Gamescom 2013 – Guild Wars 2 exclusive interview with Arena Net

guld wars head

We had a sit down with a few guys from ArenaNet about Guild Wars 2; Isaiah Cartwright (Head of Skill Balancing), Matt Wuerffel (Content Designer) and Daniel Dociu (Art Director). We found how the last year has gone since the game launched this time last year, what’s new in the game and what each of them have on their wish list that they’d personally like to see in the game.

<Q>.  Could you introduce yourselves?

Isaiah: I’m Isaiah Cartwright, I’m the Lead Game Designer.

Daniel: My name is Daniel Dociu, I’m the Art Director.

Matt: My name is Matt Wuerffel and I’m a Game Designer

<Q>. After almost one year of Guild Wars 2, how has it been?

Isaiah: It’s been great, we’ve really gotten to do a lot of changes to the game over the year and really see how the communities accepting it and we’ve been really happy and impressed with the overall success of the game and just the continued momentum we see with payers coming into the game. With our new two week cadence and just how well people are accepting all the different things about the game.

<Q>. Tell us about the more recent additions to the game.

Isaiah: I think the biggest thing from the last big update, the one that just came out a couple of days ago, was this big invasion where we introduced a villain named Scarlet and she’s kind of creating portals all over the world and there’s these large invasions that are going on where the entire map is getting taken over and the players have to work together to overcome the challenge.

<Q>. What do you feel are the advantages for your type of business model (B2P)?

Isaiah: One of the biggest advantages is that we really feel like it puts a lot of pressure on us to deliver quality content constantly, so that the player really gets to decide what’s good when they look at the things in the gem store and the new updates, and they can really show their support in different ways. We really like that kind of pressure on us to continue to create good, solid content for the players. We think that’s a really strong advantage.

The other advantage is that it’s easy to check back in with the game, if you played it for a little bit, then set it down and played another game, it’s really easy to just jump back into the game because you don’t have to start a subscription or go into it. You just double click the game and get back into it and so we really like that, we’ve really been very excited and happy about our business model and just continuing to provide the best content for the players that we can.

<Q>. Free Trial, what can you say about it?

Isaiah: We’re always trying to improve different methods of getting players to come and enjoy the game and we feel like there’s no better time for some people to come check out the game. It’s been out for a year, you know we really know where the game’s going, we have a lot of plans. The two week cadence is really bringing a lot of life to the game. So we’re gonna continue to push strongly to getting new players into the game in different ways. I think this is just the start of a larger, constant initiative to just get people to come and enjoy our game because we have millions of people already doing so.

<Q>. Constant acclaim, great reviews. What are you getting right that many others don’t?

Isaiah: I think one of the core values is always iteration, whatever we do we’re always trying to improve it and continue to improve it. I think a lot of players see that especially when we releasing content every two weeks, players can see how much we care and how much we try to listen to what they care about and continue to update and improve the game as rapidly as possible.

Daniel: I can tell you it doesn’t come easy, it’s been an extremely intense development back at the studio since we shipped. Keeping the game growing doesn’t happen by itself, so I can tell you that a great deal of effort and resources are put towards not just maintaining this cadence but also ensuring that the quality bar doesn’t drop. So we have put in place specific processes and methodology and checkpoints that prevent us from lowering the quality bar, so it is constantly on our mind, it’s a high priority for us.

Matt: Yeh and just to expand on that a little bit, when we shipped the game we basically restructured the entire company to be very much about delivering this, eventually getting to the two week cadence. We have all these cost discipline teams now working across all the different areas of the game. So it really was a tremendous amount of effort and process and taking risks and iterating on our process and our internal structure in order to figure out how we can get to this point where we’re comfortable and excited about the kind of things we’re releasing every two weeks and still hitting that quality bar. And I think that’s something that is pretty unique to Guild Wars 2, the only studio that can kind of maintain that pace at this point.

<Q>. What things in the development of Guild Wars did you replicate in the Guild Wars 2’s?

