The Running Man

July 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Guild Wars, mmorpg | 20 Comments
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Get to the Choppa!

Emergent gameplay. It’s just a fancy way of describing players coming up with their own ways to play games aside from what the game was originally designed for. In Guild Wars this is best exemplified with running. Runners are all over Guild Wars and its still pretty unclear whether Arenanet appreciates that or not.

The first time I encountered Runners was in Beacon’s Perch in August or September of 2005. I stumbled into the outpost, and it was crowded, more crowded than any location I’d been to since Ascalon City. Immediately I knew something was up. I asked my homie what she knew about it.

“There’s a short cut through here to a High level area where you can get end game armour. You have to pay people to get you through 4 zones.” Well something like that, it’s been 5 years people.

As I watched chat, I saw many people advertising this service for what seemed at the time to be extravagant sums. Anywhere from 3k to 10k depending on how many Runners were competing with one another.

What I noticed next, quickly confused me. Runners were taking up to 5 low level people in a 6 person party size through 4 high level zones. How could one person manage that?

“They have special skills that allow them to outrun enemies, heal themselves, and all they have to do is make it to the portal to drag the rest of the group to the next zone.”


This simple shortcut, that had been designed to allow people who had already played through Prophecies once to proceed to the later parts of the game more quickly, had birthed an industry.

People who had perfected the run from Beacon’s Perch to Droknar’s Forge, even after Arenanet made the run harder (but didn’t kill it) began to look at what else they could run. Before long there were runs from Ascalon City to Lion’s Arch for low level characters, after other campaigns were launched, there were runs from Lion’s Arch to Ascalon City for foreign characters. Runs to Temple of Ages from LA, Shing Jea Monestery from Kaineng City, and a plethora of other city to city runs were popular.

The thing that most surprised me though, were the runs through missions. You can complete some content in Guild Wars by hiring a lone person, sans any help, to complete it for you.

In Sanctum Cay a good tank can fly through the content, hold off the swarms of enemies and complete the mission without any help from the paying customer.

What brought all this to mind was recently the Zaishen Missions were both capable of being run.

When A Time For Heroes came up the other day I was thrilled. I needed the reputation points for my title (title now complete) so I grabbed the quest and went to the Central Transfer Chamber. Immediately I ran into several Runners. The thing about ATFH is, its very short. You only need to kill The Great Destroyer and you can practically run right up to him within moments of entering the mission. That is very conducive to coming up with a gimmick build, that wouldn’t work in any other situation, and soloing him.

I ran into Mero just as a few of us were about to do The Great Northern Wall for another Zaishen Mission. He volunteered to go and we met there and I was surprised to learn he was going to Run the thing. Not only that, but in HM. Not only that, but with the bonus. I had not known it was possible.

I put on a few running and healing skills for fun, and took off just behind him. I died less than a minute in and he just kept going. For the bonus you just need to find some hidden bonus items and turn them into an NPC. Then to complete the mission you run to a cut-scene, after which very similarly to Mustering A Response, hordes of charr chase you down.

As I said earlier I never really got the impression that Arenanet appreciated these shortcuts through their blood, sweat and tears. When Factions was released a lot of the content was gated in ways Prophecies wasn’t. Outposts or missions you couldn’t enter unless you’d completed the appropriate quest. In Nightfall and Eye of the North it was much the same and this greatly upset the Runner crowd.

Yet the Runners lived on. To this day people are able to Run large amounts of content, from Eye of the North dungeons to Aurora Glade. Imperial Sanctum to Ruins of Morah.

What I’m left wondering is, will Runners live on in Guild Wars 2? I doubt Arenanet truly enjoys the thought of people skipping the content they put all that work into.

And with all the risks they’re taking, do you think other industries will be born?

For instance, this caught my attention.

While you are downed or defeated, any other player can come to you and interact with you to bring you back to life.

I can easily imagine people waiting around difficult areas, charging people to be revived. I guess that depends on the number of waypoints per zone and how much it costs, but it could be convenient.

Personally I kind of want to see Runners. I want to see emergent gameplay. I don’t need a full on sandbox MMO, but not every living inch of a game has to be played the exact way the game designers intend, does it?



  1. IMHO, it’s for people with rich mains, poor alts, and not a lot of free time. Supply, demand, natch.

    • yeah true, I’m just not sure about the ethics of some instances of running, but have done nearly everything in GW at least a few times… I can’t deny the pull of getting for instance The Great northern Wall, ran

  2. I never liked getting runs. I always felt like I was cheating my way through the game. Farming is another thing of emergent gameplay in GW1. I didn’t really care about that much. IMO rezzing for a charge bothers me with the ethics of it, but I don’t think it’s gamebreaking like running was IMO. It’s not really cheating in my opinion though.

    But I have a feeling running won’t exist the same way it did in GW1. We have half of our bar made for us by what we are holding. I’m sure there aren’t that many speed increase skills.

