Engineering A Fantasy

June 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 27 Comments
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A lot of people seem to have a problem with the technology of Guild Wars 2. They say technology doesn’t fit the fantasy setting. I understand their worries. They want to feel at ease and immersed in a game they are anticipating but I don’t agree with them.

Before we go further I’ll even concede on one small thing. The engineer’s landmines should not make digital beeping noises. Landmines go back pretty far, but beeping at it’s oldest is from the late 19th century in the form of mechanical horns or telephone rings. An actual digital beep didn’t come about until the 1950’s. Plenty of living people remember the first digital beeps, but moving on.

From very early on we knew that the lore was taking us 250 years into the future. We saw trailers with 18th century styled mansions, and concept art depicting technology such as guns. Already in the original Guild Wars we had gunpowder, golems, fireworks, and other examples of technology.

Guild Wars 2 concept art

Just look at how far the real world has come since 1761. Even the most advanced and civilized people from that era might think of us in 2011 as witches and burn us at the stake.

Many have pointed out just how old some of this tech is. Firearms can be traced to the 12th century while landmines can be traced to the 13th, and some types of grenades can be traced even further back to the 8th century.

The list goes on but perhaps we’re missing the point? Not every player is a history buff and maybe it’s about more than just technology being out of place. I think part of the hesitation to embrace steampunk in Guild Wars 2 is simply fear of the new. The transition from a game we’ve all enjoyed to a game that, although promising, is unknown.

Part of it could be that people just want to play Guild Wars only better. They want to exist in the same space, with the same lore, and same professions, only with jumping.

Another part might be people want the same generic fantasy setting that just about every game has. Sword fighting, elves, dwarves, bow & arrow, a few orcs and trolls. Game done.

Unfortunately for those people, more and more games have steampunk elements. World of Warcraft, Rift, Warhammer all have technological elements mixed with fantasy. I can’t really applaud Arenanet’s penchant for innovating and twisting the genre on this one. This ore is being mined by everyone.

A drill bores into the ground while I stand by with gun on back in Rift.

One sentiment I’ve heard in response to criticisms of technology in Guild Wars 2 is that Arenanet can make whatever kind of game they want, that’s their prerogative. I don’t think Arenanet works like that however. While other companies tend to be tone deaf to their customers it’s always been clear that Arenanet is open-minded and gives more time to these details than those of us with less patience might.

In fact I’m sure they had long debates internally about this very subject before any of us ever knew about it.

While I don’t agree that the engineer spoils immersion, I have no doubt Arenanet is taking these criticism seriously. That said, I’m not Arenanet and will conclude with this. The engineer looks impressive, allows for a lot of interesting gameplay, and has lore stacked up to support it. If even after watching skill videos, reading lore, and seeing the details about the class you still find yourself (without ever having played the game) completely having your immersion broken, maybe you need your head checked.



  1. At the first look at Engineer. My thought is they look and feel kind of modern. However i still think the Asura technologies looks more advance with all those floating and glowing, be magnetical or magical or whatever. Well they might be different branches of tech.

    So I don’t think the engineer tech is too modern. And I don’t think a mine digital beep can spoil my fun.

    However I think the beep sound really shouldn’t come from the “mine”. LoLz

    • asura tech could almost be sci-fi. it seems inspired by scifi quite a bit.

      I agree, i don’t like the digital beep, but it won’t ruin my fun either way.

      • If not a beep, then what? Ominous ticking? A tea-kettle whistle? At some point you have to suspend some disbelief for the convenience of a working mechanic, or you have a half-assed lore answer that pleases no-one.

        • well yeah actually. a more mechanical sound would be fine, clicking, ticking, whirring, gears… anything would be far more acceptable than digital technology

  2. Yeah, basically I agree with you 100% on this. I wouldn’t shed a tear if the mine beeps were taken out and a rotary sort of clicking or something were inserted in its place.

    I also understand the objection of some folks to technology in their fantasy (I’m not nearly as warm on sci-fi or modern-day or post-apocalyptic settings as I am “traditional” fantasy), and for the record I would totally play “GW1, digitally re-mastered, with dynamic events but the same plot, and jumping added!” But I’ve known since 2007 that that isn’t the game ANet is making, and I’m not only okay with the Engineer, I’m excited to roll one.

