Tyrian Times - Culling, Wintersday and a new 'do.
By Meredith Watson, OnRPG Tyrian Reporter
Now you see me. Now you don't.
While Guild Wars 2 is a great game in many respects and has even been nominated for IGN's Game of the Year, there is an aspect that many find annoying yet don't know much about it, and why it happens. I am talking about culling.
Culling is also known as occlusion culling or hidden surface determination. The main problem appears to be that Arena Net uses Umbra occlusion culling technology to render complex scenes. This is a trade-off for performance. The idea behind this is that objects that are behind other objects are not drawn on the screen for the player. Commonly, in MMO's, even outside, the environment is divided up into a series of rooms and then the culling technology decides if these rooms are visible to the player. Couple culling with inherent lag due to location and other data (such as character look, items worn, and/or animation action currently playing) transmitted over the internet (through various network providers and interconnects that may or may not be experiencing general traffic bottlenecks themselves), players will often find that items, enemy NPCs or players suddenly appear when there were none as the "room visibility" catches up with the current local environment and changes that have been received by the client from the server.
Any client/server application, including MMOs, need to make some sort of trade off due to network latency, client hardware and scene complexity. Most of the time this trade off falls within acceptable limits for players but when it starts affecting gameplay it will be noticed.
And it is being noticed. Specifically at large events. The Lost Shores event was a prime example of this. There were numerous complaints about players being one shotted by mobs that hadn't even appeared on screen yet or large groups of players being dead for the same reason. As stated above, with the latency that was the opening night of that event it is a recipe for disaster. It isn't just PvE events that experience culling to a great degree but also PvP, specifically WvW. The problem is essentially the same with enemies suddenly appearing and not having time to react. Thieves can appear to be perma-stealthed or large groups of players appearing out of nowhere. Of course, gamers being what they are will find ways to exploit issues. There were culling issues in Guild Wars as well which were never fixed. This isn't boding well for the future of Guild Wars2.
There has been a culling bug fix for PvP already. While there are plans to address the greater issue of culling from ArenaNet for PvE and WvW it will be a long process.
We are working on a fix (a collection of fixes, really) for culling and character loading issues. The fixes require significant changes to a number of game systems and thus require time to implement. We’re not yet ready to discuss a release date for the current set of fixes, but we’re working hard to improve the experience as quickly as we can.
This culling issue is quite serious and if you were to look there are numerous videos on YouTube or forum posts showing the severity. For many it is frustrating and is likely part of the reason many have opted to not play Guild Wars 2 at this time. However, and I have stated this before, it is early days. We need to give ArenaNet a chance to fix the problem but personally this is definitely something I would like to see addressed sooner than later.
December's update for Guild Wars 2, Wintersday, has been announced. Since this is the first Wintersday event for Guild Wars 2 it would be assumed, based on how similar the Halloween event was to Guild Wars, that Wintersday in GW2 will be similar to Guild Wars as well. The Guild Wars Wintersday event saw the gods Dwayna and Grenth fighting for control of the weather. Guild Wars Wintersday featured multiple quest lines, snowball fights, costume packs and a final fight with Dwayna and Grenth offering a head piece which should sound familiar.
From what has been stated so far about Wintersday for Guild Wars 2, unlike the Halloween event, it is nothing like Guild Wars:
The nights may be long and dark, but Tyrians of all races keep joy alive during the ancient holiday of Wintersday. While each race celebrates Wintersday in their own unique way, children all over Tyria share a common love of one thing: toys. This year the city of Lion’s Arch will host the Asuran Toymaker Tixx as their special Wintersday guest of honor. Before Tixx arrives in Lion’s Arch in his massive airship toy workshop, he’ll visit every major city in Tyria to deliver Wintersday toys and holiday cheer.
What is interesting and a bit exciting is that each race celebrates in their own way and that the celebration will be in all cities. Surely though it won't be as simple as Toymaker Tixx delivering gifts. No doubt something will go terribly wrong and we Tyrians will have to make things right. Sounds fun. Bring on the 14th of December.
A new 'do
There is a new addition to Guild Wars 2 in the form of a Total Makeover Kit and Hair-Style Kit. The Total Makeover Kit allows the player to change everything from hair, body shape, height and face to gender while the Hair-Style Kit does just what it says. While I would prefer to pay gold for a quick cut and dye, I am pleased the option to change appearance has found its way to the trading post.