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PAX Prime 2013: Guild Wars 2's Jon Peters on the state of PvP

Patrick Mackey

At this year's PAX Prime, we attended a party hosted by ArenaNet at which the studio demoed the second world of Super Adventure Box. There was a raffle, plenty of drinks, and a lot of ANet people. In fact, I mentioned to ArenaNet's reps that I was really into competitive play, PvP, and e-sports. Not five minutes later, I was introduced to Jon Peters, lead gameplay designer for Guild Wars 2. I was a bit intimidated; I mean, this was the guy who singlehandedly created over 70% of the skills in GW2! But he was surprisingly down-to-earth with our conversation.

"So you're the guy I need to blame when Rangers get nerfed," I asked Peters. He laughed, suggesting that maybe I wouldn't like the next patch. I gave him a mock frown, adding that maybe Rangers were too strong right now, and he laughed a little. Sorry, Rangers.

We got to talking about PvP and balance changes, and while he was a bit evasive when I asked how balanced he felt everything was, he did say that he thinks the team is moving forward positively. "You have an idea how a patch will affect things, but you don't really know until it hits," he said. We talked quite a bit on how players would do all sorts of crazy things and find ways of using skills that designers can never expect but still must react to. For example, he wants to make some changes to condition-based team comps, as he thinks lethality right now is very high. "We really want to try to introduce soft counters, rather than builds and counter-builds." I asked him whether the goal is to move similarly toward GW1's balanced build (a staple of GW1's tournament scene for a very long time), and he told me he liked that overall design, with a central flexible build and compositions that branch out from there.

PAX Prime 2013 An informal talk with ArenaNet's Jon Peters
We also talked about the design process. Peters explained that it mostly involves spreadsheets and scripting. I joked that things always come back to numbers. He agreed; he said that game design is a lot less glamorous than players make it out to be.

The topic moved over to e-sports, as there had been a smaller invitational tournament at PAX for Guild Wars 2. I asked regular league play, but Peters told me that right now, ANet has no plans for that. He emphasized that the studio is trying to take the competitive scene slowly and trying to build a community that is interested in GW2 as an e-sport. He also mentioned that ANet was trying to learn from other games' e-sports ventures. I got the feeling that Riot Games' League of Legends is sort of like the elephant in the room, looming over the head of anyone wanting to push a new e-sport. GW2 has a really large installed user base already, though, and fan response from GW2's recent e-sports efforts has been very positive. I said as much to Peters, and he agreed that GW2's competitive future looks bright.

I spoke with another ANet dev (who wished to remain anonymous) who expressed a bit of uncertainty about GW2's e-sports future, though. "Most people who play GW2 only PvE," he said. I told him I completely disagreed. "It's not about whether they PvP or not," I said. "It's about whether they'll watch e-sports!" On that, he seemed to agree.
PAX Prime 2013 An informal talk with ArenaNet's Jon Peters
One news item spoilered by a player earlier on in the tournament was that GW2 is likely coming to Major League Gaming. I asked a bit for more details, but neither Peters nor the other ANet reps at the party would confirm the extent to which they were partnered.

Diving off the subject of e-sports, I mentioned to Peters how I thought that a lot of the mechanics in GW2 were really obtuse. I specifically complained about evasion and how it was not obvious what it was to a new player. He overwhelmingly agreed with me, saying that he felt that GW2's new player experience could be improved and that the studio is looking into some ways of doing just that. He did mention that he thought a tutorial shouldn't be quite so forced and that more of the game should be taught slowly.

I was happy to pick Peters' brain for a little bit and see how the mind of the designers of one of the most successful MMOs thinks. It was a great party, so thanks a lot to Peters and the rest of ArenaNet for having us!

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 30th to September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!

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