Game mechanics describe how and why things work a certain way in the game. These are the rules by which combat is resolved, spells are cast, experience gained, and other similar basic physics of the Guild Wars game world operate. As this entire wiki is basically an in-depth discovery of the game mechanics, this article will attempt to put all the other articles into perspective.
Players participate in the game with the creation of a character. Players are represented in game by a 3D animated character in human form. During creation, the player is free to choose from a variety of facial features, hair style and color, height, and sex. Once created, these features can be changed later for a fee with Makeover Credits.
All characters are "born" in one of the three campaigns: Prophecies, Factions or Nightfall. Since Eye of the North is an expansion to the game, characters can not be born there. However, characters from all campaigns may travel there if the expansion has been added to their account.
There are primarily two ways for a character to play the game:
- Player vs. the Environment (PvE) where the player completes quests and missions either solo or as a member of a party who fight against AI controlled foes.
- Player vs. Player (PvP) where the player is solely interested in competing in combat against other players.
- (Note: Roleplaying characters do have the option to participate in PvP combat, but are limited to the skills, weapons and armor that they possess at the time. PvP-only characters do not have the option to adventure in the world at large.)
All characters have a profession. This is the primary discipline of study for that character. Each profession has a specific set of attributes and a variety of skills specific to that profession. How well a particular skill works for a character is controlled by the player, by assigning attribute points to its associated attribute. The choice of profession will also dictate the overall look of the character by limiting the style of dress, or armor, that character can utilize and the weapons they can become proficient with.
Initially, a new roleplaying character has few if any skills, beginner armor and a starter weapon. These provide the lowest possible protection from, and cause the least amount of damage to enemies. This is to motivate the player to seek improvements and upgrades as soon as possible.
Character advancement is controlled by gaining experience. At predetermined amounts, total experience gained will equate to a level of mastery within the game. The maximum character level is 20, and the vast majority of play takes place at level 20. Beyond level 20, experience gained will only serve in obtaining additional skill points. As a character attains a new level they also gain additional attribute points that they can distribute and redistribute at will, as long as they are in a town or outpost. Experience is awarded for defeating a foe in combat or as a reward upon completion of a quest or mission. To advance faster, many Scrolls are available in game as a multiplier to experience gained.
During game play, Game Mechanics also allow for achievements as well. These are in the form of Titles that are tracked by a variety of point systems. From Faction points to Norn reputation points. While a character can hold more than one title, only one can be displayed at a time for prestige. A player is also able to display their status within the game by donning various profession specific elite armor. This armor is often either obscenely expensive, or very difficult to get - or both -- but they have the same statistics as other armor.
However, the most unique feature of Guild Wars is the *lack* of significant progression in character power. In the extensive PvP component of Guild Wars, all characters automatically have access to ideal equipment, and start at level 20. In PvE, it is relatively easy to achieve maximum level and acquire fully-optimized equipment. While unlocking all possible skills requires more effort, the 8-skill limit means that a character with more skills only has an advantage in versatility, not in strength.
Thus, the most important advancement lies not in character statistics but in player skill. A novice player and an expert may have access to the same character options, but the expert will be able to use these options to far greater effect.
While the character's initial, or primary, profession is permanent, very soon into the game the character will have the opportunity to choose a secondary profession. The character will then be able to complete several quests under each of the professions available in that campaign before finally having to choose one as a secondary profession. Later in the game, the character will be able to swap secondary professions with the help of profession trainers. With 10 professions available to begin with, there are 90 possible combinations of primary and secondary professions. Not 100, as Game Mechanics require your secondary to be different from your primary; ie: you can not be a Monk/Monk character. Many secondary professions supplement primary professions extremely well. There are many articles both within GWW and other fan sites that cover combinations in great detail. This page on the GuildWiki site is an example.
- Towns and Outposts exist continually until a new build of Guild Wars is made available and the servers have to be updated. As such, players may meet each other in this type of area. The player may leave and then come back to find many of the other players still there. There is a 100 player limit to the number of players a Town or Outpost can hold. Once the town is full a new copy of the town is created. Multiple copies of a town are called districts. During event weekends, there can be 180 or more full districts of the same town. Guild Halls operate much like a town or outpost, except they lack portals. If you are a member or have an invitation, you enter and exit a guild hall via the guild screen, or from The Battle Isles map.
- Explorable areas operate differently than towns and outposts. Explorable areas are instanced, which means they are created for a single party, and exist only as long as the party remains in the area. No one else may join you there later. If you drop an item in an explorable area, you can not come back and get it later because returning to an explorable area forces the server to generate a new instance of the area. This allows the server to add or remove specific content, NPCs, MOBs, close gates, etc. based on the needs of an active quest or mission.
- Arenas are handled much the same as explorable areas, except the methods used to populate the party differ for each type of arena. Also, several different game mechanics exists for arenas. The length of your stay in the arena can be limited by time, by kill count, or by team elimination.
Initially, the player must run from place to place. This will uncover detailed information about that location on the World Map. Travel from any town or outpost to an explorable area is done simply by running through a portal. Once more than one town or outpost has been uncovered, the player may then map-travel between towns to save time. When the player owns other campaigns or extensions, their character will be allowed to travel between the existing continents. Game traveling is done through ports. There is only one port in each campaign.
- Boreal Station in the Eye of the North, is accessed by a completely different game mechanic called an Asura Gate
- A special link exists between The Arid Sea in the Crystal Desert in Tyria, and the Crystal Overlook in the Desolation in Elona. For a character to be able to travel in this manner, he must have completed both the mission Sanctum Cay in Tyria and the mission Gate of Desolation in Elona.
Game mechanics differ from one campaign to another. Weapon inscriptions and heroes only exist in Nightfall and in Eye of the North, but can be obtained by players from Prophecies and Factions by game traveling to those lands. Exploration of the three main continents also carry their own titles.
It is here also that a player may notice a difference in Game mechanics across the world of Guild Wars. While purely visual in nature, there are differences in the way the world works from one campaign to another. For example, fire animations are handled differently. The most visually appealing are in the Eye of the North expansion. Also, while standing near objects that obstruct the view of battle, sometimes the obstruction will "fade" away in one campaign, but not another.
As the player travels the world, they will eventually encounter wildlife. Some will be passive. These will be indicated by green rings under the creature when targeted. Light green rings indicate a creature that is not interactive, such as the rabbit found in pre-Searing Ascalon. Dark green rings indicate that the creature can be made hostile if it is attacked. There are numerous exceptions as to which interactive creatures can be charmed into Ranger pets. A few creatures can not even be targeted, such as the Cat. Foes, either an interactive creature that has been attacked, or an out right hostile creature, will have a red circle under it when targeted. Most foes will attack the character if they get too close. This is called the aggression or aggro range. It is also called the danger zone. Some foes can see a lot further than others, so beware! Pressing the Alt key will display all nearby passive creatures, and NPCs. Pressing the Ctrl key will uncover all nearby foes. In this way, a player may select which foe or groups of foes, called mobs they wish to avoid, or engage. In the player's interface there is a compass ring. It should be checked often.
This is where the most game mechanics can be seen at work all at once. In Guild Wars, combat happens in real time, and is simultaneous for all characters, friend and foe alike. Combat is not time compressed, or turn based, as in other popular games. New players may find combat fast paced and hectic due to the vast varieties of attacks, defenses, enchantments, hexes and tactics available in combat.
- Attacks can be made with a weapon, skill, spell, signet, and so on. Attacks can cause a wide range of damage to a specific foe, a small group of foes or a wide area. Attacks can cause their damage all at once, or spread out evenly over time. Using various forms of attack in synergistic ways is key to Guild Wars; for instance, setting a foe on fire, then using a skill that has extra effects when the target is burning. The player’s choice of profession, either primary or secondary, will set the scope of available attack methods. Some professions are geared towards melee combat, and are often referred to as a team's frontline; others have powerful ranged attacks. While many attacks deal direct damage to a foe, some (such as Hexes) deprive the foe of energy or hinder her in other ways.
