Guild Wars 2 PvP Interview with Eric Flannum

Gamescom 2010 marked the official unveiling of Guild Wars 2 to the public. Over the course of the past year, we've learned about seven of the game's eight playable professions, details on the five playable races, and spent some hands-on time with underwater combat, dynamic events, and much more. This year for gamescom 2011,, ArenaNet rolled out an entire treasure chest worth of gameplay details, and the crowning jewel of the bunch is the first look at structured PvP.

We had the chance to sit down with ArenaNet Lead Designer Eric Flannum to discuss PvP in Guild Wars 2. We discussed everything from the major departure from guild vs. guild matches, to reward systems, and everything in-between in the following interview. So grab a frosty beverage, sit back, and enjoy!

Guild Wars 2 PvP Interview with Eric Flannum at gamescom 2011

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Ten Ton Hammer: In the first Guild Wars campaign, you introduced players to PvP in a very clever way early on as part of the transition from pre-sear Ascalon. How will players first be introduced to PvP in Guild Wars 2?

Eric Flannum, Lead Designer: There’s a gentle introduction. It’s not exactly the same way, like it’s not integrated with the PvE exactly. What we have is a map that’s the PvP home map.

What we do in GW1 now is we have the Zaishen Isles that is basically a little tutorial area, and there are some target dummies and when you hit them it will tell you what kind of DPS you do. And there’s a guy who runs around an area and he challenges you to beat him in running a lap around the area and that sort of thing.

So what we’re going to have is a bunch of little training things that you can do, kind of like tutorials. So we kind of do want to gradually introduce PvP, but we don’t want to integrate it with the PvE.

Ten Ton Hammer: How extensive will the differences be between the PvE and PvP versions of skills? For example, if I have a great build I use in PvE, will I need to make any kind of major adjustments to keep it viable in structured PvP?

Eric: It’s probably possible to do that. We want to try to keep the skills as close as possible. So what we don’t want to do is like, this skill shoots a fireball and sets a guy on fire in PvE, and then this skill is like an AoE targeted lava pool in PvP.

But we do have the ability to balance everything separately for PvE and PvP. So what we do want to do is try to keep them so that they start with a place where they’re the same, and then if they need to veer off a little bit from each other then we can do that. By and large we don’t want to force people that want to jump back and forth between the two to have to totally learn a different game.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will there be a system similar to GW1 that allows players to observe ranked matches?

Eric: There definitely will be. Whether that will be in at launch, we’re still not sure. We definitely want one, and right now we’re looking into how feasible it is to get one in for launch or not.

Ten Ton Hammer: In those plans then, will there be any kind of system that allow players to save, share, or automatically flag matches played by their guild members or friends list for quick reference?

Eric: So kind of like a replay system? Yeah, we totally want to do something like that too. I mean, we want the game to support competitive play as much as we can and I think you need observation, I think you need replays in order to do that. If you’re a competitive player you need to be able to look at it and dissect what you did. So we’re going to look at the feasibility of doing that. Again, it might be a feature we go to after launch.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will your PvP successes factor into your personal story in any way?

Eric: No, PvP is really separate from PvE. The most overlap we’re going to have in our PvP is World vs. World PvP which we’re not really showing yet. But in World vs. World you’re the same exact character, so you can go into World vs. World and find a cool item, and when you come back to PvE you’ve still got the cool item because you’re the exact same guy.

You can go into World vs. World and gain three levels and then go back into PvE and you’re three levels higher, and that sort of thing. So we’ve tried to keep PvP and PvE separate as far as the two affecting each other.

Ten Ton Hammer: So when you speak about World PvP you’re talking about servers vs. servers going against each other, and then those matches can last for up to two weeks, correct?

Eric: Right now we’re testing this so it could change, but every game is two weeks. It’s always open 24/7, it’s not like it runs at particular times, and it’s open to as many players as want to play it limited by the number of players we can get into a map, but we don’t really expect that to be reached.

