Guild Wars 2 Necromancer Interview

Following up from the official announcement of the Guild Wars 2 necromancer, Eric Flannum, the lead developer for Guild Wars 2 was able to answer a few questions about this dark profession.

The role of the necromancer in Guild Wars was not easily defined, as it straddled the line between hexer, minion master, and even melee.  The necromancer profession in Guild Wars 2 seems to be a streamlined version of the necromancer of old.  In re-defining the necromancer profession, what role do you intend for the necromancer to play in groups?

Like all of our professions, we intend that the necromancer be extremely versatile. That being said, the necromancer really shines when absorbing damage and providing support to allies. The necromancer has very high health and the ability to extend that health through the use of the Death Shroud ability. Combine those things with the ability to heal themselves through lifestealing skills and you have a profession that is very hard to put down. For support, the necromancer is great at inflicting debilitating conditions on enemies as well as removing conditions from allies. All these things, plus the ability to heal and cause fear, make them great at supporting teammates.

One notable difference in the new Guild Wars 2 necromancer is the apparent lack of true hexes or sustained hex-like abilities, like the always favorite Spiteful Spirit from Guild Wars.  Does the Guild Wars 2 necromancer have any sustained hex-like abilities, and what was the design goal in getting away from the hex mechanic of Guild Wars?

We wanted to streamline things for Guild Wars 2, so we rolled all of our negative and positive buffs into our condition and boon systems. We did this to make combat easier for players to learn. Instead of having to learn what a potentially unlimited pool of hexes do, players only have to learn about a much smaller set of conditions. We wanted to introduce some different types of complexity into combat (positioning, weapon and skill swapping, etc…) and therefore had to streamline other things so that we didn’t overwhelm players. It should be noted that many of the things that necromancers were able to do with hexes in the first game can be accomplished through other means in Guild Wars 2.

Marks, one of the necromancer’s unique type of skills, are ground targeted skills.  How are they different from the necromancer’s Wells and the ranger’s Traps?

Marks differ from traps and wells in several key ways. First, traps and wells are placed wherever the caster is standing, while marks are placed at a ground-targeted location. Wells have a constant effect in an area, unlike traps and marks, which activate only once when triggered. Traps are triggered automatically when an enemy enters the trap radius but marks must be activated by the necromancer manually.

Will Fear, the necromancer’s unique condition, work any differently in PvP? Can you compare Fear to a knockdown?

We will have different balance for skills in PvE and PvP, so it is very likely that skills that cause fear will function slightly differently in the two game types. That being said, fear is very comparable to a knockdown or a stun in that it disables your character for a short period of time. In many ways it is actually less powerful than a knockdown since it is a condition and can be affected by anything that affects conditions, whereas a knockdown is only affected by things that specifically affect knockdowns.

Lorewise, is the necromancer’s power tied to the Elder Dragon Zhaitan in any way?  Will the Guild Wars 2 necromancer replace or assimilate the Guild Wars ritualist’s spiritual powers?

The power of necromancers is not tied in any way to Zhaitan in the same way that ice elementalists have nothing to do with the ice dragon Jormag. Necromancers manipulate and harness the power of death, whereas Zhaitan actually corrupts death itself. The necromancer does not replace or assimilate the ritualist’s spiritual powers.

Thanks for stopping by, Eric!

29 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2 Necromancer Interview

  1. Malchior Devenholm

    Aweomse interview, Ravious. Thanks for asking the questions about roles of the Guild Wars 2 Necromancer and the removal of hexes.

  2. darkeye

    It’s fair enough that some degen hexes are replaced by conditions, I wonder about punishment hexes though, that makes the mesmer seem unlikely to return without being drastically changed.

    Still being tightlipped about the ritualist. Was hoping for some new ‘ashes’ based on the people in Tyria now, ‘Destructive Was Adelbern’ maybe they could be racials, it would be a nice way to tie both games together.

    1. sisyphean

      Very good point. I haven’t seen anything in GW2 that really lives up to the legacy of punishment hexes. It’s unfortunate, since they were one of the most innovative and challenging ideas in GW – particularly in PvP.

      However, as much as I may hate it, I suppose I can understand why they might feel compelled to remove such a mechanic, since it’s incredibly unforgiving of novice players – as Eric points out.

      I am super excited for GW2, which hasn’t really changed even as all these iconic GW mechanics have been confirmed, one by one, as not returning. But I think it’s finally starting to reach a critical point, where my enthusiasm is really getting sapped. As cool as everything looks, I’m just starting to worry that when I actually play GW2, there will be so little of GW left that it’ll just feel wrong.

