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Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend – Experience vs. Experience

May 2, 2012

Hello once again, welcome to my humble Blog. This time I’m going to discuss another very battered topic: Experience. Now if you’re an MMO player you’re thinking: “Rough amount of quests / mobs / whatever that i need to go from level X to X+1, easy”. Wrong! That’s only half of this topic. I want to discuss another kind of Experience that I feel has been slowly fading from MMO’s through time, the Player Experience.

Note: I said I’d discuss Elementalist mechanics with this post, but I started a draft about this topic and by the time I noticed, it was a fully formed post and I couldn’t leave it waiting 😛

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Back when WoW was at it’s prime (2006 if you ask me, but that’s a subjective matter) I was having a wonderful time playing the game. Why? For one, it was my first time playing an MMO (which in itself already caused a sense of awe and astonishment); second, the game felt Epic. That’s a word that has been used so much in so many (bad) games that it kind of lost it’s meaning. As I ventured through Azeroth I was amazed at the world, I used to do a lot of exploring around the different zones and environments and dream of Molten Core. The world felt big and I felt compelled into running around and viewing all the beautiful landscapes and places the game had to offer.

But there was a bad thing about exploring in WoW. Those 30 minutes you spend on running around the zone means you’re potentially losing 30 minutes worth of XP, which means 30 minutes less of max level playtime (and all the neat stuff that come with it). Of course you could find a few scorpions along the way and whack their heads out, but the amount of XP you’d get from that was meaningless. This derives from what I think is a bigger problem about WoW: it mostly focuses on leveling up from 1 to Max, because that’s where all the fun happens. Back in the early versions (think: before AQ40 was released), this wasn’t true. There was a lot of fun content prior to max level (60 at the time); in fact, most of the content was made for the 1-59 game. I have a lot of cool episodes in my memory regarding a big cow wearing a red and yellow armor set, wielding a giant two-handed hammer and running through Tanaris while killing scoprions, basilisks, hyenas and collecting herbs from the floor. Maybe some other time I’ll expand on this. Let’s focus before I start rambling too much! 😛

Check out these armors! Coooooool stuff bro

Nonetheless, all this fun content was a side thing about the game. Your purpose as a player (or as a character) was to kill as much monsters as possible, finish as many (boring) tasks as you could find, all in order to get to level 60. If you decided to take some time from the intense questing, you’d actually be getting punished with the loss of precious XP. So if you were thinking of checking out if there’s anything interesting about that cave hidden there behind those rocks and trees, you can forget about it! Now Guild Wars 2 takes a whole new approach to this.

Note: From personal experience, I can only comment on WoW and GW2 (a little bit of Lineage 2, but I won’t touch that). If there’s a game out there that has also made steps into changing this (like SWTOR, I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it) then feel free to leave a comment about that below 😉

So why is Guild Wars 2 any different? Why did I feel I had to make a post about this? Because GW2 takes into consideration the other “Experience” I mentioned earlier. In Guild Wars 2 the most important experience is the one you, as a player and character, have. It’s not about powering through the levels to get to the fun content. ArenaNet developers have taken a giant leap into making this game as much fun as possible, removing all the boring stuff that has become “mandatory” in an MMO. Scrapping the whole idea of Questing is a major step in this.

Map Exploration Objectives on the left
Image by Syp @ BioBreak

You now have a fantasy world in front of you, not a list of tasks that you MUST do. Coupled with the Dynamic Event system, you now have a handful of incentives to go out and explore that world. And you won’t feel punished for doing so, in fact you’ll feel rewarded!! Not only you might end up finding a cool dynamic event when you go check out that cave (you know, the one behind some rocks and trees? 😉 ), you will also feel a sense of accomplishment with the Map Exploration feature.

Notice the yellow hearts? These are ArenaNet’s response to everyone begging for a list of stuff to do. There’s lot of players that really want/need a list of tasks to go through. That’s fine, I myself like to feel there’s something to go to when I feel bored. Are these any close to WoW’s quests? Not even slighty; these are mostly mundane yet funny tasks that you can do (not have to) that also serve to guide a player to adventures. You can bet that near those hearts you can stumble upon a few dynamic events. You might be turned down about the “mundane” part of it. I felt a bit weird the first time I decided to take on one of those. It involved, if I’m not mistaken, watering some hay stacks of something down by a little farm. At first I felt like I was wasting my time there, but about as soon as I started, a band of Bandits (or were they centaurs? Can’t remember) started attacking the farm and we had to drive them back. Result: I went from a mundane task to a full scale fight in just a couple minutes. And what’s more, the NPC related to the heart task had some rewards I could acquire 😀

You could say, “yeah ok, but those are specific and marked spots on the map, there’s no really exploration about that”. Ok let’s move on then. See the third simbol on the left? A orange square with a thick white border. These are Points of Interest. They are points pinned in the map that are of interest to either you (as a player or character), your personal story (more on that in a future post) or the lore in general. Alone, they don’t mean anything special or have any rewards. But don’t forget the Dynamic Event system 😉 I think I can count with my fingers how many of those did NOT have a Dynamic Event going on by the time I got to them. A few of those also helped me finish some heart tasks I had unfinished, which was cool.

Last, but not least, see the blue upwards arrow on the map? Those are skill challenges. Those are locations where you can complete challenges and earn skill points. The type of challenges appear to be pretty diverse. In the Charr starting area there’s a Skill Challenge NPC which, after being defeated, gives you your Skill point; in the Human starting zone there’s a swamp that has a skill challenge marker there. It’s underwater and it’s a small circle on the ground that you can interact with to get your skill. The catch about this last one: the area is full of enemy monsters wandering around, and the circle is protected by a Champion (an Elite mob of sorts).

Ah, I almost forgot. There’s also a Completion Bar that fills up as you progress through these objectives and uncover areas on the map. Filling up a bar (most probably, I’m not sure about this though) will award you an achievement related to Exploration. That’s another nice feature for those workhaolics that really need a lsit of work to get done or the Achievement addicts. Either way, it’s fun!

So bottom line: in Guild Wars 2 you deviate from the standard “Go into this Zone, speak to that NPC, who will then tell you the only thing interesting about that Zone is the X number of monsters you need to kill to get the Y amount of XP points you need to level up.” ; now when you step into the game world, you’ll be starting an adventure without knowing exactly where it might take you. And you won’t feel like your missing out on anything while venturing through the world, that’s EXACTLY how you are supposed to play the game!

In this game, your Experience will not be the distance between two consecutive levels, it will be the awesome world that ArenaNet has developed and how YOU will help change it.

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From → Guild Wars 2

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