It’s basically this giant strategy game with four really big maps, keep sieges, supply lines and all kinds of strategy. At the same time there are mobs for people to kill if they want to, and you can XP up from level 1 all the way to level 80 in World vs. World.

Ten Ton Hammer: How often do the World PvP matches happen?

Eric: Think of it as a place you can go, and it’s always open. So every two weeks, one of the different worlds that gets matched up wins, and then immediately it puts everybody in a pool and gives them different rankings based on things like, this server has never won but this server is undefeated, so don’t match them up. So every two weeks you’re placed into a different matchup.

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Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any kind of seasons associated with World PvP?

Eric: There aren’t really seasons or anything like that. If it’s something that we think players really, really want we’re probably set up to be able to do that sort of thing, so it’s possible that we could do that.

Ten Ton Hammer: Could you explain how player-run tournaments will work? Will there be in-game tools to help organize and promote them in some way?

Eric: What we want to try to do is have in-game tools for players or places where players can see player-run tournaments. If we’re going to do something we want to do it well and we want to do it so it’s not something that feels like it’s second-class to the automated tournaments. So it will be very important to us to make sure that players can know about them.

Ten Ton Hammer: How many Conquest maps do you plan to have at launch?

Eric: We don’t know. Our basic philosophy is we want quality over quantity. As far as PvP maps go, we believe that too many is not great. What we’re going to do is develop a bunch of maps, play them and let our alpha and beta players play them, and see which of them are the best and hit that bar of quality and then that will determine how many of them we’ll do.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will secondary objectives on each map be randomized between matches?

Eric: We want the things that you can do in every map to be consistent for that map, and we want the maps to be very, very different. For example we’re showing off a three-point capture with the siege weapons, and things can be destroyed and all of that. Some of the other things we’re working on now involve things like moving capture points, or a big area where a dragon flies over and kills everything in it occasionally. There’s another area that’s very, very vertical that takes place on the ruins of Great Northern Wall.

So that’s why I’m saying it’s very important for us to make sure that, dependant on a map type, it’s going to be a very different game. What we’re aiming for is for people to be able to learn the basics of the way the game plays, and then when they go to a map they’re like, OK, this is the way this map changes things up.

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Ten Ton Hammer: In the map we looked at earlier, that one had trebuchets. So each of the maps will have something similar that changes how players can approach it?

Eric: That’s the only map that has trebuchets, but every map is going to have something that’s the thing that you learn in that map, or the thing that kind of makes that map unique.

Ten Ton Hammer: I think that those kind of interactive elements on maps almost make the idea of jumping into PvP more attractive to casual players, because they don’t have to be super hardcore with combat to still be able to participate in a meaningful way.

Eric: Exactly. One of the things that we’ve talked about is that we want players to have options when they go into a match and not be stuck with things. That’s a big part of our profession design. Things like you might like the idea of being a wizard, but is that going to mean you’ll be stuck being a DPS guy forever? What if I like the idea of being a wizard, but I also want to support my friends?

So we’re basically saying let’s divorce the play style and the feel of the character from the roles. There’s a similar philosophical thing going on there with the trebuchets. We specifically made them a bit more skill based. Instead of being ground targeted, they’re aimed and have a power meter so that a player who wanted to could get really good at doing that. So it’s basically giving people more options in how they want to play the game.

Ten Ton Hammer: It seems like a smart design decision to put players on a level playing field in structured PvP in terms of level, skills, and gear. But will PvP include any kind of reward or advancement system to make it more appealing to casual players who may not be interested in the more competitive tournament play?

Eric: For competitive PvP it’s not going to include any power advancement, it’s going to include cosmetic advancement. So you’ll earn Glory in PvP and then you’ll use that to buy super cool armor. All PvP players start out with the exact same, low-level looking armor. It’s all statistically the same, but then as you gain Glory you can be like, OK now I have this badass armor, and people will know that guy is really good because he has that super awesome armor.

