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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