Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 8: September – early November 2005

In this update, 59 screenshots of Guild Wars, taken between the release of Sorrow’s Furnace in early September, and the Halloween event of late October and early November.  I took a bunch of pictures of the Halloween event, and that makes up the bulk of this update.  It happens every year, but this was the first Guild Wars seasonal event, so it was pretty cool at the time.  In the early years of the game seasonal events changed significantly from year to year, too, as they added more things each time.  This first Halloween event is mostly just a visual change, with a redone Lion’s Arch and visits from a certain crazy undead king.  The minigames and such they added later were,  I believe, not present yet.

A. Sorrow’s Furnace Releases, Fall 2005

This is a cutscene showing a flythrough of Grenth’s Footprint, a new zone in the South Shiverpeaks added in early September which contains the games’ third ‘dungeon’, Sorrow’s Furnace. Unlike the other two though, which require a significant payment in gold each time you want to attempt them, Sorrow’s Furnace is freely accessible, if you can handle it. The Sorrow’s Furnace addon was released in a free patch, which was pretty awesome, and came with new music and some very nice looking areas, such as this one.

More of the flythough of the outsides of Sorrow’s Furnace.

Before you get to Sorrow’s Furnace itself, you’ve got to travel through several zones, go to the new outpost in Grenth’s Footprint, and gather a party there for the trek to the dungeon. Here I am heading towards that outpost, exploring the map towards the green mark on the minimap which shows where you need to go for the currently selected quest. Clearly there was a quest to get to this outpost, and I’m following it. This part is doable with henchmen.

And here I am, in the outpost! Made it.

B. Halloween 2005

I’ll get back to Sorrow’s Furnace attempts later — it’s a tough dungeon even with a human group, and I attempted it a bunch of times — but now for something different: the first Halloween event, or “Mad King’s Day” as Guild Wars calls it! It was late October, and to celebrate the holiday ANet did a big event with lots of custom graphics and NPC dialog lines, and some new gameplay content as well, though that would be added to greatly in later years.  The event was focused on Lion’s Arch, though the Tomb of the Primeval Kings and Droknar’s Forge also had a few changes, and the altered moon was visible everywhere you could see it. The official wiki has a page on this event here:  I’ve got a bunch of screenshots of various elements of the festivities, starting with this, some transformed Krytan civilians in Lion’s Arch. First though… why so much focus on Halloween? I guess they were trying for something that isn’t just one nation’s national holiday and this qualifies, so everyone playing the game can enjoy it, but Halloween is also something that I believe is more popular in the US than other places, so it’s not a universal thing. It’s a fun day when you’re a kid, getting candy, but I don’t like horror stuff and haven’t done anything special on halloween in a long time, so I don’t care about this stuff as much as some. Still, seeing the seasonal events in GW is always quite entertaining, and this was the first one so it was something of a big deal.

Here’s a skeleton knight.  Actually, it’s a Krytan civilian shopkeeper, transformed into a skeleton for the week by the Mad King’s magic…

Here are more people, or NPCs rather,  messed with — these have been tied up in spiderwebs.

Despite the spiderwebs though, the traders are open for business…

Just your average everyday demon and animal … who is probably just some poor randomly transformed citizen.

Nope, this horseman is one of the special event NPCs, only here during Halloween. For this first seasonal event, ANet added some special items to the game, namely the four shown in the picture: Witch’s Brew, Squash Serum, Ghost-In-A-Box, and Absinthe.  You could get them several ways, but this trader sold them for drops. These party items each do some entertaining thing, such as making your character ‘drunk’ (this messes with the screen for a bit), setting off a visual effect, and such. Over the years ANet would add many more seasonal party events like these. I’ve got lots of them in my storage box, it’s fun to keep them. But yes, other than the new visuals and the special visit on Halloween day, these items were the only other content addition; festival minigames would not be introduced to Guild Wars until 2006.

The sky looks different from usual as well, during Halloween, but there are many more changes as well…

But first, just another undead trader offering those four new amusement items in trade. Collect those emblems, you can’t buy them for cash!

Here’s a bigger change, there’s a big cauldron in the middle of town, with magic emitting out of the top of it! The ground’s not changed though, I’m pretty sure; the textures are just broken as they sometimes did on that computer.

And here’s the moon, now with a slightly creepy face on it. It’s a nice touch which adds to the atmosphere.

Another view of the moon, cauldron, and sheet-white ground.

In this area, a circle of stuff is marked out on the ground… huh.

This circle doesn’t have much of a function yet, but it will.

Turning into a Moa for a week or two might not be much fun, they’re surely not as smart as people…

Candy corn guards appear during Halloween. They look pretty silly… though while candy corn is an iconic Halloween candy, it’s not that good tasting. So yeah, these guys are probably safe. :p

With ghosts in the sky the ‘creepy’ atmosphere shows. Note the giant candle on that rock, as well.

This one’s a nice shot! And yes, that’s not a rock, but a skull. And there’s another demon skull on the now-black sails of the ship at the port. As I said I’m not a big Halloween fan, but the work they put in to redoing the city with a stereotypically creepy-Halloween theme is impressive.

While focused on Lion’s Arch, here in the Shiverpeaks we see that other areas have some changed graphics as well, here including that skull banner as well as the usual ghosts flying around.

Returning to Lion’s Arch, the sea looks sick… though it might be in better shape than that ship in the distance.

At specified times on Halloween day itself, the main event occurred: the Mad King’s visit itself. This entertaining, but maliciously crazy, pumpkin-headed spirit tries to escape his prison once a year. On that day he visits Lion’s Arch and torments the masses, which would be awful in reality but is a fun event in a videogame.

A closer view. The crowd looks larger here than in the previous shot that shows how we’re all clustered around him… heh. The Mad King’s got a good design. He’s both kind of silly and kind of creepy.

During his visits, Mad King Thorn goes through several phases. Some of the time, he gives commands to the whole group to take some action, and then rewards people who did it and punishes those who did not. Other times, such as here, he chooses one person, and tells them to play a game with him. I believe the game works like rock-paper-scissors, presuming that you participate by replying.

Leaving already? This isn’t his first visit, as the chat points out, though; again, Mad King Thorne would visit every few hours through Halloween day. The Mad King’s Day events would expand over the years, as minigames and quests got added to this base, but his visit still is the centerpiece of the Halloween event.  One other thing that got added to over the years was the Mad King’s backstory, though; he’s not just selfish and randomly cruel, but quite evil at times.  This comes across much more in the Halloween event quests added in later years than it does in his visit itself.

The ship’s sails have a pretty cool look here, all black with a skull and crossbones… imposing, but nicely done.

Other than the visuals it’s the same as usual though. But between the water, sails, and sky, the visuals are quite different.

And here he is again! Yes, I made sure to experience Mad King Thorne’s visit several times. It went the same each time, with different targets of course.

Yes, he’s quite self-centered.

Just comparing his text line in chat to the lines over his head, he sure does go back and forth between giving people gifts and wanting to kill them, doesn’t he. But that’s what makes the event interesting, of course.

It’s a pretty amusing thing to experience, the first few times for sure.

Yeah, this shot’s nearly identical to the last one. I left it in anyway… but uh, yes, you could get pumpkin-head festival hat, like that person at bottom has. Festival hats were introduced here in Halloween 2005, and as introduced here were zero-armor hats that you could wear instead of your usual head armor. Given their lacking defense they were meant to be worn in town for fun, and not in battle, but you can put insignias on them. In 2009 the festival hat system would change, as a new festival hat and costume feature was added that adds festival hats and paid DLC costumes as skins that you can have appear instead of your regular, and equipped, armor, allowing for the wearing of festival hats in battle in a way that they weren’t before. That was an improvement, but the original system wasn’t too bad, the festival hats worked reasonably well as things to just show off but not use in serious gameplay. You got a pumpkin crown for being there during one of the Mad King’s visits, so yes, I got it too, though I didn’t take any screenshots wearing it. I still have at least one of the original ones, the one for my monk seen in most of these screenshots. And yes, it is the original armor-slot version; the festival hat maker can make copies, but those go in the festival-hats slot instead and are purely cosmetic. There was a new exclusive festival hat for each Halloween from ’05 to ’11, and until 2012 the only way to get each one was to have been there for that one event. Since 2012 it is possible for anyone to get them as Halloween quest rewards, though. Being able to get all the festival hats you missed is kind of nice, but it does remove their cachet. Oh well. At least the handful of head armor-slot festival hats I have are not replicable in the game today.

He’s picking a new target… I mean participant… for his game! Who will it be this time?

Ooh, he picked me! Yes, I’m playing as my monk here, as should be obvious from the character panel that’s been open for like five screenshots now, and I got chosen. Yay?  I didn’t take any shots of how it went, but again the game is essentially rock-paper-scissors.

In this phase of the event, he’s telling everyone to do the things (emotes) he says… or else.

Sounds like you’re having a fun week too…

C. Back to Sorrow’s Furnace and A Last Look at Halloween, Fall 2005

With Halloween day over, I went back to Sorrow’s Furnace. The Halloween event was still running through some of these screens, as you will notice, but the main part of the event, Halloween day itself and the Mad King’s visit, was over.  Anyway, Sorrow’s Furnace is a very hard dungeon.  Maybe too hard for me or the parties I was in.

Here’s a shot from one attempt. It looks hot in the distance there, to say the least… and our chances look grim, with two people quitting on the group.  Sorrow’s Furnace is a tough dungeon and you need to be very good to beat it…

Just putting a slight reddish hue over the screen does a nice job of making the area look hot. Sorrow’s Furnace is a literal furnace though, with fire and a Forgeman, so that makes sense.  They did a great job with the visuals in Sorrow’s Furnace.

And here’s another example of that. This bridge didn’t need to look this great, but it does!

The art design here, both for the environment and this cutscene, have always impressed me. It still looks fantastic, from an artistic front at least.

And this shot might look even better. All of the mining equipment hanging from the ceiling may not really come into play in the game, but it definitely adds to the atmosphere.

Around that rock, you get an even better view of this abandoned mine, and the great design work that went in to this area.

Halloween is over, but the event isn’t quite yet, so the moon still has that grin on it, visible everywhere in Tyria.

I went back to the city to look around again before everything returned to normal.

The Lionguard might want to check out that ship, could be pirates…

The area looks better when you can actually see the ground textures. Heh.

D. Guild Wars Gameplay, Fall 2005

With Halloween over and new Sorrow’s Furnace attempts on hold for a while, this final section of this article shows me doing various things in Guild Wars.  It’s just regular gameplay in this incredible game.

And now, the Random Arena, as my ranger. I’ve clearly been playing Ranger, because I’m up to level 16.  I’d been playing Monk too, but the Elementalist was being left behind…

I hope we did well!

Here are some of my stuff and guild people, circa October ’05. Note how there is a vault box in the game… with one whole storage panel. The vault box is available to all characters on your account, once you get past pre-Searing that is. One panel isn’t much space! Still, through this you could store some resources, and share items between your characters.

This was about as far as I got into the zone The Wilds for many years — to this guy partway into it which you need to visit for a quest. The rest of this large zone is entirely optional, and I didn’t actually explore it all until last year… but it’s worth doing, because The Falls themselves are really impressive! Dark Oak here, though, has an unpleasant vision for us to go back with.

A mission outpost in the Maguuma Jungle. GW loved putting key NPCs on pedestals like this. It looks a little silly, but does make them easy to find. The one here is the person to talk to to enter this mission.

If you want to do well in Tombs, even in ’05, you probably wanted an organized group which used some external voice chat service like Teamspeak or Ventrilo to coordinate, but in-game, text-chat-only groups did still exist. Here I’m trying at that yet again.

And here we go, into the Hall of Heroes…

… Looks like that went great. Let’s try something else instead.

Yes, you spend a lot of time in this game running around. It’s fortunate that between the good graphics, music, and gameplay, almost all of it feels worthwhile.  Looking at these screenshots makes me want to go play Guild Wars, in fact…

And last for this update, a first-person shot of my Moa Bird. Er, Strider, technically. Again, I’ve stuck with this pre-Searing Strider all of the time since day one. Sure, I could get other pets, but technically the Strider is pre-Searing only… the Moa Bird of post-Searing may look the same, but they have a different species name. There also was a longstanding rumor that Striders and Moa Birds were different, that Striders were larger, but I don’t think that is true. Even so, GW would eventually add a place where your Ranger characters can release pets, the Zaishen Menagerie, to collect them all, but adding a Strider or Moa only puts Moas in the Menagerie to tame, so if I did that I’d lose the Strider permanently. And even if they really are identical apart from the names I like the Strider, so I’ve always had to ignore every charmable animal in the game… oh well.

Next time: More Sorrow’s Furnace attempts, and a few shots of the first Christmas event.  Unfortunately unlike Halloween I have only a couple of Christmas ’05 shots, so the next update will get to early 2006.

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 7: July – August 2005

For this update, I broke up the next screenshots folder into two parts and this is part one.  The folder these screenshots was in got messed up years ago, as I mentioned previously, so none of the files have the original creation dates in them, but going by context these images are from July until just before Sorrow’s Furnace’s release on September 7; that’s about halfway through this folder so that’s where I broke it into two pieces.

