Twisted Marionette and Scarlet's forces
The end is near! After a brief period of peace and quiet, Guild Wars 2's update cadence will begin again, and ArenaNet has no plans to ease Tyria gently back into the groove. Next week brings the first of four releases, which will culminate in the end of GW2's Scarlet Briar story arc.

Massively was invited to sit down with Colin Johanson and Meelad Sadat to discuss the teaser trailer for the upcoming release, Origin of Madness. While we can't reveal too many of the secrets we've learned about Tyria's future (we wouldn't want to spoil any big surprises), we're pleased to bring you an exclusive peek at some of the content you'll find in the January 21st release. Read on to check it out!

ONE jungle wurm head, ah ah ah!
Helminthophobia

By now most of Tyria has become aware of the mysterious probes recently erected in almost every area of the world. Adventurers are great at ignoring warning labels in favor of examining brightly lit objects, so we're willing to bet that most of you also touched them and received a sharp, painful correction. After climbing slowly to your feet, picking debris out of unmentionable places, and recovering your dignity, you may have wondered exactly what those probes are for.

While you won't find out the answer quite yet, you will find out what happens when a bunch of heavy objects pound the ground over and over again: Sadat made the apt comparison to earthworms being disturbed by stomping on wet ground. Following in the footsteps of the revamped Tequatl encounter, this release will introduce a brand-new, permanent world boss in the form of an ancient, polycephalous jungle wurm that lives beneath Bloodtide Coast. As the story begins, players will join up with the Durmand Priory to investigate the probes and the wurm; unfortunately, the creature's underground structure is so huge that it spans the entire zone, and unlike earthworms, jungle wurms have teeth.

Although Johanson didn't want to spoil too many of the fight's mechanics, he did hint that the wurm can regrow its multiple heads -- and will, if certain conditions for their destruction aren't met. Although you'll need only to participate in fighting the Great Jungle Wurm in order to progress the story, there are plenty of new rewards awaiting those who manage to defeat it. And since it's a permanent addition with a regular spawn timer, you and a hundred or so of your good friends can come back to face the wurm (and the wurm, and the other wurm) at any time.

Marionette fighting players
Automatonophobia

The next leg of the story will lead players to Lornar's Pass, where something potentially even bigger is taking place. Scarlet is rallying all of her forces, and suspended by chains above the gathered clockwork horrors, Aetherblade pirates and Molten Alliance goons is an experimental superweapon: the stories-high Twisted Marionette.

The weapon's form -- a gigantic watchknight -- personifies Scarlet's opinion of Tyria: The five races are little more than insects beneath its feet, and like its mistress it takes little note of whom it mows down in passing. Players will have to band together and attempt to prevent Scarlet from performing periodic testing cycles; fail, and the inhabitants of the entire area will experience the marionette's destructive power firsthand. Unlike the Great Jungle Wurm, the Twisted Marionette won't be a permanent encounter -- Scarlet's only testing it, after all.

Why is Scarlet recalling her forces to Lornar's Pass? What use does she have for a giant watchknight? And what could possibly be holding up something that size? You'll have to do your own investigative legwork, gumshoe, 'cause our lips are zipped.

Twisted Marionette suspended over Lornar's Pass
The beginning of the end

If you can cut your way through Scarlet's horror show, you might find clues to help peel away some of the mystery surrounding her motivations. After months of her plots and plans -- and bouts of player frustration when she slipped away and left behind a growing pile of unanswered questions -- some of those answers are forthcoming in this release.

We asked Johanson and Sadat about the narrative impact of the four final chapters in Scarlet's story arc and what ArenaNet learned over the course of the past year that players will see reflected in the upcoming release. One of the most important things the developers learned, Johanson said, is the necessity of portraying crucial characterization inside GW2. While Scott McGough's short story, What Scarlet Saw, provides essential backstory for Scarlet, much of that information hasn't made it into the game itself. Johanson said that in retrospect, it would have been helpful to seed some of the information players will uncover soon throughout previous releases and give Scarlet an earlier, stronger foundation. Her motivation does go far beyond simply causing chaos for its own sake, and the truth will come to light before the end of the arc.

Johanson also confirmed that players will meet up with popular recurring characters Rox, Braham, Marjory, and Kasmeer in this update. A new character will also be joining them, and although his (or her) identity is still under wraps, we were told that the character is an Asura, has never appeared before in the story, and is a "very different sort of person." This will be welcome news for Asura fans who have missed their presence as major characters, so let imaginations run wild!

The feedback that ArenaNet has gotten from players has gone a long way toward shaping the upcoming releases, Johanson said, and will continue to do so. Players have asked for more content that changes the game world in permanent ways, and releases such as Bazaar of the Four Winds and Queen's Jubilee were especially successful in terms of participation. Big, lasting changes to zones, such as Kessex Hills following the destruction of the Nightmare Tower, reflect the growing scope of the story.

Johanson said that the living world is new territory; ArenaNet has been steadily learning what works --as well as what doesn't -- and smoothing out the implementation. He reiterated that the living world and expansion-style content are not mutually exclusive, and that although players may perceive the studio as concentrating on living world content in lieu of expansion content, there are teams working behind the scenes on other projects. Turnaround time for content implementation is around three or four months, sometimes longer, but feedback received in areas such as the living world collaborative development initiative thread will have a definite impact on future content.

According to Sadat, the final four chapters of Scarlet's story have been written in such a way that players who have missed previous living world content can jump right in. ArenaNet recently released a recap trailer and developer blog to provide all of the major plot points from past releases so that newcomers (or returning players) won't be lost as the first season of the living world story draws to a conclusion.

We'd like to thank Colin Johanson and Meelad Sadat very much for taking the time to chat with us! The next round of jungle wurm salad is on us -- provided, of course, that we aren't horribly devoured by it first.

Origin of Madness trailer


When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!

This article was originally published on Massively.