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Dev Corner: Imagining Guild Wars 2 ArenaNet's James Phinney talks about developing Guild Wars 2™ Every great game starts with a simple question: What do we want to play next? If you aren't passionate about the game you're working on, it is already doomed to mediocrity. And the best way to make sure you're passionate? Make something you want to play. For the team at ArenaNet, the idea of making Guild Wars 2 started with a single conversation about all the things we wanted to do in the next Guild Wars® campaign. Very quickly it became clear that we could move the game forward by leaps and bounds... but only if we were willing to rebuild it from the ground up. Here's what we thought we could accomplish:
  • Give players immense freedom of movement. The underlying systems in Guild Wars allowed us to make a very responsive, yet hack-proof game, but they also prevented us from giving players the ability to jump and swim and explore their environment freely. We’ll still keep movement hack-proof, but we want players in Guild Wars 2 to simply enjoy moving around.
  • Allow players to encounter each other in common, persistent areas. The instancing of Guild Wars gave us a ton of story-telling and gameplay advantages over our competitors, but instanced areas and persistent areas each have their strengths and weaknesses. We want to give players the best of both worlds.
  • Let players choose from multiple playable races (including our own unique addition to the fantasy genre, the Charr). Our team takes a lot of pride in the look and feel of each of the professions in the game, but some of the early technical choices we made for them prevented us from even considering introducing playable races. Now we have a chance to make new choices that give players more options.
  • Give players deeper options for character advancement. We knew this would be the most controversial of our new goals. Could we do this without creating a game full of grind? As avid fans and players of RPGs, massively multiplayer or otherwise, we saw many untapped opportunities for making this work.
  • Make everything about Guild Wars better. When you look back honestly on a game you've made, there are always things you wish you could have done better. Could we create a stronger economy with better options for trading? Definitely. Could we address player concerns about the relationship between PvP and PvE? With a new system, yes. Could we give players more and better storage? Yes! The list goes on and on.
Beyond the sweeping gameplay improvements that we are introducing, we also know that any sequel worth its salt needs to show major graphical improvements. Let’s face it, a lot of people love this game because it is beautiful. We fully intend to stay true to the Guild Wars tradition of looking better than the competition while featuring surprisingly inclusive system specs. (And, as a designer, I’ve got some very talented and hard-working programmers and artists to thank for that!)Even so, not having to worry about backward-compatibility with the original Guild Wars engine and tools gives us an abundance of opportunities to make Guild Wars 2 jaw-droppingly beautiful. At the same time, new budgets for textures and poly-counts, and a whole new bag of tricks from our in-house graphics gurus, mean that every environment, character, and effect we’re making truly looks like a whole new game. Getting excited about new graphics and new gameplay ideas is only part of the equation for us, though. As some fans noted when Guild Wars 2 was announced, by adding persistent areas and extensive character advancement to Guild Wars, we risked creating another me-too MMO in the Everquest tradition. Plenty of those games already exist, though, and making yet another has never been our goal. Instead, from the start, we talked a lot about the core principles of Guild Wars.
  • Guild Wars isn't a hassle to play. Fundamentally, we made a choice to not build a game around time-sinks and inconvenience. Our streaming updates, instant map travel, character templates, account-wide storage, easily removed death penalty, and myriad of core features are all based on this principle. Although some details would need to change, we wanted the sequel to stay true to this tradition.
  • Guild Wars lets you play the way you want to play. We've had a few years now of observing our players and their tendencies and preferences. Whether their play-style focuses on exploration, story, wealth, collection, achievements, socializing, PvP, playing solo or with strangers or friends, our goal is to give them a rich and rewarding experience playing the game they want to play. With Guild Wars 2, we'd seek to diversify their options even further.
  • Guild Wars encourages skillful play. If you’re going to spend as much time playing a game as people spend playing their favorite online RPG, it had better engage you socially, viscerally, and, yes, intellectually. From the very foundation of the Guild Wars design, we’ve tried to create a game that rewards clever and active play. We’re confident we’ll do an even better job this time around.
  • Guild Wars tells a story. We've learned a lot over the years about running events in common areas, and how to get the best effect out of instances. Guild Wars 2 gives us an opportunity to take that knowledge and apply it in even better ways.
  • Guild Wars has no monthly fee. Let's face it: one of the reasons that Guild Wars has enjoyed so much success is that people like owning a game after they buy it. They like being able to take a break without a subscription continuing to drain their bank account. They like being able to buy and experience other games, too. Now we plan to bring that same model to a game with persistent areas, playable races, freedom of movement, incredible depth, spectacular graphics, and gameplay that builds on the best of Guild Wars while taking things to new heights.
Yowza. Looking back on what I’ve written, I’m a little surprised at how effusive I’ve been. Thing is . . . that’s just the sort of energy and enthusiasm we’re feeling around the office right now. I believe it’s because all of the guiding principles, lessons learned, and new ideas amount to one simple thing: we are moving forward, making the best Guild Wars we know how to make. And we can’t wait to play it.James Phinney, Guild Wars Game Design Team Lead

James Phinney is currently the Game Design Team Lead for Guild Wars. He started as a programmer at Chaos Studios, which later became Blizzard Entertainment. James worked on Warcraft II and Diablo, then as lead designer and producer on StarCraft. He also wrote the story and dialogue for Shiny Entertainment's Sacrifice.

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A Conversation With ArenaNet
Details on Guild Wars 2 and the soon to be released Eye of the North expansion.
by Charles Onyett June 28, 2007 - Eye of the North is the fourth retail package for ArenaNet's Guild Wars, and the first that isn't a standalone product. To run it, you'll need one of the previous versions, be it Prophecies, Factions, or Nightfall. The studio's focus this time around was higher level content, putting together a total of 18 expansive dungeons for level 20 characters along with plenty of additional skills, items, and enemy types. The storyline is back in the realm of Tyria, the setting for Guild Wars Prophecies. We recently got on the phone with Chris Lye, Director of Marketing at ArenaNet, and Ben Miller, Design Lead for Guild Wars Eye of the North, to find out exactly what to expect from the expansion, as well as the upcoming sequel, Guild Wars 2.
