MMORPG: Talking a little about masteries... on some level, they sounded like Agony Resistance, which you need to do fractals, but aren't needed elsewhere. Am I reading that right? Are they “You must complete this content before you defeat this boss?” If so, it sounds a little like a “gear check” and seem to work against the notion of “jump right in” content that Guild Wars 2 is known for.
CJ: I think, fundamentally, you're going to encounter stuff in the jungle that is very challenging to overcome that you can't defeat at all until you've built up the masteries to face those challenges. That goes both for you on your own as well as in groups. That will be a component of why the mastery system works in the first place. We need to give you those challenges and have you earn the abilities to overcome those challenges.
The WvW ability system is a bit of a parallel for what we're trying to accomplish with masteries, so you can use that as a concept. We want to provide that same concept and evolve it even more with PvE. It'll complement everything that you're doing: combat, exploration, lore, building, crafting... all of those components will have elements that are supported by it, with combat being the most important one when you think about true, meaningful progression.
MMORPG: Let's talk about precursors! My favorite topic! Is it going to be sort of like Luminescent Armor, where you do a bunch of little things and it all comes together?
CJ: I think the Luminescent Armor collections are a really great example of the type of thing we can do in the game now with the collection system. When we originally talked about adding precursors and the ability to work toward them (“A long, long time ago”), it was always with this in mind. We had a plan, we decided to do collections, and felt like collections were just a much better way to do what we wanted to do with precursors than what our original plan was.
The collection system allows you to go on these big, epic journeys that send you all across the game, and Heart of Thorns is going to build on top of it. You'll use collections that are unlocked by spending mastery points, and those collections will send you all over the world – not just to the jungle, but to the existing game, as well. Think of it like a big, epic quest that you're on all across the world to complete your collection. You're touring our entire world and beating all kinds of exciting content as you go through it. When all of that's completed, the precursor awaits you.
MMORPG: To clarify, it's one precursor collection... per character? Per account?
CJ: All collections are account-based, so there's one collection per precursor per account
MMORPG: Oh good, it was sounding like was one precursor, period, per account.
CJ: Yeah, that would be awful. (laughs)
MMORPG: You compared specializations to secondary professions from Guild Wars. Would I be a ranger/druid in the same way I might have been a warrior/elementalist? Can I use powers from both, or do I press a button to switch from being a ranger to being a druid?
CJ: When you are a druid, you have the capacity to use powers that a ranger cannot use, but while you're a druid, you can still take advantage of the abilities that a ranger has available to it and use those to mix and match. There are some key fundamental differences [from GW secondary classes], but the concept is very similar.
MMORPG: That's a one-time thing, correct? I'm a ranger, I do my stuff and bam, I'm a druid, I can use druid powers?
CJ: Correct, and then you can swap back and forth, you can say “My character's a druid, but I'm going to play as a ranger today.” It's very similar to changing out your skills and traits, you can go in and change whenever you want, as long as you're out of combat.
MMORPG: You brought up the new WvW borderlands map and how you'll hold an objective and get a benefit for your world. Are you thinking that's enough incentive? I know there are some team-oriented WvW players and commanders who are interested in winning the battles for their world, but there are a lot of people more concerned with individual rewards, who would rather take keeps than sit and hold Stonemist because it's more rewarding to be on the offensive.
CJ: All over WvW, we're looking at making core changes that make holding and defending objectives a bigger component, both to your success in WvW and the core WvW experience. The exact details about how we're going to support that is something we're going to come back to and talk a little more about later.
We think the most fun parts of WvW, the things that you really sit back and remember, are when you have these giant battles that happen at castles or when two small groups run into each other at a tower and they have this skirmish for control of that tower – that's when WvW is at its best. That's what we want the gameplay to be, so we need to drive that and make that a bigger part of what you want to do, from a standpoint of providing bigger motivation as to why you'd want to hold and defend those objectives. That comes down to group incentives, individual incentives... all of those need to be there to encourage players to want to hold those things.
MMORPG: Briefly, about guild halls... are they going to be just for show, or are they going to have some kind of gameplay attached?
CJ: We're looking at fundamental progression throughout the game, and that includes guild progression. Your guild hall is your home for your guild progression. You will not just own a guild hall, you will build and progress your guild hall and your guild. That's a key component to Heart of Thorns and will be a key component to all of the content that we do in the future with the game as well. We're building a progression system in PvE with masteries, and guild halls give us a progression for guilds that we can build on in the future, as well.