As thousands of players are currently discovering in the beta, Guild Wars 2's content isn't structured like other MMOs. Rather than following every quest chain to its conclusion before moving to the next zone, you're encouraged to wander and see what events you encounter. You're your limited by your level, and as you gain power the amount of ground you can cover increases. You're also levelled down to the area you're in, limiting the degree to which content becomes irrelevant to you as time goes on. As well as the impact this has on the game's feel, it also has an effect on the way post-launch content will work. I spoke to game designer Colin Johanson about ArenaNet's plan for Guild Wars 2 in the months and years ahead.
"We have a live team of designers and artists and gameplay programmers who are going to be flying over the game constantly, dropping content everywhere” Johanson says. “Our goal is that every time you make a new character, you might go back through a map that you played six months ago and you're going to find completely different content.” New content, he says, will be spread across the whole game rather than concentrated in specific areas. As this happens, the events already in place will be altered to accommodate it.
“You run around Queensdale, the human starter area, and maybe the Brood Mother shows up every X minutes,” Johanson continues. “We're going to put another event that can happen there, and then slow down how often the Brood Mother happens. Not only are there new events happening, but everything you've seen before starts happening less often. The world gets larger and larger. Three years from now, if someone makes a brand new character in the game, a place that has 100 events in it might have 300 by then.”
ArenaNet will not, however, be drawing players' attention to new content directly. Johanson believes that it's important that players have an opportunity to be surprised, something that could be spoiled by sticking an advertisement for a new encounter in the patch notes.
“I think a big part of the sense of immersion and joy in our world is discovery and exploration. It's going out and seeing what's around the corner, what's going to happen. If we can keep that feeling alive every day that you log into the game, I think there's just something better about that. If we tell everybody what we put in there, they're going to look for it, find it, and that's it. I think we would rather have you play and suddenly stumble across it - and for all we know that could have been in there all the time.”
The job of spreading the word about new content will fall, Johanson says, to the community itself. “I would be thrilled if we put that stuff in and within the next two or three weeks people were on the fan forums saying, 'I found this event - has anyone ever seen this before?' and everyone starts pouring in to go find it. I think that's more organic and fun for the community. Everything we do is built on how we get our community to play together and feel better about one another.”
The Guild Wars 2 weekend beta event is running right now - if you're taking part in Europe, why not play with our community? If you're not in the beta, you can check out our footage of the game's World vs. World PvP and dungeon content.