Thursday, April 30, 2020

Fifteen Again

Paeroka has a helpful post up running through some of the many free gifts and bonuses available in various MMORPGs during this time of trouble. She mentions the free questing in Lord of the Rings Online, now extended to May 31st, something I tried and found I didn't like. I find that particular game suits me better the fewer quests I do.

She also has also a nice picture of the free cape available in the Guild Wars 2 Gem shop. I logged all of my accounts in today to grab that one, including the third account that's largely dormant these days and my free to play account that I haven't used in several months. While I was there, I took the opportunity to credit the F2P account with the Saga of the Icebrood episodes, a totally pointless excercise since a) it would require Path of Fire to play, which I have no intention of buying even with the current 50% off and b) I only ever play Living Story/World/Saga content on my main account anyway.

Still, free stuff is free stuff, a point I believe I have made many times before. There's certainly a lot of it about right now but, for once, the giveaway in GW2 isn't related to the lockdown. It's part of ArenaNet's celebrations for the fifteenth anniversary of the original Guild Wars.

That set me thinking. I can't remember precisely when Mrs Bhagpuss and I decided to play Guild Wars. I know it wasn't at launch. We thought it was a PvP title and although by then we'd both had plenty of PvP experience in Dark Age of Camelot and elsewhere, we weren't really interested in another round of virtual fisticuffs.

By April 2005, though, our love affair with EverQuest II was very much on the rocks. Almost everyone we knew had left and we were finding it a real grind, leveling solo and duo in a game that was still designed almost entirely for groups. Plus EQII ran like a pig with a broken trotter on my PC.

My memory tells me we went from EQII back to EverQuest and I also seem to remember that when we were playing Guild Wars it was late summer or early autumn. That would fit the timeline, being maybe four or five months after Guild Wars launched.

I recall reading a piece on some gaming news site about the way the game had taken an unexpected turn from PvP to PvE, attracting a much greater number of players interested in the latter. That piqued my interest. I remember suggesting it to Mrs Bhagpuss as a game we might try as a direct result of that news item.

She agreed, I bought two copies, we tried it and we both liked it. It wasn't really an MMORPG. It arguably became one but in its initial form it was definitely a lobby-based dungeon crawler for PvE players with a well-developed PvP battleground alongside.

Belghast has a post up about what a mistake it is for developers to mix PvP and PvE in the same game. I don't entirely agree but I do think it's definitely better to keep the two modes separate where possible. Guild Wars and GW2 both do that very well but one thing that people rarely mention about the first game was that, at one time, you literally couldn't play the PvE campaign without first playing a little PvP.

Someone will probably pop in and correct me if I'm remembering this wrong. It was around eight years ago when I last made a new character in Guild Wars so my memory is hazy. As I recall, if you're playing Prophecies, as the campaign in the original base game is now known, when you reach the end of the pre-Searing introduction (itself one of the greatest bait and switch openings in MMORPGs, and there's some heavy competition for that), you have to enter a PvP battleground and complete a match.

If you don't you can't carry on to the campaign itself. It's a fairly harmless trial by fire. I don't think you can fail it in any way. You just have to endure it until it's over and then you never have to think about PvP again. But just that once you have no choice.

I remember being mildly irritated but not because I objected to the intrusion of PvP in principle. No, my problem was that PvP in Guild Wars is so insanely fast I can barely even understand what's happening when I watch a match, let alone do anything meaningful if I'm in one.

The game has a spectator mode which I used to use quite often when I played. Watching a match gave me the impression of two teams of tasmanian devils having a fight in an exploding fireworks factory. I did try playing a few matches but it was utterly hopeless. Given that, over the years, I've played with reasonable facility and moderate success in battlegrounds in DAOC, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, Rift, The Secret World, GW2 and EQII, just to name the ones I remember, I think it's fair to say Guild Wars PvP is on a different skill plane altogether.

Guild Wars is currently in maintenance mode but it still celebrates whatever anniversaries and holidays it had running when it was under active development. I read on Massively:OP that for this notable anniversary the handful of people keeping the lights on and dusting the furniture have made a special effort, adding a new boss and some elite skills.

I did think I might make the effort to see that for myself, which is how I came to be back in old Lion's Arch earlier today, but although I managed to find the NPC who hands out the doohickey that lets you fight the new boss it all looked like considerably too much work. I always forget just how complicated everything in the original Guild Wars has to be, involving all kinds of items and NPCs and fiddling about in menus and inventories.

Instead I contented myself with watching the hourly firework display then finding the Xunlai Gift Giver so I could exchange my Birthday Present Voucher for actual birthday presents (told you it was fiddly). I had this year's and last year's in my bag and I was fortunate enough to get a gold and a purple mini for them.

I took those to my Hall of Monuments and placed them on the podium. I'm not sure how many more I need to place there to get another HoM point for my Hall of Monuments in GW2 and it's rather a moot point these days anyway, but you do these things, don't you? Or I do.

It did surprise me that after I'd done that I still had both minis in my bag. I thought placing them meant you lost the use of them for good. There's even an in-game warning that suggests as much. Maybe they've changed it.

If I can summon up the willpower I might log in all my other characters. I believe they all get individual birthday presents. The minis are tradeable so I could, if I was feeling particularly insane, log in both accounts simultaneously and hand all the good minis from my old account to the one I have linked to GW2.

That might be taking the whole free stuff idea a little too far. I don't mind logging into games I don't play to get things I won't use but I have to draw the line at logging in to games I don't play to get stuff I don't need so I can use it to get stuff I still won't use in different game altogether.

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