Anet, we have a problem. Make that problem-s.

For the past two years, ArenaNet has been revealing a steady stream of information about its upcoming MMO, Guild Wars 2. Many questions have been asked of them (often repeatedly) regarding basic issues such as “what is going to be the most powerful class?” or “is there a level cap?” or “will there be a subscription fee?” These have been answered in a short FAQ (so please don’t waste interview time with them anymore!). Having just watched some of the new PAX videos, it’s very difficult to accuse Anet of not giving their fans the info they want. Even so, there are still outstanding concerns that have not yet been addressed – we would like cover some of them here.

This has become a huge concern for anyone who has played Guild Wars for any length of time. Over the past six years, about half of our guild members’ accounts been hacked and stolen. Characters were methodically stripped of what amounted to years of work (and it is work) and nothing was done for the players but to return account control. ArenaNet did not take security concerns seriously until after the fact, and even then only partially. Their big fix was for the player to enter an avatar name during login; not the most effective in a highly social game where people take great pains to become well known.

Anet has been skirting around the topic – at this point we have no idea what their plans are for Guild Wars 2. In the meantime though, we do have some suggestions:

  • An optional software or hardware authenticator. This would make it impossible for front-end hacks where the hackers already know users’ login and password. It could also be integrated into the phone app that Anet has said is in the works.
  • Require quality passwords and force password changes every so often.
  • Provide account alerts (just like the bank) via SMS and email.
  • Make gold farmers’ job more difficult by having less junk and currency drops. From the demos and what Anet has said, the developers seem to be doing something similar.
  • When accounts are hacked, a full character restore must be possible.

This is a topic which is at the top of my concerns list, but will likely not be addressed at all. For most MMOs, and probably Guild Wars 2, storage and inventory management are merely an afterthought.

While I still played Guild Wars, at the end of every serious play session I would find myself spending up to an hour shifting crafting materials, armor, weapons, the multiple upgrade components for each type of weapon, dyes, collector items, quest items, consumables, and miscellaneous junk around from my inventory, to storage, to mule, and back. (A mule is a character slot or avatar created for the express purpose of holding items.) I was eventually spending more time doing inventory management than playing and, while the game was still fun, it became one of the reasons why I quit.

The root issue was that there were way too many items for far too little storage space. An obvious fix for this would be fewer items, but that’s not really what I want or what I believe other people want. What we’re really looking for is a better way to manage the items we do have.

How can Anet do this? First, start with specialized storage. Rather than have a backpack full of recipe drops, they should go directly into a single crafting list, similar to what is being done with dye pallets. Armor should have its own storage interface, along with a quick-switch function, as seen in other MMOs. If there are keys, they should go on a key ring. All these minor tweaks could save large amounts of inventory space as a whole.

Second, GET RID OF MULES. As it is now, people pay $10 per character slot/mule for an additional 45 storage spaces. Anet makes its money off of Guild Wars with these microtransactions, which is not a bad thing. We just want the ability to buy the same amount of storage space, just as account storage. This box would then be accessible to all characters and, as a bonus, makes quick-switching unnecessary. People are willing to spend money to save time.

Buying and Selling
This is not a big issue for most people, but it should be since it directly affects the in-game economy. The economy is the buying and selling within the game and its currency, i.e. gold, gil, credits. The cost of an item is based upon 1) the supply and demand of that item and 2) the amount players are willing to pay, which itself is dependent on how much currency the developer puts into the game. In a game economy in which it is easier for everyone to trade their wares, the weath is more evenly distributed.

The most common tool to facilitate buying and selling is the auction house – even the most casual player can keep up with a power seller. Unfortunately, they tend not to work very well without the use of addons, which Anet does not allow. One of the earliest bits of disclosed info was the addition of the auction house in Guild Wars 2. Since then, there has been no further details given on it or how functional it will be when the game eventually goes live.

That said, almost anything will be better than how trading was handled in Guild Wars, via pink text channel in D1 of hub cities. And though Anet did add a tool for trading after we left, the strain of monitoring trade chat, the obvious issue of time, and unwillingly supporting RMT gold selling remained.

We’ve gone over some of the bigger concerns we have that haven’t been addressed or at least not addressed to our satisfaction. There are still a lot of little things that we’d really like to discuss before Guild Wars 2 comes out, and we’ll be covering those in a later article.

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