- Defense can not be overlooked in the heat of battle. AI foes will often fight the closest character first. (Human foes are, of course, less predictable!) AI will also tend to attack weaker party members first, when all bunched together. You can passively resist damage from an attack by having the best possible armor for your character (PvP characters always have the maximum possible armor rating). A variety of skills exist that also temporarily boost the armor rating for combat damage calculations or give other defensive abilities. However, most defensive techniques are only effective against certain forms of attack, so all players will eventually take damage, making the ability to heal and prevent damage essential. While all professions have the ability to heal themselves, the strongest healing comes from dedicated healing characters, usually Monks or Ritualists.
- Many effects can modify a character's statistics. Enchantments provide benefits to their targets, such as added defensive abilities or extra Energy. Hexes hinder their targets in various ways. Conditions are a generic set of ailments that can be applied by many skills; many cause Health degeneration over time. A few more exotic types of modifiers exist. Most successful teams have ways to remove Hexes and Conditions from their members; many also have ways to remove Enchantments to break down enemy defenses.
- The element of time is quite important. Skills with a long activation time cost a player a great deal of time and are likely to get interrupted; skills that slow opponents or speed up allies are among the most useful in the game.
Game mechanics don't always work in the character's favor. Death almost always results in a death penalty that reduces the character's health and energy by 15% (up to a max of 60%) each time they are resurrected either by another character or at a resurrection shrine. The environment can even cause health degeneration from poisonous pools or instant death from Sulfurous Haze or other Environment effects. Death penalty can be reduced or eliminated by gaining morale boosts (such as the use of blessings, defeating bosses, and completing certain mission objectives), using certain PvE-only consumables, or by gaining experience through normal combat, quest rewards, or capturing an elite skill. 1% of death penalty is removed for every 75 experience points earned. Morale boosts can now be bought at resurrection shrines as well, if the character has favor and enters the /kneel command in front of the shrine.
Armor provides a specific initial level of protection. The higher the protection, the less damage the character will receive from most kinds of attack during combat. Regardless of the armor a character is wearing, there is a profession specific upper limit to the protection that it provides. To help the character survive both combat and the world at large, game mechanics provide additional benefits to armor, through runes and insignia that can be added by the player. Care should be taken in the selection of upgrades, as the effects of some items will stack and some will not.
Weapons can also contain upgrades, from health and energy to lengthening the duration of detrimental effects placed on the foe. Characters with single handed weapons such as swords, axes, wands and canes, can carry an object in the other hand, called the off hand. This object can be passive, like a shield or magically active such as an idol. Magical off hand items are also called focus items. Combinations are also possible, such as a shield with a health bonus. Two handed weapons such as a bow, scythe or a staff also often contain additional modifiers as that character can not use an off hand. Each profession has a specific variety of weapons and objects that will greatly improve the characters chance of survival. To keep the game balanced for all players, game mechanics may include a detrimental effect along with a bonus. Example: A sword may have +15% damage, but -5 to energy.
Most items that can be equipped have a specific attribute requirement to fully utilize that item. This includes weapons, shields, and focus items. Should the attribute requirement not be met, the base stats from the item is significantly diminished (bonuses from upgrade components and inherent modifiers are not affected by requirements). Some lower-end items have no requirement and thus can be used at full power regardless of attributes. Other items such as the Censor's Icon have multiple requirements, each providing some bonus if met. Bonuses from upgrade components (or similar properties found on unique items) are not affected by requirements and always grant their full bonus. Note that Weakness, Atrophy and Wail of Doom have the ability to lower the target's attributes and if this causes an item's requirement to no longer be met, the item will behave as such until the condition or hex expires.
Changes to mechanics
Unlike individual skills, which may be nerfed or buffed for balance, overall game mechanics are usually very stable. Rarely the developers may change them, such as the January 19, 2007 update which removed Evade from the game and expanded Blocking in its place. Some mechanics may also be temporarily altered for a weekend event, or function differently in certain areas such as in pre-searing Ascalon or during mini games.