Author Archives: Rubi

And all the rest …

So much happened during my trip to ArenaNet that it’s impossible to compartmentalize it into three or four simple categories.  There were plenty of exciting and fun details that don’t necessarily fit into one of those, so my final look at the event is a collection of smaller details that I found to be fun, new, and exciting.  Ready?  Here we go!

Finding creatures.  There’s more to hunting that “run around and hope you see something.”  In the norn starter area alone, I stumbled across two methods of finding creatures I was hunting for aside from just looking around.  As I approached some bushes I noticed they were rustling and shaking a bit.  As I got even closer I got an option to shake them by pressing the F key.  Shaking them (which was oddly a stomping motion rather than a shaking one) started three moa birds that were hiding inside, causing them to flee their cover.  I gave chase, took one down, and got the feather I needed.

A little farther on I came to a trap on the ground, and got the option to bait it.  I did so, noting in passing that the dead meat I was using for bait had amusing stink lines wafting up, and within a few minutes a couple of skelk approached.  I loved these alternative methods of hunting – it keeps things interesting.  My hope is that we’ll see more of this sort of thing as we progress in gameplay.

NPC chatter is something in Guild Wars I always enjoy.  It almost feels like an Easter Egg because there are so many funny little asides if you just take a moment to look.  I’m happy to see that it’s present in Guild Wars 2, and that it’s better: more interactive.  It’s something that we all know we’ll want to pay attention to anyway because of the presence of dynamic events, but even when there’s not an event offered the NPCs are fun to chat with.  I talked to several of them multiple times just to see if the dialogue repeated.

While some of the talk had a bit of a placeholder feel to it, that’s most certainly to be expected at this stage of development.  The majority of it was fun, though.  I found myself having conversations here and there.  The norn bartender told me she enjoys working at a moot, because she’s the only one who remembers the funny things that happened.  Others merely remarked that the spirits welcomed me or something similar, and still others offered me a chance to increase my ferocity and so on.  When Guild Wars 2 launches, I have a feeling that every NPC around is going to be a potential person of interest – chat with them all!  At the very least you’ll have a laugh.

I love emotes, so I checked a few out.  Dancing is in the game, although I certainly hope the motions aren’t finalized.  I set my elementalist dancing and laughed out loud at the chat window.  “Rubi Djinn is busting out some moves, some sweet dance moves.”  My character’s sweet moves consisted of closing her eyes and swaying back and forth as if in a trance.  (The fact that the avatars can open and close their eyes is certainly worth noting, too.)

I stumbled across another when trying to angle a screenshot so my character didn’t dominate the environment.  A nearby developer suggested I try /cower, which caused my character to crouch down and protect her head with her arms.  I’m interested to check that out at launch to find out if it’s just a standard emote or an actual protective pose.  (Considering how inconvenient it would be to type /cower at a crucial point in battle, I’m assuming it’s the former.)

I ran across one Sylvari in the game, but she wasn’t anything new and exciting.  In fact, a nearby dev was quick to point out “they don’t look like that any more” when I ran over and started snapping screenshots.  Still, it was neat to see one.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I loved how much more open and interactive the world is.  Being able to run in and out of an NPCs house, explore, and maybe even get a hint at an event was pretty exciting, and something I hope to see a lot more of in GW2.

I got to experience very small pieces of the mail and crafting setups, and so far I really like what I see.  I received mail from an NPC in my travels, and wonder of wonders, I didn’t have to trudge around looking for a mailbox!  I just clicked on the envelope icon in the top left-hand corner of my screen and read my mail, the end.

Collecting crafting materials was pretty painless – the painful part came when I wasn’t able to use any of them to make things!  Crafting nodes were indicated on my compass as I approached them, and I simply approached and used the F key to interact and harvest them.

Finally, the basic character animations and sounds caught my eye.  They weren’t anything huge, flashy, or obtrusive, just little things that fit.  For example, when my engineer threw a grenade, she gave a small grunt of effort as she hurled it as far as she could.  When she jumped from a ledge or other small distance, she kicked up a little puff of dust when landing.  Finally – and perhaps best of all – when she jumped from a height tall enough to cause her to take damage, she didn’t land gracefully on her feet, she faceplanted.  It’s a little startling to see your character flat out, face down on the ground, but I liked it.  It worked!

