Guild Wars 2: First Beta Weekend Part 2

Some additional thoughts about the first beta weekend for Guild Wars 2: there are going to sound like criticisms, but they’re not. I love the game – it’s going to be my game of choice for a long time to come. Everything is stunning, the world is immersive, storylines are awesome (Clown College! Going undercover with the circus, oh my!). But there are a lot of things to work out, and some choices that the devs have made that I just don’t understand.

1. I had fun. I really, really enjoyed this game. I had gone into the beta with some specific things that I wanted to do, and yesterday I ended up exploring just for the pure joy of it and in appreciation of the gorgeous environments.

2. Overflow servers. Well, I agree with Keen and Graev on this one, they really do need to be implemented better. When first reading about this system, I had thought that it was a way to avoid long queues, and it seemed like a brilliant system. It didn’t work at all for that (perhaps it wasn’t supposed to) but where it did come into play was when you were changing zones once you were in game. Quite a few games place players in duplicated instances of a server or zone. There is no need to inform the player that this has happened, because it should always feel as though you were playing on your server; if you are in a party, you get the option to switch to the channel that they are in. A party leader can gather all party members in the same shard or channel. It’s been done before, and it’s not something new. In GW2, however, you get a message that you can either wait for your server or switch to an overflow server…when you are going to different zones on the map. This breaks immersion and makes it feel like the original instanced game, which is one of the main things that I thought we were getting away from. To make things worse, this breaks up parties. Phil and I were trying to get together to do some quests, and even though we were in a party and in the same place, we couldn’t see each other.

I think the original idea of overflow servers (or the original impression I had about how they would work) would be wonderful and ground-breaking. Rather than queueing, tell us that we were going to be placed on an overflow server and then moved to our server of choice once there was room. That is a great idea. Once we’re on that server, though, you shouldn’t see any immersion-breaking messages about being moved to a different server as soon as you set foot outside the city. Just invisibly place us in whatever channel has room for us, and then allow us to easily move between channels to play with friends.

I spent a lot of time this weekend trying to get online after crashes, etc., failing and then getting one of several error messages which basically just meant that the server was full. Since there was no queue system, it meant that we had to keep trying to relog in blind faith that the servers were still up. It took me over four hours on Friday. This is where the overflow system should have come into play.

2. Not being able to trade anything is very weird. Mailed items appeared hours later, or not at all – I am assuming that this was a beta bug. We should be able to trade, though.

3. Was the auction house working for anyone? I tried to buy items, but nothing would happen. On other occasions I think I managed to buy, but never got the item. I don’t know if it mails the item to you, or it appears in your bags or what. Again, this is a beta issue.

4. Being able to send mail, buy from the auction house, and deposit crafting mats in the bank while out questing is a very nice feature. Even nicer would be full bank access. Another nice feature to implement would be the SWTOR feature of being able to craft by using mats in your bank, without having to carry them in your bags. Again, that would be a “nice to have” feature, and it is not gamebreaking at all.

5. I did a lot of playing with the character creation tool. I still think that Norn have the nicest hair and face options, damn it. Also, the face options seem to have differences based on the class that you are creating. If I did a necromancer, I got a certain set of face options. If I went to build an elementalist or mesmer, the faces were changed slightly, as though they were distorted somehow. They all looked a bit more anime-esque, more childish. Strange – but I haven’t heard anyone else mention that. There is one older female face for human, and it’s not a very nice one. All others are extremely young-looking. I’d love a better range of starting heads, or a range of complexions to choose such as SWTOR had. In the meantime, I can play with a teenage-looking character and just imagine her having the correct age and look.

6. WvW is an amazing amount of fun, even though big fights turn into slideshows. I’m not a big pvp fan, but I love this. What isn’t as nice is the lack of waystations once you die. In my experience, they usually showed as contested, so I only had one spawn point which was on the far corner of the map. Once ressed, there was a very long trek to get back to where the fighting actually was.

7. Give roleplayers some love! I hate it when games won’t allow you to sit on furniture.

8. We need to be able to view armour and weapons when looking at them at a merchant, or in the auction house. Being able to link something and view it would be nice as well.

9. Lots of explanations. I couldn’t figure out how to get into WvW for ages. I saw rangers with named pets, and didn’t see a way of naming my own by right-clicking it and looking at pet management. Explain things a bit more.

Those are my main points about things that need to be fixed. That said, I am going to suggest the following:

They need to launch the game.

Yep. Even with the problems, which mainly seem to be involved with their server infrastructure (judging by the fact that they fixed so many connection problems on their end, and there were no client updates). Fix those issues, and then launch.

Arenanet have stated something to the effect that these beta events would be going on roughly one a month for an unspecified time, and if that goes on too long it’s really going to affect them negatively. We’ve had a massive wall of hype on this game for a couple of years now, and I’ve always been worried that they would oversaturate everyone with their marketing and all of the information that was released. Surely they can’t continue on like this over the summer and launch in fall? Even given the massive amount of goodwill that this game has, and that Arenanet has in general, I think the tide may turn for them and that would be a shame.

A real beta (when it is not used as a marketing tool) is basically an exchange. In return for players testing the game and providing feedback, they are allowed an early sneak peek at an anticipated game. But we have already paid for this game. I would hope to see perhaps one more beta weekend to make sure that they have worked out all connection issues, and then a launch. No, it won’t be perfect…but give us what we’ve paid for. Goodwill is a fragile and immensely valuable thing, a lesson that Blizzard has hopefully learned recently. I always felt much love for Blizzard and for Warcraft, and I would have forgiven them a lot. The MoP beta and the Annual Pass bait-and-switch changed my feelings for the company forever.

QQers will always cry, but most players will forgive a few glitches in a game. (Not to the level of this weekend, to be sure – but most of the stuff above? Not such big issues.) Fix the connection issues, do what you can to allow players to party up, and then launch. Everything else can be forgiven.

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