Joined by Jon Peters, Jonathan Sharp (with a little input from Chris Lye; someone’s got to control the situation!) sat down with Tap to chat about Guild Wars 2′s professions: their inception, strategy, and design choices; whilst also taking the time to answer a good handful of questions solicited from the Guild Wars 2 Guru community. Hit the jump to find out how we got on.
Tap: For those who aren’t familiar, can you both tell us about your role and responsibilities at ArenaNet?
Jon P: I’m one of the systems designers. We work on creatures, combat, items, crafting and PVP; pretty much everything in the game! If I was to describe it, I would say primarily I deal with how the game works.
Jonathan: I also do system design, with a lot of focus on PVP. We do a lot of the skills with a focus on animations, art and effects and generally making sure all those elements work correctly and feel good to the player.
Tap: Before we get into the more recent class reveals, I wanted to discuss some of the earlier processes behind their design. ArenaNet’s iterative process has clearly played a part in the eight classes’ development, but how easy was it to agree on the eight? Was it one of ArenaNet’s first and biggest challenges?
Jon P: I think I started working on Guild Wars 2 combat systems a little more than two years ago, so some of it was being worked on before I started. I was involved in the pre-production design phase where everyone was involved in some stage or another.
I would definitely say it was not easy to agree on the eight, though there were some that came a little bit easier. At some point we thought there were going to be twelve and then at some point six, up to seven, then ten and back to seven before finally settling on eight. Partially, it’s because of archetypes and trying to cover different elements from a gameplay and a setting standpoint.
Tyria isn’t a static world, and in 250 years a great deal has changed; so we had to have professions that represented that and professions that stemmed back to our older work before tying it all together.
There was a lot of talk about archetypes and we would list things like characters we’d want to play from movies, or from books, building from that aspect and trying to cover different play styles whilst making sure that people would find something that was satisfying to them. I’ll let Jonathan talk about some specifics that came and went.
Jonathan: We had a lot of classes that came into the rotation but we felt they were stepping on the toes of something else, or were fighting for an archetype slot. Those classes tended to fall into the background. We feel the classes we now have clearly represent the eight different archetypes, as we’ve said, but also eight very different ways to play. That was the important thing; making sure the archetypes feel good, unique and that they give the players what they want, but also feel individual from a game play point of view.
Tap: Although we know that some of the discarded classes from Guild Wars have influenced Guild Wars 2 (there are parallels between the engineer/ritualist and guardian/paragon/monk), when establishing which classes would be brought into the sequel, was it a case of which would fit into the revised play style better (with the removal of the holy trinity), or was it that ArenaNet were never truly happy with some of the original classes within Guild Wars?
Jon P: Some of it is entirely personal choice, but there are definitely professions I’m not sure we were so happy with how they turned out. Some of those professions are very Canthan or Elonan. Where we are now is the main continent of Tyria and because of greater globalisation there are elements we can carry over, but to some extent — and it wasn’t because we didn’t like what they did in Guild Wars 1 — it’s just that we thought we wanted something different in terms of combat.
For instance, we talked about removing the monk and the healer, which was a decision that was made before any professions were decided on. It was one of the very first things we said we wanted to do from a design perspective, even though some people weren’t excited about the idea, but to most of the people who were having these discussions it was a crucial piece to building the kind of game we wanted to build.
Tap: How wide was the consultation within ArenaNet as to the final classes? Were meetings held with all staff to discuss it? There must have been some shocked staff when they found out their beloved class from Guild Wars wouldn’t be part of the game…
Jon P: When we actually made the decision to not have healers, it wasn’t my job to talk to others about it directly, so I’m unsure how heavily other people were consulted. I know some were skeptical and were worried. A lot of people like to play healers and liked to play monks in Guild Wars 1. That being said, it’s not a secret around the office that I do not like to play healers, so I wasn’t too sad to see them go!
My ‘main’ in Guild Wars 1, though, is a monk. In D&D every character I’ve made, I think I’ve played a Cleric. Pretty much every game I play, I play a healer but I actually despise them. I play them because of what I want them to be, not because of what they are. My current main character on our server right now, in PVE, is a guardian though I have a very different character for PVP.
