Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Cash Shop?

Arena Net just posted a blog yesterday afternoon about their purposed cash shop/micro transaction system they plan to implement into Guild Wars 2. Ive finally found some time to blog about it!

Arena Net is doing it right. They are taking a very fair and honest approach with it. Its going to work like this: The in game currency is, (you guessed it,) gold. Gold can be used for buying items, using the auction house, trading with other players and all the other things you use gold for in any standard pay to play monthly MMO. You acquire gold in the game by farming it, completing quests know the usual stuff.

They introduced "Gems" as the currency you use for the cash shop/micro transactions. So, it's gold for in-game gear, weapons, mats, crafting recipes etc, and gems for the cash shop that will have cosmetic items, vanity items and just stuff to tweak your character look wise, and possibly account services. But no weapons or armor or anything else that could give you an advantage over other players. You gotta work your butt off in game for that stuff, no free passes!

How do you attain these so called "Gems"? This is where they were smart about it.
One way is to pay with real money. No one knows what the exchange rate will be, but if its like anything else I've seen it will be like a 100 gems=1.00. Or maybe even 10 gems=1.00. Just depends on how they price stuff in the cash shop.

The other way to attain "Gems" is in game, with gold! So if player P.j O'Riley Party Pants Esq. III has a bunch of gems he bought off the shop but needs gold for a sweet new piece of gear or a weapon, he can trade his gems for it. If player Cuthbert Donovan Boogie Fever wants to get that new cool vanity pet in the cash shop, but has zero gems and a crap load of gold he can go to the trading post and buy them from P.j O'Riley Party Pants Esq. III, rock down to the cash shop and buy his pet. Mr. Boogie Fever did not have to pay out of pocket for it, he just spent time playing the game!

I'm not sure if you will be able to trade from person to person or not. Mike O' Brien said in his blog that you would have to use the trading post or auction house for this type of transaction, its still a great idea none the less.

I found a diagram that is really helpful in explaining how it works:

As you can tell there will be other forms of currency for other in game activities. I'm not going to go over that stuff, its pretty self explanatory. What I will say is that the box with the "vanity items" description should read cash shop/vanity items. I hope this better clarifies what the system will do.

I like this because it keeps the currency in game. I'm really hoping this will thwart RMTs ( I hate those companies ) and gold farmers. Let the players control the cash flow, and the economy, not outside interlopers!

My verdict is a thumbs up! Good on ya Arena Net!

Monday, March 19, 2012

World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria

It had to happen at some point, the World of Warcraft blog. Oh boy, oh boy!
I had to blog about the next expansion in the series, mainly because its the one that has gotten the most flack from just about every WOW player out there since it was announced at Blizzcon last year.

Pandas. There I said it, and it still pains me to say out loud with out cringing a little. Anyway Blizzard decided to invite the press to their offices in Irvine to sell...wait I mean talk about the new expansion. A smart move on their part.

It was a smart move because for the last 7 years the World of Warcraft has been a dark place. There has been war, strife, suffering and death around every corner.  Blizzard never had to call a press conference to sell any expansion, at all. Ever! Blizzard delivered what the fans expected of them. Until...

Pandas in yo face fools!
Pandas. See? Put on your suit and tie Mr. Metzen, you have an expansion set to sell!

Okay, so I'm done ragging on Pandas and Blizzard's sales men like tactics, for now.
After all the info that  came out today I do have to admit the expansion got me a bit hyped. Blizzard is making some great additions to the game this time. Cataclysm failed in a major way in my opinion, and for once Blizzard rushed a product that was just not quite done, though I do blame Activision more so than Blizzard for this fallacy.

I'm not going to sit here and write out all the changes, there are just too damn many! So, I will do you a solid and give you this stuff:

...And this

MMO champion is a great site for WOW news, they did a great job covering everything and they are still adding stuff, even now.

So there you have it, the next WOW expansions is on the horizon. I will play it, and probably have tons of fun doing it. I've been playing WOW for the last 7 years, it has wormed its way into my life and I really do not think its going anywhere soon, no matter how many Pandas get thrown my way.
Damn you Blizzard!

Free to Play Vs Pay to Play MMOs.

