Yesterday I posted an interview with ArenaNet community manager Martin Kerstein about how Guild War 2's planning to do away with traditional questing and grinding, which was something we hadn't fully documented on RPS before. But you don't want my stupid questions, do you? You want your own stupid/excellent questions. That's why I posed a whole bunch of them, gleaned via the Twitters, at Kerstein when I met up with him. Covered: hats, cats, crafting, pirates, centaurs, PvP, difficulty, failure and whether this is a more or less tactical game than its predecessor.
BanzaiTree: Will there be a way to replace a team-mate who quits in a five-man dungeon or would you need to start over and get a new group?
Martin Kerstein: You can still finish a dungeon if you’re good with less team-mates, but that’s one of the mechanics I don’t know myself.
KTBFFH: What are you doing to prevent the game being too easy, like GW1 is now since PVE and consumables?
Martin Kerstein: I think ‘easy’ is always a subjective question. Obviously you will always have players who are super min/maxers, they always try to find the best way to handle every situation, they go to every Wiki, they have calculators to work out the best combination of skills and items to make max damage… For those people, at some point everything will be easy, because they’re so focused and they know what to do. For the vast majority of players, the difficulty level is still fine. So it’s always a perception thing – you will always have players who think the game is too easy and others who think it’s fine or too hard. I, for example, have heard a lot of players who say Guild Wars is way too hard in many places, and then other people on the same thread jump in and say ‘are you kidding, the game is too easy’. Then other people say ‘it’s completely fine, actually.’ So we just try to provide content for all the different types.
So we will have dynamic events which are rather challenging – we showed one at GDC which was a city that is taken over by pirates. At the demo we showed before people were saying ‘oh, those dynamic events are really easy’, but then they saw even our devs playing the pirate dynamic event with other people, and people were dying over and over. So that’s a very challenging. The dungeons we’ll have, they are meant to be really challenging – so if you think you’re the best player, the dungeons are where you can really challenge your skills. We try to provide content for all types of players, because in the end the vast majority of players want to enjoy themselves, they don’t wanna die over and over again because it’s too hard. You have to be careful how you make the difficulty of your game.
LinkofShadows: What’s the endgame looking like, what kind of raids and dungeons are we looking at?
Martin Kerstein: Eric said it and I reiterated it over the weekend, but our end game begins at level 1. What other MMOs do is basically get you to level 80 or 90 or whatever the max is, and then you have to abandon the game that you have played, because what’s the traditional endgame is a completely separate game. So you play the whole time, level your character up to a certain point, and then a new game begins. So we don’t want to force people to play something that they might not even enjoy because it’s not what they were doing before. So if you like our dynamic events, they will be there all the time, and they will still be there when you reach max level, with really challenging stuff. If you like the dungeons, great! We have challenging dungeons at the end. If you like PvP, we have world vs world PvP where you can even level the whole way up to 80 without even touching PvE. So we want to provide people endgame content that is actually catering to the style they like to play, and that’s why we say our endgame begins at level 1.
RPS: What about once you’ve hit the level cap, what are you actually pursuing then? Is it increasing tiers of loot like in other MMOs, or do you think the experience itself is going to be enough?
Martin Kerstein: It’s definitely about the experience itself. In terms of loot, can’t really answer that because I don’t know myself, we’re still toying around with drop rates and loot distribution and that kind of stuff.
Psycor: How will positional gameplay be affected for people not based where the servers are hosted? [RPS – Positional whatnow?]
Martin Kerstein: Our combat is pretty visceral and dynamic, so you can actively dodge projectiles, it’s a lot about positioning your character, and I think that question is also about PvP. People always think they have a bad ping and that makes them lose in PvP. We do the best on our end in terms of network code and infrastructure to make it possible, but unfortunately it’s the internet, which means if you sit in London and our servers are in Frankfurt, even if in theory you have a really good connection you go through like five different ISPs and one of them might have a collision issue on one of their routers, or they have a routing issue… We try the best on our end in terms of network coding an infrastructure to make your experience an awesome one regardless of where you’re based, but unfortunately there’s so many variables that are out of our hand.
Aliceandstuff: Are there hats? I do so hope there are hats.
