ArenaNet's Ree Soesbee gives new details on personal story in Guild Wars 2

One of the biggest problems in any given MMO is creating a good individual storyline -- feeling that you, your character, truly progressed and made an impact on your game world. It's always been seen as a general impossibility, because it's just not realistic. Guild Wars is an exceptional game, but it's always suffered from the same problem because there was no way around it. What would happen if Sacnoth Valley could only be vanquished once? What if the first guy to kill Lian, Dragon's Petal was the only guy who was able to do so? Sure, that's great for him, and it would be perfect in a single-player game, but what about the thousands of other players who kind of wanted Lian's Lantern?

Making a lasting impact on the world that is truly felt by the rest of the inhabitants of that world just wasn't done, until now. The introduction of dynamic events in Guild Wars 2 has opened up an exciting new door for Guild Wars fans, giving us a chance to truly do something that affects the big picture in Tyria.

What does this mean for your character, though? Ree Soesbee is a Lore & Continuity Designer for Guild Wars 2, so she naturally has a lot to say about personal story. Follow along after the jump for all the latest details on this system. "When you're looking at the games on the store shelf, it seems you have only two options - a game that you can play with your friends, or a game that has a satisfying personal story. The Guild Wars 2 design team believes that a game should have both."

Yes please. Look at Dragon Age: Origins. The game had an outstanding personal storyline, and that was a significant factor in its success. Guild Wars has a great story as it is, with an even more detailed tale to tell going into Guild Wars 2. Taking this story and allowing each and every player to be an integral part of it as it progresses is an ambitious goal, but one that the ArenaNet team feels is doable.

The first step, of course, is creating that story: "We believe that telling a story begins with creating a deep, realistic world." That means telling a story that makes sense, creating NPCs that make sense, and yes, creating something like the dynamic events system to make a world that isn't static and unchanging. That story is in place, and Guild Wars 2 players will all have their own important place in it: "In short, Guild Wars 2 provides stories that are both personally meaningful and epic, and to do so for each of thousands of players - all within the same interactive world."


That sounds wonderful, but what we all want to know is "how are you going to make this work?" It all starts with character creation. We are used to choosing name, physical appearance, race, and class. Guild Wars 2 is going to go way beyond this: your character will enter the world of Tyria with a history. Friends, enemies, a past, hopes for the future, even an affinity for lesser races like Grawl or Hylek (it seems that those darn frogs were not exterminated in 250 years). These questions will be specifically tailored to you right from the outset. Ree explains that a Charr from landlocked Ascalon won't be asked how she feels about a coastal-dwelling lesser race, for example -- she's never encountered the things, so she has no feelings about them either way.

This all sounds great, but what does it have to do with the overall world story? Well, even your character's personality will have an effect on the world around you: "In order to develop your character's personality, the biography also has questions that are applicable to all races and classes. If you describe your character as intimidating and unfriendly, the reactions of NPCs will be different than if you choose to portray yourself as charming and kind. If you are simply making an alt character to see if you enjoy a class or race, you can choose 'random selection,' and these questions will be instantly filled out for you. But if you take a moment and answer, your character's story will be tailored to meet your interests, and match your vision of the person you have created within the world of Tyria."

We've heard about the combination of persistent and instanced worlds that will make all of this possible, and according to Ree, this starts at home. That's right, you start the game with your very own "home instance" in your racial capital. Your home will change and evolve as you do, becoming truly your own and different from all the other houses out there.

Let's take a quick "yay housing!" moment, then move on to the story arcs you will be encountering. Remember Destiny's Edge from the Guild Wars 2 trailer back in December? If you do, you probably remember the tension between our heroes as they each pointed out the flaws in the other's philosophy. Things didn't improve, and the group went their separate ways. Your job is to unify them for a final assault on Zhaitan. It's not going to be easy: "Each one has their own opinion on the others, complete with misperceptions, assumptions, harsh truths, and inaccuracies. As the character progresses through the world, their relationship with the members of Destiny's Edge will also evolve. The player character has the opportunity to learn more about the guild's history and to befriend the various Iconics, becoming a friend, or even a confidant, and possibly even helping to reforge Destiny's Edge."


These five heroes aren't the only ones who recognize the threat posed by Zhaitan. Remember the Order of Whispers? They're still around, and one of several separate organizations -- the others are the monks of Durmand Priory and the Vigil -- working to defeat Zhatian as well. Want to help them out? "A player can choose to join one of these organizations, making that decision through their character's personal story. At that point, the story of the order becomes available, providing new interactions and events. Each order takes a divergent view of the world. A member explores events specifically from that order's point of view. A major storyline event might impact everyone, but each order will respond differently, as per their unique philosophy."

Finally, we come to the nuts and bolts. How will this all work in regards to grouping, rewards, individuality, and so on? You know that issue with the ubiquitous Prophecies Monk hair buns? "Oh look, there's another one." It's not going to happen. Running across another character exactly like yours is something that's going to be nearly impossible -- and that goes way beyond physical characteristics. Between race, class, physical appearance, biography, and personal choices made during your story, there are literally thousands of combinations possible.

What about grouping and rewards? It's a big wide world out there full of people to meet and shinies to earn, and ArenaNet is working hard to make sure it lives up to expectations. "Although each character's story is personal, a player can choose to invite friends along. By doing so, that player allows others to help them achieve their goals and watch their story as it evolves. A character's story is designed to be fun for a solo player, but can also scale up, much like events, to allow for a group to participate. Friends can assist each other to complete their goals - and by doing so, see different parts of the Guild Wars 2 story that they might not have seen in their own tale."

Rewards are as diverse as anything else in the world of Guild Wars 2, running the gamut from titles and special cinematics to more tangible items such as new NPCs in your home instance. Your character's biography will also be updated as you progress, forming a record of your deeds.

These new details give the fans a wonderfully detailed look at how the integration of personal story and the overarching story will blend, and anyone interested in Guild Wars 2 will want to visit the site and read the full account.

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This article was originally published on Massively.