Daniel: Well, the development methodology and the processes have changed a lot, have evolved a great deal, but what we kept were kind of the core values, the fundamental philosophy and also a handful of the core people that were part of the development team the first time around are still major contributors. That allowed us to bring to the current game that culture that we put in place and those core values and adapting them evolving them and adding layers of new more up to date development methodology on top of that.

Isaiah: And another one, just a more specific detail. We added a lot of different things in Guild Wars 1 and we didn’t think through how much we were going to have to support all these different game types of features that we were adding. And I think as we go into Guild Wars 2, every feature, everything that we ever add we’re always thinking about how that’s going to affect us three years from now, how that’s gonna affect us; what is that going do? How much of our resources is that going to take to maintain that? That kind of forward thinking has let us catch a lot of mistakes and things that we’ve made in different ways, where we make a new piece of content that is really fun, but then there’s not enough players to play it because they’re spread out doing other new things. One of the things we like about the living world strategy is that it allows new things to come in and then go away and we can introduce new things to players without getting into a situation where we have too many things.

<Q>. Are you ever likely to go down the route of expansion packs like you did with Guild Wars?

Isaiah: Nothing is off the table. The focus of the company and what we’re aiming at is to really get our living world strategy to tell more story, to get bigger moments in the game, change up different things, get more permanence. So that is our focus, how we can improve the overall living world initiative, how we can get better at it as a company through our processes as the content that we deliver to players. So that’s really where I focus is right now, but you know, in the future we’ll see.

<Q>. What can we expect to see in the future?

Isaiah: As it is with the living story stuff we don’t want to give away anything, but I think you can really expect to see us continuing to tell more story, to tying up all the different things that we’ve been doing, to continue to try and push the bounds of what we can do in these two week cadences and really deliver as much as we can to the player.

Daniel: Creatively I can assure you that this franchise has a lot of legs and the potential for expanding it into the future pretty much indefinitely. So we have a whole slew of ideas, it’s just a matter of deciding when it makes sense to bring them into the game and putting resources towards materializing these ideas in order to make these decision in an educated fashion we’re involving more and more scientific data analysis. But creatively there’s an endless pool of content that’s just waiting for the right timing.

Matt: I would also say that we’ve been experimenting with what we can do with this two week cadence and I think we’ve gotten to the point where we’re very comfortable overhauling entire systems or adding brand new features, adding new maps and stories, and that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of ideas flying around about things that we can do and how it plugs into this two week delivery schedule, so there’s so many things, we’ve got more than seventeen teams working on all things across the entire game and so it’s really exciting to see this big line up of all these features that we have and then to know that we’re committed to iterating on it until we feel like this is something that we’re comfortable going in, and that we’re excited about it and that players are going to be excited about it. So there’s all kinds of things coming up that’s pretty exciting.

<Q>. What personally would you like to see in Guild Wars 2?

Isaiah: For me I think we’ve built a lot of strong systems and areas of the game, and one of the things I worked on personally was lots of skills and things like that. So I really look for how we evolve that and how we bring new skills to the world; those are things that are always exciting to me.

Daniel: I can’t really identify or isolate one wish item, I can tell you this much, I would definitely like at some point in the future to try revisiting some of the content we’ve developed in the past that I felt we maybe fell just a little short of delivering on and giving it a second shot and doing some of these ideas more justice.

Matt: I think one of the things that’s really exciting for me, and I don’t know that this is one particular thing, but it’s a type of content that we started experimenting a little bit with, and that’s interacting more with the people who play the game and kind of giving them an opportunity to express what they’re excited about. We did this a little bit with the election, where depending on which candidate won we would be building a different type of content in the future and that’s just the start of where we can go with that as we interact with our players and our fan base and we say “what kind of things are you interested in?” and then that gives us an idea of, okay, here’s the starting point and we know that everyone is kind of excited about this… now let’s see where it goes. So that’s pretty exciting for me.