Hey there, Mists-dwellers! I’m Floyd Grubb, Senior Game Designer. I joined the WvW team after the release of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™, and I’m excited to do my part in supporting this community! It’s been fun to dive in over the past few months and learn the complex nuances of the game mode (Josh tells me to beware of Maguuma?).
A brief introduction: I have over twenty-five years of game development experience, with over ten years in MMOs alone. Prior to joining ArenaNet, I spent some time working on a large-scale Realm vs. Realm game mode very similar to WvW—I expect that might come in handy!
In today’s post I’ll be providing some status updates on our ongoing projects.
First, an update on our efforts to improve WvW rewards. One of the first changes I’m working on is having rewards earned from attacking or defending objectives scale based on the number of enemies you interact with in a battle. Simply put: fights against other players while attacking or defending an objective will result in that objective being more rewarding than it is today. This is a step toward our goal of rewarding individuals for active participation in WvW. Flipping an undefended objective won’t be any less rewarding—but now there will be a stronger incentive to rumble.
Speaking of rewards, here’s a preview of a new WvW-exclusive full weapon set that’s in development. Once they’re ready, we plan to add them as rewards for participating in future World Restructuring betas.
As for the World Restructuring betas, our investigation into the litany of issues that manifest themselves as “queue bugs” persists. Over the last few months, we’ve resolved multiple code issues that accounted for roughly half of the occurrences of the bug. On May 31, we announced that we were increasing the length of the WvW queue “timeout” grace period, in which players must accept their invitation to join a map or be removed from the queue. We had a hunch that this might improve the situation. The good news is that the extended grace period hasn’t increased average queue times, meaning we’ll likely keep it as a nice quality of life change—more time for you to get back to your PC in time to accept the queue when you run off to grab a snack. However, the data we’ve collected so far shows that this change is less impactful than anticipated in reducing occurrences of the queue bug on its own.
We were hoping to have the queue bugs squashed by now, but just like you, we’re growing impatient and are eager to get another test event rolling. We’ve made enough progress that we’re becoming more comfortable moving forward with another beta test of the existing system. We’ll be able to verify that the bug fixes are working at scale and gather a fresh set of data using the latest version of the back end. To clarify, this test will use the same front end system that was beta tested back in January—but with fixes for the queue issue and team placement, and improved matchmaking. This is a very recent decision and we’re working on finalizing the timing. We’ll follow up as soon as we know.
But wait, what about Alliances? Work on World Restructuring and the Alliances feature—both the server infrastructure and the player-facing components—continues to move along. Recently we’ve been designing the front-end interface, which hooks into the back end that our Platform Engineering team has been working on over the last year. World Restructuring might be a complicated beast under the hood, but it shouldn’t be difficult for players to navigate.
As we stated last year, we’re approaching the development of World Restructuring and Alliances differently than other features in Guild Wars 2. We want to share early designs and beta experiences, hear your feedback, iterate, and then work towards the final implementation (not that anything is ever final in game development). This approach will help ensure that we’re delivering the right solution for the community. It’s easier (and less costly) to change course at the beginning than it is at the end.
Today, we’re excited to share some of our internal development user flows and interface mock-ups for Alliances, including creation, invitations, removing guilds, and more. Please take a look and let us know what you think!
This image shows how players will select which Guild they want to represent in WvW Alliances. This is mostly what’s in game already, with some added UX improvements.
This image shows the process a guild leader will use to create an alliance.
This image shows the process an alliance leader will use to invite a guild to their alliance.
Next, we have several screens showing various cases of leaving an alliance.
That’s it for today! We’re looking forward to reading your thoughts on the mockups above on the official Guild Wars 2 forums.
Senior Game Designer
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Guild Wars 2 Game Director Josh “Grouch” Davis here, and we’re back with the latest updates on Guild Wars 2 development.
In our March Studio Update, we confirmed big plans for Guild Wars 2‘s future: the return of Living World Season 1 (which includes a new Strike Mission and challenge mode), new Cantha explorable zone and story content, Steam launch, regular profession updates, and the next expansion. We also included some updates on ongoing efforts like upgrading the game to DX11 and World Restructuring.
