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PAX Guild Wars Events: Day 1

By Sean Ferguson

On Saturday, August 26, as the sun graced Bellevue with perfect weather, roving packs of gamers wandered the streets with one common destination: the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). Some gawked at the sights; some sought essential food (sugars, chips, and energy drinks), but most just waited in line. While traveling there, I observed the standard fare for such conventions–strange visages ranging from tin-foil suits and paper mache robots to more conventional gaming shirts and computer-related attire–and felt right at home. Thinking to myself of the veritable plethora of gamers swirling around the Meydenbauer Center, I knew our two Guild Wars events would sweep into this mass with a powerful wave of popularity.

We ran two events concurrently: the first ever Guild Wars Live Event and the Guild Wars 10k Arena. Both captured the fascination of PAX attendees, with gamers clamoring to partake in each faction of the Live Event and arriving early to secure a spot in the Sealed Play tournament.


10k Arena signups

Guild Wars Live Event

So how did this work, anyway? Upon arrival, players chose a faction, either Kurzick or Luxon (from Guild Wars Factions), to ally with. As they journeyed from station to station, they encountered various challenges to test their abilities. Each successfully completed challenge earned points for their chosen faction. A large map displayed a shifting border, representing a running tally of earned points from all players. After choosing a faction, players also select a profession, with each profession conferring a particular advantage at that profession's station. For example, a person could choose to play as a Kurzick Warrior. In this case, he'd enjoy an advantage at the Warrior station, but might suffer disadvantage at other stations (such as Mesmer or Monk).


What would a Mesmer do?

Each profession had its own station, and players completed as many or as few challenges as they wished. The more stations completed, the easier the final challenge became. Best of all, the winning side automatically entered all its players into a drawing for prize packages, including ATI video cards, t-shirts, and other merchandise.

For its first run, this event enjoyed enthusiastic response. Players had a compelling reason to tour all of PAX, especially important given the spread-out nature of the booths. While hopping to and from the different Guild Wars stations, gamers migrated to numerous other booths, encouraging widespread interaction and movement throughout the Expo. Additionally, the pace at each individual challenge station went quick, players smoothly flowing through the lines and using the grouping system to mutual benefit. As the day progressed, more and more individual attendees met up and joined larger groups, giving the atmosphere a boisterous and vigorous air.


The more the merrier

NPCs and "bangs"

To spot a "bang," players looked for a tall metal pole with a fat green exclamation point hovering overhead. This represented a non-player-character (NPC) from the game with a quest or information about a quest. More than simple info sources, NPCs are tireless, timeless, fearless, and patient. They stand bravely in one spot, valiantly facing the onslaught of quest-seekers head-on. Without these noble souls, PAX-goers would've found themselves bereft of tasty Guild Wars tips and helpful guidance, alone in a swirling sea of wandering and wondering player-characters.


Warrior-in-training

Staffed largely by volunteers from the ArenaNet staff, our NPCs continually worked to guide PAX quest-seekers through their missions. While the NPC's were usually helpful, gamers made sure to travel with caution, because the NPC at the Warrior quest station took frequent potshots, making "Watch Yourself!" and "Shields Up!" useful skills to have.


"Watch Yourself!"

Guild Wars 10k Arena

The 10k Arena on Saturday consisted of qualifying rounds in sealed play 4v4 matches. With a cap of 64 players allowed to enter the tournament, slots filled up quickly. Fierce competition began immediately, with twice the prize money offered at GenCon on the line. As signups continued, registered teams opened their sealed list of skills and began assembling builds. Most seemed ready to face the upcoming rigors, ignoring the throbbing bass flooding from convention speakers and nearby booths, and letting the wobbling mess of curious passersby go unheeded. Indeed, teams focused on what classes they knew they could play from past experience and debated back and forth about the best skills to use.


Planning session

The first match took place between Bravestarr and Decapitated Chickens. The Chickens won first, but Bravestarr rallied and seized victory in the next two games. The three games went quickly, with neither team changing any skills between fights. Although DC lost two out of three, they'd just gotten started. Based on a point system, the 10k Arena gave teams a chance to fight it out all day and accumulate points (with the most points given for wins, and a smaller amount for losses and draws). At the end of the day, teams with the most points qualified to go on to the Sunday finals.


Competition heats up

In the first competition between Bravestarr and DC, Bravestarr elected not to bring a Monk, largely due to the lack of effective healing in their sealed skill list. Consequently, Bravestarr ended up with quite a bit of damage, which overpowered DC's Monk. Both teams, and most other teams throughout the day, used loud vocal calling and sometimes text-chatting to communicate, as the roar of the convention blanketed the tournament area.

After playing their three games, Bravestarr and DC relinquished their seats to the next set of teams waiting in the wings. And so it went, match after match, teams playing each other and rotating out. Check out our more in-depth coverage of Sunday's final round, including a complete list of skills the final two teams had to choose from, and what selections they made for each game.


And more planning