We had the chance to talk with Mike Zadorojny (Game Designer) from ArenaNet about the final weeks of Guild Wars 2 development before launch. Mike had some amazing things to say about the philosophy at ArenaNet going into the launch as well as some of his favorite game mechanics. We also addressed how Guild Wars 2 is shaping up to change the MMO market and the style of games we play online. Make no mistake, Guild Wars 2 is very much a sandbox MMORPG in many respects, while still focusing on dev-created content at its core. So lets go through some of the elements that Mike “Z” talked about and best of all get psyched for the launch fo Guild Wars 2, and also a tidbit of info on what might be coming to the game soon after launch!
Mike took us through what a typical day is like at ArenaNet this close to launch. Everyone at the studio is playing the game heavily and double checking content. Tweaks, bug fixes, and any areas the game can be improved upon are being worked on right now. Devs are going back through to explore content in story, dungeons, and even open world to make sure things are smooth. We asked Mike the team’s plan for launch and trouble shooting any types of issues that come up. Mike explained that they are working on things very heavily now to host a smooth launch. They are also prepared to adapt to any issues that arise by having a very strong system in place to fix problems as the come up. From a technical side, they can iterate changes really fast in the game environment. This plan is set up to combat any issues that may come up and allow players to get into the game and keep playing without interruption. Overall, Mike stressed the hope for a smooth launch and believes the team is ready to handle issues.
Next we talked about some of the lessons the Guild Wars 2 team learned in Beta. Mike explained that player feedback is critical to any MMO. The game is viewed as a service first and foremost. One of the areas the team improved upon in Beta was the starting zones. When large amounts of players hit the opening zones, they found the NPCs scaling up quickly to make encounters much harder than they should have been. So balancing the encounters in the starting zones became critical. The great part is that Guild Wars 2 really does encourage players helping each other in the open world. The system is designed for it. Another area that was closely watched in Beta was the PvP zones. They wanted to make sure once those zones were opened up to players things ran smoothly.
With some amazing features and hype surrounding the game for several years now, I asked Mike what it was like to work on Guild Wars 2, a game that could change the MMO landscape for the next decade. He said it was very humbling. Mike has been a hardcore MMO player for years and to see some of the mechanics of Guild Wars 2 go into the market is realy fantastic. As a designer he said, games like this don’t come along too often where you really get the freedom to make an impact. The team at ArenaNet is doing just that, he believes.
One of the features Mike said he was most happy about was how the leveling scaled to the zone you were in. We talked about how with many MMOs you level through a zone and then you never go back. In Guild Wars 2 you can always go back to the lower zones and the leveling scales down. Yes it is easier to fight the NPCs because you have more skills and all, but it is not like other MMOs where it is a waste of time to go back into lower zones. Mike said, you cannot just blindly walk into any zone in Guild Wars 2 and that is something the team is very happy about. It also helps with the social aspect of the game allowing players to help each other. Guild Wars 2 was built with a very social game philosophy. Players don’t have to worry about kill stealing or not getting XP. When you cast an AOE heal or buff, every player near you gets the benefit. The team really wants players to work together. They don’t want people going off on their own. The game rewards teamwork across the whole community.
Last of all I asked Mike where he saw the game going three months after launch. Well he was happy to say that ArenaNet plans on listening to players right away and adapting to feedback. They do already have new content and new stories planned as well as some Holiday festivals already in the making…cough Halloween cough…as we go into the Holiday season. I finished with asking Mike what he will do right after launch, he laughed and said, “Try to take a nap, and then continue working on what we can do to make the game better.”
ArenaNet definitely has the players in mind when it comes to Guild Wars 2 and honestly, we cannot wait for this game to launch! What are your thoughts on what you’d like to see happen once the dust settles and GW2 launches? Leave a comment below!