The cat's out of the bag: ArenaNet put a secret hidden mount inside of their latest Guild Wars 2 expansion: Path of Fire. Now that everyone everywhere is getting their Griffon, we caught up with the designers to chat about how and why they decided to keep this one a secret.
MMORPG: At what point during the design did you decide to put in a hidden mount for Path of Fire?
Joel Helmich: Originally we weren't going to hide any mounts, and in fact it was the jackal that was going to be the "ultimate" mount, with the griffon being integrated into progression of the fourth or fifth map. At the time we hadn't built any of the pitch control mechanics for the griffon, so all it could do was flap a couple of times in the air. However, we found that in practice there weren't enough good use cases for that functionality that didn't heavily overlap with the springer's super jump, so we went back to the drawing board and tried out some different ideas.
Once we'd built a prototype of the mount that could dive and climb, we found it was so compelling that we radically changed plans and decided that the griffon should be the final mount instead. Over time, we further decided that it would be best if the griffon was unlocked after completing most of the expansion, as we wanted the other mounts to have ample time to shine without having to worry about competing with a creature that could soar through the air. Eventually this evolved into complete secrecy, with the objective of surprising and delighting players with an incredible post-game reward.
MMORPG: What made you decide to make it a sort of scavenger hunt?
Roy Cronacher: We were looking for a compelling reward as something to work towards after players had beaten the story of Path of Fire. Around that time, we were iterating on the griffon mount and it was such a big hit internally that we figured it would be a perfect fit for this cool surprise and a different enough mount to feel like a good reward for that extra effort. The puzzle aspect was also an opportunity for individual fans and the community as a whole to explore the world around them and piece clues together.
MMORPG: Why did you choose a Griffon?
Roy Cronacher: When we started with mounts, we knew we wanted to focus each one on tackling different kinds of terrain throughout the world. Flight was an obvious one to try, but we knew it would be very hard to get right and to fit into Tyria. We wanted to make flight a compelling experience, but the aerial mount also need to make sense both in the air and running on the ground. Most creatures that can fly do not really make sense for running quickly on the ground so it was tough. During one meeting, the idea of making it a griffon was brought up and it just clicked. It would fit the type of movement for both the ground and air that we were aiming for with this mount.
Joel Helmich: It was a combination of a few factors. We wanted the mount to be visually distinct from the other mounts, and we were missing something cat-like in our roster. We also needed something that would naturally support a movement mechanic unlike the other mounts, such as multiple air jumps, and a creature with wings fit the bill. Finally, griffons are rad.
MMORPG: Were you worried at all about the idea leaking?
Roy Cronacher: We were definitely anxious about keeping it under wraps. We were happy that we were able to keep it as a nice surprise.
MMORPG: In a lot of ways, it’s like GW2’s own flying mount, or a “Legendary” mount for those willing to make the effort. Do you plan on adding more mounts like this? Maybe variations of the others?
Team: Well, we’re currently focused on the content that shipped with Path of Fire and will discuss future content when we are closer to releasing it.
MMORPG: The mount system, in general, has brought a renewed sense of exploration to Tyria again. Old areas are new again with the abilities they have. Was that part of the design goal, or was it just “Hey, it’s about time”?
Roy Cronacher: This was definitely something that was intentional with the design of mounts. We knew from the beginning that we wanted them to be used everywhere in the open world. It’s one of those things, like gliding, where once you have it you can’t live without it. It helps breathe new life into areas you have already been playing for a while by opening them up to explore in new ways.
Joel Helmich: We definitely wanted to rekindle that joy of exploration by letting players approach the beautiful world of Tyria in ways they couldn't before.
MMORPG: What other secrets are waiting in Path of Fire? I mean, don’t give it all away, but now we’re all waiting for more surprises.
ArenaNet: While there are plenty of neat moments to enjoy and discoveries to be made in the Crystal Desert, we don’t currently have anything on the level of the griffon still in hiding.