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Oud 23 augustus 2009, 08:30   #1
Didis
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A Complete Guild Wars 2 Preview

The Complete Guild Wars 2 Preview
Posted by Droniac on August 21st, 2009 in Previews


It has been more than two years since Guild Wars 2 was announced, and now ArenaNet has tipped the veil at GamesCom 2009. A new website has been launched and with it an impressive trailer, featuring artwork and actual in-game footage, as well as loads of new information about the game.

Here you’ll find a compilation of all known information about this new addition to the franchise. As a long-time Guild Wars fan (E3 For Everyone was fun), I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while. I hope you will find the Guild Wars 2 reveal as satisfying as I have, so head on in for the full story.


Before we head in to the actual gameplay and lore details, you should know that the following information is based on both recent previews and interviews, as well as the recently released trailer and some information released two years ago at the announcement of the game. The World-PvP segment in particular is still a big question mark and could have changed enormously since their initial announcements.

The Guild Wars 2 trailer and an IGN interview with the developers can be found at the bottom of this preview. If you’ve stumbled across any information not covered in this preview, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll keep it updated!

And yes, this is huge.


Technical Improvements

Guild Wars 2 runs on a heavily modified Guild Wars engine that features a number of notable improvements beyond the requisite visual upgrades. Chief amongst these innovations is a completely different world design that is centres itself around a persistent open world, rather than the instanced world design of the original games.

But there is more good news to be noted, with the introduction of more player mobility. Players will finally be able to swim and jump, opening up the world environment to a degree that hasn’t been seen before in the Guild Wars franchise. This combines with the more open landscape design, featuring far-reaching vistas; towering dams; and intricately woven jungle vines, to create a much more impressive and open world. A world that can truly be explored and no longer consists of a set of linear pathways to channel players to target locations.

Apparently Guild Wars 2 will contain extensive underwater gameplay. According to interviews the underwater content alone will nearly double the explorable area of the world. An entire underwater continent (likely Orr) will be explorable, and ArenaNet intends for submerged gameplay to be much more engaging than in other MMO games. They’ll attempt to remove the constant hostile – fear-of-drowning – feeling of underwater gameplay that haunts underwater segments in other MMOs and prevents these sections from ever truly feeling inspired.

Other interesting new engine features include a full day/night cycle and improved shadow and lighting effects. And if the trailer is any indication then Guild Wars’ massive drop in visual detail on other player characters is a thing of the past. But perhaps most important is the realization that with the new world environment and freedom of movement, those horrible invisible walls on 2 inch rocks will disappear. No more getting stuck on details in the landscape that you can hardly even see!

A key side not is that it was previously announced that Guild Wars 2 would no longer be a single-world game. It will run on various realms, like most persistent-world MMORPGs, but it will allow players to switch servers freely if they so desire. Perhaps if you’ve joined the wrong server in the beginning and wish to transfer your character to join your friends on another realm.
Could this be Lion's Arch 250 years later?


Location design has gained even more height than in Guild Wars

The Outer Shell

It is amazing just how much Guild Wars 2 looks like its predecessors, despite showing off completely different environments and characters. The artistic style is nearly identical and this is carried on in character models, environmental design and even in the music. It all has a distinct Guild Wars feel to it and often looks like its Guild Wars on steroids.

Some of the new locations shown are just mind-boggling in scope and complexity. There is an enormous dam, which dwarves even the Ascalon Wall in the original game. Not to mention the city built out of ships on poles; the vast stone city of the Asura; the steampunk look the Charr have given to Old Ascalon; the Maguuma Jungle that looks even more epic and overwhelming in scope; and the beautiful underwater decors, complete with swimming Naga.

ArenaNet has clearly pulled out all the stops for their environmental design, with sprawling landscapes and incredible constructions displayed at every turn. Characters look similarly improved with vastly improved animations and more detailed player models. Even the armour design looks like it suits the world presented in the original games. It’s different, but it clearly belongs in the same world when looking at the materials used and designs of individual elements.