However, we have a confession to make. While we’ve been much more transparent about our development priorities over the last year, we must admit that we’ve been keeping some secrets from you. On the bright side, you’ll learn about a few of them today. Sorry, not sorry!
Today’s update is hefty, so I’ve enlisted support from multiple members of the dev team to help relay all the details. We’ll be talking about upcoming Strike Mission reward changes, the work we’re doing to address player pain points, how we’re making raids more accessible, invisible bouncy houses and birthday parties, and our next professions update. Intrigued? Let’s dig in.
End of Dragons Strike Missions
Hi, all, it’s Cameron Rich, Lead Systems Designer for Guild Wars 2. With Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™, we endeavored to expand on the concept of Strike Missions. One of the biggest changes was the addition of challenge modes. In terms of design intent, normal mode acts as an accessible stepping-stone toward more difficult content, whereas challenge mode pushes players to showcase their mastery over the combat system and requires a higher level of group coordination.
We’re happy to report that both the normal and challenge mode versions of strikes are fulfilling their intended purposes—we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of players playing Strike Missions for the very first time, and challenge modes are testing the skill and coordination of our more experienced players. And while life is good, it could be better.
Strike Mission rewards have been an ongoing topic of community discussion since the release of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons, and—wouldn’t you know it—we’ve been listening. On June 28, we’ll be taking another pass on the rewards for completing both normal and challenge mode Strike Missions. To start, the amount of gold that can be earned from completing a strike each week will be doubled. Here’s the updated breakdown:
Aetherblade Hideout: 2 Gold
Challenge Mode: Additional 2 Gold (4 Total)
Xunlai Jade Junkyard: 2 Gold
Challenge Mode: Additional 2 Gold (4 Total)
Kaineng Overlook: 4 Gold
Challenge Mode: Additional 4 Gold (8 Total)
Harvest Temple: 4 Gold
Challenge Mode: Additional 4 Gold (8 Total)
Weekly challenge mode completions will also award 1 Antique Summoning Stone per Strike Mission.
Additionally, a new high-end reward is being added to challenge mode Strike Missions: the Imperial Everbloom Infusion. There will be two ways to obtain it. An account-bound version can be purchased from the Strike Mission rewards vendor, Zazzl, in Arborstone once you have completed all four End of Dragons challenge modes. Completing each challenge mode Strike Mission will provide chances to obtain an unbound version of the Imperial Everbloom Infusion that can be freely traded, for a total of four chances each week.
We’re also making improvements to how we polish these encounters. In early June, we announced that we were delaying the release of the Harvest Temple challenge mode from June 7 to June 28 to give us some additional time to test and tune the content. Bugs are inevitable in game development, but we want players to feel confident that new Strike Missions are high quality and stable. We’ve learned a lot from the last three challenge mode releases and have identified several improvements to our development and quality assurance testing processes and how we leverage our internal team of developer playtesters—all of which are being put in place for the Harvest Temple challenge mode and future releases.
We’re always looking for ways to improve the Strike Mission experience in Guild Wars 2, and we’re committed to supporting the game mode as a core element of endgame PvE. We share the excitement that we’ve seen in the community for Strike Missions and look forward to seeing players experience the Harvest Temple challenge mode on June 28!
Now, I’d like to shift gears a bit and talk about some work we’re doing to address player pain points.
Strengthening the Core
Shortly after the release of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons, we restructured our dev team to support the new initiatives we’ve been discussing with all of you—efforts like Living World Season 1, Steam, etc. However, one of our new initiatives wasn’t scheduled to start right away, leaving us with a small group of developers that needed something to do. We knew that this would be a great opportunity to address some smaller projects that have been sitting on our backlog—things that would benefit veterans and new players alike. Now that the cat is out of the bag, we can also give this team the credit for the Special Forces Training Area and dungeon reward changes that were released on June 7. Here’s a preview of the next set of improvements they’re releasing on June 28.
Dude, Where’s My Mouse Cursor?
We’re adding a new option to the General Options tab that allows you to choose from three cursor contrast modes: Off, Low, and High. These contrast settings are intended to improve the visibility of your mouse cursor, making it harder to lose track of and easier to find if you do. This should come in handy for areas of the game with a lot of on-screen action like raids, meta-events, world bosses, and World vs. World.
