Guild Wars 2 is currently in that state of love it or hate it. Some people think this game will shape the future landscape of MMOs while others swear it is all hype and Guild Wars 2 is really more of the same. I personally subscribe to the love it crowd but not because of all the nice things the developers promise but because of what I see.
Today I was watching a video of a panel of developer and designers who were talking about the future of MMOs. At the start of the panel each person was asked to describe what makes their game stand out. Jon Peters who was appearing for Arenanet said that the defining factor of guild wars 2 is “GW2 is an MMO that encourages players to play with each other not along side each other”
some one in the comments replied to that by saying “GW2: We encourage grouping, which has never been done before! WOOOOOOOOOOOoooo Not hyped”
Now never mind the person commenting kinda didnt understand what Jon Peters said or Guild Wars 2 for that matter cause in my opinion Guild Wars 2 discourages grouping more then encourages it. Let me put some context before discussing this further. So In Guild Wars 2 its essentially like all the game players are in the same party. You don't really need to group up, you can just go help any player without forming a party and both of you get full XP and full reward for killing each monster or for finishing events. The more people participating in events (again without grouping up) will have the event scale, making it more challenging but more rewarding for everyone.
Let me share my views on all this and why I think the comment above is wrong on all aspects. I have played a ton of MMOs and playing together with other players has always been an issue some way or another. Personally my experience is that MMO are split into two, those that encourage grouping but for the wrong reasons and those that actually discourage it.
I still remember when I played Loong for the first time. You had these events that would spawn these world bosses at random. Generally it was pretty hard to get them down on your own if at all possible. So generally I was happy when someone might join the fight helping me take down the boss. Likewise when I came across someone attacking such a boss I would join in helping them too. More often then not though the person I was helping would attack me back. Took me a while to figure it out, the problem was kill stealing. That’s Fair enough so I stopped doing it, I never sought to grief anyone after all! Then one day I came across a boss, it had just spawned, awesome I start attacking it, two players join me in the fight. Personally I play MMOs to play with people so I really didnt mind, didnt say or do anything and let them help out. We got it down and went our separate ways. A short while later I come across the same players again and they're attacking a boss, I figure they probably have my same mindset since they helped me out before so I though I will help them out in return only they turn around and attack me back. Great they have no problem sharing with others but they are not willing to have others share with them. Not the best sense of community. But I had an even worst event then this one happening to me. One other time I see this player about to be killed by this boss and I decided to help him out, attack the boss and get aggro until he has time to heal a bit and then walk away. It was honestly not my intention to kill steal, just to help out a fellow player. First part worked as planned, I got aggro, waited till the other player healed a bit and started to walk away only this didnt seem to matter to the other guy, he started attacking me even while I was walking away and with the help of the boss who had just nearly killed him just moment before got me down. That's the thanks I got for saving him. Great!
Other MMOs are not hostile to group play like loong is obviously. Eden Eternal for example encourages group play but unfortunately it does this mainly through grinding. Some quests require you to kill 100s of monsters. Most of the time you go in the area, someone going through the same trauma comes and sends you a party invite, you kill the monsters together and move on without saying a word. Well perhaps a thank you for the party but rarely anything else. Generally it works well unless you find another party who are not thought full enough to invite you to their party or perhaps because their part is full, in which case you end up waiting patiently for respawns hoping to get to one of the spawns first. In this case the incentive you had to party actually works against you in a bad way.
I don't really have to point out whats wrong with Loong's player interaction mechanic. It is sad indeed when you get killed by the person you had tried to save just moments before. Eden Eternal is a step in the right direction, most people really want to help each other in order to lessen the grind they face. My problem is that grind isnt really the incentive I want especially since when grouping fails because either there are no players around or because they are already grouped I am penalized I have to go through the pain that grouping is supposed to lessen. If you group a 30 minutes quest can be finished in say 10 minutes. If I have to compete with a group that 30 minutes can easily end up to 50 minutes or more. Thats frustrating!
So lets get back to Guild Wars 2, why is Jon Peters claim that Guild Wars 2 is a game that makes people play with each other and no along side each other not hype? For starters it blows all of Loong like game issues out of the water. I dont expect anyone to be angry at seeing other people helping them out. The more players that join in an event the bigger reward that event will give. If I die other players can revive me saving me not just the time to get back into action but also having to start from scratch. Each monster anyone kills will go towards event completion. Everyone is like sharing the same quest! The event will also scale, the more players the more epic the event making it overall more enjoyable.
Even the problems of games like eden eternal are solved through the clever scaling mechanic. If I have a task, say to help out a farm by picking fruit or something, It will not be an absurd amount such as doing the same action 100 times in order to encourage me to join forces with others. If I am the only one picking fruit the game will require say 10 fruit to finish the event, if another 10 people will join each helping out with the fruit picking the number required will go up to say 100. In some rare cases maybe someone starts picking fruit but walks away after picking only a few having me pick a fruit or two extra to make up for it, not a big deal and in any event since the event scaled up I get rewarded more anyway so no matter the case its win win for me.
Now what about the “down side” of all this?
Since everyone is essentially already in a group there is really no intensive to group with people around you. That is why I said the comment posted on youtube is wrong. Guild Wars 2 by its nature discourages grouping for there is no need for it. But is this really bad? I did hear some people saying that this fact will reduce community interaction but I don’t think so. 99% of the time I rarely engage in conversations with my group. If I want to talk to them talking to people in the area will still achieve the same result. Besides most of the time I am only talking with my guild members. The only time I engage in conversations with my group is when doing dungeons and that will still be the case with Guild Wars 2 as well. A bigger issue for me is when your guild starts dieing. There is always that point when one has to decide if you should abandon your guild for a more active one. Part of you doesn’t want to do it because you got used and made friendships with the people still active in your guild but part of you hates that often you log on to be the only one online. Guild Wars 2 addresses this problem by allowing everyone to join multiple guilds and be able to chat and interact with all of them.
Anyway I better wrap this up because it is getting just too long. Playing with other players is a subject I have close to heart. It is the reason why we play MMOs after all. I was always the co-operative type. In movies and books after all most stories about about people coming together to defeat a common foe. Why should it be any different in MMOs? Does it make sense that we fight each other so that we are the ones who get to strike at our common enemies? It just doesn’t make sense! Perhaps its all because in my first MMO (eve-online) I got used to playing along side other people. Guild Wars 2 will have a few great ideas which make me hopeful that it will offer me the best social experience yet in an MMO. I just cant wait to help out other people in need without having to worry. I just cant wait to engaging in big boss fights with every other player around. It addresses all the concerns I have when it comes to group play in a way that I myself would not have thought about if I had to design my perfect MMO. That is why when Jon Peters said “GW2 is an MMO that encourages players to play with each other not along side each other” I thought what he said was true and not hype, not because GW2 is the only game that encourages players to play with each other but because it has really thought about it long and hard and came up with a bunch of solutions that in my opinion will work. At least Soon many of us will see if things will play out the way we think they will. So Far I am extreme hopeful that they will.