March 25 2007
As many of you are probably aware, ArenaNet has recently announced an expansion and a sequel for their award-winning Guild Wars series. The expansion, Eye of the North, is scheduled for release this winter and will feature high-level content for current Guild Wars players. Guild Wars 2 is also being planned, but don't expect to get your hands on it before 2009 or 2010. I had a chance to talk to AreaNet co-founders Jeff Strain and Mike O'Brien about their upcoming projects.
I understand that another release in the Guild Wars series, Eye of the North, is in development. Is it really the end, or will further expansions be considered if Eye of the North is a success?
Jeff: We haven't actually announced what the follow-up plan is for Guild Wars. This is the first Guild Wars expansion but we certainly haven't said that this is the end of Guild Wars 1. Regardless of our product release strategy, it goes without saying that even after Guild Wars 2 ships we have no intention of shutting down servers or ending support for Guild Wars 1. At this point we just don't know if there will be Guild Wars 1 releases after Eye of the North... we're not closing our doors to the idea, but we can't say anything definite about it one way or the other.
Why did you decide against increasing the level cap for Eye of the North?
Mike: Guild Wars 1 is really designed around the level 20 cap, so as long and Guild Wars 1 persists we're going to maintain that level 20 cap. You know, Guild Wars is designed in such a way that it's certainly not over once you reach the level cap. The game is kind of just beginning when you reach level 20, and there are lots of other things to do with your character, like all the different titles you can acquire once you reach that level. The level 20 cap is kind of integral to all the combat systems and the way the missions work, so, for example, you get to level 20 and there are 50 missions available that are the right skill level for your character, and stuff like that.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about Eye of the North?
Jeff: Our biggest goal with the Eye of the North expansion is to build a bridge between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. That applies not only to the story we're telling, the new races we'll be introducing, and the actual play experience, but also the fundamental mechanics for how your achievements and accomplishments throughout Guild Wars are reflected and rewarded in Guild Wars 2. Those mechanics are one of the core foundations of the Eye of the North expansion, so you've probably heard us talking about the Hall of Monuments, which kind of documents all the cool stuff you've done and things you've acquired. That'll be where your character is memorialized, so that when you play Guild Wars 2, you can choose to inherit the legacy from any of your characters, and that will unlock all kinds of cool things in Guild Wars 2 that will otherwise not be attainable. So, 2 primary goals: first of all, give our players what they want with an expansion which is high-level content for their existing characters, and build that bridge to Guild Wars 2 so they know what the future of Guild Wars is all about.
Guild Wars has had a lot of success with its heavily instanced approach to online gameplay. Will the sequel stick to this approach, or do you plan to make it more like a traditional MMORPG?
Mike: We're going to have a combination - in Guild Wars 1 everything was instanced, and of course, there's a lot of really cool things you can do with instancing. It allows players to change to the world as they're playing the game, but there are some things we want out of persistence that you can't get with instancing, like the ability to meet new friends as you play through the game. So in Guild Wars 2 its both persistence and instancing. The big, over world will be persistent, but when you go into missions and dungeons it will be instanced.
Jeff: When we say we're adding persistence, we're really talking about the technology more so than how we use that persistence to add gameplay elements to the game. Guild Wars has always had its own unique flavor of play, and we certainly don't intend to make it more like traditional MMORPGs. By adding persistence it gives us the ability to persue more unique gameplay elements, for example, we've been talking a lot about event change - to us, persistence is something that lets us create big, zone-wide events that effect the entire area that you're in, that everyone can really play together. We don't see persistence as a tool to allow us to introduce a lot of that kind of... problematic components of traditional MMORPGs, like spawn camping and loot stealing and endless regeneration of monsters in the area in you're in. We're going to use it as tool to develop a Guild Wars style of gameplay, so no, I don't think it's going to be closer to a traditional MMORPG.
PvP combat is a very popular part of Guild Wars. How will PvP be implemented in Guild Wars 2?
Mike: There are two kinds of PvP in the new game. I think Guild Wars really has one kind of PvP, and that's the level playing field, you know, everybody has equal power kind of PvP. And we thought with Guild Wars 1 that there was kind of a gap between the ability of people to play roleplaying, and the ability to get into PvP in that roleplaying is entirely cooperative, so you're rewarded just for playing - it's not a very high-stress environment, but as you get into PvP everyone is on equal footing, and you're using up space on a team so it becomes very, very competitive.
In Guild Wars 2 we'll have another type of PvP that falls between roleplaying and Guild Wars 1 style PvP, which we call world PvP. World PvP is - when you're playing in Guild Wars 2, you're playing in a persistent world, and everybody in your world is on the same side, so everyone you meet when you're out adventuring is on your team, and your world is periodically in combat with other worlds. You can adventure into the Mists that connect the worlds, and there are powerful artifacts in the Mists between the worlds you can get that benefit your entire world.