Secrets of the Obscure: Looking Back and Forward

Secrets of the Obscure: Looking Back and Forward

Hey, Guild Wars community,

Josh Davis here, Game Director for Guild Wars 2®. Last week’s content update was a significant milestone for us—both technically and symbolically. It marked the final major release for Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure™(SotO), our first foray into the annual expansion model first announced in early 2023.

As we conclude one chapter with the final content update of SotO, we are eagerly preparing to unveil the details of our next expansion. Before we all get swept up by next week’s news of what’s coming for Guild Wars 2, I want to take a moment to reflect on the development of SotO and some of the high-level learnings that we’ve taken forward with us into our fifth expansion. You won’t learn about the specific features, setting, or story of our next expansion in this blog post (that’s for next week), but you’ll have a better understanding of how we’re approaching its development.


A quick history refresher. A little over a year and a half ago, we announced that we we’d be transitioning from the long-standing Living World model to smaller, more frequent (annual) expansion releases. This was a significant shift, but the new direction was born out of an examination of the pain points experienced by our players and our developers. The reasons we laid out for this change, and what we hoped to achieve by it, were simple but deeply important:

Deliver content updates in a more consistent and timely manner.
Provide better support for the systems and game modes that make up the Guild Wars 2 experience.
Enable ArenaNet employees to enjoy a better work-life balance.

Now that we’ve completed a full expansion release cycle, I can confidently say that we’ve made significant strides toward these goals. But as with all things, there’s room for improvement—both in terms of the content we deliver and the processes through which we deliver it. For today, I’m going to focus on some of what we’ve learned on the content side of things.


The conclusion of the Elder Dragon saga in Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons® presented us with a unique opportunity to delve into a different kind of storytelling. We aimed to focus on deeper narratives grounded in the characters and circumstances around the player character. However, with SotO our ambition led us to take on a broader scope than was feasible. We introduced a lot of new characters, and the plot was too complex for what can be reasonably handled within an annual expansion. This left some character interactions feeling rushed and story threads unexplored. More isn’t always better.

We learned a lot from this experience and have a much greater understanding of story scale within our new release structure. For our next expansion, we’re going to tell a more grounded story set in a new region of Tyria, with more of a focus on local threats and the global conversation around those threats. Tyria, despite all its challenges, has continued to stir. While we leave Nayos and the Kryptis to enjoy their newfound freedom, the story will pick up on some threads started in Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure—continuing with the Astral Ward arc, their moral ambiguity, and their relationship to Tyria.

Map Design

In SotO, we delivered three new open-world maps. The first two, Amnytas and Skywatch Archipelago, came with the expansion’s launch in August 2023. The third map, Inner Nayos, was released with the first quarterly update in November 2023 and was then expanded on in our second and third quarterly updates with new playable space and event content.

After extensive adventuring in Inner Nayos in recent months, it’s clear that using a single map as the main focal point for three releases is not ideal from a player or developer standpoint. Our decision to do so originally stemmed from production constraints and overlapping development timelines between expansions, but we’ve since identified some ways to mitigate those issues—both in terms of release structure and process improvements.

For our next expansion, our first two maps will be released at the expansion’s launch just as they did in SotO. However, the final map will arrive in the second quarterly update and be expanded upon in the third—meaning it will be expanded on for two total releases like Bjora Marches and Drizzlewood Coast. Not only does this give our team a bit more time to develop the third map, it also means that the story during the next expansion cycle will better leverage all three maps and take you back to familiar areas from your past adventures. While the first quarterly release after the expansion’s launch won’t include the third open-world map of the expansion, as it did with SotO, there will be plenty of new content to keep you busy in that timeframe—in terms of story, open world content, and encounters. I know that’s a little vague (again, check back in next week), but rest assured, that first quarterly release will include something really exciting that players have been requesting for over 5 years.


