Category Archives: Gaming Companies

Foostival 2014: Interview with Ramon

Foostival_Interview with Ramon

Update: Check out the corresponding gem cards giveaway (EU-only). Open until March 31! This is the interview from Foostival with Ramon Domke, the German community manager of Guild Wars 2 (click this link for the Guildnews version and this link for the Wartower one – the videos are identical!). It was done completely in German and even though nothing spectacular was revealed, it is still fun to listen to it and we thought it may be a good idea to translate it and share it with the rest of the community!

On the left, you see Johannes (Lord Walek) from Wartower. The guy on the right is Alex (Sputti) from Guildnews. The one in the middle with the pretty pink shirt is Ramon. Prior to Foostival, they had asked their communities to give them questions they can ask Ramon Domke, who is the German community manager for Guild Wars 2. Alex asked his community for more personal questions, so most of those below are from him.

I decided not to translate everything they said literally. The video is more than one hour long, so I assume you can understand why I didn’t do that. ;) I tried to stay as close as possible to the answers Ramon gave while summarizing and translating them. Sometimes, they are closer to what was said literally. I’ve also added a few comments in ((brackets)) where necessary (like the changes of the reveal dates for the features pack or when I wasn’t sure I got the correct translation).

Ramon starts with the warning that there will be one sentence in three variations that you will be hearing in his replies pretty often (and he assures us, he hates it as much as we do):
1) I can’t say anything about that.
2) We’re not talking about this yet.
3) Nothing is ever off the table.

He tries to answer the questions as best as he can.

1. Loot and reward system: Will there be changes e.g. in dungeons and fractals? Champion runs get better rewards than other things in the game.

He can’t promise which direction the changes will take, but there will be changes. Different content should be rewarded similarly. There is a “loots and rewards” team looking at how different things are rewarded, so changes will definitely come. He can’t say if they’ll be viewed positively or negatively in the beginning.

2. Will there be changes in the skill system or how the enemies behave? So far, damage is more important than anything. Support is more of a burden to the group.

Ramon knows this feedback. They have just released the first information about the features pack and those are the first steps towards this direction where eventually different builds should be equal. On the other hand, with the open world content, they try to implement different game mechanics to make different builds strong.

3. What does Ramon think about the professions’ balance?

He’s not too keen on speed runs or getting the most gold per hour played. He most often plays with friends and can play with less effective builds, but he can understand that there are issues, especially with PUGs where they say “You either have this build or you can’t come!”

4. Are they still working on a solution to limited condition stacks?

There are lots of developers and are trying to find a solution, but the last things they tried out resulted in the server infrastructure to go down. There was too much tracking of e.g. stacks of different lengths. It’s not off the table.

5. New profession/weapon combinations: Are they planning this?

He wouldn’t exclude the possibility of this, but nothing will come in the next weeks or months. There will be the features patch next and then they will continue the living story.

Or more skills per weapon? E.g. switching between/choosing skills?

That is an interesting idea. If they can implement this reasonably, then why not. Either through a different weapon or by giving one weapon more skills. It would maybe be easier to just put in a new weapon.

6. What was the reason for only now giving free retraiting?

They looked at different systems – not only about retraiting. And they thought: Who is disadvantaged the most? When retraiting, then it is the beginners, who don’t have that much gold yet. They need to travel to a city, then retrait and travel back. That’s 10 silvers which is a lot for a beginner. Or you want to try out something. You’re out in the world fighting a veteran, you die and think: What can I do? You can now try different things without having to travel. It’s a much more interesting game now. The answer is: because they want to make the game better and because they grow together with the community.
He gives the example of Guild Wars 1. On the back of the Prophecies box was an example build with a warrior. It was completely ineffective. Developers had put it there as an example build, but the players who brought in new build ideas every day developed the game along.

7. What does he think about the upcoming warrior trait where you get more attack speed with two one-handed weapons ((dual-wield agility)) and if he knows how it stacks with quickness?

He does not know if it stacks. But he is also “such a boring warrior” with two one-handed axes, so he doesn’t haven an issue with this new trait.

8. Is more group-content planned?

Definitely, but it depends on how you define “group-content”. 5-party instanced content? Or “raid-like” in instances with e.g. 20 people. GW2 tries to have lots of content in the open world. Yes, they try to put group content in there. They try not to have it “too zergy”, so that even with a huge group with 150, players can interact and fight together.

9. Will there be more world bosses like Tequatl?

He definitely does not want to exclude that possibility.

10. Are they thinking about putting the bigger bosses that need lots of coordination onto special maps? So that those who do this content don’t disturb those who want to level in that zone.

He refers to the last few bullet points on the April 2014 Feature Pack release and tells us to wait for those to be revealed ((Facilitating Friendly Play Parts 1, 2 and 3 which will be shown April 2 – April 4)). This question will be answered in detail in there.

11. What does Ramon think of the ending of Season 1?

He looks at it like it was a TV series. He doesn’t have a problem with the ending. It’s like a cliffhanger: Lots of the questions that appeared with Flame & Frost have been answered so far, but more and more loose parts appeared and not all of those have been answered. He saw a planning document for season 2 and there will be answers to all open questions. In this document, you can also clearly read: “E. is… (name of a person)“. What they learned is that it is important that players can see there is a common thread throughout all parts.

12. In general, how did he like Scarlet?

Scarlet was a bit of a crazy kale. She fulfilled her purpose and even if she wasn’t liked, she still caused emotions.

13. What does ArenaNet think about dungeons with more than 5 players? Maybe making dungeons scalable?

Nothing is off the table, but they’re trying to bring big and interesting encounters to the open world. They want to design this content in a way that people who are just passing by can form a group and do it, but it should also be challenging enough, so players aren’t standing there hitting “1″ repeatedly.

14. Will there be more content on Southsun Cove?

He can’t say anything about this ((I assume because he doesn’t know.))

15. There is one armor set ((“Rüstungsset der Genesung” in German which I believe are the Mending gauntlets, greaves, helm in English)) you get as rewards from the personal storyline, but the leggings are missing.

He has no idea!

