The Verdict on Guild Wars 2, 2 weeks in

2 weeks in – what’s the verdict on the latest MMO blockbuster?

Guild Wars has been out for just over two weeks at this point, and it seems that we’ve all collectively decided that now’s a good time to sit back and consider – just how much of a success has it been so far?

Bloggers from all over have chimed in today, with a tremendously wide variety of opinions:

  • Syp at Bio Break calls Guild Wars 2 the ultimate casual MMO“From my perspective, I see Guild Wars 2 as the ultimate casual MMO that respects instead of demands your time. It’s ludicrously fast and easy to log into, and mostly just asks you to live in the moment with your activities instead of chugging through a quest list. “
  • Azuriel struggles to express the way Guild Wars 2 hasn’t quite satisfied him“I will not think about Tiny Tower or 10000000 a decade from now. Nor, potentially, Guild Wars 2. Those games were/have been/are fun to play, respectively. But I am not looking for opportunities to kill time with amusing diversions.”
  • Doone rounds up opinion and debate on whether Guild Wars 2’s grouping has succeeded or failed“Most players seem to agree that there’s absolutely no such thing in GW2 at this time, that the mechanics which make the trinity system possible just aren’t there (threat maintenance). All we need to know now is how has the group experience been impacted”
  • The Mighty Viking Hamster waxes lyrical about Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events, calling them a game-changer“When you save the captured hunter from captivity he doesn’t just wave, run a few metres and dissipate into thin air. You can follow him back to town and see him reunite with his wife who is patiently awaiting his arrival. “*
  • Ravious argues that Guild Wars 2 has an entirely new structure to its in-game economy“Of Sardu’s list of 80 things to do at 80 over 15% are based on consuming or collecting gathered items, many for personal-only use.”
  • And Jeromai focuses on one small but brilliantly formed element of the game, saying it has fantasy underwater environments done EXACTLY right“Again, words fail me. I could say awesome, spectacular, fantastic and keep repeating it, but it’s probably easier to just show you what I mean.”
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Vanity, Trinity, and Dodges

And finally, amidst the dust from the milliards of SWTOR posts, here are some other really interesting pieces from the blogosphere over the last day or so…

  • The Mighty Viking Hamster asks how an MMO could really break out of the Holy Trinity model“Some would argue that in Guild Wars 2 you can change your spec on the fly and that is definitely true. However that is beyond the point being made here. Making the HT more accessible is one thing. Claiming that you don’t need to rely on it is something else entirely. “
  • Anne Stickney at WoW Insider wonders if Blizzard could incentivise raiders using nothing but pure vanity“The first time I saw Benediction, I wanted it more than anything else in the world — not because of the stats, not because of the set bonuses, not because it would make me super-powerful, but because it would make my character look really neat.”
  • And Melmoth at Killed In A Smiling Accident writes a really fascinating piece on dodge mechanics in MMORPGs like TERA and Guild Wars 2“‘Dodge! Dodge!’ cry the developers; thus I fling my character around the screen like a freshly landed sea bass flopping its way across the deck of a boat, trying—in utmost futility—to escape its tormentors. In the meantime, my enemy stands on the spot and spins around slowly, punching me all the while.”

What do you think of those ideas?

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Is Guild Wars 2 Just A Zerg-Fest?

Guild Wars 2 doesn’t follow the Tank / Healer / DPS model of almost every other MMO. But some people claim that means it just ends up being a chaotic, tactics-free mess.

Are they right?

Syl at Raging Monkeys has been playing the Guild Wars 2 beta weekends, and she really doesn’t think they are. Indeed, she’s quite irritated at hearing the “it’s just a zerg-fest” argument repeated in forums, and today she writes a comprehensive examination of both how tactical GW2 is and how tactical other Holy Trinity games really are

“Already I cooperate more in GW2 than I ever did in WoW: thanks to the FFA, auto-join events I have joined and helped out more strangers than I ever did while questing in WoW. I’ve had a chat with a few who shared a quest spot with me and several whom I rezzed or rezzed me in return (fat chance on that in WoW). I don’t claim any of this was particularly coordinated or difficult (maybe the events aren’t supposed to be particularly difficult, anyone?), but at least it’s a change from the usual silent, solo routine I used to have in WoW. Plus, where more people group up there’s always an unpredictable element. It’s a little cynical to criticize auto-join grouping or lack of roles when the opposite did nothing at all to improve matters in the past. As for kill stealing, mob camping and loot rolling – needless to say I haven’t missed them one second! That’s when having less communication is actually a good thing (/ninja /doom /ragequit).

