Five years is a long time. A lot can change in a person’s life, and thinking back on everything that has happened is both amazing and humbling. I wrote about the excitement of each announcement relating to GW2 leading up to the final release date announcement about a month ago now, but GuildMag decided to run one more Blog Carnival about our personal experiences and growth in the last five years. I originally wasn’t going to write anything, because I feel that I’ve probably already covered it in the past, but then I read this. Ravious really got me thinking about all the emotions I’ve had, especially personal experiences that I haven’t often shared, so I think this is the perfect time to do so.
This was the year GW2 was announced, and the end of GW1’s new retail content. I was finishing my Jr./entering my Sr. year of college at the time, living with my best friends who all shared my love of GW. The news was both exciting and a little disappointing for us. We had bonded a lot over the past two years of GW, and we still loved the game. As excited as we were for GWEN, and subsequently GW2, I couldn’t help but feel a slight sadness. It felt like the end of an era, like moving into uncertain waters where everything was about to change in my life. Would I graduate this year? When I moved away, would I still be in touch with my best friends of the past 4 years? What game would we play once we “finished” GWEN? When would GW2 come out, and more importantly, would we like it as much as GW1?
It was a pretty crazy time. We moved into a house early in the summer (it was our first year completely away from campus), and as an inauguration, we decided to spend one awesome weekend together that we may never get the chance to again as a group. We went to our first PAX Prime. Now, I hadn’t ever been much of a convention person, but I did like Penny Arcade, and a full-on nerd-utopia sounded pretty amazing, so I decided to see what it was all about. As an aside, it was much, MUCH smaller that year than it has been in recent years. I want to say it was “only” about 30k people or so. Regardless, we went, and we had a real blast.
2008 was a pretty tough year personally. My last year of school was (predictably) fairly brutal at times. I had weeks of constant overwork and under-sleep, and then some downtime to recover. Most of that downtime was playing GW and TF2. By the time the end of summer rolled around, I was terrified. I was done with school… forever. The magnitude of the next stage of my life was absolutely terrifying. I’d have a full time job (hopefully), have to worry about all the adult things like insurance, rent/mortgage, food, car maintenance, everything. Plus, I was moving away first because only one other friend had graduated with me, and he was moving somewhere else. The economy wasn’t great, and I had very little bearing left.
Fortunately, we had one last event we were going to do together. It was, once again, PAX Prime. It could be the last time we were going to live remotely close to one another and also have the time to spare. This time, PAX had a population closer to 50k IIRC, which was amazing. We went to some GW panels in the hope that we could catch some news of GW2. They opened up with this video (starts at ~47 sec).
There at the time, in that room, and even now, I get goosebumps and even start to tear up a bit. Part of it is the absolutely amazing music. Guild Wars has always had fantastic music, and excellent application of it. It’s both subtly and boldly used throughout, so much that often it would be hard to describe or recall any one song, but hearing it will instantly conjure memories of the game in certain places. Jeremy Soule is an amazing composer. The other part, though, is association. I remember so much from my time in Tyria, and so much of it was positive. I made lifelong friends with that game. I realized then and there that Guild Wars was an incredible chapter of my life, and I had the utmost gratitude to ANet for that. All I could do was hope for GW2 to instill similar memories.
I had heard that ANet did after parties during PAX. They typically were invite-only, though they had ways to win access. My friends and I decided to give it a shot. I remember it being a sort of trivia party game, where a group of people all had the names of NPCs put on their back. Each person had to figure out who they were based on context of how everyone talked to them. It was officiated by Regina, and she ran it well. Frustratingly, most other people seemed to have easy ones, but mine I just could not conjure. Can you? I figured out that I was in the Tarnished Coast, and I was a human. I could be recruited, and I shouted a lot. Of course, this was literally one of the only Heroes I didn’t recruit for a long time. Haa…. Hai… Haay… Haydra? Hayda. There we go. I barely squeaked out the answer, but I did, and I was in!
