Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Walk, run or fly?

How fast do u like to go through your MMO content? The way I see it there are three types of gamers:

1. Walkers: Take in the aesthetic value of the game and immerse themselves into the fantasy universe as much as possible. They read quest descriptions, explore mysterious areas and are happy when they complete the optional bonus missions. Walkers will rarely use a walkthrough (ironically) and are more likely to report an exploit in the game than take advantage of it. They usually prefer PvE to PvP and are not afraid to socialize and help others with quests. People new to the gaming world are more likely to fall under this category.

2. Runners: Long term game players tend to fall into this category. They stopped reading the quest descriptions long ago and most of their actions are automatic. They are skilled game players that skip easily over the starter areas of the game and have little to no trouble soloing. Runners enjoy both the PvE and PvP aspects of the game. Runners move through the game with ease and only resort to using a walkthrough if they get stuck. Their focus is always forward progression and they rarely go back to complete lower level content.

3. Fliers: The main focus of a flier is to get to the end of the game in the shortest time possible and then flaunt it. Power-leveling and farming are right up their alley. They want to have the best available character and will use what ever means possible to get there. This includes the use of walkthroughs, wikis and exploits. They do the math, and make the best possible use of their gaming time. Fliers care less about enjoying the aesthetic qualities and more about being able to 'own' or show off to other players. Their focus tends to be more around PvP than PvE.

Personally I think I'm a bit of a mix of a runner and a flier. The first time through the game I like to enjoy as much of it as possible, but don't like getting left behind. Once I get my first character through the game, then I tend to fall into the flier category. I read wikis and forums in order to fast track the leveling of my second character. It's rare that I'd ever start a game off as a flier, although I'm not sure that Melf could say the same thing. In a way I envy the walkers because I don't think I could ever achieve the same immersion into the game's fantasy world that they do. Being a programmer made me see games for what they really are, and although I enjoy the challenges they provide, I don't think I could ever return to being the innocent child stepping into a fantasy world :(

What category do you fall under?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More awesome Guild Wars armour

Following on from my previous GW armour article, I thought I'd do another post honoring the Guild Wars players that put that extra bit of gold and effort into making their characters look good. Here are some of the screen captures of players I took over the recent Area Bonus Weekend in Random Arenas:

Class: Mesmer

Head: Hidden
Chest: Obsidian (black)
Hands: Chaos Gloves
Legs: Shing Jea (black)
Feet: Obsidian (black)
Holding: Chaos Axe and a Tormented Shield

Class: Dervish

Head: Elite Sunspear (black)
Chest: Elite Sunspear (black)
Hands: Elite Sunspear (black)
Legs: Elite Sunspear (black)
Feet: Elite Sunspear (black)
Holding: Destroyer Scythe

Class: Elementalist

Head: Tinted Spectacles
Chest: Vabbian (black)
Hands: Destroyer Gauntlets
Legs: Vabbian (black)
Feet: Vabbian (black)
Holding: Deldrimor Sword and a Flame Artifact

Class: Ranger

Head: Canthan (light blue)
Chest: Elite Druid (light blue)
Hands: Primeval (light blue)
Legs: Elite Druid (light blue)
Feet: Primeval (light blue)
Holding: Ball Hammer

Class: Necromancer

Head: Hidden
Chest: Vabbian (blue)
Hands: Vabbian (blue)
Legs: Elite Cabal (blue)
Feet: Elite Cabal (blue)
Holding: Voltaic Spear and an Enameled Shield

Class: Mesmer

Head: Unknown
Chest: Elite Kurzick (red)
Hands: Elite Kurzick (red)
Legs: Elite Kurzick (red)
Feet: Elite Kurzick (red)
Holding: Eternal Blade and an Eternal Shield

All images can be enhanced by clicking on them. All weapons and armour seen in these pictures would have taken an insane amount of game time to obtain. My hat goes off to those that do put in the hard yards. Once again, sorry about the female theme happening here. It is difficult to find good looking male armour art ;)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

WAR Week

EA has rumored that September 23rd will be the official release date for WAR, and rumor is good enough for me! Since it falls on a Tuesday, the remainder of the week will officially be known as 'WAR Week'. Coincidentally, September 23rd is my Grandmother's birthday. Oh well... at least I know what present to buy her =P


WAR is possibly less than two months away!!!!!

