The Game Archaeologist: Guild Wars Utopia

    
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Aztecs. Chronomancers. Mounts. Halberds. Golems. Dual wielding.

These are all but a hint of what a fourth Guild Wars campaign could have been, a campaign that was under development in the mid-2000s but was scrapped by 2007. Replacing it was the expansion Guild Wars: Eye of the North and the workings of a super-secret sequel to the game (which you’ve probably never heard of). It was the forgotten campaign, swept under a rug while it was still under the rug.

But what if, in some alternative timeline, ArenaNet had gone ahead with this campaign? What if it had become an established part of the Guild Wars legacy, as familiar to us today as Nightfall and Factions?

What if Guild Wars Utopia had lived?

Frozen paychecks

From the get-go, Guild Wars had a much different business model from anything else in the MMO industry. In a time when most every game was subscription-based, ArenaNet decided to go a different way by making its cooperative RPGs subscription-free and charging the player only the sticker price of the box.

To make a profit and stay afloat, the studio created a platform that was cheaper to run than traditional MMOs and then vowed to release a new “campaign” — a stand-alone Guild Wars title that was connected to the rest — on a regular basis. The idea was that players would be paying for new content, not the time it took to play it. And it worked, at least for a while.

The initial title, Guild Wars Prophecies, was released in April of 2005. Exactly a year later, Guild Wars Factions came out, followed by Guild Wars Nightfall in October 2006. By then, players were assured that the ArenaNet content factory was up and running strong, and considering the millions of copies sold, the company was making a tidy profit.

But then the process stuttered and halted. Players finished up Nightfall and then found themselves waiting for the next chapter of their journey. The rumor was that ArenaNet was hard at work on a fourth campaign for 2007, which would have made sense considering the rollout of the three prior campaigns.

Instead of moving forward on the new campaign, ArenaNet made two momentous announcements. The first was that the campaign had been scrapped in favor of doing a first-ever expansion for the game. The second was that the expansion would mark the end of Guild Wars box products and work would begin on a full-fledged sequel. From there, I think we all know how it played out.

Campaign four

I’ve always been fascinated with Guild Wars Utopia ever since hearing about it a while back. I was never as deep into the Guild Wars scene as some, so while this may have been common knowledge for many, it was news to me. As you well know, the possibilities of “what if?” always torment and tease me so, which is why I’ve been dying to do an article on this aborted fourth campaign.

The truth is that what we do know is patchy and fairly incomplete. Unlike some other canceled-before-their-time titles, Utopia was never shown to the public, and apart from a mention in a single publication and some concept art, the studio’s never seemed overly eager to talk about it.

However, from a 2007 issue of PC Gamer, we did learn a lot about why Utopia was canned. To sum it up, the team was starting to realize that by churning out campaign after campaign, the game was quickly becoming insanely complex and difficult to balance. On top of that, many of the ideas that the devs wanted to implement simply weren’t doable within the framework of the game itself.

These ideas quickly morphed into something larger and more breathtaking than a new campaign. “We kept changing the scope of what we were doing, until it became Guild Wars 2,” Game Designer Eric Flannum said.

South American party people

The Guild Wars world tour, starting with Europe (Prophecies) and going to Asia (Factions) and Africa (Nightfall), was set to visit South American themes with Utopia. From the gorgeous concept art that was shown, it’s clear that Aztec themes ran rampant throughout this campaign. One of the pieces showed a combat arena with a cheering crowd surrounding strange pillars.

The main villains of the campaign were to be a bloodthirsty race known as the Tannecks. Some have speculated that when the game’s assets were repurposed for the expansion, the Tannecks became Eye of the North’s Destroyers.

As with the previous two campaigns, Utopia was to introduce a pair of additional classes: the Summoner and the awesomely named Chronomancer. (It’s important to note that these are purportedly fan-given names based on concept art and not necessarily what ArenaNet had in mind.) Between the Chronomancer class and some of the images of futuristic, clockwork-like settings, it’s reasonable to speculate that themes of time and possibly time travel were involved.

The Asura and their golems were probably part of this setting as well, and fortunately, they survived the transition to the expansion. The Sylvari possibly had their roots in Utopia as well in the form of a similar race called the Sidhe, which had Irish and Scottish roots.

Another possible idea for the campaign may have been — gasp — mounts. This seems exceedingly strange, as Guild Wars has always been a mount-free title. How different would it have been if players could hop up on a horse or beetle or fire dragon and gallivant across the landscape? Sadly, we’ll never know.

Shelved for greater things

So what would the gamescape look like if Utopia had released? Considering that the sketchy information we have is more or less from one source and came out after the title’s cancellation, I think it’s hard to make that call. Given the past campaigns’ successes, we can reasonably assume that it would’ve sold well and been embraced by the Guild Wars community. But past that? I’m not sure.

The biggest elements that stir my imagination are the inclusion of mounts and the Chronomancer class. Both feel like something we certainly never experienced before in the game, and in the case of mounts, it could’ve had a huge ripple effect on how we would’ve played it. I do like the Aztec theme, even if it sort of seems similar to the tribal themes of Nightfall.

However, I’m not mourning the loss of Utopia for two reasons. First, ArenaNet was right: The game was quickly becoming over-complicated with too many skills and classes, and at some point, that was going to drag everything down into a huge morass. Second, Utopia’s death was the birth of Guild Wars 2, and I’ll take that any day of the week and then some.

