The GW2 Fan Experience at PAX East 2011

Like most industries, life in this nutty world we call games media has its good
points and its bad points. There are times when it’s kind of like busting open a
bag of what you thought was your favorite trail mix only to discover that it’s
got strawberry flavored sardines in it. While you can pick out the offending
aquatics pretty easily, you’re still left with a bag full of nuts that taste
like fake, fishy strawberries.

On the flip side, I wouldn’t change what I do to afford those oddball bags of
strawberry sardine flavored trail mix for the world. Case in point: I got to
attend PAX East not only as an industry professional, but also as a long-time
hardcore fan of all things Guild Wars.

Now in its second year, PAX East is already beginning to take a similar shape to
its west coast counterpart. That is to say, it’s quickly establishing itself as
one of the better fan events in the industry. But purely fan focused events can
often be a mixed bag much like the one described above. Sometimes developers are
a bit less inclined to reveal major new aspects of their projects due to less
potential mass media exposure. Or, as was originally the case with ArenaNet, if
they do plan to give fans something completely new to be excited about during
one of these events, all it takes is one media outlet breaking an embargo to
spoil things for everyone else, thus adding their own special brand of sardines into the

PAX East 2011 Expo Hall

"Fully Loaded" is certainly one way you could describe the expo hall at PAX East this year

An interesting side effect of that whole nutty chain of events surrounding the early reveal of the thief profession is that not only
did fans get to learn about what’s new in the latest demo build before heading
to the event, it also granted them the opportunity to decide exactly what part
of the game they wanted to check out first if they managed to snag one of the
highly coveted demo stations.

While the professional in me had a set agenda for the bulk of my two days in
Boston, the obsessive Tyrian lore nerd and Guild Wars fan in me spent as much
time as I could stalking the various members of the ArenaNet team that were on
hand for the event. Along the way I also had the opportunity to connect with a
lot of franchise fans, both old and new.

But knowing that there were plenty of other fans that couldn’t make the trip to
Boston this weekend, I wanted to give you at least some idea of what the whole
experience was like not only from the perspective of the manager of a dedicated
Guild Wars 2 fansite, but the fan side of that equation as well. After all,
“fan” is right there in the word, and it’s because of all of you that I love
what I do so much.

GW2 in the Alienware Booth

"Fully Loaded" is also a good way to describe the Alienware booth on Friday morning thanks to the legion of fans who showed up to play the Guild Wars 2 demo

As you can see in the above image, the initial Alienware booth takeover on
Friday morning was literally spilling over with GW2 fans eager to watch the demo
being played by others even if they weren’t able to get in on the action during
those first 2 hours themselves. Apart from the small team running the media
presentation upstairs, most of the Anet devs were down on the show floor and
readily available for fans to ask whatever questions they could dream up. This
held true throughout the weekend, with a constantly rotating cast of Anet
All-Stars such as Colin Johanson, Jeff Grubb, Jon Peters and many more making
the rounds.

The next stop on my GW2 journey was the aforementioned formal media
presentation. I’ll spare you another lengthy diatribe on how gutting it was to
have the presentation leaked early, but suffice to say, the main attraction for
me was the hope of a few minutes’ worth of Q&A time once the demo wrapped up.

PAX East 2011 Expo Hall

Jon Peters (left) and Randy Price (right) walk us through the norn starting area (center) during the formal media presentation

As luck would have it, Ethec and I had the opportunity to attend the
presentation twice back-to-back, giving us a chance to speak with Jon Peters
about everything from the path norn characters would take as they progress
beyond their starting area outside of Hoelbrak, to how and when they gain access
to their unique shape-shifting abilities.

In case you’re wondering, the answer to the first question is that your path
through Guild Wars 2 as a norn will initially take you west through the
Shiverpeaks, and into Kryta where you’ll hit the gates of Lion’s Arch right
around level 30. In fact, all 5 races will have a similar progression, insuring
that LA truly becomes the kind of racial melting pot it’s described to be in
both “Ghosts of Ascalon” and “Edge of Destiny”.

The Gates of Lion's Arch in GW2

Lion's Arch was not open to players in the newest demo build, but this should give you some idea of what they mean by the city being rebuilt using shipwrecks after the original city was flooded. Judging by the size of the gates alone, I'm guessing that Lion's Arch is going to be a truly epic city.

For the answer to the second question concerning norn shape-shifting, be sure to
read my lengthy look at Ten Things We Learned about Guild Wars 2 at PAX East

After the presentation wrapped up, Ethec and I decided to snag some lunch and
meet up with Ben and Space Junkie, the other members of the Ten Ton Hammer
mercenary hero team covering the event. As luck would have it, we were also
joined by a few members of the ArenaNet team. Since I didn’t want to badger them
too much about GW2 (though I easily could have for the entirety of PAX East and
beyond) we mostly talked about some of the other promising titles being shown
down in the expo hall.

