It’s not long since ArenaNet strode onto the battlefield, took a look across the rolling hills of the Alpine Borderlands and came to the conclusion that what we need is more cats! The newest feline additions to Tyria were, however, less Chauncey Von Snuffles and a little more Battlecat. Late in February 2019, Guild Wars 2 got the Warclaw.
Billed as a unique addition to Tyria’s already established mount system, the Warclaw is a fearsome beast. Adorned with massive claws and a fearsome array of teeth, this battle-ready companion is built for World versus World combat. Featuring a range of skills designed to help players take down enemy forts and formations, its introduction promise to kitten up your enemies.
While most dedicated World vs World Commanders will have mastered the Warclaw in almost no time at all, breeding such an indomitable beast takes time. Now they’ve had some time to watch the Warclaw tear a hole through your enemies, we grouped up with ArenaNet’s Raymond Lukes and Ben Phongluangtham to talk about bringing the Warclaw to life.
MMORPG: We’ve become really used to ArenaNet just dropping mounts into the game like they are no trouble at all. What does it take to bring a new mount to life?
Raymond Lukes, Gameplay Engineer: Mounts are a lot of work across a lot of disciplines. We’ve gotten better at understanding what it takes to do a mount at a base level, but each mount has unique properties and feel so each one has a fair amount of discovery and iteration that is necessary for the design. We generally start with a prototype where the basic functionality is proven out and a better understanding of the art needs are gathered. This is where we spend time figuring out what all we want the mount to do and what kind of a tool the mount is going to be. Using the Warclaw as an example, we prototyped a lot, taking the Griffon mount and removing flying, tweaking the speed to get the right feel, etc.
We also prototyped some of the functionality, like the Warclaw’s gate-pull maneuver. The Warclaw at this stage didn’t have the dash evade it has now; it had a different dodge mechanic that ended up not working out after doing some internal playtesting.
From here we turned to art. There was some initial model re-work where the art team quickly modified a Griffon so we had a rough version to test what playing with the mount would feel like for players. We did a pitch to leadership, discussed risks, and then moved to full production, where a bulk of the work was done. There is a production line, where one team handles their work, followed by the next, and so on. Once the model is mostly finished and the animation team starts to move towards the final version, we get back into polishing the feel and the timing of using the mount. This is where elements like the dodge changed. It’s a pretty lengthy process but it touches different teams and people throughout.
MMORPG: Where did the inspiration for the Warclaw come from?
Ben Phongluangtham, Game Designer: We evaluated several themes before settling on the Warclaw. A dolyak would have been the obvious choice, but the dolyak models, rig and animations are very old and would have required a significant rework to make acceptable for a playable mount. We considered something more technology themed, like the Charr cars. We even considered just adapting a PvE mount for WvW use. In the end, we felt making a mount specific to WvW was the best solution and gave us the most flexibility for tailoring the mount to WvW gameplay.
MMORPG: On the most recent mount introduced to the game, the Warclaw. With such a massive diversity in terrain across WvW, why choose a cat (apart from the obvious He-Man cosplay opportunities)?
Ben: I’m not going to lie, we had a picture of He-Man’s Battlecat as part of our pitch presentation! Cats have become somewhat of a theme for WvW, with the Catmander tags and home instance pets already present. Additionally, it allowed us to save us some animation time, since we were able to modify the Griffon rig and animations to fit our Warclaw design.
Raymond: WvW presents a number of considerations we needed to be mindful of when choosing something players could ride. We wanted the mount to be useable across enemy lines and so we had to be careful about what kind of movement the mount would be capable of.
MMORPG: Do you think the amount of effort it takes for players to unlock the Warclaw is about right?
Ben: For the Warclaw, we very consciously wanted to make it relatively easy to obtain compared to something like the Griffon. By its nature, the Warclaw was going to split the population into mounted and unmounted players. We wanted to make this split as short as possible. Additionally, we knew a lot of players who didn’t regularly play WvW would likely want to unlock the Warclaw. Because of this, we wanted to make obtaining the mount be a sort of “tour” of WvW.
MMORPG: I’m old enough to remember the days pre Edge of The Mists, when lag was still problematic. Prior to launch of the Warclaw, were there any concerns about how the it could negatively impact player experience?
Ben: We did a several tests to make sure that the Warclaw didn’t negatively affect performance. We additionally tested several different mount speeds in order get a speed that felt impactful, but didn’t completely remove attrition as a WvW mechanic.
MMORPG: Does the introduction of the Warclaw open up new avenues for progression in WvW?
Raymond: The mount is something we want to continue to support and to this end we have some ideas about how we might add to the mastery track for the Warclaw over time.