Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 2: Beta Weekend Events, October to December 2004

First, I just finished a significant update to my previous Guild Wars post.  I added details about how the game plays and elements unique to E3 for Everyone, and one more screenshot.

Continuing on, though, the second public test of Guild Wars came six months after the first one.  In late October, opened the game to the public again with the World Preview Event.  This would be followed by six monthly Beta Weekend Events.  I participated in all seven of these beta tests between October 2004 and April 2005.  After that, the games’ release followed in May.  Anyone who preordered, as I did, could play for the first two days without buying the game, so I did that.   I will start, however, with the remaining tests from 2004.  This time, my post is going to be much more screenshot-focused than before; I’ve explained the basics of the game, so the pictures are the main focus now.  Unlike the E3 for Everyone pics, which are all ones I’d posted online years ago, some of these screenshots are ones that I have never posted online before.

So yeah, image warning!  That last post had 20 screenshots, but this has over 60.  It’s probably more than I should put in a single post, but for now I will do that anyway.

A. October 2004: World Preview Event

In this second test, showed off a new area, the jungles of Kryta.  Ascalon wasn’t available this time, it’d return later.  Kryta is a lush area, very different from the dead wastes of sadly destroyed Ascalon, and it looks great even on the dated computer I was playing the game on.  Sadly the performance monitor is not on screen this time, but framerates were at best what I saw in the first test, and often were worse.  The game is the same it was before, with the same classes, but the areas you could explore and the interface were new.  For the most part, this interface is significantly improved over the one from E3 for Everyone, and is much closer to what you see in the released game, though there are still noteworthy things that would change, including more changes to the interface and skill system. Both of those things improved here, but were not in their final forms yet.

The changes to the skill system were significant.  Skill gems were removed and are gone.  Now, you could just buy regular skills from a skill vendor for a skill point.  Elite skills have been added, additionally.  You can only have one of these powerful skills in your skillbar at a time, and they aren’t freely purchaseable; instead you need to buy a capture signet skill, then defeat a boss that has the elite you want and use the capture signet to turn that cap sig into the elite of choice.  These systems are how you can get skills to this day.  Another noteworthy change is the removal of those temporary 9th skills.   This beta added in another semi-temporary way of getting skills that was also eventually removed, however: more like the skill gems of before, skill charms were added in this October beta.  I don’t remember the skill charm system well, as I think I mostly used permanent skills and not these more temporary ones, but skill charms were items that allowed any character to use a specific listed skill, temporarily.  Yes, you could use any skill from any class.  Skill rings stayed in the game, as they would drop from enemies and could be used, with a skill point, to make a skill charm into a permanent skill if it’s for your primary or secondary class.   You still could get temporary skills from the skill charms, though, in a way that you have not been able to ever since their removal during beta.  They eventually decided that being able to temporarily get skills and trade skills to other characters wasn’t a good idea, which makes sense, but being able to try something out without having to spend as much on it is a nice idea.  There’s an explanation with some reasoning on why skill charms were removed in this interview here; it’s about changes to how PvP-only characters, a type of character that can only play player-versus-player matches and not the main player-versus-enemy AI game, get skills, essentially.  Anyway, that removal happened in March, so skill charms were in the October through February betas.

Crafting has also changed, to a system much more like it is in release — instead of a single Crafter for everything, small traders are scattered around the exploration zones who will give you weapons, rare crafting materials, or such in trade for certain types of monster drop items.  You can also get weapons from monster drops directly or quest rewards, of course, so I’ve always found the traders not too useful.  They’re still in the game, though.  More usefully, armor crafters in certain towns will make armor pieces.  You can only get armor by buying it there in trade for lots of money and certain required materials.  The later in the game you get the more armor costs, so save up.  This version of GW didn’t have much of a preview of what armor pieces  looked like, so I had no idea what I was getting really when I made an armor piece during this test.  Even now it’s often better to look up images of Guild Wars armor online before buying, to be sure it’s one you want.  Fortunately the official Guild Wars wiki has a full database.