    So, I guess in a way the bit I don’t understand is people not being able to come around to the notion of technology in Tyria after all this time.

    • tigerfeet mentioned something similar, about how some form of click or more mechanical noise might fit better.

      Even remastered i don’t think i’d play gw again, although the nolani, fort ranik and great northern wall dynamic events would be kind of awesome, hell, the whole searing as a dynamic event would be spectacular.

      That’s something i keep running up against, as you say, guild wars 2 is not guild wars 1. different games.

    • I understand where you are coming from but it is simply a matter of fantasy verses sci-fi. There could be all kinds of advances in magic, the healing arts, or necromancy over 250 years without adding guns, bombs, and gun turrents. Fantasy needs to stay fantasy. Anet could have simply created a second steampunk/sci fi game and left GWs iin the fantasy realm but they choose to abandon what made them great in the hopes of scoring big with a new generation. Always a faulty business strategy. I hope GW 2 does not sink Anet for good.

  3. Do you think it would be extremely out of place if I requested for a Bright Pink Color Option for my upcoming Charr Engineer?

    Because that’d be awesome. 😀

    • There are going to be so many chicks and others using hot pink that it won’t seem out of place. dyes become unlocked early, and it’s been confirmed that there is a hot pink color.

  4. My question is why do mines have lights and beeps at all. You don’t want your target to know that the mine is there so putting any kind of indicator on a mine is pure silliness. I suppose that if only your allies can see the light and hear the beep then it could pass as a friendly fire prevention tech.

    • lol yeah. Have a look at it again the idea of lights and beeps on the mines is really fail.

      but If There is Friendly-fire in GW2 (maybe in pvp or WvWvW). That would be different story.

      Maybe (just maybe) There’ll be Traits for stealthy mines? 🙂

      • the lights and beeps might be a balancing poblem. if you cant really see the mines they are superior to other skills, because all skills have some visual effects (well except for stelth maybe ^^) so that you are able to spot and doge them, at least in pvp.
        so silent and “stealthy” mines would at least have to be bigger or something to provide a balanced skill setup

        hope this kinda makes sense, haven’t written or spken english in a longe time 😀

        • this. it’s really an unfair advantage although i agree to some degree. have mines as invisible and everyone will be playing them.

          I can explain away the lights in my head, maybe some kind of phosphourous or water/potassium reaction or i don’t know maybe the engineer does have some tiny bit of magic to pull it off, but you can’t shake a digital beep for me.

          @kaharey nice job on the english, didn’t realize at any point it wasn’t your first language.

          @thefoolz, i’ll fix that for you.

          • I think ANet have actually given a gameplay explanation for the lights and beeps – that they allow the player of the Engineer to keep track of where they are for manual detonation. That said, pretty much anything else would be better, including things that are obviously just there to inform the player like boss glows (and team glows for minions in PvP).

            On the whole, though, I agree with your point. It fits – we’ve been told for months that the technology in GW2 had advanced, but until charr week and the engineer, we’d seen precious little real evidence of it. PLus, since GW1 was roughly late middle ages, a verge of the industrial revolution feel for GW2 works for the timeline. It may not be classical fantasy, but it is something new, and steampunk has its fans too. (Even if the steam engine technically hasn’t been invented in GW2 yet.)

            • I don’t know if the steam engine hasn’t been invented, they’ve got moving tanks apparently and the charr burn things for some reason just about everywhere. they might have em.

  5. What I find ironic is that there are so many games already that have this sort of technology dynamic. Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast and GameCube is a perfect example; most characters used swords, but some used guns. It was heralded as a classic of the Dreamcast (hence why it was ported to GameCube) and it’s often cited as a game people just now getting a Dreamcast should get. So why can’t people wrap their heads around similar technology in GW2? It makes perfect sense to me. Like you pointed out, Hunter, tech has come a long way in 250 years. Hell, in 50 years, even. The computer came from being a concept, to having vacuum tubes and filling an entire room, to being small, insanely powerful desktops and laptops that we know today. In short, I approve wholeheartedly (well, maybe not the beeps, I dislike beeping noises in general) of ANet’s decision, and when I roll an engineer, I’ll laugh at people whining.

