I play, you play…so what’s the problem?

A conversation/debate/argument came up in a thread on Guild Wars 2 Guru recently about how people play video games, and MMOs in particular, and it’s gotten me thinking.

Basically, most gamers can be split into three types – those who play a game simply to play, and enjoy the journey above all else, those who play because they want the rewards they get at the end, and those who are a mix of the two – they like the journey and the goodies at the end. The argument that was being made was that playing for rewards is bad, and that people should be playing simply to play.

While I myself am a “journey > rewards” gamer, I’m not entirely sure I agree.

You all know you want to know what's in here.

When it comes down to it, does it really matter how someone likes to play a game? I don’t think it does. Guild Wars – and Guild Wars 2 – both will cater to both sides of the spectrum. If you like to play through the game and find the gameplay and story the biggest reward? Go for it. If you like to collect shiny things? Hey, you can do that too. And if you like both…perfect!

Sure, it’s not going to be like a traditional MMO. You won’t have to grind through dungeons a hundred times over to get a chance at that Shiny Staff of Awesome, with +100 Against Quaggan*. Completing events gains you Karma, which can be traded to NPCs for items. If you participate? You get something! No more of that “One good item and everyone rolls for it” nonsense.

Don’t forget the fact that what you get at the end of a dungeon or event is not necessarily, stat-wise, better than what you’ll have already picked up by other means. Grinding dungeons doesn’t mean you’ll be better off or equipped than someone who likes to explore and take everything in.

Which is how it should be. No one should be forced into a playstyle that they don’t like, because it’s the only way to get anywhere in the game. Everyone should be free to play in a way that they enjoy, so long as it doesn’t impede on anyone else’s fun in the game. And these differences in play should only matter if the game shifts to only favor one way of play. People can make the argument that GW1 has shifted to a “grind for rewards!” playstyle, but it hasn’t, really. It’s simply an aging game, and many people turn to speedclears and title hunting and the like as it’s something for them to do while they wait for Winds of Change to release. The game was not designed for that to be the only way to play; it’s simply that there’s a limited amount of content (a ton, to be fair, but it’s still finite) and there’s only so many times you can play through the same thing before you start to lose interest.

There may reach a point where GW2 is on the better side of a decade old, and all of the content’s been done repeatedly, and it’s a long wait for new stuff. That may not happen. But they’re trying to make the game so that it will have a little something for everyone. You have your own personal story…and your own playstyle. And that’s okay.

* Under the Pale Tree does not encourage nor endorse violence against quaggans. Please don’t hurt the quaggans, that makes everyone sad :(

The children of the forest

If you know me, there’s something about GW2 that you know I’m waiting very impatiently to hear about (well, two things. This is about one of them). If you don’t know me well, then it should be clear, at least, from this blog’s name and design that there’s one race in particular I love.

Yes, the sylvari. That mysterious race of human-like beings, born from the Pale Tree in the Grove. But just who are they?

Concept art of a sylvari

At this point, we don’t know a huge amount about them. They’re a brand new race, not appearing at all in the first Guild Wars game, though you can visit the area that becomes the Grove and that houses the Pale Tree seedling in Eye of the North (it’s on one of the islands in the middle of Arbor Bay, if you haven’t yet seen it). We’ve yet to see their race week. In fact, at this point, we don’t really know how they’re going to look!

So, then, what is the allure of them?

The fact that they are so new and different is certainly part of it. We know that it’s possible, and probably likely, that the idea for the sylvari originally came from the sidhe, a race that was designed for Utopia. That, in turn, they were likely inspired by the aos sí/aes sídhe of Irish mythology.

That in itself makes them unusual; while fantasy games always draw heavily from legends and mythology (and Guild Wars is no different), usually if there’s an elven or fae race, they are based on Tolkienesque elves. Here, that is not the case. Irish fae are not Tolkien elves, even though there are elves amongst the fae. Irish fae cover a number of different types of faeries and elves, some of which are generally good and peaceful, some not so much. They were often referred to as nature spirits, care was taken to not offend them, they were often seen as fierce guardians of their homes (often a special tree or grove, faerie ring, or mound), and they were described as inhumanly beautiful, but sometimes terribly so.

