Friday, 24 August 2012

The Countdown: 1 Day

Less than a day from the release of Guild Wars 2 (for people who have pre-purchased the game) and the excitement rises still. ArenaNet have held another two stress tests which I have managed to completely miss, they were both only an hour long (with minimal extensions). In these tests the epic castle of "Ebonhawke" to the south of Ascalon was accessible, this wasn't an announced addition so was very easy to miss since the stress tests were so short. On the Guild Wars 2 website's news section; ArenaNet have also gave us an update on linking accounts, if you have a Guild Wars 1 account and have not linked it with your Guild Wars 2 account; you are now able to link the accounts using this link: Your Account. With that out of the way, lets get to today's topic - No Subscription Fee, the main and final element of Guild Wars 2 in this countdown.
No Subscription Fee

Knowing the amount we all know and have experienced regarding the quality and detail in Guild Wars 2, it's weird to believe that we are getting all this for a single charge. Many developers/publishers have used and are still using the Pay-to-Play (P2P) business model with their games, many however have since become free-to-play (F2P) while introducing what is known as a "Cash Shop". A cash shop is a store within the game where everything costs a currency which can (normally) only be bought using real life money. Most developers get their cash shop designs completely wrong leading to a complete divide in the player-base of the game, there are people that buy from the cash shop and players that don't. The reason for this divide is that normally the cash shop is what is known as pay-to-win, meaning that players who buy from the cash shop have an unfair advantage over those who don't (they gain statistical bonuses and such). The problem here is that if you're a player who wants to play for free (or a single charge for the game) you will have to deal with the fact that you simply can't be as good as another players character who has had a load of money poured into them.
"They have completely reconstructed questing, combat, skills, story, party, servers, weapons, races, professions (classes), crafting and so much more."
This then leads to the player-base slowly shrinking until inevitably the game dies or the only people left playing are people who have bought many items from the cash shop meaning that the advantage from buying those items becomes obsolete (since everyone has the items). This is simply a broken model, in my opinion.

There is a similar, yet very different model in place in Guild Wars 2. There is a cash shop in Guild Wars 2 and there is a single fee to play the game but the design philosophy is somewhat different. Considering that Guild Wars 2 is generally centred around the idea that people will be playing at top level to gain mainly cosmetic rewards means that statistical bonuses would completely break the game if the cash shop was to sell that type of item. ArenaNet had a cash shop in the original Guild Wars which was heavily praised for the type of items that were sold there and they want to use the same model for Guild Wars 2. This means that the items sold will be fair, and generally only cosmetic (excluding bonus experience items and such). There has been many discussions on certain items however, items like a percentage increase in "magic find" (or an increased chance to find better items). Most of the items are being praised though, most items are either fun, purely cosmetic, shortcuts or optional meaning that any player can play as long as they like in a completely fair and balanced atmosphere, cash shop or not.

When playing Guild Wars 2, you will see quality which you simply wont see in any other MMO. ArenaNet are a company who thrive for perfection and only implement features into the game when they feel it was good enough to live up to the mark, otherwise, they would leave the feature out. They have innovated in almost every possible way, altering the basics of MMOs that we have learned over the years of games such as World of Warcraft. They have completely reconstructed questing, combat, skills, story, party, servers, weapons, races, professions (classes), crafting and so much more. All of this has been developed with such care and attention to detail with every feature developed from the ground up, pushed back many times into the design stage to make sure the feature did exactly what they wanted. It's hard to argue that the game is not a good game, ArenaNet have tried their best to be the best in many of the different elements of MMOs where people want a good service, they have said that they will be releasing content on a timely basis, making changes and adding new maps, quests and other content to the game. If we look back onto Guild Wars 1, it has been out for 7 years and still updates and additions are being released, on top of that ArenaNet have said that they will continue to update and add to Guild Wars 1 even when the sequel is released. This service sounds amazing, but will they be as good as they claim? We will only know when the game has been released for sometime. On top of that service; ArenaNet will be releasing expansions for the game with yearly time gaps which will cost another fee but again will not include a subscription fee. Many people believe that this will produce monetary problems for ArenaNet but we will only be able to tell again, once the game has been released for some time.

So there we are, the countdown is complete and the game is under a day from release. Does everyone have a plan for how they are going to play the first hours of the game? Are the servers going to be able to take the strain? We will find out soon enough.