Wednesday, 10 September 2014

[GW2] Why Your Opinion on the New Player Experience Doesn't Matter

I had a big long post detailing the problems I had with the new update - the fact that it appears to have removed more features than it added, the patronising way it treats new players, the frankly ridiculous gating of skills and gameplay features etc. Ultimately, I just encountered the one single sentence which encompasses it all and it comes from this comment from a new player on Reddit:

"It gave me freedom to play how I wanted, something sorely lacking in most MMOs, which force you to do things a certain way or unlock things in a certain order."

and later...

"What the hell is this! That constant drive for success, and the feeling of connection that the story and world quests combined to give has been skewed to all hell. I tried playing again today, but these changes changed the parts of the game I liked the most, the freedom of progression at your own pace."

And I think ultimately, thats what this update has all-but removed from the levelling process - the freedom to play how you want. Wasn't that central to the all-holy Manifesto? Play how you want! 

Now its: play how you want, as long as you don't want a second weapon set until level 15. 

Play how you want as long as you don't want to customise your stats or gain access to interesting traits before level 30!

Play how you want as long as that involves dying one way before level 5 and dying another way after level 5. 

You can no longer play the game your own way if you're levelling, that feature has gone out the window (its by the bins along with the personality system and the game's eSports ambitions). Play the game ANet's way, please - where skills are unlocked when ANet say you're ready - wouldn't want to overheat your likkle brain by challenging you in any way.

Unfortunately, ArenaNet hold the lion's share of the cards when it comes to this arguement: we've got only anecdotal evidence and experience, but ANet have, presumably, done user testing and those tests have shown that holding an item in your main hand takes up almost 100% of a new player's cognitive capacity, and providing them with an item to feebly grasp in the other is just far too psychologically taxing unless they've been playing the game for a good couple of hours.

I'm exaggerating for comic effect. But the truth is that ANet have already disregarded our opinions on this new experience. We are simply too experienced with the game to have a valid opinion on what a new player's experience with the game might be. Even when we were new players, we weren't really new players like the new players are now - we had watched all the videos, voraciously absorbed all the information ANet were willing to divulge about the game pre-release and then when the game finally dropped we rushed in alongside many thousands of other super-fans and experienced the whole thing together. How could we possibly know what its like to be a player coming in blind nowadays?

Well, a whole lot of us are what can legitimately be called "experts" when it comes to Guild Wars 2 (studies show that someone can be judged to be an "expert" after 7500 hours of interaction with a task or concept) but just because we are experts does not mean we don't know what it is like to be a new player, just like how not being an 8 year old doesn't mean you can't teach an 8 year old the alphabet. It really doesn't take an expert to know that hiding key features from new players so as to teach them how to play the game is just arse-backwards.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

[GW2] Flipper Tested, Aquaman Approved

In these troubling time of community chaos, bad PR and dilapidated dungeons I think its important we refocus our attention on the important issues facing the Guild Wars 2 community:

Why is it that we don't have more underwater breather skins?

I mean, the opportunity for flavour is immense, many of humanity's greatest tales take place deep below the sea, and they've come up with innumerble means through which us feeble fleshy pods can venture deep below the waves. Just a few ideas I came up with on the fly:

Bubble Head Charm
This is perhaps most famous for being the charm used by Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacour during the Tri-Wizard Cup in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. In the movie these character use the charm to rescue their friends and family from the bottom of a lake. Interesting piece of trivia: Fleur also used it to steal a sneaky glance at Edward Cullen all wet before he became a vampire. The more you know.
Imagine your character with an undulating bubble of air surrounding their head instead of the boring old mouth-breather they currently have. That'd be pretty sweet - eh? EH?
The effect could encompass the entire head, or just the mouth and nose. Maybe it could even expand and contract as if your character is breathing?

Big Old-World Divers Helmets
Olde-worlde divers donned cumbersome diving helmets to provide a constant supply of air and to protect their head from falling fish and sharks and stuff. The helmet had a pipe which lead to the surface and air was constantly pumped down to the diver. Crucially, the helmet was just a part of an entire air-tight suit (you couldn't just pull the helmet on and hop into the ocean, you crazy person. tsk).

I guess the whole suit would be a bit of overkill for simply underwater-wear (though, perhaps an outfit for when we take on The Deep Sea Dragon? ANet? Gotta get dat Gemstore dollah), so in-game we could make do with just the helmet resting on our shoulders and we'd have to suspend disbelief and trust that it provides adequate oxygen (perhaps a pipe could also trail from the top of the helm and fade off a couple of foot above the characters head?)

