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Mike O’Brien - One Year Later

Garrett Fuller Posted:
Interviews 0

It is amazing to think that Guild Wars 2 is coming up on its one year anniversary. The game launched at the end of last summer to rave reviews. It heralded a new step in MMO development for the decade and continues to remain strong today. Mike O’Brien, president and co-founder of ArenaNet spoke with a few members of the press yesterday on how the game has evolved and more importantly what the team has in store for the future.

Mike’s main talking point about the game was the living world. ArenaNet is dedicated to making Guild Wars 2 a living, breathing landscape where players can adventure for years to come. Basically, he explained that once the game launched and got its “sea legs” under it after the first few months, the team shifted their focus on to the living world initiative. Mike said they reoriented the company to deliver content at a fast paced rate which. He wants to create the feeling that players are truly fighting for their world. It really gives players the chance to leave their mark.

I asked Mike what the biggest challenge was over the last year with Guild Wars 2 and he said it was definitely delivering the content at the pace ArenaNet wanted. A key thing was that they did not want a business model to dictate updates. They wanted the rapid updates with their development teams to work in parallel to make sure everything was added smoothly. It began with the underlying tech to make the changes as well as the workflow. Once the team got better at it they were able to work much faster and meet the pace they set.

Mike was asked about an expansion to the game and he said right now the focus is on the living world. Through these updates the team has added zones and content. “I don’t think the players should judge a game based on land mass,” Mike said. The focus is not to add more land, but more things to do and greater challenges.

Mike addressed the concerns for a player gap and gear grind. He said these rapid updates are not about grinding for gear and going off to new raids. It is more about making the overall world have a pulse and a flow. Players can choose what content they want to do, but are not separated because they do not have the right gear to enter a raid. They want the community to be a part of something not just divided by added features. The more zones a game adds the more empty zones you find later on when the players pass that curve.  The content has to be the opposite of vertical grind models. Imagine a world with twenty four updates in one year, think of the changes that can occur. ArenaNet is making these changes without forcing players to grind out the next set of gear or items to partake.

With the two week update schedule now in full swing, Mike said that it is like something new is happening each week. There is the week of anticipation before the launch and then there is the week it happens. The goal is to always have something to look forward to. Players have a reason to talk and plan for the next update. They want the players to be entertained and not bogged down in details. A year later the world will feel different and that is the goal.

When asked about the personal story, Mike said they have steered away from impacts to the personal story because some things you cannot change. They will eventually start making changes to those areas in the game but they are careful to keep some things the same.

Mike did address the growth of the game at the end of the call and said that the Free-Trials have been very successful. The conversion rates have been high vs. industry standards on players returning to the game. He was also asked about the Guild Wars 2 launch in China that is coming up. No details or projections, but Mike said that China is a huge market and when you look at other MMOs that launch in China they usually see a lot of growth.

Guild Wars 2 remains a strong MMO and even a year later has a large and loyal player base. The game continues to grow and ArenaNet is determined to provide updates every two weeks. Thanks to Mike for taking time to chat with us. Be sure to check out the anniversary party at PAX this weekend!

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Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.