16. Will there be more possibilities to get ascended armor? E.g. dungeon tokens, karma.

He doesn’t know exactly how, but they are looking at ways to make items available through different means, so players with different playstyles (like people who do WvW or dungeons, …) can also get them. He compares it to the changes in the trait system where new traits can be unlocked by doing specific content or by paying gold. He also refers to the design philosophy they had in mind for Guild Wars 2 that they do not want to force players to play a certain way.

17. Will there be new legendary weapons? And if so, will they be available in the same way than the current legendaries?

They’re thinking about how to handle legendary weapons. They had originally planned to implement the feature of crafting a precursor or doing a scavenger hunt with the feature release. But since they’re now rethinking the whole system with their “loots and rewards” team, they postponed it. But they are looking for ways to reasonably put them in and give players the feeling that they’re slowly but surely working towards their legendary weapon and aren’t dependant on the loot luck from the Mystic Forge. Of course, they are also thinking of possible new legendary weapons. This does not mean there will be new ones, but that they are of course thinking about them.

18. There was also the question if there will be more skins from Guild Wars 1?

He thinks this is possible, especially when it’s about very popular ones. But he doesn’t know if it’s being done.

19. What is Ramon’s favourite zone in Guild Wars 1 and which zone die he like in Guild Wars 1 which doesn’t exist in Guild Wars 2 yet.

He generally likes barren land in MMOs. In Guild Wars 1, he liked the desert areas. For example, the Crystal Desert which looked like a huge desert, even though it wasn’t. He talks about an abandoned temple there and that it looks like there is a statue, but the closer you get, the more it looks like a mirage. Also, the area before you go to Maguuma Jungle, that looks like a desert: He thinks this is beautiful. And in Eye of the North, he says “Longeye’s Ledge” was just great with the atmosphere, the autumny look, the warm sunlight.

20. What is going to happen with Lion’s Arch now?

Lion’s Arch is currently destroyed. It won’t be rebuilt within a day. He doesn’t say what or how it’s going to change.

21. Which update of the Living Story was his favourite?

When it comes to gameplay, Bazaar of the Four Winds. It was fun and he loves Sanctum Sprint. He is also sad that the Aspect Arena is not part of the daily activities. He would also love to see this one again.

22. How far developed is Season 2 of the Living Story?

It’s all planned.

23. Ellen Kiel or Evon Gnashblade?

Ellen Kiel. His bet was on her winning because while the hardcore and Guild Wars 1 players wanted to see the Abaddon fractal, he was sure that the bigger crowd would go with the reduced waypoint costs.

24. Would Scarlet have appeared in the Abaddon fractal as well?

He doesn’t reply to that question.

25. Will there also be something to vote on in Season 2 like the vote between Ellen and Evon?

He doesn’t know that.

26. Will Season 2 see content that is closer to an “expansion”? For example, new regions, new professions, new races.

He says that the question is what you call “something like expansion content”. He says yes, at least, it will go into that direction.

27. Are they working on a continuation of the personal story? And is it possible to combine the personal and the living story?

They are thinking about different possibilities of the personal character progression/story and revisions of current systems, but he can’t say what they are going to do.

28. Will there be more blending of story and game events? As in having more cut scenes in between.

They extended their cinematics department. So he won’t say “no” to this. The recent updates also showed some more cut scenes. They do not plan to use those cut scenes anymore where your character and one other character can be seen on the screen – like in the personal story – and will concentrate more on scenic cut scenes.

29. Are they working on a way to let the player repeat living story? E.g. through fractals?

He would not say “no” and they do hear this feedback very often: Why do you make temporary content that will be lost forever once it’s over? He thinks they are probably looking at how to make replaying it possible.

30. Will we see World 3 of the Super Adventure Box on April 1 and if so, will the story be continued?

Ramon’s reply: “And who would benefit from an April 1 spoiler?”

31. What does Ramon think of the SAB?

He thinks the idea is interesting. He shook his head when he first heard about this. But it’s such an ingenious idea that it works. In general, he is just too bad to do jumping puzzles.

32. What does Ramon think of the tribulation mode of the SAB?

He doesn’t like going from full life to zero without understanding why, so he doesn’t like this mode. But there are different players and everybody likes different content. He is happy that there are people who love the tribulation mode.

33. The next topic is datamining: What do they think about dataminers?

He personally hates dataminers. They destroy the fun for the players and the result is that developers have to think about how to deploy a build, so that hardly no datamining can be done. So, building something over a longer course of time is difficult.

34. There was an “alternative ending sequence” to season 1 of the living story which got revealed by dataminers. Does something like this happen more often at ArenaNet that there are different endings or that different endings are done and the “right” one will be chosen at a later time?

In general, if you look at filmmakers, game developers, authors, this happens frequently to test out different endings: How would this ending affect the rest of my story, etc.? This happens especially when you’re working with several authors. The ending they did is the ending they need.

35. Some complained that almost no new town clothes have been implemented. Will this change?

He refers to the announcements for the feature patch and that some questions will be answered there: Monday. ((Note: This was changed and the date on the website now says “March 25″, so today, the correct answer is “Tuesday”))

36. Could it be implemented that regular armor could be changed to town clothes?

He again refers to their website and the feature patch: Monday. ((Tuesday!))

37. How about a crafting profession that lets you create town clothes?

Monday! ((Tuesday!))

38. Will there be new emotes? Or animations for some existing emotes?

He doesn’t know the answer. It’s currently not talked about, but as usual, nothing is off the table.

39. Would he like more vistas to see more of the world?

He would love to see a “filmmakers kit” where he could basically dock the camera of his character and then make his own vista/film.

40. How many screenshots has he taken?

His screenshots usually tell a story, as he never deletes them. He has no idea how many he has.

41. ((The question if Ramon plays GW2 in his free time is obsolete: Yes, he does!)). So on to the next one: How often/regularly does he play?

He has almost 6000 achievement points. It’s not that much, but not bad either.

42. What is Ramon’s favourite profession and what is his favourite profession/race combination?

He plays sylvari. He would love to play asura, but there is no “change sylvari to asura kit” and he doesn’t want to do everything again. But he really likes asura. He plays all 8 professions. His favourite is engineer. He hasn’t played it that often recently, as he’s playing his necromancer in PvP and WvW more often.

43. Is there a general trend towards one race or profession at ArenaNet?

No. It’s mixed. Everybody has their own favourites.