Prior to 2014, there was a small fee to repair broken armor after players were defeated in battle. We ultimately decided we didn’t want to punish players this way, so we removed the costs. However, the chore of repairing broken armor remained and has been a mild inconvenience throughout the years. We’re happy to report that after June 28, you’ll no longer need to repair your armor after being defeated—the mechanic is kaput. But we didn’t want to melt down Tyria’s anvils for scrap—there’s something about hammering on one that gets us pumped for adventuring, you know? After the update, repair canisters and anvils will grant a small bonus to your health and defense, with a twelve-hour duration. The enhancement will work in PvE and WvW, but not PvP.
To anvil, or not to anvil? That’s totally up to you to decide now.
Improving Raid Accessibility
While raids are exciting endgame content, they have a high barrier to entry and can be difficult to break into. But that doesn’t mean that players aren’t interested in trying them. In fact, in our regular player surveys, raids are often the top content that players say they would like to experience but for one reason or another haven’t been able to. We want to break down some of those barriers and experiment with a systemic approach to making raid content more accessible.
Our answer is the Emboldened system: an optional mode that progressively ramps up a player’s damage, health, and healing output each time they fail an encounter. Here’s how it works:
Each week, one of the seven existing raid wings will be set to Emboldened mode. Upon entry, raid members will gain their first stack of the Emboldened enhancement, which grants additional health, damage output, and improved healing to aid in their battle against each boss. Each time the raid wipes against that boss, they’ll receive another stack of Emboldened, granting up to 100% additional health, 50% increased damage, and 50% increased healing output. Upon defeating the boss, the Emboldened stack will reset to one. Emboldened mode is entirely optional, and for those who prefer the challenge, it can be turned off by visiting the Emboldened mote inside that raid.
Deadly encounter mechanics will still be deadly—and players will still need to respect them—but this system will give new raiders a chance to ease into learning them.
Note that there are some restrictions to this feature. For one, the Emboldened system will be disabled when any challenge mode is activated. Additionally, certain prestigious achievements are not obtainable when under the effects of the Emboldened enhancement:
Seimur Was Wrong
Down, Down, Downed
We’re also making a few small changes to the existing Looking for Group categories to create separate spaces for new and experienced players: Looking for Group (Training) and Looking for Group (Experienced).
We hope these changes encourage players to take their first step into Guild Wars 2 endgame PvE content and join the tight-knit raiding community. If you’re new to raids and ready to get started, there are some great guides and resources on the web from our friends over at SnowCrows, MetaBattle, HardStuck, and MuklukLabs.
Know Your Boundaries
Hey, everyone, it’s your friendly neighborhood Senior Game Designer, Nick Hernandez, and I’m here to talk about an update we’re making to story instance boundaries!
Instance boundaries are the red outlines around the playable space in story instances. If you’ve played through the personal story or Living World content, I expect you’ve probably been unceremoniously kicked from an instance for having the audacity to walk just an inch over the boundary. Unfortunately, this means you lose your progress in the instance and have to start over. Frustrating.
To address this, we’ve applied “soft instance boundary” tech to existing story instances. If you’ve played through Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons, you’ve probably seen it in action. With this change, all instances will now push the player back into the acceptable bounds of the instance instead of rudely booting them. Imagine if every story instance took place inside of an invisible bouncy house…only without the associated birthday party, clowns, or birthday cake.
That about does it for the core updates coming on June 28, but don’t worry—you’ll be hearing from us again soon.
June Professions Update Preview
Hello, this is Solar, Lead Skills and Balance Designer. I’m here on behalf of the Skills and Balance team with a preview of our upcoming summer profession update on June 28.
Banners, Spotter, and Fury
One major goal for this update is for the same build and equipment to work both in and out of organized play. Unique stacking bonuses to attributes, especially precision, have been a problem here—their existence means that when playing in coordinated groups with Spotter and Banner of Discipline, your critical-hit chance is almost 10% higher than when playing alone.
We saw an opportunity here to make progress on one of our other long-standing goals: raising the floor on player effectiveness and damage output without further raising the ceiling.