The age old question, whats better? Free to play or pay to play? Lets have a heart to heart on this subject and maybe we will be able to find some common ground.

To start I have to say there are pros and cons to both, but first lets get into the good stuff that makes each of the business models tick, then the bad stuff that makes them bomb! Kablooey!

Free to play is pretty cool due to the fact that well, its free. There is not a single penny that you need to pay in order to jump in and start playing. This is great because if you are bored of the games you have its an easy way to play something new without any commitment.

There are many types of free to play games out there. There are browser based games, games for your Iphone and Android devices ( most of which are complete junk by the way), text based games and full blown graphically intensive games.

The free to play model does have a catch. Cash shop! Oh yes, the mighty cash shop, where you can spend your hard earned dough to pimp out your character with vanity items, clothing, weapons, and content.

Here is where the free to play gets a little dark, that cash shop wants your money. Bottom line. Some companies do make it rather difficult to progress unless you drop some coin in their cash shop. It can become expensive. Some people can easily spend 100's in a month, micro transactions galore. The small amounts add up quickly, sometimes too quickly!

Some like to call it pay to win, especially if companies offer a slight edge when using the cash shop. I know that Gamers First does this to a slight degree with there game APB-Reloaded. There is not anything wrong with this, the ones that complain usually are too broke or too young to afford using the cash shops anyway.
Cash shop-o-rama!

What I have experienced so far with free to play is that the money you do spend on the cash shop goes back into the game. That's a good thing right? You want the bugs to be addressed, you want them to update game mechanics, you want new stuff to do, (even if you have to buy the new content, no matter how small that content actually is.)

To sum it up, its all about self control when spending your money in the cash shops. For some its easy, for others its a little more difficult. For me, most free to play games are garbage to begin with. They are a distraction for a very short time, after that time is up they get uninstalled and forgotten.

Pay to play games have been the norm since Ever Quest, at least to MMO fans it has been. If you have strictly played consoles then its a hard concept to get behind.

O.G Gangsta up in this piece yo!
You have to buy the game, plus pay 14.99 a month just to play it? Yeppers! The good thing about this model is you will hopefully have content to play for as long as you subscribe to the game or the game dies, which ever comes first. That could be years by the way, years! Ever Quest went strong for 12 years! No cash shop for weapons, or content, but I have seen them for vanity items. *Cough Cough, Blizzard, Cough CCP Cough*

Are vanity items a big deal? Not to me at least. I could care less if you bought a 10.00 dollar pet or every single digital pet, mount, dye, costume, funny hat or monocle in the shop. It doesn't effect the outcome of the content. It just makes your character look pretty, or pretty obnoxious!

For your 14.99 a month you get patches with content, fixes, updates and whatever else game companies want to throw at you. If they release a new expansion then of course they are going to make you buy it, don't be a silly wabbit x-packs are for buying!

In my opinion its sort of a wash. To play these online games you are going to have to pay at some point. Free to play can be expensive, pay to play can be too, but in a controlled fashion. With pay to play you know that every month 14.99 will be deducted from your credit card, and you know that every few years you are going to drop 40-50 bucks on a expansion.

There is not a right or wrong answer here, it really comes down to choice.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Guild Wars Franchise

This being my first blog, I figured that I would talk about Guild Wars and a little about Guild Wars 2.
There is so much hype surrounding the launch of Guild Wars 2 right now and with good cause. Let's take a look back at where the franchise started, and where it is going. It will be a good time, I promise.

The founders of Arena Net came from Blizzard Entertainment. They had worked on the Warcraft, Star Craft, Diablo, Diablo 2 and Battle Net. They were key players in the success of mentioned game franchises. Their first company name was Triforge, but they changed their name to Arena Net and were acquired by NC Soft shortly there after.

The first game that the newly formed Arena Net worked on was Guild Wars. I remember when the game first came out. At the time I was playing World of Warcraft and like all gamers I was looking for something new at the time.( We tend to have ADHD when it comes to games ya know?) Of course I'm still playing World of Warcraft now but that's another blog for another time. So there I was looking in the video game aisle and there was this box with killer art work on it.

Beautiful Ain't She?

