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The Impact of Story Pt. 1 - Guild Wars 2 Gets Personal

Posted Wed, May 26, 2010 by Sardu

When ArenaNet, developers of upcoming Guild Wars 2, revealed details on the game's dynamic events system it certainly got a lot of people talking. Much more than a simple iterative pass on Warhammer Online's public quests, dynamic events in GW2 are expected to add a layer of depth and immersion to a degree rarely seen in an MMOG up to this point. Achieving this will be no small feat when you consider that most titles in the genre typically adhere to static world design to specifically account for the massively factor of online gameplay.

Yet, for all the inventive thinking that's gone into dynamic events, one question that's arisen is: won't individual characters simply get lost in the shuffle and lose a sense of place or importance in world events? A core component in the highly successful Guild Wars campaigns and one that's kept players hooked for over 5 years now, is that your characters embark on a true hero's journeys which span entire continents and ultimately pit your skill and knowledge against some of the biggest threats the world of Tyria has ever seen.

If you find yourself in this camp then fear not young Tyrian, as the most recent details for Guild Wars 2 shed plenty of insights into the importance of personal story and how it will factor into the game.

Guild Wars 2 Lore & Continuity Designer Ree Soesbee starts off his Personal Story Overview at the official site for the game by addressing that exact concern:

One of the challenges of a massively-multiplayer game is that in being inclusive to a vast number of people, it loses a lot of the personal interaction that makes single-player RPGs so much fun. When you're looking at the games on the store shelf, it seems you have only two options - a game that you can play with your friends, or a game that has a satisfying personal story. The Guild Wars 2 design team believes that a game should have both.

Ree goes on to explain how these two elements intertwine to create a virtual world which itself has a deeply engrossing story for players to unfold as they progress, yet also provides ample opportunity to shape the much more personal story of your characters along the way. In this first of a two part look at the impact of story in GW2, we'll dive right into the latest details on how ArenaNet intends to give players plenty of tools to weave a highly individual storyline within the overarching tale of the Elder Dragons.

Players will assume an active role in creating these personal stories as early as character creation. Once the MMOG staples of selecting your gender, profession and race have been completed, Guild Wars 2 will take things a step further by providing a series of questions designed to develop a character's personality.

While obviously a different take on the core concept, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines springs instantly to mind here. In that game, players were given the option between manually selecting their clan and starting stats or answering a series of questions. If you opted for the latter, the game would create a character based solely on your responses. That approach to character creation struck a chord with many gamers, myself included, and always seemed to be an excellent way of establishing a deep personal connection with your character from the word go.

In Guild Wars 2, players will be able to help shape their characters "Biography" in much the same way. The net result of these core decisions - gender, profession, race and biography - will very likely add a high degree of replayability since each character you create can start out on a wholly separate path should you so choose. To help illustrate how this will work in the live game, Ree provides some interesting insights as to how your choice of race will influence which specific questions will be asked to help define your personal biography:

An asura will be asked what college they attended (Synergetics, Dynamics or Statics), while a human will be asked to define their social background (Gentry, Commoner, or Streets). Other questions might establish that your character has sympathy for a particular lesser race. A charr would have little opportunity to meet the peace-loving quaggan, as quaggan are sea-creatures and Ascalon has no coastal territory. So, while the game may have stories that focus on the quaggan, skritt, ogres, hylek, and grawl, a charr character chooses between grawl, skritt and ogres. A sylvari character, coming from the coastal Maguuma jungle, instead chooses between hylek, skritt and quaggan. In this way, we've made certain choices distinct to each race.

One of the more compelling extensions of this system is that characters will be given a "home instance" which not only reflects the decisions you've made about your character's background, but will also dynamically change over time. ArenaNet has implemented highly effective versions of a similar design concept previously of course: Nightfall's Sunspear Command Post and Eye of the North's Hall of Monuments instantly spring to mind here. Only this time around, rather than a static list of trophies and NPCs for players to collect, these home instances will be a much more personal overall experience. According to Ree, the home instance never stops updating in fact:

Your home instance never stops updating; as your character becomes more involved in their story, it will alter accordingly. Two norn will quickly differentiate their personal area through choices in the storyline. They will encounter different adventures, make different decisions, and their home will change to match their story.

It sounds as though ArenaNet is taking Guild Wars 2 in some excellent new directions that will provide an incredibly high degree of immersion as this latest update on personal story helps illustrate. Call it what you will, but it’s been quite some time since I've stepped into an MMOG that offered a truly vibrant, rich setting to embark on virtual adventures in. Like many of our readers, I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how these elementss of personal story play out when GW2 launches.

The latest update at the official Guild Wars 2 site didn't end with insights to how players will shape their character's personal story, however. In the second part of the series, we'll be taking an in depth look at the larger story of Tyria, the Elder Dragons and Destiny's Edge. So keep your eyes peeled right here on Ten Ton Hammer's Guild Wars 2 community site to learn more about the impact of story in Guild Wars 2!

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