Interview: Designing Guild Wars 2 – Part 2

30 Jun 2011  by   Paul Younger
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The concluding part of our chat with Guild Wars 2’s lead game designer Eric Flannum focuses on XP sharing, co-op vs. solo play and ridding the game of the perceived negative aspects of the genre.
If you missed the first part of our interview you can catch up here.
IncGamers: With each playable race having their own unique story missions, how do you make co-op appealing to a player from a different race that is on a mission that doesn’t progress their own story?
Eric Flannum: Let’s say you and I are playing together and you’re a human and I’m a Norn, we’re playing in human lands and we’re doing your story. What happens is that you’ll get the really cool rewards for the mission but I’m going to get experience and gold and karma for helping you. So every time you complete a story step the game is going to say ‘well this guy helped you’ so we’re going to reward him as well.
Every single story step has awards that it hands out to every person that helped you. If we do happen to be on the same story step then we can choose to – if there were any decisions made during the step – have the outcome count for me as well.  If I didn’t agree with the choice you made then I can just say no and go back and redo the mission the way I want to do it.
We try to allow people to bring in their friends and participate as much as possible, hopefully that will keep people playing the story steps together.

IG: How does the nitty-gritty of XP and loot sharing work?
EF: For just a monster.., each monster has a threshold of a percent of its health whereby if someone deals that threshold/percent of damage (it’s about five to ten percent), you get full credit for it. So, if a monster usually provides one hundred XP and I deal sixty percent damage before you come along and finish it off then we’ll both receive one hundred points. We never diminish it, you always get the full amount.
The idea is that by me coming along you get what you were going to get but you get it faster, so you see my presence as a really good thing. You then start to see other players in the world in a positive way as they help you get rewarded faster.
Loot is the same kind of thing. Instead of monsters dropping a bundle of loot and the players then having to divide it between themselves, you get the same roll on the loot table that everybody else gets – so long as you’ve got credit for the kill. That means a monster carrying a rare item can drop that item for every single person.
IG: Guild Wars 2 seems much more focused around co-op play than the first game, can players still enjoy the game to the same extent by playing solo?
EF: Guild Wars 2 is a lot more co-op focused but, one of the things that was important to us.., we allow co-op play that isn’t strictly organised play. We believe people play MMOs because they enjoy playing with other players but, what it means to play with other players differs greatly from player to player. Personally, I like to play with friends but when those friends are not online I tend to solo.
The experience system, combined with a very visually combo system, combined with dynamic events that make sure players in the same area always have the same end goals, creates an experience that’s different from other MMOs in that you’re a solo player but one that engages in group play at the same time.
You don’t have to party with people but you’re still having a co-op experience with them, we feel that’s something that has been missing from most MMOs until now. Usually, you’re forced to either be very social or anti-social. We wanted to create that middle ground.

IG: Part of the marketing behind Guild Wars 2 is the line ‘If you like MMOs, you have to play Guild Wars 2. If you hate MMOs, you really have to play Guild Wars 2’, what’s the story there?
EF: A couple of things… I think MMOs have two primary stigmas attached to them that non-MMO gamers hear and drives them away. The first one is the ‘grind’, the idea that you’re going to have to do a repetitive task over and over again… we wanted to eliminate that. Our levelling curve, for example, increases gradually until you reach about level 30 when it completely flattens out and takes about an hour and a half to progress through each level thereafter. So, to get from 30 to 31 is about an hour and a half, to get from 68 to 69 is about an hour and a half. We think that any longer and things start to feel a little ‘grindy’.
The second thing we wanted to eliminate was the sense that you have to invest in an MMO like it’s your job, that MMOs are this deadly serious business. A lot of players are just not interested in that level of commitment, they have a day job and they don’t want to feel like ‘I’m the designated healer in my party and if I don’t show then I’m letting everybody down’ when they get home.
What we’ve done with cross-roles is make it much easier to get a party together that doesn’t rely on people playing specific roles to succeed. We want it to be very easy for people to play together and attract PC gamers that are usually put off by these negative aspects of MMOs.

IG: The combat system you’ve design is much more action focused and demands greater attention than most MMOs, are you afraid that you’re going to alienate the current MMO crowd due to the fact that you need to concentrate on it that bit more?
EF: Yeah, you do need to concentrate a bit more.  But, if you’re in a mindset where you just want to zone-out while playing (maybe you’re watching TV at the same time or something) then you can go fight some monsters that are at your level and you should be able to beat them with very minimal moving around and dodging.
Certain bosses will certainly present a challenge but you can stay away from those if you want to. The idea is that you can play and make things as difficult as you want. If you really want to be challenged you can go and fight monsters that are two or three levels beyond your own, or you go do dungeons, or you go and participate in really hard events. There are a lot of options.
For the most part we try to incorporate both styles of play. It’s true that our combat can be demanding but a lot of the dodging is only for tough fights, you don’t need to do it all the time.
IG: And finally, will you guys continue to do live events for holidays and special occasions?
EF: Definitely for special occasions, yeah. We’re going to have an extensive live team and do all kinds of stuff for holidays and things like that. These kinds of things were one of the most fun things to develop for the first Guild Wars because we get to be real silly on holidays and people accept that. 
 

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