Playing with the hoi polloi

This is where a bunch of you can say “I told you so!”

I don’t think I’m an MMO-snob, but for some reason I’ve never played a free to play MMO for any length of time. It’s not that I automatically think subscription-based games are better… or is it? If not automatically, then at least subconsciously?

There does seem to be a part of me that equates “paying” with “quality” which, as has been amply demonstrated by many sub-based games in the last few years, is in fact not as neat an equation as one might think. Or maybe I equate “not paying” with “lack of quality” — I’ve certainly spent a few years equating “not paying” with “being fleeced in different, micro-transaction ways, sometimes to the detriment of my gameplay”.

Which is a semi-valid point. But the fact remains that there are plenty of free or semi-free games out there that are a) as good as some of the AAA-sub-every-month-or-we-kill-your-lower-level-alts-cough-Conan-cough-cough and b) not entirely driven by the need to suck the financial marrow from your bones.

Then there was the n’Armadillo’s review of Runes of Magic, and the constant screaming pressure!! by a bunch people I know telling me to “try Guild Wars! You’ll like it!” for the last year or so. You know who you are.

All of which has led me to download RoM — though I haven’t tried it yet — and the trial version of Guild Wars. For some reason a year or so ago I couldn’t get RoM to install properly: I kept getting a corrupted download and after 2 or 3 tries I gave it a hearty “sod that” and moved on. This time around the download and install went fine.

Guild Wars was easy to install and I was playing very shortly thereafter — though anyone intending to do the trial should note that the background downloading causes a crapton of lag in some places. Another thing that bothers me a bit is that while the trial supposedly lasts 2 weeks, you only get 10 hours of play, and 10 hours can go pretty fast. Something to be aware of so that you don’t sit around AFK while you read up on classes and the like.

I managed a couple of hours of GW yesterday, and it sure is a pretty game. The graphics are old-fashioned in some way I can’t quite pin down, mostly the character models, but they’re perfectly acceptable, and the landscapes are pretty.

As for the gameplay and feel of it — this may sound weird, but it felt like a single-player RPG I just happened to be playing with other people around. It reminded me a bit of Dungeon Siege, which is not a bad thing. I haven’t experienced enough content to give any sort of review yet, but it certainly wasn’t un-fun. I’m already considering buying the game, which is the only investment I’ll have to make if I intend to keep playing.

Which is where these F2P or mostly-F2P games are suddenly more interesting to me than they were. I’m in a fickle-bitch phase but I don’t want to keep up a bunch of subs to games I’m going to play a few hours a month. In that respect, knowing that I can jump into whatever F2P game I want, play a bit, then not log in again for weeks is a real relief from thinking I need to wring every last cent of value from my subs-based games.

It’s not that I lack the disposable income — though we’re watching our budget like pretty much everyone else these days — it’s that I don’t like paying for something I’m not using, even if it doesn’t cost a lot.

So yeah — I may be late to the free-games party, but I’m here now. Get down with your bad selves!

Ysharros Shadowkeep the (what else) ranger. Rar!

19 thoughts on “Playing with the hoi polloi

  1. I got to say I was impressed about Guild Wars customer service this week, I’ve reinstalled it from the CD and logged in fully expecting my 5 years old account to have vanished after not using it for those 5 years. Turns out I now needed a character name to be able to login, I contacted the support and 2 days later I was in my old account with all the alts I created back then. So congratulation, not many subscibtion based MMO would have kept my account sleeping for that long. I’ll probably throw them some money to get one of the expansions when I’ll finish the vanilla game.

  2. Your impression of GW as a single player RPG which happen to have other people around is not far off. It has a quite strong story element and main campaign(s) which is closer to a single RPG than most MMOs. You can play this by yourself or with other people, but you will always have a team – the gaps in the team will be filled by NPCs.

    It has various activities and competive elements (PvP or PvE) in addition to this that one can do at pretty much any point also, at least as long as you reached or are close to max level. Max level only means that you have completed the newbie stage, more or less.

