Skills, Traits, and Builds - An Exclusive Guild Wars 2 Combat Interview

Guild Wars 2 Combat Interview

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For anyone who has been
following the development of href="">Guild
Wars 2
it’s been readily apparent that ArenaNet isn’t
simply content to create yet another formulaic MMOG based on a decade
old template. Every aspect of gameplay has been given close attention
with the end goal of creating the best, and more importantly, most fun
experience possible. While certain things may contain an aspect of
familiarity for veteran players of the original Guild
such as the
names of various skills, by and large the combat in Guild
Wars 2
is an
altogether fresh experience.

To get some more details on
what sets combat apart in Guild
Wars 2
, Ten
Ton Hammer spent some time speaking with Game Designer Isaiah
“Izzy” Cartwright who is heavily involved in that
aspect of the game’s development. In fact, our near hour-long
interview with Izzy proved to be so packed full
of great gameplay details for Guild
Wars 2
that we’ll be
presenting additional installments throughout the
next week.

So if
you’re interested in learning more about personal stories,
core gameplay mechanics or even how the Hall of Monuments will be
represented in Guild Wars 2,
we’ll have plenty of fresh
details to share with you soon including some excellent answers to many
questions which were
submitted by Ten Ton Hammer members right here
on our
Wars 2


In the meantime,
let’s kick things off with our combat
interview that covers skills, traits, builds, and just about everything
in between.

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Ton Hammer:

How will the various forms of crowd control factor into
Guild Wars 2
without being too prevalent in PvP as a general thing? Are
there multiple conditions similar to fear that can take your character
out of combat?

Designer Isaiah “Izzy” Cartwright:

definitely have more crowd control than we did in Guild
Wars 1
. We have
fear, stuns, knockdowns, chill, cripple… so
there’s more of them this time. Because there’s
less healing in the game, one of the ways that you support your allies
is by doing some of those things.

That stuff is just going to
have to be toned and balanced for PvP and
we’re setting up an infrastructure for that. On the inverse,
in order for our system to work we’re going to have to have
abilities that allow you to break out of conditions as well.

An example would be the
warrior’s “Shake it
Off!” ability. You’re going to have to be able to
use that while in Fear so that you can break out of it. Or the
necro’s Plague Signet that sends a condition away,
you’re going to have to be able to use that while under Fear
to send to someone else.

So the caveat to having more of
these things is that we’re
going to have to have the counters to them in place. I mean, we had a
lot of things like this in Guild
Wars 1
, right? We had a lot of
that locked you out from doing certain things, or made you miss with
attacks, or controlled your movement. So those things have really just
been transitioned into other places. And in order for those to work we
had to have a lot of counters to them in Guild
Wars 1
as well. We had shouts
that would shut you down, wards that would shut you down, wells that
shut you down, and spirits that would do different things to you
– and we had to counter those in all sorts of different ways.

So the same thing is true in Guild
Wars 2
. We’re going
have to make sure that they’re balanced properly in every
game type, and we’re going to have to make sure
they’re used right positioning-wise in all of the aspects of
our game. It’s just something that we’re very
committed to doing and Fear exists in those game types, and will be
balanced in each of those game types.

Not only is Fear a condition
that can be removed in so
many different
ways, but it’s also very short in PvP. We’re not
looking to add long shutdowns, and we’re not looking to take
a character out of play. We’re looking for something that has
a lot of interaction and has a lot of interesting mechanics. So more
like, “You feared me, well I just sent it back to
you” and that’s the kind of play that
we’re having, that interaction. Or even, “Oh, I
feared you off a cliff and you took falling damage.” So
it’s about what kind of interesting interaction we can get.
That kind of back and forth mind-game play – that’s
what we want in the game.

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Ton Hammer:
So with
conditions, will those mainly be applied
through the weapon set skills with the various counters or removal
skills being part of your utility skills that you slot for your build?

We put conditions all over. Weapon skills have lower recharges
because you use them more often. But weapon skills almost feel more
like your elite skill from Guild
Wars 1
in that they define your
role a
lot more. If you’re a longbow-wielding warrior,
you’re a ranged character that has a lot of AoE.
It’s almost like a Searing Flames elementalist in that
you’re this type
of character and so you’re going
to do a lot of burning damage. So that defines a lot of who you are.

