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The ArenaNet Team on the Aftermath of Season 1

David North Posted:
Interviews 0

Editor's Note: Lore answers provided by Chris Whiteside, studio design director, ArenaNet.

MMORPG:  Lion's Arch is such an important location to not only the players, but to the lore of Guild Wars 2. Why was it targeted in the story, and was there any other cities, or locations that were candidates for these events to take place? Chris Whiteside: The answer is in the question that you asked, in that it is an extremely important location to players, and secondarily it's important to the lore in regards to ley lines and the lore of Guild Wars itself. We really didn't look at any other areas to do this as Lion's Arch made the most sense. We really wanted to do something that was impactful to the players, impactful to the way the community plays the game, and again really something that was relevant and evolutionary to the lore.  

MMORPG:  While it's incredibly awesome, why add another Elder Dragon to the mix?

Chris Whiteside: It is incredibly awesome that theirs is another entity in the world, but it's really hard for me to answer the question without spoiling what's coming up.  Obviously there's a lot of mystery about this creature, and we really wouldn't want to take away from that. It's something that we're excited about, and I am sure we will be learning more about this sinister new threat soon.

MMORPG:  The way the story has gone, Lion's Arch could have been destroyed in a number of different ways.  Why did you choose this method?

Chris Whiteside: That's an interesting question. Certainly in terms of "Escape from Lion’s Arch" we wanted to be very visceral, very personal. We wanted to use everything that Scarlet had built and the players had been intertwined with in terms of the journey with that character. The equipment that she built was purpose built for this kind of assault.

We debated more about when the players took the battle to her. We had ideas about fighting concentrically in the center of the city, taking areas bit by bit. We had ideas about fighting in the sewers and working your way up into the city, and eventually getting a chance to take out Scarlet in the city itself.

But it was very important in terms of how we were building up Scarlet's character to really show the human side - for want of a better term - of her actions, and really kind of drill that into the player in terms of her lack of compassion for any living thing, in comparison for her all-consuming drive to discover the answers she so desperately needed. So yes, it had to be something that was very visceral, personal, and meaningful, it had to be something that was pretty much a decapitation in terms of the players’ connection with the world, and it had to be something that changed the landscape totally.

MMORPG:  Scarlet was such a complex character that helped make the Living Story more interesting than the core game story. While she was playing the role of a villain, it was sad to actually deliver the final blow. With a character having an impact like that on the players, how did it feel to actually write Scarlet's death?

Chris Whiteside: You're right, we really wanted to develop her character and give more of a sense of relevance to players in terms of what drove her and what sent her on this journey. The moment was certainly sad for me in knowing she was going to die, and a hint in regard to that was in her Journal that players found in her lair. In her last line she talks about, "Images of death, destruction and destiny." That was written in mind of the fact that she was going to die. It was almost as she felt her life was a high enough price to pay to discover the answers to her questions. Certainly there was an element of sadness with her being killed, specifically because we designed the last sequence with her representing a wounded animal, with strong implications that she basically was a product of her environment. She had no one else to turn to, and this turned her into an egotistical and Machiavellian driven character. But when all of those walls come down and you just have the person there, you see her personal side, you see that she began a journey that she wasn't in control of and the irony is she never lived to see the answers to the questions that drove her own destruction and that of many innocent citizens of Tyria.

MMORPG:  Was there ever the thought of keeping Scarlet alive to go into the next story arc?

Chris Whiteside: I don't think there was ever any thought of keeping her alive, but would her impact on the world permeate moving forward?  Perhaps.

MMORPG:  We know there are some pretty nasty creatures hiding under the crust of Tyria. Has the disruption of the lay lines possibly caused any other nasty threats to make their way to the surface?

Chris Whiteside: Well the probes woke up the Jungle Wurm, so you can think that certainly probing the ley lines would have an impact on other things. As a player, I'm excited about this, I'm excited about how the world changes. So it's a cool question, but we'll have to wait and see.

MMORPG:  How is the writing process handled for the Living Story? Is it much different from writing the personal stories?

Chris Whiteside: The writing team is integrated with the design team, and they are able to execute on their ideas and work in tandem with designers, animators, artists and so on. It's very collaborative. One thing that we've been doing all through season one is ensuring we weren't creating two parallel lines, one being game play and one being story. The way in which we've executed that is structural in terms of making sure that the right people are sitting next to each other, and that they have the same goals. We don't want all the cool things to happen in a cut scene, we want the players to be able to do that. So the answer to the question is yes, it is very different.

MMORPG:  Judging by the activity on the forums, it looks like you have a lot of feedback to sort through. From what you've heard from players so far, what changes will you make to the way you present the Living Story to the players in future updates?

Chris Whiteside: Obviously we're very active on the forums, and also we have our CDI [Collaborative Development Initiative], which is an interactive way for us to pull feedback and discuss design. We constantly evolve the way that we tell story and the way that we present game play, and so there's a lot that we learn from. If you look at the CDI, which is parked in the Guild Wars 2 forums, you can see the impact it has had on the living world and many areas of the game. That's one thing we know we'll be doing going forward, and that is to continue to collaborate with the community about what works and what doesn't work and to enable us to continue to pioneer in this space. But it's not like it's design by committee, in terms of the CDI. It's basically listening to the opinion of the community, and then the great thing about the CDI is being able to brainstorm and design together in that regard. Ultimately we make the decision on how we move forward, but players spend a lot of time in the world, and therefore it's amazing to hear their feedback and be able to move on it so quickly.

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David North