It's been a torrid time for Guild Wars 2 maker ArenaNet. At the end of February, the studio cut a third of its workforce and people who had worked there for more than a decade walked away.
Last week, the firing of Jessica Price and Peter Fries from Guild Wars developer ArenaNet over comments made to a partnered Youtuber on Twitter shook the game development world. The firings came after significant online backlash against Price and Fries from Reddit users, and in the aftermath, many developers expressed fears the event would embolden fringe sections of game communities to feel they could demand the sacking of developers at will.
Did you end up following in your parents' footsteps? I wanted to be my own man but here I am, writing just like my dad did (only he won a BAFTA - I doubt I'll ever do
There's big news in the Guild Wars 2 camp today as ArenaNet announces the original game will be available for free, right now and for evermore.
Update: There's been a bit of confusion about the Heart of Thorns beta and my interpretation of what Colin Johanson said.
Unless you're beating World of Warcraft you're a nobody, a not-quite, another MMO crashing against the impregnable fortress Blizzard built. Guild Wars 2 was a somebody, a real contender - the fastest-selling MMO ever, shifting 3m copies in nine months. But were this a race, WOW would now be comfortably out in front, racking up 5 million subscribers in a little over a year.
"NOW FOR YOU, INSECTS! BOLDLY, YOU SOUGHT THE POWER OF RAGNAROS. NOW YOU SHALL SEE IT FIRSTHAND!"
Traditional MMOs have gone out of fashion lately. It used to be that every gaming brand had exciting untapped MMO potential and every publisher wanted an MMO in its stable, but the gold rush inspired by World of Warcraft yielded little precious metal, and a lot of publishers got burned in the process - especially Electronic Arts with Star Wars: The Old Republic - while the term "MMO" has become taboo when discussing a new breed of games that includes The Division and Destiny, even though in many respects they are both massively multiplayer and online.
It's the most nondescript day imaginable. 2pm on Thursday afternoon, and a spell of British anti-weather (sun like a cheap lightbulb) has me feeling neither warm nor cold. But I am sweating, and I am rapt.
Don't suppose you noticed that Guild Wars 2 had launched - hardly been anything written about it.
Yesterday evening I spoke to ArenaNet co-founder and boss, Mike O'Brien. I only had 20 minutes with him, and he sounded tired - maybe he's busy or something at the moment. Nevertheless, in that time we managed to talk about how launch went, the few niggling issues the game has, his thoughts on reviews and post-launch content.
OK. Following those first few rickety hours where I was disappointed at how much of an MMORPG Guild Wars 2 is - as documented in our collective diary - I've since found that I do, in fact, have another MMORPG in me. This game twisted open my genre fatigue like a rich man presented with a cheap lobster, and has commenced slurping the free time from my reticent carapace.
I write this at eight in the morning on the day you will read it. I've been up all night, having spent almost an entire day in a new world.
Guild Wars 2 is officially out on Tuesday 28th August, but several Eurogamer writers have spent the UK bank holiday weekend running around the three-day Head Start period reporting on our experiences. We'll do a proper review of the game once we've had more time to play it, but in the meantime you can see what we made of the game as we got stuck into it.
Eurogamer.net Podcast host Tom Champion has been ill! He's been as sick as a dog. A rescue dog. A rescue dog with fleas, and with arthritis in its back legs. Poor mutt. But he's back now, and so is the podcast.
While this was a wet weekend for most people in the UK, my own windows liberally speckled by rainfall, the skies over Divinity's Reach remained a beautiful hue of blue throughout. The weather was perfect for a short break in the city and allowed me to enjoy some sedate shopping on the promenade, a carefree visit to the carnival and even a chance to marvel at the engineering extravagance that is Uzolan's Mechanical Orchestra. Of course, while the charming land of Tyria has a lot to see and is ideal for a quick getaway, many of you will be wondering whether it's worth a lengthier stay.
Well, before I can go on I absolutely have to get something out of my system, something I desperately want to blurt at you: Guild Wars 2 is gorgeous, at least sometimes. Quite often it's content to be a gently handsome game, but at certain moments it can just bowl you over. Even in a world saturated with HD graphics, high-res textures and triple-buffered VSync, it still boasts some truly splendid moments and it's not even supporting DirectX 11 yet.
