Guild Wars 2 vs World of Warcraft = Challenge vs Cooperation
The company ArenaNet started creation on a video game in 2000 after three former employees of Blizzard banded together to innovate around the typical MMO format. It's surprising, therefore, that in almost every discussion about ArenaNet's game Guild Wars 2 (GW2) a Blizzard Game like World of Warcraft (WoW) will come up in conversation. I was having one of these lively debates recently with friends who had all played WoW and GW2 when it became quite clear that a major design philosophy of Guild Wars 2 was extremely divisive among end-game players. People disliked the lack of numbers.
One MMO problem the developers at ArenaNet have tried to address in their game is the propensity for players to hate on each other or for people to be reluctant to help one another because of visible public statistics related to armor, weapons, or ability of people in your group. To play with others in a game like WoW you might need to spend a few hours gaining experience and high-tier loot before a group will help you. Then you play on a five-man team until your equipment and skills are better and you are accepted into twenty-five man raids.
This classic WoW system is good because it takes time to build up to high reward tiers. It's an awesome kind of challenging with a very clear goal. It's bad, though, that you have to deal with hours of degrading, "lol stfu noob gtfo" while players look at your armor score and consider you unworthy of their awesome. Removing tooltips, damage floaters, and all other indications and statistics about group strength makes it so anyone can hop in any Guild Wars 2, pick up group, and run dungeons or fractals at a high level for at least an hour before people care to notice skill level.
I believe the lack of numbers in Guild Wars was an intentional design decision that ArenaNet made in order to promote cooperation and friendliness within player groups. My personal experience says that GW2 does have nicer groups than WoW but maybe I never got to the kind, empathetic, and helpful parts of WoW because I was too put-off by the noob-bashers. Maybe if I had a guild to help or a friend to guide me through Azeroth I would have been happier.
The only thing I can say for sure is that part of the lack of numbers in Guild Wars 2 has to do with a design philosophy about the User Interface (UI). ArenaNet believes players should look at the world and not the skill bars. They can't add multicolored damage floaters (see above) because you end up staring at them instead of the enemy's animation. GW2 is about dodge-rolling and dodging while WoW is about skill combos. You can afford to look at numbers in one game, but not the other.
The Debate Rages
You'll never see the end of the great MMO debate comparing GW2 and WoW because Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft are very different games. Guild Wars 2 is free-to-play while World of Warcraft charges. The content is different. The art is different. The mechanics are different. Arenanet could learn from the challenge of WoW, though, and Blizzard could take note of how friendly GW2 tend to be.