[GW2] Interview on Energy and Skills, Pt. 1

A few weeks ago, I had a coast-to-coast interview with ArenaNet. I sat on the one side, and a room full of people sat somewhere on that proverbial other coast. Two Guild Wars 2 developers, Jon Peters and Isaiah (“Izzy”) Cartwright and two ArenaNet community managers, Regina Buenaobra and Martin Kerstein crowded around a microphone for the interview on two big things. (A big thanks to Regina for setting this up!) Guild Wars 2 energy and skills were two concepts that were completely questioned and redesigned to escape the gravitational pull of the prequel, Guild Wars. These two concepts were also, in my opinion, of the most misunderstood when all the fans had was to imagine what it was like to play Guild Wars 2.

Cartwright took my early kick-off and ran straight for the goalposts, when all I had to say was “so, energy?” In the beginning of Guild Wars 2 development, there were no resources. Or rather, there was just skill recharge. They wanted to start as simple as humanly possible. After some testing, they decided that they did want another resource to balance encounters and give players some sort of encounter-success measure.  This measure was not really found in the original Guild Wars where the encounters were binary; players either won or wiped. Then the designers went crazy with ideas for resources including resources on skills, items as resources, “bars,” and all sorts of things. After a ton of brainstorming and iteration, they landed on the energy bar.

Unlike Guild Wars, the energy bar in Guild Wars 2 is pretty big. A full energy bar can power many more skills, comparatively. Energy recharges slowly in-combat and out-of combat, and it can be supplemented by an energy potion, which is on a recharge slower in-combat and faster out-of-combat state. This was a long-term resource, whereas skill recharge was a short-term resource. Peters added that once two short-term resources were put on a skill, the system could get really confusing to players really quickly, which was another reason to get away from Guild Wars energy system.

Here’s the design kicker: the energy bar loves offensive skills and hates defensive skills. If a player is playing offensively, the energy bar is very easy to manage. It’s when the player goes in to a very defensive mindset that the energy bar starts draining quite fast. This way the energy bar allows for players to kind of choose the difficulty of an encounter. Very easy encounters will barely touch the energy bar, whereas difficult encounters requiring many defensive maneuvers and skills will put a significant dent in the energy bar. Cartwright noted that some of the fun of PvE-style play was finding how efficient a player could be. The energy system was designed to allow for a lot of gray area in difficulty and efficiency so that players could find their own personal sweet spot.

Cartwright moved on to the very controversial potion subject. Potions are items with a recharge that are used to replenish a significant amount of energy (like 60% of the bar). Potions are very cheap and very abundant, and they are not used to determine success of an encounter. ArenaNet didn’t want a system where it pushed a player to run out of potions in order to make the player lose. However, Cartwright said that potions can be used as another measure of success. Did the player use 3 potions in a fight? None? Potions were another way to let players decide on the difficulty of the encounters they wanted to attempt. When a player goes back to town to dump vendor trash and restock potions, the amount of potions required to restock can be used as a measure of how well the run went.

Peters said that potions became reflexive as players became competent in the game. As a player used up energy it became almost a subconscious decision to pop a potion. Kerstein chimed in and said as a non-designer with a player perspective that using the potions feels really natural. It just becomes part of the gameplay when players need that extra kick of energy.

I asked since energy and potions are a play-limiting resource whether they were used to design an average length of an encounter, or to determine the length that a player should be active in an average encounter. Peters said that there really was no plan to use the resources to set the length of an encounter or duration of active play. There were too many variables involved to simply say that when fighting X encounter it should take Y seconds.

Cartwright added that a more skilled player, such as one that sidesteps a drake’s firebreath instead of standing there and taking the damage, will use less energy. Healing skills are hard to use when under focus fire, and they require players to disengage to get that small pause to heal up. A big way to do this is to roll, which takes about 5% of the energy bar. Then the heal skill will take a decent chunk of energy. Whereas the player that simply sidestepped, or used a block skill, would not have to use such a large portion of the energy bar. In other words, smarter more skillful players will last longer with regards to the energy bar.

