Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

An ArenaNet retrospective: "We're not a video game company, we're a community building company"

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

"I don't think I've seen a studio more passionate about its work."

Massively contributing editor Larry Everett made this comment regarding ArenaNet in our recent Staff Choice Awards, and his timing couldn't have been better. ArenaNet has begun 2011 in a big way with the ArenaNet retrospective. The 15-minute video is a trip back in time to the earliest days of ArenaNet and Guild Wars, but it doesn't stop there. Over 20 ArenaNet team members give their perspectives on where the company has been, where it's going, the company's take on Guild Wars 2, and what makes it great.

If you loved the Manifesto video, you're likely going to find this one an even bigger treat. Follow along after the jump to see the ArenaNet retrospective video and Massively's take on it.

Early days

Mike O'Brien, of course, had plenty to say about ArenaNet's small beginnings: "There were three of us working out of Pat's spare bedroom. That summer, we moved up to Seattle and worked out of the living room of my apartment." When the three founders broke away from Blizzard, they were truly on their own and starting from scratch. It's a risky, scary place to be, but the beauty of it is that you can go anywhere and do anything from that starting point. Jeff Strain, Mike O'Brien, and Patrick Wyatt took full advantage of this by pulling up stakes and heading to Seattle and a thriving game development community.

The three may have started small, but they knew exactly what they were after and began assembling a team of people who were as passionate about creating Guild Wars as they were. This set the stage for a creative process backed by people who loved where they were and loved what they were doing.

That love has always been one of ArenaNet's biggest strengths -- Guild Wars is a great game, but it wouldn't be what it is without a team of people who cared this much from the very beginning of its creation. QA team lead Mike Zadorojny sums it up best: "The entire company rallies behind the product, and it's really great to see what we're able to accomplish."

"We're making these games for you"

Most members of the Guild Wars community probably identify strongly with the next part of the video. "You know, we're not a video game company, we're a community building company. We just happen to have one of the coolest ways to build a community, which is through a video game." Marketing Manager Chris Lye touched on one of the other huge advantages that ArenaNet has over many other MMO studios.

ANet has always worked hard to reach out and make a direct connection with its fans via every outlet possible. Through Twitter and Facebook, on community forums, and at conventions, the staff is out there. The devs hang out and chat about all manner of things, but at the core of it all is an effort to find out what the players like and dislike, what they hope to see in the future, and what ArenaNet can do to make the fans happy.

The convention footage in the video is from this year's PAX and Gamescom events, at which fans played through the Guild Wars 2 demo. This was exciting in itself, but at every demo station was an ArenaNet staffer waiting to interact with the player and receive feedback on a one-on-one basis. It's that above-and-beyond dedication to community feedback and interaction that helps make ArenaNet what it is.

As Mike O'Brien points out, it's an ongoing connection, too, not just a quick handshake and on to the next person. "The great part about trade shows is not only are you meeting the fans, but a lot of times you're kind of meeting the fans again. You saw them last year, and you got to know them last year, and they come back and say 'Hi, remember me from last year?', and you get to talk to them about their experiences playing the game. That's what we want." The interesting thing about this segment of the video is how much of it came directly from Mike. When the founder -- the guy at the very top of the company -- is that sincere and that committed to this philosophy, the rest of the team can't help but be on board.

"Guild Wars 2 is so much bigger than anything we've ever built before"

This look into the future very possibly makes the third segment of the video the highlight. The anticipation for Guild Wars 2 has spread way beyond the original Guild Wars community, and the ArenaNet team is as excited about it as the most hardcore fans. We've known that the scope of this project was huge, so it's easy to appreciate the developers' excitement in making it happen.

This was also a chance for the developers to have a little bit of fun by talking about what content they're looking forward to in Guild Wars 2, and even better, what race they'll be rolling first. "I am gonna play a charr, because I'm the kind of girl that likes to rip people's heads off." Ree Soesbee kicked off the parade of charr love with a laugh (and a little bit of fear) and was followed up by around 10 more developers announcing similar intentions. The other four races got similar attention, and it was a lot of fun to see the variety of choices among the team, with Chris Lye teasing us a bit: "I'll probably start with an asura and a profession that hasn't been named yet."

This fun segment led into a slightly more serious discussion from Mike O'Brien about why the team feels good about the success of Guild Wars 2. "We play our games constantly as we're developing them. The reason we do that is that we figure if we've been having fun playing a game for three years before it was released, then we know you're going to have fun as a customer playing the game for years after it's released." This leads back to the passion that ArenaNet has toward its product -- it's so much more than just a 9-to-5 job, and the rest of the team echoes this excitement in this part of the video.

Finally, the images included in this video are something you'll want to revisit at least once or twice, just because you can't possibly take it all in in one viewing. There's concept art, gameplay footage, video of the team at work (real-life Assassin run animation!), convention footage, and much more. The video ended on a high note with a fast-paced montage of art set to part of the Eye of the North Overture.

The year 2011 is going to be a huge year for ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2, and this video sets the stage for it. Enjoy the video, give us your impressions in the comment section, and let's get 2011 underway!

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr