Sometimes things happen unexpectedly. When invited to visit the Arenanet office and partake in Guild Wars 2 Fanday, we all knew the event would be focused on Guild Wars 2. Certainly, it’s this much-anticipated sequel that has everybody captivated, with press and fans alike more than happy to test, explore, and report on their experiences this past weekend.
What I was pleasantly surprised to find, though, was the fact that at every turn the spirit of the original Guild Wars was there, right from the first moment we sat in the press room at the start of the day. We watched the Play symphony cinematic which was powerful and stunning; and while the visuals were from Guild Wars 2, the music was none other than a medley of the four original themes for Prophecies, Factions, Nightfall, and Eye of the North. There was something hauntingly beautiful about hearing them like this; it was as though they were able to capture the magic of the first time I had ever heard each. It was an extremely nostalgic moment for me, and I believe several of my fellow fans felt the same (::coughPLEASEreleasecough::).
It was appropriate that we’d be treated to a preview of Winds of Change, the next content installment pushing forward the lore of Tyria and Cantha and set the stage for the future. Cantha holds a special place in my heart; Factions has always been my favorite installment of Guild Wars, with 4 out of my 6 PvE 20’s being bred there and the one campaign that I have beaten on every single one of them. As such, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Winds of Change to hit the game.
Despite Shiro’s defeat, the conclusion of Factions did leave a few open-ends. Cantha still needs to recover from its devastation. The afflicted still run amok, and pesky street gangs like the Am Fah and Jade Brotherhood continue to cause trouble and capitalize on the post-affliction recovery.
That’s where Winds of Change comes in. Although I only got to dabble in the first few sets of quests, we were given some solid back story from the live team. The Ministry of Purity is an organization that aims to clean up Cantha after the chaos that was Shiro’s temporary reign. They insist that the citizens also take-up responsibility to do much of the work.
In a tip of the hat to Guild Wars 2, the events and impact you have during this event will have a lasting effect. For instance, when you first come upon members of the Ministry, you’re greeted (finally) as the hero you are; they are shocked that it’s you, great defender of Tyria, defeater of fallen god, a legend among your people (got the point?) coming back to continue your oh-so-generous work as a savior. As you progress through the campaign, permanent changes will be made. You vanquish the afflicted? Great. Next time you go on, they’ll be gone and replaced by some other hostile enemy (as of yet unspecified).
This will be the trend for this latest bit of Guild Wars Beyond. In total, Winds of Change will come out in 3 installments; each will have it’s own conclusion to avoid the “cliff-hanger” affect from War in Kryta that left some fans frustrated. The first part will have 42 quests including hard-mode versions. No official release date of yet, but I expect it should be out sometime this summer (not-official).
This brings me on the topic of the live-team, and what I meant about things being unexpected. Friday night after dinner it was mix-and mingle time. I wound up a table with Neo Nugget of Guru and a bunch of the guys from Live Team; specifically Joe Kimmes, Robert Gee and eventually Mike Zadorojny and others.
For about three hours or so we all sat around the table sharing our memories of Guild Wars, with other devs coming and going to chime in, and it was wonderful to hear them talk about the game. From the origins of the commando idea to their favorite moments & bugs, to wacky AI and someone who really, really loved paragons (I’m sorry I forgot his name), it was really something to see where the passion for Guild Wars comes from, and see that, like us, they do enjoy playing it, too. They continue to push the original game as far as they possibly go; there are many things that they thought impossible that they’ve managed to add to the game and much more that they’re more than willing to test.
It was great understanding the why’s and why not’s of the game, as well. There are lots of features and changes fans ask for that, while the devs would love to implement, they simply cannot because of the limitations of the engine that they have. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t tried their hardest to make as much happen as possible.
Eventually I asked what they planned on doing once Guild Wars 2 came out, and if they expected to still work on Guild Wars and the answer was sincere; as long as there’s still a demand for it, they will continue to support Guild Wars, but ultimately it’s up to the fans. That’s both empowering and scary!
All-in-all, the entire experience left me feeling really assured and revitalized. I couldn’t wait to get home and get a chance to play the original; not quite the reaction I was expecting. Not that I wasn’t thrilled to play and preview Guild Wars 2, but it’s good to be reminded this great game to come was built on the foundation of an amazing predecessor which is still being treated well by its developers.