Peters and Cartwright then took a small tangent to discuss that although there is no more monk healbot, the support role still exists. This is another reason why the duration factor is to amorphous to determine.  Players dedicated to support increase every other player’s duration of active play by running around and rezzing people or focusing on creature control and interrupts rather than damage. This helps everybody’s energy in the long run.

Since we had been using normal encounters as a baseline, I switched to the topic of epic encounters. The Shatterer was a huge boss where actions like rolling behind the creature to avoid a blow was impossible. The epic encounters are also much longer fights. Peters and Kerstein noted that with the bigger fights there are also many more actions to choose from. Players could help revive downed allies (at no energy cost). They could fire some cannons or deal with some of the enemy spawns harassing the cannons. There was even more room in the event to just run away and take a breather. Ultimately, Cartwright said, there is just more time.

In the Shatterer fight, it’s a big puzzle. If he freezes people, he will kill them unless they are broken free by other players. If he throws down some self-healing crystals, players have to destroy those before he heals all the damage.  It becomes less about managing resources, and more about solving the puzzle as a large group of people. It’s not an attrition war.

This lead to the topic of dungeons because it was a smaller event where I thought resource management could be a huge factor. Peters said that coordination with the group was much more meaningful in the dungeons of Guild Wars 2. The story mode of the dungeon required some coordination, but they did not want to make a huge difficulty bar. The repeatable mode in the dungeons requires significantly more coordination. The coordination is an organic, fluid change in roles. If the warrior in the group that’s been trying to draw agro from all the creatures needs some energy, the elementalist might change roles so that the warrior can take a small breather.

Cartwright said that dungeons were more punishing on the resource end if players were not aware of the battlefield. They would be using more defensive skills, which would ultimately lead to energy exhaustion. He didn’t want to go in to dungeons too much because they were still balancing that content in terms of resource management (and everything else). But, the goal was to make it fun group-based content.

I had to wedge in a PvP question, especially with regards to 5v5. First, potions are reset to a certain number each fight. Unlike PvE, the players are not really responsible for potions, and each player will have an equal amount. It’s a pretty low number, but it resets on death. One mechanic they have been experimenting with is placing potions around a map so that during the battle players could go refill them. Cartwright said the system really works well with battlefield movement and spreading everybody out. The potions give a sort of re-supply mechanic. Obviously more defensive players will need to rely more on potions and the re-supply mechanic.

Peters said that energy is like ammo in an first-person shooter. Players really don’t watch it most of the time, but during periods of heavy activity energy becomes an issue. Yet in Guild Wars 2, the more defensive a player is the more the resource is used. So a player rolling around like crazy will burn themselves out pretty quick. A skilled player using rolls very tactically would be fine. They assured me that jumping, which requires no energy, gives no tactical advantage, but if they saw something negative come in to play with say bunny hoppers, they are ready to clamp down on it.

We moved on to stuff like elite skills, and I was sold… [to be continued]

–Ravious
like rainbows in diablo

55 thoughts on “[GW2] Interview on Energy and Skills, Pt. 1

  1. Lucas

    You totally made my monday, Ravious.

    “Players dedicated to support increase every other player’s duration of active play by running around and rezzing people or focusing on creature control and interrupts rather than damage.”

    Is “interrupts” your word or theirs?

    1. Ravious Post author

      Theirs. Monster skills were last on my list, and sadly we did not have time to get to them. So I cannot answer that question to be begged.

    2. GLN7

      Keep in mind that they could simply mean knockdown, stun, knock back, fear or whatever may also fit the role of an interrupt. I somewhat doubt that they meant something like a Power Spike or Distracting Shot.

      1. Lucas

        I bet you’re right. Although I wouldn’t put it past them to intentionally drop that word on us, it seems more likely that interrupting won’t be a direct effect of skills, but the effects you mentioned will be methods of interrupts.

      2. Jose

        I disagree. These statements were said in reference to support characters. Knockdown, stun, knockback and fear, are much more offensive actions.

        To me it appears that the mean interrupt in the way we are familiar with

        1. Ravious Post author

          I re-checked the interview portion where they said “interrupt” and in context it sounds more like CC than “use of Distracting Shot”… IOW, I think GLN7 is pretty correct.

