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, Arena.net 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, Arena.net 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.
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.
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.
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, Arena.net 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.
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, Arena.net 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.