the past month I’ve been chronicling my adventures
across Tyria and beyond in a series of second look articles focused on
some of the more recent changes to both the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/72643" target="_blank">PvE
and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/73299" target="_blank">competitive
aspects of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/47"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars.
While my journey was already leading me in the direction of taking a
closer look at how story plays a leading role in Guild Wars for a third
installment in the series, I had the golden opportunity to speak with
ArenaNet at PAX over the weekend. Looking back at one of the most
beloved online RPGs in recent years is always fun if you’re a
massive lore nerd like myself, but getting the chance to speak with the
likes of Jeff Grubb, Mike O’Brien and Daniel Dociu about href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/183"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars 2
was not unlike having a mini rock star experience for a genuine fan of
While specific details about the game are still under wraps, throughout
the interview we discussed many interesting elements of Guild Wars 2
such as art direction and lore, and even gained some insights as to how
competitive play will be handled in the sequel. So if you’re
curious about what’s in store for the people of Tyria after
the events of Eye of the North and want to learn about the interesting
new approach to PvP, read on and enjoy!
Ton Hammer: You have a new novel in the works titled style="font-style: italic;">Fall of Ascalon;
Ascalon obviously played a major role in the original Guild Wars and
had somewhat fallen to the Char early on, so how will this new novel
fit into that aspect of the lore for GW2?
Grubb: The idea of Fall of
Ascalon is a bridging story that happens between Guild Wars and 250
years later which is the time of Guild Wars 2. Ascalon experienced the
Searing and was being overrun by the Char in Guild Wars 1, but what
happened next was even worse.
Some of the populous escaped over the mountains to Kryta with Rurik,
but a lot remained with Adelbern. When the Char made their final push
into the city he unleashed a devastation that was worse than the Char
itself. Its 250 years later and the humans and the Char have been
fighting for 250 years, and now because of outside enemies or outside
forces, they’re slowly coming together and we’re
seeing the first signs of a tentative truce between the two warring
The novel takes place a year before the start of Guild Wars 2, but
within that story there is a lot of other stories as you’re
hearing what happened between then and now, and what happened to some
of the characters we know from GW2, what happened to the Ebon Vanguard,
why do we see female Char now – we’ll be seeing
female Char characters in the game but we didn’t see them
before – so there’s a story behind that.
What about the coming of the dragons, and how did that effect Ascalon
as well? So we’ve been seeing this progression all the way
through, and part of the tale is to recover a Char artifact that would
make this peace, this initial truce popular. So the Fall of Ascalon in
many ways is basically the initial invasion of the Char, which they
think of as basically a reclaiming of the lands that the humans drove
them out of. Plus, what Adleburn did, what the dragons did and
basically how did Ascalon get into the state that it is right now.
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Ton Hammer: There were a lot of world changing events at the end of Eye
of the North. Even though Guild Wars 2 is set 250 years in the future,
will we see any of the direct impact of those events such as what
became of the dwarves or that type of thing?
Grubb: Yes actually. The game
is set in Tyria which was the setting for Prophecies. It is 250 years
later and a lot has happened in those 250 years. The dragons have been
awakening and they do not come quietly into the world. You see from the
trailer that Zhaitan, the undead dragon, brings Sunken Orr back up from
the bottom of the ocean which causes devastation on anything costal in
the area, and basically brings the dead back to life to serve as his
minions. So basically there are world changing effects.
Things that have happened in Eye of the North such as the dwarves have
all left, they’ve gone into the depths to fight Primordus and
the Great Destroyer’s minions, but now their areas back on
the surface are abandoned and who moves in? Who takes over?
There will be places that we’ve been calling
‘legacy sites’ in design as we go through the maps.
So this was a place that was important place in Guild Wars 1
– what’s there now? How has it changed?
Who’s living there? Are there ruins? People who are fans of
Guild Wars 1 will see areas and say, “this was a location
that I remember well” while new players will say,
“wow, that’s really cool, I wonder if
there’s a story behind it.” That sort of thing
helps us both with old players and new.
Ton Hammer: I noticed that even in the trailer where the camera goes
underwater, it almost looks like massive parts of the Great Northern
Grubb: That does look like
Ascalonian architecture. We’ve had devastations, all sorts of
changes; another dragon has awakened and basically leaves a brand of
its breath all the way through one of the nations. So everyone has been
affected by the dragons, and just by the passage of 250 years.
The humans were our dominant race in Guild Wars 1 and they’ve
been pushed back - they’ve lost territory, the Char have
succeeded, other races are coming up – so they’re a
little more in battle, they’re a little more resilient
basically because they’re fighting for their last great
One of the great things about the books is this allows us to fill in
that space between the two time periods without having to give you a
huge block of text within the game itself.