  2. elixabeth

    Thanks for this, Ravious! Definitely made my day. :)
    I’m with Lucas up there ^ – the appearance of the word ‘interrupt’ was verrrrry interesting to me.

    Can’t wait to hear more. Rock on!

  3. Struckd

    Cant wait for Part 2! KTR is now amongst my routinely GW2 checks :D (along with guru and the blog :)) thanks loads matie!

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  8. The Ogre

    So, defensiveness is punished in GW2. Oh, how fun. :/ The more I hear about GW2, the worse it sounds…

    1. Jace

      they said nothing about it being punished, its just more taxing. aka, if you can smartly defend yourself w/o using defensive skills you will use less energy. you should learn to read more carefully

  9. Kaien

    Punished? No.
    It just promotes playing skillfully, and intelligently.
    Also, energy is a long term resource, a pot replenishes 60% of this bar. You’d be hard pressed to use 160% of energy in any single confrontation i’d imagine. There will probably always been opportunity for tactical “breathers” anyways.

  10. Tib

    I love that defense uses more energy, since that could change the way people play (by encouraging them into offense) and would really help in pvp.

    The potion thing seems a bit pointless though. I mean, it could be nice to have, but if they’re also not really balancing the content around using them I don’t really understand, since that would seem to encourage the attrition fights the high energy cost defense skills seem designed to prevent.

    The only thing I can come up with is that the potions are a way to punish bad players (let them know they’re playing badly with a resource/gold sink) without having the bad players sink the rest of the group (1 player is chugging potions, but the group can still complete their goals).

    Its clever, but it pretty much depends on how, exactly, the mechanic is implemented.

    the “back 5″ customizable skills (those not tied to the weapon) also could have an impact on the energy system. If they are mainly “defense” skills, etc… that take more energy it would change the way (and how often) we would use our customizable skills, in addition to any cooldowns, which seemed significant in the demo footage.

  11. GLN7

    I’m not satisfied with their reasoning for energy potions.
    For me, as a measurement for efficient fighting the time and harshness of the fight is enough. If the enemy went down fast and easily, without anyone in my group biting the dust, i did good. If it went that smooth that I can go for the next group without waiting for the monks to replenish their energy, all the better.

    That fights in GW were binary is BS. If you’ve blown all your energy or accumulated to much exhaustion you had to regenerate first, too. If you got death penalty this could even screw your run later on, although you’ve won the battle right now.

    I see no reason to change to this to the GW2 system. Managing one’s energy in GW1 was somewhat of a skill, too. The only reason I get for using this system is that of a gold sink, but since these potions are supposed to be a common loot drop I doubt there will be that much of a demand – if not for the fights beeing balanced that way that it’s hard to get through without potions.

    In epic boss fights like against the Shatterer, which I played at gamescom, Germany, it really sucks to have this running out battery on your back. It’s like fighting with a time limit. Even if you stay aggressive and don’t use much defensive maneuvers or skills at all you will hit rock bottom of your reserves sooner or later. Then you can choose between three possibilities: chug a damn potion, stay in battle and just occasionally use your cheap skills or step out of battle and watch the epic fight from afar, since the energy regenerates faster outside of battle. Either way is not satisfactory to me.

    The whole concept of “Oh, I’m so damn worn out, I can’t go on anymore. Oh wait, I’ve got a potion! I’m back to the max!” sucks. But oh well, it was obvious that they would go down this path, considering the tons of consumables and especially buff food they introduced in GW.
    One of the concepts of GW that I loved was the “Enemy to strong? Learn to cope with it” instead of the “Enemy to strong? Go level some more and come back 3 lvls later” of other games. Now, with just enough buff food, even the hardest enemies become some toothless poodles.

  12. Fundayz

    @GLN7.
    I don’t think you are really understanding the role of energy in GW2. Unlike most MMO’s and GW1, energy is not going to be the “skill powering resource”, but rather the “skill/movement restrictor”.

