Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 3: Beta Weekend Events, January and February 2005

Yes, it’s a third part in this ongoing series.  I’ve only ever posted a handful of these screenshots on the internet before, so almost all of them are new.  Well, it’s been long enough, so here they are.  The core of Guild Wars was in great shape, but as it got closer to release worked on the interface and balance, as they also slowly showed some more areas of the game.  Readers will see some of all that here, as well as a bunch of shots of the entertaining end-of-beta event from January.

A. January 2006 Beta Weekend Event

With the beginning of 2005 came the fourth Guild Wars BWE, or Beta Weekend Event, in early January. While the game was mostly the same, a few things happened this month in Guild Wars.  ANet continued to work on the game as it got close to release, and the interface took a jump towards its final form this month.  I’ll get to that, but going along with it there was a full character reset, so I had to recreate all of my characters again, trying to make them look like they should from screenshots pretty much.  Character names were reserved for your account, but hours played, items, and such all were reset.  Well, it’s a beta, so you expect things like that.

The big change this time is further refinement to the interface.  The old tabbed side window has been removed in favor of movable windows, with separate panels you can open for each one of the tabs on the lefthand menu.  Oddly the righthand tab, for your graphics settings and such, is still here in this test, but the chatbox, map, and all of those left-side menus have been revamped.   See the shots below for details.  This version of the game was closer to the look of the final game, but it isn’t quite there yet– there’s still a full-map button attached to the minimap, for example, and you can’t just drag buttons onto the screen yet.

Additionally, you seem to be able to take characters to any available area this time, so the previous divide between Ascalon and Kryta characters has been removed.  So, I took my Necromancer to Kryta, of course!

This is a simple shot, but I like it anyway. In the upper right you see a hint of this updates’ big change…

Lion’s Arch. The Party Members panel has been redone.

Denravi looks pretty cool…

Guild Wars does have a first-person camera option if you zoom in all the way. I rarely use it because it isn’t very useful most of the time, but as unexciting as it is here’s a first-person shot to show what it looks like.

The Maguuma Jungle has some pretty big plants in it… though the foliage isn’t nearly as dense as it would be in a real jungle, everything’s all spaced out so you can fight unobstructed. I’ve always thought Kryta and the Maguuma Jungle don’t look realistic because of that, but oh well, they look great anyway.

Remember to set your skills, says this new tooltip!

And here is the look of the new inventory system, with a paperdoll of your character showing currently equipped items, and separate panes for different bags you’re carrying. The visual look would be improved on, but this concept is what went into the final game. By release you wouldn’t start with all those bags either, only the main Backpack. This is as much inventory space as any character can have, still, to this day, but this was before the Xun’lai Chest account storage space system, so in beta if you wanted more storage there wasn’t much you could do.

And here’s the new on-screen map you can view during play. It shows your location and your path through the current zone, which is pretty awesome. When playing now I have a scaled-down version of this map open almost all of the time.

The questlog. Functionally it’s the same, it’s just now a separate window.

And the same goes for the new Skills window. It’s still just a list, click and drag skills to your bar at the bottom of the screen to equip them.

Yes, the ground textures still sometimes broke like this.  I don’t know what caused this bug, but it doesn’t happen on newer computers or anymore, thankfully.

I promised this in a previous post in this series, but here it is, the not-in-retail Ascalon Arena! This arena is the random arena of the original E3 for Everyone, and it also appeared in the November, December, and, obviously, January tests as you can see here. It’s a simple V-shaped map, pretty much. It would be removed before release and replaced with the Ascalon Arena map of the release game, which has a lake in the center. I’m not sure which is better, but I do like this one, it’s simple and you get straight to the action.

The rest of the shots from this beta are a whole bunch of pictures from the end-of-beta event. This time they randomly made everyone do various emotes, and also grew and shrank the sizes of the players, which was pretty cool and isn’t something you’ll ever see happen in the regular game. Here, everyone’s praying.

Chat from the closing event.

