Living in Tyria
Recently, Arenanet revealed their launch trailer for Guild Wars 2. Unlike most of the previous trailers, it doesn’t rely heavily on gameplay to make it’s point. If you haven’t seen it, you should probably check it out, here.
The trailer was met with mixed reactions from the fan base, partially because it isn’t aimed at the fan base. ANet doesn’t have to advertise Guild Wars 2 to us. We love and believe in it. Instead, it has to talk to a fairly jaded crowd of players, many of whom would never touch an MMO after what’s gone on in the genre for the past decade or so, and many who have tried so many mediocre MMOs that they’ve given up on ever finding another that they can play without parking their brain at the front door.
Without getting into all that, it’s fair to say that a number of people who play and enjoy single player RPGs don’t enjoy playing MMOs, and there are reasons for that. For a long time, MMORPGs have focused more on the MMO part of the equation than the RPG part, and this is at least one significant way in which Guild Wars 2 sets itself apart from the rest of the herd. Guild Wars 2, in Anet’s own words, is attempting to put the RPG back into MMOs.
And this is what you see in this trailer. There’s a double entendre going on here. It’s not just about having a real life and then having a game transport you to a brave new world. It’s more than that. It’s about people being tired of the MMO status quo, and rebelling against it…in this case by moving to Tyria. That’s why the saying is Our Time is Now, rather than something like, come Live in Tyria. People like me have been waiting a long time for an MMO like Guild Wars 2 to show up, barely tolerating other MMOs, in which we are forced to compensate for a lack of story and lore by making up our own. And though some people will undoubtedly still do that, it’s a whole lot less necessary in Guild Wars 2 than it is in other MMOs.
So who are these “people like me” anyway, and what’s our beef with the genre as it stands? I obviously can’t talk for everyone, but this is where I stand on the subject.
Until now, most MMOs (the notable exception being The Old Republic and to a lesser degree The Secret World) have told the story of a world at the expense of ignoring who your character is. When you play a game like World of Warcraft or Rift, you end up with a human warrior, or a blood elf mage. Everyone with a Blood Elf mage largely experiences the same story. Guild Wars 2 changes this.
In Guild Wars 2, when two people play human warriors, they can have different personal stories. This is something that no other MMO has managed to do and for me, it’s important. I never wanted to kill the same boss everyone else just killed. It’s a bit too much like standing in line at Disney World to ride Space Mountain. The ride isn’t the problem– it’s the wait.
In most games, you get a quest that says Zirgo the Obnoxious is rampaging through the countryside and you have to kill him. If you get there too late, you can watch the group of guys before you finish killing him, and then you can wait five minutes (or longer) for him to respawn. And then, if you’re not fast enough, someone else comes along and tags him before you do, and so you don’t get credit for the kill and you have to wait all over again. In fact, waiting seems to be something built into pretty much every MMO out there.
You have to wait for flight paths, wait for dungeon/raid lockouts, wait for crafting. Because most Triple A MMOs charge a monthly fee, it’s in their best interest to slow things down. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t feel like this at all.
Instead of cumbersome flight paths, there’s ultra fast way point travel. Instead of spending your entire day crafting the same item over and over, when you craft more than a few of an item your production time speeds up. Instead of dungeon lockouts, you can do dungeons whenever you want, because the focus of the game is activity. Guild Wars 2 is giving you a ton of activities to do, and you get to choose what you want to focus on.
Which brings me back to what I want to focus on. When I play a game, I want to be immersed in the world. I want to live there. For some people, it’s fun to talk about what level you are, what build you have, and how you’re going to spend your points. Even though I obviously deal with things like skill selection and weapon damage, when I play the game, I’m not thinking about those things at all. I’m living in Tyria. I’m not killing mobs, I’m protecting a human village from a centaur raid. I’m not dealing with trash mobs, I’m fighting for my life against an unending and unpredictable enemy. I’m not doing anything for loot, karma or experience, I’m saving the world or protecting those I love.
It’s the difference between playing a game and being immersed in a living, breathing world.
To be sure, there are things you’ll have to ignore to do this, stuff like some chuckle-head named Pizza Hut standing two feet away or an NPC that keeps repeating over and over again how good the prices are at a certain stall. If you’re going to immerse yourself in a game, you’ll have to learn to tune certain things out.
In my mind, there are two types of players who immerse themselves in MMOs: RPers and immersion players. Yes, I draw a line between them for several very good reasons that I’ll get into in the next column. For now, suffice it to say that both of these groups don’t just want to play a game, they want to experience the totality of a fantasy reality.
They want to to be living in Tyria.