Will Guild Wars 2 be the first in the next generation of MMOs or will it have Korean 'grinders' reaching for their tissues in trembling anticipation?
MMORPG: Mostly Men Online Role Playing Girls.
Yes it is a sad fact that most female characters running around massively multiplayer online role playing games are, in fact, guys. If you see a female character, take it as read that it’s a man. If the female starts to come onto you, then it is definitely a dude (probably a 28 stone trucker from Sweden (swe?) called SVEN, sat there in his Grandma’s underwear with peanut butter on his nipples typing to you with one hand). Now whilst this is a problem (especially if it takes you a while to realise that it’s a guy and you have tissues of your own) it could pale into insignificance when compared to the huge problem which is starting to face the MMO genre. I’m talking about increased player expectations.
World Of Bear Arses.
We have all been there in an MMO (if you never have, then stop that snowboarding/free running/motocross ‘oh look at me with my really cool and interesting real life’ and get down to your local games emporium right now and buy a copy of WOW and get it installed) with our brand new, lovingly created character that is so bloody awesome that within 2 weeks the whole server will worship us as a god - and we encounter our first quest giver.
“Ye gods!” says the quest giver. “The whole area is beset with bears and I cannot travel. I need you to cull the blighters. Lovebigbutts (yes they use your character name in the quest which is quite groovy) go and get me 10 pristine bear arses (and only 1 in 8 bear arses are pristine) and I will give you this EPIC Codpiece of the Rampant Weasel!”
And there it is – MMO gaming at its finest and worse – go grind me some damn bear arses. However we want the Epic Codpiece, for without it we cannot stand in the factions major city and chat/flex and impress people (Sven loves a man in 'Epics'). Plus the next time we are in a dungeon party we want to kick/tank/heal some serious butt and we can’t do it without the Epic Codpiece, so clearly those bears are well having it.
Fast-forward 2 months and you have hit level cap – there isn’t a freaking bear in the whole world that has an arse, there are no monkies with tails, there are no Lions with noses and there are no molluscs with (whatever molluscs would be traumatised about losing) and you know that if you see one more bloody yellow '!' you might just die. But you do see it, you get depressed and then go and relieve some meerkats of their hind legs.
It works. It’s always worked. But by Darwin, is it right and fun to do? For me.... No. And that’s the growing problem. More and more people are buying newly released MMO’s, excited about discovering a whole new world, exploring its rich lore and killing masses of evil do’ers with great skill and prowess only to become instantly depressed when the first quest giver wants you to go and collect a bag full of random animal parts.
What I love about MMO’s (and after extensive research, including asking Sven and a couple of his mates, I realise I’m not alone in this) are quests that tell a real story, that engage you and have real depth to them. Ones that progress your character and that end in a cinematic that just leaves you grinning. There is also the fun to be had of being in a party of 5, 10 or 20 something people, facing seemingly unbeatable odds, having to work together as a team, bring down the big bad boss, getting not only the epic epeen loot but also the respect of your team/raid/guild/server. Meet you all in Major City... beers are on me! Type of thing.
Now wouldn’t it be awesome if we could find a game mechanic that dropped bear arse grinding like a new lover with an interesting STD and inserted something more engaging, so that both raids/team dungeons and levelling your character were equally as much fun?
Enter Stage Left Guild Wars 2!
Apparently the GW2 guys don’t like the thought of you carrying large mammal hind quarters around in your bags either.
To quote them directly “Most games, you go out and you have really fun tasks occasionally that you get to do and the rest of the game is this boring grind to get to the fun stuff. We just don’t want players to grind in Guild Wars 2, no one enjoys that, no one finds that fun. We want to change the way people view combat.” Bring it!
Fully Dynamic world? Really?
That’s what the developers over at Arena Net are hinting at. In a traditional MMO if you change something in the game world it magically resets itself. Kill a field full of rabid badgers and they are back in 4 minutes, take down a boss and he respawns for the next bunch of guys who have exactly the same quest as you do. Knock down a wall or a building and before you know it the magical builder elves (complete with ass cracks showing and tin cups full of spoon melting tea) appear while you’re not looking and put everything back how it was. This was fine 10 years ago – it made sense to the gamer and was accepted. Now we want more. Guild Wars 2 say that more is what they are all about.
“Its your world. Its your story.You affect things around you in a very permanent way.”
The GW2 guys are hinting at a world mechanic that is truly dynamic.
As in individual player, if you change something about the world, it stays changed and affects all the other players on the server. Save a Village and it stays saved and other players will encounter a player friendly environment when they wander in. Fail to save it and the next player along will be getting their ass kicked by mobs with all the vicious malice of a recently jilted partner turned psychotic stalker. “Cause and effect. A single decision made by a player cascades out in a chain of events.” says an Arena Net developer.
That’s a pretty big genre changer right there, and one that I personally can’t wait to be implemented and become the norm.
Am I Excited about Guild Wars 2?
In a word: Yes. I know I shouldn’t be. I can’t count how many times over the last couple of years I’ve got my hopes up over the ‘next big MMO’ only to be faced with yet another World of Warcraft clone that fails to even come close to its chosen inspiration. I love MMO’s but sadly I have grown out of WOW. I wish I was brand new to genre so that I could do the whole WOW thing over again without the jaded cynicism that I now have. Guild Wars 2 is promising to deliver the evolutionary change that MMO’s desperately need.
So against my better judgement and bitter let downs of past experience.... Yes I can’t wait! Yes I’m excited about it. In fact the only thing that could get me more excited would be if the Playboy tour bus were to break down outside my house and Hugh needed volunteers to help oil the Bunny’s up (now that's one thing I don’t mind grinding.)
So Arena Net, GW2 team... Please... For the sake of future MMOs everywhere... Don’t mess this up.