One of the most anticipated MMO games of 2012 is nearing completion. ArenaNet has allowed gamers into the world of Guild Wars 2 through a massive beta event as it continues to fine-tune the fantasy action MMO for release. Jeff Grubb, Lore and Continuity Designer at ArenaNet, talks about what’s in store for PC gamers when they enter the massive world of Tyria in this exclusive interview.
Game On: What’s going on in the world of Guild Wars 2?
Jeff Grubb: Guild Wars 2 is set in the world of the original Guild Wars, which was released seven years ago. The original game was a non-standard MMO. Basically, you had human characters adventuring in a fantasy world. It’s the same world, but it’s 250 years later. We have built off the foundation of that world to show a brand new Tyria to the players. In the time between the original game and now, a lot of things have happened. Other races have shown up. The original game was primarily about your player character was always a human. Now we have five races: the Humans, the feline war-like Charr, the shape-shifting barbarians, the Norn, the plant-like Sylvari, and the smart and irritating Asura, who came up from below. They are all player character races.
Where do the humans fit into this world?
The Humans are now the oldest race, and they’ve also been pushed back. They’ve also been knocked back. That’s one thing that’s changed in 250 years. The more important thing is that in the 250 years, the Elder Dragons have woken up. These are ancient titanic massive forces that command armies of minions that they have corrupted to their cause that exist to destroy and consume the world. A lot of what’s happened has been as the result of the awakening of these dragons. The Asura were driven up from the depths of Tryria by Primordus, the ancient Elder Fire Dragon. The Norn were driven from the North by Jormag, the Ancient Ice Dragon. In the heart of the Human territories, what used to be the Elder Undead Dragon, Zhaitan, has raised the ancient kingdom of Orr, and corrupted and enslaved all of its former inhabitants as his undead minions. What the story and theme is that we go through the story and go from localized problems, for each of these races has their own problems and challenges to a larger backdrop, where you’re seeing everyone having to pull together in order to fight the threat of the Elder Dragons.
Where do you guys draw inspiration from when it comes to epic stories like this?
We have a great foundation with the original Guild Wars. This was an epic world. It was a world of combat and of fantasy to begin with. From my own experience, I’ve done a lot of world building in many different shared worlds; Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, etc. We pull from out epic fantasy roots. We also pull from our character development roots. We basically do a lot of character growth, and that becomes endemic. I give you the big epic picture right now. I tell you, “This is what’s threatening the world.” The most important part is your personal story. It’s how what you do threads through this entire backdrop.
Can you talk a little bit about the personal story and how players will actually be able to have unique experiences based on their choices?
One of the things that we’re looking for is a uniqueness for your player and your player experience. That reflects on how your character looks, but also your character history, and what your character does in the game. I mentioned the five races. When you start off, you get a questionnaire as part of your character direction. If you’re a Human, they ask if you grew up on the streets, as one of the commoners, or as one of the nobilities. This helps you set you on a path. It’s not your only path, and it’s not the way it’s going to go through all of the game, but it sets your initial encounters in that world. As you go through you make decisions, large and small, that are moral and ethical. Do you stand by a childhood friend, or do you put him at risk for a greater good? As a result of these, your character grows and develops. Certain things happen in your history that will not happen to other people’s history. As you go forward you go from small problems of your particular race, to larger problems of the world. You join one of three orders. Basically, those three orders come together to fight the dragons at the end.
Can you just give us a sense of how many choices someone will have if they play through as a character?
I don’t have the numbers. We basically tailor the plot toward the roads leading to the City of the Gods of Arah in Orr. Your personal variance of how you get there will vary for every character, plus, you add the differences for character appearance and class. You should not have the same experience twice.
How does that impact the ending that people will have at the game?
The ending builds to the final confrontation. What you have learned up to now will have an affect on that as far as your own abilities and capabilities, but we do build toward that particular moment.