The guardian is the first time I’ve felt I’m playing that class I want to play, but this profession does it in the way that I’ve been waiting for since 4th grade. That idea that it doesn’t have to be so direct and so specific and you can still feel like you’re doing other cool things whilst still supporting your allies.
Maybe it’s not for every monk player, but some will find their home with the necromancer, and some with the engineer and elementalist and guardian. I wouldn’t go further than that because I couldn’t say for certain a monk player would want to play a warrior or a ranger, but the idea is that there are different play styles those people may like, so we put them in different places.
(Guild Wars 2 Guru Community Member) Diovid of the Land: We know that the guardian used to be a non-magical knight-like profession and that a marksman and warden profession were considered. Why did the Marksman and Warden (and possibly other professions) not make it in, and what did they do exactly? Why did the other professions make it in and why in the form they are in now?
Jon P: The marksman and warden eventually became the ranger. We had a profession that was called the juggernaut, for lack of a better name! It was basically a non-magical knight profession. At some stage we also talked about the engineer being a heavy armored profession, and then he became medium. Things move around a lot, but why things don’t make it is because people who may have played the juggernaut would have really chosen warrior instead, and it’s just taking away from the flavour of the warrior to have things too similar to it.
Vorsakan (GW2G): Were any professions absolutely assured to be present from the start of the process – thinking specifically of warrior, ranger and elementalist – or did they all have to ‘fight for their place’?
Jon P: I wouldn’t say they were assured, but some were more likely. The ranger was on the fence as we split it into two things, and those merged back together. When we had twelve professions there was actually no ranger, but when we went back down to seven, the ranger came back. The reason I keep referring to seven professions is because for a while we thought that was going to be the final number. The reason why we went to eight was because the engineer was not part of the final seven.
We didn’t feel like we could ship the game without the engineer for so many reasons. His playstyle, his tie to the lore, guns, technology and charr and generally everything about the world advancing. While all the other professions are important, there were two professions we didn’t feel we could ship the game without: the guardian and engineer. The guardian is the tie back to where we were, and the engineer is forward-looking. The other professions are our ‘constant’. These two classes really tell the story of our 250 year transition.
Freya: Which of the professions has been the team’s favourite to design and implement, and which aspects/stages of the design process for professions do you find most enjoyable or rewarding? (i.e. initial concepts, skill design, the reveal, first demo play of a new profession etc…)
Jon P: I’m going to say thief because it was super easy. For whatever reason we came up with the initiative mechanic, we were like “this is cool, put it on thief!” Design thief skills: “Oh yeah, they should have these dual skills!” We put them in the game, people played them and were instantly like “thieves are the most fun thing in the game now!” I also love the guardian and love where it is now, but it was torturous. It took forever to create that profession and I think to some extent what makes it fun is when they work right away.
Corsair (GW2G): What was the single largest change to happen to any profession, besides the cuts?
Jon P: You haven’t seen it yet! Every profession goes through changes all the time. We will have a new demo at the summer conventions, and when you play the elementalist in that demo you will see some changes. Skills have been radically moved and changed around. While we felt the elementalist was good, it was only an 8 out of 10. We want everything to be as good as it can possibly be and there wasn’t enough synergy and decision-making on the elementalist.
I don’t want to say we scrapped it, but we basically ripped the whole thing apart and reconfigured where we felt everything needed to go. You’re going to see things like that, potentially, for every profession.
I know someone was asking about the removal of the extra damage on the warrior and that might come back as a trait; things are constantly changing. We try to say we don’t show things until they are ready, but what we mean by that is we don’t show stuff until we think it’s cool enough that people will think it’s awesome… but that doesn’t mean that we don’t think we can make it even better than that.
Blasius (GW2G): Will each profession have its thematic place/spot in major cities? For example, some kind of “industrial camp” in The Grove to show the connection between Sylvari as a race and individuals who practice engineering…?
Jon P: That I can’t answer – I don’t know – as we haven’t built every location in the game. Even those we have, it doesn’t mean we won’t add something like that. It’s not a crazy idea, but it would be incredibly time consuming.
Tap: Guild Wars communities often go to great lengths to establish which class is the most popular through polls (though this is subjective based on recent class reveals and the visitors to the website) How popular are the classes with ArenaNet staff? Is there a clear favourite, or is it an even split between them all? Is it a constant challenge to ensure all are evenly desirable?
