The Guild Wars logo
|Platform of origin||Microsoft Windows|
|First release||Guild Wars
April 26, 2005
|Latest release||Guild Wars 2
August 28, 2012
Guild Wars is a series of online 3D fantasy role-playing video games developed by ArenaNet and published by NCsoft. Because it deviated from traditional MMORPG norms in a number of areas, like instancing all the gameplay areas, and that it focused more on player vs. player (PvP) than most online RPGs, it was marketed as competitive online role-playing game. It provides two main modes of gameplay—a cooperative role-playing component and a competitive PvP component—both of which are hosted on ArenaNet's servers. Three stand-alone episodes and one expansion pack were released in the series from April 2005 to August 2007.
The games depict the history of the fictional fantasy world of Tyria; each campaign focuses on events in disjointed sections of the world at roughly the same time. A player creates an avatar to play through the cooperative storyline of a campaign, taking on the role of a hero who must save Tyria from episode-specific antagonists. Players can group with other players and non-player characters, known as henchmen and heroes, to perform missions and quests found throughout the game-world. PvP combat is consensual, team based, and limited to areas designed for such combat. Players are allowed to create characters at maximum level and with the best equipment specifically for PvP play, which is unusual for MMORPGs. ArenaNet hosts official Guild Wars tournaments where the most successful players and guilds may compete for the chance to play live at gaming conventions and win prizes up to US$100,000.
Guild Wars differs from some of the other MMORPGs in its lack of subscription fees (purchasing an episode allows a user to play it online without limit, though he or she may encounter some areas or items which cannot be obtained without purchasing other expansions) and relatively low level caps. After reaching the level cap, players differentiate their characters by which skills they equip to bring into battle; new skills can be learned by exploring and completing quests. Only eight of a player's learned skills can be equipped at any one time, the ongoing challenge being to select skills that synergize well in the next combat environment.
The games in the Guild Wars series were critically well received and won many editor's choice awards, as well as awards such as Best Value, Best Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), and Best Game. Guild Wars was noted for being one of the few commercially developed games in the MMORPG genre to offer online play without subscription fees, its instanced approach to MMORPG play, and the quality of the graphics and play for computers with low specifications. In April 2009, NCSoft announced that 6 million units of games in the Guild Wars series had been sold. The sequel, Guild Wars 2, was announced in March 2007 and released on August 28 2012. It caters updated graphics and gameplay mechanics, and continues the original Guild Wars tradition of no subscription fees.
Players use a 3D avatar to interact with the world around them. The game predominantly features a third person perspective but also has the option of first person. These characters are able to walk/run and interact with other characters through chat. They can also perform actions such as fighting and picking up objects, as well as interacting with special objects.
Players can choose from a range of up to ten different professions. When creating a character, players can change their hair style, face, skin tone, height and avatar name—the selection depending upon that profession chosen. As the player progresses through the game, they can unlock different armor and weapons to alter the visual appearance of that avatar. They can also decide whether they want their avatar to start in a Player vs. Environment world (the RPG aspect of the game), or get right into the competitive Player vs. Player and fight live against other players in the game.
The maximum level for character development is capped at 20 - by this point, the character will also have reached 170 attribute points. Players may also choose to do certain quests to gain another 30 attribute points, making the maximum points available 200. Experience can still be gained and is used to learn more skills or buy consumable items throughout the game.
A profession is a type of class commonly found in most RPGs and is central to the gameplay in Guild Wars. Each profession has an array of attributes and skills that help narrow a class's proficiency in order to perform a customized role that is determined by the player. The Warrior profession, for example, has access to the primary Strength attribute that increases their armor penetration with martial weapons, and is able to wear heavy armor providing the highest protection against physical damage of all professions. Elementalists, on the other hand, wear less protective armor, but can use their primary Energy Storage attribute to give them a much greater pool of energy than other professions.
Guild Wars also introduces the ability to choose a secondary profession, expanding the selection of attributes and skills. A character does not, however, have access to the primary attribute of its secondary profession. Many, but not all, skills become more powerful with more points in a class’s primary attribute. A Warrior/Elementalist, therefore, is a warrior who may use spells in combat, although the Elementalist spells used will generally not have as much power as those of a primary Elementalist. This is increased by the fact that runes, which among other things increase attribute levels, can only increase the attribute levels associated with a player's primary profession.
