The Guild Wars 2 Living World has been giving us a world tour throughout Tyria. There have been amalgamated armies in the Shiverpeaks, ancient amphibious creatures claiming island territory, sky pirates, and now a celebration of human resilience complete with hot air balloons is coming our way. And there sits Orr, where the personal story ended. I asked ArenaNet if they would be interested in discussing their thoughts on Orr nearly a year after launch. I got one of the best when Colin Johanson, one of the Guild Wars 2 leads, decided to jump on this plague carrier of an interview and discuss this region.
Intent of Orr – How has the design intention for Orr changed, if at all, since launch and player community maturation?
Colin Johanson: Our intent with Orr early on was to try and create a set of zones with an ever-flowing and changing environment where players worked together to progress large event chains giving the sense of conquering/capturing parts of Orr for a period of time.
We also wanted to give the sense that each temple location was important, that holding them would lessen the influence of the undead in the area by disabling their god statues that made progress in Orr more difficult. It was all intended to lead into a final chain where by disabling all the major god temples allowed players to band together and assault the promenade and defeat the guardian there to gain entrance to Arah.
Simply put, I think we accomplished some of these goals, but ran out of time to accomplish in the ways I would have liked to see from the Orr experience before we launched.
Over time, we’ve slowly been working towards getting Orr to point we’d like it to be experience wise while trying to simultaneously improve countless other areas in the game. I don’t think our intention for Orr has changed, I would say today we still have work to do to get Orr to the point it’s everything it can be as a player experience based on that intention; but we’ll be edging closer to what we’re looking for with some of the upcoming releases.
The one major design intention I think that has changed is gating entrance to the Arah dungeon behind a long dynamic event chain. The players interested in doing a dungeon run often just want to go play the dungeon and don’t want to spend a big chunk of time unlocking access to that dungeon itself. This is something we’ll do less of in the future, and instead still need to revisit the final encounter before the entrance to Arah to give it a different purpose/reward.
Iteration of Orr – It seems that Orr is still being polished with nearly each big content update. What are your thoughts on this continual iteration of the area?
Colin Johanson: Polish on Orr absolutely continues, but it has been a stepped process that gets us to where we are today (and where we are going).
After our first few rounds of polish designed to make it easier to play in Orr (cleaning up the density of mobs and addressing some of the rewards for Orrian mobs) we found ourselves in a decent state. But we had one major issue: the dynamic scaling system didn’t handle the extremely large groups of players that gathered in Orr. In effect, this turned the main events into races to get in a few hits before each wave of monsters evaporated, leaving little challenge or sense of accomplishment. Instead, it created a never-ending tidal wave of player doom that surged across Orr, nuking everything in its path—sounds cool on paper, but not very challenging or fun to play!
We developed a more advanced scaling system that allows for the game to recognize the numbers of players participating in content and intelligently not just increase mob difficulty, but introduce vets/champs as well to make the content better balanced and more fun. We’ve been updating all the mobs in Orr over the course of the year to make them more tactically interesting encounters as well, and we’ve got more updates coming to try and finish refining the remaining mobs in that area.
The temple bosses also received an update back earlier in the year, though I think a number of them could still use more work to get up to the level of what we want our open world large boss encounters to be.
We’ve also upgraded the rewards for our Orrian temple events, and plan to make some more tweaks to make these even a bit more rewarding.
Despite all of these updates so far, we have additional polish work to do in the short term to ensure play time in Orr feels rewarding. When events scale, allowing more champions to spawn, they need to feel rewarding enough to make them worth the time involved to play them. We’ll be introducing our new champion rewards this year to address that issue, as well as making some of the more common drops you get from other mobs in Orr more valuable by allowing you to salvage rare and masterwork materials to get consumables to increase your accounts magic find.
The goal is when all of this is in place, we’ll be at a point where Orr is a fun place to play with a large group of players (or smaller groups too!) and that it will scale well so if lots of players show up it’s still challenging and fun. Most importantly, Orr will also be rewarding you for the time you spend in those maps vs. the challenge involved.
Orr Evergreen – Is Orr stuck in time? Could it be affected by the Living Story?
Colin Johanson: Due to the nature of the personal story and how it ties into the content of Orr as it currently stands (and its moment in the timeline) it’s going to be really complicated for us to try and find a graceful solution to pushing Orr forward in the timeline via Living World releases. There are some ways we could do it, but it’d involve creating two versions of Orr, which would fracture our player base in a way I’m not sure is healthy for our game, or it’d involve something more akin to the Fractals that I think is more likely.
One of the things we’d like to try and do in the future with story in general is avoid the situation that the personal story put us in, where specific maps can become locked in time like that without a ton of work to fix them, so we’ll be experimenting with some clever ways to work around that with future,
Zhaitan’s Grave – Will we ever see Zhaitan’s body? Will the Living World be affected by Zhaitan’s death?
Colin Johanson: There is some room for us to play here in the future for sure if we choose to do so. I can’t give any larger answer than that at this point. I imagine everyone is ready for a break from undead for a while, so I think we’d stay away from that one in the near future.
Thank you, Colin!