Jon P: To some extent there are always going to be ones more popular. In the office I couldn’t really say, but I also think our office isn’t representative. If you watch our ten year anniversary video everybody here wants to play a charr or asura, but if you take a poll on the internet 70% of people want to play humans.
It would be shocking to me if the most common profession in the game after we ship is not the warrior, just because people like to have a sword and a shield and hit things with it. It isn’t incredibly important to us that every profession is equally as popular, it’s more important to us that they all cover different players’ desires.
Tap: Most of the polls I’ve read always see the necromancer come out last, and quite significantly last. The necromancer is one of my favourites; are there any concerns about that, or feelings as to why that could be occurring, or is it just a case of it was one of the first to be revealed?
Jonathan: I think it’s really just preference. The necromancer is also my favourite class. I love the way that it plays and the attrition style that it brings to the table, which again is that archetype we were trying to nail with the necromancer. I know a lot of people that I talk to after they’ve seen me play they also really enjoy them.
It’s one of those things, and again we go back to the archetypes, maybe people don’t understand upfront that this class takes a while to get a hold of you, but once he does you are in deep trouble. The warrior in contrast is very straight up; he is very in your face and easy to understand from the get-go, but I think over time people will begin to see the diversity of other professions and that will really start to come through.
Andlát (GW2G): Have any significant changes been brought to the necromancer after the revisions they announced after PAX East? Can you talk about these changes (if any)?
Jon P: Here is an example: Death Shroud does not work at all like it used to. It no longer auto-triggers when you go down; you have a regular downed state as a necromancer just like everyone else. Death Shroud is something you activate when you’re alive only, and it no longer brings you back to where you cast it. It’s now just a skill you use and when it ends you are just where you are. Both of those things were not only too hardcore and confusing but they also made the profession work poorly with others. We’ve also probably changed 30% of the necromancer’s skills from the last time they’ve been seen.
Tap: On the same subject as class desirability, do ArenaNet have any intentions of having class weeks, similar to race weeks; revealing the lore, skills and greater details of the class?
Chris Lye: Every time we reveal a class we go into a fair amount of detail and we always have a backup blog post to try to address any of the questions that have arisen in the community about the introduction of a class. I think where we will probably be going next after we’ve revealed our last profession is really demonstrating how they all play together. That’s something that is obviously really important in MMOGs and you don’t see a lot of that happening. It’s a strange thing when people market their MMOGs but they don’t often show how professions are often synergistic, and I think that’s one of the biggest attractions of our game. You’ll probably see more of that kind of coverage.
Tap: Based on the progression of the class reveals, it’s apparent the difficulty has begun to scale, with the latest classes being the most complex. Is it fair to say that some classes will be easy to master and some difficult, or is this assessment too simple? Was it always ArenaNet’s intention to have some classes seen as ‘easy’ and some ‘difficult?’
Jon P: The average complexity for professions is going up. Elementalists, for example, are relatively easy to master – or, rather, they’re easy to learn – but there is a lot of depth to them as well. Though some of this comes down to the utility skills you are picking.
We said the engineer is very complex because his complexity limit is very high, but you could run an engineer with simpler utility skills and fewer kits which would make it a relatively straightforward class. There would still be a lot of decision making, but it is true that some classes are intended to be a little more straightforward.
We often get people saying “As a warrior, all I do is build up my adrenaline and hit stuff,” when there is actually a lot involved in what you’re doing. The warrior is intended to be a profession that you can look at and understand, whereas with the guardian you’re actively managing when you can be in and out of battle in a much more complex way, because you actually have to make decisions to keep yourself safe. The warrior’s decisions are more damage and control and less support, so he is making fewer survivability decisions. That’s one of the key elements to what makes a profession easy to play; how survivable it is.
A player that doesn’t know what they are doing — who is only hitting random skills — as long as that profession can keep them alive long enough to kill the creature they are fighting, that is naturally an easier profession. For example, the thief can’t really use random skills as much as the warrior, but in some respects has more survivability than the warrior once you know what you’re doing. On the flip side, the complexity of the warrior is in a different place. Maybe not as important in PVE, but more important in PVP. To some extent it depends on what part of the game you are playing.
