By John Hargrove September 30th, 2010 Hello, world! My name is John Hargrove, and I am one of the primary designers responsible for the rewards and item systems in Guild Wars 2. I guess I should start by saying that since the very onset of development on Guild Wars 2 we’ve been doing our very best to identify which aspects of the original game design were successful and core to making a true Guild Wars experience. With these ideals as our foundation, we’ve been building a game that stays true to the spirit of its predecessor while simultaneously moving the genre forward. With this in mind, I’d like to delve into a few of the core item-related principals that have shaped our design of the reward mechanisms and item systems in Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars Principle #1: Everybody gets a swing at the proverbial piñata. In Guild Wars 2 we’re fully committed to the concept of rewarding players individually. This is more or less a quick way of saying that we don’t want to design a system where players argue over loot settings, turn to external “out of game” systems to decide who gets what upon downing a boss, or risk spending hours in a dungeon with nothing to show for it due to bad rolls or a ninja looter that hijacked all their treasure. In the case of distributing general monster loot or opening dungeon end-chests, this principle means that each player gets their own roll, so it’s alright if you are soloing and someone begins fighting alongside you. This won’t cause the loot you would receive to degrade in any way, as long as you actively participate in that combat. Likewise, when you get to the end of that big dungeon with your group, you each get to individually open the chest and receive your own personal reward. In the case of gathering materials from things like ore nodes, plants, and the like, this means that when you gather from that resource you use it up for yourself, but not for others. In Guild Wars 2 there is no need to race to beat other people to the same resource node. Take your time ripping that bear’s head off, because no one can walk up and steal that copper node in the back of its cave from you. You may be helping others in your world reach that copper safely, but rest assured that you’re not just clearing a path for a node ganker. I could go on and on with the examples of how we employ this philosophy, but really what I’m getting at is that our overall goal is for players in your world to be seen as a boon to you to help you overcome bigger challenges and larger foes, and therefore earn greater spoils for your time spent in the game. We’d much rather that everyone in the same world felt a common bond in their shared land and saw each other as potential allies. If players find themselves with leftover aggression that they would normally take out on node gankers or ninja looters, we’d recommend they step into World vs. World and kick themselves some otherworldly player butt. Guild Wars Principle #2: Rewards should be worth obtaining. Speaking of bigger challenges and greater spoils, our artists have been working really hard to give each dungeon in the game its own unique set of gear that really speaks to the experience that you had to go through to obtain it. Presently each of our dungeons has, at a bare minimum, one complete, visually unique reward set that includes a full set of light armor, a full set of medium armor, a full set of heavy armor, as well as one entire set of weaponry that is unique to that dungeon. With all of the new eye candy to obtain, you can literally play in any given dungeon until you come out as an entirely different looking character. Of course, we’re working on tons of unique rewards for other facets of the game as well, but I thought that particular example of dedication deserved to be called out! Guild Wars Principle #3: Players should look the way they want to look. As you’ve probably seen in other games, the appearance of your character’s armor and weaponry are often entirely dictated by whatever the best statistical gear in the game looks like. I’m sure a few people reading this right now are already nodding their heads, recalling all those times when high tier gear depressed more than impressed. The worst part is that even when you don’t like a new armor’s look, it doesn’t matter! In these games, you still have to wear it because it’s the best armor and you need it in order to progress. We think it is just flat out unacceptable when games don’t allow you to choose how your character looks. Going forward into Guild Wars 2 we knew we had to trust our players to know how to dress themselves, so we introduced a system that has now become known as transmutation. With the transmutation system, you’ll be able to acquire new items known as Transmutation Stones through our in-game store that allow you to customize your appearance. With transmutation, you take two items of the same type, pick one that is the most visually appealing to you, one that is the most statistically appealing to you, and then you simply combine the two items into what will hopefully become your perfect piece of armor or weaponry. With this system you can keep a “look” for as long as you want. Just because you picked up a cool new piece of armor, it doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the look and feel of your character up to that point (unless, of course, you like the new armor, and that’s fine, too). Guild Wars Principle #4: Players should be able to look truly unique. A big feature of Guild Wars games is the ability to customize a set of armor until it looks unique to you. The original Guild Wars accomplished this visual customization in part with a dye system that let you make your armor pieces whatever color you wanted. As I am writing this, I wonder just how many people out there have gone through a series of quests or dungeons with a friend in an MMO, only to come out with a nearly identical visual appearance simply because they both happened to be playing the same content. It seems ridiculous that the personality of players gets stripped away whenever they try to experience a game world together, with nothing to visually differentiate one player from one another. Fortunately in Guild Wars 2, our team has created a versatile dye system that lets players differentiate their armor colors, but this time around we took things to a whole new level. Now we have not only one dye channel per piece of armor, but up to three separate dye colors per individual piece of armor! Even if you wind up in the same armor as your friend, you can get a dramatically different look by simply utilizing the dye system. As a matter of fact, the Guild Wars 2 dye system is actually so powerful that I’d be doing a disservice to try to briefly sum it up here, so make sure to check out Kristen Perry’s in-depth dye article right here. Now, just one more thing… Guild Wars Principle #5: Upgrading gear should be fun. As a disclaimer to this section, I should start by fessing up that I have been playing MMOs for over a decade now, and for much of that time I have had a bittersweet love affair with sets of items that grow more and more powerful as you collected additional items from that set. The reason I describe my feelings as bittersweet is that while I find traditional MMO item sets utterly irresistible to the collector in me, I also find that it’s nearly impossible to collect a full set of them before I’ve surpassed the intended level range for the gear. To address this issue in Guild Wars 2, we’ve devised a new twist to make these item sets more accessible. By linking the cumulative set bonuses to an upgrade component that you can apply to your armor, you can essentially make your own custom sets. In the following example, this is a cloth crest that a Tailor could make for light armor. Crest of the Legion (1/6) Double-click to apply to a piece of Light Armor (1): +10 Intelligence (2): +20 Perception (3): +100 Maximum Health (4): Thunderclap (50% chance on Critical) (5): +5% Critical Chance (6): +10 to all Attributes As you could probably guess, the more crests you have of the same kind on your armor (up to the set’s maximum number), the better the bonuses you receive. For example, if you use one Crest of the Legion on each of your six armor pieces, you would end up having all of the bonuses in this list. All armor and weapons will have a free upgrade slot, so there will be lots of chances to use upgrades like this to tweak your gear’s statistics to your liking. Bringing it Home Hopefully this gives you a pretty good overview of our goals with the item system, and a few examples of how we’re trying to reach them. Between the transmutation, dye, and upgrade systems, I hope it’s especially clear that our paramount goal is to give players the freedom to make characters that are truly unique and personalized. After all, it’s your story. Well, until next time… You stay classy, Planet Earth!