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World of Warcraft circa 2006

Hello once again. Today I’m stepping a bit away from Guild Wars 2 and sharing a few memories and stories I have of World of Warcraft from back in 2005-2006. I don’t have any material from that time (videos or screenies) so sorry since you won’t be able to see how badass my Tauren looked wielding his purple (item color, not rarity :P) scorpion mace at Crossroads.

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World of Warcraft, my first MMO. I still remember the day I got home with my mom from the mall with the game box in my hands, just dieing to get to my computer and start playing! We’re in early 2005 and I did not think twice when it came to creating a character: Tauren Warrior. Being a faithful Warcraft III player from way before and seeing as my main race had always been the Orcs, picking a Tauren was an obvious choice, ’cause they just rock 😀

Azeroth was pretty “young” at the time. The only raids avaiable were Onyxia’s Lair and Molten Core, with Blackwing Lair being released shortly after i started (or shortly before, I can’t tell now). There were no battlegrounds and the Honor system had just been implemented. So Alliance raids on Crossroads was our daily bread. Well in that case, I was their bread.

Just another normal day in Azeroth / Credits to The Lost Cause

The game felt wonderful at that time. Everything, really everything, was awesome. I think the true World of Warcraft was the old pre-60 content. That’s where all the fun was. Dungeons were not a mere zerg through the mobs to get loot, loot didn’t even mean much to me in those dungeons, what I wanted was to kill harder stuff. Looking back I giggle every time I remember the corpse runs back to Wailing Caverns. There was a lot of stuff, important and helpful stuff, that we didn’t have at those times and had to be compensated, most times not perfectly, with Add-Ons. In a way, WoW today is better for having some recent tools and whatnot. On the other hand, I feel it has lost other times’ epicness. Some say the game got worst, some say it has moved on on it’s natural course of life.

All I know is those were 2 awesome years, 2006’s summer will be in my memory for a long time. It’s been 7 years now since i first logged in to World of Warcraft (Bloodfeather-EU by the way), and the game has changed a LOT, so did the genre as a whole. Perhaps I can find another home in Guild Wars 2 🙂

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend – General Impressions

It just struck me: I’ve already made two posts commenting on a couple particular issues about Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend but I haven’t posted a General Impressions discussion. This should do it, I hope 🙂 I did not take any Screenshots from the Beta (for some reason my keyboard’s SS button decided to take a few days break), so all pictures you see are someone else’s. Whenever I can find them, credits will be posted.

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So the Beta has ended a couple days ago now. I was highly anticipating this past weekend, just anxious to get my hands on this game. I’ve been following this game closely for over a year now, and I believe I had seen every video about it avaiable on Youtube and read every major article about it. So expectation was peaking. And I can positively say I didn’t feel disappointed in this game, at all.

Let’s start in the beggining. Character creation. This is something that ArenaNet and a lot of other folks have discussed and hyped a lot about. GW2’s character creation system offers players a huge amount of possibilities for customizing their basic character’s appearance. Honestly, I didn’t spend more then 2-3 minutes on it. I was more anxious to start killing stuff and enjoying the beautiful world of Tyria. I don’t mean to say that character appearance isn’t something I’m interested in. But I figured, since I had only the weekend to play, and a big part of my weeked was already reserved for my activities outside the virtual world, I’d just skip the appearance stage. I did, though, arrange a cool color scheme for my armor 😛

Doesn’t quite look like her, but it’s close / Credits to talesoflumin @ Youtube

After hitting Play I was presented with a relatively short clip describing my character’s origins and whatnot. The art in that clip was amazing. ArenaNet’s decision to mix in those hand-stylish graphics was right on track if you ask me, not only is it visually appealing, I get the feeling it matches the whole Guild Wars theme. After that I appeared outside Divinity’s Reach, surrounded by I’d say about 40 to 50 other players. As you may know, the Human starting experience puts you “in charge” of a battle against an invading army of centaurs that also summon some sort of elemental. The town in question, Shaemoor, has this very dark atmosphere around it at this time, it’s raning, the sky is dark and covered in clouds, there’s smoke coming out of buildings and whatnot. Right off the bat it puts you on a scenery that induces some feeling of danger and peril.

I really enjoyed the starting experience in Shaemoor. After watching it so many times on different videos, it felt truly amazing to be experiencing it first hand. I felt that new players were a bit thrown into the lion pit here though. In my opinion, you’re thrown into battle even without knowing your the game at all. Yes, these are fairly easy battles, but still, if I hadn’t seen a lot of videos before, I think I would have had a bit of trouble with it. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it might be a way to tell new players “Hey this won’t be an easy task, here’s an harsh situation to learn it the hard way”. But no one likes dieing. It’s a fact. Even more, no one likes dieing AND not knowing exactly why and how it went down. In my opinion, ArenaNet needs to change the starting experience a little bit, because it will be a bit overwhelming to new players and that might mean they’ll stop playing the game (think a player on a GW2 Trial or trying the game out somewhere).

