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Friday, December 16, 2005

Guild Wars: PIE. Tasty, tasty PIE.

The current fascination over at Clamatius HQ is Guild Wars. A very interesting game from the design perspective. I already wrote something about it over at the GWOnline forums but rather than just link it I'll grab the salient parts and add it here:

One thing that strikes me about GW is that it's pretty much what you'd end up with if you try to make a "fair" (i.e. "skill"-based rather than time-spent-playing-based) fantasy PvP game. Let's look at that for a moment. I'll have an imaginary conversation with myself for illustration purposes and because my prose sucks.

Me: "Goddamn it, I got ganked again in PvP. Couldn't hit the damn guy at all 'cause he was 2 levels higher. I wish you could have a game where levels didn't matter."

Naysayer-Me: "Ok, if your ability isn't based on time spent playing, how is that actually going to work? And where does skill come in?"

Me: "People can just create characters for free, doesn't matter how long they played. They can have a base set of skills that should be pretty much competitive and then they can unlock more later. They'll have a wider pool of skills than the ones they can actually use at one time so there'll be a meta-game too, just like M:tG. Competition! Tournaments! It'll be great!"

NM: "Um, but we're going to need a PvE component to the game too. Marketing said they found that out from their focus group. Apparently otherwise it won't sell."

Me: "Really? Crap. Erm. Ok, we'll have a PvE component and their characters can play the PvP too once they get bored with the PvE. I mean, it's all server-side stuff - the AI is never going to be good - so fundamentally the PvE will end up being boring eventually."

NM: "But... then the stuff they have and the levels they have will matter and you said you didn't want that!"

Me: "Yeah, well, we'll just stick a pretty low cap on the power level of everything and let them get different colours of stuff if they want. The PvP guys can create the same stuff mechanics-wise for free and the PvE guys can have shiny stuff with different flavour."

NM: "But won't the people Marketing was talking about get bored?"

Me: "Nah, once they try the PvP they'll think it's so exciting they'll just play that once they run out of PvE stuff. Oh, one more thing - no more monthly charges! They'll love that too!"

NM: "No monthly charges? How on earth will we afford the bandwidth?"

Me: "Well, most of the bandwidth use comes from the n-squared play areas. We'll instance those like we did back for D2 and make lobby areas that seem like the game. We'll stick really low player caps on the instances, say 6 or 8 or something so those will be nearly free. The lobby costs will be painful but we'll have to suck it up and make it back on expansions. We'll get God's own compression engine for patches and that will help too."

NM: "But what about the people that get bored and don't like PvP?"

Me: "Well, it is a PvP game, so... umm.... Ok. Hopefully that won't be that big a percentage and they'll like the game enough that they'll buy the expansion. And don't forget, they won't cost us bandwidth in the meantime!"

Et voila, a game.


If you're thinking about getting GW, let me help. If you are looking for a standard cooperative MMO, you're probably better off with WoW unless:
  • you don't want to pay subscription fees
  • your free time is limited and can't manage the multi-hour time commitments that WoW makes
Now, for me, the second point is valid, but really the good bit of GW is the PvP play and that's the reason you should get the game. A lot of thought apparently went into it. I'll go into more depth in describing the kinds of PvP in another post.

Oh, and the blog post title? The guild I'm in is PIE, chock-full of ex-Natural Selection players. Why is it called PIE? I hear pies are tasty. That's really about it.

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