For those of you who haven't been following the game with the feverish eyes of a true fanatic, here are some things to keep in mind when you first strike out in Tyria.
Home servers are important
You're probably used to server selection being a fairly permanent choice when it comes to rolling up new characters. However, you might not be used to the notion of all your characters being bound to the same home world. In Guild Wars 2, once you've picked a server to roll on, you can't just hop over to a different one to roll a new character. Instead, you'll have to use a home world transfer -- if you're reading this right around launch time, those transfers are free. Later, they'll come with a fee, but you'll be able to play as a guest on any serve you've got friends on.
Every now and again as you're going about your heroic business, you'll finish a dynamic event, save whichever poor NPC needed rescuing or escorting or defending, and feel the urge to dash off in search of a sunset to ride into.
Hang around for a few moments. Cool your jets. Listen to the NPC you just saved -- is she doing something interesting? Is he spouting a bit of portentous dialogue? Maybe dropping hints about getting back at those [insert bad guys here] scum? Not every dynamic event in Guild Wars 2 chains into another one right away, but a fair number of them do, which makes it worth your while to hang around to see what happens.
Unlike a number of MMOs, Guild Wars 2 doesn't have a big change in playstyle at max level. You're not racing to unlock a new type of play that is much more desirable than the one you're currently experiencing. Sure, everyone wants to have more power, and that's a part of leveling up, but this game isn't really designed to be a race to 80. You'll be cheating yourself out of a lot of the intended experience if you focus on leveling and moving on with all possible speed.
Explore while you're there
Not everybody's the completionist type, but if you are or have the slightest inkling that you might be, save yourself some trouble. As you're running through the world you'll see symbols for waypoints, points of interest, and vistas on your map. They might be a little out of your way, but (and this ties in with the previous point) go ahead and nab 'em as you're going along. Maybe wait on it if you're trying to get in on the last half of an epic battle with a fiery deathbringer, but in most circumstances you'll save yourself a lot of running around later if you just nip over and unlock the darn thing.
If you're not normally the completionist or explorer type, it might do you good to know that there's some substantial reward for achieving 100% map completion for any given zone. Not only do waypoints, points of interest, and vistas give experience upon discovery, but zone completion results in some nice in-game items. You can get a number of transmutation stones (which are used for combining the appearance of one item with the stats of another) and other nifty goodies just for completing a map.
The Asura are useful folk to have around, especially because they've invented portals that allow for free and instantaneous travel. Each of the capital cities has an Asura portal to Lion's Arch. The portals show up as swirly pinkish-purple circles on your map, and you can use them to travel easily between cities.
That's handy if you're trying to play with a buddy and the two of you can't agree on which race to play. You can be running around together within minutes of completing your respective tutorials -- just head into your major city, port through to Lion's Arch, jump through the portal to your friend's starting city, and poof! Problem solved. There's no peaceful solution to figuring out who has to go to whose zone, though. You'll probably have to fight to the death over that.
Gather, deposit, craft
Gathering items out in the world requires having the appropriate tool (there are three different tools depending whether you want to gather ore, wood, or foodstuffs, and the tools are rated by what quality of material they can gather). While it might feel like a pain to buy those tools to carry around with you, it'll likely pay off. Gathering provides XP, and you can either sell off the goods or use them to start learning a crafting discipline. Crafting materials don't even need to take up sapce in your inventory; clicking on the gear icon in the upper right of your inventory management panel will give you an option to "deposit all collectibles." Doing so puts any collectibles (like crafting materials) you're carrying safely in your bank, freeing up valuable inventory space.
When you go to a bank NPC or any crafting station, you'll be able to access the goods you deposited. The crafting tab has a window for discovery, formulas, your bank, and collectibles. Everything that got automagically whisked out of your inventory will be sitting, safe and sound, in the collectibles tab.
Every race's starter zone has some sort of body of water that's big enough to swim in. Be sure that you do go for a swim -- it can be easy to forget that you've got to unlock the skills on your aquatic weapons otherwise. There's a lot of water in and around Tyria and a lot of stuff goes on in that water. Be ready, soldier! Unlock those aquatic weapon skills!
Besides, it's really pretty down in the water. And you might even meet a Quaggan!
The trading post is your friend.
Just like you can deposit items right from your inventory while you're out and about, you can also access the trading post from anywhere in the world. While you'll have to be at an actual trading post NPC to pick up any items or earnings, you can utilize the trading post to get rid of items that are taking up space while you're adventuring.
Piece of blue armor that you can't use? Heaps of iron ore that mean nothing to you since you're a cook? Dye color that you've already unlocked? Sell it! Pay attention when you do, though; the trading post has an option to sell to the highest buyer, which might seem temptingly easy, but maybe pay attention to the price. You'll also see what price other folk are asking for the same item, or you can set your own price. Be savvy. Don't sell your ultra cool thing for like 10 copper just because that was the default option.
Don't wait to try out PvP
Both structured PvP and the large-scale WvW are open to you from the get-go. Take advantage of that. If you're not in an overflow server, you can press B to bring up a screen showing your world's current standings in WvW. That screen also gives you an option to join in the action. The PvP tab on your hero (H) panel can take you straight to the Heart of the Mists, the PvP lobby. Even if you think you're just here for the PvE, it cannot hurt to give other game modes a shot. At least think about it, OK? Promise me that.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.