Another sylvari concept art

It’s not really a mythology that’s been used much in games. Sure, Rift has the Aelfwar, which draw from Irish myths, but for the most part, elves in that game (and any game) are based more on Tolkien’s elves. Mysterious, aloof, ancient, unchanging. The sylvari are most certainly not that. They are a brand new race; as of the time of GW2, the oldest sylvari is only 23 years old. They may seem a bit apart from the rest of the races, but that is simply because they are so new and do not have the prejudices that the other races have build up. Mysterious, yes, but also curious. Endlessly curious. A sylvari, newly born from the fruit of the Pale Tree, will want to do learn about everything she can see. They are born with the knowledge and intelligence that those came before had, but they want to learn things on their own. Experience things themselves. Become their own person.

They tend to be very direct and honest, and somewhat lacking in tact; if there’s a subject that another race would tiptoe around or not mention at all, you can trust a sylvari to bring it up anyway. They take things at face value and are seen as naive. Death is not something they completely understand; their fascination with it and trying to understand it can come off as slightly disturbing to other races. They hold an agnostic view of the human gods, wanting to see proof of their existence before believing.

And then there is also the Nightmare Court. Within the Dream of Dreams, the connection with the Pale Tree that gives a newborn sylvari their knowledge, there are terrible nightmares, which they do not understand. There are some sylvari who have chosen to embrace those nightmares. They attempt to understand them, while committing acts of evil. They wish to eventually corrupt the Pale Tree itself with this evil and depravity that they embrace.

Definitely not very Tolkienesque, right?

Sylvari, before being redesigned

Of course, the biggest thing everyone is waiting for is the reveal of their redesign. We don’t know how they’re going to look yet! Supposedly, the redesign was completed back in October 2010, but no news has been released about it. No images, no new concept art, no videos, nothing. Every release has very conspicuously excluded the sylvari. We don’t even know how much was redesigned; if it was just something small like redrawing the faces to look a little less human and more fae, or if they were completely redone from the ground up.

Personally, I am hoping for something less human and more fae. I like the green and brown of the skin colors and leafy hair shown in both concept arts and screenshots of their old design, but I’d like that to be pushed further. Exaggerate their facial features further. Make their eyes larger and maybe have the iris be all that’s visible. Smaller noses, sharper cheekbones. They’re human-like, yes, but they should be immediately recognizable as non-humans.

The only sylvari tidbit I saw from the fan open house was that in character creation, you can select sylvari patterns. I’m assuming that this means facial markings and skin patterns, something which you can see a lot of in concept arts. I sure hope so.

I wish there was more information on the sylvari. I wish we could see the new design already, and I do hope that it’s announced soon. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. And so, I leave you with a question – what do you think of the sylvari, and what are you hoping for when they are officially revealed?

Guild Wars 2 Fanday!

This weekend, ArenaNet is holding an open house (known as GW2 Fanday), where they’ve invited a few handfuls of lucky fans (I believe the number is 15 total, including the winners of the Ambassador contest) to visit their new offices and try out the game.

Sadly, I was not one of the chosen few. I wish I was! That would have been amazing, in so many ways, if I was going to be flying out there for the weekend. Trying out GW2, meeting people I’ve been talking with on forums and twitter for months now…checking out the area that my boyfriend and I plan on moving to next year…yeah.

NeoNugget, of GW2G, though, is one of the lucky ones, and has posted this thread on the GW2G forums, both listing out everyone that’s going (that’s been identified so far, anyway), twitter accounts so that people can keep up with the news (since they’re not under an NDA), and most awesomely, asking the rest of the community for questions for them to ask about.

Me being me, I want to know about the sylvari redesign, and Mesmers. Because both are awesome. If there’s anything that you want to know – go ask on there! Just don’t waste any time, because everyone’s leaving on Thursday and will be there on Friday.

And hey, maybe if they do another of these, I’ll get in ;) A girl can dream, after all!

Welcome to PvP, enjoy your stay!

PvP in Guild Wars tends to be a bit of a sticky situation. People either love it, hate it, or have never gone near it. Guild vs. Guild and Heroes’ Ascent are hard to get into unless you’ve got a group of friends to play with that are pretty decent, Codex is just odd, Random Arenas is, as the name suggests, a complete crapshoot, Alliance Battles combine the “we need a group” and random parts, and Jade Quarry and Fort Aspenwood are barely considered PvP and generally will have long, long waits trying to get into a match.