This was a good time for me in Guild Wars.  I was still playing a lot of the game that summer, as I was off from college and had plenty of free time, and I was still loving the game for sure.  Screenshot-wise, though, most of these screenshots aren’t particularly interesting, I think.  Hopefully enough of these are interesting to make reading through this update worthwhile.  I am posting many of these despite that because I still very much want to post old Guild Wars screenshots online, and hopefully some images in this set are good.  There are 48 screenshots this time, so it’s not too many.  The next update will be a bit larger.

A. Guild Wars: July – Early August 2005

Obsidian armor? I will never have this, sadly… though the Elementalist one here is definitely one of their coolest-looking outfits, it’s just so crazy expensive!

Tombs used to be quite busy. And full of people dancing, too.

It may be a party outside though, but in Tombs it’s a bloodbath…

But hey, people doing silly stuff in games can be amusing to screenshot. Also, that door in the background has some great art design, as expected from this game!

I think I tried to get into a party for Tombs here, but I don’t think anything came of it. Here’s some chatlog anyway.

I’m posting this otherwise very similar shot for the new chat.

This is the mission outpost for Prophecies’ final mission, which I was getting a party together for here.  From this camera angle it looks like I’m knee-deep in the ground, but that is just a raised stone platform in the middle, so it’s not really like that.  (Interestingly, you can move the camera down through that stone platform in the center of this area, which reveals that it’s on top of standard ground.  It turns invisible once you get the camera down into it.)

Yeah, at this point a lot of people were reaching the end of the game. It was a crowded outpost indeed! Also, more Obsidian Shard armor, this time the Necromancer one.

And here’s another person with the female Necromancer Obsidian Shard armor. Just to test, I tried taking this shot at the maximum resolution supported by the monitor I had at the time, 1600 x 1200. As you can see, the framerate got … a bit worse: it went from 11 fps a couple of shots ago, to four in this one. I did not keep the resolution here after this screenshot for that reason.

This attempt at the final mission seems to be going poorly… most of us are dead, me included.

This time the party I was in got to a cutscene, though! Awesome. Nah, I don’t think I’ll skip it… I rarely did that, whether or not I’d seen it before. Guild Wars’ cutscenes aren’t too long, and they’re mostly good.

Looking at the background here, winter is my favorite season, which is probably why the Shiverpeaks are probably my favorite environment in Guild Wars.  This area looks pretty nice…

This area’s plainer-looking, probably because of the absence of trees and falling snow, but it is still nice and white.

I should get 15k Pyromancer armor sometime… but after all this time I still only have one 15k armor set, for my Necromancer.

… If you pretend that this scene was real, I don’t know that I’d want to know what is going on here…

The desert. It’s not that large an area of the game, before Nightfall greatly expanded on deserts in Guild Wars that is… but back when Tombs was there that little piece of it was a destination, anyway.

Watch out for unlicensed bots that steal your login data!

And now, a couple of shots from in a Tombs match. I played Tombs post-release more often than I remember, it seems…

Some of the team. I’m facing the other way though…

Looks like that match ended quickly, probably. We’re going to try again though!

Now I’m off to the random arena instead. Maybe this is a first person shot or something? Because that looks like my monk character in the center, but I hadn’t created her quite yet so… yeah, it’s someone else.


We won some, but sadly lost eventually… too bad.  I wish I had a shot showing how long the winstreak was.

See my message on the screen: this shot is probably taken under-water, but you can’t tell because when you get the camera underneath things such as water they disappear. So yeah, I’m totally on land here… yeah…  It’s a neat trick of how the Guild Wars camera works.

Standing in the fire of the fire islands arena between matches can be entertaining. This isn’t my character though, but is another monk who looks a lot like the one I would soon make.  Because…

B. A New Character, as well as the old, August 2005

At this point I can definitely date the rest of the screenshots to August, because this new character was created in August 2005.  So, this is a good point to break the article into two parts.

Because here is my monk character, just created at level one. The name references two characters from Quest for Glory I, a favorite game of mine from the early ’90s. I don’t love playing monk and aren’t as good at it as I am at ranged combat classes, but I did eventually finish Prophecies with this character, which took over a hundred hours. After that I mostly stopped playing Monk though, and it’s hard to go back to, remembering how to heal teammates well and such takes practice.

I’m sure Sarah here will be fine this time…

You’re being pretty confident there! Probably over-confident, really. I don’t know how well we did, but hopefully it was well… most of the year the Fissure of Woe costs quite a bit of money to get into, after all! It’s some of Guild Wars’ postgame content, and it’s hard. Challenging areas like this are, even more than the rest of this game, really designed to be played with an all-human player party. There are even harder areas in the game now, that are totally inaccessible to all but the best solo players, but the Fissure’s more than hard enough for me to not get far at all playing it these days with just Heroes and Henchmen. I love Guild Wars’ grouping focus, but it does mean that solo play can be inapproachably hard, and groups just aren’t around these days like they were in 2004-2005… ah well. It’s still an amazing game anyway, and thankfully some people are still playing.

Moving forward in the Fissure a bit. You go here to get Obsidian Shard drops, to make that cool Obsidian Shard armor if you can get a lot of them. Good luck with that, I only ever got a few…

That over apparently, here I’m back in the Shiverpeaks for a bit.

You get to the two GW1 high-level areas, the Balthazar-themed Fissure of Woe and the Grenth-themed Underworld, from the Temple of the Ages in the middle of Prophecies’ map. You can also get there from similar five-gods temple zones in Elona and Cantha, today. Even today you often see a decent number of people in the Temple of the Ages, particularly when an event is going on.

GW really should have had an auction house… but instead people who want a good return for their items have to do this, spam chat.  They would add that search-list thing later on, but you still need to be logged in and listing it for it to appear there.

More people in the Temple, mostly grouping for Fissure of Underworld runs.

Returning to my monk, I’ve gotten a new costume and have progressed to Seared Ascalon. Nice. Monks were always popular,there was always way more demand for human monks in groups than there was supply! Finding groups is definitely easier if you’re a healer, the AI healers are decent but can’t match up to a player.

More of this mission. Yeah, I got very used to playing this game with an unstable framerate under 20 fps.

This is some nice loading screen art. The Ascalon Arena is a low-level-only 4v4 random PvP arena, so today surely it’d be nearly impossible to find a match there. Things were different back in 2005, of course.

I believe this is a countdown for a mission, not the Arena.

These timers are pretty annoying, though. Once you have a group, why make people wait so long all the time? If things could just start, you’d save so much time that you spend standing a round for countdown timers to start… I know some are needed to allow for people to load into matches and such, but it’d be nice if it would start once everyone’s in. Oh well.

Nolani Academy… of course. It’s a much easier mission here than it was back in E3 for Everyone, but because of my first experience with it I still think of it as hard…

I went back to my main for a while here.  I’m running through (Seared) Ascalon, seeing some sights. Stuff like this destroyed building with giant mural is pretty cool as is the sky behind that.

Guild Wars has nice water reflections, too.  That makes even muddy water like this look kind of nice.

Yeah, there’s definitely no life to be found here… apart from the monsters I’ll be killing and plenty of Charr, of course!

And now my monk is out of Ascalon and has reached the Shiverpeaks. As I’ve said before, the story arc in this game, from Ascalon through the mountains to Kryta and eventually to the Fire Islands, is very well done. It’s far from one of the great stories, but it is a good one which succeeded in making me care about the characters and world. I have not liked any of’s stories anywhere near as much since, sadly, so maybe their success writing such a compelling story was a one-off thing… but still, this accomplishment is worth remembering.

This effort at getting through this area of the game sure wasn’t worth remembering though… but I took a screenshot anyway. Heh.

And for the final screenshot before Sorrow’s Furnace, here is a shot of the map screen, zoomed in. Here you can see your path and you can see which parts of the maps have been revealed. It makes exploring most of a zone easy. Getting every single scrap of a zone mapped out is very hard, but getting close is easy enough, if you have the time. Guild Wars’ mapping system is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a game, and that is something that means a lot to me.

Next time: Guild Wars: Prophecies’ free content addition, Sorrow’s Furnace, releases, and the first annual Halloween festivities (?) commence.

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 6: June + July 2005, I Bought the Game

A bit over a month after the release of the game and those two days I spent playing the release version of Guild Wars with the access that my preorder got me, I finally bought Guild Wars.  I bought a retail copy, though I never used the disc, I just entered that key into my beta install of the game.  I believe that the preorder had expired, so I had to pay the full $50, which I was fine with given how much playtime I got out of that $5.

The dating on this article skips a month because I actually never played GW in May 2005; the release was at the end of April, then I bought the game in early June.  The screenshots in this update from cover from early June 2005, the month I bought the game about five weeks after release, until July 11th.  There are 52 screenshots in this article, so there are fewer than the last one.  It ends at that date in specific because some time after that my computer had something go wrong, and the next 133 screenshots do not have accurate date codes in them.  They’re all dated “July 20, 2006” which is most definitely not accurate.  I went back to that computer to see if anything better was there, but sadly no, none of the screenshots are still there; the originals were probably lost in a partial hard drive failure that computer suffered several years back, though they probably also have that incorrect date on them so that wouldn’t be too useful anyway.  From looking at those screenshots they clearly are from after this set ends until fall ’05, though.  Anyway, as far as number of screenshots goes, the next two folders, which cover to spring ’06, are the largest; after mid ’06 I continued playing Guild Wars, but not as much as it had the first two years (from mid ’04 to mid ’06).  That’s next update, though.

So, from this point on, for the most part this series gets less interesting from a historical perspective — Guild Wars was out, so you won’t be seeing as much of a chronicle of the visual and content changes the game underwent during development.  I have many hundreds more screenshots of Guild Wars that I’ve taken over the years, though, so I want to keep posting these articles anyway.  I hope something here is of interest.

A. Guild Wars: Prophecies Release, June 2005

Comparing the shots in this update from how the game is now, a couple of differences stand out.  Most obviously, of course the Heroes and the party movement control buttons on the bottom of the minimap did not exist yet, as they would not until Nightfall released a year and a half later.  Additionally, the Battle Islands also did not exist yet.  The Random Arena did go through multiple maps, but there was no centralized Battle Islands hub for multiplayer areas, they were still scattered around the main map, with the Random Arena on that island south of Kryta, and the high-level tournament in Tomb of the Primeval Kings in the desert.  A Team Arena did also exist, in the South Shiverpeaks, but I don’t believe that the Random Arena would send you there at this point.  So, as you will see later in this update, you could just keep going in the random arena until you lost, pretty much.

This first larger set of 33 images are from June.  I picked up where I left off, and spent the month playing as my first two characters… or, it would turn out, mostly for one of them and not the other.  One of my characters has a sizable majority of my overall playtime in this game.

At this point, both of my characters are in Seared Ascalon. That would soon change, however… well, for one of them.

I’ve got some quests to do.  Sometime.

But how about I just play as my other character instead?  I’d rather play as Talindra.  My skillbar still has a bunch of these skills in it…

Winter is my favorite season in real life, and it looks amazing in Guild Wars too. I love the look of GW’s snow-laden trees!

These people look like trouble… and like they’re reusing that model a bit too much perhaps? Heh.

The White Mantle are your friends… those Unseen Ones they worship totally aren’t suspicious at all!

Before the Xun’lai chests inventory space was a real problem.

Looks like I’ve fully explored this zone!

Random Arena time! … Yes, I probably should switch to res signet for the arena, but I rarely did.

It can be fun to look at all the different costumes available in this game.

I do have the Necromancer scar pattern armor, but not the Monk tattoo one.

And here is that same image without the image enhancement of Shift+Printscreen.

Similar image, but I like the background better in this direction.

The Searing left some burning scars like this in Ascalon.

This is a pretty cool angle for the sun and lighting on this mural…

Random arena I presume.

Yeah, having a chest to put your rare crafting materials in was a big improvement. It’ll be quite a while after this until they add it to the game though.

Not too much going on here, but GW environment art is great.

And here is how material crafters look in the final game.

And here I took shots of a couple of other female Necromancers with similar hair to mine. Not sure why really.

Here’s another.

And a third, along with plenty of people in the background.

Shortly after this I had to give up on my guild cape, because for a while I joined a guild with some people I knew in college and wasn’t the guild leader. It’ll return eventually though…

Nice heroic shot! But yes, this shows how my Ranger’s still in Ascalon, while the Necromancer progresses through the game steadily. Yeah, I was playing as the latter character a lot more.

When you’ve got life regen stuff and there isn’t an ongoing match, it can be fun to stand in the lava and watch your health not go down much…

I’ve reached the Crystal Desert! Cool. Looks like I died though… oh well.