IGN: For Eye of the North, this is the first Guild Wars product that's expansion only. What was behind the decision to do that instead of making another standalone? Ben Miller: We have a large established player base and a lot of them have level twenty characters that have gone through every campaign that we've released. There was really less pressure on our end to make a brand new starting area like we would if we'd made a brand new level one through twenty progression like we did with the other campaigns. Guild Wars, primarily, the game really starts when you're at level twenty and in Factions and Nightfall we facilitated you getting to level twenty rather quickly in the grand scheme of things. It was a natural progression for us to come out with a product that didn't have a starting area. The other thing is with a campaign, they take a lot of our creative effort, such as making a tutorial area or developing two new professions, we were able to take the time and devote that creative energy into making the Eye of the North expansion something cool, something that's new, and something that has a lot of really compelling content in it. Chris Lye: Between Guild Wars and the other two campaigns we really ended up introducing a new area, a new culture with each of the campaigns. And one of the other important things about Guild Wars: Eye of the North is that we just felt that the original content of Tyria, there was so much stuff introduced there, so many storylines that we wanted to go deeper into, that it really made sense to have an expansion that allows you to focus on an area that we've already introduced and really go into depth there. Ben Miller: Creatively, at least, there's such compelling stuff in Prophecies, such as the Charr and the White Mantle, the Maguuma Jungle, all of the races and cultures that we introduced that, having the chance to go back to an already established foundation we had created and pour more of our heart and soul into it was something that was different from what we had done and it was a nice, refreshing change. IGN: Is ArenaNet still split into two development teams where each is simultaneously working on a different campaign? Ben Miller: That's how we were structured for the campaign model. Right now with the expansion content there's basically a team working on it, the vast majority of people working on the expansion while people are also developing Guild Wars 2. IGN: How far along is Guild Wars 2 at this point? Chris Lye: Development on Guild Wars 2 has been going on for a while. I mean I would say that probably it's fair to say that a lot of resources are focused on the expansion right now and then once the expansion is complete that'll, you know, basically everybody, all hands on deck for Guild Wars 2. IGN: Since you guys have been cranking out these expansion for a while now, what kind of changes have you made to the development process, in terms of efficiency, procedurally, for getting these done? Ben Miller: With the campaign model we had two distinct teams that were working on two distinct projects and what we found is that it's actually a lot more efficient to, as far as design-wise, not have that distinction in place as rigidly as we had previously. So people would be basically focusing on expansion content or focusing on Guild Wars 2's content as their different project required their different skill sets. We kind of did away with the strict, campaign-specific distinction. Also, one of the biggest benefits that we had throughout the process of doing this is we've got a good idea, design-wise, how long it takes to do things, how best to communicate with programmers, artists, and really fine tune not only our design process, but also our communication across all other departments. We've been able to basically efficiently foster good communication between the other departments and the design department. And that's just something it just takes time to do. Our design team, for the most part, has been together since campaign one. So, from Prophecies all the way to Eye of the North we've grown and matured as a team without a lot of turnover. We're really developing the Eye of the North expansion and Guild Wars 2 with a very veteran team, people that work very well together. The more time we do it, we just get better and better and more efficient at it. I hope that answers your question. IGN: Yeah that works. Then after Eye of the North comes out is everyone diving into Guild Wars 2 development at that point, is it one hundred percent staff effort, or is there still a small team being set back to continue to monitor what's going on with all the previous campaigns? Ben Miller: We all keep up on the current trends and the PvP metagames and stuff like that. We do have a subset of people that when live issues do come up we get them addressed quickly and efficiently. Those same people are also responsible for any live content that takes place for the holiday events. Even though we'll be focusing on Guild Wars 2, we already have processes in place that allow us to strongly support all areas of the live game. IGN: Why is this expansion called Eye of the North? Chris Lye: The Eye of the North is actually a plot device, and Ben can talk a little bit more… Ben Miller: The Eye of the North is actually the central area in the Far Shiverpeaks that contains what's called the Hall of Monuments. It basically serves as the focal point for the whole plot and the narrative. What the Eye of the North does is it basically is this big magical tower that shows you visions and helps drive the plot forward. IGN: So what does it look like? Ben Miller: It's a gigantic, monolithic tower. It's going to be awesome and dominating. It's a gigantic, gigantic piece of architecture. IGN: Is the Hall of Monuments a communal space where people meet up? Ben Miller: So there's the Eye of the North, and an interior portion of the Eye of the North is an area called the Hall of Monuments which is another one of the big features of Eye of the North. I don't know how many more times in a sentence I can use Eye of the North but I think that one is the winner. What the Hall of Monuments is, it's an area that will dynamically change to reflect your personal accomplishments within the Guild Wars world. When Guild Wars 2 comes out, your Guild Wars 2 characters will be able to inherit this eternal legacy that your Guild Wars 1 characters have basically immortalized within the Hall of Monuments. It's something that's personal to your character. IGN: So that would be an instanced area then? Ben Miller: Yep. IGN: But people can meet up too at the Eye of the North? Ben Miller: Yep. IGN: In terms of what goes into the Hall of Monuments, from what I've read it just says accomplishments and things like for this expansion and previous campaigns - is that retroactive? Meaning, if you already completed some of the accomplishments do you have to go back and complete them again after you get Eye of the North to register them in the Hall of Monuments? Ben Miller: It's one hundred percent retroactive. You won't need to start a brand new character or anything like that so if you've already accomplished some of things that it will recognize, it will automatically do that without you having to go redo them. IGN: So what do you actually get for these accomplishments in Guild Wars 2? Ben Miller: We want it to be something that will set you apart from other characters that haven't necessarily played, haven't necessarily inherited those accomplishments. We want them to be meaningful and we want them to be rewarding for the amount of time that some of these accomplishments take to actually get. There are many different ways to do that in Guild Wars 2 and as Guild Wars 2 evolves there'll be more specifics. Right now we've just been throwing around general things like you may be able to get unique looks for you character, unique companions, and any manner of other things that we think fit the bill for rewarding you for your investment in the original Guild Wars franchise and also visually, well not necessarily only visually, but distinctly set you apart from other from Guild Wars 2. Chris Lye: The final intention is that someone who made a huge investment in the original Guild Wars series of games, when they come into Guild Wars 2 and they have their inheritance through the Hall of Monuments, they will look and feel significantly better than someone who didn't. IGN: It sounds like people are going to be able to bring their level twenty characters from Eye of the North into Guild Wars 2. Ben Miller: Because of the large amount of technological differences between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, a straight conversion isn't possible which is kind of the driving force behind coming up with this immortalization of your Guild Wars 1 character. Chris Lye: You will not be able to take your level 