By Rick Ellis September 21st, 2010 Video games have evolved far past the button-mashing days when your entertainment was easy to forget because the game was simple. Games today often influence our emotions, making us feel as though we are part of the story, part of the game universe, and that we matter in important ways. The end result is that, very much like other forms of entertainment, we find ourselves drawn to the experience even when we aren’t in-game. Proof of this are the fan sites, forums, and other applications that we devour in order to continue the in-game experience. The bragging, information sharing, and verbal sparring we engage in on these sites are all signs of high levels of passion and our desire to continue the experience outside of the game. This is where my team comes in. My name is Rick Ellis, and I’m a Tech Director at ArenaNet, leading a dedicated extended experience team that provides extensions for Guild Wars 2. These extensions allow players to participate in and contribute to the Guild Wars 2 universe in relatable and interesting ways without requiring a gaming rig. The use of web and mobile technologies means this can be done virtually anywhere. You shouldn’t be wondering what your friends are doing in-game; you should always be connected to them to chat. You should be able to help or otherwise contribute to your guild or the game. While we’ll be providing mobile and web apps for our Marketplace and Hero Viewer, along with functionality you’ve already seen in other MMOs, these are not what we refer to as extended experience components. Why, you ask? These applications, while useful, don’t really allow players to participate in the game world. The auction functionality of the Marketplace gets close, but it’s essentially a solo activity that has little to do with the actual gameplay experience. I know people will argue this point, but think of it this way: not many MMO players play a game just for the auction capabilities, but many play to socialize with their friends. One thing that separates what we’re doing from the rest of the MMO market is that we aren’t using a simple, one-way connection to get information from the game. We have constructed a high-speed connection to the Guild Wars 2 server and database architecture, allowing us to not only retrieve information from the game but also push data into the game in real time. It’s really this key piece of technology that opens the door for us to create an almost endless number of applications. This is why we referred to our PAX demo as the “tip of the iceberg.” For those of you who were unable to attend PAX this year, I’ll describe our demonstration in more detail. We were showing an iPhone and iPad, both running a real-time world map display. We demonstrated the ability to watch your friends move around in the game and see dynamic events as they become active, all exactly as it’s happening in-game. We showed that users have the ability to chat instantly with anyone on their friends list. It’s the two-way connection with our servers that makes it possible to chat between a mobile device, located anywhere in the world, and in-game players. Additionally, the world map shows the locations of all points of interest, all teleport locations, any visible lore locations, and the locations of all vendors and trainers, even if they are moving in the world. Of course, being an iPhone/iPad application, you can scroll and zoom the map as well, then quickly return to the selected character if she is off-screen. The PAX demo was a sneak peak at some of the things the Extended Experience Team is working on and was intended to make people think about the possibilities of what can be done. We’ve since seen many great ideas pop up on forums and, of course, many questions as well. (See below for a few answers!) We look forward to interacting with the community more to keep you up to date on the cool stuff we’re working on. So, it’s as simple as taking Guild Wars 2, adding water, and—voilà!—cool stuff happens, right? Almost. We can say that if we take a rabid fan base (all of you), add current mobile and web technologies, and mix with some magic ArenaNet dust, we do have some awesome ingredients for providing applications to our player base—applications that are very different from what’s been seen in the MMO space in the past. The mission of our Extended Experience Team is to focus solely on building world-class applications. We are committed to making our games more accessible and allowing our players to experience our game world anywhere, at any time. Now that you know the team and our philosophy, I’m sure the real question on everyone’s mind is “What else can we expect to see in the future?” Without giving up too much more information—we do have to keep some secrets—what you can expect to see is a series of apps that will share information with each other and the Guild Wars 2 system in ways that simply haven’t been done before. The most prominent features for mobile and web users will probably stem from the ability to stay connected to the game world and, more importantly, your friends and guildies. We’ll be doing as much as we can to remove the communication barrier that exists between in-game players and out-of-game players. How many times have you been away from your computer on raid night and wished you could connect up with your guild, monitor their progress, share your insights, and ultimately share in their victory? The ability to socialize beyond the game boundaries is essential, and it’s one of the first things we’re working on. Naturally, security and the protection of personal information are of paramount importance with social features like this. With the broader possibilities for communication, we want to ensure people are always in control of who talks to them and when. Beyond communication, we’re exploring features that allow out-of-game friends to help in-game friends by locating places or items. Additionally, we will have a much tighter system for accessing and consuming wiki content. This will greatly reduce the need to continuously jump out of the game to access web sites for information. Future features for our mobile world map will include the ability to select a player and open up the Hero Viewer, which shows information about that character: stats, equipment, achievements, etc. Further, the user will be able to select a piece of equipment and retrieve information about where that item came from: a location, an event, a certain boss, or even a portion of that player’s personal story. Mobile users will also have the ability to tap a location on the world map, causing their in-game friends to see a radar ping appear on the mini-map and world map. This is a great feature to help less-experienced friends and guildies learn their way around the Guild Wars 2 world. This is just the start of where the Extended Experience Team is going. In the end, we will make all of our extended experience features tightly integrated with each other and the game, so that it becomes less and less important which piece of hardware you are using to experience Guild Wars 2. Answers to common questions Q: When you say “mobile,” what exactly does that mean? A: Initially, we will be offering applications that will run on iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android smart phones. Q: I don’t have a smart phone; will we have the same functionality on the web? A: Yes, we will provide similar functionality for web users. Q: Does this mean I can play Guild Wars 2 on an iPad? A: Well, I’ll never say never. However, the iPad is certainly not the same caliber of gaming machine as a PC…yet. Having said that, there are certainly aspects of gameplay, not far from the experience on the PC, that a mobile user might be able to enjoy. Q: All this social stuff sounds cool, but what if I don’t want my guild messaging me at work? A: Rest assured, we will not be doing anything that allows personal or private information to be shared, and we will provide functionality that allows you to determine who can contact you and when.