The guys over at Tap Repeatedly put up another great interview with ArenaNet developers Jon Peters and Jonathan Sharp. I interviewed Peters and Sharp at PAX East, and I had talked with Peters about skills and energy some time before. They are the nuts and bolts devs. Tap’s Lewis B does exactly the right thing by talking to them about the nuts and bolts instead of release dates, collector’s editions, and other stuff that will just get stonewalled. Lewis B goes for depth, and is rewarded handsomely. He also pulls in a few community questions, which I thought was a nice touch.
Hunter breaks parts of the interview down with his thoughts at Hunter’s Insight, but I wanted to mention one bit here as well. Peters talks a little about the importance of strong class design. He notes that professions in Guild Wars 2 are important because it gives players an automatic identity for what players will be doing. Peters brings up Team Fortress 2 giving his personal statistic of having played 295 hours with a soldier and 5 hours with the other 8 classes because he really doesn’t like to play the other classes. (I have about 1/5 of his hours played, but he does make me feel better for spending most of my time as a pyro.)
I think for Guild Wars 2 this design point is very important because there are no definitive roles (i.e., tank, healer, etc.). Like Team Fortress 2, the goal is to kill things dead, but manner in which it is done is the key. I would even argue that the class design for Guild Wars 2 has to be stronger than Team Fortress 2 because the PvE gameplay has little room for a chaos-inducing scout or a medic tied to a heavy. Instead of the gnat-like scout, we get the thief that can weave in and out of combat. The ball and chain combo in Team Fortress 2 gets merged in to the guardian who will be a centerpiece of the battlefield.
Mark Rosewater, god of Magic the Gathering, has a very interesting article up today on the fabled color wheel for the card game. This color wheel is supposed to define the 5 (+1 colorless) archetypes of spells that the mana produces. Blue should be about control and gets counterspells and boomerangs. Red is about direct damage and chaos. Yet, the collectible card game would be dead if the original developers insisted on strict adherence to a rigid power structure. Instead the colors have to bleed. It’s a very delicate and constantly moving dance.
ArenaNet will have to do a similar dance, but they need to have very strong design coming out of the launch gate. Their eight professions will have to feel each like an archetype. It would be poor design if the guardian were simply a mashup between a warrior and an earth elementalist. Instead the concept of a magic-wielding melee class has to be grown unto it’s own. With the little time I have played Guild Wars 2, I feel they are on the right track.