There you have it: The rest of the little details I noticed in my trip through Tyria of the future.  I’ll finish up with a screenshot gallery of the things I mentioned above as well as a few more environmental images that really caught my eye.  Enjoy!



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It’s good to be norn: Hoelbrak, Hunter’s Hearth, Stonewright’s Steading, and Kegball

Welcome to the part of my visit to ArenaNet in which I was not a good group participant!  Don’t worry, I was very social and stayed with the group for most of my gameplay, but there came a point during a free play session where most of the group was heading off to quest and I chose to do something different.

Player home instances and starting cities really fascinate me, and here I was with a level one norn character.  There was no way I was going to skip exploring her city and her home, so off I went on my own to check out more of the norn starting experience!

I headed into Hoelbrak and stopped to chat with Helbiorn the bouncer.  No, seriously.  The norn do not mess around and there was a Wolfborn norn near the entrance whose job was to “make sure that the unsavory types we boot out don’t sneak back in.”  Evidently I wasn’t unsavory, so I was permitted to continue and explore more of the area.

Any time you approach an NPC, you’ll get a little option to greet them by pressing the “F” key.  I enjoy seeing the little bits of dialogue that they have, so I made a point of greeting quite a few.  My favorite was the norn child who greeted me with “You smell funny.”  He also gave me finger guns, but sadly I was laughing too hard to think to grab a screenshot.  (Luckily I happened across him again later and managed to get an image.  You can see it in the screenshot album at the end of this post.)

I finally tore myself away from the NPCs and spent a little time running around checking out the environment.  As I was scaling hills and ridges I noticed a tiny detail that impressed me: When my character was standing on a steep surface, her feet were positioned to reflect that.  One foot was forward on the higher surface, knee bent.  It’s a little difficult to describe, but you can see it in several of the screenshots.

Everything in Hoelbrak is built on a huge scale, as is fitting for the norn race.  I spent a fair amount of time just taking screenshots of some of the distant areas.  My character is in every shot because there is no first-person view, something I’m not thrilled about.  I asked a nearby dev about that and she said “we want you to see your character.”  Admittedly, the characters are gorgeous and I love looking at them, but so is the environment.  In a world where so much attention has been paid to making the surroundings attractive, I’d like to be able to get an unobstructed view.  I don’t know if that’s a permanent function that will make it to the live game or if it’s just there for the time being, but I hope to see first-person view available at launch.

That’s to be set aside for later though, because I had bigger fish to fry: Hunter’s Hearth, my home instance!  Hunter’s Hearth is the upper level of Hoelbrak’s Great Lodge, so I had a great view of the lower levels from my balcony overlooking – gasp – Jormag’s tooth?!  It turns out that you can take a swing at it if you like, so of course I had to run straight down and do just that.  I had about as much luck as you’d expect, and I opined that the norn NPCs standing around should really make fun of you when you try to damage it.  That’s something else I’d love to see in the final game.

I headed back upstairs to check out the furniture, décor, and occupants.  One of the devs was giving me pointers here and there on what I was looking at, which was great because there were so many little details about personal story I wouldn’t have known otherwise.  There were some large scroll stands here and there, for example.  A level one norn has sadly empty scroll stands, but as he or she progresses they’ll fill up with tales of heart-pounding feats and acts of bravery.

I ran around a bit more, checking out the giant kegs of ale (no self-respecting norn would be without) and chatting with NPCs.  I enjoyed the NPCs largely because they aren’t quite ready for launch yet.  One norn child said “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” to which I responded out loud “Stranger?  You’re in my house!”  The dev with me laughed and said that the norn home instance NPCs are still in line for some tweaking, and by launch they’ll know who you are and what you’ve accomplished.  I look forward to that, but in the meantime I got a kick out of all these people wandering around my home with no clue who I was.

There is plenty of Guild Wars 2 art in use in Hunter’s Hearth, which I always love to see, but this had an exciting twist added.  I found three large canvases on easels in one corner.  Two of them had familiar art, but the third was blank.  It turns out that one is waiting to be filled with a painting celebrating one of your character’s great accomplishments.   I look forward to filling it.