Can't wait to join the line of crazy nerd stereotypes at EB and speculate about which class I'm going to play first, which of course is going to be the Disciple of Khaine ;)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Laggers have the most skill?

Professional long-distance runners have been known to travel to Kenya to undertake what is known as 'altitude training'. Although the oxygen content in the air is the same, the barometric pressure at 8000ft above sea level means that it's harder for the human body to breath. Without going into too much of a chemistry lesson, the reason pro runners want to make it harder on themselves is because when they return to sea level, running becomes a lot easier. Their bodies have been conditioned to function in a harsher environment; running an Olympic marathon now seems like a walk in the park.

So what the hell does this have to do with MMORPGs?

In an MMO society, there can be millions of players from different locations around the world all connected to the same gaming server. The closer you are to the server, the better your ping and the faster the game can respond to your commands. In some games (mostly FPS) this can mean the difference between life and death for your character. Players with a poor response time (lag) are therefore at an environmental disadvantage. This is no-one's fault in particular, it's just the way things are in an online world (unless you chose a bad ISP, then it's your own fault).

So what does this mean for the players that suffer from lag and poor response times?

If they want to compete and beat players with better response times, they either need to be extremely lucky, or else they need to be more skilled at playing the game. This means increased reaction times, multiple fallback strategies and the ability to anticipate your opponents every move. These are all qualities of the best MMO gamers and I believe they develop more naturally in players that suffer poor response times. I can't see hardcore online gamers doing altitude training with network response times, but I'm pretty sure my home town of Melbourne Australia would make a great Kenyan candidate ;)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Duelling, balance and you

So I fought an intense duel today in Guild Wars.

I was playing Random Arenas (4 v 4), and the final 2 combatants left were an anti-caster Mesmer (me - full health) and an Assassin (some other guy - full health).

As the dust fell and the last breaths of their comrades expired, the battle weary, bloodstained Assassin, and the mysterious powerful Mesmer, approached each other wearily. A strange sense of calm descended over the battlefield. Feeling a certain nobility overcome them, the two foes bowed to each other before stalking in for the kill.

Suddenly, the assassin teleported onto the mesmer, who was promptly knocked over on the ground, interrupting his spell casting. Gleefully, the assassin sliced the mesmer into various pieces, then laughed maniacally and ran around in circles shouting "rotfl noob mesmer!!!!!~1111".

In summary, nerf assassins please.

Wait, is that the right response here? I hear a lot of people criticise various MMO's for not being balanced because class XXX has no chance in a duel against class YYY.

But guess what? MMO's, and RPG's in general, are all about the TEAM dynamic. By definition, in a Role Playing Game, we all have a different role to play. So what if some classes will almost always beat other classes in 1 on 1? The game is designed around being balanced in team form, so I'd be surprised if that WEREN'T the case.

The same gripes are encountered in PvE. Boo hoo, my healer does no damage, boo hoo, my nuker has weak armor, boo hoo, my tank can't heal. Who cares? You're all supposed to be working together anyway. If we could all do everything, we wouldn't need anyone else to play with, and for that you may as well be playing a solo RPG. Which, by the way, require the same diversity of classes (at least, the good ones do), none of which would ever be balanced in a 1v1 duel.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as all that. Real problems arise in MMO's where being ganked is a possibility, since there's little chance to defend yourself against many classes.

But is that a problem of game balance? Sounds more to me like it's a problem of there not being sufficient risk for would-be gankers. Allow things such as looting of gankers, or an honour/dishonour system, or bounties, or penalties for ganking lower levels, and these worries go away.

Then so too goes away your problem of having 1v1 battles being imbalanced, and the game developers are free to make a rich, diverse team balanced game.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Yes, the title says it all. Today, I want to talk about one of the biggest issues plaguing MMO's - the great divide between PvE players and PvP players.

In every MMO I've ever played or heard of, the story is the same.

Boy meets game.
Boy plays PvE.
Boy clocks game.
Boy plays end game raiding, and becomes "leetsauce" at the game.


Eventually boy gets a little bored one afternoon, and decides to venture into PvP. Then, 80% of the time...

