We got a chance to ask Guild Wars 2 Lead Designer, Eric Flannum, a few questions about the game ranging from World vs World, class balance, PVP vs. PVE progression and more. We’re very excited to share this with, especially on the same day that Arenanet has announced that the game’s launch is August 28, just two months from now!
GW2 Junkies: Guild Wars 2 has some amazing character models, ranging from gigantic norn to tiny asura. With any competitive MMO, players worry about hit boxes and how character models affect gameplay. Since a player can get hit by stray damage, how have you designed the hit boxes for all the varied sizes and shapes that GW2 has to offer—asura are short, norn are tall, charr are wide (and low to the ground when they are running), etc.?
Eric Flannum: Every player character in Guild Wars 2 has the exact same sized collision cylinder. For asura this means that the cylinder is larger than they are and for norn it means that it is smaller. Very early in the process of making the game we knew this was going to be the case, so the min and max sizes of our races are heavily influenced by this.
GW2J: Have you thought of allowing players to choose what their starting weapon is during character creation? Though the game is still in beta, many players have commented that some of the starting weapons might not be the best for a beginning player.
Eric: There used to be a biography question that dealt with that very thing. It actually resulted in some inappropriate weapon choices for new players who weren’t aware that they were making a choice about how complex they wanted their experience to be. Since we didn’t feel that we could guarantee that all of the choices would be equally easy for starting players, we decided to pick the weapon that we thought was best for new players. We’re still taking feedback on this, of course, so players who participate in Beta Weekend Events (BWEs) should let us know if they’d prefer a different starting weapon.
GW2J: What are your current thoughts in balancing player populations in WvW and the PvE environment? You’ve mentioned that there could potentially be a cap in WvW for each world. Some players are concerned about being locked out during peak times on popular servers. What are your plans to prevent players from being frustrated, and have any of the BWEs so far even reached the population cap for WvW?
Eric: Some worlds have definitely reached the population cap in BWEs. I think it’s a valid issue for players to be concerned about, but our alternative to having caps would be severe performance issues or even server crashes. To help deal with WvW overpopulation, we do have a queuing system specifically for WvW, and there are four maps. Players who wish to play in the center map can queue for it while playing in one of the home maps, or even PvE. We will also have a period of time when the game launches where we will allow players to change worlds with reduced costs. We hope that during this time, players who wish to avoid queues in WvW will spread out to less populated worlds and not have to worry about queues. If queuing in WvW continues to be a major problem, then we will definitely look into further solutions.
GW2J: We love WvW and all the “sieging” fun it brings. There are a few concerns that some players have when it comes to the logistics of gaining experience and rewards. Tokens are looted from players; however, as large battles move back and forth across the map, are there any plans on perhaps rewarding these tokens automatically to players instead of making them a looted item?
Eric: Our goal is that progression in WvW be roughly equivalent to progression in PvE. We are obviously not there yet, but it is definitely a priority for us to bring the two more in line with each other. We also recognize that looting fallen players is often very difficult and are looking into possible solutions for this problem.
GW2J: How does experience work in WvW? People were getting a lot of experience by just defending keeps, and some people weren’t getting much by fighting out in open areas. Can you explain how experience is rewarded in WvW?
Eric: Experience basically works the same way it does in PvE. Killing NPCs, such as guards and monsters, exploring new areas, gathering resources, and completing events will all yield experience. Players who were defending keeps were earning experience by participating in keep-defense events. In general, anything you’d get experience for in PvE will also yield experience in WvW, but, of course, there is the added bonus in WvW of getting experience from killing other players.
GW2J: The WvW maps are gigantic and can often appear daunting to a new player, especially someone who is not in a large and supporting guild. Are there any plans to get the solo or casual player into the action quicker? Are there any plans on introducing faster ways to get from point to point (assuming a server has control) around the map?
Eric: A world can upgrade its ability to travel by upgrading captured keeps to contain a waypoint. Other than that we don’t currently have any plans for increased fast-travel options. One thing that is important to understand is that travel times are necessary to ensure that a side can achieve victory by keeping the other team out of the fight for an extended period of time. WvW is meant to simulate a large-scale battle, and we feel that travel through the map and simulating troop movement and reinforcements is very much a part of this.
GW2J: With any PvP-oriented game, class balance is extremely important. We realize that things are nowhere near finished yet in regards to classes, but can you comment on where you are right now in this area of development?
Eric: We’ve done some very basic and rough skill balancing up to this point. Now we’re moving into a phase where we will very much concentrate on this. Players should expect to see a lot of skill changes and refinements in the next BWE.
GW2J: As players reach the level cap and participate more in WvW, what are different ways a player can advance their character in WvW? We’ve noticed a lot of cosmetic differences and rewards, but are there other types of rewards outside the cosmetic things, like gear, crafting materials, money, etc.?
Eric: Your character is the same in PvE as in WvW, so all of the forms of advancement that are available in PvE are available in WvW. As far as things specific to WvW go, there is a weapon and armor set available exclusively through WvW play, as well as several WvW-specific achievements and titles.
GW2J: One of the most common issues players have with GW2 is its animations. Some people have complained that a character appears to be “floating,” or not attached to the ground. Some have pointed out shadows or different kinds of “change of direction” animations that take place. Can you explain what your animation team has done and perhaps some of the reasoning why things are the way they are?
Eric: I think there are a few different things that people refer to when describing things as feeling “floaty.” There are a number of bugs with things like player shadows, footsteps, and model position that contribute to this feeling. Those are things that we intend to fix.
The other thing that people point to involves our use of transition animations to make our animations look and feel smoother. In many games when they use transition animations, they will restrict movement to match the animation. Instead of doing that we opted to make our movement more responsive, so while the animation may look like the character is transitioning from one movement set to another, the character is actually moving in the new direction immediately. This may help contribute to the “floaty” feel that some people complain about, but we feel that in the long run it is a good compromise between smooth-looking animation and responsiveness.
GW2J: We want to play an asura! When do you expect players will be able to get their hands on the two missing races: the Asura and the Sylvari?
Eric: There is a distinct possibility that we’ll see one or both of those races in a BWE, but we haven’t locked down the content yet, so I can’t really confirm or deny anything at this time.