Guild Wars Co-Creator Jeff Strain Interviewed at Leipzig GC '07 - Page Two

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you planning on shipping another expansion (or addition) to Guild Wars before Guild Wars 2 ships? Jeff: We don't have any definitive plans right now. Eye of the North is very much a bridge to Guild Wars 2. It's intended to bring everything needed to Guild Wars before Guild Wars 2 ships.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are you planning on shipping another expansion (or addition) to Guild Wars before Guild Wars 2 ships?

Jeff: We don't have any definitive plans right now. Eye of the North is very much a bridge to Guild Wars 2. It's intended to bring everything needed to Guild Wars before Guild Wars 2 ships.

I will say that, since this is our first true expansion that when I say, "There are no definitive plans." it's not because I'm holding anything back. It's just that we truly don't know. We're very much in a mode of "let's wait and see."

Ten Ton Hammer: Is that due to a lack of a timetable for Guild Wars 2?

Jeff: No. We intend to be in some form of public beta by the second half of next year. There is a timetable and we're off and running. Hard.

With Eye of the North, the dev team wanted to give fans of the original Guild Wars an expansion that brings them back to that old PvE style of play.

Ten Ton Hammer: How long had you been working on Guild Wars 2 before it was announced?

Jeff: It was in active design and early R&D as of early 2007. Once we made that decision, we went ahead and hopped on it.

Ten Ton Hammer: What are some of your goals for Eye of the North? What would you like to see happen with the expansion?

Jeff: One of the strengths of the Guild Wars is its business model; you don't have to subscribe to the game. On top of that, it's easy to put the game away for a little while, then come back to it again. You can continue doing that for quite some time without having any big reprecussions. Personally, as a player, I don't play the game every single day - I've taken a break now and then and waited for some new content to deploy then I'll start playing again. It doesn't harm us for players to quit playing for awhile then come back. We encourage that.

But the beauty of it is, when we do release new content, players come back into the game and play again. Our big goal for Eye of the North is specifically for all those players who experienced the original version of Guild Wars and had a great time with it. This is the spiritual sequel to our original game. For those gamers, this is what they've been waiting for.

Ten Ton Hammer: Was it difficult for the team to shift gears a bit and focus on the PvE elements of the game, specifically the dungeons?

Jeff: We've done dungeons in the past, but what we really wanted to do was to capture the feel of an off-line dungeon crawl. That meant adding features like bringing up a map to locate yourself. We wanted to add those features to the game, but other than that we had most of the skills necessary to make the dungeon, we just had to add the "dungeon crawl feeling" to the gameplay. Bosses at the end of the levels and that sort of thing.

We're all big fans of the classic dungeon crawl and bringing that into the game has been a really fun experience for us.

Ten Ton Hammer: You have included 18 new, multi-part dungeons to the game. How long did that take for you guys to create all that content?

Jeff: One thing that we're proud of at ArenaNat - and I'm very honest with the things we do poorly - but the one thing I think we do exceptionally well is rapid content generation and brining it to the player quickly. Alot of that is having a team at ArenaNet that's been doing it for three or four years now. Building up the landscapes and populating the dungeons takes time - do to all the trial and error involved - but we are very good at getting this new content out there.

It was a big deal, but I think the speed that we executed it was a testament to the quality of our team at ArenaNet.

Ten Ton Hammer: You've stated that you want Guild Wars: Eye of the North to be a bridge to Guild Wars 2. However, was the content in Eye of the North only realized after Guild Wars 2 was give the go-ahead, or was this something you had wanted to do in the first place?

Jeff: I think it's actually the inverse to the first part of your question; Eye of the North consists, in large part, of stuff that we didn't feel like we could create simply due to what our game was all about. But with the creation of Guild Wars 2, we could finally explore another part of the Guild Wars universe. It sets up the story for Guild Wars 2. For example, a lot of players were interested in what happened to Gwen (a little girl NPC that you meet early in the first game), and we really couldn't go back there and address it because it was in a different direction than where we were taking the game.

But knowing that we were making Guild Wars 2 was an enabler for us to go back and really tell this meaty sort of detail without having to worry about where you go after that.

Ten Ton Hammer: Where's the chronology for Guild Wars 2 fall in the scheme of the lore?

Jeff: It takes place several hundred years after the original series.

Ten Ton Hammer: So how much continuity will there be between the two games?

Jeff: There's definitely continuity between the conflicts and the cultural encounters that you'll experience in Eye of the North. You'll see where its going in Guild Wars 2. But as far as specific characters are concerned, you won't really see much.

Ten Ton Hammer: Because there's nothing that lives that long in your lore, right?

Jeff: *laughs* Right.

Ten Ton Hammer: From a business model standpoint, how do your previous additions to Guild Wars stacked up with the sales of the original game? Are they comparable?

Jeff: As you know we just passed four million units sold of the original game, and each of the additional content upgrades have sold at least as well as the original game in the amount of time they've been on the market. The only reason the various additions haven't sold as many total units is because they haven't been on the market as long as the original game. But Guild Wars also continues to sell very well.

ArenaNet wanted to give a little back to their players and fans, so they are running the sneak peek weekend.

Ten Ton Hammer: With the sneak peek weekend coming up this weekend for Eye of the North, what are you guys hoping to get out of that time the players can spend in the game?

Jeff: On Friday morning, 9 a.m. German time we're going to let anyone who's pre-ordered the game play for 72 hours this weekend. Anything that you earn over the weekend - whatever you find, loot, discover, or unlock - will remain with you after the game has gone live. After that, the servers close back down again until the official launch date.

Since it's the first time we've ever done something like this, it's going to be exciting to see everyone get their first taste of the game.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you think its becoming more common in the MMOG industry for games to give these "sneak peek weekends" to the players?

Jeff: With Guild Wars, we pioneered this concept of having weekend events, instead of having this "one month of closed beta, one month of open beta" sort of schedules. I think we did about five of them, where every month we'd have an event and allow players to play for a certain number of hours. It was definitely exciting for us from a design standpoint, but it was also exciting for players as well. The difference is, in the past we'd always say that we'd reset the gamers characters and not let them keep anything, and that was a bummer. So much of an MMOG is watching your character grow, and with beta resets that takes away from that experience.

This time we wanted to give a little back to the players. We scheduled this sneak peek weekend now instead of a month ago because we wanted to be absolutely sure that there would be nothing in the game that was so egregiously wrong that we'd have to reset the characters. We're happy to be able to do it; it's tough, but I do think it's more exciting for people.        

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