There are over a thousand skills in the game that can be acquired by the character over time, but players may only use and equip up to 8 of them at any one time. This introduces levels of strategy, in which one must have a careful selection of skills that work well with one another and with teammates in order to survive.
The core professions are Warrior, Monk, Elementalist, Ranger, Necromancer and Mesmer. The Assassin and Ritualist professions are exclusive to Guild Wars: Factions, which can be played along with the aforementioned core professions. The Paragon and Dervish professions are exclusive to Guild Wars: Nightfall, and can also be played with the core professions. Unlike the campaigns, Guild Wars: Eye of the North (the only expansion pack of the Guild Wars franchise) does not offer any new playable professions.
The Guild Wars universe consists of persistent staging zones known as towns and outposts. These areas normally contain non-player characters that provide services such as merchandising or storage. Other NPC's provide quests and present rewards to its adventurers. These areas are also used when forming groups of people to go out into the world and play cooperatively. Players that venture out from the staging area and into an explorable area are then able to use their weapons and skills to defeat monsters and interact with other objects in the game. As players progress through the game, they gain access to additional staging zones. Players can then transport their characters instantly from one staging area to another using a process commonly referred to in-game as 'map traveling'.
Apart from fighting with weapons, skills make up the majority of combat interaction. Each skill has a different effect when used, and fall under many different categories. They can range from offensive skills such as setting foes on fire and defensive skills which include resurrection and healing allies. Enchantments which include giving players extra health points as well as Hexes that drain the enemy's life unto your own also make up part of the skill selection in Guild Wars. Attack skills are used in conjunction with weapons to augment the damage that they can deal and cause different side effects (such as knocking people to the ground with a hammer, causing bleeding wounds that deal additional damage over time with a sword, or striking multiple foes with an axe).
Most skills have a governing attribute that determines its power and effect. These attributes are assigned using a number of attribute points similar to Dungeons & Dragons' point buy ability score generation system.
Guild Wars has been likened to collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering because of the way the different skills interact. While in a town or staging areas, a character's skill and attribute selection can be freely modified to construct a "build". Once in a combat zone such as an explorable area or a PvP arena, the build becomes immutable until the character exits the combat zones and returns to a staging area. Players generally either choose a specific build for a given area or role, or use general builds that synergize with the builds of other characters in the party.
A player’s ability to help the party is based on the way a player’s "build" works. If the skills combine well, such as a hex spell that makes an enemy attack faster and then another one that makes him miss 75% of the time and take damage for each miss, then the build will work effectively.
In PvE, monsters that are slain will generate gold and loot which can be traded or sold to players or NPCs for other things. Unique and rare weapon designs are often found from defeating powerful monsters, or with a bit of luck when opening treasure chests.
In PvP, reputation in the form of faction is gained based on how well a player performs. Generally, "Balthazar faction" is gained by the number of wins that you and your team gain by defeating opponents, as well as for each unique kill. Most PvP in Guild Wars is fast paced, while the transition period between games may take longer.
Player versus Environment (PvE) missions of Guild Wars use several standard tropes of the MMORPG genre. Players explore the game-world, kill monsters, perform quests and complete missions to earn rewards and advance the story. Rewards include experience points, skill points, skills, gold, faction, reputation and items for the player character. Some of these rewards not only advance the particular character being played at the time, but also unlock features of the game account-wide.
In each campaign the player is involved in a linear story with which they interact by performing a series of primary quests and replayable missions. Quests are given to a player by NPCs via text dialog. As quests and missions are completed, new areas, new quests, and new missions are unlocked for the player's character to access. Missions allow the player character to participate in the major events of the storyline, such as significant battles against the main antagonist. Both quests and missions can feature in-game cut scenes which advance the story and provide context to the actions which follow. Cut scenes are in the third-person, often featuring the party leader's character and revealing elements of the game that the character would not normally be aware of, such as the actions of an antagonist. Players are given the option of skipping the cut scenes if all party members agree upon it.
