Guest entry: Five Years of Waiting for Guild Wars 2

The following is a guest entry from sevendash for GuildMag’s 4th Blog Carnival. We’re more than happy to host it for him here. :)

I need to start off first of all by saying that this account of my wait for Guild Wars 2 hits on some really emotional subjects for me. It includes the passing of someone I looked up to as well as the progression of myself emotionally, being homosexual, and how I learned better through gaming to be a part of a community.

For five years I have awaited the release of Guild Wars 2. The sequel to MMO Guild Wars. I came into Guild Wars soon after Factions had released, and was thrust into everything if offered. This was my first MMO.

The man who brought me into the game was named Chris. He was my first relationship, and something very foreign to me. I met him just after I graduated High School and loved spending time with him. One of our interests happened to be games. So when I moved three hours away to Glendale, California, he talked me into trying out Guild Wars.

Glendale was quite the experience. I lived with my mom and older brother in a one-bedroom tiny apartment that had no air conditioning. Clothes and my computer were all I brought and truthfully all I needed. We hit record heat that year, and being in an apartment with horribly airflow, I’m surprised I was never injured. I would spend hours playing Guild Wars Factions with Chris talking to each other while I learned the ropes.

He had me join his guild, The Flaming Turtles and I was immediately learning about guilds and how it was alright to ask people for help and to socialize. I certainly wasn’t going to have my head bitten off by my guild-mates! Regardless, I still wasn’t a huge part of the guild by any means and mostly kept to myself for a while.

Nightfall came out later that year and by that time I was living in Long Beach. I loved being able to explore all this new content that nobody quite understood fully. It was quite the experience. I remember finally running more missions with other people in my guild as we progressed in this campaign. We especially had to band together and help one another out in some of those missions toward the end like Gate of Madness! Boy did that one give us all a bunch of grief. Nightfall definitely became my favorite campaign, with the dark tones, the inclusion of heroes and the fact that I got to experience and learn it with everybody else.

Not too long after Nightfall the rumors began about the next campaign to come out, Utopia. We saw mock-ups of some of the landscape and enemies. I’m not one to get too crazy about something early, but I did look forward to once again getting to experience fresh content with everyone. Unfortunately our hopes for Utopia were dashed. It was instead announced that we would no longer receive new campaigns for the game. Instead we were to get one expansion and a sequel to the game would come out. ArenaNet simply wanted to give us content that the original couldn’t provide.

Eye of the North was great and I fell in love with it, but I took a break shortly after getting through most of its content. I stopped gaming for a while, was in school, worked, and eventually moved out of my house and begin my second and biggest relationship to date. This man’s name was Nathan. I got him into gaming a little bit, and while he was never good, he did enjoy it. He just didn’t learn games as quickly as I did.

The year 2011 rolls around and I decide we need to get back into playing Guild Wars. I unfortunately found out that a ban wave had swept across the game in order to eliminate bots and my two accounts had both been hit. Try as I might to recover my accounts, NCsoft wouldn’t budge. Apparently you should never throw away your original game boxes because the serial codes for the Bonus Mission Pack were not enough. So sadly I lost all that time in the games, all the skills unlocked and pets gathered as well as the BMP I had purchased. Nathan and I decided to pick up a Guild Wars Trilogy each as well as the Eye of the North expansion to play together.

Returning at that time was bitter-sweet. Full hero teams were not yet implemented and most of my guild was inactive. The one person who was always around to give me a hand was the leader of the Flaming Turtles guild, Greg aka The Deathmonger. I had a blast playing with him and it meant the world to me when Greg, Nathan and myself got to run Fissure of Woe together. FoW is by far the my favorite mission in the game. Being able to consistently see a helpful person in game like that, and the fact that he always wanted to help without hesitation was great.

I was getting so motivated to play hard and get points for my Hall of Monuments because ArenaNet released information once a month or so. I even got really impatient at times where it was longer than a month. I definitely burned out of the game really fast, as Greg warned I probably would. I took another break pretty early in the year, and came back to check out both Embargo Bay and the April Fools mission. Both times chatting with Greg about how we liked each one before I departed again for a while.

Now the part that hurts the most. Greg passed away just after his 30th birthday later that year. Fellow guild members and personal friends to his had talked to him to confirm plans to go out the following day, and that was possibly the last anybody had heard of him. After days of trying to reach him, they eventually had to ask police to make a visit to his home, where his lock was picked and he was found. It was a tough pill to swallow for me, because while I had never met Greg, he still meant a lot to me.

