ArenaNet's Gaile Gray fills us in on what to expect in the upcoming second chapter update for Guild Wars.
Guild Wars has become one of the major successes of 2005, and it's easy to see why. This online role-playing game from ArenaNet offers countless hours of excellent gameplay, requires no monthly subscription fee, and features innovative streaming technology that allows the developers to update the game automatically every time you log on. Now the team at ArenaNet is preparing the first major update to Guild Wars, the so-called second chapter. This update will introduce a ton of content. But don't take our word for it. Gaile Gray, Guild War's community relations manager, was kind enough to answer our questions regarding chapter two.
GameSpot: What's the official name of the next chapter, if there is one at the moment? When is it planned for release, and how far along is it?
Gaile Gray: While we don't yet have a name for the next chapter of Guild Wars, we're well on our way with content development. Various members of the team have been active in startup for level design, quest scripting, programming, storyline exploration, global network expansion, and the creation of all sorts of concept art as well. The chapter will release in the first half of 2006.
GS: Can you give us an overview of what's planned for the second chapter of the game?
GG: The continuation of the Guild Wars story will contain all the things that players love from the first chapter, and a whole lot more. We'll have a bunch of spanking new regions that offer new missions, new monsters, new items, new quests, new skills, and new professions. Yes, "new" is the recurring theme here. And all of this sparkly newness will take place in a setting that continues the compelling story of Tyria that was begun in the first installment.
GS: How have players reacted to the single-player aspect of the game, and how have their reactions affected the planning for the second chapter (and other chapters of the game further down the line)? Are there specific things that you've noticed players really tend to enjoy, and other things that players just don't seem to focus on?
GG: One of the things I like best about Guild Wars is the fact that you don't have a lot of limits on how you play the game. You can play in one of many modes, depending on your mood, the time of day, whether your regular gaming partners are available, and the amount of time you have to spend in the game. If you're up for a guild battle, fine and well! If your guild isn't available, you can play some cooperative gaming with a couple of friends, or you can form a pickup group and head out for a little player-versus-player action in the arena. And of course, at any time you can take off solo into the wilderness areas with henchmen. Players seem to enjoy the variety of choices very much, and single-player reaction has been great. The Guild Wars henchmen system allows you to play on your own if you choose to do so, but it deepens the experience of individual play by allowing you to participate in real missions and quests that matter, not quests that are "dummied down" for single-player players.
GS: And how have players taken to multiplayer play? Did multiplayer turn out to be everything you expected? What tweaks do you think need to be made to multiplayer in the short and long term, and how will the second chapter help push things in the right direction?
GG: Multiplayer has been very well received. For some players, Guild Wars has offered them their first experience with an online game. For others, it is one of a long list of multiplayer games they've played. Judging from the player response, media reviews, and sales figures, and taking a peek at the e-mails we receive on a daily basis, Guild Wars is fast becoming a favorite of a large number of players. And we've just begun! We have added to multiplayer gameplay for both the cooperative and competitive player even while we have been gearing up for the continuation of the Guild Wars story.
For PvP players, we held the PvP Extreme (PvPX) Weekend in late August that provided increased rewards for combat, allowing players to gain skills and levels more easily. After gathering feedback from the community about the weekend's increases, and after listening to what players would like to see for PvP options in the future, we rolled the boosts into the game as a whole. We also added several high-end quests for veteran players. Since the increases and quests were made a permanent addition to the game, players have been leveling and acquiring items more quickly and easily since that date.
For the cooperative gamer, we released cool new explorable areas in the form of our Sorrow's Furnace update. The update offered two large new regions--Grenth's Footprint and Sorrow's Furnace--which featured a bunch of innovative and challenging quests with unique rewards. The update provided the content in a form that allows interesting replayability options, and it proved incredibly popular with Guild Wars players. Oh, and did I mention that PvPX and the Sorrow's Furnace update were both free?
GS: How will the second chapter advance the game's overall story? How, if at all, can we expect to see the world of Tyria itself change? We assume that new parts of the world will be unlocked to explore--but are there any plans for changing climates, landscapes, or ecologies as a result of story progression?
GG: Jess Lebow, our world designer, says, "We don't want to give away too much about the upcoming story, but count on seeing landscapes that have been irrevocably changed by world events, meeting cultures only alluded to in the first installment, and facing challenges that could change the face of the world forever."
I can add that the look and feel of the coming installment is very impressive--quite different and yet equally engrossing--and that judging from our early testing, from concept art, and from the design documents, it's going to be an incredible continuation of the Guild Wars story.