Community Interview with Colin Johanson

At GamesCom we were joined by Colin Johanson, who gave us a bit of his time to answer the questions that you submitted, but also a few that we included ourselves! Questions about professions, the sylvari and engineer lore, the Iron Forgeman, airships and much, much more pass by! Let’s get this thing started!

Trailer questions:

GuildMag: In the newly released trailer, we saw the presence of airships flying above Lion’s Arch. What is their role in the story? Do they relate to the Dominion of Winds or otherwise?

Colin: *Laughs* Look at you, everyone wants to know about the airships.

So the airships do not have anything to do with the Dominion of Winds, no. They are different things. I’m not going into any other details, I will say there will be at least one airship in Guild Wars 2, there might be more than one.

(We then reminded him of the fact that there were more than one featured in the trailer.)

Colin: Yeah, I guess the trailer shows more than one, huh. They may play into the game and some of the gameplay of Guild Wars 2, but there are no mounts in Guild Wars 2. You can’t have an airship as a mount on initial release, but mounts will play into some of the gameplay in the game.

GuildMag: In the trailer, we also saw that the Iron Forgeman is back in Guild Wars 2 while we did destroy him during the original Guild Wars. How did he still manage to survive?

Colin: The Iron Forgeman basically is in the area now called Sorrows Embrace. Sorrows Embrace has completely been overrun and taken over by the dredge. This used to all be the Stone Summit territory and they had their dredge slaves down there. If you did the Sorrows Furnace story in Guild Wars 1, you helped to liberate the dredge and basically helped them to take that area.

When the battle with the destroyers happened, and the dwarves were basically wiped out, the dredge looked around at all this area that they basically now owned, anything that was owned by the dwarves, the dredge were the only ones there. They said ‘Oh, great, we have all this new territory!’, so the dredge have expanded and they’ve started to take over everything the dwarves own, and the dredge have started to push out. The dredge have started to take the things that the dwarves did and they’re building on them, and they’re adapting to them, and they’re using all the lessons which they learned when they were under the dwarves as slaves. They’ve actually taken all that technology and really started to work with it.

The dredge really have a lot of mining equipment, they have dredge tunnelling tanks which they use, they have walker suits which they can get in. The dredge have advanced a lot technologically in 250 years, and a lot of it is derived from what they were learning from the dwarves.

So, the Iron Forgeman today is a creation of a combination of what they saw from the dwarves and their own technological advances building into that creature and going forward. I don’t want to give to many spoilers, but I will say that there may be some asura involved as well.

Re-activated. Ready. To. Destroy.

 Sylvari Lore:

GuildMag: What inspires the names you give your sylvari characters?

Colin: That’s a great question! I think the biggest inspiration is that a lot of them come from a lot of Arthurian lore, a lot of early English style stories and lore.

GuildMag: Cadeyrn’s story is very striking. It’s drastic for him to go from second-guessing the Tablet to taking part in the Nightmare Court’s terrorism. What happened to him between his conversation with the Pale Tree and Caithe, and his joining the Nightmare Court?

Colin: The exact events that happened to him is something that Ree will need to tell you. It’s not fair for me to tell them since she wrote all that.

Though the best example for him is that he’s kind of like a spoiled child and he’s like ‘Why am I number two? I want to be the best child! I want to be the one that my parents love!’ And the Pale Tree is like: ‘You’re not a firstborn. I love you, you’re a very special child to me, but the firstborn are the first.’ Cadeyrn can’t handle that at all levels. He can’t handle being the second best at anything. He struggles with it, cause he’s extremely powerful. At the same time he has this mind this extremely frustrated child. You can see this throughout all the places you see with Cadeyrn. Even when he gets to the Nightmare Court; Faolain is the leader of the Nightmare Court to a certain degree, and Cadeyrn is not in charge there as well. That infuriates him in even the Nightmare Court. He wants to be the one that everyone thinks of, he wants to be number one and even there he ends up as number two.

The Engineer:

GuildMag: While the engineer profession originated among the charr, how do engineers fit into the cultures of other races?

Colin: The technology of the game and the technology in Tyria spreads very rapidly. You will definitely notice as you’re playing through Guild Wars 2 that there are specific technologies that are more indigenous to specific cultures. The humans tend to use more catapults, trebuchets and things like that when it comes to their siege weapons. They tend to have more archers and swordsmen in their guard, but they use all the different types of weapons because all of the races trade with one another and the city of Lion’s Arch is the central hub of all that trade. The technologies that any of the races develops eventually ends up in Lion’s Arch, eventually ends up for sale and everyone is buying it, and everyone’s getting it so that they can take advantage of the best technologies. If you think about our world today, it’s the same way: a new technology comes out in one country and rapidly it spreads to everyone else and everyone is using it in a pretty quick amount of time. Guild Wars 2 is not unlike that, each one of those races and each one of those cultures definitely picks up aspects of the other ones and rapidly integrates them into what they use. Even in the city of Divinity’s Reach, and I would say that the humans are one of the least mechanically inclined when it comes to building rifles and things like that. There is a lot of machinery in there, there’s a whole one-man-band and circus that performs. There is a lot of different layers to that, and they’re acquiring a lot of that technology that’s being developed by the charr or other races, and integrating it into their culture.

(Some of these questions, and many more, were also answered by Ree Soesbee over at our Youtube channel!)

GuildMag: Are there any parts of the engineer’s toolbox that are inventions of other races rather than the charr?

Colin: I think that the engineer has tools that potentially come from everybody. The elixirs are probably more derivatives of the asura and potentially even use some poisons and toxins developed by the hylek that end up going into those. All of the professions draw on things from all of the different cultures that help build out who they are, which also explains why all of the races can be all of the professions.

GuildMag: Where do the sylvari come into play when looking at the engineer?

Colin: I think where the sylvari add is, like the levels of magic that go into it. The sylvari could’ve helped develop the flamethrower for example in some of the magic that comes with that, like the bio fuel that it could use to burn in combination with the asura, I’m not sure if that’s exactly what happened, but that could certainly be one of the ways that gets developed . *Laughs*

As those technologies spread around, you would probably see a lot less engineers among the sylvari than you would see among the other races but due to their innate curiosity they’re draw to want learn about everything. They’re going to go out there, they are going to become sylvari who learn about engineers and who become mechanically inclined. There are sylvari everywhere in the world and everywhere they go they always try to learn new things and discover stuff. So when you’re in the Black Citadel, you will run into sylvari that are there and they’re right next to a guy who is down in a forge working. There will be sylvari leaning over his shoulders asking ‘What are you doing?’ ‘What are you doing now?’ ‘Now what are you doing?’ ‘Okay, o-o-okay I see how that works’. Then they move on and start following the experts around.

GuildMag: While engineers do not directly employ magic, do any of the engineer’s inventions involve utilising magic in an indirect fashion, for instance by using a magical substance as an active ingredient in an alchemical formula?

Colin: I think there’s some small degrees of magic that tie into some of the things that the engineer does. You could say that the little, flashing lights on the mines are magic sensors which are magically created by the asura to detect when people are coming nearby.

The chemicals that power the flamethrower, potentially could be magical chemicals that are built by the asura, they could be biofuel by the sylvari, they could be magic assets created by the asura, or by one of the other races in magic that they have done. All of those are really kind of a derivative of a combination of technology and magic in the world to a certain degree. The charr tend to stay away from the magic side of things, but there are charr elementalists, there are charr guardians, there are charr that use magic, they’re just not as highly accepted in that society. In particularly, the flame legion is hated by all of other the charr legions.

Burn baby, burn!


GuildMag: The elementalist has different attunements which are best suited for different situations. What did you have in mind with earth attunement?

Colin: Earth is a couple of things, I think it’s more of a frontline style character, it’s definitely a lot of point-blank AoE’s (Areas of Effect), it’s a lot of up in your face stuff, it has that. Depending on what weapon set you’re using, it has magnetic auras, you can actually bounce projectiles back at people. That means that you can be right up in the frontline, you pop that skill on, and guys who are shooting stuff at you actually are having it reflect back at them. While you’re upfront and you’re doing all your skills closer to people, it definitely has a bit more of a midline-frontline type battlefield to it. You’re bending down and you’ve AoE’s that slowly grow and explode. You’ve got earthquake which is a little bit more directed, but you can put it in a location and it explodes out. Stuff with earth tends to be a little more slow timed, it takes a little while for it to build and then happen. I think those are kind of the big fields we’re trying to get out of earth attunement.

GuildMag: With the new way of gaining weapon skills, by unlocking them over time, how will this work for attunements? Do you need to unlock those separately as well?

Colin: Right now, the way it works, is that you need to unlock the skills for each attunement. Basically, for the elementalist, each attunement is a unique weapon, that is their unique mechanic. It plays very much like you have four different weapons available to you at any given time once you’ve all the attunements available. You’re swapping between those in combat, so right now, yeah, you do need to unlock each one of them, whether it remains that way, we’ll have to see, those are all things that are subject to change.

GuildMag: Have you set on any system for rangers to maintain training in more than three animal companions (similar to the purpose of the Zaishen Menagerie in the original Guild Wars)?

Colin Johanson: Right now, we haven’t looked at anything beyond our core three pet system. The basic idea behind that system is that you’ve got your three pets that you have got set up. You can have underwater pets, you can have pets that go above water and there are pets that can go both in and out of the water. So you can have your devourer and you can run around on land, when you jump into the water, he’ll just swim down there with you. You could then tell your devourer to go away and you could have your shark pet come swimming out at that point. So yeah, you do have those three pets to swap in between. Right now, that’s all we have got available for the pet system.

GuildMag: How many nature spirit skills are you planning on having?  Could you explain some of the effects others might have and the range of their effect?

Colin: We haven’t decided how many nature spirits we are going to have yet. We’ve shown a small amount of the total utility skills that are available in the game and also a small amount of the total elites that are available. We’re going to show a lot more of those as we come closer to getting ready to get the game out there. So there will be more of that stuff that potentially makes its way in. We’re still trying to lock down what we want to do with all of the skills for them. You may or may not see some new ritual nature spirits, that aren’t available in the demo right now make their way in. We’ve to see how it goes.

Two against one? Piece of cake!


GuildMag: Is it possible to have different characters on the same account in different worlds? How will transfers between worlds work?

Colin: We’re still looking at how we’re going to handle all the servers and server transfers and characters on different worlds. We haven’t finalised the information that we’re going to release about that yet, but it certainly is one of the things that we’re thinking about.

We want Guild Wars 2 to be an accessible game, we want it to be a game that you can play with your friends at all times. That means that we need to make sure that we’re looking at all the ways that you can join servers or go to servers your friends are on. It’s very important that we have that available, because we want you to be able to always play with the people you want to play with.

GuildMag: We’ve all had times when real life causes us to have to quit a gaming session quickly. In Guild Wars 2, if you have participated in one or more events, but they haven’t finished before you log out, how will you receive rewards (karma, gold, etc.) for them? Are they silently added to your account, or will you be informed the next time you log in?

Colin: Right now, the way it works, and this is subject to change between now and release, but right now, the way it works, you need to be there when the event ends to get the reward. You will get experience for killing creatures, you’ll get loot drops for the stuff that you do while the event is going, but if you leave right before the event ends, you would not get credit for it. You need to be online when the event ends.

However, if the event is going on, and you’re participating, and you get disconnected for whatever reason or you need to run and grab a sandwich and you run back, as long as your character is there while the event ends, you will still get all the rewards that your character qualified for.

GuildMag: In the original Guild Wars you were able to zoom all the way till in front of your character to create a sense of a first-person camera. Will you be implementing the same system in Guild Wars 2?

Colin: Right now, you cannot do that. The furthest you can zoom in is right up behind your character. The reason why we’ve done that is because we want you to be able to see your character. We think that part of having this personal story and having a strong attachment to your characters, is being able to see your characters and feel a bond with them, having an attachment to them.

There are no plans currently to do a full first person camera view, that does not mean it will not happen between now and release. We are just simply not working on it at right not, and do not currently plan to do that.

We’re playing with all the camera options, we’re still trying to decide what we want to do. For example, one of the new camera features which we put in for the demo, is that all of the giant bosses you fight, the camera actually pulls back further when you’re fighting against them so you can have a better view of the battlefield when you are fighting them. That’s a development to try and respond to the request of some people to see more of what’s going on, we want to feel a better part of these giant boss fights, so that’s a new camera thing we did recently. There certainly might be more camera stuff going forward.


GuildMag: Everyone’s still excited to hear about things regarding guilds, and while you’re not really talking about it, is there anything new you can tell us about guilds?

Colin: I cannot tell you a lot yet, we’re still not yet talking about very many details on guilds. I will say that the goal of our guild system, what we’re trying to accomplish with it, is to create a sense of community within your guild and to give you a set of goals that are a shared goal for your guild to accomplish. So we want to have a whole lot of things that your guild can do and feel a sense of accomplishment, feel a sense of growth as a guild and have all these goals that you’re shooting for as a guild in the game world.

That is what we’re constantly thinking about as we’re putting our guild system together. We also want to make it easy to form a guild, easy to join a guild and easy to manage a guild. That way, you can have a strong community, and it’s not very complicated to put all of that together.

GuildMag: Some attacks (such as the Sever Artery chain) have a ‘blood mist’ effect. Since sylvari have golden sap instead of blood, will these attacks have a different colour when used on sylvari?

Colin: We’re still playing around with a lot of those effects that tie in, these are profession specific as opposed to race specific. But we do have unique for each one of the races using each of those skills, what kind of effects and blurs go with them can change between the different races. It’s one thing to note that though it looks a little bit blood-like, that’s actually sort of a paintbrush effect. That’s to try and take advantage of that painterly feel we have for Guild Wars 2. So we want to have some of the skills almost have a little paintbrush feel when the sword swipes across. That way it can tie into the art style between the UI and the game and the cinematics, even down to the skills so they all feel like they have that same kind of effect and aesthetic to them to create one cohesive experience.

GuildMag: In other MMOs, players often feel forced into choosing a race based on its racial skills. How will you avoid this problem?

Colin: Racial skills will be less powerful than the regular utility skills which you have available to you. They’re basically allowing you to complement your build, they’re not something which you need to use on any given basis. The big reason we do that is so that people can play the race they want to play, and they do not feel restricted from that.

Certainly some of the things which we may do, would be in competitive PvP, we may just not even allow you to use racial skills at all. That way, you will not have to deal with that so you can make whatever character you want in PvP and not have to worry about it. That would be one additional thing which we might do to help limit the concerns about what race you want to play.

(More on PvP can be heard during our two interviews with both Jon Peters, in which we talk about PvP in general, and Tirzah Bauer, whom we ask more about PvP map design!)

From a story standpoint, and the personal story you get to experience, and the world you get to experience, and the cinematics your get to experience, that’s why we want to have different races, to have a drive why you would want to play them for. You want to make a charr so you can see the different personal stories that a charr gets to go through, and hear the dialogue, and experience the dynamic events which tie around the charr. Then you go to the norn to have a very different experience, we don’t want you to pick a race due to game balance purposes. You should pick the race you want to play and the race that you love, and then the profession should be where the balance comes in.

GuildMag: Is there any romancing option with NPCs like, for example, those in the Dragon Age series?

Colin: So you won’t actually be able to do something with another character, like with an NPC or such, so there will be no scenes like that. There are who are love interests with one another. In particular you’re going to run across a lot of NPCs who have stories in the world, who are in love, or you’re trying to help bring them back together, or maybe you try to break them apart, whatever the story may be. There may be characters who come to admire you, maybe characters who you may think that they’re in love with you or not, it’s hard to tell. Those will not play out in scenes where you go on and make out or anything, but yeah, there will definitely be characters who develop relationships with you, and you can interpretate these relationships as you see fit. I think each player will have a different opinion about what that relationship with an NPC is like.

GuildMag: What is a question you were expecting but has not been asked, and what is the answer?

Colin: *Laughs* That’s a tough one! Okay, I’ll tell you what: No one has asked what is the asura home instance and personal story like. Basically, your home instance as an asura actually is a lab, and it’s filled with all of your lab assistants and the characters which you meet at you progress through your personal story. We’ve actually answered that question before, people knew it was a lab, but no one knows what’s going on in the personal story for the asura. So I’ll tell you a bit about one storyline which you can experience as an asura:

You have an invention that you’ve been working on, which is a weather-changing device, you get to experimentate with your weather-changing device and something goes horribly, horribly wrong with your weather-changing device. That’s part of your personal story as an asura if you pick the device which you’ve been working on is the weather-changing invention. So you can look forward to that one in the future!

This scene could use some change of weather!

GuildMag: Does ArenaNet have any good Guild Wars board game ideas?

Colin: *Laughs* I can guarantee you that we have many good Guild Wars board game ideas, but we are not working on them right now, cause all we’re working on is Guild Wars 2. Yeah, I figured everyone would be happy to hear that. *Colin smiled again*

We have a lot of people at ArenaNet who have worked for game companies that made card games, that made board games. We try to hire designers who come from a lot of different backgrounds, because it helps us come up with more diverse and creative ideas for gameplay. So we definitely have some people who would be super qualified to do that and who probably go home all the time at night, thinking about board games about Guild Wars 2, but not at work, we’re focused entirely on Guild Wars 2 right now.

GuildMag: Say, you’ve got 45 minutes to play Guild Wars 2, what could you do within this time frame?

Colin: So, at the day the game comes out, you could pick any one of the five races, and you could probably level up to level three or four, you get to experience the personal story and you could get through the tutorial. So chronologically, you would create your character, customise that character, play through the tutorial for your race, get out into the open world, you could probably fill in one heart, complete the personal story part that ask you to fill that one heart, you could do a dynamic event or two and then you could run and maybe do one personal story step. I think in forty five minutes you could do all of that. So that’s a lot of content in forty five minutes, but I’ve seen people at the office pull that off for sure.

If you would like to take a different route, you could make a pvp character, play through the tutorial, you could go to PvP and play anywhere between two to five matches of PvP, depending on how fast they go. So you could get a heck of a lot of PvP in. You could also make your character, you could race over to Lion’s Arch, you could go to World versus World PvP, and you could probably get in 30 to 35 minutes of WvW PvP. You could also just play a bunch of mini games if you want to. You could go and play in the perpetual bar brawl in Divinity’s Reach or you could go kegball in norn territory. I’m sure there’s other stuff I’m not thinking of, like, you could go role-play and hang out 45 minutes with other role-play people.

GuildMag: Thanks for having an interview with us!

Colin: Thank you, GuildMag!

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