Gain a little, lose a little
The world population over the course of the weekend was a marvel. I never felt like the presence of other players was being shoved down my throat, which gave running into people all over creation a very pleasant feel. Find the crazy diving board in Lion's Arch? Better use your most impressive bellyflop -- there's a pool party going on at the base of the diving tower. Wishing (like I did) that you'd brought a pal along because there's no way you're handling this puzzle boss on your own? Look around -- there's a handful of players wishing the exact same thing. Dive into the deeps to explore quaggan cities? There are already people floating around and listening to the quaggan sing.
While the way the game handled playing with strangers was awesome, one of the most important pieces of feedback (and certainly most oft-repeated) I've seen coming out of the weekend was regarding playing with people intentionally.
The overflow server technology that ArenaNet's using to virtually do away with queues and wait times for players to enter the game was heralded as yet another sign of the second coming of the savior of MMORPGs. While I still think it's totally awesome
and still did a little jig every time I was able to just transfer to an overflow server rather than queue up for goodness knows how long to wait to play, the mechanism definitely needs some love before the game goes live. Why? Because it kept some people from playing with their friends for the entire
Login problems aside (and I do feel pretty OK about discounting them, since by Sunday they seemed to be pretty much fixed, and the whole point of betas is to find and fix stuff like this that can't really be anticipated outside of wide-scale and open testing), there seemed to be almost nothing standing in the way of players who wanted to hop in game. In that respect, overflow servers functioned beautifully. However, the social experience is crucial for MMOs, and so anything (like, say, overflow servers) that keeps players from sharing their experience with their friends is a pretty great leap backward. Once a player was landed on a server, overflow or otherwise, she seemed to have little to no control (or, occasionally, knowledge) of where she was, and that's problematic.
Overflow servers aren't server-specific, as far as I can tell, so I understand why I as a player don't simply have the option to switch to the overflow server. Something needs to happen, though -- maybe something that only exists if a friend is in your party and on a different overflow server, and then you can say that, yes, you want to leave the real
server and go to her
server. As it stands now (and until we know the exact mechanics of "guesting"), it looks like you might
be in a better place if you rolled on your WvW server of choice, so long as it was not the same server where you intended to PvE with friends. Basically, you can control what server you guest to (and I assume it's bound to your friend because the language on ArenaNet's blog seems fairly specific) but not whether or not you're on an overflow server. I understand that the queue is probably not overlong, but if the whole point is getting people into play immediately, and the game is an MMO, it seems sensible that you'd also try to get people to play with specific other people
immediately. As it is, this only bothered me infrequently (I did a lot of solo play this weekend; the majority of my grouped-up time was spent in WvW), but I know that it was really
frustrating for a lot of people.
I heard a few times over the course of the weekend that Guild Wars 2
feels like a single-player game. This server mishap is the only
way that I personally see that impression being supported. "Playing with your friends isn't important," it seems to say. "You never really needed them anyway." I really hope that this is fixed or worked around for the future.
While I'm taking care of lodging my complaints: particle effects, always
particle effects. I know that this has been brought up time and again before, and I know that it has been said that things are being done, but I feel pretty strongly about this one. ArenaNet has put a lot of emphasis on visual literacy in this game, and the importance of battles being easily "readable." Nothing about this battle is visually informative, though:
At this point, my concern isn't even about framerate while this is going on. I know that these sorts of battles turned into slideshows for some people, but that wasn't a problem for me. Deciphering what was going on or even where my target was, however, got pretty problematic.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime
And other stuff
If you'll excuse me, I have a week left to reap as many rewards as possible from this year's anniversary celebration. Should I go and hunt down elusive greens? Rack up some Lightbringer ranks on a previously-neglected character? Vaettir farm in hopes of MOAR CUPCAKES? The possibilities are endless.
To begin with, though, I think I'll AFK on Nine Rings a bit while catching up on some much-needed sleep. This weekend was not one I was eager to miss much of. For those of you who spent your time in or near Tyria: I hope you enjoyed it.
Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.