Guild Wars 2 – Designer Matthew Medina Talks Language and Writing System


Matthew Medina describes his position at ArenaNet as content designer of Guild Wars 2 as one of the people that “creates cool stuff for players to do.” Not a bad job. Medina recently wrote an article describing all him and his team are doing to give players this “cool stuff.”

Medina’s article focused on the written languages of Tyria (GW2’s game world) and how they will be used in-game. Medina took on this venture because he feels that the deep implementation of lore and storytelling that has gone into GW2 is something that deserved to be singled out.

“The writing systems in Guild Wars 2 have deep roots in the original Guild Wars and its subsequent campaigns,” writes Medina. Looking back at one neat aspect he placed in GW’s – Medina crafted a simple “runic cipher script” for a map he created for the post-searing Ascalon. To his surprise, dedicated gamers found the map and translated the runes (based on ancient Phoenician) and “discovered” the alphabet. Inspired by this, Medina started hiding other alphabets in the game that fans took to immediately.

When GW2 started its development, Medina knew that he had to implement his hidden languages once again. Not only that, but the team gave Medina the go ahead to use all previous languages he created, build on these, and create new ones for the sequel.

For example, looking through market stalls in Divinity’s Reach, players will stumble across signs that use these hidden alphabets to discuss upcoming sales and other easter eggs. Or, in more dangerous areas of the game world, travel to the ruins of Old Ascalon and search there for runes that “tell of heroic exploits of ages long past” that will flesh out the overall story of GWs.

Medina mentioned that there will be 2 primary new languages in GW2. New Krytan is the alphabet most prevalent in the game. The second language will remain a secret for now, Medina not wanting to spoil all the fun.

Perhaps the most notable part of Medina’s article on Guild War 2s Language and Writing System was that he stressed that all the writing you see in GW2 will be readable and relate to either the story of the game or in-game events that are going on. Going one step further with this idea, all the writing and alphabet content will be optional to playing the game. This makes the writing system a lavished garnish, but still not the main course. Considering most gamers don’t like to spend all their time reading when playing video games, this is a good call.

Cementing these ideas, Medina closed his article by stating the following, “we fully understand that there will likely only be a small minority of players who will actively participate in a feature like this, but we trust that all players will appreciate the feeling of authenticity that such details lend the world, and hopefully recognize the passion that we have in creating a rich fantasy world, complete with ancient scripts and mysterious languages. We have established reasonable guidelines for using these writing systems so that players who enjoy immersing themselves in this kind of fantasy element can do so, without creating an unnecessary burden on players who don’t enjoy that level of detail.”

Medina’s attention to detail and confidence in the language and writing systems of GW2 does show one thing. The amount of time and energy going into a system that will be completely over-looked by so many gamers means that GW2s overall product is being fashioned on an incredibly high production level. Hopefully, the game itself will be as immersing and cool as Medina’s fully realized language and writing system.

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