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Guild Wars 2 System Focus: Dynamic Events Detailed

By Michael Bitton on May 12, 2010

Just two weeks ago ArenaNet blew the doors open on Guild Wars 2, revealing the first of eight professions: the Elementalist, and describing in-depth the game's innovative combat systems. Today, Guild Wars 2 Lead Content Designer Colin Johanson breaks down one of Guild Wars 2's most prominent features: the dynamic events system.

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In the augural ArenaNet blog post by ArenaNet's studio head Mike O'Brien describing an overview of Guild Wars 2's design we learned that ArenaNet is moving away from what we know as the traditional quest based content system where NPC's stand around with question marks or exclamation points above their heads ready to dole out quests. Instead, Guild Wars 2 would leverage a dynamic events system to deliver a much more natural experience, allowing players to simply react to events in the game world and take part in them in order to tell a much more convincing story.

Colin illustrates this point below:

In Guild Wars 2, our event system won't make you read a huge quest description to find out what's going on. You'll experience it by seeing and hearing things in the world. If a dragon is attacking, you won't read three paragraphs telling you about it, you'll see buildings exploding in giant balls of fire, and hear characters in the game world screaming about a dragon attack. You'll hear guards from nearby cities trying to recruit players to go help fight the dragon, and see huge clouds of smoke in the distance, rising from the village under siege.

Colin goes on to describe how quests are flawed, in that if you are sent out on a quest to kill 10 Ogres who are supposedly going to destroy an NPC's home, you'd typically just find these Ogres "standing around in a field picking daises," basically just waiting for you to kill them at the quest's marked location. This won't be the case in Guild Wars 2 due to the dynamic events system. Instead, if an NPC tells you Ogres are coming to level his house -- you'd better believe it!

The dynamic events system isn't simply a different conduit to deliver storyline and quest to players, according to Colin it also gives players the potential to have a lasting impact on the game world, something not often found in most MMOs:

A single player decision can cascade across a zone, changing the direction of a chain of events until they dramatically alter the content played by players in a map.

Other developers have tried to tackle this problem, but in Guild Wars 2 we go further. Where other multi-player quest systems were pass or fail - our dynamic events evolve in response to player interaction and the outcomes they achieve. Where previous systems reset and start again and really don't change the world, dynamic events chain and cascade across a zone and leave persistent effects in the game world after the event has ended.

The threat of a dredge army marching out of their base is given as an example of just how these events will chain together. Players can mobilize and attack the dredge army defeating them, which then allows them to push into the enemy base, defeat its commander, rescue captured troops, and even defend the base against the dredge who attempt to recapture it.

On the other hand, players can simply ignore (or fail to vanquish) the dredge army, who will then proceed to establish a foothold in friendly territory, including building up walls, setting up siege engines, etc to defend their new territory. They'll even send out attack parties to sack friendly villages, and snipers may even take out the merchants. In order to restore things to order, players will have to band together and liberate the area from the dredge. And as Colin points out, both these outcomes all stem from one single event -- the dredge marching their army out, and we're told that Guild Wars 2 will feature thousands of such events.

Colin then expounds on Mike O'Brien's discussion on making these games more social -- or as Colin puts it, putting the "MMO" back in MMORPGs. Guild Wars 2 won't foster a sense of fear of other players, I.E. will this guy steal my kill? Or steal my loot? Instead, all players will be reap 100% of the rewards as long as they participate seriously in whatever is going on, and all this is without even having to group up.

More importantly, the dynamic events system features dynamic scaling that will scale the events to the players participating in them, even if a large number of players leave, the event will scale down to fit those who are remaining.

ArenaNet is committed to giving some love to you explorers and altaholics out there as well, and the dynamic events system is key in doing just that. Colin notes that in most games an explorer can explore the game world, but once he's been everywhere, that's it. He's essentially seen it all. Since the dynamic events system in Guild Wars 2 is said to create a living breathing world, this may no longer be the case:

A village that was previously filled with friendly norn could, on a return trip, have been taken over by evil Sons of Svanir who are now using it as a base of operations and have put up their own architecture in place of the norn's.

The game will also feature tons of hidden events that require player interaction in addition to the larger ones that are readily visible and occuring openly in the game world, which should be of interest to the explorer types out there. Colin provides a quick example below:

Finding an entrance to a secret cave deep at the bottom of the ocean and removing a glowing orb from the cave could let an evil creature loose from its ancient prison and kick off a chain of events as the creature terrorizes the ocean shipping lanes. Reading the spells written on an ancient wizard's spell book in a ruined castle at the top of the highest mountain peak could open a portal to another world and trigger a chain of events as creatures from that world come through the portal.

Rounding things out Colin sheds some light on what we'll be hearing about next. In the future we'll be hearing from Ree Soesbee, a world designer on Guild Wars 2, who will describe how ArenaNet is tackling the  lack of character development and personal story of MMOs through the use of their own personal story system. As Colin puts it:

If our dynamic event system is putting the "MMO" back in "MMORPG," then Ree's article will show you how our personal story system is putting the "RPG" back in the "MMORPG."

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