It’s story time, and with the release of Guild Wars 2 nearing ever so close, I figured it was time to tell my tale. You see, before Guild Wars 2, there was just Guild Wars. And before Guild Wars, there was a hole in my brain that could only be filled with a MMO. So, to tell you about the five-year wait for Guild Wars 2, I have to tell you about EVERYTHING. We have to travel back through time to when I was a troubled teen barley passing through high school with what little friends I had.
I have to tell you about the beginning, before I can tell you about the end, and then the future.
Once upon a time in the fall of 2004, I was at the young, care-free age of [REDACTED] and attending high school, much to my dismay. There was not much going on in my life save for my studies and gaming with the few friends I had made. At the time, I was mainly a console gamer, only ever playing with a mouse and keyboard for Diablo 2 or Counter Strike. I clocked countless hours on my aging Dreamcast while it still had life and went to a few LAN parties when I could. Beyond that, those years were when I began to start developing my own ideas and thoughts about gaming in general and its design, but that’s another story for another time.
As the story goes, one chilly autumn day after history class had let out, one of my friends (whom we will call Adam) began to tell me about this game he had learned about on the internet. At the time, he didn’t seem to hold much enthusiasm for it, but he had figured, on a whim, that I might enjoy it. Adam told me that the game was developed by a few people who left Blizzard, and described the game as being a RPG that was more about playing with friends rather than grinding or having the best items. At the time, such an idea was alien to me. He went on to talk about how it was a little different than most other MMORPGs (I hadn’t touched a single MMO by then so I had to take his word for it). We continued to chat about it before he mentioned that it would be having a preview weekend during Halloween and I thought to myself, “Sure. Why not? Another game to distract me from my school work? And made by fellows from Blizzard? Sign me up, Adam!”
The game Adam, on a whim, shared with me was called Guild Wars, and once the preview weekend started, it took only a few hours of running around before I found myself completely enamored with the world that sat at my fingertips. Never before had a game mesmerized me so! Even now I can not tell you specifically what it was that hooked me. The game sat so snug with me for no other explanation beyond the fact that I was having fun. It felt good. The next week I had dropped by my local CompUSA and pre-ordered it, though, only to buy the Collector’s Edition at EB Games a few weeks after release.
At the time, I gave no thought to nostalgia and memorabilia so I have very little in terms of screenshots or game boxes saved. Besides the pre-order disc from CompUSA, I have nothing but my account and a necromancer that’s a month younger than my account. And, I guess, the original Guild Wars art book. And a few other accounts…Oh, and the Bone Idol you got for pre-ordering with CompUSA. Come to think of it, I have a good amount of physical items, but the real prize is all the time I spent with the game and the players who played it.
Somewhere at the beginning of the game’s life, I learned my father also played and had been playing since launch. Needless to say I was a bit stunned, but, immediatly (along with my brother) began to play with him on numerous occasions. Either a few missions a night or running around for a quest or two another night. Sometimes we had a weekend of nothing but Guild Wars! Even when he was living in Maryland and my brother and I were stuck in Virginia, it was a game we all could play together and enjoy, despite the distance between us. The only other time we had played together was when we all lived under the same roof and were playing Diablo 2 over a LAN. But with Guild Wars, of course we could play with just ourselves, but we also invited guildies and friends in the game. Even now, my old man is still working on his Hall of Monuments, but I forget for which account out of the 12 he has!
It also took some time before I would find a guild I enjoyed playing with. I had hopped between more than 20 guilds, some lasting a few months, others only a week or two. Eventually I found a little guild of awesome people that I would stick with forever and into Guild Wars 2. It was also with this guild that I had helped launch an event that is still going on annually to this day. It’s a little thing you may have heard of called Pink Day in LA, and if you would have told me that in 2010, Pink Day would raise over $10,000 for breast cancer research, I would have laughed in all chat and put you on my ignore list. But, because of Pink Day, I had gotten the chance to meet other like-minded people who wanted to do more for the community and gaming as a whole! So, later I would find myself part of the Gaming World Entertainment Network!