44. What is his favourite in-game dye for armor?

Thanks to having sylvari, he has a lot of choices when it comes to skin colours and he tries to choose dyes that support that colour. His guardian has an armor that has metal colours (gold, silver, dark bronze). His necro has a very dark green and around the dark green, he has light golden borders and a white shirt below.

45. Are they working on solving some cosmetic issues, especially the warrior shouting of gaining adrenaline when it’s slowly decaying?

He can’t say that. Since it’s not a critical bug, it’s probably low on the list of priorities. More critical things are worked on first.

46. Will there be an expansion of the API that can be used?

They are currently reworking a lot of systems which will render the API useless in some areas at first. Then they will definitely need to rework things to keep the API useable.

47. Has ArenaNet thought about implementing a region lock because people from different time zones could get an advantage over night on EU servers?

They discussed this, but decided against it, because there are players who travel a lot, etc. Or when players from Oceania are on European data centers, etc. They would not want to dictate players where and when to play the game.

48. How did Ramon get to ArenaNet?

He applied. They did not want him back then. 1,5 years later, they called him and asked if he was still interested. And obviously, he was.

49. What is a typical day of a community manager?

A normal day doesn’t exist. As community manager, he is talking to different departments and sits in between everything and tries to coordinate everything. He has to know what’s going on inside the studio and what’s happening outside of the studio. Then he tries to combine this. He gave an example of how they wanted to name something which, unfortunately, was a nazi parole when translated to German. So it is his job to know what will and won’t work in his community.

50. When Ramon sees a suggestion on the forum, does he have to tell the lead community manager about this first or can he tell that to the developers? What’s the hierarchy like?

He is the highest rank for the German-speaking area. He decides what to report to the developers. He also has people who report to him. But he is the one representing the German community. He can forward feedback directly, but they are communicating between the teams and if there is an issue in one region, it’s very often an issue in other regions as well. He gives the example of the Zodiak armor and that in the UK, it was a big issue that it was seen as too sexualized on female characters whereas in other regions, it was mainly seen as too similar to a smurf with the blue colours. ((Also notable in this aspect is that he knows what was being discussed on the Wartower forums – a German fansite)). A lot of his time is spent looking for feedback and reporting about this. He also tries to figure out if, for example, negative feedback comes from a lot of different people or maybe there are a lot of negative postings, but they are from just a handful of people. In the latter case, he still doesn’t disregard the feedback and it is still being added to the list of feedback. Additionally, the communities (on fansites, etc.) differ. Something that’s being discussed in the Wartower forums may not be an issue elsewhere or discussed differently (e.g. the other German fansites, Twitter, Facebook, …). His job is to find out what the whole of the German community thinks and not just parts of it.

51. Do community managers get unlimited gems?

Ramon would love that. They get a certain amount of gems every month, though. He’s saving them currently. But he has also bought gems and says he spent about 80 – 90€ for gems since the game’s release. He tries to stay in the range of what he would pay for a subscription game… around 5 to 10€ for the game.

52. Which Elder Dragon is the most interesting for him?

He doesn’t think he has a ranking. Kralkatorrik is funny, because of his dragon breath and how he corrupted everything with it. Mordremoth and how he influences nature and everything… he generally likes the idea that each Elder Dragon is more or less able to manipulate different elements.

53. Does the Deep Sea dragon, lovingly called Bubbles by the community, have a real name internally?

He thinks he saw the name “Bubbles” on a document. He doesn’t know anything about an official name.

54. If you could tell a part of the Living Story yourself, what would happen in it and which characters would definitely make an appearance?

His reply: “Children are watching.” He mentions Caithe… and adds a “maybe”. Then he stops, laughs and the next question is asked.

55. Somebody said that in the last 1,5 years, there wasn’t much lasting content and an expansion hasn’t been announced yet. What is your position about that?

He would also wish for more content that stays in the world, but he also understands the idea behind the progressing story. He believes that ArenaNet can do it a lot better in season 2. Players should also understand that this is the first time ArenaNet has developed a real open world MMORPG and they are experimenting a lot. Some things don’t work, sometimes they learn a lot and he thinks that they are on a good path and that season 2 will be better.

56. XBox One, PS4, Wii U or PC?

PC and PS4. And Oculus Rift – he really wants one!

57. Are you a fan of Game of Thrones?

Yes.

58. What did you think about “Red Wedding”?

It was not very surprising for him. He is one of the people who read the books. He really liked the atmosphere created by the music, though!

59. ((Here was a spoilery question about Game of Thrones – I deleted it, just to be safe. Also, be careful when watching the video!))

((Here was the spoilery answer to the spoilery question above.))

60. What happened with the Guild Wars 2 ComChat ((it was a chat between people from fansites and Ramon to talk about the game))?

He did not have enough time to do those. He did them when he had time left. They restructured and he has more time now and in fact, after this very interview, they had planned to do another ComChat. He will also try to do it regularly again. Maybe once a month.

61. How does he get his bald head to shine this nicely?

Bloom effect! Go to your graphic cards settings, click on “bloom effect” and you can have such a shiny bald head, too!

62. Last question: The VIP feature in the Chinese version and our Western version.

There are usually content differences between the Western and the Eastern versions (or one being behind in versions). When they said that we would have the same “version”, they meant the content. Content updates will be simultaneously. The builds will not be identical! The Western version has the “buy to play” model where you buy the game and can play it as much as you like. This is the Western version and this will stay the Western version. The version in Asia is different. He ends his reply with: In the history of MMOs there hasn’t been an MMO that started as a free to play or buy to play and then added a subscription. It has always been the other way around.

Trove – Trion Worlds’s newest addition

On Friday, Trion Worlds revealed their newest game, Trove. According to bookahnerk, they had hinted about it a bit before, but I had totally missed it. So far, I’m not 100% sure what to make of it, but I do know that I would love to get my hands on the alpha to test it. I love seeing games develop and grow.