20 from the original Guild Wars game and transfer them over to Guild Wars 2. Ben Miller: But you will be able to take all those accomplishments that you have achieved in Guild Wars 1 and… Chris Lye:…associate them with your Guild Wars 2 character. IGN: So in Guild Wars 2 everyone's going to have to do the level thing again. Is it going to be more or less the game starts at twenty, where it's a quick run from one to twenty, or is it going to be more of a focus on the leveling process? Ben Miller: Guild Wars 2 right now, so what we've talked about publicly, as far as the whole leveling thing in Guild Wars 2, is it's going to be significantly different than our current paradigm of the whole plateau at level twenty. IGN: It's going to be a different level cap then or a different rate of progression? Chris Lye: It's going to be a different level cap. At this point we have not confirmed what that level cap will be. Ben Miller: It's all around going to be significantly different in terms of progression and level cap. Fundamentally there are some things about Guild Wars that we are going to carry forward, so even though we are going to change some things, at its heart it's still going to be Guild Wars. IGN: Have there been any discussion internally about changing the number of active skill bar slots from eight to another number? Ben Miller: [laughs] We're looking at all kinds of stuff for Guild Wars 2. We're basically going to come up with a system that is fun and exciting whether it has eight skill slots or not, we'll see. As far as Eye of the North goes, it's going to be eight character parties and eight skill slots. IGN: Are you doing anything with Eye of the North in terms of interface, being able to invite people into parties is that being tweaked at all? Ben Miller: We actually went live with a bunch of new party formation stuff that is currently live. So you're able to search for groups, broadcast that you are your own group and this is what you're going to do, so we already have extended our party search functionality and that's going to carry over into Eye of the North as well. IGN: How does the story in Eye of the North work? Does it hook into Prophecies at all and then continue into Guild Wars 2 or is it just its own separate thing? Ben Miller: It's actually integrated on both ends, it has its hooks deep in both. It ties up and deepens a lot of the stories that you encountered in the original Prophecies as well as serving as a prequel for some of the plot devices and characters that are going to be in Guild Wars 2. IGN: Can you talk specifics about any of the storylines? Ben Miller: As far as it being a prequel to Guild Wars 2 the Asura and Norn are probably the two strongest examples of that. You'll actually get to have an Asura that will become a hero, a Norn that will become a hero. The Far Shiverpeaks itself, which is one of the first areas you get to in Eye of the North is dominated by the Norn. And the Asura play a large part in the battle against the main nemesis which is this malevolent, seamlessly mindless force that's bubbling up from the bottom of the Earth called the Destroyers. Another point of how it's hooked into Prophecies - we did a live update called Sorrow's Furnace that has a legend of the great dwarves fighting the great Destroyer and plot-wise, the centerpiece of the whole story is building up to this climactic battle between the dwarves and this malevolent force. IGN: Does that plot play out over the course of the - it's 18 new dungeons in Eye of the North - is there a linear path through them or can you branch off all over the place. How is the progression structured? Ben Miller: That's actually one of the biggest things we wanted to change design-wise is how it's structured. One of the biggest things with Eye of the North is we wanted to make the world feel alive, like, a world, and also we wanted to give you a sense of intrepidness and exploration. So with that, the story itself, there's a small linear part that then opens up into these three larger story arcs. It's really open-ended and you can play them at your own pace. You can do part of one story arc and drift on over to - so you can be playing the story arc that involves the Asura, for instance, play through a portion of that, then your friends come online to play through a portion of the Norn story arc so you can jump right over and join them. It's very, very open and at the same time we put in some new mechanics that kind of help you if you do get off the beaten track. IGN: With the multi-tiered dungeons in Eye of the North, is there any change in mechanics while fighting through them? Is there a different feel? Ben Miller: The dungeons themselves, I'd like to give the example of what players can expect out of dungeons are basically a basically a big, badass, epic version of what we did with Sorrow's Furnace. And Sorrow's Furnace itself had its own kind of feel, its own kind of open-endedness and it also introduced at the time some of the most unique rewards that we had. The dungeons in Eye of the North are going to have that kind of same unique feel to them. It's not going to feel like you're playing a quest in an explorable area or some of the other types of content that we have. It's going to feel like it's a dungeon and it is full of traps and you get unique rewards. Chris Lye: One of the things that Ben and his design team wanted to do with his dungeons is definitely introduce that idea as, that dungeon environment as another kind of opponent that you have to overcome. There'll be things like traps, secret doors, puzzles, and things like that that will make the dungeon environment itself much more interactive. IGN: To what extent will the Charr be involved? Ben Miller: The Charr play an important role in Eye of the North, and there is a whole third of the, basically one of the story arcs is the story of the Charr and heavily involves them. IGN: So the three main story arcs are Charr, Asura, and Norn? Ben Miller: There are actually four. There's the one that takes place in the Charr homeland that is focused around the struggle between Ascalon and the Charr. There's the one that's focused in the Far Shiverpeaks that involves the Norn. There's the Asura, and then there's the one underground that focuses on the battle between the great dwarves and the great Destroyers. So the fourth one is the dwarves, basically. IGN: Can you access that fourth one immediately or do you have to go through the other story arcs to get there? Ben Miller: You have to go through the other three to get there, but it kind of opens up to the other three then once you have completed the other three it sort of culminates with the - it's bookended by the story of the dwarves. It starts with the dwarves, opens up, then the climax involves the dwarves and the battle with the great Destroyer. IGN: Are you doing anything with PvP for the expansion? Ben Miller: With PvP one of the important things is it's something that's so big, and something that's so worldwide that we're actively continuing to support PvP. Whatever new PvP features that we come out with for Guild Wars 1, we're just going to do them outside of the expansion and outside of Eye of the North. We still are actively going to support our PvP community, we're just not going to do it under the pretense of you have to buy and expansion. IGN: They'll be rolled out in live updates? Ben Miller: Yeah. We're not going to abandon PvP or anything. IGN: And there'll be some new heroes in Eye of the North, right? Ben Miller: Ten brand new heroes, and the coolest part of Eye of the North is if you own Prophecies or Factions but have not bought Nightfall, you can use heroes without having to use Nightfall. IGN: Do you get access to the heroes from Nightfall? Ben Miller: No, you get access to the Eye of the North heroes, and you can take them back into Prophecies or Factions. IGN: What are the new heroes like? Ben Miller: The sexy blonde girl that we're using for all of our marketing, her name is Jora, she's a Norn. You meet her fairly early on in getting to the Far Shiverpeaks and through helping her enact some retribution against a terrible beast that's ravaging the countryside, she'll join you as a hero. Chris Lye: She's one of the first new race heroes that you get. Ben Miller: You get to see the Asura hero, there's a dwarf hero that you get right off the bat. IGN: Jora's the one in the picture with the giant bear behind her? Ben Miller: That's her. Part of the cool thing about being a Norn is they shapeshift into giant bears. IGN: What about the new skills. What sorts of challenges have you been faced with just in terms of putting something new in there and making sure it's all balanced? Ben Miller: Luckily we are not introducing two new professions and a whole bunch of skills which means our PvP community is going to be less tumultuous with this release than