Yes, I know, the stereotypes abound regarding the antisocial single man living with his mother playing video games in the basement until 40, but most of those stereotypes really aren’t exclusive to gaming anymore than they are to any other hobby, gaming is just more available and can involve so many different age ranges as to have become a very popular pastime among people of all ages.
Among time wasters, gaming is by far the least destructive of the lot. So, the question of the day I suppose is which game do I play? Well for years I played WoW (World of Warcraft) for its community gaming qualities. I like the real-time strategy of it and teamwork is my thing so it was a natural fit. As with any hobby, over time it began to get old and life-challenges put that particular pastime out to pasture, so as a year went by without any gaming of any sort I began to look at getting back into the hobby because it does not require a lot in the way of money or time dedication. Interestingly enough, I read a piece a few years ago detailing how the CDC used WoW to gauge public reactions to the spread of highly infectious diseases. It seems MMO players provide a far more accurate base of information than any of their computer modeling… Go figure.
When I began to game again, I tried something new: Guild Wars 2. It portends to provide everything found within MMO style gaming and looked to be the game that would either exceed WoW and grab it’s share of the millions of online gamers, or at the very least push development of advances in MMO gaming.
I started playing it in my spare time and a few friends who had played WoW came with me in the hopes of finding a game worth sticking around for, but after the largely single-player based story-line end, it plays more like WoW did back in 2004 (Yes I know the differences in play, follow the general idea) than it does a game someone developed today.
Most of those people have returned back to other games, some due to the lack of cohesive strategies because of the lack of clearly defined player roles and the added complexity that creates when deciding group composition, some left because of the lack of any sort of automated Looking for Raid functionality (A way of bringing groups of players together in order to run through group dungeon content through an automated queue process). The requirement to have your player stand at the door or in town shouting your desire to run through a particular dungeon like a street beggar brings back memories of the WoW of 5 years ago that most gamers were glad to be rid of. Some have left because of the endless grinding (Grinding is an expression that describes the endless repetition that you are forced to endure in order to incrementally improve various in-game talents or skills that improve your player’s capabilities) required to build up crafting skills making things that no other gamer wants (yes, there is a trading and buying/selling system in these type of games) and are for the most part worthless to anyone until you have maxed out your crafting skills. (for casual players who don’t dedicate every waking moment to these pursuits, this can take a month or more to achieve)
The repeating area quests in GW2 (Guild Wars 2) are nice, but are really nothing new except for the pace of changes in the global storyline; those are nice and provide new content from time to time that are less repetitive.
The content of the stories themselves are far better crafted than in WoW, the voice acting and video cut-sceens show far more thought and complexity, but again, once the story lines are done, you are left with PUGging (a gamers term for Pick-Up Games running dungeon instances with random available players) and without an automated LFR (Looking for Raid) or LFG (Looking for Group) system, it’s almost painful to participate in.
There are so many things that make this game unique and a pleasure to play, yet there are many lessons that have already been learned by ArenaNet’s competitors that they inexplicably refuse to address and most of those represent the whole reason most people play MMO’s; community interaction. GW 2 makes interacting with other players a losing proposition and wastes a lot of time forcing them to find each other so that they can experience group content instead of making that process easier so that players can work on group tactics and team play instead. It’s a shame really, but with all it’s faults GW 2 is still worth checking in on now and then to see if things have progressed at all in the hopes I might come back to it at some point… Especially since it doesn’t require a monthly fee to play.
Until then, back to WoW it is… I’ll pay the monthly fee for the features GW2 lacks, but the second GW2 learns how to make team oriented game play less of a chore to participate in, I may just be back…
Just my view from the cheap seats…