Interview with Colin Johanson
Like last time, we’re releasing our interview which was featured in ‘Shadows of Tyria’ on our site as well. In ‘Waters of Tyria’ you could’ve read how unlucky we were at GamesCom, starting with problems at the front of the business area to an empty battery of our camera. Though within all these troubles Colin Johanson was kind enough to participate in another interview via email. In this interview we asked all the other questions that we had during GamesCom, including some of your own, which you could’ve send to us via email before GamesCom. Also included are some personal questions, about pizza’s and more. Have fun reading!
GuildMag: How does the side-kicking work when a lower level player is playing with a higher level player in a high level area? Can you give us specific examples?
Colin Johanson: We don’t have all the specifics for how exactly the UI will work and what not, but the basic simple answer is the high level player can give the low level player the option to side kick up to their level, if they accept they will jump up to the level of that character. We’ll talk more about side kicking and all the specific details more down the road.
GuildMag: How does the side-kicking work when a higher level player is playing with a lower level player in a lower level area? Can you give us specific examples?
Colin Johanson: Much the same, we’re still working out all the final details on this, but conceptually the idea is the low level player can offer the high level player to side kick down to their level, if they accept they jump down. Also, if the high level player starts killing low level stuff in the area and griefing other players, they’ll be auto side-kicked down to the level of the map to make them less able to grief others with the added bonus they can experience the content there and enjoy it.
GuildMag: It was mentioned that players will only be able to run (i.e., they won’t walk). But, knowing that in the trailers we’ve seen at least one member of each race walking (and thus the animations are already done), why not include walking into the game?
Colin Johanson: I actually can’t answer this one, you’d need to ask someone like Eric our lead designer or folks from the animation team. The content design team doesn’t really have anything to do with walk/run animations in the game.
GuildMag: The demo had vendors that sold ingredients. Does that mean there will be crafting in the form of cooking in the game? Perhaps you could tell us some more about crafting?
Colin Johanson: The crafting ingredients we threw in for the demo were just sort of a teaser to let people know, “hey someday there will be crafting done here!”, once we have all the specifics of the crafting system worked out and fully functioning in-game, we’ll reveal a lot more information about it.
GuildMag: In the Ranger demo, you revealed that Caudecus’ mansion was a dungeon. What can you guys tell us about dungeons? We know dungeons are 5-man teams, so what makes dungeons harder than the persistent content?
Colin Johanson: Dungeons are basically our highly organized group PvE content. They come in two modes, there is the story mode which helps tell one of the major stories of the world and also progresses the story of the iconic NPCs from Destiny’s Edge: Rytlock, Caithe, Logan, Zojja and Eir. Then after you have defeated the story mode, you can access the repeatable mode which is a more difficult repeatable dungeon, effectively our version of raids in Guild Wars 2. Both story and repeatable versions of dungeons are played using 5-man teams, though you can take them on with less people if you’re feeling especially bad-ass. In the repeatable mode, the dungeon will present you with choices and decisions that can branch and change the content you experience, so you can play through the dungeon slightly different each time instead of having to experience the same content over and over again. The story dungeon in Caudecus’ manor is really a cool one, you show up in time for a party for all the rich and nobility from the city and need to deal with a mystery that is dangerously unraveling in the background of the party while navigating the political whirlwind of the rich and famous of Kryta. As a result of the things you do in the story dungeon, you’ll be able to discover a secret part of the manor and will explore and discover new things there while in repeatable mode.
As for what makes dungeons harder, they are specifically tuned in difficulty so they are balanced to be harder than normal content. The monsters use more advanced skills and builds, coordinate together, come in larger numbers, and have elite versions of normal monsters that can be more difficult to contend with. There are a number of lesser bosses with various abilities and skills you need to overcome, and mega-bosses that are extremely difficult highly coordinated battles that push the skills of your group. In particular, repeatable mode is designed to be the hardest content you encounter in Guild Wars 2, and the highest level dungeon repeatable content should provide exciting and fun challenges for player groups long after the release of the game.
GuildMag: On the Ghosts of Ascalon map there are a few islands called: “The Dominion of Winds,” near Lion’s Arch. What’s the importance of these islands? (If you don’t want to spoil the book, what’s the importance of these islands in the game?)
Colin Johanson: Someday….we will explain all of this. I can say as with anything in Guild Wars 2, it’s awesome to hear Jeff Grubb or Ree Soesbee tell a story about it. I also can say in the initial release of Guild Wars 2, you will not be able to visit this location…however you will be able to learn some details about what is there and interact with some of the people who live there.
GuildMag: Also, could you perhaps ask Izzie to give us some more details on the bonus system for armors and weapons (so far we only know about the Crests for light armor).
Colin Johanson: Afraid Izzy is WAY too busy right now conquering mountains of skills (and preparing to fly to France for the Paris game show!) but I’m sure when he has more time, he’ll come back and go into more details on Crests.
GuildMag: Is there anything else that you perhaps want to share with our GuildMag readers?
Colin Johanson: I’d love to share that we’ve been playing a lot of PvP here at the office lately and though it’s still early and we have a lot of work to do, it’s an absolute freaking blast to play! For the PvP fans out there, I think you’re going to be thrilled with the quality of game-play being produced, how much fun the combat system is in a PvP environment and how much tactics and emergent game-play there is to be found in Guild Wars 2 PvP.
GuildMag: Do your family and friends fully understand what your job entails? How do you explain to people what you do for a living? (Old folks hardly understand the extended work that goes into a game).
Colin Johanson: HAH! Now that is a great question. Most of my friends totally understand what we do here at ArenaNet, though pretty much all of them play video games too so I think it’s easy for them to understand, to them the content design team is “the dudes and ladies who put turtles down that mario gets to jump on.” Some of my family understands, but for most of them I think they don’t really have any idea what in the world we do here at ArenaNet or what a “Guild Wars” is. I often times find it easier to explain what we do in relation to TV series or movies, and to explain that we basically write the scripts for the stories of what you’re going to experience and then come up with all the characters that the hero of the movie is going to interact with over the course of the movie. They tend to understand that a little bit better, though I think a lot of the head nodding is so we can get on to the next subject as fast as possible. The slightly glazed over look I get sometimes when trying to explain it is probably similar to the look on my face when my mom tries to explain to me why collecting antiques is interesting.
GuildMag: What’s your favorite pizza?
Colin Johanson: I’m a big fan of Fennel sausage and cherry peppers on my pizza, there is an awesome pizza place in downtown Seattle called “Serious Pie” that makes some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life, their sausage and peppers pizza is top notch. If you’re ever in Seattle, I highly recommend checking this place out.
GuildMag: The convention season is (almost) over, but what has been your best experience?
Colin Johanson: I’ve had two favorite experiences that tie for my over-all #1, picking between them is basically impossible, I’ve been in the game industry nearly 14 years now and these are two of my all time favorite experiences period.
The first occurred at PAX, where we hosted a panel with a number of our most dedicated fans to design an event chain that would go live in the final Guild Wars 2 game. Going into it, Eric, Jeff and I were thinking maybe we’d come up with like 2-3 events with the help of the fans and to be totally honest, we were slightly nervous we’d end up coming up with some crazy event chain that may not really work for the game. What we didn’t realize is we were about to have one of the flat out most fun, exciting and entertaining experiences ever! We managed to come up with like 9 events over the course of the hour and a half, folks shouted out all sorts of fantastic and crazy ideas that we melded together into a wonderful dynamic event chain experience. The fans were wonderful, my face hurt from laughing so hard over the course of the panel. It was just a wonderful experience and something I’ll cherish for the rest of my career.
The second experience which ties for #1 for me goes back about a year ago, when a young lady named Emily came to visit us here at ArenaNet through the Make A Wish Foundation. Emily’s wish was to get to spend a day here at ArenaNet and see what it was like to part of the games design team. Little did she know, she was going to be the very first person outside of ArenaNet to *ever* play Guild Wars 2, and she got to work with all of us to design out an event chain down to the smallest details including the names of the characters and their personalities that will show up in the game on launch. This day was absolutely incredible, Emily is a charming, brilliant and hilarious person and she really won us all over immediately, even when she told me she wasn’t a huge fan of the Tihark Orchard mission I built in Nightfall I still couldn’t stop smiling!
We’ve managed to stay in touch with Emily over the course of the last year and when we announced that we were going to be attending the New York City Comicon, we got a surprise email from her saying she was going to make it out to come see the game. Getting to see Emily and her amazing parents Bob and Deb again out in New York made the entire trip incredibly special, and seeing her play the game again a year later and enjoy it as much as she did was just amazing. As long as I live I’ll never forget how much fun I had getting to spend an hour or two talking with her and her parents as she got to play the game. I think it’s easy for game developers to get caught up in sales units, marketing pitches, game mechanics and forum trolls but moments like the time we got to spend with Emily helps ground you and make you remember at the end of the day what we do is all about building something that helps make people happy. Seeing the smile on her face and how much fun she had reminded me of why I really make video games and will always be one of my best experiences in the industry.
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