Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can Guild Wars 2 appeal to veteran MMO players without alienating its fans?

I'm continually surprised by the low number of MMO players who have never thought about trying out Guild Wars. I admit that I don't have room to criticize others since my experience with the game mostly involves standing over a friend's shoulder while asking stupid questions. Still the gameplay seemed smooth and I noticed very low barriers of entry for participating in the PvP matches. The series does do a few things different though and I guess that's enough of a reason for some people to avoid the game. It doesn't look like its hurt the game very much since the sales charts show the Guild Wars expansions doing well for themselves.

Despite Guild War's earlier success though, the game does look to be declining over time. Each expansion has received a lower review score then the previous one and I believe the sales charts shows the same trend. The problem is that while a lot of people go from playing Guild Wars to World of Warcraft the opposite doesn't seem to be true. What has been happening is that Guild Wars has found itself in the position of being a stepping stone into traditional MMO gameplay. ArenaNet may have taken out a lot of the grinding and gear collection found in traditional MMORPGs, but they left in the basic game mechanics.

I've talked to a lot of people who could never justify spending a monthly fee on a MMO and decided to try out Guild Wars instead. Almost all of them ended up eventually moving onto a subscription based game after a period of time. The reverse almost never happens since in comparison the classic Guild Wars game usually doesn't appeal to someone who has played a more complex game. That's not to say Guild Wars is simple, but it does limit itself in certain areas so it doesn't overwhelm new MMO gamers. This sometimes leads to people unfairly comparing it to a dumb downed version of a MMO.

Guild Wars 2 looks to put a stop to these unfair comparisons and settle once and for all that the series belongs in the MMO genre. ArenaNet seems to be addressing several long held complaints about the series in the sequel. This includes introducing a persistent over-world and including more PvE content for those who like missions and dungeons. Of course Guilds Wars 2 can't be too different from its predecessor or it will lose some of the fans who enjoy its different qualities. That's why they are looking at features which allow players to skip leveling or grinding if they aren't interested in that part of the game.

The key is that Guild Wars 2 needs to change itself to be appealing to both veterans and newcomers to the MMO genre. ArenaNet has confirmed that they will be using a powerful side-kicking system and PvP zones will equalize every one's level. This should allow players to instantly jump into PvP without having to grind first. A common complaint by a lot of gamers is that MMOs often lock all the best parts of the game behind a massive amount of level grinding. Hopefully, the announced feature list by ArenaNet should reassure fans that this won't happen with Guild Wars 2.


Scott said...

I've always been a huge fan of GW. I've played since their E3 beta. But I don't consider it an MMO, because all during beta Arena.net was constantly making a big deal that it wasn't an MMO. We see where that got them, everyone lists it as one now and compares it to MMO's.

Anyway, yeah, GW2 will be a true MMO, and unfortunately what they've been saying recently about GW2 saddens me. It seems levels and gear will suddenly matter. Just like WoW/EQ2/whatever. Despite all the "we hate grinds" starting with the Factions campaign, they added a teeny bit of grinding. Nightfall increased it a lot, and the first and only expansion added quite a bit of new grinds as well. And it looks like GW2 will continue that unfortunate tradition.

I'm very afraid GW2 will be WoW for free with GW art direction, because it seems to be leaving everything GW stood for behind.

Openedge1 said...

Almost all of them ended up eventually moving onto a subscription based game after a period of time. The reverse almost never happens since in comparison

Yet, it is exactly what I did after the AoC debacle.
Each "sub" based MMO just got worse. When I went to WoW, I did not play it as long as I played GW, then LOTRO only lasted 6 months, EQ2 8 months, Vanguard and AoC a total of 1 month.

I went back to GW, and have stayed ever since.

I can boot it up anytime without worries of fees. It has a more involved combat system thanks to the builds criteria. Combat happens quickly and death can be just two to three hits away.
Crafting is simple but effective. Gear does not matter. I do not have to grind for hours to hit max. I think the characters look better than a lot of games with higher specs.
It is just a more polished game. People need to move beyond the beginning levels to see the true intricacy hidden deeper within.

