I had the pleasure of sitting down with the folks from NCSoft and ArenaNet last weekend at PAX East to talk some Guild Wars 2. I’ve played Guild Wars in the past, but it has been a while. Guild Wars 2 is one of those MMOs, much like Star Wars: The Old Republic, that I kind of kept at the peripheral of my vision simply because I already have too many MMOs on my plate right now and didn’t want to be drawn into another one.
However, as I learned very quickly as they were walking me through a bit of Guild Wars 2, that this title isn’t your typical MMO. In fact, it shakes up quite a few things that were considered staples of the genre and attempts to do something new to present things in a totally different light.
What impressed me the most was their idea of questing. At the top of the discussion, your typical MMO quest stereotype was mentioned: Someone asks you to go do something (kill some wolves, collect some rocks, clear out some bad guys), then you go do it, come back, turn in the quest and collect your reward. That quest giver is always there, always offering the same quest, regardless of how many times or on how many different characters you play through that area with.
Enter Guild Wars 2’s dynamic questing system. The rundown is this: Quests are not static, the area you are in is constantly changing and evolving and quests are undertaken based on what is happening in the world – all dynamically. One example that was given was of a town being bombarded by pirates. This is a random event that might start off as a simple ransacking. If you get close to check things out, NPCs may run to you and initiate a quest with you to help kill the pirates and put out the fires. Since these events also scale with how many people are in the area helping, there’s always enough for anyone to do.
So, what if there’s no one around to help defend the town? The pirates eventually take over and turn the town into their own. This may interrupt commerce or open up other avenues of trade, quests will be generated dynamically by NPCs to help retake the town. If the town still isn’t taken back, the pirates may spread to nearby areas, disrupting farms, villages and general safety in the region.
As I mentioned, quests are generated dynamically, and there is always stuff for people to do. Did you finally retake the town? There may be merchants moving back in from the big city, and quests will be generated to guide their caravan to the town safely so they can set up shop.
In one of the starting areas they showed me, there was a gigantic boss that spawned dynamically, which one of the NPCs asked you to take care of. That boss isn’t always there, nor is the fight always the same, since it adjusts dynamically to the amount of players present.
I was told that, as many times as they have run through this demo with press and for practice, not one play through has been the same. This bodes well for players wishing to level up several characters (as I do, because I’m an alt whore). It’s nice to know that things will likely be very much different each time you go through the same area, instead of just facerolling and running through the same quests over and over and over again like most other MMOs out there.
Another thing the team at ArenaNet is huge on as they go through the development of Guild Wars 2 is your character’s story. They want you to feel like your character, to be them, to understand them and how they relate to the world around you, the quests you undertake and the game’s story as a whole. As you go through character creation, you can choose many different parts of your character’s background. They’ll ask you “hypothetical” questions like, “You were minding your own business having a pint in the local tavern one night when a fight broke out, putting you right in the middle, you…” and then they give you multiple choices as to what your character would do in that situation.
This, in turn, leads to the world adapting to the backstory you develop for your character before you even begin the game, so dynamic quests that come up may be related to that incident at the bar, and will only come up if you chose a certain way of handling it. Or, to get even deeper, a certain combination of answers to all the questions you’re given about your backstory at the time of character creation.
All this works together to great a dynamically updated and evolving world where you never see the same things twice – with the same character or with multiple characters. The world around you evolves based on your choices, the quests you complete and the backstory you create for your character from the beginning.
Honestly, this is all a breath of fresh air, and I came away from the meeting with NCSoft and ArenaNet feeling like I really saw something special that is about to shake up the MMO market, which has become awfully stagnate in the last few years where we see WoW-clone after WoW-clone. I’d definitely keep an eye on this one, it’s going to be something special, and is certainly shaping up to fulfill every last word they told me about the title.