From that point on, the game flourishes. You get introduced to your Personal Storyline (truthfully it starts with the centaur attack on Shaemoor), you realize you already have two skills on your left action bar (!!) and you’re out killing centaurs on the same place you destroyed the Elemental from the start. Taking a deeper look into your UI, it might seem awkward at first. Sometimes I found myself searching for something in the UI that I was used to having easily accessible (such as Guild Panel). It takes a bit of time to get used to how it is laid out, but it’s nothing major in my opinion.

Credits to Bettadenu @ AlienWare Gamer Forums

By now you probably already encountered your first Dynamic Event and you’re either put off or overly excited about it. For players who expect a loot reward for every task, most dynamic events will be disappointing, you  “only” get an XP injection, karma points and some cash. Karma points are a kind of points that you can use to trade for stuff at Renown Hearts vendors for example. I feel this is an issue a lot of players will have problems with, maybe myself included. We’re used to getting a sweet ass sword after killing a hard monster or group of monsters, it’s “common sense”. I think giving players some loot at some particular Dynamic Events (think Shadow Behemoth at Godslost Swamp) would be a plus and yet another incentive to go out and explore the world.  I know we only had the opportunity to play the very early game and therefore might not have a good idea of how it works, but then again, that’s where players decide if they stick with the game or not.  Now, if you played the BWE, you’ll know there were some issues with the scaling of events. Some would easily become zergs through waves of mobs, some would be invincible Shamans that you could not kill (poor, poor Charr players). That’s (hopefully) a Beta problem, it needs some tuning so I won’t bash on it at this moment.

What? A giant boss like that at level 16??? / Credits to Anime-envoy.com

Let’s discuss combat. This is one of those breaking points in an MMO if you ask me. Its most of the fun for me, and if a game’s combat system does not appeal to me, then most probably the game won’t either. A good example of this was Lineage 2. The combat felt so boring and sometimes so unbalanced that i ended up not playing the game ever again. I’m sure there are a lot of good things about it, but it just lost me with it’s combat’s stillness. WoW in my opinion had a very strong case on this. Combat was a lot more fluid then before and that was about enough to capture me (in all honesty, i was also a Warcraft universe fan, it played a huge part as well). But GW2 takes a giant leap forward on that. Combat is now more in the style of an action game and movement is more important than it ever was in an MMO. I have never payed much attention to GW1 and it’s lore, but nonetheless I felt compelled to play and explore more about it, because the combat felt awesome and fun. I would say this is probably on the top 3 pluses for GW2.

Hard to show how combat is with a picture, but this one looks really cool / Credits to CodLab.eu

For quite some time have I been trying to fulfill the void in my gaming (oh so corny :P)  that WoW left. Never again did an MMO get me so excited and hooked up, until Guild Wars 2. Maybe it’s because its something completely different and I get the same feeling of experimenting something new and truly exciting as I did back when WoW appeared. Maybe its something else, all I know is I’ve been in love with this game and the Beta Weekend definitely put the ring on my finger for good. Is it me or no other game out there feels interesting now?

 

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend – Experience vs. Experience

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.

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend – Of Fiery Daggers and Playstyles??

I had already sort of planned this post before my Introductory Post so this is why I’m posting it so soon after my first one. I haven’t defined a solid schedule yet, but I’m working on it 🙂 If you don’t know much about Guild Wars 2 yet, you should definitely check out www.GuildWars2.com and read all the info about the game there 😉

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I pre-purchased my copy of Guild Wars 2 a few days ago when the first Beta Weekend Event (BWE) was announced, a big part because I wanted to play it that weekend 😀 I’ve been following this game very closely for over a year now and I believe I watched all avaiable videos about it on Youtube, so I was just dying to try it out.

I even thought of a small To-Do list for the BWE, but being myself, I ended up not doing anything I had planned 😛 First off I had thought of creating a character of each race (didn’t happen) and try out at least 5 of the 8 professions (classes if you prefer; didn’t happen either). What really happened was I created a Human Elementalist and played about 95% of my BWE-time on it; the remaining 5% were spent on creating and playing through levels 1-3 with a Charr Warrior. Then I also planned on exploring a bit of each crafting profession across the various characters, which (needless to say) didn’t happen either, as I didn’t explore any crafting profession at all.

Tired of waiting for those cast bars to fill up so you can GTFO? Guild Wars 2 was made for you!

So let’s discuss the Elementalist profession shall we? Right off the bat: it’s NOT like any Mage-type class you ever played. If you’re accustomed to playing a Caster character in
World of Warcraft, you probably already had this thought: “Why the hell can’t i cast Fireball and run at the same time? Can’t my character speak and run at the same time? Can’t he/she do some weird gestures while speaking and running?” Right? I mean it’s a bit stupid (in my humble opinion) that you can’t cast spells and move at the same time. But the funny thing is, I always assumed that it was the right way for a game to be until I saw that’s not how it works in GW2. In Guild Wars 2 you can move and even JUMP while casting your spells. There are a few exceptions to this rule of course, such as the Elementalist’s spell Meteor Shower that require you to stay in one place while casting it; but for the most part you’ll be moving while throwing those fireballs at a random skritt. Love it!!!

