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Celebrate six years of Guild Wars with prizes and an exclusive update interview

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Let the celebration begin! Guild Wars is six years old, and as promised earlier this morning, ArenaNet has handed out the party hats and kicked off the festivities.

Here at Massively we've got plenty of party treats for you! Not only do we have the full scoop on the anniversary update, but we chatted with Guild Wars Live Team members John Stumme and Matthew Moore about the creation of the event. Finally, we've got a special Livestream look at the new content along with a pile of prizes for Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 fans, so follow along after the jump for all the details!

Party favors for you!

It wouldn't be a party without presents, and at this party the gifts are for you! We've got five Guild Wars Platinum Edition boxes and 10 copies of Edge of Destiny to share with you. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here letting us know which prize you'd most like to have and what part of the sixth birthday celebration is your favorite. Leave your comment by noon EDT tomorrow, April 29th, and we'll pick 15 lucky winners. Don't forget to read our contest rules. Best of luck!

Party details for you!

It wouldn't be a Guild Wars birthday without the familiar and beloved party fare. Don't worry -- there are plenty of birthday cupcakes out there along with lots of other goodies and games on the Shing Jea Boardwalk.

Characters celebrating their sixth birthday this year will find a surprise in their inventory, with the biggest surprise being what the gift is not: a minipet. That's right -- instead of sixth year miniatures, ArenaNet has introduced a series of over 30 different everlasting tonics. Tear off the wrapping on your birthday present to find a tonic to turn you into a familiar friend, an intimidating foe, or ... well, it wouldn't be any fun if we gave everything away, would it?

Speaking of cosmetic items, we can tell you that this update brings an exciting gift for those of you in Pre-Searing: a festival hat maker and a costume maker. These two new NPCs will be in Ascalon City permanently, so all of those festival hats and costumes on your account can now grace your Pre characters!

For you PvP players, the meta is about to be turned on its ear. Remember last Halloween when the Lunatic Court set out to free the Mad King? They didn't succeed at the time, but there were hints that the full effect of their efforts hadn't been seen yet. Well, we're seeing it now! "Instability has begun to seep into the world, gathering in the places where the influence of the Mists is felt most strongly." That influence is strongest in the PvP arenas, so welcome to the Flux era. Flux comes and goes, bringing new effects with it every time. Flux is only the beginning, though. "The Flux system is the precursor to several improvements that will be coming in a PvP-specific update. We'll be taking a look at improving some titles, the incentives to play, the rewards for various formats, and more."

There are new sales and new challenges in Guild Wars now, with even more on the way! Hard mode quests have arrived, beginning with Villainy of Galrath. You'll need to have completed the quest in normal mode first, after which you can talk to Firstwatch Sergio while in hard mode. This is just the beginning, so watch for news of more hard mode quests in the future!

Six weeks of sales kick off in the NCsoft store today with a generous markdown on the costumes introduced with Hearts of the North. Have you been considering purchasing more storage, an extreme makeover, another character slot, the Bonus Mission Pack, or Eye of the North? You might want to hold off on that, because over the next six weeks you'll have a chance to get each of those at a discount.

Finally, we move on to our faithful Guild Wars heroes -- or one of them, anyway. There is an interesting bit of trivia in the Wiki regarding our Ritualist hero Razah: "Razah's profession is listed as 'variable' in the Nightfall manual. This was printed before the final design was decided upon."

Well, that's not quite the case. As John Stumme elaborates in our interview below, Razah was originally intended to be a wild card hero with a changeable primary profession. This anniversary update finally brings poor Razah the ability to live up to his potential, and you can now change his profession. Simply head out into the Heart of Abaddon (without Razah in your party), find Razah, and tell him what profession you'd like him to be. Congratulations, Razah!

Party interview for you!

Finally, we chatted with Live Team members John Stumme and Matthew Moore about creating the anniversary events, and the process sounds like almost as much fun as participating in them!

Massively: Characters reaching their sixth birthdays this year will receive an everlasting tonic rather than the traditional minipet. What were the thoughts behind this change?

John Stumme: For the anniversary this year, we've done something a little different with the birthday presents -- we're giving out Everlasting Tonics (usable in both outposts and explorable areas) instead of the traditional minipets. There are a couple of reasons that we chose to make this change.

Currently, there are already over 100 (!) minipets in Guild Wars -- that's a pretty considerable number, and we are fast approaching the point that there aren't going to be enough compelling choices left to turn into minipets. I don't want us to get into the situation where players turning six or seven find themselves rewarded with a lowly rat, while a player celebrating her first anniversary could be getting a bone dragon instead. Having an account for six years is a pretty weighty accomplishment, and I'd really like to be able to reward those players with something new and exciting.