All of the above concerns all types of PvE combat in general. However, there are different types of PvE in Guild Wars and sometimes it helps to prepare for the exact type. The following are the cooperative modes in Guild Wars:
- Explorable Area
- The second mainstay of PvE. Unlike missions, your party can usually die in explorable areas without grave consequences, since you will be revived at a resurrection shrine, though there are exceptions. Most importantly, explorable areas are where quests are taken and played out. Unlike a mission, players can work on several quests at the same time.
- Cooperative Mission
- Missions that move the storyline. Usually just called missions, these form the backbone of the storyline in each campaign. Each requires a party of 4-8 players (and sometimes NPCs) to complete certain objectives to continue. In general, the party fails the mission if every member dies.
- Elite Mission
- Exceedingly difficult missions, with an 8-12 player party size, that require a high amount of preparation, skill, knowledge and time commitment. Having a correct team build is a must, so players must coordinate with other team members more than normal.
- Subterranean explorable areas in the Eye of the North expansion. A quest is given to guide the party through the dungeon, culminating in a boss fight, after which rewards are distributed.
- Minigames are either competitive or cooperative "mini missions" or battles that have no bearing on the plot nor do they advance the story line of the Guild Wars campaigns. Some are present in the game during special events, such as the Dragon Arena for the Canthan New Year and Dragon Festival. Rewards offered for competing in these games include tokens which can be traded for prizes
- Challenge Mission
- A special form of mission that is not part of the main story line where parties aim to reach a high score. Unlike other missions, dungeons and quests, most can theoretically go on forever, but difficulty increases the longer the player or party manages to stay alive.
Player versus Player (PvP) combat in Guild Wars is consensual and team-based. Such combat is restricted to special PvP areas, the majority of which are located on the core area known as The Battle Isles. Individual campaigns also have certain campaign-specific PvP arenas. Players may participate in PvP combat with either their role-playing characters or with characters created specifically for PvP. Characters are rewarded with experience points for victories in competitive battle and the player account also acquires faction points redeemable for in-game rewards. In addition to this victory may also award points which contribute towards completion of character or account based titles.
The following are the competitive modes in Guild Wars:
- Random Arena
- Four-on-four matches with teams randomly composed from those waiting to enter combat. There are many different arenas with different victory conditions: deathmatch and kill-count.
- Codex Arena
- Four-on-four matches with player-managed teams. These matches are played in the same areas as the Random Arena with a few exceptions. Each class has a pool of limited amounts of skills to choose from and this pool changes every 6 hours.
- Heroes' Ascent
- A continuous tournament where players form teams of eight to battle in a sequence of arenas, culminating in the Hall of Heroes whose results are broadcast to all online players in addition to rewarding the victors with high-end loot. Arenas in the Heroes' Ascent tournament include deathmatch, altar-control, and capture-the-relic victory conditions. Victories in the Heroes' Ascent award players with fame points that can be used to determine the rank of the player.
- Guild Battles
- Two guilds meet in guild halls and stage a tactical battle with the aim of killing the opposing Guild Lord, a well-protected NPC. Victory in guild battles affects the rank of the guild in the global Guild versus Guild (GvG) ladder. GvG is considered the most supported of competitive formats in Guild Wars. In 2005, ArenaNet hosted a Guild Wars World Championship, and in 2006, the Guild Wars Factions Championship was hosted as well. Since then, the Automated Tournament system has become the norm, but smaller 3rd-party tournaments have been hosted, including the Rawr Cup and the Guild Wars Guru cup. The GWWC, GWFC, RawrCup, and GWG Tournament all had real life prizes; the former tournaments had cash prizes, the RawrCup and Guru Tournament had laptops and MP3 players to give away.
- Alliance Battles
- Guild Wars Factions introduced an arena where twelve players aligned with one of the opposing Kurzick and Luxon factions team up to fight an opposing team to gain new territory for their faction. The twelve player team is composed of three teams with four human players each. The three teams are selected randomly from the teams waiting on each side when the match begins. Alliance Battles grant alliance faction and affect the border between the two factions in the Factions-specific continent of Cantha. The location of the border affects the map in which the battles take place by adding a bias to favor the faction losing the war. Additionally, alliance faction can be contributed to a player's guild (if it is allied with the respective faction), allowing that guild to "control" a town in their faction's territory.