And here’s an amusingly weird thing about Guild Wars: some things disappear when viewed through water. Guild Wars isn’t a game with an underwater component, but you can walk into the edges of seashores and such at some points. And when you do so, you notice two things: hair, for some reason, vanishes along with the top of your characters’ head, and the bikini clothing parts of Necromancer scar pattern armor also vanish. These parts of your character model disappear completely, and you can see the sea floor on the other side in this shot. It’s a little easier to show off the hair part with a character as short as Talindra is, taller ones can’t get deep enough in many places, but regardless, it’s weird that this is a thing, and it is still like this — you can do this in GW today and you’ll see the same silly disappearing body parts thing.

And here, you see that the above disappearing-hair-and-clothing thing only is visible when you’re looking through the water-surface texture. If you manage to get the camera underwater as I did here, though, you see that the character model is fully visible like normal. Yes, I’m underwater here, and that’s the water surface above me, but my hair is visible because of where the camera is. Guild Wars is amusingly weird sometimes… 🙂 Oh, and yes, this is the first cape from one of those guilds with people from college. It’s alright but I like mine the most.

19 straight wins! Very impressive, this is one of my better winning streaks I believe. I think that later on things were changed so before you reach 19 wins you get sent to the Team Arena lobby, instead of just continuing on in Random Arenas… but as you can see here before that point you could just keep going. Unless this is from the Team Arena? I don’t think so, though.

… And yeah, with one of our team leaving that pretty much ended this awesome run, which is why we’re unhappy in the chat. Random new person (no screenshot after this one) wasn’t as good.

Yeah, I’m progressing through the game nicely with Talindra, farther in the desert now.

This is a somewhat ominous looking cave shot, if you think of it as a picture and not just ‘party standing still in a mission’…

“A new build of Guild Wars is available. Please exit and run the program again.” appears when the game is patched. When this happens you can stay in the game, but can’t do much and eventually will be forced to log out and download the patch by running the game again. Fortunately this usually didn’t take long. It’s too bad we didn’t beat the mission before the patch dropped… oh well.

B. July 2005 Guild Wars Gameplay

And this smaller set of 19 is from July.  I made a third character this month, as you can see in the next screenshot.

At this point I decided to make a third character. Yes, it was an Elementalist again, always my third class. As you can see though I redesigned my character from my beta Elementalists. I’d been reading some Drow D&D books at the time, so I chose the darkest skin tone and a character name I made in a Drow name creator online. Of course she’s human though, there are no elves in Guild Wars (or playable nonhumans).

Yup, still in Ascalon. My new character has already matched this ones’ level… though I would eventually finish Prophecies with this character and not the Elementalist (yet at least) so that would eventually change.

Somehow that ultra-light skin never burns. Videogames are nice in some ways…

Once again, we see the way the clothing textures simply aren’t there through water.

Looks like we lost this one.

Heh… here’s another silly glitch. This rock, at this point, still didn’t have the right collision on it, so you could stand inside this edge of the rock. This may have been fixed since then, I’m not sure.

Guild chat? I haven’t seen any of that in like ten years now…

The desert and snow can look kind of similar if you just look at the ground, but this is the desert.

No, I’m not quite at the Fire Islands yet, this is the Random Arena map.

And now we’re in the snowy lands of the South Shiverpeaks. The ground definitely looks kind of similar.

Light and statue

And here it is from a different angle. Not quite as cool from this direction…

I don’t think I currently have Pyromancer robes for either of my Elementalist characters… I should fix that problem, it has always been my favorite female Elementalist outfit… but yeah, that skillbar could use some work. I hope I don’t have many skills yet.

A decent loading screen.

And now I have, for real, reached the Fire Islands, the final area of the story, with my main. I’m probably close to a hundred hours in (since launch) with Talindra at this point, Prophecies took me at least a hundred hours to finish per character.

The Fire Islands are an appropriate end point, being all lava and igneous rock.

First though, let’s go back to the Elementalist for a bit, in this low-level Arena.

This is a pretty good map, it has some nice options.

Next time:  More of release Guild Wars.  After that, Sorrow’s Furnace and the first Halloween event.

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 5: Beta Weekend Event, April 2005, and Preorder Release, May 2005

This time I cover a very important period in Guild Wars’ history: the release of the game!  First, though, came the final beta test in April 2005.  Then in May, the game released.  I’ll cover both the April BWE and the first two days of release in this post.  I will explain in the “Preorder Release” (first two days) section below why it’s that period of time in specific.  I was going to put these in two separate posts, but  I decided to merge them together. That means this has the most images of any posts in this series, about 80.  I know that’s a lot, sorry about that.

A. Beta Weekend Event, April 2005

In April 2005, Guild Wars finally had its last Beta Weekend Event.  There was only one month to go before release, and the game was in great shape!  Indeed, apart from the amount of the game we couldn’t play — excepting previously available areas the Shiverpeaks and Crystal Desert were still mostly unavailable, along with most of the Fire Islands — Guild Wars was almost in release form in this test.  Most notably, the final interface is finally here!  Yes, after almost a year, the look of Guild Wars’ interface that any GW player knows finally comes into appearance.  The look of the minimap and skillbar, the menus, customizable interface where you can drag any interface element to any point on the screen, all of it’s been totally redone since the previous beta, and it would not be changed again, apart from some additions that Nightfall made for Hero and Henchmen control; note how those buttons below the minimap aren’t there yet, and won’t be until late 2006.  Until then you could not control Henchmen or tell them to stay at a point, and Heroes did not exist.  This put much more of a focus on player groups, which I loved.  The addition o Heroes and being able to give your AI party members more direct movement controls is fantastic for solo Guild Wars, but it helped destroy something I really loved about the game, finding random human groups for missions.  I’m very glad I played GW before Heroes were added.  Sure, when playing the game now you’re grateful for them because finding human groups would be difficult regardless, but Heroes have both positives and negatives.  But anyway, that’s getting well ahead of things.

Returning to Guild Wars as it was in April 2005, the added customization is great, but I have always missed that Map button that used to exist to the lower right of the minimap, so I added it back in by dragging a Map icon there from the menu on the lower left.  You can add any of the lower-left menu buttons to the screen anywhere, but that’s the only one I’ve ever put on screen.  It doesn’t look nearly as nice as those integrated map buttons from the previous betas, sadly, but it’s better than nothing.  I wish you could use the old map graphics with the integrated overworld map button.  Also, readers will notice that while you can move all of the icons around, I don’t do it; I’ve kept the whole GW interface in the same exact places it has been since I first played the game in May 2004, with the map in the lower right, skillbar in the bottom center, spell effects in the upper left, and such.  I know many people move things around, but I don’t like change without purpose and the interface as it was works great.

Besides the interface though, which is a big thing, there isn’t too much to say about this beta.  By looking at my screenshots, I clearly was just wandering around doing not a whole lot, and that is reflected below.  Of the 49 screenshots here, about half are from the closing event and half are from before that, but I was just playing little bits as all three of my main characters and such, nothing too special.  Everyone playing knew that a full server reset was coming after this beta, so trying to make progress in the game or get items felt pointless when it’d all be gone in a few days.  If you read the chatlogs in these screenshots, there’s less item trading and more discussion about the coming final server wipe, understandably.  The previous wipe had, again, been between the December and January betas, so we’d had four weekend beta tests to build these characters up, quite a while in beta terms.  I took a screenshot near the end showing how much time I’d played as Talindra during those four months, but sadly didn’t do so for the other characters and again the account-wide time-played counter still was not in the game yet, so I don’t know how much time I spent in Guild Wars  pre-release overall.  My best guess has always been 150 to 200 hours, and after going through all these screenshots again I still think that’s probably about right.  I’m sure there were people who played the betas more than me, but considering the limited number of days and that I was in college I played this game a whole lot pre-release.  My memories of the GW betas are some of my favorites from gaming.  So, on to the screenshots.

Starting out, I took screenshots again of four loading screens. I’m not sure why, except that GW’s concept art is outstanding, I’ve always loved it at least as much as the actual in-game models. Also… 1060 files remaining? That probably took a little while, though thankfully the files were small; GW is not a huge game.

More fantastic concept art for this beautiful game.

And another one, of the desert this time. This has always been one of my favorites, I think…

While these screenshot-as-loading screen deals have always been the worst. The contrast between the amazing concept art and this stuff sure is stark.

And now for some actual gameplay. First, a match from the random arena. At this point, for anyone who does not know, the Battle Isles did not exist; those would be added in 2006. Instead, each arena was a solo affair, tiered by the player levels allowed there. The top-level random arena was at Fort Koga, so that’s the map you saw most of the time. After the introduction of the Battle Isles, a Random Arena with randomized play of a bunch of maps replaced this. The lower level arenas still do exist in the game, but upper-level ones like this are only in the rotation. It’s a nice improvement, because just seeing one map all of the time did get boring.

The Crag, on the Fire Islands? Was this new for this beta? I sure don’t remember it before! That’s a pretty cool inclusion.

It doesn’t look like it went well at all for us, though… But on another note, I find it interesting and kind of weird to see how often I’m changing costumes on Talindra here; I’ve had just one, the elite scarpattern armor, on ever since I bought it in late 2005, so seeing new clothes every couple of screenshots is kind of neat.

And now some exploration in the edge of the Shiverpeaks with my ranger. The Moa Bird / Strider always has been my favorite pet by far. Indeed, I’ve almost never used anything else…

This is a pretty cool looking building! GW’s snowy trees look great, too.  And yes, my Ranger here still has Firestorm.  (It’s a fine PvE skill, really!)

Ice caves look pretty awesome, though they are even better with post-processing reflections on…

And here we see a team led by me in Tombs! this is right at the start of the match and is the only shot I have of the match so it probably didn’t go great, but that’s pretty cool. I don’t think this has happened again since.

I checked in with my Elementalist for a moment. … I know I’ve said it already, but I love that cape design…

More fantastic loading screen art.

So, as that last loading screen and the ice cave shot suggested, my ranger is in pre-Searing this test apparently.  The reality of the ingame graphics can’t match the art, of course, but it does look nice.

I took screenshots here of all four characters, so as to make it easier to recreate them as close as possible in the release game; you kept your character names but not anything else, and had to make your characters again. I’ll only post this first shot.

Ventari the Centaur’s kind of cool looking, as are the mesas above the Maguuma Jungle. Guild Wars has such a great variety of environments…

Here’s a stained glass window of Grenth in the Ascalon Catacombs of pre-Searing.  It’s a particuarly impressive scene to run across.

And here’s a painting of a dragon in the Catacombs.

The framing here, with the column of light extending into the gap between the two sides of the open roof, is impressive.

And here’s another painting, this time in Seared Ascalon.

They didn’t scrimp on detail; even relatively small things like this art of, what is it, dragon wings, on this long mural is done extremely well. It works from both artistic and world-design standpoints.

Yes, sure likes its dwarves! Other traditional fantasy races are, again, not even in this game, but Dwarves are quite prominent. They may not be playable, but they do get things like this giant statue…

And here we see, again, the major places you could visit in the betas. This does not show outposts, you need to zoom in to view those, but it gives a good sense of what was revealed before release and what was held back.

In the betas I often wanted to explore more of the snowy areas of Tyria, beyond areas like this at its start… well, not too long to wait now, only a month to go.

Now the Henchmen have actual names and unique looks, instead of their generic names and appearances before.

And now the actual gameplay shots are over, it’s on to the closing event. First, some nice fireworks and old chat. Isn’t it pleasant?





What’s going on here?

Game of the year (2005)? Yes, absolutely!

I probably should have cut some of these fireworks shots, but I decided to post all of them to celebrate the end of the betas, even though most are nearly identical.

Nothing this way.

That’s the way to look. I like reading all these chatlogs too.

Everyone’s dancing? I guess I could too then…

The Necromancers basically dance Thriller.

Dance and fireworks together!  What a nice party.

Wait… that doesn’t look right!  What is that thing in the background…

Oh. Infernal Wyrms are here to kill us all. Of course… had to expect some kind of violent end to this! And yes, for the last test, it was Infernal Wyrms, lots of them. And again, we couldn’t fight back…

People are dying left and right, though many would be resurrected randomly after a while.

Time to check the material trader! Why not? It’s not like anything is going on…

That was a close one, it almost got me.

Yeah, the giant wyrms are quite large, and the way they unpredictably erupt out of the ground and damage anyone above them can be tough even when you CAN fight back.

I decided to leave Lion’s Arch and see if the Wyrms were anywhere else. Well, they were also in Ascalon City, that’s for sure, as this shows! The page for the betas on the Guild Wars official wiki doesn’t mention that they were in Ascalon City too, along with Lion’s Arch and a few other places, but here is proof that they were.

Safe… for a moment. But yeah, losing all progress and characters in a few minutes or so is going to hurt, I agree, chat…

Gah, it got me, here in Ascalon City. I tried to escape… but with the betas ending, I took that shot I mentioned at the beginning of this article about how long I’d been playing as this character — 61 hours as Talindra since the January beta. Not bad for effectively eight days of availability! And as the shots show I did play the other characters some here and there, too, so that’s not the overall total for the 2005 betas.

Goodbye, prerelease Guild Wars…

Oops, that’s not good. Guild Wars almost never crashes! But sadly, to finish the last beta, the graphics crashed at the end as they shut it down. It’s pretty neat that it let me take this screenshot remembering that, though!