That doesn’t mean
that character doesn’t have a lot
of conditions that are in his utility skills and other interesting
things there. But because those weapon skills define who you are a lot
more it does mean a lot of conditions come from there, although
it’s very possible that conditions come from all aspects of
your skills.

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Ton Hammer:
Speaking of the
elite skills, will there be a wholly
new system for obtaining them in Guild
Wars 2

It’s definitely very different than Guild
Wars 1
. You
obtain them in a lot of different ways. We really haven’t
worked out an exact path for all of them, but here’s all the
ways you can obtain them: You can obtain skills every way that you can
obtain items in our game. We can give them from a vendor, as drops, as
quests rewards, at events, and off of Karma vendors – we can
give them in all of those different ways.

Now, we’re still
working on exactly the path that we do give
them, but we have a lot of available options. We’re still
working through what is the best possible way to give them
out;  we don’t want you to have to go grind some
monster a thousand times to get an elite, because that’s not
cool. But there are fun, cool, interesting ways that we can do a lot of
stuff so we will give out elites in interesting ways because we find
them to be fun.

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Ton Hammer:

Do you think
you’ll keep some of the
exploration aspects to the process though? I know for some players it
was a lot of fun in GW1 figuring out which boss mobs you could track
down for a specific elite for your profession.

Another big system with skills is Traits, and traits have taken
on that aspect. Every trait is given out in a very unique way. Like a
sword mastery trait gives you plus bonus damage, you have to go defeat
five sword masters around the world, and you’ll have to find
rumors from different NPCs that tell you where they are. Killing a
random sword master will give you an update to the progress to all of

So every trait becomes an
interesting little task for you to go find or
interact with. One of the traits in the game is to do more damage with
environmental weapons, and that could involve killing different people
with environmental weapons and stuff like that. There’s lots
of interesting ways that we can give out these traits that kind of
become a whole other type of content that you can do, and find some of
that exploration thing that we did have with our Guild
Wars 1
elites within the
trait system.

And the trait system is a way
to really interact with the skill system.
A lot of people have been asking about character customization, and the
traits system is a really big way to do that. Two characters with the
exact same skill bar but different traits are two very different
characters. A mace warrior that sets himself up to do a whole bunch of
spike damage will do a lot more damage in a short period of time than a
guy who sets himself up to apply Weakness every time he criticals.
Those are two very different characters yet they can have the same
skills. So traits interact with skills in a very different way.

Ton Hammer:
It sounds as though
Traits interact quite a bit more,
and in a much more detailed way than something like the Guild
Wars 1

Very much so. Attributes affected the overall power of things,
where traits are almost like giving you the ability to add different
bonuses to your skills. So you can reduce recharge to skills, or make a
skill shoot fireballs out of it, or shoot two fireballs, or have bigger
AoE ranges. You can take the skills that you really love and make them
better. You can make all your signets recharge faster so that now you
can have a strong signet build. It allows you to really manipulate your
character in a lot of different ways, and you get that kind of
“buildy” focused aspect of the game really through
the trait system.

So I think the traits system
brings out the character customization in
a lot of ways. It’s something that you don’t
immediately see, and it’s hard to see immediately in the demo
but it’s a really deep system that allows for a lot of

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Ton Hammer:

So say you
love the idea of playing something similar
to the classic Minion Master as a necromancer – will traits
have the ability to give you that option in Guild
Wars 2

There are a ton
of traits for that. You can make your minions
do all sorts of different things. You can make them so they regenerate
health where they normally didn’t. Instead of summoning 3
Bone Minions you can summon 5 Bone Minions. You can make it so that
when your Bone Fiend blows up it gives you health, or even every time
one blows up you could get some life force out of it. There are all
sorts of different ways you can stack your traits up to make your
character the best minion master that you can come up with.

Another thing you can do as a
necromancer with traits is to make your
Death Shroud ability way
more interesting. We allow you to manipulate
Death Shroud a lot of different ways through traits. For example, you
could make it so it causes an explosion when you enter Death Shroud, so
that when you enter it and exit it you do damage. We can make it so
that you can’t be stunned or knocked down or pushed back in
it, which is really awesome in PvP. So there are a lot of things like
that that can make being in Death Shroud really cool in different ways.

The trait system really changes
up the way a character plays. So in PvP
you might come up against a minion master who can’t be crowd
controlled while in Death Shroud, and then there are a lot of things to
think about in terms of how you’re going to kill him. There
are a lot of those kinds of things you have to think about when out on
the field.

