mike o’brien

Guild Wars 2’s Mike O’Brien on classic Guild Wars, PvE-PvP ratios, and building social MMOs

Forbes has a new interview out this week with ArenaNet President Mike O’Brien all about the Guild Wars franchise, beginning with something most people have probably forgotten: Classic Guild Wars was inspired as much by Magic The Gathering as by MMORPGs, specifically in the idea that card games allowed players to collect far more skills than they could use at a time. The strategy for playing such a game came in choosing which skills to tote along, not in how many skills you’d accrued.

Eventually, however, the team wanted to expand the world itself. “You can’t go halfway on a world,” he argues. “A world is such a powerful thing. It’s where your friends are. It’s the relaxing place where you hang out in the quiet moments between challenges. It’s the home that you grow to love, and that you’re ready to fight to defend when the story asks you to. We came to realize that the world wasn’t the setting; the world was the game.”

And that led ArenaNet to Guild Wars 2, with its focus on horizontal progression, character customization, and social systems. In fact, O’Brien suggests megaservers amounted to crucial tech for the development of the game and its social emphasis.

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Mike O’Brien announces Mike Zadorojny as lead designer for the second Guild Wars 2 expansion

We’ve reached the end of the third season of Guild Wars 2’s story, and now… what comes next? A new expansion, we all know that. If you’ve forgotten, that’s being announced on August 1st, so you have a bit longer until you find out about it; until then, you can rest with some assurance knowing that Mike Zadorojny is the lead designer on the second expansion. This was announced as part of a lengthy letter from current director Mike O’Brien recapping the game up to this point and where the studio sees it heading in the future.

O’Brien’s letter is largely positive, expressing a sentiment that the game has hit a good balance with this season of the Living World and its content releases. Others are slightly less positive, pointing to Heart of Thorns as something of a blunder and the game subsequently struggling to find its footing and deliver the sort of content players were expecting. So it remains to be seen what sort of reveal will be coming on August 1st, but we can bet money that it’ll be significant. (And will probably line up perfectly with the mountain of leaks about masteries, areas, titles, and everything else, but we’ll just pretend those don’t exist.)


Guild Wars 2 Art Director Daniel Dociu is leaving ArenaNet

Yesterday, ArenaNet’s Mike O’Brien announced to forumgoers that longtime studio Art Director Daniel Dociu “will be leaving ArenaNet” and Guild Wars 2.

“Daniel Dociu will be leaving ArenaNet,” O’Brien writes. “Daniel has been defining the art direction for ArenaNet since 2003, before the launch of Guild Wars, and the impact he’s made on the studio and industry will be seen for years to come. It’s been a pleasure to work with him. Daniel, thank you for thirteen wonderful years creating worlds together. We’ll miss you. We look forward to your continued success.”

Taking over for Dociu is his son, Horia Dociu, who has worked on the Guild Wars franchise art team since 2003 himself.

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Guild Wars 2 resumes development of legendary weapons

Guild Wars 2 players might recall that back in March, ArenaNet President and Game Director Mike O’Brien announced that he was instructing the team to indefinitely suspend development on new legendary weapons in favor of shifting efforts to living world-style content. The shortbow Chuka and Champawat was the last to roll out, upsetting players who believed that ANet had stiffed them on what had been promised content purchased with Heart of Thorns.

Coinciding with the rollout of Rising Flames today, O’Brien and Game Design Lead Matt Pennebaker have tackled the legendaries problem head on in a new dev blog that declares legendaries are back on the table — indeed, were never really off the table at all.

“Some players viewed ‘suspended indefinitely’ as code words for ‘canceled,’ but for us, it was more of a time-out while we worked to find a different solution,” they write. “We wanted to find a way to deliver legendaries without hurting content development to do it. And that led us to this new method of obtaining legendary weapons going forward.”