I’m generally part of the “nah, no thanks” camp when it comes to PvP. My guild is small and we’re all primarily PvE players, so GvG is right out. HA doesn’t really interest me much, and even if I wanted to try, I have no experience so no group would take me. Codex is interesting in theory but not really my thing. RA can be fun, but sometimes it can be utterly frustrating, and tends to be full of people trying to sync matches. AB isn’t really something that interests me. FA and JQ I do rather enjoy, but as mentioned above, it can take absolutely forever to get into a match sometimes. There’ve been days where I’ve waited ten minutes for it to find enough people on the Luxon side to start a match (yes, I am Kurzick).

Well, today, ArenaNet released a PvP-oriented update. And while it doesn’t fix all of the problems inherent in GW’s PvP (mostly because a lot of them are because of the community and not the game itself), it does do a lot to make it more interesting for people who may not have tried it before.

The biggest change is to the Gladiator title. It used to be that you’d only start gaining points on that title track after five consecutive wins in RA. This is, understandably, not an easy feat, and RA being what it is, is really not up to skill at all, and rather is down to luck more than anything else. Now, you get a point for every consecutive win, starting with the second. If you win two or three matches? Those matches actually meant something, now, as opposed to before where it was basically nothing but wasted time. The title itself now requires five times as many points as before to get to each rank, but since you’re earning points much faster, this makes the title much more accessible to everyone – particularly people who may have wanted to try out PvP before, but always found it too frustrating to bother with.

Codex Arena was always a neat idea from the start, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be as popular as a lot of people had hoped originally. The nature of the format – you have a small pool of skills to choose from, and the pool changes daily – makes it difficult to get into, because you have to really know your chosen profession in order to really be any good with it. That, and the skill rotation happened so quickly (every 8 hours), that once you figured out a build that worked for you, the skill pool would change. Again, something that could be highly frustrating. The time for the rotation has changed, now, though – now you have a day before the skill pool will change. That’ll give you a bit more playtime before you have to start from scratch again, making it a bit less annoying to play. The title for Codex has also been adjusted in the same manner as RA, making that title less irritating to try and progress in.

Ahh, Jade Quarry and Fort Aspenwood. They are my guilty pleasures – I can’t remember why I originally decided to try them out, but I decided that I quite enjoy playing them. They’re fairly easy, low-stress formats that any profession can play and while teams are random, so long as you can deal damage, you’re golden. The problem is that most people play these on the Kurzick side, and hence it could take forever to get into a match. No joke, I have waited 10 minutes for a match to start before. Of course, the epic dance parties that happen in the outposts while waiting can be fun, but you know what’s more fun? Obliterating Luxons and giant turtles. To try and encourage more people to join in and play, they made a few changes to the way rewards work for FA and JQ (and also AB). Now, instead of earning Kurzick/Luxon faction, you earn Imperial faction, which you can later exchange for K/L at a 1:1 ratio, or if you wish, Balthazar faction, at a 3:1 ratio. This way, if you’re waiting for a match and it’s taking too long? Just hop over to the other side! You won’t be penalized for playing the other side at all, since you can decide what faction you want to change your Imperial faction for. This also allows you to hold much more faction than normal, since your Imperial faction cap is the sum of your Kurzick and Luxon caps. The faction reward for wins has also been increased, which is always nice.

There were some other things in this update – Zaishen coins are now tradeable, some of the coin costs on items have changed, there are new coin rewards (Envoy weapons which cost 100 gold coins…steep. I probably won’t be saving for them myself), and there are new PvP quests aimed at giving a better introduction to the formats for people who might not have tried them before (awesome, those are), as well as some new items available. Basically, all sorts of nifty stuff.

This update was definitely aimed primarily at PvP players, but I would definitely say that it benefits PvE players quite a lot, too. Tonight I played RA and got a win-streak of 8 matches (according to my glad title track, I’ve only passed five wins once before), and I managed to play a dozen matches of JQ with the timer resetting only once. And I had fun, too. Of course there are people complaining about it – I came across a few determined whiners in Great Temple of Balthazar earlier tonight. And I certainly did some trolling of them, I’ll admit. So sorry you can’t sync RA with your guildies as easily because there’s a ton more people trying it. Complain all you want, but that format never required skill. Me, I’m going to have fun playing and not feeling like I wasted my time if I lose before five wins, and enjoy the fact that I can play JQ and FA quicker.

So, if you’ve never given PvP a try in GW, or always hated it? Go take a look. Get your feet wet. You might find that you enjoy it more than you’d think!