any other one. Out of the 150 new skills, 100 of them are PvP-legal and 50 of them are PvE only skills. Actually some of the PvE only skills have been some of the most challenging to design because we wanted them to tie pretty closely in with the story, the different groups of NPCs you do quests for actually reward these skills to you. Some of the skills that you get, for example, will tie extremely closely into the quest that you're doing. There's a series of dwarven boxing quests that you do with an NPC that people who've played Sorrow's Furnace are very familiar with, his name's Kilroy. He's back in the north to settle some debts and you get to watch his back while he goes on a dwarven boxing spree. We switch your skill set out with boxing skills and at the end of this chain of quests you actually have not only a set of brass knuckles that you get to box with but also a set of PvE only boxing skills. IGN: Such as jab and right hook or something like that? Ben Miller: The names may change between now and then, but essentially that's what they are. One of the key things about these PvE only skills, there's kind of two key things. One is that they're tied to your reputation with these NPC groups that get more powerful the more reputation you gain with them and the higher your rank is. The other thing is that we understand how people like to play the game and people don't like builds dictated to them, so at no point during Eye of the North that you will have to equip some PvE skills to get past a certain encounter. The PvE skills are there just to deepen your experience and to give you more options in how you play the game. IGN: What sort of new monster types, what sort of new enemies should people expect to fight? Ben Miller: The dungeons themselves are full of some brand new monster types. There's the Destroyers, they're not the Great Destroyers, but the Destroyers in general, it's one of the most expansive armies that we've done and you'll fight them throughout Eye of the North. Any respectable dungeon could not be done without its fair share of dungeon creatures. We have some pretty awesome ooze monsters that you end up fighting that split apart and come together and do cool, ooze-like things. You get to fight new Charr. We've expanded the Charr army that you get to fight to include some brand new types and have some brand new mechanics. IGN: What do they look like and what would those mechanics be? Ben Miller: There's some white tiger striped looking Charr. And then as far as the mechanics go, for the first time ever they're dual professioned. We want to make the Charr feel more like you're fighting intelligent creatures, so they'll use skill builds that draw from two professions. IGN: Do they use more advanced AI team tactics than other enemies might? Ben Miller: We've gotten some better tools to make monster encounters a little cooler. So the Charr for example, we could set up some boss encounters where there's a Charr in the middle where his warriors will ring him or Charr that march in formation. That kind of stuff that you haven't seen before in Guild Wars. IGN: Have you made any changes to hero AI? Ben Miller: Nothing drastic. We're not trying to make them try to do anything different. Since we've released them in Nightfall and moving forward we've just fixed bugs and problems and addressed player concerns with them. They're not going to play crazily different, they'll just play a little bit cleaner and a little bit tighter just because we've had time to clean up their code. IGN: Is it a more relaxed atmosphere at ArenaNet now that Eye of the North is almost out or is it more stressful with the sequel on the way? Ben Miller: [laughs] Part of the design process is that after doing this, this being the fourth time, we're getting a little bit better about scheduling our time about what we can and can't do. Overall it's, I think it's more excited than stressful. IGN: It just seems like you guys would have had to be in crunch mode for two years. Ben Miller: [laughs] No, no, no. The thing is is that we're, as far as the design team is concerned, we're getting to pull out all the stops and getting to do all the things we always said we wanted to do, but had to devote our time and creative resources to making a brand new campaign. This time around it's more of a playful atmosphere than anything else. If it's cool and it's fun, it's probably going to go in. IGN: Is there a cohesive visual theme for Eye of the North? Ben Miller: The cohesive theme of Eye of the North is kick ass. But to seriously answer your question, we're drawing heavily on the first campaign. The Charr homeland looks very similar to what Pre-Searing Ascalon looked like. The Far Shiverpeaks look like an incredibly beautiful version of the Shiverpeak mountains. The Tarnished Coast looks like an incredibly epic, beautiful, kick ass version of the Maguuma Jungle. This by far, aesthetically, hands-down is the most gorgeous thing we have ever, ever, ever done. But we had that foundation to draw on from Prophecies. As far as that visual theme goes, it's basically a more awesome version of some of the areas you saw in Prophecies - because it's all part of the same world, so, it wouldn't make sense for us to drastically change anything. IGN: You're still using the free to play model with Eye of the North and you need one of the previous games to run it right? Ben Miller: Yep. IGN: What about Guild Wars 2 - still free to play? Ben Miller: Yep. IGN: Are you thinking at all of some sort of - I know a lot of Korean games are free to play but you can go to a website and pay to download a bunch of in-game items. Chris Lye: It's a little too early to say, but one of the things we respect a great deal about working with NCsoft is they give us here a lot of latitude to explore different revenue models. And so we're looking at a lot of stuff right now, but as far as the Guild Wars family of games, it's buy the game and play it for as much or as little as you want to. We may do some additional things, but nothing that's going to fundamentally change that model. IGN: Would you be able to go online and buy gameplay altering items - things that would give paying customers an advantage over non-paying customers? Chris Lye: We've had a lot of internal discussion about that and there's some really strong design reasons why we don't think that'd be a good idea. IGN: When's Eye of the North coming out? Chris Lye: We've announced Q3 of this year. IGN: No specific month? Chris Lye: No we have not announced a final release date yet. IGN: And what's it going to cost? Chris Lye: We'll finalize that information soon. IGN: Ok. Thanks for your time. Back to Top

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Guild Wars 2
By Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch
ArenaNet takes a big gamble with a sequel to their mega-hit MMO Guild Wars.
I recently spent some time on the phone with ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain and a number of the Guild Wars development crew. After talking to them, I've come to realize that they're crazy. Or they might be geniuses. Or maybe both. How else do you explain the decision by a developer to just abandon a successful MMO? Guild Wars launched in April 2005 amidst a flurry of critical praise and PvP fan huzzahs. The unusual MMO experience had no monthly fee to play. Players simply bought the game and could play as much as they wanted for as long as they wanted. The company would make its money with a series of stand-alone content additions that would be released every six months or so. This resulted in the highly successful Factions and Nightfall campaigns. Then ArenaNet dropped a bombshell. The next campaign in the series was being cancelled in favor of Eye of the North, the game's first true expansion pack. Even bigger news than that was that Eye of the North would be the last product for the original Guild Wars. Instead of new campaigns, there would instead be a full-blown sequel called Guild Wars 2. I wondered why, when most MMOs are designed to run for years and years (if not in perpetuity), ArenaNet would mess with something that was clearly working? This conversation would be my chance to find out. "We're All Very Educated About Guild Wars." "We're not really excited by the idea of changing something that people are attached to." The voice coming through the speaker is that of Mike O'Brian, one of the co-founders of ArenaNet. "But we're learning all the time about the ways that people play MMOs. We learn from the successes and failures or competitive products, of course, but mostly we've learned a lot about the way people play Guild Wars. After two years of working and supporting the product, we're all very educated about Guild Wars and we have a pretty good idea of what the ultimate Guild Wars experience should be." According to O'Brian, the genesis for