Guild Wars 2, part one
8th Apr 2007 | 11:29
Guild Wars' heavily instanced-based nature and subscription-free model raised more than a few questioning eyebrows when the MMORPG was initially unveiled, but the game went on to prove itself and ArenaNet's design philosophy reap reward. Now the developer is expanding the Guild Wars horizon and is working on a sequel, and its foremost goal with Guild Wars 2, it says, is "to make it the ultimate Guild Wars for Guild Wars fans".
We spoke to ArenaNet founder Jeff Strain and Guild Wars lead designer Ben Miller to discover more about the follow-up...
So could you 'set the scene' for Guild Wars 2?
Jeff Strain: It's set hundreds of years after the events in the original game. Obviously, when you sit down and you're going to do a sequel to a big game like this, one of the first things you talk about is the world and the setting and what the story should be. Our belief with Guild Wars is that we've really covered throughout the three campaigns of Guild Wars 1 a wide swathe of area from a geographical standpoint. The world is quite large. And we really didn't relish the thought of throwing all that away and building a new world.
I think people really love the world of Tyria and we've grown quite fond of it and I think our belief is there's lots of stories and lots of cultures and lots of environments to explore, that we haven't explored yet. We've kind of done a broad sweep across it but there's a lot we feel we haven't had to opportunity to go and bring out yet.
Right from the beginning what we wanted to do was give our players a sense of home. And so it will be largely set in the world of Tyria in the original kingdoms of Ascalon and Kryta, all of the places that characters have become familiar with across the first three campaigns. But we're going to fill it in with a tremendous amount of detail that hasn't been there before.
It's not only just the physical geography and the setting but the cultures themselves will have evolved of a couple of hundreds of years. So a large part of the story is what happens to the Charr, what happens to the humans, after the events of the original campaign.
What will Guild Wars 2 offer above and beyond World of Warcraft?
Jeff Strain: Well, I don't think I can even give a meaningful answer to that question, because our goal is not to offer things above and beyond World of Warcraft. Guild Wars is a very different kind of game to World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars 2 will be a very different kind of game to World of Warcraft.
We're pursuing a design mechanic that's unique to the Guild Wars franchise. It's certainly not our intention to go and chase after any other MMO on the market. We think that those players that enjoy those kinds of games are probably going to enjoy World of Warcraft and we think that Guild Wars will continue to be a unique experience. So it'll stand up on its own and have its own set of features and own design direction.
In what major ways does the experience you plan to offer with Guild Wars 2 differ from what you've offered with Guild Wars?
Jeff Strain: I think, first and foremost, one of the biggest differences that people will perceive in the world between Guild Wars 2 and the first campaigns is that it's much more of a living, breathing world. In Guild Wars, we were able to tell very specific and very grand stories through the use of our instancing technology and the way we structured the campaigns. Each campaign had a big epic story and we were really able to cast you as the hero of that story.
In Guild Wars 2, we want to retain our ability to do that, but rather than telling one big monolithic story our goal is to pursue story arcs and story bubbles - that players can choose to take their characters into a story arc and maybe there a several missions and persistent areas that'll tie that together. And there's going to be numerous of these story arcs throughout the world. What we want to do is adopt more of a sandbox mentality, that players can direct their own play and pace to a much greater degree than they could in Guild Wars 1.
So, the way we kind of say it is that in Guild Wars 2 we're building a world and all the mechanics that go along with that world and then we will tell stories within that world, whereas in the original Guild Wars it was more that we were telling this big story and developing the world to fit that story.
How much of the sequel will be instance-based, and how much persistent? There's been talk that the whole thing is persistent, but that's not the case then...?
Jeff Strain: No, the foremost goal of Guild Wars 2 is to make it the ultimate Guild Wars for Guild Wars fans. Guild Wars charted new territory, not only with its business model but with a very innovative design, and a large part of that innovative design was the way we utilised instancing technology to tell this more direct story.
We're not going to let that go, it's one of the most powerful features of Guild Wars 1 and one of the features we think really makes it stand out. So that will still be a core foundation of Guild Wars 2. But we want to use the addition of persistent world to also explore other types of gameplay.
So no, it's absolutely not the case that we're dropping instancing technology, we'll continue to carry that forward because we think it's one of the foundational pillars of Guild Wars.
World versus World combat sounds an intriguing feature - can you elaborate are that part of Guild Wars 2?
Jeff Strain: I'll start by talking about how the PvP combat works in Guild Wars and then how we're changing that for Guild Wars 2...
Guild Wars 1 has what we call structured PvP, more of an e-sport - it's design is such that it's a very balanced playing field and people who really enjoy hardcore PvP can enjoy the e-sport nature of the game. It's something that's been a very popular component of the game.
We're going to maintain that for Guild Wars 2, we're still going to have this form of e-sport, but we're going to take it one step further by doing away with the unlocking mechanisms we have in Guild Wars 1. If players want to go straight in to the pure e-sport PvP style of play in Guild Wars 2, they'll be able to take their existing character - and there's no difference between a role-playing character and a PvP character - into this e-sport arena area and immediately have access to all of the skills and weapons and items in the game without having to unlock them.
So for the people who really enjoy that e-sport component, it's going to be even easier and accessible to them in Guild Wars 2.
But the other part of what we're looking at is that there's a lot of people who we think would really enjoy a more casual style of PvP, one that's more integrated with the role-playing element of the game and the world of Guild Wars 2. And so for those players we're introducing a new form of PvP that is called World versus World.
The idea here is that this is a much more casual form of PvP, there's no restriction on the number of people who are fighting on your side or on the other people's side. It takes place in what we call The Mists, which is areas between worlds so everybody in your world is fighting on the same side. And you'll be matched up with a few other worlds and we'll rotate those matches around every couple of weeks.
The idea is that it's this big open-structure PvP battlefield, and depending on your personal play style, you can choose to either be a tank and go up into the front lines and enter direct player-versus-player combat, or you can play more of a support role. Perhaps you want to protect a supply train that's bringing supplies to ballistas on the castle walls, or perhaps you want to man the ballistas and shoot the ballistas at the enemy. Or maybe you want to man a watchtower way out in the forest so that you can give your team early warning that the enemy is trying to flank around the side.
One of the core elements of this is that you can't be detrimental to your team. It's not like the e-sports style of PvP where you have to worry about people yelling about you if you make a mistake or you're too much of a noob and you're not justifying the slot you're holding in your team. Everybody is valuable, no matter what they're doing, no matter their contribution. Every single person who joins in the fight is perceived as a positive contributor. We think it's going to be a lot more accessible to a large number of people.
Is any character advancement/development linked in the World versus World PvP, or is character advancement still done purely through PvE?
Jeff Strain: It is certainly not that case that you ever need to participate in this World versus World PvP. It is strictly there for people that enjoy it. Role-players can strictly stay on the role-playing track.
But yes, you can choose to gain experience and progress your character in the World versus World PvP.
Ben Miller: One of the other aspects of World versus World PvP that makes it more accessible is that 'I have an extremely low level character and you have an extremely high level character' - we're going to integrate a side-kicking system that allows my play experience to be more on par with say your power level.
So instead of me going out there and getting absolutely owned and trying to keep up with higher level characters, the side-kicking system will kind of equalise my character to yours. So we'll both have a fun, competitive time without a lot of the necessary grinding that I would have to do to get high level armour and stuff.
Check back soon for the second and concluding part of our interview with ArenaNet, where we continue to chat about Guild Wars 2, ask about the future of Guild Wars 1 and the developer gives opinions on MMORPGs on console.