Bring Res Sig: The Origins of Guild Wars 2 Concepts

The Old and The New

A Meeting with the Past

Old Ideas for a New Audience

A debate on what’s all that inventive within Guild Wars exists. The argument exists out there on the static, binary-bound teeth of the internet’s Badlands. This isn’t a new idea. Well, often, it’s not. What is overlooked in this debate is that it’s not even a new idea to the Guild Wars franchise.

The entry is going to go over some key concepts that will feel new to a lot of players trying out Guild Wars 2, but have origins rooted back in the original game.

Niche to a Degree

The original Guild Wars has a non-sub-based claim of 7 million sales. Is this made up of individual box sales or accounts? I have heard conflicted reports. I also don’t care in regards to my point. The real issue is that Guild Wars was a successful game and it helped fund sequel, but within the general discussion of MMOs, it’s far more niche than you would think a 7 million seller would be. The knowledge of what the original game was about is still somewhat limited in the press and enthusiast community.

One occasion of this that I’ve run into multiple times surrounds the call-target function. When talking to one friend about their experience playing the game, they were having issues with keeping a target and being able to follow their target in the chaotic mess of the early betas. This player was looking for some visual cue that outlined their target a bit more. After struggling to think about whether or not Guild Wars 2 did anything to make your target stick out, I remembered control + T.

So, I asked, did you call target? I then realized this concept is entirely new to most players. It’s a product of the first game’s PVP focus, and is a very valuable tool. One player calls a target, and everyone can follow by pressing T. This target can be switched on the fly and everyone can follow the “target caller” along. It also places a big red crosshair over the target in question.

I began my response to the problem by trying to offer a traditional answer and then realized the Guild Wars answer was already there.

Res Your Friends

The Res Sig was a signet skill in the first game that every class had access to. In the Prophecies PVE campaign, one of your earliest quests is to group with another player and go out into the world. For doing this task, you are given a resurrection signet that can be used to resurrect another player. There were restriction on how often you could use it, but it introduced the concepts of anyone being able to res from the very start.

This concept is improved upon and expanded with the sequel, where the process of resurrecting a friendly ally is a simple F key press. While this feature is attributed to the game’s move away from the holy trinity, it really is just a continuation of the first game’s approach to cooperative play. It’s nothing new. It’s just done in a more obvious way this time.

About That Trinity

The original Guild Wars had a healer class or two, plus a tanking class or two. In the early years, PVE content was tackled through the traditional means of the holy trinity. A warrior or two to run in and pull aggro, some dps doing their thing, and then a monk in the back dropping heals. It was simple and very easy.

Then ArenaNet decided to change up their PVE experience. They took what they learned from the PVP experience of the game and began to change the rules of their mob’s A.I. and behavior. You could no longer gather and aoe down groups of unfriendlies. Tanking started to become more about blocking off pinch points, hampering mob movement, and gathering up mobs in various ways. Healers and damage dealers had to learn to kite stray mobs while still performing their functions as the game featured no taunt mechanics.

The PVE game continued to grow in this way, up until the point that traditional trinity builds became less standard. Personally, I completed the War in Kryta line of missions and quests without a monk or traditional heal setup. I used the popular and almost necessary Discord-way build featuring Ritualists and Necromancers. The Ritualist is a support class with heals spells, but less direct heals than the more traditional monk. In this build, whether a Ritualist or Necromancer main, nearly every class had a major damage attack called Discord. So all my A.I. partners were to supply support and damage reduction through spirits or items, while also shooting out Discord spells on my target calls. For myself, I ran a Dervish tank build that also cleansed conditions off my entire party every time I dropped an enchantment. Effectively, everyone was performing multiple roles. I was doing damage through spreading conditions, body blocking mobs and absorbing hits through my enchanted armor and high health pool, while also supporting the entire team by being the major condition removal for my party. My Hero henchies provided damage spikes, party wide damage reduction and buffs, and a few targeted heals. The Necromancers provided control through their minions eating up mobs and creating walls between my team and the enemy mobs. When the minions died, they exploded in an AOE damage effect, and provided a group heal through a monk enchantment cast upon them by one of the Necromancer with a Monk secondary.

It was a complex and effective team build that was able to function in more situations due to its flexibility and grouped interdepence over singular class dependence.

If that sounds a bit like the Guild Wars 2 combat experience then that’s no surprise. The heritage of the anti-trinity began years ago in the original Guild Wars, but it was not a major talking point until the Guild Wars 2 hype train got going. There is evidence that ANet was already moving towards this goal in a game designed with the trinity. Now it’s all grown up and refined.

Story Time

Bioware, good or bad, garnered a lot of attention for adding an emphasis to story in their MMO, and making story in an issue of importance, and a hot feature to be found in MMOs. So, the fact that Guild Wars 2 features story quests that are based on character creation choices and which feature branching paths, the natural instinct will be to draw comparisons to SWTOR.

