by Nick Kolan, May 12, 2010 Players closely following the progress of Guild Wars 2 – ArenaNet's ambitious-sounding MMORPG – may have noticed lately that the official website has been getting some lovin'. Today we got information about the "Dynamic Event System" which we understand has the potential to do to traditional MMO quests what Gatorade did to water. We caught up with Colin Johanson, Lead Content Designer for Guild Wars 2, to get more detail on what the team's been up to. ArenaNet's plan is to make questing a much more natural process, where simply by being in a certain area at a certain time, you could get swept up into a siege, or find yourself delivering supplies for a celebration, or perhaps trying to slow – or even halt – the advance of an enemy invasion force. "You're going to have guys running up to you, shouting – in spoken text – "Help! Help! Our town's under attack, please help us!" and if you look off in the distance you'll see fire coming off the top and smoke billowing up from it, and rocks flying from catapults," Johanson says. "You'll see the events happening in the world. You'll hear about it from the characters involved so you don't actually need to read about it." The premise sounds too good to be true, so naturally we had our concerns. For example, what would happen if a player wanted to participate in an event, but had to log off before he could truly get involved? Is there some way he could replay it the way one might replay a quest in a more traditional game? Nope. According to Colin Johanson, "If you need to log off during an event, when you come back you're going to be in a game world that is completely different, and you're going to get to experience completely different events that are just as cool, but just in very different ways. The idea is that you always have something exciting waiting around the corner." It's important to make the distinction between what we're used to – standard, static quests – and what these events are. Quests generally have a specific objective that you are meant to complete, and after that, the quest is over. These events are more complex than that. "They're very cyclical in nature. They don't have a clear beginning or end," Johanson tells us. More importantly, they're multidirectional, and are actually sensitive to the input of the players. In the update, the example of a dredge army marching across the land can go two ways – players either halt the army, or the army passes into an allied village and causes havoc. But depending on when players intervene, the overall course of the event could change. "Events are not just pass/fail. You don't just black and white succeed or black and white beat them. Based on how the players interact with the event means that whatever happens next is different." Stopping the army early may mean that you and your allies push forward and attempt to take the dredge encampment, while taking too long may mean that the dredge have spread into neighboring villages. Stopping them somewhere in the middle could have entirely different consequences, according to Johanson. "Almost all the events in the game are part of chains that branch off into different directions depending on the actions the players take." You won't just see the one event at this village. "We tried to layer multiple chains over the same locations," Johanson tells us, and this is why the player who logged out early may have to wait a while to see that event again. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; "Say you log off and your buddy has this awesome event on Friday night where he defends the frog-people's home city from Orrian undead that are trying to destroy the entire village," he begins to explain. "You might, on Saturday, have a completely different experience where you take part in a giant escort to take a herd of cattle up to a Charr meat festival, and if the cattle make it there, the Charr have the giant festival and a bunch of events chain off. The Charr get drunk and stumble off and attack areas that they shouldn't be in. It's not really that you miss something, it's that you got to experience something different, and you have a different story to tell other people." Some of the events happen with some regularity on their own, while others are triggered by players. "In an Asura map, you could find a small magical device that is the key to open an ancient Asura lab from hundreds of years ago. If you get the key and you go up and stick it in the keyhole, the Asura labs will open and it will kick off a whole event chain." The device, Johanson explains, would be a rare drop, making triggering such an event important not simply for the player who found it, but for everyone in the area. It could be a while before another device were found. Still other events could be entirely random, such as events tied to the game's weather system. "A giant lightning storm could form over the map, and lightning bolts could start shooting down, creating lightning elementals all over the place," Johanson says. "Lightning elementals that cause events that chain out from that, as elementals spread out across the map and start to cause havoc." Sounds electrifying! Get it? If you get it, please leave a comment below saying you get it. We had our worries, though. Events such as these run the risk of being griefer-magnets, giving malicious players the means to prevent other players from gaining any ground in Guild Wars 2. We were assured that was not the case, however. "When we sit down and we discuss each event in the game world, one of the things we discuss is 'Is there any way to grief this event and ruin this experience for other players?' If the answer is 'yes', we redesign the event until the answer is 'no.'" What about the possibility that an event could get stuck, or be too far gone or too imbalanced for players to achieve any change? According to Johanson, that will never happen. Events will progress regardless of whether players are participating in them – or are even in the area – and due to dynamic scaling, will never become too difficult to complete, or too easy to be worth your time. "Because events scale dynamically, when more players run over to an event, more enemies will start showing up to equal out the number of players that are there." Johanson wasn't shy about just how much they were giving players to do. "We've absolutely loaded this game with content. It's almost overwhelming just how much content there really is. We want to have stuff so that there's always something to do as a player." We asked – specifically – how many events they thought there were going to be in the final version; "All we're saying at this time is that there will be thousands of events in the game." The organic flow of the event system should go hand in hand, like wine and cheese, or a hand and a second, different hand, with the way experience and loot will be shared. Without the need to party to gain experience or loot, players working in the same event should no longer have to choose between grouping up with someone who potentially possesses the jerk-gene, and competing for rewards. "We want to get rid of the concept of kill stealing and loot stealing." We have a few worries in this department, too. With anyone involved in a kill gaining full experience and loot from it, there is a distinct possibility that traditionally highly sought-after items (such as those for trade-skills and crafting) will be very devalued and cause a stagnant economy. Johanson understood our concerns; "I will say that we recognize that there are risks in that system and we are making sure that we mitigate those risks and making that system work such that we don't create those economic problems." He gave no specifics, however. At the end of the day, of course, this is all talk. ArenaNet has a pretty good track record, but we've seen countless instances where a trusted studio lists off dozens of innovative features that end up being completely lackluster or don't appear at all. That doesn't mean Johanson and ArenaNet can't walk the walk, of course – they're one of the few studios who might actually be able to deliver on what they promise. Simply put, we're going to have to wait until we see Guild Wars 2 running before we can decide whether to be skeptical or in awe of the strides they are taking with the MMO genre.