Interview: Guild Wars
In this interview Chris Massey explores Guild Wars, the subscription-free fantasy MMORPG from a crew of former Blizzard developers.
In a market quickly growing saturated with massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), it's more difficult to garner a sizable portion of the market without offering something unique to the genre. With a host of excellent games already on the market plus many new ones soon to debut, MMORPGers would appear to be in the midst of a golden era of gaming.
ArenaNet, the developers of Guild Wars, is a company which began three years ago and was founded by a few members who left Blizzard. Since its inception they have been hard at work crafting a game that they hope will redefine the genre. We recently had a chance to catch up with Mike O'Brien, Jeff Strain, and Patrick Wyatt of ArenaNet to ask how things were going with Guild Wars' development. Here is what they had to say about it, including when it will hit beta status, and why we should play it when it's released.
The Wargamer: Tell us a little about yourselves: how did ArenaNet come about after several members of your team left the Blizzard team?
ArenaNet: We formed ArenaNet to build Guild Wars. Several years ago, when we were at Blizzard Entertainment, we discovered that we shared a strong interest in creating a new type of game, an online role playing game that would support truly competitive play in a fully hosted environment without a monthly fee.
WG: How does it feel to finally have Guild Wars discussed publicly after so many years of quiet development?
AN: It feels great to tell the world about Guild Wars! We had the game under wraps for a long time, while we were building the game network and the toolsets that we needed, and while progressing through the early stages of the development. Being able to talk about Guild Wars now is just fantastic!
WG: What concepts and mythos are Guild Wars built around and what was the source of their inspiration?
AN: We're really not ready to talk about the Guild Wars story or lore just yet. We can say that we're building a world and a story that will please the game player and the fantasy lover in all of us.
WG: One huge difference between Guild Wars and other massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) is that there's no monthly fee. Given the historically high costs of bandwidth and server maintenance, can you give us an idea of how you hope to contain them?
AN: Guild Wars was designed with the goal of not charging a monthly fee. We didn't set out to create an online role-playing game and then afterward think it would be cool to not charge a fee. We built the technology and infrastructure to make sure that we could deliver the best online experience without having to ask the users to pay a monthly subscription charge. Without going into detail, let's just say that our technology enables us to provide service at a fraction of the traditional cost of maintaining online role playing games.
But more important than the technology, we have designed our game to appeal to a very broad audience. We will also be releasing expansion packs on a regular basis. By developing and providing a continuous stream of high-quality content that our customers would want to buy and play, we will have an ongoing stream of revenue to help us provide quality service to our customers.
WG: Can you give us a general outline of how the streaming technology works to continuously change the world in Guild Wars?
AN: ArenaNet's streaming technology works by providing online updates of the game as soon as they are needed, so you never have to wait and install another large patch update. Our technology allows us to fix exploits within the game quickly, to add new content such as bonus monsters or special quests, and to modify existing content. It allows us to acknowledge tournament winners and to include non-permanent elements such as seasonal art.
WG: Guild Wars promises a break from the leveling treadmill prevalent in most MMORPGs. What type of a character advancement system are you using and how important are the Player vs. Player, Player vs. Environment, and Guild competitions to advancement?
AN: In Guild Wars, characters are not created exclusively for one type of gaming. For instance, you can bring the same character to a single-player quest to gain a few levels, switch to multi-player for team combat, then join in a tournament or fight a one-on-one duel. You get to make the choice about how you play any of your characters.