And with that, the Guild Wars betas ended.

B. Preorder Access to the Final Game: May 2005, for two days

Once Guild Wars finally reached its release day in May, those of us who had preordered the game, as I had, were allowed to start playing a day before anyone else.  Yes, the idea of giving early access to games to people who pay ahead is not new.  It is more common these days, but it isn’t new.  The difference is, all you and to do here was pay $5 for a preorder copy of the game, which I had done at Gamestop some months earlier, and you’d get that access; you did not need to actually pick up your retail copy of the game to do so.  Instead, anyone with a preorder could play for that zero day and then the first public day without needing to enter a key, but after that you’d need to pay.

Now, there probably was a way to digitally buy Guild Wars, but that wasn’t something I could do at that point in 2005, I either had to or wanted to go to a store and get a boxed copy of the game.  However, April and May were finals time at college and I had preordered at a store back at home, so I could not get to the store to pick up my preorder close to release.  As a result, I played for the two days allowed without entering a retail key, then stopped for what ended up being a month or two before I finally got around to buying a retail copy of GW.  I believe my preorder had expired by that point, so I had to pay full price.  The $5 that preorder box cost me — and yes, it was an actual boxed thing that I still have — was well worth it for the scores of hours it got me, though!  Screenshots from after I finally bought the game are for a future post, though; this is just for those two free days of access I got with my preorder/beta key.

While in the later betas I’d mostly been playing as my necromancer, I remade both the Ranger and Necromancer characters on day one and chose to start with the ranger, since that was the character I had first played a year earlier.  So, here are a bunch of shots of playing pre-Searing again as my Ranger, followed by a couple of shots from Seared Ascalon.  Losing access to all of the later parts of the game that I’d been playing so much for quite some time was kind of a shame, but it gave me something to work for.

Guild Wars is such a beautiful looking game, even today!

What happens to the nice version of Ascalon here is really sad, though…

Very nice action shot here!

This part of the Catacomb reminds me of some areas of Factions, really, more so than most of Prophecies…

That’s water there, not ground. Poison water.

Despite that, I took this closer-up shot of a damaged mural.

You want to run through the poison quickly, so as to not die. Much unlike later parts of the game Pre-Searing is easy, but it is possible to die if you mess up, as always in this game.

Grenth’s statue here emits waves of fog…

Out of the Catacombs, I return to idyllic Ashford village.

Aidan is one of the four heroes, and is one of the three on the poster that comes with Guild Wars. He’s a ranger with a good design. (Why is Mhenlo absent from that poster, anyway? If I knew, I forget…)

Ascalon City has people doing random stuff in it? Who’d expect otherwise from players in an online game…

Cynn is probably my favorite of the four heroes. Here she’s just a normal person, but after the Searing she wants to burn the Charr with fire. That sounds like a good plan, most of the time…  And yeah, she’s also on the poster.  Devona is the one in the center on that poster, but I don’t have a shot of her here.

The Ashford area is really nice, and it looks like the harvest is coming in nicely as well…

No, my Ranger doesn’t still have Firestorm today, I swapped it out at some point for an all-Ranger (and res signet) skillbar. But I sure did keep it for a long time.

It’s that ominous cutscene again… I know what this means.

More fields.  The enemies in this area sure are easy.

Lyssa statue, again.

Here’s the map of presearing. It looks like I’ve explored almost all of it now, so it’s probably about time to move on to the main game… but I didn’t take any screenshots of that.  Instead…

Instead, yeah, my next screenshot is this. I think this is from Seared Ascalon? If it is pre-Searing, it’d be the only screenshot I have of Talindra in pre-Searing, oddly enough. I think this might be from after the Searing, though. For some reason I didn’t take any screenshots of Talindra in pre-Searing other than maybe this one. I don’t know why. I can understand that after playing through pre-Searing pretty thoroughly with one character and facing that two-day time limit I wanted to get through it as quickly as I could with my first character so I probably zipped through it with Talindra, though, and I had just taken a bunch of shots of pre-Searing, but still it’s a little odd.  Oh well.

The Ascalon Arena has been remade and here is its release form, the new Ascalon Arena with a pool of water in between the sides instead of that V-angle of ground.

Bought some new armor.

Shift+Printscreen definitely momentarily increases graphical detail, you can see that again here.

I know I said it before, but Devourers, like a lot of monsters in this game, are ridiculously huge compared to the size of real-world creatures. I don’t ever want to see a scorpion larger than a horse!

The Ascalon Arena lobby isn’t as populated as it was in the betas where this was the only arena, but it was possible to find a match. This wouldn’t last of course, since only low level characters can fight here.

And here’s another shot from a random arena battle in the Ascalon Arena.

And last, the sights of Seared Ascalon. And with that, the two-day preorder release access period (from early in April 27 to early in April 29, 2005) ended, and I would not be able to play Guild Wars again until I bought the game in early June. I treated it like one last BWE, just in the final game this time, pretty much.

To conclude, remember that fan-made map of the whole Guild Wars (Prophecies) world that I said I contributed to?  Well, here is the final map, file last updated May 5, 2005, shortly after the game released.

Here is the final fan-made Guild Wars world map, compiled from maps made by all of the people listed on the bottom, myself (A Black Falcon) included.  Yes, this is the full world at release; the Sorrow’s Furnace area of the South Shiverpeaks would not be added until later in ’05.

So that’s it, that was the Guild Wars pre-release access period.  I posted most of the screenshots I took during that period, and I hope that they help illustrate the many changes Guild Wars went through during its year in open testing.  I kept playing the game after release, though, and I will make more posts filled with screenshots that I took of the final game.  Don’t worry though, I will get back to writing other articles on this site as well.

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 4: Beta Weekend Event, March 2005

It’s time for more “new” Guild Wars screenshots!  I really like that I’m finally posting all these online, anyway, so this series definitely will continue.  If it gets enough parts I might add another top-bar page for the GW screenshot links, instead of having a whole category in the table of contents… we’ll see.  On that note, this time I decided to cover only one event, because I’ve got over 60 screenshots and that’s about as many as I want in one post.  For whatever reason, I took a bit over 80 screenshots of this BWE, the most I took of any of the betas not counting all of those character creation screen shots I did in the first two tests.  And now, I decided to post about 3/4ths of those; from the past updates, I posted most of the E3 for Everyone shots, but lower percentages of the October to February ones; some just weren’t worth posting.  The same is true here, but even if in some ways they’ve gotten less interesting, as the most different things versus the game you can still play today slowly are being removed in favor of the Guild Wars we know and love, as of this update release is still a few months away, and the game is still very much unfinished.  So, on to the March 2005 Beta Weekend Event!

A. March 2005 Beta Weekend Event – Talindra gameplay

As Guild Wars got closer to release, more and more of the final game came into place.  As such, this second-to-last beta mostly refined the game as it was, instead of adding major new content.  The main new addition was a newly improved PvP-only character type and guild halls, forts that guilds can buy to fight in during guild-versus-guild battles, or hang out in anytime if you want.  Along with that guild versus guild battles were also added, though I’ve never done that since I never have been in a guild large and interested enough in that to do PvP together.  Other than that, many more quests were added to the PvE game.  The character creation interface was also revamped, though I don’t show that here.  A listing of the changes is in this article here:  The rest of the interface is exactly the same as it was in February, though, so the final interface isn’t here yet; that will have to wait for April.  Yes, the interface wasn’t finalized until just before launch.

Other than adding guild halls, probably the thing this beta was best known for was its closing event.   Probably the most famous of the Guild Wars beta closing events, this one sounds like it was pretty fun… but sadly, for whatever reason I have no shots of it, and instead spent the closing part of the beta in the random arenas.  I had fun there, though, so oh well.  I will say some more about this event at the end anyway though, with some links to others who did experience it.  I do have a bunch of screenshots of the April final closing event, though, so look forward to that!

One thing I do have a bunch of screenshots of this time is scenery, including a lot of large paintings and other interesting sights in Ascalon.  These things can still be seen in the game today and they’d look better now, but I decided to post lots of these screenshots anyway because the amazing graphics have always been one of the many things I love about this game, and what better way to show that than by taking screenshots of that and sharing them?

I divided this set of images from the beta into three parts within this article.  This first part is all shots of me playing as the character who had become my main, Talindra the Necromancer.

On screen here, my character and some available henchies.  Henchies are helpful but no replacement for human players. For PvE exploration, though, they’re usually fine.

I’m not sure where I took this screenshot, and it’s kind of frustrating me now.  It looks like pre-Searing Ascalong architecture, but it can’t be that, so where IS this?  Is it somewhere in Kryta, even though it looks Ascalonian?  Bah…

And now, back to Lion’s Arch.  This sure isn’t too interesting of a shot, though… what was I thinking here, that it’s kind of interesting because it’s one of the few places in the original GW campaign where you are actually under a roof?  The game is almost always set outdoors, apart from a few caves, after all.

If this is Lion’s Arch, it sure is empty…

Even in low res and with anti-aliasing off GW scenery still looks pretty good, I think. But on a modern PC with everything maxed and the new graphics option on, it looks really great! This is just an arch, but it still looks pretty cool…

And now for a couple shots of the main addition this time, guild hall islands. This is the first one they finished, the Warrior’s Isle. Buying one for your guild cost a bunch of money, but you could visit them to check them out, as I’m doing here.

More of the Warrior’s Isle. The Asian architecture here presaged the art design direction of Factions and the Battle Isles.

And now, back to (Seared) Ascalon. Such a nice place…

Destroyed houses like this sure weren’t in the original E3 for Everyone version of the Old Ascalon area!

Little bits of dying grass are about as much life as you’ll ever see in seared Ascalon. No wonder so many of the survivors left…

This was flat before the Searing!

Giant crystals like this have erupted all over Ascalon because of the Searing. They’re nice looking but are a sign of the destruction that happened…

Necromancer Munne survived the Searing, though.

Running through Ascalon…

But now, back to Kryta, and this particularly not-great looking loading screen. I get that it’s a straight, way zoomed out overhead view, but the end result looks very pixelated and kind of bad.

Yes, anti-aliasing sure does make these character models look a lot better. This is the Kryta random arena lobby area.

And here I am in battle. Random arena matches are back to 4-v-4, which is probably the right number; the experiment with 6-v-6 random arena battles from some months earlier was not popular.

We lost, apparently after several wins. Too bad, but it was fun while it lasted though.

This mission at the end of the Kryta part of the game is skill kind of hard. It’s easier with other humans like you see here of course, but it’s not easy.

Before someones’ spell hits the enemies…

During the flashy explosion…

And here are the results, they died.

Swamps in Guild Wars are bad news, you take health degeneration all of the time while standing in them. So being at the edge, like here, and luring enemies to you is a good idea.

And now, back to exploring with henchies. This whole scene is the kind of thing most improved by anti-aliasing, but look at that framerate! It’s pretty bad without it as you see here, on the 32MB GeForce 2 card that computer has in it. Regardless, foliage in GW is well drawn.

There’s a lot of running through environments like this in GW, so this is a pretty nostalgic shot.

B. Beta Elementalist Gameplay

I had three characters at this point, and wanted to try out one of the other ones for a while.  So, how about the Elementalist?  It’s a fun class, I like fire magic in games…

At this point I decided to try my Elementalist again for a while… though the crazy textures in this area are more notable. That has to be broken! That’s kind of a cool error, though…

And here I’m playing one of the early Ascalon missions, with humans because it was easy to do that during beta.

When you think about it, it’s kind of crazy how oversized things like scorpions are in Guild Wars’ world. A real scorpion as big as those devourers would be terrifying to say the least!

Maybe Firestorm will help this clump of enemies out… … Yeah, I like Firestorm, when fighting things  which don’t move out of the way that is. Heh.

On the mission out of Ascalon. Again, most of the Shiverpeaks were inaccessible during beta, so this was one of our few tastes of that beautiful area. Also… yes indeed, Prince Rurik, there are greater dangers ahead…

And now, a bunch of shots of the giant paintings in Ascalon City.  Here is Balthazar, god of war and the Warrior class.  He doesn’t look too happy here…

Melandru, goddesss of nature and the Ranger class.  Green is my favorite color, so I like the color here the best of these.

Dwayna, goddess of healing and the Monk class.

Grenth, god of death. Despite his looks Grenth is not evil. though. Severe, but not evil. I like that GW does not go for the videogame-standard “the death god is evil” plotline.

A dragon, or perhaps wyvern since dragons are in quite short supply in this game, if there even are any.

Here’s another one of those giant crystals…

And here we get a close-up of just how scary Devourers would be in person! I’ve bought one new piece of armor and probably will be fine against weak foes like this, but they look scary at least.

Using a regular attack, prsumablye because mana ran out, or because I was moving the camera for this shot instead of hitting the skill buttons… it was worth it, though, because this looks nice.

I win, but my henchie monk was not so lucky. I still had a resurrection signet though, so that problem can be solved.

