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GW2 Interview with Colin Johanson on Dungeons and Underwater Content

Posted Wed, Jul 27, 2011 by Sardu

At San Diego Comic-Con 2011, we had the chance to sit down with lead content designer for Guild Wars 2, Colin Johanson, and learn more about how dungeons and underwater content will factor into the game. Dungeons weren’t active in the demo build being showcased at the ‘con, but underwater combat was, and it was a total blast to play.

In the following interview, Colin gives us an excellent overview of some of the things players will encounter in the dungeons, and what ArenaNet is doing differently with underwater combat to make it an awesome experience for players in GW2.


The Guild Wars 2 Dungeon Experience

"You might be walking down a hall and a wall bursts open and a giant cave troll Kool Aid Mans out of the wall..."

Ten Ton Hammer: In terms of difficulty and group content, how do dungeons factor into Guild Wars 2? Could they be compared to any of the GW1 zones players might be familiar with like Fissure of Woe, the Underworld, or even Slaver’s Exile?

Colin Johanson: The dungeons that we have come in two modes. The story mode is basically pick-up-group friendly. They’re – difficulty-wise – balanced for five random players, and those tell the story of Destiny’s Edge, the guild from the book (Edge of Destiny). And when you finish the story version of a dungeon you unlock the explorable version of that dungeon.

Those are intended to be the super hard, very coordinated group style content like Slaver’s Exile, or Fissure of Woe, or the Underworld. One of the things we’ve done with those is like Slaver’s had a very specific path that you’re going through it, and there were always a lot of different ways you could approach it, but at the end you were headed in the same direction.

With the explorable dungeons, when you get into it you get to vote on which path you want to go down as you progress through it. There are different paths that you can take, and each path provides you with completely different content. So you can come back and play the same dungeon for the same rewards, but experience it in a different way so that you’re not having to do the same content over, and over, and over again.

Then we’ve taken the dynamic events from the persistent world and we’ve hidden them in the dungeons and they have all sorts of different triggers that can happen. Some of them are a random percentage chance, so for example you could be going through the Ascalon Catacombs and you’ll go through it, and you defeat it, and you have a random event where you run into a giant spider boss and you put a torch out in a hall that makes a ghost army that comes out, so you get to experience that stuff.

Another time through, you might be walking down a hall and a wall bursts open and a giant cave troll Kool Aid Mans out of the wall and stands in the middle and comes after you.

The idea is that every time you play this we want to surprise you and present you with stuff like that so it feels like – I used this analogy a couple of weeks ago but it’s totally true – when I go dungeon running in a D&D game the things that make it a dungeon to me are those random events that are happening. Like you’re heading down a hall and enter a trap, or a boss comes out of nowhere, and it’s all about solving that stuff, and kind of that Indiana Jones style solving puzzles.

Ascalon Catacombs 1 Ascalon Catacombs 2

Ten Ton Hammer: That’s one of the hallmarks of a good dungeon master – the ability to come up with those interesting things to throw at you and either catch you off guard, or surprise you in some way when you’re not expecting it.

Colin: Absolutely. And we feel like that’s what our explorable dungeons have to be, to be really exciting for groups to play through them over, and over again. We really want people to play them like Fissure of Woe or Slaver’s Exile where you’re playing them a bunch of times in a row. And the best way to make that an awesome experience is to make it so you know the basics of what you’re going to experience, you have a lot of different ways you can choose to do it, and each time you do it we throw different things at you so it feels like you never really know what’s going to come, like you’re always on your toes playing in your best D&D game.

Ten Ton Hammer: In that explorable mode, it’s all considered to be a set difficulty level though, correct?

Colin: All three paths are equally difficult, and they end different ways usually too. Some of them will end at the same boss which you play differently. For example the Ascalon Catacombs dungeon that we’ve already shown a little bit on, in the explorable version of that, all three of them end with you fighting a giant graveling patriarch. But the way you fight them is three completely different ways.

You could pick one path where you turn yourselves basically into ghosts and you trick Warmaster Grast and his ghost friends to join you as you lead an assault against the patriarch.

That’s a completely different ending than one of the other chains where maybe you set up a trap for the graveling patriarch and you get a bunch of cannons and everything and you lead him into a room and get to unload on him.

So each one has a very different ending, so even in that case it feels different but you’re fighting the same boss at the end. But there’s definitely equal difficulty on each of those paths; that’s one of our design goals. So there isn’t that situation where you go let’s take the right path, that’s the easy one. And the dynamic events help with that too because you can always have those happening on any path.

For some reason I do believe those guys and I think they're going to deliver. I actually think that, objectively, their job so far has been brilliant. I always had the feeling that I get more than I've paid for in all GW1 sequels and I'm going to buy GW2 even because of this fact.

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