Publisher NCSoft holds a meeting session each year at E3, moving media through all the games they are showing in twenty minute sessions. Not a whole lot of time for developers to show a game preview as well as answer questions. This year was no different. Jeff Strain, Co-Founder and Programmer did the presentation while Elijah Miller of Quality Assurance drove the playable preview.
"Eyes of the North is the first true expansion of Guild Wars and will require one of the stand alone products such as the original Guild Wars Prophecies, Factions, or Nightfall," said Strain.
Jeff told us that the reason is that building an expansion rather than a stand alone game freed up developers from having to create new starting areas and new low-level content. Instead, they could concentrate all of their resources toward making content for existing players. Is it all level 20 content then? No, Jeff was quick to point out. The expansion is geared towards existing players who have broad experience with Guild Wars, not newbies, but it's not all level 20 content.
"Internally, we call it 'Return to Tyria' as Eye of the North harkens back to the original Guild Wars environments, storyline and theme. It is the spiritual successor to Guild Wars," said Jeff. "There's so much story there that we could plumb with an expansion."
"We have a really great quest to get access to the Eye of the North and it's one of the coolest introductions we've done for a campaign. It will also orient players to the world if they did not start with or do not have Prophecies [The official name of the original game]."
The overarching theme in Eyes of the North is the dungeon crawl, with all the elements, feel and camaraderie often found in a classic dungeon crawl experience. I asked if perhaps we might see a bigger, badder version of Sorrow's Furnace. Jeff replied in the affirmative. Most of the playable areas in this expansion will be underground, and reached through the many magical gates created by the Asura - a magical race. Jeff promises us a total of 18 multi-level dungeons with traps, puzzles and hidden rooms.
Other features include 40 new armor sets, 100 new PVP allowable skills and 50 PvE cooperative specific skills. These PvE skills are attained through quests and closely aligned with the races that provide them to you. They are essentially part of the storyline. There will also be 10 new Heroes - we saw the Dwarf, the Norn, Charr and Asura - and Mini-Games. Mini-games are found in the homeland of each of the new races we will see in Eye of the North. Participating in them raises your factions with the race to unlock additional content (such as the quests to obtain PvE skills, I would surmise).
Speaking a little bit of the new races: The Norn are Giant human creatures with weight-lifter builds, inspired by the Viking culture, with Viking inspired designs and details in their kits and culture. We were brought to their homeland in the ice and snow, and shown a warrior's mini-game - a basic stand toe-to-toe, duke it out fight with a Norn champion - which strangely, was not built like them... Well, this is a preview...
The Asura are little gremlin-like critters, with strong intellect and superior magical skills, and they know it. They come complete with a chip on their shoulder and we were told that we would have to work through that character quirk if we chose to adopt them as heroes. Jeff wasn't telling more, but it surely brought to mind a random, "I'm not helping you," behavior possibility.
Their homeland was one of magical artifacts and we were run quickly through, seeing bits of floating landscape, areas where the magical forces had been harnessed by the Asuran in the form of towers, gates and a Golem kiln where the creatures were created. Jeff dropped the information that a Golem was a creature that players could morph into should they gain enough Asuran favor to learn that skill.
We were also brought into the Asuran arena and shown the Polymock Coliseum game where the player was morphed into a colorful creature and only those creature's skills allowed for you to defeat your opponent. Time quickly ran out however, and we were shown the hall of Monuments. Jeff didn't just drop hints here. He told us that many features in the Eyes of the North expansion will be a fore-taste of what's to come in Guild Wars 2. Some of the Heroes introduced in Eye of the North will be playable characters in Guild Wars 2, including the Charr, the Norn and the Asura.
The Eye of the North serves as the gathering place in this expansion and is a huge, monumental piece of architecture. Within it, the Hall of Monuments resides, this is where player achievements are immortalized. Rather appropriate, I thought. For this expansion, the Hall of Monuments is a player customizable zone showcasing all your personal accomplishments. Jeff and Elijah conferred a little on the names of all the monuments and as I noted, they are: Valor, which showcases the weapons you've attained through your career, resilience, which is your armor, persistence (I may be wrong on this one), your heroes and pets, honor, your titles and Devotion, the mini-pets and collectibles that you attained. In Guild Wars 2, players will be able to allow others to access this instanced zone, creating essentially private meeting places.
Guild Wars 1 characters will not be transferable to Guild Wars 2 due to the technological differences in the game, but, basically your Guild Wars 2 character inherits the legacy that your Guild Wars 1 characters immortalized in the Hall of Monuments.