Defining the Lore of Guild Wars 2 - A Q&A with Jeff Grubb

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This week Ten Ton Hammer takes a look at the upcoming MMOG, Guild Wars 2. While ArenaNet is not yet ready to disclose too many aspects of the gameplay, we were able to catch up with ArenaNet Game Designer, World Builder and all-around Lore Guy, Jeff Grubb. We asked Jeff about the Elder Dragons' awakening in GW2 and how the world will have changed over the 250 year time span between the original title and Guild Wars 2. Read on as Jeff tells us a little about the art of the game and a whole lot about what's coming in the way of lore.

Ten Ton Hammer: We know that in Guild Wars 2 the Elder Dragons are awakening.  Can you give us some insight into the dragon Zhaitan that players will encounter in the game and why the Elder Dragons are now waking?

Jeff Grubb: Zhaitan is the Undead Elder Dragon. Its lair was beneath Orr, so when it rose to the surface, it brought that sunken nation back up from the depths. Zhaitan now makes its lair in the former City of the Human Gods. Yes, Zhaitan is that powerful and yes, you do encounter it. But first, you have to face the dragonÂ’s minions, from the undead plaguing the shores of Tyria to its more powerful and twisted champions.

The whys of the Elder Dragons are not yet revealed – we toss around some theories in-game, but we don’t reveal their complete origin yet. At the start of the game, the dragons are considered elemental forces—like earthquakes or tidal waves—that are uncaring and deadly to living things.

Ten Ton Hammer: Dwarves are believed to possess more knowledge about dragons like Zhaitan, but what remains of the dwarven race has been scattered? Will there be dwarves in the game that might possess information related to the dragons and perhaps their awakening?

Jeff: The dwarves knew of the Great Destroyer, the harbinger of Primordus, and knew of Jormag, and may have had knowledge of the other dragons as well. However, in Guild Wars 2, the dwarves have transformed into stone forms and have descended into the depths to battle minions of Primordus. There are a few remaining dwarves on the surface that may be of some help to players, but for the most part, the dwarves have taken their knowledge of the dragons with them deep underground.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will players eventually encounter the other Elder Dragons?

Jeff: The effects of all the Elder Dragons are ever-present on Tyria and all the races in Guild Wars 2. Encountering them in person is an opportunity for future expansions. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves—let’s see if you make it past the first dragon.

Ten Ton Hammer: Some of the races have been at war with each other and have some pretty bad blood such as the human and charr feud. With the awakening of the dragons, old rivalries of Tyria have found a common enemy. How will each race interact with members of other races because of this? Have some found new alliances? Are the relationships strained between some and are others still at war?

Jeff: The first of the Elder Dragons woke up 50 years after the time of Guild Wars: Eye of the North, and others such as Jormag and Zhaitan have showed up in the two centuries since.  So the mere appearance of dragons has not been enough to force the free races to put aside their differences. The charr/human treaty is still a new and fragile thing, and peace talks are still ongoing within sight of the walls of Ebonhawke. The norn donÂ’t consider themselves as vanquished by Jormag, the Elder Ice Dragon; they think of their situation as a temporary retreat. The asura, as they always do, have their own agenda—they regard the other races as merely pieces of the puzzle.  Yes, the other races know this about the asura, and they hold a strong distrust regarding them and their schemes. The sylvari are looking for their own place in the world. Of all the races, they are the ones who are directed against the dragon minions. The other races donÂ’t know what to make of the sylvari, and the sylvari use that to their advantage.

Ten Ton Hammer: What role will the player play in uniting the races of Tyria?

Jeff: The players grow personally throughout their quests, going beyond the race-specific challenges of their people to the point where they join one of the multi-racial orders (Durmand Priory, Order of Whispers, or the Vigil), which transcend racial agendas and face the greater challenge of the Elder Dragons. The players are keystones in pulling other people together.

Ten Ton Hammer: How has the world changed since the first game?

Jeff: Physically, a great deal.

Orr has risen from the depths of the Sea of Sorrows. LionÂ’s Arch has been flooded and rebuilt. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik has left a long, deep scar across the land in its flight south. The charr control Ascalon, but Ascalon City is literally a ghost town. New human cities have grown up, like DivinityÂ’s Reach and Ebonhawke, along with the asura seriously expanding Rata Sum and the sylvari Grove growing up around the Pale Tree. There are a lot of places familiar to GW1 players, but it has been 250 very tumultuous years later. The Elder Dragons, they tend to redecorate.

Ten Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a little more about the humans and their gods? Will we learn more about the human gods and their facet depiction as dragons in the Guild Wars quest The Path to Revelations?

Jeff: In the wake of Guild Wars: Nightfall, the human gods stepped back from meddling with the world, letting humanity stand on its own two feet (and humanity is wobbling, but hasnÂ’t fallen down yet). The gods remain important in the lives of humans, even if they are no longer on speed-dial, so to speak.  The worship of these distant gods remains a strong part of what it means to be human. The charr deny the importance of gods, the norn have animal spirits, the asura have their Eternal Alchemy, and the sylvari are still shopping around, god-wise.

The facets are interesting (this is a reference to a set of quests in Eye of the North in which the player tracks down the facets of the various gods for a researching asura). They are not the gods themselves, but rather ghostly servants, and are tied to the Forgotten, who are not minions of the Elder Dragons.

Ten Ton Hammer: Underwater exploration is something many players are excited about in Guild Wars 2. What inspirations did you draw from when creating the art and design of the underwater areas and what sort of places can players expect to see?

Jeff: From a design side the big challenge is the addition of a third dimension – our initial battles in the underwater asura labs have been wild. From an art perspective, the underwater areas are as rich and varied as the surface environments are, with a wide diversity of sea life and settings. The area beneath the frozen lakes of the Shiverpeaks will be very different from the wreck-haunted straits off the coast of Orr.

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