Eric Flannum (Lead Designer) April 29th, 2010 In this two part talk with Eric Flannum, ArenaNet's lead game designer, he talks about Guild Wars 2's Skill System, Weapons, Professions and Races in the upcoming MMO. He drops a bombshell, it will not be a successor of the title dual class system. So what can fans of Guild Wars look forward instead, read on to find out. Hi! I’m Eric Flannum, the lead designer for Guild Wars 2. Over the next few months, we’ll be telling you about the professions, races, lore, and game systems of Guild Wars 2, as well as talking about our design philosophy and thoughts about the game. First up: combat! The Basics We’ve got a lot of amazing things planned for combat in Guild Wars 2, and I’ll try to cover as many of them as possible before wearing out my welcome. Let’s start with the basics. One of our priorities in developing Guild Wars 2 has been to make the simple act of moving around and interacting with the world an enjoyable experience for our players. We often refer to this as introducing “joy of movement” into the game. This means being able to jump and swim freely, but it also translates directly into combat. To reinforce the importance of movement in the game, we want your character’s position in combat to really matter. You’ll see a lot of attacks in Guild Wars 2 that encourage and reward tactical player movement and positioning. To illustrate what I’m talking about, I was watching two of our game designers—Jon and Isaiah—play the other day. Jon is using his shield to deflect the fire breath of a drake, when Isaiah hits the drake from behind with a skill called Devastating Hammer, launching it into the air. The drake is sent flying over Jon’s head, who immediately turns and uses a skill called Savage Leap to impale and finish the drake right as it hits the ground. This was a very cool looking (and effective!) sequence of events that flowed very naturally from how combat in Guild Wars 2 works. We want combat in Guild Wars 2 to really be visually appealing. We want you to be able to identify the skills being used at a glance and also have a good idea of what that skill is doing. Does a skill have an area of effect? Is it doing damage? What type of damage? Our goal is to design skills that are visually unique and explain them without overly complex skill descriptions. This has resulted in a lot of distinct and impressive skill effects in the game. Even simple skills like fireballs explode in such a way that you can clearly see the area that they will affect. Beyond your typical fireballs and lightning bolts, you’ll see skills that create giant crushing stone hands, turn their users into massive tornadoes, and summon flocks of vicious birds of prey (a particular favorite skill of many people after they see it in action). The Skill System Much like in Guild Wars, the skill bar in Guild Wars 2 is limited to a set number of skills. Like a collectible card game, we provide the player with a wide variety of choices and allow them to pick and choose skills to create a build that best suits their particular play style. For example, one Guild Wars 2 warrior might decide to build his character around gradual damage which causes his opponents to bleed out, while another may choose to knock his opponents down, controlling their movement with slow, large attacks. Both warriors can choose to equip the skills that matter most to them. It is also very important to us that our skill system be simple to use, leaving the screen as clean and unintimidating as possible. All of this combines to give us a skill bar and skill system that’s a bit different than what you’d typically find in an MMO. The Ten-Slot Skill Bar The first five skills on the skill bar are not slotted directly by the player; instead they are determined by the player’s choice of weapon and profession. Because of this, we can ensure that each weapon is balanced with a fun combination of skills. For example, a warrior wielding a mace and shield would get access to strong but slow damage skills like Obliterate, as well as powerful defensive skills such as Block and Shield Bash. A warrior wielding a greatsword would have access to a lot of movement-oriented skills like Rush, and area-of-effect skills like 100 Blades. In each case, the warrior’s first five skills are determined by what he’s holding in his hands. Weapon skills also take profession into account, so a warrior wielding a sword will have different skills than a different sword-wielding profession. To provide additional variety to the mix, most professions can have two different weapon sets equipped and can very quickly and easily swap between the sets. For example, a warrior might keep a longbow or rifle for engaging foes at a distance, and then switch to a hammer when that enemy gets close. We’ve talked about the first five skills being determined by weapon and profession. What about the second five? These skills are all chosen by the player from a pool of skills determined by both profession and race. To slot a skill, a player simply clicks on a skill slot and it will bring up a list of skills that can be put into that slot. One of these slots is dedicated to healing skills that replenish the health of the character and his allies, while another slot is dedicated to elite skills that trigger visually spectacular and powerful effects. No matter what type of skill is involved, it’s important that we give the player a diverse set of tools to choose from so that he can create a build that he’ll enjoy playing. For example, a human elementalist can choose to bring Aura of Restoration, which is a buff that heals him every time he uses a skill, or he can choose to bring Glyph of Healing, which is a more straightforward heal. A warrior might take the Frenzy skill, which will fill his adrenaline gauge instantly; the shout skill Fear Me! which inflicts the weakness condition on surrounding foes; or the Banner of Courage skill, which inspires his allies and increases their melee damage. Elite skills are designed to be infrequently-used, ultra-powerful skills that have a dramatic impact on the game. An elementalist can call upon the power of the wind to shape-shift into a tornado that knocks enemies around and inflicts heavy damage, while a warrior might choose to harness the power of Destruction, to make all of his blows inflict area-of-effect damage. Part 2, Weapons, Professions and Races Weapons One of the things that became apparent early in the development of Guild Wars 2 was that we needed a diverse set of weapons to support our skill system. The full list of