As for the new location, Kryta and the Maguuma Jungle both were introduced in this test. Some edges of the North Shiverpeaks and Crystal Desert could be visited, but not those areas in full.  Even Krytanand the Maguuma Jungle were not finished yet; while the six missions present in this build of the game were complete, the explorable areas were not, and would not be for months.  Explorable areas in Kryta often had few monsters, and some had little or no plants around like they do in the final game, in some areas you could walk right through trees and other should-be-impassable objects because collision was not fully implemented yet, and such.  It was a pre-release beta and you could tell.  The graphics issues where things sometimes broke still occurred as well, at least for me.  I think those problems got less common with release, though.  There were also few to no quests outside of the main mission track available in many areas, unlike later; they hadn’t made a lot of them yet.  So you could explore the world, and some areas felt done, but not all.  There was more than enough to do for a four-day test, though!  All of these issues continued on through the December test, so they apply to this whole post’s worth of images.  In the January test they started adding in more quests, so that will be for the next post.

Finally, ANet wiped all characters before this test, so you had to recreate your characters, though their names were saved.  There would not be another wipe until later in the betas, so I was using the same characters through the three beta events in this post.  For purposes of the time-played command, though, because you had to recreate characters time spent in E3 for Everyone could not be viewed anymore, if that command existed then; I don’t know that it did.  Time played was all erased once the game released, so the only records I have of how much time I spent in the betas, for sure, are in a couple of screenshots I have of time-played counters.  One of those is in one of the last images in this long article.

This shot is from one of the Kryta missions.  Krytan missions are for six players, up from the four in Ascalon.  Also noteworthy, I’ve reorganized my skillbar so that heal and rez are on the right end, as I’ve kept it ever since.

This loading screen looks about the same as ever.

Yes, once again I moistly played as my Ranger-Elementalist character this test, though I did try out several others for a while.  On another note though, at this point I still found navigating missions difficult sometimes.  The later addition of a second minimap with a dotline showing your path through the stage was a huge improvement on that regard, but before that sometimes figuring out where to go in a mission was frustrating.  Guild Wars missions are not entirely open, but they are open or mazelike enough to sometimes confuse if you don’t know where to go.

Henchmen, aka ‘henchies’, have been added to the game! These AI-controlled allies are essential partners for the solo adventurer, or for a party who doesn’t have enough people to fill out a full group. More customizable Heroes would be added several years later, but Henchmen are a big improvement over the nothing the first test had.  Guild Wars is a team game, built for team play by groups of players, and it’s fantastic for it, but options for solo gamers are important and Henchmen and, later, Heroes give you those options.

A part of Lion’s Arch, the main town of this beta and, indeed, Guild Wars: Prophecies as a whole. I took a bunch of shots in town but won’t post all of them, though there will be more.

These strange buildings are out in the wilderness… but sadly you cannot get much closer than this. Still, they look cool! I know I keep saying it, but Guild Wars’ art design is some of the best ever.

The world map of Guild Wars, pre-Eye of the North. The icons show areas I’d gotten to that you could visit in this test. They include five of the six available missions in Kryta and the Maguuma Jungle (silver), a random arena (red, on island), Lion’s Arch (gold), and Tombs of the Primeval Kings, a multiplayer arena area for pre-chosen teams (red, in the desert). More on that last one later in this post.

This is the October ’04 version of the inventory screen. It’s still a single panel, it just looks nicer now. I do like the paperdoll of the final game, but this single panel was so much easier to organize… oh well.  This is in a crowded Lion’s Arch zone; see the chatbox behind the dye vendor screen.

Again, the camera in Guild Wars is fully user-controllable. Hold the right mouse button and you can move it anywhere except into the ground, which is amusing at times.

Pets have been added in this update for Rangers, and this is mine, a Moa Bird. My ranger still has one of these; why change from the best? The shot is taken in the 8v8 Fort Koga random arena. More shots from that are later in this post.