    I think enough emphasis was not put on the analogy of Energy in GW2 to ammo in an FPS. I was worried about the system but now reading I understand that its going to work quite differently than in most(all?) games, even if it still is a blue bar.

    It’s not about how much energy you have, is about how well you use it. Sure, potions might be an endless supply of energy, but not when you need it if you aren’t careful.

    1. GLN7

      Erm, you did read the part of my post saying I played the demo, right? I know what energy in GW2 is like, I experienced it firsthand for 80min and watched it over the shoulder of players some more.
      I don’t think you really got my intention. Whatever.

      Comparison with FPS aren’t appropriate either, imo. Either I run out of ammo, then I’m done for in most shooters. I can’t press “B” and get 60 more shots. If I’ve still got heaps of ammo left, then this is not the problem, it’s the point of reloading (which I would rather compare with skill recharge than energy) or the amount and quality of enemies.

      Don’t missunderstand, I like that movement is restricted so that people cant jump and roll around like a bunch of monkeys all the time. I just don’t think their reasoning is satisfactory, at least not the “long time resource” and the “binary outcome” part. I simply don’t see the need to do this on that part.

      And well, I admit that a good part of that is due to having even more consumables in play and that I was pretty pissed when I saw the buff food spread out in Guild Wars 2 just minutes into the game. That might add to the fire.
      And of course, I did like the whole build-creating process in Guild Wars where one had to keep an eye on recharge time, skill breakpoints and attributes, efficiency and energy management. We’ll see how much creativity is possible with 5 fixed skillslots, 2 restricted skillslots, 3 freely choosable skillslots and the traits.

  13. Ethos

    The potion re-supply points on the map are kinda how your energy is managed in League of Legends (recall to start). Or like how you need to get new ammo in an FPS…

    It puts good players under stress to manage their ammo (in this case the ammo is energy) if they want to keep putting the enemy under stress. If the energy has run out… you need to go back to refill.

    Choosing when you refill, and when you want to keep pressing the opponent, is so crucial! It’s like in League of Legends where you have to make the decision between recalling and leaving your lane vulnerable, or staying in your lane to defend it but being less of a threat since your health or energy is low…

    BRILLIANT I rly like the sound of their energy-potion implementation much more after reading this PvE and PvP info.

    GO POTIONS GO!

    PS: I would like to add that the energy cost of dodge/rolling is a good thing. It prevents people from rolling all the time which would be annoying and look stupid at the same time.

  14. Rugged

    Lack of death penalty and energy potions reset after res. I could see some problems here. Support char low on energy? Let it die, res it. Full energy.

  15. Nom

    Or, in short, GW2 has a multi-layered health bar.

    The energy bar works almost exactly opposite to FPS ammo. Ammo is required to attack, run out of ammo and you can no longer attack. But in GW2, only token energy is required to attack; instead, energy acts as a backup defence, either by restoring health or as an expensive counter to inbound damage.

    Potions are the third layer, as they can be used to replenish energy, which then can be turned back into defence.

    Done well, this could be a quite elegant system. If you’re on top of your game, your energy recharge mostly pays for your attacks. Take too much damage, and you start eating into your energy to repair or bolster against it. Run through that, and you need to pop a potion, disengage to rest, or both.

  16. ClavisRa

    Thanks for an interview with interesting new and confirmed information. Unfortunately, almost none of the new info was re potions!

    How can energy be a long term resource if potions resupply 60% of your energy bar and can be popped as often as you need them?

    The (possible) potion supply limit in PvP makes them a very different resource from PvE, and resupplying energy via more potions becomes an important tactical maneuver, presumably at the expense of controlling other parts of the map that have value. (I could imagine a team wasting potions just to empty out a potion supply point to keep the other team from using it.) Clearly, in PvP efficient energy usage will be key. They imply that will be the case for harder PvE content, but nothing they have said so far shows how this could ever happen.

    1. gwjunkie

      Potions have a recharge, which is apparently much longer if used while in combat, so you can’t pop them “as often as you need them”.
      I’m still cautious about this idea too, but it doesn’t sound like the end of the world. Yet.

