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Become the bear? I already am the bear: Massively's look at the kodan of GW2

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

ArenaNet surprised us yesterday with a lore-heavy reveal on one of the non-playable races of Guild Wars 2: the kodan. We've known for a while of the kodan's existence and even had a few pieces of art, but until now there were hardly any details beyond that.

Yesterday changed that with a rundown on the kodan belief system, the race's view on the others who inhabit Tyria, and much more. The discussion since yesterday afternoon has been thorough, detailed, and very speculative, as is typical of the Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 community. These great discussions combined with the lore reveal gave everyone plenty to think about: Is this guardian the BML? Does the kodan belief system have roots in Buddhism? Will we be able to explore the kodan Sanctuaries in detail?

There's much more, of course, but I wanted to explore a few key points in all of this. Read on after the break, and be sure to jump in at the end and share your own thoughts!

Kodan and character creation

What's interesting about this is how it will tie into our interaction with Guild Wars 2 -- specifically in character creation. We know we'll be asked about our feelings toward a lesser race, and the assumption at this point is that norn characters will be asked about the kodan. Talk about an informed decision! The lore that ArenaNet introduced yesterday opened the door for a lot of discussion among the fans, many of whom already have clearly defined feelings toward this race.

Most players with even a passing interest in lore will have a lot more to think about during norn character creation after reading this. "Eh, I don't know, just click the neutral option" will be a rare attitude as players consider the implications of their individual answers. Could declaring an affinity for the kodan mean that you're a traitor to the norn race? Will you be declaring yourself a heretic? Given the attitude of the kodan toward the norn, this could prove to be a very important part of character creation.

Race relations

One of my first thoughts to the introduction of the kodan is "How are the norn handling this?" The norn are proud and place great value on personal strength and leadership. The connection with the animal spirits is a core part of that pride, no matter what they are doing -- look at how Eir applied this trait to her art in Edge of Destiny and Jora's shame in Eye of the North.

Other races may hold less worth in their eyes at first glance due to their relative physical weakness and small size, but the norn view them with an open mind. Despite Ogden's assertion that outsiders are "very, very bad-tempered," the norn actually have an almost jovial approach to other races. It's as if they initially see us as some sort of pack of cute and inept norn cubs, but they're very quick to respect a show of strength or bravery.

Be that as it may, they still view themselves as the biggest and bravest of them all. Being able to become the bear (or wolf, snow leopard, or raven, as the case may be) gives them even more status. How will they react when an even bigger race waltzes in to tell them that this ability is only theirs because they are weak and that their entire belief system is wrong?

This attention to detail leads me to wonder how much of this speculation is even valid. Considering the team's focus on lore here and the outlook the kodan have, we might suspect that they and their views will play a significant part in the norn storyline. Ideally, I'd like to see them interact with all races on a lesser scale, but it would be great to see the work put into the lore pay off in the norn storyline. I know there's a distinct possibility that it will be treated like the centaur/human conflict in Guild Wars 1 -- there's animosity, but unless you're a lore fan, you don't put a ton of thought into why. You just know that centaurs are enemies, and you kill them when you come across them, the end.

Of course, the centaur story had huge potential, and we've seen that expanded upon in some exciting directions in the past few years. But here's the thing: Guild Wars itself -- while a fantastic game -- always had the potential to be so much more, just like the centaur storyline. We're (hopefully) realizing that potential in Guild Wars 2, and I'd really like to see that potential realized right away. To tuck the kodan story away for potential expansion later, as was done with the centaurs, would feel like a step back to Guild Wars 1. The lore payoff needs to happen at launch, not at some nebulous point in the future. Frankly, we've waited long enough, and there's a whole world available for more exploration down the road if the developers want to expand on potential in Tyria.

The developers have clearly put a lot of thought into this storyline. Add to that the fact that fans are incredibly excited about every bit of information they can get their hands on at this point, and it would be a shame to push it to the back burner. I can only assume there's a similarly heavy focus on the lore of non-playable races for every playable race, and it would be very nice to hear these kind of details on those as well.

Speaking of things the developers are putting thought into...

So, how about that class reveal?

While I'm not as knowledgeable as the hardcore lore fans of the Guild Wars community, I still love lore and backstory, so I'm a little biased in favor of this new information. However, I recognize the downside of this information: Not everyone cares about lore. It's impossible to please everyone all of the time, so I'm not suggesting that the developers should try.

This information appeals to a large portion of the audience -- maybe a little more than it normally would because we're so starved for details. However, it's well past time for something that appeals to the entire audience: the next class reveal. There was a large push by ArenaNet to get the first four classes out before Gamescom and PAX, because a certain amount of content had to be ready for that. I have to assume, though, that the arrival and timing of those two events didn't come as a surprise to the developers -- that would be a bit like being shocked to find that they were holding Christmas on December 25th this year. Planning the next four reveals accordingly would have been a good idea.

We're going on five months without a profession reveal at this point; it's well past time for the next one. ArenaNet/NCsoft takes great delight in a super-secretive approach to every scrap of information, so why the devs have chosen to drag it out until now is a mystery. Given that they don't show anything off until it's polished to a mirror finish (the sylvari reskin notwithstanding), I've got to assume that four classes got pushed to the back burner in order to focus on the other four in the scramble to be ready for Gamescom and PAX. Which means that nothing else has been ready until now.

Is that the case? Nobody outside of ANet really knows -- it's pure speculation on my part. We've been promised a new class sometime this month, and I'm thrilled, but not only because I want to know what it is as a fan. We've been given so many small details over the past five months that are either secondary to the main details or only appeal to a portion of the audience. It's well past time for something that literally the entire Guild Wars 2 fanbase has been waiting for since last summer: the next class reveal.

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