A nice looking jungle lake.  When not in missions I mostly explore with just my character and Henchmen/heroes, since the non-linear nature of exploring the overworld makes it hard to play with other humans; people aren’t necessarily going to the same places.  There were occasions where I’d get in a group for some specific quest, but most exploration is done like this, with just you and AI.  If you have other people you know to play with that could be different of course, it’d be easier to agree on places to go or quests to do with people you can talk to and play with regularly.  I should note though that when in a party the game automatically gives each party member a share of the drops, so the more party members the have the less stuff you get.  Sure, it’s kind of too bad that AIs take a share, but overall this is good because it means no fights with other players over loot!  Unless you’re pretty good at the game you’ll probably usually need a party though.

An overlook. I’ve probably taken hundreds of Guild Wars screenshots of things that I think look cool at the moment…

Some (non-interactive) houses in Kryta.

Here the ground has glitched out and disappeared. Heh… the game was very stable, but not entirely bug-free.

As I said in the first post in this series, when the textures went all white like this the framerate absolutely tanked.

This crafter sells armor pieces. Give them the objects listed, they give you that armor. This is still how you can buy armor in the game today, with interface changes of course.

Old chat is always neat to see.  That person saying that there’s no point in getting items because they’re just going to be deleted soon is probably right, but why not do so anyway?  The game’s fun!

Tomb of the Primeval Kings, the team-based multiplayer mode, is the predecessor to the Hall of Heroes of the game today. It worked a lot like that, except it was based out of the Tombs outpost and there weren’t constant updates in global chat about the latest team to win, if I remember right. Tombs was cool, because the game was pre-release and less serious even someone never in a big guild like me could play it and have fun!

Here’s how Tombs worked.  You started by making a team of eight players in the Tombs lobby area. Then you enter and fight monsters in a ‘hold off the enemy’ scenario for several minutes until several other participating teams are lined up and ready. Then, the mission starts. It is a random choice between several game types, including straight 1v1 team battles to the death, giant 4-team, 32-player melees with a resurrection station that will return your party to life if it all dies and the NPC priest is alive (with a NPC warrior ally to guard them), and another game mode I never ran in to, a capture the flag variant or something. If you lose, you go back to the start zone. If you win however you get another fight — against another winning team and in a new arena. The team I played this mode with didn’t win the one time we got there so I don’t know what happened next. In this mode you do get more rewards — Fame. A win in the first round (not counting the PvE ‘hold them off’ part) got you 1 Fame point and a win in the second (victor’s championship) two. Overall, in this beta I got a whole 4 points.  Heh.  Yeah, I didn’t play it too much… it was fun, but I wanted to focus more on stuff that got me rewards I could use for crafting with limited time.  Guild Wars is an exceptional PvP multiplayer game, but I like the versus-AI experience better overall.  At least I got a few points, though; this would not be possible for me in the final released game…

As for screenshots of it, I do have a couple from in a Tombs mission in the December image set below, but they’re not too thrilling.

Here you see one of my dozens of screenshots from the character creation page. I once again took screenshots of all the classes in both genders here, but one should be fine to show the new, nicer interface. The actual options are the same, though.

And here we return to Fort Koga 8v8 Random Arena, and those silly little tabards.  You only got experience and nothing else for winning, but it was fun anyway.

… Yeah, removing these in favor of capes was a very good idea. This map as an 8v8 really was pretty cool, though.  The full Fort Koga map was only available in these early alpha and betas; parts of the map were blocked off later when it got cut to a 4v4 Random Arena stage.

Lastly for the October WPE’s part of the article, I did not make this image, but this is a fanmade map of the Guild Wars world, circa the WPE, made by people on the IGN Guild Wars forum that I read and posted on at the time.  I would participate in adding a little bit to the map later on as more zones got added to the game; more on that in the next post.

