When I wasn’t ganking blood elf warlocks with toydonut before they could chain-fear us to death in World of Warcraft (WoW), one of the most fun things I did was get rich crafting elixirs of minor agility. The irony is that I could probably talk to some real heavy-duty WoW players and they wouldn’t have any idea of what I’d be talking about.
I played WoW pretty much around the time it launched, retired my wise-cracking-never-raiding 60 rogue in Iron Forge when Guild Wars came out, and then returned to play with toydonut on a new (to me) server after The Burning Crusade expansion came out. Due to toydonut’s busy schedule we weren’t leveling all that quickly, giving me ample time to do something I neglected with my first character: play the economics game of WoW. It turned out there was an interesting demand that wasn’t being met by the hardcore raiders and other players, and that was mid-level alchemy.
I played World of WarCraft shortly after it was released back at god knows when. I made the mistake of leveling up a rogue to 60 and dabbling in the very lower tiers of the endgame. WoW was pretty entertaining with my friends who played in our very small guild, the Beer Brigade. Aside from open-world PvP (before raid gear became prevalent and when there was no rewards for killing enemy players just for the hell of it), the most fun I had in the game was doing rogue-ish activities, like sneaking through dungeons and trying to avoid detection. The vast majority of my time played was instead spent being relegated to a role of doing damage, but not so much as to steal attention of an enemy from the dedicated tank, if anyone even wanted a stupid rogue along anyway.
There was no dynamic instancing, or even really dynamic quests. For the most part, encounters were designed with the “holy trinity” of having a tank, a healer, and a glass cannon damage-dealer role to defeat enemies and achieve success, when it didn’t boil down to simply allowing any solo player to take care of one mob then rest/heal. When Blizzard went so far as to add paladins to the Horde and shamans to the Alliance for the sake of making balancing instances easier for the dungeon makers, it became clear just how vanilla the overall experience was designed to be.
This was exactly the wrong design philosophy that I wanted to reap. Blizzard didn’t really want me to enjoy playing as a rogue; otherwise they would have created more opportunities for me to do so. Ideally, I would have liked to see stealth-related missions involving going into faction territory and gathering intelligence or assassinating NPC officers, or instances for parties of rogues to go in and perform coordinated heists, or even to simply make profitable chest runs. Instead, rogues were expected to conform if advancement was going to be possible, and this contributed to my subscription ultimately being cancelled.
Guild Wars then had arms wide open for me. The lack of stealth class was perhaps the biggest sting I felt in the transition, but being able to solo by adding tank and heal bots to my party gave me the freedom to play when I wanted, as secluded as I wanted, and most importantly how I wanted. Even if the AI was unbearably stupid at times, I was still able to complete all of the missions on my own, which still feels incredibly rewarding thinking back on it. I was able to do so as a bow ranger focusing on poison arrows. There was no optimized build I was required to adopt, or a playstyle I was pegged into by ArenaNet’s designers. While I couldn’t jump with the spacebar or play a stealth class that I would have preferred, I felt much freer in Guild Wars then I ever did playing WoW. And I was $17 less poor each month too.
Needless to say, I am practically freaking out over what has been released so far of Guild Wars 2. A persistent world means that Guild Wars 2 may actually be a real MMO. Instances for character-related progression quests are fantastic. The removal of the AI henchmen because the game content is designed to be soloable is music to my ears. But seeing three rangers fire into the sky and raining down a cruel fate on hordes of enemies… that video has to take the cake in terms of sheer awesomeness. Even though my heart skipped a beat, my head is telling me to be wary, and for good reason.
Guild Wars 2 looks too good to be true as three damage-dealing rangers hold their own against a wave of monsters.
As always, it’s much easier to make any game sound or read cooler than it will actually turn out, and it would be very surprising if Guild Wars 2 is any kind of an exception. But if I can team up with a couple other rangers, and maybe sacrifice some speed or efficiency for the convenience of everyone playing what they want to play, and as a result have more fun than they would otherwise, I think I will consider Guild Wars 2 to be an accomplishment in multiplayer gaming that has yet to be achieved by anyone else.