I explored a bit more, taking in the surroundings and grabbing screenshots of various wall and floor decorations and a few vendor carts and wares, before going to investigate a large stairway leading up.  There was an intimidating norn guard blocking the way, but he let me through and I proceeded upstairs to Knut Whitebear’s loft.  There wasn’t a lot going on at that point, but I spent some time looking around and … well, I couldn’t resist.  I sat on his huge, thronelike chair.  He didn’t seem to mind.

I was finished in my home instance, but not with exploring the norn area.  There was another instance that I was anxious to see: Stonewright’s Steading, the home of Eir Stegalkin.  There were statues everywhere, of course, so I spent the majority of the time reading the inscriptions and enjoying the familiar names.  Next I visited a nearby tavern to explore a bit: More art on the walls, tables with gigantic tankards of ale, and something roasting on a spit with a bloody chopping block nearby – yum!

I headed back outside to explore more after this.  The exterior areas of Hoelbrak are so impressive, because the norn do everything on such a grand scale that you can’t really get a full sense of it indoors.  What makes this so impressive (as I’ve mentioned in the past) is the attention to detail that goes with this.  There may be pillars a hundred feet tall, but at the bottom you’ll find intricately carved medallions for decoration.

Finally, I stumbled across an asura gate.  I made a beeline for it, talking and talking to the gate operator and squinting at the gate itself in the vain hope of finding out what was on the other side.  I had no luck, and the highly amused dev behind me finally distracted me by offering to teach me to play Kegball.

Kegball!  This is a minigame I will play and play and play.  Every new skill I learned had me laughing out loud.  The game is essentially norn rugby, only with many kegs of ale instead of a single ball.  Kegball is played on ice, and you and your teammates are trying to keep the kegs away from the opposing team while getting them down the “field”.

Picking up a keg gives you five keg-based skills, including some long and short throws that can be used to pass the keg to your teammates, Head Crack to hit your opponents with the keg and stun them, Dive Roll to avoid attacks, and my personal favorite, Pour Ale.  This one lets you dump some ale onto the ice, where it instantly freezes and causes your nearby opponents to do a hilarious stepped-on-a-banana-peel style fall that had me in stitches.  They flew in every direction; it was great.

When you’re empty-handed you’ve got five different skills – Punch, for dazing your opponent, Disarm to knock the keg from his or her hands, the previously-mentioned Dive Roll, Charge to rush at your opponent and kick them, and Stomp.  Stomp is similar to Pour Ale, so of course I love it.  It cracks the ice and knocks your opponents back, sending them flying.

I enjoyed Kegball for a while, but the clock was ticking and it was finally time to move on to something else that day.  Hopefully you enjoyed the rundown of Hoelbrak, Hunter’s Hearth, Stonewright’s Steading, and Kegball.  Check out the screenshot album, and feel free to ask any questions about things I may have missed!


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Guild Wars 2 — The Catacombs!

“I did not like doing that dungeon.  It made me sad.”

Those were my quaggan-like words to Colin at dinner last night.  Any hardcore Guild Wars fan is going to have his or her heartstrings yanked by this dungeon in a big way.  It begins with a (gorgeous) cinematic featuring Rytlock, who gives a charr’s-eye view of the history of Ascalon, then explains why we’re heading in.  In short, Eir has gone haring off into the Catacombs and is stirring up the vengeful citizens of Ascalon.  Rytlock doesn’t want to see anyone killed, so we need to go down there and haul her out. Want to see it firsthand?  I’ve got an HD video of the thing.  Go take a look, I’ll wait.

Cool, huh?  It may begin with a rescue-slash-intervention, but it wound up as an attempt to retrieve Magdaer, Adelbern’s legendary sword.  In our travels we fought a slew of ghosts, many of whom made me laugh out loud because they are true Guild Wars 1 characters.  There was a monk slinging Ray of Judgement — and I can’t really complain, I guess we sort of deserve that for the way we are currently abusing that skill.  I can confirm that there are mesmers in Guild Wars 2.  Unfortunately they’re not playable because they are dead mesmers in ghost form nailing me with Blackout.  Still.  Mesmers.

