An Ode to ArenaNet

Rudi the reindeer from Guild WarsArenaNet are the developers of Guild Wars. Guild Wars is a truly innovative MMORPG. There is no monthly fee, and yet the developers cram a whole lot of things into it that you don’t even find in pay-to-play MMOs these days. There are three standalone games playing in the Guild Wars universe (Prophecies, Factions and Nightfall), and one expansion (Eye of the North) was recently released.

Why am I telling you this? Because I really like Guild Wars. Why do I like Guild Wars? Here’s a bulleted list that I have the audacity to call an Ode to ArenaNet:

  • GW runs very well on GNU/Linux through WINE
  • ArenaNet have a sense of humor, and it shows
  • No monthly fees, although I probably wouldn’t mind paying them
  • Absolutely huge world. I’ve played EverQuest for more than 2 years and owned several expansions, but even just the first Guild Wars campaign (Prophecies) feels larger than all of them combined
  • Extremely balanced professions that are genuinely interesting to play. Each profession has a distinct feel and this changes the way you approach the game, both PvE and PvP
  • Huge amount of skills. Many of them are derivative with only minor differences, but who cares? This allows you to play your profession the way you envision it.
  • Breathtaking soundtrack. Is it orchestral? Either that, or very good synth. At any rate, some of the most powerful compositions I’ve ever heard in a game. The graphics are fantastic too, by the way 🙂
  • Masterfully executed PvP gameplay (though PvE isn’t lacking!)
  • Quests that make sense. There are a few fetch quests, but not nearly as much as in other games. The quests in GW always have a bearing on the story, change something about the world or simply make sense and are fun to accomplish. Boss hunts, unique hunts — same thing. The dungeons I can’t vouch for so far, as I haven’t seen enough of them. But GW gameplay until now wasn’t about dungeons, this is something new that came with the GW:EN expansion
  • Best storyline(s) of any MMORPG I know, even beats many single-player RPGs. There actually is a story, and you can follow it through, and it does have a visible effect on the game world. Other MMOs only mention this on the back of the box, without ever delivering. Most of the story is believable. There are cheesy bits, but I have the impression that ArenaNet did that on purpose, just to touch on the clichĂ©es of the genre. It’s the sort of thing you do when you know your job, to show that you know your job.
  • Solo or group play. You’re not forced to find human groups, but if you want one, they are usually easy to find. If you don’t feel like it, you can use the AI-controlled Heroes (not so bad) or henchmen (pretty crap). This is a very good compromise.
  • No downtime. In EverQuest, people used to spend ten full minutes staring at a full-screen spellbook with no way to observe the action. Then they fought for 30 seconds. Then they stared for ten minutes again. No such idiocy in Guild Wars. Health and other points refill quickly when you’re not fighting. The only time-consuming thing is travelling to a place you haven’t visited before, but this is part of the excitement. Later, you can teleport at will to any outpost or town. Which doesn’t mean every place, because there places hidden away and long stretches of land between teleportable locations that are completely optional to visit.

So here goes: thanks, ArenaNet, for trying things that no one else in the industry dares to try, and thanks for delivering a top-notch game while doing so. I’m sure it’s not easy, but sometimes easy would just be boring.

The screenshot here on the right is Rudi the reindeer, by the way. Rudi is part of one of several special quests for Wintersday 2007. His nose lights up when he’s near a Wintersday present, so he’s good as present finding device. Gimmicky? Maybe. But it’s cute, and it’s by far not the only thing about Guild Wars that shows ArenaNet invest a decent portion of good old love into the game.

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