- Competitive Missions
- Factions also introduced a pair of competitive arenas, named Fort Aspenwood and The Jade Quarry, where randomly assembled teams of 8 players from the opposing factions enact particular events in the Kurzick/Luxon war. Victories in these missions have no global effect, but do grant the players with alliance faction.
- Minigames are either competitive or cooperative "mini missions" or battles that have no bearing on the plot and do not advance the story line of the Guild Wars campaigns. Most are added to the game during festivals and events.
- Hero Battles
- Hero Battles was the name given to the mode of PvP known as Hero versus Hero (HvH). In this contest, players would enter the battle with 3 heroes (fully customizable NPC allies), and fight another player and his/her team of 3 heroes. A player must have had a named account to participate in Hero Battles. This type of PvP was removed in the October 22nd, 2009 update.
Guild Wars has a continuously running automated tournament system. Players or guilds elect to participate in the tournament by buying in-game tokens using their PvP faction points. The participants are divided randomly into groups of 32 that participate daily in up to six Swiss rounds held on a fixed schedule, and the top eight guilds continue on to a single-elimination tournament. Participants who are unable to field a full team automatically forfeit their round. Success in daily automated tournaments qualifies that particular guild for play in the monthly automated tournament, and the final victors of this tournament earn a number of real and in-game rewards. Players who do not participate in the automated tournament were allowed to place bets on the results of these tournaments for a number of in-game rewards prior to February 2010.
Many competitive matches may be observed by players by means of an observer mode. Important PvP matches such as matches in the Hall of Heroes or between highly rated guilds may be observed (after a delay of fifteen minutes) by others in order to see the tactics used by successful teams and attempt to learn or counter them. Guilds may additionally observe their own Guild Battles for a fixed period of time.
As the name suggests, guilds are a core element of Guild Wars, manifesting not only as social units but also being closely linked with the game mechanics. Although a player is not required to join a guild, it adds value to the gaming time and increases camaraderie. Often, joining a guild is a good way to get help from more experienced players as the in-game guild interface allows communication between guild members.
A guild leader creates the guild by registering a guild name and a tag (between two and four characters long) with a Guild Registrar, found in some major towns. The guild tag is displayed in brackets after the names of guild members. The leader also designs the guild's cape (from a large palette of shapes, patterns and emblems), and purchases a guild hall that serves as the guild headquarters and may be furnished with merchants, traders, and storage NPCs. Each guild hall is an individual instanced outpost located at the same spot on the Battle Isles, but they are not physically accessible to non-allied members as the only way to enter a guild hall is by "map travel". The guild leader recruits new players to the guild and can promote a number of them to guild officers, who can then help with the recruitment and further promotion of officers. All player characters on the same Guild Wars account belong to the same guild. Players may leave their guild whenever they please, but only the leader and officers can dismiss non-officer players from the guild; the leader has the additional power to dismiss officers and disband the guild. Guilds have a membership limit of 100 members; player communities with more than that many members generally create allied sister guilds, often named similarly and using the same tag and cape.
Up to ten individual guilds may ally together to form an alliance. Members of an alliance may communicate over a shared chat channel, and visit the guild halls of the other guilds of the alliance. Each alliance has a leader guild that initiates the alliance, the leader of which is also the alliance leader, who may admit or dismiss guilds from the alliance. Each alliance must be devoted to either the Kurzicks or the Luxons, the two Canthan factions (from Guild Wars Factions) locked in perpetual conflict. Players can accumulate faction (reputation) with either the Kurzicks or the Luxons, which can either be "donated" to the alliance or redeemed for certain in-game rewards. The alliances with the highest total amount of donated faction are given control of certain in-game outposts on the Canthan continent; controlling an outpost gives the alliance members access to restricted areas of the outposts, containing, among other things, merchants who sell at a discount.
In addition to membership in guilds, a player may be a guest of any number of other guilds. Guest privileges are limited to visiting the guild hall and participating in guild or alliance battles. An accepted invitation expires after 24 hours.
Full games in the original Guild Wars sequence were released in episodes known as campaigns. Players must purchase an individual campaign in order to access the game elements specific to that campaign; however, all campaigns are linked in one game world. Each campaign is independent of the others, with its own co-operative storyline, campaign-specific skills, and competitive arenas. Players owning different campaigns may still interact in shared areas, including trading for items specific to the campaigns they have not purchased. Players who own two or more campaigns may transport their characters freely from one campaign to the other, integrating into the storyline as a foreign hero.
The first campaign, Guild Wars Prophecies (originally named Guild Wars), was released on April 28, 2005. The Prophecies storyline is situated on the continent of Tyria and revolves around the Flameseeker Prophecy, a prophecy made by an ancient dragon named Glint.
Prophecies was followed by Guild Wars Factions on April 28, 2006, released exactly a year after Prophecies. Factions is situated on the small southern continent of Cantha that is separated from Tyria by a vast ocean. The events of the Factions campaign concern the return from death of a corrupted bodyguard named Shiro Tagachi. Factions features a global persistent war between the rival vassal nations of Cantha; the Luxons and the Kurzicks, and the notion of guild alliances (see guilds above). The continent of Cantha is heavily based upon and influenced by eastern Asia.
The third campaign, Guild Wars Nightfall, was released on October 27, 2006. Nightfall features the arid continent of Elona, joined to southern Tyria across a vast desert. Nightfall introduced heroes, advanced computer-controlled units that can be micro-managed by players, including the ability to customize their skill layout and equipment. The continent of Elona is heavily based on and influenced by North Africa.
Scrapping their initial plans for a fourth campaign, ArenaNet has released an expansion pack, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, to the previous three campaigns on August 31, 2007. Not being a full campaign, this expansion requires one of the other released campaigns, and is only accessible by player characters at level 10 and above. Eye of the North therefore does not feature new professions, but contains new content for existing characters: dungeons, a number of new skills, armor, and heroes. Eye of the North is set in previously inaccessible territory from the first Guild Wars campaign, Prophecies. It is intended to be a bridge to the sequel to the Guild Wars series, Guild Wars 2. As a promotion for their online store and Eye of the North, ArenaNet released a "bonus mission pack" for purchase online. It contains playable recreations of four incidents in the history of Tyria, Cantha, and Elona, and each mission expands the backstory for one of four major NPCs.
A new player must create a game account using a unique e-mail address and an access key received from the purchase of the game or through the online store. Once created, additional keys may be added to the account; these keys can belong to additional campaigns that are linked to the account, or certain purchasable features (such as additional character slots) bought from the online store. Once a key is added to an account it cannot be removed and accounts cannot be merged in most cases, in certain cases, account keys can be merged (ex. GotY benefits moved from one account to another, deleting the account it was moved from) and accounts deleted, although this can only be achieved by personally contacting customer support. Once a purchase is made through the integrated store, the account name used is therein linked to a new ArenaNet account, and henceforth cannot be changed via the in-game "Change Account Name" option. After a player's character is made the online play is free. There are no monthly subscription fees.
An account is initially set to a specific region depending on the version of the game purchased; Europe, America, Korea, Taiwan or Japan. Players from Europe, America and Korea may freely move among those three regions. Regardless of the account's home region, players in all regions can meet and form parties in international districts (instances of in-game outposts). These districts are also in the language of the original region.
A new account has four character slots; each additional full campaign added to the account adds two further character slots. Extra character slots may be purchased from the online store. Players cannot freely change a character’s appearance, including hair style, face, skin color, and gender, after character creation; they must purchase “makeover tickets” using real-world currency.
Guild Wars is the first game created by developer ArenaNet. Senior developers from Blizzard Entertainment, some involved in the early development of World of Warcraft, left to create ArenaNet to develop a game which took risks with game design and business model. Guild Wars development was first announced in April 2003. Guild Wars Prophecies, initially marketed simply as Guild Wars, was released in April 2005. Sorrow's Furnace added further playable content to Prophecies in September 2005. Guild Wars Factions was released exactly a year after Prophecies in April 2006 followed six months later by Guild Wars Nightfall in October 2006. A fourth campaign was in development, but after reviewing feedback from fans and the sort of changes they wanted to make, ArenaNet elected to focus on an expansion pack, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, released in August 2007, and Guild Wars 2.