The real strategic and demanding encounters aren’t out there in quests or trivial group content – not in WoW and not in GW2. Quests and events are simply not very hard right now and things like cooperation and coordination live and grow under duress. I would claim that GW2 requires teamwork and strategy where it matters, just like WoW does too; in harder/heroic dungeon modes and in big scale raids or PvP/WvW. If you think it’s all a zerg there you are mistaken. You need strategy and communication to bring the trophy home, to win against opposing teams or survive tough encounters. Teamwork is very much alive even if it works differently in GW2. Plus, the game adds other tactical components, such as the whole dodge/positioning mechanics and making use of the environment. I’ve beat several tougher challenges myself only because of active movement and tactical positioning which is rather great considering I play a caster in GW2 (typical feet-of-stone classes in other MMOs).”

This is a really excellent, well-argued piece, and even if you don’t have a dog in this particular race, it’s worth reading just for Syl’s analysis of the teamwork required – or not required – by MMORPGs today.

Personally, I’ve only really played WoW as a Holy Trinity game since late Wrath – before that I ran a series of guilds designed to play the game exactly as it wasn’t meant to be played, and did most of the Vanilla dungeons as a two-man Ret Paladin / Hunter team – so I’m loving the idea that Guild Wars 2 actually encourages that kind of flexibility. Holy Trinity roles don’t encourage strategy, IMO – they merely make it more immediately apparent.

What do you think? Is GW2 a tacticless mess, or is it a refreshing change?

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Writing A Novel Using MMO Roles As Inspiration

Can you really write a novel using the Holy Trinity as the basis for your character designs?

Professor Beej has been trying to do just that. He designed the characters in his first novel based on MMO concepts – tanks, healers, DPS – and set the story running using those roles as a guide. In this fascinating guest post on Epic Slant, he tells us what happened next, and how he ended up writing –

“I rebuilt the characters from the ground up, keeping in mind as I did that their relationships should be based on their personalities, not their roles in the group.

Just like a PuG in an MMO. I mean, sometimes the healer’s the diva, sometimes the DPS, sometimes the tank, and sometimes no one, right?

So as I thought about this, I had to recall back what it was like to be in those groups. What kinds of circumstances required me (I play healers or support roles, typically) to take the reins of a group? When would I be comfortable letting someone else guide us to our destination? And, from a storytelling perspective, which decisions were made based on archetypal roles and which were made from a player’s perspective?

The more I revised, the more I realized exactly how complicated party dynamics and leadership in MMOs are. There are so many variables that it’s amazing any groups ever finish a dungeon at all.

For example, the main character of Birthright, Ceril Bain, is leading his team through uncharted territory. They come to a point where there are two paths, and neither choice seems any better than the other. Instead of making an informed decision based on their situation, he asks what the team thinks. Over and over again. Even after being given pretty solid answers, he keeps asking for consent.”

Beej’s writing is engaging – a good sign for his novel – and he tells an interesting story here. The experiment’s interesting too – to what extent to game mechanics overlay onto story archetypes, and how much real insight can you get into human nature from observing a computer game?

Definitely a recommended read, this one – I can’t recall ever seeing a post quite like it.

Do you think you could use MMO mechanics to flesh out a novel, feature film, or other story?

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Will Guild Wars 2 make it OK to fail again?

Last week we had some great Devil’s Advocate posts on various aspects of upcoming MMOs, including Azuriel explaining why he thinks Guild Wars 2’s purported abandonment of the Holy Trinity design (Tank, Healer and DPS) is doomed to failure. Whilst I found the piece very interesting, I’ve long been hoping that we could genuinely escape the grasp of the Trinity, and so T.R. Redskies’ impassioned response in defence of GW2’s “self-sufficient” gameplay was a great read.

He identifies the key arguments Azuriel’s making as revolving around “trust” and “responsibility” in a group – we must trust players to handle the responsibilities of their role, and the Trinity makes those divisions easier to understand. From there, he examines why we might not trust another player in a role, whether a non-Trinity design will make us more or less likely to trust, and whether it’s fun to have a game where it’s not OK to fail

“But it’s a different thing to prefer to do something and to simply not trust others to do something. Very different. If games are invoking feelings of paranoia or vulnerability in a setting like World of Warcraft, then we ought to challenge why certain mechanics exist at all.

