Character diversity in Guild Wars 2
How is character diversity achieved in Guild Wars 2? How can each player customize their character? What's the link between character diversity and dynamic events? Musings after the break.
In previous games, character diversity was mainly achieved through the character creation. You choose a race, a class, the appearance and then name the character. But character customization doesn't end at character creation. There are different playstyles that determine what you actually do in-game. In recent MMO's, you can switch playstyles on-the-fly, change armor colors, complete achievements and earn titles.
How previous MMO's fostered character diversity
Firstly, I wanted to get the old things out of the way. You stumble about these things in pretty much every MMO and these are part of Guild Wars 2 as well. In character creation, you choose a race, a profession, your appearance and the character name. The next things are Dungeons, titles and achievements. At endgame you have the usual build choices and improving your skill and knowledge of the game mechanics. So, what is new to Guild Wars 2 that allows for further character diversity?
Let's start with the character creation as this is what every player has to do. Apart from race/profession choice and character appearance, Guild Wars 2 character creation offers preliminary story choices. Depending on race and profession, you get to choose different character backgrounds, flavor items and personality traits. Personality affects the way NPC's will interact with you in your personal story and in the world. The character background also affects certain cinematics and NPC interaction.
Some people might argue, that after the character creation is done, character customization is done as well. That certainly isn't true for Guild Wars 2. Have you heard about traits? No? Then I recommend reading ArenaNet's latest post (note: link broken) on that topic. Traits are a way to offer late-game customization to your character. They allow you to alter attributes and even modify some of your skills. For example, if you are into earth magic as an Elementalist, you have the option of choosing the corresponding trait line. What's great about that is that it allows for deep diversity even in the same class.
Another thing that plays into the character diversity in Guild Wars 2 is the actual playstyle. By that I mean how you actually play. You can constantly switch between weapons or prefer to use environmental weapons. You can be a hit-and-run thief or a front-line guardian who thinks that dodging isn't necessary. You can be the front-line Elementalist that knows his class to heart and switches between attunements when needed or you are the back-line support Elementalist who always uses the water attunement. The choice is entirely yours. This is very special about Guild Wars 2. The combat system allows for a lot of different playstyles that can be very distinguishable.
Stories told by the players
In previous MMO's, every player was experiencing the same story as every other player around them. This is where Guild Wars 2 truly innovates. Character choices, gameplay and mechanics aside, the dynamic event system allows each player to have a very different experience. If you rescued a town then another player that is walking by later on, will find the rescued town not knowing that you rescued it. When you meet the player later on and ask him about his experience, it would be entirely different from yours. Another example would be exploration, where you can find stuff no other player has experienced before. I really love that players do not experience the same content over and over again.
The same holds true for World vs World. And while the concept of World vs World and Large Scale PVP is certainly not new, I wanted to talk about it as it's one of my favorite topics. The things we experience in WvW will certainly be worth writing down, because they have an impact on the world and are meaningful to those who were there. If you conquer a keep it is yours. If you want to keep it, you have to form friendships so it doesn't get taken over the next night. There will be hundreds of players roaming the mists and that is awesome. There is so much freedom in WvW, it's almost a sandbox setting.
The things players experience will define the stories those players can tell and those will define their characters. Everyone is able to tell his own story of what he experienced in the world. This is what character diversity means for me.
This is my entry for GuildMag's blog carnival.What does character diversity mean for you? Leave a comment or write your own article for GuildMag's blog carnival. ~Ply