In this update, these unique stacking attribute bonuses are being changed to provide boons instead. We’re making the critical-hit chance from them much more accessible by increasing the critical-hit chance bonus from the fury boon from 20% to 25% in PvE and by adding an additional 5% critical-hit chance to many professions’ traits, in locations easily accessible to power builds.
More Access to Key Boons
Having high uptime on critical boons is the strongest indicator of success when playing in group content. Might, fury, quickness, and alacrity all strongly define your ability to successfully tackle challenges in the game. With this update, we’re continuing to expand options for several professions and elite specs, creating more alacrity and quickness support builds.
We’ve also looked at fury and might access across professions and have introduced or increased sources of might, and we’ve changed several traits from self-only sources of fury to now share fury with allies. This means that damage builds will help maintain uptime on these boons and reduce the burden on support roles.
A Present for Each Profession
This update is focused on adding or improving skills, traits, or weapons in each profession, in a way that introduces new builds to try. It was important to us that there was something to be excited about in this update for every profession. Here’s a small selection of what to expect on June 28:
Elementalist: Tempest will now be able to provide party alacrity, with a rework to their grandmaster trait Lucid Singularity.
Engineer: We’ve updated multiple rifle weapon skills to better support engineer power damage builds, and we’ve adjusted minimum and maximum ranges on several range-limited traits (such as Aim-Assisted Rocket, High Caliber, and No Scope) so that there’s an effective range in which all of them can function together.
Guardian: We’ve updated guardian’s signet skills, including a significant improvement to Signet of Resolve.
Mesmer: Chronomancers will be able to effectively choose to provide either quickness or alacrity based on their grandmaster trait selection and do so more easily, with increased radius and application methods that are easier to keep up with moving groups.
Necromancer: Updates to warhorn and the related trait Banshee’s Wail will improve the necromancer’s ability to provide healing to allies.
Ranger: Spirit skills have been overhauled to provide boons and allow rangers to opt in to providing alacrity with the trait Nature’s Vengeance.
Revenant: Legendary Centaur Stance skills and Salvation traits have been updated to better support healing roles, while herald will now be able to provide quickness to allies with the trait Draconic Echo.
Thief: The Shadow Arts trait line has been updated to provide better support options to synergize with specter, as well as updated options for stealth and defensive gameplay.
Warrior: Banner skills have been overhauled to provide boons. Through deploying banners, an update to warhorn’s Charge skill, and the Tactics trait Martial Cadence, warriors can provide quickness to allies.
We’ll be releasing the full profession update notes on Friday, June 24, to give you time to comb through them in detail and plan ahead for the new update. Stay tuned for updates on WvW development later this week!
Until Next Time
That’s it for this edition! We’ll be back in early to mid-July to share our development roadmap through the end of summer. To those that made it all the way to the end, we salute you, and we look forward to seeing you in the game on June 28.
Thank you for your continued support,
—Josh, Cam, Nick, Solar, and the Guild Wars 2 Team
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Hello, my name is Matthew Medina, and I’m a long-standing Narrative Designer here at ArenaNet. When I joined the team on Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™ and was given the assignment of creating the epilogue chapter, I knew that I wanted to accomplish two things with it. First, I wanted us to finally put end credits back into the game. Second, I wanted to add in a moment that I have been personally lobbying for internally since I was the Story Design Team Lead on Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™—the marriage proposal of two of our most iconic characters, Marjory Delaqua and Kasmeer Meade. This blog post will talk about how we got here—first from a game development perspective, and then from the angle of their character arcs.
Jory and Kas have been a crucial part of the Elder Dragon saga since the beginning of Season 1 of Living World back in 2013, starting with their first pairing in the chapter Hard Boiled, in which Marjory is hired by Captain Logan Thackeray to investigate the murder of Captain Theo Ashford. From those humble beginnings, they went on to help us combat Scarlet, take down Mordremoth and the other Elder Dragons, and battle against the God of War, Balthazar (much to Kasmeer’s chagrin). At times they grew apart, only to get back together stronger than ever (you can read the details in Morgan’s section of this blog post).