Ton Hammer: The original Guild Wars had henchmen who were characters
you meet early on and your character almost grows with them as the
storyline progresses. Each of them have their own fun little
personality quirks and sub-plots if you follow things like their idle
or combat dialogs. Will that type of interaction with some of those
types of signature characters be a part of Guild Wars 2?
Grubb: It’s not so
much signature characters we have here, but we do have those iconic
characters that are part of your story and progress with you throughout
the game, though perhaps not in the same ways as companions do, or
continually like companions. But yes, we do have that type of story
functioning within the game.
Our story is multilayered – there’s the story of
the world, the story of iconic characters and then your story
– and we use different tools to tell those stories. That
makes it a very full, very rich world.
O’Brien: So there
are definitely people you’ll get to know throughout the game.
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Ton Hammer: With so much uproar and devastation, has that shaken
people’s belief in the gods at all? Are they still going to
play an important role in the future?
Grubb: Yes and no. At the end
of Nightfall - after Abaddon was defeated and Kormir became the new
Goddess of Truth - the gods pulled back. They basically said,
“Humanity, we’ve been mucking with you,
we’ve been too hands-on, we’re going to step back
and this world is yours to do with and succeed or fail as you
can.” So the gods are somewhat like parents and humanity has
been riding a two-wheeler for the first time. They’ve been
running along behind and they’ve just released the seat and
the kid is going back and forth across the highway, and the parent
wants to grab the seat again, but the kid has to learn for itself.
That’s what humanity is doing right now. They’re
not doing as well as you would expect after being left on their own,
but the gods are not as involved as they were. Humanity’s
faith in the gods is still strong and there’s still response,
but not to the same level of interference that you’ve seen
Ton Hammer: Somewhat related to that then, we there still be travel to
some of the special areas of Guild Wars 1 such as the Underworld or the
Fissure of Woe?
Grubb: The potential always
exists. It’s a big world, it’s a growing world.
We’re taking care of the basics at this point so I never say
Ton Hammer: A lot of people view Guild Wars as more of a PvP game for
obvious reasons. From a lore perspective, with Guild Wars 2 how have
you shifted the gameplay focus from more of a player vs. player focus
in the face of the massive upheavals that set the stage for the overall
O’Brien: I think
people have different opinions of Guild Wars. For example some people
think it’s just a PvP game, but it really has both strong PvP
and PvE. With Guild Wars 1 we put a lot of focus into telling stories
for an online role playing game, and you didn’t see that with
a lot of our competitors. That’s an area where we really want
to focus and do even more storytelling in Guild Wars 2.
So if people think of it as just a PvP game or just a PvE game then
they’re really missing half the picture. When we started
building Guild Wars, our goal was to make a great role playing game,
and bring that experience into online gameplay, but not fall into the
traps of MMOs where online needs to mean grinding or signing your life
away. So just an online role playing game, but then let’s
also recognize that people put a lot of time and effort into building
up their characters. Sometimes when you’ve built up your
characters you like to see, “hey, how does my character stack
up against your character? Let’s fight!”
So we tried to make that aspect to the game so that you can play the
game, build up your character and then see how they stack up against
your friends or you and your friends can compete. So I think Guild Wars
1 had those two aspects to it. We really tried to support the
competition aspect, and I think we’ve done so a lot earlier
than some of our competitors. You’ve probably seen how we
took top guilds and flew them out to Taipei and to Leipzig and gave
away $100,000 cash prizes and that kind of thing.
We want to do all of that with Guild Wars 2 also, but I’d
like to have a much smoother transition, and not have people get into
the game and think that it’s only for PvP or that kind of
thing. So for Guild Wars 2 what we’re doing is making two
different kinds of PvP. One kind is world PvP.
Guild Wars 2, because it has a persistent world now you’ll be
on a server, and servers will compete against different servers. So you
and all your friends can just go to the front lines and fight against
other servers and try to take control of different resources that
benefit your entire world. And that kind of PvP I think is really easy
to get into because it’s not like you have to try to get onto
a team and then if you’re not doing a good job your teammates
aren’t saying, “Hey, you’re using up a
slot in our team that someone else could be using.”
It’s just the more the merrier – you can just walk
out there and start fighting. If your world can get 300 people instead
of 200 people then that’s all the better for your world, so
let’s all get out there and fight, right?