Guild Wars 2 came about during the planning stages for the next Guild Wars campaign. "Guild Wars is a really unique game," O'Brian said. "In looking at the design, we got a lot of things right. The problem was that after two years we also saw a lot of ways in which the core gameplay could be improved. These weren't things that could be addressed by adding new layers on top of the original game, though. They involved going in and making upgrades and improvements to the fundamental gameplay systems. In the end we made the decision that in order to truly make the ultimate version of Guild Wars we were going to have to make Guild Wars 2." Jeff Strain jumped in to continue O'Brian's thought and give some concrete examples of changes between the original game and Guild Wars 2. "It's always difficult in an operating MMO to go in and change fundamental gameplay systems because you tend to be carried forward by your own momentum." He mentions that other MMOs have tried to do this with disastrous results and while he doesn't mention any single game by name, I'm reminded of the Star Wars: Galaxies and its nightmarish New Game Experience. "Part of it is just that we found that layering complexities on top of existing gameplay systems kept existing players happy at the expense of bringing new players into the game. When the tutorial levels keep getting bigger and more complicated, there needs to be some reassessment of what you're doing." Jeff's first concrete example of the perils of overcomplicating things was the concept of leveling. "The level cap in Guild Wars is 20," he said. "We set it deliberately low to let players know that the game is not all about leveling but about player skill. By the time players hit the level cap, they'll actually only be about halfway through the story and they need to look for other ways to improve their character. What we found was that while players understood and appreciated that, at the end of the day, they still want to level their character. They want an unambiguous tangible marker that displays their progress in the game. We want to give them that, but every system in the game is built around a level 20 character. Raising the cap in the current game breaks every piece of content we have." The new game will have a much higher level cap - and the team is actually playing around with the idea of having no cap at all. Missing Out On Social Opportunities One of the major new additions to Guild Wars 2 is persistent world areas. The original game was entirely instanced which, according to the ArenaNet team, did wonders for their ability to tell a story (there's a major event in the middle of the original game that completely alters the world forever). "What you lose in an entirely instanced game is a lot of social opportunities," Mike O'Brian said. "There's a lot to be said for running into the same people over and over again. If you run with a pick-up group and you never meet them again, it can make a completely instanced game a very lonely experience." While Guild Wars 2 will contain a lot of instanced mission content, it will also sport a lot of shared landscape and will also be divided up into different servers filled with smaller groups of people in the manner of traditional MMOs. Strain is quick to emphasize that that doesn't mean that players will be ghettoized into their own unique shards. "We're doing this to create more of a neighborhood feeling," Strain said. "But we also want people to be able to switch worlds easily and also interact with players from other worlds." In order to do this, the team is introducing a big addition to the game's lauded PvP systems called "World PvP." Into the Mists "Guild Wars had two kinds of play -- RPG and PvP," Strain said. The much-lauded Guild Wars PvP system was designed to completely skill-based, not (as in many other MMOs) dependent on equipment found in the PvE section of the world. In fact, players who only want to participate in the PvP aspects of the game can eschew leveling altogether and jump straight into a level 20 PvP character and do nothing but guild battles for their entire Guild Wars experience. They've been notably successful at implementing this, as the many positive reviews of the game's PvP aspect have attested. The issue for the team was that as the game evolved, the PvP and RPG aspects of the game have started to diverge. "We're very proud of our PvP system." Strain said. "We've had plenty of tournaments, world championships and other big Guild Wars events. That's our high-end PvP experience and we certainly don't plan on abandoning that. We want to enhance that aspect of the game in Guild Wars 2." According to the team, the problem with high-end PvP is the learning curve. With so many skilled players, there's no way in Guild Wars to gently introduce players to the concept of PvP. Newbies can be brutalized by the experience of letting teammates down as they develop the skills to be competitive in PvP. "World PvP is the solution for that problem." Strain said. "It acts as a bridge between the RPG world and the high-end PvP world." World PvP takes place in something called "The Mists." This is the nether region that exists between different world shards. In it, different worlds will be set against each other on a large battlefield that has a variety of objectives to attain. Large crews can attempt to seize gigantic castles while smaller group can work on protecting supply chains that feed giant catapults or capturing guard towers or defending important choke points. They key element, according to Strain is that nobody can be a detriment in World PvP. "There's no reason not to go out there because anything you do helps." Strain said. "Everyone reaps the benefits of your efforts while really good players or guilds can be recognized." "World PvP also teaches players core competencies that allow them to get involved in the high-end PvP if they wish," Strain said One of the key goals of the design team is to create a world where players don't have to spec out different PvP and RPG characters. They want players to be able to smoothly transition between one and the other. "There may be different player skills involved in a tournament match, but they should be able to use the same character they just used to capture a castle in the Mists." Eye of the North Guild Wars 2 takes place roughly 250 years after the end of Eye of the North, Guild Wars's first and last official expansion pack. "The general theme is one where humanity, dominant in Guild Wars, is besieged on all sides and they're worried that their day is coming to an end." The speaker is Eric Flannum, the design lead for Guild Wars 2. "The Charr in Ascalon have all but taken over and a whole bunch of non-human races that we'll be introducing in Eye of the North have finally reached an equal footing with humanity. That allows us to set up a four way competitive dynamic but we're also introducing a fifth faction, a common enemy that threatens the whole world." According to Flannum, one of the team's design goals is to structure the world differently. Rather than the very linear world of Guild Wars which was designed to tell a very big story, Guild Wars 2. will instead be persistent where the player will uncover pieces of the great story in what they're calling "story bubbles." The team likes to compare it to the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting where players can participate in multiple story arcs rather than just one large one. "Eye of the North provides a direct bridge to Guild Wars 2," O'Brian said. "We want everyone to eventually move on to Guild Wars 2." In order to do this, one of the major element introduced in Eye of the North will be the Hall of Monuments. This museum will allow players to store many of the great armor, weapons and achievements they've accumulated in tfhe first Guild Wars and transfer them to the new game. The Hall of Monuments will still exist 250 years after the end of the first game and the player's new character will be considered a descendent of their original. As such they're entitled to some of the older stuff that will be displayed in cases inside the hall. Players won't be able to bring everything with them. Some of the old skills and weapons won't make the transfer to the new game, but the team wants players who've invested so much time into the original game to not have to lose that when they start the new game. The Old World That, of course opens up the question of what happens to the first Guild Wars when the new game launches. "Nothing," Strain said. "If people want to continue playing Guild Wars 1 they can. We're going to continue to support it and there's no 'cut-off' date when we're going to shut off the lights. In the end, though, we expect everyone will migrate to the new game." And the business model? "The same," Strain said. "No monthly fee and we'll be bringing out new content for purchase on a regular basis." He wouldn't elaborate further on exactly how that worked save to say that it probably wouldn't be the same 'Campaign' system they used for the original game. "ArenaNet is the Guild Wars company," Strain concluded. "We've got about 100 people here focused on nothing but what's best for Guild Wars. The new campaigns were great, but in the end, that wasn't what our players wanted. They wanted a deeper experience that we just weren't going to be able to provide for them in the original. Thus Guild Wars 2." And what about the future? "Well, we're not saying anything, but assuming everything goes well, there's no reason for the franchise to end with Guild Wars 2." Strain said. Back to Top