Gigashadow (GW2G): The warrior seems an easy profession to get into, with a high skill floor and a very simple profession mechanic, and this has some people concerned. Can you assuage these fears by talking about some things which make the warrior very challenging to play and give it a high skill cap?
Jon P: The warrior’s strength is mainly focused on its melee attacks, but knowing where to be on the battlefield, at a high level, is probably the most difficult thing. To get to a very acceptable, competent level with the warrior, yes, it’s probably the easiest one to get there. But only one in a million people have reached the level of a warrior that really sets them apart. If you’ve seen any Guild Wars 1 we had The Last Pride, a Korean guild, and they had a warrior called Last of Master and there is no one I have seen who is even close to him. He takes positioning — the thing that makes a warrior — to a level no one else does.
There is more room to improve on the warrior than any other profession, though a lot of people would argue that with me, but to me that subtlety of positioning is something almost no one ever understands.
Tap: How have the group dynamics of the classes revealed so far been panning out in PVP? Have there been some surprisingly effective groups and skill setups that have come to light? Can you share any personal PVP encounters you’ve experienced?
Jonathan: I’ve been doing a lot of PVP lately, whilst one of your later questions also raises concerns on the thief as to where they fit in, so I’ll give you an example of how these two things tie together. We saw one particular build that arose which was a defensive guardian, that had been used to hold locations because it was so good at helping its allies, supporting friends and putting down symbols on the ground to protect an area. Players were having a really hard time with it at first, and then what happened was that we saw the meta-game shift. People started to develop thief characters that were great at evading on the way in, to get to this guardian, taking him out and then evading on the way back out.
It’s one of those cases where the archetypes and the roles we talked about for the professions really start to shine through. When people see a problem and they say “oh, we have this issue over here, here is a tool we haven’t used very much. This class, we haven’t been using it correctly.” And they start to use it right and the whole team realises that they can play the class differently than they have before and it fills a role they didn’t really understand as a playerbase. That has been really fun to watch. A class then came out to hunt the thief, and push the thief off the guardian! It’s fun to watch that dynamic take place in the heat of battle.
Jon P: As far as group dynamics, and this applies to everywhere in the game, there isn’t an “OK, we run with two guardians, two warriors and an elementalist.” In PVP you could run with five warriors. A warrior with a mace and a warhorn using charge to sprint around the battlefield, giving people regen. Two longbow warriors doing AOE damage, a warrior with a sword and a warrior with an axe, which would be your melee-oriented pairing. Whilst we haven’t run that setup completely, it is close to being run. We’ve fought against very difficult creatures with setups like that.
You might at some stage need to switch builds, where you would want, say, three warriors to bring longbows as alternative weapons to lay down AOEs when mobs cluster together, but to some extent our goal is accomplished where you don’t feel like you have to bring some regimented form of group composition.
Jonathan: We’ve said this before, but it’s really not important to bring the “correct class” to the table. What’s more important is you are playing your class correctly. I think that’s something which is a paradigm shift that some of our younger players or those just starting to pick up on the game are starting to understand. It’s all about bringing a class you are good with.
Jon P: The whole game is built very offensively on purpose. You see a lot of sports that are defensive, like American and European football, and you see that defence wins all the time and that defence is often the best offence. We’ve developed a system where, hopefully, offence is the best defence. That you don’t want to say “what are they doing, how can I counter them?” instead you want to say “I’m doing something and I’m doing it well enough that they have to counter me.” I think that’s a much more interesting approach, as it’s then not about reacting but becomes that the best players are trying to make others react to what they are doing, which creates a more dynamic environment.
Tap: Picking out the thief versus guardian scenario, and coming back to the metagame, in Guild Wars 1 it was prevalent when a new build ‘did the rounds,’ where everyone would suddenly be using it. Are you experiencing similarities with internal testing or are you trying to keep ahead of that curve (so to speak) so that situation may or may not arise within Guild Wars 2?
Jonathan: I think a lot of it is really player experience and as we’ve designed a lot of these classes, we know that those builds are there, but it’s fun to watch players discover them. After those two professions we’ve talked about, the guardian and thief, people went right back to using the guardian after making a few tweaks to deal with the thief, and the thief found ways to deal with that new situation.