The catacombs were beautiful in the way that the current pre-Searing version is beautiful.  Grand and soaring in a sort of decaying way.  I had the same problem I did underwater earlier, in that I was so anxious to inspect every nook and cranny of the environment that I sort of got my butt kicked a lot.  The “end bosses” of this dungeon were a little heartbreaking for those who love the Guild Wars 1 lore and characters: Master Ranger Nente, Kasha Blackblood, the lovers Ralena Stormbringer and Vassar, and finally King Adelbern.  At one point in a quick cinematic Eir expressed a desire to let them just rest in peace, a suggestion that Rytlock quickly overruled.  The exchange brought a little lump to my throat, as did the later cinematics of each of the familiar enemies.

The mechanics of combat here were really interesting to me, because they emphasized two things: First, how incredibly important coordination and positioning are.  There was a lot of disorganized flailing at the start as each team member focused on his or her own combat, but as we progressed I began to notice increased organization.  The more we worked together the more smoothly it went.

Second, this was a perfect example of how versatile each class will be, and it really brought home for me what an amazing thing ArenaNet has done with their elimination of the traditional holy trinity.  This dungeon was extremely difficult.  Before we started coordinating we were dying left and right.

Here’s the thing, though. Our group of five people had four elementalists and a melee character.  Think about that for a second.  No healer. No tank. No minion master.  No Discordway, for heaven’s sake.  (I’m not knocking Discordway, don’t get me wrong.  I sort of love it.  But still.)  We kicked that dungeon’s butt thanks to the sheer versatility of the class setup.  The elementalist attunement shift has a fairly painless cooldown, allowing us to switch to a healing water focus now and again as needed, for example.

This first runthrough was in story mode.  Explorable mode, the mode that allows you to enter a dungeon repeatedly for a much tougher challenge, is one that will require some serious coordination and experience.  I look forward to taking that one soon.

For now, how about more video and screenshots?  I’ve got an eight-minute HD video of Catacombs action courtesy of ArenaNet, and a handful of screenshots that I picked up after begging Mike Z to put me in camera mode.  As with the others, there are also quite a few really beautiful shots from ArenaNet too.  Enjoy the screenshot album!


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Guild Wars 2 — ANet studio tour!

It’s nearly time to go experience more Guild Wars 2 (!!!), but I didn’t want to make you guys wait for this album.  Please pardon the occasional blurriness — there was a lot of jostling for position among the media crew, but I got some pretty good ones.  Highlights:

  • The team was extremely generous.  They actually encouraged us to walk around each development area and look at everything.
  • The art on the walls.  Wow!
  • The Orrian creature I discovered.  You’ll know the one I mean, I took a lot of pictures because he fascinated me.  I mean, come on.  His torso is a giant, roaring maw!
  • The Sylvari dungeon environment I watched being tweaked.
  • The snack dispensers, of course!

Enjoy these, and I will bring you all more soon!


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Guild Wars 2 — Underwater combat!

Welcome to my stream of consciousness ramblings! I’m heading back to the ArenaNet offices for another day of I-cannot-believe-this-is-really-happening, but for now it’s time to relive yesterday and share everything I found and enjoyed. It was incredibly hard to keep a lid on things until the designated time! I’ll jump first and foremost into what I know you guys want to hear about: Underwater combat! I’ve experienced underwater combat in two MMOs before now, and they were both fine. Dungeons and Dragons Online fits the mechanic into the lore by allowing it in a certain quest set, in which an amphibious race grants you a bubble of sort to fight in. It’s essentially regular combat slowed down and with an ability to breathe underwater. RIFT has underwater combat that I thought was fairly impressive. If you’re not familiar, it’s regular ground combat with a third plane involved. I always found the sound effect impressive, since it sounded like you were underwater. Then I jumped into underwater combat in Guild Wars 2. I wish someone had captured the expression I felt on my face when I realized that as soon as I was underwater all my skills changed. What?! As an elementalist, I gained four underwater skills:

  • Magma Orb: Shoot a blob of molten rock that explodes after a delay
  • Boil: Boil the water around your foe
  • Steam: Superheat the water around your foe, blinding and burning them
  • Lava Chains: Cripple multiple foes with lava chains

