It’s a tough decision to decide what to write about first for the ArenaNet Community Open House (#GW2Fanday). My head is exploding with ideas and thoughts. I chose to start with Guild Wars for a couple reasons, one of which is that I have some neat screenshots to share (taken by the steady-handed Matthew Moore). Let me start with an anecdote.
Randy Price (Senior V.P. at ArenaNet) and I were chatting over food and libations to other times, now moot in memory, when the subject of John Stumme was brought up. Much to my surprise, Price raved about what Stumme had done with the Guild Wars Live Team for a couple minutes. It wasn’t surprising to me that Stumme and the Live Team deserved such praise. It was surprising to see one of the heads of ArenaNet so honestly and unabashedly talk about the meteoric rise of one of the employees. It wasn’t even humble (see also our libations), and I asked Price if I could quote him when he said he believed that the Live Team was so efficient and hard-working that they were producing on the level of a couple dozen-man development team.
Winds of Change is the next chapter in Guild Wars Beyond, which attempts to tie up some loose ends as the lore shifts 250 years towards Guild Wars 2. We played a “spoil-free” portion of the first of three sequences where we joined the Ministry of Purity to cleanse the remaining Afflicted in the slums of Kaineng City. The Live Team had given us pre-made characters and a “generous” array of consumables so we could basically rock our way through Afflicted death explosions like heroes in a Michael Bay movie. It was a nice change of pace from the previous engagements of the day because it was so comfortable to play the game I had been a fan of for the better half of a decade.
In the two quests we played, we are tasked with cleaning up parts of Kaineng City by the newly formed Ministry of Purity. We took out swarms of Afflicted and their Am Fah “human” counterparts. I was allowed to take a few pictures (actually Moore took them while I played) of the new armor art for the Ministry of Purity NPCs as well as a neat dragon armor for another new NPC. Sorry they are so fuzzy, but hopefully some of their beauty shines through.
What I am really enjoying about the design goals for Winds of Change is that the Live Team has put a lot of heart in to making a player’s impact on the world actually seen. For example, players can apparently rid the explorable areas of Afflicted (their spawns will be replaced by “something else”). They have also hidden quite a number of scenes in the explorable areas, which are used to respond to characters completing quests. For my made-up example, a player could stumble upon a scene of Cantha citizens discussing the Ministry of Purity’s response to that “something else.” I have been wanting this level of impact ever since ArenaNet discussed having a persistently destroyed bridge in the explorable areas.
As all the other guests went off to dinner, I bogarted Stumme. I said I really liked the cause/effect emphasis they are placing on Winds of Change. Stumme said that when he joined the Live Team, he wanted to include everything he had been dreaming of for Guild Wars since he first started playing long ago. This was one of those things, and they were pushing the aging engine as far as they could (with the magic of Joe Kimmes, who scares everybody when he calls a programming problem “interesting” as he strokes his Old Spice-endorsed man chin). Stumme was really excited about what Winds of Change would bring to Guild Wars.
I had made Stumme unconsciously lead me back to the Live Team’s lair, where I took a screenshot of their master plans. Knowing the importance of the contents of my camera’s memory card, Stumme challenged me to a bushido-style duel to the death. We fought our way poetically through the art-filled halls of ArenaNet, where our moves created momentary haikus, cherry blossoms, and octopus highlights. Just then his fiancée stepped in, and in a flash of smoke Stumme abruptly disappeared. Perhaps his mastery had led me unknowingly to the buffet, where the distractions of food made me forget about all of the secrets I had seen. I bow to such a master, but I still had kept the memory card. And now I will share this damning picture of their plans.