Jon P: I think, and I wouldn’t want to say this is a mistake we made in Guild Wars 1, but if the system is built well you are going to have times when that happens and that’s healthy for the game; that the metagame is constantly changing. If you build enough soft counters into these skills and professions, that’s how you want your metagame to work. You don’t want it to stagnate, and this is something that happened in Guild Wars 1; axe warriors with gale and everyone bringing that skill cycle of gale, eviscerate, gale, eviscerate.
You want it to let the game sit there a while and allow people to figure out what the counters are, as there is almost always a counter because the game has so many skills. Unless something is unintentionally and horribly overpowered, there is nothing that isn’t going to be countered in some way. It’s sometimes better to let some of the metagame solve these issues than to overbalance them and just create new ones.
Jabberwockist (GW2G): What logic went into assigning skills to certain hands? For example: why is the thief’s Leg Shot a main-hand pistol skill, and Retreating Shot an off-hand skill?
Jon P: It’s a complex question of animation and design. For instance, we built an offhand retreat skill, in terms of animation, because we wanted it on a number of different professions, because we felt like it was going to be a powerful skill for those professions. The more powerful skills tend to be further along the bar, so we built it on off-hand, that’s why we also put the engineer’s glue shot on the same hand, as it’s a retreating skill also.
There are 200 skill animations in the game, and it’s about managing those and the complexity and the value of the skill and where we want it to be on the bar.
Tap: ArenaNet have cited various games that have influenced Guild Wars 2, such as Team Fortress 2 and Dark Age of Camelot. How much time did you spend evaluating other games’ classes before defining your own?
Jon P: It should come as no surprise from what we’ve said that they are two games we really, really like here! As far as how much time we’ve spent evaluating them? I think the easiest answer is how long have they been out? We’ve probably been evaluating them to some extent since then. Many people here have put thousands of hours into both of those games, as well as many others that we feel have strong classes and other strong mechanics in them.
Tap: Did ArenaNet ever discuss the prospect of removing defined classes entirely, and instead chose to approach class design similarly to, say, Rift’s Soul System, or perhaps even more open, by allowing players to develop their own class akin to more sandbox MMOGs (such as Mortal Online)?
Jon P: It does get brought up. For us, professions are incredibly important to the game and when you allow players to create their own professions completely, what ends up happening is that one or two things tend to develop as the only viable options. You are then left with a lack of archetypes and a lack of play styles. We consciously went away from that, further away from it than in Guild Wars 1.
If you can completely define a single profession and everything about it, and have it be separate with no interconnectivity with anything else, it allows you to do wildly crazy things that you can’t do when everyone can do everything.
I use this example all the time – in Guild Wars 1 the Shadow Step ability on assassins. If only assassins could have done that, they would have been this very, very unique class; but as soon as we introduced secondary professions everyone could shadow step. Monks are shadow stepping, warriors are shadow stepping, and assassins as a result weren’t as ‘cool’ as they could have been. They didn’t fulfill that sneaky archetype in the way they really could have, because everyone could do what they could do.
The two games you brought up before (Team Fortress 2 and Dark Age of Camelot), the profession design is very, very strong and if there are people who don’t like seven of the classes in Team Fortress 2, it doesn’t matter, because they love the other two. You can look at my Team Fortress 2 profile if you want; I have 300 hours played and 295 of those are on soldier. And despite the fact that I don’t really like to play the other classes, they’ve given me a role that is never going to be invalidated because it’s not going to be min/maxed out by people finding the best thing.
I think that’s why professions are important as it gives you an automatic identity at the beginning of what you’re doing, that this is my character, and for a role playing game that is also really important. Inevitably, there are people who love the ‘jack of all trades’ but it’s hard to build a system like that which doesn’t result in just a few setups.
Tap: Many of the classes revealed so far have a clear and defined supportive element; how does the thief fit into this? There are concerns that due to its more traditional DPS role, there is little group requirement for it. Can you shed any light on any of its group-based benefits besides that of damage?
Jon P: It’s hard from the outside perspective to look at this and say “oh yeah they said this stuff, so it must be true.” Even internally it’s difficult to look at the thief and define what it is, but there are definitely thief builds that are quite supportive. The thief has probably the strongest support skill in the game. It’s called Blinding Powder; you ground target it, it hits all the enemies in that area and blinds them all and it cloaks all the allies in that area at the same time.