My interest was definitely peeked! What was so killer about the box was the fact that it had a velcro flap the reveled a killer screen shot, add in some cool descriptions and I was sold. The main thing about it was the fact that it said there was no subscription fee. I thought to my self "Huh? How could that be?!?" The game is online, and you can PVP and PVE in a world with friends or make new ones. Whats the catch? As I soon discovered there really wasn't one.

I got home and began installing my new muse. I though I would be downloading for at least an hour or 2, you know patches and such. To my surprised I took all of 45 minutes. I was shocked, and granted I did not have the best internet connection at the time. 

What blew my mind first was the graphics. At the time Guild Wars system requirements read right in parallel with World of Warcraft's. How the hell could they have pulled off such an amazing feat was beyond me. The log on screen looked fantastic!

So there I was; I selected my profession, ( In Guild Wars speak that would mean class), and I was staring at a beautiful looking character. Already. If I remember correctly I think my first profession was a necromancer. At this point I couldn't wait to see what the game world looked like.

I was happily surprised at just how beautiful the game world was. There was an awesome opening cinematic that used the game engine rather than it being a video file. It laid the ground work for the story and where your character fit in the grand scheme of things. For 2005 those graphics were ahead of their time. Back then PC hardware was just a tad behind what the console market was already doing. Even today Guild War's graphics still hold their own. I'm still in awe of the game even now.

There are plenty of differences between what MMO's where about at the time and this little game called Guild Wars. Firstly Guild Wars was not a persistent world game. Some of you may think that this is a bad thing. Not really. The way Guild Wars worked was that your towns and outposts were where you interacted with the community. Where groups where formed, guilds recruited and trading took place. The areas in which you ran missions, performed quests etc... was all instanced. This helped in not getting your quest objectives taken, which in regular MMO's quest objectives could be taken by other players and you would end up waiting around until it respawned. On the flip side this also caused the world to feel a little dead. Its always fun to see others out in the world going here and there. Doing quests or working on there trade skills etc. Now you can go into the world in a group which is always fun. But you are not always going to be in a group all the time. 

It is also easy for you to join your friends wherever they are. Select the region from the drop down and POOF you're there! Also traveling from city to city, town to town, outpost to outpost was all done via porting there. No running forever or traveling for long periods. It was get there, and get playing a.s.a.p.

The same philosophy in traveling the world also translated into how you leveled and what the level cap was. Arena Net did not want you to grind levels. It wasn't about who could get to level cap the fastest, there was a level cap of 20. Crazy huh? The deal was, the game was about acquiring skills. There where well over 250-300 skills per profession. The interface only allowed for 8 of those skills to be used. That's where Guild Wars shined the most I think. The game was not based around gear. There was level capped gear and also different sets that could be made, but this had little bearing on how it effected your character. Weapons had a little more of an effect, it was helpful to have a few "Green" weapons. ( Guild Wars Epic's). But really it was all about acquiring those epic skills and having the best rotation for your given professions. Oh did I say profession(s)? Yes! You could make a warrior/monk, or a ranger/necromancer, or a mesmer/elementalist, as an example. It was a very cool way to mix and match and try different things.

The game also included various cut scenes as you ran missions. I thought that was a nice touch, it kind of reminded me of single player games. The whole game felt very 'cozy' if you know what I mean. It just felt compact, clean and very accessible. I think that was the appeal, that and the fact that there was not a monthly fee helped.

Was the game supported? Why yes! There where all kinds of skill updates, buffs, nerfs, the usual fare. Also they incorporated holidays, festivals, etc.

The game itself grew. Prophecies was the original game, after that they released Factions, Nightfall and the only "expansion" for the series Eye of the North.



Eye of the North

What was very cool about these is that Arena Net made them all accessible in game. They added a "ship" to the map that allowed you to travel between the games, except for Eye of the North. That was the only product where you had to have Prophecies installed and a level 20 character to travel to. Since there is not a monthly fee you had to buy the games and add them to your account. Each game did not need the others to work, minus Eye of the North. Factions and Night Fall each introduced new professions and starting experiences in their own right, and each had there own story to tell. Eye of the North introduced new NPC factions that you will be able to play in Guild Wars 2! It also introduced the Hall of Monuments.

