We had the chance to talk with ArenaNet Associate Game Director Steven Waller and Environmental Art Team Lead Dave Beetlestone about the restoration of Lion's Arch. Find out why and how this big Guild Wars 2 event is being pulled off in this exclusive interview.
MMORPG: I think we all knew Lion’s Arch would be rebuilt, but why did you choose to do so now?
Steven: I remember when we first talked about destroying one of the major player hubs in Guild Wars 2. Internally and externally people were like – you’re doing what?! It was an amazing step to take and showed how seriously we took the story we were telling. Since Scarlet Briar’s attack on the city back in March of 2014, the city’s inhabitants went through over a year of suffering. Along the way, the Zephyrites and Queen Jennah lent a hand toward the recovery effort by hosting the “Festival of the Four Winds” and reopening the Crown Pavilion, from which proceeds were donated to help with the rebuilding process. So a year later, we felt the right amount of time had passed to progress the story and show that, as it has in the past, the city of Lion’s Arch finds a way to rise again. In some ways, it’s an interesting contrast to the dire situation happening out west with the Elder Dragon Mordremoth. And players had a special opportunity to be a part of the rebuilding process by voting on names for certain areas in the new map. So overall, the timing was right for the story and our upcoming expansion, Heart of Thorns. I hope players are excited about the changes and to have a great location to gather in the future.
MMORPG: The old Lion’s Arch sported a nautical theme. What was the new theme for the redesign, and how did you achieve that look?
Steven: Obviously Dave can speak to the visual aspect, but I’ll mention that the entire team worked to support the overall theme of Lion’s Arch rising from the ashes to be a stronger city that defies attempts to see it snuffed out. From the music to the NPC scenes and conversations, we wanted to support that idea. The city and citizens of Lion’s Arch are resilient, if not always law-abiding.
Dave: Being that Lion’s Arch is a port city and considered the center of commerce, we definitely wanted to make sure that we stayed true to the nautical theme from years past and even leveraged the theme to help players navigate the new space. It’s much easier now to find important activity areas by the aquatic representation associated with each. If a new player were to ask where the crafting area is or “how do I find the bank?” someone in chat can call-out landmarks such as the octopus, seashell or starfish to help describe the destination.
MMORPG: Each major city has a certain feel that corresponds with the race that built it. Does anyone style used by any of the races stand out more than the others in the new design?
Dave: Lion’s Arch has always been considered a melting-pot type of city where the fusion of all cultures comes together. For this reason, we tried not to emphasize the influence of any specific race in the game and instead created something unique and memorable for all to enjoy.
MMORPG: Did you draw any influence from old concept art, both from Guild Wars 2 and the original games?
Dave: Geographically, we still have the original Lion’s Arch from GW1 represented in the map along with “pieces from the past” that indicate some of the more noteworthy events that have occurred throughout the years.
MMORPG: Obviously if you’re going to rebuild something, you have to make it even bigger and better than before. What did you do visually to give the city a grander feel?
Dave: It might be an understatement to say that it’s bigger and better than before. We felt that the most important city hub in the game needed a serious overhaul in terms of scale, ease of navigation and fortification. The previous city definitely had an old world charm prior to the destruction, but it was often difficult to navigate and at times seemed like it could collapse in a heavy wind. This time around we wanted to make sure that it could withstand almost any threat while providing a new sense of elegance to the world.
MMORPG: One of the best parts of Lion’s Arch was that it was really fun to run around and explore. Will we get new hidden tunnels, or any neat secrets to find?
Steven: There are lots of fun things to discover! Without giving too much away, players can find things that only happen at certain times of the day, updates to NPC stories that you may have followed, a new jumping puzzle that takes you throughout the city, some new “inhabitants” that the city may not want, and secret locations are among the many fun moments and opportunities that the team worked hard to add. And there are new areas that players can use to create their own fun experiences in the game, like the stage in the Crow’s Nest Tavern and the special event location at Deverol Gardens.
MMORPG: Were there any concerns, or major challenges you had to tackle while designing the new city?
Steven: For any content we create, it’s a constant process of everyone on the team working to make something that’s cohesive. In the case of rebuilding Lion’s Arch, we had the overall functional aspects of where services were located and how the flow between them worked mixed in with the variety of content being added for the fun of exploring and discovering cool moments and awesome locations. As one example, Design and Environment Art work back and forth between the map being created and content being added. Sometimes map changes affect something that the designers are working on – like NPC positions or pathing. Similarly, a design idea might impact something the artists are doing in terms of layout or the placement of an object – like working out how the Competitive area in Fort Marriner is set up. Communication between team members is always really important in order to create the best experience possible for players.
MMORPG: Will we continue to see Lion’s Arch undergo transformations during the holiday events? If so, will the decorations be taken in new directions?
Steven: I’d personally love to see Halloween continue to take place in Lion’s Arch but with the rebuilding having just been completed, I don’t think any final plans have been made for holidays yet.
Dave: Halloween and the Mad King have always had deep ties to Lion’s Arch and will hopefully continue for many years to come. With the re-work of the city layout we’ve also created enough new spaces for future events and additional areas for players to gather and celebrate together for any occasion.