When ArenaNet released guild wars 2 last week people, myself included, expected a solid entry into the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMO) genre. Historically, the release of MMO’s are plagued with bugs and player exploits that drive down review scores. It has become clear however that very few people are disappointed thus far. MMORPG currently has the game listed as having the highest rating of any MMO on the market with a 9.09 rating. The next closest games are Funcom’s Secret World at 8.23 and Trion Worlds Rift at 7.41.
Aside from the game itself being highly regarded, ArenaNet has done a great job setting the tone for the future of the game. Over time MMO’s all face the same general issues that can have negative effects on the enjoyment of the game long term. The two biggest issues of note are the virtual economy and game immersion. These are both areas of concern and the Guild Wars 2 team has clearly considered the overall impact of these things. As a result they have made some interesting and very important choices in policing the game from the get go.
Setting up and enforcing standards is probably the most important step in shaping the long term health of an MMO. As with any game one plays these days Guild Wars2 has a EULA that players must agree to before participating in the world of Tyria. Unlike most MMO’s ArenaNet has decided to enforce these rules very strictly right from the get go.
One of the easiest ways for an economy to fail in an MMO is to allow player exploits to go unchecked. To clarify, exploits are not cheating but rather taking advantage of poor coding in the game world to receive a benefit of some kind. In the case of Guild Wars 2 some players realized that a certain vendor was selling an item for far below market value. The items were purchased with Karma (one type of currency) and then sold for in game gold. This resulted in a small amount of people amassing a large amount of wealth (the 1% so to speak).
ArenaNet immediately took action and banned over 3,000 players immediately. It should be noted that players can appeal the permanent ban and have it dropped to 72 hours. The point has been made however; exploiting the games economy in any way that may upset the balance of the game world will not be tolerated.
Before the Karma exploit the team was already hard at work swinging the ban hammer. The team was handing out 72 hour bans for both naming violations and improper use of chat in game. Most of the chat based bans seem to be based on racist or derogatory remarks. Some of the names that have been targeted include “Adolph Critler” and “Niegromancer” to name a few. There is a very large reddit discussion that includes feedback from the ArenaNet team that has much more entertaining information as to why certain players received their bans.
Another preemptive strike on the team’s part pertains to services that are purposely being kept offline by ArenaNet. The official Guild Wars 2 Forum has been down since the pre release of the game with no scheduled return date. The claim is that this is because of bandwidth usage. The more reasonable explanation is that they are essentially keeping the forums cleaner in the long run by avoiding all of the negative threads that are being posted in regards to bans and what not. Both GuildWars2Forum.com and GuildWars2Guru.com are probably very happy with this decision as they have both shot up towards the top of Google search results.
Another service that has been down since launch is the in game Trading Post (auction house). The explanation for this one again seems to stem from bandwidth issues. There may be some legitimate logic behind this. But as with the forums there is undoubtedly a strategy behind it also. If the Trading Post was fully functional from the get go it would be flooded with a huge supply of low level goods which would drive the prices into the floor. By waiting to fully launch the trading system it gives players some time to level up and thus will result in more variety in the items available at prices closer to equilibrium.
The real question of course is whether or not all of these choices made by ArenaNet are ultimately going to be better off for the game. And it would seem, from my perspective at least, that they are indeed on the right track. There are various discussions about the bans that were handed out in regards to the Karma exploit mentioned above. A quick search for the term “banned” on Guild Wars 2 Guru brings up numerous threads where users are asking if they will get banned for doing “x”. This is a good sign as it shows that people are actually considering their actions in game.
All of the actions taken thus far by ArenaNet have been controversial to some extent. However, everything up to this point has been geared towards healthy game and community for a long time to come. Overall, the launch of Guild Wars 2 has been nothing short of amazing and there is no doubt that many people will still be playing this game for years to come.