Monday, March 26, 2012

We'd Just Like To Ask You A Few Questions: GW2

There's been a lot of information coming out about Guild Wars 2 after this latest beta weekend, most of it very encouraging. Ravious continues his sterling work over at KTR and Massively put up a series of reports. I particularly liked Jef Reahard's piece but the piece that most caught my attention was the one on character creation.

The visual side of the process looks perfectly fine but I goggled a bit at the multiple choice section. I've seen this kind of thing quite often in single-player RPGs, where it kinda-sorta makes sense but to use it in an MMO seems peculiar. Unlike single-player games, MMOs these days generally don't come with a manual the size of a paperback novel to give sufficient context for the questions to be meaningful.

GW2 might get a pass on account of seven years of GW, several novels and a slew of pre-launch lore briefings, but even with that following wind this set of questions doesn't fly. Presumably each has in-game implications but how anyone who hasn't been vicariously living in Tyria for the last few years is supposed to know what they are escapes me.

The potential implications of some, like the Streets/Common Folk/Nobility one might reasonably be guessed at, but what are we meant to make of a choice between "A spangenhelm, A cap helm, No helm at all". What is a "spanglehelm" and what does it says about my character that he chooses to wear one? Is wearing one into battle outrageously camp? Indescribably foolhardy? Redolent of deep religious devotion? Maybe I'll know when I've played the game but I'm being asked the question in the pause between installing and starting to play.

Same applies to "Trickster demon, Skull, Ghostly wraith" or "Universal multi-tool pack, Eagle-eye goggles, Panscopic monocle". Either these choices have in-game meanings that I have no way of knowing, in which case it's pointless to ask me to choose between them, or they don't, in which case choosing between them is meaningless.

The one that really stunned me was Part 8 " "One of my biggest regrets is that _____." (I never searched for my true parents, I never found my sister's body, I passed up an opportunity to perform in the circus) ". What? What?? Is that a placeholder question? Did a dev slip it in to win a bet? I know that if that's still there when I get to choose I'm definitely taking the clown option.

A more obvious example of why I don't think this approach works is Part 9 " "Everyone said I was blessed by _____ when I was young." (Dwayna, Grenth, Balthazar, Melandru, Lyssa, Kormir) ". I play Guild Wars so I recognize that as a list of gods but despite having played on and off for many years, that's as much as I can tell you. Picking a Deity in a roleplaying game, or even an MMO, often has significant gameplay consequences. I'd like to have a chance to visit a few temples and talk with a few priests before I make a decision of such importance.

Indeed I'd much rather learn who my character is by playing him, not through a multiple choice quiz. Couldn't the game observe the actions I take within it and tailor my personal story accordingly, rather than pre-build it at this incredibly early stage? And wouldn't it be better for me at least to have met Maverick, Euryale, Clawspur, Dinky and Reeva before I make up my mind which of them I'd die for?


  1. I think I mentioned in the article that all of the choices have additional description text that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Maybe it's not full disclosure, but it's definitely more than just a nonsensical word :)

  2. Ah thanks for the clarification, Syp! You did indeed say "With each of these choices, additional exposition is provided at the bottom of the screen to give you an idea about what this choice entails." I confess I must have skipped over that sentence. I was reading the piece between loading screens on EQ2 :P

    I stand corrected, although my general dislike of the multiple choice process remains.

  3. I agree that some of these questions are very hard to answer for someone with little knowledge about Guild Wars 1. The concept of those questions is pretty cool though.

    I'm a huge Ultima fan, and the character creation in the old Ultimas were question-based, too. Of course, it worked better, because you didn't need previous knowledge, and because all these questions pitted one virtue against the other, in Ultima's great virtue system.

    So, questions: sure, that sounds great! But make them understandable for newcomers, too.


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