But for all its artistic beauty, it is also obvious that Guild Wars 2 is not quite an Age of Conan or Aion in the graphical department. Where those games deliver high-end graphics with plenty of nifty special effects, ArenaNet has decided to keep things more manageable for gamers on lower-end PCs and has opted for an art over technology stance in graphics design.

It may not be as sparkly as some of the other games in its genre, but Guild Wars 2 definitely looks to be amongst the more visually impressive MMOGs coming our way.


Audio Implementation


As was mentioned above, the soundtrack sounds very much like an evolved version of what Guild Wars had to offer. This is a very good thing, because the music in Guild Wars was outstanding and it will allow Guild Wars veterans to feel more comfortable in the new game. Which might even be required given the very different setting that Guild Wars 2 presents, but more on that later.

It’s been said that new audio and cinematic systems have been integrated into the engine, but what these new systems do better than the old ones is as yet unknown. The manner in which voice-overs will be implemented hasn’t been revealed either. Given Guild Wars’ history of fully voiced cinematics, it would seem logical to expand this to other elements of the game as well, perhaps even to the extent of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s full voice-over standard.

If the narration in the trailer is to be an indication of what to expect, then whatever level of voice acting has been implemented should be of a similar standard to the original games. This should result in high quality voice-overs, often by well-known voice actors, that are well above the level of voice acting presented in the likes of Age of Conan or Aion. Not that those are excruciatingly horrible, but they’re a bit too much ‘American cartoon’, rather than Hollywood film, or Japanese anime.


The Maguuma Jungle returns, in style!

The Setting

Guild Wars 2 is set roughly 250 years after the events of the original games, on the continent of Kryta (Guild Wars: Prophecies).

One hundred years prior the continent of Orr was raised from the ocean by a powerful dragon known as Zhaitan, which resulted in heavy earthquakes and tidal waves that wreaked havoc on most of the Sea of Sorrows. Other Elder Dragons woke along with Zhaitan and set about creating undead armies, hell-bent on the destruction of all the races inhabiting the world of Tyria.

With all races suffering defeat at the hands of the Elder Dragons, they must now set aside ancient rivalries and band together to stand against their common enemies.

But decades of war, both against the Elder Dragons and amongst themselves, have left each race in a very different position from where Eye of the North left off. Forming an alliance between hated enemies and long-time rivals will not be easy, nor have hundreds of years of strife been easy on Tyria itself. The continents of Cantha and Elona are lost and vast swaths of land have been given up to the dragons. Cities have been annihilated and rebuild, entire new races have spawned… this is no longer the Tyria you know.

Asura

These small, intelligent and magically adept creatures once ruled the caverns and tunnels below Tyria. Now they have been forced to the surface world amongst the ‘primitive’ and ‘intelligent’ after the rise of the Elder Dragon, Primordus, drove them from their homes. Yet rather than merely surviving, the Asura have claimed much of the southern parts of Kryta as their own and have prospered.

The Asura established their capital city of Rata Sum and now aim to rule the surface world with their works of ingenuity and crafty plans.

Charr

Amongst the most hated enemies of humankind, the beast-like Charr have now conquered the kingdom of Ascalon and claimed it as their homeland. Their warlike ways have propelled them into a technological revolution, which resulted in the invention of such contraptions as guns, explosives and war machines. They have also built vast cities in their new homeland that resemble their industrious ways, with a very steampunk look and feel to their industrial towns.

As the Elder Dragons rise and humanity is forced into an ever tighter spot; the Charr thrive and their legions of Ash, Iron and Blood march ever onward toward further bloodshed and conquest.


The Charr introduce a new steampunk element to the Guild Wars universe

Humans

If humanity was in a bind in the original games, with Ascalon on the verge of collapse, Kryta under assault by the undead, Cantha being in the grips of a great plague and Elona beset by demons, then humanity is all but extinct 250 years later. Cantha and Elona have been lost and Ascalon was conquered by the Charr. Lion’s Arch is no longer part of the nation of Kryta and only their last great city of Divinity’s Reach safeguards humanity from total annihilation.