      A month or so ago I looked forward to GW2 for so many reasons, most of them tied into the idea of it being a sequel to GW that carried on the mechanics and spirit of that game; now when I think about it, it’s not always clear to me why I’m even excited for it. I’m afraid they’re giving up too much in an attempt to capture the MMO audience, and I feel the GW brand is being diluted as a result.

      What does Guildwars even mean at this point? For someone like me, who cares more for mechanics than story (personal and event system), what really makes GW2 stand apart from other upcoming action-MMOs like TERA?

      Anyway sorry for the depressed ranting, just feeling frustrated at the moment.

      1. Ravious

        I guess it really depends on what each individual views as a GW game. Do hexes make a GW game?

        I think it’s more important to look at what a hex is, and then decide if there is a spiritual successor in GW2. Obviously the biggest hole right now seems to be a sustained hex like Spiteful Spirit instead of something like Conjure Phantasm, which is a simple DoT.

        I do have to say that I thought we would get bigger news this week, like HoM or something. All the gamescom feeds put the fanbase on a superhigh, and I think it’s starting to crash. The mob is fickle.

        1. sisyphean

          As I said, I don’t think it’s that punishment hexes in themselves make or break GW2′s ability to be a spiritual successor to GW. It’s just that punishment hexes happened to be the final straw for me.

          For me, mesmers and mesmer hexes such as diversion, shame, and backfire were always *the* iconic mechanic that made GW PvP completely unique. But for other people, there were probably other things that served this purpose.

          So hexes being in or out isn’t so much the point, it just happened to be part of the cause for my own disillusionment.

          I think it’s probably like the grieving process: I was in denial about mechanics like diversion and reversal of fortune dying out, now I’m moving into depression. Er, anger?

          I guess it doesn’t work exactly like grieving. >.<

        2. darkeye

          If punishing bad play and mistakes is the name of the game, then there is some things we’ve seen that point to how it’s evolved in GW2.

          Take Putrid Explosion, in the original you stood near a corpse, necro cast and you took damage, the only avoidance was not to stand near corpses. In the sequel there is an obvious visual and aural clue that it’s about to occur, and hopefully it can be avoided by rolling away. Likewise with Fear, you need to make sure there is no danger zone at you back. Or Insect Swarm, keep your distance or suffer a DOT.

          I don’t think hexes are obvious enough, it benefits people with good memories than those playing attention to the battlefield.

        3. Darcy

          The only thing that will connect GW & GW2 is the lore. I could tell just from the changes to the warrior that mechanics and skills would be very different. But don’t give up yet. Wait for the game to arrive. Even with the large difference between the games, you still might enjoy GW2.

        4. Julian

          As a (largely) former GW player myself I have to say I’m glad GW2 is shaping to be nothing like GW1. Lots of changes.

          Now whether I agree with all those changes or not, that’s kinda grain from another sack, but I can say with certainty that the more GW2 ends up looking/feeling like GW1, mechanics-wise, the less I’ll feel like playing it.

          I’m really glad they seem to be reining in the hex/condition granular little hell of GW1. I also like most of their other changes. The ones that don’t sound appealing to me right now, I’ll give a chance when it goes live.

          The more GW1 rails they dismantle for GW2 (and GW1 had -a lot- of rails) the more interested I’ll be in playing it.

        5. sisyphean

          Great feedback, folks – thanks for being understanding. :) And as I said, my comments are really about me, not about GW2 so much.

          Like, before GW2 info started coming out, I was done with MMOs. I never thought to myself “Man, I want a new MMO that has a more dynamic world and action-y combat” – it just wasn’t on my radar. I thought “I want GW’s core mechanics – changed, updated, and improved – in a more modern game that doesn’t have some of the issues GW’s PVE and PvP formats suffered from”.

          So I guess I’m just realizing that GW2 is an answer to a question I wasn’t asking. I’ll probably come around eventually to the feeling that it’s a question I wanted to ask, but didn’t realize it yet – but I’m not there quite yet.

          Thus my comparison to TERA. Given the lack of those core GW mechanics, to me GW2 just looks like another answer to the question that TERA is trying to grapple with – which is to say, it’s sort of merging back into the mass of MMOs, a genre I’m not really that interested in.

          Perhaps GW2 will be the game to rekindle my interest? It certainly looks like an amazingly imagined and realized game, and I think it has the potential to be both incredibly fun, challenging, and rewarding in its own ways.

        6. Randomessa

          I think this is illustrating just how wide-ranging the views of those who played and enjoyed GW1 really are: what made GW1 for me was the way the plot changed the landscape (if you follow it in order) and that I was driven to play – and play better – in order to follow the narrative.

          Now, the fact that it doesn’t play exactly like WoW is what made GW1 more appealing to me than, say, LotRO, was also a factor, but since there still seems to be a different emphasis in combat and content, as well as retaining the iconic classes (thus far) of GW1 and the high magic/nouveau steampunk feel, I am quite pleased with both the similarities and differences from GW1. From the demo, I’m not sure what would be a “not GW enough” turning point for me, other than a high emphasis on loot-chasing.

