[GW2] An Answer to Suffering

I’ve been slowly catching up on news, blogs, and emails since I took a journey half-way across the country for a wedding my whole family would be a part of. (Flower girls nearly stole the show!) I have been watching, though. I did see the When It’s Ready blog post from Guild Wars 2 master Eric Flannum. It made a 500 ton splashes at the various Guild Wars 2 communities because of the information it gives, the information it doesn’t, and the virtual pressing of the mute button for the rest of the year.

The information the blog post gives is fantastic. I believe that official articles designed to enlighten fans about design considerations and the reality of the studio are worth their weight in gold. Flannum’s words carry plenty of weight as he discusses the very iterative development process employed by the studio in questioning everything. Prototypes of systems, mechanics, and graphics are employed in a working fashion to give the developers some sense of the feel of the prototype. Of course the old adage holds true when ArenaNet looks at quality, time, and cost and gets to decide on two. Eric implicates the trade offs of development best:

The primary thing we get out of this iterative development process is that it helps us get things right. We can make a better game because we try everything out as it’s being implemented and we aren’t afraid to take something that isn’t working and say “this isn’t good enough.” It results in a game where all of the various systems are working together to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. We couldn’t do this if we were more worried about finishing things by a particular date.

Of course, it all comes back to information flow. They definitely have a schedule of points of dicussion, but it’s a fluid one. Flannum discusses how they had a roadmap of profession reveals months ago, but the eight professions danced around the roadmap to the degree that the current roadmap looks very different. Between the lines, it’s easy to tell that things must be very iterative with big things like PvP and underwater combat. It’s not that they don’t have a good idea; it’s just that when they tell us, they want to freakin’ tell us. With the degree of reception of the revealed professions, convention demo material, and everything else we’ve learned so far, I’d say this is a pretty good strategy.

There is a point I feel they either missed or didn’t want to discuss, and that is the tempo of information flow. Of course the beat was insane during the early conventions, and they slowed down at a good pace until the Hall of Monuments information dropped. Then it felt like the tempo went in to a coda (one letter away from coma). There are plenty of things that ArenaNet could still discuss.

How about the amazing music we’ve heard so far in the trailers and concept art videos? What are some of the triumphs of the network guys in transitioning from Guild Wars to Guild Wars 2? Can we get an update from the sound guys or the celeb-squad voice actors? What about some of the secrets to the lore? Articles like the old Ecology of the Charr are a gold mine of blog posts, and the lore topics I know exist could easily give weekly articles until a 2012 release. There are plenty of things to talk about besides professions, PvP, and underwater combat.

Flannum puts on a stern face at the end of the blog post when he tells the fans not to really expect anything until the end of the year. With the U.S. holiday block starting this week plenty of people are going to be taking vacations and spending more time with family. This includes the voice of ArenaNet as well as the game developers themselves. I have a surprise coming after Thaniksgiving that will be nice, and I hope ArenaNet throws a few other Guild Wars 2 bits here and there. It is hard to be patient for such a beautiful game.

–Ravious
that is a tasty burger

16 thoughts on “[GW2] An Answer to Suffering”

  1. They kinda sabotaged their “When it’s done” slogan themselves with the latest updates. Hearts of the North is buggy and dragged War in Kryta down with it, so that massive parts of the community are now stucked somewhere in the process because NPC Dialogues repeat endlessly, quest items dont spawn or required NPCs are nowhere to be found. Even Nicholas the Traveller is bugged now. Before that, there was the 3-Mod-Item thingy with the Halloween quests.

    And dont even start talking about localization! Dhuum has been talking english for over a year now while he’s supposed to talk german in some of my acquaintance’s clients, big parts of Hearts of the North aint translated either. And we’re not talking about walls of text here, this is a work of not more than half an hour, an hour with other people proofreading and correcting at most.

    Sure, it’s basically a nice post and at the very least it’s good to know we don’t have to expect much info before 2011, but it kinda lacks credibility considering the problems of the last weeks.

  2. @ GLN7: The Guild Wars ‘live team’ is a much smaller, separate entity from the Guild Wars 2 team. They have very limited time and resources.