All while looking for a guild and playing with my father, I had ran across someone named ‘Gaile Gray’ who would show up in a town or outpost and answer questions being spammed at her in all chat, all while accepting trades of random items (most were purple dyes) and becoming the center of a mass of bodies that formed a circle around her character. I hadn’t given much attention to her in the beginning, but over time I found myself in the same district as her, just to see what she’ll tell us about the next campaign or maybe little bits of secret info about who-knows-what and, of course, the conga lines that came before she left town. I remember thinking to myself one Wintersday in Kamadan, “There’s no way any human being could keep track of all of this!” and that maybe she was a robot. A fact still yet to be disproved to this day, I might add. The thought had been proceeded by me asking if there would ever be native linux support for Guild Wars, jokingly, because…well I didn’t have any other reason other than to see if she would read it and maybe answer it. Of course, the answer was no, saying there were only 11 or so people at ArenaNet who use linux, but, HOLY COW! Gaile Gray answered a question of mine! Squee! Looking back at how awesome she did her job as Community Manager; answering questions being spammed at her in-game and the many community forums she had to visit and all, I wonder why I don’t see that more often in other MMOs these days. Truly, Gaile made players feel just a little bit closer to ArenaNet by going above and beyond with the work she put in. BOOYAYA!
Eventually, Guild Wars 2 info started popping up and my father and I learned that ArenaNet would be having playable demos at PAX Prime and PAX East starting in 2010. We immediately got tickets and setup hotel reservations accordingly. All just to get our hands on Guild Wars 2! Who goes to a large gaming convention for a single game? I DO. So, at PAX Prime 2010, not only did we get to go to the Hard Rock party with the devs, but come next morning, there was a little room set aside for special guests to learn more about designing a dynamic event, and somehow my father and I ended up with tickets. Actually, the morning of, when my father and I were playing through the demo again, we got to talk to Tirzah Bauer (who is an enviroment artist for ArenaNet) and we got to gush about how wonderful and beautiful the game world looks while telling her about our time playing together since release. Out of the goodness of her heart (or maybe she’s just that awesome…or both!), she gave us each a ticket for the event meeting. And so we went, and so we learned and had a good time doing so!
After all that had happened over that three-day weekend, I was absolutely convinced ArenaNet would make Guild Wars 2 the best game they could. Meeting and talking with different members of the team (and then a year later at PAX 2011, having president Mike O’Brien take both my father and I on a tour of the new ArenaNet offices while getting to talk about our thoughts on the game and how sweet those offices are!) succeeded in convincing me further that not only does ArenaNet know where they want to go with their game, but that they are so down-to-earth with their fans and the community that’s growing around Guild Wars 2, it’s almost impossible not to be swept up along for the ride and become a little bit of a fanboy/girl.
It has been five years waiting for Guild Wars 2. It has been eight years since ArenaNet gave me one of the greatest games I had ever played or will ever play. I have, on more than one occasion, expressed both love and spite for ArenaNet and the growing-pains they were putting Guild Wars through. They ruined one of my favorite skills, while making changes to other professions that made them more fun to play. I became part of something bigger than myself while old friends and guild members went off to graduate college or play other games, leaving the guild to collect dust. I have made many friends among the community of players and I have talked with the game’s developers and gleamed what little bit of knowledge I could about game design and development.
I have seen things some people wouldn’t believe. Angry monks on strike off the edge of Thunderhead Keep. I watched minion factories rise instantly in the dark of Broken Tower. I helped start an event that has become bigger than I could have ever dreamed of, but along the way there were some bumps in the road. Some bigger than others. The biggest one shook up my guild pretty bad, but we still remember. And while all such stories and experiences from Guild Wars have come and gone, they live on as memories, and I have no doubt that the game still has a few more in it beyond the release of Guild Wars 2. However, come August 25th, it will be time for me to make new stories with friends old and new in ArenaNet’s newest game and I look forward to at least another eight years of memories with Guild Wars 2 and ArenaNet.
I should have done this a long time ago. Stay lazy, my friends.
Header image from Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ‘All Good Things…’ is owned by CBS Studios Inc.