After a break, a feature pack, and the yearly antics of the Thorn family, the second season of Guild Wars 2's living world will soon be back in business. The business is, of course, preparing to fight Elder Dragons; the
We got to talk with ArenaNet's Lead Writer Bobby Stein and Associate Game Director Steven Waller about how the living world story has marked out what the team calls the "road to war" against Mordremoth and its minions. But as Game Director Colin Johanson said in his latest blog post, "The road to war is paved with points of no return." That doesn't exactly sound good for Tyria, but it may be exciting for GW2 fans who are looking forward to something big.
The previous living world release, The Dragon's Reach: Part Two, ended on a somber, uneasy note when an emergency summit of world leaders at the Grove was attacked by an agent of the Elder Dragon Mordremoth. After a desperate battle, the enemy was routed but not killed, and the Pale Tree was gravely injured. Before slipping into unconsciousness, she entrusted the player character with a vision.
The vision is cryptic, as these things tend to be: Against a golden skyscape interspersed with distant ruins, four pillars of light thunder into being while the shadow of the dragon circles amongst them. In the center pillar a golden orb descends into a nest of jagged crystals, which shatters as thorny vines slither forth to hide the scene from view. It's both beautiful and ominous, and it immediately sent players into a flurry of speculation. Might the ruins be the golden city of the Mursaat? Could the crystal chamber be Glint's lair? Was the shadow of the dragon tending the pillars, or menacing them? What exactly is the glowing golden orb?
Stein and Waller said that speculation is precisely the reaction they're looking for when creating living world content. Since the Festival of the Four Winds, which preceded the start of season two, the writers have been placing breadcrumbs that allow observant players to catch a glimpse of the greater arc of the story without having it hand-fed to them, and the living world team believes that the resulting discovery and discussions are far more exciting for players than being told what's happening outright. Deliberate dialogue choices, voice acted verbal cues, environmental objects, and possibly even hints in the story journal combine to reward the sort of player who "clicks on everything."
If you happen to be that class of observant player, you may have noticed the addition of a curious red-sailed ship to the Zephyrite fleet during the Festival of the Four Winds. A few fans noted that during the trailer for that release, a camera pan across the red ship revealed a door glowing with golden light swinging gently closed. According to Waller and Stein, this was the same ship which the player character's investigations would later lead to in Dry Top -- only whatever cargo it might have been carrying has gone missing. Also missing after his confrontation with the saboteur Aerin is the leader of the Zephyrites, and fans were quick to note that the knapsack he carried was giving off a mighty glow. Stein and Waller pointed out the speed with which he left his people behind in what was arguably their hour of greatest need, as though on a mission.
Speculation is fed on seeking connections between new information and older mysteries, and some fans were disappointed that season one of the living world featured few callbacks to existing stories. Stein and Waller hinted that players should be on the lookout for story threads from both GW2's launch and the original Guild Wars in the second half of season two, in addition to the numerous plot hooks of the living world story. Interestingly, we were told that players did not necessarily see what Scarlet saw in Omadd's machine, which had been adapted significantly from the form in which she used it. While the glimpse into the unknown found within the machine is somewhat abstract and open to interpretation, it may also provide clues to the inner workings of nature and magic in GW2's setting.
The stirrings of Mordremoth are setting the stage, but there are many danging plot threads for the actors as well. Rytlock Brimstone has vanished into the Mists. Eir Stegalkin and her son Braham are finally getting along, but it remains to be seen if the rift between them can be healed so easily. Waller and Stein also reminded us that we haven't seen Taimi fully respond to being trapped in a moment of danger in the last episode, nor have we found out exactly what effect Belinda Delaqua's death has had on her sister Marjory.
We asked about the role of immersion in the living world; for example, the Sylvari NPCs who live in the Grove haven't had dialogue changes to reflect the peril of the Pale Tree. We were told that while ArenaNet certainly has done quite a bit to shake up the open world and so NPC dialogue is sometimes changed to reflect that, there's still a need to provide some grounding for players who are experiencing the core story and haven't quite made it to the living world story yet. ArenaNet also feels that there is value in tradition, which is one reason that holiday content for Halloween and Wintersday won't be seeing any changes this year apart from fresh rewards.
Waller and Stein stressed that they believe the end of season two will be "unforgettable" for players who continue the journey of the living world; they told us that they're excited to see fans experience the next part of the story in the live game. "It's going to be on like Hobo-Tron," Waller added.
We'd like to thank Bobby Stein and Steven Waller for taking the time to chat with us! The second half of Guild Wars 2's living world season two starts up on November 4th.
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