Why I'm interested in Guild Wars 2
And why you should be too
First, some history. ArenaNet marketed their first game, the original Guild Wars, as a CORPG. The C stood for either cooperative or competitive, depending on who you asked, I'd say the PvE (Player vs. Environment) was cooperative and the PvP (Player vs. Player) was competitive. The point is, they didn't intend to make an MMORPG, but the industry and the players labeled their game as such and they eventually gave in.
So Guild Wars, a game that wasn't even meant to be an MMORPG developed by a company no one had heard of, managed to succeed and thrive in a heavily saturated market where most established companies failed to even gain a foothold.
They did this by changing the model. In PvE, they gave your party their own area, so no one would steal your objective before you could even get to it. They assigned drops and shared gold between party members so there wouldn't be arguments over loot. They also reduced the grind, instead of doing the same things over and over to max out your character, you succeeded by simply playing through the content. In PvP, they leveled the playing field, so everyone was at the same strength and had access to top equipment. This allowed skill to be more important than how long you'd spent grinding for gear.
After two more chapters (full games that tie in to the original) in which they tried more new ideas and pushed at their boundaries, they found that the game they currently had could not support what they wanted to do. They released an expansion to help hold us over, and started work on Guild Wars 2.
ArenaNet is being even more radical in Guild Wars 2. For one thing, this time they're actually making an MMORPG. Here's an incomplete list of some of the awesome things they're doing this time:
Dynamic events: This is the biggie. Instead of saving the village because some guy with floating punctuation told you it was under attack, you'll save it because you were in the area and oh no that village is under attack! On top of that, dynamic events will chain together, if you fail to save the village the attackers might take it over and start attacking other villages. These won't reset at midnight either - you won't get your village back until you fight them off and rebuild it.
Removing the 'holy trinity': The trio of healer, damage taker and damage dealer is a common theme in many RPGs. There's nothing wrong with that until you want to go out and play and find that every group in the outpost is sitting around waiting for a healer to show up. In GW2, everyone will have a self heal, and as far as I can tell, no one will be a tank.
No more playing the UI: The game relies on watching the action rather than watching the interface. I noticed this when I played the demo at PAX. No more red dots on the minimap. It took a bit to get used to, but it's really much more immersive this way. Positioning and awareness of your surroundings are key in this game. This is actually really great, because their art team has created such a beautiful game that it would be a shame not to look at it!
Removing grouping: Instead of sitting around an outpost waiting for a team to form, you can just run out into the world and play. If you see a bunch of people engaged in an event, by all means go help them out! Everyone who participates gets rewards, and you don't get less of a reward because someone else joined in. There will still be dungeons and other places that are instanced that you can form a party for, but the main world is open and everyone is welcome to help out.
Flattening the level curve: A lot of games make it harder to get stronger the stronger you get. You end up playing the game solely to get stronger, and then when you finally get to the top, you find out there's nothing much to actually do. ArenaNet is trying to change this. Levels will still come more quickly when you first start out, but they will soon flatten out and it will take you about the same amount of time to get from 79 to 80 as it did from 20 to 21.
And finally, their attention to detail in world building is astounding. In addition to the five playable races, each with their own unique abilities, history and culture, they have a whole slew of minor sentient races with histories and cultures all their own. They've got an amazing art team bringing this world to life with new creatures, plant life, buildings, landmarks and more. They've got a full writing team, giving personality and motivation to everyone you'll meet. I've always loved exploring new worlds in any media, so even if I couldn't play it, I'd love to read Guild Wars 2.
To me, the most important new feature is something that only comes up when you put it all together. Have you ever worked together with a group of people towards a common goal? Not at work, where that guy is vying for a promotion, the other is just there for a paycheque and who knows what else, but a common goal with no ulterior motives whatsoever? Maybe you volunteered, maybe you did a group project, maybe you even had a good guild in a game and worked together to defeat a tough area. Whatever it was, I've found that very little beats the feeling of community you get when everyone is working towards the same purpose.
From everything I've read about what ArenaNet is trying to do with Guild Wars 2, and from what I've seen and played for myself in demos, I believe that they might well pull off this sense of community. With only benefits from joining an event in progress, and no elitism from having to have only the 'best' people in your party, I can see this game succeeding at bringing people together. It might not bring about world peace, but it can't hurt.