ArenaNet Studio Update: July 2021

by The Guild Wars 2 Team on July 02, 2021

End of Dragons concept art showing a Canthan building on a rock surrounded by mist.

Hi, everyone! I’m Rubi Bayer, and you may already know me as the host of Guild Chat and other Guild Wars 2 livestreams. That’s the most visible part of what I do, but as a member of the Community team, I swap job attunements regularly behind the scenes.

The rest of the Community team and I have been working with the Development team to improve our ongoing communication with all of you. Your reactions to the Guild Wars 2 Live Summer 2021 blog post, weekly event schedules, and skill and balance previews confirm that we’re on the right track. Continuing that trend, we have some important updates to share with you today.

Here’s JT to get us started!

A Brief Preamble

Hey, everybody. Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m JT, and I lead the Guild Wars® franchise and ArenaNet. I’ve been a director at the studio for a little over six years. ArenaNet is different. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been a part of. I’m honored to be a part of this game, team, and community.

When I stepped into this role, I thought a lot about what we’ve done well and what we still needed to do. That retrospection took me back to the studio’s earliest days. ArenaNet was founded with the goal of pursuing innovation by focusing on solving player problems first. Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 are direct results of this pursuit. It’s essential that this player-first approach is at the heart of everything we do going forward.

Today we’ll be sharing some important updates about our upcoming expansion, Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™, the live game, and some changes we’re making to realign ourselves with the ideals that shaped the Guild Wars franchise from the very beginning. I believe that the best is yet to come for Guild Wars 2.

A silhouette of a mysterious figure accompanied by magical pink blades.

Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons

As expansion development has progressed and the real-world challenges of the past year and a half have changed the way we live and work, it’s become clear that we need a little more time to deliver our creative vision for Cantha. As a result, we’re delaying the release of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons from late 2021 to early 2022.

We appreciate your patience as we take the time to give the expansion the attention it deserves. I’m incredibly proud of the work the team is doing to bring Cantha to life, and we can’t wait for you to see and experience it for yourselves. Don’t forget to tune in on July 27 for the Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons First Look livestream.

A Familiar Face Returns

A large part of my job is planning for the future. We have some big plans in store for Guild Wars 2, and ambitious plans require ambitious leaders. I knew I needed a partner to help share the load in order for us to achieve our long-term goals and deliver the game experiences you deserve. I needed someone who intimately understood the franchise and, most importantly, our players.

With that, I’m thrilled to announce that former Guild Wars 2 game director Colin Johanson has returned to ArenaNet to help co-lead the studio with me. All aboard!

Take it away, Colin!

Choo, Choo!

Hello, Guild Wars community! Colin here. I’m incredibly excited to be returning to ArenaNet. When I decided to leave the studio in 2016, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my career. I spent over 11 years working on the Guild Wars franchise as a game designer and game director. One of the first projects I ever worked on at ArenaNet was building a quest where you helped a little girl named Gwen find her lost flute, and the last project was leading the team through pre-production on the Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire™ expansion. Guild Wars, this community, and the team at ArenaNet hold a deep place in my heart, and returning feels like coming home for me.

When JT reached out about the opportunity to help lead the studio with him, we spent a lot of time talking Guild Wars, its future, and our interest in driving a renewed focus on our players. Bringing the player perspective into our development process is a huge part of what made Guild Wars a successful franchise from the beginning. Before we launched Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, we opened them up to public testing to gather your feedback and make improvements. After they went live, we evaluated your feedback and your actions in the game, and we used that data to make a better experience for our community. We want to keep improving in this area in the future.

Talking is the easy part; it’s what you do that matters. So, let’s talk about a concrete step we’re taking to improve on this front. Guild Wars 2 is big and complex with a lot of unique game experiences, including Living World™, World vs. World, Player vs. Player, endgame PvE, and more. Traditionally, the game director has had their attention split between overseeing the development of the live game and expansions. To ensure the live game is getting the attention it deserves, JT and I have created a new role that’s focused on leading development strategy for the live game and ensuring that we’re giving you a consistent, quality experience. We felt that it was important that we found someone for the role who knew the franchise in and out and is a tireless advocate for players. I’m pleased to announce that Josh Davis (aka Grouch) has rejoined the team as the Head of Live Operations!