    • I agree with asuranjexx. This is one of the reasons we are getting a made up bar; they don’t want your ’emergant’ gameplay.

      I would, I think it shows great smarts of behalf of the players.

      • i doubt they had running in mind at all when they came up with the new bar, just a side benefit.

      • Actually, from a recent article, it seems that the cross-profession combos are emergent gameplay. Emergent Gameplay intended by the devs though. But I do think there will be other forms of emergent gameplay that either the devs intended or didn’t realize was possible. But with the devs playing the game pretty much everyday, I pretty sure they would intend it. Anyway, here’s a quote.

        “Ten Ton Hammer: The concept of skills between professions interacting in interesting ways has come up once again in the most recent reveal. Will there be any way of knowing which skills can be used in conjunction with one another during combat (like shooting arrows through an elementalist’s fire wall) such as on-screen alerts or highlighted skills on your bar, or will that come down to a matter of trial and error for teams to find the most effective skill combos?

        Jon Peters: For the most part, cross-profession combos come down to trial and error. These things are fairly natural combinations in the world and we want players to discover this emergent gameplay though experimentation.”

        • enh, thats not really what i’m talking about. feeling out a game and getting to know it isn’t the same as coming up with whole new ways of unintended gameplay like running. they probably didn’t plan on Great Northern Wall being run by a single person in HM.

          i fully imagine they won’t see anything like that coming.

    • true, and judging by their nerfing of the gameplay style after prophecies, i don’t expect them to give much leeway to running, but I think it was fun, when I tried it.

  3. It’s like that for a lot of mmos honestly, and it’ll never go away no matter the game. People will always find a way to bend the boundaries of games and none of that is more apparent than mmos. I’ve played mmos for a long time now and I gotta say I’ve seen some of the craziest stuff from dps tanking bosses that would crush a normal tank. A healer taking on a whole army of players, to a lone warrior soloing almost all the content of a game.

    As long as there’s people that can go through a game front and back like them the cunning will always make a profit from people unwilling to do it the normal way.

    • half the stuff you said reminds me of runes of magic.

      of course there will be emergent gameplay, i’m just wondering how creative it will be.

      • Totally off topic but just remembered that you and Tiger missed some dialog when we cleared bla: Spoiler Alert!

        Didn’t want you guys to miss out on the info you earned.

        • thanks for the tip, i’ll let tiger know when i see her

  4. I dont think running specifically is going to be very prevalent in GW2, with the exception perhaps of dungeon running. The main thing that enabled running in Guildwars was the fact that every zone was instanced. Once the runner stepped through the portal voila the party is right there with them “pay now plz”.
    A lot of the content of GW2 particularly dynamic events which require you to be in the right place at the right time to experience, make running a moot point. Plus I dont see much incentive to run events any reward is based on participation and they arent critical to progression through the story.
    Really the only common thing in MMO’s that is jumping out at me as a probable endeavor for enterprizing players is power leveling. This of course depends entirely on how xp points are distributed between high and low level players and how much is based on participation in the fight.
    Of course people are going to find ways to make money be it scamming other players or finding some mechanic of the game that they can exploit, just the way it goes.

    • yeah i should have included a bit about the sidekick system. slipped my mind to add it in, but with the sort of functionality they’ve described I imagine people work on how to exploit it.

      I zeroed in on running but i’m more interested in what people think arenanets plans are for emergent gameplay. are they going to try to stomp it out like with factions or not?

      • I recall them mentioning that they had a lot of testers intentionally trying to find ways to grief in order to take steps to prevent griefing, I think it was in one of the dynamic event system articles. I think this probably includes looking for ways to exploit the system for any possible loopholes a player might find.
        Personaly I have to commend the ingenuity of a lot of players for figuring out ways to do things that wearnt intended. But at the same time I also recognize the sorry state it tends to leave a game in. It is rather frustrating when you want to do a mission or dungeon with a team and the only people in the outpost are runners.
        So yeah with out speculating on what will or wont be possible, I do think Anet is taking steps to minimize these things. I wont however be surprised when people do figure things out that Anet overlooked, it is inevitable.

        • i don’t doubt they’re looking for exploits but I just don’t think they’ll find them.

          the mind of a an explorer is different from the minds of most of their testers i think.

    • You’re right about dungeon running, every MMO I’ve seen has that in some form, but about dynamic events. I can see a way to run it depending on the group rewards and how credit and if or not tokens are given and if they are can they be traded.

      Another way I think you can of profiting from these events is say there’s a person that needs for example two things from an event a chest plate and a shield. He can only get one per run through and seeing as the even maybe resetting in a week later or so he can get the runner to not only make the even go smoother but also get the other reward as well for a price.

      • meh, I’m not going to speculate on whats possible yet.

  5. I hope there will not be dinamic events runnings, this will ruin the game.

    • meh, i don’t see how it could occur or why you would want to

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