One of the reasons I was busy all weekend is that I've been spending a lot of time in Guild Wars 2. Before you ask, no, I still haven't tried PvP but that's still where I'm headed. I'm still in the run up toward level 30, which is about where I'll feel comfortable trying it. That's where you unlock all of your ability slots, plus where you seem to pull together enough skill points to get the highest level skills.
In the meantime, I'm still having a grand time with the PvE, which continues to be excellent in my opinion. It's challenging, fun, and quite varied. One of the things that I'm most impressed by is that any given quest line has three to four means of achieving the quest objective. As a result, a lovely illusion of a lack of grind is presented. One of the options is almost always "kill a bunch of X", but there are other options for achieving the same results, usually including one option that isn't even dangerous. I find that bit amusing, but it has a practical aspect as well: if you want to blitz a particular quest line, you can do it by doing the non-dangerous option as rapidly and often as possible to quickly complete the quest. I can see where that would be very useful to repeat players trying a new career path who don't want to get bogged down.
It's yet another example of smart game design, and GW2 continues to impress the hell out of me in this regard. Again, the PvE is no hardship... quite the opposite!
And incidentally, while I've run into a few quirks, I have yet to run into any major outright bugs. Like many third-person games, the camera's a problem but a manageable one. From time to time, when in full-screen mode the game drops out dropping you to desktop with the game still running in the background. I solved that by switching to windowed mode. And at one point, the game pointed me to a storyline objective going through an area that was far too tough for me, but I found an alternate route. But that's about it. For an early version product, that's also remarkable.
What I wanted to write about today, though, was the stark difference between the emerging GW2 culture and EVE's culture.
As we all know, EVE culture is very dog-eat-dog. Even within the same corps and alliances, you get a lot of competition and aggression. And for unrelated players? Forget about it. Except in very defined situations (incursions come to mind), strangers that aren't close friends are treated very suspiciously at best and with outright hostility at worst. And even in those very defined situations, a supposed friend can quickly turn into an enemy. Blue-on-blue kills and "awoxing" are common in EVE. That's the culture that runs through the game and EVE players get used to it or quit. And in my opinion, even more than the learning cliff, this culture is probably EVE's biggest obstacle to becoming a mainstream MMO if that's what CCP wants.(1)
What about GW2? At one point, I was moving between two areas on one of the many roads criss-crossing the GW2 wilderness. The particular creature common to this area were mid-level wolves and it was an early opportunity for players to use and learn combo tactics and crowd control abilities to defeat them. Like Skyrim, GW2 rewards you for stepping somewhat off the beaten path and so in this area I decided to do so, coming upon a cave system that was obviously a wolves den. And sure enough, there was a mini-boss in this area. Not enough to kick off one of the game's events, but a "veteran" creature which pop up from time to time.
This turned out to be a slightly tougher fight than I was ready for. Before too long, I found myself in a "down" state, tried to fight back, failed, and was "defeated". Click here to return to a way-point, the game instructed me. And I started to do so... then I stopped.
When you're playing GW2, from time to time you'll get markers indicating that a nearby player or NPC has been defeated. You can head for those markers and "revive" them... basically the game's resurrection system. The important bit, though, is that these markers are placed on everyone's map. Reviving someone is slightly annoying: it can take upwards of 10 to 15 seconds and the reward for doing so is paltry. And I was off the beaten track, not even in an event, and with a dangerous creature close by. I was idly curious... would someone come along and spontaneously revive me? I decided to give it a few minutes to see.
Now in EVE of course, the response to such an event would be very predictable. Other players would go by saying "lol noob" in Local leaving me to my fate... or more likely there would be a deliberate shake-down attempt: "I'll revive you for 10 silver." Would an EVE player assist a stranger at little benefit to themselves and at a cost of 15 seconds lost time? I think we all know the answer to that! We've been trained virtually from character birth not to help our fellow capsuleers. That's quickly morphed into "make fun of our fellow capsuleers when they're down on their luck." That's EVE culture.
In GW2, I had to wait less than two minutes before someone came into the cave, revived me, and then helped me finish off the veteran wolf and the associated minions.
Who are these people and how is it that they're playing an MMO?
Nor is this occurrence uncommon. At another point, I had flowed more or less organically into a small gang that was taking on a larger off-the-beaten-path dungeon. I had intended just to dip my toe in to clear a few of the easier creatures and clear the local quest objective. But this group seemed intent on pressing to the bottom so I followed them. I was L19; most of the group was L21-23. So I was slightly over my head but as a group we were pretty competent... right up until the moment we kicked off an event in this dungeon with a strong L24 boss. Whoops. I'll give us this much: we put up a hell of a fight and I was pleased with myself for being one of the last to fall. But fall I did, followed by nearly everyone else. There was a whole pile of us defeated now, with an extremely tough creature nearby. To our advantage, we'd kicked off an event which raised both the stakes and the benefits of coming to help us. Would someone?
This time, a couple of the members of the group started chatting in the game's version of local, naming the boss and the event, plus the location. Responses started coming in: "what's the closest waypoint?" And amazingly enough... people came. Before long, we had a little holding action happening around our "dead" bodies while two more people swooped in and started doing revives. I was one of the first back up and started laying down more defenses and helping with the revivals and pretty soon the whole group was back up, reinforced, and the L24 boss was defeated with good rewards for all.
Yet a third time, I had the opportunity to return the favor. Pressing toward one of the game's "vistas" located underground, I found the defeated body of a fairly low-level character and got him back on his feet with thanks from him. Then I continued on toward the vista with my new sidekick in tow. This area was too tough for him but was about right for me. I'm a close combatant, he's a ranged character with the ability to use a summoned creature as cover so it was a pretty good working relationship. In due course we reached the vista to find it guarded by another tough boss. I put up all my defenses and waded in. There started a five minute fight where I was put into a "down" state at least three times. "Down" isn't defeated: you get a few minor attacks to use. And each time I went down, my sidekick would launch his summoned creature at the boss while I used those attacks. He'd get me back on my feet, then fall back again, basically using me as a meat shield. I didn't mind: that's what my character's built for. When he went down, I'd return the favor. And in so doing we defeated a tough boss with just two of us, again with very nice rewards.
Is all this stuff a bit "friendship is magic" carebeary? Perhaps. But on a cultural level, quite interesting! A place further from EVE's culture, I can't imagine.
(1) And it's becoming increasingly clear they do.