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Flameseeker Chronicles: Why must they starve then drown us?

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Today's Flameseeker Chronicles title comes to you courtesy of one of Massively's livestream team members, echoing the wails of many news-starved fans of all things Tyrian. In a classic case of 'be careful what you wish for," we got the Guild Wars 2 Mesmer, two enormous Q&A sessions with the devs, a bit of closed beta news, and Wintersday and new costumes in Guild Wars 1, all in just a few short days.

I need to lie down.

While I do that, follow along after the jump for a rundown of all the excitement of last week.

Wintersday is here!

I love Wintersday. It's one of my two favorite Guild Wars celebrations. (Halloween is the other, in case you were wondering.) If you're new to the celebration this year, take a look at my overview of Wintersday from last year. Most of it still applies, with the exception of my speculation regarding Gwen and Keiran. I think we can safely assume they will not be getting married again this year. As you read this, I'm very likely standing at the end of The Strength of Snow, muttering "Come on, come onnnnn!" I'll sample all of the quests, though, because these cheerful and silly quests are ones that I can only do once a year, so I intend to enjoy them fully.

As always, Wintersday comes complete with a pair of new costumes. The Lyssa and Kormir costumes complete the lineup; we now officially have costumes for all six Tyrian gods. NCsoft is offering a sweet deal on the full set until January 16th, but all the costumes are available permanently in the store even if you don't pick up the discounted sets right now.

Closed beta

Well, if you've ever wanted a Rubi Rant in written form, here's a mild one for you. No, I'm not in the beta. Yes, I wanted to be so very badly, and I was really stressed out over it for most of Thursday and Friday. (Hang on, that's not the rant part.) I spent some of that time asking myself some serious questions, namely, "Why do you want in so badly? Do you just want to play the game or do you actually want to be useful and hunt bugs?" The answer was some of both. I mean, of course I want to play it. What fan doesn't want to play the thing at this point?

But I realized that a smooth gameplay experience is the last thing I want. I want to break the game! Not from any particular destructive tendencies, but (and here's the rant part) because we've forgotten what a beta is. I talked to a dev from another game at PAX 2010, and he said something about beta that stuck with me ever since: Beta means broken and free.

It's true, and it's something that really made me think. Many, many developers these days treat beta as free early access. Getting into a game's beta gives many players certain bragging rights. People get into beta and then all too often scream that the game is terrible and broken and that the game in question is going to fail hard, blah blah blah.

But here's the thing: If you are in the closed beta of a game, you want a game that is terrible and broken. The ultimate goal is to get the thing out the door and on retail shelves with a blinding level of polish. The job of a beta tester is to find and report all of the little quirks, bugs, and problems that mar that polish in order to help eliminate them and move things another step closer to launch.

So while I think that way too many developers have confused the meaning of closed beta testing by throwing out avalanches of closed beta invitations, ArenaNet is sticking by the original point of putting the emphasis on the words "closed" and "testing." There will come a point when the developers will want to open the gates wide and allow hordes of people into the world, but that's called "open beta" and "stress test," and things clearly are not to that point yet. Right now the devs seem to be testing things with a fairly small number of people.

Much of the playerbase is fixated on this news and talking it over endlessly (including me) because the meaning of closed beta has been so diluted that we've forgotten what it means. I'm consoling myself this weekend with the knowledge that someone is in there gleefully squashing bugs and bringing the game that much closer for the rest of us. Thanks, testers!


Of course I saved the best for last: the eighth and final Guild Wars 2 profession. I had considered doing a full rundown of the Mesmer, but you guys. Seriously. Did you see the flood of information out there? I could devote all of today's column and most of next week's to the Mes and still not cover it all. ArenaNet certainly finished this one up with a bang. The developers gave nine separate interviews to various news outlets, answered hundreds of questions in two Q&A events, and of course started everything with the full details and a pack of skill videos all about the Mesmer.

Shawn and I also went over the class with a fine-toothed comb in the premiere episode of Guildcast on Gamebreaker TV (every Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. EST, and yes, I ordered a new camera; it should be here Tuesday).

ArenaNet put together a link roundup directing you to all of the information, so I won't repeat that here. I will, however, give my own first impressions of the Mesmer.

Frankly, this is going to be the class I watch with the most interest, even if it's not at the top of my must-play list. It's interesting to see how ArenaNet has clarified the Mesmer's role from Guild Wars 1. The Mesmer was infamous for a long time for being a confusing class not only for enemies but for allies as well. It was a difficult class to master in GW1, with abilities so subtle in some cases that people dismissed the class as being useless. It was a shame, so it makes me happy that things are a bit clearer in GW2.

However, I still think it's going to be one with a big learning curve. I anticipate the standard group of gamers dismissing it as a worthless or underpowered class because they didn't take the time to learn it well. Those who stick with it long enough to master it are going to be... well, if I PvPed, they'd be the ones I ran away from most often and with the greatest enthusiasm.

It's going to be devastating. (I refuse to say "mesmerizing.")

Have a great week, and Happy Wintersday to one and all!

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

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