Why ArenaNet Is the New Paragon of Gaming

ArenaNet is playing the Paragon card like it’s Mass Effect.

Make no mistake about it, ArenaNet is shaking up the gaming world right now – and it’s not just because they may have created the first truly great, accessible, and lasting MMO since World of Warcraft – but in how they are actually applying the law of their land.

First off, let’s get this straight – I am generally pretty awestruck by Guild Wars 2 as a game. It looks simply gorgeous, carries an incredible score, and innovates on just about every aspect of the MMO genre that has been begging for innovation. Simply put, they’ve removed the tedium, and created an experience every bit as immersive as Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series; the game just feels alive, and you can see the painstaking care that has been put into crafting it. But that’s not even the truly impressive part.

If you’ve ever played an MMO, you’ve been subject to a vast range of nuisances that you simply took down as an inescapable part of the genre. When chat was spammed endlessly by shady websites and suspect grammar, proclaiming to sell the cheapest gold and offering the best power leveling services, you shrugged, thinking, “Gee, I feel bad for the sweatshop gold farmers and all, but I wish someone would do something about that. Oh well, I guess they can’t get them all…” When your quest areas were clogged with unspeaking automatons, clearly run by a third-party bot program engaged in stealing all the mobs, you grumbled in frustration, leaving the map in search of an area not tantamount to an economy inflating item factory. When you ran a dungeon or a PvP map with random strangers and were called every crude, bigoted, and puerile slur for no real justifiable reason, you shut off the game and considered reevaluating your life.

“That’s just how these games are I guess,” you sighed in frustration.

Well, to all the guilty parties listed, I’ve got news for you: ArenaNet isn’t putting up with your shit anymore.

Since the game’s official launch earlier this week, the developers behind Guild Wars 2 have made clear that this game will be different – and they have taken some pretty drastic steps in doing so. Unlike the first game, which relied on physical trades made between two players, brokered through chat, Guild Wars 2 contains an automated Trading Post and Mail system. For veterans of the first game in particular, this has been a highly anticipated feature. Unfortunately, players found the services disabled for the majority of launch. Now, here’s where it gets interesting: While most figured it was just your typical launch issue, disabling the mail, at least, appears to have been a deliberate move on the part of ArenaNet to combat hackers.

The company has been delivering the majority of its detailed updates through reddit’s Guild Wars 2 board (just another way that ArenaNet is keeping directly in touch with their consumer base), and posted this update last night:

“We left in-game mail disabled for another half-day, because it’s difficult for hackers to loot accounts when both in-game mail and the trading post are disabled. Keeping mail disabled this morning to prevent account looting gave us time to get email authentication turned on for all players, and gave players time to secure their accounts. But we will be turning in-game mail back on soon, so we ask everyone to quickly secure their accounts.”

Already, the game has been widely targeted by hackers, who have been looting new players’ accounts (what could be more of a buzzkill, right?). And, rather than turning the cheek, the developers have done what they need to in order address the problem immediately.

Perhaps more suprising, however, is the strictness with which they are addressing exploiters.

In the same update, they also addressed an extremely controversial incident:

“This morning there was a widely-publicized, newly-introduced exploit in which specific cultural weapons were selling for one-thousandth of their normal price. We fixed it with an emergency build this morning. We want to thank the vast majority of players who became aware of the issue, responsibly reported it, and did not exploit it. However, a smaller group of players did significantly exploit it, each purchasing hundreds or thousands of these weapons. We permanently banned 3,000 accounts of players who substantially exploited it, and applied 72-hours bans to another 1,000 accounts of players who mildly exploited it.”

3,000 accounts perma-banned – pretty harsh, right? Well, you’ve got to take a few things into account here. First, is that the majority of those perma-banned, appear to have abused the exploit knowingly, and to staggering heights, using it to become about as rich as you might only after months of gameplay. The second, comes back to the word ‘Paragon.’

See, ArenaNet is playing the Paragon card like it’s Mass Effect. Shepard doesn’t show the worst criminals lenience – s/he shoots them in the face – because it might be harsh, but s/he knows that it’s for the good of the average, law abiding citizen.

But is there a point where their Paragon nature becomes a bit too pronounced?

Here’s the bit where it gets a little more controversial: ArenaNet is also being incredibly strict on some aspects that might conjure up comparisons to the obscenity laws of olde. Feel like giving your character a rude name? Think again.

“When an account is blocked for a chat offense, the account is given a three-day suspension. When an account is blocked for an offensive name, the player is required to rename the character name and, in most cases, the account is also given a three-day suspension.”

Again, harsh – but what sort of names are getting banned? Well, the blanket is pretty large, and described in detail at the game’s official website. Essentially, it just can’t be offensive on any level. Okay, fine – so you can’t name your character ‘Adolf Critler’ or ‘Big Titties McGee.’ I’m fine with that – I’ve never been a fan of naming my characters ridiculous things, finding it breaks my own immersion.

Meaning, there’s only one real issue that I have with ArenaNet’s new Paragon character: You can get bans for cursing in chat. Temporary bans, sure, but bans all the same. In my real life, I curse like the proverbial sailor; have since the 4th grade, when I discovered what it was like to let fucks fly from my mouth like they had little, tiny, happy wings. That, and I’m not a big fan of censorship in any form.

Then again – and excuse me while I play Devil’s Advocate with myself here – I watch my mouth in plenty of situations, mostly where I don’t know the parties involved (or my families’ tender ears happen to be in range). So what should make Guild Wars 2 so different? I mean hell, I played in a Guild Wars 1 alliance that had a strict ‘No Cursing’ policy, and I minded that just fine. I suppose, then, my issue with this simply lies in the slippery slope of censorship, and where whatever punk rock remnants that are left within me, say, “Fuck that! Don’t tell me I can’t do something!”

And yet, when you get down to it, I’m pretty sure the benefits here outweigh the implications of censorship – even if it means that I need to watch the F-Bombs. See, if there’s anything I truly cannot stand, it’s the bigots that fill most online games, spamming racist/sexist/homophobic slurs, and harassing players for no good reason at all – simply out of indiscriminate rage and elitism. There are countless players out there that derive pleasure from little more than ruining the experiences of others, either through verbal harassment, or exploiting and ‘breaking’ a game. Just try to play any Call of Duty title online – you can’t go a single match without at least one hacker or angry little man out there, vomiting the worst words they can muster, like it’s nothing at all.

Well, ArenaNet has made clear that will not be tolerated in their game. Chat anything involving bigoted slurs or direct harassment, and prepare for a 72 hour ban.

All because ArenaNet poked their head out, looked at the miserable state of social gaming around them, and thought. “This isn’t right. What Would (Paragon) Shepard Do?”

Forgive my language, ArenaNet, but:

Fuck. Yes. It’s about time that someone did.

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