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E3 2006 Look Forward

Laura Genender Posted:
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Guild Wars and Factions roll on, find out how things are coming

At E3, we spoke with some of the Guild Wars developers about their extremely popular games, where they are right now and where they are going in the future.

"You don't have to be married to Guild Wars in order to play it," said Jeff Strain, the founder of ArenaNet.

Our host told us that Guild Wars Factions, which launched on April 28th, is the #1 Selling PC Game in the United States. Developers describe Guild Wars Factions as a separate game from the original Guild Wars, in that, unlike an expansion, either game can stand alone. The games do, however, have plenty of interaction, and the technology updates that were added in Guild Wars Factions were given as a free update to original Guild Wars community.

The Guild Wars business plan is unique. Players don’t pay monthly fees to access the game, instead they buy the game (or games) for a one time price and can access the world from that point onward.

"Players are more willing to buy and play when it's not pay and play," added Strain.

With expansions coming out every six months or so and costing around $60 each, this is the equivalent to a $10 monthly fee. However, it does not require a credit card, and does not require players to continue buying expansions. A player could buy Factions and no other Guild Wars game, and happily play it for life. While the follow up campaigns do not have as much PvE content as the original, players can still engage in PvP.

The Guild Wars team has found that their lack of monthly fees gives them a huge advantage. People are more willing to buy and play than to pay a monthly fee and buy new campaigns. Also, the lack of monthly fees allows players to come and go freely, without guilt over canceling their account or leaving it draining their pockets. “Players like choice,” is a common mantra for the Guild Wars developers and their business plan allows players to choose which (if any) new campaigns to buy instead of being tied to a subscription fee.

We also spoke some about the Championship structure, and the professional PvP that has risen in Guild Wars. The Last Pride, the guild that won the Guild Wars World Championships in Taiwan, was at E3, taking on all comers at exhibition matches. Guild Wars is, currently, the only MMORPG being played at a professional level, and the developers intend to keep encouraging this with new championships every campaign and more regional-level play.

Next up in the world of Guild Wars is Campaign 3. Due to their rapid release schedule, there are two teams working at Arena.net on the next two Campaigns so that new Campaigns can be released as quickly as possible while still maintaining a high level of content (i.e. one team has been working on Campaign 3 for the last 3 or 4 months, and the other team just started on Campaign 4, so that each Campaign has about a year of development.). Sadly, they couldn’t give us a name or many concrete details on the upcoming campaign; all we really know is that campaign 3 has a North African setting, with sweeping African plains and Egyptian-esque temples. In a short trailer, we saw monsters that resemble African animals such as elephants and hippopotami, but with a fantasy twist. We also saw concept art for some new player classes, but no information about them other than the art. One of them looks like a heavy melee class, and the other has a tribal caster feel. We also got to see the new dances added in Guild Wars Factions. Two shadow NPCs play backup dancer to your character in a series of moves, including the wave and a puppet like segment.

The original Guild Wars theme was Western European, Factions had an Oriental feel, and the upcoming Campaign 3 will keep with the North African scene. Out of curiosity, I asked the developers what they planned to do for the future, especially when/if they ran out of appropriate and interesting regions to emulate. While they don’t see this as being a problem anytime soon, they see potential in expanding into mythology, or moving forward in time even to a sci-fi Guild Wars if there is player demand.

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Laura Genender