The thief’s traps can also be supportive, as they knock down and immobilise. Thieves have a skill called smokewall that they can throw up and block arrows; scorpion wire that allows them to pull enemies off others as well as cripples and dazes.
The way you play support as a thief is more subtle through pulling enemies away and drawing aggro. Although, we don’t expect most players who pick the thief to be directly support oriented. A significant quantity of their skills have to be a little more offensive, but the way in which he plays offensively is supportive. I would definitely say it can be played as a support character, but you have to make that conscious decision and that’s generally how all the professions work; they tend to lean a little bit one way.
People always say “I like support, I’m going to build a full support necromancer!” but there isn’t really any profession where you can build all support, or all damage. Even as a thief you have to make those decisions to switch roles, especially when fighting things that are difficult.
Tap: In that context, it’s supportive in terms of utility as opposed to how support is traditionally seen?
Jon P: Right. It’s not unique just to the thief, but the thief tends to be more mobility based rather than putting himself in the way, as he doesn’t have the health, armor and survivability.
Tap: The engineer created quite a divide in the Guild Wars 2 community, as many weren’t comfortable with its apparent technological advancement versus the other classes. Were ArenaNet prepared for this reaction? Was it expected or is it more a case of ensuring the public understand the lore behind the choice?
Jon P: Some people will never be happy with the engineer, but most will when they understand the lore. Some people will be happy with it even if we don’t explain the lore just because they want to shoot turrets and build guns! The engineer was always going to be more contentious than other professions. Inevitably, no one is ever going to question why we chose warrior, but the engineer is a very important profession for us both from a play style, role and lore standpoint, because the world is not static.
You see a lot of fantasy worlds that don’t change, that still use the same guns, the same spaceships, riding on the same vehicles or horses with weapons that are all the same. We wanted our world to feel that things were changing and you adapt to that. The engineer is the most important representation of that.
Jonathan: From a profession standpoint I think you’ll see that we don’t change just for changes sake. What we do believe is that change in the name of improving gameplay and innovating the space is definitely warranted. We knew the engineer was going to be controversial and we don’t shy away from that. We are glad that it is something that is provocative, something that makes people talk and think. As no one has actually played it, I think they’ll find it’s a really cool profession to play that actually adds a lot of freshness to MMOG gameplay.
Tap: Guild Wars 2′s engineer and Warhammer Online’s are incredibly similar by their use of turrets, grenades, rifles and emphasis on pre-planning. How much were ArenaNet influenced by Mythic’s failures and successes with this class?
Jon P: I wouldn’t say they are a great deal, but when you build a combat engineer you expect grenades, rifles and turrets. These are a staple of the class. There are similarities, but there are a lot of engineer classes out there in different games whether or not they are ‘engineers.’ In Guild Wars 1 the ritualist is pretty much an engineer in the style of how you’re playing, but is flavoured very differently.
Jonathan: It goes back to the archetypes that we talked about earlier. Our warriors have swords and shields and maces while rangers have longbows and swords as you expect these things from certain archetypes when growing up. As an engineer I want to throw mines down and have a turret I can defend a location with.
Jon P: I’d rather say that in other games, but certainly us, we were heavily influenced by real life combat engineers such as World War I, World War II, mortar firing and so on.
Tap: Many of the current engineer’s skills seem to lean more towards mid-line combat, whilst their close quarter skills are seemingly in abundance. How do ArenaNet envisage them being played; will a player who doesn’t regularly change kits be disadvantaged against one who does? Can they cope well against pure ranged attackers?
Jon P: If you equip kits and don’t use them often then you’re definitely at a disadvantage. Their weakness against ranged opponents isn’t because they don’t have the range, it’s because they don’t have the mobility. Much of it depends on how you play the engineer.
I see the question a lot where people ask whether an engineer can be played without kits, and if so won’t they just be weaker? And the answer is no, they will just play very differently. Kits make the profession more difficult to play and if you take advantage of that, that’s great, but it depends on the situation. If you’re trying to defend a location, there might be an event where some place is getting attacked and you brought turrets — that’s good — but a turret engineer is probably not going to be very useful in an escort. It’s the reason we let you swap out your skills out of combat.
