Guild Wars & Auto Assault
NCSoft didn't have much new to say about Guild Wars, except to emphasize its success. They claim that there are a quarter of a million accounts created in America and Europe, with another half million made in South Korea. Their expectation is one of steady growth, spurred on by regular free updates, including a major one this summer - Sorrow's Furnace - which looks like a rather intricate and complicated map.
Also coming in updates will be a Broadcast Observer mode, meaning that thousands of people will be able to view battles between two guilds. ArenaNet is obviously expecting that this will continue to foster competition and drive the userbase to continue playing. Combined with live tournaments held around the world that are leading up to the international finals this fall, complete with prizes, we expect that there may be a market for it after all.
Little - actually nothing - was said about the first paid expansion, other than Chapter 2 is expected in the first half of 2006.
Auto Assault's buzz seems to have come as a bit of a surprise for NCSoft. After a small showing last year which created the hype, the publisher has gone all out this year in promoting their vehicle-themed MMOG.
Auto Assault is a difficult game to describe, it certainly abides by most MMO conventions - improvement through continued play, item looting and so on - but in some ways it seems similar to Guild Wars. The game is clearly loot- and action-oriented like Diablo, but in a massively multiplayer context and rewards.
There are three player races, which compete with each other and AI versions of each other on the main servers, but there is also a PvP mode that will work across servers, meaning that the best teams can compete with each other regardless of what server they're on.
Environments are destructible and the game makes use of physics for those as well as the driving code. In fact, stunt driving carries its own rewards and there are even special missions for stunters. Gameplay revolves around taking missions which create instances, this gives a very player-oriented feel rather than being just one of a hundred groups in line for the Magical Tooth Fairy Wand. The missions are rather specific and feel as good as anything made for a singleplayer game, what the development team demoed was a very action-oriented fight to get in position and call an orbiting laser on an enemy facility.
Auto Assault should be shipping this fall.