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Friday, March 10, 2006

Guild Wars: Factions prerelease party report

Time for the writeup I promised.

After I got to the party, I met up with guildmate St0nkingByte, signed the usual yes-you-can-take-embarrassing-pictures release and waited for an entry pass from Gaile. The actual pass itself was pretty, featuring the Assassin concept art you've probably already seen by now. I'll add a picture of the pass here a bit later.

The party was being held in the Sci-Fi museum, next to the Experience Music Project in the Seattle Centre. I've been round the Sci-Fi museum several times - I even playtested a puzzle game for my wife there last weekend - so the actual museum wasn't a real draw for me. After picking up passes, we headed upstairs. They had a set of 8 computers with Izzy & co. flitting around setting up Ventrilo, an mostly open bar (beer/wine/nonalcohol were free but spirits cost $) and a stage for Hell's Belles, the all-female AC-DC tribute band who were due to show up later. They had a buffet which looked pretty good but, to be honest, I was geeking out so much I didn't even realise I forgot to eat till this morning. Since I was driving home, I stayed off the booze all evening.

After a bit of mingling, I found Mike Selinker, an ex-Wizards of the Coast game designer and friend of mine. That's the guy who was going to give me the invite even if I hadn't won the contest. Anyway, it turns out Mike Gill, a friend of his from Wizards, is running their event. Small world, I guess. We had a spare Mike as well in that group just in case the 3 of us weren't enough.

I was summoned away from the quadruple Mike-ing to go downstairs with the rest of the GW players and guests. Mike Gill was organising this bit and split us into two arbitrary groups of about 10 people each. Next up he revealed the special format for the demo games for the evening.

Team Sealed Guild Wars.

If they'd sat down and tried to come up with a format that would make me happier, they might have done a little better but not by much. Anyway, we had a giant pile of cards, 200 in total, 25 for each of the 8 professions. There was only 1 of each skill in the pool and I think the other team didn't have any of the skills we did. From that pile of skills, we had to come up with a 4-man team. We were allowed to add as many Resurrection Signets as we wanted. I've played a fair amount but not an excessive amount of Team Arena and had a pretty good idea what to do - as a bonus, I've also played enough Magic: the Gathering to make it to a Pro Tour at one point so I was all about this format. Here's an example of one of the cards:
The only slight snag is that we had a group of 10 people who didn't know each other and 15 minutes to sort out the cards and make the builds. On top of that, not only was it including the Factions professions that people weren't familiar with, it had a whole bunch of the new skills from Factions that noone had ever seen before. Coming up with the optimal build in the time allowed was a pretty tall order but we gave it our best shot.

We agreed early on that our plan would be 2x damage, 1x disruption and 1x healing. We picked Warrior, Assassin, N/Me and Monk/Me as our professions. I ended up making the Assassin build, mainly because noone else wanted to. I approached making the build pretty much the same way as I do it for Magic. Here's how I did it.
Yeah, I'm the guy there who's going bald as we speak. Firstly, I split the 25 skills into attribute piles. Then I divided the piles into great, ok and unplayable. I had enough skills to go straight Assassin, so I didn't need to dip into another profession. The best skill there was clearly the borderline-abusive Temple Strike so I decided that the Assassin would go for a caster hate build. Here's the build I ended up making (if you're not familiar with the Assassin skills, here's a link to them).
Disrupting Stab (Lead attack) (If this attack hits, it interrupts target foe's action. If that action was a Spell, it is disabled for 3-9 seconds.)
Dancing Daggers (Lead attack) (Send out three Dancing Daggers at target foe. Each striking for 5-17 earth damage if they hit. Dancing Daggers has half the normal range.)
Mantis Sting (Lead attack) (If Mantis Sting hits, target foe takes +5-17 damage. If this attack strikes a fleeing foe, that foe is Crippled for 3-13 seconds.)
Temple Strike {Elite} (Off-hand attack) (If this attack hits, target foe is interrupted, Dazed and Blinded for 1-7 second(s).)
Horns of the Ox (Dual attack) (If it hits, Horns of the Ox strikes for +5-13 damage. If struck foe is not adjacent to any allies, that foe is knocked down.)
Scorpion Wire (For 8-18 seconds, the next time you and target foe are more than 100' apart, you teleport to that foe and that foe is knocked down. This spell has half the normal range.)
Signet of Malice (For each condition suffered by target foe, you lose one condition.)
Resurrection Signet

I think this is ok, although apparently Scorpion Wire wasn't as good as I had previously read and perhaps I should have dipped into Shadow Arts for a better anti-kiting skill.

Builds arranged, we headed upstairs to play the characters. Turns out I was kinda right since it was 4v4 GvG for the evening - sadly, Izzy told me later that it was a temporary hack and 4v4 GvG won't be coming out anytime soon. Alas. All the gameplay was projected onto a giant screen behind the stage.

