I’m pleased to present you an interview with Guild Wars 2 team – Colin Johanson, Jeff Grubb, Leah Rivera, John Smith, Mike Ferguson and Dave Beetlestone. And I want to thank them for their time and all GW2 team for this game! (Maybe they’ll see this ;) )
Note – you will not find any special info about future game updates here, but I hope that you will find here something new and interesting about the game and people, who are working on it :)
Hi all there at ArenaNet!
Hope you all had good holidays and are ready for hard work in New Year :)
We understand that you regularly receive a lot of similar questions, so we decided to ask you questions that do not mostly concern game updates, PvP, WvW features, and so on. We will ask you something about your life, your job, etc. Though there will be also some questions about Guild Wars 2, too :) So, let’s begin.
First questions is for Colin Johanson, if it is possible. In your last blog post here (https://www.guildwars2.com/en/news/colin-johanson-on-guild-wars-2-in-the-months-ahead/) you said “As we push the boundaries and do new things with what an online game can be, we’ll likely hit some bumps along the road on the way.” What would you call one of the biggest “bumps” since the game’s release? Were there any big mistakes or problems? Maybe some fun or even mystical problems?
Colin Johanson, Game Director: For me, I’d say the biggest challenge we’ve had to overcome is attempting to transition from a company that spent five-plus years working on a single project with no finite release date, to transitioning and re-structuring the entire company on a dime to become a service-oriented team constantly updating and refining the product we’ve released.
Our timelines to respond to major issues had to get shorter, due to a large customer base always waiting for the next big thing in the game. The trade-off is that we also need to make sure we’re taking the time to get stuff right and to continue our company’s iterative design process, where we continue to refine systems until we’re happy with them and they’re ready. With a few of our early releases right after the game came out, we started working on them basically the day the game shipped, and we put ourselves under the gun to try and get stuff done as quickly as possible to show how much we plan to support the game. In doing so, a few of the decisions we made didn’t incorporate enough time for iteration and testing to ensure they hit the quality bar that we and our fans demand of ourselves.
We’ve been able to refine this process a lot since those first few releases and taking the time to focus on what makes Guild Wars 2 a truly unique and successful game, in particular building on the truly compelling concept of this living world that constantly evolves. If a feature isn’t ready, we’re not going to ship it until we’re really happy with it, and we’ve taken more time to ensure we address and learn from some of the things that didn’t go quite as well with our October and November releases. We’ve also learned a lot about how to ensure our live events are inclusive to everyone, play out over timelines that give everyone a chance to participate, and include the type of activities and exciting features players are really looking for out of Guild Wars 2.
I think we showed a lot of great improvements in the December and January releases in terms of the way we’re handling live content, and the best is really yet to come in 2013 for Guild Wars 2—we’re just getting started on the future of our world.
One question for Jeff Grubb: you are one of the people who was responsible for the whole of Tyria. The world is really big and full of hidden surprises—I think everyone knows about “Joffan Grubbe, the well-known writer, who wrote a book about Destiny’s Edge :) Tell us, please: how do you create all that hidden stuff? Are these random ideas or is there a big plan behind that funny stuff? And maybe you’ll tell us: what place of that kind—the hidden places with some surprises—is your favorite?
Jeff Grubb, Lore and Continuity Designer: I love the surprises, and many of them are surprises to me as well! Much of what is written comes from a talented team of writers and content designers who bring the world to life. I am responsible for the big story of the world, defining the peoples and places, and making sure everything fits together, but we let our creative team loose on this great world, invest them with power to do cool stuff, and I continue to be delighted by what we come up with. Our creative team brings a great deal of the fun to the world, and where they have fun, the players enjoy the world as well.
It is a growing world as well, where someone will come up with one idea, then someone else will add something, then a third person will take those ideas and go in a new direction. When I first encountered the kids during a playtest, I thought they were great (though, to be pedantic, the author of a book on Destiny’s Edge should be Robbe Kinge). There are a lot of bits like that throughout the game. I loved the first time I fed cows and got the little hearts; that was a treat! There is a gravestone for Priestess Rashena where a necromancer can summon her spirit, which is a particularly cool Easter egg. And I love any conversation with a quaggan. I had to sell the idea of the quaggans and the goofy way they talk at first, but writer Angel McCoy adopted them and they are one of the great creatures in the game.