Martin Kerstein: Why do I feel that this is coming from a Team Fortress player? I don’t know if we have particular hats, but I do know we will have like town clothing and costumes and stuff, so I’m pretty sure that some of them will definitely have hats.
Icarus_Tyler: Can we again choose between several cats as companions?
Martin Kerstein: Several cats? Well… we have no companions like that in Guild Wars 1, so, um… I’m not sure that’s Guild Wars-related. What I do know is that the rangers have animal companions, and yes you can pick different animals. You can have a tiger or something like that, so feline creatures are there, I guess.
FOH: What have they done to make me not fall asleep during combat?
Martin Kerstein: I don’t actually think that’s a rude question – often in MMOs what you do is basically press 1,2,1,2,1,4 and while doing this you’re static, you eat a sandwich or smoke or drink a beer at the same time. Again, our combat is made in a way that it’s better. Everything is visual on the screen, it’s not just in the UI, so for example our monsters, if they have a special attack, if you pay attention you can tell when they’re about to unleash that on you. And then you can either stand there and take it, which is not a wise decision because that’s meant to bring your hitbar down really fast, or you can dodge out of the way actively, try to position yourself. So our combat, you need both hands (or one hand if you’re configured your mouse that way). It’s made that you pay attention to the actual visuals, and so you move around: it’s way more visceral and active than like traditional MMO combat.
RPS: Will a more casual player definitely pick up on those cues and prompts?
Martin Kerstein: Yes, you can really see it. The people we watched at conventions, because we changed so much from the traditional MMO thing it normally takes them about five minutes, and after that it comes really natural to them. I think even for casual players it may even be easier, because they’re not so indoctrinated by MMO conventions.
KBKarma – What’s going to happen to Guild Wars 1 and the characters you have there?
Martin Kerstein: As long as people are playing Guild Wars 1, the servers will be there and your characters will be there. No-one plans on shutting down the servers. If the question is can you transfer your characters to Guild Wars 2, the answer is no. It’s set 250 years later…
RPS: Will there be more events in GW1 to set up and mesh the timelines?
Martin Kerstein: Kinda. The one thing that you can do with your old Guild Wars character is something called the Hall of Monuments. All the achievements you get in GW1, all your special armours, the minipets you have, the titles you get, the heroes you have – they all have a point value. You can transfer that point value to Guild Wars 2, and all the point values earn special items that are purely visual. So they don’t change the gameplay, but you can get stuff that nobody else would be able to get unless they played GW1. And to answer the other question about tying in, we have something which we call Guild Wars Beyond. At the time of Guild Wars 2, Kryta is the last human stronghold and we already played the even in Guild Wars 1 where there’s a revolution and a war, and at the end of that the queen is established. From her line comes the queen in Guild Wars 2. And there will be an update to tell people what happened to Cantha, because Cantha is our Asia-inspired Factions campaign. In Guild Wars 2, Cantha is cut off and we tried to tell a story about why this is the case, and our live team also has some really crazy ideas which we’re not sure yet are even technically possible. But they have great ideas to further tell the story of what happened between Guild Wars 1 and Guild Wars 2.
Teemak10: What is the main focus in GvG and PvP? Is it just team deathmatch or is there a bigger objective a team has to reach?
Martin Kerstein: So we have two different forms of PvP. One is what we call our Competitive PvP, and yes there will be different objectives, like capture the flag our escort a golem. We’re working on different formats; in this competitive PvP everyone will be in an equal playground, so everybody will be max level, have access to the same items, all skills. It’s really just about how good you are as a player, and it will also be more shooter-style: we will have hot-joinable matches as well. The other thing is World vs World vs World PvP, where three servers are fighting against each other, and you bring your normal character in. It’s this massive realm war where each server has its own start map with resources on it, and then there’s a central map and all sorts of things where everybody can participate. If you’re high level you probably want to be at the vanguard or in the fortress siege; if you’re lower level you might just want to disrupt supply lines for the other team. These are the other two types of PvP that we have for the game.
Petuko: Will GW2 still keep the strategic-game spirit of GW1 in any form? Seems more and more like just an RPG at this point.