One title that instantly sprang to mind for most of us as being a highlight of
the show is Firefall, a game that Jon Peters described as “Tribes Online”. While
the next incarnation of the Tribes franchise is currently being developed by
Hi-Rez Studios, the Tribes connection is readily apparent once you factor in
Scott Youngblood as the design lead for Firefall. To get an idea of how that
game is shaping up, be sure to use your mouse to insta-travel over to my
Firefall Multiplayer Impressions from PAX East 2011.

Eventually the clock turned a lazy brow towards 5pm, so it was time for us to
scamper over to the Westin hotel for the NCSoft community event. Unlike the
somewhat low key ArenaNet meet & greet held during PAX Prime last fall, there
was already a massive line forming to get into the community event long before
the doors ever opened.

One of the main attractions of the community event was naturally getting a chance to have
me sign a copy of my bestselling autobiography, “The Rise and Fall of
Scribe Sardu and the Exploding Atomic Doom Bees”. This might have made getting in the doors a bit difficult, but thankfully I was wearing my mild-mannered reporter disguise for the evening.

Above left: My demo station minus the PC. Apparently I'm far too overpowered and needed to be nerfed! Above right: VIP attendees consuming as much of the demo as they can before the doors open to the public.

Seriously though, the 20 demo stations for Guild Wars 2 were, for many, their
only viable chance to spend some hands-on time with the game due to limited
availability on the show floor. In fact, I managed to snag the last remaining
station during the early VIP access for the community event. But as you’ll see
in the images above my hopes of getting any hands-on time with the game were
nearly dashed against the rocks and ground into sand so fine that it stays
between your toes long after your vacation has ended.

Thankfully the awesome tech team swooped in and saved the day by completely
replacing the PC at my demo station. I unfortunately neglected to get their
names, but do want to extend my sincere thanks to them for being so genuinely

Speaking of awesome, shortly after I got the GW2 demo back up and running, I was
joined by Global Brand Manager Brian Porter who spent the rest of my demo time
discussing various aspects of the game with me. Be sure to keep an eye here on
our community site for my full updated impressions for Guild Wars 2, but for now
I’ll leave you with a not-so-subtle hint: it freaking rocks.

The NCSoft Community Event at PAX East 2011

While the community event might have been somewhat light on swag, lucky raffle winners walked away with some impressive hardware, including Nvidia GPUs and an Alienware laptop. I declared myself the "bonus round" winner and tried to snag one of the GW2 demo stations, but was mauled by a pack of angry moas before I could reach the exit.

After the demo wrapped up I spent the rest of the evening stalking ArenaNet devs
and gaining new insights into a whole host of things going as far back as the
release of the first Guild Wars campaign. For example, did you know that the original inspiration for GW2's dynamic event system is old text-based RPGs from the 1980s? I couldn't get Colin to give me any exact titles, but he quickly disproved most of my Tabula Rasa theories. I also did my best to obtain any info
that could potentially be used to fuel my Prince Rurik conspiracy theories, but
alas, Anet is onto my secret plans…

Truth be told, however, the best thing about the community event was the legion
of fans that showed up in support of GW2 and the full lineup of NCSoft titles.
It was great to hear what people think of GW2 so far, and to see some who were
awesome enough to come dressed as their favorite GW characters. In fact, I made
a promise to one of them that I would give her everlasting internet fame for
being cool enough to attend the event as Gwen. She's not only featured in the header image for this article, but be sure to jump to the last page to see her full costume in all its glory!

GW2 in the Alienware Booth

The line for the "Fantasy MMO Redesigned" panel filled up a full hour before the doors opened up

The following day I somehow managed to have a light enough schedule to head over
to the “Fantasy MMO Redefined” panel discussion. As you can see above, the line
for the panel was completely full over an hour before the panel began which
further reinforced just how many die-hard GW2 fans were in Boston over the

I somehow managed to snag rock star seating for the panel, which consisted primarily of
a lengthy Q&A about various aspects of the game (for those of you interested, I'll be posting a full analysis of the discussion later this week). Afterwards, I also had the
opportunity to speak with community manager Regina Buenaobra who is one of the
nicest people you’re likely to meet in the industry.

GW2 in the Alienware Booth

The team from ArenaNet focused the bulk of the panel time on answering fan's questions

Unfortunately I had to make a hasty exit to make my next appointment, and thus
ended my weekend of rampant GW2 fandom. While my overall enthusiasm for the game
is something I could easily ramble on about until Farmer Dirk’s cows come home
and begin their reenactment of the Searing, I should probably wrap things up for

But before I go, I just wanted to thank the many ArenaNet devs for allowing me
to talk their ears off throughout the weekend, and the growing army of GW2 fans
that make this kind of event so memorable. Speaking of which, don't forget to hit the jump below to see the awesome Gwen cosplay from the NCSoft community event!

Gwen Cosplay at the NCSoft Community Event

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.