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  18. Leodious

    I think this could work out very well. The way they describe it, attacking does not cost much energy, so you will not lose energy at a rapid pace, and can continue attacking for a very long time if you are not forced to use defensive skills.

    I think it could work well, but I don’t think it makes much sense, from a world perspective. The way energy worked in Guild Wars the first (NOT a prequel by the way, GW2 is a *sequel* to GW1, so GW1 cannot be a prequel to GW2), it felt organic. You fought, and you lost energy, and it came back at a rate set by several limiting factors.

    I think what they wanted as to get away from the way energy worked in GW1, by which I mean if you had good healing on both sides, because the energy recharged so quickly, a fight could last for a very, very, very long time. With the way mechanic is now, something will have to give before the fight takes twenty minutes.

    It sounds very strange, yes, but I think Anet knows what they are doing,and I think we can trust them that when they finish balancing the details it will work quite well as a limiting resource. Someone mentioned that we think of mana or energy as a skill powering resource when we should be thinking of it as a limiting resource, and I think that is right. I think mana and energy in games was always meant to be used a limiting resource, but the bars got too huge and the players stopped seeing it as a limiting resource, which is the problem. A skill powering resource and a limiting resource are really the same thing.

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  21. Pixy

    “focusing on creature control and interrupts rather than damage”

    which profession in GW1 does this, which might be replicated in GW”? I think a mesmer-ish one amirite?

    1. gwjunkie

      They’ve dropped serious hints for a mesmer comeback, including an interview which mentioned a condition called “blackout” which was “similar to a GW1 skill” or somesuch.

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  27. Mikstaslaya

    Everything in this game sounds great, except potions.

    Honestly, I don’t care how they put it, the idea of having potions is beyond stupid. Cheap or not, Guild Wars PvE should NEVER be based on stocking up on a bunch of potions and then spamming them during battle as you run out of energy. And now PvP is going to have potions? So what, you run out of energy and just use a potion until you run out and are now a walking target for everyone else who ran to the nearest medicine station to restock? That just sounds completely lame. Seriously, it sounds like everyone here who actually likes the idea of potions is just spitting out the same crap the interview said without realizing that potions are an easy way to make the combat based on who came into battle with the best stuff and who didn’t run out of potions early.

    Sad, because I was really looking forward to this game. This could very well ruin the gameplay. Nice going Anet.

      1. Mikstaslaya

        And you honestly don’t believe that is going to be exploited to hell you must be mistaken. The idea of having any potions, recharge time or not, just does not at all fit into the style of game GW 1 was, and I imagine GW2 will be. The ability to repair your energy using potions just means people are going to jump into combat, fight until they run out of potions, then run away and suck their thumbs for X minutes while their potions/energy recharges.

        Want to know why the combat wasn’t like that in Guild Wars 1? Because there weren’t potions. So by adding them your basically creating problems, no matter how Anet thinks this is going to help the game, my hope that this will be a great sequel was so high until I read this.

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  31. Julia

    After reading this, I was left pretty disappointed. I had my hopes extremely high for a game with no kind of energy/mana. I know there would people that loved and hated it, but like with any game, if people don’t like it, they can just log out. This is especially true with games that don’t have monthly fees like Guild Wars.

    I don’t know, a manaless game just seems so much more… Next generation to me. It would be much more fast-paced and introduce tons of new playing styles. I don’t see how it is unbalanced at all. They might need to take more into consideration, but if they did, they could come out with something no other MMO dared to ever touch or challenge.

    More powerful skills are on a higher cooldown. Casters have naturally longer waits to spam their spells due to their range and safety, as well as the number of effects they can produce. I’d say that sounds balanced.

    Reading this did nothing but piss me off. :/ To the point where I am doubting I will even pick this game up, if this is not changed before the game goes live.

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  33. Pyro

    I say the proof is in the pudding… lets wait until Anet has worked their magic… they made a success of GW1 why not GW2. There will be trial versions for you to try out… if you dont like it you can stick with GW1… how boring would it be if they made GW2 EXACTLY like GW1…

    And really… can they cater for EVERY SINGLE person playing the game

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