This game will care that you're there: Our look at the Guild Wars 2 manifesto

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This game will care that you're there: Our look at the Guild Wars 2 manifesto

Earlier this week, ArenaNet promised a new Guild Wars 2 video. That announcement came with a warning: no, it's not a new class reveal, and many fans were pretty disappointed. What could possibly serve as an adequate substitute for a class reveal? It's safe to say that the disappointment was blown out of the water yesterday with the unveiling of the MMO Manifesto and the Walking the Walk blog post.

Merriam-Webster defines the word manifesto as a "a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer," but when the word is used in context, there are usually strong feelings behind those intentions. Revolutionary, groundbreaking, and change are words associated with such a thing, and it was a word well-chosen by ArenaNet with this newest reveal.

Follow along after the jump as we take a closer look at what ArenaNet showed us yesterday.

"We founded ArenaNet to innovate." These first words from ArenaNet founder Mike O'Brien set the tone for the manifesto video. We've heard and said over and over that the Guild Wars 2 designers are passionate about what they do. They're gamers. They want the holy grail of MMOs as badly as we do.

We learned something yesterday: There is a world of difference between hearing that the developers said that, and seeing them say it "in person." Mike O'Brien, Ree Soesbee, Daniel Dociu, and Colin Johanson took their turns in front of the camera and beautifully communicated their passion and desire to create a Tyria that you can truly immerse yourself in.

"We treat our environments as if they are characters themselves." Daniel Dociu's statement is backed by aerial shots of expansive environments that are incredibly detailed and invite exploration. They've got distinct personalities and history for you to discover, just as a human (or norn, or asura) character would. The care and detail put into every aspect of the game -- even the backgrounds -- are a large part of what makes Guild Wars 2 what it is.

While we're on the subject of background and detail, Daniel also commented on the overall look of Guild Wars 2, using the words "stylized" and "illustrated" to describe the design goals, but that doesn't mean we can expect to see a LOVE-style abstract world. On the contrary, what we've seen of Guild Wars 2 so far is a near-perfect blend of realism and beauty. Guild Wars 1 is widely acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful game worlds around, but the advances made since 2005 have allowed the artists to create something even better. The attention to detail creates something more realistic and attractive than much of what we've seen in any game until now.

A side-by-side look at the two screenshots below highlights the advancement even more. The top half of the image is the wrecked trebuchet in the Fort Ranik mission in Prophecies. It's an excellent rendering, with visible wood grain, color variations, and connecting parts.

Now look at the below image, a screenshot captured from the manifesto video. The detail, right down to the nicks and scratches in the bone wheel-spoke, speaks for itself. It's important to note as well that this is not a CG-rendered promo video, but actual gameplay footage. This is what you will see when you play Guild Wars 2.

The artistry in the game's environments, characters, and objects is beautiful and impressive, but more than that, it is yet another indication of ArenaNet's commitment to building an MMO that doesn't feel like an MMO. That commitment extends all the way down to the splinters in a wooden wheel and the ragged hem on the ranger's armor.

It extends in the other direction too -- the overarching story, world, and progression. Ree Soesbee summed up the central frustration of so many MMO players: "[The game] doesn't care that I'm there." We've seen this problem addressed over and over in the past months with dynamic events, NPCs, the ability to permanently affect the world around you, and much more.

The developers telling us these goals face-to-face allowed them to really express their intention to remove all of these immersion-breaking, clunky mechanics and convey their desire to create a game that they will be proud of as gamers, not just as developers.

What about the rest of the video and the blog post, however? We saw quite a bit of gameplay that we've not seen before in the video, including the thing that so many of us have been dying to see: a fight with a dragon. That was clarified a bit more in the blog post; that dragon is The Shatterer, a high-ranking corrupted dragon in the Dragonbrand. We also get a glimpse of some charr that are familiar to those who have read Ghosts of Ascalon.

In GoA, the charr Almorra Soulkeeper tells her story: She was in the area with her comrades when Kralkatorrik flew over and created the Dragonbrand in the first place, and some of her descriptions of the change reflect what we see: "His eyes began to glow an unearthly purple [...] His fur became transparent as his armor sloughed off his thinning shoulders, and his arms transformed into flailing, shard-like claws. [...] And then he turned into living glass, crystallizing in an instand before my eyes into his twisted form."

Kralkatorrik isn't the threat you have to worry about in Guild Wars 2 for quite a while, it would seem. The destruction he left behind looks pretty intimidating all on its own and isn't restricted to mere corrupted charr. The Shatterer is only one of many corrupted dragons. This translates to good things for the player and nicely reflects something that Colin Johanson said: "Most games, you go out and you have really fun tasks occasionally that you get to do, and the rest of the game is this boring grind to get to the fun stuff." You don't have to wait for endgame for epic fights, even with dragons -- they'll come to meet you for battle.

There is much more to be seen in the video. We get our first peek at the (unbelievably cute) female asura. We got a look at some new combat tactics, including an electrified bullet courtesy of an elementalist and a sort of spinning-tops-of-doom animation from a golem that proves very unhealthy for anyone who gets too close. We learn that golems can take damage from firearms, but it's OK, your asura character can leap out of harm's way and go about her business.

The knowledge that we can affect the world around us is driven home with shots of collapsing structures and bridges (including the amusingly named Steeleye Span), and it gives us an idea of how much we can change things. It also raises questions: What happens to a player who is crossing that bridge? What happens to someone under a water tower when we send its contents gushing across the terrain?

There is much more to find out as time passes. Many of our questions will be answered in less than two weeks at Gamescom. If you're attending, you'll have the option to explore the human starting area or a mid-level charr area. It's a tough choice. Do you want to explore Divinity's Reach and look for the huge earth elemental from the video? Mike O'Brien said in the blog that you'd probably fight it at level 1, so it's a definite possibility. Or would you rather try a level 47 charr, with a hefty range of skills and abilities and the possibility of fighting a dragon? We at Massively will have coverage at gamescom, so don't forget to watch and see which option we chose.

For now, though, we want to thank everyone at ArenaNet for the new video and blog. New class reveals are great, but a firsthand look at the vision and excitement that the team holds for Guild Wars 2 confirms what most of us were pretty sure of to start with: this game is going to be something in a class by itself.
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