Do It Live

Hi! Josh “Grouch” Davis reporting for duty. Bridging the gap between players and developers is a passion of mine, and it’s part of why (and how) I got into the industry to begin with. When JT and Colin asked me if I’d be interested in rejoining the studio to help recenter our development efforts on players, I couldn’t possibly say no. I’m stoked to partner with such a talented team of developers to write the next chapter in Guild Wars 2‘s story.

It’s been an eventful couple of months for the live team, starting with the Summer 2021 Live blog post we published back in April. It’s a little nerve-wracking to publish detailed release dates that far in advance—game development can be a little unpredictable at times. But in general, I believe the benefits outweigh the risks, and we intend to push for this level of communication as much as we can going forward. It’s new territory for ArenaNet, but we’re excited about this direction.

In addition to Living World Return, that road map announced some major additions coming to the game this summer, namely the Twisted Marionette and the Legendary Armory. We prioritized these features because we know they’re important to you—you’ve told us as much. With that in mind, we’d like to give two more long-awaited updates that we know are important to many of you.

Alliances When?

This year.

World Restructuring (also known as Alliances) is a feature that aims to deliver a more balanced World vs. World experience by dynamically creating matchups using WvW-designated guilds, alliances (a player-made collection of guilds), and active WvW players as the inputs. This is in comparison to the current system that relies on worlds and world linking. The system will give us more flexibility and granularity when creating new matches and help address natural fluctuations in population over time. It’ll also give players more agency in choosing who they want to play with on an ongoing basis.

World Restructuring is a big change to WvW, and we want to get it right. We’ve read a lot of your feedback on the system—thousands of posts over the years. It’s clear that there isn’t total consensus on how the feature should work, and that’s okay. It’s a big fundamental change to how the mode works, and that can be daunting. In the past, we’ve sometimes made the mistake of releasing the “final” version of a feature and finding that it didn’t quite meet your expectations, meaning that we wasted time and resources. To avoid this, we’re going to do things a little differently this time around to make sure that your voice can help inform the development of World Restructuring.

World Restructuring features will be released in a multiphase beta. What this means is that we’ll release a part of the World Restructuring system, test it with you in the live game, gather your feedback, and then iterate on it for a future release. The feature components will be functional, but not fully polished, meaning we can more easily react to your feedback without having to rewrite a bunch of code. Once we’ve worked with you to lock down the design and implementation, we’ll polish it up and take it out of beta. We’ll be back in August to share an overview of how World Restructuring works and the timing of the first live beta events.

Our communication regarding this feature over the last few years missed the mark. In the past, development priorities shifted away from WvW, and unfortunately both World Restructuring and our players suffered as a result. Our new leadership team views WvW as a cornerstone mode of Guild Wars 2, and it will be a focus of ours going forward.

Client Performance Optimization

We’ve heard you loud and clear—Guild Wars 2 needs better frame rates. We agree. We’re actively working on upgrading our engine to DirectX 11, and we expect to be able to roll it out in an opt-in beta later this year. An important note is that the upgrade to DX11 itself isn’t a magical fix for frame rates on its own. Some players may not notice a difference at all. However, upgrading to DX11 opens a lot of doors for improving performance—CPU multithreading for instance. It also paves the way for some potential graphics upgrades down the road.

We’re investing in our infrastructure, engine, and graphics because we’re looking to the future. This is a long-term effort.

Until Next Time

Some ArenaNet studio employees saying hello over a video call from home.

We’re very excited for the rest of 2021, and we can’t wait to celebrate with you on July 27 during the Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons First Look livestream! We’ve got a new trailer, feature reveals and information, news about elite specialization beta events, and details about the story, characters, art, event design, and more. We want to make sure you have many secrets to discover when you visit Cantha yourself, so while we won’t be spoiling things, we still have lots to share between now and release! We’ve planned more Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons livestreams through the rest of 2021, and they’ll each bring you more news about the expansion.

Our community is the lifeblood of all we do. Thank you for being a part of it.
—Rubi, JT, Colin, Josh, and the ArenaNet Team

An in-game screenshot from End of Dragons, showing Canthan buildings, rocky cliffs, and bright foliage.