Blog Carnival: On the edge of diversity

This posting is part of GuildMag’s third blog carnival. Unlike most of the previous postings, we wrote this post together (with the exception of our impressions from ArenaNet at GamesCom which we wrote in just the same way).

Something that annoyed us greatly in the Eligium beta was that we couldn’t choose the look of our characters. All you could choose – look-wise – was the race and the gender. Nothing to set you visually apart from everybody else. We all looked like clones. In World of Warcraft, people also complained about everybody choosing only the “pretty face” (it’s the 3rd picture in the link, by the way ^^) for the female trolls (and there weren’t that many who played female trolls to begin with) which resulted in lots of them looking very similar (there was also one particular hairstyle that was most popular which didn’t help at all). Or think about how players rage when a developer “nerfs” content, so more people can successfully beat it. Some of those who have done the content before the nerf are usually among those complaining. But why? Because now everybody can try and conquer the content and then get the same achievement. Those who have done so before don’t get this achievement taken away from them but it means one less thing to set them apart from everybody else. Something less to brag about, maybe.

In other words: We want to be “special snowflakes”. We want to have something that makes us different from others. In games where choices and diversity are naturally always limited, this seems to be a rather important issue. How can you then set yourself apart from others in Guild Wars 2? What will be in the game that shows its diversity and doesn’t make us feel like we’re taking part in “Attack of the Clones”? Let’s have a look at some aspects!

Guild Wars 2 won’t have the traditional raiding endgame. So we will most likely not be able to show off our great raid equipment and we won’t be able to set ourselves apart from the masses by having some super rare item that drops from the latest boss. Stats can be taken off armor, though, and you can put those stats on another armor piece. So, why should we bother all wearing the best raid equipment that drops (which, if you ask me, doesn’t actually stand for “diversity” so much as for “bragging rights”)? Instead, we have the whole wardrobe that the designers created to choose from. And with that come dyes. Lots and lots of dyes! You will be able to choose up to three colours for each of your armor pieces. In other words, if you want, you can imitate a walking Easter egg! If you want to have a look at some of the known armor in the game, head over to Hunter’s Insight for some pictures from the beta.

We know character customization will have options like statue and size. It won’t be as extensive as Aion, but that might not be so bad. You can make all sorts of weird looking characters in Aion. It just wouldn’t work in Guild Wars 2 if you want to recognise a human as a human. And who wants to play with a 2 meters large asura? ;)

One rather fascinating fact is that in World vs. World, you will not be able to see your enemy’s name (an explanation why they decided for that can be found here). They will be anonymous to you. While this may take away some fame (being known and feared “on the other side” for being a great PvPer), it will also mean that you will have to be more creative. Show off your fashion sense and impress the other side with skill and style! They will still not know your name, but you might be “Mr Turquoise-Purple R0xx0r” or whatever else for them.

Just like in many other MMOs, you can try out a rare class/race combination if you want to set yourself apart from other players. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems that asura warriors will be quite rare. As will be female asura and female charr. If you want to have a look yourself – or enter your own dream combination, have a look at GW2Census.

Speaking of races, there are the racial skills that set your race choice apart from others. Let’s take the asura warrior from above who can call a Golem Battlesuit that everybody can use. Other races will have different skills, so only asura can use this particular skill. ArenaNet said that they will be weaker than the class’s skills and you won’t be able to use them in structured PvP. The question is whether those skills will be strong enough so people feel that they’re useful… and, as always, there is the big question how open the game’s community will be towards skills that are “less than optimal”. Because, let’s face it, gamers have a tendency to favor the so-called cookie cutter builds. We’ve seen our fair share of people complaining when another player didn’t have the optimal build because while having it didn’t guarantee good fights, it at least made it more likely that even bad players can play their class adequately (please note that this isn’t our opinion. We’re just stating what we saw others write and use as arguments…).

There will very likely be a lot of combinations of skills to use for each class and lots of situations where, hopefully, different builds will be useful. But how viable will the community think they will be? How tolerant will they be towards people experimenting with builds? How often will they tolerate a “wipe” because somebody wanted to try out something? How many people will be as lucky as we were back in Burning Crusade (World of Warcraft) when our raid leader let Paeroka raid with her frost mage (*gasp*) who had a hybrid PvP-PvE spec (*faints*) because while she didn’t top the DPS charts, she knew how to play her class and almost never died even when half the raid was dead after a boss fight?

So, how much will we be able to enjoy the freedom and diversity that ArenaNet hands us? How tolerant will the gaming community be towards people trying to find their own niche in the game? ArenaNet certainly seems to be about building an inclusive community.

The worst case would be a trade-off for pure efficiency regardless of fun if that means you can kill a mob (be that a boss in a dungeon, in open world or other players in PvP) faster than without the most efficient build.

Guild Wars 2 seems to go in a direction where the player is in the center (no tanks, no healers means there are no required classes, after all… “bring the player, not the class! V2.0″). This will bring diversity in itself. But only if we, the players, accept that not everybody likes playing their character in exactly the same way that we think is the best. Not to mention that some players perform a lot better with a build they’re comfortable with even if it’s not the optimized one. If ArenaNet does their job well, there will not be a single “best build”. But we need to accept that a playstyle that deals 1% less damage is still a great playstyle if it means that the player is having more fun this way.

ArenaNet delivers the tools but in the end, the fate of diversity is in our hands.

9 responses to “Blog Carnival: On the edge of diversity

  1. As someone who likes to make totally normal characters like… ogre warlocks (because they are a very mystical race, right? Not some kind of brutes? :D) I can understand this perfectly.

