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Dynamic Events Interview

Jon Wood Posted:
Interviews 0

After yesterday's reveal of the Guild Wars 2 Dynamic Events system, MMORPG.com's Jon Wood had a few questions for ArenaNet Lead Content Designer Colin Johanson.


For those who may not be familiar with it, can you summarize the dynamic event system?

Colin Johanson:

The dynamic event system in Guild Wars 2 replaces the old concept of the static quest you find in a traditional MMO. We want to get rid of the old MMO paradigm where players run around looking for NPCs with bangs or question marks over their heads. You run up, talk to this character, receive paragraphs of text that few people bother to read describing something you need to do, and then you run off and do it. When you’re done, you return and speak to the NPC who gave you the quest, the quest ends, you get a reward… and the world never changes.

In the Guild Wars 2 dynamic event system, an event will kick off in the world and players will see things in their environment – like smoke from a burning caravan - and hear NPCs shouting about what is happening. You’ll never have to read a big chunk of quest text to find out what’s going on; you’ll actively see and hear about it. Based on what happens in that event, the world will change and the event will chain out into other events that cascade across the map, creating a truly dynamic and ever-changing world.

Players can choose to participate in events that occur all over the map, which have a cascading cause-and-effect in the game world based on player participation and the outcome of the event chain. Events exist in a persistent world; they are content shared between all the players who choose to participate in them. They can even be triggered by actions the players take as they explore and play in the game.

Let me give you an example of the Guild Wars 2 dynamic event system in action. Players can gain access to the home city of the skritt -a bunch of rat people- but first, they need to progress an event chain in order to win over their trust. The event chain begins with skritt outside the closed city being kidnapped by members of the Nightmare Court - evil sylvari. Players can join in the event chain and attempt to stop the skritt from being kidnapped.

If the Nightmare Court succeeds in kidnapping the skritt, they take their captives back to a prison, where they prepare to torture and brainwash them. A new event will kick off to rescue the skritt from their captors before they become brainwashed. If the players don’t save the skritt prisoners, the Nightmare Court will drive them insane, and these brainwashed skritt will launch an attack on their brethren back at the home city - which will kick off a new event to help defend the skritt city from the insane ones!

On the other hand, should the players save the skritt from their kidnappers, the event chain will alter dramatically. The skritt will become more trusting towards the players and open the front gate of their home city, allowing players inside. From there, events will cascade out into further chains that kick off as a result of the skritt city being opened. Eventually the chains will reach a point where the players can complete events that open up an audience with the king of the skritt, which will in turn launch an entire new set of events. Should the skritt king ever be slain in the ensuing chains of events that follow, the event chain cycles back around as the skritt throw the players out of the city and turn their backs on the “untrustworthy” outsiders. Players will then need to complete different event chains in order to win back the trust of the skritt and get invited into their city once again, where they will access different event chains. The particular events in this area involve dozens of different events, all contained within various chains involving the skritt city.

Event chains like the ones I’ve described with the skritt make exploring our game world a new and exciting experience every time. The world won’t feel like a static place where what you do doesn’t make a difference; your actions will directly affect the game world.


Will dynamic events completely replace traditional MMO quests, or will there be a mix of the two?

Colin Johanson:

Our dynamic event system is just one of the major content systems we’ve developed to replace traditional static MMO style quests. The second system we’ve developed is your player’s personal storyline. The idea behind this new form of content is that in MMORPGs your character never actually really establishes a personality or an identity in the world. MMOs seem to have forgotten to put the “RPG” in their MMORPGs.

In Guild Wars 2, the game is the story of YOUR character. You make decisions and choices that will directly affect the content you experience. You’ll make friends, enemies, and hard emotional choices. You will face the consequences and reap the rewards from all your decisions. We’re using our personal storyline to take the best aspects of an RPG and add them to an MMO. You can play your personal story on your own, or bring your friends along to help you and experience your story, just like you can help them with their own story. We’ll be discussing our personal story system and other engaging content like dungeons and mini-games in greater detail soon.


Won’t the full time operation of dynamic events, which appear from your dev journal to not be re-used, take up a great deal of time, energy and cost on the part of the developers and / or publishers?

Colin Johanson:

It’s important to clarify that the event system is cyclical in nature. Events will occur again in the game world; they go in cycles where chains of events cascade out based on decisions and actions taken by the players. These events change the world when they occur, but it isn’t a change that lasts forever in the persistent world, it’s a change that lasts as long as the event chains in the area continue along that path until they cycle around into other events, all driven by player actions.

For instance, let’s say you want to take over a fort that the centaurs used to own and keep it under player control? Players need only fight to hold the area; should they lose control of the area, the event chain will cycle and the centaurs will begin launching assaults from their re-captured fort.

That being said, the dynamic event system is one of the great gambles we’re taking in developing Guild Wars 2. In a traditional MMO, you can make a handful of quests that each last 10 minutes, and because every player can do that content, you’ve just done enough work to keep players busy for an hour of gameplay.

Because the dynamic event system goes in cycles and branches out across the map, and because a specific event won’t always be running but instead will be going through various chains, we need to develop far more content to ensure that the player always has something fun and exciting to do in the world. If a traditional MMO quest takes, say, 10 minutes, we have to build an event chain made up of 3 events that all last 10 minutes, since only one of those events in that specific chain can be occurring at a time. At that point, we’ve done at least three times the amount of content creation to fill up the same amount of gameplay.