Guild Wars development began in an environment following the release of EverQuest when a number of new MMORPGs were announced. ArenaNet positioned Guild Wars in a niche in this landscape, offering unlimited gametime without subscription fees. ArenaNet believed that players would not pay subscription fees for every online game they play and that paying a fee would cause players to make a "lifestyle commitment" to a particular game, rather than the usual behaviour of playing many different games and switching between them. Jeff Strain, a founder of ArenaNet, said, "It is our opinion that the free online gaming model combined with frequent content updates is the optimum online paradigm for interfacing with consumers and creating a significant, enduring gaming franchise."
ArenaNet has used open beta testing throughout the development of the Guild Wars series. For the first public appearance of Prophecies in April 2004, that occurred in conjunction with E3 2004, people were encouraged to download the client and play an online demo of the game to test its networking capabilities. This was followed by a preview event and several beta test weekend events. Both Factions and Nightfall had similar test weekends prior to their release. Nearly 500,000 players spent an average of 8.5 hours playing the Nightfall PvE content during its second beta test weekend. In addition to the public beta events, ArenaNet used continuously running closed alpha test servers throughout development; some alpha testers were ArenaNet employees but most were volunteers from the player community who signed a non-disclosure agreement with ArenaNet. After the release of Eye of the North, the bulk of the development and test teams were moved to the Guild Wars 2 project, though a small maintenance and QA team remains on the original Guild Wars project. The group of volunteer alpha testers was disbanded in January 2008, and no plans have yet been announced about repeating such an alpha test program for Guild Wars 2.
Aspects of every campaign have been influenced or modified based on feedback from the player community. Such changes began soon after the release of the original Prophecies, when, for instance, skill acquisition in the co-operative campaign was simplified, and PvP unlocks were made purchasable with the new mechanic of faction rewards for competitive victories.
A small group of 4 or so people at ArenaNet known as the Live Team continue development to the game in two ways. Bi-monthly updates rebalance skills and features while new content in the way of explorable areas, quests and missions are added continually as a part of the free of charge 'Guild Wars Beyond' campaign. This new playable content is designed to help bridge the story between the end of the events of the first game and the 250 years before the start of GuildWars 2. This content is being released in parts, currently including 'War in Kryta' and 'Hearts of the North', and 'Winds of Change'.
ArenaNet also continues to develop in-game events that generally coincide with real events such as Christmas, Halloween, and the Chinese new year (for the Asian-influenced in-game continent of Cantha). These events feature mini-games, quests, event-specific PvP game types such as the Dragon Arena and snow-ball fights or beetle racing, special decorations for in-game outposts, and various in-game rewards such as masks and collectible gifts. Regular events also occur every weekend; each such event temporarily increases certain in-game rewards such as the drop rate of loot, reputation points for various in-game activities, or faction points.
The game engine for Guild Wars was developed by ArenaNet. Engine components developed for Guild Wars are available to be licensed to other NCsoft companies and have been used in other NCsoft games. However, ArenaNet have said they will not license the game engine technology to non-NCsoft companies.
Content delivery and network architecture
To support their fee-free approach to online gaming the server architecture developed for the game was core to minimizing the bandwidth costs associated with maintaining game servers. Infrastructure design was influenced by the developers' experiences with Battle.net development.
The game client is available for download as a very small file. Each time there is an update to the game the existing client automatically downloads a new version of the client which examines a manifest of files to determine which files have been modified and therefore need to be downloaded to the client machine. This manifest is prioritized, the most important files are downloaded prior to the player being able to start the game, the rest are downloaded in the background while the player is playing. ArenaNet uses this rapid update technology to make changes on demand and close exploits in the system.
ArenaNet also utilizes their update technology to preload content from new Guild Wars campaigns onto existing players' accounts prior to the release of that campaign. The content is only activated after the right key is added to the player's account and the game servers allow the campaign changes to go live.
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- "Guild Wars Nightfall Interview". FiringSquad. Retrieved 2006-10-26.
- ArenaNet (2005-06-30). "Game Update Notes Archive: June 2005". NCSoft.
- ArenaNet. "Winds of Change FAQ". NCSoft. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- Chris Massey (2003-11-10). "Guild Wars". The Wargamer. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
- The official Guild Wars website
- The official Guild Wars Wiki
- ArenaNet's listing of recognized Guild Wars fansites