But this is a blog about Guild Wars influencing the sequel, so, surprise, and then more surprise, the original Guild Wars featured a story, an ending and even a credits roll once you beat the final boss. The original game’s strengths were seen as being an online RPG with an actual story, the PVP focus, and the lack of a sub fee. The return of a story focus with cinematics is not a big surprise, but the story quests also share some influence with the older PVE design. Much of the story in Guild Wars Propechies was done through what was called Missions. These were instanced adventures where you followed a path, fought enemies and bosses, and saw the story unravel. They were considered, in some sense, the dungeons of Guild Wars, but they share little with the Eye of the North dungeons, and a bit to do with Guild Wars 2 dungeons. The story quests of Guild Wars 2 are like these Missions, but broken up into small segments. How?

The missions in the first Guild Wars lead you through the game, and took you across the map, from point to point, and eventually up to the final area. The story quests of Guild Wars 2 accomplishes this same task. They will begin in the opening zone of your race and then proceed into higher level zones, asking you to go to certain spots on the map where an instance prompt will greet you. The story quests can also be done cooperatively or individually. This was done in the original game through henchman and heroes, but is done through difficulty scaling in the second game. A major difference between Missions and Story Quests is that GW2 does not allow you to repeat your story quests.

Some Repeated Notes

One of the comments that I’ve made about dungeon design in Guild Wars 2 is the element of traps and how they are a carryover form the first game. These traps didn’t really come into play in a heavy manner until Eye of the North, and that expansion was the first to feature what could be traditionally thought of as dungeons. Beforehand, most instances were either wandering through a zone, or completing the previously mentioned Missions. The other carryover that I’ve mentioned is the Structured PVP format, where the original game worked from the same concept of putting everyone at max level with access to max level gear. The second Guild Wars furthers this concept by giving players access to all item mods and skills, while the original made you earn these either through PVE or by spending the game’s PVP currency of Balthazar Faction.

Another carryover is the Waypoint travel system that functions much like travel in the original Guild Wars. Once you get to a to a Waypoint, you can travel back there at any time for a small fee. Visiting towns and outposts worked the same way in the original game.

A Waterfall

A Waterfall Vista

A Final Point

All this time, many companies have been trying to copy World of Warcraft to recreate Blizzard’s success for themselves. My contention is that company’s probably should have been trying to copy Guild Wars and expand on its ideas and models instead. The first Guild Wars was more ready for the current gaming environment than any WoW clone could be. Many things that excite people about Guild Wars 2 are extensions and advancements of ideas and features found in the original Guild Wars.

 

If Guild Wars 2 ends up successful, and more successful than other MMO attempts, there will be many companies kicking themselves over ignoring that little niche title with the seven million sales while going after the old beast of a diku-clone.

Atop a crane in Skrittsburgh

The Heart of Skrittsburgh

Welcome to Skrittsburgh!

No, wait, get out of Skrittsburgh you unworthy foreigner. Oh, nevermind, come back in.

This is life as a visitor to the Skritt city. Sometimes the doors are open to you and sometimes they’re sealed shut. Is it because you smell? Do they only let humans in on Thursday? The Charr on Monday? Maybe the Charr get in on Caturday. Of course, Asurans get in on the winter solstice, to celebrate the shortest day of the year.

Actually, Skrittsburgh is the central cog of an ongoing, large dynamic event within the Brisban Wildlands. When the city feels protected, the gates of the city are opened to outsiders. When the city is under siege and the Skritt King has fallen, then the doors and gates close. Foreigners are only let back in when any nearby threats to Skrittsburgh are eliminated, and the Skritt have chosen a new King. Total access to Skrittsburgh is not entirely denied, as the cavernous city also has outer boroughs that offer the player hearts to complete, and some peculiar lost goods thrown around, as well as a beautiful waterfall area. It is normally these outer boroughs which are the key to entrance into the inner sanctum of the King, his treasure chests, and the special Skritt vendors.

A Dynamic Circle

Asuran Tech

The Skritt have taken Asuran technology for their own use.

The Skrittsburgh center is sort of the mini-city reward of the greater circle of dynamic events within the area. When the city is closed, you can normally find a dynamic event going on in one of the outer boroughs. These events will wipe out the NPCs in the area if not stopped, but if you turn the invaders back then you’ll please the people of Skrittsburgh. Invaders are the key word here, as Skrittsburgh is walled in by various threats. From the east, the Nightmare Court may arrive to take over the city. From the north, human bandits have set up camp right outside the entrance, and to the southwest, the Inquest is looking to regain some of the disassembled technologies the Skritt have claimed for their own. Worst of all, the Destroyers are still lurking below the surface and may rise up at any time to do what Destroyers do: look ugly, make lava, and destroy everything.