    • Yeah i don’t know why people expect 250 years to have passed but nothing to have changed at all. They really do, in some cases, just want to play guild wars with jumping.

  6. Hey neat. “It’s fine, and if you don’t like it, have your head checked”
    Always good to read an objective article.

    • right because blogs are supposed to be objective and unbiased right? wait what?

  7. I think the engineer and the technology in GW2 is a load of crap. Way to take an awesome game and destroy it. If I wanted to play a war simulation I would seek one out. If I wanted to play in a post apocolyptic world I would look for that. Guild Wars is a fantasy game, keep it that way. It is bad enough that Arenanet added the giant robots and called them golems (which they are not) but now we have guns and bombs, and cars (in the skill video for the engineer). I was really looking forward to GW2 but the more I see the more I hope it never comes out. What a complete waste of time and money. I will not be playing.

    • I don’t mean to call you out, and I’m not trying to be rude. however, i suspect you came to this post from guild wars 2 guru, and cared enough to post on my mostly guild wars 2 blog. If you won’t be playing guild wars 2, why is that?

      I think technology is fine. It’s not like they’re walking around with cell phones. 250 years have passed and people learn and evolve and progress over time. It’s natural.

      But i guess you just want the same old fantasy game? guild wars only with jumping?

      Not sure how you determined the golems aren’t golems. They don’t necessarily have souls trapped inside them but they require magic to work which means they’re pretty effing close.

      • Actually I came here from a link on our guild’s facebook page. I am simply trying to understand how people can be so willing to accept sci-fi amd modern technology in a purely fantasy setting. The technology would be fine if the game was something other than a fantasy game.

        I am all for progress in the world of GWs but GW2 is no longer a fantasy game and is now a Sci-Fi game. There are any number of “Advances” that Anet could have implemented and still stayed within the fantasy genre. Anet could have created a second or third game, set in a completely different world if they wanted to explore or provide for guns, bombs,cars, airplanes, or rocket ships. Examples of advances they could have implemented include things like flight, sea travel, equestrian travel, etc. The underwater worlds that are a part of GW2 are great progress and could have been done in a fantasy setting. New magic spells or new professions that combine various other skills or maybe a more balance warrior/wizard type professions. New alliances or races with new skills that still meet the fantasy criteria, the possibilites are out there Anet just chose to disregard them.

        Fantasy, like Sci-Fi or any other genre still has rules. That is what deifnes it and makes it what it is. In GW2 Anet has broken those rules and that is the problem I have with the technology of GW2.

        I was very excited when I heard the GW2 was finally coming out. Heck, I even pre-ordered a copy. I worked real hard to build up my HoM to get all the “Stuff” I could in GW2. I really wanted to play. However, with things like this technology, I feel betrayed. I feel cheated or ripped off. The truth is that when my pre-ordered copy does arrive I will give it a run and see how it plays, but I already know the technology is going to bug me. For the same reason that the so-called golems in GW bug me. A golem is an enchanted being created by a magician out of natural materials like mud, plant matter, and stones. A golem is not a mechanical robot that is controlled by a mechanism. A true golem is much more like a necromancer’s minion than the robots in GWs, that is why I do not like the golems in GWs.

        • My apologies for suspecting you came from guru, i got around 700 hits from those forums yesterday so I naturally presumed. (usually get like 300 hits total)

          Let me counter your argument about fantasy mixing with technology by comparing to other games and media. Star Wars, Tru Blood, Twilight, warhammer 40k, loads of anime, television and movies. Even popular fantasy franchises like forgotten realms use things like oil of impact and gunpowder. These are all fantasy settings with heavy amounts of technology in them.

          There is no rule saying you can’t have any technology whatsoever in fantasy. Steampunk is a popular genre and you can’t call it anything but fantasy.

