Guild Wars 2 Isn’t Just About PvP or World Versus World, Says Producer

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Continuing my conversation with Guild Wars 2 executive producer and ArenaNet co-founder and president Mike O’Brien, we cover the game’s action-focused, tactics-minded combat, touch on PvP and World vs. World and the game’s dynamic leveling system. (If you missed the first part, you can find it here.)

I’ve been watching the general chat channels on my server [Jade Quarry], and I’ve yet to run across anyone unimpressed with the dynamic world event system, which seems to be one of Guild Wars 2‘s cornerstone innovations.

We wanted to create a world that really felt like a living world, where you have the freedom to explore it and work with others to make it your own. I love it when I hear people say that they’re not just racing through the game, but taking the time to enjoy the world around them. That’s what we wanted to create.

With all that’s going on in the game, I sometimes forget I’ve even gone up a level. That’s happened a few times now, where I’m so focused on this event or that one, that I’ve forgotten about the experience bar entirely.

Another thing that’s really cool about that…have you seen the dynamic leveling system?

I have.

You said you were playing as a Norn, so you started in a Norn starting area and you’re really living the Norn experience. At any time you want to, you can travel using the Asura gates to the other races’ starting areas as well. So each of the races has its own separate starting experience. In other games, you’d normally think “I’m too high level now; it’d be pointless to go play in a different low-level map,” but Guild Wars 2 will down-level you dynamically so that the world, wherever you’re playing, is still fun for you.

So I end up feeling like you, where I don’t need to worry about leveling as much. You’re not over-leveled when you want to explore new but lower-level areas, so it can really be about just enjoying the world.

I’m also coming to terms with the idea that you’re never standing still in combat. There’s a much more action-angled tactical element, and — especially in some of the instanced story events where if you’ve leveled up in the world, you’re also dynamically down-leveled — if you’re not dodging and weaving, you’re pretty much dead.

The game has a very active combat system, and it’s interesting to hear you talk about that, because I think we really wanted combat to be very active and tactical.

In the first Guild Wars, we had a skill system that similarly allowed players to choose a set of skills for a quest and play with all these interesting combinations between skills. With Guild Wars 2, we wanted to take that a step further and make combat very active and visual — it was central to how we developed the content for the game.

Have you gotten to a point where you’ve started creating field combinations yet? Like putting up a wall of fire and shooting arrows through the flames to add fire damage?

I noticed that with my Norn Ranger, I can set traps that spring if you run across them, then use one of my longbow skills that knocks enemies back a dozen feet to get an enemy between me and the trap, then push them into it.

Yeah, so there’s a lot of stuff like that, where you can kind of use the world as an element in combat. We tried to have it be very active, you know, movement in combat, using the world, using the things around you, using other players and setting up combinations in the world. You’ll start to notice it around level 10, which is the point where these tactics are being layered into the game and you start to realize how active combat is.

It’s another one of these things where…we took big risks with Guild Wars 2. We tried to make a game that had elements that were fresh and new, and that people hadn’t seen in other MMOs. And you always worry a little when you’re taking a big risk. As we were developing it, we were thinking, “This is the game of our dreams,” but wondering “Are players going to appreciate it? Are players going to understand?”

Now that we’ve released it and we see on the message boards — we see kind of the reaction players are having to game. It’s just a really thrilling time for us.

PvP and World vs. World — I haven’t spent much time with either yet, and that’s intentional, because I’m thinking I need to fully absorb the system before I dive in against players who treat this stuff like a study sim. Am I wrong to wait?

The game is set up so that you don’t have to level through the world in order to play either PvP or World vs. World. In World vs. World, it will dynamically level you up so that you can compete with people of any level, and in the structured PvP, level just doesn’t matter because everyone’s on the same playing field.

That said, just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to, and I think it’s totally fine what you’re saying. A lot of players play this way, you know, pick one part of the game and learn it thoroughly first, and after you’ve learned that, you move on to a different part.

Any comment on complaints from some that they’ve had problems accessing PvP or waiting in queues to play World vs. World?

We’ve occasionally had to turn down structured PvP tournaments, because we were running into capacity issues. But it’s the kind of thing where, as we run into these capacity issues, we turn it down, we address the capacity issue, then we turn it back up. So I don’t expect that to be a long-term problem.

In terms of World vs. World, we really haven’t run into an issue like that. I think the only thing that maybe some players are seeing or that you’re hearing about is that World vs. World is the only part of the game that doesn’t have overflow world [a way in the PvE game to let people play on overflow servers instead of waiting in queue], because it really can’t have overflow world. If you think about it, it’s because you’re fighting for your world, so it wouldn’t make sense if there was some other world that people couldn’t see that was fighting against the other worlds.

Consequently some of the worlds have had World vs. World just fill up, and once they’re full, new players need to wait before they can get in.

Anything you’d like to say to players who might be thinking, sure, all of this sounds nice, but it’s still an MMO — how different could it really be?

As players pick up the game, they’ll discover it’s not like other MMOs, and so I hope that players come into the game with a fresh mindset. What we’ve seen is that if players come in expecting Guild Wars 2 to be a clone of another MMO, they’re more resistant. But if they come in with more of an open mind, they seem to appreciate the play-style freedom that Guild Wars 2 offers, because it really is a very different kind of MMO.

That, and I hope players are able to just enjoy the world and all its detail. Our team has put so much love into this game over the past five years, and there’s so much to see, so many little things hidden throughout the world. So I hope players do take the time to explore the world and see how much content there is, how much variety there is and how many interesting things there are to discover.