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Guild Wars goes fourth and still prospers

Guild Wars: 4th Anniversary

Guild Wars, the MMO that isn’t quite one, the Cooperative Online Role-Playing Game that can largely be played solo, the game with free online play once you pay for it, celebrated its fourth anniversary this week.

Impressively, Guild Wars continues to attract new players despite the fact it has been almost two years since the last major release. ArenaNet recently announced the franchise has reached the 6 million unit mark and though demand has understandably slowed—it took six months for Guild Wars to go from 4 million to 5 million and over a year to sell an additional million units—sales are still reasonably good. The recent release of Guild Wars on Steam (not to be confused with Steam in Guild Wars) should result in additional sales as curious Steam users make impulse purchases.

As usual with anniversaries, there were gifts but unusually, some of the shiny new things unveiled during the anniversary celebrations required payment. Celebrate the Guild Wars 4th Anniversary by giving us more money, is the message from ArenaNet.

Free or not, the gifts and new features would be little appreciated by the Guild Wars neophyte. No, it is the long-time player, the veteran who has put in over a thousand hours into the Guild Wars games who will reap the most benefit.

This long-time player can’t help feel a little let down, however.

Open wide and say “aah,” gift horse

The new makeover options are of absolutely no use whatsoever to me. I mostly play the game zoomed out to maximise situational awareness and thus rarely view my characters close enough to appreciate their appearance. I certainly don’t care enough about my characters’ looks to pay USD9.99 for the option to change them.

However, I know there’s a very vocal segment of the Guild Wars playerbase whose gameplay experience is severely impaired by the fact their characters have an out of season coiffure. I have a lot of things to say about these narcissistic folk but will restrict myself to this observation: while you’re spending time (and money!) on your alter ego’s new looks, NPCs all over Tyria are dying. Dying! Hell, in the time you took to settle on a new hair colour alone, poor Gwen’s mother died another dozen times. But please don’t let that stop you flouncing around in towns and outposts insisting everyone lookit, lookit, lookit at the new virtual you.

The other new feature geared towards long-time players with post-character creation regrets is name changing. This act of changing a text string costs an unbelievable USD14.99. Per character. Cost aside, it must be pointed out this will be fantastically useful for some players. If you were shortsighted enough to name your character “xx AzZMoNKeY 2005 xx”, you can now change it to something that better reflects your growing sophistication and maturity. Say, “xx AzZMoNKeY 2009 xx”.

Other changes include an option for displaying account-wide achievements in the grindhouse (or Hall of Monuments, as ArenaNet refers to it), new grinding objectives in the form of Zaishen Challenge Quests and Traveller requests, and additional options for pet owners. These merited no more than a shrug from me.

Space: above and beyond

The gift I appreciated the most was the additional storage. Though I’m no longer the packrat I once was—the bonus weapons included with the Nightfall preorder bonus pack obviated the need to hoard weapons and weapon upgrades for my characters and their Heroes—additional space is always welcome. My characters each have multiple builds that are best exploited with specific weapons and armour, and all that additional equipment quickly fills up character and account storage slots.

There are two new storage options: additional account-wide Xunlai Storage Panes and character-specific Equipment Packs. As part of the 4th Anniversary Celebrations, players were treated to a free Xunlai Storage Pane with 20 storage slots. If that still doesn’t sate the obsessive-compulsive hoarders’ desire for space, they could spend USD9.99 for additional account storage panes.

The new Equipment Packs provided additional character storage slots for equipment or customised weapons. The smallest equipment pack (containing five slots) could be purchased for a trivial amount and will prove sufficient for most players’ needs. The larger equipment packs required some grinding to obtain and are probably there to give the hardcore Guild Wars player, the player who just never seems to log off, something new to grind for.

Ah, the Guild Wars grind, something both ArenaNet and the playerbase seem deeply ambivalent about. But that is a topic for another entry.

For now, let us end on a happy note: happy birthday, Guild Wars. You may not have WoW’d the gaming world, but you are still a gamer’s game and this gamer is glad you’re doing well for a four-year-old.

Posted in Guild Wars.