Boy gets pwnt by PvP, and scurries on back to PvE, never to return again.

Why does this happen so often? Why is it that someone who has mastered every aspect of PvE is an absolute nub at PvP? Isn't it the same game?

Well, fairly much, no, it's not the same game. That's because monsters in PvE have really bad AI. I mean, terrible. Like, worse AI than you had in RPG's from the early 90's. To compensate for crummy AI, game developers jack up the HP, armor and damage of the monsters. This makes the game challenging again, but not in the fun way. More in the "ok we need 40 people for this raid, and if anyone messes up the aggro, we're insta-gibbed" kind of way. Sure, it's still a *bit* fun - many people live for this WoW-style PvE endgame scenario - but it's fun because of the camraderie and the cool items, not because the combat is particularly enjoyable.

Now, some games have (post-release) attempted to modify their AI to reduce this effect. WoW monsters will attack those healing the tanks, Guild Wars famously was updated to make its monsters run from (any) AoE, etc. But these are routinely simple additions that the player base takes all of about 45 minutes to work around.

Anyway, the AI is bad, so skills that would be crummy against real opponents are often the ones that destroy the monsters with ease. So, you get to PvP and use your good ol', tried 'n' true PvE tactics.... you send your tank in, wait until they "aggro" him, and then blast them with AoE spells. Except... they ignore the tank (who does pitiful damage), run straight in, and start smacking your healers around.

Uh oh. Your healers cast various protection spells, your AoE shift targets to try and make it difficult to attack the healers.... so the enemy changes targets, and goes after your similarly squishy nukers. They refuse to ball up, they remove debuffs you place upon them ASAP, they swap to unprotected targets, and worst of all, you're several men down because your tanks are not geared up to do damage, and are being ignored in this fight. You just can not win.

Is it your fault? Of course not! This is the stuff the game designers have made you learn to get through the high end PvE content. It's the best possible tactic in top level raids.

So what can game designers do to get rid of this effect, reduce the steep PvP learning curve and make PvP fun and accessible for everybody? I'm sure there are lots of solutions, here are some of mine:

1) Your monsters need good AI. I mean, we're at the level where computers can go toe to toe with the chess world champions, let's push the envelope a little people. Sure, you're limited by the real-time nature of the game and the fact that servers have a lot of stuff to do other than just AI calculations, but that's why you designed your game around having good AI didn't you? In fact, you designed your combat system with the specific goal of being able to predict good tactics for the computer to adopt without to much fussing around. You knew exactly how you wanted your combat to play out before you designed your first skill, and it made everything a lot easier.

Apart from good design decisions from the outset, either give your servers more grunt (can anyone believe an entire Lineage 2 server is managed by ONE computer?), or invent some kind of crazy server-client outsourcing scheme to get the clients to perform lengthy calculations for you. Yes, this screams "hack me", but not if you add random server-side checks of the calculations, followed by insta-banning if the server and client calculations don't match (ie, if the player tried to tell the server that all the monsters wanted to bunch up and sing christmas carols instead of attacking).

I don't care how you do it, MMO's need better AI to compete with regular offline RPG's.

2) With good AI, you won't need to give every single monster quadruple damage, 100 times more hitpoints, etc, etc. Sure, some monsters should be epic and feature such enhancements, but in general the game should play by the same rules that the players have to.

3) Know your game. Let me give you a mini breakdown of how 2 characters work in Guild Wars. Warriors are the main source of damage - they have the best single target DPS, they have great disruption, awesome spike ability, and are highly armored so that they can push deep into the enemy lines without too much fear of retaliation. Monks, on the other hand, are responsible for protecting the party, casting various enchantments to greatly mitigate damage, healing to reverse any damage that does go through, and removing debuffs.

Anyway, Guild Wars was released with a bunch of "premade" PvP character builds, which featured some of the most spectacularly shite combinations of skills imaginable. One such was the "Paladin", which featured a Warrior/Monk character (in Guild Wars you choose 2 classes for your character), with a mix of some of the worst damage dealing skills, and some of the worst healing skills. Not only were the individual skills bad, but putting them together in that way is silly. If a melee character has to stop to heal his group, the target he is chasing has time to run away. On the other hand, healing skills cost energy, and warriors have the worst energy regeneration in the game. Finally, the healing skills all promoted being cast on the warrior itself, which is worse than useless, since nobody targets warriors to do damage anyway, making them an utter waste.