This is as much a triumph of art and design as it is any technical achievement. The city of Divinity's Reach, the focal point for the humans, is the highest of high fantasy, with its thrusting towers, shining causeways and winding, leafy suburbs, all populated by uncommonly good-looking citizens. The jewel in this crown is a splendid greenhouse-cum-orrery chamber, where enormous golden spheres circle lazily about the ceiling in a wondrous aerial ballet. It is, quite simply, grandeur.
Within the hundreds of hours of content an MMO offers, a million different stories can be told. But behind every MMO there are hundreds of stories often left untold. They are the stories of the makers.
Check it OUT! God DAMN! We're SLAMMING Eurogamer Podcast 106 out right now! BAAAAAM!
Tom's already offered you a rundown of this year's Actual New Games - the ones that are offering, in their own ways, something unique - and now here's the slightly less glamorous look at the other side of the coin.
They're big business, these blockbuster sequels, and for all that we lament the lack of innovation it's these big-budget series that inevitably garner the most attention and inspire the most devotion from the majority. That's nothing to be scorned - iteration's an important thing in games development and indeed the development of games - and a composite of evolved features designed to fulfil a particular desire, be that the needs of a sports fan or those wanting a fresh shooter fix, can be just as important to the progression of the medium as the advent of a new game mechanic or control concept.
Sequels take many forms and capture our attention for many reasons. Some build their features up year by year, like FIFA and Call of Duty, and will continue to be brilliant when we encounter them later in 2012. Others build on the storytelling or world-building of games a few years past, like Gearbox's brilliant-looking Borderlands 2 or the sure-to-be-spectacular finale to the Shepard's tale in Mass Effect 3. And some are interesting because of their circumstances - Halo 4, for example, is another big-budget sequel on the near horizon, and with a new and as-yet unproven developer filling Bungie's big boots, we're just interested in that out of morbid curiosity as devotion to the series.
Guild Wars 2 was a major draw at this year's Eurogamer Expo, and yesterday we named it as our Editors' Game of the Show. Below, John Bedford tries out player-versus-player and discusses it with lead content designer Colin Johanson; on page 3, Robert Purchese interviews Johanson about dungeons, the endgame and Guild Wars 2's distinctive dynamic events.
Guild Wars 2 has been selected by Eurogamer.net editorial staff as Editors' Game of the Show at Eurogamer Expo 2011.
Eurogamer is delighted to announce the 10 nominees for its Game of the Show, Eurogamer Expo 2011.
"Since it's not fighting for your $15 a month, Guild Wars 2 can happily co-exist with World of Warcraft. The question, really, is whether World of Warcraft, in all its undeniable but ageing glory, can co-exist with Guild Wars 2," I wrote about NCsoft's radical new MMO last month.
"We don't intend to be number two this time. We certainly have our sights set on number one."
ArenaNet is confident. Confident enough to proclaim it's the best MMO developer around and its upcoming game Guild Wars 2 is the most ambitious online world ever.
ArenaNet took chances with Guild Wars, scrapping all fees past game and expansion purchases, establishing an obtainable level cap (that even I reached, twice) and insisting on an instance-led approach where cities and outposts were the only evidence of a massively multiplayer world. It was and is unique. And it worked; the game initially scored higher than World of Warcraft, Blizzard's behemoth that had launched a couple of months prior, and WOW never trampled Guild Wars into the ground.
Since the game's announcement in 2007, NCsoft's Seattle-based developer ArenaNet has been quiet about what's been going on behind its doors with Guild Wars 2. With today's trailer, we get our first glimpse of the developer's re-imagining of this phenomenally popular online RPG. A lot has changed, but the developer's vision remains true to what made Guild Wars such a refreshing experience in the first place: accessibility, flexibility and incomparable value for money.
If you're remotely interested in videogames (and that's a safe assumption, we hope, unless you mistyped EuroGardener.net and just wanted to know if it's a good idea to fertilise petunias with coffee grounds), you may well feel somewhat swamped in massively multiplayer games at the moment.
Guild Wars began as three people's big idea, an MMORPG to break the mould, and one that would feature no monthly subscription fees - something many of us predicted would certainly lead to an early demise, especially against such fierce opposition.