I ended up playing the Necromancer/Mesmer for the first round, which I was very happy about since it's one of my favourite profession combinations. Here's the N/Me build:
Crippling Anguish
Conjure Phantasm
Enfeebling Blood
Strip Enchantment
Shivers of Dread (this was the same as Spinal Shivers, apparently it's still a placeholder)
Resurrection Signet
The Warrior was running W/R:
Apply Poison
Tiger Stance (For {some} seconds, you attack {somewhat} faster. Tiger Stance ends if any of your attacks fail to hit.)
Power Attack
Signet of Strength - (Your next {several} attacks deal {more} damage.)
Triple Chop {Elite} - this was a better version of Cyclone Axe
Penetrating Chop
Resurrection Signet

I didn't see the Monk build, so I don't know what skills he had. We had Ventrilo, but quickly realised that due to noise in the room and crackly sound quality it wasn't going to be very useful. Anyway, time to play! Seconds out, ROUND ONE!
I quickly scanned the opposition. Hmm, 3 casters and an Assassin. Their Assassin was about as lethal as a one-legged kitten a few seconds into the round, groaning under a massive hex stack and so I started to degen/strip the rest of their team. Meanwhile, our Assassin was going to town with Temple Strike. With 3 casters on the other team he was having a ball. Savage beatings ensued and the Flawless Victory came up somewhere round the 1:30 mark - I'm not even sure they managed to get off a Resurrection Signet at all.

I switched out to let St0nking play the Necro and other players rotated too. ROUND TWO!

More savage beatings ensued. I'm told that apparently their Ele hardly cast a spell that round due to some unfortunate dagger-related issues. Flawless victory came up again around the 1:30 mark. Turns out that the Assassin was running a +Daze duration weapon which I'm sure wasn't helping their casting a whole lot.

Whew. Next up I was back in the chair for some PvE. This was an escort mission where we had to keep 5 oh-so-cute baby turtles alive. Luckily, we had 3 giant turtles to help us. With cannons. Apparently the turtles aren't super smart though so we had to carry around smoke canisters to mark a siege target for the turtles. This was not an easy mission. I'm not sure anyone managed to make it the whole evening. There were a lot of bad guys, even more than in Thunderhead Keep. One of them was called a Juggernaut, a big tree-like thingy featuring the world's longest knockdown. I think it knocked you down so hard that the duration was mostly due to you digging yourself out of the ground. If it got close up to the big siege turtles it could flip them over and they couldn't fire. Adding to the confusion was that right after the mission began, Hell's Belles fired up at full, ear-shattering volume.

Squint right and you can see my character listed in the party window there. After our ignominious defeat near the end of the mission, I grabbed Izzy and headed downstairs out of the noise. We chatted for quite a while about GW and Magic. Here's some tidbits:
  • Guild Storage is definitely in the works. It will be a reward of some kind that you have to win or buy for the guild (unclear what at this point).
  • PvP Character Editing or similar won't be coming out before Chapter 3. Izzy was about as sad about this as I was as I'm sure he's created about a trillion PvP characters at this point.
  • The Sealed event we were playing was a test to see how limited-pool GW would work. Personally, I think it made a kick-ass fun event but the communication overhead between players would make it too difficult to do online. You'd have to segment the pool somewhat - e.g. have the 4 players on the team pick their professions and then get their sealed "unlock pool" from those professions. There's a whole load of abuse stuff to work out too or people would drop if their skill pool wasn't good enough. Much to think about there and I'm sure I'll ramble about it later.
  • The Alliance Battles (12v12) are actually comprised of 6 4 player teams.
  • Players are generally really bad at assessing skill power, yes, even the top guilds. So don't feel bad if you didn't notice that, say, Crippling Shot was good before everyone started playing it.

I also talked to Gaile a bit. Another tidbit there was that the pets available in Factions will include a Siberian tiger and panda bears.

Both Gaile and Izzy were just as great as their reputations suggest - for that matter, all the ArenaNet people were very friendly and nice.

They also showed a Factions video after Hell's Belles finished but sadly I was too busy talking to people and missed it. Apparently it'll be up on the web in a week or two.

There are threads with posts from people who also went to the event up at GWOnline and GWGuru.

One last thing: I managed to score a ton of the sealed cards and so I have a lot of information on the skills for the existing professions in Factions. I have so much info, in fact, that I'll make it a separate post. Stay tuned for exciting skill details!

Thanks go to Stonking for most of the above pictures.


Blogger Brinstar said...

Sounds like a great event!

Siberian Tiger pets -- how cool!

3/10/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger ironcat said...

It was lots of fun, wasn't it. :) I was roving the museum and schmoozing too.

I'll be posting my own write up at guildwars.tentonhammer.com in the next few days.

3/12/2006 05:12:00 PM  

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