Queen Jenna leads humanity in these troubled times, when even the Six Gods seem to have forsaken this world. Humanity still prays and some prayers are answered, but the Gods’ activities in the world have dwindled as their followers have as well.

Norn

The giant Norn have been forced from their homes in the far north by the appearance of an Ice Dragon. Now they make their homes in the Shiverpeaks, building new homesteads and totem lodges in the cold mountains. Their greatest settlement, Hoelbrak, serves as a central meeting places for these resilient and individualistic hunters.

Yet even after 250 years of conflict, the Norn should not be called a people. There is no point in many acting as one, and each Norn decides what to do for him- or herself. These shape-shifting giants may have lost their homes in the far north, but their resilient nature will see them through the times to come.

Sylvari

The Sylvari mysteriously appeared only 25 years ago, when their Firstborn blossomed from the Pale Tree. This nymph-like folk is still young to this world and is a naturally curious race, searching for their purpose in this world. These sentient plant-beings are bound together by a common dream and an awesome power, with a society shaped by the proverbs on the Ventari Tablet, the source of Sylvari honour and chivalry.

The Sylvari have claimed the Maguuma Jungle as their home.


There looks to be a lot of variety in player characters

Character Creation and Progression

Nothing specific has been revealed about character creation, but we do know that you’ll be able to choose from all five races (Asura, Charr, Humans, Norn and Sylvari) and the game will feature classes. Not all of the classes from the original game will be implemented; obviously I would think the Canthan (Assassin, Ritualist) and Elonian (Dervish, Paragon) classes are out.

One interesting option that will be presented is linking to an existing Guild Wars account. What this does is grant your Guild Wars 2 character(s) (the exact implementation is still unclear) a number of bonuses; ranging from items to companions; based on the titles, items and pets that you have unlocked in the Hall of Monuments featured in the Guild Wars: Eye of the North expansion pack.

There will be racial differences, but whether any classes will be limited to specific races is unknown. The leveling system has been revamped, with the introduction of a higher level cap to satisfy traditional MMORPG players and the demands of a persistent-world game. The crafting system will be overhauled, likely to be in line with current-day MMORPGs in a generic gathering and crafting fashion, but no details have been announced as yet.

The equipment system has been revamped to be in line with modern MMORPGs, offering more choice and variety in all kinds of armours, trinkets and weaponry. Now you’ll be hunting for items for their improved statistics, rather than gathering crafting materials merely to gain a better looking piece of otherwise identical equipment. A great evolution for PvE fans, and of little consequence for PvP fans, who will not be influenced by the introduction of this system.


Gameplay Mechanics


Many of the unique features that were introduced in the original games remain. You will still need to fit a skill deck prior to entering combat, and world travel can still be done by teleporting around on your map. And the Asura gates that were introduced in the Eye of the North expansion pack have become an even more popular means of travel, now that the Asura rule most of the southern parts of the continent.

Fitting a proper skill deck will no longer be so difficult, with ArenaNet’s new focus on quality over quantity. No longer will you find five different skills that do the same thing in slightly different ways. Instead every skill will be recognizable and unique.

The effects associated with these skills will be more visual, which should make it even more apparent what kind of attack an opponent is using. This will allow newcomers to have an easier entry into PvP. The free movement further facilitates more spectacular combat, as it will allow players to dodge out of the way of arrows and other ranged attacks much more easily than before. The removal of the mouse-control scheme might upset some of the more old-school players, but it should ensure a more equal playing ground on the battlefield.

The Trade system will also undergo some changes. It is not yet known whether Guild Wars 2 will feature auction houses (or something like them), but it seems a safe bet as ArenaNet is determined to make trading an easier and friendlier affair than it was in the original games.

Instanced gameplay will still be heavily featured, particularly for missions and dungeons. But a lot of PvE and PvP content will be available in persistent-world zones as well. The intention is to utilize instancing to create an optimal storytelling experience, while persistent elements will be prominent for the social experiences that they can provide.

