Today, developer ArenaNet and publisher NCsoft celebrate the 4th anniversary of their popular, free-to-play MMORPG Guild Wars.
RPGFan got in touch with one of ArenaNet's game designers, Ben Miller, to talk about the game's past, present, and future. Ben served as the content lead for the expansions Guild Wars Nightfall and Guild Wars: Eye of the North.
Q: Like most MMOs, Guild Wars has seen some fundamental game changes in its lifetime. But there were a variety of paths the game could have taken. What other ideas have you toyed with, that you have chosen not to incorporate (at least not yet)?
A: A lot of decisions get made over the course of a game, especially in a game that is as big and has been around as long as Guild Wars. With all those decisions, big and small, sometimes you don't exactly make the right calls. The great thing about our game's structure is that over time it has allowed us to not only address issues that come up, but also to actually incorporate many of the ideas we had that we couldn't include with the first game. You can see this with Alliance Battles in Guild Wars Factions, with the introduction of Heroes in Nightfall, and even in the Bonus Mission Pack.
Q: In a market that is saturated with free-to-play MMOs, what, in your opinion, does Guild Wars have going for it that keeps it in the lead among free-to-play games? Particularly, what is it doing *now* that keeps it so strong (as compared to its past as the first MMO to thrive on this structure)?
A: I think a lot of it comes from the extremely high level of quality we demand from ourselves and an unwillingness to compromise that quality at every level of the company. That mentality allows us to produce a game that has a lot of heart, and people can feel that right when they log in. We carry that same mentality of constantly pushing ourselves to be better than we were into all of the live content we produce and all the game updates we do.
Q: Is there a drive among the developers to make a game that is good as, or surpasses, the wildly popular subscription based MMORPGs (particularly World of Warcraft)? Or is that just comparing apples to oranges...
A: Apples to oranges? More like charr to orcs. We love the WOW folks. We respect other games and teams, and it is great for our category and industry when there is success. Ultimately, it helps further expand and legitimize gaming as a form of entertainment. The drive within our studio is moreso internal and personal. There is a great sense of pride and ownership over our games that each and every one of us have here, and as a result, our drive is more related to trying to make the best game possible, with every game we make. We aren't focused on what's been done already, we're focused on the possibilities – what can we do now?
Q: Will the team be doing anything special in the office to mark the day of the anniversary?
A: You mean aside from the snazzy yacht and big ol' boat party? More likely there will just be a quick email about it with a link to the press release, as we are all super busy working on what's coming next.
Q: If someone's looking to start playing an MMORPG in their spare time, why should they pick Guild Wars over the dozens of viable options out there today?
A: It's free to play. You don't have to worry about ANOTHER monthly fee to budget in, so you can get that fix without all the hassle.
It's accessible. You can play with people, or by yourself using AI henchmen or computer-controlled Heroes. There is something for everyone with cooperative missions, explorable areas, competitive PvP. I could keep going, but if you haven't played it you should pick it up.
The male warrior dance kicks ass.
Q: Composer Jeremy Soule (Morrowind, Oblivion, Icewind Dale) has remained a dedicated resource for the Guild Wars team. We have to ask: how were you able to hold on to this fantastic musician for each of the game's expansions?
A: We are very fortunate to have Jeremy for as long as we have. He is one of the few individuals that can match with music what we create visually.
Q: Our current understanding regarding Guild Wars 2 is that Eye of the North will function as a bridge from the first game to the second. What is the plan for rolling out Guild Wars 2? And most importantly, is it planned to be a full upgrade/replacement for the original game, or are there plans to have both exist simultaneously (example: EverQuest and EverQuest II)?
A: Guild Wars 2 will be its own standalone game set 250 years after the events that took place at the end of Eye of The North. We are planning on allowing you to carry over your achievements from Guild Wars to Guild Wars 2. We plan on keeping Guild Wars running as long as there are people actively playing it.
Q: What model for expansion content do you think better serves your community: downloadable mini-expansion campaigns (the original Guild Wars campaign/Factions/Nightfall) or a full expansion (Eye of the North)? What model do you think you'll use in the future, for Guild Wars and/or Guild Wars 2?
A: After doing both, they both have an upside and a downside. The full-blown campaigns allowed us to introduce new gameplay in addition to new classes and skills. The downside was that we were making the game increasingly complicated for any new players, both in terms of the game world and gameplay. Doing an expansion allowed us to leverage a lot pre-existing characters and stories and really focus on providing a great experience instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Overall, the community was best served by us doing both. What is going to be best for Guild Wars 2 remains to be seen.
RPGFan would like to thank Ben Miller, the rest of ArenaNet, NCsoft, and the good folks at One PR Studio for helping us coordinate this interview.
Whether you're a long-time fan of this online RPG, or perhaps you've only just begun to learn about the game today, visit NCsoft's official site to learn more about Guild Wars and its many expansions. Guild Wars has dedicated servers in over 15 countries around the world, and is considered to be one of the best MMORPGs available, particularly among those that do not require a subscription fee.
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