Let me just get this off my chest; I was born and raised in The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In fact I only live four miles away from the former 38 studios location. I consider myself to be knowledgeable on the video game industry and whether or not that statement remains true it does have a direct effect on my feelings whenever I hear the words “38 Studios.” Because it seems as if every podcast or article I read on the incident instantly makes fun of or deems Rhode Island as misguided and possibly evil, which I feel great remorse for…And then I don’t, because whether I visit my parents or turn on channel 10 for the local news I see that evil front and center and I see the mistakes being taken by our former governor and I actually physically “facepalm.”

As such I believe just what just as many of you do. Which is that Rhode Island fucked up. I won’t get into it, I won’t detail it and I won’t bother you with it because that’s a tale for Kotaku to spin out of proportion. The only thing I do have to say is a quote from my second favorite author; 

“Perceptions of the modern masons ranged from their being a group of harmless old men who liked to play dress-up… all the way to an underground cabal of power brokers who ran the world. the truth, no doubt, was somewhere in the middle.” -Dan Brown

Take out the masons and place Curt Schilling and Rhode Island in their place and you get what I’m talking about; The truth is somewhere in the middle.

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I’ve wanted to bring my personal perspective on the matter but I haven’t really had an outlet to truly represent my feelings. Then I played Guild Wars 2 and I was brought back to a long forgotten genre in my playtime: The MMO.

MMO’s are an odd beast. They are in an already extremely high stakes industry the ultimate gamble. They cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars and the few times they have worked out they brought back upwards of hundreds of billions of dollars. So 38 Studios was entirely in the right to assume that they too could produce a game that could make themselves unreasonably wealthy. It is in many ways what Benjamin Franklin would call “The American Dream.” 

Although upon purchasing Guild Wars 2 on Black Friday all of that has changed in my eyes. Guild Wars 2 managed to make me feel that both World of Warcraft and Project Copernicus alike are dead in the water old. I’ve been researching the game’s reception lately and it seems as if it ranges from “moderately good interpretation that makes minor innovations” to “It’s just another MMO thing.” I find that strange because what Guild Wars 2 to me is all the things that make an MMO special even specialer without all the bullshit. Those special things are as follows:

                                                             I.

Human nature doesn’t always translate directly to the modern era. Our primordial lusts and feelings rarely surface themselves in our digital world but when they do you can be sure they are being exploited. In the case of MMO’s that lust is the “wow that guy looks so cool.” I remember my first trip to one of the main cities in World of Warcraft. I wasn’t shocked at the now famous art or the completely nonsensical layout to the Horde stronghold of Orgrimmar. I was fascinated by the other players, level 60 beasts with armor so huge and just plain cool looking that I could no doubt feel inferior to their poise. For me that was the primary reason for leveling up as quickly as I did; I wanted to be them. I wanted to walk around with some cool shoulder armor and make the the level 20’s like myself feel inferior. But truth is when I got to level 60 and eventually even 85 I never felt badass. Perhaps it was because my scantily clad female undead priest wearing all cloth armor looked more malnourished than badass. But either way, I never got the feeling I wanted. Even with the two other 85’s I would eventually level up.

But in Guild Wars 2 I’m only level 23 and I already feel different. I make my trip to the level 11 market hub that has the only crafting area I’ve found yet and for whatever reason I feel completely badass. I actually jumped into a town event and helped kill some experiments gone wrong with ferocity yet unseen to my level 11 compatriots. The reason why I feel badass is because even though Guild Wars scales my statistics to an average level 12 I still carry all my spells and that 1 level bump in the game really carries some weight. I was kicking the crap out of four or five experiments at a time while still having to pull off my rotations. This in comparison to returning to Durotar after slaying the Lich King at level 80 is completely unmatched. Let me just say this: One hitting enemies is no fun. Ever. It’s boring and even taking on mobs that are a level or two ahead of you is way more fun even if youbarely make it out. The variation of spell mechanics you deploy embodies your understanding of it’s system and Guild Wars accomplished this in full no matter where you go. Guild Wars’ combat is always interesting and fun even if you go back to the very first mobs you ever killed and that is cool. That makes me feel badass even if my armor is weak and boring.