Speed up to the first Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2. I had a blast, but it was another point in my life where I was living in Atlanta after moving there with Nathan, but I had left Nathan not many months prior. I had a blast but honestly I didn’t spend as much time in it than I should have, after being obsessed with following the news of this game for years. I spent most of it working or drinking at a local bar.

Second Beta Weekend Event rolls around and I was in a better place. In fact, the Flaming Turtles had possibly our biggest group outing ever. We ran through the Charr starting zone and I think the shining moment for all of us was when we happened upon a field of earth elemental mobs where an event started. We were to kill the elementals for an item an NPC wanted. Boy did we get our butts handed to us as the event scaled to meet the numbers in the area. It wouldn’t have been a Flaming Turtles outing with some kind of epic fail involved.

At the end of the event I sent a whisper to one of Greg’s friends in the guild, Cindy. I just needed to express how weird it felt without Greg there. I swear I could just see him with us in-game chatting along and laughing, as he would. I had spent so much time talking with Greg about launch day and running with the masses into content, and of course I always pictured him there with us all. As he always was.

Now the game comes up and I of course plan on dedicating one of my character names to him. Other than that, the anniversary of his passing will be about a month later, and I know I’ll be honoring him in-game with others then too. Hopefully with an epic fail at a run in the Ascalonian Catacombs or something similar.

I’m not just part of the Flaming Turtles anymore after all these years but I also am a part of LGBT guilds, and always offer help and community to others because that’s what Guild Wars meant to him and helped teach me. Mostly because that’s what I saw in Greg while I played it. Regardless, I will always do my best to mimic his qualities as I meet new players in Guild Wars 2. It’s been a long five years, but the wait has definitely been worth it. I couldn’t imagine living any other way to spend the wait.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Guild Wars 2: Power shift and server pride with the new guild system

(This entry is part of Guild Mag’s Blog Carnival! Check it out if you want to read more opinions about GW2’s upcoming guild system.)

It’s been a while since we’ve seen so many different views and opinions about a topic like we have when the guild function for Guild Wars 2 was announced. Not much is known at the moment. You can find all the relevant information on the official Wiki. The most prominent change is that you will be able to join as many guilds as you like. At any given time, your character represents one of those guilds which also ‘activates’ this guild’s chat.

Bookahnerk and I have had our share of discussions about this new system. In general: I’m more skeptical than he is. But we both see good and potentially negative points. The “TL;DR”-version would be: We will have to see how the players adapt to this system and how the guild environment changes to see if it’s a change for the better or not.

We read several blog postings and forums to see how other players react. We found lots of opinions and arguments for liking and disliking the feature. A few general ‘themes’ appeared quite often. The number one concern we found was ‘guild pride’ and the lack thereof when people can just hop from guild to guild and be in whichever guild gives them the best features, events, etc. at any given time. Right now, you’re either in or out. People recognize a guild tag and might know what the guild stands for – if it’s a well-known/established guild – and know its members. People in those guilds “are somebody” and have a certain reputation. They identify with their guild and are loyal to it. Those people, fortunately for them, can still behave the way they do now. Joining more than one guild is a feature but not a must. The same goes for those people who do not have much time for more than one guild. Look for one that fits the best to you and your playstyle, join it and hope it was the right choice. It would essentially be the same as it is right now in other MMOs.

Kind of belonging to the first argument of guild pride and being loyal to it is the fear that people will hide in another guild as soon as things aren’t rosy-peachy in your guild. Some players already do that now by hiding on alts or – especially with the uprise of more and more f2p games – they hide in other games. With the multi-guilds feature in GW2, people can still play their beloved ‘main char’ and just go to another guild. On the other hand, would you want those people in your guild to begin with? Those people who leave as soon as there’s the slightest hint of trouble on the horizon? Those people who demand lots of things and aren’t willing to give the tiniest bit back? With the multi-guild feature, people have the freedom to go and leave and on the other hand, it might show a guild leader a lot faster who’s a loyal guild member and wants to help out and work on the guild being a great one. Also, if your members are leaving faster than you can jump over an Asura, there might be something wrong with your guild and you’ll probably get that feedback immediately when your members are all hanging out elsewhere.