MMOs are made up of numerous gameplay systems and content types, each with a different role to play in the game experience. As games go on, they tend to accumulate more and more systems and features from expansions and the like, which…is fine…if there’s effort put into maintaining and updating those systems. Looking back over the game’s history, I think this maintenance and upkeep is one of the areas where we’ve fallen short, at times even falling into the trap of releasing new features for the sake of releasing new features even if they overlap with something that already exists. This is something we’ve been referring to internally as “putting a hat on a hat.”

Over the last two years, we’ve put much more of a focus on upkeep and iteration of systems and avoiding unnecessary bloat where possible. We put more of a focus on maintaining live game systems, and with SotO we even went to the extent of entirely reworking existing features to make room for more modernized solutions. The Wizard’s Vault is a good example of this strategy working out well for us, and you can expect to see a new system being introduced in expansion 5 that adds a meaningful new way to spend your time in Guild Wars 2 while using this as an opportunity to greatly improve the player experience with related, existing game systems.

Overall, we were a bit conservative with features in Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure—trying to strike the right balance between scope, schedule, and risk while navigating a new content structure. We’ve ironed out a lot of the kinks here, and it’s allowed us to be a bit more ambitious with our next expansion. Next week can’t come soon enough!

Such a Tease

We closed out one of our recent blogs—which introduced the Cosmetic Inspection feature and recapped some of the quality-of-life changes that have gone into the game thanks to the development approach we took to Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure—with a screenshot preview of an area you’ll discover in our next expansion. We thought today would be a fun opportunity to build on that, so I’ll leave you with an additional environment preview.

On behalf of ArenaNet, I want to express my sincere gratitude for your continued support, your passion, and your feedback! It’s not lost on us just how incredibly lucky we are to have such a dedicated community behind us, and we look forward to discovering more of Tyria’s secrets together with you for years to come.

Thanks for reading! I can’t believe that we’re just a week away from announcing what’s next for Guild Wars 2. I’m really excited about what we’ve created, and I think you will be, too.

—Josh Davis, Game Director Read More

Raven’s Marvelous Blessings Arrive in the Gem Store

Raven’s Marvelous Blessings Arrive in the Gem Store

Raven Vest Skin and Raven Leggings Skin

The journey of venerable wisdom is long and wondrous. Raven will fly alongside you, whether you face loss or legend; you can always count on his keen insight. The Raven Helm Skin, Raven Mantle Skin, Raven Gloves Skin, and Raven Greaves Skin are back in the Gem Store—complete your sacred look with our beautifully tailored raven armor pieces. The Raven Vest Skin and Raven Leggings Skin are available for 500 gems each.

What’s in Stock

Starting May 31 and continuing for the next few days, select permanent finishers and lounge passes will be 20% off, including the Mistlock Sanctuary Passkey, Lava Lounge Pass Bundle, Permanent Snowman Finisher, Permanent Snow Globe Finisher, and Permanent Gift Finisher! Pick up your favorite items at an amazing discount!

Returning This Week

In need of a little change? Black Lion Chest Keys, Transmutation Charges, Total Makeover Kits, Self-Style Hair Kits, and Name Change Contracts are 20% off from today until June 4. Get ready for an amazing summer!

Available Now in the Gem Store!

Log into Guild Wars 2 and press ‘O’ to access the Black Lion Trading Company for these great offers and more! Read More

“The Midnight King” Is Now Live!

“The Midnight King” Is Now Live!

“The Midnight King” Is Live

Today is a momentous day for the studio and Guild Wars 2® fans as we launch the finale for Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure™ entitled “The Midnight King”! This update contains three new story chapters that begin after the events of “The Realm of Dreams”. Eparch hunkers in the spires of Zakiros, amassing unfathomable power. Shoulder to shoulder with an unlikely alliance of soldiers, wizards, and demons, the wayfinder spearheads a desperate attempt to overthrow the Midnight King and take the throne of the Realm of Dreams.