Trove Twitch StreamThe reactions that I saw in the chat during the livestream were pretty mixed. There were people who were extremely excited and other who called “Game X-clone”. I am in the middle, I guess. I am curious and want to see what it’s all about and how it plays while acknowledging that it does seem and look similar to games like Minecraft, Terraria, Cube World, and even the Super Adventure Box from Guild Wars 2. However, I have only played Terraria and the SAB, so I won’t judge the game. Especially since I haven’t played it yet. Besides, a clone well done is better than… nothing. ;) Games are constantly evolving and I think it’s good when developers take a game and change it to make it their own. I personally loved the Diablo clone Torchlight, especially since they added pets that fight with you and that you can send back to town to sell items you found to the NPC (and in Torchlight 2, they can also bring you back items like health potions). Less time wasted, more time actually playing the game. I love that feature!

But back to Trove. JunkiesNation wrote a guide on what we already know about the game. So if you’re curious, head over there.

What I found most intriguing was that they’re planning to regularly reset the worlds. Some things will stay, but the worlds in general will start new. Sounds like this could keep things fresh and they could regularly add new things. I’m not sure how good the promise of weekly updates will work. I am not a fan of developers who put a time pressure on their creativity. Please, take longer if you need to, but then give us something well thought-out instead of things you just pushed out the door because you want to keep to your promised schedule! But I guess before I should worry about that, we should first get our hands on the game. ;) Oh, it’ll be free to play, by the way. We’ll see how that works out in the end as there will be a cash shop and this always makes or breaks a game for me.

You can already sign up for the alpha on the game’s website. They said they will start inviting people in the coming weeks. If you need more information first, you can also watch the Twitch stream where they showed the game for the first time. The part about Trove starts at around 57:00.

Guild Wars 2 at GamesCom 2012

You may remember that we have already written a report on ArenaNet’s booth last year, so of course, we’re going to write another one this year. Last year, we went to GamesCom on two days, Thursday and Saturday, which means that our experiences and observations came from two different days. Saturday is usually the busiest day, but we decided against going there again on a Saturday this year. It was simply too crowded for my liking. And there is no way I am going to do that again. While I don’t panic when I’m within a crowd, it’s not a pleasant feeling either. So we only went on Thursday this year which was just crowded enough to not make me feel uncomfortable.

It feels a bit weird to be writing this report as this year, there wasn’t much to see about the game. Last year, there were several demo stations at their PvE booth and a few more at their PvP booth. But this time, there was not a single demo station available. Our friend, who had also come with us last year, remarked that he was very surprised to hear that as he would have expected them to have a zillion demo stations around, so they could show off their game. The booth that we got to see, however, was a really good concept and a place that all three of us enjoyed.

10:10

We arrived at the booth shortly past 10am. As some of you may know, on Wednesday and Thursday, ArenaNet had announced a password on Twitter and after saying it to one of the staff members, you got a code for an in-game item (a Guild Wars 2 dragon t-shirt). Maybe they were hoping that not too many people would come to get their code. The contrary happened, of course. At around 10.30am on Thursday, they were already out of the codes they had wanted to give out during the morning. We had gotten ours shortly before that and decided to just stay at the lounge and enjoy the scenery. The booth was pretty and the design almost literally screamed “ArenaNet”: It fit perfectly. In the middle of the busy, loud and slowly crowding GamesCom, there was this little oasis with plants, white pebble stones, comfortable stools and a waterfall – or at least, something close to it. Everything was inviting you to stay, relax a bit and converse with the people around you.

We decided it was too early for that as we wanted to see other booths first, so we left and went on to explore GamesCom. As this report is about ArenaNet, I will skip forward to when we returned to their booth.

13:45

In the meantime, ArenaNet had announced that they would give away 100 codes every hour. We were curious and went back to the booth only to see that it was crowded outside and relatively full inside. They had closed the two entrances to the booth already and it looked like about 100 people were inside. Those 100 would be getting the codes at 2pm. Outside there were – roughly estimating – about 300 more people. If you have never been to something like GamesCom, let me tell you that people do queue for the weirdest things for hours. If you ask me queuing for three hours just for an in-game item belonging to a game that is coming out in just 7 days, is not too surprising. But it’s always hard to anticipate what is going to happen and how popular exactly something will be. There were no demo stations, after all, and apart from the two screens showing the trailers, you could not really do or see anything while waiting.

We had actually wanted to meet somebody there at 2 but instead found her outside the convention halls. We could not have gone inside to sit down anyway. At that point, it was disappointing to see that their concept was basically ruined. If you click on the video above, you can see it yourself. Apart from the crowd wanting codes (and I don’t blame them), the neighbours of ArenaNet were really loud (music, shouting, etc.). If you ask me, GamesCom is always too loud with too many games literally screaming for your attention. However, I doubt that ArenaNet had any say in who would be next to them and how loud they would be. We left again after watching them giving the codes away inside, letting those people out and letting the next group in.

18:30

At around 6.30pm, we returned for the last time. At that point, not that many people were left, especially as they had stopped offering codes. But in general, a lot of visitors had already left (it was open from 10am to 8pm that day). The ArenaNet booth wasn’t empty, though, but we could finally grab some seats, sit down, enjoy the scenery of the booth and talk to Stéphane (one of the two French Community Managers) and Ramon (the new German Community Manager). Finally, we felt that we got to enjoy the booth in the way that ArenaNet had intended. Of course, it wasn’t their fault in the morning as we had just not been in the mood to sit down only minutes after arriving. Anyway, we had a great talk about Guild Wars 2 and MMOs in general with Stéphane. An hour later, it was time to go, so we would not have to leave with the rest of the GamesCom visitors and get stuck on the parking lot.

What we had been able to see during our three visits was that once again, even without demo stations and developers present, ArenaNet’s and NCsoft’s staff members were there and they did not just stand around in a corner watching their fans. They were in the middle, interacting, talking, answering questions (as far as they could, I would assume ^^) and were a part of it. If they had not worn their special Guild Wars 2 t-shirts, you wouldn’t have known they weren’t just fans like everybody else.

21:00

In the evening, we were invited to their Meet&Greet. At first, we decided to just sit down in a corner and watch. My feet were aching (and I even got an inflammation in my left foot. Aaah, the sacrifices I endure for online games… ^^), so I was happy to sit. But it was a bit boring. I didn’t mind the company – that is, my boyfriend and a friend, but I can see them so often and talking to others would have been nice as well. Unfortunately, I am too shy to just go to people and ask them who they are. Fortunately, Kronos from Onlinewelten, whom I had met during EU Fan Day in Brighton, spotted me and came over. Just a few minutes later, we were in their corner of the room (where lots of other people from Onlinewelten were sitting) and I was talking to his girlfriend about basically everything but Guild Wars 2, with the exception of the shape of our future sylvaris’ ears. Very important decision, of course.