And now everyone is tiny! I can understand why this isn’t in the regular game, it’d be hard to click on people this small and wouldn’t be fair for balance purposes, but it’s cool that the engine can do it.

And now back to normal size I believe.

Everyone’s tiny again.

Yup, more miniature people.

And now, suddenly people have started to get really large! I’m still tiny, as are some others, so I’m an ant surrounded by giants, or something like that…

Can’t even see myself anymore, with the giant naked people on screen…  (Underwear is class-specific, as with the rest of the costumes, and cannot be changed or recolored.  Each class and gender combo has one look everyone has.)

Yeah, I’m still small. Now everyone’s praying again.

Finally I grew in size! That’s nice. Talindra’s a really short character so it’s probably nice to be bigger sometimes…

And now some people have shrunk, but not me. This was a pretty silly event to experience, people who didn’t play the betas missed out. 🙂  I took a lot of shots of it because of how amusing it all was.

Two-day beta over! Come back next month…

B. February 2005 Beta Weekend Event

February brought two big changes to Guild Wars.  First, they continued simplifying the look of the on-screen interface.  This month, they simplified it a bit too much, presumably because the final interface wasn’t quite ready yet so we got this very basic look in the interim.  So for February, the remaining visual details around the map in the lower righthand corner have been removed, though there is still a map icon next to the minimap.  The look of the skillbar and weapon-select icons have also been simplified to a very basic state, as all visual flourishes on them are gone.  It’s fortunat that they didn’t stick with this look, because it lacks the visual flourish I expect from Guild Wars.  The final interface look would add some of those details back in, but the visually complex skillbar and map of the original E3 build of the game were gone for good.  That’s kind of too bad, I liked the look of that ornate interface… ah well.  This does free up a little screen space, anyway.

The other new thing this month is the addition of pre-Searing.  My first introduction to Guild Wars was, of course, Seared Ascalon, as it was in the E3 2004 open alpha.  That blasted, nearly lifeless wasteland is a memorable place!  We players knew that something had happened to the country, but not what.  But now, in February, a few months before release, was finally able to reveal Ascalon as it looked before its destruction.  Before the Searing, Ascalon was a beautiful country, of green fields and very European architecture.  What happened to it is pretty sad… which is why, to this day, there is a thriving pre-Searing player community.  Once you leave pre-Searing in the final game you can never go back, so some choose to never leave with a character.  This reveal was pretty interesting, and as a result I took a lot of screenshots.  Comparing some of these sights to the ruins of the main game is kind of sad…

First though, for this beta you could recreate a character in pre-Searing, but just like in the released game you can’t travel back and forth between pre-Searing and the rest of the game.  So, a (probably newly recreated) Ranger is in pre-Searing here, while my Necromancer stayed in the main gameworld.  I mostly played pre-Searing, but not exclusively, as the shots will show.

Here is pre-Searing Ascalon. Gwen here is a young girl who follows you around in pre-Searing Ascalon. She’d become a much more important character several years later…

Pre-Searing is a really nice looking area, with green fields and nice architecture.

Verdant landscapes abound.

Ascalon City, viewed from outside. Pre-Searing is a much slower and easier start to the game than we had before! This area really eases you into the game, starting with only a few skills and very easy enemies. I do have one issue with pre-Searing, though: with it added, seared Ascalon lost much of its challenge, unfortunately. It’s just not the same with so much time to learn and level up before getting there. At least the eventual addition of Hard mode helped some there…

This nice village certainly is nothing like the E3 for Everyone version of Ascalon I first saw, either in life or in level design.

Yeah, they really want you to feel bad for what you know is going to happen next…

The pre-Saring enemies may be weak, but there are some.

Up to four skills now. Pre-Searing may be very easy, but it is a pretty good tutorial space for new players.

Some NPCs, such as this one, can also be found in seared Ascalon… but others are MIA.

There is a little bit of snowy landscape in pre-Searing.

One side of a statue of Lyssa, one of the six gods of Guild Wars’ world. Lyssa is the god of Mesmers.

And here is the other side.

