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GWFC: The Guilds in Leipzig

By Joshua Lovejoy
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Travel and Delayed Arrival

The Koreans have landed. No, seriously, their bus just pulled up outside our hotel. My roommate, Tournament Director Michael Gills, dashes out to meet them downstairs—it's been a long couple days for Mike, so he is no doubt pleased to have the final two teams under one roof. This is, of course, if you count Idiot Savants, who still have two MIA players, plagued with missed flights and baggage mishaps along their European getaway. They'll hopefully arrive some time late tonight, or Charles "Ensign" Connaughton might spontaneously catch fire...though he's been impressively calm thus far.

It's 3:00 p.m PDT as I write this, midnight here in Leipzig, and my brain is cautiously optimistic at the notion of sleep, having survived the past couple days on petty glimpses of rest between and during plane flights. After comparing itineraries with many of the players, I'm confident that mine was the most wearying, but that's another article entirely. I'd imagine a bit of detail on our time spent thus far might be a tad more entertaining!

I met up with Jeff Strain and Mike O'Brien (two of ArenaNet's three founders) in New York, and tagged along through Germany, and then to Leipzig, chatting lightly and freely about the event, the game, the hilarious exchange rate—typical light fare. It was nice to hear them recounting personal experiences from the game, and conjecturing about the event to come—it let me know that these two guys indeed care beyond the superficial. Jeff had brought his parents along for the trip so they could get a chance to see some of the gaming frenzy in action, but I think they were most happy just to get to see their son in his element.

Handling the Dangers of a Virtual Tournament

Arriving in Leipzig via Bullet Train and cabbing over to the hotel, we learned the details of the GWFC's first major injury, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. My aforementioned roommate, Michael Gills, had brutally injured his hand while hopping a fence with ArenaNet's rogue-on-the-loose, Isaiah Cartwright, and had spent the prior night at a German hospital, in surgery and getting stitched-up. With a short-handed staff (no pun intended) left to figure things out, we all chipped—in and made the best of things, which ended up giving me a chance to meet and greet the players as they arrived.

Imagine: Treacherous Empire and Idiot Savants from the American region, Esoteric Warriors and Irresistible Blokes from the European region—one in a state of relative culture shock, the other wondering aloud when their soonest opportunity to visit the local pub would arrive (guess which was which!). They sat, they chatted, they milled around, and eventually got settled in their rooms, but not before I spotted a game of 'Toss the Seppo' being played in the hotel lobby, much to the delight of the center of attention, iB's Seppo "Uhvl" Sarkanen. Considering these four teams would be battling out the following day in single-elimination, they got along like old pals, largely thanks to the fact that so many of them had been involved in the first Guild Wars World Championship in Taipei. More than anything, today was a reunion, but tomorrow should shake things up a bit.

Nearing dinner, the majority of the group got the urge to take a gander at the NCsoft booth at the Games Convention, so we hopped on the tram outside the hotel, led by fearless Izzy, who gleefully shared photos he'd taken right after Michael Gills' fence-hopping accident (what good is a night in a German hospital if you can't post the pictures on MySpace?). The ride to the convention center was full of laughter, as players recounted all sorts of fun memories and Guild Wars-related hilarity, most poignant being Oliver "Elendar" Gaisford's posited question: "If you tied Paladin's shoes together, do you think he'd call out "CRIPPLE ON 1!"?

Reconnaissance and Intelligence-Gathering

The booth itself is pretty outstanding. Huge banners plaster the surrounding walls, play stations are situated at either side of the stage, and a nicely sized screen directs attention to looping CGI from the game we all know and love. The ground is even authentic and patterned after Nightfall, with "real" dirt coating the floor and creating a fairly otherworldly ambience in comparison to the carpeted and clean-cut booths that surround it. A giant gleaming coat-of-arms stands as the event trophy, with the winning guild earning its name engraved at the bottom, "somewhat like the NHL's Stanley Cup," puts forth Mr. Gills, whose status has been upgraded to "pointing and motioning for people to move things."

The play area could use some work, though; it's cramped, dark, and features keyboards that have received a fairly low appreciation level from the players (though players are allowed to bring their own mouse and keyboard for competition). On the bright side, the monitors are splendid, the gameplay performance is top-notch, and the staff has made accommodations to allow players to practice at any time when a match is not occurring, which alone is a vast improvement. But after a brief test run, it was time to bid the convention adieu and head back to our hotel, en route to dinner.

By the end of dinner, teams were slowly switching back into Guild Wars-mode, beginning light discussion of tomorrow's tactics at their various tables, but never getting into anything too juicy. The walk back from the restaurant was a calm before the storm, to be sure, as I accompanied Te to their late-night strategy session in their hotel room, and got a glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes action. Scouting reports, Guild Hall choices, build discussions and redundancies, everything was fair-game and certainly made for some interesting debate. But come tomorrow morning, all the speculation and conjecture is kicked to the curb, as Guild Wars seeks out its next champion—and after the 72-hour Open Event and the "Fun Season," the community is itching for the return of more competitive games.