ArenaNet’s hotly anticipated Guild Wars 2 hit this weekend, with the servers opening their doors a full three days early for anyone who pre-purchased the game. For the most part this pre-purchase launch has been relatively stable save for a few hours here and there – but the problems I encountered had nothing to do with that.
I’d been keeping my eye on the game as a great, low-cost alternative to my World of Warcraft withdrawals, since I’d been gone from the world of MMORPGs for well over a year now. WoW’s Cataclysm expansion did very little for me after the emotional high note that was Wrath of the Lich King, and I’d decided that I’m not going to be paying $15 a month for the much-maligned ability to pit my non-combat pets in Pokémon-style battles for hours while I waited for my dungeon queue to pop, so shelling out cash for Mists of Pandaria really isn’t an option for me.
I had recently finished an extra project for a client and I found myself with a spare $60 that wasn’t earmarked for bills or the wedding fund, so I managed to convince myself after much hemming and hawing (and some quick napkin math) that we could afford to buy a copy, right before the servers opened up for anyone who purchased the game in advance. Exhausted from a long day, I went to bed, figuring I’d likely be up early and get to set foot inside Tyria for the first time so I could see if I’d just blown three crisp Andy Jacksons or not, but unfortunately Fate had other ideas for me.
I woke up at around 7 AM on Saturday morning from a pretty horrific nightmare. Nightmares usually don’t bother me all that much, except it was one of those particularly vile sleep paralysis ones, where you’re immobilized in your dream while horrible things are happening to you, only to wake up and discover that you’re still immobilized. Once my body started working again, I resolved to shake it off by firing up GW2, only to be greeted with a now-infamous and well-publicized login server problem that lasted a few hours. Once ArenaNet got that resolved, though, I was all about getting my grind on.
Then, my computer shat itself.
I’ve detailed in the past the love-hate relationship I have with my computer. This time was no different – I played GW2 for about 20 minutes, completely mesmerized and lost by this new alien landscape and feeling wooly-headed in re-learning the old WASD/mouse and keybind routine when I got the good old Blue Screen of Death.
Now, let me explain something for anyone who may not be aware of it: getting a BSOD in Windows 7 is kind of rare. It’s not like back in the good old days of Win95 where all you had to do is look at your computer wrong: in Win7, it usually only happens when the shit really hits the fan. It also pointed me in the direction of the culprit immediately: my graphics card, a not-quite-ancient NVidia 9800 GTX+ that has definitely seen better days.
My graphics card has fucked me in the past. It pretty much put an end to my playing Super Monday Night Combat, as it would routinely crash the game and send me back to the desktop randomly – though usually only when my team was winning. I did some maintenance to it which seemed to solve the problem for a while, as I was able to run Dead Space with no problems whatsoever after I bought it on the Steam Summer Sale a month and a half ago; I actually just popped my case open, gave it the dust bunny equivalent of the Final Solution, and plugged everything back in. I even took a pencil eraser to the contacts on the video card itself to get rid of any corrosive build-up (yes, the trick works. Try it on an old Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge and you’ll likely see a big difference). Naturally, I thought my problems were over.
Now, this is pretty much the equivalent of a character saying “What could possibly go wrong?” right before the beginning of the fourth act of a movie. You know the part, even if you’re not familiar with the five-act structure: everything’s going well, things are looking up, and as long as nothing changes, it’ll be smooth sailing for our hero – but then the other shoe drops. The mentor figure dies (bye bye, Obi-Wan), the burgeoning relationship falters (What do you mean you asked me out “because of a bet!?”), or any other complications arise. It leaves all of the fourth act for the protagonist to fix things just in time for the climax and the dénouement, hopefully under a 2 hour running time so your audience doesn’t have to get up and go to the bathroom because they’ve consumed their own weight in Diet Faygo Cream Soda.
To make a long story short, I spent the majority of Saturday cursing like a sailor as I revisited my previous maintenance cycle, cleaning out all the accumulated dust and cat hair, scrubbing at the video card contacts, and pretty much praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that things would work properly once I’d hooked everything back up again. I did manage to finally get GW2 running, but it tends to crash if I try to run the game at its highest graphics settings. This bums me out because I know the game looks pretty damn beautiful, but I’m basically living in fear that my motherboard will spontaneously combust if I turn on anti-aliasing, so the game sort of looks like something that came out of a cat’s asshole. At least it’s playable – but by the time I was done, I was too exhausted to do much besides wander around for half an hour before finally passing out.
Unfortunately Sunday was a wash as well since we had relatives visiting, so I think I’ve spent maybe a total of three hours actually playing the game and getting used to it. If the Machine Gods are willing, I’ll be able to actually talk about my experiences tomorrow, so stay tuned!