    Although it seems my first character in Guild Wars 2 will be more on the popular side, a Charr Engineer. Oh, well.

    Anyhoo, I think cookie builds will be a problem depending on what kind of community is built around the game. I am not sure what kind of exact plans ArenaNet has to build over it so I don’t know how much they can influence it. But assuming that the first wave of players are from Guild Wars 1 I think it might not have that problem. Granted, I am a noobie in Guild Wars 1 still, but I get the impression the community there is a lot more used to the idea of different builds and that even unusual ones can be pretty effective if you build it right.

    There is also the whole different deal with them trying to get rid of the usual holy trinity. If combat is more dependent on player strategy and what kind of weapons/skills they chose for a particular encounter than builds might not be such an issue either.

    Overall you can say I am optimistic about how classes/builds will wok in Guild Wars 2 and the community that will born out of it. :)

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    • Ha yes. Odd combinations are fun. I did have a female dwarf rogue in WoW. Those were rare! ;)

      I’ll also be playing a charr engineer. But at leat, she’ll be female. And a female asura warrior which we probably won’t see often.

      I think GW1 players were the ones most opposed to having to go to certain NPCs and paying a fee in order to be able to respec. We’re used to respeccing almost on the fly, so that will be something to get used for a lot of players. I just hope it will still be the same mentality like in GW1 where players respec for certain situations but still don’t flame others when they’re out in the world without a perfect build. Maybe… maybe we won’t even be able to inspect others and see which traits etc. they chose, so we won’t be able to point a finger at somebody’s build. In my experience, this usually helps the most in getting rid of flamers. ;)

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      • Hm. Now that I think about it I think I had a dwarf rogue in WoW once. Didn’t play the guy much and he was a male one so perhaps it doesn’t count. Still, it was a fun character concept.

        I can understand the opposition against going to a NPC and paying a fee for respeccing. It was one of the nice surprises I found in Guild Wars, the ability to easily respect when outside the adventuring instances. This allows so much experimentation!

        However I can also see where the developers are coming from. They want the player’s decisions about how to build the character to have some weight. This already exists in Guild Wars 1 in the form of a second class. For instance, I think I spent 3 days trying to decide which class combination I liked best for my first character and I am still unsure if I am happy with my choices!

        Anyway, since there won’t be a second class in Guild Wars 2 perhaps they are trying to shift the weight of that decision to characters builds.

        Good point about not being able to inspect other people. I haven’t had that problem personally so far but I heard it is quite a problem in WoW nowadays. I also hope there won’t be some sort of DPS parse so people can do the blame game with it either. That is a problem I’ve seem in Everquest 2.

        Oh, and I forgot to mention in the first post, I am also of the philosophy of “Bring the player, not the class”. It is with the player I will be spending time with, not with the class, after all! :)

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      • Could you “inspect” other character’s “builds” in GW1 ??? Or did you just know what their build was by the effects you could see from them using their abilities?

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        • No idea. I never even tried to inspect others but I think it’s not possible. And I don’t know the abilities well enough to know the build from seeing them use some abilities. ;)

          I was just thinking of MMOs like WoW, Warhammer Online (which at some point had the Realm War thingy on their website and it let you see the char’s armor, etc.) and Lotro. I was made fun of for not having a better weapon in Lotro at some point. Annoying! So I’d definitely prefer not being able to inspect others, be it their build, armor, whatever.

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  2. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that the usual number-crunching and parsing is much, much more difficult to do in GW2. I think the nature of the combat (fundamentally based on tactical movement) is going to be different enough from what most MMO vets are used to that it will set the “min/maxers” back on their heels for quite a bit.

    After all, how do you determine “maximum efficiency” in a game where simply standing in place attempting to execute a “routine” is a sure formula for getting your butt kicked? Myopic focus on any one single facet of combat gameplay will not likely yield the results that min/maxers are looking for. There are simply going to be numerous occassions (like every single fight) where the optimum move at a particular moment is going to be to dodge/move rather than using an offensive or support oriented skill.

    “Bring the player, not the class…” here, here! I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment, and I really hope that is what is born out in the game once it launches.

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    • Oh yes. I’d love for the number-crunching and min/max-ing to stop. I mean, I don’t oppose it per se. If somebody likes doing that, why not. I just really hate when stuff like that gets imposed on others. So I didn’t like playing a fire mage AT ALL in WoW. My raid leader didn’t force me to. I didn’t do as much damage but my survivability was a bit higher (thanks to my half-PvP spec). Which meant that even when things went wrong, I could defend myself one more time and maybe survived long enough to dish out some more damage. This made it a good build in our chaotic raid group. But this is also something that can’t be calculated in too easily. ;)

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  3. I for one am glad to be rid of the “holy trinity.” Being a necro, I didn’t really fit into it anyway. I prefer support type characters, but I also prefer watching what is going on rather than watching bars turn red and green.

    I’m very excited about the versatility of professions and roles and happy that I can play a DPS-style mesmer or support-style warrior if I really want to.

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    • I love playing versatile classes who can more than just spam damage. I mean, I like playing a damage dealingj class but I always found myself switching to one that supports more in every MMO I’ve played with others (which usually means that I chose a healer or, though that was rarer, a tank).

      I’ve been eyeing a support-style warrior for quite some time now. But recently, I’ve gotten interested in the mesmer class as well: “Sword — focuses on melee-range attacks and character movement”.

      So, I could try to play in melee (which is what I like about the warrior) and maybe get some kind of playstyle that I loved in WoW (with my frost mage in PvP which was about movement, hindering the other player in their movement and thus, taking them out slowly while they couldn’t deal much damage to me). Gaah. Can’t wait to play the game and try this out! ^^

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