Personal Story Overview

Discussion in 'Guild Wars 2' started by Acina, Nov 20, 2010.

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    Acina Admin Officer

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    By Ree Soesbee May 27th, 2010

    My name is Ree Soesbee, and I'm a Lore & Continuity Designer for Guild Wars 2. That means I shape the world design, lore, continuity - and, most importantly, the story of Guild Wars 2. I've been asked to share a little about our philosophy and practice of telling a story in Guild Wars 2, along with information about how you will interact with your personal storyline in the game.

    Hold on to your seats!

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    Making Things Personal

    One of the challenges of a massively-multiplayer game is that in being inclusive to a vast number of people, it loses a lot of the personal interaction that makes single-player RPGs so much fun. When you're looking at the games on the store shelf, it seems you have only two options - a game that you can play with your friends, or a game that has a satisfying personal story. The Guild Wars 2 design team believes that a game should have both.

    We believe that telling a story begins with creating a deep, realistic world. Player characters should be the focus as much as possible, and be offered choices and decisions that meaningfully impact the world around them. NPCs should have understandable motivations, real character flaws, and believable relationships with the player and with each other. Cities should feel like centers of activity. The world's history should make sense. The original Guild Wars had already done a great deal of work in that direction - Tyria is an amazingly detailed fantasy setting, a rich and vibrant world. We wanted to live up to what we had done in the past, and carry it forward into our new game.

    Both Epic and Individual

    There are several distinct, but intertwined, storylines in Guild Wars 2. One is the overall story of the world - the awakening of the Elder Dragons and their ravages and destruction across Tyria. Another is the rise and fall of the adventuring guild 'Destiny's Edge.' We also have a personal storyline shaped for each character at creation. Choices a character makes in this storyline will affect their lives, their homes, and their interactions. Lastly, there are the ongoing stories of the world, with constantly changing events occurring throughout each region that allow the various factions, races, and individuals of the world to interact. Tyria is a busy place!

    We've heard a lot of complaints that nothing you do in an MMO truly impacts the world. Fighting an epic enemy only to see him respawn a moment later, or feeling as if the most important thing you did today was murdering ten rats, can cause a game to have a flat, repetitive feel. In Guild Wars 2, we want to make sure your accomplishments are meaningful, and that story outcomes have an impact. In short, Guild Wars 2 provides stories that are both personally meaningful and epic, and to do so for each of thousands of players - all within the same interactive world.

    Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

    In the Beginning

    When you first build a character in the world of Guild Wars 2, you are faced with many questions. What race will you be? What profession? Most MMOs ask that much, and the answers are fairly straightforward. But Guild Wars 2 takes character creation a step beyond. It offers the player an opportunity to go deeper, with another roster of questions designed to develop a character's personality. These comprise a character's 'Biography,' and cover relevant parts of the character's history as well as their hopes for the future and the story they will experience.

    Players can make multiple characters, choose entirely different answers, and see a completely different personal story - experiencing a different perspective on the epic story as well. In this way, the game is not only more personal, it's also more replayable, ensuring that each time you level a character, you encounter different aspects of Tyria.

    Your character is already a part of the world around them; they have friends, enemies, and a past. As the character advances, different stories will become available. As the game progresses, biography choices and decisions made in the game will shape your character's future. Every character experiences an interactive, distinct tale. We want you to build a character, not a character sheet.

    Each piece of the character's individual story is important, because it gives purpose to their defense of Tyria against the Elder Dragons. When the player gains an emotional investment in the personal story, they gain meaningful reasons to step forward and take the battle to the enemy - to defeat the dragons before everything they love is lost. No matter the character's individual background or choices, their city, race, friends, and companions are all threatened by the rise of the Elder Dragons.

    Tell Me a Little About Yourself…
    A character's biography will influence their storyline immediately. Once you have created your character's race, class, and gender, you may choose your physical appearance - and there are a ton of options! From there, you are offered a chance to answer several detailed questions about your character's personality, history, and background.

