An Interview With Guild Wars 2's Jon Peters

We sat down with Guild Wars 2's Jon Peters to talk about competitive PvP, combat, and GW2's eSports aspirations!

It's no secret that I've been a huge proponent of competitive PvP in MMORPGs from the very beginning, and even though many attempts have been made to generate a robust tournament-friendly MMO (Fury, World of Warcraft 3v3 arena, the original Guild Wars), the results have been less than stellar. That being said, Guild Wars 2 probably has the highest chance of any MMORPG to break into the mainstream competitive light and I, for one, could not be more excited. Throughout my experiences in the press beta two weeks ago, I spent much of it testing out all sorts of PvP builds. Near the end of the testing window, I also got the opportunity to grill ArenaNet Game Designer Jon Peters about the various design choices made to help GW2 succeed as a competitive MMORPG.

Of course, I didn't record any of it.

Regardless, I did manage to catch up with Jon once again to get his thoughts in a more formal manner, so without further ado, check out our interview with Game Designer Jon Peters on Guild Wars 2's combat, PvP, and eSports aspirations! 

ZAM: Hi there and thank you for taking the time to talk to us about Guild Wars 2's PvP and combat systems!

Jon Peters: Thanks for being interested. We love to talk about this stuff whenever we can.

ZAM: First of all, congratulations on the successful press beta test! In your recent blog development update, you detailed some changes made after the test, but was there anything else you liked from watching us play over the weekend?

Jon: For me, it was how much I enjoyed playing with new players and teaching them things about the game.

ZAM: In an MMORPG like Guild Wars 2, where skill and timing matter just as much as your equipment and levels, it seems like skill disparity can become a real balancing problem in PvE. In an optimal situation with highly skilled players, we'll see things like conditions being stacked, cross-profession skills being utilized, and boons distributed to right players. In less than optimal situations, however, it's easy to see everything winding down to disaster. In this way, how do you craft content that will challenge even the best players without frustrating the less "skilled" ones?

Jon: I think we generate different types of content. Some is meant to really challenge even the most experienced players, while other content is meant to appeal to more casual players. We also worked really hard in our design to make the skill floor a lot higher than most other games of this nature, to make sure you could bring your character over to PvP and feel like you could just start playing.

ZAM: Given Guild Wars' renown as a competitive PvP-focused game, will there be any plans to extend that competitiveness to PvE encounters? Something like leaderboards for completing elite events and dungeons the fastest?

Jon: We did do some stuff like this in Guild Wars: Factions so it is something we do enjoy.  However, there are no current plans for this.

ZAM: I noticed that, while players can modify their utility skills, healing skills, and elite skills with some variation, weapon skills remain the same five abilities from level 1 to level 80. Was this done to create more guided foundations for players to build on (ie: rifle engineer skills versus pistol engineer skills are very different, and so require different supplemental skills to maximize their potential), or are there plans to add more customization with weapon skills going forward?

Jon: This was done for a variety of reasons, ranging from giving players a leg up on build-making to more clearly differentiating between characters to simplifying balance. Keep in mind when picking weapon skills that you are managing either two weapon sets and swapping between them, or four attunements in the case of the elementalist, or up to four kits and a weapon set with the engineer. You are making decisions about when to swap and how to combine skills from different weapons by swapping.

On top of that, many have skill chains that you can go through or break out of, toggle skills that can detonate previous skills for other effects, and a lot of versatility within each skill. For example, Savage Leap can be used to close on enemies, escape from enemies or jump over terrain gaps.

ZAM: You've decided to really level the instanced PvP playing field by giving players access to all the equipment and skills they need to remain competitive. While it's clear that ArenaNet has big plans for competitive team-based PvP, will there be any rewards (or forms of progression) for players who simply want to jump into the queue day after day?

Jon: Let me first point out there is no real 'queue.' Games are hot-join based so that means they are always running and once you get in a "server" you can keep playing the map rotation with the same players to build some community.

That being said, there are a few forms of progression. The first is a PvP resource called Glory. Glory is earned by playing in matches and players can spend it to obtain new weapon and armor skins for PvPing. There are also PvP achievements and statistics that we track. Finally, we have tournaments for more organized players.  Those are focused 5v5 tournaments and are the true replacement for GvG. We'll have more on those in the future.

ZAM: Speaking of competitive team-based PvP, eSports has been making a big push into the public sphere, with more players turning to streams to generate consistent revenue while playing in tournaments for the prestige and bigger cash prizes. Do you have any major plans to support eSports gaming in Guild Wars 2 that you can share?

Jon: Absolutely. We consider it to be one of the primary goals of Guild Wars 2 competitive PvP to make it into an eSport. We plan to have daily tournaments, monthly tourneys and a yearly world championship. I can't give out tons of details on these yet, but I just wanted you guys to know that we plan to have these things and support them. 

ZAM: One of the big requisites of being a good eSports game is how it translates to a spectator sport and if audiences can understand what's happening without that deep knowledge of the game. By making GW2's PvP -- like Guild Wars' GvG-- objective based rather than deathmatch-based, how do you think this will help the game's accessibility?

Jon: It offers cool splits. 8v8 is obviously too big. 7v7 is pretty much the same. 6v6 can be cool, but it creates even matches (3v3 or 2v2v2) which aren't always fun to watch, since teams might just stand around not wanting to engage. In 5v5 you get great splits that are uneven and encourage action. 5v5 is also a great number of people to have in a team, and since a lot of other games ask you to play with five friends, it felt like a great number. 

In Conquest, capture points are just our way of getting players to fight. It prevents turtling and gives new players a very easy way to help their team.  See a point you don't own? Go to it. Are people attacking a point you do own? Go to it. It also gives us a nice set of layers to observe. The first thing is the score.  Anyone can look at the score and know who is winning by who has a higher score. Then after that they can look at the state of the objectives and start to understand that next layer. After that they can start to look at player positioning and builds and get into the real nitty-gritty strategy. If you compare this to something like football, score is their first layer. Field position and down is their next layer, and offensive and defensive formations is their 3rd layer.

ZAM: And that's all we've got for now! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions; we're really excited to see if players can pick up on Guild Wars 2's deep combat system!

Jon: Thank you. Let me just leave you with these thoughts (mostly stolen from the eloquent Jonathan Sharp). Jonathan, Izzy and I all have at one time in our past played Starcraft, Quake, Quake2, GW1, TRIBES, and other games at a semi-pro level. We have been on the other side of the fence and can appreciate the perspective of those players. GW2 is trying something new, and we're gonna try to blend the best of the old world with a new game style that asks players to employ skill sets from different genres. We want it to become a major eSport, and hope to make the right decisions that will make that happen in the long run.

Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief


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# Mar 06 2012 at 12:19 PM Rating: Decent
I'm very interested in the spectator and replay tools - those are vital for eSports
# Mar 06 2012 at 12:48 PM Rating: Decent
They've said observor mode won't be in at launch, but it will be added not too long after. I suspect this won't be a huge deal, since teams need some time to train with the game.
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