Editorial | 9/10/2012 at 9:20 AM

MMO Co-Opportunities Volume XXVII: Guild Wars 2

Take a look at the co-opportunities of recently released Guild Wars 2

I’ve been awaiting for the release of Guild Wars 2 for years - since it was first announced that Guild Wars would not be continuing their campaign format and would instead be releasing a sequel. Some of you may have been waiting just as long, while others may have garnered interest in it sometime over the past few years. Some of you may not even know a thing about it, other than it’s a recently released MMO.

Regardless of what camp you fall into, if you frequent Co-Optimus, you’re probably interested in what GW2 brings to the table on the co-opish side of things. When I (or a guest columnist) focus on an MMO for MMO Co-opportunities, I usually try to pick out two or three unique aspects of the game which I view as encouraging or sustaining a co-op style of playing. For GW2, I’m only picking one: the ease of playing with others. It’s not that there’s few co-opportunities in the game, rather I’m only picking one because this sole attribute covers almost all areas of the game in some way or form.

Guild Wars 2 is divided into two type of play: Player vs. Environment (PVE) and Player vs. Player (PVP). For obvious reasons, I’ll only be focusing on PVE for this article. Within PVE there are two different kinds of content: open world and instanced. Let’s start with open world content.

Instead of the standard quest fare that MMO vets are probably used to, each zone presents players with renown tasks (also known as “hearts” for their map designation) and area events. The renown tasks are static, so if players are in need of XP they’ll naturally be guided from heart to heart across a zone of (hopefully) the appropriate level. Completing the hearts gives you a big boost of XP as well as some in-game currency in the game. Events are spontaneous where players contribute to an objective, and at the end are rewarded with currency and XP.

So how does the ease of playing with others comes into play here? In many MMOs, seeing other players in the world while you’re trying to quest and do PVE content is actually often a bad thing. Most MMOs display a kind of “tapping” system, where XP and/or loot drops from a monster (or “mob”) are confined to the person or party who first hit the monster, dealt the killing blow, or did the highest percentage of damage to it. Essentially, PVE content often becomes a contest between players as they fight over spawns. Guild Wars 2 radically changes this. Everyone who did some damage to a mob gets both XP and drops. Also, friendly buffs and heals are not simply confined to your party - they’re area based. So when you see some random people run up to a heart or an event you’re already at, you’re actually happy to see them. Those people can (and probably will) make your progress easier and faster, not harder and more time-consuming.

To someone who doesn’t frequent MMOs, this may sound trivial, but for this decade-long MMO player, it’s nothing short of revolutionary. Gathering nodes for crafting are also on an individual basis, so everyone who runs up to that node can grab it, not just the first person to start chipping away at it. As a result, players are genuinely more cooperative and actually work together, instead of competing with each other.

Instanced content also has some ingenious ways of facilitating people in playing with others. Each of the dungeons has a maximum level, so while a player of any level can still participate in the dungeon, they’ll be temporarily down-leveled. This simply means that you’ll have about the stats, health, and damage of a player of the correct level for the dungeon. Yes, this means you can’t just rush your lower level friends through dungeons, but it also means that you can have a properly fun and challenging experience with your friends, even if they are much lower in level to you! Don’t worry though - the loot drops you get will often still be tailored to your true level, so everyone has the chance to get something that useful to them! Zones in the open world have a similar down-leveling mechanic, so you don’t have to worry about level 80s strolling into your level 15 zone and just one-shotting everything in sight!

I could certainly ramble on and on about Guild Wars 2, but I’ll end on this note: Guild Wars 2 represents one of the best cooperative experiences I’ve ever seen in an MMO. It’s easy to play with friends, and it’s easy to cooperate with strangers as well. MMOs have a long tradition of intentionally or unintentionally encouraging players to have a competitive mindset even in PVE. GW2 seeks to break this school of thought, and I think it does it marvelously.

Are you playing Guild Wars 2? What are some of your favorite co-opportunities that it exhibits?