As awesome as these skills — and the entire concept of having underwater skills — was, I had a more pressing concern. All this time I’ve been dying to know one thing: How do you breathe?! Is it a breath-holding thing? Magic? Giant bubble around your head? Clever asura technology? As it happened, my last guess was the closest. As soon as you’re fully submerged, a small breathing apparatus appears over your character’s face and you can stay under indefinitely. That’s it. No muss, no fuss, no “find this potion, drink it, and you have ten minutes.” It’s remarkably simple and clean, and the breathing apparatus is — dare I say it? Sorta cute. It might be that my human ele had the typical loveliness of a Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 character, but I found myself charmed at the image of the top half of her little face peeking over the mask.

The method of transitioning, so to speak, is interesting. When you’re on land you have your normal skills and when you are fully underwater you have your water skills, but when you’re “in-between” or swimming with your head above water, you have no skills. It’s got to be one or the other. I noticed something else when popping up and down on the surface of the water to confirm this: when you surface, the water splashes the camera, leaving drops on your screen that slide away after a moment. I loved it ; it’s those little details that are part of the greater whole that makes me so enamored of this game and its predecessor.

Once I’d gotten a good look at everything, I was ready to start exploring and fighting. It’s obvious that the ANet team has been enjoying creating this new world, because it was stunning. I honestly could not decide what to look at first, and I got really irritated with the local wildlife attacking me. “Argh, shark! Knock it OFF!” I had no interest in killing at the moment, I wanted to explore! (Kudos to my team for being so incredibly patient with me. I was so interested in admiring the environment and screenshotting every tiny thing that I was a completely useless team member. It was embarrassing.) There were shipwrecks to see, little rock overhangs to explore, plants to look at, but things wouldn’t stop trying to eat me.

I managed to get some exploring in, and as I was doing so saw something in the distance and went to investigate. Quaggan! A … herd? school? A murder of quaggan? I’m not sure what a bunch of them were called, but there they were, gathered around a sunken statue of Melaggan — the Melaggan chapel. I was thrilled and swam all around them, snapping images and greeting each one. (One of them said “Nice shell.” The greeting dialogue in this game is hilarious. Later on, a random norn kid told me I smelled funny, and then gave me finger guns.) Terribly cute little guys, but then some pirates had to come in and bust up the party. I noticed a disturbance out of the corner of my eye and turned in time to see a quaggan Pastkeeper say “Please! Please stop hurting quaggan!” Of course my heart melted for the poor little guy and I swam to the rescue. I realized after that I never saw any of them hulk out, so I’m curious as to what it takes for that to happen.

The group goal was to take on some pirates in a nearby event, and since I was holding the entire group up with my insistence on exploring, I left the quaggan to their worship and took off to join my teammates. The goal was essentially to invade a pirate camp and destroy it, so off we went. Frankly, the less said about this the better. There aren’t many screenshots of this since most of my gameplay was spent yelling ouch and learning in great detail about the downed state. And the defeated state. And why it’s a very bad idea to stand inside a red circle. This was my first experience in higher-level group gameplay for Guild Wars 2 and … well, I was pretty terrible. Once I got a feel for it things improved, but there’s a definite time period where you have to learn the rhythm of battle the hard way. I think my teammates had a similarly painful experience, but to be honest I was too busy being slaughtered to notice for sure. For the record, the elementalist downed skills are:

  • Grasping Earth: Summon hands that erupt from the ground and immobilize your foe
  • Discharge Lightning: Blast your foe with lightning
  • Vapor Form: Assume a mobile, vaporous form
  • Help me!: Call for help from allies. Makes you invulnerable for a short while

The experience was fantastic, and there was so much to take in that I’m sure I missed some things and have plenty more to discover. For now, though, it’s time to move on to a post about the dungeon! I leave you with an underwater screenshot gallery courtesy of myself and ArenaNet. It’s fairly obvious, I’m sure, but just to be clear: the ones with tons of UI, random scenery, and a redheaded elementalist photobombing every shot are taken by me. The beautifully composed scenes of aquatic wildlife and exciting battle are courtesy of ArenaNet. Enjoy them, then come along and read about the Catacombs!


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