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Massively's ArenaNet interview: The past, present and future of Guild Wars PvP

Shawn Schuster

Since the game's launch in April of 2005, ArenaNet's Guild Wars has set the bar a bit higher for future MMOs in relation to gameplay, their unique business model and skill balance. Their constant attention to detail when balancing literally hundreds of game skills between PvP and PvE has been an ongoing progression for everyone on the ArenaNet team.

Often seen by hardcore players as the name behind this constant balance is Isaiah "Izzy" Cartwright, Game Designer at ArenaNet. We were able to catch up with Cartwright for a brief interview regarding the past, present and future state of PvP in Guild Wars. Follow along after the cut for the full interview and some exclusive PvP screenshots supplied to us by ArenaNet.

Massively: According to the game's name, were there always high hopes for the prominence of PvP in Guild Wars® from the very beginning?

Isaiah Cartwright: We made a lot of design decisions to encourage PvP, including a low level cap, a simple item system, and giving users the option of creating PvP-only characters. We really wanted to support a competitive environment. The goal was to achieve balance and allow both PvE and PvP to flourish.

Guild Wars was always very supportive of the PvP community with huge global tournaments over the years. Do you see this as something that has been crucial to the success of the game? Has it ultimately drawn in people who otherwise thought it was simply a PvE game?

Our early commitment to PvP was important to our success, but over the years we've learned many different ways we can support our PvP community. Our large global tournaments were a blow-out success, but they really stunted community-run tournaments; we set the bar so high that no one else could manage them. After we scaled back tournaments to smaller monthly events, players started hosting their own tournaments, which is refreshing to see. I hope to see more of that.

ArenaNet has focused much of their efforts into maintaining that eternal balance of PvE with PvP, especially when it comes to skill usage. But recently, the focus has shifted to allow more PvE-only and PvP-only skills. What finally prompted this?

Making skill changes to improve one game type without hurting the other became tricky. For example, we felt our balance changes in PvP were really negatively affecting people's fun in PvE. We wanted to give ourselves the freedom to change either game. It's still a very tricky balance, as splitting the skills comes at the cost of complexity, so we try not to do it with every skill-only when we feel it's necessary, or when we feel a change to a skill is extreme enough to warrant a split.

Would you say that over the years, Guild Wars PvP has evolved into something more challenging for veteran players or something catered more towards attracting new players?

I think there is a pretty interesting mix. The larger skill pool from the new campaigns has really added a higher level of complexity to the game, which adds another level of depth for the veteran player and a larger skill curve for the new player. On the flip side, we've gotten better at teaching people to play the game, so it's easier for a new user to pick up. I think the hardest part for a new Guild Wars player is finding a team. Our high-end competitive play is still very hardcore, consisting of players who have 3+ years of experience.

I think it's safe to say that many current and former GW PvPers are anxiously awaiting news on PvP in Guild Wars 2. So far we've heard that there will be Structured PvP, which is similar to today's Guild vs. Guild battles, and World PvP, which will introduce new mechanics. What else can you tell us about World PvP?

Well, I can't say much. We are keeping things pretty tight on the information front, but I can say that when making GW2, we will be keeping the same ideals that we had in GW1. We will make sure our game is competitive at the high end, but still easy to play for anyone. World PvP is meant for anyone to have fun playing, no matter the party size.

It's been stated that the original Guild Wars will continue to be supported after GW2 launches. Will tournaments continue, and expand into a separate tournament system for GW2?

We've created an automated tournament system that will allow us to run tournaments for as long as we can. I don't see any reason why we'd stop supporting them after GW2's launch.

Finally, can you tell us anything else about plans for the future of PvP in Guild Wars? What can we expect?

Our primary focus is Guild Wars 2, but we are always looking at ways to improve and balance our skills. We're still huge Guild Wars fans, and we put in extra time to improve it whenever we can. Our Live team has been cranking out big updates and will continue to do so.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck in the future of Guild Wars.

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