Personalizing your experience in Guild Wars 2
At San Diego Comic-Con, I had a frantic hallway chat with Guild Wars 2 lore man Jeff Grubb and lead designer James Phinney. I learned a good bit about how making Tyria persistent will yield significant changes for many GW2 systems, but no change sounds quite as exciting as the ability to hurl a jar of bees at your opponent.
Okay, hurling bees sounds a little silly, but it's a great example of how persistence is affecting the traditionally instanced, and thus static world of GW. The ever-changing world makes every player's experience that much more unique by way of dynamic area events. Jeff tells me "In order to get a jar of bees, you need to get honey from the honey combs, and then we have some bee hives over here, and a whole story grows up about that. It's a very dynamic world, and because of this event, other events may not occur or other events may happen." It's a small scenario that's part of a goal both Jeff and James mention several times: a huge, epic story, with a personalized feel. They aim to achieve this with a combination of large and small events.
In a larger example, Jeff tells me about a centaur attack on a garrison. "What a lot of MMOs do is, if the centaurs are attacking the garrison, there's really just a whole bunch of centaurs outside. What we do when the centaurs attack is, if they take the garrison, they seize it and burn it to the ground. Now you've got a new problem--you have to get the garrison back. When you get it back, you've got another problem--you have to rebuild the garrison. It works over a cycle of events, and one of the big goals is so you don't always see the same world when you step out the door."
Just because Tyria prime will be a constantly changing landscape, GW2 has by no means abandoned instances. While the big story tends to be out in the persistent world, the more personal story will often be found in instance--don't worry, you can bring your friends along too.
James says "you might be starting up going into an instance that's very personalized to you, like you let this orphanage get destroyed. You go back to this part of town, and it's obliterated. You might be going in there to do a quest that has to do with your story, but you can bring people in there with you. Even though it's your quest and you're the one trying to get the really specific reward, they actually get points for helping somebody else do a quest." Because you get to chose who comes into instance with you, and everyone gets something out of the deal, the team is hoping to alleviate the "you stole my kill" mentality that often plagues GW1 battles. "It's looking at: how do we create reward systems, and how do we create ease of use that makes it so everything is friendly, that makes it like 'dude, we're just playing together.'"
During the GW2 panel, I also learned that a new level of clothing customization is in the works, allowing you to further personalize your experience. Excited character artist Kristen Perry eagerly announced "You know all those outfits you see the NPCs wearing? Well, most of them, you'll be able to wear too." While fashion probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think GW, Kristen says sometimes "you just want a sensible pair of shoes;" if that spells a more vibrant and 'alive' world in the long-run, I'm all in.
If you're wondering why I haven't touched on guilds, it's because ArenaNet hasn't either. All James could tell me was, "We're putting a much greater investment into social tools in guilds and guild management than we did in GW1." Hopefully, we'll learn more about guilds when GW2 goes hands-on at gamescom and PAX. If you're curious about what's been going on in Tyria for the 250 year lore gap between GW1 and 2, Comic-Con also saw the debut of Ghosts of Ascalon, which was co-authored by Jeff Grubb and Matt Forbeck.