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Guild Wars 2 English Interview with ArenaNet By Thomas Bayer After the announcement of Guild Wars 2 and the expansion Eye of the North there was a lot of excitement within the Guild Wars community. But more than that there were a lot of questions. So we picked up the phone and called everyone at Arena.net who could give us the answers. And here we go: Jeff Strain (Co-Founder of Arena.net and Programmer), Mike O'Brien (Co-Founder of Arena.net and Programmer), Ben Miller (Game Designer) and Christopher Lye (Director of Marketing NCSoft) gave us a lot of insights into Guild Wars 2. gamona: Rumors about Guild Wars not being profitable are still alive, although you sold an impressive number of copies. Is it really possible to run an MMO just out of box sales income? Arena.net: If you sell 3 million of anything, nearly every business model is profitable (laughs). Serious: Guild Wars has been designed from base to support a no cost model. Not having a monthly fee is something we're going to keep in any circumstance. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Jeff Strain, Co-Founder and Programmer, currently leads the production and art teams for Guild Wars. Prior to the founding of ArenaNet, Jeff was the team lead and lead programmer of Blizzard's massively multiplayer role-playing game, World of Warcraft. He was also a senior programmer on both Warcraft III and StarCraft, and a programmer on Diablo. Jeff was the creator of the StarCraft Campaign Editor and was employed at Blizzard for four years"]Jeff Strain, Co-Founder and Programmer, currently leads the production and art teams for Guild Wars. Prior to the founding of ArenaNet, Jeff was the team lead and lead programmer of Blizzards massively multiplayer role-playing game, World of Warcraft. He was also a senior programmer on both Warcraft III and StarCraft, and a programmer on Diablo. Jeff was the creator of the StarCraft Campaign Editor and was employed at Blizzard for four years[/caption] Guild Wars is a huge success for us and introducing a monthly fee would be a complete breach with our philosophy. Of course an MMO produces more costs than a standard offline game, which you just have to sell and then can nearly forget about follow up costs. But on the other hand, it's not really THAT expensive - even if this is common belief. And as you can probably imagine, companies running MMO which have to be paid for on a regular basis are quite happy if everyone thinks they have huge costs. (laughs) Having a no cost model gives us the additional advantage of not having to implement new content by all means just to keep people playing (and paying) to remain profitable. If someone wants you take a break (and possibly come back again at a later date) that's perfectly fine for us and we don't have to worry about losing a paying customer. gamona: You already announced some of the new races in Guild Wars 2 (Humans, Charr, Norn, Asura, Sylvari). What other races will we be able to play? Arena.net: Sorry, but that's super-duper-secret. I can't tell you anything about that, not even when we're going to announce new details. What I can tell you is that the newplayable races are even shown or shadowed in Eye of the North (EotN, announced for summer 2007). By introducing the new races and their stories, EotN will act as a "bridge" between GW 1 and GW 2. gamona: With Guild Wars 2 you're going to introduce a persistent world. How many people will be able to play on one server/shard at a time? Arena.net: That's not finalized yet but it's more a design decision than a technical restriction, because our technology is able to handle quite large numbers of players. So we will have to put the player cap in a way which avoids both abandoned and overcrowded areas. Eventually, the maximum number of concurrent players is a secondary thing, because of our global player database which allows players to join any server/world they want to. This is a key feature to us, because it gives our players much greater freedom of choice than in other MMO's. playable races are even shown or shadowed in Eye of the North (EotN, announced for summer 2007). By introducing the new races and their stories, EotN will act as a "bridge" between GW 1 and GW 2. gamona: With Guild Wars 2 you're going to introduce a persistent world. How many people will be able to play on one server/shard at a time? Arena.net: That's not finalized yet but it's more a design decision than a technical restriction, because our technology is able to handle quite large numbers of players. So we will have to put the player cap in a way which avoids both abandoned and overcrowded areas. Eventually, the maximum number of concurrent players is a secondary thing, because of our global player database which allows players to join any server/world they want to. This is a key feature to us, because it gives our players much greater freedom of choice than in other MMO's. gamona: Are you going to keep the "8 skill system" from Guild Wars in Guild Wars 2 or at least use a similar one? Arenat.net: The skill system used in Guild Wars gives us great possibilities to make our game exciting and tactically challenging in the long run. The limitation to eight skills at a time stresses the tactical component and makes it possible to discover and try out new stuff constantly, even for high level characters. For this reasons, we will definitely have a similar system in Guild Wars 2. Unfortunately, I can't give you any further details on this. But one thing is for sure: The basic mechanisms of the Guild Wars 8-skill-system will also be in Guild Wars 2. gamona: Will there still be teleporters in Guild Wars 2 or will players have to rely on mounts or similar means of transportation? Arena.net: We think having teleports in the game is a very cool feature, especially when you're playing with your friends. Instead running through the world endlessly, you can jump to any important location by just "pressing a button". We always try to avoid artificial bottlenecks in our games, so there will be no radical changes to the teleport/transportation system in Guild Wars 2. gamona: We heard some rumors about the level cap, which is said to be much higher in Guild Wars 2 than in Guild Wars (150 instead of 20). Why did you decide to raise the level cap that drastically and how is character development going to look like after reaching the cap? Arena.net: We know that there are some quite "precise" numbers ("Level 150") floating around. First of all, I'd like to say that there has been no final decision about the level cap yet. The numbers you heard should rather illustrate the fundamental idea of the "new" level system. What is sure by now is that we will have a much higher level cap in Guild Wars 2 than in Guild Wars or even won't have a cap at all. The reason for this is that in Guild Wars, the game does not really start until level 20. But after reaching the level cap - although there are so many ways in developing your character - Guild Wars is lacking public recognition of character development, because the level does not increase any more. That's what we're going to change in Guild Wars 2 by rising the level cap a lot. At the same time, we're flattening the power curve, so the difference between a level 50 and a level 100 character would be much bigger than between a level 100 and 150 char. This increases freedom in character development without making Max-Lvl-Characters too strong. gamona: Just some words on Guild Wars 1 and its upcoming add-on Eye of the North. After the announcement of Guild Wars 2 there were some fears in the community that Guild Wars 1 would suffer a content draught till the release of part 2. Please stop the panic! :) Arena.net: First of all -no reason for any fears. We got a huge player base in Guild Wars, and the last thing we would want to happen is to dry things up. However, you have to distinguish the periods before and after the launch of Guild Wars 2. While we will firstly focus on Guild Wars and the add-on EotN - which will serve as a bridge between GW1 and GW2 - focus will shift over to Guild Wars 2 after its release. Of course, we will not shut down Guild Wars as long as there are players who want to play it. For example, there will still be holiday events or similar stuff. gamona: When you talk about EotN, you often call it a "bridge" between Guild Wars 1 and Guild Wars 2. Does this mean that there will not be any further add-on or campaign for Guild Wars after the release of EotN? You know, that would be the "bridge of the bridge", then. Arena.net: (laughs) That's a good point. We don't have a definitive plan right now. gamona: Last question: Will you be at Games Convention with EotN and Guild Wars 2 this year? Arena.net: We're just finalizing the details - but if EotN will hit shelves in summer, there would be no reason for not showing it at GC. gamona: Jeff, Mike, Ben, Christopher - thanks a lot for your time and all the best for your future projects! Back to Top