There were, I don't know, 20 of these builds, which players new to PvP would of course dutifully take into battle, excited by the lure of being a "Paladin" or some other such garbage. The experienced PvP-ers would yell at them, the team would lose, and the poor fellow would trudge back down to PvE.

If the makers of Guild Wars instead had have included a decent warrior template (which their alpha testers could easily have given them, along with instructions for its correct use), anyone wishing to venture into PvP has a much easier time of things.

4) Don't make crap skills. There is a skill in Guild Wars called Spiteful Spirit. It is a long-lasting debuff that makes it so that whenever the target does anything (for example, swing a sword), AoE damage is done to them and their team-mates. It's a great skill in PvE as you can imagine, since the monsters are stupid and swing through it repeatedly, massacring their fellows who clump up to get to the "tank". In PvP it sucks horribly, since anybody who has it cast on them can just ensure that they aren't clumping up with their team-mates, making its damage laughable, or simply wait until their monk removes it. Only people very inexperienced with all the skills in the game will attack through it in a big clump of their allies.

So what is its purpose in the game? Good players don't use it, or get beaten by it. It is therefore a tool by which one noob can own another noob. Why do we need such a thing in the game? Is it because press releases look good when they say that the game contains over 500 skills? Whenever I see a statement like that, I roll my eyes. It's just not possible to create 500 skills that are all wildly different and equally useful. Maybe 20% of the skills in that game have seen tournament play, and probably no more than 10% at any one time thanks to various nerfs etc.

Don't make sucky skills.

5) Finally, as Crimson referred to in an excellent blog post recently, don't pit players of wildly different skill levels against each other. You need some way to measure player skill. It can be as simple as looking at how often a player obtains wins vs other teams of various ratings. Guild Wars features this in some arenas (Guild vs Guild, and 1v1 ("Hero battles")), but not in other arenas where it could be equally useful (Random and Team Arenas (4v4), Hall of Heroes (8v8) and Alliance Battles (12v12)). As a result, the latter are often a "noob farm" for the seasoned veterans of the game. Sure, this is fun every once in a while, but it gets old fast, and it's not fun at all for the losing side.

In conclusion, make monsters smarter, and PvE players will become good at the same game that PvP players are playing, and be far more likely to keep playing (hint: and give you $$$).

A weird bug in Guild Wars

I was participating in some Guild Wars Alliance Battles (AB) last night with Melf and his girlfriend, when the weirdest bug I have ever seen occurred. At first I thought I had lagged out and what I was seeing was just some mishap between server and client, but everyone else was experiencing the bug as well.

The map was The Ancestral Lands (Deep Kurzick) and we were playing Luxon. The Luxons are at a natural disadvantage on the map, but they receive 1,000 extra Alliance faction for winning. Anyway, the game played out as usual and the Kuzicks won with a decisive victory. It was at this point that the bug kicked in. The game didn't end!! Both factions were still able to fight each other and capture control points. Every Guild Wars player who has ever played AB would know that the victory points can't really go above 500 or so, but in this case they just kept on going up. Initially I thought about leaving, as a lot of people took this option, but I was interested to know what would happen when the victory points reached 1,000. Weirdly the counter hit the thousand mark with no issues and just kept on going up. I took a screen shot just in case no one would believe me:

This screen shot was taken just before I ninja'd the Kurzick Base Defender and liberated the Luxons for all eternity, thus ending the Guild Wars Factions campaign ;)

Please note, this is not a doctored image. I do not have Photoshop skills this good. This was indeed a weird and funny bug in Guild Wars.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When will I buy AoC?

Initially I didn't buy Age of Conan because given it's high requirements, I was a little worried that it wouldn't run on my PC. I thought I'd hold off and wait for reviews to see if there were many problems with frame rates or computer crashes. To my surprise the reviews came back with very mixed opinions. Problems with frame rates seemed like small change compared to the greater issue of the game being unfinished and released with bugs. There was even mention of an exploit that allowed you to power level your character to max in less than a day! News like that is a big turn off for a major MMORPG connoisseur like myself ;)

I thought about buying the game despite it's issues, as the screen shots looked fantastic and the 'revolutionary' combat system definitely sounded intriguing. As more reviews and articles pored in, the combat system was described as a button mushing fiasco, which could be circumvented using G15 keyboard macros. This definitely didn't instill confidence. Then the nuke landed: "AoC World Siege Failure". I am a huge, repeat huge fan of PvP. Purchasing AoC would now be like asking me to buy a blind and mute guard dog with no teeth. It would never happen.

There is however still some hope. The game didn't completely die and Funcom has a good reputation for MMORPGs. Bugs can be fixed and unfinished content can be finished. So when will I buy AoC? Put simply, when they fix all the issues and Funcom drop the purchase price a bit to show that they are serious about making up for their mistakes. I can't see it happening before the release of WAR, and with Stargate Worlds and KOTOR Online scheduled for release within the next year, it may be a while before I pick up an AoC box.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Word of Shadow welcomes Melf Himself

To compliment my already insanely good postings (lol), I've invited my oldest gaming buddy Melf Himself to be a second author on Word of Shadow. Melf has been playing MMOs since their birth and RPGs since before it was an acronym. He actually gets his alias from Gary Gygax's original Melf. Man that's even more hardcore than where I get my name...

I've told Melf he can blog what ever he likes as long as it's politically incorrect, heavily condescending and contains sexual references =P.

Looking forward to his first post... no pressure ;)

Monday, July 14, 2008

The flaming problem with MMO games

"i pwnd ur @ss n00b"
"worst healer eva"
"we lost coz ur a n00b"

Sound familiar? I'd love to say that I'm completely innocent of taunts and flames, but sadly I've dealt my fair share. If you're a hardened MMO gamer, flaming becomes so common place that you barely notice it happening around you. Flaming can even be classified as a form of online culture. Unfortunately not everyone has the thick skin required to endure hurtful comments and hate spams. If you're new to the MMO scene, receiving flames can be so devastating to your morale and self-confidence, that you can actually stop playing. In most cases players simply avoid particular areas of the game (raiding, pvp etc), which will lead to a potential conflict or flames from other players. I'd love to tell the entire MMO gaming world to grow up, but unfortunately it never will.

So what does this mean for the MMO games companies? Do they need to be worried that people aren't playing parts of their game because they are afraid or out right annoyed with flamers? My initial reply was no, they could simply tell the victims (who complain at least) to turn off their chat or deal with it. Personally I don't like this option. Is a 'mature community' a pipe dream, or can games companies employ initiatives to encourage and or enforce maturity? This was recently opened for discussion over at the nerfbat forums. I definitely think that a 'mature community' is possible, it's just going to take some more innovation from the online games industry.

If we have a look at some current techniques employed to reduce flamers, you will find:
  • Ignore lists
  • Swear filters
  • "Report a player" (Used in Guild Wars)
  • Text obfuscation between opposing factions (WoW)
  • Private channels
These were all great ideas, we just need more of them. I was thinking something along the lines of a digg style system that rewards kindly players and punishes unkindly players. Another idea would be to have a PvP system that indiscriminately identifies your relative skill level and provides you with allies and opponents of the same relative skill level, therefore reducing the chance of conflict between high and low level players. I think this would also make PvP more enjoyable for everyone.

I'm interested to know how WAR will deal with the issue, given that game has heavy PvP elements to it. Will we see some innovation, or will the issue of flamers be dusted aside? I'd like to think that a 'mature community' is not just a pipe dream.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finishing moves!

One thing I always loved about the Mortal Kombat games was the range of finishing moves and fatalities that players could execute on their near death opponents. It was the sheer awesomeness factor that drove players to learn the ridiculous combos required to activate them. Nothing is more satisfying than ripping your your opponent's heart out and feeding it to them right after a long and bloody battle. I spent some time thinking during the consumption of my Chinese noodles today on how to put finishing moves into fantasy style MMORPGs...