ArenaNet was very generous as they had a raffle where they gave away 4 Collector’s Editions, 2 cardboard standups, several keyboards and computer mice. Sadly, neither of us won anything. That wasn’t bad at all, though, as we had not gone there for the loot and, more importantly, somebody else from the Onlinewelten community had won one of the CEs and seeing his shocked face together with him mumbling “I have never won anything…!” was priceless. :)

I also finally got to talk a bit with Ramon. Only a few minutes, but that’s okay because the community managers were very busy with all of us around, trying to talk to everybody and, of course, organizing the event. But yeah, we’ve got a very nice new German Community Manager!

Another highlight of the evening was that one guy, also a proud winner of a Collector’s Edition, who came to us to tell us that he loves our blog. I was walking on clouds and because of that, forgot to ask for his name. Oh well, in case you read this, feel free to contact us and tell us who you are! ;) It’s always great to get feedback from readers and hear that what you are doing is liked by others.

This was just a short summary of the evening. I don’t think it’d be interesting to repeat every little detail because most of what happened was conversations with other people. We once again got to know other German fans of the game and/or writers for fansites and it’s always great to do that if you ask me. As I said earlier to Stéphane, I have the tendency to jump in and out of games and get bored with them quickly once I understand the rules. What keeps me in a game is the community, the people I get to know and the friendships that form in the long run. Guild Wars 2 may just be a game but it manages to connect people from all over the world and that is something fantastic. Being at gatherings like this always shows me exactly what it is that I love most about ArenaNet: Their care for the community and their constant effort to provide an environment where it’s easy for us to connect and get to know each other better.

Last but not least, if you have managed to read until now, let me give you a little hint: We brought something back with us (not the game!) and we do not intend to keep it… ;)

Blog Carnival: Memories of waiting for Guild Wars 2

This entry is part of Guild Mag’s 4th Blog Carnival. Just because I’m hosting this blog carnival over at GuildMag doesn’t mean I’m not participating this time. ;) So far, the blog carnivals have always been written by both of us together and we’re going to keep this tradition especially with this topic now.

2006-2008

The first Bookahneer

As we have previously written, we do not exactly remember when we first heard about Guild Wars 2. What we do remember is that we have not been waiting for the whole 5 years since its first announcement. In 2007, we were still actively playing World of Warcraft. Its first expansion, “Burning Crusade” was released on January 16, 2007. We drove to a city nearby to be there for their midnight sale. Of course, after returning home, all I could do was install the game, create my blood elf and then I went straight to bed because I was too tired… but I digress. This was the one expansion where both of us were playing actively in raid groups doing the game’s endgame content. At the end of 2006, I had bought my first Guild Wars campaign (Nightfall). After bookahnerk had seen me play, he soon bought the game for himself as well. We both enjoyed it, but played the game differently than World of Warcraft, for example. I, especially, have always used Guild Wars as my “get away from random strangers and annoying people”-game as the instanced areas in Guild Wars means I will not run into other players.

So, in 2007, we were happily playing World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. But we were not – yet – looking forward to Guild Wars 2. Another game had been on our radar: Warhammer Online. It got released in September 2008, but long before that, we were reading every little news bit that we could find. Bookahnerk had shown me Syp’s Waaagh Blog. This was the first time I noticed gaming blogs in the internet! Back then, I had already wondered if I could do the same.

As Warhammer Online had not managed to meet our expectations, we returned to World of Warcraft for a bit while searching for a new MMO to call our “home”. It was probably at this point that our attention got drawn to Guild Wars 2. All we do remember is that we had known that ArenaNet were working on Guild Wars 2 and that Eye of the North had been the last piece for Guild Wars.

2009

In 2009, the first Guild Wars 2 trailer got released at GamesCom. We clearly remember seeing it as we had been watching the stream. In fact, we had been looking forward to GamesCom and the possible news about the game for days and were excited when it finally started! We also remember that we were both thinking about driving to Cologne to visit GamesCom. We decided against doing it, though, as it was just more comfortable to watch the gaming streams instead.

Other than that, I spent my time playing Lord of the Rings Online and even got myself a lifetime subscription. Bookahnerk was still involved in World of Warcraft, but he, too, started playing Lotro. As pretty as the game was (and still is), we knew we were waiting for something… better. Or, just different from the usual standard that MMOs had become already at that point.

2010

In 2010, we finally went to GamesCom, and that was also the start of my short-lived blog (don’t mind the layout, I’m using it now to test the layouts before we activate them here on this blog). So, no, Carvious, you’re not the only one who started blogging because of Guild Wars 2! :) If you go through this blog, you can see that I wasn’t taking it “seriously”. I posted a few entries but something was missing.

2011

The new Bookahneer

On March 12, 2011, we started “Nerdy Bookahs and their travel-guide” – this very blog here. Even though almost all entries are written and posted by me, we are two people working on this blog. Bookahnerk’s strengths obviously aren’t writing the actual articles, but he’s the guy working behind the scenes, reading through my entries, giving me feedback, doing some layout stuff, making the videos for our YouTube channel, etc.

From the beginning, our blog had been intended to be about Guild Wars 2 sooner or later, but we added the “and their travel-guide” bit because we knew we’d be around in lots of different games until Guild Wars 2 releases and we’d want to write about these games as well. We still do and probably will in the future, but the focus on Guild Wars 2 has been increasing steadily over the last few months.

Of course, we were at GamesCom again in 2011. Our first stop, just as in 2010, was at the NCsoft booth. This time, however, we also met our first fellow Guild Wars 2 fans. For all the years I have been online, this has always been a part of the fascination for me: Getting to know people online and then, sooner or later, also meeting them offline. It’s just a really great part of the internet that you get the chance to meet people from all over the world that you simply wouldn’t have met otherwise. What GamesCom 2011 also brought us was the realization that the folks at ArenaNet (well, the community managers, at least) apparently read what the blogosphere has to say about the game and the company as our report about ArenaNet got retweeted by them.

