Norrath to Tyria: Social Gameplay

When playing Guild Wars 2, there are a lot of social changes in place compared to EverQuest 2, and normal MMOs in general.  The developers  (again, ArenaNet, not NCSoft) have said that they’re creating the first truly social MMO.  Practically every part of the game is entirely designed around encouraging players to work together in some way, but not punishing them if they want to run around solo or even work by themselves.  These changes flow from philosophies ArenaNet has regarding grind and how players should view each other.

It’s probably good to go and either watch the MMO Manifesto they released if you haven’t already, or better yet go read the GW2 Primer post I made that includes the Manifesto video, just to have it fresh in your mind.  I’ll wait…or rather, this post isn’t going anywhere.

Done?

Once you really get into the changes they’re making, it’s easy to be intimidated.  There are a lot of changes compared to how EQ2 is set up.  I’ll be going over many of the changes in future posts, but for now let’s go through some of the more important social changes that don’t really fit in other posts, shall we?  These don’t do a lot by themselves to be honest, but combined they alter the base experience and general feel in ways difficult to tell alone.

Kill Stealing

EQ2 deals with kill stealing in different ways.  Originally EQ2 locked the encounter you were fighting so no one could interfere.  While it worked, there were a lot of complaints because it also prevented anyone outside the encounter from helping a player within it, and helping players is a big part of social gameplay. This was eventually changed to be a claim or “tagging” mechanic, where the first person/group to do damage had the experience and loot rights, but you could set it back to encounter locking if you liked.

ArenaNet is basically taking a different view on the issue, and deciding the real issue to be addressed is the practice of assigning credit to only one player/group per kill.  They decided this was not a great way to encourage community.  It sets players against each other, and can even cause feelings of annoyance at another player simply being nearby because they might be on the same quest and will take all your mobs you need to finish.  They didn’t like it.

So they removed it, making it impossible to steal someone’s kills in Guild Wars 2.

The main reason is because in Guild Wars 2 everyone who contributes to a kill gets full credit for it.  The only limitation is that you must meet a low damage threshold to qualify.  Once you hit that low threshold you get full credit regardless of who else contributes or how much further damage you do, but you getting credit does not prevent someone else getting credit as well if they helped.  No matter what, all anyone can do in the game is help you by helping kill the mobs faster.

Loot

Fighting over the spoils of war is not a great way to build a community in a game.  How many times have you had something drop that you needed, but never got because someone else won the roll?  You fight and run a dungeon several times, but never get the loot you’re looking for because you never win it?  Sure, Need/Greed systems are a nice compromise and help lessen the problems, and DKP/point systems make it organized and give you a chance if you persevere, but there’s still the concern that you can miss out on a lot of upgrades simply because others got higher rolls or had more points, and that doesn’t even include unscrupulous loot ninjas who pick Need at the last second.

The loot system in GW2 is very different in this regard: every player has their own unique chance for something to drop.

Normally in MMOs, the game makes a single roll against the loot table when a mob is spawned/killed to determine what loot will be gained.  Players then distribute the resulting loot among themselves.  In GW2, the game makes as many rolls as there are players who received credit (see above) and everyone is automatically assigned to their loot.  Whatever you get from looting the mob does not take away from anyone else, and no one else can touch what you got.  With this system, you will never miss out on a dropped item simply because someone keeps beating your rolls or bids higher or is someone’s favorite, or managed to cheat the system and get it regardless.  And if someone did get something you can use, you can always trade it.

Resurrection

No beating around the bush on this one.  In GW2, every character can revive anyone else simply by walking up to them and pressing the Action key (default F).  I’ll repeat…everyone can revive everyone.  This means during combat even a Warrior or Thief can run around getting everyone back in the fight.

There’s no need to get a Priest, or Dirge, etc.  There’s no need to have some Divine Essence/Phoenix Feather/Spirit Guide to revive the actual healer.  No more having to figure out who has the better resurrection.  Giving everyone the ability to revive means no matter what, that random person you’re fighting alongside can help you if things get tough. (Note, this is also referred to as “rallying”)

Does this mean there’s no resurrection skills?  Of course there are, the built-in revive ability obviously has limitations (need to be next to the target, takes several seconds).  Many professions get at least one skill which instantly revives at a distance or rallies multiple people at once.  For example, a Warrior can use a skill that revives a nearby ally when he kills a mob.  Another example is a Ranger using a skill that sends her pet out to revive a nearby ally.  Even if you do not have a skill for this, though, you always have the ability to revive an ally simply by walking up to them and pressing F.

Side note: If more than one person goes over to revive a player, the speed of the revive goes up, making it worthwhile to help out even if someone is already doing it.

Server Visitation and Overflow

In most MMOs, EverQuest 2 included, when you create a character you’re permanently on the server you initially chose.  You can play without any problem, but if you don’t like the server or find a friend on another server you want to play with you’re stuck there unless you pay a server transfer fee or create a new character on their server.  This can be a problem if you meet someone with an established character outside of the game, since the likelihood of meeting someone in real life who plays on your server is very small (this is true in any MMO, barring EVE Online and Guild Wars 1, which all play on a single server).

Guild Wars 2 has a normal setup of having multiple servers (known as “worlds”).  When you create your first character, you’re assigned the initial server as your account’s Home world.  However, ArenaNet decided to allow players to visit other worlds to play with their friends any time they want, removing the separation of multiple servers for the most part.  If you meet a friend that plays Guild Wars 2, you can play with them regardless of which world they’re on.

As kind of a side note: server queues are a thing of the past as ArenaNet is leveraging this technology to create something called an Overflow server.  When logging in, or even zoning into a new map, if that map/world is completely full the game doesn’t instance the area like EQ2, due to how the game’s content works.  Instead, you can decide to be placed into the Overflow server.  This is a separate server that allows you to actually play while waiting in the queue, doing events, personal story, crafting, etc, and then when the map/world opens up you can immediately move there with everything you’ve accomplished in the Overflow server.

It removes the barriers to playing with friends, regardless of which server they’re on, or just playing at all with the Overflow server.  While your home server will remain the same, and you will need to pay a fee to change that (which as far as we know only affects the server you use for WvW), you can visit and play on any server you like to play with anyone you wish.

I need to repeat that once more, as everything in this game points to this one tenant: You can play with anyone you want.

In conclusion…

Personally I’m excited about these new systems, seemingly minor as they look.  ArenaNet is specifically targeting the irritations and issues I’ve seen in current and previous MMOs.  Players should never see another player as competition regarding content, loot, or harvesting, but instead as allies able to help each other.  Barriers towards helping and working with others are being dropped, allowing players to truly work together freely without worrying that they’re taking someone’s kills, harvesting their nodes, or stopping to roll against them for loot.

As stated at the beginning, there are even more features of Guild Wars 2 which further improve the social gameplay, but those will be covered in later posts when I go over Events, Professions, Crafting, etc.

I’m sure there are bound to be issues that come up from these changes to the standard MMO norms, but it’s looking fairly bright for those who want a world where players can work together without fighting amongst themselves over who gets to progress, as well as get to know the players around them.

Coming up next, an overview of Professions, and how “Classes on Steroids” is a very apt description.

Images are © 2011 ArenaNet, Inc. All rights reserved. NCsoft, ArenaNet, Arena.net, Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and all associated logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

EverQuest 2 is © 2004-2012 Sony Online Entertainment LLC. EverQuest is a registered trademark of Sony Online Entertainment LLC in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are properties of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

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