Designing Challenging Content

by Crystal Reid and Jason Reynolds on September 02, 2015


Hello, brave heroes and adventurers of Tyria! We’ve been sitting on a runaway hype train internally for months now, and we’re excited to finally say…

Brace yourselves… Raiding is coming!

Our goal for introducing Raids with the release of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™ is to give players the truly challenging group content you’ve been asking for. We want to create epic experiences for you and your friends to conquer together and, once your foes have been vanquished, to reward you in ways that allow you to show off your skills to the rest of Tyria.


Ready Check!

Every raid starts with a group of 10 like-minded players. We feel that a group size of 10 works well with the core combat mechanics built into Guild Wars 2 and still gives you the thrill of coordination between your allies. It’s just the right number of players to make an encounter feel challenging, and it isn’t so many players that you’re going to stress out over filling raid slots on any given night.

With the purchase of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, once you’ve found a group of level 80 players ready to go, entering the first raid wing is as simple as walking up to the instance entry and zoning in. That’s it. No attunements and no repetitive gear grinds are going to stand in your way. The true challenge for raids in Guild Wars 2 should be in defeating the encounters, not getting inside.

Inside the raid, you’ll find a variety of challenges laid out before you. One of the features that Guild Wars 2 is well known for is our event system, and you can expect to see a number of encounters that take advantage of this system—holdouts, assaults, captures, defends, and more! These event encounters are designed to put your group to the test in ways that have never been seen before in PvE. But these event encounters are only part of it, because every raid needs bosses.

Big, huge, epic bosses. These bosses come in all flavors of phases and mechanics that will increase in difficulty both in the encounter itself and as you progress through the raid wings. Their skills may change or evolve over the course of an encounter, they’ll probably call for backup, and they most assuredly will enrage if you take too long to kill them.


Role Check!

Raid encounters work a bit differently from other types of instanced content in Guild Wars 2. At the core of each encounter is a challenge that we want you and your group to solve. These puzzles, so to speak, will require focus on team coordination, communication, and both build and play roles.

Build roles are what you do at a character level. Things like what weapons, utility skills, traits, and even armor you choose to bring to a fight. Some encounters are going to push you to try different weapons you rarely use, some are going to challenge you to select traits you haven’t considered equipping before, and some encounters may even require a member of your group to dust off that toughness gear to bulk up and tank some heavy hits to protect the condition-build players in the back. This is just a tiny sample of the types of build roles we want to push as a core part of Guild Wars 2 dynamic combat.

Play roles are something that each player will face on an individual level. It’s all about execution here. Some encounters will require the entire raid party to perform a specific task to succeed. This could be something like gliding off the boss platform and catching an updraft to avoid a devastating attack. Other encounters will offer tasks that rely on the expertise of a few select players. This could be a specific creature that needs to be kited away from the rest of the group, otherwise exploding and dealing massive damage.

And if you fail to fill these roles? You’re going to have a bad time. But don’t worry, as we’re leaving you a repair anvil at the entrance. You know—to collect your tears on.

Dynamic Combat

At the core of Guild Wars 2 and raiding lies our dynamic combat system. Performing well in raids is going to require a high level of play from every group member. Tactics like combo field manipulation, proper damage maximization, and damage mitigation for your profession will be vital to your success. The skills you’ve honed over your time playing Guild Wars 2 will be more relevant than ever!



With the release of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, the Mastery system will give you a brand-new way to progress your character. Mastery track progression will absolutely be a key part of overcoming encounters. For example, in the first release, you’re going to need to explore the air with gliding and learn a few different ways to interact with mushrooms. On top of the Mastery tracks available at release, each raid release will add more raid-specific Masteries for you to earn.

The raid-specific Masteries will serve a couple of purposes, but chiefly they allow the designers to create a feeling of progression throughout the raid content. If a player who is new to raiding joins your squad, he or she will—for the most part—be able to assist entirely in the encounters. That said, there are a number of Mastery traits attached to various facets of the raid encounters. For example, if your squad is working on the last boss of a wing, and no one has a particular and clearly stated Mastery unlocked, you’re probably going to fail spectacularly.
Because of the usefulness of Masteries within Raids, we want players to have time to be free to power up their characters. We want you guys to be able to enjoy playing the expansion without rushing to max out every Mastery in order to prepare for Raids. For that reason, we’ll be activating the first wing of our first Raid shortly following the release of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.


So what’s in this for you, besides a whole lot of fun? Rewards, obviously! And we think that the rewards for raiding need to be so epic they just might be legendary. We’ll have a much more detailed blog post for you on raid rewards in the future, but in the meantime we’ll give you some of the basics.

First, you can earn unique rewards once per week from raids, but you can play a raid as many times as you want to help your friends earn rewards or to refine your strategies. The encounters within Raids will contain tons of exclusive new items you’ll never be able to find anywhere else in the game, from miniatures, to weapon skins, to awesome titles. You can then proudly display these out in the open world to show off your skill and accomplishments. Own a Guild Hall? Awesome! You can loot a trophy from some of our bosses and use them as decorations to show off the challenge you’ve conquered.

Secondly, raids will introduce the very first ever set of legendary armor. This isn’t any ordinary armor set! Similarly to legendary weapons, you’ll be able to change the stats that the armor provides. When entering combat, you’ll become a beacon of your heroic deeds as the armor set comes to life, animating around you. Only the bravest of heroes will be able to collect and craft these legendary threads.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you’re as hyped as we are!