Click on the image to view the full map.  Comparing this map to Kryta and the Maguuma Jungle in the final game it’s pretty interesting to see how many pieces they would later add to these parts of the game…

In this three-day test I once again piled in the hours.  I was in college, but all these tests were over weekends so I had time.  As these shots show I mostly played as my ranger again, but I did create a few other characters, most notably my necromancer Talindra Darkbane.  Unfortunately the only screenshots I took of playing as her are no good, so screenshots of the character will have to wait until the November test post.  By the end of this test, though, I thought that I really wanted to play a lot more as the Necromancer, and that is exactly what I did in November.  Given that the time commitment to each character is significant changing characters is a pretty big deal in this game changing characters is hard and means you’ll be replaying many hours of content you did already with somebody else, but sometimes it is worth it.

Other than that though, it was just awesome to play this game again, after six months.  No matter how long it is between play sessions Guild Wars is always amazing.  Running around, using your skills judiciously, fighting monsters, collecting items, using those items to get stuff with, it’s a fantastic gameplay loop that the game pulls off to near-perfection.

Oh, and the tech held.  Hundreds of thousands of people played during the four-day October WPE, and the servers held up great.

B. November Beta Weekend Event

About a week after the October Halloween weekend event, held the first monthly Beta Weekend Event, or BWE.  These six monthly tests were semi-open, in that they eventually did require access keys to play in, but those keys  were not too hard to get.  At first, such as in November here, just about anyone could still play.  They also held contests to give out keys over the months.  Or, you could pre-order the game, and get access to all of the BWEs with that preorder purchase.  I got keys from various sources for the first few BWEs, but eventually pre-ordered, and never regretted that $5 for a second; I got dozens of hours of fun for that money.

Only a week had passed since the last test, but things changed in Guild Wars.  As you will see the interface is the same, but with this test came the return of Ascalon!  It had been more than six months since we’d last seen it, but the dead ruins of Ascalon returned in November, and I was glad to see them.  With that returned the Ascalon tutorial stage for new characters that I mentioned in the E3 article.  You could keep your characters from October, there was no wipe in between these two tests, so I didn’t need new characters, but I did mix things up by switching from mostly playing as my Ranger, to mostly playing as my aforementioned new Necromancer character Talindra Darkbane.  This character name I made up myself.  The first name was the result of me thinking about making up names that started with “tal” and that was what I thought up.  I ended up liking it quite a bit, it’s a name I’ve used for characters in other games too.  I like to make character names in games that are fitting to the gameworld, and aren’t just the kinds of silly names anyone reading this has surely seen a lot of in these screenshots.  However, this last name… well, it’s kind of an over-reaction; like, she’s a necromancer but not evil because I don’t want to play evil characters, so, Darkbane it is!  Heh.  It’s not great but it works I guess.  Guild Wars necromancers aren’t evil anyway, so the distinction’s kind of pointless, but it means something to me.  Oh, and no, I won’t have character-name-origin-stories for many other characters; I just had to for this one because of how it is the one I’ve played as the most by far.

So with that said, here’s my first usable shot of Talindra, though given how broken the graphics are here that’s a borderline statement at best… this does show that Ascalon tutorial stage, though — Guardsman Jax was a character in the tutorial zone these early tests used. Yes, the same guy was in Kryta for the October test, then went back to Ascalon a week later. Long trip…

The Great Northern Wall in all its ruined glory. Here we see Old Ascalon as it has looked since, as the E3 ’04 version has been entirely replaced with this one.

A battle against a Charr. I still hate Charr, no matter how much Guild Wars 2 tries to get you to think about them as not evil…

The Great Northern Wall mission. I really miss being able to play Guild Wars missions with random groups, it was something I really, really loved in this game…

Progressing in that mission.  It looks the same now.

Trebuchets are cool!

This loading screen image could use some work, but I think it’s still the same.

Fighting Gargoyles again!

Is it the edge of the world? Seems so…

I played as the Ranger for a while in this test too. Most of the snow part of the game was not playable yet in this beta, but a few bits of it could be accessed, such as this one.

Is this a cold pond or a hot spring?

Ice caves in Guild Wars look really cool.

The arena lobby.

