Working As Intended: Why classic Guild Wars matters, 12 years in

The spring season always sees a deluge of MMORPG birthday celebrations: Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes, Allods Online, Free Realms last week and TERA and EVE Online this week. Lost in the din, however, is Guild Wars — classic Guild Wars, ArenaNet’s original MMO, which released in 2005 against World of Warcraft, performed brilliantly, and let up only once Guild Wars 2 itself was underway. Even though it’s now clinging to life in a permanent sort of maintenance mode, I still consider it one of the best MMORPGs ever made, in spite of the fact that it’s missing several things I’d normally consider vital for an MMO. And in this week’s video edition of my Working As Intended column, I’m going to tell you why.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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Ben Stone

The PvP and dungeons in GW1 still crap all over GW2. GW2 did a lot of things right but instanced group content and PvP were terrible compared to it’s predecessor.

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Jesse Wan

Ah, that Ritualist nostalgia. I missed Minion Bombing, and I really hated switching to Signet of Souls when the meta shifted.

luxundae
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luxundae

Nice piece and nice format! Thank you, Bree!

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Johnny

Like path of exile, this game has no mmo gameplay. And like path of exile, the devs have clearly stated it’s not an mmo. Please stop mixing up the meanings. It just confuses people. Especially when a new game is announced as an mmo then you find out it’s 16 players. It’s really disappointing.

Veldan
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Veldan

Though I agree with you and would personally not call it an MMO, GW is more MMO-like than PoE. GW was pretty much an MMORPG in everything except the player count, and in towns it had even that. When there were special events, there were actually a hundred or more people playing together sometimes in the towns. Like with the Dragon Festival or the Mad King’s appearance at the end of Halloween.

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Ben Stone

It wasn’t a MMORPG because it did not have a persistent world shared by all players outside the towns, they were all instanced missions. It was a Co-Op RPG which is what the box I still have clearly states.

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Jeremiah Ratican

Aw, I miss GW1, I know I can go back but you know it’s not the same, I never could get into GW2. I loved GW1 for GW2 I wanted GW1 with new races and jumping but what we got was another game completely. I missed all the same things listed below like Heroes, and Builds. I remember hunting skills to test builds and trying new builds out. Not to mention the game was so easy to install and was clever in its design.

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Jeremiah Ratican

Also just to comment on what you said in the video, I think GW1 is dead not because of GW2 it’s because it doesn’t get any updates. If they supported it like EQ1 and EQ2 it would likely have a ton of players.

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wonder_llama

Bree, I think you made me cry. There are so many things I miss from Guild Wars 1…

The three things at the top of my list are:

1. The skill builds. Constructing my own unique little skill haiku out of 400+ dual-classed skills was awesome! And the skill capture system where you had to hunt down and slay boss monsters with effectively just seven (or even six or fewer) skills on the bar, with the rest taken up by skill-cap signets.

2. Heroes! Not only did it mean that we never had to wait for a PUG, it also meant the game could be played a completely different, equally challenging way by small groups and soloists. Guild Wars 1 was a much more tactical game when played with heroes, and working out effective hero builds became its own mini-game. It also meant anyone, absolutely ANYONE, could explore anywhere they wanted, could play through any scenario they wanted, could experiment with any build ideas they wanted. None of this lock-step, must have exactly these classes, at these levels, with this gear, using exactly these skills and this build, and run the scenario exactly this way, or else we boot you. Guild Wars 1 encouraged exploration and experimentation in ways most modern MMOs completely lack.

3. Lateral progression. Especially once Factions and Nightfall came out, you literally were expected to be max level by the time you made it off of newbie island. The entire remainder of the game was played at max level. And it was fun! And it wasn’t repetitive! And it wasn’t all just a boring grind! It’s truly sad comparing Guild Wars 1 to what passes for “end game” in most MMOs these days. In Guild Wars 1 the whole thing was end game, and it was good!

Guild Wars 2 has a lot of great ideas to it, but it’s a very different game. Even with the Heart of Thorns expansion, I became bored with it rather quickly. In some ways it’s really too bad that Guild Wars 2 exists, because it basically ensures that all the great ideas in Guild Wars 1 will likely never be seen again.

*sigh*

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Denice J. Cook

I loved this game to pieces, played it on and off for years, and really should really go back. I’m glad NCSoft smartened up (or signed that no-closure agreement with ArenaNet) and only maintenance-moded it, rather than shuttering this great classic permanently.

By the way, I have to admit that even an old codger like me enjoyed the video format!

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Vunak

GW1 was an amazing game. I played it for a long time off and on. I was hoping GW2 was going to be a graphically upgraded Open World version of GW1. But that didn’t happen. I play GW2 off and on briefly, but it just doesnt captivate me the same way GW1 did.

Happy Anni to TERA though. I have been playing TERA since before the NA release having played the korean beta and release until NA picked up steam. Unfortunately I have pretty much stopped playing it as well because of the direction the game is taking with P2W, Complete class imbalance and lack of meaningful content/content drought.

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Jeremiah Wagner

GW1 had certain features and concepts that I think are still ahead of the modern mmo’s. Let me name a few. 1) A low max level. This allows players to hit max level faster like current mmos but also does not force you to get new items and gear constantly making the stuff you have garbage along with being to high of a level for the area you are currently questing in (( ” Guild Wars 2 later tried to fix this by scaling areas , but I personally HATE scaling as it makes me feel like I’m not getting any stronger as I level up”)) . 2) BUILDS!!! I love creating builds , testing different synergy’s from grouping skills together. 100’s of skills and only being able to pick 7 or 8 actually makes your character more dynamic and personal if that makes sense. 3) Bots to play with you. I can actually play a healer while I’m questing solo!!! AMAZING!! 4) Ultimate skills that you learn from different boss’s or rare enemy’s all over. Seriously though the list goes no and on.

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Oleg Chebeneev

The game is clearly outdated now, barely anyone plays it and it is rarely mentioned anywhere on MMO sites. Is this what you call “matters”?

GW was a good game, but its time passed.