Guild Wars: Eye of the North: Non-Exclusive Developer Diary
The folks working on the newest addition to the Guild Wars franchise, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, have provided this developer diary, from Ben Miller, on questing in the upcoing release. While this feature isn't exclusive to MMORPG.com, we thought it was something that was worth reading.
In designing Eye of the North, our first true expansion for the Guild Wars online RPG, we wanted to improve on what worked well in the past, throw out those quest types that gamers routinely hate, design new quests and new quest types that players had never seen before, and give people more options so they could play the game in many different ways, instead of forcing all players down the same path. In short, when it came to quests, we wanted, in the immortal words of Graham Chapman, "to seek the holy grail."
Going into GW:EN we knew we were creating an expansion geared for max level characters, which meant we could design a game with no newbie area and avoid having to teach new players how to play the game. This gave us the opportunity to create quests that really push the envelope. With this in mind, we committed all of our questing resources to making sure that each and every quest provided players with something insanely cool, or new, or different, or, better yet, all three.
Improving on the Best, Burying the Rest
Going into quest design for Guild Wars: Eye of the North, we started with two basic tenets: First of all, we wanted the rewards to matter. This is all level 20 content, and we wanted players to get a huge sense of accomplishment every time they completed a quest. In short, we wanted quest rewards that mattered to level 20 characters. One of the main ways we are accomplishing this is to bring back the quest reward most requested by Guild Wars players--skills. Many GW:EN quests will reward you with new skills that you can then add to your Skill Bar and use on your further adventures. This is one of the most direct ways of giving players something that can improve their character, and we're happy to be able to bring it back to the game.
The other dictum we carried with us into the development of GW:EN was that quests should be varied and fun. We wanted to avoid designing any delivery (or "fedex") quests at all. In fact, we put a sign on the door to the quest design area that said: "Every time you make a fedex quest, Abaddon will feast on puppy eyes." We want the quests in Eye of the North to present players with new goals, new challenges, and new ways to play the game.
For example, as you progress into the Norn, Asuran, and Dwarven areas, you will find the local people enjoy competing against one another in games of skill, and you will be invited to participate. In the Norn lands, Magni the Bison, one of the mightiest heroes in Norn history, has set up a fighting tournament that will pit you against not only some great Norn warriors, but also some of the greatest heroes (and villains) in the history of the world. If you're good enough, you'll get the chance to fight Magni, himself, and see if you have what it takes to defeat the unbeaten champion of the north. Who knows, you might even convince some of those you defeat to join you later on in your quests.
The more cerebral Asura have developed a game called polymock, and they'll be more than happy to teach you how to play (although you may have to convince the acerbic polymock master that your puny, human mind can grasp all of the intricacies of the game). In this game, you match your carefully-chosen game pieces in one-on-one battles against your opponent's pieces. Win and you could collect new pieces to use in future polymock games. Lose and you risk terse derision from a wide variety of (mostly) Asuran polymock players.
If Dwarven boxing is more your style, you can hang around with Kilroy Stonekin, who's come to the Far Shiverpeaks to settle his old debts. Jabs, punches, and uppercuts used in a flurry of combos will rule the day as you and Kilroy fight your way through the pugilistic circuit, collecting debts and taking names along the way. But the hand-to-hand combat doesn't stop there. Imagine what it would be like going up against a Destroyer using nothing but your brass knuckles . . .
These games bring another piece of Guild Wars history into the game: In designing them, we hoped to get a sense of the excitement players have when playing mini-games during our annual festival events . . . but these games will go on all year 'round.
Who's Your Quest-Giver?
Another major change we instituted for Guild Wars: Eye of the North was to tie nearly every quest outside the main narrative to one of the groups in the northlands. When you complete these optional quests, not only will you gain experience, items, skills, and gold, you will also build up your reputation with that group. While not necessary to progressing through the main storyline of the game, you will reap benefits from expanding your goodwill with groups like the Dwarves, Norn, and Asura. Each race possesses special skills they guard closely, only divulging to those whom they can trust. Increase your reputation and your effectiveness in these skills increases as well.