It’s ok to fail. Ask any hero, role model, or superstar. The road to success is paved with failures. Why do we demand perfect gameplay from our fellow players? As I said, it’s one thing to prefer to perform tasks one thinks they’re good at and quite another to simply not trust anyone else to do something in which you have a stake in. What’s the worst that could happen if your groupmate fails? You start over. I’m not an advocate of wiping infinitely during a raid encounter in an MMO, but I’m not an advocate of shielding players from trying and possibly succeeding or failing at a task. In fact, part of the experience is triumphing despite shortcomings. The game, despite aiming to make players interdependent, has created a situation in which depending on someone else is the last thing they want to do.

Part of the explanation for why it’s ok to not be afraid to allow others to fail in these group settings is that they’re possibly failing because of their teammates. In this sense, the responsibility is shared. Why do the group roles make it ok to blame some and not all? A group is always only as strong as it’s weakest link and roles have no bearing on this. If it’s a situation where only a certain role can fulfill a certain task, then perhaps it’s the games design which is failing the group. Ostensilby, the game has shown that as long as you bring X number of players, you can succeed. Where the trinity of tank/heal/dps appears, the game says that as long as you bring these roles you can succeed. Groups have little opportunity to succeed on their merit, which has the opposite effect of creating interdependency.”

There’s some pretty serious thinking going on here – and it’s really interesting reading. For me, T.R.‘s post really helped to illuminate some of the frequent threads we see in the blogosphere – particularly the terror of the new player going into raiding, the difficulty of tanking or healing, particularly in PUGs, and conversely the ways in which LFR doesn’t satisfy whilst attempting to appeal to everyone.

It looks like the “to Trinity or not to Trinity” debate’s just starting to head up, with GW2 now bearing down upon us. I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here!

Do you think GW2’s roles will work?

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3 Things That Might Not Work (in future MMOs)

We’ve got some interesting analysis going on today from a variety of folks in the blogosphere, as the informal phrase of the day seems to be “O RLY?”. Yes, the hype’s dying down a bit, and Bio Break, Decoding Dragons, and In An Age are taking a long hard look at the promises for the future made in Wildstar, Guild Wars 2, and Mists of Pandaria:

  • Syp at Bio Break is decidedly less than impressed with Wildstar’s decision to tell all stories in 140 characters or less“I mean, why stop with 140 characters? Why not 50? Why not do away with words altogether in quest assignments and use just pretty pictures and arrows? “
  • Azuriel at In An Age explains why he thinks the much-vaunted removal of the Holy Trinity in Guild Wars 2 is doomed to failure“If you have attempted group content in WoW at any point in the last two years, you probably recoiled in horror as I did at the thought of looking forward to shared group responsibility. We have a term for that now – The Dance – and every indication that it was the principle cause of the nearly 2 million subscriber exodus.”
  • And Pewter at Decoding Dragons highlights the things she did like in Dave Kosak’s postmortem on Cataclysm and promises for Mists“In Warcraft, the issue is not so much the open world, but that locations rarely flow naturally into each other. Verdant jungles sit next to icefloes, and deserts impinge on primordial craters.”

What features of upcoming MMOs do you think are doomed to failure – or massive unexpected success?

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Are DPS classes outdated?

We Fly Spitfires is well known as one of the contrarian blogs to watch, and today Gordon’s got a great post up there, presenting solid, persuasive arguments that the DPS-only class is a relic in most MMORPGs, and isn’t much longer for this world

“Let’s face it, single role classes were always flawed right from day one. Rewind back seven plus years, before the dawn of multiple talent trees, and you have a pretty broken system comprised of healers who can only heal and tanks who only know how to tank making it pretty difficult to fill out a six man group or a 24+ player raid. Given the makeup of the grouping system in MMOs, it was simply inevitable that healers and tanks were going to be given the option to perform damage roles.

Of course, this creates the problem of function and desirability and, if tanks and healers can put out the same damage as a pure DPS class, suddenly those damage only dealers become less attractive in comparison. Why would I go a Rogue when my Warrior can output as much damage? And why go a Jedi Sentinel when the Jedi Guardian can do just as much damage as well as tank? Personal playstyle preferences aside, DPS only classes are becoming dated and restrictive, a throwback to an older style of MMO gaming.”

Gordon’s excellent post echoed a similar argument from Matthew Rossi last year for me – except rather than eliminating DPS, Rossi was suggesting that Blizzard, in particular, eliminate tanks. Overall, the sense in the blogosphere seems to be that the old single-role model is dating badly, and that we’re in for a hybridish future.

What do you think? Will there be a role for DPS-only classes in the future of MMORPGs, or is RIFT’s do-it-all Cleric class the model for the future?

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Love And Hate In The MMO Blogosphere

There’s been a bit of a theme running through the MMOSphere this weekend (well, two, if you count “OMG HOW many good posts?” as one) – love and hate.