Very interesting is the promise that Guild Wars 2 will be almost entirely solo-able, but will not feature henchman or heroes as the original games did. Instead it will apparently balance difficulty levels based on party make-up, somewhat like what Dungeons & Dragons Online does for its instances. Some challenges do require teams of players in order to be overcome.


There are some beautiful scenes to be found in Tyria

Player versus Environment Gameplay

The new persistent world set-up will mean some significant changes for Guild Wars 2’s PvE gameplay. No longer will you be forced into instances in order to explore the world and engage in quests with fellow players, now you’ll be able to meet other players on your travels and join in dynamic events that occur around the world.

Rather than implementing a static world with static quests and missions for players to progress through linearly, as can be seen in games like Aion or World of Warcraft, ArenaNet intends to make PvE gameplay much more engaging, personal and dynamic. One way of accomplishing this is their new dynamic event system, which will prove to be one of the key innovative elements of Guild Wars 2.

Previously this event system was described as a mechanic that would make players in a zone band together temporarily, in order to achieve common goals, in ways that could change the game world permanently. The old example was that of a dragon attacking a village, which would alert all players in the immediate area to come and help. If you help and the monster is defeated, then you’ll receive plentiful experience and loot. If you fail, then the village’s bridge will be destroyed as it retreats to its lair. A group of builders from a neighbouring village is called in to repair the bridge, but bandits attack them in order to steal the construction supplies. Now players can opt to go help the villagers secure their town from bandit raids.

At this year’s GameCom, a new example was provided of an outpost under attack by centaur raiders. You can choose to aid in the defensive of this town and if you fend the centaurs off then you may be able to counter attack and drive them out of the trading post that serves as their home base. But if you are defeated, then the outpost will be claimed by these centaurs and you can assist guardsmen from nearby villages in reclaiming it.

Obviously this kind of dynamic PvE content generation system should be a source of some incredible social experiences, if it works as advertised. This event-driven system is ArenaNet’s replacement of the archaic questing system found in other MMORPGs and some singleplayer RPGs, lead designer Eric Flannum has already stated: “I think I can safely say that you won’t see a single exclamation mark floating above a character’s head in Guild Wars 2.”

This will essentially turn all PvE content, aside from instanced dungeons and missions, into dynamic content! Not a static world designed in linear fashion by world builders, but a world that facilitates true exploration with continually altering environments and situations all over Tyria.

Yet the PvE features do not stop with the mere introduction of event-driven gameplay.


Story-driven Content

Guild Wars 2 will be even more focused on providing a proper storytelling experience than the original games. Instanced story-driven missions will once again propel players forward in the world, but are promised to no longer be a solo-play affair, with the removal of AI henchmen and heroes. Instead, players can opt to recruit a personal and customizable companion, or if they feel more comfortable playing without AI helpers of any sort, then they can opt for a combat statistics boost instead.

These missions should also see reduced party sizes, which will ensure that Guild Wars 2 does not suffer from a lack of players for older content as the game grows. With a new cutscene system in place and an epic storyline spanning five races and the entire continent of Kryta, it would appear that ArenaNet is trying to take online storytelling to the next level, with the previous games currently standing as the undisputed champions in the realm of online story driven content.

Judging by interviews with the developers, we may well even be looking at personal stories based on class and race combinations, very much like Star Wars: The Old Republic. ArenaNet has made it very clear that they intend for Guild Wars 2 to be an epic, story driven, experience… and that would certainly help drive the point home.

In any case, Guild Wars fans should rejoice. Many unexplained events or details from the Guild Wars lore should be explained in this sequel, and many new lore bits – such as the origins of the Sylvari – will be offered up as well. The mere fact that the continent of Orr will finally be revealed should be enough to excite any Guild Wars fan.


Underwater gameplay will be a major part of Guild Wars 2

The Grind

As you probably know, one of the primary features of Guild Wars was a complete lack of grinding. You could hit maximum level in a day and maybe hit 1/5th of the content of one of the four available campaigns. Guild Wars focused purely on fair (PvP) gameplay and proper story driven PvE gameplay. Guild Wars: Factions did introduce an element of grinding with the introduction of titles, but this was limited and very optional. Nightfall introduced factions and reputation, and Eye of the North expanded upon that, but neither required grinding for proper faction relations.