As to GW 2, they have noted a level cap still (I have heard 30 bandied about) but with the capability to enhance skills, etc. beyond that level.
Only one sidekick is to be allowed for each player.
Crafting is to keep the simplicity of the original with other enhancements.

I wish there was more info, as the old staid MMO has run it's course.
Something new and exciting needs to happen.

Brian Fertig said...

Same here.... I went from GW to WoW (for about 4 months) then LOTR Online (for around 2 months) then AoC for (1 month). You and I are probably doing the same thing, which is looking for something that can re-create the fun we have in GW. There's really nothing like it. It's a far more complex game than it's given credit for if played well. You can level up all 10 classes to 20 easy enough and with an 8 skill skillbar and different class combinations and traits, it really makes you think in order to get a good build. What we need is more content. I'm hopeful that GW2 will be the mainline crack that we need it to be!

Thanks for the great post!

Relmstein said...

openedge1 and fertig:
Did you first start out with Guild Wars or a subscription based MMO?

The problem I'm seeing is that people that start out with subscription based games just aren't attracted to Guild Wars. On the other hand a lot of gamers who started with Guild Wars often return to the game, but always seem to be trying out other MMOs.

It's like Guild Wars is a great game, but people feel like something is missing from it. Also ArenaNet has some problems monetizing the development of the game with just box sales. I believe NCSoft's numbers reveal that City of Heroes brings in more money and that's just a small subscription based game. The big bread earners like Lineage 1 and 2 have insane revenue in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Personally I have played a number of MMOs before I even looked at Guild Wars. I bought the game when it was released, tried it a bit but never got into it.

Now, more than 3 years later and with more MMOs behind my belt I jumped into it again and I love it.

I would disagree that it is a simpler game than many "regular" MMOs - it just do a few things differently.

I think though for people who have played regular MMOs to pick it up they need to be at a stage where they get more curious about how the mechanics will work out, rather than thinking "this is not like my regular MMOs, skip it".

I do not think many people who may only have played WoW and perhaps one or two more MMOs are likely to pick it up, but add a couple more MMOs and I think it will be more likely.

Anonymous said...

In terms of NCSoft revenue numbers it is only lately that Guild Wars numbers have been lower than CoX. Previous years when there were Guild Wards campaigns and expansion released the numbers were substantially higher.

Given the differences in business models Guild Wars likely have more new players coming in than CoX. Looking at their earnings report they have had around 500K more account activations in the past 6 months. That probably includes old players buying new campaigns and expansion also, but is still a pretty good number.

How long and how much people play is another matter. My guess is that those that are deep into the competitive play aspect of the game have the bulk of the time spent in the game.

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Nick Van Smack said...

I know quite a few people who moved from WoW to GWs and they are never going back. I have been playing GWs for 3 years now and it was my first MMO. I didn't (and still don't) want to pay for a subscription. I recently tried out WoW just to see what all the hype was and I hated every minute of it. From the very beginning it felt like a grind. Just a bunch of pointless tasks so you can get drops and level. I wasn't even able to finish the ten hours that they gave me.

If you are talking about a pure MMO then maybe WoW wins, but if you are talking about fun game play, then GWs wins hands down. Having only eight skills really forces you to think through your strategy. And all the extra campaigns were great because they weren't just new things to do. They added things that changed how you played the game. Like alliances in Factions or Heroes in Nightfall or dungeons in Eye of the North.

Take the time to play it and you will get to experience the joy that we all have from this game. :)

Anonymous said...

I recently did the WOW trial, and I decided that if THAT was a real MMO, then I don't like real MMO's. I do think that several 'real MMO' features will make GW2 better. GW wasn't perfect, but it was dang close. A-net is gonna make GW2 either perfect, or much closer to perfect than the original. I trust them with this.