When I try to imagine how the naming rules, server architecture, guild limitations and the character slots may be handled in Guild Wars 2 I always reach the point where I have to take into account how it was implemented in Guild Wars, why it may have been done like that and what the benefits of their decisions were. Especially the ones that they apparently want to keep. As an outsider my ideas and guesses are only that. Thus, I would love to read any deeper thoughts or other conclusions and ideas you may come up with!
My guesses put on the table simple, short, rough and maybe a little provocative are:
– Character slots will again be limited per account (not per server) but every character will be listed with its current home server.
– Naming rules are global and unique like in Guild Wars, but this time one word names are also possible.
– The basic game will be delivered with 3-5 character slots, the collector’s edition with 5-8.
If you are now sitting there nodding or shaking your head, rest assured that I can understand both reactions and sometimes have them about my own thoughts, too. Especially when I start listening to the two most extreme oppositional views in my head. ;)
One being overly optimistic, high of anticipation and delusional that Guild Wars 2 does not have to create an income for ArenaNet, dreaming of a world not limited by technical and financial boundaries. The other one being absolutely skeptical and mischievous knowing that there are as good as no companies which would say nay to the highest possible income for the least possible effort.
Please note that in the case of ArenaNet I still slightly tend to listen to the first one. Of all the companies on my personal radar they are the one I have the most confidence in that I will get what I will pay for. The other way around, they very rarely disappointed me. And when they did, there were always fast corrections or transparent explanations I could live with.
It’s my belief that one of the most basic decisions ArenaNet had to make for Guild Wars was how their server network should work to split and balance the possible load. Especially considering the financial and technical challenges an MMO meant at that time. As a result that decision directly influenced what kind of game world would be easier to implement and what limitations came along. I’ll take their decision for an “easier scalable and extendable massive instanced world with the layering in the outposts where many people could meet” as a given and compare some of its aspects to the “persistent world with massive amounts of players in the area simultaneously” to which Guild Wars 2 will belong to.
While with Guild Wars ArenaNet chose the very limiting way for their players in their world, some details show that nevertheless a global approach was important to them and still is. Most other games which are structured in “servers” come with capsuled parallel worlds. Each one with its own economy, own community and your character exclusively bound to one. ArenaNet instead decided to manage your character slots and the in-game NPC market in a global database. So you can log in with each character into any region you want, have the same NPC prices in all of them and can meet your trade partners worldwide.
In GW2 again, at least the new in game trade system will be not limited to your server (exact details and if it has any global or regional limits remain to be announced). While I do like being able to trade in all the regions of GW1 and love to never feel stuck at a server where economy or community sucks, it’s not made that way only for the good of the player. A heavily instanced game world compared to a cohesive one with its many simultaneous players, is so much easier to handle and to spread between an on demand expandable amount of servers. Managing the character slots globally also has the nice side effect for ArenaNet that they are able to sell additional slots sooner instead of letting us use up all unlocked character slots on every single server. While I wouldn’t mind it that much (because for me the lack of a monthly fee makes more than up for that), that’s my main argument why I do see them wanting to keep the globally managed character slots and technically simply add your server choice as one additional variable to each character slot.
Besides the fact that GW1 characters are managed worldwide and you can possibly meet any other player there are no server names to tag onto your name. ArenaNet came up with slightly different but essential limitations to how you can name you characters to avoid ambiguities. While they decided to rule out one word names, you are allowed to use multiple spaces to create your globally unique character name. What sounds trivial and enabled realistic combinations of for- and surname, titles or even seldomly considered foreign names, at the same time opened up the Pandora’s box of “creative” and odd combinations to integrate your overused popular or already taken names. But rating names or creativity should not be my focus in this post. Unique naming per server, region or even globally on the other hand is. Especially when taking into account the announced easy to execute server transfers in the upcoming Guild Wars 2.