2012

Group Picture at the EUFan Day in Brighton

Let’s skip ahead to 2012. In March, we got a message from Aidan, the European community manager, inviting us to the EU Fan Day in Brighton. Bookahnerk told me to go and silly me, I’d been very close to declining the invitation because I don’t exactly love flying and I am very shy around strangers – yes, even though I love meeting people that I got to know online. It doesn’t make sense! ;) But I went, as you probably know and even though it was basically just a stay of 30 hours, I enjoyed myself a lot and got to meet lots of great people! When we started this blog, we never expected to be invited to something like this just a year later. Now, we are both proud members of the Dragon Season guild and I joined GuildMag as a writer.

In short, thank you, ArenaNet, for not just making a – hopefully awesome – game, but also for caring about the community and making it possible to meet new people and form new friendships! Let’s hope the next years will be as great as the time leading up to the game’s release! The last few years have been lots of fun and we’re curious what the next years will bring.

Guild Wars 2: A FAQ for new players

You may already know the first version of this FAQ. I decided to rewrite it, update it and put newer screenshots in. So here is the new version. A very special thank you goes to Tasha Darke for reading through it all. I was hoping for a few bits of corrected grammar but she gave me very valuable feedback on top of that!

This FAQ is mostly for those who have just recently heard of Guild Wars 2 and now want to know more. If you have been following the game for years or even just months, if you have pre-purchased the game and if you have already played it, you are welcome to read it as well, but you will find a lot of information that you already know.

Since the game is still in development a lot of things are subject to change (yes, believe it or not, ArenaNet is handling the Beta Weekend Events like a real beta and is still changing things around). Also, new information comes out every now and then which might outdate what you can read here. If you notice any of that – or just errors that I’ve made – please comment (with sources if possible).

I am going to use the same categories that I have used for my “Rift vs. Lotro vs. WoW” posting already.

If you only want a very short overview, the following will hopefully be enough. There are lots of links leading you further down my posting if you want more information!

Before we start, we need to get two questions out of the way (as suggested by Pyzlnar on Reddit):
“Yes, you can jump!” – and no, this game is not an Asian-grinder and it is not made by an Asian company. It’s made by ArenaNet who is located in Seattle, Washington, USA (though they do belong to NCSoft but they only work as a publisher here while ArenaNet is the developer and thus, actually makes the game). Guild Wars 2 will also feature an open world and will not be heavily instanced like Guild Wars 1 is. Again, thank you, Pyzlnar, for these suggestions. You were right, they’re clearly missing and should be the first two points in any GW2 FAQ. ;)

OMG! When’s the beta? How do I get in?
If you have pre-purchased the game, you are automatically invited to all beta weekend events planned to take place roughly once a month until release. Do not confuse it with a preorder, though. Pre-purchasing means you pay the game in full! Beta keys are also available through giveaways and competitions from a variety of fan and gaming websites.
Wait, what?

How much does the game cost? Which extra security against hacked accounts do they offer?
You will have to buy the game itself but there will be no monthly fees. Without monthly fees, the follow-up costs are basically voluntary as there will be a real money shop (called “gem store”), but stuff you buy there will not give you more power and thus, won’t be required for the gameplay. Gems, the shop’s currency, can be bought in the game’s auction house (here called the Trading Post) for in game gold. Nothing is known yet about security like authenticators. There will very likely be system for account restorations in case you were hacked.
More on costs and security

What can I play and how do I play? – Races, professions and combat mechanics
You will be able to choose from 5 races: Norn, human, asura, charr and sylvari. Each race can be each of the 8 professions (often also called “classes”) in the game: Engineer, Thief, Guardian, Warrior, Elementalist, Necromancer, Ranger and Mesmer.

There is no holy trinity anymore! “Holy trinity” refers to characters that tank (the foes focus on the tank and leave the other players alone), characters that heal and characters that deal damage. In Guild Wars 2, every profession is self-sufficient up to a certain point and you will be able to play with any combination of professions without having to wait for “another healer” or “a tank”. Professions can interact with each other through their skills and support others.
More about races and professions

What does the game look like?
In short: Gorgeous, artsy, picturesque if you ask me. As with all games’ graphics, this is very subjective. Have a look at the various screenshots you can find online and decide for yourself if you like it.
Pictures and videos outsourced to below in order to keep the part up here short.

What’s there to fight against (PvE)?
First things first, there will be no regular raids in this game as you may know them from WoW or SWTOR! Instead, dynamic events in the open world that scale for up to 100 players. There will be several dungeons to play which will each have a story mode and the more difficult explorable mode. There will be no standard quests for playing either. The closest you will get to regular quests will be your personal storyline.
More about PvE

Who’s there to fight (PvP)?
There are 2 modes of PvP – Structured and World vs World.
Structured PvP, also known as Conquest, is somewhat similar to battlegrounds (WoW) or warzones (SWTOR) except everybody will be max level and have all weaponry and armor available to them straight out of character creation. So no gear advantages. 2 Teams (hot join or premade) fight it out on different maps for Glory, a currency which can be spent on better looking equipment and other (as yet unannounced) rewards.
World vs. world vs. world (frequently abbreviated to WvW) is the second mode. Three worlds (servers) will fight against each other for guild recognition and bonuses which affect the entire world. Players cannot fight players from the same server,as there are no factions, and while characters are buffed to have the basic stats as a level 80 character, gear and traits are not levelled (but you do earn experience in WvW which means that you can level your character in WvW). Servers will rotate every two weeks.
More about PvP

Grouping and socialization
In Guild Wars 2, you will be able to join more than one guild with one single character (I assume you will be able to create more than one character. So don’t misunderstand this sentence ^^). If you want to read our opinion about it, go here. If you don’t, well that’s just as well. ;)
Grouping will be in the game but it will not be forced on you like it is in other games. For example, you can attack a mob that another player is currently fighting. As you both contribute to the kill, you will both get the same amount of experience points and loot that you would have gotten if you had fought the mob on your own! In other words: Kill-stealing will not be possible!
More about Grouping and Socialization

I want to be on my own sometimes (- or: What can do I solo?)
The first thing that comes to my mind is the personal storyline. When creating your character, you get asked a few questions and can choose between different answers. That determines the starting point of your personal story. Other choices later on will further determine how your story evolves. You can bring a friend along to your storyline. But it will essentially be your story.

