Guild Wars 2: Living in the Shadow of the The Mad King

With Shadow of the Mad King, Guild Wars 2 expands with new events, new mini dungeons, and much more.

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When you've made the best online role-playing game in years, what's the obvious next step for a busy development team?

Why, make it better, of course.

And that's just what ArenaNet intends to do with Guild Wars 2, a high-quality game that the developer is enhancing and augmenting in numerous ways, both big and small. Lead content designer Mike Zadorojny and content designer Matt Wuerffel filled us in on the October update, Shadow of the Mad King, which went live today, October 22.

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In the weeks preceding this update, ArenaNet prepared for its eventful future by breaking the development team into smaller, focused groups. The goal: expand the living world by continually updating the game, adding new features, and keeping players consistently entertained. To that end, each team concentrates on individual aspects of Guild Wars 2. One such group is the live response team, which is the front line of defense, responsible for fixing bugs, talking to players, perusing the forums and in-game chat, and understanding what players' short- and long-term concerns are.

Live response has already made certain improvements, such as camera adjustments, and fixes for farming exploits that threw the economy out of whack. Reward structures have been another focus. Towards the end game, players are interested in legendary weapons, which require a good deal of karma to purchase. To earn the necessary karma, players would farm certain events--and the team would rather people experience a variety of content, rather than repeat the same content. So karma has been added to other activities, such as challenging jumping puzzles, mini dungeons, monthly achievements, and more.

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The living world team works with live response, adding events , jumping puzzles, and other activities to keep things fresh--even when it's a region you've already explored. There are also new hole-in-the-wall places to stumble upon and explore, with new content to discover within. Also: new skritt burglar events (more on those to come!), and new achievement paths, like one that has you leaping from particularly high vantage points. (And, we can only hope, into a bale of hay, Assassin's Creed style.)

NPC guilds are another addition. The idea is that guilds of computer-controlled griefers level up with you, perhaps ambushing you when opening a treasure chest. NPC guild events are scaled to account for the number of players participating, and could potentially turn into larger battles (say, skirmishes versus four simultaneous boss characters) if there are enough combatants. You can also expect new jumping puzzles and mini dungeons, and we got to see both types of content in action in Fireheart Rise, a region tailored towards players between levels 60 and 70.

It’s been 200 years since the people of Kryta have seen the ghost of the Mad King, famous for his bad jokes and his tendency to kill anyone that lost a game of Mad King Says.

This new chunk of content as you leaping across platforms to reach a crazy Asura called Vexa, who is performing terrible experiments on her test subjects. Within her lab, you face waves of enemies with different mechanics; beware of chickens that explode upon defeat, and m ight leave grubs in their wake! (And as you might know, the GameSpot team has a peculiar fetish for exploding chickens.) This mini dungeon also requires a lot of jumping and movement--and the team understands that jumping puzzles can be frustrating for certain players. In certain cases, checkpoints have been added so that you are teleported to the beginning without taking armor damage. But such checkpoints won't save you when it comes time to face Vexa herself. During the multi-stage final battle, she will destroy platforming panels and possibly knock you into the water beneath, where toothy sharks await.

The new content isn't just aimed at higher-level folks, however. In Plains of Ashford, the Charr starter area (as well as in many other regions), you shall encounter skritt burglars. Perhaps you're used to running into simple ogres and their pets in a particular locale. Now, you might open a treasure chest, only for a skritt to leap out and run off. As you give chase, he might turn you into a racoon, or cast spells that slow you down. But as you and other event participants try to defeat him before he reaches his goal, he drops pieces of treasure that participants can grab.

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If you played the original Guild Wars, you might know why this update is called Shadow of the Mad King: Halloween nears. In Guild Wars, the popular Halloween events inevitable concluded with the arrival of Mad King Thorn's spirit. It's been 200 years since the people of Kryta have seen the ghost of the Mad King, famous for his bad jokes and his tendency to kill anyone that lost a game of "Mad King Says." (Though at least he was kindly enough to resurrect them.) The king may have disappeared--but the traditions carry on. Lion's Arch is the most festive city in Kryta; there, you can expect to see lots of fake Mad King Thorns (much as we'd see people dressed as Santa Claus), candy corn elementals, floating candles, and plenty of jack o' lanterns. Among other events, players can participate in PvP costume brawls, in which combatants imbibe tonics that might morph them, for example, into skittering spiders.

More importantly, act one of this particular update will spawn doors into the world that you "trick or treat." When the door opens, you see a starry field on the other side, and mysterious creatures pour through, forcing to push them and back and protect the lands. Later in the week, Kryta will have built more defenses, and eventually, you will go through the doors and take the fight to the enemy.

Zadorojny and Wuerffel also clued us in on a few other special occurrences in store for players, but you'll have to wait until Friday, October 26, to find out just what they are, so be sure to return to GameSpot then. In the meanwhile, you should practice your "Mad King Says" skills; you never know when they might come in handy.

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