With each bit of information released on Guild Wars 2 people are becoming more interested in it. But what truly makes it different? Some will say it’s the dynamic events, others the combat system, and others still the world vs world vs world PvP. While all are correct they don’t get to the root of what makes Guild Wars 2 different and that is, community.
Community is often overlooked yet is an essential part of all Massively Multiplayer games. It refers to any and all interactions players have with one another. This can range from a 1on1 duel to the economy where players buy and resell items to one another. A good community usually refers to players being helpful, positive, and working together; obviously a bad community is the exact opposite where players are not helpful, very negative, and don’t work together unless forced too. A good community will keep players playing because they enjoy the experience. A negative community can make it hard to log in because it is full of frustration or negativity. Some more popular MMO’s have attracted a lot of players but overall the community is less than desirable. This is where Guild Wars 2 aims to make a difference.
The first thing that ArenaNet is doing in Guild Wars 2 to promote community is also one on which its entire open world is built upon, dynamic events. These events are essentially public quests (PQs) that are chained together and based upon the outcome of each event it can lead to another event. Public quests were first introduced in Warhammer online and were supposed to bring players together to complete a common goal, which helps build Community! Warhammer’s Public quests had some flaws though that detracted from the community building aspects of its public quests. WAR’s PQ loot system fostered an environment of competition and randomness. The problem with that is that sometimes even when doing your absolute best you are rewarded absolutely nothing. This led to players doing public quests with as few people as possible so they were guaranteed loot. It created an environment where other people being there was a bad thing and that isn’t good for building a good community. The other problem with WAR’s PQs was that they reset after a few minutes and ran 24/7. These meant that there was no urgency for players to drop what they were doing and join in; combined with more people being a negative this insured that public quests were often ignored and did not have the community building effect that they were supposed to.
ArenaNet has fixed these issues with Guild Wars 2. To address the competitiveness and random loot they reward everyone who meets a certain minimum threshold. The loot is also rewarded through points you gain at the events so you don’t need to grind one event to get a certain piece of armor. Another addition is that the events scale so that even with a lot of people, they are challenging. This is to reinforce the idea that more people are not a negative due to trivializing the content. The resets and the events running 24/7 are handled by making them trigger new events instead of simply resetting. Say the enemy burns down a town, instead of it just resetting it will trigger a new event where you will help rebuild the town. Then once the town is rebuilt their might be a series of events that eventually lead to the enemy attacking again. The same events won’t always be running so players will want to participate when they happen or risk not seeing them again for a while. Dynamic events take away the negative aspects of having other players around and providing a limited window for players to experience certain events, helps increase the player populations at them. All and all it adds up to increasing the quality of the community by wanting other players around.
Next up we have equal credit for killing mobs and loot. In other games there are situations where mobs can be “stolen”, by tagging or out damaging. Other times it could be that a player out of group helping you would degrade the experience or loot you would get. This could lead to frustrating situations where, once again, having other players around was a negative or having a player help you out impacted you negatively. Guild Wars 2 is doing away with this by rewarding full credit to those that helped kill the mob and using a personal loot system. The personal loot system encompasses boss loot, mob loot, and even gathering nodes. What happens is that each player that participates will get their own personal loot as a reward, so gone are the days of worry about getting a good roll or someone ninjaing the loot. For gathering nodes it works a bit different in that the node is only used up for the individual using it and not everyone else. This means no more racing to get the nodes if someone else is in the area gathering. The clear message is that ArenaNet wants other people to be a positive to your experience and is removing just about any way they can negatively impact you.
Then we have the trinity, or lack thereof. The trinity system of tank, healer, and DPS has been in a lot games and always has a serious flaw; the DPS role is far more popular than the tank or healer. Trying to put a group together can be extremely frustrating because of the lack of tanks, healers, or both. More than a few WoW raids were stuck on the launchpad some nights due to this and it leads to a lot of drama and frustration. ArenaNet wanted to create a system where no class was excluded and there weren’t dependencies on certain class roles. So what did they do? They spread out those trinity roles to every class. Each class can heal itself or others but it isn’t sustained healing, meaning they are stuck in the back healing full time. Likewise with tanking every class has a way to mitigate or avoid damage. The situation it creates is one where not having a certain class or too many of another isn’t a negative. This allows a person to form a group quickly without needing to spend time waiting and searching for others, which relieves the drama and frustration.
Another cause of community issues is player divides. Player divides form when mechanics force players to divide up. These can come in the form of choosing a faction or even joining a guild. Each server has a limited amount of players that can be on it, usually called a player cap. Things like factions force the total amount of players to divide by the number of factions. This clearly lowers the total amount of people that will be part of your side’s community and a smaller community is easily impacted by other things that can have a negative effect. The divide can be further amplified by say PvP; for example if one faction is always winning in PvP the losing sides community will start to turn negative. The effect of the losses can snowball and cause people to quit or reroll to the opposing faction. Cross-server instanced PvP is another divider because it tosses together a bunch of players that have no real ties. You’re not going to fight your hardest for someone you’ve never met and will probably never see again. Guild Wars 2 does not have this community divide caused by factions because everyone is part of the same faction. The other great thing that ArenaNet is doing with PvP is that WvWvW is pitting servers against other servers. The great thing about that system is that everyone you’ve gotten to know and fight alongside on your server is also your comrade in arms in PvP, thus forming a tighter bond between the players and causing them to fight to the best of their abilities.
Last we have the separation of solo and multiplayer content division. Guild Wars 2 features an in-depth personal story; that while you can bring your friends along with you, it is more solo oriented. The story mode is mostly instanced, which actually helps out community building. Most are scratching their heads at this point so let’s go a bit deeper. In most MMO’s the solo and multiplayer content is often jumbled together. You can never tell if a person is solo questing or up for multiplayer content. Most people assume that others are solo questing so they don’t bother them, but in Guild Wars 2 anyone you see in the open world is playing multiplayer content because the open world is built entirely on dynamic events. Couple that with the personal loot system and equal credit and the result is that even if you’re not officially grouped with someone you feel as if you are and will help them out.
It is very clear that ArenaNet built Guild Wars 2 with community in mind and that is what makes them and their game different. At the very least they did not want other players to have a negative impact on your experience and that alone is huge in building a community. They must have spent a lot of time in other MMO’s jotting down the main causes of player-caused frustrations because by and large they’ve nailed the major root causes of bad communities. With these causes fixed we will hopefully see a better quality community form and allow Guild Wars 2 to become a game that many will play for years to come.