January 10th, 2005


(no subject)

Guild Wars players jumping with joy at the excellence of the game, because they were all forced to by the admins.
I said it last month, and I'll say it again now - Guild Wars is excellent. The third beta-test weekend is now over, and it's even better now than it was then (though mostly the same, as you'd expect from an almost-complete product with one month of development extra). It's questier, the difficulty change between levels is less insane, and such. The players remain of a higher calibre than those of other MMORPGs, for some reason; we'll see whether the same holds true beyond the only-partially-open beta.

In the previous betas, I'm told, the admins ended the beta weekends by having giant dragons stomp into the towns and murder everyone, or rains of fire, and the like. This time, when I was watching, they did no such thing. They did, however, make everyone jump and dance, then briefly make everyone giants, then make everyone tiny tiny leprechauns, and finally left us with a heady mix of normal-sized people and pixies. Alas, we weren't able to fight it out in that state, and the beta weekend ended with no special bloodshed. (Linked screenshots are ~40K files, low-quality large images.) Still, can hardly expect special occasions every month for mere test players - that they did special things the previous times is unexpectedly cool already. Unfortunately by doing so they set a precedent, so lots of people where whining about the lack of dragons this time. Hey, I only said they were a higher calibre of people than normal MMORPG folk, not that they're good.

Something of note in the images - the guild capes flapping upwards weirdly in the giants image is a pleasing physics effect of them being yanked suddenly upwards by the sudden growth of their wearers. You can see almost the same thing happening in the jumping picture, as I snapped the screenshot after the people started descending, rather than at their peak height.

Having not really played a lot of MMORPGs, because I generally find them extremely tedious extremely quickly, I'm not quite sure how to explain why Guild Wars is better. Perhaps it's to do with the fact that fights aren't a dull slog (hit... hit again... miss... hit again... hit... you get 10XP!), but instead usually last about 30 action-packed seconds (cast a spell-suppressing spell at the enemy healer, a life-draining spell at the warrior next to you, an area-effect damage spell at the archers, suck some more spell energy off the enemy healer, cast a life-draining spell at him now, and the fight will pretty much be over already because your team's all been fighting too). Also there are (so far) no "kill some number of these things" or "fetch me some number of this object that you get off these things" quests - all the quests involve a very specific goal, and can often be completed in different ways; some, for example, can be completed by having one team member run really fast past all the enemies while the rest of the team attempt to distract them and soak the damage. Also enjoyable is that the main sequence of quests have bonus side-quests.

Another reason why it's better is the programming quality. The graphics are better than most games, MMORPG or otherwise (the screenshots don't really do it justice - movement makes the fountain much prettier, and that's a boring stony area anyway; the swamps with thatched watermills are beautiful), and it'll run happily on my laptop with medium detail settings, even with a couple of Firefox windows and email open in the background. The other recent MMORPG I've had a look at, Wish, chugs along terribly on its lowest detail setting, looks like crap in comparison, and even after I close it everything else runs slowly for about 5 minutes while all the crud is freed up. It also has a relatively pleasant interface and doesn't seem to crash or do anything horrible (though there are still a few quest-related bugs - but that's to be expected in a beta-test, that's what tests are for). And worth mentioning again, it won't have a monthly fee. I object to monthly fees, as they mean more playing = better value for money. I don't want to have to play more quickly to get a good deal.

Oh yes, in case anyone should get the wrong idea from the images - it's not usually quite that packed with players - they had clustered around the fountain deliberately for screenshots. People usually have more armour on that that, too, when it's not an end-of-beta beach party. Also I cropped the images to remove dead space.