GamesCom 2011- Interview with Guild Wars 2 Colin Johansen

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Theres no doubt that MMO’s are now one of the more popular genre’s in gaming, with titles such as World of Warcraft, DC Universe Online and numerous other copycats just littering the shelves. Guild Wars 2 is one of those games that is looking to stand from amongst the crowd, and I got a chance to chat to Lead Content Designer Colin Johansen about what gamers can expect from the upcoming title.

Alright Colin, tell us about the story and setting for Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 is set 250 years after the original game, in a world where the dragons have begun to rise again. Every dragon that awakens causes untold destruction, like the Undead dragon who rose a continent from the ocean, which created a tidal wave that destroyed the outlying regions of land. Once he had settled on his new land, the undead dragon the proceeded to raise an army of undead servants with which to to terrorise the population.

That’s just one of the dragons who have arisen, and in Guild Wars 2, you’ll face plenty of the, and see how their actions have thrown the world into a state of turmoil and desperate survival.

And we’ve got new races as well in the game, so tell us about those.

Oh yeah, lots more variety this time! First we’ve got the Charr, the bad guys from the first game. They’re like the old Romans, with armies being divided into legions like the Ash,blood and Iron Legions, that are more important than families to them. Their legions are in fact their family, their bonds are so strong. Technologically, the Charr are the most advanced race.

Then we have the Norn, your typical mountain dwelling folk that were inspired by Viking legends. They’re one man armies with a strong sense of individualism, who all strive to be the best at something in life. One Norn may wish to be the best drinker in the village, another the best storyteller, and its not unusual to see them challenge each other to live up to those claims.But whoever is truly the best at what they do, will be celebrated in legends for centuries to come.

The Asura are your magical race, who were driven up to the surface when the fire dragon invaded their mines and homeland. They’re extremely intelligent, and they like to remind people of that fact, constantly. The Asura also like to build things, like constructs and golems, and their religion is based on alchemy and experimentation.

And then we have our latest race, the Sylvari. They’re fairly new to the world of Guild Wars 2, and they’ve only been around for a few years. The Sylvari came around when a human planted the seed of a magic tree, and that human and numerous others were buried underneath the tree. The tree then began to sprout pods of the new Sylvari, a group who learn about the world extremely quickly, but can still be naive, which is something that the Asura like to take advantage of.

They have a connected memory, so they’re constantly adapting, while they’re also innately driven to fight the dragons, in what they call the “Great Hunt”. They are a noble and honourable race.

There are a lot of free-to-play online games coming out lately. How has the Guild Wars 2 team taken to this new market?

Fortunately, we haven’t had to change our strategy much, the funds we receive from game sales is more than enough to keep the world up and running, and business is good right now, meaning that a monthly fee is unnecessary.

There is an online shop available for additional funds, but its not needed for players who don’t want it, and besides, you won’t be able to buy your way to power through the shop, that takes away from the game.

Anything that you learned from the first game that you wanted to make definite changes to in the second?

We’ve made some real changes to the model, specially with those aspects that revolve around questing with friends or new people that you meet. We’ve strived to create a game where players will have a bond with each other, and we want the world to be more approachable.

One thing we also completely reworked, was how we start quests. When you’re assembling a team, its not fun to wait and try to find a specific tank or healer for your group. Waiting to have fun is what we want to create.

Dedicated class roles limit people, so while we still have those, we’ve also added in general abilities that everyone can use, like support for all weapons, and a universal healing ability.

With the drop in and out gameplay, does that not mean that certain quests will be easy if we just quickly grab a hundred players to join us?

There’s going to be a more dynamic scaling of difficulty in the game. It will still be challenging, but players wont be able to cheat their way through in a numbers game. For instance, if you fight the Pirate Queen at her stronghold, with a small party, you’ll face off against her small army of undead skeletons. But if you want to gather a group of hundreds of players, then you’ll need to storm her base from the front, take down her towers and board a ship that has magical cannons that you can fire at her base, before taking on her army.

Once you’ve beaten her, you’ll even find that there are less undead pirates around to harass you for the next couple of hours, thanks to the vacuum of power that you left.

What about choices in the game? Can a choice that seems noble at first wind up biting you in the backside?

Oh yeah, we have most definitely experimented with that concept. If what you do doesn’t effect the world, then its a meaningless choice, so there must still be some sort of cause and effect for the game. When you make a decision, it must be real, permanent, and have an impact on your character.

You’ve spoken about dynamic events that will happen in the Guild Wars world, but how many will there be, and whats to stop them from getting monotonous?

We’re looking at having around 1500 events happen, so its going to take people a long time to get through all of them. As for variation, we want each quest to be unique, so that’s why you’ll have specific objectives and tools with which to complete them.

What kind of customisation options can we expect?

Creating your character is going to allow you to be as detailed as you want, especially if you want to agonise over how far the bridge of the nose must be from the eyes, or what colour their beard must be. As for clothing and armour,we’ve got two separate slots for dyes that you can use to customise the colours of your kit.

Any thoughts yet on expanding the game?

We haven’t even finalised a time for that kind of thing yet, we’ve just been so busy with the current world, which is massive at the moment. But when we do an expansion, its going to have to be incredible, and make players want to play it, its going to really have to add some value to the game.

Sounds great so far Colin, so thanks for the interview, and we can’t wait to see the finished game.

We wont let you guys be disappointed, that’s for certain.

Last Updated: August 23, 2011

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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