The thing that we really wanted to do was make it so that you didn’t feel like someone had an advantage over you because they’ve played longer in this type of PvP. We wanted to make it so that you felt like, hey I have the exact same chance because it’s going to be skill-based. But we wanted to give people something that they could work towards, so that’s where we’ve got the cosmetic stuff, and there are titles or achievements that people can earn in PvP as well.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will the match system also factor in things like different players’ skill levels?

Eric: The way that it works is that you’ll go to that PvP map and you open up the server browser, and it will show you a list of servers. It’s entirely possible that we’ll have some servers that are maybe restricted by how much Glory you have or something like that if we feel that we want to have some beginner servers.

But the basic idea is that you can hop onto a server similar to an FPS, and if it’s like, wow, everyone is super pro on this server you can always leave and find a different server. So you can try and find a server that maybe fits your play style, or other players you like playing with. Or if you get onto a server with a bunch of jerks, you can always just quit out and go find another server.

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Ten Ton Hammer: So overall, what we’ve seen so far is that both PvE and PvP will be available to players, but they won’t be so entwined that you have to do both, but if you want you can level completely in either.

Eric: That’s definitely a big part of our design philosophy. Take World v. World for example. You can level from 1 to level 80 in it if you want, and it’s very important to us that it is not slower to do that than it is in PvE. Nor is it incredibly faster to do it. We have to get that balance right, because if we don’t then we understand that what’s going to happen is one of those things is going to be ‘the’ way to advance your character, and we don’t want that to happen.

The same thing goes for things like dungeons and personal story. We’ve talked a little bit about our endgame philosophy of we don’t think you should get to max level and then suddenly be forced to play a different game. So if you didn’t like doing dungeons, and you really, really liked just being in the open world and exploring, or crafting, we don’t want to force you into doing dungeons when you get to max level. Because then we’re kind of bait-and-switching you. We’d be saying hey you played this game, and did you enjoy it? Well guess what, now you have to play ‘this’ instead.

So it’s really, really important for us that each of those types of gameplay – dungeons, exploring the world, personal story, PvE, PvP, competitive PvP – all of those things can be rewarding experiences, and we think that most players will do a little bit of everything. But if you’re the type of players that is like, OK, this is the type of thing that I like to do, we don’t want to force you into a place where you’ll have to do something else.

Ten Ton Hammer: Any sort of plans for Guild vs. Guild PvP?

Eric: No, that’s one thing that is a pretty big departure. The reason we didn’t want to do it is that even in guild vs. guild in Guild Wars 1, we found that what we had to do is create a lot of systems to circumvent that. It was just really hard to get that many people all from the same guild on at any given time.

What we’ve said instead is that our guilds are going to be about building social networks, and if there is a group of people that are the hardcore PvP guys they’re all going to be in the same guild anyway so that’s OK. And they’re going to register as a team, and be known as the team from a specific guild and build up a reputation. And then that gives them the flexibility that if they want to have a top team along with a team 2 and team 3, they can do that kind of thing. So we wanted to disassociate the two things.

Now in World vs. World there are things like guild keep claiming, so you will claim a keep that your world has conquered, and your guild can claim that and fly their banners, they can upgrade it, spend resources, and do all kinds of stuff.

We haven’t talked that much about our guild activities and things like that, but we want to have systems so guilds have reasons to play together, and we’ll talk about that once we have more of it developed. But guilds in our game are going to be all about social networking and giving them reasons to play together, but not forcing them to do anything.

We'd like to thank Eric Flannum for taking the time to discuss Guild Wars 2 PvP with us at gamescom 2011. Be sure to check out the rest of our exclusive content from the event, and keep your eyes peeled (not literally, or else you won't be able to read! ) for more GW2 exclusives next week when Ten Ton Hammer heads to Seattle for PAX Prime.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.