World map, Kryta characters edition. See, in this test you could either play level 15 characters in Kryta, or create a new level 1 character in Ascalon, but not connect the two. So the Ranger is in Kryta, the Necromancer Ascalon.

And on that note here’s the Ascalon-characters map, as far as I’d gotten in the missions up to this point.

Got a new armor piece!

And here’s more of the set. Here we see the new Ascalon City, which is the one in the release game. My first reaction was that it isn’t as cool looking as Khylo was… which it probably isn’t. It has some nice aspects to it though.

The character select screen.  As with the release game, you had four slots available.  The third character is an Elementalist I didn’t play a lot of and would later recreate with a different name.

I wanted to play Nolani Academy (nee Stormcaller) again?  Really?  Well, okay…


C. December 2004 Beta Weekend Event

While mostly a continuation of November, December did add one thing: you now could access much more of the North Shiverpeaks and their beautiful snowy landscape.  I love snow and winter, and it’s particularly great looking in Guild Wars.

Additionally, added the function where if you hold Shift down when pressing Print Screen it takes a higher-detail and sometimes higher-resolution screenshot with the interface momentarily turned off.  So, some of these shots show that nice new feature off.  Some of the shots I took without Shift+Printscreen show the performance monitor again, to see what kinds of framerates I was getting.

For comparison here’s the game as it looked by default.

And here it is with Shift+Printscreen.  Beyond the disabled interface the graphics are similar, but there is a clear improvement here.

When the ground broke in a mission in a human group, there’s not much I could do but try to go on regardless; you don’t want to bail on other people just because the graphics are a mess!

More from that mission with the glitchy ground, this time with Shift+Printscreen.

The snow areas are some of the best looking in this game…

Fighting monsters.  The cast of Guild Wars enemies is so interesting, they did a great job making unique foes that are not just fantasy-standards.

Outpost in the jungle.

Tombs mission outpost. That sun behind the pillar looks pretty cool.

Tombs was hard… this waterfall is kind of nice though.

Resurrection shrine priest and ghostly hero in Tombs.

Entering battle, Tombs.

And here’s the last from this Tombs set. I don’t think we did great.

The Shiverpeaks, as Talindra. The falling-snow effect looks so nice…

A nice action shot.

This one’s probably one of my favorites I’ve taken, as far as action shots with the Shift+Printscreen combo go. The enemy Dwarf on their Dolyaak is rearing up as we strike back…

An entrance to a mine that you unfortunately can’t enter; Guild Wars: Prophecies is an almost entirely above-ground game, dungeons wouldn’t really be added in numbers until Eye of the North. Still, it looks good.

Another snowy vista, this time from a mission.

I believe this is in Ascalon City. Those giant paintings are pretty cool looking.

At the end of some of the betas, including this one, they had a fun closing event in Lion’s Arch. For December, they alternated between burning people and summoning the great zombie dragon Rotscale.  Lots of Rotscales, in fact.  Too many Rotscales and people burning for my poor old computer to handle well.

One Rotscale. Since this was a town, there was no way to fight back… but they sure could attack us!

Fortunately people got resurrected after dying, but it still was a little annoying… though mostly fun. I like that they did these closing events, people who weren’t there missed out!  Yes, and I do say that despite seeing that the frames-per-second here on my PC dropped to 2 fps when I took this shot.

The green-name people are developers watching/participating in the fun.

More Rotscales!

During the closing event, after people mentioned them I decided to take a screenshot of my deaths and time-played counters. It says that over the 38 days since the last account reset before the October BWE that opened this post, I had played 47 hours with this character, Falconess Ysaye the Ranger, and had died 212 times as that character. That’s 47 hours played, in only one of my two main characters, in eight actual gameplay days, since the October test was 4 days and November and December two days each. Considering I was in college that semester I played this a lot while each test was active.  I do have a time-played screenshot for Talindra from a later beta, but not a definite total for how much I played the game pre-release.  At release the counters were reset.

Trying to survive this was a doomed effort…

We tried, though. It must have ended soon after this one, because this is my last shot from December.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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