A Message from the Game Director

by Mike O'Brien on July 26, 2017

Hi, all,

The release of “One Path Ends” concludes a full year of live updates and a full season of Living World. As we wrap up the season, I want to take a moment to celebrate the journey we’ve been on together this year.

Guild Wars 2‘s content model is all about exciting events happening in the world, so from the beginning we wanted our live updates to mirror that. But how? In Season 1, we went for the literal version, constantly shipping changes to the existing world. We did it at a breakneck pace, and we developed the tech and processes required to do so, which have benefited us ever since. But we regretted that frequency sometimes won over quality, that it sometimes felt like a race for players to keep up, and that constantly changing the existing world meant that old content couldn’t be replayed. Since then, we restructured Living World to keep the aspects we loved but without those downsides.

I think with Season 3 we’ve hit a really good balance. We’re shipping meatier episodes, with deeper stories and new open-world zones to explore. The new zones are each a slice in time, so we get to put world-changing events in the open world, without having to destroy old content to release new content in its place. Finally, we’ve used the 2-to-3-month release cadence to elevate the quality of everything we do. I think and hope that this year’s releases have been the best work we’ve ever done.

This year we also took a different approach with PvP and WvW releases. In PvE, we make fresh new content with the goal of surprising and delighting you with our work, but in competitive modes, the community owns the game modes and chooses what we work on, and we definitely shouldn’t be surprising you with where we take those game modes. Instead our goal this year was to develop more incrementally, test with the community on the live side, and take feedback every step of the way.

At the start of this season, I said to the community that I wanted to delight you with what we’d ship, not with what we’d promise. It’s a game, after all, and I think the most memorable moments for a game should be moments of playing the game—not moments of reading about it. There’s also a deeper connection to how we develop. We’ve always been good at shipping things, but with our renewed focus on quality above everything, we’ve had to get better at not shipping things. We now develop new content and features with a default assumption that they won’t ship, and then if they turn out great, we proactively decide to ship them.

Sometimes in the past, we’ve had to put a lot of effort into paying off old promises, which is important but can mean looking backward instead of looking forward. But I think we’re finishing this year in a good position. We have a clear path forward. And we’re building on a solid foundation, with a game that doesn’t need reinvention but mostly needs a steady stream of great content, so we can focus on delivering great content.

As Game Director, it’s been my job to represent you—our players—making sure we put you in the center of every decision we make, and making sure we reinvent ourselves when we need to for your benefit, or push ourselves further when we need to. When you think about it that way, it’s really not much different from the job of a studio head. I’ve loved acting as your GD, and I’m not going anywhere, but I know that eventually my other responsibilities will require more of my time, so I’m going to introduce you to someone else that I know will put players first: Mike Zadorojny, also known as Z, the lead designer of the second expansion. You’ll see a lot of him in the lead-up to the expansion release, and then he’ll join the Live side too, and I expect he’ll eventually take these reins. Z has been working on Guild Wars® for over a decade and on Guild Wars 2 since the beginning, and he loves the game as much as anyone in the world. He’ll do you proud.

And now, here we are at the start of a crazy week, shipping the season finale and leading into the announcement of the new expansion. You know our goal has been to do it all with no breaks in content delivery. It’s an ambitious goal we set for ourselves at the start of this season and at the start of expansion development. It requires us not only to essentially ship two products at the same time, but also to time them perfectly, so the story of one flows right into the setup of the next. Honestly, it’s crazy. But we have great, experienced teams working on both Live content and the second expansion, and I think we’re about to pull it off.

So wish us luck, enjoy the season finale, and I’ll see you again next week for the big unveiling!