We spoke to Guild Wars 2 Lead Designer Eric Flannum about ArenaNet's upcoming convention-defying MMO for PCPP #197. Unfortunately there simply weren't enough pages in the magazine to print it all, so here is the entire thing for your viewing pleasure!
PCPP: Tell us a bit about the line “If you hate MMOs, you’ll REALLY want to play GW2”.
Eric: What we mean when we say that is that we think there are a lot of negative things associated with being an MMO (some of them deserved and some undeserved) that keep people from playing them. We hope that we have been able to solve many of these problems and that many people who have disliked MMO’s in the past will give our game a try.
PCPP: Why was the decision made to set Guild Wars 2 250 years after the events of the first game? Are you likely to address this intervening time span in future expansions?
Eric: We wanted to age our world such that the technologies and social customs of the world would have advanced from what players were used to in the first game. The idea that we have a fantasy world that experiences technological and social revolutions much like our own world is very appealing to us.
We have covered the time period between the two games through both novels and in free game content updates in Guild Wars 1.
PCPP: The stories in GW were structured; though there were many side quests and bonus missions, the main plot was quite linear in its presentation. Some would consider this a strength, with many MMOs in the market now seeming to lose their central story and player purpose amongst FedEx and Kill-X of Y type quests. How are you planning to ensure players stay engaged in the story line through to end-game?
Eric: We hope to do that by telling players an engaging story that is personalized to their character. Players answer biography questions during character creation that directly impact the story they experience. In addition to this, stories branch at key moments, allowing player’s choice in how their story develops. With all of the options available to them, even two players who choose the same race and profession are likely to have experienced very different stories.
PCPP: How much of the game quests and missions are delivered by voice versus text, and how are you stopping players from running around “picking up” quests without really paying attention to their narrative content?
Eric: We felt that one of the big weaknesses with a traditional quest system was that players feel overwhelmed by how many quests they have to do and eventually start ignoring all of the narrative content. When a game gives you 20 goals it is inherently telling you that those 20 goals are unimportant individually but are important in aggregate. We try to solve this problem by breaking our content into two distinctive types.
First, we have events which have very simple narratives. Events tend to be immediate and require little to no explanation. For example, a group of pirates burning down a town requires little explanation as to why a player should intervene. These events replace the typical Kill X rats and FedEx quests that you see in a typical MMO. We use full voice for anything associated with an event since they are immediate content designed to scale up to multiple groups of players. We do this because voice is the easiest way to communicate to a larger group of players without forcing any of them to hold up their group mates while they read text.
Next, we have your personal story. In the personal story a player will always have one thing that they are trying to accomplish and this one thing will always be a complex, narrative driven task. This includes things such as infiltrating a group of bandits, accusing a politician of treason, and challenging a villain to a duel. In the personal story we use a combination of voiceover for really important moments and text based conversations for moments where a player may want additional information before progressing.