However, this isn’t working now. So I can’t play a toon on my daughter’s server. I could move everything there, but it’s marked as very high load. And if I’m sitting in a queue for an hour waiting to log on, I’m not actually playing with her, am I?
I really like the EVE Online model where everyone is in the same universe. In a fantasy MMO, however, putting that many people in one place would pretty much crash everyone’s experience, both from graphics, and from server lag. Still I can dream, can’t I?
I’d really like them to get this working.
I leave you with my Asura Engineer, Festus Wockle. Festus comes from tabletop RPGs, where he was a gnome with a high voice, an inclination to sing, a love of bright colors, no fashion sense, and a slightly irritating manner. I think he’s realized quite well. I love all the techno-gibberish in some of the Metrica quests, or whatever they are called now. I look forward to seeing what they’ve done with the other races.