Once again my full-time job prevents me from breaking the news first, but at least I’m writing about it same-day this time! Basically, the next Beta Weekend Event is officially June 8th 12PM to June 10th 11:59PM, PDT. Per my thoughts last time this is in line with what I was expecting, and I’m really excited to go back to Tyria.
However, I was not expecting the news that our characters are not wiped. Despite the fact that there was no wipe before the last stress test, I was definitely expecting to return to an empty character list in June. There are a lot of reasons for ArenaNet to do this and to be happy about it. First and foremost is the dev perspective: make sure that people can reach and play the higher-level content, like Ascalonian Catacombs explorable mode, so that it gets tested just as much as everything else. There might be game mechanics and other systems that don’t appear in the early content that need to be exposed to test scaling, difficulty, CPU/GPU performance, etc.
The player perspective is pretty simple–you get to keep your characters and your stuff. I wrote last time about the futility of progress as the specter of a character wipe looms, so this will decrease people’s “fear” of playing one character a bunch, or only playing the beta a little bit just to see if they like the game and then quitting till launch.
To speak for myself, I was figuring I wouldn’t get certain screenshots I missed out on, or write about necromancer elite skills for my PvE strategy series. I rationalized this to myself as “oh I want to leave something fresh for launch” but who am I kidding, of course I want to play around with Lich Form, the Flesh Golem, and the other elite goodies. Furthermore, I’ll be able to take a character I’m very comfortable with into WvW, which I promised myself and my friends at GW2 WvW I would try out. As a PvE player, my deep knowledge of my preferred class will help me adjust to the tactics needed to fight other players rather than the predictable AI behaviors you can rely on in PvE. (I’m just sad there’s no purple team. ArenaNet, can team colors pleeease be configurable client-side? Imagine Purple vs Black vs Dark Red!) I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels anxious when it comes to trying PvP, so this feeds back into the devs’ general interest in getting lots of people to playtest lots of different stuff.
Is it possible ArenaNet will reverse course on the destruction of our beta characters’ bits and bytes before launch? Sadly I think the ultimate bitterness of a character wipe is still coming. From the official FAQ:
Can I reserve my Guild Wars 2 character name during a Guild Wars 2 Beta Event?
No. All characters will be wiped from servers before launch.
Will the progress I make during a Guild Wars 2 Beta Event carry over when Guild Wars 2 launches?
No. Everything will be wiped in preparation for launch.
The reasons to do this are not due to technical limitations–it’s certainly possible to convert an old version of our saved character data to a new format, but this comes at the cost of a higher maintenance burden, meaning more code, save states, and complexity. More poignant to players is the risk of a bug which could corrupt people’s progress, character appearances, items, and more. For instance, the Mass Effect series is famous for letting you export your character to the sequels. Unfortunately, many people hit a bug in ME3 where their character’s face refused to import from ME2, which hugely detracts from your familiarity with Commander Shepard and puts a black mark on the quality of the game. Even if the bug was very obscure in the test lab, it still feels like “how the hell did they miss this?!” So it’s much easier and safer to wipe out beta saves and have everyone start from scratch, and it’s a standard practice for betas.
Furthermore, given GW2′s in-game economy, starting the full game at a high level with a full inventory would confer massive economic advantages to beta players. The people who get somewhere first will be the first ones to put high-level items on the market. Since supply of these items will be at its smallest and demand will be extremely high, these items will carry their highest prices ever for the game’s entire lifetime, since supply will inevitably grow as more people play the game and drive the prices down. There is no way that a launch or even headstart player could play fast enough to compete with somebody who is already level 35+ and has several beta weekends’ of experience and loot at their disposal.