That's where the tonics come in. It's distinctly different from things that we've offered in the past, and they can carry the same kind of value that a minipet does. If a player likes the tonic that he received, then he can show it off in or out of town, the same as he would a minipet. If it's something he doesn't want, then it's something that can be sold and traded to other players for a profit.

Since we added in so many new tonics, the probability of getting any specific one is considerably lower, so all of them can have some value in the market. Did you get Prince Rurik? There's a very good chance that someone out there really wants him -- so that he too can be reminiscing about spending much time in these lands as a boy.

What was your overall goal when you began planning the sixth anniversary events?

John Stumme: I wanted to continue along in the vein of what we did with Embark Beach but colored in the perspective of looking back as a fan of Guild Wars. By that I mean to say, we wanted to add in more features and improvements to the games, ones that felt like they had some legacy or value to long-time players.

Let's start with Razah, for example, because that's been a very popular feature with those of us on the Live Team. Back when Nightfall was first released, Razah was touted as being the only hero who could change his profession. Why shouldn't he? After all, he is a manifestation of the Mists. Unfortunately, constraints of technology that we had at the time prevented this feature from functioning correctly, and Razah went out as a Ritualist only. Fast-forward to a few years later when the addition of Mercenary Hero technology finally gave us the means to let Razah's true inner-rock-star shine. It felt like a cool bonus that some of our fans who've been with us for a long time could appreciate, so we went for it.

Hard Mode-only quests are another addition along those lines -- it's a bit of tech that allows us to revisit any quest from Guild Wars and change it up to be a new and challenging experience. Here's a fun fact for people reading: Villainy of Galrath is internally quest #1 in Guild Wars. It seemed like a pretty fitting selection to introduce the mechanic and another good example of looking back while moving forward. The anniversary is a chance to celebrate who we are and where we've been while still moving forward to all of the exciting things to come.

Any thoughts or ideas that didn't make it into the event lineup?

John Stumme: There actually were a few things that we were originally planning to include as part of the anniversary, but some of the projects were a bigger undertaking than could be included in the update.

An example of this is hero chatter, a new feature that allows the game to recognize the heroes that you have in your party (including Mercenary Heroes by personality type) and lets them have custom battle and idle conversations based on that. It's a fun little addition that adds a lot of personality into the hero experience, but we decided to hold it for later release until we felt we had enough conversations to make the system feel robust and compelling. If someone asks himself "What would Vekk and Razah talk about?" we want to make sure there's an answer.

Additionally, we've been putting in the groundwork for some new PvP updates, touching on things like titles and rewards that we intend to put out in a PvP-specific update. The important part is that no work is wasted, and we're continuing forward with our various projects. I hope that, with the recent additions we've made with the Embark Beach build and now the anniversary, people have a good idea of the kind of features and improvements they can look forward to in updates to come!

What do you most want to see players take away from this event?

John Stumme: I hope that players are able to come away from it feeling like, "Wow, this is something that I've been happy to be a part of." That's how I feel when I look back on everything that's happened; Guild Wars has been a part of my life for eight years now. I've seen it from the perspective of a tester, a designer, and now the lead designer, and through all of that, one thing has remained unchanged: The people who play this game make it what it is. The anniversary is more than just a celebration of another year of Guild Wars -- it's a celebration of our players. We wouldn't be here without you!

Matthew Moore: Every year, around anniversary time, three things occur to me: Guild Wars is still an enjoyable place to hang out and play, Guild Wars is still being updated, and it's pretty amazing that those two things are true. There aren't a lot of video games I still play after six years, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to work on one so lasting.

What's your favorite aspect of the sixth anniversary celebration?

John Stumme: I've had a lot of fun with all of the new anniversary tonics. I mean, really -- now it's my moves that impress all of the ladies. Take that, Koss and Keiran! Am I alone in believing that those two should star in a buddy comedy? Yeah, it's probably just me. Never mind.

Matthew Moore: I love lore, so seeing Razah live up to the potential hinted at in the game manual may be my favorite part of the celebration. True, Razah's birthday, coinciding with the Nightfall release in October 2006, isn't for a few months, but I'm glad we got it a present. Ooh, I'm also a big fan of birthday cupcakes!

Thanks for your time, Matthew and John! As for the rest of you, we'll see you in-game. Keep a very close eye on our Twitter feed for a special Livestream look at the Guild Wars update!

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