Things don’t calm down for long once you’ve defended and freed the city. There is normally a quiet handful of minutes, until some new dynamic event alert pops onto your screen. Yup, more invaders, but this time if you don’t stop them, they’re heading straight through that open door to take the city or to slay the King. I helplessly tried to stop a Destroyer army and its giant crab boss from eating the King, but I just sort of ran around from the

Destroyer boss until one of his minions gave the King a killing blow. Immediatly after that, all the friendly Skritt NPCs became hostile, and shouted to kick the foreigners out. Next thing I know, I’m booted out of the city and back to one of the outer boroughs.The end effect is that keeping the city open to players will require players to cooperatively push back invaders. It’s tough to stop two invasions at once. Whether it’s the bandits up north or the Nightmare Court coming from the east, it’s more than one player can handle.

Skritt Throne

The Rat King has moved out of the sewers.

Tell Me Of Your Rat-nest Usul

Once inside the heart of the city, you’ll be treated to a town made out of junk. Yes, junk, and I mean that in the nicest way. The Skritt love shinies, and shinies seem to be everyone else’s actual shiny things, or everyone else’s forgotten old junk. It looks like a refugee camp in some ways, like something out of District 9. Still, Arena Net managed to make a junk city look visually interesting. Some parts are even little creepy, with the weird carnival costumes laying around, unused and for no purpose of being there.

What the city offers the player is a full set of crafting stations, a thankful Skritt King with two treasure chests behind him (Don’t miss these!), a skill point challenge or two, some basic merchants, repairs, and special Shinies merchants. The Shinies Merchants have what seem like junk or perhaps crafting goods, like a bunch of wooden planks. They also sell necklaces and weapons, and pretty good weapons in fact. Their offerings have a level 20 requirement, but should be an upgrade at level 20 over anything you have. I bought both the Skritt Pistol and Skritt Rifle for my Engineer.

Odds and Ends

Creepy Canrival

These things freaked me out.

The heart quests in the boroughs offer some nice distractions. I wasn’t a big fan of the Heart in the grub area. It’s basically a kill grubs and collect trophies off them, then hand in the trophies sort of deal. There’s some defective security turrets you can mess with, but those are few and far between compared to the amount of grubs and grub holes waiting to be stomped. My favorite of the various Heart quests in the area was a soldier that needed help near a Destroyer den. In this area, you can kill Destroyers, stomp out Destroyer burrows, or, best of all, pick up fallen Skritt and carry them in your arms back to safety. Your can see the fallen Skritt in your character’s arms when you do this, and carrying the Skritt works like a weapon bundle that offers you a speed boost. I call this the Forrest Gump quest.

Skritt activity continues outside the city as well. A group of Skritt will ask you to escort them on a scavenging mission. This is codeword for stealing Asuran tech from an Inquest lab area far beyond the Skrittsburg borough. Normally, the escort quests in Guild Wars 2 are quite enjoyable. (Yes, you read that right.) This one proved to be the hardest escort quest I’ve had though. I am not sure if it was my relative level or the fact that the Inquest lab was swarming with Inquest soldiers. You can also run into a second dynamic event in the nearby area if someone else has decided to help out a Golemancer at the Asuran secret weapons lab. Completing the Skritt escort leads to another Dynamic Event back at Skrittsburgh, but I’ll keep that scenario to myself.

East End Waterfall

The East End of Skrittsburgh reveals a wonderful waterfall.

A Show of Things to Come?

What Skrittsburgh reveals is some of the depth and options that the Guild Wars 2 dynamic event system offers. If they can hide a small city behind the outcomes of dynamic events, then they could also hide a dungeon or a mini-game. Considering what the developers have spoken of in regards to the risen city of Orr, it seems like endgame could play out like a far crazier and larger version of the Skrittsburgh DE system. It has also been recently revealed that the city of Ebon Hawke is in the game, and they haven’t specified if this a zoned city or an open world city. Considering that there are heart quests within the city, I am likely to believe that is open world part of the larger zone its within, much like Skrittsburgh.

The key factor to this is giving the player a sense of bigger, greater, and more wonderous things to do as they level up. I don’t want WoW-raiding in the game. I don’t want gear treadmills. I do want a bigger, badder challenge set before me, and these sort of DE systems can be a part of that.

Watch This Space

A Dredge Mole

Guild Wars 2

Why No BWE Impressions

Previously, I had written up a Beta Weekend Event impression article for the previous betas, but skipped out on this for BWE3. The reasons for this being that I felt I might start retreading on things I had already talked about, and the other reason being, that as launch approaches, I felt the focus of the blog should change from general impressions to more focused topics.

For this reason, I’ll be putting up a short blog about Skrittsburgh some time after tomorrow’s Stress Test. I already have some collected thoughts on the Skritt City, but I wanted to get more screenshots of the various boroughs of Skrittsburgh.

So, watch this space?