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Guild Wars 2 Previews: Basking in the Shadow of the Mad King

By Som Pourfarzaneh on October 22, 2012

Given that Halloween has come to be one of the largest festivals in the original Guild Wars, it won't surprise veterans of the series that the seasonal event is going to make up a big part of Guild Wars 2's October content update.  With Shadow of the Mad King, ArenaNet is poised to update the game with a huge two-fold build that will bring the eponymous Halloween event into Tyria alongside other content and rewards for players interested in exploring the game world.  We were recently invited to take a look at some of the new stuff coming down the pipe for Guild Wars 2, and I got to chat with Lead Content Designer Mike Zadorojny and Game Designer Matt Wuerffel about the game's October update.

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Before getting to the content update and Halloween event themselves, it may be useful to understand a little bit of the team and design philosophy for ArenaNet's Guild Wars 2 post-launch plans.  Rather than separating the company based on skill sets, and making programmers sit only with programmers, designers with designers, and the like, ArenaNet has grouped its employees into ten or more different teams that represent a variety of talents, and focus on particular aspects of the game together.  For example, there's a Live Response Team and a Living World Team, and similar groups that work on things like holiday events, commerce, security, structured PvP, and more.

The Live Response Team, for example, has been involved with responding to player feedback gleaned from places such as forums, beta reactions, and in-game chat.  From listening to this kind of feedback, the team has been making small changes to areas like crafting, to larger updates including a big enhancement to the karma system.  They want to make karma-based items like legendaries and armor sets to be a bit more accessible, and in the upcoming update, you can expect to start earning karma from running dungeons and completing achievements.  The team has also revised all types of rewards in the game, with the intention to make activities like mini-dungeons and jumping puzzles in the open world to be more worthwhile.

The Living World Team has likewise been working on how they can add more content for players to feel rewarded for exploring.  The new update will bring almost 80 new pieces of content to Tyria, including events, new tracks in the achievement system, jumping puzzles, and mini-dungeons.  As part of the more than 30 events that ArenaNet has added to the game, players will be able to start duking it out with the Modus Sceleris, an NPC guild of griefers who like to brawl and want to push you down and steal your lunch money.  The event will scale accordingly when more players are in the area, allowing you and some friends to participate in a royal rumble with a bunch of these ruffians at once.  Elsewhere across Tyria, you'll run into other new events, like encountering a Skritt Burglar in the Plains of Ashford who can appear while you're minding your own business looting a chest.  Track him down, avoid his tricks, and the treasure's yours!

In the new update, you'll also be able to try your hand at new mini-dungeons like Vexa's Lab in the high-level zone of Fireheart Rise.  Vexa, a crazy Asura, has constructed an underground volcano laboratory, where you'll face new monsters with different skills and mechanics than what's been seen before in Guild Wars 2.  Along the way, you'll encounter an M. C. Escher-inspired room with stairs going every which way and portals scattered about.  The room's aesthetic has a function along with its form, featuring an intricate jumping puzzle with a new checkpoint system that allows you to port back to the beginning if you fall, without penalizing you with the normal armor damage.  You'll also traverse hexagonal panels with surfaces that turn on and off, requiring you to navigate their honeycombed lattices while mobs try to push you astray.  This new type of platform puzzle plays into the Vexa boss fight, which takes places directly on top of this hexagonal web, hovering over a pool of shark-infested waters.  At least the sharks don't have lasers (I asked).

In addition to events and mini-dungeons like these, and a host of other content, the upcoming update will unveil the first of Guild Wars 2's seasonal events with the Shadow of the Mad King.  I mentioned that veterans won't be surprised to see the inclusion of the Halloween event on a grand scale, but what you may be intrigued to hear is that the original Guild Wars event was initially created over the course of one weekend, and grew over time into the big festival that it is currently.  Now, although the Mad King Thorn hasn't been seen in the world for the 250 or so years since the first game, his legend is a story that is told throughout Tyria to spook children.  Every year, people stir up the legend as well by dressing up and performing as him in the streets, so you might run into some overly theatrical Mad King lookalikes as you head into town to repair your equipment.

You'll also notice all kinds of Halloween decorations in places like Lion's Arch, with candy corn elementals, costumed children, floating candles, and more peppering the scenery.  If you're a fan of Costume Brawl from the first Guild Wars, be sure to check out the reinvented version of the game which ArenaNet has developed to be more fun and accessible.  You can use your hard-bought gems to purchase costumes and brawl anywhere, or head to Lion's Arch to be transformed into a glowy skeleton and get in on the fracas.

If you're as into achievements, crafting, and treats as I am, you can pursue the new achievement for candy corn consumption or utilize the new candy corn resource to make special items.  Additionally, and perhaps most interestingly, the first phase of the Halloween event is starting up, with the Durmond Priory needing players' help investigating unusual energy fluctuations in the world.  I wonder what that's about?

There are a ton of more events and Halloween minigames that we didn't get to cover in our preview, but suffice it to say that the October update is going to be huge, and I'm looking forward to ArenaNet's continued post-launch schedule for Guild Wars 2.  If they can keep up this scope of content and system updates on the regular, there will be heaps of more new and holiday-themed things to do and minigames to play in Tyria for a long while to come.

Speaking of minigames, am I the only one who wants competitive Rollerbeetle Racing in WvW?  Think about the possibilities!

Thanks again to Mike Zadorojny, Matt Wuerffel, and the ArenaNet team for showing us around Guild Wars 2's Shadow of the Mad King update!

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