And one more for John Smith – after a decisive victory in the ongoing battle against bots, things with Guild Wars 2 economy became much better. However, it seems that there are still problems. For example – it seems like it is nearly impossible to earn money selling food. We mean that it is mostly more profitable to sell ingredients, than to craft food and sell it. Do you plan to change this? If yes, then how do you plan to change it? In general, what changes can we expect in Guild Wars 2 economy?
John Smith, Economist: I want to take a quick aside to explain why Guild Wars 2 is different from other games in terms of the economy. Guild Wars 2 has a global economy. This means that each server, and each player in the whole world participates in the same economy, instead of each server hosting its own economy. This also means that all the markets the game creates move much, much faster than any other game and at a much higher volume.
This sometimes causes events that players aren’t used to seeing in games. Having trouble selling finished cooking products is a great example. There are millions of players participating in the market and almost no barrier to entry for cooking, so the profit margins for the markets come and go really quickly because of the vast amount of participation.
While, at a glance, this may feel negative, it’s actually quite positive, because it means that one player or group of players have an extremely hard time controlling any section of the market. In other games, conglomerates of players manually control the price of goods. In Guild Wars 2, the players as a whole decide the prices—that’s better for the buyers and better for the economy. It’s harder to make money from your crafted good because the profit is being split between several million players. This creates a much more even distribution of wealth than in other games and a much more reliable economy. Another benefit of the global economy is added stability and protection. Malicious attacks, such as exploits, can be devastating to a localized economy, but our global economy recovers so fast that players rarely ever notice there was a problem.
For overall changes to the economy, players can expect to find a wider variety of ways to earn both equipment and wealth, as well as some new and interesting ways to spend money. We plan to keep prices for items in a reasonable state so that new players can easily enter the game without feeling overwhelmed by ridiculous prices and the inability to gain good equipment.
Another one for Mike Ferguson – there is an opinion that WvW is “small.” Everyone already knows the best places to put siege weapons, the best ways to get to the castles, and so on. As we know from recent blog posts, you are going to add new content in WvW. That is definitely good decision, people especially look forward to new skills and visible titles. But do you have plans to add new regions/maps in WvW in the future? In general, what do you expect from WvW in the future?
Mike Ferguson, Game Designer: We want to continue expanding and improving the WvW experience in whatever manner we can. We view the current state of WvW as a good foundation that we can build off of, with the potential to become the greatest large-scale PvP experience available. In general, we are looking to enact changes that we think will improve the existing core WvW experience and help players feel more rewarded while playing in WvW. Our ultimate long-term dream goal is that anyone who wants to play WvW would be able to do so.
Maps are certainly one option available to us and we’d like to expand the amount of space available to players that so they can start to create all sorts of new tactics. However, maps are also some of the most time and labor intensive projects we can tackle, so we are also looking at other ways we can improve the game. Some of those projects will start going live in a future release. We think that the changes we’ve lined up should add some new elements to WvW and start expanding on the core experience that people enjoy.
One of the things that we’re looking at improving in the future would be the availability of various stat combos on gear that can be purchased with Badges of Honor. As any WvW player knows, we only offer one stat set for badges right now and that doesn’t even come close to covering the various play styles that people like to use in WvW, so we want to expand what the merchants are offering so players can have an option for getting gear in WvW besides relying on the trading post or going to PvE.
Question regarding dungeons for Leah Rivera – I think nearly everyone liked the Fractals of the Mists dungeon. It was a really new and interesting experience. Do you have any plans for something even more dynamic? For example, there was an interesting idea from one of our community members of having random dungeons in every map. A player gets a random piece of loot, a special item (map for example), if they use this item, it opens for them a random dungeon on the map—for 24 hours, for example. If the player decided to go there, they will face random creatures. What do you think about such an idea? Or maybe you have something better? How do you generate ideas? Are there any secrets or is it just a matter of brainstorming?
