At PAX Prime yesterday, Lead Game Designer Colin Johanson brought us in for an overview on Guild Wars 2's progress and upcoming direction. It's not just living story, although there is a lot of that; the team has ambitious plans that are only beginning to be revealed to the playerbase after months of preparation and build up.
We've got the full scoop on where the game's headed in both PvE and PvP (or WvW if you're nasty). You know you want to know. Go ahead. Click. Let's do this.
Johanson said that it might be helpful to think of Guild Wars 2 as a television show that's only halfway through its very first season. If you were surprised when Scarlet Briar popped up, that's OK; the team had been leading up to her appearance with the past year of living story updates, and this new villain will be getting a lot more screen time from now on as the first season comes to a close during the early months of 2014.
We shouldn't have to tell you at this point that the living story is the drum against which the ArenaNet hammer beats. It took a while, Johanson said, for the studio to restructure and get organized so that it could start delivering serious content updates every two weeks instead of every month, but now that it has, it's not going to stop. Every week we'll either be hearing about what will happen on "the next episode" or be experiencing it ourselves. But that doesn't mean the team is going to coast from here. The devs argue they are dead serious about rising to the high standards that they set to make a game that feels alive because they truly believe that the future of MMOs is in crafting ever-changing, ever-developing game worlds that aren't frozen in time.
One of the big focuses for the team is to empower players to be part of the change that happens to the world through the living story updates. The recent vote for the Captain's Council will have far-reaching consequences, we were told, and the team hopes that one day players will look back and realize just how their votes set the course of the world on a different track than it might've gone. It's all about a sense of ownership, and that's something that ArenaNet wants to do more of going forward.
Of note, a great amount of preparation is being done to bring Guild Wars 2 to China. We asked what will happen with the living story updates when that does. Will ArenaNet start them at the very beginning or just match China up to what's happening in North America? While this is something that the studio is still figuring out, Johanson said that they are quite aware how shoddily some regions feel treated when they get content months or even years after their overseas counterparts. Guild Wars 2 will be a global game, he said, and if that's to happen, then ArenaNet will need to do its best to get updates out in every region as quickly as possible.
Of course, one of the big questions is just how "behind" newer players will be when they jump into the game later on or take lengthy breaks. The team's figuring out how to let players go back and re-experience those stories right now, although some of the elements of how they'll do this are already in the game, like Fractals, which preserve important moments of Tyrian history for future generations to see. And what's more important than the living story?
If you think you know Tequatl the Sunless and can whip that dragon with your eyes closed, then ArenaNet is just guffawing loudly in your direction. The devs' commitment to change includes the many world bosses, and Tequatl is the perfect platform to experience taking a big bad and making it way, way badder.
So what's Tequatl going to be like when the devs finish injecting him with steroids? The encounter will be completely changed, turning this into an extremely difficult, time-limited 80-person fight minimum that requires group strategy and a whole lot of moxie. Tequatl 2.0 is so tough, in fact, that the team at ArenaNet has yet to bring him down while playing internally. The studio has faith in the players to succeed where it cannot, however.
Tequatl isn't a raid boss that is only for the elites; ArenaNet wants to use the dragon as a way to get the community to come together, have fun, and cooperate for group rewards. Speaking of which, while Tequatl will drop some very juicy loot (minipets and unique ascended weapons with wicked-looking exclusive skins, anyone?), he'll also reward those who get his health down to certain thresholds.
We've known for a while that ArenaNet will be adding a looking-for-group tool, but as of today, we know when it's coming: It'll hit the live servers when Tequatl gets his new everything. The LFG tool will allow players to search for parties on their server cross-server (but not cross-region) for dungeons, fractals, WvW, and open world activities. The system will even facilitate merging small parties together.
Expect the tool and the boss revamp on September 17th.
Don't make the mistake that ArenaNet is ignoring its PvP and WvW community, as that would be dumb and an Asura will take advantage of your mental weakness. "We want Guild Wars 2 to be the game people go to when they think of PvP," Johanson said.
For PvP, while there's nothing super-exciting on the horizon, the crew was happy with the additions made over the past year, including custom arenas and the big tournament that is taking place here at PAX. Looking forward, the team sees that many PvPers are desiring short- and medium-term goals, and the team will be working on giving them ways to achieve just that.
Over on the WvW front it's much more exciting. The goosebump-raising news of the day is that the first season of WvW is to come, and as such, the team will be dividing up servers into leagues that will compete for huge rewards over a span of seven weeks. Europe will feature three leagues and North America will have
As the first season progresses, each world will have a shot to earn points every week based on its standing. First place awards the most points, but your side will still get some points for lower rankings too. At the end of the season, the points will be added up and the world with the most points will get a cool trophy and a unique custom finisher. However, there will be smaller rewards doled out along the way, and even if you don't participate in WvW, you could be on the receiving end of some goodies if your server does well.
Anniversaries are a good time to pause and reflect, and while ArenaNet is doing this, it's doing so while all-out sprinting to reach the milestones its setting for year two. It should be quite a ride.
Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 30th to September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!