  3. “I don’t like paying for something I’m not using, even if it doesn’t cost a lot”

    Yup, yup. I can afford the $15/month it would take to play a WoW or EQ… but since I’d only be playing it a few hours a month (if that), it’s just not worth it. It’s not about the $15/month in isolation, it’s the value calculation that throws subs out the airlock for me. Well, that and the bad game design subs foster, but that’s neither here nor there…

    The $60 that I’ve given Wizard101 and the $40 or so I’ve paid for Guild Wars has given me fair value, since I can play those games whenever I feel like it without incurring extra cost. I never have a “wasted sub month” with them if real life rears its grumpy head.

  4. @wesselej here. I think part of the single-player feeling you’re getting is from being in the Pre-Searing part of the game. If you haven’t taken the mission from Sir Tydus yet, you’re still in Pre-Searing. There, you can group up with only 1 other person. There’s actually a quest you should take which requires you to group up, but the reward is the Resurrection Signet skill, which is pretty much a required skill for a lot of missions. Once you get out of Pre-Searing, you can group with 4 people for quests and missions. It steps up to 6 about 1/4 into the story, and then up to the max of 8 about 2/3 of the way through.

    A lot of people complain about how GW is not a real MMO because it lacks a persistent world (everything outside outposts and cities is instanced), but I always thought it made the game feel more personal. You can run into people in outposts and have conversations there if that’s what you’re looking for, especially the big cities like Lion’s Arch and Kaineng Center (in Factions), or even smaller places like Amnoon Oasis or Droknar’s Forge.

    The only thing I think you may have a problem with is the lack of a complex crafting system. Crafting pretty much comes as collecting mat drops or salving mats from armor and weapons and then reusing the mats on them (e.g. in the case of insignia for weapons and runes for armor) or using them to buy armor (using tanned hide squares to buy ranger armor).

    And use the wiki like crazy. One of the most complete wiki’s for a game I’ve seen out there. Great for info on missions and quests with walkthroughs, or figuring out the mats you need for that awesome studded leather armor for Rangers (

    Feel free to DM me if you have any questions about the game. 🙂 Oh, and you can get everything GuildWars has to offer for under $50 (according to Amazon).

  5. It might lack a “persistent” world like WoW’s “persistent” world, but then, when I kill a critter in my GW adventures, it stays dead, and usually isn’t replaced. That’s one strength of instances. To me, that’s at least one definition of “persistence” that GW gets right that the “true” MMOs don’t (except in some *instanced* dungeons, interestingly).

    1. Aye. It’s not the lack of other people in the instance that makes it feel single-playery to me, because I think it would still have that flavour even if I were grouped. In fact I’m trying to talk Mort into trying it — I have a feeling it could be great duo fun without excessive time commitments.

      I may have to give some thought to *why* it feels almost single-playerish.

      1. GW leaves you room for exploration, but you will notice there are not that many quests. The story parts are delivered in form of “missions” you did not explore yet. They are after the tutorial, which still assumes that you, dear Ysh, will turn into a PvP player. Which the HUGE majority of GW players never did. The content later on changed according to that and more casual pvp modes were invented. A bit like battlegrounds.

      2. “which still assumes that you, dear Ysh, will turn into a PvP player”

        NEVER! Over some other bastard’s dead body! 😀

      3. Ysh, the “single-player-ishness” might have to do with a greatly reduced dependency on the combat holy trinity. And NPC henchmen/heroes.

      4. Aye, and the way the UI is organised, the map… it’s a whole bunch of little things I think. Even the outpost system sort of reminds me of it.

        All in all a good thing, at least for GW. I’ve just bought the trilogy through steam, rar 😀

  6. Yeah, F2P is still often associated with a crap.

    GW is actually not F2P! The shop came fairly late and it is still very minimal compared to the norm, but it is there and I expect it to expand for GW2, something I am not sure about. The idea to sell the game in “chapters” and then play whenever you want is the most intriguing part of the GW model.

    Call me weird, but I rather shell out 40-50 bucks half a year or per year than paying a bit less in micro tiny transactions over that timeframe, that totally gets on my nerves.

    RoM: What turned me off was female warriors in nipple armor and the art style of their homepage. The game is definitely better than that and has some interesting concepts I just read about on various blogs, but as I don’t play it I wont comment on it further.