From concerns about fanning the flames of factionalism in WoW to an enthusiasm for sharing in MMO design, here we go:

  • Tesh has a damn good point as he interrelates the Corpsegrinder fiasco and MoP’s War focus“Some players will always take things personally, and some jerks are simply jerks. Some people are incurably ignorant. Few will conflate real life with the game… but hatred leaves its prints on attitudes and learned behavior, no matter the venue. “
  • Gordon at We Fly Spitfires is proposing that we bring the class, not the player “Not to pick on specifically on Blizzard but, ironically, it seems as if their concept of “bring the player, not the class” has kinda backfired and we’ve lost form of individuality and class identity in the process. “
  • Brian “Psychochild” Green writes about sharing, and what MMOs can do to promote it“The obvious solution is to stop punishing grouping and let everyone benefit from participating in the same gameplay. Instead of worrying about xp splits, tagging monsters, loot rights, and all that, let all players share from the rewards of an encounter.”
  • And Oestrus has a great post on the baggage that we can carry as a result of abuse in random groups“The tank says, “It was me. I’m sorry. I’m going to go now. I’m sure you’ll find a better tank. Good luck.” We didn’t say anything. We didn’t assign blame. We didn’t berate anyone for their mistake. We just released and started to run back. Yet, somehow, somewhere, this tank got the idea that we thought he was terrible and that we hated him for what happened. “

All really good posts today!

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Let’s keep the tanks, the healers, and the DPS!

There’s been a bit of a revisionist movement of late in the MMOSphere, with various people – very nearly including Blizzard – suggesting that the Holy Trinity of tanks, healers, and DPS should be revised or removed, that it’s passed its sell-by date, and that it’s hindering our gameplay.

It’s a popular suggestion – so popular, in fact, that I haven’t really heard any dissenting voices, until today, as Gazimoff eloquently speaks up in favour of the Trinity :

“This proposal cropped up recently on WoW Insider, where pure DPS classes would have some of their abilities replaced to become tank/DPS or healer/DPS hybrids, or even all three. This would mean that everyone would be able to perform at least two out of three in the trifecta.

I don’t like this.

If you play a class that can heal you get pressured into healing. If you play a class that can tank you get pressured into tanking. If you can do both then you get pulled all sorts of ways and spend your days keeping everyone but yourself happy. All this peer pressure is a bit crap considering that I want to play the role I enjoy, and that role is nuking the crap out of a monster and seeing big yellow numbers.”

Gazimoff makes several very interesting points within this short article, from his personal views on the role he wants to play to his suggestion at the end that the entire flap might well result from a misattribution of the entire problem. It’s an interesting thought – after all, the lack-of-tanks issue has always primarily been centered around PUG groups. Is it, perhaps, not that people don’t want the responsibility of tanking, but that they don’t want the responsibility of tanking for people they don’t like?

Are you a Holy Trinity abolitionist, or do you think they’re fine? And does the problem lie elsewhere?

Quote taken directly from Gazimoff’s article .

Find Gazimoff’s blog, Mana Obscura, at .

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Why No Trinity Works in Guild Wars 2

I’ll admit it, I’m looking forward to Guild Wars 2, even if it does keep getting pushed back. But today’s post on Kill Ten Rats from one of the Community Open House events has me salivating even more.

He’s describing how Guild Wars 2 instances work – given that no-one in the party has a fixed role. No dedicated healer or tank, just a lot of interesting abilities. And apparently, it works pretty well:

The elementalist I talked to afterwards said he was playing around with the fire attunement mostly in the beginning, but he ended up playing with water after seeing how aggressive the warrior and thief were playing. If things felt good he would switch to kill the gravelings with fire. Interestingly enough, I switched from engineer rifle (decent damage + crowd control) to flamethrower (short range area of effect (“AoE”) damage + crowd control) because I noticed the gravelings loved to swarm. It was almost as if I unknowingly assumed his role as AoE damager as he shifted to something more supportive. The two melee guys also loved going in to my napalm wall for extra damage against the mobs.

I’m really loving this idea. It’s doable in WoW too these days, but not by design – still, some of the most fun times I’ve had in WoW recently have been playing through low-level dungeons with no tank or healer, just a bunch of DPS using our abilities to survive. Sounds like GW2 is actually designed on the principle of flexibility – and that sounds damn cool.

Like that idea? Or will you miss the fixed roles and structure of the Holy Trinity?

_Quote taken directly from Kill Ten Rats’ post.

Find Kill Ten Rats’ homepage at

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