          • Sorry been away, and no apologies necessary. I would beg to differ with you on the rules of different genrse, there are rules concerning technology in fantasy just as there are rules concernikng fantasy in sci-fi, etc. Every genre has rules, some rules can be bent if done properly, but it is the rules that define the genre. For example, Tolkien bent the rules in his Lord of the Rings trilogy by allowing the uruk-hai orcs to use a bomb to blow a hole in Helm’s deep. However, the way in which he did it allowed it to be believeable with in the fantasy setting. In effect he had a character pack gun powder into a confined container and then lit it. He did not allow the uruk-hai to have a nuclear warhead. That is the difference, he kept the manufacture of a bomb within the scope of a medieval/fantasy setting and it worked. Allowing guns, land mines, and turets into GW2 is akin to introducing a nuclear warhead it just does not fit within the fantasy setting.

            In regard to the argument that other games are doing it so it must be ok. All I have to say to that is poppycock. Just because everyone else jumps off a bridge does not mean it is a good idea. GW has always been differfent and better than the rest so why compromise now at the peak of their success?

            As to steampunk, well that is just wrong on so many levels I don’t even want to get started on that one.

            • If you read my post you must know that landmines, guns, and grenades have all been around pretty much as long as gunpowder has.

              Your nuclear weapon analogy is ridiculous.

              I don’t think I ever argued that other games are doing it so it’s okay.

              If you can’t even acknowledge that your “rules” are broken all the time in all kinds of successful novels, shows, movies, or otherwise than we have nothing more to discuss here.

  8. You know, it’s really only a very small number of people complaining about the lore, and it’s ridiculous the amount of articles that have been written regarding that group. They were complaining when the thief was unveiled, too, and even the gun-toting warrior, and it didn’t spawn anywhere near as much contention. For most the issue was a matter of aesthetics and an implementation that to some appears sloppy.

    To me, it looked like a rough draft, and that has nothing to do with lore or genre.

    You mention games like WoW, and I’ve always hated the look and feel of WoW. Meanwhile I had a lot of faith in the aesthetics of GW2. I trusted them to integrate tech in a way that looked and felt right. GW already reminded me of Midworld in the Gunslinger series (fantasy with a great deal of tech), and I expected that even more so in GW2.

    I also trusted them to uphold their commitment to creating distinct races and professions. I actually expected an engineer profession up until a month prior to the reveal during charr week, and was once even flamed for suggesting the charr looked to be holding a flamethrower. However, charr racials showed that something akin to the engineer could be achieved with a charr thief. We were also told that even though guns had spread to other races, the charr also had clock punk (implied exclusivity ultimately revealed as a nothing statement.)

    So I got excited for something totally unexpected that would blow us all away.

    Instead we get a profession with an admitted twist on the ele’s not-so unique mechanic + charr flavor + a slower more cumbersome version of the thief’s play style, as well as an uncharacteristic lack of polish. And then there’s the matter of stationary game play being a viable option. Personally I feel like they dwell on the lore non-issue to avoid concerns regarding mechanics and the profession’s implications for active, dynamic game play.

    I actually found the engineer to be a step backwards, and you yourself allude to the fact that it’s not that innovative a profession. I’m tired of the sweeping generalizations and condescending remarks made regarding those of us who were disappointed, especially when it comes from ANet. That’s a bigger turn-off than the engineer ever was.

    • Aesthetic wise I think it looks cool. A difference in opinion certainly but don’t try to tell me Guild Wars 2 doesn’t look great from start to finish, including the engineer in my opinion. I compared gw2 to wow because wow has some steampunk elements, not because i think WoW looks anything like gw2. It doesn’t.

      I don’t agree that the engineers play style is anything like the thief, I don’t agree that there is anything sloppy about it, I don’t agree that there is a lack of polish, and I don’t agree that some small amount of stationary gameplay is a disaster. You make these claims but I don’t see the evidence.

      Do keep in mind we haven’t played guild wars 2 yet.

      Much of the engineers abilities center around it moving, with slow downs and cripples being important because if it truly stops to fight it won’t last long as a medium armoured profession. It also has obvious skills that will keep it moving, such as the jump shot.

      For me, the part of the engineer that isn’t innovative is the lore, for the most part. the very idea of an engineer. That’s it. Integrating skills and playstyles from other games that are nothing like an mmo is innovative, even if its only a few things.

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