And indeed, just as promised, Ascalon has a lot more quests now! There definitely weren’t anywhere near as many quests in the game before. More content is good, and did a good job of packing the game with things to do.

This angled area is kind of unnerving somehow…

And here’s another one of those giant paintings of Balthazar.

C. Beta’s End: Lion’s Arch and PvP

This beta had a pretty cool ending event, but as I said I either entirely missed it or took no screenshots of it, as I spent most of the end of the beta in multiplayer, mostly the Random Arenas.  See the links at the end for some footage of the closing event from others.

Tired of the Elementalist, I went back to my favorite, Talindra the Necromancer. Here I am in the Tombs lobby, looking for a group and at the players’ antics, such as the people dancing in the background here.

He’s fine, just upside-down. Heh.

Tombs, like the Hall of Heroes that followed it, is a very nice looking but somewhat intimidating place, since victory is so hard to come by…

That doesn’t seem to have gone well, so it’s back to the lobby.

Yes, in beta you really could find randomly assembled groups for Tombs. This would definitely not continue on into retail, better players stuck more to their guilds once the game was out. Finding random groups for missions and stuff was easy enough for several years, but for high-end PvP areas like Tombs? That quickly became much harder, and I stopped trying after not too long. You need good team coordination to win much in structured PvP areas like this, you see, and that’s hard to do with a mostly-random group.

Guild Wars even has voiced cinematics now! It really is coming together. The first player in the group acts as the speaker in cutscenes, with two voice tracks, for male or female. If all human players hit the ‘skip cutscene’ button it’ll skip it, but it does require all to hit skip for it to be skipped. I often liked watching the cutscenes, even when I’d seen them multiple times before. Sometimes I did skip, though. Not this time, though.

This beta is heading towards a conclusion, but some people are still trying to sell stuff in town.

Yes, that’s right: capes are in the game, and I got one! Back in the earlier betas Guild Wars had little tabards instead of these capes, but they were removed because people didn’t like them, and came back with these. I had to save up for mine so I only got it here, but here it is, a guild cape with, of course, the closest recreation I could of a Black Falcon Lego shield logo on it. It’s a great cape and is very similar to the one I have now. GW’s capes look great.

Yes, having a cape really adds to your characters. Meanwhile, chat’s zipping along.

But instead of sticking around for the full ending event, I decided to go to the random arena instead. I’m not sure if I saw any of that infamous event, honestly, but if I did I didn’t take screenshots of it.

Random arena battles in GW are something I have always loved. It’s a perfect balance of strategy and fun, as you don’t need to be as serious as you would in the higher-end PvP areas and many skill builds work, but it still is very much a skill-based mode where better builds will work better. And looking at my build here, I was clearly heading in the direction I’ve gone in ever since, towards a strong focus on the Blood skill line, with Dark Pact and Life Syphon as some of my key skills.

I hope you’re not doing that WHILE also playing in this PvP match… heh.

We won this round, but the end of the beta is fast approaching…

That’s for sure, me, I definitely like the regen skills the most! Regen and degen are some of my favorite things in Guild Wars, as far as skills go. On the other hand though, we lost… oh well. It was a lot of fun while it lasted.

That is, I probably meant that even if somehow our one remaining player lived, this beta is over…

Yup. I don’t think it got out of this loading screen, we were just forced back to the login.

So what did I presumably miss out on while I was in the arena?  Well, the closing event in the March beta here involved a lot of Gwens spawning everywhere and burning people with fire while saying all kinds of amusingly creepy things.  Specifically, we’re talking about child Gwen here, from pre-Searing.  Gwen, the character in the main game, wouldn’t appear until several addons in; in Prophecies there were a few hints that she might have survived, but no proof.  Anyway, she was very much in this beta, killing people.

The GW Wiki has a list of all the things the many Gwens that spawned said during this event: (“Beta Weekend Event” category).

A couple of Youtube videos also capture it: – This video was trying to be a bunch of Necromancers dancing their very Thriller-styled dance set to the song, before Gwen interrupted… (warning: language) – The Gwens spawn about two minutes into this video.

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.




Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guild Wars: Memories and Screenshots, Part 1: Introduction and E3 for Everyone, May 2004

Sorry that this website was offline for the last week, I hadn’t checked.  It’s back now.

Anyway, how do you write about your favorite games?  I’ve often found it harder to write about games I really love than anything else, which is part of why I’ve rarely said much about some of my favorites.  Well, after going back to start playing this game again a few months ago after a new patch was released after many years, I got hooked on Guild Wars again and it made me decide to write some posts about it.  I will be writing a longer summary of at least some of the reasons I love this game so much, but I decided to start with this, a screenshot-heavy look back at the early days of Guild Wars.  It’ll take a bit to get to the screenshots, but if you scroll down there will be a bunch of them.  The screenshots in this post are all ones I have posted on several forums years ago, but that was before I had this site and I never posted them here, and as I started playing the game again recently, I decided to finally post them here too!  While the screenshots are not new though, most of this text is; I didn’t just re-use my old posts from 2004 and 2009, though I did go back to them and incorporated some parts of them here.  This also will not be the last Guild Wars screenshots-and-text post I will write, I am planning more soon.  I know that it might be better to start with something more like a review that explains how the game plays and such, but I want to start from the beginning, and the beginning is when I first played the game.  Guild Wars’ best days as a game with an active community are behind it, and that is an issue for new players, but I want to remember how great the game was, while also appreciating how amazing it still is, with this series of posts.

Now, most of the screenshots on this site aren’t mine and are just there for illustrative purposes to show what the games in the text look like, but this is different: all of these screenshots are my own.  They are the story here as much or more than the text is.  This article has more text than later ones in the series will, but it still does have 30 screenshots of mine.

A. Introduction


Guild Wars, for anyone who does not know, is a cooperative online role-playing game, or CORPG by its own description.  This is a game of skill, where planning and strategy matter more than anything.  I think that CORPG is an accurate genre listing to put the game in, because it is somewhat unique.  Mixing elements of massively multiplayer RPGs, collectible card battle games like Magic the Gathering, and single-player RPGs, while removing most grind and leveling requirements, Guild Wars is a unique mix which is nearly perfectly suited for what I want out of an online RPG.  Guild Wars is a unique mixture which somehow fits perfectly together.  It is a singularly exceptional experience and has a most-likely permanent place in my top 10 favorite PC games of all time.   I will go into more detail about the gameplay soon, after the first small batch of screenshots.  The concept here is to go through this test as I did back then though, while also talking about how much I still love this game today, so that will have to wait.  With the first Guild Wars made something amazing, and it’s still one of the best and most fun games around.  I played many hundreds of hours of this game between 2004 and 2007, probably nearly a thousand in that time in fact.  It’s surely high on list of games I have put the most time into.  However, after ’07 I slowly started playing the game less, as despite its greatness it does get repetitive over time.  At the same time I was getting more and more interested in classic games, and the developers switched from working on GW to developing its sequel so new content updates slowed to a crawl.  After playing probably 900 hours of this game by early 2007 I had only played 200-something more hours in the eleven years afterwards, until getting back into the game a few months ago that is.  Unfortunately, Guild Wars’ developer,, hasn’t made anything nearly as good since sadly, as its sequel Guild Wars 2 is a massive disappointment in my book — in fact, despite being decent to good on its own I’d probably consider that game to be one of the most disappointing games ever made because of how much of a downgrade it is from its predecessor — but see my First Impressions article on Guild Wars 2 I wrote years ago for more on that game, I think I covered it fairly well there.

So as I said above, my interest in going back to the first Guild Wars originated with a new patch for the first Guild Wars that some developers released a few months ago, five or six years after all active development on the game had ceased.  This patch did a few things. Most notably, it adds a new graphics option that allows you to enable full-detail models at all draw distances, removing all distance detail reduction that the game previously did.  This makes the game look better.  Sadly, at the same time, perhaps by accident, they broke all remaining Windows 9x compatibility, so I cannot play the game on my old Windows Millennium computer anymore, like I always could until before this summer’s patch.  KernelEx doesn’t work anymore with GW… it’s a real shame, oh well.   You can launch the game, but can’t log in anymore.  Despite having much better machines, I like playing Guild Wars on that old computer sometimes because it is the first machine I played the game on, and it is the game I played this game on the most — I didn’t get a newer computer until early 2007, by which point I wasn’t playing GW as much as I had for the couple of years before that.  A lot of my best Guild Wars memories come from playing it on that WinMe machine which, as many of the screenshots below will show, does not exactly run the game at a good framerate.  Heh.

So with that, I should get to the point, and talk about Guild Wars as I first played it in May 2004, mixed with comments about how different some elements of it are from what the game later became.  As some background, I had been a big fan of Blizzard Entertainment, and their Warcraft and Starcraft real-time strategy games in particular.  Meanwhile, online RPGs had been a huge thing for some time, and while I’d never been interested enough to want to try one, by ’04 I did want to see if I’d like them.  I really didn’t like the idea of paying a monthly fee, however!  I still wanted to pay once and then have the game from then on, as it’d always been.  So, when I heard about Guild Wars, an RPG being made by some former Blizzard developers who had built Blizzard’s network infrastructure and had done some early work on the then not-yet-released game World of Warcraft, which would be an online RPG but would not have any monthly fees, I was very interested.  Blizzard was also working on its own online RPG of course, World of Warcraft.  I’m sure everyone reading this knows how that competition turned out, but I still like GW a lot more.

B. E3 for Everyone Begins


Because yes, as soon as I played GW for the first time I was hooked!  In May 2004, a full year before the games’ release, did something special: for five days before and during E3 that year, they opened up a then-alpha version of Guild Wars to the public for free, allowing anyone who wanted to download the client and make an account to play the game for those five days as much as they wanted.  Known as E3 for Everyone, it showed the game to be in a pretty impressively complete state given how far from release it was.  originally E3 for Everyone was going to be a three-day test, for the three days of E3, but ANet decided to open the game two days early.  I heard about this either late at night of day one or early in the morning of the second day, probably less than a day after it opened.’s founders’ background making shows in the games’ advanced-for-the-time network infrastructure.  Guild Wars runs rock-solid; if it has ever had unintentional downtime I don’t remember it.  The game never needs to go down for maintenance, and all you had to do to start playing is to make an account on their website and then download and run a 76 kilobyte client.   No installation is required, the game will download all necessary files from the internet as needed, either before you launched the game next or during loading screens while playing.  The game knows which files have changed since you last logged in, and only downloads changed files.  I would learn later that there is also a command to make the game download everything at once, but downloads during each zone transition were a normal thing for a long time and they work well.  They showed off their network tech right from the start, as tens of thousands of people played during E3 for Everyone and the servers handled it with no issues.  They even patched the game during the text, and all players needed to do was close the game, launch it again, and the update would immediately download no problem and you’d be back in in moments!  Compare this to almost any MMO and this is pretty impressive stuff.  In order to show this off, they actually added a boss and associated quest during the test who was not there before.  I took a screenshot of this boss, Stank Reekfoul, below.  They may have added a mission as well. I remember being pretty impressed that they could add content so easily, with no server downtime or anything. ( has some more info on the streaming tech circa E3 ’04.)

In the game, if you hit the Print Screen key it saves a screenshot to a folder on your hard drive.  If you hit Shift+Print Screen, it saves a max-graphics-settings screenshot with the on-screen interface off, for nicer shots.  Yes, when you press this it’ll flicker on higher detail graphics for an instant to take a nicer shot, if you don’t have the settings set to max.  Many PC games have a screenshot function, but I don’t usually take a lot of screenshots of games… except for Guild Wars.  I took a lot of screenshots of Guild Wars, dozens over the course of the first five-day test and hundreds more over the years since.  I still regularly hit the Print Screen key while playing, when I see something interesting.  And I’m glad I did, because that is what made the image part of this article possible!

Graphically, the game had come a long way in a short time; on Youtube you can find a trailer for GW from E3 2003, here: With relatively basic-looking graphics and a much more cartoony, simple look, the game looks nothing at all like it would a year later.  It looks like an okay game for 2003, but the 2004 version I first played is dramatically improved over what you see in that trailer.  It is fortunate that spent the effort to improve the visuals; Guild Wars still holds up well today in a way that I don’t think that 2003 version would.

So, when I launched the game, I saw impressive graphics.  The first thing you do is create a character.  While this game is set in a fantasy world, you can only play as a human in this game.  I’m fine with that, it works just fine. tried to create a unique setting, so you won’t just find the usual fantasy races here.  A few do make appearances, such as Dwarves, Tengu, and more, but most are unique to this game.  The sequel continues on with that trend, so it does that right at least.  Right from how it starts in a medieval apocalypse, with your humans facing off against giant furry … uh, wolf-men or however Charr should be described, Guild Wars’ setting is interesting.

