A lot of my friends are playing The Old Republic, but I can't group with 90% of them. Most of them are on different servers than I am, so if we want to play together, one of us has to abandon our established characters. And even if we could transfer servers, half of the characters are on a different faction, so I couldn't group with them anyways.
MMOs often make it too darn hard to play with your friends--a ridiculous state of affairs for the most social genre in all of gamingdom. But ArenaNet is looking to change that with Guild Wars 2, and revealed the first details in a development blog last month . We followed up with Lead Game Designer Eric Flannum to find out more.
PCG: So you'll be able to transfer your character between servers for free in Guild Wars 2. Can you give us details on how this'll work?
Eric Flannum: Servers and server transfers work a bit differently in Guild Wars 2 than they do in a typical MMO. First, we ask you to choose a Home Server. This Home Server determines which side you play for in our World vs. World combat as well as which bonuses from World vs. World are available to you. Another difference is that our guilds exist across servers. Think of each guild as having a distinct “chapter” that exists on any world where guild members make their homes. So this concept of a home world is very important for Guild Wars 2 players.
A player may transfer from their home world to a new home world for a fee. This fee exists because we want players to make transferring to a new home world a very serious thing and not something that players do on a whim. Once a player pays to transfer, there's a seven-day period during which they cannot transfer again.
A player may also choose to play on any server where they have a friend as a guest. We want “guesting” to be an easy way for players to play with their friends from different worlds, so we won't charge any sort of real world money fee for guesting. Beyond that, we're still working on what other restrictions we might need to impose and will announce more details when we have them implemented.
PCG: Obviously your home server is an important part of World vs. World battles. How will you keep easy access to server transfers from being abused by people wanting to join the “winning” team?
EF: The fee should serve as a pretty large deterrent to people looking to jump on the winning side. Beyond this, a player's not eligible to receive any of the World vs. World bonuses during the match that is ongoing when they transfer. Because of our matchmaking system, you can never be certain that your side is going to win the next matchup, so you'd be risking your money without any guarantee of being able to reap the rewards that come with victory.
PCG: It's really kind of surprising that most MMOs make it so difficult to play with your friends. Do you think every MMO can, and should, implement these sorts of features?
EF: Our guesting system is something that's unique to the way we set up our servers, so I'm not certain how other MMOs would be able to do the same things that we do. That being said, I would personally love to see more MMOs play around with different ways of structuring servers.
PCG: So I can get to my friend's server. That's great. But what if we're different levels? How will rewards work when high-level players are grouping with low-level characters in low-level areas?
EF: High level characters who are playing in low level areas still receive rewards appropriate to their "real" level. The rate at which they gain these rewards is lower in the lower level area than if they'd been playing in an area that was equal to their own level. This reward system works on a sliding scale so that extreme level differences are much less efficient than slight level differences. For example, a level 80 player going to a level 10 area would earn rewards less efficiently than a level 40 player going to that same area. We are always tweaking this number but we generally want to find a sweet spot where players feel rewarded without it being open to exploit.
PCG: Is there still a way to powerlevel a friend's character, and if not, was that an intentional design choice?
EF: The most efficient way to play the game definitely involves playing with other people although powerleveling in the classic sense is not possible due to the way we dynamically adjust character levels. This was an intentional choice since we want our game to be a social experience.
PCG: Are there any other features in Guild Wars 2 that help facilitate friends playing together, no matter what level or server their characters are?
EF: There are quite a few things that we implemented intentionally to help facilitate players playing with each other. For example, our waypoint system is designed to allow players to quickly and easily travel to wherever their friends are. Friends lists and guild membership are account-based to help people play with each other and not force them to remember a long list of alts. Whenever we design a new feature we always ask ourselves how it impacts our players' ability to play with their friends.
PCG: Thanks for your time.