Here I am standing in an oddly shallow lake by a water mill. Guild Wars doesn’t let you do things such as jump or swim, so either you can walk through something in a map or you can’t go there at all. As a result most water is impassable, but some areas are shallow enough that you can wade through them, such as this lake here.

Nice shot of this statue in Sardelac Sanitarium.

Yes, the floor isn’t solid here.

Foggy hills…

That sky sure isn’t looking quite as nice now is it…

This is a cutscene near the end of pre-Searing.

Yes, a storm is coming.  Or worse.  Finishing Pre-Searing would have to wait, though, you couldn’t have a character actually finish it and leave in this beta.

Cutscene over, I return to blue-skies Ascalon.  I celebrated finishing it for a bit before I went back to my characters in the main world.

First, though, I explored the dungeon in pre-Searing some, the Catacombs. Inaccessible in seared Ascalon, the Catacombs are a large and pretty cool network of caves, and in one of them you find this giant stained-glass window painting of the death god Grenth. No, he’s not evil, just unforgiving.

And here I am exploring the Catacombs with another human player. Pre-Searing has a maximum party size of two, with no Henchmen available, so you’re either alone with your pet if you have one, or with one other human. I mostly played it solo, but did party up for this a bit tougher bit.

An ominous part of the Catacomb indeed… this can’t be good.

With the Catacombs explored I returned to the main gameworld, and my Necromancer character.  I had to go to Ascalon first of course to see the contrast.  After the Searing all plant life is dead.

Here I’m exploring the far reaches of the Maguuma Jungle.

I posted some on the now sadly long-gone IGN Guild Wars forum during the betas, and at one point decided to help out with a giant map of the overworld people there were putting together.  I posted an earlier version of the map in the previous post, but new areas had been added to the game this time, including Reed Bog and The Falls and this outpost at Ventari’s Refuge, and I decided to map out the small zone Reed Bog.  My small contribution was to fully explore this zone south of Ventari’s Refuge. Here’s the entrance point on the map.

I added this line in Paint to show where the separation point between the two zones is for that map I talked about.  The only version of the map I have with my part on it is a post-release map of GW’s whole gameworld as of May ’05, though, so I’ll hold off on posting it until I get to that point.  It’ll only be a few more of these posts before I get there.

In order to fully explore a zone you need to run along the whole zone boundary, bumping into the sides to be sure you’ve explored every possible shred of the edges of the map. It’s kind of tedious, which is why I’ve never tried to get 100% of the map explored, but someone has to do it to put together complete overworld maps…

And here we see how far I got in The Falls, the large zone past the smaller one I was mostly focused on mapping. There is more of it past this point, but I wouldn’t see it for many years; you never have to go there, it’s an optional area.

Gathering a party in Tombs. I don’t know how it went, I didn’t take any shots this time in the Tombs battle itself.

This sure does look different from the vistas of Ascalon images above…

Here near the end of the beta, I tried out the Elementalist class again for a bit. I’d remade and renamed my Elementalist since a few months before, with a new name kind of themed after Talindra’s but fitting for an Elementalist. I wouldn’t end up sticking with this name either, after release. I did finally make a new character with this name this year, however (and yes, the name was available!), though it’s a Mesmer in pre-Searing at the moment. I’m not sure, I might keep the character there…  Oh, and yes, it’s always great to see old chat.

Now this sure is some impressively broken ground! The objects are repeating as I move the camera, essentially, in the messed up part of the display.

I hope starting the mission fixed the issue… a zone transition often would do so.

The beta is winding down, so the antics in Lion’s Arch were winding up.

I’m not sure whether there was an event this month from the devs, though, all I’ve got are these two shots which don’t hint at one.

I checked pre-Searing again before the beta’s end. I see someone in chat complaining about WoW… and I agree, I never have liked that game much…

And here’s the last shot I have from this beta. To close it out I seem to be playing this mission again, with henchies this time instead of other players. The interface and menus continue looking more and more like they have since release, but still aren’t quite there.




About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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