As their story has evolved, there were two other times the narrative team considered formalizing their relationship and progressing it to the next level; once at the end of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, and again at the conclusion of Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire™. In both previous cases the desire to move their relationship forward was there, but the timing of such an announcement was not ideal, and we ended up putting those plans on the back burner for a future time—perhaps when Tyria was not literally on fire and the characters could have a quiet moment with friends. In Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, it didn’t naturally align with the rapid pacing of the main plot, and in Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, development shifts in the story’s conclusion made it an inopportune time to introduce such a joyful moment into a tense cliffhanger in the epilogue with the return of Kralkatorrik. So, we put their engagement on hold. Again.
Even when we moved into production on Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons content, the proposal was still something that we hadn’t talked about as a team. Now, I have been known to have a wild hair from time to time, and so as I was preparing the epilogue content for one of our internal development gates called “content complete” (which means that the chapter is ready to be played from start to finish by the team leads and stakeholders for the first time) I took it as an opportunity. Since I’d finished all my other tasks, I used my extra time to add the “pocket instance” (dev speak for a story-focused, noncombat moment for a player and their party) at the Dead End Bar as a surprise for everyone.
I did so fully prepared to be told once more that it wasn’t the right time, or that we couldn’t afford to add any more to the game at that point. I knew that even if it ended up needing to be cut, I could at least say that I had tried. As our leads played through the epilogue and experienced the rough proposal party, everyone loved it and agreed that it was finally the perfect time.
With approval secured, the conversation shifted to how we were going to execute such a pivotal emotional moment. From the beginning, I wanted this to be not just a moment celebrating our happy couple, but also a nostalgic button on the entire saga of Dragon’s Watch. This was not as easy as it might sound. We had our share of passionate conversations about who should and shouldn’t be there, and there were suggestions to include other notable characters like Caithe, Queen Jennah, Ellen Kiel, and even Lord Faren. Ultimately, we settled on keeping the group to the core members of Dragon’s Watch—plus Logan, since he was present at their first meeting—to keep the scope manageable and the voice budget in line.
With our cast decided, I turned to fleshing out the chapter, adding the mingling step so that players would be able to chitchat with all their friends and get a small taste of what they might be headed toward after Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons.
Enter Morgan Lockhart, one of our amazing writers, who took my stubbed-in dialogue and began to do what she does best. Morgan wrote the golden path lines, including the fantastic dual proposal itself, and crafted phenomenal exchanges with our guildmates that delivered strong character moments and closed out each of their arcs in the expansion, teasing us with glimpses of what the future may hold. My favorite of these is the suggestion that Marjory and Gorrik (along with Detective Rama and…Ivan?) may continue sleuthing together as part of their very own detective agency. Just don’t call it the “Friend’s Detective Agency”—at least not within earshot of Jory!
But there was one crucial detail that still needed to be addressed: the kiss!
I will let you in on a development secret here at ArenaNet. Because of the nature of the game, a lot of our animation budget is eaten up by combat animations. (Okay, maybe that’s not so secret.) As an action-packed MMORPG, combat animations are much more necessary than those the narrative group would love to have at our disposal. After ten years of Guild Wars 2 development, we have added to our library of noncombat animations, but aside from one cinematic, we have never had much call for characters to kiss. Until now.
Knowing this, I was fully prepared to do what all good designers must do: improvise! In my imagined best-case scenario, there were a few animations on our human female characters that I could have potentially “repurposed” (as long as I hid the results from the animators), or in a worst-case scenario I could have just had them pledge their love to one another with the basic “talk” emotes that we often use for characters in dialogues.
And then the cinematics team came along! As part of the review process we used on Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons, they reviewed some of our more cinematic, designer-crafted in-game moments—which internally we have dubbed cinevents—and granted us the benefit of their expertise on things like camera positioning, staging, character movement, etc. And when they took one look at the proposal scene mocked up in the game, they knew that we couldn’t deliver on that moment without additional support.
Despite their enthusiasm, there was trepidation about how much time their team would have. But thanks in large part to Senior Designer Connor Fallon’s incredibly enthusiastic support, Cinematics Director Chelsey Shuder and her team agreed that we couldn’t ship it at our quality level without providing the characters with custom animations. Cinematics Animator Da-Hee Im was assigned to the task, and her passion and expertise immediately helped us take this to the next level.
