Monday, August 7, 2017

Unintended Consequences : Guild Wars

When GW2 was not much more than a twinkle in Mike O'Brien's eye and a seemingly endless series of press releases, I thought it might be a good idea to go back and take a look at the original game.

I remember a whole load of kerfuffle over trying to get my old account back. I hadn't played it since about three months after Guild Wars first launched. I'd finished the original storyline, which I don't remember calling "Prophecies" back then, hit max level at 20, stood around aimlessly in the Ring of Fire for a few days (the irony!) and then left.

Mrs Bhagpuss lasted a couple of weeks longer, finishing up the Ring of Fire and whatever else there was to do, then she stopped too. I forget where we went next but neither of us ever thought to go back. I don't recall even noticing the various expansions as they appeared over the next few years.

ANet did manage to recover my account - their customer service was excellent - slow but thorough. By then, though, for some reason I forget, I'd decided to make a new account anyway. I bought the DVD pack with the base game and all the expansions, which was selling for next to nothing at the time, and started over from scratch.

I tried Nightfall first. I made a Dervish and couldn't play him. I struggled to level four then gave up. Instead, I played through Prophecies again. Like everyone else I loved pre-Searing Ascalon. It was delightful to pay another visit to that pre-lapsarian eden. This time, though, when the Charr arrived to burn down the gates of Heaven I had a vague idea who and what they were. I knew they were cats for a start, which is more than I had done the first time around, when I took them to be some kind of demon - literally, not metaphorically.

 I left it there for a while but later, as we were getting close the launch of GW2, I came back for a third bite.  It was busy as I recall. The Hall of Monuments thing, which we all obsessed about for a while, was going on and everyone wanted a piece of that pie.

The Hall of Monuments was part of the Eye of the North expansion. I liked that one. Mrs Bhagpuss joined me for a while and we got pretty much to the end of the storyline. I'm not sure we ever quite finished it together - I think we got as far as you needed to open the Hall and probably lost interest after that.

In the end I got enough HoM points for the armor, a flaming sword and a cat, all of which I have characters in GW2 using to this day. As you might have expected, for all the enormous fuss made over the Hall of Monuments in the weeks and months before launch, a nanosecond after the game went live no-one ever mentioned it again.

Five years later, here we are with the second expansion coming over the hill. Unlike the last one, which was magicked out of whole cloth, it feeds back directly into the elder game. Not just the lore but the story too.

Supposedly GW1 veterans who played through the Nightfall expansion will find much to please them in Path of Flame. Well, we have a few weeks. It's not too late to catch up.

Or so I thought when I was going through my various hard drives last night trying to remember where I might have left my GW1 files. Coming up empty after half an hour of plugging drives into enclosures I decided it might be quicker just to re-install.

I could see the box right there on the shelf. It was just one DVD. How long could it take?

Eight hours of my life. Eight frustrating, annoying, infuriating hours.

Firstly, new PCs don't come with DVD drives any more. I remembered that when I went to put the DVD in and found the front of my machine is a flat, blank panel. That's why I bought a USB DVD drive last year.

I went and retrieved that from where Mrs Bhagpuss had been using it to watch Horrible Histories. I plugged it in and it whirred a bit then...nothing. I fiddled with it for a while and still nothing. It was at that point that I made my fatal error.

Perhaps it needs its own power source, I thought. With the drive still plugged into the USB socket I unplugged the power lead from the HDD enclosure and stuck it into the DVD drive, which had a hole exactly the right size and shape.

The monitor went black, the PC made an unhappy noise and powered down. Luckily there seemed to be no smoke, flame or even any smell of burning so, fingers crossed, I unplugged the thing and rebooted.

Everything seemed okay except for a strange sound like static on an old radio. That was my speakers. Which my PC no longer recognizes. Oh, and a completely innocent USB drive that just happened to be plugged in at the time seems to have been fried. Collateral damage.

To cut a very long and exceptionally tedious story short, somehow the power outage left my computer unable to recognize when or if it has speakers plugged in. Many, many trial and error tests, Google searches and a lot of swearing later and it still won't recognize them.

Apparently this is something Windows 10 does now and then. In the end, rather than futz around with it any longer, I went to buy a USB soundcard from a local PC chainstore. I checked online that they had one in stock at that branch before I drove to get it. They did indeed, the guy in the store confirmed when I got there. Their database said they had exactly one on hand -only they couldn't find it.

A lengthy conversation with their customer service department confirmed that neither of the next two nearest stores had one they could actually find either. The nearest one that did I deemed too far to drive so I went back home and ordered a soundcard from Amazon instead, taking advantage of one of Jeff Bezos's periodic attempts to lure me into becoming one of his Prime customers by means of a free trial. That should be here tomorrow.

In the meantime, because I cannot under any circumstances play games without the sound, I had a bright idea. I thought I'd reinstall Splashtop, stream my PC to my laptop, plug the speakers into that and Presto! Sound!

Which would have worked perfectly - if there hadn't been this annoying bug whereby, even though you have a perfectly valid account and you know and use the correct password, Splashtop won't recognize one or other of them. I could stream from my laptop to my PC just fine but using the very same account on both I got password errors every time I tried to do what I needed to do and stream the other way.

Finally - FINALLY - I remembered I once installed Splashtop on the Android side of my dual-OS tablet. I booted that up, tried it and it worked! After a whole day of frustration, at last I found myself happily playing GW2 with the sound only a millisecond out of synch.

In the middle of all that, when I had the sides off my PC, I installed one of the loose HDDs that were lying around and guess what? Hidden inside a folder cleverly labelled "MMOS" was my original installation of GW1. So I've been playing that, too.

Well, I say "playing". I logged in, checked my bags, found them entirely full, checked my bank, found that was full too, tried to sell some stuff then remembered you can't just "sell stuff" in Guild Wars. Instead I deleted enough things I no longer remember the uses of, assuming I ever knew, until I had room to open all the Anniversary presents that had piled up while I was away, took a couple of screenshots and logged off.

Whether I ever return we shall have to wait and see. If I do, it's not going to be as a Dervish, I'll tell you that much.


  1. Just a small can always download the GW1 installer from the GW1 site:

    So no need to search for CD's it will download an enormous patch anyways when you install from CD.

    Have fun with Nightfall.

    1. Thanks! I really should have thought of that myself, if I'd been thinking straight. For some reason I had the modern 50GB MMO download in mind but of course GW is tiny by current standards. I'd have had it downloaded in a few minutes. Never mind, it's up and running now.

  2. I seem to recall most of Guild Wars 1 as a constant loading screen in which it mysteriously downloads updates as and when you need it, on demand. Which is a glorious idea when you're actively playing and staying mostly up to date, with a fast connection, so that it takes only the space of a normal loading screen.

    ...and very much less so when you're 956 patches backdated and/or have internet problems that only let you download at 26kb/s rather than MBs/s.

    1. One thing Anet have always excelled at is seamless patching. When you compare it to, say, EQ2 (weekly scheduled four-hour downtimes and any emergency patch taking the service offline for who knows how long) or LotRO (patcher that looks and runs like dried mud), GW2's virtual 100% uptime and patching that takes seconds not hours seems like magic.

      If they can do it, though, why can't everyone?


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