I talked to so many ArenaNet developers at PAX East. Sadly there were a few I did not get to, but the ones I did talk to were more than happy to discuss their job. I would like to thank all the developers again. Anyway, this post is dedicated to all those discussions I had. There will be two other posts regarding lore and specific mechanics, but this one is for all the other tidbits. Fair warning: I don’t have anything exclusive, mind-blowing, I-can’t-believe-you-got-a-dev-to-say-that, but these tidbits are interesting enough for me. I hope you enjoy.
One of the first developers I had a chat with was Randall Price, who has the lengthy job title of Senior Vice President Global Business, which tells most people that he’s a big dog and that’s about it. We had a quick consigliori discussion, and I learned that Price had been with ArenaNet from the start. Originally he had worked for the law firm that helped ArenaNet get started, but this man might as well be a hidden founder of ArenaNet for what he has done. In other words, when he speaks, listen.
I talked to him mostly about the business aspect of things. With the servers, transfers, and launch day crush they want people to be ready to play on the first day, but they aren’t ready to discuss server technology. I hope they will soon because I think the constant side-stepping is making people nervous. We briefly talked about the need to correctly monetize Guild Wars 2 since it followed the buy-the-box business model. He said that they would have to be very smart about monetization, especially given that ArenaNet was a bigger (read: more costly) studio. However, he believes strongly that they will stick to their “don’t be evil” internal philosophy on microtransactions. Furthermore , he said that the Guild Wars microtransactions were way more successful than most fans even believe, which was something to consider.
I talked with Price and Brian Porter, Global Brand Manager and Minion of Chris Lye, about the cost of adding significant voice to Guild Wars 2. I was mostly worried that they were painting themselves in an expensive corner for later content additions. They said that having discrete voice sessions were going to be expensive, and they had to be smart about planning. If a voice actor was booked for four hours, they needed to maximize that time, instead of getting in a wasteful ten minutes of recorded voice. Simple things like planning ahead and compressing the booked actor’s time will make the cost of voice much more reasonable.
I spoke with a content designer Justin Biller about designing dynamic events. I asked him how hard it was to get away from strong quest-niches in events, such as attack/defend, kill ten rats, or escort events. Surprisingly, he said it was the opposite. They are so bored with those niches, and hate them, that to QA’s displeasure they start the opposite and make crazy, intricate events. He said they are constantly asking for new tools from the engineers based on an event design, and they drive quality assurance batty by putting in 20 event triggers, etc. Obviously, they are still constrained in their infinite imagination, but he seemed really excited about what they were going to be able to deliver.
Jeff Grubb hinted a little bit about the third book in the Guild Wars series. He wouldn’t give any significant information, even about the time period. He did say he felt that Edge of Destiny was their “Empire Strikes Back” in terms of story and feel. I am not sure whether he meant, in context, that the third book might be their “Return of the Jedi” or what. I have another whole post dedicated to my chat with Grubb.
I talked with the two crazy Jons… Jon Peters and Jonathan Sharp. Both of these guys work with Izzy Cartwright on defining and refining professions and skills. Like Grubb, they have another post dedicated to my talks with them on mechanics and crafting, but I did want to drop one thing here. I was telling Jon Peters how I was in love with the thief, and that it was possibly my favorite Guild Wars 2 profession. He told me ‘no, there’s another.’ Then he clamped up. I gained no further hints from either Peters or Sharp to get information on the last two professions despite many veiled attempts, including talking about “missing” Guild Wars mechanics, like the ritualist’s turrets. So take for what it’s worth because it confused me as much as likely any reader here (especially given my love for Guild Wars necromancers). Still, with the two final professions going to be the craziest in terms of mechanics, I can’t wait to see.
Mike Zadorojny turned the tables on me and Guru-fan, Obie, when he asked what was the thing we were most looking forward to and what was the thing we were most afraid of. Interestingly enough, Obie stuck more to the gameplay aspects, and my answers were more on the business model side. I remember my answers specifically were that the thing I was most looking forward to was an amazing MMO game with a buy-the-box business model, and my biggest fear was that they would give fans a sour taste by over-monetizing the game with microtransactions (something perhaps seen right now in another big freemium MMO).
Finally, I talked to the fully charismatic, true GWAMM-developer, Colin Johanson. Right after the demo, I told him how the biggest adjustment for me was trying to not constantly position myself based on red dots on the mini-map (as there are no red dots in Guild Wars 2). My eyes were drawn to the mini-map like a moth to the flame even though the demo’s mini-map was in a completely different corner than where I put mine for Guild Wars. He said they were trying to get player’s attention focused as much on the center of the screen as possible. For example, they were thinking of having the guardian’s aegis grow on his shield so that players would have a visual cue to know when their Virtue of Courage was ready to block an attack. I also explained to him that while the health-globe in between the skills was “artistic,” it was really hard to figure out the fraction of my health on the fly. Of course, like the mini-map I was conditioned to health bars to figure out percentage of health left very quickly. Like every dev I talked to about the demo, he seemed very attentive to any feedback. (I did forget to mention to him how fun it was to target chickens with my crit-heavy thief. Big, big numbers.)
The developers were all amazing to talk to, and even the non-game related chats I had with Martin Kerstein and Regina Buenaobra were great. Putting a face to a name still simply has no substitution. Thanks again to all those that took the time to talk with me, and I still have at least two more PAX-related posts to go. At over 1000 words each, I am glad I don’t go to conventions often. It would kill me.