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So builds will really
encompass quite a bit more in
Guild Wars 2.

There are a lot of pieces to it – there are attributes,
traits, weapons, weapon swaps, utility skills, elites – so
there’s a lot to it.

Ton Hammer:
Will there be any
kind of equivalent to runes that you
can apply to armor or even your weapons that will factor into that
build aspect of your character?

Runes in Guild Wars 1
kind of went hand in hand with your attribute
choices. Traits are way more in depth – they’re
more about manipulating the skills themselves. You almost kind of get
to be
a skill balancer and decide things like, “it would be
really cool if this skill had less recharge” or
“what if that skill did this
and you get to kind
of manipulate things in that way and make things really cool. Of course
it makes my job insane, but that’s what I love.

Ton Hammer:
With the weapon
sets, say I have the ability to swap
between an axe, dagger or scepter. Will I be able to keep obtaining new
skills for each of those weapons as I progress throughout the game that
I can then decide which skills I want to pair with each weapon from a
larger pool? Or are weapon skills somewhat “locked
in” so that no matter what level I am, if I have a dagger
equipped I’ll always be using those same core dagger skills?

Basically dagger skills are dagger skills, so they’ll
always be the same. So once you’ve filled out the 3 core
skills, you’re done obtaining them. No matter what dagger you
equip, they’re always the same. Keep in mind that you can
equip a dagger in the main hand or as an offhand, and those are
different skills. But they’re always the same in that regard.

The things you can do with
those skills do change with traits. So say
the base dagger skill is a melee attack, you can equip a trait that
will make it a ranged attack instead. But the way Guild
Wars 2
is the
dagger skills have a certain purpose, so all dagger skills will be
those same three.

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Ton Hammer:
So in terms of
that fits into your overall build,
you won’t constantly be learning new weapon skills or
relearning how your build will function when using those weapons,

Well, you do a little bit. Skills do get more powerful as you
level up so you do have to learn the different tiers of those skills.
So say with conditions, the skill will get better but it’s
still causing the same condition. And that’s just a way that
we can fluidly do leveling with our skills. It’s kind of the
same with how we did attributes in the game. Instead of you doing
things, your skills just naturally get better as you go out and
experience more of the game.

Ton Hammer:
How soon do you
expect you’ll be able to talk
more about the PvP aspects of the game? Are there parts of that system
you’d be able to share with our readers now?

It’s something that we’re definitely very
focused on. This demo was really more about giving everyone their very
first experience, and we decided not to make that first experience
about PvP because this way it’s a lot easier to show things.

But we’re dedicated
to making PvP a very strong aspect of
Guild Wars 2.
We have teams working on it, and I’m definitely
involved in every aspect of PvP, and it is something that we are
focusing a lot of energy on. It’s not an afterthought, and
it’s not something that we’re going to throw in
piecemeal. From the very second of Guild
Wars 2
’s creation
PvP has been on the books and thought about.

When we’re going to
talk about it though? I don’t
know. There are a lot of decisions behind that, and it comes down to
when we can have it all visually together and ready to put out there.
But I play it every day – it’s a lot of fun and it
just keeps getting better
and better.

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Ton Hammer:
talked quite a bit about the traits
and weapon sets. What would you consider to be the other
important or key aspects of combat that our readers would want to know

I think one of the cool things is just that Guild
Wars 2
is just
a very different game. There’s a lot of action, and the
combat has a lot of different pacing to it. You’ve seen a lot
of videos around, but there’s a lot more to it. In the demos
here are really keyed down to allow people to get into the game, to
play it and get used to it. But there is a lot to this game.

This demo has got a lot
more to it than even what you were able to
get around to see. And we’re working on PvP and all sorts of
different aspects of the game. But I really want people to know that
there are hard things in the game, there is PvP in the game, and that
there are a lot of different aspects to it.

The thing that’s
amazing about this company and this game and
the combat system, is that there’s so much potential, so many
fun things, so many activities. The combat system is very fluid.
It’s a lot of fun to roll around, there’s
positional-based combat, and there’s a lot of interesting,
fun activities. I’m just very excited about it, and I think
it’s all going to lead to something that’s going to
be very fun. I can’t wait until everybody gets to play it.

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