Ultimately, Utopia remains a curiosity that ArenaNet doesn’t appear to want to discuss much and that most of its fans have since forgotten. At least fans have gotten to experience many of its lore, features, and ideas in both the expansion and the sequel, and that should satisfy most.

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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Veldan
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Veldan

JamesCrow Line with more hugs “about the cut scene you can say they was bad but in those time gw was
the only game that gave story in the genre and i take”bad cut scene”
than 2 character models talking each other.”
This, so much this. I hate the 2 characters talking on a background thing. I’d rather see the gameworld with text balloons than that crap. Real cutscenes are far superior, no matter how bad. And I did not think GW1’s were that bad.

Veldan
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Veldan

HidingCat It’s not rose-tinted glasses, it’s a matter of taste. Movement and combat are more fluid / smooth in GW2, yes, but that’s just because it’s a much newer game, and it doesn’t mean the gameplay is better.

HidingCat
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HidingCat

What the heck is with all the moaning and rose-tinted nostalgia glasses?

GW2 plays far better than GW1 ever did. The mechanics in GW2 are just much more fluid to play in. Thinking about doing more HoM stuff in GW1 feels like pulling teeth to me now.

While I had fun with the character customisation in GW1, I’ll take the gameplay of GW2 over that.

GW2’s problems stem from other things beyond gameplay mechnics, things like the ridiculous level of grind introduced with HoT, to the Taxi game, and I’m sure plenty of other things people will raise.

JamesCrow
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JamesCrow

Candysalmon JamesCrow
you totally right, at the begining i said, “what only 20 levels?”
and than i was amazing at the concept that leveling its only the beginning.

the skills & armors was great and also the armors as you said.
my endgame was to get all the skills and 15k armors in the game, after i done that i played to get my weapons and its not was about the best and upgrate gear it was only about the run and how the players used it wise.

and not forget gw1 gave us more of “real” graphic feeling than the mix of real & cartoon that gw2 does.
* i think gw2 have great graphic but i preffer Real like Tsw or Cartoon like wildstar, not mixing.

do you remember the trolls cave farming? XD
good times indeed.
also i loved to play warrior in gw1 but in gw2 the class was borring for some reason – maybe the skills or my big hate about those BIG cities in the game :S

Candysalmon
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Candysalmon

JamesCrow

Not to mention some of the other amazing things about an amazing game:

*Favorite Feature* – You got money and xp from quests sure, but the Real prize was skills. Therefore you adventured For skills. You hunted elites for their elite skills. That to me is above and beyond.
Low level cap (Lv 20)
Paid runs which started an economy
Great looking armor
One of the largest selection of skills per class for any mmo ever
Great graphics, animations, and Gfx
Great Lore
Cutscenes that included the character
Some content was hard, some was easy, you could choose
PVP that started as low as lv 2. And multiple arenas for pvpers delight. 

It was a stab in the back to see they completely changed the franchise just for the sake of trying to be “bigger and better”. The reason GW1 took off is that it was NICHE at the time of its startup. It was more skill based than level based. Gw2 comes around and they up the max level to 80 *cough wonder why*.

That and personal story was complete rubbish.

Tithian
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Tithian

Necro Mage For me skill hunting (and especially Elite hunting) was a major game element. I can’t even remember how many different builds I’d made for my Mesmer, all of which unique and functional within their own niche.
My biggest disappointment in GW2 was that they scrapped the system completely and each class got default skills.

Nate Woodard
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Nate Woodard

It is!

JamesCrow
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JamesCrow

Line with more hugs JamesCrow 
Line with more hugs JamesCrow
the story had a lot of holes but they gave us closer in nightfall.
about the cut scene you can say they was bad but in those time gw was the only game that gave story in the genre and i take”bad cut scene” than 2 character models talking each other.
cut scene make the game feel more like a movie and thats what i liked, you can’t get cinematic from new young company like in AAA single games.

about the voice acting i’m not agreed, they have some good actor and my favorite “Robin Atkin Downes” (knows for alot of roles like prince of persia and babylon5) as prince rurik.
Gw2 have also some great actors but they didn’t got alot of story.

and the endgame,i enjoy gw1 more than gw2.
yes they had only fow/uw,and skillsgear collecting,pvp and gvg but i love to collect them more than doing 100% map and the dungeons in gw2.
as i said i didnt stop to play gw1 and i stooped gw2 so it mean i had more things to do in gw1 (talking about myself)

sorry but when we talking about the base game we only got dungeons,legendary and 100% map.
-but those thing depend on the users so its ok we don’t think alike.

and about the complain, the vanish of the gods was ok after all gw2 took place hunderd years after gw1 and like the real world – we not seeing “god” talking to people – so i get it.

most of the complains was:
1. story
2. skills
3. the lack of GvG.

still its ok we didn’t agreed about things because its a game and we can have different opinion.

JamesCrow
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JamesCrow

Layfon JamesCrow i agree with you and im not exited for the next one but i know i’m going to buy it – only for the story part because i hope for somthing good XD

they release HoT before they finished it and i think we all know why.
now that the team only work on expansion and season 3 maybe we going to get some of gw1 magic.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

I’ve always loved that “city of Gears” concept art, and was really looking forward to Utopia.