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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guilds, grind, and Gamescom

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Thursday evening was fairly eventful for me. Thursday is our regular Massively night in Guild Wars, so [MVOP] arrived in The Wilds and began setting up for our run through the mission. We found a few players waiting for us, extended guild invites, sorted out our grouping, and off we went. We made it through the mission with only one hitch -- which I'll address in a moment -- then headed over to the Eye of the North to begin tackling the Asura storyline.

The plan was to make the full trek through Vloxen Excavations to the Asura Gate, but once we arrived at Umbral Grotto, certain party members (me) were falling asleep in their seats and had to bow out and get some rest. The plans for this week are all set, and everyone is welcome to join us.

Now, about that little hitch. We were traipsing around the jungle in The Wilds when I got an IM telling me that the level cap had been set for Guild Wars 2. What? No way. A quick check confirmed it, and my wonderful group sent me off to a safe corner to leech and knock out a quick news story while they continued the mission. They even came back to find me after I returned and demonstrated my truly dismal navigational skills, because they are wonderful like that.

The leveling and progression information was pretty big news, so there was no question that I'd look into it a bit more deeply for this week's Flameseeker Chronicles -- follow along after the jump.

The burning question of a level cap has been keeping the Guild Wars community wondering for a long time. The level cap of 20 in Guild Wars 1 is unarguably part of the game's recipe for success, and I think the community as a whole trusts ArenaNet not to trade in something so positive for a grind-fest.

Thursday night's blog entry regarding progression and leveling in Guild Wars 2 finally gave us our number: 80. Perhaps anticipating fan panic at the sight of such a big number, he (yes, Izzy's a guy) made it a very small part of the news, almost an aside. The real meat of the entry is that fact that no, we will not be grinding.

Grind is largely a cultural thing, as is much of MMO gaming. I don't want to get into all of that here, but it's essentially this: There is an audience who prefers large fields of placid mobs that will not aggro on you, and that need to be cleared 50 times before you can hit the next level. This is not Guild Wars 2's target audience, and ArenaNet recognizes that. The GW2 dev team does not consist of a bunch of suits who looked at a few spreadsheets and said "Uh, make it 80 -- 80 sounds good." The GW2 dev team consists of a bunch of gamers who hate grind as much as most of us do.

I think this has laid to rest a lot of concerns people had, because while there are 80 levels, that flat red line on the graph is awfully comforting. Seraphina wrote an Anti-Aliased a while back that I could not have agreed with more: we want to play the game and have fun now. That's why we bought it. I think I can safely speak for the Guild Wars community when I say that having to slog through hours and hours of mindless grind for the promise of fun later is not my idea of entertainment. Many players have fairly limited gaming time in some way, shape, or form, and the time they do get needs to be all about the quality.

ArenaNet seems to understand this very well. Of course, we don't know many specific details -- there are no numbers to crunch or gameplay samples to view, but we've got the assurance that it's all about the content. "Overall, we expect our content to be the driving force behind how long it takes to do things in-game. Anyone can increase the length of an experience bar and call it content, but our world is filled with an almost endless stream of things to do. We expect content-not long, grindy progression-to be the deciding factor that keeps people playing our game. We want everyone to stick with Guild Wars 2 because our content is fun and enjoyable, not out of some dogged determination to slowly, slowly advance."

That statement is a good summary of how it's going to work. Content and quality aren't defined by how long it takes to progress. Differently put, a good game is about the journey as much as the destination, if not more. While the destination needs to be worth it (i.e., good endgame), the trip there has got to keep you interested, engaged, and willing to continue. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

So what do I hope to see? I'm like most of you: I want some details! There will be progression of "achievements, trait collection, crafting, dungeons, skill collection, items, and much more," says the blog entry. Is there XP for this stuff? How much? How varied is it? I hope to dig up some of these answers this week.

Finally, one last thing. August is a big month for Guild Wars 2 -- we're getting one more profession reveal, and then it's time for Gamescom! Gamescom will be the very first hands-on of Guild Wars 2. The Massively staff will not be attending, and while when I dwell on that fact I feel a bit like Eliot screaming at the sky for a FFXIV beta key, my (seriously depressing) loss could be your gain.

If you're already set to attend Gamescom, you'll most likely be taking a ton of pictures and talking about it quite a bit on the forums, so how about we pay you for it? Take a look at our post on the subject from last week, and if you're interested in recouping a bit of your costs, give it a shot. (It's important to note that we're not suggesting you plan to attend solely for this reason. This is essentially an offer to pay fans for something they were going to do anyway.)

As far as the profession reveal, I'll go on record as officially guessing that the necro is our next class, and hopefully we'll find out soon!

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