Are enough people playing Guild Wars 2?

, | Games

I’d like to apologize to any Guild Wars 2 players who were in Cair Shadowfane last night just trying to sell their junk, repair their armor, or study the map. All that chaos was my fault. I really didn’t think it was going to get so out of hand. My bad.

After the jump, Monday night’s all right for fighting.

The Cursed Shore is pretty much the edge of the world. It’s the last part of the map you’ll come to if you follow the storyline. Even if you ignore the storyline — I ignored the end of it for literally years — you’ll come to the Cursed Shore if you ever want to do the last dungeon. It’s the only area that doesn’t have a level range because it’s got a single level. The level cap. It is a level 80 area.

You arrive through a mountain pass from the previous zone into an open area called the Plains of Gold. I suspect it’s a bit of an ironic name. Like the rest of Orr, a blasted land that story story somethingstory story story, the Cursed Shore is a ruin. It’s what it would look like if you flooded a city, let it accrue barnacles and coral under the sea for a thousand years, drained it, and then let it bake in the desert for a thousand more years. It’s a hybrid of sand, sun, sea, and ruin.

Orr is inhabited by zombies. But zombies in Guild Wars aren’t called zombies, they’re called risen. There’s a risen flavor of pretty much every type of creature. Risen pirates, mages, warriors, raptors, bulls, chickens. You name it. There’s even a risen megalodon swimming around off the coast of Fort Trinity. One of the creatures in Guild Wars is an abomination, which is a two-story tall lump of muscled flesh. He hunkers down and charges into a straight line, doing serious damage to anyone who doesn’t have the presence of mind to stand anyplace else than in that straight line. Naturally, the zombie version of this is the risen abomination.

Furthermore, there are incredibly tough creatures that roam the countryside called champions. They get a special icon on the map to let everyone know, “Hey, there’s a bad-ass monster here!” They’re a type of dynamic group quest, because you’re not going to kill them yourself. So they call attention to themselves on the map so everyone can converge on them.

So when I saw a champion risen abomination wandering around the Plains of Gold, I figured I’d try to enlist a little help killing him. I would maneuver him to the nearest place where I last saw other players. That was Cair Shadowfane, a small walled area with several NPCs inside, including guards, a karma vendor, an auction house vendor, and so on. There were a few players hanging around last time I was there.

So I kited the big dude back towards Cair Shadowfane. He followed me obligingly. The NPC guards joined the fray first, but they died very quickly. A mesmer player sallied forth, popping her illusions around the abomination’s feet. A norn warrior got right up against its feet and started whaling away. All of us died several times. At which point we just resurrected at the waypoint in Cair Shadowfane and immediately went back to attacking the abomination. It becomes a point of pride. “Kill me, will you? Oh no you didn’t!” So you immediately resurrect and run right back to where you were. In for a penny…

A few more players join in. They die. There’s a stream of us moving from the waypoint to the champion risen abomination, who is lumbering around just outside the entrance. The stream starts getting shorter and shorter as we die more and more, and soon enough, the champion risen abomination is inside the walls of Cair Shadowfane, killing NPCs as he goes. More and more people join in. By the time he falls — I’d estimate it was maybe fifteen minutes after I first slung my axe at him — there are about twenty of us attacking him, in the center of town, strewn with the bodies of players and NPCs.

This wouldn’t happen in a game without a healthy player population. I don’t mean healthy overall. I have no idea how many people are playing Guild Wars 2. I have no idea how much money publisher NCSoft and developer ArenaNet are making from it. For me, as a consumer, a healthy player population is one that makes the game best at the point I’m playing. It’s where the content and the player population match, where you don’t have to run past a public group quest because you know no one’s going to show up to do them, where it’s not weird to see some guy run past you because you haven’t seen anyone else for the last half hour. Guild Wars 2 looks a lot different from when I used to play, and this is most likely due to their new server structure which dynamically mixes populations from different servers. Later that same night — this was at 2am Pacific on a weeknight — I had no problem finding enough people to kill the Karka Queen on Southsun Cove and then the Risen Wizard at the gates of the City of Arah. From where I’m playing, and even from when I’m playing, Guild Wars 2 is positively hopping.