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NCsoft, ArenaNet reveal future plans for high-flying online roleplaying franchise; Guild Wars: Eye of the North scheduled for holiday 2007 release

Bellevue, WA., March 27, 2007—NCsoft® and ArenaNet® today revealed their exciting plans for the future of the hugely successful Guild Wars® franchise. The companies announced that development already is underway on a full sequel to the original Guild Wars games. Guild Wars 2TM will draw from the game mechanics that made the original Guild Wars one of the most popular online games ever and will add a fully persistent world. It was also revealed that, like its predecessors, Guild Wars 2 will not have a subscription fee. No launch date was announced, but the ArenaNet team anticipates that Guild Wars 2 will go into beta sometime in the second half of 2008. In addition, ArenaNet developers are working on the first true expansion for the Guild Wars franchise, Guild Wars: Eye of the NorthTM. Due to hit store shelves during the 2007 holiday season, Guild Wars: Eye of the NorthTM will require at least one of the previous Guild Wars campaigns (PropheciesTM, FactionsTM, or NightfallTM) in order to play. It's a game that will benefit long-time players of the Guild Wars games, with all of the content targeting existing Guild Wars characters. "We felt it was extremely important to reward those people who have been playing Guild Wars since the game first launched in 2005," said Jeff Strain, co-founder of ArenaNet. "Those players have seen three very large campaigns created in a little under two years and so we think it's time to begin filling in the details of the existing world and to provide more content for current characters. We are thrilled to focus our time on something that our players have been asking for." Set largely in the dungeons and caverns of the lands of Tyria that players first explored in Guild Wars Prophecies, Guild Wars: Eye of the North will have 18 large, multi-level dungeons, 150 new skills across all 10 Guild Wars professions, 10 new Heroes, 40 new armor sets, and even more items, weapons and titles. And for those looking even further down the road at Guild Wars 2, Guild Wars: Eye of the North will provide a Hall of Monuments where players' accomplishments are memorialized and eventually inherited by their Guild Wars 2 characters, unlocking exclusive items and bonuses in Guild Wars 2. "It's the payoff we hope players will appreciate as we continue to build on the Guild Wars franchise," said Strain. "We're excited to announce these two new products and we want players to know that Guild Wars has an extremely exciting future in the months and years ahead." An exclusive full preview of Guild Wars 2 and Guild Wars: Eye of the North can be found in the May issue of PC Gamer which will be on newsstands by April 3. More information on the Guild Wars franchise can be found at http://www.guildwars.com. Back to Top

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Interview: Guild Wars 2 by Susan Arendt In the process of gathering information for my upcoming feature on the future of MMOs, I happened to cross paths with Jeff Strain and Mike O’Brien, co-founders of ArenaNet and the folks behind Guild Wars. Guild Wars rattled a few cages in MMO-land when it debuted without a subscription rate–pay by the campaign, not by the month–and its insistence that players didn’t need to devote a lifetime to the game world in order to have fun or make progress. Though Strain and O’Brien are quite proud of what Guild Wars accomplished, they acknowledge some if it could’ve been done better, so guess what? Here comes Guild Wars 2. The guys gave me a bit of insight into how the new GW will differ from its predecessor, and I must admit, I’m a bit tingly. Wait, maybe my foot’s just gone to sleep. Nope, nope, it’s the Guild Wars. Keep reading to find out what I think sounds so darn nifty. Part of what made the first Guild Wars stand out from its fantasy-flavored MMO brothers and sisters was its lack of a persistent world. Though some fans of the genre cried foul, it wasn’t done simply to be different, but rather to combat some of the frustration of "get in line to complete the quest" that players of other MMOs were facing. In a persistent world, explained Mike O’Brien, when there’s a quest you want to complete, there are about a zillion other people trying to complete it, too, which leads to a lot of waiting around for creatures to respawn or for the folks ahead of you to hurry up with the adventuring. So what’s the single biggest change to Guild Wars 2? Why, adding a persistent world, natch. Bwah? It makes more sense when you back up and get the big picture of what Guild Wars 2 is trying to achieve. As I talked to O’Brien and Strain, what they both kept emphasizing was the desire to give the player as much freedom as possible. Keeping the incidence system from Guild Wars and combining it with a more traditional, persistent world gives players the freedom to play the game however they like–run around the world, meet people, enjoy the community, or just go raid a dungeon. Your choice. Speaking of running around the world, that’s something you’ll actually be able to do; run, jump, basically just dork around however you like. When you land in a new world, O’Brien explained, you don’t want to have to read a bunch of skill descriptions, you want to run around and jump and swing, so that’s what you’ll be able to do in Guild Wars 2. It’s meant to be a learn-by-doing sort of situation–rather than have overly complex skills that take an excessive amount of brain matter to understand, players will learn less complicated skills that they will be encouraged to test out in any situation they can think of. What happens if you use this skill while jumping, or that one while surrounded by monsters? Who knows? Give it a whirl and find out! Strain referred to it as "emergent complexity," and if it works the way they say it will, I shall personally send them each a fruit basket. Having a wide variety of skills in a game is great, but the amount of reading and memorizing you usually have to do to have even the most functional ability in an MMO is enough to drop me into a deep state of catatonia. If you’re currently a fan of Guild Wars, and debating whether or not to "jump ship," as it were, to Guild Wars 2, the ArenaNet boys have included a little incentive for you, via the Hall of Monuments in the latest Guild Wars expansion, Eye of the North. It goes like this: when you accomplish something great in Guild Wars–maybe you finished a particularly gnarly quest–a monument is erected in honor of the event in the Hall of Monuments. The Hall carries over into Guild Wars 2, and all the greatness you achieved will still be on display, despite the fact that the action of the game takes place several hundred years after the first GW. This is about more than just bragging rights, though. Thanks to your efforts in GW, your character in GW2–the descendant of your GW character–will have access to exclusive titles, companions, pets, armor, and weapons. None of the unlockable content will give you a huge edge over other players, but it will provide you with a nice badge of honor that brands you as an Old School Guild Wars pro and personalizes the gameplay for you just that little bit more. Personally, I think something that nods to the old fans without screwing the new ones is a great idea. Of course, we couldn’t have a new Guild Wars without a new playable race or two, and the bad guys from GW Prophecies, the Charr, fit the bill here. All of the playable races in GW2–humans, Charr, Norn, Sylvari, and Asura–make appearances in Eye of the North, so pick that up if you want to do some recon on your future GW2 character. So that’s all the good news. The bad news is that the beta isn’t expected to start until the end of next year. Boo, hiss! Still, I’m excited that there’s at least one MMO in development that isn’t simply trying to be World of Warcraft 2.0 (I’ll be telling you about some of the others in that feature I mentioned). One more thing: Strain and O’Brien take input from gamers very, very seriously, so if you have something to say about your Guild Wars experiences, now is the time to speak up. Back to Top

