GWI recently had the chance to sit down with some of ArenaNet’s Systems Designers currently working on Guild Wars 2. Our guests for the show include PvP Systems Designers Matt Witter, Mike Ferguson, and Jonathan “Chapman” Sharp.
[UPDATE] We’ve been informed that screenshots will be delayed and should arrive by Monday. Sorry for the delay.
GWI: To kick it off, I want to ask Matt a couple of questions. We had talked briefly about one of the things you did during this past convention season: a lot of PvP eSports commentating. I remember you said something about having second thoughts before you hit the stage?
Matt: A little bit. I had made the mistake of looking at the crowd before I hit the stage and it was a little scary. I wasn’t expecting that many people, so it made it a little nerve-racking.
GWI: You’ve done some commentary in the past, correct?
Matt: Sort of, not gaming commentary but I’ve done a lot of stuff in front of crowds: acting, comedy, radio stuff.
GWI: During PAX that you had the chance to hop on stage with DJ Wheat, who’s rather well known for eSports commentating. Was there any nervousness there?
Matt: That was a little nerve-racking too I guess. I’ve never really worked with him, and it was my first time getting in front of the crowd since Cologne. Yeah, there was a bit of nervousness there between what I was gonna do and how DJ Wheat would respond. It was all pretty new.
GWI: For the record, you kind of schooled him.
Matt: Yeah, I thought so too, but don’t let him know.
GWI: What was it about Team ArenaNet’s strategy that made them so difficult to beat? Do you think you’ll see a lot of the same strategy repeated after the launch?
Jonathan: Yeah I do. I was one of the players on Team ArenaNet, and one of the things we tried to do would be try to bring a lot of our damage and characters to one spot quickly. So imagine a quick 4 drop collapse to one spot to the middle of the map, and as soon as we knew we had that spot capped, we’d go back to positions.
The way that we viewed the game would be like soccer, where you have your front line, your mid line, your back line. So instead of seeing the more traditional and defined front line, back line, mid line; we saw the field as front line, back line and mid line. So we would do a lot of that, and I think it was also had a lot to do with player skill.
Mike: We play a lot.
Jonathan: We do play alot. A whole lot, so as to try and balance the game. So yeah, there was a lot of player skill involved too. We understood that if you could win the individual battles, you had a good chance of winning the war.
As players get better, we know they’ll surpass us on the individual skill level. and employ a lot of the same strategies that we were using. The Flex builds, the ‘attack this point really quickly’, ’everyone split up now’, and learning the secondary mechanics of the maps really well. All of those things will come into play for high level play, and even high level spectating.
They’ll see the builds and they’ll understand the trait sets. They’ll recognize the different weapon sets, know the strategies, and know what to expect with certain weapons. You can kind of assume what utilities go well their weapon sets, and what traits they’re probably running. All that high level stuff is what the DJ Wheat’s of the world will pick up on it, and hopefully the fan-base as well.
GWI: Do you guys think you’ll be able to hold your own after the game goes out.
Jonathan: I think for a little while…
Mike: Yeah, some of us will!
Jonathan: We fully expect our players to surpass us, they’re going to take the game to levels that we can’t even fathom.
Matt: And it’ll all be because “I saw Chap do one of those really cool moves!”
Mike: They’ll get to play the game for 80 hours a week. We’ll still be working on the game and won’t get to play as much. Even though we know more about the systems, they’re the ones who are playing with it. They’ll see combinations and variants we’ve never even thought of.
GWI: So I heard rumors that the great Team ArenaNet might have actually lost a match.
Jonathan: What?! Never.
GWI: So you didn’t lose a match a G-Star?
Mike: That’s a bunch of rumors.
Jonathan: Lies, lies!
Matt: I call “rumor mill”.
GWI: Pretty sure I heard it from someone at ArenaNet, I’m not just speculating here. So, it didn’t happen?
Mike: Actually, Matt thought he had an idea about how the rumor may have spread.
Matt: We had the video cards to give out and impress fans, because we’re awesome like that I guess, so we needed a way of releasing the video cards
into the wild. So, we basically said whoever had the highest score wins the prize. I’m pretty sure it was at that tournament.
Jonathan: At first we were saying that if somebody beat us then we’d just give them the cards,
but nobody beat us. So we just gave it to the team with the highest score and maybe that’s what they meant, I don’t know.
Matt: They did kill Chap a lot, which is a pretty big accomplishment.
Jonathan: I felt like I had a big X on my back.
Mike: Killing Chap is a win.
GWI: A lot of Guild Wars PvP seems to naturally fit within the esports type environment alongside things like StarCraft and League of Legends. What do you feel is the biggest contributor to Guild Wars 2 separation from the traditional MMO/PvP Arena feel?
Jonathan: From the beginnng we wanted to make and esport, this is all the way back to 4 years ago, we said we wanted to make an esport. So we’ve been watching a lot of different games that have come along and in that time and have said, “well what makes a good esport? Is it fun to play? Is it fun to watch? Is it easy for the average player to come in and pick up what’s going on?” So we’ve really just tried to design the game around that idea and mentality. We’ve taken some good things from other games, and we’ve taken the bad things other games are doing and we tried to fix those. We won’t call anybody out, but there’s just things that we feel like players should have access to.
We try to look at sports, be it soccer, football, boxing, baseball,
basketball, all that stuff. We just look at what makes something interesting and fun to watch for people. We try to design around that idea of what makes you want to watch.
Mike: Even more so from a Guild Wars perspective. The original Guild Wars had the ability to spectate on things. We had our World Championships and everything, so it’s not like we’re totally unacquainted with the world of esports. Like Chap said,
from the very beginning we’ve been very conscious of and we’ve been trying to build. The goal is to make it more of an esport friendly type of game.
Matt: Yeah, exactly what they said.
GWI: Is there any chance we will see a special UI or spectator mode geared toward promoting Guild Wars 2 as an esport?
Mike: Yeah we haven’t talked about it publicly yet, but we do have plans for those types
Jonathan: We can’t talk about it in detail yet, but yeah we do have plans.
GWI: In a recent article, it was also mentioned that players would be able to join in a meeting place or a lobby before entering PvP matches. Can you describe what these lobbies are like? Are they like cities or are they more like a room?
Matt: It’s a pretty big room, I suppose. It’s just a place where players can meet up basically, form groups, mingle a little bit, and catch their breath before jumping right back into the action.
Mike: It will also be a place too where new players can come in and pick up the tutorial on just PvP. Because we’re assuming that you can come and just make a PvP character if you want to. Maybe you’ve never done any of the tutorials for any of the other PvE content, and if that’s the case, we wanted you to be able to jump in and understand what’s going on before you get thrown into a PvP match. We’re going to have some tutorial stuff that you can do there to figure out what’s happening in the game.
GWI: Will you be able to test out different builds in the lobby?
Matt: That was one of the thoughts, I don’t know…
Mike: Yeah that was one of the thoughts, we just didn’t want it to get too congested in there so we’ll have to see with the amount of players we get in there and that kind of stuff. We might move that kind of testing stuff to somewhere else, we’re not really sure yet.