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Storyboard: Guild Wars 2 roleplaying thoughts

Eliot Lefebvre

Somehow I managed to completely miss the fact that this was the Guild Wars 2 launch week when doing my planning, which means that I'm going to bump things around slightly. After all, this is launch week, and whether or not you've been looking forward to Guild Wars 2, you can't deny that it's the biggest thing to happen to MMOs since the last one.

But at Storyboard it's not just about the MMO impact; it's also about the roleplaying impact. And I'm happy to say that while I haven't had a chance to roleplay in GW2 just yet, the game is significantly more friendly in its mechanics. You can walk, you can emote, and you can even make use of a fair number of roleplaying outfits. All fine additions.

Can I talk about the GW2 roleplaying culture? Not yet, sadly, because I haven't gotten a chance to explore it myself yet. But I can talk about some of the peripheral elements and how they might both help and hinder roleplaying within the game. Some stuff is obviously meant for roleplayers, but there are other mechanics that can certainly be adapted.

I expected to be all into kittytaurs, but... not so much.Predictable dynamism... has its uses

There's really no need to cover the game's dynamic events again, especially since they aren't really dynamic in the first place. They're random events to an extent, and several of them have branching paths depending on what players do, but they're not truly dynamic. You can't exactly set your watch by them, but they aren't entirely freeform, and none of them has a lasting impression on the game world. If you wished to dedicate your character to hunting bandits in Queensdale, I'm sorry to inform you that Queensdale will remain as bandit-infested as the day you found it.

In an odd way, this is actually better for RP because it allows you to add some potential spice to a scene without a whole lot of ornate staging.

Let's say, for example, that there's a farmstead that suffers from periodic Flame Legion attacks. This, for whatever reason, is very relevant to something you're doing with roleplaying. So you hold your next roleplaying event at that farmstead. Maybe nothing happens. But maybe the event spawns, and suddenly everyone has to deal with this event popping up in the middle of whatever else you're doing, possibly beating back the legion or possibly failing and pursuing the aggressors after a moment to recuperate.

Regular readers know that I'm a huge fan of tossing roleplaying into the game when you're in the thick of gameplay. The game's events help give you means to do precisely that. It's not a perfect solution, and you need to watch for events that might serve your purposes, but it's definitely a potential tool.

Roleplaying and the cutscenes, part one

Let's start off with the negative: The cutscenes in the game are just not good. I really don't know why. Part of it might be that there's no real presentation of sense of motion in the cutscenes, just two full-body shots talking at one another, but a big element is that every single line is spoken with no sense of context. Why that is I couldn't say. I know ArenaNet hired people who can act, so that's not it.

However, this works wonderfully as an object lesson for roleplayers. When you're roleplaying with someone else, do not make it sound like this. Lines are delivered not to another person but in a vacuum. If you learn more through bad examples than through good, really listen to the cutscenes and watch what's being done wrong. There's no emotional connection given for the characters, no changes in emotion, no actions taken by the speakers. You can learn from this.

Pro: Sylvari are plant people.  Con: Sylvari follow the protocols of the filthy hippie.Intermission on character creation

I absolutely adore the character creator, and not because it's particularly full-featured (although we've come a long way from creators that had four sliders with five options each) but because it encourages you to think about who your character is beyond the obvious choice of race and class.

When the character creator is asking questions about your major regrets or your social strata, don't simply page through quickly because you want to get into the game. Think about these elements because they can turn a stereotype into a full-bodied character. An avaricious Human Thief is nothing new... but if your Thief is a noble, suddenly that avarice isn't just a matter of wanting things. He has things. What he wants are mementos, signs that he can take what he wants. Or perhaps he's reached his status through thievery, stealing enough to enlarge his gate. There's a lot of subtlety to be explored; don't skip over it.

Roleplaying and the cutscenes, part two

GW2 is not Star Wars: The Old Republic when it comes to character choices. But they still exist, and they still give you a chance to say something important about your character. There are a few little social gauges that measure your personality, and that's well and good, but more importantly they help you file away some rough parts of your character concepts.

I've talked before about the conundrum arising from games with a strong personal storyline, and that applies here as well, but you can still use the story to get a better handle on the sort of person your character is suppose to be. Dynamic events contribute to that as well, although you can't really opt out of those on a regular basis. Seeing your character reflected through the choices you've made along the way, though, is a useful tool.

Yes, I should probably roleplay more

I still haven't spent much time in GW2, although I'm looking forward to diving back in. If you see Rhio Aldul running around, you can feel free to tell her what you think of this column out-of-character. Or you can let me know in the comments or through that magical email. (, you know.)

Next week, as I mentioned in the beginning, we'll cover characters that don't transfer well from one setting to another. And perhaps I'll invest in a calendar to keep track of launch dates for once.

Every Friday, Eliot Lefebvre fills a column up with excellent advice on investing money, writing award-winning novels, and being elected to public office. Then he removes all of that, and you're left with Storyboard, which focuses on roleplaying in MMOs. It won't help you get elected, but it will help you pretend you did.

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