Leah Rivera, Game Designer: I’m always down for tackling dynamic content! I very much enjoyed working on the Fractals and am thrilled at how well it was received. As for future plans, I can’t divulge any specifics, but there’s a wide variety of projects that we’re working on to improve the game right now. Fans, like you all reading this, are vital to that process! You highlight the places we need to improve and allow us to focus our efforts and make Guild Wars 2 the best it can be.
Speaking of great community ideas, I think the idea of random dungeons in the maps would be a blast! I do wonder if the dynamic feeling you’re looking for would be better served in the open world though. The open world is built for that sort of thing! The addition of the other player element leads to unpredictable, unique experiences. Another player swooping in to lend a hand can be incredibly rewarding and lead to team building and socializing opportunities you can miss out on in dungeons. There are actually several hidden events, similar to what you mentioned in the world. I think taking those up a notch into a more player triggered, open world dungeon experience is a cool idea!
Idea generation for stuff like this is a give-and-take process between creative parties, very similar to what I just did in the previous paragraph. We’ll sit down in a meeting with a clear goal in mind and start discussing ideas. From there, the weaker concepts are eliminated and the stronger ones are built upon until we have some pretty decent content ideas. Then, those ideas go through a review process and are further refined or eliminated as need be. After that, we actually start building the content, which brings its own challenges into the mix!
Question for GW2 artists – you have created a ton of amazing art for Guild Wars 2. You create the visual part and style of the world. What is your favorite place in the game and your favorite art and why? And maybe there is a possibility to show or tell what are you working on for now? :)
Dave Beetlestone, Environment Art Team Lead: As an environment team, we were able to create an enormous world with an incredibly wide range of memorable locations for the players to experience. Using a combination of over 11,000 unique models we created major cities, castle ruins, country villages and a wide array of different dungeons—not to mention all of the different landscapes in between. It would take a player hundreds of hours to try and see everything… but with all the secret caves and concealed passages that we’ve hidden throughout the game, I’d be really impressed if someone could find them all.
The design team gave us an enormous amount of challenges with all of the different playable races in the game, since they all required unique settlements and locations throughout their homelands. As artists, it was our responsibility to make sure all of these locations were not only unique and memorable but that the journey to get there was an adventure. For this reason, it’s really difficult to try and think about my favorite place or piece of art in the game. A simple yet beautiful trail through the woods is as gratifying to me as a giant castle on a hilltop. If an artist has taken the time to add the finest details to a path near a forest stream with moss covered stones and rays of light through the leaves, it can be just as much work as creating the grand architecture of a giant mountain fortress. In the end, if we’ve done our job right, they should each provide an equally satisfying but different visual reward.
Question from one of our visitors – what inspired you when you created the storyline for the new Tyria? Were there any literary or other works that have had a strong influence on the writers?
Jeff Grubb, Lore and Continuity Designer: We built Guild Wars 2 on a strong foundation of the original Guild Wars. We knew early on that we wanted to expand the options for players beyond just running humans, and that other races should be available for play. We didn’t want the races to be fighting each other, so we created an overarching plot where the heroes grow from dealing with local problems (bandits, centaurs, skritt) to dealing with problems that threaten the entire world. This coming together of peoples against a greater threat is the core theme of the game, and you see it among the races, the orders, and the heroes of Destiny’s Edge.
The writers and content designers read widely from a number of sources, and those influences come back in into the work. For my case, the idea of the Elder Dragons as immortal, powerful, uncaring, malevolent presences owes a lot to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and that permeates into the art and the text as well.
And the question from GW1 fans :) Will we see the descendant of the legendary pig—yes, we mean Oink—in Guild Wars 2? Or maybe you could tell us what happened with him? :)
Jeff Grubb, Lore and Continuity Designer: Oink lived a good and long life and left behind many descendants who can be found throughout Tyria. We mention in Divinity’s Reach a popular illustrated children’s book called “Oink’s Adventures,” so he is still remembered fondly by new generations of Tyrians.