Colin Johanson on Guild Wars 2 in the Months Ahead

by Colin Johanson on January 15, 2013


Happy 2013 everyone! I wanted to take the time to provide insight on some of the exciting features, events, and stories we intend to bring to Guild Wars 2 in the first half of the New Year.

It’s been a fantastic ride so far – in the few months since Guild Wars 2 launched we’ve sold more than three million games and have become the most critically acclaimed MMO of 2012. We’ve introduced the new Fractals of the Mists dungeon experience, brand-new PvE and PvP maps, events of all sizes, our Lost Shores world event, and two massive holiday events.

And this is just the beginning. Our goals for the New Year are to build on the areas of the game that were successful in 2012, to learn and apply lessons from things that didn’t work as well, and to make sure that 2013 is a year none of us will ever forget.

So what does all of that mean? Let’s dive in:

What Makes GW2 Unique and Successful?

Community and player relationships are key components to what makes Guild Wars 2 tick, and will be a massive part of the game as we evolve it further.

Allowing players to share experiences in an open world where other players are seen as helpful, rather than competition, is a huge component of what makes our game what it is. Open world online games are always strongest when players are encouraged and rewarded to interact as a community, to support other each other, and when the flow of the game ushers players to go places where they run into other players across all levels and have shared experiences. Our shared loot system, dynamic level adjustment system, shared resource nodes, multi-player skill combos, and the ability for every player to revive one another are all examples of key game features that help support this concept of a community-driven experience.

Guild Wars 2 is a game that’s about these shared experiences. Through the dynamic event system, every time you log in, you can experience and share something different in the world with other players. Maybe you’re in a map you’ve been to before and see an event for the first time, or you’re in the midst of an event and it dynamically scales with more players arriving, becoming more epic, or you’re fighting for control of Stonemist Castle in WvW, where each fight can play out differently.

Since launch, we’ve shown our capacity to really build and expand on this system of dynamic events with more unique events that are a living story. These special events and living stories like Wintersday, Halloween, and the Lost Shores invasion are all examples of this style of event we’ve run since the launch of GW2.

These key pillars — a sense of community and a dynamic, living world full of different experiences every time you log in — are what makes Guild Wars 2 what it is. But what does that mean looking forward to 2013?

GW2: The Living World Game

In order to continue to build on the pillars of Guild Wars 2, our focus for the game needs to be on these concepts of building up community and events. We’ve shown some of the promise of a truly living world, but we still have so many ideas on how to take this to the next level. Put simply, we’ve barely scratched the surface.

We will accomplish this is by building a world that has truly unique storylines and event experiences that play out over extended periods of time, that shape the future and world of Tyria, creating stories for everyone to tell about the game for years to come.

We attempted to do this with varying degrees of success with our Halloween, Lost Shores, and Wintersday events. Thanks to each of these events and your feedback, we’ve learned an incredible amount about how to ensure big events like this are successful moving forward.

Our Wintersday event was an example of applying a lot of the lessons learned from the earlier events to ensure we create content that is inclusive, community driven, and most importantly fun. From Wintersday, we discovered still more areas we can improve for future world events to make them even more exciting.

To complement this concept of regular world events with strong stories and themes, we also need to build on and strengthen our existing open world and its persistent content. The more persistent events we can provide in a specific area, the less often each of the events in that area needs to occur, which in turn adds to the sense of an ever-evolving open world.

This means we need to give reasons for players at all levels to explore these areas, to reward them for their time, and to encourage them to play in locations where they will run into each other and experience the community-driven features that make Guild Wars 2 shine. Before we expand our world more, we need to make sure our existing world is as strong as possible, and that it gives reasons for people at all levels to go back and play and explore in the entire game.

So how are we going to do that?

Systems and Rewards Supporting the Living World

To make playing in our open world worthwhile, we’ll make it rewarding enough for players to spend their time there across all levels. It’s extremely important that we stay true to our philosophy that you should be able to play Guild Wars 2 the way you want to play the game in order to reach the most powerful rewards.

One of our focuses is expanding and leveraging our achievement system. The concept behind this is to allow players to earn new rewards for achievements, as well as progressing down achievement paths that take advantage of the open world experience. We’ll add tokens for your achievements that you can turn in to select from a list of rewards, including new reward types like Ascended gear and Infusions. We’ll add support so daily achievements will be different each day of the week, which will help drive players to different areas of the world and play together.  Later, we’ll also be adding a system that lets you complete a subgroup of achievements to fulfill your daily. For example, if there are 6 daily achievements available, you’ll only need to do 4 of the 6, so you can choose the achievements that you’re most interested in.

We’ll continue to offer cosmetic rewards such as titles, medals (such as map completion), unique skins, etc., which will remain prizes earned for completing specific parts of the game. These will show off the prestige of your character, but will not make your character more powerful than other characters.

As we look at developing new types of rewards further into 2013, we want to develop systems that are uniquely Guild Wars 2. Our reward systems need to be exciting, and include things you want to earn over time, but we don’t want to force our players on endless gear treadmills for new tiers of gear we add every 6 months. You won’t see another tier between Ascended and Legendary in 2013 for example. Our goal will be to use our existing reward systems and build new ones that are fun and exciting that step away from the stale gear grind reward systems you see elsewhere. Later in 2013, we’ll begin to introduce more of these systems once we’ve finished rolling out the remaining Ascended gear and Infusions.