standard wieldable weapons in Guild Wars 2 is as follows: One-Handed: Axe, dagger, mace, pistol, scepter, and sword. Two-Handed: Greatsword, hammer, longbow, rifle, shortbow, and staff. Offhand only: Focus, shield, torch, and warhorn. No single profession is able to use all of these weapons, and some of them can wield a lot more than others. Many professions can also wield a one-handed weapon in their offhand. A weapon in the offhand will have different skills than that same weapon wielded in the main hand. A warrior, for example, can learn to dual-wield and choose to equip two swords, which would give him three skills from the sword in his main hand and two skills from the sword in his offhand. Environmental Weapons So the weapons you’re currently holding in your hands determine your first five skills. This system is the basic building block of Guild Wars 2 combat, but when playing around with it we found that we could extend it into a huge variety of cool situations. For example, when a player interacts with a siege weapon, his first five skills change to skills that are specific to that siege weapon. A player might encounter a boulder in the world and, upon picking it up, find that his skills have changed so that he can now throw that boulder. Discovering a drake nest might yield eggs that can be picked up, and then eaten or thrown. The things a character can do with an environmental weapon vary by profession or race. An elementalist with a boulder can not only throw it, but can launch it into the air, causing it to rocket down from the sky with the impact of a meteor. In addition to objects that are simply found in the world, many of these environmental weapons are created spontaneously through various events and activities. Wooden planks used to smack enemies can be gained by killing oakhearts, or found in the rubble caused by centaurs breaking down a wooden gate. Breaking a barstool over the head of a rowdy bar patron can yield a chair leg that can be used to great effect as a club. These are just a few of the many environment objects that players will be able to interact with. There are even a few professions whose mechanics are built heavily upon these sorts of interactions, like the elementalist skill Conjure Flame that creates several large flaming rocks that can then be picked up and thrown at the enemy. Professions Choice of profession will of course have a huge impact on how the game plays. There are eight professions in Guild Wars 2, many of which will be familiar to fans of Guild Wars, as well as a few professions new to the Guild Wars world. Each of these professions is roughly categorized by the type of armor they wear: scholars wear light armor, adventurers wear medium armor, and soldiers wear heavy armor. Currently there are three scholar professions, three adventurer professions and two soldier professions. When designing our professions it was very important to us to make each of them feel as unique and different as possible. In addition to weapon, armor and skill choice, we’ve developed a number of cool profession mechanics for each one. We’ll be revealing new professions on our website, so it should start becoming apparent just how much we’ve tried to push the unique play style of each of them. Many players from Guild Wars are familiar with the concept of secondary professions. We included secondary professions in early versions of Guild Wars 2, but due to the unique mechanics of each profession and the increased role of race in character customization, they are no longer a feature of the game. We feel that this decision will allow us to create a more balanced game with really distinct professions that are fun to play. Cross Profession Combos It’s very important that professions in an MMO have interesting ways to interact with each other. In the past this has mostly been limited to healing and buffing teammates and managing agro in combat. We wanted to expand considerably upon the types of teamwork available to our players. With this in mind, we’ve implemented a system of cross-profession combinations. A warrior and an elementalist playing together could combine their abilities in several different ways. The elementalist could drop down Static Field, which is an area-targeted lightning effect. A warrior who fires a rifle bullet through the static field would cause his shot to be charged up with electricity, inflicting additional damage. If that didn’t suit their style, then the elementalist might drop a Wall of Fire in front of a group of enemies. The warrior could enter the firewall and use Cyclone Axe, an attack which causes him to spin rapidly, sending the firewall outward and hitting his foes. There are literally hundreds of combinations for players to discover. Races A player’s choice of race is also an important decision which will affect his combat prowess. We’ve already discussed how a player can choose racial skills among his second five skills. These skills are designed to provide the player with additional options that capture the flavor of his particular race. A sylvari warrior might choose to bring Grasping Roots, which immobilizes a foe, while an asura warrior might choose to bring Arcane Blast for some additional ranged damage. A player can also choose to bring elite racial skills. A norn elementalist might take the norn skill Wolf Form and transform into a giant half-norn half-wolf able to tear across the battlefield, savaging enemies. A human might bring the Hounds of Balthazaar, a skill which summons two massive fiery dogs into the battle. Racial skills can combine with profession skills to give players a wealth of choices when deciding how they want to play their characters. In the not so distant Future What I’ve covered here is just the tip of the iceberg! I hope that you all have a clearer view of how combat in Guild Wars 2 works, what some of our goals with the combat system are, and why we’ve made some of the decisions we’ve made. I also wanted to note that we have an iterative development process here at ArenaNet. What that means is that we like to implement things early, then play them and see how they are working out. If a feature isn’t living up to our expectations, we’ll change it, sometimes even cutting it entirely. Anything that I’ve talked about is subject to change if we find it just isn’t working. Look for the next update of this type to be from our Lead Content Designer Colin Johanson, who’ll talk to you about our dynamic event system and why it will make playing Guild Wars 2 a very different experience from a more traditional quest-based MMO.