ArenaNet Studio Update: The Future of Guild Wars 2

by The Guild Wars 2 Team on 22nd March, 2022

Hey, Guild Wars community,

It’s JT and Colin Johanson here, the studio leadership team at ArenaNet. The past few weeks have been wild, and we’re absolutely humbled by the reception to Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™. The development team poured their hearts and souls into this expansion, which was developed from start to finish during one of the most challenging periods in our lives. We cannot thank the team enough for their hard work, attention to detail, and their dedication to the studio, the franchise, and our fans. We also want to extend the same gratitude to you, our community—we’re here today because of your support and trust.

While the end of the Elder Dragon cycle might seem like a natural moment to start winding things down, we’re happy to say loudly and emphatically that Guild Wars 2 has a bright future ahead of it!

Last July, we said that we were making some big changes at the studio that are necessary to make our ambitious goals a reality. Since then, we’ve strengthened our leadership team, worked to improve our communication with all of you, and shipped the third expansion for Guild Wars 2. We’ve also invested in major foundational long-term projects to ensure the game’s future, like DirectX11, the Legendary Armory, and WvW World Restructuring.

This long-term focus is paying off—we’re seeing incredible growth in the community. In fact, the number of active Guild Wars 2 players has more than doubled over the last three years. This growth has helped Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons outsell our previous expansion, Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire. Not bad for a game getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

How we proceed from here—how we continue this momentum into the future—is something we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about. Today we’re ready to talk about the next phase. However, the details are best for the Guild Wars 2 leadership team to provide. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, we’ll start with an introduction:

Amy Liu is our Executive Producer. She’s responsible for the “how” and “when” of Guild Wars 2 development. She started as a gamemaster and community manager for NCSOFT in 2004 and spent five years working across NCSOFT products. She joined ArenaNet for Guild Wars 2‘s launch in 2012 and has led many major projects and expansions and coordinated scheduling, staffing, resourcing, and project management while solving challenges at the studio level. Amy was also instrumental in helping ArenaNet’s audio department become the incredible triumph it is today!

Josh “Grouch” Davis is taking on the role of Game Director. He’s responsible for the “what” and “why” of Guild Wars 2 development. He started as a Guild Wars community content creator and joined the dev team in 2013, allowing us to continue a long tradition of recruiting team members from our passionate player community. Josh returned to ArenaNet in early 2021 as the Head of Live Operations for Guild Wars 2 and has helped contribute to the growth and improvements to communication that we’ve seen over the last year.

Between Amy, Josh, and the rest of the development team, Guild Wars 2 is in great hands. You’ll be hearing a lot more from them going forward, while we (Colin and JT) focus on operations and high-level leadership of the studio. Take it away, team!

2022 and Beyond

Hi, all, Josh and Amy here. We’re SO excited to talk about what’s on the horizon for Guild Wars 2. Grab a snack, get comfortable, and settle in for a long one.

When we set out to build our plans for 2022 and beyond, we spent considerable time looking back on the last ten years of the game’s history, taking stock of where we succeeded and where we fell short. We reviewed player and press feedback, spoke to those at the studio who were here for the highs and lows, and dug into the mountains of data covering the span of the game’s operation. At the end of the process, it was clear that there were two key areas we knew we needed to address as part of our plans.

First, we need to prioritize delivering consistent updates for our players. The release of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons and the resolution of a story arc that was 10 years in the making feels like a fitting time to reevaluate the overall Guild Wars 2 experience—specifically, how we provide regular content updates to our players and what those updates contain. This means continuing to tell compelling stories that expand the world of Tyria while providing a better experience for those who enjoy game modes such as World vs. World, Player vs. Player, and endgame group content.

Second, it’s important that our plans allow our team to maintain a healthy work/life balance. We’ve always believed that our top priority is the health and well-being of our employees, and we’re more committed to that now than ever. This will help ensure that the exceptional team behind the Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons expansion will continue to be happy at ArenaNet for years to come. Our work on this front will largely be invisible to you and will mostly focus on improving our planning and day-to-day development processes.

Now, let’s shift gears and talk about what the future holds.

Full Steam Ahead

The Guild Wars 2 community has grown quite a bit over the last few years, but it could be even bigger. Now that Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons is released, one of our top priorities as a studio is getting Guild Wars 2 ready for release on Steam and introducing the world of Tyria to an entirely new audience of gamers.

You only get to launch on Steam once, and we want to make sure we do it right. Over the coming months we’ll be wrapping up work on the Steam integration, cleaning up some aspects of the early game experience, and ensuring that the game and the studio are operationally ready for a new platform launch. We’re also working on getting DirectX11 ready to exit beta and making it the default graphics setting for new users.

We’re not ready to commit to a hard date for Steam quite yet, but our hearts are set on launching this year. We’ll keep you updated as things progress.

Living World Season 1 Returns

One of the most frequent pieces of feedback we hear about the new player experience is that it’s hard to get into the Elder Dragon storyline without the context of what happened in Living World Season 1—content that was only available for a brief time in the earliest years of Guild Wars 2.

This year, much of Living World Season 1 (“Scarlet’s War”) will be making a permanent return to Guild Wars 2 through the Story Journal. We’ll be combining the key story moments and experiences of Living World Season 1 into five episodes that will be released throughout 2022. Our goal is to provide a cohesive bridge between the personal story and Living World Season 2 and give players the opportunity to earn many of the legacy achievements and rewards that have been unavailable all these years. The first episode, “Flame and Frost,” will release on 19 April. The season will conclude with the return of “Battle for Lion’s Arch,” which will include a new Strike Mission and Challenge Mode.