Guild Wars 2 will also have achievements. So that’s something you can do. You can also roam the world on your own or play a lone wolf in WvW – though I’m not sure how viable the latter is, apart from escorting the odd caravan. ;)
More about stuff to do solo

Crafting
There are 8 crafting skills to choose from and you can have two at a time: Weaponsmith, Huntsman, Artificer, Armorsmith, Leatherworker, Tailor, Jeweler and Cook.
Every character can gather all resources provided you have the correct gathering tool equipped which can be bought from merchants for gold or karma. A resource node can be used by several players, so it is not possible to steal such a node from under another player’s nose.
More about crafting

Fluff
There will be mini-pets just as in Guild Wars 1. Activities have also been announced but there haven’t been any recent details on them. “Bar brawl” was one of the activities mentioned, for example.

You will also have a home instance which is an entire district in the capital city of your character’s race. The home instance automatically changes with your personal story but you can’t change anything yourself (like putting furniture in).

Also, you will be able to change the way your armor looks. And there will be 400 different dyes in the game. Each piece of armor has 1 to 3 areas that can be dyed.
More about fluff

That was the short version. Its bigger brother will follow now, which also includes links for further reading. Most of the information can be found on ArenaNet’s blog or in the official wiki for Guild Wars 2.

Click here to see the full entry

Criticizing Guild Wars 2

DISCLAIMER: If you want to criticize my post, feel free to do so (constructively, of course). However, if you want to do so, please READ it. Especially point 4 and its subject line: I complain about their marketing strategy. I do NOT complain about the skimpy armor. I even say so in the text. Read it, then complain about the actual content and not about what you THINK I wrote. Thank you. :)

First things first, as a regular or even casual reader of our blog, you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a huge fan of the game. But let’s be honest: the game isn’t perfect and I know it never will be a perfect game. Why? Several reasons. For one, no game is ever perfect. They’re too complex to get them bug-free and especially MMORPGs evolve and get content added, mechanics changed, etc. All of that means plenty of risks for adding new bugs. But even when not looking at bugs, there just can’t be a perfect game out there simply because there are too many players who all like and dislike different aspects. Some won’t accept a game without PVP in every region, others need their weekly raid evenings, and so on. That means that we will always have people argue about a game and its (lack of) perfection. And it also means that the probability of a game company developing a game in exactly the way that I want is very slim/non-existing.

Guild Wars 2 is still in beta, so bugs are to be expected. In general, I am always very careful when criticizing games in beta. It is a work in progress, after all, and I wouldn’t want to hurt a game’s – and company’s – reputation by writing something too negative about the game before it’s even been released. On the other hand, if we never speak up and say what we dislike, how are the developers supposed to know what the players think of something? There’s a reason companies have beta tests and ask for feedback.

Having said all that (should my intros be shorter, I wonder…), I’m now going to list a few things about Guild Wars 2 that I know will annoy me – more or less strongly – and that will probably make the game less perfect for me – but not “bad”! That’s a big and important difference.

1) Mystic Chests
Syp over at Massively wrote a good piece about lockboxes in MMOs. To be honest, I was shocked when I saw my first lockbox in Guild Wars 2. I’ve always found it cheap when games had those and it was disappointing to see it appear in this game. While there may not be any “advantage” in there, I still think it’s a terrible way to earn money. What annoys me is the whole gambling part: You never know if spending money on yet another key will result in you getting that special item from the lockbox.

If you ask me, it’s abusing a weakness of us humans when it comes to calculating probabilities. Some spend 50 times 1 dollar trying to get a specific reward and end up empty-handed instead of just buying it for 35 dollars, for example… mostly because there is the probability (albeit a very, very low one) that they might get it on their first try and end up having spent only 1 dollar. And then they spend another dollar, and another and another and at some point, they think that now they have to finally get it, right? And they have already invested so much money that quitting would mean they have simply lost their investment without earning anything.

Bookahnerk has also found an interesting comment about this system on Reddit, where a poster mentioned Lunia and that in this game, you drop keys and need to buy the boxes from the shop. It sounds less tempting this way. After all, you don’t have the “item” wrapped in a box in your inventory already. You only have a key. And if you ever feel like getting a box to use this key, it’s fine. And if not, no harm done because there’s no item rotting in your inventory, just a key. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that it’s technically exactly the same thing. But the perception is a different one. And I’m pretty certain that there’d be less temptation to buy boxes whereas if you have lockboxes drop in your game, your players will probably buy more keys from the shop than they would buy boxes for the dropped keys. We’re curious and can’t calculate probabilities correctly (well, I’m sure a lot of people can but from personal experience, I’d say that this is the minority). In other words: It’s an easy way to earn money. But from where I stand, it’s cheap and dirty.

However, this is me criticizing something I haven’t seen the full scope of so far. We do not yet know enough about what will be in the lockboxes (exclusive items or not), if they will have keys drop in the game, if the lockboxes have a (e.g.) 90% chance of including another key (I think I read somewhere that a player found a key inside together with an item), if we’ll be able to sell the items we find in the lockboxes, etc. I’m just saying I really dislike this general concept, but I am curious how they will handle it specifically.

2) Voice of female norn

Norn are supposed to be really tall. And with that, naturally, comes a deeper voice than we would expect from the average human. If I hear the voice without looking at the screen, it fits and it sounds like a wonderful choice, but once I see the norn’s doll-like face, I’m not so sure anymore. It just doesn’t fit to hear her with such a low voice. But maybe this isn’t a problem with the voice at all but rather with the next point…

3) Idealized female characters

I’ve mentioned it before, to which Kadomi had reacted as well. ArenaNet’s stance can be found in this interview:

Univers-Virtuels: So, at the moment the humans are very young and it’s not possible to make it older as a character, or it will be possible to turn off the make up for woman?
Kristen: I’m not sure, we have some variety in there, but largely we want an idealized beautiful base face, so I think the humans are probably going to remain within a certain spectrum.”

