Six years ago, Guild Wars 2 released. After a ridiculous amount of hype and a promise to play the way we wanted, nothing quite seemed off the table. ArenaNet took Tyria and turned it from a single player instance, into a massive sprawling world that lived and breathed. Living World truly brought this to the fore. It took characters we loved and took them on a journey. It introduced new heroes, fantastic villains, and changed the face of the world. After 6 years ArenaNet of game changing events, we got some time to sit down and talk to Mike Zadorojny, Game Director, and Elisabeth Cardy, Global Brand Manager, to talk about how Living World has changed the way ArenaNet tell stories.
MMORPG: Why did you decide to continue the Living World and go straight from Season 4 to Season 5 rather than say, work on an expansion in the background?
Mike: There's a number of different reasons why it made sense for us to do this. A lot of it comes down to just how we are operating Because Living World is so iterative it's a lot easier for us to adapt based on player feedback. We have a lot of the core systems already in place that we can build off of. I mean we kind of saw going from Heart of Thorns to Path of Fire. Path of Fire’s mounts was an extension of the mastery system. So, we can continue to play with the Mastery System in a way that we couldn't originally have envisioned when we were first designing them beforehand. So, this is just another reason why it made sense for us, right now, to say “hey with season four we come to a pretty amazing point right now. We have a huge climax coming soon and we know that we can move directly from four to five and continue that pace. We can continue that story line because there are still a lot of unanswered questions in terms of where Tyria is going with the lore.
MMORPG: What's been the biggest change that you've seen from the outset of Living world to where Guild Wars 2 is right now?
Mike: I think it's the player engagement and how much the conversation just changed. I think for season one there was a lot of really cool epic moments that we did that changed the face of the world but then it was gone. There was a longing to go back and revisit a lot of those things which is part of why we moved away from that that philosophy into season two. In season two we felt that if we can keep a really quick pace it's like there's always something new every time you log in. However, the average player wasn't necessarily able to keep up with all the updates that we're doing, and we do recognize that our business model supports the idea that you can have a life. You can go do other things and come back and enjoy the game. So, moving into season three we felt like the move to three-month updates allows us to give a meatier chunk with a much larger episode than the original two-week chunks were with more content. There are more story instances, more achievements, more open world exploration and this just felt like a better grove for us to be able to hit internally for our development cadence and for our players.
MMORPG: Is that part of the reason the Black Lion Chests changed recently to allow players to grab items they hadn’t managed to get in previous seasons?
Mike: Yes. As the game has matured we are seeing that we still have new players that are coming in that weren't part of some of those early stories those early experiences and we still wanted to find a way that allowed them to still feel like they were a part of the community and weren't left out. But the more established player base has been there from the beginning has those memories and those stories. At the end of the day that's what this game is really about it's about the connections that you make with other people and it's about the idea that when you walk away from this when you are going to your dinner table and having your meal with your friends, you can talk about the cool experiences you had. That's ultimately what we want for the players. There’s a legacy of this franchise that we're delivering with Guild Wars 2 that will resonate with players even after this game is done.
MMORPG: How difficult is it to balance the game for those different types of players, old and new to the game?
Mike: I think there's two ways that we approach I. If you look at Path of Fire, it does a good job as a starting point for brand new players. You can use that as your launch point and get caught up in terms of what's going on in the overall story like you feel connection to those characters, having been there from beginning of how the group was kind of forming. The way that the actors play off each other the way they play off the Commander and a lot of it can come down to just one moment for a new player to understand what Guild Wars 2 is about. It’s about helping to find and create that chance for players to get in there and go “OK now I understand this is different than all those other MMOs”. Guild Wars 2 doesn't have the same vertical progression that goes beyond the level cap and doesn't go beyond that or require new gear every time a new update comes out or new expansion. So, then it really becomes about understanding how players can they get to level 80, either using the boost or with friends and then understand the vertical progression and just having that sense of exploration and knowing that the game is really the journey.
MMORPG: The point at which the character boost was introduced was a point I saw the game acknowledging that new players really need a helping hand to get a foothold in the world, was there any trepidation in adding that to the game?
Mike: Any time you insert a character boost there's a concern about being able to understand what’s going on in the world, being able to just jump into those high-level zones, and understand your character does. A lot of Guild Wars 2 is active avoidance. My survivability is how much I can stay out of the red rings and so that's one of these that we're constantly evaluating about how we can make sure that we're better teaching the mechanics of the game and making the game more approachable even for someone who hasn't spent a lot of time in it.
MMORPG: Bearing that in mind, do you feel that the game’s in a good place that moving from Season 4 to Season 5 won’t have a major impact on new players trying to enter the game?
Mike: The thing that we have going for us is that the Season 4 maps are still active today because of the mastery systems and because of the achievements that are in those maps. So, players who come in, even if they come in that season five are still going to like it's going to be a continuation of the story we've been telling but, again, we're going to make it so it's easy to understand. Still, for the people who are really paying attention to lore will understand all the intricacies of it and will to be able to understand where we're coming from for the next season and where we're trying to get to as well.