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Guild Wars Interview

Jeff Strain and Mike O'Brien Talk About Eye of the North and Guild Wars 2

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If you adventure out there, you're just playing as you, you don't have to form a team or get picked for a team - you can just wander out into the Mists and you can be fighting people right away. There could be 100 people on your side, there could be 200 people on your side, whatever there is, and you play as you, so if your character is level 15 you play as level 15, if you character is 50 you're playing as level 50.

We will have a sidekicking system similar to what City of Heroes has, where if you're going out with a level 50 friend, and you're only level 15, then he can increase your power to be the same as his power. So you have an easy way to get out there and start having fun PvP. The great thing about this intermediate form of PvP is that it's a really gentle introduction to PvP, because it doesn't matter how good you are, your team is better because you're on it. You know, your team is better the more people who come out into the Mists and play regardless of the skill of those people.

I think that form of PvP can be kind of a bridge that can get a lot more people thinking about PvP, but we'll still have the high-end competitive PvP. The way that Guild Wars works today, people form teams and then they're on a level playing field, Guild Wars is very different from other roleplaying games in that way, in that it's completely fair when you get into PvP - it's not about, "I've played 1000 hours so I'm going to win." And so Guild Wars 2 will have that aspect too, in fact we're really highlighting that aspect and making it easier to get into that aspect by saying, there's nothing you have to unlock, you don't have work your character up before they can compete in that aspect of the game. There won't be different character types for roleplaying and PvP, so you won't need to create a PvP character or anything like that. In Guild Wars 2, any character can go into the balanced, competitive PvP matches, and when they do they will have access to the high-end skills for their class like the other players, and they can immediately jump into high-end PvP.

I hear you mention world vs. world. Guild Wars currently doesn't have separate realms or servers, so does this mean there will be different factions in the game?

Mike: The way it works with Guild Wars 2 is, because we'll now be using a big persistent world, we're not sticking everybody into the same copy of the world map, because obviously you can't have hundreds of thousands of people stomping all over each other. We do split this up into different worlds, like you would see in other MMOGs, but a key difference is that, because we have one global database, which we built for Guild Wars 1, we use that to allow people to switch between worlds. We're very conscious of the problems people see with traditional MMORPGs... people are spawn camping and waiting in line to complete quests because the world is too crowded and that, in Guild Wars 1 we designed most of those problems away, and they will still be gone in Guild Wars 2. Another problem we're conscious of is, for example, if I'm playing the game with high-level character, and I find out a friend at work plays - we want to play together but then we realize we're on different servers, that sucks. Especially with the competitive aspect of Guild Wars, it would be terrible if people couldn't compete across the globe, so they couldn't become the global champion, only the champion of server 37. That's why we've built this technology to allow everyone around the planet no matter where they live to play together, and we plan to take this technology forward into Guild Wars 2.

The word is that the new engine will let us jump and fall and swim. What can you tell us about that?

Mike: Yeah that's a big focus of what we're trying to do with this new engine - to really make it much more free form. We want players to feel like they're living in the world, and the world responds to what they do, and players have a huge degree of control over their characters and can experiment or just hang out in the world and have fun.

Are you considering subscription fees, or will Guild Wars 2 offer free online play?

Jeff: We get asked about this a lot, because no matter how many times we say it, the question continues to come up, I think some people have a hard time believing it, but Guild Wars 2 will maintain the existing business model - buy the game, take it home and play it, no subscription fees.

Mike: It's kinda funny for us because people are always looking for why we don't charge subscription fees, and with Guild Wars 1 there were all sorts of wild theories, like because it's not a persistent world, you're not really playing on ArenaNet servers, or you're not really using our bandwidth, but it's just not true. In Guild Wars you are playing on our servers, it's a fully hosted, secure game. And now with Guild Wars 2 we'll have a persistent world, and still no monthly fee.

How has the free online play revenue model worked out for you?

Mike: It's worked out really well for us. I think its reputation and sales kind of speak for themselves, and how big a hit the game has become. It was really gratifying for us, you know, we started this company and we were just a few guys with an idea and an IP no one had heard of before, a new publisher people weren't familiar with, and all that, and Guild Wars just kind of blew the doors off of everyone's expectations, and it's become one of the two games in the industry that I think everyone talks about these days, World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. Of course, we're not World of Warcraft, but we're doing quite well for a new development team with a new IP, so we're quite pleased with this business model.

As a leading online game developer, is there any excitement around ArenaNet about Games for Windows Live?

Jeff: I think the benefit of Games for Windows is that, anytime you put a common set of technologies around games to make it easier for consumers to get into it and play it, that's a benefit, so yeah, we're open to Microsoft's Games for Windows initiative. As far as Windows Live goes we can't really comment - it's not something that we're heavily invested in right now.

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