Martin Kerstein: So Guild Wars 1, one of the unique things was you had eight skills you could put on your bar from a selection of thousands. What we do in Guild Wars 2 is all the first five skills that you have… you will have ten skills in general, the first five are determined by the weapons you carry. You can weapon switch. So I’ve seen people say ‘that means I’m way more restricted’, but actually no – so you can have different combinations of weapons which give you different skill combinations. Then you have the other five skills, and just one is a self-heal – and even then you can pick what you want and it gives you certain strategic things. And there are utility skills and an elite skill. On top of that you have traits. So on the surface it looks like we have less skills and therefore less customisability, which probably then turns into ‘oh, it’s no longer strategic’, but under the hood it’s actually quite daunting how many possible combinations you have. It’s actually a system that’s very easy to learn, but it’s actually hard to master, which is how it should be. So if you want to go all out and come up with the best possible combination and pimp your character, you still have so many opportunities to do that. There are so many strategic decisions to make to keep it interesting.
Sunkzero: Will the locations be massive explorable expansive cities and landscapes, or just blocked off pretty scenery?
Martin Kerstein: No, the game is a persistent world, everything is explorable, you can go into buildings, our cities are really massive. Divinity’s Reach, for example, the human capital – I think it takes like 15 minutes running from one end to another, and even then you’d only just have gone across. So all our environments are explorable, and it’s an open world – it’s not like Guild Wars 1 where everything is instanced. We will have instancing, but that’s mostly for the dungeons and you’re personal story. Everything else is an open, persistent world, and yes the cities are open and massive.
Dominictarason: Do you have plans for actual game content DLC, or will it be game length expansions as before?
Martin Kerstein: I can’t really answer that… We want to get this game out and then we’ll talk about that. Let’s talk Guild Wars 2 first and then we can talk about expansion models.
VexingVision: I hear a lot about dynamic events in Guild Wars 2. How likely is it that players will actually fail these for branching?
Martin Kerstein: So yeah, because of the nature of these dynamic events you can actually fail them and that triggers something else. So, for example, if the Centaurs attack the village and you fail to defend it, then obviously they move in and take it over, so it pushes you in the other direction, for example. If it's too hard and you don't find anyone to help take it back, go around it - it's a living, breathing world. And there's always other dynamic events you could do, they're all over the world. I think Eric said that the chance to fail something is not as high as the chance of players succeeding, because normally you will very likely have enough skilled players to beat any challenge you throw at them. But yes, there is a chance to fail and that will trigger something else.
Mogglewump: Have they changed the crafting experience be more in depth and rewarding in GW2?
Martin Kerstein: Yes. I mean, the first game did not really have proper crafting - you were handing materials to a crafter and he was doing it. We will have proper crafting in this game, with materials and levelling your crafting... Proper crafting.
Squidinabox: Will we be able to jump?
Martin Kerstein: [Emphatically] Yes. Indeed you will. It's kind of surprising people are still asking, I thought by now we had it out there - you can jump, swim, you can fall of cliffs and die horribly...
ErikRobson: I'm interested in hearing about their changes to the class trinity...
Martin Kerstein: So the traditional MMO trinity is tank, healer, DPS - we don't do that. We don't have dedicated healers in the game, we don't have dedicated tanks in the game. Every profession we do is supposed to be self-sufficient, and you should be able to play even the hardest content with any combination of professions. So, for example, we've tested it, played a dungeon just with warriors. The way the characters are designed are that with your utility skills you can even spec a warrior to be more supportive than he normally would be, by having shouts or basically buffs and debuffs.
That's the same design we have for every class; someone classes will be better for support than others, obviously a warrior would never be as good for support as, say, a guardian. But the concept is we don't want you to be waiting and saying 'hey, we need a healer, or we can't play this content' or 'hey, we need a tank or we can't do this.' We want it to be 'here's your bunch of friends and you want to play this: go.' Then it comes down to player skill - and that's where that tactical depth comes into play. If you have two rangers, two warriors and one guardian, how do you set it up so you will be awesome? Then you can talk to each other and say 'ok, you go a little bit more support, and I'll go full damage' - so there's still a lot of variety you can do.