One thing to know though is that each of the games’ classes has an entirely different visual look, so your class choice matters a lot as it determines how your character appears.  In the first test all six classes were available, but had only one costume each.  Character customization is limited.  In E3 for Everyone, all you could do is choose between three hair styles, four faces, four skin colors, and a few hair colors.  You couldn’t change clothing yet, so everyone of each class and gender looked the same, until they got some Dyes to change color with at least.  Later many, many costumes would be added, but Guild Wars does have pretty limited character customization; there are only maybe a dozen faces, hairstyles, and such available for each gender/class combo, and you can’t fully redesign the face and such, only change your height.  Oh well, it’s enough for me.  The base game’s six classes are as follows: the front-line Warrior is first, and is a very popular class though I’ve never liked it.  The other classes are all ranged: the Ranger who is an archer with combat pets you can send out, though E3 for Everyone didn’t have fully implemented pets yet (they also were thinking about having a stealth component for archers, but most of it didn’t end up getting implemented); the Necromancer, who has stat-down and health-drain skills, as well as summoning undead, though that wasn’t implemented yet at this point; the Elementalist with battle magic — fire, ice, and earth; the Mesmer, with stat-affecting magics and a lot of skills that require precise timing to use well; and the Monk, the essential healing class.

In E3 for Everyone, you chose both a primary and secondary class when creating a character.  In addition to their unique looks, each primary class also has an exclusive ability that only characters of that primary class have.  Your secondary class allows your character to use skills from that other class, but not the other classes’ exclusive ability.  For instance, the Necromancer gets mana back each time anyone dies nearby, but only when the character is a primary Necromancer.  A secondary Necromancer can use any blood, curses, or death magic skills, though.  In the release game you only choose a primary class at first, and pick a secondary later.  You can also change your secondary at will eventually, but not your primary.

The login screen, during E3 for Everyone, with my password and email partially blacked out.  This screen would change in later tests, but this was how it first appeared.

The character select screen.  I mostly played as the selected character in this first test.  Those other two were just test characters I made, and did not keep; I do not remember what I named them.

Character creation, E3 for Everyone style. I took shots of all of the classes in the character creator, and it might be amusing to post them all sometime to show which costumes they had and such, but for now this shows what the interface, and female Necromancer outfit, looked like.  At the time I thought that the female Necromancer was the second-coolest-looking class, after the Ranger.

A loading screen. You saw these screens often.  A red-toned version of this art piece is also the one on the small poster that came in the box with the retail release of Guild Wars.  I have that poster on my wall now, right behind my computer.  This also shows that network tech, as the game is downloading this 288-file chunk of game in this loading screen.

C. Basic Gameplay and Ingame Shots from E3 for Everyone

Guild Wars is a third-person online RPG.  I’m no fan of third-person games in general, really, but this one I love.  In the game you run around, using skills from a skill bar by clicking on them or pressing the 1-8 number keys on your keyboard to fight human or AI-controlled enemies. You can move in three different ways: with the arrow keys or WASD, you move directly; by clicking on a nearby point on the screen, your character will automatically run to that point; and if you press the R key, you will run forwards until you hit something and stop.  All three are very useful at different times, so it’s great they include them all.  When you hold the right mouse button you can freely move the camera anywhere except into the ground, which can be helpful or amusing.  The mouse wheel zooms in and out.  Oh, and the Tab key switches between targets, which is convenient when you’re otherwise mostly using the keyboard.

Characters have two meters to watch, health and mana.  Health auto-recovers when not in battle, but during combat you will need healing skills to stay alive if you take damage.  Mana always auto-regenerates, though usually slower than you’re using it so you need to watch mana usage.  Your main interaction with the world comes through your skillbar.  Having a bar on the screen with images for abilities you can use is standard to online RPGs, but Guild Wars has a unique implementation of it.  You can equip eight skills at a time, meant to represent skill rings, with eight skills for your eight non-thumb fingers.  You are limited to eight skills at a time while playing, and can only change your skill build in towns, while it is locked while in combat zones.  Again, this is a game of skill, with a high skill ceiling.  When you die, as I have done often, it’s your fault.  Getting rid of grind is one of the best things about this game, no question!  Yes, you can make a compelling online RPG that is fun for thousands of hours, AND doesn’t have required grind and leveling, or great items that give players absolute advantages.  Guild Wars shows that it is possible.  This was clear across the board right from this first test, as the test locked players to level 15 throughout.  I am someone who hates grind, so this games’ design is the best I’ve ever seen in an online RPG.

One other thing unique to the game is that Guild Wars does not have your usual consumable potions for healing, it has skills.  This is a game about skills and skill, not grinding and who has the best pile of limited-use items, and I love it for it!  Getting rid of consumable items, apart from a variety of silly festival items and boosters they would eventually add, was a fantastic idea which helps make this game great, and I have often wished more games would copy it.  Coming up with a good build, or collection of eight skills, is an awesome part of the game as well.  Right from this first test the game had a lot of skills available for use, so it was apparent right from the start that finding good combinations of skills would be key, as indeed it is.  This is a game with a deep strategic layer in a way you do not always see in the online RPG space, and it has balanced, challenging, skill-based single and multiplayer gameplay as well. Again, it’s an exceptionally well thought through cross between MMO and Magic the Gathering.

The way the skill-purchase system worked in E3 for Everyone was different from the released game, though.  You start out with a set of starter skills, but could get more by getting skill points through experience, getting skill gems for your class as loot from beating bosses, then using the skill gem at a skill crafter or rare crafter to make a skill ring of that skill.  You then could learn the skill from the ring.  This system would be refined over time until by release all you need to do is use skill points to buy skills from traders or take elite skills from bosses after killing them with a specific skill that allows you to do that, but I like the ring concept because it explains why there are eight skills.  Simplifying skill buying is fine, but the ring concept is important.  In E3 for Everyone you could even try out a 9th skill temporarily, though that option would be removed afterwards.

One of the great things about Guild Wars is that the game design forces the players to work as a TEAM. You have to work together to get anywhere. The games’ level design encourages this, as you are often moving along clear paths with regular fights against monsters along the way, but so does the way that the classes rely on each other.  Warriors go in the front and other classes behind, essentially, with Monks being protected if possible since they are always the first to be targeted.  Only characters with very specific builds can go on their own past the very easiest content in this game, and I have always loved it for that.  Sure, the enemies don’t have the best AI of all time, but it’s decent enough to make the game fun, and that’s what counts.  They attack when you hit a certain range and use skills well.  You can see what skills enemies are using, too, which is awesome and very helpful.

Now, while Guild Wars does not have potions in the usual sense, you do have an inventory.    Enemies in Guild Wars drop materials that make sense for that kind of monster to hold, such as hides, carvings, weapons, and such.  The game auto-distributes drops, so each player or AI character in your party gets an equal share of money and item drops.  You will only see your own item drops, not anyone else’s.  It’s a good system.  You can then choose to either keep those items, filling up your inventory quickly but netting you some money if you sell unnecessary ones to a shopkeeper or other player through chat, or you can use Salvage Kits to break those items down into component materials.  Those materials are the ones you’ll need to buy armor and such with, and are more convenient to store than piles of different monster drops are.  You do need to keep buying Salvage Kits, though.   They need to get money from you somehow.  In E3 for Everyone the basic inventory and item-drop system was in place, though changes would be made to how the crafting and crafters work in the betas and release; see the Crafter screenshot below for more.

So, no grind for experience? No grind for potions?  No artificial mechanics restricting exploration such as limited mana and, again, potions?  And yet, at the same time, a game with a high skill ceiling and significant challenge if you want it?  It’s amazing, but all true!  Guild Wars is an online RPG specifically designed to not require inordinate grind, and to be fun and competitive for all players.  Skill and playtime are both rewarded, but it’s nowhere near as unbalanced as many games.  Awesome stuff.

The game has three main aspects — towns, player versus enemy exploration areas or missions, and player versus player areas.  Now, the game is not an MMO, because the main world is not “massively multiplayer” — gameplay areas are all instanced, while you will see other players in towns.  First, towns are the only place you will encounter random other players.  Everyone is not together, though; once a certain location reaches a certain number of players it splits to multiple “districts”, or divisions of the server.  You can switch between districts at will with an on-screen menu if space is available, to meet with someone, but this helps keep the server and graphical load down while letting as many people go into towns as want to enter.  The rest of the time, though, the game is instanced, with your party on its own server fragment.  This means you will only see your party in missions, which is fine with me because it allows a more player-responsive world.  In an MMO, because everyone is in one world, everything has to reappear constantly, so that other players can interact with the enemies, do the quests, and such.  However, in Guild Wars, while you are in a play zone it keeps its state for as long as you are in the zone.  This means that enemies you kill in Guild Wars stay dead for as long as you are in the zone, which is awesome and plays a huge role in the game!  Guild Wars’ Player vs. Enemies (PvE) game is built around this, in fact.  When you kill enemies, they die.  When you die in an exploration zone, you get a 15% death penalty, which reduces your health and mana, and respawn at the closest resurrection shrine.  Your DP (Death Penalty) maxes out at 60%, which is a quite harsh penalty that makes progress difficult.  In a story mission you still get death penalty if you die, but the party won’t auto-resurrect, so you only come back if someone in the party stays alive and resurrects you.  If your whole party dies in a mission you are sent back to the mission starting area and will have to try again, so they have even higher stakes.  Missions also have cutscenes that tell the story, though it is entirely linear — you can’t make any choices in Guild Wars, unfortunately.  In Prophecies, missions and exploration zones are entirely separate.  The later chapters would blend this by allowing you to freely enter mission areas as exploration zones, but that isn’t possible in Prophecies.  Several years later they would even add a Hard Mode, with an option which keeps track of if you kill every single enemy in a zone.  I haven’t done that as it is quite difficult, but I do really love the semi-permanent nature of killing enemies in this game.

Zones in Guild Wars are large, but you do not have totally free movement.  Instead, you can only go through free areas.  You can’t jump off cliffs, swim in the water, or such, and there are invisible walls in some areas blocking things off.  Usually the game uses visible ‘walls’, such as water, cliffs, or such, but corners of paths to go up a cliff face, the edges of beaches, and such often have invisible walls.  Zones, either in exploration areas or missions, are widely varied in design.  Some are mazelike nests of corridors, while others are simple loops or consist of large open spaces.  I absolutely love Guild Wars’ level design, myself.  The restrictions on movement don’t bother me, because figuring out how to explore areas is part of the fun!  And it’s a lot of fun.  One of my favorite things in this game has always been exploring a new zone, and figuring out its paths and secrets along the way.  Even if side paths lead nowhere, I need to explore all of them… and that was as true here as it has been ever since in this amazing game.

The game has great in-game mapping as well.  There is a nice on-screen map in the corner, and in the released game you can also open a second map which shows what exactly you have explored, with a line showing your path through the zone.  This version did not have that yet, but even in this first alpha, in addition to the minimap there was a full-screen map showing the whole map available to explore, with areas you have explored shown in detail.  I didn’t take any screenshots of it unfortunately, so anyone interested will have to find a picture of that online.  Still, mapping is important to me in this kind of game, so the exploration, mapping, and that enemies stay dead while you are in a zone are all very important parts of why I like this game.

The full Guild Wars game, later re-titled to Guild Wars: Prophecies, has seven major areas you travel through, or eight depending on how you count. The E3 for Everyone alpha has one, Post-Searing Ascalon.  All Prophecies characters start in Ascalon, the games’ only medieval-European-style country, but it has been destroyed in an apocalypse.  This first test does not show how the country was destroyed though, that would come later to us in the general public.  It’s a unique setting for a fantasy RPG though.  This first test had a whole lot of post-Searing Ascalon available to explore and fight monsters in, allowing for a lot of hours of play.  There were a bunch of missions too, organized pieces of the story telling of the aftermath of this apocalypse and what your characters do from this early point in the game.  And for PvP play, the test had an arena where you could fight other random teams of four, and the Tombs of Drascir, a chosen-teams PvPbattle mode that was the precursor to the Hall of Heroes. I either never reached that place on the map or got there but didn’t take any screenshots of it, though, because I have no screenshots of the Tombs of Drascir outpost or mode, unfortunately. I did play the (random) Arena some, but didn’t take many screenshots of it. One of the arena is below though. It played like 4v4 Guild Wars random arenas always have, just on a map that would not be in the final game.

For this first test, I almost exclusively played as a Ranger that I named Falconess Ysaye.  Now, Guild Wars requires all character names to be made up of at least two words separated by a space, and it does not have an automatic name generator; you need to come up with names yourself.  All names must be unique of course, so you can’t use a name anyone else has taken for their character.  Of this character name, the first part references my usual online handle name but changed for the characters’ gender, and the latter is a character name from a book I had read recently at the time.  I chose a ranger because the class sounded cool, and in a game like this you need to choose a character and focus on them, so playing as one character seemed like a good idea.  I still do still have a character of this name, though they would not end up being my post-release main.  Still, rangers are great!  I should note though, in this alpha each character class and gender combination had only one outfit, which is why everyone looks the same.  You could change colors, but not design.  This would change later of course.

