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PCGameplay’s Guild Wars 2/Interview

(The title rhymes!) PCGamePlay was at it again! Their previous issue had a lot of GamesCom coverage but to my surprise no Guild Wars 2. The latest issue just rolled in with a Guild Wars 2 review and an interview with lead designer Eric Flannum. So like last time I will translate the bunch for everyone to enjoy, not just the Dutchies. Again, apologies for any spelling/grammar errors. Wall ‘O Text… beam me down!

ArenaNet, the acclaimed developer of the Guild Wars series, revealed information at a dropwise rate over the years. So we were thrilled to attend an extensive hour long presentation at GamesCom. On top of that, we got the chance to talk to Eric Flannum. What do you mean no flying mounts? Of course, we also got to play the game at the fair and played the Necromancer. Which was not officially announced at that time. GamesCom could hardly get any better now.

We were welcomed to the presentation by the Senior vice president Randy Price (ArenaNet). He started with a exposition of the successful Guild Wars series. Which has been sold over 6-million times of which 3-million in Europe. And that’s only the start because ArenaNet is ready to take a giant leap forward with Guild Wars 2, beware competitors! Next up was Eric Flannum who was going to walk us through the game, he started with choosing his character. A female elementalist, the hottest girl in the game, by opinions vary at ArenaNet.

After choosing your profession (warrior, ranger, elementalist and necromancer were playable at GamesCom) you are asked a few question which will determine your background. You can choose your origin, if you choose Street Rat then you were raised on the streets in poverty, and had to struggle to survive with your pal Quinn. If you choose Commoner then you’ll find yourself amongst the people of Divinity’s Reach, the capital of the humans. You’ll be able to rely on your friends Andrew and his daughter Petra. Finally, if you choose Nobility then you’ll have had an excellent youth and Lord Faren will be your friend. Another question is what the biggest disappointment of your live is (eg. your sister was killed by centaurs, you never met your parents or you never joined the circus). These choices will affect the story right from the first cutscene, and will become very important further down the line.

Might offer some help

After the creation of your character you were shown an impressive cutscene, which started in the typical ‘art comes to live’-style from the first trailer. The cutscene faded into the ingame engine, which could obviously handle higher detail than the previous Guild Wars games. After the impressive introduction the elementalist came to a village that was under attack by Centaurs. This village served as a tutorial and drops you right into the battle with the Centaurs. Your goal was to convince frightened villagers to go to the well fortified inn. What we immediately noticed was the the tutorial village was not an instance: there were other players running around and fighting, that might so getting used to for most Guild Wars players. The combat immediately impressed, as it was in our hands-on.

The animations and special effects are very impressive, and what’s noticeable is that you can use skills while moving. The fact that you no longer need to stand still to use a skill makes the combat more fluid and dynamic. On top of that, you can preform some spectacular moves like dodging so you can jump out of the way when a big fireball comes your way. After the elementalist saved a few villagers she headed over to the inn where she had a conversation with the local sergeant. During such conversations the characters will be placed on a artistic background in 3D. This works marvelously and helps you focus on what is being said, and we should add to, that your character is fully voiced despite gender or race. The sergeant thanks you for rescuing the villagers but fears the Centaur groups that are approaching the village. At that moment the conversation is interrupted by a warrior who brings a message from captain Thackeray. The captain requests immediate help by the sergeant can’t spare anyone… maybe you could help?

150.000 pound earth elemental

The elementalist takes the job an heads towards the castle the captain is in. Along the way we experience heavy thunder, dark clouds, heavy rain and lightning flashes. It all looks so convincing that you’d almost take shelter. Eric Flannum told us that these weather effects were chosen to create an atmosphere. He also said that they will be events that can affect the weather. For example, you’ll be able to summon a storm at sea to fend of an invasion army. While we ran towards the castle a message popped up saying that (the replacer of the classic MMO-quests) an event was happening nearby. Centaurs wrecked the walls of the castle and are storming in, this means that other players did not succeed to defend it. You can help them by going in with other players to form a front against the Centaurs. This all happens automatically, you won’t have to form a party to do this events as a group unlike in Guild Wars. You battle with other players and depending on your input you will get loot and experience for it.

The system is simple: every dynamic event takes place in a specific location. The game assumes that players there will take part in the event and scales it dynamically, depending on the number of players. When players leave, the number of opponents decrease and vice versa. That way ArenaNet wants to offer a constant challenge. It’s funny how Centaurs trow insults at you which appear in text bubbles, you won’t even need a soundcard to know he’s talking about your mother. You will notice that NPC’s and opponents will shout all kind of things, ArenaNet has recorded over 10.000 lines of dialog to make this happen.

After the Centaurs in the castle have been defeated all the players head outside for a massive spectacle. A giant earth elemental rises from the… earth that pulls things from the environment in to grow even bigger. The elemental becomes the size of a house and requires the cooperation of all players to be taken down. After a critical amount of damage has been the done the elemental explodes and send the brave elementalist flying ending with a fade to black. Eric says that these kind of bosses will be seen throughout the game so you’ll feel like a true hero in Guild Wars 2. Fighting these kind of dungeons is not only privileges to elite dungeon crawlers, in Guild Wars 2 anyone can enjoy them. After all the tutorial ends with one, looks promising.

The casual passer-by

After being unconscious for three days the elementalist awakes in Queensdale, the heart of the human area. Queensdale is inhabited by the powerful Serapgh guardians, green flora and fields reminds us of Pre-Searing Ascalon. A Priestess of Dwayna had tended your wounds for the past three days and says you had a few visitors while you were out. Depending on the aforementioned origin you choose these visitors will vary (Quinn, Andrew & Petra or Lord Faren). After the conversation you are rewarded for defeating the elemental and level up, you will be able to assign attribute points to either Strenth, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception etc. You’ll also be access some sort of diary which describes you’re story up to this point.

Now it’s about time to get out of bed and explore Queensdale. Scout Rebec is the first NPC waiting to meet you, he’ll map out all the problems in- and around Queensdale for you. When you speak to him the world map will open en mark the locations of people in need. Miners are being attacked, the crops are being destroyed by giant worms and bandits terrorize a small village – take your pick! Once you head to danger the dynamic events become active and you’ll be cooperating with players to triumph. Our elementalist went over to a farm where Centaurs were burning haystacks, other players were teaching the Centaurs a lesson and our elementalist did as well. You can also use things in the environment to aid in the battle. Like buckets of water to extinguish the haystacks or jars full of bees to trow at an enemy. If you fail to save the haystacks then the farmers will have less hay to feed the animals, the economy decreases and the prices increase. After this ‘get the hell of my property’ moment our elementalist walk over to a huge water basin which supplied the gigantic sprinklers from water. Once we got there we suddenly saw green water coming out of the sprinklers. Apparently bandits had poisoned the water which kicked off an event. Together with other players we fended off the bandits until clear water came out of the sprinklers again.

Revive me!

What’s striking is that ArenaNet wants to assign as many different roles to every profession. There is no dedicated healer, every player can resurrect someone during combat. You should be able to play with anyone you like, you shouldn’t have to wait with your group until a specific profession comes by. A warrior for instance can place a War Banner which buffs all his allies, that way even a warrior can support the group. The same goes for the elementalist which can switch attunements, choosing the water attunement gives you the possibility to heal other allies.

After all the fighting it was time we paid a visit to the capital of Divinity’s Reach. Every race has a capital in their area which not only serves as a marketplace, but also as a social hub to chat and play minigames. You can prove you shooting skills at the shooting range or get wasted in a pub and start a bar brawl. Divinity’s Reach is designed in the shape of a cart wheel, in the center you’ll find the Upper City and the Royal Palace where queen Jennah lives. In the outer ring of the city you’ll find the six big districts: Ossan, Salma, Rurikton, Great Colapse, Western Commons and Easter Commons. The roads in between are named after the six gods. One of the districts is an instance in which the main part of your personal story line resides. Depending on your decisions some people will live or die in this area. The way you are received in this district for the first time depends heavily on which background you choose during character creation. If you choose Noble then you’ll be thrown a big party. If you’re a Commoner you’ll have your friend Andrew complain about the street crimes which got him into trouble. As a Street Rat you’ll be dealing with Quinn who has problems with a street gang to which (and so did you) he used to belong. ArenaNet has definitely though about replayability.

Interview with Eric Flannum

Gameplay: That was very impressive presentation. But where are the flying mounts?
Eric Flannum: (Laughs) We always get that question first! Why? But seriously: Guild Wars 2 is a very ambitious project for us, and we have considered flying mounts for a while, but was just too ambitious. Our goal is to vastly improve the game experience of Guild Wars: Prophecies, which is quite a task. Next to that we’ll be offering underwater worlds which you’ll be able to discover in the same way as on land. We hope that this will draw enough attention off the flying mounts.

Gameplay: The scouting system surprised us but confused us at the same time. Isn’t it just a traditional MMO quest in a different jacket?
EF: I understand the confusion. We assumed that everyone will play with the scouting system in the presentation. Allow me to explain. Our dynamic events system is a fantastic system which we support 100%, but our alphatesters appeared to have some problems with it. A lot of players need a list of assignments so they can go through it by crossing off completed things. They accept as many quests as possible and they head out with a filled quest log. We don’t have any NPC’s with green exlamation marks. We don’t have quests you need to accept and then complete. We have dynamic events that happen right before you’re eyes in which you can participate. You just explore the world and see what happens, you’ll be able to play Guild Wars 2 perfectly without the scouting system. But some players need a push in the right direction so we also provide a map with the locations of things amiss. Players can go there and participate in the events. Once they did that event they can cross it off on the map. But I should note that we only pinpoint the event and give a tiny description of what’s happening there. A fisher has problems, travelers run into trouble, an ancient evil has resurfaced – thats about it. Players still have to go to the site and find out what’s going on and how to deal with it.

Gameplay: You can you make permanent changes to the gameworld?
EF: Permanent, no. Events do have a persistent character in a way that they follow each other and affect each other. We have event chains where there are more than 15 tasks in which entire cities can be conquered. And you won’t have to participe in the entire chain to take part in it. For example, you could participate from event 3 to 7. After a certain amount of time these events will repeat so other players can experience them after the current batch of players has left. Our events aren’t one time, that would be a waste of effort.

Gameplay: Something that caught our eye was the way the art was used in this game. Not just in the cutscenes, but also the dialogs are supply with artistic backgrounds.
EF: That’s right. We have the luxury of having 70 dedicated artists who aren’t only known in the game industry but also outside of it. At one point we had so much art we felt like doing more with it than to put it in an art book. So we wrote special software to bring this art to live. This turned out to work so good that it has become the design stamp of Guild Wars 2. Not only will the dialoges and cutscenes contain living artwork but also the menus. Our art fans will be pleased.

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