Deep Blue Sea

June 25, 2011 at 4:09 am | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 14 Comments
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Swim hard and carry a big spear gun.

A lot of games have flight and air travel. For good reason too, even in the most mundane games the views can be wonderful, and the feeling of flight is something most people are fascinated by.

Some games have underwater areas but they’re rarely in depth pieces of work. They are bare of life or quests or any reason to visit them.

Most games never really do anything with these extra spaces. Vast amounts of space with nothing to do but fly or swim through it.

I think Arenanet is just the studio to change that. If anyone is going to fully utilize a major environment like underwater areas in an MMO, it’s them.

Guild Wars 2 just gave us our first real underwater information dump in the form of this blog.

In the blog we learn that underwater combat immediately becomes an interesting strategic challenge.

When you’re underwater, you don’t need to worry about breathing until your health goes to zero. When this happens you go into a drowning state, which functions like the downed state you experience when above water except with some small ability to move. When you are drowning, you have three ways to recover:

You kill an opponent, which will cause you to rally.
An ally can revive you, just as they can above water.
You reach the surface of the water, where you will stop drowning and regain health. When your health bar fills all the way you’ll be revived.

First of all, kudos on making changes to the standard way underwater areas in other games are presented. Maybe some changes don’t seem like much, like removing the air meter until you’re health is zero, but I believe this is a fundamentally interesting change. It is the first step to treating underwater areas as something more than just another environment.

Oh and lets face it, having to stop what you’re doing to swim to the surface for air every couple minutes isn’t a strategic plus so much as a pain in the ass minus.

Just the downed system alone is a great addition to Guild Wars 2, but the fact that it works differently underwater is great. Swimming to the surface to revive yourself is a great little detail that adds just the slightest hint of awesome.

In most MMOs swimming to the surface is a chore, in Guild Wars 2 it’s a matter of survival.

I haven’t even touched on the fact that, if you haven’t been paying attention, Guild Wars 2 has separate underwater weaponry. It doesn’t really make sense to have the exact same abilities underwater as above, so half your skillbar changes while you’re underwater giving you new abilities.

In fairness I’m not entirely impressed that there seem to be only 3 underwater weapons for 8 professions, but I have faith that Arenanet can diversify what those skills do in each professions hands, and since your non-weapon related skills change to suit the underwater environment, I’m willing to feel it out.

Heck Izari described a particularly awesome sounding skill I can’t wait to see.

Engineers can sink people underwater by attaching weights..

That kind of innovative thinking is far beyond the ritualistic static of other games. The most interesting thing I saw underwater in rift was a single foothold. It was just like a regular foothold, only underwater.

That’s not the approach Arenanet is taking and I’m glad. As they say in the blog, they could have just grafted their land based combat into the water and stopped. They could have left their underwater landscapes indistinct and nondescript.

They could have been lazy, they weren’t.

There are times when I think Arenanet is being rude because they just plain make other game studios look bad.

Made from real Great White Shark.



  1. There is something weirdly fascinating about swimming Norn women with a leather skirt. Oh my.

    I hope it is really a different experience in terms of animations and combat/gameplay. I still wonder if underwater combat is not too much focus on a side aspect while there is apparently still no *mount* in sight and you know that people will harp on this about as much as about the no jumping of GW1.

    • I’m convinced that underwater isn’t just a side aspect so much as a large part of the game.

      They’ve pretty much said no mounts of any kind on release, so its off the table. I’m disappointed but with fast travel warp points its not a big deal.

  2. As an explorer type of gamer, I’d put underwater stuff leagues ahead of a mount in terms of priority. I wouldnt like the implications of a mount either; it would mean walkings too slow.

    The skirt was interesting but I guess thats why full length thick stockings are making a come back or should I whinge that I want another set of armour for when I am underwater?

    It looks promising, I was thinking that strength would be much less interesting underwater I wonder if the classes are going to change their tactics much. In wow I enjoy water, turning someone into a sheep or mind controlling them till they drown is another enjoyable hobby of mine… not going to happen here but still interesting.

    • I’m frankly really glad that it’s quite different from most other games underwater combat. dying from breath meter is fine but its way overused and boring at this point.

  3. I’m really looking forward to see how they implement deco-sickness, deco-stops, hypotherma, oxygen poisoning, maximum acceleration rate, water pressure and all the other cool things that can go wrong … and how many decopression chambers will be scattered along the coast of Tyria.
    The physics behind diving are so utterly non-trivial that even experts aren’t certain – but here we go diving to the bottom of the sea (where any modern submarine would get crushed) in a skimpy outfit (even in the tropics the water can be cold enough if you dive deep enough) in a heartbeat.
    I’m SO looking forward to it.

    • Just watched the 20min gamespot vid.
      It looks unrealsitic, fake, stupid and sh1t.

      I don’t wanna sound like some whiney little idiot, but I have to change my opinion from “GW1 was great because of the skills/ideas/visions of ANet” to “GW1 was great in spite of their lack of …” and it was a lucky shot.

      • “I don’t wanna sound like some whiney little idiot, …”

        Oh well…

        If you’re looking for a “true to RL” diving experience then may I suggest you get your self a wet suit?

        Keeping this within the realms of realistic programming possibilities and comparing what we’ve just seen with other VIDEO GAMES it appears that GW2 is shooting for a more interesting and involved underwater experience than we’ve seen before in other games. I’m not sure how many folks will be drawn to this (as compared to the land-based adventuring) but it at least does provide an alternative to the norm, and a change of pace for folks to check out.

        • It’s definitely a more intensive look at underwater gaming than just about any other MMO out there, it seems like it could be a lot of fun, and removing the need to breathe seems like not only the right choice, but exactly what it takes to make underwater workable.

