In the first half of my article focused on the social aspects of Guild Wars 2, I discussed some of ArenaNet’s biggest successes in the social gameplay department. However, there were plenty of bumps along the road to greatness that I encountered throughout the weekend as well.
The items below represent social gameplay mechanics that I found to be a bit rough around the edges. My comments here aren’t intended to be outright criticisms, but rather some constructive feedback for the team at ArenaNet based on my experiences during the first BWE. I have high hopes that each of these areas will be addressed prior to the game’s launch, but a little feedback along the way can be a good thing in my opinion.
Social Diamonds in the Rough
While dynamic events, organic grouping, and even the downed system all worked exceptionally well from a social gameplay standpoint, in many cases the glue that holds a server community together was somewhat lacking. There’s a good chance that you own experiences ended up being vastly different, but overall I found that mass social systems were spot on, yet on the personal level that was rarely the case.
Home World Selection
The home world the staff at Ten Ton Hammer chose ended up being nearly full before the event even started, and as a result we ended up scattered across multiple worlds, most of us unable to play the game together for the bulk of the weekend. In fact, the only way I was able to group with any of them was to do a server transfer with one of the accounts I was playing on during the event.
Otherwise, all of our scheduled plans for the weekend never happened, and the largest staff group we managed to put together at any point was a scant two people. Transfers weren’t much of a help either, because even if they went through, full servers kept people from logging in for large chunks of the weekend.
Chances are the first BWE gave ArenaNet a lot of great data when it comes to server load and home world balance. As some have noted in my post-beta discussions, some of these connectivity issues were partially alleviated heading into Sunday. However, not being able to play the game with a set group of friends was a bit gutting.
In many cases, preformed groups of players were unable to play together due to a combination of factors. If ArenaNet were to take any part of my feedback here to heart, it would be to implement two things:
1. A system similar to “district select” in GW1. Population control on a given map is a great idea, but only if you can still find your friends.
2. An option to “travel to friend’s location”. Even if there were a small fee similar to waypoint travel involved, it would be an immense help to be able to get to your group’s physical location if the map overflow splits you into separate instances.
Roughly half an hour prior to the Great Critter Hunt that closed the beta weekend, Ethec and I exited Hoelbrak as a group. I spent the next half hour zoning in and out of Wayfarer Foothills attempting to join the same instance he was placed in, and never was able to. Implementing either (or both) of the above systems would have allowed us to enjoy that event together rather than feeling wholly detached from what was going on as we discussed what we were experiencing over Vent.
Grouping for Structured PvP
At one point I attempted to meet up with one of our community members for some structured PvP. We spent about an hour trying to get on the same server to no avail, eventually giving up in frustration. While the mechanics to do so were seemingly in place, we mostly got error messages when attempting to select a specific server, and the “Join Friend in PvP” option when right clicking their name in the guild UI didn’t produce any results.
Adding insult to injury, Lewis and I had some grand plans for filming our PvP matches but he was never able to log into my home world for it to happen due to overpopulation. Likewise, the times when I had schedule our staff to get together for PvP produced similar results. Given that I have plans to be heavily involved in structured PvP in the live game, I just don’t see how this will happen if I can’t even form or play with a set team during these events.
Kicking ass in PvP was fun, but kicking ass with friends would have been even more fun
Don’t get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent playing PvP, but will have to wait a bit longer to experience how an organized team would approach the maps. Likewise, it was somewhat hard to really determine the viability of a given build concept since a smart 5v5 team will be factoring in playing as a unit rather than random individuals.
Making Guild Representation More Obvious
In general, I’m a big fan of the guild system in Guild Wars 2. While more competitive or focused guilds will likely require their members to refrain from belonging to multiple guilds, it’s still a great option for those gamers who want more flexibility than traditional MMO guild systems provide.
The only real sticking point I have with multi-guilding currently is that it is far too easy to log in, begin playing, and discover hours later that you never selected to “represent” one of the guilds you belong to. Eventually players may get into the habit of opening up the guild UI at login and selecting which guild to represent, but even knowing full well that’s how the system worked I still caught myself forgetting to on numerous occasions.
There are two suggestions I’d make here:
1. Add a simple dropdown or UI window to the character selection screen. If you select a character that belongs to multiple guilds, when you hit the Play button it could ask which guild you want to represent when you log in.
2. Similar to the above, an on-screen alert in-game could prompt you to represent one of your guilds when you first log in.
Either of the above would be an awesome addition to the guild system, and help players avoid playing for periods without contributing to a guild’s influence.
That’s a Wrap
The social gameplay in GW2 is currently some of best I’ve encountered in an MMO. However, when it gets down to the personal level of enjoying the game with a set group of friends, things begin to fall apart at the seams. This past weekend was a comedy of errors for me, with the majority of my attempts to play the game with friends, fellow staff members, and members of the community never really working out. I could sense the frustration in some of their voices over Vent as one by one we had to cross our plans to group for the weekend off our list.
Ultimately, social gameplay is currently both the biggest hit and miss in Guild Wars 2. Hopefully the areas mentioned above will be addressed prior to launch, and I fully believe that ArenaNet will be able to do so. Otherwise, these rough areas will shatter the peoples of Tyria more effectively than The Great Destroyer could have ever hoped to.