Going into the project we recognized this as one of the great obstacles, and to overcome it, we’re developing a staggering amount of content to make the game world always feel alive and exciting. We believe the MMO genre has been too risk-averse for too long. We are challenging the normal conventions of the MMO genre and have found ways to really innovate and change the way people view these games. The event system is at the forefront of the content we’re developing to challenge this convention, and we’ve seen tremendous results from our internal testing so far. The costs and challenges associated with developing a system like Guild Wars 2 is worth it because of the long-term gain for the players in the content they are going to experience. From playing the game together constantly as a studio, we’ve seen that the risk is really paying off. Other developers have talked a big game about innovative new features and have under-delivered. We’re committed to delivering on our promises with our innovations. We’re playing through event chains in the fully functioning dynamic event system on a daily basis, and we’re having a freaking blast playing it together!


If these events simply happen, and the consequences of player actions are felt across the game world, how do you make enough of this content for every player? Won’t a great number of players miss the content?

Colin Johanson:

As I mentioned before, the amount of work it takes to fill a game like this using a dynamic event system is massive. We recognize this and are embracing that workload to ensure that there is enough content so that every player always has something new and fun to do in the game world.

While a player might miss one particular event, the idea is that they haven’t missed out on the fun of the game world; they’ve simply missed one specific thing that occurred. If one player in one part of the map is off experiencing an event where centaur shaman create a massive tornado which spews forth earth elementals, another player in a different part of the map will be experiencing an equally awesome event chain where a centaur army is assaulting the village of Beetletun, destroying homes, smashing down the city gates, and chopping down the citizens. The goal is that players should never feel like they missed out on the cool thing, but rather that everyone is constantly experiencing different cool and amazing moments, so they all have unique and interesting stories to tell one another.


How do Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events differ from similar sounding, already existing game mechanics like, say, public quests in Warhammer Online?

Colin Johanson:

The difference between these two systems lies in the word “dynamic.” When a public quest ends the game world does not change; the actions the players took really made no difference. A timer starts counting down and then the public quest runs again.

In Guild Wars 2, when a dynamic event ends, the game will be changed as a result of the event occurring. The event will then chain and cascade out into other events that occur as a direct result of the outcome of the previous event, creating a world where the content is dynamic and changes based on player participation and activity. You’ll never encounter a point in Guild Wars 2 where you complete a task and a timer pops up and says, “4 minutes until the thing you just did happens again.” It breaks your sense of immersion and gives you a sense that things you do in the game world don’t really matter.

Another major difference is because the events dynamically scale in difficulty, anyone can participate in and complete them, regardless of how many people are in the zone. Their public quest system required a lot of people to be in the area to complete most of the quests, because they were too difficult for the single player. So when server population went down, or you were off playing solo, or the population in the game moved on to higher level maps, people couldn’t play the public quests. People will always be able to participate in the dynamic event system- anytime, anywhere, at any point in the game’s life cycle.

The final core difference between our dynamic event system and public quests is that everyone who actively participates in the event will receive the full reward for the event. There will be no instance where someone shows up for the last 30 seconds of the event, kills a couple minotaurs, and then receives the best reward from the loot system. If you participate fully in the event, you get the reward, period.

There is also the added bonus you can experience our dynamic event system without having to pay a monthly fee!


Players reading this dev journal are going to have high hopes for a dynamic sandbox style game. Is this where their expectations should be for this game, or will there be more traditional theme park elements as well?

Colin Johanson:

When we sat down to decide what Guild Wars 2 should be as a game, we focused on taking every element of traditional MMOs and finding ways to improve, innovate, and evolve them. We’re using the dynamic event system to give the persistent world a sense of that sandbox element because we felt it was the best way to reinvent the way people view persistent worlds. We’ve developed our personal story system to really give players a sense of personal story and progression in an MMO. We’re developing other forms of content like dungeons and mini-games that we’ll discuss in the future that fall a bit more into the theme park elements you’re asking about. The goal is to make a game that improves on the things that MMOs do well and to evolve the genre in new innovative ways that solve the things that MMOs don’t do well.


What does this new system mean for solo players? Will those who like to play alone in MMOs be squeezed out of the game entirely, or forced to work cooperatively with others to achieve?

Colin Johanson:

We want all player types to be able to enjoy and experience Guild Wars 2 as much as the next; it’s one of our key design philosophies behind the game. People should be able to play in the world the way they want, have fun, and be rewarded for doing so. You can do your personal story line entirely by yourself, or you can bring friends along to experience it with you. If you’re the only person in the area, you can participate in events all by yourself. They scale dynamically in difficulty, so even if a single player is doing the event, it will scale so that player can complete it.

We’ll never force you to work with others, but we will make it a rewarding and fun experience to do so. No one will ever steal your kills, or steal your event participation. Anyone who actively participates in killing a creature or participating in an event will be rewarded for doing so. If other players arrive at the dynamic event you’re participating in, the event will scale so you both have enough to do and you don’t ever feel like another player is stealing your content or encroaching on your territory. Instead, they’re simply there to help accomplish the shared goals of the world. At any given time, you can wander off into the world and explore and do your own thing - the choice is yours!


Jon Wood