Guild Wars 2 is getting closer and closer to launch, and ArenaNet's been updating Guild Wars with all sorts of great content to kick-start players' transitions into the sequel. These content updates, packaged under the banner of "Guild Wars Beyond", are meant to bridge the gab between the two games' story and characters. The latest addition, Heart of the North, will be hitting live servers later this month and lets you help you bring two lovers together...with your sword.
Contest: See how you can win in-game Guild Wars items after the interview!
Heart of the North's new batch of quests, which require your character to have completed War in Kryta in order to access, is more light-hearted than your typical MMO questline. They let you walk alongside two of the main characters from Eye of the North--Gwen and Kieran Thackeray--as they conclude their courtship with a wedding. And, of course, you get to help 'em reach their important day.
I talked with Guild Wars' lead designer John Stumme about the update, how players will participate in the events, what it plays like in the game, and what it all means for the future of Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.
PC Gamer: What is the main theme in this next step for Guild Wars Beyond?
John Stumme: If I had to pick one theme for the new content, I'd say it's best described by transition, and moving forward. This is the first sizable story content the Live Team has done since I've come on board as lead designer (I consider Halloween to be more of a “getting started”) and I wanted to use this chance to bring resolution to one of the biggest questions remaining from the War in Kryta, and make this as a bridge for where I'd like to take the story in the future.
It's one big ending, setting us up for some very compelling new beginnings to come down the line. I think people are going to be pretty excited about where Guild Wars Beyond will be going [in the future]-–those of us on the team certainly are!
PC Gamer: What's the basics of the story told during Heart of the North?
(For those unfamiliar with the story in Eye of the North, Gwen is a character that players encounter several times during the game who can eventually become a Hero , and Keiran Thackeray is an NPC that player's first encountered during the Wintersday 1078 celebrations as he sent players on quests to help him cheer up a lonely Gwen. -Ed)
Stumme: The main portion of the story being told is where Keiran Thackeray has been during his disappearance during the War in Kryta and what he has gotten himself involved in. Once we know Keiran's story, there's the matter of reuniting him with Gwen—as it's very hard for a relationship to move forward (in any meaningful way at least) when one person is missing.
PC Gamer: What type of quests will be involved?
Stumme: The main portion of the quests involve finding items that hint at where Keiran has been and what has been happening with him during his disappearance. These items are then used at the scrying pool in the Hall of Monuments to relieve portions of his story through his own eyes and to learn firsthand what happened to him.
PC Gamer: How many quests are there in this update?
Stumme: When everything is said and done, players will be looking at...six added quests, along with four new repeatable missions.
PC Gamer: Is the Heart of the North completely tied into the preparation and ceremony for the wedding, or are there other quests as well?
Stumme: We will have some content tied into wedding preparations, but the bulk of the content focuses on where Keiran has been and what has been happening. After each of those mission segments, there'll also be scenes with Gwen occurring in the Hall of Monuments (as she is also watching the events unfolding in the scrying pool!) showing her reaction.
I felt like it was a really strong way of showing the growing and changing relationship between Keiran and Gwen by splitting them up, and giving each of them a chance to reflect on their situation independently. In the case of Keiran, he has been rejected, lost friends in battle, and suddenly finds himself faced with a new opportunity in life that could be just the thing he needs. Meanwhile, Gwen realizes the person she has worked so hard to push away may in fact be alive and, to her dismay, may be moving on. In the end, the story arc is about two people finding out what they really want from life, and why.
PC Gamer: What items will players collect by completing this content? Miniatures, armor, weapons, etc.?
Stumme: After the wedding is done, a new Hero will be joining the player's party. In addition, some of the rewards along the way should help players get more work done on their Hall of Monuments.
PC Gamer: What evil is Keiran hunting down when he's away from Gwen?
Stumme: Keiran has gotten himself involved with a last-ditch plot from the White Mantle that could have some fairly long reaching lore repercussions. The question [players will be answering in the new quests] is, who's behind it all?