I think that can be much more broadly appealing for people who are
really coming to Guild Wars as a PvE game that really just want to
check out what competition is like. But then at the high end
we’ll still have support for level playing field, team on
team competitive PvP that we’ve always had. I think that by
splitting that off it allows us to make that more pure, more of a true
In Guild Wars 1 as you play PvP you’d be unlocking your
skills and abilities so that you’d be exposed to more and
more depth and complexity over time. But at the real e-sport level you
want it to be all about your player skill, you don’t want it
to be a case of “you unlocked more than I did therefore you
can try a different strategy before I can try it.” So for
Guild Wars 2, for the real e-sport PvP we’re going to make it
completely open right from the beginning. You can go in and have access
to every skill in the game or every item in the game.
Grubb: One thing
we’ve discovered over Guild Wars 1 is that people interact
with MMOs differently. There are those who like to solo, those who like
to group, those who like to PvP and even different types of PvP. As we
do Guild Wars 2 we’re looking at all those different groups
and even people who do some of one and some of the other as well. So
one thing that gets back to one of the philosophies of Guild Wars is to
take the game at your own pace and as you choose to.
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Ton Hammer: Speaking of the PvP aspects in terms of solo players, one
of the things that really changed the face of Guild Wars PvP was the
introduction of Hero Battles. Will that type of PvP experience also
being transitioned into Guild Wars 2?
can’t directly answer your question because we really
haven’t announced what we’re doing with companions
this time around. One thing I will say is that companions, pets and
minions is a very active area of development. Some people have been
publishing articles assuming that things we talked about early on back
in 2007 about the companion system is a canonical companion system so
that’s how it’s going to work in Guild Wars 2.
That’s something that we are actively working on and doing a
lot of design on as we speak so I’m sure there will be a lot
of iteration of how that works before we make any announcements on it.
Ton Hammer: It definitely looked in the trailer as though you want to
stick to more of the photorealistic style of Guild Wars, is that the
case with Guild Wars 2?
Dociu: I wouldn’t
describe the look of Guild Wars 1 as photorealistic – it did
have a certain degree of stylization. We’re trying to find a
good balance between how far we want to stylize our world before we
scare our fan base away. The stronger or further out there your visual
style is, the more people either love it or hate it. The narrower it
is, the more you narrow your fan base.
We didn’t want to go that route; rather we wanted to keep the
game accessible not just from a story standpoint and gameplay
standpoint, but also from a visual standpoint. So we’re
trying to find our position in this continuum that is basically
building upon what we’ve done with the first game but
evolving it and distancing ourselves a little bit from conventional
fantasy, but not to the extreme of alienating or fan base.
We are known in the industry for having a strong art team that has
generated volumes and volumes of concept art –
we’ve released three or four art books so far. With Guild
Wars 1 our engine had certain limitations that didn’t allow
us to translate that concept art as faithfully into in-game assets. So
this time around with the in-game engine going through this really deep
overhaul evolving it leaps and bounds beyond what it used to be, we can
tackle the challenge of translating these concepts into in-game assets
a lot truer to the initial vision.
We want to make this kind of the trademark of the game – to
have this seamless transition between concept art and cinematics as a
storytelling tool through in-game footage. So rather than in-game
cinematics being a jarring moment or a wakeup call that removes you
from the immersion with the game, the two will blend a lot more
seamlessly. We’ll accomplish this by applying this more
painterly, hand crafted style across the board.
Ton Hammer: When I initially saw some of the screenshots for Guild Wars
2 I actually thought they were concept art so you’ve
definitely achieved that transition from what we’ve been
shown so far. How will this effect what type of systems will be able to
run the game? Are you still aiming for allowing a broader spectrum of
systems to be able to run the game?
O’Brien: Guild Wars
1 was kind of famous for being able to run on a very broad range of
systems which is still very important to us. We do a lot of things to
make sure Guild Wars can have a broad appeal - everything from the game
design, the business model and the system requirements all go hand in
hand – so we’ve always focused on keeping the
system requirements as low as we can, and we’re still doing
that with Guild Wars 2. I like to say that Guild Wars is beautiful, but
it’s beautiful because of the hand crafted nature of the art,
not because we’re trying to push more polygons.
Ton Hammer: One of the things that I enjoyed in the first game from a
visual standpoint is how some of the excellent concept art would show
up in game as murals or artwork on some of the walls of interior
spaces. Will you continue to use concept assets in a similar way in
Guild Wars 2?
Grubb: We’ll be
doing even more of that kind of thing in Guild Wars 2 actually. In a
lot of ways we’re now able to take the more painterly art and
actually apply that to the world to really tie everything together
visually much more so than we were able to previously.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.