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SDCC 2010: Our interview with Guild Wars 2's Jeff Grubb

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

The hype for Guild Wars 2 seems to get bigger every week, so it was a natural choice for the Massively staff at Comic-Con to seek out some time with Guild Wars 2 designer and Ghosts of Ascalon author Jeff Grubb.

If you're relatively new to the Guild Wars world, Jeff provides a nicely detailed overview of what's been happening with Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and the first tie-in novel. If you're a firmly established citizen of Tyria, you'll enjoy the look back, and you'll certainly enjoy the hints he drops here and there for upcoming events and reveals.

Follow along after the jump to see what Jeff had to say.

Massively: Tell us a little about Ghosts of Ascalon.

Jeff: Ghosts of Ascalon is our first Guild Wars novel that releases this Tuesday. It's basically Guild Wars 2. It takes place 250 years after the events of the original Guild Wars. One thing we're doing with these novels -- these are three independent novels -- is telling stories that happened between the two points. We'll give people who are looking forward to Guild Wars 2 an idea of where the starting point is, people who have never played Guild Wars an idea of the sense of the world, and people who are fans of Guild Wars 1 to fill in that gap.

In the original Guild Wars, one of the big conflicts was the humans versus the charr. The humans and charr are both playable races in Guild Wars 2, and they are on the same side, more or less. They don't hate each other. Part of the story of Ghosts of Ascalon is how they got to that tentative truce where you can find humans and charr working together.

Now, Guild Wars 2 will first be playable next month?

We're going to have it first appear at GamesCom in Cologne, and the first US presentation will be at PAX in Seattle. Bellevue's our hometown, we're big supporters of PAX, and the whole company's going to turn out at one point or the other to be a part of it.

Have you shown demos before that are strictly industry and not public?

We've shown it to other members of our sister companies, people from NCsoft and Paragon have been playing it, and we are going to have some people we're inviting in-house early, I think next week. This is where the fans, for the first time, will be able to come up and play it on one of our stations, and see the beautiful thing that is Guild Wars 2.

Do you have a release date?

We have not made a release date for it. We have always gone with the idea "when it's ready." That's served us well because it's given us a chance to examine and develop and grow the game. We've had internal deadlines all along the way, of course, but we don't feel like "oh my God, we have to get it done before the time." We've been polishing like that for these demos when we're showing it to the world for the first time, but we have not given it a release date because we want to make sure it's right across the board.

What did you learn from Guild Wars 1 that you're applying to Guild Wars 2?

Guild Wars 2 is a wider world in that we have a lot of different mechanics available for storytelling. We have our personal story, the story of you, which is tailored for your character. You answer some basic questions, you make some decisions early on, and that follows through. There is the event system, which is the story of the world -- it's larger. "Centaurs are attacking the garrison and if we don't defeat them they're going to take the garrison, so we have to drive them out." Then you drive the centaurs out and rebuild the garrison. There's this huge cycle of events continually running to make sure the world is not the same every time you go into it.

There's also the epic story, the overarching meta-story about the rise of the dragons over the past 250 years. These great elder dragons have awoken across Tyria and they're a threat to all the races. Part of the meta-story is the pulling together of those races into a viable force that can fight the dragons.

When you say there are going to be dynamic events in the game, do you mean short 20-minute dynamic events, or a couple of days?

They vary. We want to make sure they are available for play. There may be ones that are long-term, but what long term is, we're still refining that. There may be ones that are on a relatively short time period, there may be ones that are like Easter eggs, some that will only show up at night, and some that will only show up during the day. It's basically to give you a different feeling so every time you come out of Divinity's Reach you're not fighting the same five guys.

With the epic storyline, will you have an arc throughout that?

We have an overarching arc of the story itself, we have individual arcs all the way through that, we have the cycles which are the events. So we have a whole bunch of different stories we're telling, and that's one of the things that comes back to the novels. The novels are independent, by three different authors. It's not one epic. Tyria is a big enough world that there are lots of stories. There are larger stories like the charr and human wars. There are small stories: a human adventurer looking for redemption over a mistake he made five years ago.

It gives us a lot of variety to play with, and it gives us a very interesting world and a very engaging world, because you can hit it at different levels.

So there are three novels?

Yes. The first one is here, Ghosts of Ascalon. The second one is Edge of Destiny by J. Robert King, and that's going to be released at the end of the year. We've just seen the copy edit come in, and Rob just did a fantastic job. And the third book, we aren't ready to talk about yet. We're still working on that one; it's still being written.

And there will be five races?

Yes. There are the human and charr, which we know from the original Prophecies, norn and asura that first showed up in Eye of the North, and the sylvari. At the very end of Eye of the North we said "new races are coming," and we showed a plant growing. That became the Pale Tree, and the fruit of that tree became the sylvari, which is this noble, beautiful plant race. So they're very attractive and they're very knightly, but they're also very alien and they don't quite get everything that's human.

How many classes?

There are eight planned. We've revealed three of them: the warrior, the elementalist, and the ranger, and there is furious speculation on what the other five are. We are currently in the process of revealing those on the website, and there should be one more revealed before we go live at GamesCom and PAX. Before Cologne, before PAX, we'll know a fourth.

It always amazes us when we write up an article what people are going to grab onto and say "Wow, this is really cool!" When we talked about rangers, we were talking about sharks as pets, and suddenly "Sharks! Everywhere!" But you can swim in Guild Wars 2. We play with the three-dimensional space. We have rangers, rangers have pets, we should have ranger aquatic pets. One of our designers is a big fan of sharks, so it's an obvious one.

Are you guys going to reveal more ranger pets?

We will be showing more pets when we do the first hands-on demo. We will be showing rangers there, so we'll be showing different pets that are available.

Moving back to the novel, how did you and Matt Forbeck collaborate on that?

We worked from a basic outline, and it was a strong outline to start off with, so we spent several weeks hammering that out. Since I'm the inside guy I initially provided a lot of information, materials, legends, stories we had already written. Matt synthesized and created the characters in the book, created the world itself, and I came in and added a lot of additional material that we had developed. So basically it was a team-up between the two of us to create what was final.

I would say if you like the book it's a result of careful cooperation. If you dislike the book, it's my fault -- I did the final pass.

What writing advice do you have for fans who enjoy fanfiction within the Guild Wars universe?

It's a big world. You don't have to keep within one epic or one large structure. In Guild Wars 2 the dragons are the greatest threat, but there's so much more going on. It's a living world; it's a dynamic world. There are places where you find your piece of earth and you can develop and play with it.

We have events, we talked about events like centaurs attacking, but we also have tiny events that are just "What was that? How's that going to happen?" They run the whole range, and I recommend that for anyone who's writing fiction, who's setting it in the Guild Wars world. It's a big world. Come find a place for yourself that you're comfortable with.

Thanks for your time, Jeff!

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