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Guild Wars 2 Interviews: Content Interview

By Garrett Fuller on September 08, 2010

MMORPG.com:

What is the biggest challenge in designing content for the game?

Leah:

The biggest challenge as a content designer is having to limit myself to things that are possible within the game engine. We do have a really broad set of tools but sometimes you have to find the short cut. If you have a good idea, you need to find what tools out of the set that I have can I use to implement this? There is a lot of flexibility in the game but figuring out the way to tweak the tools I do have is a challenge sometimes.

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Colin:

Content Design is a lot like a logic puzzle sometimes. Where you come into it and there is a thing you want to accomplish and there is a bunch of tool sets you have to do that with. Very rarely do those two things directly connect. So you have to try to find the best way to accomplish your goals using the tools you have. Often times, it can be really interesting to find the way to do that with the tools you have.

Leah:

It’s really fun when you figure it out though, you feel like you have accomplished this puzzle and everything just falls into place.

*Jeff Grubb enters the room.

MMORPG.com:

So with all the content you are adding to the game what is your greatest joy to see come alive?

Jeff:

Two things. Definitely the first one is when it all works. Where you are laying out all the information in text and all the ambient conversation and all the pieces and it all fires together. We are like, Yes! We’re finally here. Once you reach that point, then you polish it forever. The other thing and I am seeing this a lot today, is people who are playing the game for the first time today and seeing them come to the earth elemental or see the dragon lands for the first time or seeing the Necromancer Death Shard for the first time and watching them go WoW! The “ah-ha!” Moment and hopefully taking their breath away with something they didn’t anticipate and something that is exciting for them. If we get that effect, we have done our job, okay we’re done. Beer for everybody! [laughs]

Leah:

I have to agree the player reactions have been the best part of visiting the shows.

Colin:

Definitely shows like PAX are the greatest moment for me. We have spent three years building this game and the last few months we put out a ton of marketing material. We said we were going to do a lot and everything we set out to do we put into the game. We did not want to talk about them until they were in the game and they worked. There is a lot of danger to make a lot of bold claims and you don’t follow through on them. We don’t want to do that. We said a lot of stuff and we had a lot of people say we wouldn’t be able to do it. Or something like: yeah, that sounds awesome, but not one is ever going to build that.

Jeff:

Yeah, there was a lot of: If they can do this it is going to be great. There was a lot of tentativeness in the response. We wrote a lot of checks in the last few months and now it feels like we have the cash to back them up.

Colin:

Yeah, that just feels incredible to be able to walk the game out on the floor and show the things we said we were going to do. We hope that you love what we did. We ask players if we did what we said we would do and over and over again we hear: “Yes, at its core you accomplished what you set out to do.”

Jeff:

Fans also say, tell us more. Make more promises that you can keep which puts the pressure on us.

Colin:

Just seeing it come to life is the best part for me.

MMORPG.com:

The industry has gotten a little dry lately and we often hear fans looking for a solid new game. Is there some part of the game you are really excited about for MMO fans in particular?

Leah:

Among my friends it is definitely the persistent changes in the world. Dynamic Events happen. When a city burns down it stays burned down, that is not something other people do in games.

Jeff:

I would say the personal story line. It is a resource intensive thing to do to create different options and different storylines for individual players. What your upbringing was? What your legion is? Or what is your college among the Azura? This is a lot of work that may not be seen right off the bat. That was the incredible challenge that I saw and yet seeing the final and making each one of those lines epic, that is definitely one of the coolest things for me.

Colin:

Definitely the Dynamic Events system for me too. For me it is a slightly different reason than Leah, although that is a great reason, for me it is about the community building tool that it serves. I think if you look at MMOs the really frustrating thing is that I am playing this game online with thousands of people and I don’t interact with hardly any of them. Maybe with the people on my friends list or in my guild and that’s it. In old school MMOs you didn’t want other players around you because they were kill stealing from you or they would get in the way of the stuff I was trying to do. That can drive a player nuts. I play these games to play with other people, why am I playing this game if I don’t want people near me? The events system just draws people naturally together and you feel this camaraderie with the people you are playing the game with. Whether you talk or not or form a group or not, our hope is that it will happen in events, but even if you don’t you still feel a strong sense of community with the people around you while doing the events and I just really love that.

Jeff:

I’ll give you one here that is a sleeper. It is in the demo downstairs, it is present. I don’t think a lot of people have looked at it closely and that is the Personality system. We don’t talk about it as much. The system is based on the early choices you make. There is Dignity, Charm, and Ferocity. Literally that forms an internal compass and as you interact with NPCs you are going to drive towards one way and drive back towards another. So basically you are going to have slightly different experiences and options because of that Personality system. Now, you are playing in the game and you are not necessarily going think about it. You are not going to say: I am Ferocious today. Yet it is a natural process that is embedded in the game. The game will respond to your playing style and give you options in that direction. When people encounter stuff there will be options in the conversation trees based on your choices. That is cool because it is not visible. It’s not like: you get five points of Lawful Good! [Laughs]. This is a result of long discussions asking questions about how to build this system. We went through several tries and scrapped them. I think the biggest fight was who is better Batman or Captain America. Then it turned into who do you want to be, Batman or Captain America? We started to say, why not both?

MMORPG.com:

So is it a system where you make the choice in the beginning and then it can be changed throughout the course of the game?

Jeff:

Yes. So when you create your character, you do have a question that gives you an advantage in one area. As you play and interact with people you will have a Ferocious option in an NPC conversation tree and you will go a little bit further in that direction. So it will drift by what you have been doing and also what you have been doing just recently. It is not like you have worked up 500 saint points and now you can go and commit adultery and not get in any trouble. It is more of the case that you have been acting in a very charming fashion, here is the result of being charming: You might run into a group of small children who will sing your praises. Very dignified people think of you as a hero. One of the ferocious options opens with, I Hit Him. You can hit NPCs if need be. It has got such potential to it as far as being an invisible system that will have very real effects in the game. If you always choose the charming option then that will be a play style. Most players though will find themselves getting more options or not how they naturally play. Which is actually a much cooler system, other games try to build it geometrically, kind of like the D&D Paladin. Our system is much more behind the scenes and focuses on game play style.

MMORPG.com:

You talked a lot about camaraderie among players. Many MMOs have lost this on a wide level because of guild groups and smaller factions. How do you see players joining up on a large scale in Guild Wars 2?

Colin:

I think Dynamic Events is the thing that will do that. That is the glue in the bond that brings the players together. I think that will give you recognition when you start to build that sense of community. The other thing that I think is important and this is not a direct answer, but we have World vs. World PvP in Guild Wars 2. I think that will impact PvE as well. Which is your server shard matched up against two other servers in open world PvP. If you like Dark Age of Camelot, this is, in our minds the next evolution of that. It is something that really drove community and you care about what you are doing on a PVE and PvP side. You care about the people on the server. We think we will have those bonds because your server is matched up against two other servers. So it is just that much more important that you become friends and you bond with the players on your server. So the friends you make through PvE and Dynamic Events, those friends will carry over into World vs. World PvP. You may get out of World vs. World PvP and go back to early zones to do events with new people and help encourage them to join you in the fight for your server to take part in battles and beat the other two. We expect large strong communities on each server and I think PvP will end up affecting PvE because people will work together.

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