Sunday, July 1, 2012

Guild Wars' Curious Carry Mechanic


 So by now you've heard that Guild Wars 2 has announced their launch date - August 28th, 2012.  And suddenly, those of us that have been poking along in Guild Wars 1, attempting to get a few points for our Hall of Monuments, suddenly have deer in the headlights looks on our faces, as a deadline suddenly looms before us!  Though I rarely do very well at actually completing things, recently I've been fairly good about keeping my eye on my objectives, and have actually finished a few things.  Last week I finished at long last, the Nightfall campaign, and this week I finished the Eye of the North campaign.  Suffice it to say, I've been spending a good amount of my free time in Tyria.  And it was while playing - one session in particular - that I was reminded of one of Guild Wars' more quirky mechanics.  And one - for better or worse - they've carried over into Guild Wars 2.  And that is.. carrying something.

So, in most games, picking something up means simply that it goes in your inventory.  And in Guild Wars, they have that kind of picking something up too.  But they also have a whole different category of possession, which your character physically carries an item.  You get an animation for it and everything.  After you pick up the item, you are holding it in your hands.  You get a special button that displays on your interface called "drop item".  As you run around, you look pretty silly, carrying whatever it is, but there you are.

Carrying Buckets of Oil
Interestingly enough, the Guild Wars 1 designers were pretty much in love with this mechanic.  It was, considered a pretty important mechanic, and it factors into many quests and activities.  The consider it important enough in fact that the very first mission you do in NightFall requires you to show that you know how to pick something up, carry it to another place, and put it down.  They loved it so much, they built an entire classes combat mechanics around carrying items, and then putting them down.  For instance, here's a typical ritualist ability:  Pure was Li Ming.  First, I love the ritualist spell names, because they most all sound like they were written by Yoda.  Here's the description:  

Hold Li Ming's ashes for 5...17...20 seconds. While you hold her ashes, conditions on you expire 10...42...50% faster. When you drop her ashes, all allies within earshot lose 1...3...4condition[s].

First, it's a bit morbid isnt it?  But that's how it works.  When you activate the spell, you're holding a little urn, which we can only presume are Li Ming's ashes.  While you carry her ashes, you get a nice effect.  Drop her ashes, and you get another effect. Why do you drop the item?  Oh because while you're carrying an object, you can't use any of your abilities that require the use of your hands!

A Ritualist is never far from her handy
collection of ashes!
So, a warrior - whose entire skill bar is pretty much filled with weapon based abilities, is pretty much completely crippled while carrying an item.  Curiously enough, spell casting, even though you play animations that wave your arms about, is seemingly unaffected by the fact that you might be holding a barrel in your hands.  So strangely elementalists are still mostly effective while carrying an object.  Considering that many requests and activities require you to carry objects, it was a hugely unfair disadvantage for weapon based classes.

Around the time Eye of the North came about, they introduced a variation to the carry mechanic.  They would give you an entirely new skill bar when you picked the item up.  This is very similar to how vehicles work in WoW.  Now - me personally, I'm not a huge fan of this either.  You spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort putting together your build and acquiring your skills, and then you go and pick something up, and poof, all your skills are gone and replaced by some collection of things you didn't choose and most likely don't know.  But it is what it is.  The designers are fine with it, and the presumption is, you carry whatever it is enough, and eventually you'll learn those skills as well.  And it does have the advantage at least of being equally fair regardless of what class you are. 

This is, by the way, the version of the mechanic that lives on in Guild Wars 2.  However, it seems in Guild Wars 2 that the designers have relagated carrying objects to somewhat of a pure flavor role.  The world is filled with objects lying about just begging to be picked up, and when you do, you typically get some small collection of abilities that are associated with that object.  But I haven't seen entire quests built around your ability to pick up an object, carry it somewhere, and put it down - no wait, you do have to pick up those water buckets in one of the first karma events - so yeah, I guess you are using them.  Well at least there aren't entire classes built around using it as a mechanic.  

One humorous anecdote to share, which is actually what prompted me to write this blog.  In one quest in Eye of the North, your party is faced with an indestructible golem.  However, it can be beaten by picking up a nearby object, charging said object up by interacting with a second object, and then putting the object down at the golem's feet.  All the while the golem is hammering you with various attacks, and generally wrecking havoc with your party, while your party assails away at him to no avail.  So I picked up the object, charged it up, but then I couldn't find the drop item button!  I looked all over my interface and it wasn't there!  So my poor heroes are fighting for their lives, healers trying vainly to keep people alive, warriors dying left and right, and Kaytte, prancing around like an idiot, carrying this stupid item, with all of the NPCs pleading for her to put it down, and her player going I can't find the button!!  Thank gawd there were no actual other people in the party.  Turned out it had appeared beneath one of the interface elements that you can move around.  Once I moved the element out of the way, there it was.  Kaytte deposited the charged thingamajig dutifully at the golem's feet, blowing it up.  

Anyway, if Guild Wars 2 is actually your first foray into the world of Guild Wars, and you are wondering why there are cow paddies that you can actually pick up and throw - well now you know.  Just one of the many quirks that came through from the original game, and lives on in its newest incarnation.