That night, we went to the party at Gameworks. My friends and I noticed that a lot of the devs were around, and seemed to be sort of nervous. I think that was the moment when it kind of clicked for me. My friends and I were sort of nervous about talking to these devs because, well, they were such important people and we were sort of nobody. But standing there, looking at them, I sort of realized that they probably didn’t see themselves in the same light that we did. To them, they were just dudes and dudettes that worked for a game company, and they were sticking with their own friends that they worked with, possibly just as nervous about meeting absolute strangers as we were. This was probably especially true then, before many of their names were so well known to even mild fans. So, we decided to grab some beers, and ask if we could join them. We sat down, and had a really great evening chatting away about all sorts of things. Guild Wars was of course prime among the topics, but instead of grilling them for info, we tried to be a bit more conversational and ask them about how they felt about things, what were their funniest memories of development, those sorts of things. The two I remember talking to the most were James Phinney, and Isaiah Cartwright. They had some really fun insights about both game systems, and about balance and goals. It was very casual, and we had a blast. It really hit home for me, more than any other time, that these people were just that: people. They care about the game, but more importantly, they have the same kinds of fears and anxieties that everyone has. It really made me think about how I would conduct myself online in regards to any criticism I might have. It’s very easy to just complain about or insult “the man”, but thinking about normal people reading things about themselves made it really hard for me to stand a lot of hyperbole that people throw.
By the time 2009 had rolled around, my personal life felt a lot more stable. I had a full time job, and I was finding it pretty easy to keep in touch with my friends, even though we didn’t see each other often. On the Guild Wars side though, it was something of a dark time for many fans. As I’ve commented before, this is when panic was setting in. There was a veritable dearth of information. The game was supposed to be in beta already, and all we knew is that was out the door. Of course, that all changed at Gamescom. We saw the introduction to Tyria in the form of the first GW2 trailer, and it was beautiful. As a fan, I was ecstatic. Even though we had no date, it was the first real piece of information we had about the game, and it looked great.
I went to PAX once again with my friends, and once again took the time to speak with some of the ANet staff. Although we had little info about GW2, it was easy to see how excited everyone was to share the world with us finally.
Guild Wars 2 Guru had recently started up, and I joined up not too long after (November). It was the first time I had really spoken to anyone outside my immediate circle of friends about the game I cared about so deeply. I was a bit shy at first, but I became pretty comfortable spouting out my opinion after not too long.
I like to think of 2010 as the year of the podcasts and blogs. There were a ton of start-ups in both the blog-o-sphere and the podcasting scene. The two most prominent podcasts (IMO) were the revamped Guildcast, and the Relics of Orr. I got in on both of those rather early, and found that I enjoyed listening to these folks talk about the game. Sure, it was pretty rare that they discussed something I didn’t already know, but I found that hearing some well-spoken, intelligent folks give their impressions, theories, and criticism was pretty great. I commented quite a bit on both of their sites. Similarly, I started writing more long posts on Guru.
That year at PAX, I managed to score some tickets to the after party again. This year it was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle. We ended up finding some seats at a table with Tirzah Bauer and Kristen Perry. I spoke more one-on-one with Tirzah about the Queensdale zone, which she had apparently had a big part in creating. Having just played the demo for the first time, I was still so excited, and we really had a fun time talking about the zone. I informed her that it was one of my favorite things I had seen because it reminded me so much of pre-searing in its beauty, and she seemed fairly happy to hear that. We chit-chatted about all sorts of things, and at one point we started joking around about a drunk guy that was sitting near us. All in all, we had a fantastic time, and it reinforced my feelings from before about these great people working on this game. I also got to chat with Kristen Perry and Katy Hargrove about the Charr, and how much I appreciated the artistic directions they had taken them. I managed to score some sharpie charr drawings on my bandana. Our conversations really showed the passion that those two had in creating the various creatures and races in the world. They loved their work, and it was great to let them share it.
Relics, in response to some lengthy comment discussions, started up a special weekly entry they called the Bar Brawl. It was then and there that I realized that I liked to talk about the game. A lot. I wrote some really long posts there. Like, ridiculously long. I won one of their self-created awards for being “The Novelist”. It literally got so ridiculous that Tasha (@tasha_darke) had to enforce a rule that we couldn’t write more than 500 words in their comments because A- we were scaring people away from writing, and B- they were ridiculously long anyway. It was both kind of funny, and kind of humbling.