Over the course of several weeks, the cinematics animators storyboarded, planned, and executed an amazing sequence of animations. Working with such custom animation assets can prove challenging, as many of the tools we have for controlling animations are focused on combat; in the end, I used a combination of emotes and skills firing in sequence to get them to play as the animation team had storyboarded. However, the final product turned out so much better than I could have imagined.
With the “how” questions answered about the proposal, let’s talk a bit about the “why.” For that, let’s bring in Morgan Lockhart to talk about the characters in more detail.
Writing Kasmeer and Marjory’s Arc
Hi, I’m Morgan Lockhart! I was the writer for the proposal epilogue as well as a few of the other Kas/Jory scenes that fed into their romance subplot over the course of the golden path. When Matthew Medina first “proposed” the beat, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved. As a queer woman, I couldn’t have been happier to be involved with picking this thread up and bringing it to its next big step.
We worked hard to strike a balance between allowing them to develop as a couple and carrying their own story lines. We didn’t want to shackle them together unnecessarily, but we also didn’t want them to be a couple in name only. They both had important jobs to do in Cantha, which necessarily drove them apart for large chunks of the story, but we brought them back at key moments and tried to give you little insights into how they maintained their relationship even when they were apart. If you caught a certain scene in the chapter To Catch a Spider, you’ll know what I mean—but also, what were you doing eavesdropping, Commander? It was important to me to include that scene, because so often queer representation ends up stripped of any sensuality to make it more comfortable for the wider audience.
Of equal importance was to have them together in the last few chapters. I wanted them to deliberately insist they make what might be their final stand together, side by side, because though they are each their own individuals, their relationship is one of the things that forms their bedrock. And then, with the last big battle of the Dragon Cycle won, they were able to move on from it together to the next stage of their lives.
As Medina mentioned before, this beat is something we have considered doing for years, and it never seemed like the right time. Part of the reason for this is the narrative reality that these characters have essentially been “at war” for a decade. The dragons have been their first, second, and third priorities, and they’ve put off the milestones of peacetime life we all take for granted. There’s a beat where the commander expresses surprise that Joon has a child, and Taimi quips that it’s a normal thing to do, “If you don’t spend your time traveling around the world fighting dragons. Just sayin’.” All the members of Dragon’s Watch have had their personal lives on hold for years, and so something we tried to do in the epilogues in general is show how they are all now having to figure out what it means to settle down and live in a postwar era. For some, the answers are fortunately clear. Others will have to continue to search for a bit, while others will never really leave the war behind, no matter how many years go by.
I would have loved to have more time to express more of the impact of those experiences. I touched on it a bit with Braham, who is clearly grappling with his trauma due to the events of The Icebrood Saga (something that was reflected in his scenes I added to last year’s Dragon Bash as well), and Caithe has a beat where she remarks on a sense of confusion as to what she will do next. Of course, there are no entirely lost opportunities in an ongoing game, as there is room to explore that in future releases! I did deliberately avoid assigning too many feelings to the commander, though. While our player character clearly has some elements of a “canon” story, we try to avoid ascribing too much. At the end of the day, this is a role-playing game, and we want you to have the room to fill in what your commander is feeling.
Writing the proposal itself was difficult. As anyone who has tried to write vows or a wedding ceremony can attest, it’s difficult to write about love that plainly without getting a little cheesy—but that’s because the thing being expressed goes so far beyond words. So, I tried to think about their journey together and write something that was simply sincere. Hearing Sumalee Montano and Janell Cox perform the scenes and bringing them together go on my personal list of highlight moments in this expansion, and I’m glad to see it’s meant something to many of you too.
As a final note: to answer Gorrik’s question, “Which of you actually…?” While the answer is “both of them,” of course, in my mind it was Jory who brought it up first—though I imagine they were both thinking it. But in that moment when she rushed to Kas’s side after the defeat of Void Mordremoth, in my mind the feeling of, “I almost lost this woman, and I never want to lose this woman,” shocked something into action that was far overdue for them. I am glad that we—and they— finally found a place of resolution and closure where they could be free to move forward.
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