As ArcherAvatar said in a comment on Massively’s entry about the multi-guild feature: “The few details we’ve been given so far indicate a shift in ‘power / control’ away from a guild and towards individual players.” and “How does the proposed guild system encourage better behavior? Flexibility and power shift towards the individual. Guilds / groups with excessive amounts of ‘guild drama’ will quickly find themselves with members who aren’t interested in that sort of thing leaving more frequently. Why would they leave more frequently? Because there will be a significantly easier access to alternatives.” – This, on the other hand, also means that a guild leadership will have to work even harder to keep their members and make them happy. You will have to make sure that there is an enjoyable environment in your guild and that there is something that will make the members want to be in your guild. They will not just have the choice of leaving and finding another guild. Chances are that they have already gotten to know other people and that they already are a member of other guilds and can compare those guilds with yours. And if your guild doesn’t live up to people’s expectations, then they will rather go somewhere else.

Then again, small and social guilds could have an advantage here compared to the one-guild system. Currently, as seen in Lotro with our kinship, people do not necessarily want to join our kin even though they’d really like to be with us. But joining us (a small social kin) would mean giving up the chance of raiding (because others only want to raid with people who are members of their kinship). So instead of being with us for the social factor and going raiding with the others, they rather stay in the raiding kin and chat with us when they have the chance (on an alt, for example). That means that two of their characters are in two guilds. One for raiding, the other for socializing. What would be so bad about being able to do the same thing as we can now but on one character? I’d imagine that some roleplayers would also very much love that: Be in one guild with their fellow roleplayers when they feel like roleplaying and switching to their group of PvPers when they feel like PvPing (I assume that not all roleplayers enjoy PvPing and thus, the split would make sense).

Our own guild, Nerdy Bookahs (which will be a smallish social guild), will probably have an easier time recruiting players. We want to foster a cozy social environment where you log on and chat with others and actually know who those people are. But that only works if the guild’s relatively small. We have such a small kin in Lotro but as mentioned above, one of our friends is only in it with an alt because he doesn’t want to leave behind the opportunity to raid once in a while. New people also don’t want to join our kin because we are small and not as active. But they would enjoy the comfortable atmosphere and chatting with us or going to an instance once in a while. Still, they rather join a bigger, more active kin instead because they can only be in one kin with their character. Of course, the bigger one will usually win. But if you can join and then switch to another guild when nobody’s online in ours or when you don’t feel like chatting but rather want to get something done with a huge group of people, then you can do that and come back to us later when you just want to chat while crafting… or something like that. ;)

Spontaneous events, on the other hand, might be harder to start with such a system. When you go online and see nobody from your current guild is there, you switch to a more active guild and go do something with them. Then somebody else comes online and asks in guild chat if others want to join and do something – but hardly anybody is there because those who are online switched to other guilds. Then again, thinking about it further: Why don’t you do the same? Or ask around – I’d assume that friends lists are in the game anyway, so you can just ask friends if anybody’s up to something. It’s not the guild’s sole purpose to make sure you’re properly entertained. It helps but a player should also be willing to organize something or go and look for fun in the game themselves.

Let’s do something else. Let’s try to imagine we’re Asuras. We like to think big and in order to come up with inventions and new things, we need to think outside the cube! Let’s take that step and imagine what this new system could mean and what it could be used for in Guild Wars 2. In our opinion, all of the above arguments and thoughts feel inconsequential now.

What Guild Wars 2 does is that it a) gets rid of the need to group with their open-world dynamic events and b) it throws us into a 2 week long PvP fight with our server against two other servers. Where in those scenarios are guilds a necessity? Everybody from your server can participate in PvE events. And in WvWvW, your whole server will be needed. Yes, a guild can claim a keep. But will they be able to succeed against two other servers? Probably not. But your server as a whole, fighting together, can! People need to collaborate and work together. People won’t just hide in one single guild. If a person can be in several guilds with the same character, then chances are that people will be connected with each other more than they currently can be with the one-guild system.

Bookahnerk likes to remember the ‘good old times’ in Ultima Online where he was ambassador in his guild and spent quite a lot of his game time chatting with people from other guilds organising and negotiating etc. With this system now, lots of players would work as ambassadors in a way. There wouldn’t be as much “Do you know anybody who’d like to come with us?” answered with a “No”. Instead, there could be lots of “Yes, I can ask in my other guild!” replies. Because more people will have other guilds and will know more people that way. And guild pride will switch to server pride the way that we’ve seen people ask for over the last few years (well, mostly old DAOC players, but still! ^^). Every player needs to work together. We need to change the way we play (from sticking to one guild to opening up to include the rest of the server)!

What we would still like to know more about is how exactly the communication will take place. We know that you’ll be able to access your current guild’s chat but not the chat of your other guilds. But will there be an easier way to communicate with your other guilds’ members? Like an extended/organizable friend list that automatically adds those people? Communication seems to be important and with WvWvW, a good communication system seems to be the key to success (more so than the guild system probably ;) ).