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.

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The Subtleties: Group Combat

A Dredge Mole

Guild Wars 2 Combat

Let’s Get Together

This will be a discussion about how group combat works and what merit it may hold for high level content. My first post on combat was about combat in general, but explained through a single perspective. I didn’t touch on the removal of the holy trinity, the lack of a global cooldown and the removal of the need to target players. I know these elements confuse people and should be discussed.

Also, any discussion of group combat in regards to Guild Wars 2 must first explain that all the elements discussed here do not require you and another player to be in a group together. As explained in the first combat discussion, spells and skills behave in a open-friendly manner. Any friendly target can interact with a skill you use that has an interactive feature with no grouping required. Mainly, this interaction has to do with Cross Profession Combo fields, but bouncing skills follow the same rules.

So, we’re all grouped and all together.

No Holy Trinity? Soft Trinity? New Trinity? Free For All!? Mass chaos!?!?

The holy trinity consists of the tank, the healer and the dps. Sometimes you get a sacred 3.5 with the addition of a support and control class. In WOW, this support class would mean supplying CC or Crowd Control to an encounter in order to limit the incoming damage. For a game like Rift, support normally means supplying damage, buffing and healing all at once, with the damage and healing being less than you would get from a specialized damage dealer or healer.

ArenaNet describes the roles in their combat as control, support and damage, and that combat involves each player flowing in and out of those roles within an encounter. So to go forward in explaining this, I will try to nail down what a tank, healer or dps is, and then explain what control, support and damage means in Guild Wars 2. If you’re thinking that DPS and damage are pretty much the same thing then you’re right, but much like everything else in Guild Wars 2, the experience between the old and the new is all the difference.

The Way Things Used To Be

The first thing I would tell a longtime MMO tank player about Guild Wars 2 is that there is no such thing as a meat shield to be found within the combat. Historically, tanking in MMOs or even something like Diablo 3 is based on passive stats that supply a constant benefit to your ability to absorb or mitigate incoming damage. Tanks normally have high armor value, shields to block with and stats and traits that offer universal damage reductions. All of these boosts to defense allows a tank to stand in front of a big old dragon an take its claw swipes to the face.

There is a certain  pride in being able to go toe-to-toe with giant beasts or a mass of enemies. When I leveled my Paladin in WOW, I found Protection to be the most fun leveling spec. I could gather a bunch of mobs, prop holy shield and reflection talents, and watch those hapless Murlocs punch themselves to death. In Rift, the Riftstalker rogue spec was fun for me to play due to its teleporting tank mode. I could hop around a rift encounter, applying aggro on each teleport, creating rift disturbances that grabbed mobs off other players, picking up elites and mobs as I bamfed around, all while never getting close to dying. A riftstalker is often capable of soloing many Rifts. The more I upped my block, dodge or defense stats, the more unstoppable I felt. The tank is defined by its ability to take many hits, hard hits and attract aggro quickly and continously.

A healer has more than heal skills, but is a character that puts all of its stats and talents towards boosting those heals and being able to maintain resources for constant healing. The healer and the tank are symbiotic in that RPG bosses are designed to hit so hard that a tank can’t simply stand their ground against them without help. The help often comes from the healer, who replenishes the health of the tank for each major hit they take. Healers often have damage mitigation spells they can put on others, such as shields or bubbles. So not only does the healer replenish health, the healer also helps the mitigation efforts of the tank.

In many games, the healing is done through the party interface. In the same way that a player must target an enemy to attack it, the healer must target a player to heal them. Certain heal spells are ground targeted, but the great majority require a player to be targeted. Group interface bars make this process easier by listing names and healthbars of your group close together, allowing the player to click on who needs help via a list rather than trying to find their body on the playfield. TERA is different in regards, requiring active target healing that means that the importance of the ability to see the player you are healing matters. Otherwise, healing becomes what has been coined “wack-a-mole” of watching bars go up and down, and clicking on the bars going down to cast your heal spell.

I will make DPS short and sweet. DPS focuses entirely on killing. The prime DPS is a matter of optimization of skills, something sometimes called your “ideal rotation”. This is a matter of firing off your attack skills in the order that maximizes your damage output. At times, DPS provides crowd control as well.

That Dragon Doesn’t Seem to Matter to Me

What needs to be understood is that design approach dictates encounter approach. The reason the holy trinity work is due to how mob AI and encounter design work. The bosses and mobs of dungeons are designed to be attracted to a single player through aggro, so that DPS can work unhindered and healers can work unhindered. An encounter may add randomly spawning and straying attacks that will cause the non-tanks to move, but not be in constant movement. Holy Trinity design often becomes a sort of dance routine, and once you learn the dance routine, all difficulty lies in a stat measurement. In fact, when your stats get high enough, you outgear content and even the dance routine doesn’t matter much anymore.

For the tank, the boss matters a lot. You are the one moving that big fella around and taking its hits, and popping a cooldown on its big, nasty attacks. That boss doesn’t seem too smart though, because the truth is that you’re hardly hurting the beast. The DPS are doing all the damage. If the boss was smart, they’d take out the healers and DPS, for there’s its whole problem. Its the DPS that’s hurting the boss without ever having to fight the boss, and trouble of the boss lies in the healers keeping all its dragonly fire-farts from ending this epic shenanigan.

For the DPS, the boss is merely a big target. As mean as that dragon looks, you’re not really fighting the dragon. Instead, you’re fighting latency, global cooldowns and long cooldowns, and watching the stock market of the DPS charts, vying for that top spot.

Meanwhile, the boss barely even exists for the healer. Their battle is one of charts and bars, making for a pattern recognition puzzle to solve within the interface. The dragon matters not to them. Everyone just stay out of the muck and remember the dance steps, and the healer will never see that ugly beast’s face.

An Oakheart Boss roams around

This red and angry tree boss will require teamwork.

So what’s this new freestyle flow?

Every player in Guild Wars 2 may need to learn a little bit of all the elements that used to be sectioned off in the holy trinity, for support, control and damage are leaned away variants of the old trinity.

Control might involve getting in the face of a foe, but it’s not tanking. In general, mobs in Guild Wars 2 aggro towards the nearest target hitting them, though ANet says they have mobs with different aggro rules and patters as well. I can only speak for the early level mobs, which probably have the least complex behaviors to be found. So, for control, perhaps you attract the attention of the mob by getting in its face, but then you cripple the mob and having it slowly kite towards you. Control also means seeing a mob attacking a friendly and placing down a Guardian’s magical wall between them. You may have your friend call out on vent that they’re out of stamina and can no longer dodge, so you apply a stun to the mob and get between your friend and the foe. In this way, control is about limiting a target’s movement, directing its movement and imparing its abilities.

Support is about supporting and helping another player in defense or in offense. You may have a ranger with you while fighting a veteran oakheart. You’re an elementalist and throw down an icy aoe spell. The ranger shoots through the aoe and gains an added effect to their arrows. These arrows now chill the foe, slowing down the rate at which they can fire off skills. Then you throw down a Healing Rain as the Oakheart turns towards you. You stand in the rain and support yourself with its heal, but the ranger’s arrows hit the Oakheart through the rain and heal you as well, providing support twice through the combined effect. But then this isn’t enough, and the Oakheart wacks you hard when you thought you were safe. You go into downed state, but the ranger uses its search and rescue skill to have his pet heal you up from downed state.

Damage is damage. It’s the arrows firing and the ice chill aoes hitting.

But look again at my hypothetical situations. The Ranger shooting icy arrows at the Oakheart is also offering control by applying the chill condition to the target. The Guardian laying down the magical wall is also presenting a combo field that supports attacks from behind it. A Mesmer Chaos Storm can be control, support and damage all at once. In fact, the devil is in the details of the Guild Wars 2 skills. You shouldn’t just be  looking at the damage applied, but the secondary and third parts of the skill. The player in Guild Wars 2 flows in and out of roles due to how varied each skill is in its benefits.

A Sampler Tray of Love and Poison

Of course, since all of these interactions are meant to work in dynamic events, they do not rely on group interfaces. This makes all help in the form of control or support less direct. The Guild Wars 2 teamwork system works like someone presenting a sample tray to the friendly public and if they that are the public need something from the tray, they can freely take from the tray. The public can also add to the tray if they so wish. A quick example: You can lay down a Necromancer mark that weakens foes who travel across it, but your ally gains no benefit from that if they don’t lead the monster chasing them across that mark in the ground.Perhaps they are smart enough to take advantage of the necromancer’s mark, but then lay a crippling trap right before it as well. Now the area is twice as poisonous to foes and twice as useful to the public.

I mentioned earlier how design approach dictates encounter approach. In regards to Guild Wars 2, the combat must work on the large scale of dynamic events. Due to this, the combat roles cannot become isolated into small partnerships with private communication lines. One of the early issues that beta testers have had with the game is the huge pyrotechnics on display during combat. The reason there is so much color and explosion blasting onto your screen is due to the combat needing to be able to explain itself without Deadly Boss Mods and everyone on the same voice chat. This is why combat is visual, and why group play relies on being individual and cooperative at the same time. At first, everything is murder and cacophony until you are able to sparse through the jumble and read the important elements. It’s like skimming an encyclopedia for the important dates. Perhaps you just skimmed through this long blog post and found yourself attracted to the bolded descriptions of the holy trinity roles. Consider group combat in Guild Wars 2 to be a bit of RPG combat skimming and high level play to be a matter of raising your reading level.

And finally, Speed.

You can quickly recognize a diku-clone,slash wow-clone by the visual of hotbars and the the visual reset of the global cooldown. The GCD limits a player from firing off a ton of skills together. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t really have a GCD due to its combat needing to be fast enough to read and react. In fact, a Mesmer’s Mantras can be fired off in the midst of the animation of another skill activating. If the Elementalist casting the healing rain realizes the Oakheart is coming towards them too fast, they can cancel out of the cast with a dodge or go right into an invulnerability skill. Again, the large scale, cooperative combat design dictates the move away from the hard trinity, which dictates that defense must be proactive or reactive, which dictates that the slowing down of combat from GCDs cannot be had within the game.

And there’s likely more

All of what I’ve said is based on encounters in PVP and PVE of a beta of a game that has 80 levels, many zones and dungeons, and of which I’ve seen all of one zone and 18 levels and maybe 8 hours of PvP.

The Moletariat P A T I E N T L Y waits for that next BWE.