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Guild Wars 2's Colin Johanson outlines big plans and 'course correction' for the game

Anatoli Ingram

The past two weeks have seen a veritable flood of information about ArenaNet's plans for the immediate future of Guild Wars 2, but are you ready for even more details about the long-term goals for the title? Well, ready or not, it's comin' at you: Game Director Colin Johanson published a blog post today that outlines some of the features and changes players can expect to see in the latter half of the year. Curious about ANet's answer to character progression after the release of Ascended gear? The blog post has it covered. Tired of beating up Champion enemies for their lunch money, only to find that their moms packed them nothing but pairs of blue-quality trousers? Read up on how ANet plans to make them worth smacking around. Do you spend your days weeping softly over that 600 gold precursor that is the absolute last thing you need to complete your Legendary weapon? Boy oh boy, today is your lucky day.

That's not all; Johanson's mammoth blog post also discusses the expansion of the crafting system, plans to add new Legendary gear and player-crafted Ascended items, improvements to structured PvP and World vs. World, and more. He was also kind enough to take the time to answer our questions about ArenaNet's vision for GW2's future, so be sure to check out our interview summary after the break!

Restructuring the approach to permanent and temporary content

Johanson stressed that while ArenaNet will continue to incorporate temporary events into its living story, future updates will leave behind much more in the way of permanent world changes and meaningful content when each narrative arc ends. Calling this new approach a "course correction," he explained that having four rotating living world teams will allow far more time, planning, and polish to go into each update, resulting in much bigger patches; the Flame & Frost story arc was given as an example of past content that didn't quite live up to its full potential due to the limitations of having just one team to handle every update. Beyond the living story, players will also see new events, new zones to explore, and updates to existing areas.

When asked whom he plans to vote for in the election at the heart of the upcoming Cutthroat Politics release, Johanson expressed his support for Evon Gnashblade and went on to explain that the story impact of selecting a winner will go far beyond the perks associated with each candidate. Evon Gnashblade and Ellen Kiel are characters with wildly distinct personalities and might use their Council votes in very different ways for years to come. Players who are more interested in funding for their favorite built-from-scratch Fractals of the Mists scenario had better hustle to get their votes counted, though: Johanson said that it was unlikely that the losing concept would ever be built, as he feels that doing so would cheapen the impact of the final decision. However, he did make the lighthearted suggestion that mass player protests and political demonstrations could change that.

As for the high-level zone of Orr, Johanson spoke positively of how interesting it would be to see it cleansed, but he said that showing the progression of the story's timeline there would be a challenge due to the intersection of the personal story. While he didn't rule out future changes to Orr, it's likely that players will see new regions before the story returns to Zhaitan's former home base.

Rewards and character progression

In addition to enriching the game world, ArenaNet is working on improved ways for players to enrich themselves and their characters through an ongoing revamp of GW2's reward system. Blue and green-quality items will soon have a chance to yield up boosts to account-based magic find percentage when salvaged, and Johanson said that the development team will make certain that possible demand for these items doesn't price leveling characters out of buying gear upgrades on the trading post.

Also requiring careful balance are the brand-new skills and traits that players will be able to unlock. Johanson explained that the goal in adding these is to provide greater variety, rather than more raw power; among the lessons learned from the original Guild Wars is the importance of avoiding power creep when introducing new skills. He did say, however, that future updates may provide players with scenarios that take advantage of those skills.

Although Johanson couldn't commit to a timeframe, new weapon types and expansion of current types to more classes is absolutely in the works. In the meantime, there will be new Legendary weapons based on current weapon types, as ArenaNet wants to provide players with more variety in looks and themes for the powerful weapons. One new type of Legendary gear will definitely be putting in an appearance this year and will likely be a trinket such as a ring or amulet. Several of the current Legendaries will also receive appearance-enhancing makeovers.

User-friendly practices

In light of the upcoming LFG function and the work being done on the removal of PvE culling, we asked Johanson whether players can expect to see other quality of life improvements, such as increased functionality and filters in the trading post. Johanson explained that the development team has a "giant list" of things that could use polish; he told me that anything players might have come across that looks as if it could use some work has probably already been noted for future attention. Anyone who has started to find him or herself rapidly running out of bank and inventory space may be pleased to hear that finding more player-friendly ways to handle GW2's tons of collectable armor looks is high on ArenaNet's priority list.

Finally, Johanson provided some information about the feedback the development team has been receiving regarding the gem store's controversial RNG-based gambling boxes. He said that ArenaNet is constantly experimenting to find a good balance between revenue and being as fair as possible to the players. Feedback for the current kite fortunes has been better than previous iterations, and future updates will experiment with ways to make the boxes even more player-friendly.

We'd like to thank Colin for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us!

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!

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