PCGamer writer Chris Thursten recently sat down with ArenaNet lore writer and continuity designer Ree Soesbee to discuss the hurdles of building a story in a persistent world, the hardship of having fully voiced characters and when/where to add humor to the overall dramatic story.
A few of the major highlights of this interview:
How do you balance telling your own story against what people are going to inevitably run off and do?
There’s a certain amount of iteration. We start with a limited number of people in the room and as we build structures for things they get passed on and the next team adds detail and it comes back to us periodically. We do that because we want the story to be as consistent as possible.
There’s a story chain in the world where you go to a Hylek village that is being threatened. The Hylek are frogmen who worship the sun god. As a player you get involved in their village, you learn their lore, you help them make decisions – do they support this priest, or do that thing – and then when you go into an event map that has Hylek all over it we want that to be the same feeling. So we have to bounce back between them all and make sure there’s a consistency involved in the whole game. We do the best we can.
You guys take a pretty definite line – they’re a hero, they’re going to have this particular moral alignment. It’s “how are you going to achieve this heroic thing” rather than “are you an asshole”. Is that degree of extra freedom superfluous in other games?
No – it depends on the kind of game you’re playing. We’ve said from the beginning that Guild Wars 2 is a game about heroes. If you’re playing a game about villains there should totally be choices to be a villain. What we wanted to do was tell a story that ends hopefully in the defeat of the dragons, and the choices of bad guy who would do that fall into anti-hero. So that was as far as we were willing to go.
We let our world be the sandbox. You can go into the world and choose not to help the villagers and let the centaurs just destroy the village. You can do a lot more of that in the external world. We give you 50% diversity in the story. If you want want 100%, the other fifty is going to be out in the world because we have to keep to a story and a direction.