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Massively Exclusive: Eric Flannum on GW2's Engineer

Jef Reahard

Unless you've been spelunking near the center of the earth for the past few days, you're likely aware that ArenaNet recently unveiled Guild Wars 2's seventh class. Chances are high that you're also aware of said class's affinity for turrets, guns, and various contraptions meant to rain death down upon any unfortunate enemies that cross its path.

Today, Massively presents a new interview with Guild Wars 2 lead designer Eric Flannum. Naturally, the guest of honor at this Tyrian banquet of exclusivity is the Engineer, and Flannum (along with several other ANet dignitaries) provides us with a few tasty mechanical appetizers before getting down to the lore-centric main course.

Bon appetit after the cut.

Massively: This class looks extremely formidable. What sort of limitations are in place to keep it from being a little too formidable? What are the cooldowns and restrictions on switching in and out of combat when it comes to backpack kits, weapon kits, and tool belts?

Eric Flannum: The Engineer is really no more formidable than any other profession. Turrets have the same restrictions on them that Necromancer pets and Guardian spirit weapons have. The Engineer can have only one turret out for each turret skill he has on his bar. Also, keep in mind that unlike other pets, the turrets are completely stationary.

As far as kits are concerned, there are currently no restrictions on when and how often an Engineer can switch between his kits. This is because many of the kits tend to be very narrow in focus. Take, for instance, the Med Kit. While equipped, the Med Kit allows the Engineer to heal allies by dropping medical supplies on the ground but does very little else. In order to be effective with a Med Kit, the Engineer needs to swap in and out of the kit so that he can do other things while waiting for his Med Kit skills to recharge.

Turrets are an exciting concept, but are they complicated to pack up and move, so to speak? What is the skill activation time and recharge like on packing those up and deploying them again?

Packing up a turret is almost instantaneous. All the Engineer has to do is walk up to it and interact with it. Once packed up, the turret can be redeployed with only a brief recharge on the skill. Placing the turret does take a couple of seconds and so is ideally done before the next fight begins.

Cross-profession combinations during battle have been a big hit with the fans. What sort of interactions can Engineers have with other professions to increase damage or healing?

Engineers have a few persistent AoE effects that they can place down, so they can be good at facilitating combos. Where Engineers really excel is taking advantage of the persistent effects of other professions. This stems from the fact that Engineers rely very heavily on projectiles; Engineer turrets are great for combos since other professions can count on a steady stream of projectiles coming from the turret. Laying a fire wall down in front of a stationary turret is a lot easier than targeting an ally who may be on the move.

The elixir guns are a fun concept -- do the elixirs directly heal the recipient or supply them with elixirs to heal themselves?

The elixir gun sprays out alchemical compounds, which directly affect the target.

How did the idea for the Engineer come about? The class fits nicely with the evolution of Tyria over the past 250 years -- is it something that was developed early on as the storyline was created?

We knew early on that the Tyria of Guild Wars 2 was going to be a more technologically advanced place than in the original Guild Wars. In the first game, we already had some technology in the form of exploding powder kegs, cannon, and giant hybrid mechanical/magical golems. We knew that we wanted technology to advance so that Tyria felt like a developing world, and a profession like the Engineer was necessary to embody that technological advance. It's fair to say that the Engineer has always been in the mix for us, although it has undergone quite a few name and functionality changes over the course of development.

How do the Engineer's weapons and gadgets fit into the world from a lore perspective? Will there be hints of the learning process that took Tyria from trebuchets to flamethrowers?

Well, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves; there are still plenty of trebuchets, catapults, and ballistae in Guild Wars 2. Remember that the technological revolution that the Engineer represents is fairly new in Tyria. Not every race has embraced this change, even though some individuals from that race may have. Players in general and Engineer players specifically represent heroic and unusual individuals. This is the same for a Norn Necromancer or a Warrior amongst the Asura.

The rise of technology is an important theme in Guild Wars 2, and there will definitely be opportunities for people to learn about how the people of Tyria feel about this new technology and the history behind it.

What were some ideas for the Engineer that didn't make it to the final design?

There are quite a few. One of the ideas that we abandoned quite early was giving the Engineer an alternate resource to work with on the battlefield. We called this resource various things from scrap to supply and had it working both as a temporary combat resource as well as a more long term resource. In the end, we felt that the Engineer was complicated enough without requiring players to manage resources in the middle of a fight.

What were some of the team's favorite aspects of the Engineer?

I personally love the sense of fun and slightly offbeat humor that some of the Engineer's skills have. Guild Wars is, generally speaking, a pretty serious game, so it's good when we can be a bit more lighthearted about things and not take ourselves so seriously. I also asked a few other designers to answer the question so you could get a few different perspectives on the Engineer:

Game Designer Jonathan Sharp: Each of the Engineer's weapon bundles feels unique. Am I trying to hold a location against waves of enemies? I can lay down mines and deploy turrets to get the job done. Do I need to stay mobile while dealing with multiple threats at once? A grenade satchel becomes my weapon of choice as it gives me AoE and the ability to remain mobile. Am I worried about out my allies? I can use my Med Kit to support my friends. The Engineer really feels like she/he has a tool for every situation, and it's fun using the right tool for the job.

Game Designer Andrew McLeod: I enjoy using the turret skills to set up a base of operations, especially when playing events in which I'm defending an area versus attacking enemies. It is a lot of fun luring monsters into my turrets and then using my control skills like Glue Shot to hold enemies in place while I kill them. The versatility of using my kits to vary my role and adapt to changing situations is also a lot of fun -- for example, using grenades to deal damage, then switching to my pistols to immobilize the enemies while I pull out a med kit and buff and heal my allies before bringing my Grenade Satchel back out to help finish off the enemies.

Game Designer Mike Ferguson: Turrets and guns! I love being able to drop down some turrets to maintain control over an area while shooting some bad guys who are just out of arms reach.

There are inevitable comparisons drawn between the Engineer and the commando, so tell the truth: How hard was it to stay quiet when everyone went crazy with excitement over how great the commando was?

Eric Flannum: It wasn't that hard in the grand scheme of things. There are so many things that we've had to remain quiet about (and still have to remain quiet about) that we've become pretty used to it. Like that final profession, for example...

Thanks for chatting with us, Eric!

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