Games like World of Warcraft fail to make the player feel badass in fact they hinge upon the player not feeling adequate as incentive to get better armor kill more bosses and most importantly pay $15 more dollars next month to do it all over again. It’s a flawed system that doesn’t pay it’s respects back to the player.

                                                              II

The social aspects of games is always a tricky situation. Remember the first time you played Xbox Live? Remember thinking “I can talk strategy with the other players and we can team up to make a better team!” Yeah… About that. Xbox Live and even the Steam community have become desensitized to the whole issue of yelling “cock” as loud as you can the first time you strap a silly looking microphone to your head. In fact I’ve noticed a steep decline in communication on these services. No doubt because everyone has smartened up and realized they don’t want to deal with the bullshit.

MMO’s are no different. World of Warcraft has it’s awesome communites and guilds that stand out from the crowd as fun places to roleplay, dungeon and PvP. It also has it’s terrible communities that have become notorious such as the Moon Guard Goldshire…thing (although I highly suggest checking it out). But generally out in the wastelands of leveling World of Warcraft is a singular experience en which the social awkwardness of all the nerds sitting behind their keyboards is brought to full light like a junior high school dance. The small conversations I have with people to cooperate on a quest are always awkward and a bit forced.

However, in Guild Wars I never feel awkward to revive a colleague or take on a public quest together. The nature of the revive system, individual loot and experience and public quest system encourages cooperation like I’ve never seen before. If someone decides to attack the same mob I am I can’t help but be thankful because more often than not it’s just coming to help me. Japanese players used to make fun of westerners in MMO’s because we are so notoriously bad mannered but in Guild Wars even an ultra-douche like myself can’t show their true colors. 

I actually don’t think I could play another MMO that doesn’t have these systems because frankly it wouldn’t be fun. I enjoy playing Diablo by myself and I can get that solo experience without paying $15 dollars a month; so tell me Project Copernicus and World of Warcfraft: Why would I?

                                                              III

Loot. Yep that’s it. But loot was never more important than the first time you showed it off to a friend in Diablo II. And it was never more important than when you showed it off to your guild in World of Warcraft. The problem with loot is always it’s variety. Currently in World of Warcraft it has become far too easy to get the best loot in the game just by doing some daily dungeons, raids or Arena’s. It just takes the slightest amount of time to get everything you could ever want in the game. And the fact that there is really only one set of gear you could ever want in the game is a bit depressing. Yes, you can dress it up by getting a transmogrification but what if I want to get more than that? What If I get something that manages my mana regen better but not my haste for the arena’s and I build my character specifically to my own liking?

Guild Wars 2 has you covered. There are so many options that you can take to become a better and more importantly more you character. If you like spawning your own minions as a necromancer there are spells for you, you can have four different types of minions active at a time if you so please. There’s also options for people who like to produce AoE’s or people who like to help their teammates with DoT spells. All of these are then combined with the weapons system. Just like the five spells you get to customize on the right side of your spell bar the left side is customizable to your playstyle. The specific weapons that you choose can impact the entire playstyle of your character. So there’s never really a possibility of there being one particular item that all necromancers want because not all necros are the same. The loot lust is not only strong, it’s incredibly varied and important to the end game.

Games that carry a triditional skill tree are left in the dust by Guild Wars. Yes, you have a “skill tree” of sorts in GW2 but really, it all comes down to how you like to play the character. And isn’t that what skill tree’s are supposed to be about? Variation and intricacy. But in reality they all derive down to everyone looking up “best priest build” on Google and directly inputing what some nerd who has done meticulous math into their character. What kind of variation is that? No more guildies encouraging you to switch to holy even though you love discipline. They can go screw themselves because disc and holy don’t exist. The only thing that exists is you.