    Some of these questions are defined by earlier choices - a character's race, class, or heritage. An asura will be asked what college they attended (Synergetics, Dynamics or Statics), while a human will be asked to define their social background (Gentry, Commoner, or Streets). Other questions might establish that your character has sympathy for a particular lesser race. A charr would have little opportunity to meet the peace-loving quaggan, as quaggan are sea-creatures and Ascalon has no coastal territory. So, while the game may have stories that focus on the quaggan, skritt, ogres, hylek, and grawl, a charr character chooses between grawl, skritt and ogres. A sylvari character, coming from the coastal Maguuma jungle, instead chooses between hylek, skritt and quaggan. In this way, we've made certain choices distinct to each race.

    In order to develop your character's personality, the biography also has questions that are applicable to all races and classes. If you describe your character as intimidating and unfriendly, the reactions of NPCs will be different than if you choose to portray yourself as charming and kind. If you are simply making an alt character to see if you enjoy a class or race, you can choose 'random selection,' and these questions will be instantly filled out for you. But if you take a moment and answer, your character's story will be tailored to meet your interests, and match your vision of the person you have created within the world of Tyria.

    Home, Sweet Home
    A player's biography choices immediately tailor physical parts of the game to their character. Each character is given a home instance, personalized to their biography choices, located in their racial capital - Hoelbrak for the norn, the Grove for the sylvari, and so forth. Within this home area, things are more personalized to your character. Your home instance never stops updating; as your character becomes more involved in their story, it will alter accordingly. Two norn will quickly differentiate their personal area through choices in the storyline. They will encounter different adventures, make different decisions, and their home will change to match their story.

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    In Media Res

    Stories are occurring throughout the world of Tyria. The Elder Dragons are awakening, the iconic adventuring party known as Destiny's Edge has fallen apart, and the nations of the world are fraught with difficulties - and in some cases, on the edge of war. A character interacts with and experiences these stories at their own pace, and significant decisions you make impact your character's story during the play of the game.

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    The Iconics
    Destiny's Edge was once a brave alliance of heroes dedicated to preventing the dragons from destroying the world. They have been torn apart, and old wounds prevent them from unifying. These heroes must be gathered once more, by the player character, for a final assault against the dragon of Orr.

    Each of the races has an iconic figure – Rytlock Brimstone, Logan Thackeray, Eir Stegalkin, Caithe, and Zojja. Like the player character, the iconic has a history, a personality and a story to tell. Each one has their own opinion on the others, complete with misperceptions, assumptions, harsh truths, and inaccuracies. As the character progresses through the world, their relationship with the members of Destiny's Edge will also evolve. The player character has the opportunity to learn more about the guild's history and to befriend the various Iconics, becoming a friend, or even a confidant, and possibly even helping to reforge Destiny's Edge. By helping them face their differences, the player character sets the stage for the overarching storyline of the game, and prepares for one of the largest and most epic battles in Guild Wars 2 - the fight against Zhaitan, the dragon of Orr.

    The Orders
    Other organizations know about the Elder Dragons, and recognize Zhaitan as an imminent threat. Each group has a unique flavor and a distinct strategy for defeating the Elder Dragons. A player can choose to join one of these organizations, making that decision through their character's personal story. At that point, the story of the order becomes available, providing new interactions and events. Each order takes a divergent view of the world. A member explores events specifically from that order's point of view. A major storyline event might impact everyone, but each order will respond differently, as per their unique philosophy.

    The Order of Whispers
    The Order of Whispers originated in the nation of Elona, long before the rise of the goddess Kormir. Now the Order has found another purpose: to slow the rise of the Elder Dragons, and eventually, discover a way to put them back to sleep. The Order of Whispers does not believe the dragons can be physically destroyed; instead, the Order looks for methods to escape their full awakening and the inevitable aftermath. The Master of Whispers has spies, thieves, and black-ops agents within every nation on Tyria, infiltrating major governments at the highest levels. Diplomacy is meaningless against the dragons. Weapons are useless. Only returning the Elder Dragons to their long sleep can save the world.

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    The Durmand Priory
    The members of the Durmand Priory are dedicated to protecting knowledge and lore. Rarely combatants or politicians, they offer their services as advisors, tutors, and chroniclers for every major race in the world. The Durmand Priory was founded before Orr rose and a massive tidal wave caused by Zhaitan's awakening flooded Lion's Arch. Armed with a storehouse of wisdom, their members gather lost knowledge, long-forgotten history, and legends. They are willing to share their knowledge, revealing information cautiously but freely, so that others can act upon it for the betterment of all races. They do so in the hope that intellect, or some lost piece of knowledge, can save the world from the rise of the dragons.