Some Kind of Animorph?
Again - an idea I stole from that one chapter in Harry Potter, so sue me. In the book/film Viktor Krum transforms himself into a half-shark-half-man-bear-pig in order save Hermione from the lake and sneak a peak at Edward Cullen all wet n stuff. 

I'm no marine biologist, but I reckon ol'Vik must have changed into a Bull Shark ((Carcharhinus leucas), one of the fresh-water versions - thanks wikipedia), but there's no reason why we as open minded Tyrians of the world couldn't branch out. Alligator heads, seal heads, PENGUIN HEADS come on people, seriously. Jees.

Freaking Snorkel
I mean - why isn't this already a thing? Hang on, let me check the wiki to see if this is already a thing...

It's not. Seriously? Stick it on the Gem Store for 100 gems and I bet people would buy it. We've already got the goggles skin and the aqua breather skin - just stick them together and poke a pipe out the top. Bobs your uncle, Fanny's your aunt. Thanks ANet I'll expect a cheque in the post.

Kevin Costner style Gills (Are they merely vestigial or are they functional now?)
Just kidding. Kevin Costner, Ew.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

[GW2] 5 Glaringly Obvious Omissions from Guild Wars 2

There have been a lot of improvements to Guild Wars 2 over the past (almost) two years (!!), but there are still those few features which - if they were in the game - you would not even mention to a friend who you were trying to convince to play the game, because they would probably think they are in the game already. These are features which, for some reason or another (time, the engine, finances, goblins disrupting production), ArenaNet refuses to introduce, despite them being either heavily requested or absolute no brainers.

1. Filtering the TP for Wearable Armour
Seriously, why doesn't this exist?
Currently, when you search for armour about your level in the trading post you get all of the armour around that level, regardless of whether you're able to wear it. My Guardian is sick of having the silly caster skirts and endless trenchcoats suggested for his wardrobe - he simply doesn't need them. It makes searching for armour a complete pain.
I see the TP as like a spreadsheet and, surely, amongst the metadata for each wearable item there must be an "armour class" column - light, medium, heavy? Right? Just give us the option to select one of the three by which to filter.
Or better yet just give us a "Filter for items I can equip" button. That way all we would need to do is set a lower level limit and all of the wearable items for our level would be shown - jackpot!

2. Filtering the TP for Back Items
Whilst we're at it - why can't we search for back items? They're a wearable piece of gear, yet the TP offers no support for searching for them. Instead you have to be a master in the dark arts to find the special combination of search terms to find them. Muchos confuso.

3. First person mode.
This is the first of a few "we had it in GW1" features. Completely different game, I know, I know - but every other MMO seems to have a first person mode, so Guild Wars 2 seems to fall just that little bit short. You zoom and zoom and zoom until finally - BUMP - you hit the back of your head and can go no further.
The screenshot takers amongst us are at a loss.
"Nice screenshot - it would be a shame if someone were to, I dunno... get their fucking head in the way"
And don't tell me to buy a tonic to change into an air elemental and zoom right in - its not the same!

4. Guild Capes
Or capes in general. Maybe the server would explode if it had to render 300 fluttering mantles during a WvW zerg, but considering the avalanche of back-gear we've recieved over the past couple of years its incredible we haven't yet recieved the item no self-respecting guild warrior would leave home without - the humble cape.

5. Hiding the Quest Log
I did a survey last year for my ergonomics class. I surveyed 400 GW2 players to find out their opinions on the UI. The absolute top requested feature was the ability to customise it further, and out of the many suggested customisations - the ability to hide the quest log reminder in the top right was absolute premium.
For those altaholics amongst us, sometimes we don't want to be reminded that it's time for us to take back claw island, or to assist a Queensdale resident, or Dwayna forbid - tackle Zhaitan. We'd like to put that little bit of the game out of our minds for now and focus on other things, but noooooOOooo we have to be constantly reminded with flashing and obnoxious green stars everywhere we go.
At the community meet-up I went to a while back Colin Johansson said that this was to ensure that newbies knew where they were going. Well, thats all very well and good Colin - but give us more experienced players the option to turn it off, please? Put it on by default, sure, but just the option would be nice.

Honourable mentions for glaringly obvious features now implemented after far too long: minis not depositing with materials, wardrobe for our gear skins, TP text size actually readable, last log-in date for guilds... etc etc


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