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Guild Wars 2 isn’t selling level 80 boosts, might consider raid difficulty modes

If you missed last night’s Guild Wars 2 Ask Me Anything on Reddit because you were too busy actually playing the update, then you weren’t alone. But there was good stuff! Joined by over 20 ArenaNet devs, President Mike O’Brien helmed the AMA to talk about the patch and what’s still to come — let’s hit the highlights:

  • New legendaries aren’t fully off the table, but the team wants to push out story and world content first.
  • ANet will keep working on WvW, relinking and pairing worlds based on population, maybe re-enabling boon-stripping, rotating borderlands quarterly, and polling WvW players for input.
  • They aren’t talking about future raid wings yet, but they are talking about easy and hard modes — those are still under discussion.
  • “We are looking into moving further away from pure RNG as a reward system” in fractals. Ascended gear is intended to be easier in fractals now.
  • PvP players, yesterday’s patch is it for you for a while thanks to the impending Season 3.
  • Hate where the shared inventory slots go? Moving them is “a decent amount of work [but] not out of the realm of possibility.” ANet won’t be selling level 80 boosts in the gemstore either.

As for the summer updates, ArenaNet’s plans are still firm: living world, living world, living world, plus a quarterly update, maybe all jammed together and maybe not.

Don’t miss MOP’s Tina’s full run-down of everything in the patch!


Guild Wars 2’s spring update launches April 19; watch the teaser trailer

We’ve just received an interesting little sneak peek at a teaser trailer for the upcoming Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns Spring Quarterly update that’s now been confirmed for April 19th. The video below is an action-packed 30-second glimpse at what’s to come,  so I’d recommend giving it more than a few watches to unpack all the little easter eggs in there that I’ve undoubtedly missed. While it’s not particularly spoilerific because of its sneaky, teasing nature, I’d recommend giving it a miss if you are really worried about spoilers.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The future of Guild Wars 2 under Mike O’Brien

The news coming from ArenaNet has been very interesting since the company’s President Mike O’Brien took over as Guild Wars 2 Game Director, so I thought it might be a good time to look at some of his decisions made at the helm of ANet and throw in my two cents. We’ve seen references to the GW2 Manifesto, drastic shifts in dev team focus, and a promise to focus on sustainability and quality, but also sustained player outcries over issues such as legendary weapons being put on hold. One thing that’s certain is that this is a time for decisive action and O’Brien surely needs to do something to make players happy.

It’s undeniable that a significant proportion of GW2 fans — particularly those who have bought into Heart of Thorns —  are feeling more than a little bit frustrated with the on-again-off-again nature of content delivery, and distrust is spreading because of the perceived non-delivery of ANet’s promises. In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll look at the raging debates happening between the new Game Director and the playerbase, and I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on how O’Brien can win us over going forward to resecure a solid basis to build upon with the second expansion.

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Guild Wars 2 is adjusting fractals, scribing, and the Alpine WvW borderlands

ArenaNet’s Mike O’Brien appears to be continuing his shakeup of Guild Wars 2 with today’s forum post on the planned spring update. Pushing past the legendary weapon controversy, he outlines three of the big changes coming to the game.

First, fractal tiering is due for alteration, and some fractal-related achievements will be retired and replaced.

Second, scribing costs will be heavily revised and reduced:

“We’ll reduce material costs on recipes: for example the Basic Ink Set will no longer require a Simple Ink Set, and each Sandpaper recipe will now require less Sand. Reducing the demand for basic materials will reduce their prices. We’ll add significant new supplies of Resonating Slivers, so that they no longer serve as a barrier to scribes who don’t have a guild supporting them. And we’ll increase drop rates of certain other components.”

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Guild Wars 2’s Mike O’Brien elaborates on legendary weapon cancellation

The fallout from the cancellation of further legendary weapon development has been one for the history books within the Guild Wars 2 community. Players have expressed great amounts of rage and disappointment over what many saw as ArenaNet retracting one of Heart of Thorns’ promised features.

Game Director Mike O’Brien followed up his initial announcement with a few statements over the weekend, defending the game and promising that the decision is for the best. “Be angry about legendary weapons, sure, but how about the recent drought of content?” he asked. “That kind of thing happens when we spread ourselves too thin, and when we let the content development pipeline empty out so we can fight fires. What I think we actually owe you is sustainable, predictable, high-quality content. I’m making a decision that’s painful in the short-term so we can position ourselves to deliver that.”

