For the past year and a half, I’ve been producing content related to Guild Wars 2. I’ve created dozens of videos, written many articles, performed hours of livestreaming, and been part of a weekly internet show dedicated to this fantastic MMO. Despite being an avid (read rabid) fan of the franchise, I feel like I’ve been impartial when giving my opinions of the game on GuildCast, my articles, and my videos. My feedback, however, has been mostly positive because I happen to really enjoy many aspects of the game. I find my adventures in Tyria to be a refreshing change from the MMO formula I’ve grown accustomed to for the past decade. But the game isn’t perfect and I find myself thinking about ways to tackle its flaws. Join me on a journey of constructive criticism as we examine the areas of Guild Wars 2 that leave me vexed.
Let’s start with my biggest complaint: the camera. Anyone who has been to the official forums or the Guild Wars 2 subreddit has seen the swarms of threads relating to various camera issues. The first time I played the Guild Wars 2 beta, I was assigned the task of gathering footage of beautiful landscapes for use in a montage video. I remember being blown away the first time I climbed up Shaemoor Garrison and gazed towards Divinity’s Reach. I also recall spending close to 20 minutes fruitlessly searching the various menus for an option to allow my camera to zoom into first-person perspective. It feels very strange to resort to a /sleep emote to get an unobstructed view of the scenery.
Lead Content Designer, Colin Johanson, has spoken about why they don’t allow first-person perspective stating, “…we want you to be able to see your character. We think that part of having this personal story and having a strong attachment to your characters, is being able to see your characters and feel a bond with them, having an attachment to them.” While I respect ArenaNet’s stance on this, I don’t believe I have any more character investment due to the lack of a first-person camera mode. It’s roughly two months after launch and I still can’t get used to this.
I want to see the stunning landscapes they’ve packed into this game and take screenshots without having to use workarounds. I would also like to be able to see the gear of my friends’ characters without my big-ass norn’s fat head in the way. One of my buddies is an asura and I don’t think I could pick out his character in a lineup. Jumping puzzles are another area where the camera issues crop up. My norn’s head would often clip through the ceiling during the Malchor’s Leap jumping puzzle making me completely blind to where I was or what I was doing. A true first-person camera zoom would help these situations immensely.
Sadly, this isn’t my only complaint in regards to the camera. I also believe they need to introduce an option to increase the maximum camera distance. As a norn with a penchant for hacking enemies in twain with a greatsword, I spend a lot of time in melee range. My combat experience fluctuates between not being able to see my enemy at all —if they’re small like skritt—to only being able to see their feet—if they’re gigantic like the Shatterer.
In addition, many players have been petitioning for the addition of a field-of-view slider to broaden what they can see and reduce the nausea that some players are experiencing. At first, ArenaNet seemed reticent to alter the FOV, but Colin Johanson has recently given us hope on the official forums stating, “We’re in the middle of working on additional fixes for the FOV, we’ll have an update on this very shortly. We’ve been doing some very promising tests internally, will roll out more info soon once we’re sure everything is working!” This is great news because the community has been arguing that higher FOV is already possible using multiple monitors and not offering an option to increase it gives an unfair advantage to players who can afford more elaborate hardware setups. I’m more affected by the restricted zoom distance, but I support adding more camera functionality because frankly, it needs work.
I love the waypoint system in Guild Wars 2. It replaces the need to have mounts and travel paths in one fell swoop. Waypoints allow friends to meet up instantly and remove travel times that do nothing but delay your fun. I don’t even have issues with the cost of using the waypoints. I think gold sinks are healthy for MMO economies and I think it’s reasonable to have to pay for convenient and instantaneous travel. I do, however, take issue with the fact that you can travel to Lion’s Arch (and the other capital cities by extension) for free by teleporting to the Mists from the PvP menu. This creates a situation where the most cost effective travel routes involve more time and extra loading screens. This works against both the economic benefits of the gold sink and the idea that players should be able to get right into the fun.
I see three potential solutions to this problem:
1. Remove the ability to travel to Lion’s Arch from the Mists.
2. Add a cost to travelling to Lion’s Arch from the Mists.
3. Make travelling to any capital city free.
Each solution has its own advantages and disadvantages, but I believe that disincentivising this longer (but cheaper) travel pattern will produce a more elegant gameplay experience.
One of my concerns pre-launch was whether or not the world bosses and meta-events would require significant strategy, communication, and coordination to overcome. A few months ago, I mentioned on GuildCast that I’d like to see some events and world bosses that required a coordinated group on voice chat to overcome. This would help emphasize the importance of being in a guild for more than PvP and socializing. During these more complex encounters, other players on the server would be free to join in, contribute, and get rewarded for their participation, but the content would be designed with guilds in mind. Sadly, I have yet to experience content in Guild Wars 2 that scratches this itch.
World bosses like the Shatterer, Tequatl the Sunless, and the Claw of Jormag are visually stunning and make for epic encounters the first few times you encounter them. They quickly grow stale, however, when you realize that as long as there are enough players in the area, there is almost no chance of wiping and many of the encounter’s mechanics can be ignored. With a large enough zerg, players often don’t even bother to avoid the large red circles on the ground, instead relying on someone in the crowd to revive them after the threat is gone.
The most fun I’ve had during the Shatterer event was fighting him early one morning when there were only a few players around. Suddenly, mechanics like getting the healing crystals down and dealing with the branded devourers became much more urgent. Every player was fighting for their life and knew that victory wasn’t a sure thing. We all had to switch to the adds to keep them under control. We all had to dodge the crystal missiles and the patches of flame on the ground. The battle took close to 20 minutes to overcome and when it was over there was a great sense of accomplishment. We congratulated each other on a job well done as we opened up the chest to view our treasures.
So how can ArenaNet capture some of the magic that my undermanned dragon-slaying mission produced? It’s easier said than done, but these encounters must have a real and tangible chance of failure. If the MMO player feels like they might miss out on their reward, they perk right up and start paying attention. The 10-minute time limit on events like the Risen Priest of Balthazar is one way to accomplish this, but there are more organic options as well. As an example, imagine an encounter where you’re trying to stop a giant from delivering a powerful artifact into the hands of the Sons of Svanir. In addition to avoiding the giant’s attacks, the players would have to use their cripple and crowd control abilities to slow his progress. As the giant’s destination grew closer the urgency would get more intense. Having sufficient players shouldn’t be the goal, success or failure needs be determined by how well the players perform.
The danger with this approach is increased frustration. If the players don’t understand why they failed, they get angry. There are many creatures in Guild Wars 2 that can one shot a player without giving players a chance to avoid it. While some creatures, like giants, have obvious animations preceding their devastating attacks, the telegraphing of many others could use improvement. Increasing the complexity of encounters while simultaneously giving players more visual cues to avoid danger is an arduous challenge. Hopefully, we’ll see more content that puts our skills to the test and leaves the zerging behind.
Guild Wars 2 is a fantastic game despite its flaws and I’m eager to watch the game evolve. MMOs are exciting because their longevity grants the developer the opportunity to cull community feedback and adjust the features of their game. ArenaNet knows this and has said many times that launching Guild Wars 2 is not the end of their five year development journey: it’s only the beginning. The future of Tyria looks bright and I’m glad to be a part of it.