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Behind the scenes with the Guild Wars 2 Guardian: Massively's interview with Jeff Grubb and Eric Flannum

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

The Guild Wars 2 fanbase is still buzzing about the Guild Wars 2 Guardian this week, and we here at Massively are just as interested -- if not more so -- as anyone else. There's been a lot of talk of skills, armor, and so on, but we were curious about something a little different: the backstory behind this new class, both in a lore context and a creation context.

We got the opportunity to chat with some of the minds behind those very things: GW2 lead designer Eric Flannum and lore designer (and co-author of Ghosts of Ascalon) Jeff Grubb. Follow along after the jump as we hear all about the creation and vision of the Guild Wars 2 Guardian.

Massively: What sort of overall look were you going for with the Guardian?

Eric Flannum: When we design professions, we often just have an archetype in mind and develop the look from there. With the Guardian, we were doing something that fit the image of a heavily armored frontline support character. We had a few professions from the first game who came close to being that sort of character, but none of them fit it perfectly, so we knew that we needed to come up with a new profession.

Jeff Grubb: One of the turning points in the "look" of the Guardian is when we decided Logan Thackeray would be a Guardian as opposed to a Warrior. Logan's own protective nature and the fact that the humans have been knocked back into defensive positions informed a lot of what the Guardian became. The wing on the Seraph shield is an evolution, in a way, of the old Paragons from Elona.

Did the style change much from concept to creation? How did you arrive at her final appearance?

Eric Flannum: From an appearance standpoint, it didn't actually change a whole lot. Our artists really nailed the look of the Guardian pretty quickly, which they tend to do quite often (we're pretty spoiled that way). From a functionality standpoint, I think we started with something that was less magical feeling; at one point we were calling the Guardian a "Knight." As the rest of our professions began taking shape around the Guardian, she started becoming more magical, and we brought in some elements from the protection Monk and Paragon from the first game. The current Guardian feels very magical in nature.

Is there a story behind the Guardian on the lore end of things? Do you have any thoughts on how it came to be?

Jeff Grubb: With the turmoil in Elona and the spread of the Order of Whispers into other lands, more Paragon teaching showed elsewhere in Tyria. These teachings melded with other traditions, and over time, the Guardians and their abilities can be found throughout the world and among all the races. They are not tied to a particular race, philosophy, or group of gods but rather to a larger concept of proactive defense, of taking the fight to a foe and protecting those you fight alongside while appealing equally to humanity's defensive nature and the Charr's desire to rule the battlefield.

I think the Guardian is much more of a pragmatic and tactical user of a magic as opposed to an Elementalist, who is a pure student of magic. The Elementalist casts discrete spells, and you have the feeling that there is a heritage and body of knowledge behind those spells. Guardians seem to use magical energy in the heat of combat, from the front line. That sense of immediacy sets the Guardian apart from more traditional spell-casters and allows for a heavily armored magical character.

What sort of basic personality does this profession have?

Eric Flannum: To me, the Guardian feels a lot like playing a caster who wears heavy armor. This is in contrast to what you'd typically think of when you think of the Paladin archetype found in many games, which feels like a melee bruiser who also knows a few spells. The Guardian also doesn't feel particularly religious, but he does feel spiritual. What I mean by that is that the Guardian embodies certain ideals without ascribing to any one faith in particular, which is also a bit different than your typical Paladin archetype.

Jeff Grubb: I've been running Guardians in our recent group play tests and found that, early on, I tended to over-extend, to try to make him a Warrior, to run into combat, and I ended up fighting to survive way too much. I quickly picked up on the idea that Guardians have to pace themselves, pick their targets, and keep an eye on the party as a whole. I've been using the Sanctuary skill as a "time out" to allow both the team and me to regain the momentum and carry the battle forward. The Guardian is more of tactician, trying to see the larger picture, whether soloing or in a group.

There is a lot of talk drawing parallels between the Guardian and more than one current Guild Wars profession. How much of the Guardian profession was pulled from the current crop, both from an "out-of-character" design standpoint and from a lore standpoint within the storyline?

Jeff Grubb: I've seen the Guardian compared to the prot Monk, the Paragon, the Dervish, and the Ritualist, and there are bits and pieces of all of them in there, plus a lot of new stuff. The virtues in particular are a neat piece that makes the entire package work. It is not so much a replacement of any one profession but rather an evolution that uses the best parts of several earlier classes.

Eric Flannum: I'll add that we didn't purposefully set out to make most of those connections. They tended to come from the fact that all of those professions do a little bit of what we wanted the Guardian to do. For example, we bounced around to a lot of different profession mechanics for the Guardian before we designed the virtues. After designing them, I remember that we joked that we'd just put the 55 Monk into the game (just a joke! The Guardian plays nothing like the 55 Monk).

Thanks for your time, Eric and Jeff!

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