At the same time, over on Guru, I realized that most of my comments I cared about were in the threads about news, or threads about theory crafting. I found that I was really enjoying analyzing the game systems and how they worked with one another. Unfortunately, that was somewhat coupled with a frustration that kept growing. In those news threads, the posts were coming in so fast that there would literally be pages more new posts between starting and finishing a comment. As such, most people didn’t even read a lot of the thread and instead just skipped to the end. When you write a detailed analysis that you’d like to discuss, it’s really frustrating when it gets immediately shunted back under three pages of one-liners. This isn’t anything unique to Guru, and it’s not really something you can prevent because people can and should write what they want, but it was really hit or miss as to whether anyone even saw this stuff I was taking all the time to think about and write up.
Not too long after being told to keep my comments shorter, I realized that neither Guru nor the comment sections of RoO/Guildcast were the right places to be putting down my thoughts. I looked around at other bloggers that I was reading, and realized that I could do the same. I was confident that I had a unique enough perspective, and I certainly had plenty to say, and most importantly, I had a strong desire to say it. So, in June of 2011, I started this blog up. At first, I didn’t actually have a ton to write about because, well, everyone had already talked about it all. That was ok though, I needed to get into practice, so I wrote some nice little filler pieces. I knew that Gamescom was just a couple of months away, and the leading up and following weeks would be full of new information.
Eventually, news did come out, and that was when I started to hit my stride and find my voice. Unconstrained by the frustrations of forums, I was able to write however much I wanted, and it would be hard to miss them. Unfortunately, this was something of a transition period for Guru. There wasn’t a Community News and Projects section of the forum, so all blog posts went into the News and Articles section. That’s where they had always gone, but around this time, many other bloggers had decided to give it a go as well. The News section was getting really full of different bloggers and their (our) new blogs. Lots of people were somewhat upset and tired of seeing all these new posts from people they didn’t care about. It was pretty disheartening. I honestly thought about quitting at first, especially when I had my threads bickered in and/or moved into areas of the forum that were not often visited by the main crowd. However, I still felt that I really had nowhere better to put my thoughts, so I kept on going.
At the same time, I joined Twitter very reluctantly. I had been turned off by how many people used the service as a way to talk about every inane thing they did with their lives. Still, I had heard a lot of GW2 bloggers were using it, so off I went. Over then next year or so, I made a lot of really great contacts with people via Twitter. I discovered this fantastic community of bloggers that were really fun to chat with, even about things outside of GW2. I’m actually pretty shy when it comes to meeting new people, so this was a great experience for me. In fact, I’d like to just say thank you to many of the fine folks I tweet with. Thank you @tasha_darke, @NeoNugget, @elixabethclaire, @izziebot, @KTR_Ravious, @poke, @Rubi_, @MalchiorDeven, @Kvinna, @TriggerSad, @DistilledWill, @HuntersInsight, @Kaden3701, @mkerstein, @CornishRocker, @allmicronomacro, @Peter_Fries, @Gmr_Leon, and @LadyVerene. Seriously, you guys are all awesome, and have made my life more enjoyable on a daily basis. All of you have been supportive and/or very inspirational to me as a writer, you’ve helped me keep going.
To round out the year, I (barely) managed to once again score tickets to the ANet party, this time at their home office. Once again, I was reminded just how human the faces of this company really are, how humble and down to earth they were. Much to my surprise, some of them even recognized my (screen) name, which I had on a “Hello my name is: ” sticker. It just really hammered home how much even some of the top level designers take the time to read what people are writing to/for/about them. It’s something that I think most people don’t understand, and it’s something I find both amazing and humbling. I finally met Rubi (who wasn’t working there yet), as well as Colin Johanson, who is really that smiley.
As 2012 is starting to wrap up, the game is about to come out. There has been a lot less for me to write about because my normal fare was talking about mechanics, most of which we know now. It’s been another transition as the excitement has finally become tangible. Even now, there are only 18 days and change remaining, I still almost feel like it isn’t happening. Where will we go from here? What will I write about? Honestly, I don’t know, but it will be an exciting time. I’d just like to say thank you Arena Net, for making an amazing pair of games and being really awesome people. You deserve rest and accolades when this game comes out, though I doubt you’ll take a ton of the former.