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'Path of Fire is All About Content' - Our Interview with Mike Zadorojny

William Murphy Posted:
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Last week, ArenaNet unveiled the next expansion to Guild Wars 2. Called Path of Fire, the expansion is "all about content". We had the opportunity to submit a number of questions to ArenaNet's Mike Zadorojny to learn more about the expansion, bringing returning players back to Tyria and much more.

MMORPG: Firstly, congrats on the launch! I know there were leaks and all, but it must still feel great to officially show things to people. To not have to hold it in anymore.

Mike Zadorojny: I think you mean, announcement, but thank you! It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to talk to the players about the project. The initial reaction from the fans has been everything we hoped for and more. And in less than two months we’re excited to jump into the Crystal Desert with everyone!

MMORPG: Let’s get right to it: Will Living World Season 4 start right 2-3 months after the PoF launch? If so, can we expect another 6 episode season? Is this the cadence you’re aiming for again?

Mike Zadorojny: Our goals with Season 4 is to start on the heels of Path of Fire, with no major break in content delivery! With Season 3 we hit a good stride with our cadence that allowed us to focus on quality and telling the stories that we wanted to tell and we’re planning to continue that with Season 4.

MMORPG: Presumably, we’ll have another expansion after that? Or another Season first?

Mike Zadorojny: We haven’t even launched this expansion yet, and you’re already trying to get me to comment on something that far down the road? Right now, all our attention is on the story hand-off from Living World Season 3 to Path of Fire and back to Living World Season 4.

MMORPG: This expansion is focused less on retooling the game, and more on content. Does that mean players can expect “more meat” front loaded into these five zones than what Maguuma had at the outset?

Mike Zadorojny: Path of Fire is all about content. When we released Heart of Thorns we introduced a number of new features like Masteries that allow us to expand the world and create new types of content for our players. The goal we set for ourselves with Path of Fire was to bring back the sense of exploration from the original launch of the game combined with the “joy of movement” we developed with the gliding mastery in Heart of Thorns. With that framework, the team has built larger, more expansive maps that have allowed us the freedom to use mounts to expand on the content types players are already familiar with. That means that there are more amazing sights to see and cool experiences hidden around every corner.

MMORPG: One of the biggest barriers to reentry at expansion time is a lack of knowledge, be it of systems or lore. Previous attempts at keeping the player population up to speed have met with varied success. With this in mind and even more content behind you now, how do you intend to ease returning players back into Tyria?

Mike Zadorojny: Because Path of Fire is all about adding content rather than brand-new systems, we spent our efforts expanding on things in ways that players already understand. When we did add something, like mounts, we introduced them using game systems that players are familiar with to make them easier to get into. And, we’ve spent a fair amount of time making sure that plot points from the past are referenced in a way that helps give context to current events but don’t leave players left hanging.

MMORPG: Path of Fire is a standalone, similar to the old campaigns from GW1. Does this mean a player can level 1-80 in the 5 new zones? How does that work? Do you make a level 80 at the start if you buy just Path of Fire?

Mike Zadorojny: When we say that Path of Fire is a standalone expansion, we mean that you don’t need to own anything else to get into it; it isn’t dependent on owning Heart of ThornsPath of Fire is level 80 content, and because the core of Guild Wars 2 is free to everyone, new players purchasing the expansion get the same 1-80 leveling experience as veterans and then can move right on into the desert! In addition, with the expansion we give players one free Level 80 Boost that they can use to join their friends and get into the new content right from the get-go.

MMORPG: Let’s shift to the mounts for a bit. Can you gather while mounted? How long is the cooldown on the combat entry skills?

Mike Zadorojny: The focus of mounts for Guild Wars 2 is all about the feel of riding through the open desert, exploring in new ways, and the “joy of movement”. Everything from the events we built to the lands that players will explore were designed to support this.  While interacting with NPCs and resource nodes automatically dismounts players, we’ve made the transition seamless.

Because we allow players deep combat customization through their choice of weapons, and specializations, combat is not the primary function of mounts. We wanted each of them to have a unique flavor and personality and to help players get into combat in new ways so we created an Engage Skill for each of them. The mounts engage skill will attack an enemy with a specific opening and dismount the player so they can use their existing combat skills on their target. As long as players are out of combat they can immediately remount and be on their way. There is no cool down on the mount’s Engage Skill, so as long as you can find a way to mount back up, you can get back into the fight immediately – the trick being, of course, that you can’t mount up while in combat.

MMORPG: How does one attain a mount? Is it locked behind Masteries, and if so is it really a lengthy process to unlock them?

Mike Zadorojny: Mounts build on the mastery system introduced in Heart of Thorns and extended through Season 3. Each mount has its own Mastery track tied to upgrades. We wanted players to get their first mount before they really set foot in the desert, so before they finish the first story step, players will have already unlocked the raptor! Additional mounts can be found in the later maps. They are spaced out so players have a chance to become familiar with each mount and understand its movement mechanic before they unlock the next one. Then, once a new mount has been unlocked, players can take that mount back into previous maps and see them in a new light, maybe getting to new areas that were unreachable before, or taking advantage of their mount’s movement capabilities in other ways.

MMORPG: Can they be used in the main GW2 zones, HoT too?

Mike Zadorojny: When Path of Fire launches on September 22, you will be able to take any mount that you’ve unlocked to Central Tyria and Heart of Thorns maps. Like with gliding before them, there will be areas that are off limits to mounts, like jumping puzzles, where we want to retain the initial spirit of the content. Our goal is to allow the freedom of movement the mounts provide to explore Central Tyria and the Heart of Maguuma in ways that weren’t possible before.

MMORPG: Are there going to be new crafting recipes with the launch of the expansion?

Mike Zadorojny: Each of the crafting professions will find new recipes for them in the desert!

MMORPG: Is PVP and WVW being focused on at all with the expansion, or will tweaks to those come in the Season 4?

Mike Zadorojny: Shortly before the announcement of Path of Fire, we dedicated the month of June to updates specifically for PvP and WvW. Our goal is to continue to roll out updates to these game modes independent of Living World and Path of Fire.

MMORPG: Lastly, are you insane with a 9/22 launch date? Curious minds want to know.

Mike Zadorojny: What can we say? We’re ambitious! Everything we’ve done is so that we can provide the best possible player experience as we transition from Living World to Path of Fire! And when we say that we literally can’t wait to play in the desert with our fans - we mean it! Hopefully we will see you in the Crystal Desert, for the upcoming free demo weekends, August 11-13 and August 18-20, and on September 22 for the launch of the expansion.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.