There’s a lot to say about Elementalist skillsets and the mechanics behind them, but I’ll leave that to another post. But keep this in mind: to master GW2 combat, you will need to master Movement (yet another post-worthy topic) and master your skillset. With this I mean you will need to learn which spells to use and how to use them in each situation. Moving on to my next idea: playstyles.

As it’s been said, explained, and said again, all over the Internets: there are no Tanks/DPS/Healers in this game (there are no set roles, quoting ArenaNet developers). So getting used to the notion and actual applicability of playstyles is something I found actually harder than I thought at first. Too many times did I forget to change my attunement in a fight to use that spell that causes a condition on my target, which would have made me win the fight… It takes a bit of time and focus to integrate that into your playing. On my behalf, there was no real “tutorial” about my class ingame (I think not at least, I was a bit too excited to start casting that I might have missed something :P), so that’s something ArenaNet needs to change.

All in all, I had a wonderful time playing the Elementalist, it turned out to be better than I expected after watching countless videos of Guild Wars 2 gameplay. There were a couple bugs with some spells (something you’d expect from a Beta version) but overall the profession is a lot of fun, with many different mechanics incorporated into it’s various playstyles. It was (and will be) a great change of mentality from the established concept of a “Mage”, as will the whole game be a great change from the established concept of an MMO.

Elementalist -> definitely a profession i’d recommend to anyone interested in the game, regardless of their past experiences with Mage-type characters. It might be a bit hard getting used to the whole action bar / playstyle issue at first, but trust me, after giving it a bit of time, you’ll be hooked up on it 😉

On my next post I’ll discuss a bit of the mechanics behind the Elementalist, stay tuned 😉

Burn you ugly-ass two-headed troll or whatever, BURN!!

What’s this and what am i supposed to do with it?

Hello there and welcome to my blog’s introductory post.

What is this blog? This blog is the result of reading through BioBreak’s Newbie Blog Initiative post. I felt compelled to create my own blog, something i already had a go at, back in… i forgot what year it was, but it was a long time ago. Needless to say, it didn’t go well last time. Causes? Unknown, unimportant really. Will this one make it better? Hopefully yes 🙂 A few words about myself. My name is Pedro, i’m from Portugal, currently studying Economics, and i’m a MMO enthusiast with very little time on my hands to play 😛

Now for the second part of the question… Well i guess im supposed to write about MMO’s, in general or specific, so i got the main idea down, all i need is some content. I have been playing video games since 1995, ranging from the old 1P SNES games to the 12 million player MMO behemoth WoW. Am i somewhat of an expert in video games? Not even close, i play the games i like because i like them, as meaningless as that may seem.

So why do i want to make a blog about MMO’s? Well because it’s a genre that i dreamt about for years when i was younger and didn’t know / couldn’t play any of the MMO pioneering games like DAoC, Ultima Online, etc. Then in 2004 light was shed my way. World of Warcraft came out and swept me (and thousands of other people) of my feet. I started playing it early 2005 and stopped playing when it’s first expansion The Burning Crusade was about to be released, in very late 2006. I could tell you a lot more about my experience with WoW, but i’ll leave that to another post (there will be another post right? :P)

What will i talk about in my blog then? Well mostly my opinions and feelings about MMO’s in general and a very specific one: Guild Wars 2. That’s right, the sequel to a very underestimated MMO about as old as WoW, that although not having as much accomplishment as the latter, did sell over 6 million copies worldwide. If you play any MMO or are just interested in the genre you probably already heard or read about GW2. If you haven’t, i recommend you to go to www.GuildWars2.com ASAP and soak in all the information there 😀

I first heard about GW2 a few years ago, i’d say about 2008 or 2009, and i’ll be honestly, i didn’t think much of it at the time. Having played the GW1 trial (which i didn’t grow very fond of to be honest) my initial thought about GW2 was “Skip”. Last year, by this time of the year, i read about it again somewhere, and decided to check it out. I’ve been following it very closely ever since, and as soon as the first Beta Weekend Event was announced i pre-purchased my copy. Now i’ll post here my opinions and feelings about this awesome game 😀

As i mentioned above, i will also post some stuff about my experience with World of Warcraft. I don’t have any screenshots from that time (viruses and other problems made me format my hard drive so i lost everything i had) but i still remember a big chunk of it 🙂 So expect a few reminiscing stories of a young boy in love with the Warcraft universe and struggling to keep his jaw from dropping to the floor 😀

So that’s been my first post, and quite a lenghty one 😛 A few last notes, as you probably have noticed already, i don’t have any experience in writing, much less in English (which isn’t my native language), so bear with me on that issue. Also, expect a lot of rambling in these posts, i tend to deviate from my initial topic as i’m writing since none of this is planned ahead.

Thank you for reading through this, i hope you come back and enjoy 🙂