Tap: In recent interviews it has been said that an engineer’s elixirs have a random element. How is this being managed; how are you ensuring all random skills are worthwhile? Can the disadvantages associated with ‘randomness’ be overcome by the player? Inevitably skills without certainty are often ignored in a PVP setting…
Jon P: People really hate the random element! To me, random elements are what create strategy and good players, what makes them good and what makes their strategies good, is how they react to those random situations. You don’t need everything to be a spreadsheet because when it is you are not actually making strategic decisions, you are just following a robotic set of things to do.
When something random happens as the engineer, and you get the swiftness boon because you drank Elixir B, it becomes a case of “Ok, I was just shooting around but these guys are running away from me, here I go!” and you can use your flamethrower to chase enemies down. You have to make that decision to change and how you react to the random element is part of the strategy. That separates to me what the difference is between players who are good and bad.
Jonathan: To address the engineer’s randomness, specifically with his elixirs, the effects aren’t taken randomly from every skill in the game. We determine what skills we want to have on each one of those skills, so you are not pulling from a completely random pool. We want to make sure you get good skills for your profession, but they are random.
Jon P: The caveat to what I’ve said is that doesn’t mean we want everything in the game to be wildly random, as there is a threshold. If you go over that the game will feel horribly broken and not fun, but there is a certain threshold where if you go under a certain amount of random, it feels like you’re not in control of your strategy. We are trying to find that in-between.
Tap: Have ArenaNet determined what makes an engineer mine beep and light up?
Jon P: I can answer that really quickly; you need to be able to see it! It’s a really small lore piece and overall we try to stick to lore as much as we can to ensure consistency, but feel free to make up your own clock-work reason as to why we have a flashing spark in there.
Ginko (GW2G): The ranger is supposed to be the pet profession, and bringing a pet is always supposed to improve the performance of the ranger. In all of the demos so far, most rangers didn’t bother to have their pet with them during combat; they either died quickly or didn’t seem to do much when they were around. Considering the ranger class was intended to be the class that specifically focuses on playing with a pet, what does the design team want ranger/pet gameplay to be like at launch? What kinds of gameplay is ArenaNet trying to foster for the ranger so that the pet and ranger work together instead of the pet simply being similar to a random melee ally?
Jon P: I think the ranger pets are terrible right now, no one would argue with that! If you wanted to talk about least played profession, the ranger would probably be it. We’ve been making A.I changes which are slowly propagating to the pets right now, while we’ve also been looking into more radical things with the pets.
Right now the pets feel like this thing you have, rather than a part of your character. Like those other professions that have undergone some radical changes, I’m hoping by the next time we show the game, or certainly before we ship, the ranger pet will have that synergy. That’s one of the biggest failings we have right now. For those that are concerned, we are also concerned but we aren’t concerned that we won’t fix it, just not right now. We are going to make it feel synergistic, but it just takes time.
Tap: We know this has been asked before, but will rangers have quivers?
Jon P: We would like to have quivers and they are being worked on, but I can’t say for certain how they will work. The engineer backpack is kind of like a prototype for quivers so it’s become more likely, but isn’t guaranteed.
Tap: I know you’re not allowed to say anything about the final eighth class, but to discuss it a little bit, do you think people will be quite shocked at the reveal?
Jon P: We like to think that no matter what we say people will always be shocked at any reveal because they will be happy or sad, but the important thing is it doesn’t necessarily have to be so specific. For example, it’s not just that there is an engineer or an elementalist, it becomes a case that anyone who has played the elementalist knows that it plays nothing like almost any other profession that I’ve played in other games, because of the attunement swapping and skill switching. I can definitely say people tend to be more be shocked at how it comes out rather than what.
It’s always easy to guess, and someone will always guess right. There is always that guy that comes out and says “I guessed that three years ago!” but to us it doesn’t really matter what it is, it is how it’s done.
Tap would like to thank Lincoln Davis at NCSoft, Jon Peters, Jonathan Sharp and Chris Lye for their time and efforts in helping to bring this interview together! Special thanks also to those Guild Wars 2 Gurus who contributed questions. We apologise that we couldn’t ask them all! Best of luck to Jon, Jonathan, Chris, and the whole team at ArenaNet as they move toward Guild Wars 2′s completion…
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