Interestingly, both Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic have a very in-depth personal story. Both involve personal choices that ultimately change later interactions. Also, both of these stories contain cutscenes.
Based on the reactions of my friends and other people I've talked to, GW2 could learn a lesson about cutscenes from SWTOR. Taking a cue from Asian games and anime, GW2 performs its cutscenes with two characters standing on either side of the screen talking to each other with a related matte painting in the background. It's long step away from SWTOR's very cinematic style of cutscene.
However, my issue isn't with the style of cutscene. I think it's neat and is a throwback to NCsoft's Asian roots. It also separates the game from SWTOR. What Guild Wars 2 should take away from SWTOR is the character acting. There wasn't anything terrible about the voice acting, although there were some points when I didn't think the actors believed what they were saying (c'mon, Petra -- be a little bit upset when I tell you to stay behind with your father). The actions of the figures on the screen didn't project how they were feeling, especially facial expressions and body language. In fact, my character's eyebrows waggled so much it looked like he was coming on to everyone he talked to.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has great story. There's no denying that. BioWare does so well in that department that most critics don't judge the studio on it anymore. But one thing that has really been lacking in SWTOR is the sense that things are happening outside your personal story. I'm not talking about world arcs. Those are there and great. I don't want those to change. But what happens to the world when I'm not logged in?
When I'm away from Guild Wars 2, the centaurs will continue to assault the Shaemoor Garrison. I feel it's completely possible that one of these times, the centaurs will win if I don't help out. On the flip side, that guy who's puking in the fountain in the Promenade on Nar Shaddaa will still be there puking when I get back tomorrow.
SWTOR should take a cue from GW2 when dealing with NPCs. Let's take the guy at the fountain as an example. If this were GW2, you might see that guy upchuck in the fountain in Lion's Arch, but before that you would have been able to see him grab multiple drinks from the tavern nearby. Then, after tossing his cookies into the fountain, he would wander -- or crawl -- off to his home or maybe back to the bar to get more to drink.
You find these little stories in every part of GW2. From conversations between NPCs to wild critters that fight each other, they add a living cycle to this virtual world.
As I said at the beginning, I only played to level 10. Also, I would like to point out that I did say that Guild Wars 2 has a personal story with choices that affect the future. SWTOR didn't invent this idea, so I'm not jealous. Guild Wars 2 also has companions when you're playing through this personal story. That's neat but also not original. In fact, for those keeping score at home, the first Guild Wars had companions.
So what can Guild Wars 2 learn from SWTOR about an immersing story? Right off the bat, players feel that there is something bigger happening than what they see in their personal stories in SWTOR. Perhaps it was the opening cinematics, or maybe it was interwoven into the dialogue, or maybe it was both, but there just seemed to be more happening in the galaxy at large in SWTOR.
Rescuing Faron from bandits or helping Petra's dad get medicine doesn't quite seem as epic and enthralling as plotting to kill your rival in the Sith academy.
We all know the issues with Ilum in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but truly the issues with open-world PvP extend beyond exploits and the objectives in a PvP zone. There is a serious issue with having only two factions in a PvP scenario.
Guild Wars 2's borderlands exemplify everything that is right with open-world PvP. Some objectives depend on other objectives' being completed. There are three factions. Forts can be defended or conquered via a better strategy, not necessarily more people (although a good strategy and more people wins every time). There is also major satisfaction in minor victories. The world changes based on who won or lost what and where.
My suggestion would be to rebuild Ilum from the ground up based on some of the lessons learned from Guild Wars 2.
The cutscene animation wasn't the only bit of animation that could use some work in GW2. Jumping is horrific. Perhaps I spent too much time playing platformers, but the characters in Guild Wars 2 look like they couldn't jump over a pebble let alone clear small chasm.
Looking for datacrons in Star Wars: The Old Republic is a mix between Metroid and Mario Bros. I'm not asking that GW2 emulate that exactly, but if I'm going to be able to hop a fence, I should look like I'm able to do it without tripping.
That said, I guess it's better than not having jumping at all...
Lastly, look there, BioWare: Characters in Guild Wars 2 can swim. I don't think there is any more that I need to say here.
If you're a SWTOR fan who played GW2 this weekend, let me know your thoughts. I'd like to hear what lessons you think the games could learn from each other. Remember, just because you like one game doesn't mean you can't like another. I like Guild Wars 2, and I like SWTOR. And believe it or not, I will play both. Why? Because I can, and so can you.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!