Guild Wars 2 – The Launch: Smooth Sailing or Choppy Seas?
Launching a brand new massively multi-player online game is a notoriously tricky thing to do. Many games have had rough launches in the past, regardless of how well-regarded the developer is. The sheer brute force of hundreds of thousands of players hammering on game servers, all at the same time will often make a mockery of the best laid plans. Nobody really expected then that the Guild Wars 2 launch would be flawless, but after three relatively smooth running beta tests, would some logging in congestion be the only issue?
Even though the official launch date was the 28th, all pre-purchasers had the option to begin questing three days early from the 25th, thanks to ArenaNet’s head start event. Judging by the numbers they released recently, a lot of people chose to start early. Not only did they reveal that they’d sold over one million copies by launch, but that the tally of concurrent users (the number of players on-line at the same time) had already hit a peak of four hundred thousand! I’ll just say that again to put the rest of this article into some kind of context. Four hundred thousand players. All trying to log in to the game, create characters, fight monsters, all at the same time.
No small wonder then that things that appeared to be working fine in the beta no longer worked come launch. The Guild Wars 2 Twitter feed soon lit up with tweets say roughly the same thing every time; “We’re aware of the issue and we’re working on it right now. Please bear with us.” I really do feel sorry for the community reps at times like this, because as a general rule us gamers aren’t a patient bunch, we want things fixed straight away and we don’t mind saying so. Thankfully, despite having to reply to the odd angry tweet, they kept us updated via social media sites, and the bugs slowly started to get squashed.
Not everything is fixed though, and there are a few things still blotting the game’s copybook. Concern No.1 is that there’s some account hacking going on. I can’t work out the exact cause of this one, mainly it seems to be gamers falling for phishing emails, but Guild Wars 2 has launched with… lets be generous and say “less stringent” security checks in place. Other games have authenticator key fobs to combat hacking, and Guild Wars 1 required you to enter a character name to beef up security. Guild Wars 2 has neither of these things. I want to stress, this appears to be a tiny number of players falling foul of phishing attempts, but the lack of authenticators has been noted before now.
Concern No.2 is less worrying from a security point of view, but in a way has a bigger impact on the game; as of time of writing the Trading Post isn’t working. So I can’t sell my loot? Not a big deal surely, until you realise that no one can sell anything to any other player. This has had a huge impact on crafters wishing to sell their excess materials, and buy somebody else’s. When the Trading Post does make a brief appearance, prices are through the roof. Crafting is supposed to be a viable profession, right now a major part of it is missing.
Concern No.3 is the general buggy state of Guilds. I haven’t experienced this first hand, but my guild leader has told me of at least two problems preventing reliable recruiting and building of upgrades. Personally it hasn’t impacted my game-play at all really, but I can’t help thinking that a game called Guild Wars probably should have a fully working guild system.
What isn’t in doubt however is the game’s overall quality. Having played all three beta weekend events, I had a fair idea of how the game worked, but come launch a few things have really sunk in. The first thing that hit me is the sheer beauty of the world. Exploring the environment is an absolute joy, around almost every corner is a stunning vista. Castles loom on the horizon, tempting you to come closer. Caves dare you to explore them, pools of water hint at hidden tunnels beneath the surface. I spent almost two whole days just wondering around and not once did I worry about doing quests or leveling up. Exploring the world leads me on to my second realisation; the whole world really is a viable place to quest.
Thanks to the level scaling system Guild Wars 2 has, going to a much lower level area is still a rewarding experience. The game drops your effective level to one more appropriate for zone, and as a result you still gain XP and the monsters are still challenging. The last thing to sneak up on me was the achievements. Somehow, in my mind at least, achievements are something Xbox games do, never in a million years did I think I’d be utterly hooked by a little progress bar in an MMO.
Despite all the teething troubles, Guild Wars 2 is still worth the price of purchase. ArenaNet have been very active in communicating with the fans regarding technical issues, and as frustrating as it is to have trouble logging on, or having no trading market, we players do at least know they are working round the clock to fix things. As I said at the start, launching a brand new MMO is a tricky thing. The game isn’t running perfectly right now, but that doesn’t change how good it is. Suffering a few snags early on is worth it to play the game in my opinion, so do yourself a favour and go buy a copy.