I was happy to see that they have added one face that makes the character look a bit older. Then you can further customize it by changing the look of the nose, mouth, chin, etc. But that is only for the human and it’s only one face. The others still have that certain doll-like look. It’s especially annoying for norn because they’re tough! It seems weird to have them appear with a doll-face. I also don’t like the sound of “idealized beautiful base face”. Yes, this idealization is what we’re seeing in women’s magazines every day. This is what’s called one of the reasons for the rise of eating disorders (in women and men)… I understand that they want to add beautiful faces. I would assume that more people choose those faces than faces that the general public wouldn’t call “pretty”, “beautiful” or something like that. I just do not get why they refuse to add some more regular faces. Especially as the question above was aiming at faces “without that much make-up”. Either way, I will go for the regular face they have added because I find it more believable (ah yes, I know we’re in a fantasy setting, so theoretically everything is possible and thus, believable. But still…). On the other hand, we can see that you can go for some extremes when creating your characters. I’m not sure they would call the nose that you can see in the screenshot “idealized beauty”. But at least, we can reenact Cyrano de Bergerac. ;)

I will most likely play asura and charr as my main characters, so it won’t bother me that much. And I do like having a pretty doll character – but I would really love to have more variety. What is the harm in having an older face (one with wrinkles or just more defined facial features)? After all, they are in the game for the male characters. They have added one face for the female humans, though. So there is still hope we could maybe see something like that for the norn as well. Something that makes them more equal to the choices we have for male characters.

4) Armor and ArenaNet’s marketing strategy

As mentioned above, Kadomi wrote about the faces but in the same entry, she also addresses the “armor issue” which goes hand in hand with the idealized faces (and she says it much better than I will here, so if you’re interested in this topic, go read her blog post about it). Why do they present the female characters in suspenders? A word, by the way, that I only learned now thanks to Guild Wars 2 – that is, the English term for it, of course. What does it tell you about a game that teaches me the English terms of “sexy underwear” (“Reizwäsche” in German, by the way… in case you were wondering). I’m not happy with them presenting this as the typical clothing for some of their classes (mesmer and elementalist most of all) as this is what the characters look like when creating them.

After playing for a bit, I did get to see cloth armor that wasn’t as revealing and they have a system in place that makes it possible for me to merge the better stats of an item onto a piece of clothing that I like. So I’m not annoyed that they have revealing armor in the game. I am annoyed, however, that they presented us only this sexy underwear as armor. And even though there was a large outcry (not just from me, I might add!) in their fanbase, they did not add pictures of different armor in order to show us that when they said we would have choices, they didn’t just mean “a choice between a bra or bikini top”.

5) No scenery screenshots
This is something that makes me grind my teeth and scratch my head. I just don’t get this decision at all. ArenaNet doesn’t want us to take screenshots of the scenery without featuring our own character because they want us to get attached to our character. I love looking at screenshots of the game’s world but I am not interested in looking at some person’s character at the same time. This doesn’t interest me at all. Also, I do get attached to my character and if I want to take a screenshot of “me in Lion’s Arch”, I will do so. But if I want to take a screenshot of “this nice windmill”, then please let me do that without having “me in front of this nice windmill that you can’t see because my dear character is blocking the view”. There is a workaround, by the way. You can either /sleep or /sit and then work with the camera angle to get a screenshot without your character on it. I used /sit for my screenshots and unfortunately, my charr’s horns can be seen in a few of them. Oh well. Most of the time, it works just fine but why do we have to resort to such a workaround in the first place? Guild Wars 1 allowed us to zoom in and I haven’t heard anybody complain about the game and its design because we can do that.

While this workaround is fine for taking screenshots, video makers need to ability to move around without having their own character centered all the time. Machinimas probably won’t work in Guild Wars 2 and that’s just really, really sad if you ask me. There’s a not too old discussion about this on GuildWars2Guru.

And that’s it for today. All in all, it’s not a “list of things gone horribly wrong” or something like that. It’s just some things that bug me and that I wanted to get out of my system. I have to say, however, that the inability of taking screenshots or making videos without having my character in the center is the biggest issue I have here. The other parts probably won’t spoil my general fun in the game (especially the marketing – who cares about that in a year, right?) but taking pretty screenshots is what I really enjoy. I have a ton of screenshots from all sorts of MMOs I’ve ever played or tried out stored on an external hard drive and I’ve taken 640 screenshots in Guild Wars 2 so far and that was after only playing for 4 days! And most of those screenshots are from Lion’s Arch… I can’t wait for doing the same in Hoelbrak, Divinity’s Reach, Black Citadel,… (but next time, I will choose a character without horns! Asura would be perfect… *hint*)

Lion’s Arch – Screenshot gallery

Update May 2014: I made a new post where you can also find pictures of Lion’s Arch with its various holiday decorations.

Update April 2014: Lion’s Arch has seen quite some changes. I did another screenshot gallery of “old Lion’s Arch” before Scarlet’s attacks. You can find it here. During the attacks, I took a few more pictures. After the attack, I went through Lion’s Arch again to capture the ruins of the city. Those ruins are the current state of Lion’s Arch in the game.

Hmm… it reminds me of something.

 I managed to find 26 out of 26 points of interest. I am proud of myself because I even dived through two canals and in the deep water even though I have a phobia. I didn’t meet any aggressive fish which helped – although I was always scared something would attack me when I didn’t look. But oh no, it’s a peaceful area apparently. :)

I took 400 screenshots in just over 24 hours (mostly of Lion’s Arch but there were other regions I visited as well!). I don’t think I’ve ever taken that many in another game. I’m not going to review or write/complain about anything game-related right now because it is the first beta weekend event and I’ll give them one more to sort out the issues (lag, not being able to log in, server crashes, the usual…). I got kicked only once today, by the way. ;)

Anyway, as I said, I explored Lion’s Arch and I present you some of the prettiest screenshots I took. No further commentary, even though I could tell you soooo many things I saw and noticed. But just enjoy the pictures. And if you have questions, ask away! :)

It took me quite some time to take all those screenshots, sort through them and upload them here. However, they’re not just for looking. If you want to use them (e.g., as a desktop wallpaper, for fanart, in your blog,…) feel free to do so – as long as it complies with ArenaNet’s copyright, of course, and you’re not saying it was you who took those screenshots. ;)