    1. I know that, but anyways it’s ironic that they talk about only releasing stuff when it works and on the other hand displaying the opposite in their already released product.

      And oh well, it’s not like there aint bugs and problems that are way older then when they started working on GW2. Like the carriers in the competitive missions, synching or several clipping issues.

  3. Was thinking about whether it would be a good idea if they released teasers containing incomplete information, like a ‘in the new year…’ they will reveal these systems and give a few tidbits to wet the appetite for now, or I was really hoping they’d show off the revamped sylvari by giving an art dump of how the design evolved through numerous revisions, which would provide a good example of the iterative design process even if they stopped short of revealing the final result for the time being. Although I think the way they’ve managed things so far is probably best as they got the attention of a much wider audience, the drip-feed of bits and pieces doesn’t really keep the lasting attention except of the converted.

    1. But they can’t release anything that might change by release or that is a work in progress. Look what happened with Aion’s Vision trailer. It was done with the game engine (some probably with the updated 64-bit client the devs have mentioned) and showed things they are working on and hope to include at some point over the game’s lifetime. Based on what NCSoft has done with Lineage II I expect much of it will eventually make it into the game in some form. I’m fine with that.

      But the reaction in the west was rants by forum posters and bloggers over how none of that was released in the patches, or it was just a scam to keep people subscribed. Some of that was NCSoft’s fault because their western division didn’t make that clear when the video first showed up in Korea. Yet these same ranters are fine with CGI pre-rendered trailers that have nothing to do with anything that will ever be in a game, like the ones from SWTOR or DCUO. Seems many gamers are idiots and need to be treated as such.

      I’m sure ArenaNet is trying to walk that fine line of keeping players from hyping GW2 to extreme limits, like some of the Aion players did, while still showing us stuff to keep the general, non-ranting, part of the player base interested in what they are doing.

  4. In regards to the tempo: We have to realize that the whole team collaborated in getting these materials out to the public and while this was happening there was probably minimal game development.

    I’m happy to hear that there is going to less marketing releases and more focus on the game development as this will ultimately bring the release date closer.

  5. It is a bit disconcerting to hear that such a large team has been working on GW2 for almost 4 years now but fundamentals of PvP and guilds have not been locked in. The disclosure that only 1 of the 4 remaining character classes is even close to ready for release is also… let’s say” disappointing”. When you consider that underwater combat isn’t ready and the crafting system isn’t ready either, one starts to wonder: what is done?

    We know the worldmap is done because we’ve seen that. We know that two races and 4 classes are playable. We know a decent amount of enemies and bosses are done. We know that music has been composed. We know voice and cutscenes have been done.

    I think the concern, if not shock, is that this sounds like the game is less than half-done. This means the next few months aren’t about tuning and polishing then going gold, they’re about getting the game to alpha state. This strongly suggests that a 2011 release may not be possible, which begs the question:

    What has your 150-person team been doing for FIVE YEARS before release?

    1. Not exactly.
      It’s not that those things aren’t done, it’s just that they are not perfected enough to show to the fans. I mean, I can see one or two things almost completely undone, but not all. We know some classes of crafting, the materials used, and the very basics of gathering: that alone should mean that the crafting part is almost done, they’re just tweaking some details but the base is obviously completed otherwise they couldn’t release those little teasers and be certain they would be included.
      The same with professions: I don’t have any doubts that they knew the outlines of each and every one of them when they said there were going to be 8 – so at that time (April), at least the very basics of each profession had to be done. If they knew there were going to be 8, they must have known the roles for each one of them and the “feeling” they were going to have (and probably some skills and mechanics?).
      Moreover, NCSoft is obviously aware of the state of the game, and they said GW2 was expected to have its beta in 2010 and be released in 2011 (there could have been some delays, but still). GW:Beyond was said to last for about a year (and it started in March/April). 2 of the 3 books planned are being published in 2010, which means the other must be on the first half of 2011, and presumably not too long before GW2.
      So, despite having had the same fear/surprise as you did when I first read the article, I am now convinced that the beta will start in 3-9 months.

      tl;dr: Everything indicates that they are doing the details now, not the basics. GW2 will probably be released in 2011.

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