After creating a character, you went into a tutorial area which taught you the basic controls and such, before sending you to the city. I didn’t take screenshots of this, unfortunately, but there are a few in the later 2004 betas, as versions of this tutorial were in the game for a while. After finishing it you were sent to Khylo to begin the the main game, as seen below. First though, because apart from the four screenhots I took out of order to put earlier in this first article (for narrative purposes) I prefer to put things in order, exploration. Then next, shots from the town and in co-op missions.

i. Solo Play in Explorable Areas

This explorable zone is The Ascalon Wilds, the E3 version’s name for the area outside of the main town Khylo. The E3 for Everyone version of this zone was removed between this alpha and the next public test and was replaced with Old Ascalon and the town with Ascalon City. Those are the versions of these zones you can play today, but I remember this much boxier version of the zone well.

The original Wilds zone fits with the visual look of most of the rest of destroyed Ascalon better, perhaps, than the redone release version of Old Ascalon does, which makes sense considering that the Ascalon missions and the unchanged zones were present in this test, while the redone areas were added later.

Character and scenery

Looking up at the still-burning sky…

This is a pretty nice shot, with the sun and cool sky and ruins…

There are a lot of parts of Ascalon that look like this still.

This is one of my favorite Guild Wars screenshots, it shows the environment and really cool sky well.    Also note the framerate and triangles counter in the upper right, it’s often amusing to see what numbers that system got.  It rarely hit 30.

Casting Firestorm on some gargoyles.  My character is a Ranger-Elementalist, so I had Firestorm.

I believe one Gargoyle just died…

Stone Elementals were in this version of the zone too.  I remember enemies chased you an absurdly long way in this test; once I ran along the whole length of the Great Northern Wall trying to escape some enemies, only to eventually be caught.

Shooting an Elemental at close range by a barren hillside.  Also, one thing any Guild Wars player should notice is that the minimap here doesn’t seem to have a circle around your character showing the range at which enemies will attack you.  It’s a really useful feature they added later on.  The U-key map with its where-you’ve-gone tracker also was not in the game yet.

The old version of the Ascalon Wilds (Old Ascalon) really was much more canyonlike than the release one.  Most of the E3 for Everyone version of Ascalon is in the release game, but not the main town or first zone.  I’d love to be able to explore this version of Old Ascalon again…

Dead Gargoyle, live Guard Captain. Note how both of our legs sink into the ground; either that’s sand there, or the collision here isn’t quite right. Heh.

Looking at the entrance to Khylo, the main town in Ascalon at this point in development.  The hazy thing in that doorway is a portal which will transport you to the city.  It would be renamed Ascalon City before release apparently because they thought Khylo sounded too much like Cairo.  As with the Ascalon Wilds/Old Ascalon, the town was entirely redesigned before release; in E3 for Everyone it was very fortlike, with tall stone walls all around and crafters standing on platforms.

ii. The Town, Cooperative Missions, and Arena

Khylo. Sometimes the textures would mess up, as you see here on my character. As you can see when this happened the framerate got much worse even with not much going on on screen. Also, I like these bits of old chatlog… even though people knew their characters would not be kept to the next test, trading went on right to the end!  Also, yes, the game did not have any built-in trading interface, so you just had to use the chat to advertise that stuff.

Part of Khylo.  18 active districts… Guild Wars was popular right from the start!

This is the Crafter, where you could combine collections of monster-drop items for weapons and such. Having a single Crafter in town would later be replaced with people scattered around the world to trade items with, but at this point it was done at one centralized location. (Between this shot and the next one, I took 3 main menu and character-list shots and 34 shots in the character creator, of which I posted one earlier. Yes, there are that many.)

Guild Wars did not have AI companions yet at this point, or even Ranger pets or Necromancer undead summons, so in E3 for Everyone you had to go alone or with other human players when in exploration areas or missions. The explorable areas in this test could be attempted alone, but this game is designed to be played in a group, so in missions playing with other people was absolutely essential! This is a player group I was in a mission with.

Another angle, taken just after that last shot, of the mission lobby, before we set out.

The mission started. Before moving forward though, I took screenshots of the left-side interface, starting with the Hero panel. Here you view your stats and can choose which skill lines to put points into and thus improve the function of. At this point the menu interface was on panes you opened on the sides of the screen, instead of the movable windows they later went with. These four were on the left, and graphical options and such are on the right. I don’t have a picture of the right-side options menu from this test, but I have the left ones here. As I go through the betas the changes to the interface are interesting to follow. I really like the detailed artwork around the minimap and skill bar in the E3 version here, they look great! Also, again, there was a level 15 cap during this test. You could get experience for skill points to get skills with, but that’s it. It was a good introduction into how unimportant levels are in the game.

The simple single inventory screen of this version is in some ways easier to manage than the multiple-pane one of the release game.  The crystals seen in my inventory were used to get skills with at this point; this system would be removed later, along with the skill rings, but it’s cool to see them here.  You can find more information about how buying skills worked in this test on the official Guild Wars Wiki’s E3 for Everyone page (link at end of article).

Most skill icons have not changed, but the skill selection screen sure did.  That healing signet skill would also eventually be replaced with class-specific healing skills, but the resurrection signet is still in the game as are those Ranger skills.

Some more of the skill descriptions, circa E3 for Everyone. I’m sure some have changed since then…

The questlog.  All three of these quests are E3 for Everyone-exclusive quests, which do not exist in other versions of the game as is; the top was renamed, the other two removed entirely, along with the skill gem system.  But as that top quest shows, yes, this is all taken in one of my many failed attempts at Stormcaller, later renamed to Nolani Academy , the fourth mission in Ascalon.  This mission was HARD then, in a way it hasn’t been since launch.

We’re running along, during the mission. No, the graphics are definitely not set to max… not on that computers’ GeForce2 graphics card. The card does not support the games’ post-processing effects option either, and I believe I have anti-aliasing off for performance reasons. The game looked a lot better even then on more powerful machines.

The Stormcaller/Nolani Academy mission lobby.  It looks the same now, with fewer people most of the time of course.  I apparently tried, and failed, this mission at least ten times during E3 for Everyone.

And here’s the (Ascalon) Arena lobby. I found a purple dye in the last hours of the alpha, so I used it on the pants part to see what it looked like.

Now loading…

Waiting for the doors to open to fight our opponents in the arena… but this is the last ingame screenshot I took in this test, so who knows how we did. This version of the Ascalon Arena had a different map from the release version. I have a shot of combat in this version of the arena in the January set I will post later. That “/bug” command would be removed when the game released, but was used, and useful, up until then. I should comment on the tiny tabards. These cover characters on front and back, to mark which team you are on in player versus player multiplayer, and while serviceable are kind of silly looking. They were unpopular enough that would later replace them with the guild capes that will be seen in later tests. I think the capes are a nice improvement over these.

Not seen in these screenshots, but also present in E3 for Everyone, were a couple of test areas showing later parts of the game.  You could explore some jungle and snow zones, though they had no enemies in them, and compete in a multiplayer 8 v 8 mode in Fort Koga, a defense-versus-offense PvP map that was pretty interesting.  Fort Koga made a lot more sense as an 8v8 competitive mission than it does as a 4v4 random arena location as it is in the release game!  8v8 Fort Koga was removed before release but did return in the next public test, where I did take screenshots of it, so see my next post for that.

And with that, E3 for Everyone ended.  I had played several dozen hours over the four days of the test, far more than I initially expected.  If there was a time-played command I did not take note of it yet, so I do not know how much time I played this beta, but it was quite a bit given the four-day time limit.  The next test would be almost six months later, in late October.  At that point monthly beta tests would begin, with one each month from October until the game released in May 2005.  I played in all of them, and will post screenshots from those in subsequent posts in this series.  I have never been hooked to a pre-release game like I was with Guild Wars!  Over the course of the year from E3 for Everyone to launch, despite the very limited number of days the public could play the game I played a good 150-200 hours of this game, and thought about it a lot in the month between each test.  From the graphics to the music to the gameplay, this game is amazing in ways nothing else has matched, and that all began with E3 for Everyone.

Again, I will continue this with screenshots from those beta tests, then some from the released game as well later on.  As a fan of this game I find it really interesting to look back at the games’ evolution before its release, so I’m really happy to have all these old screenshots; the game was different in a lot of ways, as I reference here but not in full detail.  To sum it up, some of the most significant differences between this first public version of the game and later ones include the skill-ring system with those crystals and actual skill rings, that temporary 9th skill slot, the different-looking interface and menus, Khylo and the Ascalon Wilds, areas I’d love to explore again someday, and the absence of AI henchmen companions.  You can find descriptions of these things online, but finding screenshots of each alpha or beta test, clearly marked, is trickier.

D. Here are a few resources for GW E3 for Everyone information I found:

This site has a nice interactive map of the E3 for Everyone game, with clickable links showing the descriptions of the various towns and such:

The Guild Wars Wiki has an E3 for Everyone page, though it’s just text and doesn’t have screenshots:

On Youtube there are a couple of videos of E3 for Everyone Guild Wars gameplay:

Posted in Articles, Modern Games, PC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Impressions: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (Vita)

Ys VIII, which released in 2017, is the latest game in the very long-running Ys series from Falcom. Dating back to the mid ’80s, the Ys series of simple but fun action-RPGs. While the Ys series has never been as popular as the top series in this genre, particularly in the West, many of the Ys games are great and deserve attention, often more than they have gotten.

This game is no exception, as it is really good and addictive! Ys VIII is a great action-rpg, with a well-thought-through mixture of elements from both the classic Ys games and modern titles. I’ve been playing a lot of this game over the past few weeks, and quite enjoy it. As always in the series, Ys VIII is a very combat-heavy action-RPG. The way they keep the combat system simple, but add depth as expected from a modern game, is great. You’ll spend a lot of time in combat here and it stays fun.

Historically, you play as one character in Ys games, the red-haired hero Adol. However, in Ys VII that changed as the series moved to having three party members you could switch between. This game works like that again, as the game has three characters active at a time, and you control one while the AI control the other two. You can switch between the three active party members with the press of a button, and once you get more than three characters you can swap out the others on the pause menu anytime. It seems that only the three active ones get experience points though, unfortunately, so you will need to switch characters out to keep them levelled. There are three main types of characters, with a rock-paper-scissors-styled system determining what type of enemies each one is good at fighting, either regular enemies, flying enemies, or highly armored foes. This encourages you to switch characters while playing based on which enemy type you are fighting, which adds to the game.

Beyond that, combat is mostly centered around pressing a single attack button, but there is also a vitally important roll button used to dodge incoming attacks, and you can equip four special attacks per character as well that you access with button combinations. A meter on screen, shown as a ring around the special-attack icons, controls how much you can use your specials. Additionally, as you defeat enemies with specials you fill in the background of the specials icons with yellow. Once this is full, you can use a super special move with another button combination, which differs for each character. Again you’re fighting a lot in this game, as expected from the always-grindey Ys series, but combat is fun so it’s not too bad. The game does seem a bit easy on Normal difficulty though, so I’ve mostly been playing on Hard. Maybe it gets harder later on, I am still not too far into this fairly long game. On Hard the game is plenty challenging from the beginning, though. Dodging is critical to survival, and selecting the right character and using your skills well is important. It’s rewarding when you get past a tough boss fight in good shape. Fortunately, as always in Ys games you can save anytime. I know I said it already, but I have also been playing some Ys I for the Sega Master System recently, and this game feels like half classic Ys, and half modern action game. It’s great stuff.

Ys games have always had a plot, but Falcom mixed things up this time with an original concept for this fantasy adventure series: you are stranded on a deserted island. Ys has always been a gameplay-first, story-second series, but there are always characters to care about. This game goes farther along on that route than before. The game begins on a large oceangoing ship. Adol and his friend Dogi are working on this ship as crew members, wandering the world as he usually does. However, after not long the ship wrecks, and you wash up on a forbidding deserted island. Starting out with only Adol, you quickly add a second party member, then set up a base camp. The whole game is set on the island, and you explore it, find new survivors to add to your party or who will stay at the base camp and do something there, and collect stuff. Every so often, Adol sees dreams of a woman called Dana who lived in some long-ago civilization perhaps on the island. She becomes important much later in the game, but I haven’t gotten there yet. Along the way, there are many fully voiced cutscenes which give the characters personality in a way I don’t remember seeing in this series before. Ys VII also had a party, but this one makes you care about your party members a lot more than that game did and the party members interact much more. The deserted-island setting is also reasonably interesting, if inordinately dangerous in that way only a videogame could be. The game is definitely anime though, with anime-style character designs and constant anime-style humor and design elements. I have long found it weird to see how there is almost nothing actually European-medieval anything Japanese “medieval fantasy” games have in them… it’s kind of comical, how impossible this ship’s contents are for this ostensible world setting! Apparently this world has advanced far enough to make some guns, so there is that, but still. That ship in the beginning or most any characters’ clothing doesn’t fit the ostensible setting at all, as usual for fantasy anime. Oh well.

Returning to the gameplay though, since you are stuck on a deserted island a money system wouldn’t make sense, so there isn’t one. Instead, it’s all about collecitble monster parts, plants, and such. All purchases in the camp are done through barter with the stuff you collect, so the monster-parts-collection element of this game fits the setting well. Yes, as with many modern games this game has a crafting system, but they did a good job making it simple enough that I don’t mind it. There isn’t any complex crafting system here, you see; you just get stuff that people say they want and bring it to them, either for side quests or for getting new items in the shop and such, and then they will give you the reward. That seems simple enough, if you know where to find the things they need, but that latter part can be a challenge sometimes. Yes, finding the right items can be tricky.

