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PAX East 2013: ArenaNet on Guild Wars 2's near and far future

To those more accustomed to California, this is how the entire weekend felt.
This year's PAX East is the first one to take place in a post-launch world for Guild Wars 2. Last year, one of the big rewards for panelgoers was scoring a beta key; this year, anyone can grab a copy right now without a problem (just a fee). Consequently, the game hasn't had quite as much presence this year. But the team at ArenaNet decided to do something different this time around by sending out two of the designers to sit down and just answer questions from media representatives.

Before the palaver began in earnest, we were given a brief recap of the game's current state and the overall design focus. At the moment, we know that the game's developers are not looking to release a major expansion, focusing instead on more immediate content releases on a short schedule to make the game as good as it can be. While they don't like to use the term sandbox, they want the game to be a living world where people have a reason to be out in the world instead of stuck in small, instanced areas.

Sadly, there's no future in which these guys are playable.So does that mean we'll never get an expansion? No, it means we're not getting one in the forseeable future. Despite this, team members are working on some of the things that would be in an expansion if one did come out. Odds are that players won't see any new professions or continents in the game without an expansion, but new skills, new traits, and new maps are all fair game for adding in the game's regular updates.

We talked a bit about the endgame in Guild Wars 2, which is the source of a lot of player angst and overall misunderstandings. The statement "there is no endgame" means not that there's nothing to be done at the level cap but that the elements players enjoyed from level 1-79 should still be relevant and the main form of content at level 80. That means that the game needs more endgame, but mostly it just needs more content in the high end because there's no artificial distinction between the two.

Right now, the team is putting a lot of work into World vs. World, which requires a lot of lead time -- data have to be collected, then the team has to implement changes, then it has to collect more data. Despite that, WvW fans should see some additions every month for the next few months.

Will there be an alternate system of PvE-only progression like the new WvW system? It's been discussed, but right now ANet is focused on bulking up rewards for PvE to produce the same effect. That brought up a discussion about ascended gear, which is admittedly a patch -- the team needed something to make up the gap between exotic items and legendary items, since players were grabbing the former at a far faster rate than the developers had anticipated.

On the subject of WvW progression, the team fully expects that players will initially feel that rewards take too long to earn. That's intentional; the devs would rather have the system tuned too slow and require a faster progression than tune it too fast and have to take that away from players. There are ways to guess, but players can be more skilled or more dedicated than developers expect.

I'm mostly sad to think that we get no Dervish yet.  This guy would make a good MOX.Some players have been nonplussed by the fact that the game's main story thrust has shifted away from Orr, the big endpoint at launch. But Orr is neither forgotten nor irrelevant; it's just not the sole focus any longer. Some plot points will lie fallow for a few months at any given interval, and the team as a whole is aimed at spreading the world out rather than having every level 80 player congregating in the same location.

How about other updates? Well, PvP leaderboards are close to being ready to go, with custom arenas and spectator mode coming in the near future. Originally the game was going to have a major PvP patch, but the general feeling is that instead of launching one big collection of improvements, the team wants to have improvements go live as they're ready. That means that all sorts of things are being actively worked on, and if you don't see content for your preferred playstyle in a given month, it just means those features were tested and not quite ready for the patch. If you like playing only one part of the game, you should be able to enjoy the full game doing just that.

The team is also looking into how the game guides new players, both in terms of enabling the community to provide education and putting more tools into the game to help teach. While each individual element of the game is fairly simple, the team realizes that everything taken as an aggregate becomes extremely complex very quickly. For example, the developers want a way to help teach players how builds work in a way that remains interesting rather than turns build-crafting into a chore.

As for personal story, the whole "living story" is meant as an evolution of that concept in order to tell personally relevant stories with a large overall impact. There's still a great deal of discussion about how to tell compelling stories in a way that works within the framework of Guild Wars 2, so nothing is yet set in stone, but the team hopes to ensure that players are still interacting chiefly with the open world.

That led to an obvious question about whether or not home instances would start to become more like housing, at which point we were informed that the team sees home instances serving a different purpose than housing. Apparently the home instance is meant more as a reminder of your personal story rather than as a place for characters to return to as a home base.

Similarly, the cosmetic function of town clothing will be expanded. It will, however, remain limited to out-of-combat situations. The team wants to avoid allowing it to break immersion in combat.

Above all else, the developers still want to make a game that appeals to everyone. There will be more guild missions for smaller guilds, there will be more improvements to dungeons, and there will be more content for every sort of player. In the team's eyes, everyone in the game is always on the verge of running out of content, and ANet wants to be sure that its players always have something to do.

Massively's on the ground in Boston during the weekend of March 22nd to 24th, bringing you all the best news from PAX East 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, DUST 514, or any MMO in between, we aim to have it covered!

This article was originally published on Massively.