    The Vigil
    The Vigil is a powerful fellowship of individuals bound by an oath to defend those in need, fight against the darkness, and offer help to those who cannot aid themselves. Anywhere the Elder Dragons send minions, the Vigil will face them and stand against their spread. The Vigil wants to face the enemy directly, testing Zhaitan's power in the hope that such methods can one day be used against the dragon itself. They believe that the Elder Dragons grow more powerful as each day passes, and that those who do not fight now are giving the world away by standing passively aside. Those who dislike the Vigil's methods call them idealistic, but they are not naive. These crusaders understand that the world is a dangerous place. They intend to be an army of light against the onslaught of darkness.

    ....
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    Acina Admin Officer

    The Nuts and Bolts

    So, how do the mechanics of story interaction work? An excellent question, but one with many answers. Let's cover a few of the means by which the storyline concretely operates within the mechanics of the game.

    With all these choices in the game, how many story combinations are there?
    Thousands. Right now (the specific numbers might be tweaked in development), there are about ten biography questions, with three to five different answers for each. There are unique stories for your race, with minor alterations based on your class choice or other factors. Each of the stories in the game has at least one major moment of choice which can alter the chain of events, making every story a different experience. Plus, the stories for each order, which are separate, also have moments of choice. There are different stories for each of the Iconics, with which you can interact, and the story of the Elder Dragon of Orr itself. Really, the number of stories is gigantic, and it will only get bigger over time.

    Helping Others
    Although each character's story is personal, a player can choose to invite friends along. By doing so, that player allows others to help them achieve their goals and watch their story as it evolves. A character's story is designed to be fun for a solo player, but can also scale up, much like events, to allow for a group to participate. Friends can assist each other to complete their goals - and by doing so, see different parts of the Guild Wars 2 story that they might not have seen in their own tale.

    Rewards
    Choosing specifics of your character's biography, or making decisions during a storyline, will alter your character's story within the game. Some of these differences will be tangible, like having special NPCs or merchants in your home instance, getting pretty town clothes, or seeing special cinematics. On occasion, completing a storyline might give you less tangible 'prestige' rewards, such as titles or revealing special lore. However, while we want to make the stories different, it should be stressed that we are not planning to give any game play advantages based on your decisions. Story choices will not affect how powerful your character becomes, what weapons they use, or what skills they can access. It will not give your character unique benefits, and it will not alter your character's capabilities. While no storyline effect will alter the mechanics (or power level) of your character, all the stories, experiences - and the flashy fun stuff - are distinct.

    Events
    A character's story is independent from the greater activities happening all over the world. If a player does not want to continue their storyline on a particular day, there are thousands of events, activities and games happening across the world. A character's story is their personal, individual interaction with the Guild Wars 2 world, but it is only one aspect of the game. Players can also engage in world events and epic multiplayer instances, join parties and seek out new territories, or uncover lore hidden in the far reaches of Tyria.

    A Record of Your Deeds
    When a character answers the initial questions of their biography, those answers are recorded as a history page that can be opened and read like a journal. This shows the player their character's individual background, with all of the biography answers incorporated into the story of their life. Each storyline that the character completes during their progress in the game presents them with another page in this history, recording the character's adventures as well as chronicling the decisions made along the way. The player can read through their progress and remember the feats and choices of their past.

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    The Hereafter

    MMOs have become extremely popular, and with their advent, some feel that personal story of a unique character has been abandoned. Guild Wars 2 is fighting back against that perception, giving players both the widespread, fully interactive feeling of a multiplayer game as well as the customized, choice-based story one expects from a personal role-playing game. In both cases - the epic and the personal - our goal for Guild Wars 2 is to bring enough story pieces to the table to allow a player to pick and choose their own; to essentially let the player tell their own story within the environment of our world.

    Guild Wars 2 tells the tale of the rise of the Elder Dragons of Tyria, the last chance for all nations to come together to save their world - but most importantly, it is the story of YOU, the player within that world, and the heroic adventures and tales you experience in this amazingly expansive world. Our philosophy is that the player is the most important part of the game. ArenaNet is bringing to life a massive world of events, storylines, and characters - all we need is you. So now I just have to ask you one thing...

    What is your story?

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