We’re excited for veteran players to be able to revisit the key moments of Living World Season 1 for the first time in nearly nine years and to give new players a better narrative introduction into the expansion and Living World content that follows it. Living World Season 1 will be a free addition to the base game for all players (including free accounts), forever.

World vs. World

In the July 2021 ArenaNet Studio update, we said that we view World vs. World as a cornerstone game mode of Guild Wars 2. This statement still holds true for us, and now that Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons is released, we can further increase our support for WvW. Our priorities for WvW are largely unchanged from what we talked about in our “Future of World vs. World” blog post in September of last year.

First, we’re actively working on addressing population balance with the WvW World Restructuring system. In the blog post mentioned above, we said that we’d be taking a multiphase approach to building this system. We’re still in Phase One now, which is focused on standing up the complex backend infrastructure for the system and refining the matchmaking algorithm. We’ve run multiple Phase One betas over the past few months, and after taking a short break to release End of Dragons, we’ll be getting back to it. Right now, the team is tracking down an incredibly elusive, long-standing bug that causes queues to reset and throw players back to the end of the line—something that happens more often during the highly active beta events.

Second, we need to make WvW more rewarding for individuals. We took a small step recently by increasing the speed at which the skirmish reward track is completed, but there’s much, much more that we’d like to do, including providing better rewards for active participation.

As we mentioned last year, once population balance and rewards are addressed, our theory is that WvW gameplay will see a significant shift. At that point, we intend to look very hard at core WvW systems (upgrades, scoring, siege, etc.) and balance them to ensure that the WvW experience is still reflecting our vision.

Speaking of balance, profession balance has a huge impact on the WvW experience, whether you tend to play as a roamer, a havoc player, or if you choose to run with 49 (or more) of your closest friends. This brings us to our next area of focus.

Profession Updates

Balance and maintenance of Guild Wars 2‘s extensive combat system, including the latest elite specializations released with End of Dragons, is important for keeping gameplay engaging and varied across PvE, WvW, and PvP. Moving forward, we’ll be making professions and elite specialization updates a higher priority.

Our plan includes quarterly profession updates, with smaller releases in between as we monitor and respond to how the meta in each game mode takes shape. In addition to the number tweaks that you’re used to seeing, the team will be revisiting some underpowered and underused weapon skills, traits, or utilities for each profession in each profession update to help expand your arsenal. We will continue to make game-mode-specific balance adjustments as needed.

We’ll be releasing some PvP and WvW balance changes in the March 29 update, and our first major profession update will drop on 28 June.

End of Dragons, Continued

This month, the team is focused on polishing up Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons by addressing content balance issues, exploits, and bug fixes. Your feedback has been immensely helpful in this regard and we’re continuing to watch conversations around rewards, meta difficulty, elite specializations, and others. Please continue to share your thoughts with us and keep an eye on the forums and our social media channels for updates.

We’re also working on finalizing the four Strike Mission Challenge Modes, the first of which is slated to release on 19 April. We’ve already heard a lot of positive feedback about the design of these encounters, and we’re excited to see the community tackle these epic encounters over the next few months.

The first new variant for the generation 3 legendary weapons for all weapon types will drop on 24 May—themed after the fearsome Elder Dragon Zhaitan. Details on how to unlock these variants will become available closer to their release. Any guesses as to what second variant will be in June?

Finally, we’re happy to confirm that we’re working on the next story update for Guild Wars 2, including a new map set in the Cantha region. The story (and how we tell it) can go in so many interesting directions now that the Elder Dragon threat is addressed!

Spring 2022 Roadmap

Here’s a look at our major release dates for the next three months.

  • March 15—End of Dragons Polish Build
  • 29 March—Super Adventure Festival, End of Dragons Polish Build
  • 19 April—Living World Season 1 Episode 1, Aetherblade Hideout Challenge Mode
  • 10 May—Xunlai Jade Junkyard Challenge Mode
  • 24 May—Living World Season 1 Episode 2, Kaineng Overlook Challenge Mode, New Legendary Weapon Variant
  • 7 June—Dragon Bash Festival, Harvest Temple Challenge Mode
  • 28 June—Balance Update, New Legendary Weapon Variant

WvW betas and bonus events will be announced once their dates are locked in.

Further Transmissions

We’ve made some significant strides over the last year when it comes to communicating with all of you—studio update blogs, livestreams, roadmaps, postmortems, and more. It’s been very gratifying to see our efforts on this front received so positively by the community, but we want to do more.

Moving forward, we’ll be publishing a regular “State of the Game” blog post to keep you informed on the latest development news, address top concerns within the game and the community, and give you an inside look into the studio and the development of Guild Wars 2. The content of these posts will change with each iteration, but we hope that they become something you look forward to reading and discussing. There’s still plenty left for us to discuss.

The Future, Confirmed

One last update before we go: we’re happy to confirm that there will be a fourth expansion for Guild Wars 2! We mean it when we say we’re focused on the long-term. This is a very early confirmation (the earliest we’ve ever done this, in fact), so don’t expect news anytime soon. Expansions take a very long time to develop. Plus, there’s plenty of cool things to look forward to between now and then.

On behalf of the entire ArenaNet team, thank you for your continued support. We sincerely believe that our best years as a studio are ahead of us—a new beginning that starts with Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons.

Talk soon,
Amy, Colin, Josh, JT, and the Guild Wars 2 Team