We Talk to ArenaNet About Professor Yakkington, Mobile App Development Progress, Lore and Structured PvP in Guild Wars 2
Ree Soesbee, Jeff Grubb, Jon Peters and Matt Wuerffel from ArenaNet were nice enough to set aside some time to answer our questions below, we thank all of them for their time and effort.
Q: I really like design of the Asura, from their character animations to their architecture. What were the primary inspirations when you were creating the race for the Eye of the North expansion and in what ways did you expand on that race’s attributes for Guild Wars 2?
A: The Asura were originally conceived as a highly magical race, and the nature of that magical ability quickly took a turn towards the idea of a race of mad wizards with teleportation gates, golems, and floating citadels. They have been small races of tinkerers before, but the big thing with the asura was that their creations actually worked.
In Eye of the North, the Asura had arrived on the surface, chased there by the champion of an Elder Dragon. In the 250 years since, they have settled in. The biggest example of that is Rata Sum, their main city, where they have levitated a huge cube of stone into the air and have carved it out into their own magical citadel.
Q: MMOs are constantly evolving and changing in many ways, will there ever be events that occur that affect everyone in Guild Wars 2? e.g: An Elder Dragon is killed and stays dead permanently or a notable city is destroyed.
A: All events affect everyone in the game; those who are in the map with the event have the option of joining in, or not, but the event plays out around them within the shared world. For the most part, those events are cyclical, returning when a certain set of conditions has been met, to allow Player Characters to play through the events of the chain once more.
Story dungeons, on the other hand, are designed to be played through only once (although a player may choose to do so multiple times). When a player has completed the story version of the dungeon, those events are considered to have played out for that Player Character.
In the world, some events (typically holiday ones) will come and go, playing out temporarily and possibly leaving permanent changes to the world. We’ll have to leave that up to the Live team!
Q: I really enjoyed exploring the continents of Cantha and Elona in the original Guild Wars. It’s been 250 years since the original game, have any elements of those cultures bled over into Tyria in Guild Wars 2?
A: Elements of those cultures have absolutely made their way into Guild Wars 2. The city of Divinity’s Reach has notable sections that are shaped by Elonan and Canthan culture; some naming practices, legends, and the histories of great heroes all still exist within GW2. If you choose to play a human, you can pick racial features and skin tones suitable for a character with those backgrounds, and in some of the story chains, you have the option to identify yourself as a descendant of one of those great nations.
Q: My friend and I developed a love for Professor Yakkington while trying to fill out our Hall of Monuments in the original Guild Wars. So I really want to know if Professor Yakkington is immortal and will he be present in Guild Wars 2?
A: Sadly, no. Professor Yakkington has gone to the wide fields and joyful plains of the Mists. But he hasn’t been forgotten! If you visit the Ascalonian fortress of Ebonhawke, you will find a memorial to him — and to Nicholas, who loved him so well. Much like you, we never forget our loyal and beloved friends.
Q: I was pretty excited about the announcement of the Mobile and Web Apps, from the blog post it seemed like a much more complex project than your traditional MMO Companion App. Will the Apps be ready for launch day?
A: For launch we won’t have any GW2 apps available for use for players. However, soon after launch we’ll be launching a robust app development program in conjunction with our community that should allow for the development of some truly spectacular GW2 app and website development. We’ll discuss this more post ship, right now we’re focused on making the release of the game the greatest it can be.
Q: Have you considered adding more weapons for classes down the road or changing the weapon skills they have?
A: We have definitely talked about new weapons for the professions. However, it isn’t something we take lightly because once a weapon is introduced it needs to compete with what is already out there for that profession, including not just how effective it is, but what roles it fulfills. Weapons are the heart of your character’s tool set or “build,” they really set the tone for how your character will play so it is important that we get them right. I don’t think we would consider changing skills on a specific weapon unless they were not working in any parts of the game.
Q: Some players have complained about being underleveled in the early zones of the game, have you balanced the game in any way or added any tooltips that will guide players in the right direction?
This is definitely something that we’ve looked at very carefully, and we’ll continue to monitor long term. We’ve made a couple major changes to address some of these concerns.