Story quests, on the other hand, usually have you going to a specific point in the map, either to search for a survivor, kill monsters there, or just to explore to that point. These points are marked on your map, whether or not you have reached that place yet, which is very helpful; when you have a story quest you always know the direction you should be heading in, you just need to figure out how to get there. This can be trickier as it sounds, as areas can have multiple paths and are often gated either with obstacles you need a specific item to get past that you may not have yet, or obstacles that you can only get past with the help of a specific number of survivors. So yes, rescuing people doesn’t only add to your little town, it also allows you to unlock new areas on the map. It’s a good system.

I like exploring the world a lot. Vs VIII has a fairly large world made up of interlocking areas. The area sizes are designed for the limitations of the Vita, but each one is plenty large, allowing for a good amount of space to explore and fight in. They can have multiple floors, and in addition to a wide variety of monsters are also full of treasure chests, collection points where you get plants or minerals or such from, scenic vistas, and more, all marked on the map. On that note, graphically the game looks great for the Vita, and is probably one of the best-looking games I’ve played for the system. I’m sure it looks even better on PC and PS4, and probably the Switch too, in framerate particularly as the Vita version is 30fps and the others try for 60, but I am quite fine with 30fps and I think this game looks very nice. Some Vita games look dated compared to major-console titles, but with its great graphics and art design this game impresses. The soundtrack is fantastic too, it’s great stuff. Ys games have often had memorable soundtracks and this one is no exception. The good grpahics and music help make this already-great game even better.

So I mostly quite like this game, but though I am ‘only’ a bit over 10 hours into the game so far, there are a few issues to mention. First, this is a long game, as much as 70 hours to finish, and a lot of that time will be spent levelling or killing monsters for parts. I’m sure the grind gets old after a while, and not everybody has time to finish a game as long as this. You surely can finish it faster than that if you ignore all side content, but it is not a short game. And second, the Vita version of this game here is the original version of the game, and does not have a whole list of features that were added to all of the later ports, including the PS4, PC, and Switch releases. The additional content of the other versions includes a bonus dungeon at the end of the game for Dana to play through, more combat modes for Dana to switch to when you play as her near the end of the game, a bunch of interface and map improvements and such, and more. On the other hand, the improved versions also cost a lot more than the Vita one does — this version is easy to find for under $40, while the other three are still a full $60. So despite the cuts I got this version, and don’t regret it. I probably will also get the PC version someday as well, but Ys VIII is a great game and a nice showcase for what the Vita can do. It looks great on the OLED screen. It would make more sense to just get one of the ports and stick to that, but there is more than enough here in this version to keep gamers occupied for a long time, and so far I am quite liking what I have seen. I recommend playing Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, it is a good game worthy of attention.

Posted in First Impressions, Modern Games, PS Vita, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

PC Platformers Game Opinion Summaries, Part 16: Digital-Download 2d games (Part 13)

Yes, I’m finally going to start this series up again.  It’s been way too long!  I probably should have a full update ready, but I don’t, so this will have to do.  For this small update, first I’ll post the new list of 2d platformers I will be covering here.  I’ve bought a bunch of them since I last posted a new article in this series back in April 2017, so before moving on to 2.5d games I need to cover these games first.

New 2d platformers I will be covering
8-bit Bayonetta
Airscape – The Fall of Gravity
Alwa’s Awakening
Archibald’s Adventures
Castle in the Darkness
Jazz Jackrabbit 1 Collection
Kero Blaster
GunGirl 2
Miracle Fly
Mighty Switch Force! Academy!
Mighty Switch Force! Hose it Down!
Mushroom 11
Odallus The Dark Call
Pharaoh Rebirth+
Reverse x Reverse
Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel
Secrets of Raetikon
Slain: Back from Hell
Sonic Mania
Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe
Tetrobot & Co.
The End is Nigh

I think that’s all of them for now.  If anything is missing from this list, I will add it and note the change.

I should start from the top, but those summaries aren’t ready yet so I’m just going to post the two that are.  Yes, it’s only two games, but both are long summaries with good detail about the games.

Summaries in this update

Miracle Fly

Miracle Fly (2015, WinXP+) – 1 player, saves, gamepad supposedly supported (xinput only). Miracle Fly is a clever Japanese indie release with a unique idea that it executes on fairly well. This entirely mouse-controlled game is a mobile port and it shows, but unlike most such games I have covered in this list, this one is actually kind of good. This side-scrolling game with simple 2d grpahics is a flight-based puzzle/action/platformer, and as the name suggests, you can fly, though your flight is limited. There are three playable characters, all witch girls, and you can choose a character before each stage. The three are a faster red one with a spread shot, slower purple one with a laser, and middle blue one with a gun-like shot. The differences between them do matter. How movement works in this game is that your character will move towards your mouse cursor’s location if you hold the right mouse button. You move by shooting backwards from the back of your witch’s broom, which happens automatically while you hold the right button. If you press the left button, however, you will fire forwards. This is your main attack, but you do need to watch it because the recoil of each shot pushes you backwards slightly. You can also play with a gamepad, but the mouse is recommended because it is much more accurate.

Being able to move towards the point you click on sounds easy, but this is actually a pretty tough game. First, flight is limited by a meter. You have health and magic meters, and when your magic meter runs out you will drop straight down. Once on the ground it will automatically refill. Additionally Miracle Fly has a momentum system, so you need to carefully manage your movement clicks to get where you want with just the right amount of speed, so that, say, you will be able to stop just in time to make it into a narrow opening at the bottom of a vertical shaft before you fall through the one-way door at the bottom due to your momentum, while also not running out of magic; and that’s one of the easier stages, it gets much harder once walls covered with spikes everywhere get involved! Again, this game may start out easy, but it gets hard as you progress, particularly if you want to get everything in each stage. Fitting its mobile roots, within each of the games’ many levels there are three red gems to find. These allow you to unlock more levels once found, and levels are gated, requiring certain numbers of gems to unlock. There are also coins to collect, stars that give you chances to continue within a level, and single-use powerups that refill your magic or health.

Levels in Miracle Fly are small to medium in size, but are fairly well designed. The sprites are small, but characters and enemies have detail. The walls and such are pretty plain looking, though, and this game has a simple, platformer-creation-tool-like look. It works fine for the game, but the visuals are average. This is a tile-based game. You have your basic walls, spikes, several kinds of enemies which are usually easy to deal with (until they aren’t), one-way walls, and, crucially, several different kinds of switches and the things that they affect. One type of switch then allows you to move around certain types of blocks while you are standing on it. This lets you solve puzzles by dragging blocks around until you get them in the right place. Others are simple switches, which open one of several different types of colored walls once stepped on. You will often need to hit these in the correct order to get all of the gems, as you may be blocked from going back after accidentally hitting the wrong one. Because of this getting all three gems in levels often requires replay, but thankfully you won’t need to get everything in one go; instead, gems you’ve gotten count as gotten, and when you replay the stage you will only need to get the ones you previously missed. That’s nice.

Now, for the most part there are no checkpoints within the levels. This works at first, but once you reach the longer, more difficult levels having to restart every time you die gets frustrating. Fortunately, there is a continue system that uses those stars you will get along the way. If you want to continue where you died you can use two stars. After that, each subsequent continue in the level doubles the number of stars required. If you give up and quit out of the stage, though, you do not lose those stars. It’s a good system that allows you to have a chance at the harder levels while also keeping things challenging. The game autosaves after each stage you complete. Overall, Miracle Fly is a good game. Getting used to the physics can be tricky and sometimes the game is frustrating, but with responsive controls, some unique design elements, lots of levels, and plenty of challenge this game is worth a look. Also available digitally on Mac. The mobile version of the game is available on iOS, Android, and Ouya, though this PC/Mac version released a year after the mobile versions and is improved over them.

Rosenkreuzstillette (2007 (original Japanese doujin release), Win2000+. The English-language Steam release is from 2017.) – 1 player, saves (settings and replays to system, progress to passwords only), gamepad supported (directinput strongly recommended). Rosenkreuzstillette is a pretty good Japanese indie Mega Man clone with an all-female anime-style cast. The game has a Gothic-anime-fantasy story and visual theme which fit well together. You are Tia, one of the few mages in a troubled Gothic-style city which persecutes magic users. While out of the city, the other mages all revolt against the city, and you decide to stop them, as they go too far. The game mixes some comedy elements into the conversations though, so it’s not all darkness. The setting is original, but the core story is very much Mega Man, or Mega Man X rather. The plot is clearly inspired by the standard Mega Man X series plot, where X is the one loyal robot fighting against robot uprisings that partially are the result of bad treatment of robots. It’s fine Mega Man-inspired plot, in a different kind of world setting. I like that the protagonist is female, too. If Capcom or Inafune aren’t going to make Mega Man-like games starring female characters, then it’s great that someone else has.

As far the modes and options go, you can play the main game from the beginning, play Arcade mode which is a more linear affair, enter a password to continue a game in the main game — and yes, you can only load via passwords, so write them down after beating a boss! — and change the options. The game will save your options-menu selections, so I wish that they had put in save files for progress as well but it’s not there in the name of being a bit too much like console Mega Man games. It’s a minor issue though, and some classic PC games did use passwords too. You can also save replays of your gameplay, which is nice.

The story may be Mega Man X-inspired, but the gameplay here is classic NES-style Mega Man all the way. Like Mega Mans 4-6, Tia can shoot, charge up for a more powerful shot, jump, and slide. Your shot, jump, and such all are just like Mega Man’s, of course, just with different visuals. The controls may not quite match Mega Man’s precision but it is very close, and they are responsive and feel great, just about like how a NES Mega Man game would. You can configure the buttons, but on an xinput controller you can only move with the analog stick, so a directinput pad that either only has a d-pad or allows you to select whether the pad or analog stick is the main X-Y axis is recommended since this game is a lot better with a d-pad than an analog stick or the keyboard. I’m using my classic USB Microsoft Sidewinder Gamepad, which is still great!

The game structure is again Mega Man-like, and there are the expected eight bosses to fight before you move on to the final set of levels. The game has one Mega Man X touch at the start, though, an intro stage before you reach the main level-select screen. The levels in this game have pretty good designs that vary between copying design ideas straight out of various Mega Man games some of the time, to coming up with new ideas other times. It’s a good mix, and all eight main levels are well-designed and fun to play… well, maybe apart from the requisite stage with the Flash Man-like instant-death laser beams, those are tricky. The difficulty here is balanced much like the NES Mega Man games, so it is a challenging game, but quite doable and not THAT hard once you learn the correct order to play the levels in. There are some excessively difficult Mega Man games, perhaps most notably Mega Man X6, Mega Man & Bass, and Mega Man Zero, but the six original NES games are not on that level and this game isn’t either; this game is probably not as hard as Mega Man 9, it’s closer to the originals in challenge. That’s great, as the NES Mega Man games have incredibly well-balanced difficulty levels that are tough while almost always staying fun and engaging. I prefer that to the crushing difficulty of the hardest games in the franchise, myself. These levels are pretty good and hold up well compared to Capcom.

The enemies in those stages are almost all analogs of Mega Man enemies. So, you have enemies just like Met Hats, Sniper Joes, those guys who blow air at you, the birds which drop eggs that split into several projectiles, and more. Some enemies appear in all of the levels while others are exclusive to only one, as appropriate for their design. Some levels have Mega Man 4-like minibosses as well, while others don’t; it’s a mixture, as appropriate for a game emulating a whole series and not a single game. Perhaps some more originality in the enemy selection might have been nice, but I love Mega Man and miss the series, so this homage is pretty good despite that.

Visually, Rosenkreuzstillette is a tile-based platformer with a somewhat simple look to it. This is an indie game from Japan and it shows, though all the art here looks original and is well drawn. Now, the backstory may be a bit dark, but this is not a full-on tragedy; the plot and visual design here are a mixture of comedy and drama. Mega Man is a cartoony series, and most enemies have a cartoony look to them a bit like that from the Mega Man games. Some enemies are grimmer, particularly in the Castlevania-inspired level, but most have a lighter tone. Environments, however, are mostly ornate Gothic structures, in different palettes and looks such for each of the eight levels of course. I do think that the mixture works in this case. and while obviously a limited-budget homebrew release, the game has solid visuals.

Overall, Rosenkreuzstillette is a very good, but just as unoriginal, game. The game looks nice, plays great, and will take at least a few hours to finish, though it is not an overly long game. The game is balanced well and is one of the best Mega Man-style games I have played that is not actually part of the series. If you love or even like Mega Man like I do, you almost certainly will like this game, so get it! The game also has a sequel, which released in Japan a few years after the original. The same developer who localized this one is also working on that, and hopefully it will also see a Steam release soon, I’d really like to play it.

Posted in Game Opinion Summaries, Modern Games, PC, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment