Every great game starts with a simple question: What do we want to play next? If you aren’t passionate about the game you’re working on, it is already doomed to mediocrity. And the best way to make sure you’re passionate? Make something you want to play.
For the team at ArenaNet, the idea of making Guild Wars 2 started with a single conversation about all the things we wanted to do in the next Guild Wars campaign. Very quickly it became clear that we could move the game forward by leaps and bounds… but only if we were willing to rebuild it from the ground up. Here’s what we thought we could accomplish:
Give players immense freedom of movement. The underlying systems in Guild Wars allowed us to make a very responsive, yet hack-proof game, but they also prevented us from giving players the ability to jump and swim and explore their environment freely. We’ll still keep movement hack-proof, but we want players in Guild Wars 2 to simply enjoy moving around.
Allow players to encounter each other in common, persistent areas. The instancing of Guild Wars gave us a ton of story-telling and gameplay advantages over our competitors, but instanced areas and persistent areas each have their strengths and weaknesses. We want to give players the best of both worlds.
Let players choose from multiple playable races (including our own unique addition to the fantasy genre, the Charr). Our team takes a lot of pride in the look and feel of each of the professions in the game, but some of the early technical choices we made for them prevented us from even considering introducing playable races. Now we have a chance to make new choices that give players more options.
Give players deeper options for character advancement. We knew this would be the most controversial of our new goals. Could we do this without creating a game full of grind? As avid fans and players of RPGs, massively multiplayer or otherwise, we saw many untapped opportunities for making this work.
Make everything about Guild Wars better. When you look back honestly on a game you’ve made, there are always things you wish you could have done better. Could we create a stronger economy with better options for trading? Definitely. Could we address player concerns about the relationship between PvP and PvE? With a new system, yes. Could we give players more and better storage? Yes! The list goes on and on.
Beyond the sweeping gameplay improvements that we are introducing, we also know that any sequel worth its salt needs to show major graphical improvements. Let’s face it, a lot of people love this game because it is beautiful. We fully intend to stay true to the Guild Wars tradition of looking better than the competition while featuring surprisingly inclusive system specs. (And, as a designer, I’ve got some very talented and hard-working programmers and artists to thank for that!)
Even so, not having to worry about backward-compatibility with the original Guild Wars engine and tools gives us an abundance of opportunities to make Guild Wars 2 jaw-droppingly beautiful. At the same time, new budgets for textures and poly-counts, and a whole new bag of tricks from our in-house graphics gurus, mean that every environment, character, and effect we’re making truly looks like a whole new game.
Getting excited about new graphics and new gameplay ideas is only part of the equation for us, though. As some fans noted when Guild Wars 2 was announced, by adding persistent areas and extensive character advancement to Guild Wars, we risked creating another me-too MMO in the Everquest tradition. Plenty of those games already exist, though, and making yet another has never been our goal. Instead, from the start, we talked a lot about the core principles of Guild Wars.
Guild Wars isn’t a hassle to play. Fundamentally, we made a choice to not build a game around time-sinks and inconvenience. Our streaming updates, instant map travel, character templates, account-wide storage, easily removed death penalty, and myriad of core features are all based on this principle. Although some details would need to change, we wanted the sequel to stay true to this tradition.
Guild Wars lets you play the way you want to play. We’ve had a few years now of observing our players and their tendencies and preferences. Whether their play-style focuses on exploration, story, wealth, collection, achievements, socializing, PvP, playing solo or with strangers or friends, our goal is to give them a rich and rewarding experience playing the game they want to play. With Guild Wars 2, we’d seek to diversify their options even further.
Guild Wars encourages skillful play. If you’re going to spend as much time playing a game as people spend playing their favorite online RPG, it had better engage you socially, viscerally, and, yes, intellectually. From the very foundation of the Guild Wars design, we’ve tried to create a game that rewards clever and active play. We’re confident we’ll do an even better job this time around.
Guild Wars tells a story. We’ve learned a lot over the years about running events in common areas, and how to get the best effect out of instances. Guild Wars 2 gives us an opportunity to take that knowledge and apply it in even better ways.
Guild Wars has no monthly fee. Let’s face it: one of the reasons that Guild Wars has enjoyed so much success is that people like owning a game after they buy it. They like being able to take a break without a subscription continuing to drain their bank account. They like being able to buy and experience other games, too. Now we plan to bring that same model to a game with persistent areas, playable races, freedom of movement, incredible depth, spectacular graphics, and gameplay that builds on the best of Guild Wars while taking things to new heights.