ArenaNet Posts Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto

As part of a new blog focused on the game, ArenaNet’s Mike O’Brien has posted an extensive design manifesto detailing exactly what sort of direction that the upcoming Guild Wars 2 is intended to go in. Though their mantra of providing gamers with brand new experiences is key, this is more than an idle mission statement.

O’Brien states just how massive of a project that this is:

The first thing you should know about Guild Wars 2 is that, this time around, there’s no question that it’s an MMORPG. It’s an enormous, persistent, living, social world, filled with a wide variety of combat and non-combat activities. There’s so much depth here that you’re never going to run out of new things to discover.

Indeed, gone is the almost purely-instanced, PvP-focused gameplay. Not to say that it won’t be there in some form, of course, but rather that the scope is much grander than that of its predecessor. You may think this means that Guild Wars 2 is simply towing the line, following in the footsteps of the rest of the genre. Not so, says O’Brien! Peruse the following quote, and pay (or rather, don’t) careful attention the last bit:

So if you love MMORPGs, you should check out Guild Wars 2. But if you hate traditional MMORPGs, then you shouldreally check out Guild Wars 2. Because, like Guild Wars before it, GW2 doesn’t fall into the traps of traditional MMORPGs. It doesn’t suck your life away and force you onto a grinding treadmill; it doesn’t make you spend hours preparing to have fun rather than just having fun; and of course, it doesn’t have a monthly fee.

But it’s easy to say such things. How many MMORPGs have over-promised and under-delivered on their innovation? Or rather, how many have striven so hard to be different that they end up ignoring the core aspects of the game that keep players engaged? That’s where the rest of the design manifesto comes into play. Continue onward to see just how Guild Wars 2 plans on setting itself apart from its massively-multiplayer bretheren…

Let’s Make It a Real RPG

ArenaNet’s fed up with story-telling as-is in MMORPGs. You run from quest-giver to quest-giver, hoarding tasks like a basket full of Easter eggs, paying little or no attention to the text at hand. Unless you’re a lore nerd, players tend to only passively engage with the world they’re traipsing around in on that level. But that could be a fault of the development process itself, because producing more dynamic content takes a lot of man hours. O’Brien is confident his team is up to the task, taking cues from more traditional, single-player RPGs to bolster the online experience. Real character background, intimate interaction with key NPCs, constant, world-changing events, and moral choices will be at the core of Guild Wars 2.

Few MMORPG devs in the past have had the balls to follow-through with such a bold plan. Sure, WoW has Cataclysm, but even that is one, singular, sweeping event. The post-Cataclysm world, as different as it is from the one before it, will likely be as similarly static over time.

Playing Together

In most MMORPGs, you’ve traditionally got two choices for progressing through content: solo, or join a party. Guild Wars 2 wants to implement a third option — cooperative goals. The idea is that even if you aren’t formally grouped with other players, that your interests will always coincide with theirs. If something happens while you’re exploring in a zone (say a sudden monster attack), you and everyone else will be naturally drawn towards the action. Several MMOs out there already provide something similar, in the form of “public quests,” but even those are predictable events set on a timer.

In addition to taking that concept to the next level, ArenaNet plans on eliminating an inherent problem with the format: competing for rewards. Instead, anyone who contributes significantly to these cooperative goals with get full XP and loot from the encounter.

PvP goals will be similar. As part of a large-scale fight for resources, every additional hand helps.

Enhancing Combat

One of Guild Wars‘ draws was its addictive skill system. You could acquire and use them like spells in a collectible card game. Finding interesting combinations and new strategies was always part of the fun, but it was sometimes hard to figure out just how they interacted with each other. Likewise, in many MMORPGs, skills remain separate from each other or just become different ways to deal the same kind of damage.

GW2 seeks to provide a much more involved and logical experience. Spells should operate like you would expect them to operate. The blog gives several examples:

An Elementalist can cast Fire Wall next to an opponent, and then switch to Water attunement, which freezes all enemies around him. Using the concussive force of Water Trident, he can slam his frozen enemy into the Fire Wall, leaving him to roast in the flames…

…So if you’re playing an Elementalist, try casting a fire wall, and then see what happens when your friends shoot projectiles through it…

…If a Stone Elemental throws a boulder at you, pick it up and throw it back. Or as an Elementalist, use that boulder to create a meteor storm. If you’re fighting an Oakheart with an axe and you manage to hack off a branch, pick up the branch and try using it as a weapon. If you meet a beekeeper outside town, buy a jar of bees from him and see what happens when you lob it at nearby enemies. If you come across a stash of powder kegs, don’t just blow them up in place, but try moving them to where they can do the most damage. If a centaur wheels a siege machine up to the outskirts of a village, don’t just destroy it; take it over and use it to turn the tide of battle.

Enticing, isn’t it? And being able to visually apprehend these effects is an important part of it, too. It means you can react faster to what’s around you and enhance your strategy on the fly, instead of having to delve into a spreadsheet to figure out what you should be doing (though, I’m sure there will be plenty of that, as well).

It’s going to be interesting to see if ArenaNet can live up to all of these promises, as few developers have been able to pull of the sorts of things they’re talking about. At the very least, we can expect (like the original Guild Wars), that they will provide a patently unique experience.

Be sure to read the entire original article for even more details on Guild Wars 2.

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