                                                            IV

Killing big things is always fun. Going into WoW some of the best moments I’ve ever had in the game came from killing monsters in 40 man raids. However, even though the drama can be comical from an outside perspective. Actually getting in there with 40 other people or even 15 is such a hassle. Especially when it comes down to everyone having very rigid and very important roles in the fight. If you are a disc preist and you fail to pop the bubble on the tank you are healing the fight is over and you get bitched at every single time. As well as anyone else who might have failed in a quick moment when you glanced outside or something. But when you killed something, when you downed that boss it just made it so much sweeter.

In Guild Wars both the dungeons and the precedural bosses that appear in the world for players in real time to pop in are actually fun and I’ve never had any problem with the people in there. The crazy thing is I didn’t have to spend months trying to get to the raid group or gearing myself up. I was leveling, saw a dungeon and went inside with some people that were around. Zero communication, infinite fun, even if we had some trouble in the very beginning it didn’t matter because I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me. Or when I walked up to a “sun boss” and killed the giant crab with the other people that just happened to be leveling near by it was great. It was nailbiting and pure. I guess that’s how I would describe the cooperative PvE experience in Guild Wars thus far; pure. It’s just the core mechanics of fun, no bullshit “you’re using the wrong spell” or other variations of taunting that come with anyone’s first time playing healer in WoW.

I don’t care how fun the dungeon is WoW. I don’t care if I get to ride dragons up three levels of pillars and it’s completely crazy. If I have to deal with “you should be using penance every 15 seconds” loser every single time I play it just ruins the entire thing. Every other MMO that has come out since WoW has actually failed the same way and GW2 just mocks these mistakes.

                                                             V

The World of Warcraft is infinitely huge. At least, it seems that way as a level 10 on the edge of Durotar. But eventually you uncover the entire world, little by little on the backs of gryphons and on the docks of boats you slowly but surely travel throughout the world and solve every corner of it. It’s an exhilirating experience every single time you leave a zone and enter a new one because you just want to see it all.

My experience with Guild Wars has been a bit different. Instead of becoming more interested in exiting a zone I actually become more interested in exploring missed points of interest in the current zones. I want to 100% every zone I encounter. Which is odd because I am not a completionist. And even though I absolutely hate some of the jumping puzzles in Guild Wars 2 I complete them anyway and when I complete them I actually feel pretty awesome. Once again, an odd experience for someone coming from WoW. If you were to tell me when I reached level 60: “Ben go out and 100% the entire leveling experience” I would punch you in your fucking throat. Seriously, it would be a chore. But I know I’m going to do it anyway in Guild Wars so if you told me the same thing I would probably shrug. Exploring for the first time in an MMO actually has meaning and intricacy. Figuring out where to go next to try and milk out the most experience you can is a conscious experience. Going out and backtracking again and again for the same quest hubs is boring, mindless and not a conscious experience. There’s almost a puzzle solving element in Guild Wars that I’ve never seen before. It is exhilarating. 

For every reason I play an MMO Guild Wars has improved upon and even more. It makes Project Copernicus look like it was going to flop anyway because this is the future. And guess what? You don’t pay $15 dollars a month. You aren’t chained to the experience like a drone, you play the game whenever you friggan want. Why would you ever buy another MMO again? When Dragon Quest X hits the states don’t buy it, if Project Copernicus gets picked up by THQ or someone don’t buy it. Don’t buy the next WoW expansion, don’t buy any of the bullshit from The Old Republic because that’s exactly what all these games are. OLD. They don’t hold a candle to Guild Wars 2. It just doesn’t make sense why they would steel several million dollars from the Rhode Island people when this comes out and changes the entire game. No doubt the ripples of Guild Wars will be felt. Maybe not now, but three years from now tell me what MMO is doing well. I bet it will be Project Titan and Guild Wars 2.

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