As a refresher, this update—and the two major updates before it—are part of the Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure content cycle and therefore included for anyone who owns the expansion!

What’s New?

Our studio update blog from last week gives a great overview of what to expect for Guild Wars 2 over the next couple of months. If you haven’t read it yet, you may have missed that we’re adding reticle customization to the action camera and a sixth guild slot! As for today, “The Midnight King” update contains oodles of new things to do, places to explore, and rewards to collect. There are also tons of bug fixes and polish throughout all of the Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure content. Here are some highlights of today’s update:

Three new story chapters
Suffused Obsidian legendary armor (more dye channels and effects!)
The Lonely Tower fractal dungeon (challenge mode coming June 4!)
Six new relics
Wizard’s Vault seasonal refresh (remember, cosmetic items you missed are now in the Legacy Rewards tab and don’t expire!)
Completed Inner Nayos explorable zone with new adventures and events

Into the Spider’s Lair epic meta-event finale

Expanded Astral Ward Mastery: Wayfinder Mastery
Convergences challenge mode introduced
New legendary Convergences boss: Umbriel, Halberd of House Aurkus
New ranger pet: juvenile spinegazer
Additional events and adventures added to Amnytas
Many new achievements and rewards

Twitch Drops

Twitch drops are back! From May 21 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time (UTC-8) to May 26 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time (UTC-8), you’ll be able to earn a Guild Wars 2 Classic Outfit Selection by watching any Twitch channel broadcasting Guild Wars 2 for 6 hours. The Guild Wars 2 Classic Outfit Selection allows you to choose one outfit to unlock permanently on your account.

We’re thrilled to see the community experience the finale to this expansion today, and be sure to check out the full update notes for “The Midnight King” on the official Guild Wars 2 forums.

Lastly, we’d like to share a gallery of screenshots for “The Midnight King” with all of you.

Happy gaming!

 Read More

Soar, Sit, and Mount Up with These New Gem Store Goodies

Soar, Sit, and Mount Up with These New Gem Store Goodies

Wolf Griffon Skin

Wolf’s loyalty caresses your every step and guides you into the frozen skies. The pack within your heart is blessed, high above and far below. It’s a promise from the wild. The Wolf Griffon Skin can be purchased for 1,600 gems.

Fluffy Clouds Glider

This soft glider will take you to the fluffiest heights—fly free and happy on your whimsical adventure! Your new sweeter-than-cotton-candy dream begins over the clouds. This cheery skin is available for 500 gems.

Black Lion Chest Update: Constructive Commenter’s Chest

Inside each chest, you’re guaranteed to find a redeemable Black Lion Statuette, a Fine Black Lion Dye Canister—Blue, and two common items. You also have a chance to find something rarer in the fifth slot, including special items, glyphs, and skins from the Dark Matter Weapon Collection and the Paladin’s Decree Weapon Collection.

Exclusive Item: Council of Commentators Chair

Discuss the action as it unfolds and react with your friends—from the current leaderboard in World vs. World to epic battles against dragon champions!

Shadow Chevalier Weapon Collection

Venture into the shadows and walk the dark path you’ve chosen with your unshakable will. Be merciless as you mete out justice with this sleek weapon collection. These weapon skins are available in exchange for Black Lion Claim tickets or from other players on the trading post.

What’s in Stock

Starting May 24 and continuing for the next few days, select mount skins will be 20% off, including the Synergetics Gyrocycle Roller Beetle Skin, Nightfang Griffon Skin, Primal Spirit Jackal Skin, Dark Monarch Skyscale Skin, and many more! Race the streets with these amazing mounts!

Returning This Week

The world of Tyria is filled with endless stories to discover. These discounts will help you kick-start your journey! Black Lion Instant Level 80 Tickets and all Living World seasons and episodes are 20% off starting today until May 28.

Available Now in the Gem Store!