Quests are just one way to build your reputation with the various groups. You can increase it by participating in the combat games mentioned above and by performing tasks important to a particular group. These tasks go beyond simple quests and might include things like killing particular "bosses" that have been causing problems in the area, or perhaps solving more intellectual problems, like deciphering Charr battle plans. Just about everything you do will have an impact on your reputation with the various groups inhabiting the lands in Guild Wars: Eye of the North.
As you delve deep into the 18 multi-level dungeons we've designed for Eye of the North, you'll have even more opportunities to build your reputation, as most of these dungeons contain quests you can complete for the various groups, and some even contain items those groups need to survive. Collect enough of these and watch your reputation rise.
We talked a lot about dungeons in the first Developer Diary article, but let me touch on a few points relating to dungeon quests. When you enter a dungeon and begin a quest, don't expect to stumble around in the dark. You'll have all of the same tools available in the dungeons that you have when doing quests above ground. We learned a lot since designing Sorrow's Furnace and have built even better dungeon experiences throughout GW:EN. For example, the mission map (also referred to as the "U Map") will uncover as you explore, giving you the ability to see where you are at all times and where you need to go.
Guild Wars players who have enjoyed the popular Sorrow's Furnace can expect the same dynamic experience they had while playing through that massive dungeon--each GW:EN dungeon is populated with unique monsters and NPCs with their own stories to tell--but as with all of the quests in Eye of the North, we have expanded the boundaries of RPG play in the Depths. Each dungeon has its own story to tell, which you'll learn as you explore its depths, interact with its NPCs, conquer its challenges, and reap its unique rewards.
What's in it for Me?
In the past, many Guild Wars players made a bee-line through the story missions to get to the end of the game as quickly as possible. And while that style of play will always be viable, we want to reward those players who take their time to explore and enjoy the rest of the game world. This is one of the reasons for the PvE-only skills we are introducing to the game in Eye of the North.
These skills will only be available in the roleplaying part of the game and won't be usable in PvP play. Most of the skills are tied to one of the groups you can gain reputation with, and you will learn them during quests or by becoming friendlier with that group. They will be directly tied to what you are doing in the game at the time, and will give those players who enjoy exploring the entire game world a deeper understanding of the culture of each group and more variety in the way they can accomplish their goals.
We are being very careful to make sure these skills don't unbalance the game, so don't worry that you will have to unlock certain "rep skills" in order to finish the game or even a certain quest. We are not trying to dictate player builds. We are simply trying to give everyone more choices in how they play the game, without unbalancing PvP play with a huge influx of new skills. So, have fun, explore, take on some side quests, and take your time enjoying all the goodies we're dropping into the world for you to find.
Have it Your Way
Of course, this wouldn't be a Guild Wars game without a main plotline weaving its way throughout the game. You can expect a series of quests that drive the central story of Eye of the North (as well as numerous subplots) from beginning to end. But by providing a wide variety of side quests, dungeon quests, and events, we hope to encourage players to go "off book."
But even if you stray pretty far off the main story, don't worry; we are providing players with direction throughout the game. There will always be indicators on how to get back onto the main story, but if you're having fun fighting bare-fisted with Kilroy, feel free to do so as long as you like. The main story will still be there when you're ready to continue your journey.
The maxim we took into this design cycle was: "play how you want, when you want, with who you want." Over the years, we've gotten a good feel for the amount of time players spend in the game, so we are providing quests for every level from casual to hard core. Plus, we've built content that can be enjoyed solo or in groups. What we hope is that every time you come into the game, no matter what type of player you are or how much time you have to play, there will be something you can do.
In GW:EN, the world is alive and there's always something happening. Whether it's just you and your Heroes or you and your eight friends, there's something for everybody in the quests. From unlocking the Norn tournament Heroes to finding that lost polymock piece no Asura has seen in centuries; from delving into dungeons that rival Sorrow's Furnace to uncovering the mystery of the great earthquakes wracking Tyria, we think you will agree that these are the most rewarding quests we've ever done for Guild Wars.
Article By: Ben Miller
Lead Designer, Eye of the North