          • I can’t compare with other games so AA nad you might be right.
            But I still think that the vid did not in any way feel like being under the water. I don’t expect hypotherma (Jora’s running around in the North without wearing much as well) or deco sickness in a game – but if the devs decide to implement underwater areas they should feel like being in that totally different environment.
            And the vid did NOT in the slightest feel like that.
            If being underwater is far to boring and slow for a FPS/RPG then don’t implement it – noone’s forcing you.

            So capture the special feeling and make it a different experience!

    • Steve, these two posts seem like an intentional troll posts. Don’t try to tell me you expect hypothermia or decompression sickness in a video game. Yeah that sounds like a lot of fun.

      It is a fantasy game. Fantasize.

      I’ll also point out that you are never at a depth that would actually give a submarine any trouble.

      I’m all for dissenting opinions but what does anything you brought up have to do with video games?

      • Oh, having those things in a game would very much kill any fun.
        What I wanted to say: Being underwater puts you into a totally different environment where pretty much everything works differently.
        Putting aforementioned stuff aside, you move really slowly, breathing in or out can already change your altitude and just keeping your height is something that has to be learned at the beginning. Turning around is different and trying to punch someone also works differently (or rather not really unless you can secure yourself before doing so).
        In other words: Maybe being underwater changes the feel / the mechanics so much, that it just isn’t “fun” (any more) in a game. Therefore devs leave out stuff that doesn’t add to the feel of the game (hypotherema, deco sickness – good choice) but also the feeling of actually being under the water. And in this case they could’ve just left it out of the game altogether.

        It *is* an utterly different environment, leave out all the technicalities but at least try to preserve or capture the feel of being underwater. Otherwise you don’t need it.

        I was under the impression they were talking about being able to go down right to the bottom of the sea … maybe I misunderstood.

        • First, I just want to say I was totally impressed, overall, with the water video!

          Steve, I think I understand what you are saying. For me, the underwater section doesn’t have as much visual distortion as I’d like, at least for things in the distance. It also, at times, looks more like they are flying around rather than swimming. But at least as far as the movement is concerned, they probably didn’t want to make it too realistic as that would be a total pain play-wise. Anyone that has ever walked through knee-deep water understands how much water slows your movement. That wouldn’t be fun at all, IMO, if water was too realistic. It would end up being a slow motion, murky, air bubbles everywhere, sound muffled miserable experience. 🙂

          They could add some tweaks between now and release. Maybe some more sway and bob when you aren’t directly moving and a bit more visual distortion. ArenaNet does seem to be listening to players, as well as improving things on their own, so I’d bet water based stuff will continue to be improved.

          • 1) Hovering, that’s how it felt. Right!
            2) Getting it just right is really tricky with water, agreed. I have posted something on another forum which I’ll just copy-paste below since that’s waht I wanted to say. 😉
            3) Listening to the palyer base is another really tricky thing. Just look back at the HA 8/6/8 player “discussion” – always the “majority” of the players were dissing ANet.
            4) I’m not 100% satisfied with the way ANet listens to the base. I remeber the times Ensign and others were trying to teach ANet their own game since they repeatedly displayed a lack of knowledge about balance and mechanics.
            4b) Listening to the Test Krewe is also a bit iffy since often there are hidden agendas behind their posts. But from time to time it’s rather crystal clear that an idea isn’t exactly awesome, TK points it out, ANet implements it anyway and then has to undo it a week later.

            okay, here the copy:

            When diving even things that we don’t spend a split second to think about become different/something to learn/something to get used to.
            – the visibilty is usually ends with trees, hills, houses, other obstacles. On the ocean you can see “forever”. Under water in the tropics it could be a few dozne meters. In a pond you might not even be able to see to the end of your arm. Without instruments you don’t know where left, right, up down, anything is. You could get lost 5m below the water.
            – sounds travel faster underwater. As a result it’s way tougher to identify the direction a sound came from.
            – orientation in general becomes tough. You could have eye contact with your buddy, look for something cool, just a second or so, look back to your buddy and s/he’s gone. And you don’t just have 360° to check, but a full 3D environment.
            – breathing … easy! You breath in under water, and after a short delay start to rise. You breath out and start to sink. You hold your breath for to long (while ascending) you might get lung damage and even die.
            – turning around or punching someone. You don’t have contact to the earth and the friction will keep you in place. Doing those things on an icefield will feel different than on solid earth, underwater it’s even more so.
            – things in general are slow. At least for you. The shark who’s decided to take a bite out of you will feel right at home though. ^^

            So what I’m trying to get at: Even the most mundane and trivial things might be totally different underwater.

            I don’t want every technicality in gw2 (I wouldn’t be playing Silent Service 3 – the scuba kings either), especially not deco sickness just because I just ascended to quickly.
            But I want some feel of this totally different and alien environment transportet to the screen. If you can’t capture even the slightest bit of underwaterness it just feels like on top of the earth with another dimension added.
            And that’s how the video felt like for me.
            I didn’t get the impression that the necromancer was in an environment which is dealdy for him, which is alien to him, where is NOT at home, where things are different.

            • All I’ll say is, I have confidence in Arenanets decisions. Like visibility underwater, what is fun or playable about not seeing 10 feet in front of you? How am I supposed to see monsters, avoid them or fight them? How am I supposed to see interesting landmarks or npcs? How am i supposed to observe the beautiful environment art? Since you travel great distances in the game, how am i supposed to tell where i am without visibility? Find my way back the way I came? Low visibility would make going underwater effing poitnless.

              And that’s just one thing. There is a limit to how different you can make underwater before you make it unplayable and not fun.

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