PC Gamer: How will this tie into the next chapter of Guild Wars Beyond?
Stumme:: Keiran's story has him crossing paths and becoming involved with someone who will be a key player in the story of Cantha: Winds of Change [the next chapter in Guild Wars Beyond]. I'm not going to spoil anything just yet, but I will say that it's going to be a very different kind of experience from the War in Kryta, as I want each chapter of GWB to feel unique. Winds of Change is going set into motion events that will be an important part of history for the timeline of Guild Wars 2.
I can at least say that Winds of Change won't be a sweeping love story. I think that's best saved for when we do Mhenlo's side story, which [has the story elements] to] be played like a dating simulator game where he needs to decide which eligible lady he ends up with. (We aren't actually going to do that, for the record.)
PC Gamer: Which side will the developers be sitting on at the wedding: Bride's side or Groom's side?
Stumme: As for me, I suppose I'd have to be on Gwen's side. I've written a lot for her over the years, starting with her quests to deal with her past in Eye of the North, the scenes in the Underworld, the Bonus Mission Pack, and now I find myself returning to write her once more for Keiran's return and the wedding. I have a special fondness for writing Gwen, because the angsty teenage girl within my heart can really relate to what she's going through. Wait, what? Did I just say that? Never mind, let's just forget anything about that last part, there.
As for everyone else on the Live Team...
Andrew Patrick: I will be sitting on Keiran's side. Gwen reminds me too much of just about every girl I dated before I was 17, so needless to say, I've had my fill of angst-filled emo girls. That and, as a Monk, I am allergic to Mesmers!
Michelle Juett: Gwen ~ we've known her since she was a child. She doesn't have her mother in the audience so we can fill the role to tell her how much that fancy pants Thackeray boy isn't good enough for her and he better treat her right. /typical parental ranting, etc etc.
Zachary Nickerson: I'll be sitting in the Keiran pews. The poor man just lost two of his closest friends: Captain Langmar and his own trusty ponytail. I'm sure the guy is an emotional wreck and could use a friend right about now.
Joey Knight: Joe Hostile would most certainly be sitting on the bride's side. He's like an uncle to Gwen and fondly remembers a more peaceful time when she would follow him around the Ascalonian countryside picking flowers and dizzying herself until she fell down. What time has passed since her only concerns were playing her flute and prancing around in her little red cape. He'd be proud for all she has endured at the hands of those mangy charr and so happy to see her joy restored. He'd also most likely have a man-to-man with Keiran, something along the lines of, “Hurt her and I'll shove a Sack of Random Junk down your throat!” Congratulations, sweet Gwen!
Joe Kimmes: (responding to Joey) The flower picking was like, one afternoon, dude. When she was six. I think she remembers the falling death crystals a lot more than wandering around with you for an hour.
As for me, isn't Kimmes the Historian already present in the wedding? But I'd go with Keiran, I don't think he's got any relatives to show up either, and he doesn't even have the benefit of visiting his mother in the Underworld.
Robert Gee: As a fellow Mesmer, I'd be with Gwen. If that's not enough, she beat a siege devourer with a freaking ROCK before she escaped from a charr slave camp. She didn't need any fancy instant-kill bow attack or assassin helper to get the job done like Keiran did in his bonus mission.
Mike Zadorojny is currently occupied in Korea, but he would undoubtedly say that he is on Keiran's side. He is, after all, responsible for the character in the first place.
PC Gamer: Thank you for your time.
Contest: Has this Q&A gotten you in the mood for love? We want to facilitate your compulsive need for in-game roleplay weddings, so we're giving out 10 codes! Five will grant you one groom's tux and one bride's dress, while the other five grant the full costume pack with all five epic wedding outfits for you characters. Just tell us in the comments of this post what you're going to bring as a wedding gift for Gwen and Keiran Thackeray. We'll pick 10 winners tomorrow afternoon and email the codes!