        7. TheEvilTeddy

          I think first and foremost people need to remember that they have only revealed half the classes in the game. Given the incredibly diverse nature of the classes revealed so far, I think we can assume that there are plenty of game mechanics that we have yet to see :).

          That being said, it is pretty much guaranteed that the mesmer style mechanics will likely not return in the way they used to work. Like others have said, those skills are just something that everyone had to memorize, since unless you knew to specifically watch your buff bar for them, you had no idea what was going on. That’s actually poor game design in many ways because it leaves new players confused and often frustrated.

          I think we will see a class though that will change the flow of battle. However instead of putting a single debuff on a target, that they specifically have to watch for, I’m thinking they will do something more along the lines of a necro mark, where they put an area on the map where spells are ineffective, or do half damage, or reflect damage, etc. They will probably also give some class the means to destroy hunter traps and necro marks / wells thus making players have to really use them cautiously, instead of just dropping them every time at the entrance to the fort / bridge.

          In the end I think it is too early to morn the loss of something that Anet showed they could do differently, i.e. the mesmer. It will probably be very different, but again remember what Anet has been saying. Yes, they are changing the game, but they are doing so by looking at what players liked about classes and gameplay in GW1. Then they think about how to bring that to GW2 in a way that makes since with their new design.

          Hence that to me is confirmation that the mesmer style will return in some way. Not necessarily exactly the same, but it should still be exciting for those who loved the mesmer class.

        8. Ross Smith

          We know mesmers will be in GW2, because they’re explicitly named, as one of the three kinds of spellcaster, in the Ghosts of Ascalon novel.

      2. semantic

        “A month or so ago I looked forward to GW2 for so many reasons, most of them tied into the idea of it being a sequel to GW that carried on the mechanics and spirit of that game;”

        GW2 just isn’t going to be the heir to the GW1 combat system. That system will remain unique. The new game appears to be much more about 3D (which is what they mean when they say ‘positioning and tactics’). Your manipulation of your character in the virtual space will be much more relevant than the manipulation of your actions relative to a stack of hexes.

        Passive constraints aren’t really all that exciting though. You spend your time learning to execute character skills in various situations, then in PvP someone loads you up with punishment hexes and suddenly the most important thing you can do is limit your actions. It was definitely an interesting and unique game mechanic, but it’s not something I’m going to get sentimental about. I’m interested to see what sort of 3D hoops the new combat will force you to thread your skill usage through. All you get with a hex is a little icon basically.

        Now, if they abandon Savage Shot altogether I may have issues that require medication to control.

      3. bdeimen

        I’m reaching the same point. I love what they’re doing with dynamic events and the personal story line, but I’ve had one disappointment after another. First it was no dual classing, next it was the limitations on the skill bar, then it was potions, then the 12 minute recharge on elites (I hoard valuable things, so a 12 min recharge means I won’t use it for fear of needing it.) the traditional 6 stats with what appears to be a heavier focus on gear, and now it’s that it seems as though there won’t be punishment hexes. Oh and combat seems slower… One of my favorite characters was a Me/N that was a punishment hexer… I don’t know, I understand that they’re doing a lot of this stuff to appeal to a broader audience and get more people into the game, but it’s just nowhere near the game that I wanted, that I was hoping for when they first started releasing information.

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  4. Julian

    Oh and Rav, since you seem to have their cell phone # or something, any chance we could get some tidbits on GW2′s plans for wearables, guild halls, emotes, environment interaction and any new guild mechanics?

  5. Belzan

    Thanks for asking some of the harder questions that were obviously on gamer minds this week. We got some good information about hexes, fear, and the role of the necro in GW2.

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  8. Velvet

    Great interview, Rav! Thanks for asking that question about hexes – it was just what I was wondering about! :)

    Keep ‘em coming! :)

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  12. Bloodmist

    I’m a giant Guild Wars Necro fan, mainly as far as spiteful spirit goes. It stings a little knowing they’re watering down hex’s into conditions, but I knew I would hear something I wouldn’t be happy about in a sequel, high standards and all. I felt a little lump in my throat when I first read this but then I re-read what he said in one of his answers:

    ‘It should be noted that many of the things that necromancers were able to do with hexes in the first game can be accomplished through other means in Guild Wars 2′

    I think they’ll take a good look at what everyone loved about Necros and try to make it work. After all, the game is still being worked on a lot. They can’t make it exactly the same but I think it’ll be something still worth giving a fair chance at the very least.

    Oh and yeah the super long wait on Elite skills does suck, but meh I’ll see it for myself >_<

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