What About Guilds? I Want To Do Things with My Friends

Guilds are extremely important to the game. We need to ensure there is a volume of content to foster this strong community/social bond. To that end, we’re working on adding new types of content to the game in early 2013 that will allow guilds to go on missions together. Some of these missions may be content designed specifically for the guild to accomplish within certain constraints or time requirements, while others will see the creation of new content by a guild/s everyone in the world can experience. Over time we’ll continue to expand this system with new guild rewards, missions, and tools to allow guilds of all sizes to play a stronger part in solidifying the communities of the GW2 world.

OK, What About WvW (Or WuvWuh)?

Many of the features, expanded reward systems, and potentially even live event storylines described above will also play a part in World vs. World in 2013. We also have other specific features that we’re focusing on developing for our WvW community that we want to make sure you’re aware of.

Polishing the existing WvW experience to ensure it shines in every way possible is a major goal for us which requires addressing major areas we know need a lot of attention. We’ve been working on two of these projects for a while now, and both have proven far more complicated to solve than we’d hoped, but we’re getting really close and have made tremendous progress.

Firstly, we’ll be adding paid server transfers, with time limitations and WvW restrictions, and guesting ability, which allows players to visit friends on other servers in every part of the game except for WvW. To encourage players to stick with a single server for WvW and fight for the pride of that server, server changes will incur a fee and have time limitations.  Second, we’ll make improvements to culling. We recently ran small tests on Live to help us move towards eliminating as much culling from WvW as possible. The results have been promising, and we have a number of additional culling features in development. If all goes well, our hope is 2013 is the year culling ceases to exist, or is as minimal as possible in the WvW experience.

We’re adding new features as well. We’ll introduce a system of prestige and advancement specifically designed for WvW. This will give players a progression path where they earn new WvW-only abilities and bonuses, and with them gain prestige and visible titles/recognition. Also, we’ll add a new motivation to the WvW domain that goes beyond the overall weekly score to give more short term reasons to be winning in WvW as well. We’ll discuss all these features in more detail as we get closer to release!

Hey, What About the PvP!?

Much like the other aspects of the game, our PvP part of the game also will be growing by leaps and bounds over the course of 2013.

For those more interested in progression in PvP, we’ll be evaluating our PvP reward systems and overhauling the way PvP operates to make it feel more rewarding and exciting and to give you reasons to log in and compete every day. We’ll be adding systems that make it easier for players who are less competitive to get matched only against people with similar skill sets, and stronger methods for players learning PvP to do so in a safe and fun environment with more information to help their skills grow.

For those more interested in competitive PvP, we’ll be adding the core features required to truly make Guild Wars 2 shine as a competitive game—things like being able to watch other competitors and see major ranked matches to learn how to play better, the ability to host your own custom arenas to set up your own rules and host your own team practices, and visible places for everyone to see rankings of the best teams/players in the world.We also want to make it easier to play games against good opponents, and give the ability to compete in games where ranking matters quickly and easily. Of course, this also means down the road we’ll have major tournaments, prizes, and more to help drive the growth of this competitive PvP community alongside our less hardcore PvP players.

Holy Moley This Got Long – Anything Else?

We’re also focusing on improving a number of other areas; far too many to cover in detail. Examples of some of the major areas we’re working on in the first half of 2013 include:

  • Leaderboards on our website where you can compare your abilities with other players to find out who is the best in the world.
  • Expanded and re-designed encounters for bosses in dungeons and the open world.
  • New types of achievements which tie into the new systems of achievement rewards.
  • Continuing to improve the security of the game fighting botters and hackers, as well as improving the games stability by addressing bugs as quickly as possible when they are reported.
  • Identifying existing parts of the game that can be improved and made more fun/exciting, and investing the time to ensure everything we’ve built really shines as we move forward.
  • Improving the new player experience to make it easier for new players to learn how to play GW2, enter the game world, and more quickly learn the game without being overwhelmed.
  • Improving the “looking for group” tool to make it easier to find other players to play with in the game.
  • The improvements and fixes to the Fractal dungeons, detailed in Isaiah Cartwright’s blog post here.

Just because it’s not listed here doesn’t mean it’s not being worked on, but hopefully this helps give some insight into where we’re headed in the first half of 2013.

In Closing…

2012 was an amazing year for Guild Wars 2, with the release of the game, the fantastic sales and log in numbers we’ve seen on a daily basis, the fun we have had both playing with and listening to our community, and all the great awards the game has received over the last few months.

But we know this game can be so much more than what we’ve shown so far. We feel like we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of where the world of Tyria can go and what you can expect from an MMORPG. 2013 will be the year we truly launch into that journey, and just as we tried to change the paradigm and expectations of an MMO when we released Guild Wars 2, we now want to raise the bar for what players expect from a live game as well.

As we push the boundaries and do new things with what an online game can be, we’ll likely hit some bumps along the road on the way. With your feedback and support, we’ll learn from those mistakes, grow from them, and be as transparent about them as possible. We’ll also have some amazing moments, and hopefully craft gaming memories you and we will never forget. And though you may not always know it, we’ll be right there in-game playing next to you as well.

In the short term, to provide a guideline on how we’re going to get where we’re going, our January release will be a relatively small one, setting the stage for the story that will play out in February and March. The January release will also provide the groundwork for the major feature additions you’ll see in the larger February and March releases.

Our promise to you in 2013 is to continue to build on the world we’ve built, to make it stronger, to refine and strengthen the game based on the core vision of Guild Wars 2, and to make GW2 an experience unlike any other online game.

Thanks again to all of our players for an amazing 2012, and here’s hoping 2013 is a year none of us forget as we all play our part in the growth and development of Guild Wars 2.

We look forward to seeing you in-game!