Log into Guild Wars 2 and press ‘O’ to access the Black Lion Trading Company for these great offers and more! Read More

Studio Update: Guild Wars 2 in Spring and Summer 2024

Studio Update: Guild Wars 2 in Spring and Summer 2024

Greetings, Guild Wars community!

My name is Josh Davis, and I’m the game director for Guild Wars 2®. Today, I’m excited to present the Spring and Summer 2024 Studio Update and give you the latest scoop on what’s coming to Tyria. We have a lot of ground to cover today—from Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure™ to World vs. World to Player vs. Player and more—so let’s dive right into things.

Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure: “The Midnight King”

The final update for Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure, “The Midnight King,” will arrive next Tuesday, May 21. This content will be available for free to all current and future owners of Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure.

These final story chapters will bring the commander deeper into the world of Nayos, to the Citadel of Zakiros, where the indomitable Midnight King himself resides. These story chapters come with expanded playable space in Inner Nayos and a climactic meta-event chain. In addition, this release also includes the Lonely Tower—our latest fractal dungeon, the second tier of the legendary Obsidian armor set, refreshed Wizard’s Vault rewards and challenges, and six new relics. We’ll spend a few weeks monitoring the fractal dungeon and balancing the encounter if needed, and then on June 4 we will introduce the fractal’s challenge mode.

Speaking of challenge mode, we’re excited to announce that the May 21 release will also introduce a challenge mode for the squad-based version of Convergences and its five legendary bosses (yes, a fifth boss is incoming). You’ll fight amped-up versions of each encounter while dealing with stricter resurrection rules. You’ll earn extra rewards for your efforts, and achieving a gold-ranked clear time on all five encounters will net you a new title to show off to all your pals. We’re also adding an in-game leaderboard for all five bosses, so you can compete with your friends for the fastest clear times and bragging rights.

Finally, we have three exciting quality-of-life updates coming with this release. First, squad messages will now appear when hovering over commander icons on the minimap. This will make it easier to identify the purpose of a squad, especially when you have multiple commanders operating on the same map. Second, by popular request, we’re introducing a nifty accessibility upgrade that allows players to customize the color and shape of the targeting reticle while using the action camera mode. And finally, we are increasing the guild membership limit from five to six for all players. Time to make some more friends!

World vs. World Updates

It’s happening! We’re excited to announce that the World Restructuring system will be moving into an always-on beta status beginning with the WvW reset on June 14.

This feature has been a long time coming, and there will undoubtedly be kinks that we’ll need to iron out with the launch, but making the feature perpetually available to players will allow us to iterate on the system more quickly than the limited beta events we’ve run previously . For example, we are continuing to hammer out the remaining queue bugs.

To further mitigate the queue issue in the short term, we’ll add an additional tier to both NA and EU WvW, which will reduce the queue length for maps during prime time. (As a note, the end of the final relinking period will be extended from May 31 to June 14.)

We have a few important changes coming to help prepare for the introduction of World Restructuring. We are increasing the guild membership limit from five to six to give WvW players some added flexibility in creating or joining guilds for World Restructuring. Second, we’re introducing an in-game timer under the name “Next team creation lockout” in the guild panel to help communicate when changes to battle guilds will take effect.

Finally, to help memorialize the worlds we’ve been battling over for the past twelve years, you’ll be able to don a new title to honor them (example: Anvil Rock Veteran). These will be available as a free one-time purchase from Commander War Razor in WvW. We recognize that the world you consider your true home may not be the world you currently reside on, so we’re leaving it up to you to choose the title that means the most to you. Choose carefully!

The May 21 update also brings some quality-of-life and balance adjustments, largely in response to the feedback we’ve been monitoring since our last round of changes on April 16. We’re continuing to observe the impact of recent changes and expect to iterate more on WvW systems in future updates.