Unique global naming would avoid one of the most frustrating aspects players may be confronted with (besides possible fees) when they want to switch servers or when servers are merged. Imagine the name you feel you have established yourself with and may be famous for is already taken on the target server. Maybe by a low level banking alt or someone not even playing anymore. While that dilemma is avoidable and my thoughts about globally managed character slots should explain why I see them keeping the global and unique naming too, I still owe you an explanation why single word names may have their introduction. I do not see a technical issue to rule them out, the shown demos of GW2 on this year’s exhibitions are still allowing them and I would consider it as a tribute to the e-sport orientation of their tournament PvP part and the habit gamers may have formed in other games. Short and single word names are much easier to recognize and so to build “e-fame” with.
Colin Johanson previously stated that there will be more than two character slots. Based on the foundation I argued till now it’s not that difficult to follow my train of thoughts why there will only be 3-8 character slots coming with the retail boxes (or download versions). As I just wrote, we know there will be more than just two slots. Also in many interviews it was stated that we should not run into limitations that fast. Well, considering that I am an altoholic and have too many stupid character names I come up with, my initial guess should be of at least 20 slots. ;) But thinking about ArenaNet, Guild Wars and the lack of a subscription I have to cut back to a maximum of five or eight slots, depending on the version (standard box, collector’s edition etc.). As a side note why I differentiate between normal and collector’s edition: Till now nothing is known about the content of a CE. But what would be cheaper for ArenaNet than some digital content (which they would love to sell us either way) additionally to physical goodies. So why not justifying a hopefully reasonable pricing of a CE this way and collecting some of the money directly at release which they would otherwise acquire over the next months, years or never?
Back to the still not argued number of five and eight slots. You all know them well. There will be five races and eight classes in the game when it launches. My simple assumption is that they want us to enjoy the game and give us either access to each of the races or to each of the classes or – on the other hand – deny us “full access” as an incentive to pay for character slots. If you want you can use that thought and observe the release of the game. The amount of character slots included at release could be taken as an indicator of how aggressive ArenaNet will be with their shop and how they will limit your content until you pay.
Imagining me buying the basic edition I may be satisfied with three slots but I am sure I would feel very limited by not even being able to play the five different races with their own story from start to end as one of them. Yes, it is possible to venture through the story of another race if you join a friend who plays that race. But for me that’s not the same, especially considering the effort it would take to coordinate. With five slots I guess I have to be happy. ArenaNet for sure wants to earn at least some money and buying slots to play every class I consider as tribute I will have to spend for playing their game without a monthly fee. Let me switch to imagining myself with a collector’s edition in my hands and that is what I actually want to buy. Now I have to raise my expectations. Being able to play all five races “out of the box” I definitely want to see as a given. While they may not use the mentioned opportunity to add digital content to increase the value of the CE I would feel a little unsatisfied if I didn’t get eight slots. In the end, I see a CE as a product for fans of the game, its lore and the world itself, so with less than eight slots I may have the feeling not to have bought the complete game. No, logging into the shop later that day/week/month to additionally buy some slots would not feel the same.
Allow me to use my fixation on the CE to dwell a little in thoughts about the recently announced collector’s editions of Star Wars: The Old Republic and Skyrim. Why exactly those two? Simply because they not only pushed the pricing a little. No, they nearly doubled the amount most of us were used to. How did they argue that? Ah well, I better leave that to the fans who I absolutely wish to have a lot of fun in those games but at the same time I impute them to see the value of their purchase through rose-colored glasses. I hope that ArenaNet keeps up the spirit they often recite that they do want to deliver content that literally earns them our money. So I would love to see a reasonable CE with stuff like the astonishing soundtrack, a book about the world and lore (an art-book would be nice too, but that’s already separately purchasable in their store) and a detailed artsy map of the world. If they want to absolutely stun me, the map would be made of cloth and “Destiny’s Edge” would be included as detailed figurines or a diorama. All that while having the price still capped at 80 $/€. To justify a pricing above that in my opinion there would have to be a fine selection of useful and valuable digital content (*hints at the 8 character slots*). But only to mention, I recommend avoiding content that cannot be acquired later (like the merchant that SW:TOR added) – in my opinion just to raise the pressure to buy the physical CE before it may be “gone” or you lack something that possibly reveals itself as a necessity later on.
Future announcements and further details may show the one or other error in my thoughts and there is a good possibility that I have to rethink some details of my statements or have to define them more accurately. But I guess that’s the risk about making things up in my mind, jumping to conclusions and blogging about them. ;)