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Feature: Guild Wars 2, GW Expansion Unveiled By: Brian D. Crecente The Arena Net guys are messing with me. Jeff Strain, former Blizzard coder and co-founder of the dev team behind Guild Wars, is clearly enjoying having me on the hook while I'm on the horn. He's talking up Guild Wars 2 when I break in with the most, I believe, relavent question: Are you going to charge a monthly subscription fee this time around? "With Guild Wars 2 we will be introducing a persistent world," he says, as almost an excuse. "We will have playable races. Everything you expect in a subscription system..." He pauses for dramatic effect. "...and we decided not to charge a subscription fee." Strain and the people on his side of the phone call break into laughter. "Funny," I say, genuinely amused. The phone call is about two things, first that Guild Wars, what NC Soft believes to be the second largest massively multiplayer online game around, is getting a final expansion and that the final expansion will prepare gamers for Guild Wars 2. Eye of the North Eye of the North, set to hit this holiday, will be Guild War's first expansion. In the past the games that came out to bolster Guild Wars were all stand-alone titles which while they could be played with the original title, didn't need to be. This first expansion brings you back to Tyria, the setting and storyline of the original Guild Wars. In it, Strain says, you will be finding out what happened to some of the storylines and characters that peopled that first game. The game will feature 18 new multi-level dungeons, 150 new skills across all ten Guild Wars professions, 10 new heroes and 40 new armor sets. Because the game will require you to own one of the three Guild Wars campaigns the price will be less than a full campaign, Strain said. Eye of the North, which will take place mostly underground, will also introduce three new races, but they won't be playable, at least not yet. The Asura are an underground dwelling race that begin to come to the surface. They are ver "goblinesque" and the builders of the Guild Wars world. The Norn are Viking savages of the mountains and the Sylvari are a kind of forest dwelling race which you witness the birth of the Eye of the North expansion. While the character races won't be playable in the expansion, they will be in Guild Wars 2 as will the Guild Wars' perpetual enemy, the Charr. A lot, it seems, that happens in this final expansion is about preparing for the launch of the new Guild Wars. I asked Strain why Arena Net decided to stop producing expansions and campaigns and instead develop an entirely new game with Guild Wars 2. Strain said that after shipping the last campaign, Nightfall, this past October the team sat back and evaluated where they were in terms of game design . When they looked at what they had accomplished with Guild Wars and its campaigns they were happy with what they saw. Then they looked at what their gamers were asking for and it wasn't one more campaign, one more continent to explore, new professions to learn. "What people wanted, I think, was more content for the existing models," Strain said. So the team started creating a wishlist of all of the things they'd love to see added to Guild Wars and when they were done they realized it was too much to stuff into the existing game. Instead it was a master plan for how to build the "ultimate Guild Wars game," Strain said. But the plan required something to transition current players from the original campaigns into the new experience and, in many ways, that's where Eye of the North comes in. Most central to that idea is the Eye's Hall of Monuments. In the hall you can store achievements that can then be transferred to a Guild Wars 2 account. This hall will be located in a sort of base of operations you can establish in Eye of the North. The instanced base will allow you to store not only the Eye of the North achievements in the form of monuments but the achievements earned in all three campaigns. Every monument earned will unlock something, from heroes and pets to weapons, clothes and miniatures, in Guild Wars 2. When you create your character in Guild Wars 2 you can choose a character from Guild War to inherit these unlocks from. Kind of a neat idea, I think. To bad these new character don't also inherit some other attributes or traits from your Guild Wars characters, that would be fantastic. Strain said the team decided to include this form of inter-character inheritance to make sure that all of the time players spent playing Guild Wars wouldn't be wasted. Guild Wars 2 Since the game is essentially starting with a clean slate, Arena Net decided to make some pretty substantive changes to the game. First, and most importantly though, the game will remain subscription free. This time around the game will have a persistence world, one still set in Tyria, but now hundreds of years after the events that took place in the original Guild Wars. "The big new feature is a persistent world," Strain said. "I think Guild Wars has some very radical departures from typical role-playng. One of those was the instancing model. As each of the campaigns was released we took greater and greater pains to do that. On the other hand, there are things we missed out on, like the more organic type of community building where you wandering through the area and hook-up with other people." "In Guild Wars 2 we wanted to have the best of both worlds. We are retaining the strengths of instanced areas, but we are also integrating a persistenced world. We are not making a World of Warcraft clone here, we are not trying to do what other MMOs have done." Arena Net's new spin is sort of an amalgam of both instanced and massive environments, where instanced events can have domino effects on other parts of the world, or zone.. Here's one example of this Strain used: You are wandering through the countryside and you see a dragon flying overhead. You and a group try to stave off the dragon. If you are successful the nearby town gives you a treasure. But if you don't drive off the dragon, the bridge will be destroyed. This will lead to a team of carpenters gathering at the bridge to try to fix it and then you will have to protect them from bandits. "The idea is that there will always be something going on in the world," Strain said. He said that there will be hundreds of these types of events that happen in the world, some daily, some hourly, some will be triggered by specific player actions. "That is what persistence allows us to do. That is the type of content and play experience that we can offer in Guild Wars 2 that we couldn't offer in Guild Wars." Another major change will be in the way the game handles player versus player. In Guild Wars 2, the same character you use in-game will be used for player-versus-player conflicts that will take place in the Mists, the place between the many worlds, aka servers, of this new Guild Wars. Despite having several worlds, the game uses a global database so you can instantly transfer between worlds, Strain said. And these inter-world battles in the Mists, which Strain says almost play like a large real-time strategy game, can have a real impact on the worlds. "By achieving victories in these battles there will be benefits to your world," Strain said. "Bonuses, advantages, maybe everyone gets increased energy regeneration or healing rate or enhanced loot drop rate." Strain says the world-versus-world match-ups will be shuffled every couple of weeks to make sure things stay fair. Every week or every two weeks we will shuffle who is matched up. Arena Net, it seems, is trying to tackle many of the biggest drawbacks most current massively multiplayer online games face. Chief among them is level capping. Why, once you top out, should you stick around in a game? Guild Wars 2 is trying to deal with that issue by using a system with a high level cap once that could be set to 100 or even boundless. "So there is not a level 20 cap," Strain said. "Either it will be a high level like 100 or unbounded, we haven't decided." Besides these significant changes to the game, Guild Wars 2 will also introduce plenty of smaller ones, like the ability for your characters to do things like jump, swim, even climb trees. The combat though, Strain says, will remain purely RPG "Our belief is that role players aren't playing a RPG because they want a twitch action," Strain said, "there is a difference between playing a game like an RPG and playing a game like God of War." Guild Wars 2 is expected to hit public beta next year, but now release date has yet been set. Back to Top