The health bar for objective lords will now be displayed in the event UI, making their status much easier to track. Pro tip: clicking the lord’s health bar in the event UI will make them your active target. Works for PvE events, too!
Siege disruptors will now be unblockable.
We’re increasing the base-level and tier 3 supply capacities for keeps by 50 and increasing the amount of supply granted by the Supply Drop tactic by 100 to add some power back to defending.
The Chilling Fog tactivator now heals allied players every few seconds for its duration instead of chilling enemy players.

We’re also planning a round of WvW changes for the July 16 release that are focused on scoring adjustments. We’ll be back in a few months to talk about those changes in more detail!

Player vs. Player Updates

On June 25, we’ll be introducing some quality-of-life and rewards improvements in preparation for the start of the next ranked season on July 2. To add some new build options, we’re introducing two new attribute amulets: Heretic (+1,000 power, +1,000 precision, +500 healing power, +500 ferocity) and Tyrant (+1,000 power, +1,000 condition damage, +500 precision, +500 toughness), and adding Ogre and Tormenting runes.

On the rewards front, our goal is to make ascended armor and weapons more accessible in PvP by increasing the number of grandmaster marks that can be earned each season and decreasing the number of ascended shards of glory needed to purchase ascended armor and weapons. We’ll also be reintroducing reward track potions and adding new sources for karma from PvP rewards. Finally, like the prestigious colored titles we’ve added for WvW and endgame PvE, we’ll be updating the Champion Brawler title awarded for winning 10,000 rated arena games to a colored version.

In the July 16 update, we’ll adjust the frequency of our daily automated tournaments to consolidate teams into fewer events and increase competitiveness. We’ll also add a new weekly tournament event on Sunday in each region that features increased rewards. This seems like a good time to mention that we’ll also be bringing back the Tournament of Legends event on a twice-yearly cadence—and we’ll be back in the near future to confirm the next event date.

We’ll also address some long-standing feedback on the Djinn’s Dominion map in the July 16 update by making some improvements to the secondary map objective and the associated special action skills.

Skills and Balance Update

Our next set of skills and balance updates will arrive on June 25. We’re primarily focused on improving the usability of underpowered skills, utilities, and traits and bringing in outlier builds where necessary. As usual, the Skills and Balance Team will be live on Twitch next Friday, May 24, at noon Pacific Time (UTC-8) to give a preview of the update, and the release notes preview will be live on our forums shortly after. We’ll see you there!

Festivals and Bonus Events

Here’s the full schedule of festivals and bonus events coming to Guild Wars 2 in the next few months:

June 4–June 25: Dragon Bash
July 2: Start of PvP Conquest Season 42
July 2–July 9: Sunken Treasure Week
July 9–July 16: Dungeon Rush Bonus Event
July 16–July 23: PvP Rush Bonus Event
July 23–July 30: Living World Season 3 Bonus Event
July 30–August 20: Festival of the Four Winds

Don’t forget to bookmark our handy event calendar to keep tabs on what’s happening in the game!

Aren’t You Forgetting Something?

Oh, right. What happens after “The Midnight King”? Well, you’ll find out very soon, as it turns out. In the next few weeks, we’ll post a development retrospective blog post for Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure that talks about what we learned from the process and how we’re taking those lessons forward into our next expansion. Shortly after that, you’ll get your first look at what that next expansion has to offer. Between that and everything we talked about above, it’s shaping up to be a pretty exciting summer!

As a final note, I’d like to take a moment to extend a heartfelt congratulations to four remarkable individuals who recently celebrated their 20-year anniversaries working at ArenaNet: Tami Foote (Environment Art Lead), Aaron Coberly (Art Director), Andrew “Frosty” Gray (Lead Designer), and Matthew Medina (Narrative Designer). Thank you for your undying dedication, creativity, and passion. Here’s to many more years of crafting incredible experiences together!

And to our community, as always, thank you for your continued support. We’ll see you in the game!

Josh “Not an Actual Grouch” Davis, Game Director Read More