Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Flameseeker Chronicles: Analyzing the Engineer

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

The big Guild Wars 2 news of the week, of course, was the Engineer reveal. This was possibly the most interesting reveal to me because it was so controversial. It was such a love-it-or-hate-it class, and even those who loved it had a few reservations here and there.

I count myself among that number -- the Engineer looks like all kinds of awesome to me, but even I had to pause here and there and say, "Wait what?" The skill videos, for example, looked like some sort of weird Rube Goldberg version of combat to me at first -- doing things in five steps that could be done in one. I got over that pretty quickly because it was so obvious that the videos were designed to show off as much of the Engineer's arsenal as possible in a relatively short amount of time.

There were so very many points of contention out there, some I took into consideration, and some I bypassed. (ArenaNet stole the Engineer from RIFT? Seriously?) But a couple of points stood out to me, so follow along after the jump as I delve into them!

It's all subjective

One of my favorite things to harp on is how irritating it is when people just howl "fail!" at something they don't personally like in a game, declaring unequivocally that said something is terrible.

Unless it's a legitimate issue like the crashes or bugs, there is no game aspect that is universally bad in every single player's eyes. I might hate a particular class/skill/animation/what-have-you, and you might love it. The awesome thing is that we are both right, and you are free to enjoy it while I trot off to find something I do enjoy.

For this reason, it thrilled me to see the Engineer discussions among the GW2 community. Sure, there was the odd dork here and there complaining about how this is the stupidest thing ever and ArenaNet will go out of business over it, but on the whole there was some fascinating talk. So many dissenters stated clearly what bothered them, what they didn't like, and most importantly, what they'd like to see changed to make it better. And they were good suggestions, not stuff like "and then give him a unicorn and some waterskis!"

Proponents of the class responded in kind: intelligently, clearly, and in a manner that wasn't hateful or dismissive, and as a result we wound up with pages and pages of valuable discussion in several forums and comment threads. After following some of these discussions, there were a few outstanding points that I want to address today, because they are legitimate to my eyes.

Design inconsistency

After watching the skill videos... well, an embarrassing number of times, I've come up with three or four distinct styles of weaponry. First there are the steampunk-style items: the Glue Shot pistols, the rifle carried by the human female Engineer, the turrets, and the flamethrower. Second, one item has a real-world modern feel -- the now-infamous landmine. Third, there are very primitive items that I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see in Guild Wars 1, like the bomb pack, the health pack, and the exploding barrel. In fact, we do have exploding barrels in Eye of the North. Finally, there are brief glimpses here and there of rifles with a colonial feel to them, which seems to fit some of the early concept art.

It all has a very inconsistent and slightly confusing feeling, and it leaves me both wondering what exactly this class is supposed to be and dying to know more. I need lore and history and design background -- I need context, because I feel like there's a method to the madness.

The reason behind my unwillingness just to dismiss the class as poorly done should be obvious. ArenaNet doesn't do bad art. The company boasts a team of outstanding and creative artists who pay attention to every detail from towering animal spirit carvings to the stitching on the hem of a Ranger's armor. They simply don't throw together an important game design in a careless or sloppy manner.

I suspect there are reasons behind these design decisions, and I'd love to know what they are. (I did ask the ArenaNet team questions to this effect last week -- keep your eyes peeled for our interview once we hear back sometime this week!) Furthermore, I'm going to be watching the little details of the Engineer with great interest in the future to see what -- if any -- changes come about. I can't imagine that changes here and there are out of the question, particularly given some of the fan feedback and suggestions.

Don't get me wrong; I'm crazy about this class and absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on it. That doesn't mean that I don't see the validity in what those who don't care for the design are saying -- and even agree with some of what they're saying. I love this tangible evidence of progress and modernization in Tyria and hope to see it either explained further or fine-tuned in the future.

Racial inconsistencies

The other ongoing discussion that I could definitely understand was the one regarding how suited this was to the five playable races. While I could see where people were coming from on this one, I couldn't really agree.

I think most of the problem here comes from our preconceived notions of each race. Charr Engineers? Heck yeah! The class is explosive, loud, and fiery, all things well-suited to the Charr we know. It works well for humans too -- Tyrian humans are scrappy and adaptable, well-known for continuing to battle on in any way they can even when it looks like all is lost. Humans will view the Engineers tools of the trade as something to be embraced and used to their full potential.

That's all well and good, but after that it starts to break down a bit. What about an Asura Engineer? It's at this point that the design starts to bump into what we know of the race. Even the technology of the current iteration of Guild Wars looks more sophisticated than some of the Engineer tools of Guild Wars 2. What we know of the Asura tells us that they would sneer at a beat-up old barrel full of gunpowder. And why waste time setting up a rifle turret when you're piloting a golem 10 times the size of the turret?

The Norn are similar in that the way we perceive them tells us they'd laugh heartily at all these cute little toys. It's all about the brawn and bravery -- hide behind a flimsy turret? Throw grenades from a safe distance? Forget that! Finally, the Sylvari. The cries were loudest here because the thought of this sweet, innocent race of little plant people wielding these tools is so completely incongruous it seems like a joke to many people.

Here's the thing, though: This is just our perception. Longtime fans know all of these races (with the exception of the Sylvari) fairly well and have a decent handle on what they're like. However, this knowledge comes entirely from two things: current GW1 gameplay, half-hour sessions of GW2 gameplay at conventions, and the race weeks posted by ArenaNet. Those are all great sources, but none of us has been through character creation and really gotten a feel for a GW2 race from the ground up. We are going on what we know without the benefit of learning firsthand what the current version of these races are like.

There's nothing wrong with that, but it's like anything else: You can't declare that it doesn't work for you unless you've experienced it for yourself. Some of our perceptions are bound to be wrong due to simple lack of experience. The Sylvari are an excellent example of that, even with our limited knowledge. They've been shoehorned into this sweet-innocent-Elven-race mold by a lot of people, and it couldn't be more ill-fitting. They may have been born from a plant, but they are incredibly intelligent, resourceful, and curious -- and there's not much that they shy away from. To my mind, they'd be the first ones to grab a backpack kit and learn everything they could about it.

While I'm at least partially on board with the weapon design issue, this is one that I think the community needs to sit back and wait on, because the central problem strikes me as one that will be fixed as we learn more about the game and the lore.

With that, it's time to go watch the skill videos just one more time. I'll see you next week!

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr