Massively: Let's start with the current Guild Wars game. It was created as a game with plenty of content both on the PvE and PvP side, but did the balance weigh more heavily on one side or the other?
John Stumme: With the initial release of Guild Wars, an even amount of attention was given to both playstyles to make the game what it is today. The current Guild Wars is a very different beast from some of its earlier iterations; there was a time when PvE played a less substantial role in the game. In fact, explorable areas were entirely solo content -- players only grouped together for PvE missions or PvP!
The competitive game saw some major changes as well, not the least of which was the introduction of PvP-only characters, characters designed to be quickly created with easy access to all of the skills and item modifiers that an account had unlocked. With this, competitive gamers were now easily able to get to the action instead of having to level a character through PvE first in order to reach the relevant PvP outposts.
Regardless of the format, Guild Wars was a game designed to get the players playing the kind of game they are interested in. Equal attention was given both to make sure that they were unique and satisfying experiences.
How has that changed over the years, if it has at all? What sort of things influenced your decisions as you balanced both sides of the game?
John Stumme: As time has gone by, we've adapted Guild Wars to meet the differing needs of our PvE and PvP playerbases. The biggest of these changes came from splitting skills, which allowed a skill to remain functionally identical or similar while allowing for different values based on the format. If the skill is equipped to your skillbar, it will automatically update to the correct version depending on what aspect of the game you are currently playing. This allowed us to retain some of the big damage numbers that are satisfying to use against monsters while keeping things in line for PvP (which demands a fairer balance).
As we have continued forward, we have made countless updates to the game to meet the changing needs of our competitive meta. However, large updates to the game such as the Dervish update or our recent Elementalist update are built with both halves of our playerbase in mind. It's not about "What does it take to make the Elementalist competitive in PvP?" It's a question of "What can we do to make this class even more enjoyable to play?" We want to make sure that players can get the most out of the work that we do!
Moving on to Guild Wars 2: What sort of factors were taken into consideration as you began planning both the PvP and PvE sides of the game?
We treat both the PvE and PvP aspects of the game as being equally important. When we first sat down to plan the game, we knew that we wanted robust PvP and PvE, and we also wanted to introduce a third type of content that spanned the two with what would eventually become WvW. It's very important to know and recognize how all of your systems will interact with and affect each other.
For example, one of the first major decisions was eliminating the concept of dedicated PvP characters from the game, deciding instead on a system where you took the same character into each of the different game types (PvP,PvE,WvW) and your character changed to suit the game type as they needed to. So in PvP all characters can be set to the same power level and have access to the set of skills we designate for PvP while still being the same character you play in PvE.
We felt like this helped tie the different parts of the game together and place an importance on the player's identity as a specific character, which is of course an important aspect of all RPGs. This decision has had a profound effect on Guild Wars 2,
and it's a decision that we could only have made by knowing that we value PvE, PvP, and WvW equally right from the start of development.
Guild Wars 2 news until now has been tremendously focused on the PvE side of things. Will the completed game lean more heavily toward PvE at launch, or is there lots of PvP goodness still to come?
To be honest, our focus on talking about the PvE side of things has come primarily because we are very conscious that the first game was regarded as a PvP-centric game and we wanted people to become familiar with the many cool and new features of Guild Wars 2
PvE before we talked about PvP or WvW.
Also take into consideration that although we do consider all three types of play to be equally important to the success of the game, PvE content takes a lot more in the way of raw resources and time to develop, so we needed to get the ball rolling on PvE early. Because of this, we just had more to talk about with regard to PvE early on. We'll be releasing more info about PvP and WvW as well as PvE in the coming months.
How do you feel about the PvE vs. PvP balance as it stands now? Do you think it will change over time? Do you want it to?
It has always been a goal of ours that players are able to play the type of content that they want to play. We don't want to force someone who is only interested in WvW to have to PvE or PvP if they don't want to. So our balance between the different types of gameplay has always been one where a player can just play the one that he likes.
We do think, however, that the majority of our players want to play a mix of every type of gameplay in the game (I would include dungeons and personal story in this as well) so we do our best to make that easy to do as well. Overall, I think we've been pretty successful with these goals, and because we've built the game to be flexible I don't foresee our having to do much in the way of changing things over time. Of course we always want to be responsive to what our players want after the game goes live, and if we see the need for some sort of change based on player feedback, then we won't hesitate to do whatever is necessary for the long term health of the game.
Thanks for your time!
Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in
Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's
Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at firstname.lastname@example.org.