Guild Wars 2 Open Beta Weekend Overview

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There are those who eagerly anticipate online gaming events. And then there’s the rest of the world. I kinda fall into the first category.

This past weekend I participated in such an event — the first Guild Wars 2 open beta test. Basically it was two and a half days of fresh Guild Wars goodness! But first a little background.

Back in the day
The original Guild Wars, released in 2005, is an online multiplayer role playing game that is a little different from most other Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games you may have heard of. In addition to a huge fantasy-based story arc, Guild Wars brought you:

  • No monthly fees. Buy it once and play forever
  • Smaller ‘instances’ and tight group management
  • Low level caps
  • Competitive Guild vs Guild play

I’m not going to go into all the goodness that is the original Guild Wars, you can check out the Wikipedia writeup here, but rather, I just wanted to set the scene for the much-anticipated update and first public exposure of a cool game with seven years of history.

Guild Wars 2 Open Public Beta
After a few years of teasing, hinting, and running private (invite only) beta events, this past weekend ArenaNet opened up the Guild Wars servers to the general public. In this case that meant anyone who had pre-ordered or bought Guild Wars 2 online, or had otherwise received a ‘beta weekend’ invitation.

And of course, this meant that the servers were immediately filled to bursting with energetic and eager gamers, all wanting to experience the new world that is 200+ years in the future. Me too.

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Fun!
Yep, it’s fun. My first hour was spent carefully generating a character that was almost a clone of my original Guild Wars character. After playing with her for a bit, I decided to see what else was available.

Of the five playable races, only three were open during this limited event. Over the course of the weekend, I managed to play all three, quite enjoying the new Engineer class the Charr race.

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If you’ve played the original, you’re familiar with the skill and ability trees. Well, you can kinda toss them out. In GW2, your skills are related to the items you carry and use. Which means that if you really want, you can have your Warrior wield a rifle and your thief could use a longbow.

Playing The Game
My wife and I, and two close friends, must have killed 50 billion enemies in the original Guild Wars, and it’s with this group that we’re taking on the GW2 beta weekends.

Which means we’re completely re-learning things. Party management and adventuring for example. Whereas before we used to meetup at a town, form a party and journey to the ‘instance’ that would house our adventure, now it’s seamless. We can be almost anywhere in an area, with hundreds of other people, working on completing our quests and helping others who happen to be in the same area, but not part of our party. In Guild Wars, this is new. In some ways, it’s very similar to RIFT.

 

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Annoyances?
Yep, there were a few:

  • Some areas were at capacity — which meant we were shunted to an ‘overflow’ area which sometimes meant our party was scattered when a few made it to the target area and others were in the overflow
  • Not yet at current tech standards — yes, it’s in beta so this is minor and likely to be fixed by whenever the ArenaNet developers decide to release it, but the game uses DirectX 9, not the current DirectX 11. Perhaps this is done for compatibility reasons whilst they nail down this beta.

Cool things?
Of course, there were many! Here’s a few that got my attention:

  • Macintosh playable — I installed and ran it on my current-model Macbook Pro, running in a VMware virtual Windows XP machine. Yes, it was a little slow and some of the animation was choppy, but it ran and was playable.
  • Classless society — I mentioned above that I enjoyed the Engineer class, and I did. But I also like the fact that every character is also able to heal themselves and others, and indeed should heal others as much as possible to build up Karma values.
  • Role your own — And I like that I can pick and choose the weapons and armour I want to use to suit my style, and not be forced into a role. Much more like traditional tabletop gaming.
  • The world has evolved — I totally like this new world. The original Guild Wars is set in a traditional Dungeons & Dragons type of place. Here, in GW2, it’s more of a fantastical world vibe, where technology and fantasy work together cleanly.

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What’s next?
The developers have said that they’ll be running the open beta weekends about every month. Given the level of polish and the lack of serious technical glitches for this past event, I’m thinking the next one will be amazing… whenever it is. And yes, I’ll be there — as can anyone who picks up a Guild Wars 2 preorder.

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