    I met tons of people in Ultima Online and Guild Wars. Some became friends and are still with me. I can’t say the same about my former WoW buddies. I even developed stronger ties to people in EVE. GW was the next thing after UO for me. World of Warcraft and over EverQuesteresque MMOs are IMO doing it all wrong. Sorry to hurt all EQ fans, but what you love about EQ is probably the world and atmosphere, but for sure not the mechanics of the world, so I see no offense or contradiction there. It was/is great despite the sucky mechanics. 🙂

    I can recommend you the Guild Wars Wiki, the unofficial forums were something I trolled for years, but I had to leave them to rather read blogs. You can only live that long with trolls without becoming one yourself, I fear. I think ArenaNet needs to expand the blog and create official forums, I am not really content with the community/atmosphere on the unofficial GW/GW2 forums despite having the greatest respect for the very competent admins and most mods there.

    Hint: Get the GW trilogy, and try the other starting zones for kicks! You will notice how much GW changed over time. You are within hours full into the action in Factions, within 1-2 days in Nightfall while you level for over a week in Prophecies, the first chapter.

    Still, most GW veterans consider the “Presearing” Tutorial of Guild Wars their home. Many quit after the brutal Charr destroyed it and the scenery changed to a burned ashen land, no kidding.

    1. I’ve already been all over the wiki — I’m a huge fan of wikis when they’re well done, which depends largely on having a community that gives a shit. Fallen Earth, for instance, has half a dozen competing wikis, none of which are particularly complete, and finding information is a gigantic pain in the ass. Shame too.

      And yes, these days I feel official forums are a must. We saw how well that didn’t go when Warhammer decided against it. From what I can tell though NCSoft doesn’t care much about community management of any kind (at least according to what I hear about Aion for instance).

      1. ArenaNet actually has a staff of community people. Regina Buenaobra (and before her Gaile Gray) is a great community manager. But yeah, an official forum would be nice. However, they have turned the wiki into a great community resource, with a a lot of people from ArenaNet having accounts on it and using their talk pages as kind of psuedo-fora.

  7. For a good majority of the time, GW definitely does feel like a single-player game. Many outposts are devoid of people simply because the player base is too thinly spread out over the world. It’s kind of troublesome trying to find others who are doing the same thing as you are outside of events such as the rotating Zaishen quests. If you have a core group of people who you play with or a helpful guild, it’s much easier (though I guess this holds true for all MMORPGs). Being able to party with NPCs adds to that element as well.

    Longasc makes a good point on how much GW has changed over the years. The Prophecies campaign was originally sort of a training ground leading up to the PvP aspects of the game (this is particularly evident in the structure of the Crystal Desert missions). Factions is a really fast-paced campaign that brought in some casual PvP modes like Alliance Battles and Jade Quarry; there are some pretty large differences from the original game since it was developed by a different group of people (when ArenaNet was still going for an expansion every 6 months or so). Nightfall is heavily PvE-based and brought in the now-ubiquitous customizable heroes along with a more moderately-paced storyline.

    I haven’t played Runes of Magic though it looked pretty decent when I found out about it. Microtransactions are seriously becoming a viable model for many games so I expect it to become more common. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I don’t know yet. I suppose as long as money does not equate to in-game power (at least directly through item purchases or whatnot), I’m fine with it.

  8. Just fair warning so that you don’t end up in the same spot I did. All that lush green fantasy ladscape that you love so much will disappear after the tutorial, turing into a blasted desert wasteland that makes you feel like your involved in Dune and not a fantasy MMO. I straight could not hack it. I play the snot out of the original areas, but I never make the transition, because the backstory and world are truly awful after that point. YMMW, but consider yourself warned.

      1. This is not a spoiler-free post, so it’s ok. 😀 Besides I already knew about the Charr — it’s pretty obvious just from their name but also from the maps on the wiki.

        I had a fair idea what to expect already.

      2. I’m not sure revealing what happens at the end of a tutorial is much of a spoiler. And if it is, I wish someone had told me about it beforehand. Hence, the post. (-:

  9. Ooh! *nugget tags a Ysharros on friendslist and runs off squealing*

    Pick me! Pick me! >.> For what? I dunno!

    <.< I haven't much to add to what people already said, sooo… *shame* Pick me!!!!! (Erm, FWIW, you can find me as variants of Glorious Mcnugget…)

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