Linsey Murdock is the game designer for the Guild Wars® Live Team. She works exclusively on Guild Wars Live issues, bugs, added content, and general maintenance. The latest big addition to Guild Wars was an update to rebalance how players acquire some of the titles in game, and Linsey graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about this major update.
What change in this update are you most proud of?
It’s hard to pick one thing from such a large build, but I suppose it would have to be the Storybooks. Condensing the entire storyline of the game into single-paragraph segments was pretty tough, but I think we pulled it off. Plus, I think bringing the book system into the other three games will really help revitalize those areas and reward players for repeating that content, much in the same way that the introduction of Hard Mode did.
Were any of the changes hard to implement or suggest because of the fact that prior design choices were going to be overwritten?
Not really. We are all interested in the game being as good as it can be, and so we recognize that as the game grows, previous design decisions may no longer be practical and/or could stand to be updated.
What change are you most curious as to how players will respond or change their play-styles in lieu of that change?
I am hoping that the reward updates to Challenge Missions and Jade Quarry/Fort Aspenwood will be enough to bring players back into those areas.
Were any of the changes made with Guild Wars 2 “achievement systems” in mind?
No, my work on Guild Wars® is completely independent of Guild Wars 2.
Was there a change that required major out-of-the-box thinking where ideas were pulled from really weird places?
We mostly just looked at each title we wanted to address and assessed the areas in which it could be improved. We didn’t borrow from other MMOs…I also don’t feel the changes we made were necessarily “out of the box.” They seemed much more like common sense to me.
With much of ArenaNet working on the upcoming Guild Wars 2, how much interest do those employees take in the Guild Wars Live Team, especially with this update?
Though they’re focused on GW2, there are still tons of people at ArenaNet who are extremely passionate about Guild Wars. We even have folks who stay late to put in overtime on Guild Wars after a full shift at their “day job” working on GW2.
Can you give us a short walkthrough of the design process you took for changing one of the titles?
We started with the Luxon/Kurzick title tracks, as we felt those were in the most dire need of adjustment. I took a look at the ways in which players currently gain faction, particularly the FFF (fast faction farming), and calculated a per-hour faction gain number to use as a base. I outlined my first impressions of how we should adjust the existing ways of gaining faction to bring them in line with the FFF, as well as how we should fix the issue of botting. I then ran my outline past a few people for feedback.
That initial assessment got the ball rolling, so from there I started doing detailed research on all the ways that players currently gain faction, as well as all the ways we felt they should be gaining faction. I went back and played through many areas of the game that we felt needed better rewards, in order to get a fresh picture in my head of how they played. I put together a number of spreadsheets to crunch the numbers and find the right balance.
I ran my ideas past a few different people to see if we were on the mark, and then tweaked the numbers according to their feedback. I built a design document with all the changes we wanted to make, and then sent it out to even more people for feedback—I particularly wanted to hear from Joe Kimmes, who would actually be programming the changes. Then I sent the design document to James Phinney for final approval. Once he signed off on the changes, I sent it to the rest of the designers to make absolutely sure that there weren’t any remaining issues.
Next I handed the document off to Joe for implementation while I went to work writing text for all of the Storybooks and designing a reward structure for them. Joe began implementation, and I continued to review the changes being made to make sure there weren’t any holes. We also added a few things here and there, and when implementation was complete we moved into the testing phase to make sure it all worked as intended. We kept on making tweaks and bug fixes as we got closer to build day.
Once everything was integrated over to our staging servers, another round of testing and bug-fixing began. After QA signed off on that, we were free to push it all up to the Live servers and run the build. And that’s pretty much it.