Guild Wars 2 Interview: Reinventing Tyria

Can't get enough info on Guild Wars 2? Interested to learn more about the Sylvari, Norn, Asura, and Charr? Read this interview to find out all sorts of little details about your favorite race!

It seems like the folks at Guild Wars 2 have set a blistering pace for the release of game information over the past month. With the unveiling of the Elementalist and the corresponding gameplay associated with this epic spellcaster and beyond, we’ve learned more about the game than we had garnered throughout the past few years since the title’s unveiling. From skills to dynamic events to combat, we’re starting to really see what kind of systems we might expect in the game.

However, one of the areas that we’re still trying to learn more about is the actual world that exists in Guild Wars 2. We do know a few key facts regarding elder dragons and chronology, but the GW2 designers and storytellers have remained fairly hush-hush on everything regarding the newest race – the Sylvari – and some of the more in-depth, character-based interactions that players will be experiencing while playing their new avatars.

So while the ZAM team was in Seattle for the LOGIN 2010 conference, we took a trip out to the ArenaNet studios to find out exactly what’s going on in the latest iteration of Tyria. We definitely learned some new tidbits… so much that we had to split our interview into two different articles! We were lucky enough to sit down with the "lore gurus" Bobby Stein and Ree Soesbee, so they had plenty to say about the different ways they've gone about building their expanded world. Additionally, we’ll be releasing another interview on combat and gameplay soon, so stay tuned folks; we have a whole GW2 blowout on the way!

ZAM: A few months ago, you released the “Voices of Tyria” trailer that featured a host of relatively famous actors and actresses, but since then we haven’t really heard much about the voice over work. What can you tell us about the VO? What was your reasoning to go with voice overs rather than text?

Bobby Stein: When we started looking at how we were going to take Guild Wars into the future, there were a number of things we wanted to add or enhance within the game to give it that larger scale feeling. Things like voice over were a really big part of that effort, so we sat down and discussed, with a variety of members from the design and writing team, our wish lists regarding the VO work.

The original Guild Wars didn’t have a lot of voice over work in it, and it was pretty much relegated to cinematics. Without going into too much detail, Guild Wars 2 has significantly more voice content because we’ve learned that it’s much easier to tell a story and engage people when they’re listening and watching action unfold rather than reading a cluttered box.

Ree Soesbee: One of the things that seems to be distinguishing the big and successful games from the flash-in-the-pan games, is how a player operates in the world [the developer has created]. It’s how immersive a world is. Does the player really get into the world and feel like they can change what’s going on? Do they feel like the world around them is alive?

Voice is indescribably important in that. If you look at the top four or five games of the last year, most of them have had significant amounts of voice, and much more than most MMOs. [The Guild Wars 2 team] didn’t want to be the past… we wanted to be the future.

ZAM: So are you still using that cinematic style like you did in the original Guild Wars?

That’s a yes/no question. Are there cinematics for the purpose of storytelling? Yes.

Are they like Guild Wars 1? Not quite, no.

ZAM: It’s not a “pull you out of the situation” sort of cinematic style, like the first game?

Yeah, and that’s one of the areas where single player games really differentiate themselves from MMOs. You can reach a part in the game, pause the action, sit down and watch an interesting cinematic, and then move on with the story.

In an MMO, everyone else is standing around going “C’mon! C’mon! What are you doing?” Or one party member has seen a cinematic while the other hasn’t, and then you make the whole party wait.

We don’t think that’s fun, so we’ve done everything we can to give you the same amount of storytelling – the same amount of feeling that lets you know that your character is alive – without jerking you out and shoving you back into the story.

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