First, we overhauled the hint system, adding a panel that shows you the full text of all the hints in the game. You can track your progress in each category, and you can access this panel at any time to review hints that you might have missed in the heat of battle. There are even achievement points for getting every hint.
Second, we made some significant changes to the way that our low level areas play to make sure that the challenges you face are level-appropriate. Part of this update was on the code and mechanics end, by changing the way that our content scales. We also went into each start zone and looked at where players were congregating and how we could make changes to direct players a little more. After analyzing the maps and feedback, we added a bunch of new content to each starter zone to help address issues with flow and scaling.
Those are just two of the ways that we’ve balanced the early game and guide players, but there’s always room to improve. We’ll continue to iterate and explore new ways to provide an awesome experience for our players.
Q: Unexpectedly I have found that Structured PvP is my favourite part of Guild Wars 2, and will probably dedicate a large amount of my playing time to it. What were your main goals that you had when you were working on Structured PvP and what are some of the most useful pieces of feedback you have received?
A: We had a lot of different goals with our structured PvP, but the most important ones were to make it accessible and fun, skill-based to keep players playing, and to support it well (a goal which we look forward to achieving). We worked hard to build a combat system that had the depth that players expected from an MMO, but had more of the action and strategy that we think has been lacking. I think the most important feedback we receive in general is about usability. Structured PvP is no exception. At each beta event, players wanted to be able to play more with their friends. This is an extremely important aspect of any online game, so we worked hard to make changes to the system to account for this feedback. From BWE1 to BWE2 we added tournaments so players could take organized five-person teams and compete with other teams. We also added the ability to follow your friends from your contacts list into games, as well as inviting party members to follow you into a game through chat links.
From BWE2 to BWE3 we allowed users to queue into tournaments with partial rosters so that 5 players was not a requirement for joining with your friends. Speaking of supporting the game, there are more social features we have talked about for PvP that we will continue to work on. From allowing players to “rent” servers, to spectating games, and other community features we will continue to work towards making Guild Wars 2 structured PvP a fully fledged gaming experience.
Q: Are you working on more Structured PvP modes or do you feel that the current mode is all that is needed? Do you envision that game modes as complex as what we saw in Heroes Ascent to make a return?
A: Throughout the development process, we worked on almost 10 different game modes including Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and a two-track Golem map where teams tried to push their own Golem to the finish line. Each of these modes had some merits, but ultimately Conquest was far and away the most fun mode in our internal tests. At some point we realized that the best thing to do was to fully support this mode, from polishing the map creation pipeline, to the score UI, we put all of our effort into this game mode. This was really the internal turning point for structured PvP that started us down the path to the enjoyable game that we have now, so we will continue to focus on making this mode as fun as it can be. That being said, we would like to introduce new game types at some point, however we feel that simple objective based modes that encourage positioning, a healthy amount of group fights, as well as force interesting tactical team splits are the key to making successful games types for our game.
Q: As there are far less skills in Guild Wars 2 compared to Guild Wars 1, I feel like the impact of changing the effects or properties of one GW2 skill is much larger than changing a GW1 skill. Do you feel it is easier or harder to balance the game this time around?
A: I think the number of skills is a bit of an oversimplification. There are actually almost 1000 player skills in Guild Wars 2, but we have built a very layered infrastructure that makes balance a lot easier. In fact, changing a single GW2 skill has much less impact because of all of these layers. We have worked within this system for a while to build a strong baseline of balance. How this works is that while there are many skills, a specific skill isn’t competing with all of them. For instance any given heal skill must find a place of balance within the subset of <30 heal skills. A given weapon skill must be useful on that weapon, but the balance of the game rarely depends on that skill because it exists within the rest of the skills on that weapon. All of these things give us a good understanding of the context in which a skill will be used.
Guild Wars 2 is set for release on the 28th of August, 2012 (25th for those with the 3-day headstart) on the PC (Windows only for now folks). Continue to check out Digital Gaudium throughout the month as we drip-feed you more Guild Wars 2 content to keep you going till release.