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TVG continues our chat about Guild Wars 2 with the guys at ArenaNet...
In the first part of our transatlantic chat with the team at ArenaNet, we spoke about the evolution of the series as it builds up to the future release of Guild Wars 2. The team also revealed that Guild Wars 2 would feature a Cause and Effect dynamic in the quest structure, and the observation that the franchise is more of a complimentary title to other MMOs.
For our concluding part, we discuss the implementation of PvP gameplay in Guild Wars 2, the low level cap of Level 20. and the late 2008 Beta test...
TVG: Between now and the release of Guild Wars 2, you guys have got Eye of the North coming out for the original Guild Wars; aside from the Hall of Monuments, how else will it bridge the two titles? As far as the link to Guild Wars 2 goes, you'll get the chance to see some of the new races that you'll be able to go on to play in the sequel. There's also a lot of story fore-shadowing that sets up some of the basis for what goes on in Guild Wars 2, so anyone who picks up Eyes of the North in a lot of ways will be getting a preview of some of the content of Guild Wars 2.
TVG: So Eye of the North will be almost like a prologue? In a lot of ways you can look at it like that.
TVG: The original Guild Wars had level cap of just 20, which is quite low for an MMO - are there any plans to raise it in Guild Wars 2? There are no plans to increase the level cap for Eye of the North, the level 20 cap is very fundamental to Guild Wars 1 as far as PvP balance and all those sorts of things. It's very easy in Guild Wars 1 to continue developing after level 20, you get new skills, but you don't have really easy identification that declares how powerful you are and the cool things that you've done. So in Guild Wars 2 we want to give players a way to display their progress, and to feel a sense of progress a little bit more.
We're still talking about whether there'll be a very high level cap or if we're talking about an unlimited level cap; those are things that we're playing around with and seeing what we like the most and what works best. The idea behind it is to allow players to experience that kind of development, but that doesn't mean that we're going to grind the gamer so that players will have to invest thousands of hours until they feel like they have a very powerful character. We certainly don't want it to mean that if your friend is level 15 and your character is level 20 there's no way you can play together. One of the ways that we're getting around that is to introduce the Side-kicking system for both PvE and one of our PvP types, which is similar to the sort of thing that you see in City of Heroes, and allows gamers to play together no matter what level they are.
The other things that we're talking about is the plateau in power that you reach no matter what the level curve is, where players are relatively equal to each other. So for instance, a ten level gap early in the curve on means a lot more than a ten level gap later on in the curve. We're stilling playing around with where this power plateau actually evens out in Guild Wars 2, but it's safe to say that we're not going to require players to grind away their life to actually reach that plateau.
Flannum: We always wanted Guild Wars to be the game that's about personal achievement and not about how much you've played the game; the game where it's not "I've played 100 hours more than you, therefore I'm ten time better than you!" In Guild Wars 1 we made a very absolute statement by saying that half-way through the storyline you hit the maximum level, and you're max level through the rest of the game. It communicates strongly to players that the game isn't about grinding; but it has some disadvantages too because once you hit max level it's harder to show other players your achievements and have your character evolve over time.
So with Guild Wars 2, the goal is still the same, it's still to make the game about personal achievement and about who has played a thousand hours. Through the systems that Eric talked about we still think that we can accomplish the same thing, and yet still allow players that sense of achievement and progress with their character.
TVG: According to some reports and rumours, Guild Wars 2 will feature two different types of PvP, Structured PvP and World PvP; can you confirm that this is the case, and if so detail them and explain how they relate to each other?
Miller: That's definitely the case. Let me tackle Structured PvP first because it's the most similar to how Guild Wars currently works. The Structured PvP is GvG and those sorts of things, the even playing field PvP where players are brought to the same power level and have all the skills available to them - they're going to be on a completely even playing-field. It's going to be a smaller-scaled PvP where it's you and your team of very hard-core focused - that's our first time.
One of the other things that we also wanted to do was to introduce more of a casual type of PvP. You don't always want to be playing in the World Cup, sometimes you just want to have a pick-up game with a friend - and that's the second type of game, which is World PvP. When we say "World PvP", we mean that it's an area in the mists, which exists in between worlds. Basically its like a giant strategy game map, and what we do is match up different worlds or servers against each other - so you're playing in this large strategy game area and you're just playing as your character regardless of whether you're Level 15 or 20, though we will have Side-kicking in this part too.
The idea in this type of PvP is that it's very unstructured where there are a lot of different goals. For example, there's a castle that you want to take which is being held by an opposing world, but that takes a lot of players. But if you're in a smaller group or on your own, there may be a stone mine that is also held by that world and sends caravans of stone to that castle. So whilst you may not be able to take the castle, you could take the stone mine, which will provide you with stone for your catapults, or you could take the caravans so they don't get the stone and can't defend the other guys that are attacking them.
In that way it's a kind of a free-form world where one player can find something to do, or you can get a group of a hundred players together and find something to do.
TVG: The idea of cross-server gameplay is certainly an interesting and exciting prospect; what sort of technical difficulties does the team have to overcome to utilise that?
Flannum: Actually what I think we're doing is capitalising on the strength of our existing technology. Guild Wars 1 is an international game where everyone can play against everyone in the entire world, and the way that we did that was to have a single global database for all the characters in the entire world. I think that's been really fantastic in Guild Wars 1 that players can play with anybody that they want to, it's not "You play Guild Wars? I do too! What server are you on? Oh, sorry I'm on a different server..."
I think this technology is very strong, and allows us to things in Guild Wars 2 that our competitors can't do. In Guild Wars 2, we're still going to make it so anybody will be able to play together in the world. If you meet somebody and you find out that they're playing on a different world, there'll be a way to take your character into his world so you can play together. It also creates that great conflict between worlds when you run into the mists and come across other players from other worlds and servers and do battle with them.
TVG: You guys have announced that a Beta phase has been pencilled in for the second half of 2008, suggesting that Guild Wars 2 could be released in Spring 2009 - the traditional quarter for a Guild Wars release. Is this the sort of time frame something that you're trying to achieve?
O'Brien: We don't have any specific goals for the release of Guild Wars 2 right now; we want to be able to release the product when it's at the right quality. It's kind of crazy to go into a Beta cycle with some pre-defined notion of "I have to cut the Beta cycle after this number of months because we've got to get the product out of the door." ArenaNet is the Guild Wars company, we're 130 people and we're all working on Guild Wars - it's the future of our company. There's no way that we're going to release Guild Wars 2 until it's the best game that we can make.
We announced the Beta date for the second half of 2008 because we're confident of getting it into Beta for that period. From there, we just have to see where it takes us depending on how well the Beta the going - that is what will determine the release of the game.
TVG: One final question; Guild Wars to date has only been a PC-only franchise, but is there a chance that it could arrive on next-generation platforms. Are there any plans to release Guild Wars 2 on the consoles, or has that door already been closed?
O'Brien: I don't think the door has been closed, I think that right now our company is entirely focused on the PC. I think consoles remain a very interesting opportunity for Guild Wars, but I think that it's just not something that we've announced at this time, any plans on consoles.
TVG: But do you feel that there could be a time when MMOs do prosper on consoles?
I do think that there will be a time when MMOs do prosper on the consoles.
TVG: Thanks guys, best of luck with the development of the game in the coming months.
O'Brien: OK, thank you very much.
TVG would like to thank NCsoft and ArenaNet for answering our questions on Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars: Eye of the North is set for release on PC later in 2007, with the Beta test for Guild Wars 2 pencilled in for the second half of 2008.
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