Massively's interview with the Guild Wars 2 design team

There has been so much new information about Guild Wars 2 lately that it can be a little hard to keep up. While things have mostly focused around dynamic events and personal story, the scope of those two concepts is so large that every new piece of news seemed to trigger another list of questions.

We at Massively have been following the developments closely, so we are as curious as anyone else. We asked the Guild Wars 2 team about several various points -- everything from crafting to the creation timeline.

Lead Designer Eric Flannum, Lore and Continuity Designer Ree Soesbee, and Game Designer John Hargrove were kind enough to satisfy our curiosity on some of these points. Follow along after the jump and see what they had to say.

Massively: One facet of Guild Wars 2 that has triggered the most community interest is the talk of instancing -- particularly personal stories. Will your character be able to transition back and forth between your instanced personal story and the rest of the world at will, or are there set times and places that trigger instancing?

Ree: Instanced areas are specific places in the world that are instances so changes can be shown in a very visible manner. Only a small portion of the game is instanced in any way – your home area, for example. A vast majority of the game is completely open, and promotes fully interactive MMO gameplay. A character must choose to enter these areas, and they can choose to bring others into those areas to see and experience the player's personal story.

Are the instanced areas solo only, or can other players join you to view your story, like they can in the current Hall of Monuments?

Ree: When you enter an instanced area, you may choose to invite other members of your party to come with you. If they accept, they will enter your personal story and be able to help you complete challenges there. While decisions in the story can only be made by the individual character whose story you are participating in, visiting characters can assist and will be rewarded for helping out.

Will there be instanced areas such as dungeons that don't necessarily reflect an individual's personal story?

Ree: Yes, but they are specific locations. Those areas have their own story, too – a story that the player can interact with and visibly affect. But that's another interview, entirely.

Speaking of crafting, how much of a part will crafting play in Guild Wars 2? Are you exploring new avenues in that area, maybe looking beyond traditional crafting items like armor and weapons?

John: Crafting will play a very large role in Guild Wars 2, and while weapons and armor will be a big part of the base of the items that players create, we are doing our best to ensure that players don't have to make a lot of anything that they can use only one of. For example, in Guild Wars 2 you will not have to craft the same sword 10-20 times just to level up your crafting skill. Hopefully our players will find that the only reasons they have to craft any given item more than once are because they can actually use it more than once, because they want to give it to a friend, or because they want to sell it for profit. With this goal in mind it does of course mean we have our work cut out for us when it comes to other interesting items to craft, and we have already spent a lot of time exploring in areas such as upgrade components that can be used to improve existing items beyond the condition that they were originally found or crafted in.

Moving to the topic of the skill bar design for a moment, will skill acquisition be an issue with the five weapon-related slots? Will you automatically pick up the skill knowledge with the weapon, or have to learn to use it?

Eric: Skills in Guild Wars 2 can be acquired in several ways. The primary method of skill acquisition is to visit a skill trainer where you may purchase skills. Skills may also be rewarded for completing different types of combat or gained as loot drops. Every skill in the game is acquired through one of these methods including weapon skills.

Did the scope of what you are doing with Guild Wars 2 grow beyond what you originally envisioned? Was that responsible for the longer timeline?

Eric: In some ways it did grow yes, but in other ways the overall scope also shrank. Over the course of the project we've implemented a lot of different systems and tried them out. Some we keep, others remain in the game partially, while others are thrown out entirely (though we always learn some lesson while implementing them). This is all part of the iterative development process that we like to use here at ArenaNet.

Although we've never stated a release date (and still haven't) our timeline to beta (which we still haven't talked about) has been a bit slower than we'd originally hoped. This is primarily due to a few factors. First the game is really really big, not only just in terms of total world size but also in terms of how dense the world is with content. We could have made the decision to cut all of this content and save ourselves some time but our goal is to create the best MMO ever and we didn't feel like that goal would be served by cutting content. All of this content also meant that we needed to develop some really robust tools to be able to implement and polish things to a high degree. We're also doing a lot of new and risky things with the design of Guild Wars 2. After we created Prophecies it was a lot easier for us to generate entire campaigns worth of content because we were largely working with systems that we had worked with before. Now with Guild Wars 2 there are a lot of things for us to learn and a lot of new things to discover as we develop the game. In any case, we understand how important Guild Wars 2 is to our players and we won't be releasing it until we know it's the highly polished, amazing experience they deserve.

Thanks Eric, Ree, and John for your time!
This article was originally published on Massively.