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ArenaNet On Guild Wars 2... As A Platformer

It's A-Me, Sylvario

Guild Wars 2 is quite well-liked in our fabulously attractive (have you seen our brand new sexy, sexy hotbar?) corner of the Internet. Richard alone has written 427 trillion words on the subject of ArenaNet's fantastic-looking fantasy sequel, and he'll soon be embarking on a hot air balloon journey to see how many times they can wrap around the surface of the Earth. So when I went to a recent Guild Wars 2 showcase in my neck of the woods, I wasn't too terribly surprised when I got an eye-full of content we'd already covered. So I did what any sensible person would in my situation: grilled game designer Mike Zadorojny about jumping puzzles in a swords 'n' sorcery MMORPG.

Let's start with the basics: For the uninitiated, Guild Wars 2 will - in addition to combat, crafting, PVP, instances, and other more traditional MMO fare - mold a series of rudimentary jumping puzzles around "vistas." You will, however, not be clambering up a failed Microsoft operating system. Instead, vistas allow players to get a better view of the environment, and - perhaps more crucially - eventually achieve map completion, which yields XP and special items. Hardened veterans who cut their platforming teeth on old-school Mario and kept them sharp by grinding them against I Wanna Be The Guy and fully-sized jousting lances, however, might find these a tad easy. And there's a good reason for that. Zadorojny explained:

"For vistas, all of them are in very platform-y locations. We try and keep them fairly easy, because for map completion, we don't want it to be, like, a game of absolute skill where only the best players can do it. Also, we realize that a lot of players can't do those things due to motion sickness and stuff like that, so we try to make the map completion stuff accessible."

But that won't be the be-all, end-all of jumping puzzles in Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet's quite keen on having its massively multiplayer opus reach new heights in terms of genre fusion, and perilously lofty leaping's a major part of that.

"A lot of the decisions we've made on Guild Wars 2 have been a culmination of us looking at the industry as a whole and deciding we want to see things differently and try new things," said Zadorojny. "So the vistas are pretty easy by design, but some of the jumping puzzles are insanely ridiculous. There's definitely challenging content for people who want to try that hardcore platformer. That stuff is in there. It's just not stuff we're showing off today."

But how so? How do you add dizzying feats of high-flying hop 'n' boppery to a fantasy MMO without them seeming completely out of place? Zadorojny provided an (admittedly basic) example.

"The treasure chests and the jumping puzzles definitely become more interesting, where we'll throw interesting mechanics like... the one for the Asura starting area is up in the clouds, up in the sky. So as you're walking across this thin branch, you'll see wind going across it. And if you go across as it's blowing, it'll knock you off and you'll fall below."

There is, however, a fine line to walk here, and ArenaNet's fully aware that one wrong move could wreck the nice balance of different elements Guild Wars 2 currently has going for it. So, for now, platforming's a sideshow - not an individually viable means of progression. But we're talking about a game where crafting can - all on its own - bring you up through the ranks, and there's already a fair bit of nuance to platforming if you really know what you're doing. So things, said Zadorojny, are certainly looking up.

"There is no double-jumping, and if we added it at this point, it would kill us," he laughed. "But, I mean, you can double-tap to dodge and avoid things – like the wind. It's really about you moving and jumping. There are also swiftness buffs that certain professions can add. You can make yourself run a bit faster to get a bit longer of a jump. And even some professions have abilities that will take them further – like a leap attack and things like that."

So there's no double-jumping, wall-running, or craziness like that right now, but Guild Wars 2 has a very open skill system, and ArenaNet's looking to branch Guild Wars 2 into other genres. You do the math.

"[Adding platforming-specific skills] is not something we've talked about, but I don't think it's something that's out of the question if we wanted to do it in the future," Zadorojny was quick to point out.

For now, though, it's like any other aspect of a major MMO: watch players, find out what they think, and then react accordingly. If massively multiplayer online platforming really catches on, odds are, you'll see quite a bit more of it from Guild Wars 2. Ultimately, though, ArenaNet's not entirely sure what'll take root and what'll rot on the vine. And, according to Zadorojny, that's the fun part.

"What was interesting was that, at the first couple beta weekend events we held, it was really hard to get across all the content that's in the game for traditional MMO players. So some players had really hard times adapting to the new active combat and things like that. Just because, up until very recently, every MMO has kind of fit a similar mold. Now it's becoming a bit easier [to get people adjusted]. People have been able to get their hands on the game and things like that."

"But we really wanted to try new things and see if they'd stick. We're thinking of this as less an MMO and more like an online multiplayer game that just so happens to have a living world that allows players to spend as much or as little time as they want in it. We want to innovate. We want to see what players will adapt to."

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