The Depths Of Tyria

February 17, 2011 at 12:13 am | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 2 Comments
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Pretty wallpaper, shiney pretty wallpaper

Overall I was only mildly impressed with the Human Week material from Arenanet. I liked the audio bits a lot, the video was fine, and we got a lot of lore, although a good deal of it were things we already knew.

Mostly it just got me wondering about how deep this rabbit hole goes.

I think Arenanet is really good at world creation, and will only get better at it with a more persistent world.

Creating a world isn’t as simple as it sounds. You have to have a setting that feels bigger than the actual environment you present your players with. You have to have ideas that have lives outside of the games experience.

Television shows often achieve this through recurring characters and ongoing story-lines. People who have lives apart from the main character and therefore drift in and out of the narrative.

Television shows that have characters that appear for one episode and are never seen again, stories that do not reflect on previous or future episodes, and essentially remain static through out their runs aren’t conducive to building a world.

So how do you translate good world building to an MMO?

One way I think Arenanet is doing this is by presenting more than one villain to each race. Humans are at war with Centaurs, who we learned are being driven into human lands by dominant northern tribes. Humans also have a bandit problem that only seems to be getting worse at the most inopportune moment. On top of it all there appears to be political intrigue playing itself out behind the scenes. Three military factions vying for power, and an aristocracy perhaps moving towards a coup.

That doesn’t even count any of the more random threats of monsters and beasts, nor the ever present threat of the elder dragons that Guild Wars 2 is based around.

To use one of Arenanet’s examples, Ogre’s aren’t just standing around picking daisies. They’re there for a reason. There is a lore and story behind the human conflict with the centaur, the charr conflict with the Gold Legion, the norn and the Sons of Svanir.

And that’s just one way to help build a world.

Another would be building settings, landscapes, townscapes that are huge, epic and extensive.

What we’ve seen of Divinity’s Reach is one of the most impressive things about Guild Wars 2 that I’ve seen so far. Screens of architecture inspired by Cantha in the style of a Chinatown like setting. A continent that won’t even appear in the initial release of GW2. Dozens if not hundreds of buildings, streets, structures, many of which will never be used or perhaps not even noticed by some.

There couldn’t possibly be a function for everything thrown in there, aside from building a world that is bigger than the experience. Beautiful, interesting, wonderful settings that have little to nothing to do with what you’re there for.

We all know what it’s like to wander around a corner and discover something amazing that doesn’t really have any reason to be there.

Finally, the other thing I think that emphasized Arenanet’s ability to world build during Human Week was creating NPCs with lives outside of their interactions with player characters.

The audio clips have NPCs talking about their families, politics, the war, their worries and dreams and games of what I am thinking is probably dubbed ‘Seraph and Bandits’. That’s all unnecessary fluff when it comes to giving us players something to do and pointing us in the direction of Zhaitan.

The devil is in the details I guess. Some games design and implement only enough to get you where you are going. They dump monsters in your way that have no discernible reason to be there, design no buildings outside of the ones you use, have no story outside of the one that makes you the hero.

Obviously I haven’t played Guild Wars 2 but I can only hope that what I see, hear and read leads to a fleshed out and deep world.



  1. One thing I suspect we will see with the fleshed out word is guilds adopting towns. When the adopted town comes under attack they will rally to defend it and it’s NPCs. The more successful they are at defending the longer specific NPCs will survive. The longer the NPC sruvives especially merchants the higher probablity that they will become recurring characters in a players story.

    • I suspect there may be some informal adoption of towns by some guilds, but, I’m not sure about any kind of official incorporation into the game.

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