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Guild Wars 2’s Mike O’Brien promises improvements for WvW play

If you haven’t done any raiding in Guild Wars 2, you also haven’t seen any of the story involved in the game’s raiding scene. The developers have released a trailer for the Salvation Pass raid wing, and if you’re a veteran of the original Guild Wars it will look familiar. Which is all we can say without spoiling it; the whole thing is only a minute long.

On the other hand, maybe you’re not interested in PvE at all, but you know that WvW needs some work. There’s good news for that, too, as a forum thread has been given an official response by Mike O’Brien acknowledging the several issues that players have found with WvW and promising that developers are considering the issues in question. O’Brien even has a hit list for the issues in question:

From this thread, your top five priorities are, in order:
1. Stability & skill balance
2. Fix or revert DBL
3. Rewards
4. Population balance
5. Scoring
Yes, we will take the feedback and make stability, general skill balance, and fixing/reverting DBL our top priorities.

You can still watch the cinematic just below, though, if you’d like.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Hands-on with Slothasor and the Guild Wars 2 AMA breakdown

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind week for ArenaNet, especially with a jam-packed Reddit AMA that contained the announcement that Colin Johanson has opted to leave the company for a new opportunity that allows him to spend more time with his family and less time commuting. This has, of course, left a bit of a smiley-shaped hole in the top ranks of ArenaNet that Mike O’Brien is temporarily filling, but the Game Director role cannot be held by the busy President forever.

Aside from the workload that’s usually associated with a busy studio in the midst of major feature redevelopment, expansion development, and a director handover, the team added to that pile by inviting me to playtest the new Slothasor raid encounter that goes live today. In this edition of Flamseeker Chronicles, I’ll share my thoughts on the new raid wing and will also unpack the key takeaways from the Reddit AMA.

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Guild Wars 2 is not going back to biweekly updates: ‘When we’re shipping every two weeks, we just have to ship’

There’s no way that the Guild Wars 2 AMA on Reddit could possibly top the big bombshell about Colin Johanson’s departure that started the entire thread. Still, there was plenty of information for now-game director Mike O’Brien and the rest of the team to share with fans. You can, of course, read the whole thing in comment-by-comment format… or you can read the handy summary by Dulfy that compresses the most pertinent information into one place. And yes, updates are going to be spaced out more, as the title quote suggests. Says ArenaNet,

“When we’re shipping every two weeks, we just have to ship. But going forward it’s much more important for us to be proud of everything we ship, and for you to be proud of everything we ship, than to hit a specific cadence.”

Current plans are to launch a quarterly update in April for quality-of-life improvements, go live with the third raid wing in May or June, and then start up Living World season 3 from there. The developers are also hard at work on the game’s second expansion and further planning for the future, so the updates being developed have a destination in mind. There’s a lot to summarize about what’s moving forward, but it’s a useful glimpse at what the game will be offering fans over the next few months.

Source: Reddit, Dulfy; thanks to Anon for the tip!


Guild Wars 2’s Colin Johanson leaves ArenaNet; Mike O’Brien takes over as game director

Game director Colin Johanson has been with ArenaNet on Guild Wars 2 for quite some time now, but nothing lasts forever. New game director (and ArenaNet president) Mike O’Brien announced via Reddit that Johanson was leaving the company as a prelude to the game’s AMA:

The news is that I’m taking over as the game director of Guild Wars 2 for a while. Colin will be leaving us. Colin is a personal friend, leaving on good terms, and I wish him all the best.

O’Brien made it clear that he will eventually be hiring someone else to fill the role that Johanson has vacated, stating that it takes a lot of work to run a company and he’s unable to do both jobs forever. No word from Johanson yet regarding his own future trajectory or other career plans, although based on recent history it may involve Amazon.

Source: Reddit; thanks to everyone who sent this in!


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