Straight up, you can forget about activating them via some kind of keyboard and or mouse combo. Players would simply use macros which would ruin all the fun. If you made the finishing moves too easy to activate, they would lose their awesomeness. Class specific finishing moves that activated automatically upon annihilation of your opponent is another idea, but that would still be too common for my liking. Whilst approaching the last piece of chicken in the bottom of my noodle box, it occurred to me:

Why not connect a finishing move to a weapon. Each weapon in the game could have it's own unique finishing move, which activated automatically when you dealt the final blow to your unfortunate foe (he he poetry). To prevent the player from getting bored of seeing the same scene over and over, the finishing move would only activate if you dealt a critical hit on your final blow. There could even be a percentage chance of it happening based of the rarity of the weapon.

Being a software developer myself, I realize that it would not be an easy task for the games company to create x thousand finishing move animations for the amount of different weapons in the game. Therefore common weapons would have common finishing moves, rare weapons: rare moves, and unique weapons: unique moves. I think this idea would give a whole new meaning to cool weapons and add an extra layer of awesomeness to the game.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fun at the Dragon Festival

To celebrate the 4th of July, Guild Wars players experienced the 3rd annual Dragon Festival. Players could earn victory tokens by completing special quests or by participating in a variety mini games. The tokens could be traded in for either a seriously weird looking 'Grasping Mask' or some party items. I opted for the party items, as they helped to further my party animal title track.

In traversing between mini games, I stumbled across a game played in the Shing Jea Monastery, where you had to run around and collect Celestial Charges and return them to NPCs. I usually don't participate in these kind of things, as it chews up valuable PvP time, but I was in a good mood. As a reward for my skillful charge running (lol), I received a bunch of Boardwalk Prizes, which supplied me with an easy 2 platinum. I was pleased :) Here is a pic of my monk running a Celestial Charge, right before it exploded:

The coolest part of the Dragon Festival was by far the Rollerbeetle racing. This mini game strangely resembles Super Mario Kart, but with colorful rolling beetles in place of karts and RPG skills in place of turtle shells and mushrooms. The game is largely based on skill, however if you're lucky enough to pick up a Super Rollerbeetle, you can gain a significant advantage over your opponents, especially if you Echo it.

By playing the Rollerbeetle racing I managed to increase my Gamer Title by 700 or so points. Unfortunately the time ran out and the festival ended with me a mere 32 points short of the 'Skillz' title. I justly provided a rather loud "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOES!!!!", promptly followed by: "BRING BACK THE BEETLES!!!". This raised raised an eyebrow or two from my girlfriend.

Although this is the third time I've experienced the dragon festival, I must say that this time was definitely the most fun. It will be a while before I see the roller beetles again, so I might have to dig up the old SNES and sate my addiction with some Super Mario Kart. Good times...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Guild Wars PvP Guide

I was reading a couple of blog articles recently from two of the big name bloggers in the MMO blog-o-sphere, Van Hemlock and Scott about making the plunge from PvE to PvP in Guild Wars. The articles are a fantastic read for players wanting to make a similar journey. The one thing that never occurred to me until reading their articles was that PvP is in Guild Wars can be a very daunting experience for someone that hasn't done it before. I've been playing Guild Wars PvP since it's release and I feel as though I have 'evolved' with the state of the game. As a result I have never seen it through the eyes of a new comer. If I had to suddenly re-learn everything I know about Guild Wars PvP in 5 minutes, I think I would have a brain aneurysm. The PvP system is so complex that the gap between newbie and pro is scary. There are so many tips and tricks to staying alive and winning, it really isn't funny; that is why I've decided to put together a bit of a rough guide to Guild Wars PvP. This guide applies mostly to new comers to Random Arenas, but it may be useful to other areas of GW PvP as well:

General Tips:
  • Looks aren't everything: Use PvP only characters for your first few weeks of PvP. Although your PvE chars look heaps better, its a lot harder to make minor modifications to improve your build.
  • Learn to walk before you run: I highly recommend using some of the more common and proven builds before going too wild with your own creations. You can find a lot of them here.
  • Watch and learn: One of the coolest things in Guild Wars is that you can observe the skills that other players are using. If you get beaten by a better player, click on them and write down their skills and sequence in which they use them whilst they decimate your team mates. Then roll the same build they used and try it for yourself. By playing as the build that beat you, you will learn all of the limitations and ways of beating the build next time you face it.
  • Always take res: This applies to every class except Monk. Monk's should never take res, because whilst they are resurrecting, the rest of their team is dying. Plus it allows for an extra useful skill slot. Any other class however should be carrying a res sig. Sacrificing one skill slot in order to have one other team mate back and fighting beside you when the heat is on, is definitely worth it.
  • No healing no glory: A self-heal is always important, but if you don't get a monk or rit on your RA team, you're not going to win too many games. If you want gladiator points, it's best to either play as a monk or leave at the end of your game and re-enter.
  • Keep up with the meta-game: Skill balancing happens all the time. As a result certain builds become better and others disappear completely. Make sure you pay attention to the Guild Wars PvP forums so that you don't get left behind.
  • Don't be discouraged: It doesn't matter how many guides you read, your not going to be good until you get in there and get your hands dirty. Practice makes perfect, and dying will only make you a stronger player. Ignore the people that flame you for making a mistake or being new, because soon you will be kicking their ass.
  • Learn from death: Why did you die? Could it have been avoided? How?
  • Know your short cuts: One of the main differences between a novice player an a good player is their use of the shortcut keys. Learn them and use them.
  • Knowledge is power: There are many class specific guides around that can teach you useful tactics. You can find a few here.
Combat Tips:
  • Know your enemy: Each class in Guild Wars has its own weakness. Warriors are weak against elemental damage (unless they are wearing Sentinel's), so use an elemental weapon when fighting one. Vice versa for a Ranger. Elementalists have long cast times, so interrupt them. As I said before, the easiest way to learn your foes weakness is to play as them.
  • Know your hexes: If a paragon can't talk (Vocal Minority) he's not much use. If a caster can't cast (Backfire), what good is he. Get to know your hexes by their icon, so that you know how to respond to them quickly. For example, if Ineptitude is placed on you as a melee char, simply stop attacking until it fades. If Diversion falls on you mid cast, the 'Esc' key is your friend.
  • Know your conditions: If a melee char can't see (Blind), he's not much use. Same goes for a dazed caster. Knowing exactly which conditions effect your build is very important. Make sure you have a backup plan if you are shutdown by a condition.
  • Call and follow called targets: The quickest way to kill someone is to all attack them at the same time. If your target is low on health, press 'Ctrl + Space' to call them as a target to your team mates. Team work is the key to success.
  • Know the kill order: In RA, you should always pick your targets in the following order: (Monks/Ritualists), Mesmers, (Necromancers/Elementalists/Assassins), (Dervishes/Paragons/Rangers), Warriors. Get the healers out of the way first, then make your way down the squishy/threat ladder. Naturally this order can be changed if a particular opponent is causing your team grief.
  • Change targets: If your target has protected itself, don't just stand there swinging aimlessly, change your target. A monk can easily keep themselves alive against 3 warriors with one Guardian. If you can't remove their defense swap your target. This will allow you to do maximum dps for the entire round. A monk will quickly use their energy up trying to keep more than one person alive.
  • Listen to your team: Always keep an eye on the chat. Your team mates will often let you know if something is causing them grief. If a hex or condition is shutting you down, 'Ctrl + left click' it's icon. Your healer or another team mate may be able to help you out.
  • Assist your healer: If your healer is struggling to keep you alive, pull back out of harms way for a bit and let them get their energy back. Do what you can to relieve any pressure that maybe causing them issues. If you need healing, run toward your healer, not away from them.
  • Learn to kite: Sometimes the best defensive option is to simply run around. This doesn't always work, but it can buy you valuable time. Be careful not to chase someone who is kiting too far away from your healer, as this can lead to disaster.

Cool tricks:
  • Play with you mates in RA: It is actually possible to be placed on the same team as your mates when you enter into RA, but its not guaranteed. To increase your chances all you need to do is go to a district that is either vacant or has very few people. Synchronize with your friends and all press 'enter' at the same time. Watch the counter count down and at the three second mark, press 'cancel' and 'enter' again. This usually works well with two people, but your chances decrease with each extra person.

Most importantly, have fun. Unfortunately this guide only covers the basics, but it should be a good start. If you disagree with any part of this guide, or can think of a few additions, please post your comments.