ArenaNet still holds to its anti-grind design philosophy and intends to make Guild Wars 2 just as grind-free as the original games were. There will be none of the grind commonly associated with high level caps in persistent-world MMORPGs and PvP players will not even have to play PvE at all in order to participate in all facets of PvP gameplay (contrary to the original games.)

A sidekick system similar to the one present in City of Heroes or Age of Conan, will allow players to temporarily boost friends to their level. This means you will always be able to play with your friends, no matter how much more, or less, they play than you do.


Player versus Player – Arena Gameplay


The Arena PvP in Guild Wars 2 will be much like it was in Guild Wars. When players join an arena, they are transformed into PvP characters that are fully decked out with all skills and top-level items, and then battle against one another in instanced PvP sessions to determine who is the most skilled player or team. The exact game modes are unknown as of yet, but I’m convinced that something similar to the current game modes will make it in, like random arena, team arena, etc.

As in Guild Wars, the results of these battles will be based purely on player skill, teamwork, tactics and strategy. Competitive players can once again start vying for the best team builds and taking each other down in popular and public tournaments. Guilds will of course also be able to do Guild battles against one another, and given the popularity of the observer mode in Guild Wars, that feature is bound to make it into the sequel as well.


Ascalon looks a little better than before

Player versus Player – World Gameplay


A new type of PvP will be introduced in Guild Wars 2 in the form of persistent world PvP. This lets you use your PvE character (no fair fights here) to enter The Mists, where there’s no limits on the number of combatants involved and you’ll be fighting in a genuine open war zone.

The original intent as announced two years ago was as follows: two servers will be matched up against each other in The Mists, this match-up will change every few weeks. The battles offer the opportunity for both high- and low-level characters to make a difference, with a multitude of objectives to complete at all times.

The Mists differs from such PvP implementations like World of Warcraft’s battlegrounds in its scope and length. The conflict between servers will endure for weeks, and players can opt to scout enemy troop movements, defend resource convoys, take control over resource nodes, etc. The exact length of these World-PvP engagements is still a mystery.

And it gets better yet, because players can even choose to permanently remain in The Mists. Characters will gain experience points and rewards for participation in The Mists, which will allow fervent PvPers to ignore the PvE component altogether. Or at least, ignore it once you reach The Mists. The requirements for joining in are still unknown.

There are also server-wide benefits to participation in World-PvP, because victory in The Mists provides bonuses for the entire server, ranging from better drop rates to increased energy regeneration.


Payment Model and Assorted Information


In keeping with the Guild Wars franchise, Guild Wars 2 will require only a one-time purchase in order to be able to play. There will be no subscription fees associated with the game, although micro-transactions akin to those featured in the original games (extra storage, bonus missions, extra character slots) are a distinct possibility.

Further revenue will likely be garnered from expansion packs in the vein of Eye of the North, rather than the chapter model of Factions and Nightfall. This should result in a more uniform experience, allowing players to continue their existing characters, rather than having 30% of the new content be for new characters only as it was in the chapter model.

No beta test or launch schedule has been announced as of yet, but a 2010 launch seems unlikely. I would hope for maybe a late 2010 beta test, but I would not expect the game to go live until mid-way 2011 at the earliest. ArenaNet has stated that they will take their time and that beta testing will now take place much closer to launch, because, “we want players to be absolutely blown away by the game the first time they experience it.”

In many ways Guild Wars 2 sounds like a revolutionary step forward in MMO gaming, but it also still retains the essence of its predecessors. We can only hope that such incredible innovations pan out well, but ArenaNet’s track record inspires great confidence. Guild Wars ranks amongst the most innovative MMO games to date and turned out very well indeed, now we only need to wait another year or two to see what becomes of its, hopefully even better, sequel.

I for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.
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Oud 23 augustus 2009, 08:51   #2
pascanel
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hmmm nog een jaar langer wachten
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Oud 23 augustus 2009, 20:33   #3
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en wachten duurt zo lang...........
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