Guild Wars 2: The Big Gets Bigger

Kevin VanOrd looks into Guild Wars 2's future and reminisces about its first successful year.

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It was a close election. The ballots were cast in a race that pit a classless business tycoon against a smooth-talking entrepreneur. When the votes were counted and a victor announced, the unexpected consequences descended swiftly. Violence was unleashed, and the world was worse for the wear.

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No, this wasn’t an earthly election. These candidates were vying for a spot on Lion’s Arch’s Captain’s Council. Every adventurer in Guild Wars 2 got to cast their vote, and ultimately appointed sky pirate Ellen Kiel to the post. Kiel kept her campaign promises--but there were hidden motives to her candidacy that players weren’t prepared for. What might have happened had they elected Evon Gnashblade instead? We may never know what kind of madness developer ArenaNet planned to visit upon Tyria, though Guild Wars 2 Content Designer Mike Zadorojny tells me the development team was prepared for either scenario. For now, we can only dream of what may have been.

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Needless to say, it been a busy year for both ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2’s committed player base. If you take a glance to the left, you get an idea of just how successful the massively multiplayer online game has been since its launch a year ago. Among its many triumphs, Guild Wars 2 is reportedly the fastest-selling online role-playing game in the West of all time, and has surpassed 3.5 million in sales. Not bad for a game angling for share in market dominated by the World of Warcraft juggernaut.

What keeps all these players invested in this world? After all, repeating endgame content can only compel you for so long before you’re ready to move on to something fresh, even when powerful loot is up for grabs. Luckily, ArenaNet’s living world teams--four of them!--have your back. ArenaNet continues to add mini-dungeons called fractals; events like the hourly invasions of Scarlet’s minions keep you on your toes; and episodic story content lands every two weeks, with many of these new narrative arcs bringing new context to older content and bringing back returning characters you may have supposed have left Tyria for good.

But all that is the past. What about the future? It’s fine to celebrate an anniversary, but a strong relationship--even the one between a game and its players--requires lots of ongoing focus and hard work.

ArenaNet is outlining specific plans for the future this weekend at PAX Prime, but I was lucky enough to grab the attention of a few folks on the development team, including Crystal Reid, Ben Newell, and Devon Carver, who spilled some advance information on what you can expect to see from Guild Wars 2 over the next few months. Some of this future content Zadorojny had already hinted at when he told me that the game’s scope would be getting grander and more complex, in the same way Ascalonian Catacombs had. Fortunately, Reid filled in some of the blanks for me. Specifically, the battle against Tequatl the Sunless will require 80 players or more, and the encounter itself will demand more from adventurers facing this undead dragon. You’ll need to watch for more pools of poison on the ground, for instance, and Tequatl will occasionally soar away, giving you the chance to prepare turrets for his return. However, if you fail at your task, the flying lizard will trigger a massive deluge that can drown rambunctious warriors.

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More intriguing, however, are ArenaNet’s plans for player-versus-player encounters. Currently, world-versus-world combat doesn’t offer any long-term goal beyond weekly world rankings. Soon, however, WvW combat will be grouped into seasons; European servers will be grouped into three leagues of nine worlds each, while North American servers will be grouped into two of 12 each. Over several weeks, every world will play every other world in their league at least once and awarded points for their performance. At the end of the season, participants will receive awards based on how their world fared in the season standings.

Guild Wars 2 had a big year, but ArenaNet wants the upcoming year to be even bigger. It’s only appropriate, then, that “bigness” is the operative word for what’s to come: bigger bosses, bigger groups, bigger ideas. In the meanwhile, I propose taking a big swig of the beverage of your choice in honor of the ever-evolving Guild Wars 2.

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