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.

“Before we had Megaservers there was a tradeoff between adding new open-world zones and keeping the existing zones full and active. Megaservers solved that. If players empty out of a certain open-world zone, Megaservers combine the remaining players so they have a great experience with plenty of other players. If you look back at our history of GW2 Live releases, you can see how this changed our content strategy. From launch until early 2014, we focused on adding new content to existing landmass. Then we introduced Megaservers. Since then, from mid-2014 on, we’ve been continuously extending the world, adding new landmass through three seasons of living world and our expansions.”

There’s a bit on Path of Fire, of course, a note about people pitching movies, and a fun stat: “About 90 percent play a lot of PvE content, about 40 percent play a lot of World vs. World or PvP content, and about 30 percent play a lot of both.”

Source: Forbes
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Bruno Brito

I’m sorry, i don’t see where the world part of GW2 has to mean that the skill/talent tree has to be completely lackluster compared to GW1.


Seriously. I was bitter about Gw2 for a long time. The amount of skills. R he combos, the small pvp…so addictive ‘one more round’. after putting in 3500 hours into the original and all 4 expansions during my teenage years and then waiting 4 years for a better looking but extremely ‘accessible, made for everyone’ mmo I was…dissapointed. But hey its got jumping in it right……

So sad.


I am not really convinced GW2 overall is generally “improving” with each new release and/or expansion.

I like that GW is an MMO now, but I’d still drop GW2 like a hot potato for a new expansion to GW1. In terms of general game design, GW1 >> GW2 imo. Frankly, the “Magic: The Gathering” approach to skill acquisition and management was vastly better and more creative in GW1 than the current skill system in GW2. I miss that design feature, among many others, from GW1.

I do have PoF and I am playing it a bit here and there and it’s … OK … but thus far I am not really a big fan. The mounts *are* nice and the zones *are* pretty, though. I have to give ArenaNet credit for that.


Wish he would have included raiding % in that PvE so we could really see what’s up.


I like MO…I do…I don’t like Mikes complete lack of candid responses, theres an undercurrent professionalism and PR speak when he talks/writes…dude just get down and dirty. On one hand, its a good thing, the message is consistent, on the other, the dude has a huge resume of development experiences I wish he’d let the people who care about that stuff in on.

Theres a Diablo Post Mortem GDC presentation that David Brevik did which he on several occasions calls Mike O’Brien out for being brilliant and basically the godfather (network engineering side) of BattleNET…this is all the kind of shit I’d love to hear about…

GDC Mike – please – inquiring minds would love to learn


I completely agree with what you said. Using Brevik as an example, it was always fun watching him drink whiskey with his wife and do raid streams of Marvel Heroes. Mike never breaks brand. That’s fine, but I do think there’s a time and a place to drop a bit of that and dig into nuts and bolts in plain speech.

I have a hard time listening to him talk and caring about what he’s saying because he’s changed his mind and changed design philosophies without feeling the need to tell the community that he did so.

Sally Bowls

So it appears to me that math is

PvE only: 60%
PvP only 10%
play for both teams: 30%


Or, in other words, over half the player base has no interest, whatsoever, in PvP.

Reginald Atkins

probably. I can only speak for myself but the only time I ever bothered with WvW was ages ago when it was needed for world exploration, I went in when my server had control, got what I needed, then left, even then I only did so once. Since that was changed and is no longer needed I’ve not even given it a second glance. Never stepped foot into PVP at all.


and? 60:40 is a very good ratio imo.