I wanna go where everybody knows your name..
What is the Hall of Monuments you might ask? Well its a place where your Guild Wars character can save his/her achievements in game. Why is that important and why dedicate so much to something like achievements. Let me tell you why..


That's right Guild Wars 2! We will discuss this in a little bit. First I would like to touch upon Guild Wars PVP.

Granted I did not PVP much but Arena Net really broke some ground here. Let me explain. 
At character creation you could make either a PVE character ( Starting at level 1) or a max level (Level 20) PVP character. The only catch was your PVP character did not have all the skills available. You had to use your PVE character to attain them, then they where "unlocked". 

There are different types of PVP. When you created your PVP character you start off on one of many PVP islands, all with different types of arenas. There were different objectives for each. I think my favorite was Guild Vs. Guild, where your Guild can acquire a guild hall and surrounding landscape.

Home sweet home.
The Guild Hall could then be used for PVE and PVP. Guild Vs Guild was a lot of fun and a great way to play the game. Mind you I do not have a lot of experience with it, but what I did experience was really unique and fun.

Being that Guild Wars was such an 'Untypical" MMO, the end game was as well. The typical MMO had you grind dungeons with a raid group, with the main objective being to obtain epic gear. It was all about gear with those games. While there is nothing wrong with running dungeons for gear as the end game, Guild Wars took a different approach to their end game.

When you finished a campaign you got rewarded with a set of gear, ( from what I remember). Arena Net also added a dungeon to Prophecies that could be ran with a group. They incorporated this for Night Fall and added a few more in Eye of the North. Factions I cant remember, but running those got you more elite skills and those sought after Green weapons. The gist of the Guild Wars universe was story, acquiring skills and learning how best to play your character.

Since the launch, Guild Wars has added a lot of content in forms of stand alone games, cash shop and over all content updates that in most cases were free.

The cash shop was utilized in a way that didn't make your character over powered in PVE or PVP, it added enhancements to your characters look, added new stories to run though, etc. Now the cash shop does offer skill unlocks, but it does not offer any elite skills. That is a good thing.

How did Guild Wars 2 come about? After the development of Night Fall, Arena Net was beginning work on another stand alone game for Guild Wars called Utopia. What they found is that the skills where becoming out of hand. It just became too much to manage. Also the scope of what they where doing was expanding, and they found that Guild Wars had restraints that made it difficult to add new and fun game play ideas. So they developed Eye of the North as an expansion and added some new content and some new skills. They also were starting concept work on Guild Wars 2 at the same time. Luckily they found a way to incorporate your character in Guild Wars with the new character you create in Guild Wars 2. Plus they added new races that where going to be playable in Guild Wars 2. Sort of like an introduction, with some back story. Char, Norn and Asura.

The best way they found to incorporate your old character from Guild Wars was to add the Hall of Monuments. As I stated earlier in this post the Hall of Monuments kept a record of your characters achievements, since Guild Wars 2 take place 250 years after the Eye of the North. In essence you will be creating a new character that has ties to your original character in Guild Wars. Think of it as your original character in Guild Wars is a distant relative to your new character in Guild Wars 2.

Your new character in Guild Wars 2 will get perks from the achievements your old character in Guild Wars attained. Its a neat way to motivate the current players to get as many of the achievements as possible. It also added re-playability.

Guild Wars 2 will be a persistent open world, with different races you can play. Its going to be like the MMO's you are used to. The main difference is the business model is going to remain the same. You buy the game and can play it with no subscription fee. That in itself will be a major draw for players.

The world in Guild Wars 2 will also be dynamic and changing. Quests will happen around you, instead of you starting them by interacting with an NPC.

Closed Beta will be happening soon, with a successful press beta event things are looking  great. I for one cannot wait to jump in. I will be doing more blogs about Guild Wars 2 in the future. If you want to know more you can go here: You will find info, news, screenshots and concept art.

© 2011 ArenaNet, Inc. All rights reserved. NCsoft, the interlocking NC logo, ArenaNet,, Guild Wars, Guild Wars Factions, Factions, Guild Wars Nightfall, Nightfall, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, Eye of the North, Guild Wars 2, and all associated logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.