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Platform: Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
Publisher: NCsoft
Developer: ArenaNet / NCsoft
Genre: MMORPG
Format: CD-ROM
Release: US 02/01/05
Japan N/A



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Not, in fact, the double date she hoped for.
 
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"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
 
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"My God, it's full of... Grass!"
 
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Down the Hatch!
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Mark P. Tjan
Preview First Look
08/21/04
Mark P. Tjan

From Out of the Blizzard

A number of years ago, Blizzard gave birth to a futuristic science fiction title, featuring real-time strategy at its core and allowing thousands to play together. That was StarCraft. Now, the team that developed it has moved on to form their own company, ArenaNet, with a premiere title to launch in 2005: Guild Wars.

Guild Wars comes forward with several odd features in its arsenal. Among these are the inclusion of 'instanced' worlds, PVP (or more correctly, guild vs. guild) tournaments, and mission-based gameplay. These terms, although regularly associated with other genres, have never had much of a place in MMORPGs. Even more interestingly, the game will be less than one megabyte to install, and download to users' computers as they play. The same will be true for updates, with new content added and made accessible immediately when users restart the game. This is all made possible by the new streaming content technology ArenaNet has chosen to use. And there won't be an online fee, either.

ArenaNet decided to go with the Battle.net model which made StarCraft and other Blizzard titles so readily accessible to users. With Battle.net, users could compete online for free, something ArenaNet wants to encourage. Initially, users will be given access to the game's first chapter of content, with new content packs to purchase every six months. Even if users choose not to purchase the new chapter, though, they can still continue to play with players who have. The only difference will be that they won't be able to access new areas or items exclusive to the chapter. Moreover, if users choose not to buy chapter 2, but go straight to chapter 3, they'll be able to experience chapter 3 in its entirety, without being regulated to a standard upgrade scheme.

Heroic Faces, Heroic Lands

Character creation is straightforward. Players choose a gender, a primary profession, and a secondary profession, the first two determining the basic character template. After that, adjustments can be made to the face, skin, and hair, as well as adjusting the height. As players progress through the game, they can, among other things, further customize their characters with equipment refined at town forges. With regard to professions, players may choose from one of the six classes as their primary, and then assign a secondary job for support. Eventually, players can have simultaneous jobs and draw upon the benefits of either.

Game professions include the standard Warrior for melee combat, the Monk for medical emergencies, the Mesmer for status augmentation and auxiliary support, the Elementalist for magical warfare, the Ranger for long-distance assault, and the Necromancer for wielding the power of the undead. Each class comes complete with its own extensive set of skills, but only eight abilities may be equipped during a battle. Strategy plays an important role in Guild Wars, and determining which spells to take into a battle can be the crux of crushing defeat or victorious conquest.

The game's environments are split into three major groups. First are the instanced scenarios. When a team chooses to take on a mission, the team is given access to its own version of the map. Teams won't run into other groups on this map, so camping and kill stealing immediately become obsolete concerns. Whatever happens on this map is wholly determined by a team's choices. Although dynamic issues will arise, the environment and the way it's affected will be mostly due to a team's use and abuse.

The second environment is the arena, where groups can take each other on in a series of competitive games. Like the regular missions, tournament environments are also instanced so that the battlefield is always fresh and contains dynamic elements. Teams may, for instance, recruit NPCs they find during play. These NPCs can then affect the strengths of a party, such as boosting defense or casting a life-regenerating spell. The tournament uses a single elimination system which guarantees that the number of teams advancing through the rounds will be cut by half each tier. Climbing the ladder will yield its own rewards, and a well coordinated team can easily best a more powerful, but clumsier group.

The third type of environment concerns towns and outposts. These are (relatively) civilized areas where players can congregate to chat, trade items, and contribute to the game's economy. Unlike the missions which are instanced, towns and outposts are all persistent entities and behave much like they would in other MMORPGs. Players who join guilds can also access guild halls and other special functions associated with the groups. For guilds which associated a certain color with their equipment, the game has an extensive number of dyes which can be mixed and applied to virtually all accessories.

Digital Cosmetics

ArenaNet has chosen to use its own propriety graphics engine to bring Guild Wars to life. The game features some extremely detailed effects, such as how much the weather affects the game's objects. A flag fluttering in the breeze of a calm summer day may suddenly be whipping about wildly as a storm picks up. Even smaller objects such as plant life and character equipment are affected by the environmental effects. The primary individual responsible for all this detail is Mike O'brien, who worked on World of Warcraft and Warcraft III, and is one of ArenaNet's co-founders.

The mixture of competitive, team-based gameplay, instanced scenarios, and strategic planning may turn Guild Wars into a strong competitor at release. The game will be published through NCSoft and is currently in alpha testing, with a release date of the first half of 2005.



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© 2004-2005 ArenaNet and NCsoft Corporation.
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